Category ►►► Politics - National
September 24, 2010
The New Girls Network
The Tea Party has always been predominantly a women’s movement, or else they would have called it the “beer party.” Because of the high profile of Tea Party types like Glenn Beck, it is easy to forget that those frequently taking the point in reforming the Republican Party -- and the nation itself -- are outsiders like Sarah Palin and her “constipated grizzlies,” or whatever she calls them.
The latest of eight almost unbroken series of Tea Party victories in Republican primaries -- against candidates endorsed by the National Republican Senate Committee -- was racked up last week by Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, who is reminiscent of Palin, but without her laserlike intellectual firepower.
But you don’t need a big brain -- although perhaps a big mouth helps -- if your message is simple: cut spending, get big government out of our lives, and cut taxes.
It is becoming obvious that we are witnessing a movement that comes along once a century; and like most such movements, it will wreck anything that stands in its path.
It is vastly entertaining on several levels. One is the obvious discomfort of old time feminists who just can’t understand how a feminist could be a) a Republican, and b) a conservative. It’s been Democratic Party doctrine for ages that the GOP is just a "good old boys" network. How can women, of all people, run as conservative Republicans? I mean, ewwwwwww!
In a sense the GOP is a good old boys network, as one can see by watching notable political hacks like Karl Rove having fits on TV about outsiders like O’Donnell challenging establishment candidates.
For me, finding something nice to say about Rove is like trying to pick up the poo by the clean end; under his firm pilot’s hand, Republicans drifted into being as much a big-government party as the Dems. But one thing he has always had going for him was that he is an incredibly savvy (if totally amoral) political operative. Rove is obviously flummoxed by the pitchfork and guillotine quality of the Tea Party movement; but let’s face it, there is nothing that has more righteous indignation and pure, electric fury than a female on the rampage... hence Palin’s grizzly-bear metaphor.
But the Tea Party isn’t just anger; it is sophisticated, supple, and as net-savvy as a ‘Droid.
Two years ago political pundits remarked about the online organization of the Obama team and its remarkable exploitation of the net. However, today’s organizational effort by the Tea Party defies the term organization. It has been described as being like a “hive,” without a central guiding hand, with each individual party in contact with each other, but run independently. It runs rings around the old style organizations.
[I have been calling the Tea Party movement the "popular front for Capitalism and against government expansion and intrusion; students of history will understand the nuclear fusion packed into the phrase "popular front." -- DaH.]
It is a true grassroots movement, with the impetus moving up from the bottom. Democrats who think there is some conservative Soros as its Wizard of Oz are delusional.
I have a liberal friend who buys into that comforting fantasy. He keeps repeating the mantra, “Well, why weren’t they complaining eight years ago when Bush was running up all those deficits?” The answer to that, of course, is that they were, and the Republicans didn’t listen to them; and that was, in part, why the Republicans were kicked out of power in 2006 and 2008.
But that didn’t mean that the disaffected Independents and outraged Republicans wanted big government solutions. The Democrats decided to party like it was 1932, and they are about to pay in a big way.
As columnist David Paul Kuhn wrote this week: “The political establishment's reign has finally ended.... One week ago, the primary season closed with the most suitable of metaphors: The tea party movement sacked GOP’s Castle.” I wish I’d written that; if I were Joe Biden I eventually would have.
July 29, 2009
Deliver us from the "Birthers"
If there’s anything nuttier than the Harvard University professor Henry Gates trying to stir up sympathy for his “black man in America” plight because a cop asked to see his ID when he was seen breaking into his own home, it’s watching the “Birther” nutcases continue to pursue the lunacy that somehow President Barack Obama is not a natural-born American citizen.
Even though that eminent southender John McCain (the horse was going north, you see) and his people would have loved to come up with proof that “The One” wasn’t a natural-born citizen, they didn’t find any substance to the claim. Don’t you think that if there were something that proved that Obama was actually a native born African that they would have found it -- and exploited it? Even McCain was not such an incompetent candidate that he would have let that easy pitch go by without swinging at it!
This ludicrous obsession, which is fanned by far right wing loons like Michael Savage and Alan Keyes, and by Democrat Philip J. Berg -- but not, you’ll notice, by savvy political observers like Rush Limbaugh -- is the equivalent of those who say that the CIA brought down the Twin Towers, or that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were actually in Studio 51 faking the moon landing 40 years ago.
Lord knows there are enough conspiracy theories going around on both ends of the political spectrum. All you have to do is log onto the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post, where they continue to blame Swine Flu or the Heartbreak of Psoriasis on Dick Cheney or George Bush. But I really hate to see conservatives wasting their energy and making themselves and fellow Republicans look ridiculous by pursuing something that makes people look at them like they look at homeless people who walk around without cell phones, yet still talk to themselves.
We have plenty to fight Obama on, such as attacking Bush for spending too much, and then spending four times as much, or for taking over the car industry or for taking over health care or for taking over … actually I can’t think of anything he hasn’t tried to take over.
Let’s leave silly conspiracy theories for the silly and marshal our adult arguments to take down this socialist!
January 3, 2008
There are good reasons why the United States has never elected a minister, priest, rabbi, imam or other religious leader as president of the United States.
While there is actually no "separation of church and state" in the U.S. Constitution (that was a phrase Thomas Jefferson used in correspondence and which secularists jumped on gleefully a century or more later), keeping religion out of the deliberations of government is actually a pretty good idea.
While the Constitution limits itself to saying that there will be "no establishment of religion," Jesus himself in the New Testament provided a pretty good common sense way to delineate the relationship of church and state: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s."
I really don’t want someone in the White House who answers to a higher authority than the U.S. Constitution. Who knows? Maybe that means I don’t want the current occupant in the White House.
It certainly means that I don’t want a former or current minister of the gospel in the Oval Office, except as a spiritual adviser. Yes, I’m talking about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a candidate for the Republican nomination.
When the great decisions are being made, I don’t mind public officials consulting their hearts and their Bibles, but I draw the line at someone saying, "The United States cannot do this because the Bible says not to."
When January comes around I don’t want the Sermon on the Mount, I want the State of the Union. I want the bully pulpit, not an actual pulpit.
Since the number one concern of ministers is moral rectitude and inspiring men to live above their lowly natures, it really doesn’t do to have a minister as a political official whose duty might require him to order the deaths of thousands, or even one person, because that is required to secure the safety of America’s citizens.
No "turning the other cheek," please. That is for individuals, not nations. Governments do not, or should not, allow criminals to get away with murder, even though the New Testament might imply that individuals should do that very thing.
At the same time it is sometimes the duty of a president to do things that might be regarded as in a moral gray area. I fully expect and require the president to lie when it is necessary. Not to me the voter, necessarily, and certainly not because the president has done something naughty and wants to get away with it. But I do think that it is sometimes necessary for a president to lie to protect the lives of soldiers or agents who might be in mortal danger. It is naive to believe otherwise.
Could a minister in good conscience do that?
Huckabee is of that strain of politicians, of whom there are a lot this year, who ask us to vote for them because of what they are, rather than what they have done. We are asked to vote for McCain because he was prisoner of war for five years. We are asked to vote for Hillary because she was the president’s wife for eight years, but more to the point, because she IS a woman. Huckabee says we should vote for him because he is an evangelical Christian and a Southern Baptist.
Well, I was raised a Southern Baptist and know and like lots of them. But that doesn’t qualify any of them to be president, necessarily.
I’ve always resisted the idea that I should vote for someone because he is "part of a group," even if it’s my group. We should have no other "group" except Americans. I especially abhor the argument that a group cannot be represented by anyone other than a member of their group. Many evangelicals are apparently taking that position this year -- and while it may mean that they will take over the Republican party for a spell, it probably also means that they will ultimately be represented by their worst nightmare.
Interestingly enough, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to be signaling that voters, particularly black voters, should vote for him because he is a member of the "black group." He is the first black man to run for president not as a black man, but simply as a man with ideas and accomplishments of his own, independent of his race. He is, let it be said, a bit preachy.
There is also a very good reason for the 22nd Amendment, although until recently I haven’t bought the reasoning. But the more I see Bill Clinton panting (I almost wrote "demeaning himself," but that’s an impossibility) to get into the White House again, the more I see the wisdom of limiting presidents to two terms.
Whether Clinton -- who is [accused of being] a rapist and is without doubt a serial liar -- would be president, or it would actually be his wife, her election would, in effect, abrogate the 22nd Amendment.
And if they get away with it, does anyone have any doubts that perhaps a dozen or 16 years from now we’ll see a geriatric Bill and Hillary campaigning for Chelsea, who will be able to claim all that experience because, as First Daughter (twice) she was in the same building when President Clinton (whichever one of them) made those world-changing decisions?
[The edit in brackets is by Dafydd, not by Dave Ross, and purely for reasons of liability, not because I think Dave is wrong.]
September 8, 2007
Where Are All the BDS RINOs Going?
First Sen. John Warner (R-VA, 64%) announces that he is not running for reelection in 2008; today, it was the turn of Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE, 75%):
Hagel plans to announce that "he will not run for re-election and that he does not intend to be a candidate for any office in 2008," said one person, who asked not to be named.
Hagel has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday at the Omaha Press Club.
The rest of the article is more or less a Hagelography; but they sidestep the most interesting question: Are the stridently anti-war GOP senators leaving the body to avoid facing their Republican colleagues, after the counterinsurgency stategy proves effective, and we end up with what any fair-minded person would call a "W" in Iraq? Do they not want to have to face the electoral music, running as the senators who tried so desperately to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
The Omaha World Herald put it bluntly, if a bit too enthusiastically:
The North Platte native earned national recognition as perhaps the most vocal, at times angry, GOP critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policies. [I think "bitter and vile" is a better descriptor.]
His outspokenness on Iraq and other key issues, including Social Security and foreign policy, fueled national interest in Hagel as he flirted with a possible presidential bid.
With Warner, one may assume that he's just a tired, old man, he's served in the Senate for approximately 478 years, and he simply doesn't want to go on. But Hagel? Hagel is only 60 years old (61 in October), and this is only his second term. As the article breathlessly notes, many supporters even thought he was going to throw his head into the presidential ring earlier this year; but he fooled them.
Abruptly, without any warning or even a hint, he is departing public life. I haven't heard of any looming scandal involving Chuck Hagel, nor any hint of a severe family crisis, like someone getting cancer, thank goodness. So what does that leave?
The World Herald appears excited that this might mean the return of Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey; but I really don't think a growing state like Nebraska wants to turn back the clock to 1994, the last time Kerrey was elected to anything. If a Democrat is going to take the seat, he will have to be someone new; and since this case does not fit the pattern that Michael Barone noted in his Almanac of American Politics, I don't see a Democrat winning.
(The pattern is that a Republican governor raises taxes; he is defeated by a Democrat in the next election; and then the Democratic governor moves on to the Senate. As Barone notes, this describes the rise of Jim Exon, Bob Kerrey, and Ben Nelson (35%) -- which, not coincidentally, are the only three Democratic senators from Nebraska first elected in the last thirty years. You have to go back to Edward Zorinsky in 1976 to find a Democrat who doesn't fit the pattern... and Zorinsky was a Republican until he lost the Republican primary, then switched parties to run for the Senate seat anyway.)
I think the odds are pretty high that Hagel will be replaced by another Republican, just as Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID, 88%) will be. Warner is another story for another time.
The next senator to keep an eye on is, of course, Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 83%); he too is up for reelection in 2008. And while he's been all over the map on the Iraq war (for the war and the counterinsurgency, but also for restricting all interrogrations to asking the prisoners nicely if they'd like to rat out their buddies), he was a very prominent member of the "Gang of 14," which most conservatives see as having cost them a number of conservative judicial appointments. And Graham was also on the "wrong side" (that is, my side) on the comprehensive immigration-reform bill this year... and that, too, makes him persona non grata among much of the mainstream of the Republican Party.
So far as I know, John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) -- also muddled on the WAGH, and in exactly the same way as Graham -- has no plans to "go for broke," to retire from his Senate seat to devote himself full-time to his presidential run. I suspect he realizes he's a long-shot for the latter, so he clings to the former.
However, it is an interesting coincidence (if that's all it is) that Warner and Hagel should announce their retirements within a week of each other.
June 4, 2007
A Life - and a Senate Seat - Hang In the Balance - UPDATED
UPDATE: See below.
Real Clear Politics reports that Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY, 96%), who had seemed in remission from his leukemia, has suddenly taken a turn for the worse:
The Hill reports Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY), who has battled leukemia in recent months, is in serious condition at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., according to a statement released by his family. Craig is "undergoing a second round of chemotherapy, but his blood cancer has resisted treatment, and he is suffering from infection."
What RCP is too polite to mention -- but which I think is important enough to warrant bringing up -- is that Wyoming currently has a Democratic governor, David Duane "Dave" Freudenthal (narrowly elected in 2002, reelected in 2006 by a 70-30 landslide). It may be crassly political to think such thoughts, but some personal matters have national political implications: In this case, were Sen. Thomas forced to resign for health reasons, Gov. Freudenthal would appoint a Democratic senator to replace him.
Now, Freudenthal seems pretty conservative, as would be any likely Democrat he appoints. However, even a conservative Democrat would vote for Sen. Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) over Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) in the organizing vote for Majority Leader. No matter how conservative a Democrat Gov. Freudenthal appoints, he will be another vote for Harry Reid -- hence another vote for withdrawal, defeat, surrender in Iraq.
It's sad that such considerations intrude upon the personal tragedy suffered by Craig Thomas and his family; but that's the way of the world. Whoever Freudenthal appointed (if that became necessary) would presumably stay until the November 2008 election; it's hard to believe that a small state like Wyoming would schedule a special election just to fill a Senate seat for the last year or so. That means the Democrat would head into the elections as the incumbent... a huge advantage. Thus, Republicans will have to capture at least three net seats (or two and the presidency) to control the Senate after 2008, not two (or one plus P).
I hope that Thomas can remain healthy enough to stay in the Senate through the election, but of course, his health takes precedence: If he feels poorly enough that he decides to resign to devote his full energies to fighting the cancer, the party shouldn't pressure him to stay. But we can still keep our fingers crossed!
UPDATE 23:45: Alas, Sen. Thomas did not make it; he passed away today at the age of 74.
According to AP:
Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will appoint a successor from one of three finalists chosen by the state Republican party.
I don't know if there is any limitation on who the Republican Party can choose as finalist. Can they choose three conservative Republicans? Or must there be at least one Democrat? I hate seeming like an overeager gravedigger, but I think even Sen. Thomas would have been very concerned that his death not strengthen the hand of the Democratic National Committee at such a time.
It didn't work last time, but let's keep our fingers crossed that Gov. Freudenthal's choices are limited to Republicans who actually support what Sen. Craig Thomas supported.
But even then, it's another Republican Senate seat that now needs to be defended, which shouldn't even have been up for reelection in 2008; Thomas was just overwhelmingly reelected last year.
(Democrats are of course just as much on pins and needles over the continued good health of Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsberg as they were before the death, at too young an age -- only 74! -- of Craig Thomas.)
December 6, 2006
First, on the home front: you guys aren't pulling your end. We've been doing our part, publishing good blogposts about exciting topics (Iraq, Iran, the GWOT, Mark Steyn)... but our hits are down.
The way Sitemeter works is that all visits by the same IP address within a 30-minute window are counted as a single visit: that is, if you visit once at 8:00 am and again at 8:27 am, it's not counted as two visits... just one.
But if you wait, twiddling your toes and filing your teeth, until 8:31 am, then visit -- that is counted as a second hit on the old greeter-meter.
Thus, in order to get our count up, so advertisers will rush to pay us money to keep this site flowing through the interether (whenever BlogAds regains consciousness), please to start visiting multiple times per day. You needn't stay long; for example, if you're headed from Captain's Quarters to Power Line, all you need do is first go to Big Lizards, and then continue on to Power Line. Simple as Simon!
If everybody did that, oh, four or five times a day, it wouldn't cost you much time (10 seconds per visit, maybe) -- but we'd be a powerhouse again in no time.
So let's see if we can't raise the bar up to 2,200 or 2,300 per day... and give those lefty bloggers a hiding they'll never remember!
North Korea is currently playing the roll of gangster state: they've been counterfeiting our money, extorting us by threatening to go nuclear if we don't pay them off, and now they seem to be engaged in "massive insurance fraud" (to the tune of $150 million or more).
Well, two can play at that game, Filstrup: I suggest we set the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to produce hundreds of billions of counterfeit North Korean "won" and start passing them all around Southeast Asia. Sure, some currency speculators will also take a hit -- please, God, let it be George Soros! -- but maybe we can completely collapse the DPRK's economy, make their currency worthless... and send a brutal message to the Dear Leader: don't mess with il capo di tutti capi.
I'm wending my way through Mark Steyn's America Alone. On page 78, I found a couple of thought-provoking passages. Here's the first:
Indeed, co-existence is what the Islamists are at war with -- of, if you prefer, pluralism; the idea that different groups can rub along together within the same general neighborhood. And even those who nominally respect the idea tend, on closer examination, to mean by "pluralism" something closer to "subjugation."
This is actually an old conundrum: if a society's greatest principle is tolerance, then are they obliged to tolerate the intolerant?
- If the answer is Yes, then the society will quickly become an intolerant one, as it's taken over by those who will not tolerate the tolerant;
- If the answer is No, they will not tolerate the intolerant -- then they're not very ruddy tolerant, are they?
Then there is this one, which is somewhat meatier:
The Islamists incite jihad from American, Canadian, British, European, and Australian mosques, and they get away with it. The West's elites lapse reflexively into twittering over insufficient "respect" and entirely fictional outbreaks of "Islamophobia." The Mounties, the FBI, Scotland Yard, and others are reasonably efficient at breaking up cells and plots, but they're the symptoms, not the disease. It's the ideological pipeline that needs to be dismantled. Through their network of schools and mosques, the Saudis are attempting to make themselvs into a Muslim Vatican -- if not infallible, at any rate the most authoritative voice in the Islamic world. We might have responded to the Wahhabist challenge by distinguishing, as William Tayler did, between Sunni and Shia, Sufi and Salafi, and all the rest, and attempting to exploit the divisions. But as proper Western multiculturalists, we celebrate diversity by lumping them all together as "Islam."
So far (through page 89, at least), Steyn hasn't developed this theme; but I think it points us towards one more way we can fight the war of Jihadism vs. Americanism.
Steyn is correct that there are many radical mosques in the United States; I've heard it said (I don't know if this is true) that there are more militant mosques in America than any other Western nation. These radical mosques contain radical imams who preach violent jihad as a matter of course.
Thus, for national security reasons, we should be surveilling every last one of these militant mosques, determined by our own intelligence operations (that is, sending loyal American Moslems into the mosques to listen to the sermons). From what I understand, they hardly hide their inflammatory opinions under a burning bush: it shouldn't be hard to decide that a mosque is "radical" if the imam says the congregation should financially support Hamas and encourage their children to become mall-martyrs.
Get warrants when there's court-level evidence; but do it under the president's plenary power as Commander in Chief when the probable cause is military level but not civil-court level.
Regardless of how we justify it, let's tap their phones, bug their conference rooms, tail their employees. Let's read their mail, ghost their hard drives, and track their bank accounts.
We should have been doing this for the last five years -- and maybe we have and the New York Times just hasn't gotten that leak yet. But somehow I doubt it.
Sure, the Democrats will fly up out of their seats, full nine feet high and higher. They're rush to commit savage acts of "oversight" on those clandestine agencies that are engaged in this "domestic spying."
Heh. Excellent... we send administration representatives (like Tony Snow) out to the Sunday talk shows to say that they neither confirm nor deny that we're doing this -- wink -- but really, Mr. and Mrs. All-American, don't you think we should be? And why are the Democrats so concerned about the "right" of fire-breathing Wahhabi imams to call for assassinations and bombings in Amerca, but not so much about your rights not to be blown up at work, at the mall, and not to have your kids blown up at school, like in Beslan?
I can just see Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%), sweating bullets on Anderson Cooper 360° or being grilled by Chris Matthews on Hardball, trying to explain why the Democrats don't want to know whether there are any terrorist mosques in America. Maybe the Superglue would break, and those blessed glasses would finally slip off his bulbous nose!
It can only help us to get a fight going between Bush and the congressional Democrats on just how far we should go to protect the American people. It's a heck of a lot better than drawing a line in the sand over minimum wage.
Oh, and by the way... we might just learn enough to be able to deport some of these Saudi-funded imams, or maybe stop a terrorist plot or two. That's almost as good as putting Democrats on the spot!
September 24, 2006
VegasBlogging 3: Bush Popularity Was Once At Its Lowest Point!
Let us all join hands, bow our heads, and read this AP article; and let us ask ourselves, anent the very first sentence, what is wrong with this picture?
Since President Bush's approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May, nearly six in 10 of his appearances helping Republican candidates have been closed to all media coverage.
Well, how about this for starters: according to the Real Clear Politics round-up of polling on President Bush's job approval, and looking just at the USA Today/Gallup poll (because I don't want to calculate averages), Bush hit his low point on the poll conducted from May 5-7 this year: 31%.
The most recent instance of the same poll -- USA Today/Gallup, September 15-19 -- has his job approval at 44%. That's an increase of 13% in raw numbers, or a 42% improvement over his low.
Yet somehow, AP thought it best just to leave it lying there, like a kippered herring: "since President Bush's approval rating sank to the lowest level of his presidency in May"... as if it sank and just stayed there!
Welcome to the exciting land of Propagandia, where image is everything. The intro sentence tells more in subtext than text: Bush is a failure! Everybody hates him! He's got the lowest approval rating of any president ever! Nobody wants to campaign with him (that's the thrust of the article)... so why not just go ahead and punish the bastard by voting for your local Democrat, eh?
But the actuality of Bush's current job approval makes mincemeat out of the entire premise of this article -- which is titled "GOP Candidates Keeping Bush Under Wraps." Here is the summing-up graf:
Overall, from the first political event Bush headlined in March 2005 through the end of September, 47 percent of Bush's 68 political events - for candidates, the national GOP, several state counterparts and the campaign arms of House and Senate Republicans - will have been private. Before May's approval-rating slide, the percentage of closed events was 34 percent; since, it is 59 percent.
But of course, AP doesn't mean merely "since;" they mean "because of," as in, 'because of the ratings slump in May 2006, now GOP candidates want Bush money, but they don't want to be seen with him.'
But lo! Bush's job approval prior to May 2006, according to USA Today/Gallup, tended to range from 34% to 39%; earlier in the year, there were some low 40s... but going all the way back to September 2005, there was not a single USA Today/Gallup poll that had Bush's job approval higher than 45%.
To find the last time his job approval was significantly above the 44% it is right now (that is, higher by more than the margin of error), you have to go all the way back to July 22nd-24th, 2005, when it was 49%.
In other words, Bush's job-approval rating is as high today as it has been in well over a year. But if that is the case, then clearly any disinterest among some GOP candidates in having Bush openly campaign with them can have nothing to do with his poll numbers.
Besides, the evidence that candidates are "keeping Bush under wraps" is scanty, to say the least. For example, here is the campaign of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH, 56%) when asked directly about this very point:
DeWine's campaign stresses that all the senator's fundraisers are closed and that there is no attempt to shun the president. "Not at all," said spokesman Brian Seitchik, who added that DeWine plans to appear with Bush during a tour, open to reporters, of a business earlier Monday.
Remember, here in Propagandia, nobody cares whether Bush is a drag on candidates or whether candidates are actually ducking him: all that matters is that readers are led to believe that is the case.
Many of us do not appreciated being led around by the nose by a batch of people more motivated to "save the world" (from Republicans) than to get at the truth; we would do well, when we encounter such a story, to stop and ask, does this claim match the reality of what I see and hear around me? Is this really what my Republican representative, senators, and the odd GOP challenger or two are doing?
Or is it just so much cud chewing by the "elite" media, a filler article... like the one yesterday gloating over the fact that more solidiers died fighting the terrorist enemy than the terrorists killed in one particular terrorist attack.
Enquiring minds will demand to know.
September 10, 2006
Newsflash! 9/11 Flick Far Fairer Than Other "Historical" Docudramas
This New York Post story, which appears to be trying to cast doubts upon the accuracy and even veracity of movie the Path to 9/11, instead shows it to be tremendously better researched, with more consultants and a greater willingness to change the script for historical accuracy, than any previous movie I've read about.
The showrunners metaphorically bent over backwards, tuchas over teakettle, to accomodate changes demanded by ultraliberal star Harvey Keitel to make the movie more historically accurate by his standards. (Keitel is still kvetching that they didn't rewrite the entire screenplay to make everything Bush's fault.)
I've never been involved in the production of big-budget TV movies, but I've hung around the set and "acted" in low-budget pictures many times, and I know what happens on a movie set. (In this context, "acted" means "stood stiffly and unconvincingly in a crowd scene, shifting nervously and wondering how many takes there would actually be before the two-minute scene was finished.")
Given Keitel's political leanings (about the same as Jack Lemmon) and financial contributions to Democrats:
- He gave $2,000 each to Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 100%) and Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%);
- $1,000 each to Sens. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) and Bill Bradley (D-NJ);
- $1,000 each to Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY , 100%), and Charles Schumer (for reelection to his House seat the same cycle he ran for the Senate, 1998);
- $1,000 to leftist gadfly candidates Barry Gordon and Mark Green (Keitel contributed $1,000 each to all three candidates in the Democratic primary for Senate for 1998: Schumer, Green, and Geraldine Ferraro);
- $1,000 to Majority 2000 (a Democratic PAC);
- And $1, 200 directly to the DNC;
Given that, the many changes he demanded (and received) in the Path to 9/11 were almost certainly pro-Clinton or anti-Bush.
Anyone who has ever worked with directors and producers knows that the usual reaction when they're told by an actor that "this scene isn't historically accurate" is a glazed-eye stare and another snort of cocaine. The 1AD will then tell you haughtily that "this is a movie, not a documentary; just shut up and read your friggin' lines!" (Or, if you're a minor character, "take a hike, cement head.")
But look at the way the creators of this movie abjectly surrendered to Harvey Keitel:
When Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel signed on to play Deputy FBI Director John O'Neill, who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, he thought the film's aim was to be historically correct, he said.
"It turned out not all the facts were correct," which led to "arguments," he said on CNN.
Virtually from Day 1 of shooting, "Keitel put his own researcher on the case," looking to correct historical, character and other inaccuracies he found in the script, said John Dondertman, a production designer on the film.
That led to Keitel rewriting most of his own lines - which in turn meant almost daily revisions for cast members who had scenes with him....
On one occasion, Keitel holed up in his hotel for an entire day with director David Cunningham revising the script.
Other times, Cunningham would "fumble through the 9/11 Commission book trying to figure out how to correct details Keitel called into question," said the script supervisor....
Fulvio Cecere, who plays NYPD Chief John Dunne, recalls director Cunningham allowing Keitel to improvise entire scenes with fellow cast members.
(Those of you with movie-making experience, please pick your jaws up off the floor.)
And with all that, the Clintonistas still object to the movie and demand that ABC suppress it, so the American people don't finally understand what a prat and rube Bill Clinton was for eight years. Eight years during which al-Qaeda grew to become the most powerful terrorist organization in the world; attacked the United States on numerous occasions, killing scores of Americans and hundreds of other people, with barely a response from us; and conceived, planned, and set in motion the horrific attacks of September 11th themselves, likely the biggest terrorist attack in history.
Often supposedly historical movies use a technical consultant to "get the facts right"... one technical consultant; who isn't allowed on the set (he vets the screenplay) and certainly is ignored when he tells the director what's wrong with the picture. Did the Path to 9/11 use expert consultants? Take a look:
The network hired 9/11 Commission chairman and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean  as the project's senior consultant.
"Kean was never on the set," said Greg Chown, an art director on the film. "The only adviser I worked with was a former CIA guy , who ensured that all the graphics and documents we used were accurate...."
[A commenter who says he is Greg Chown (and I have no reason to doubt it) writes, "I was definitely mis-quoted by the reporter for the Post. All I said during the interview is that I did not know who Keane was." -- DaH]
Another staffer, who spoke confidentially, said the only adviser she recalls is retired FBI agent Terry Carney ....
Barclay Hope, who plays FBI Assistant Director of Public Affairs John Miller, says he spoke briefly with Miller, although the FBI man indicated he didn't want to be involved in production.
Miller was a consultant on the film , and ABC had optioned his book for use in its teleplay.
This is an incredible level of consultation and willingness to change the script during production, all for as much historical accuracy as could be included and still make the movie watchable as a movie.
At this point, I think it fair to say that the historical accuracy of the Path to 9/11 is lightyears beyond the accuracy of most movies based upon real events or actual people (see our previous post for some other such titles).
The Clintonistas have no legitimate complaint; they can only whine that the movie unfairly depicts the Clinton administration being as feckless and pathetic as it actually was. We'll see tonight whether they managed to bully ABC/Disney into editing it beyond all recognition -- cutting out all the parts where Clinton ignores the problem, so it looks as though he were a two-fisted terrorist-buster. Or even whether they're going to air it at all.
September 7, 2006
Prediction: Lincoln Chafee Will Vote Against Bolton in Committee
UPDATE September 8th, 2006: See below.
Today, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R?-RI, 12%) balked at the planned vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send the renomination of John Bolton to the full senate with a recommendation to confirm:
Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the only Republican who has not publicly committed to supporting Bolton, sought more time, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said. Chafee, locked in a tough re-election bid, faces a Republican primary election on Tuesday.
Is there any possibility, you think, that the two statements above are related?
I think it's pretty clear what's happening: if Chafee had voted for Bolton, that would have helped him in the primary -- but it would definitely damage him in the general election, where his re-election is already precarious. But if Chafee voteed against Bolton, he likely wouldn't make it to the general; because Steve Laffey, his conservative opponent in the primary -- already running neck and neck with Chafee -- would use it to win the nomination (and go on to lose the seat to the Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse).
(One amusing side point: if Whitehouse should win, he would probably be the only senator in "the world's greatest deliberative body" who doesn't harbor any hope of becoming president, because nobody could say the words "President Whitehouse" without giggling.)
There is only one path for Chafee at this point: postpone the vote. The Rhode Island primary is next Tuesday, the 12th -- just five days away. There is no way that Chairman Dick Lugar (R-IN, 88%) can force a committee vote in the next five days; in fact, he doesn't seem even to be trying:
Committee Chairman Richard Lugar would only say a Republican member asked for the delay. He said the committee will meet on Bolton again, but did not say when.
"I'm not going to make any comments on time. It's going to require a lot of consultation with members on both sides of the aisle,'' the Indiana Republican said.
So how does this play out?
- The committee waits until after Chafee's primary to vote on the Bolton nomination;
- If Chafee wins renomination, then he must of course vote against Bolton to bolster his chances in the general election;
- If Laffey is nominated instead, then Chafee is a lame duck, and he's free to vote his conscience... which, since he's the most RINO of all RINOs in the Senate, likely means he votes against Bolton.
So pretty much any way we cut the cheese, it looks as if Lincoln Chafee plans to spike the renomination of John Bolton.
So what does that do to Bolton's chances? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee comprises nine Republicans and seven Democrats. If Chafee votes against Bolton, the absolute best the Republicans can do (unless they can flip a Democrat) is a 7-7 tie, which means Bolton is passed out of committee with no recommendation for or against.
The seven Democrats are:
Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (MD, 100%) -- won't risk his committee status, since he would become chairman if the Democrats capture the Senate;
UPDATE: Commenter Ruthg reminds me that Sarbanes is retiring, to be replaced either by Republican Michael Steele, or by Ben Cardin or Kweise Mfume, both Democrats. So perhaps this is a fracture point; maybe Sarbanes can be persuaded to vote for Bolton, since he's leaving the Senate anyway;
- Chris Dodd (CT, 100%) -- leading the charge against Bolton;
- John F. Kerry (MA, 100%) -- possibly running for president again;
- Russell Feingold (WI, 100%) -- the most liberal Democrat in the Senate;
- Barbara Boxer (CA, 100%) -- party-line liberal and dumb as a bag of walnuts;
- Bill Nelson (FL, 80%) -- might have been a possible flip, since he's running for reelection in a Republican state. But with the nomination of Katherine Harris to run against him, he is now assured of reelection; he has no reason to run to the right;
- Barak Obama (IL, 100%) -- elected as a moderate, he quickly flipped his coat and revealed himself as a doctrinaire liberal.
I don't see any room for a surprise defection there; none of the Democrats has anything to lose, and each has everything to gain, by opposing John Bolton and poking another finger in George W. Bush's eye.
If Bolton is sent to the Senate floor with no recommendation, it will be next to impossible to get him confirmed:
- The non-recommendation would give cover to Chafee to vote against him, along with John Warner (R-VA, 88%), Lindsay Graham (R-NC, 96%), John McCain (R-AZ, 80%), Mike DeWine (D-OH, 56%)and possibly even George Voinovich (R-OH, 68%), for all that he has said he'll support Bolton this time around (he joined the filibuster against Bolton last time).
- It would also give cover to a Democratic filibuster; there are enough Democrats to prevent the vote, if they more or less stick together.
So I believe that John Bolton's renomination is dead; I would be ecstatic to be proven wrong this time... alas, I don't think I will be.
August 23, 2006
Embryonic Stem Cells: Static Analysis Strikes Out Again
Nobody that I've read or heard has a political objection to adult stem-cell (ASC) research, nor even placental stem-cell (PSC) research; many people have a gigantic objection to embryonic stem-cell (ESC) research -- but the only objection I've seen is that, using traditional stem-cell techniques, a five day old embryo is actually killed to get at the hundred or so stem cells it contains.
But once again, the march of technology has demonstrated that it always has the ability to grab the cards off the table and reshuffle them, even right in the middle of the hand:
In an innovative move, a biotech company has found a new way of making stem cells without destroying embryos, touting it as a way to defuse one of the country's fiercest political and ethical debates.
Some opponents of the research said the method still doesn't satisfy their objections and many stem cell scientists and their supporters called it inefficient and politically wrong-headed.
But a spokeswoman for President Bush, who vetoed legislation last month that would have allowed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, called it a step in the right direction.
And Robert Lanza, an executive with Advanced Cell Technology, which created the new stem cell lines, said: "This will make it far more difficult to oppose this research."
I do object rather strongly to that last sentence; not because it's not true -- it is -- but because Lanza's clear implication is that opponents of ESC aren't really sincere, they're just looking for some excuse to stop research. But I think Macaca just clumsily worded what he meant to say.
So what are the objections from both sides? They're pretty ludicrous and illogical, and I doubt that either represents more than a tiny fraction of each faction. First, the objection of some of those opposed to ESC:
Meanwhile, hard-line opponents of stem cell science argue that the technique solves nothing, because even the single cell removed by the new approach could theoretically grow into a full-fledged human. Some also object over the possibility the procedure could harm the embryo in an unknown way.
The method "raises more ethical questions than it answers," said Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(That second objection, that it "raises more ethical questions than it answers," is such a cowardly shuck that I won't even bother responding.)
The idea that a stem cell "could theoretically grow into a full-fledged human" would be equally true for individual adult and placental stem cells; do these same people oppose research on those, too? And theoretically, if the science of human cloning advances, a stray cell in saliva or a drop of blood (which contains leukocytes) "could theoretically grow into a full-fledged human." Should it be against moral law to spit or bleed?
The silliness factor is that individual cells are already removed from embryos for testing purposes, to check for various genetic disorders; it's called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). In fact, that is where the procedure under discussion arose. During any in vitrio fertilization, doctors can extract a single cell from any (or all) of the developing embryos for testing purposes; this is done about 1,000 times a year anyway, to check for fatal genetic conditions.
What Advanced Cell discovered was that if the doctor allows each of the extracted cells to divide once before testing, and then tests only one of the two cells of each pair, the other can be encouraged to grow into a stem-cell line.
None of the developing embryos is harmed, and no extra embryos are created in order to get stem cells.
Note to forestall a possible objection: the mere fact that a cell divides -- that's what all cells do! -- does not mean that it would suddenly turn into an embryo. You skin cells divide, but they never turn into little fetuses hanging off your body like fruit on a tree. The cell that is removed could divide many times, but it would not spontaneously turn into another embryo.
In theory, such testing could also be done on embryos in the womb; I don't know if we can do that today, but if not, we will be able to fairly soon.
At the moment, if doctors find fatal or severe genetic disorders when they test the other cell in the pair (not the one making a stem-cell line), the usual "treatment" is to destroy the embryo; but that is changing, as more and more conditions can be corrected in utero, leading to a healthy baby. And this ability will only increase, as microsurgery and better gene replacement therapies allow us to, e.g., cure Cystic Fibrosis in the womb before the baby is even born... and without killing any babies.
Does that mean that the same people who object to ESC that does not kill the embryo will also object even to removing a single cell from a high-risk embryo to test for the CF gene, simply because in theory, that single cell might, if implanted in a uterus and given certain stimulation, be coaxed into developing into an embryo?
In any event, extracting an embryonic stem-cell line neither increases the number of embryos nor does it make it any more or less likely that a particular embryo, either in utero or in vitrio, will be aborted. Growing an ESC line from those embryos does not appear to affect their fate in any way.
Religious opposition on the grounds that an extracted cell "could theoretically grow into a full-fledged human" is pure insanity, in my opinion. It's like saying that we mustn't perform organ transplants because there's always a faint chance that the donor, if frozen, could be revived and brought back to life in the future.
The Catholic Church has other objections:
Though the new procedure may satisfy the president's objections to stem cell research, it does not meet the ethical standards of the Roman Catholic church, which opposes both PGD and in vitro fertilization.
If the procedure could be done in utero, that would eliminate the Church's objection on the basis of their condemnation of in vitrio fertilization. That leaves only their objection to PGD itself... but that, then, is nothing more than the objection above to testing on the ludicrous grounds that theoretically, the extracted cell -- which is not an embryo -- could be turned into an embryo.
I suspect that the Catholic objection to PGD is entirely because it's normally done in the in vitrio environment, where a bunch of embryos are created in order to implant one or two, with the rest slated for destruction. If PGD were done on a single embryo in utero, and if that embryo were not subsequently aborted, I think the Church's objection to PGD would fall.
But what about the small fringe on the other side? What's their problem with this new technique? Amazingly, it's even stupider than that above:
Some stem cell researchers complain that the new approach, though it may hold future promise, simply isn't as efficient as their current method of creating stem cells. That procedure involves the destruction of embryos after about five days of development, when they consist of about 100 cells....
President Bush has said that he personally opposes any research that sacrifices embryonic life, even to save an existing person. In August 2001 the president limited federal funding to research on a few dozen stem cell lines that had been created up to that point.
Scientists complain that the decree has severely crippled progress in the field. But recent developments have moved them toward their twin goals of attracting non-federal money for stem cell research and overturning the restrictions.
Several states, including California, New Jersey and Illinois, have set up ways to fund the research. A number of Democratic candidates in this year's congressional elections are focusing on the issue.
The research at Advanced Cell Technology subverts those efforts, [Glenn] McGee said. [McGee is director of the Alden March Bioethics Institute in Albany, N.Y.]
In other words, McGee objects to this procedure because, by making it possible to create ESC lines without destroying embryos, it therefore makes it politically harder to get funding to destroy embryos! The only conclusion I can draw is that for Glenn McGee, the most important goal is killing embryos -- not creating stem cell lines.
This imbroglio illustrates something I have been saying for (literally) decades: the single safest prediction you can make is that in a modern, civilized society, the future will be very different from the past.
This was not always true; in the Middle Ages, for example, it was a good bet that the life of an ordinary person, whether prince, peasant, or merchant, would be almost exactly the same in A.D. 600, A.D. 700, and A.D. 800. Oh, his country's allies may change, and the wars might be against different enemies; but his day to day life would be just the same as in his great8-grandfather's time.
Similarly, in many countries today that are not "modern civilized societies," such as Afghanistan, the life of a peon still hasn't changed much. Maybe they use a tractor instead of a bull to pull the plough... but probably not.
Nor is the prediction simply a tautology; we don't simply define a "modern, civilized society" as one in which the future differs from the past. There is certainly a feedback loop; but there are very identifiable differences in thinking long before there are widespread advances in technology: technology may influence thinking, but it was created by the mind of Man -- and that mind had to be a modern, civilized mind before it could create a different future.
The change in worldview comes first.
Ignoring this reality, acting as if the march -- at times, the sprint -- of technology will not affect the "great moral issues" of the day, ignores the fact that no moral quandry is pure... all must exist within the framework of the contemporary "now." Ignoring the advance of technology when prognosticating the future is the ultimate in "static analysis," and it's a prescription for quick humiliation.
Few remember, but it was an enormous moral quandry when Nicholas Copernicus and Galileo Galilei asserted that the Earth revolved around the sun, rather that the other way 'round. In fact, it even shocked the moral senses when Galileo announced that Jupiter had moons... since if some heavenly bodies could orbit something other than the Earth, than any of them could -- including the Earth itself.
The reaction among some theologians was even more hysterical than the reaction to the well-proven theory of evolution by natural selection is today. But within a relatively short period of time, the telescope was ubiquitous... and that meant that any educated person likely knew somebody who had access to a telescope; and each could see for himself that Jupiter did, indeed have moons, and that our own moon did indeed have impact craters, and so forth. Eventually, evidence reached a tipping point where the Church could no longer deny what everyone could see with his own eyes.
The advance of technology rewrote the moral dilemma: rather than insist that believers must reject the Copernican system, theologians were forced instead to integrate the new scientific knowledge into theology (which of course they managed to do without destroying belief). This time, technology threw the game to the scientists, against (some of) the theologians (the Jesuits never had any real objection to Copernicus or Galileo).
The moral quandry of abortion might be blown wide open by a relatively "evolutionary" development: the abillity to transfer an embryo or even fetus from one woman's womb to another with no more inconvenience than an abortion. My buddy Vic Koman wrote presciently about this in his novel Solomon's Knife. If it were just as easy to donate an unwanted fetus to a couple who could not conceive but desperately wanted a child, the entire abortion question would shift on its axis -- because there would no longer be any argument in favor of abortion, except in the most extraordinary cases.
Want the baby out of your body? Fine; it's gone. Oh, wait, you insist that it be killed? Sorry, but once you choose to give it up, you give up all rights to control what happens to it after it leaves your womb. This time, a likely advance in techology will, in the near future, toss the game to the theologians; the big losers will be secular feminists, who really have no other catechism left besides the legality of abortion.
And now, in real time, we're seeing the moral dilemma of embryonic stem cell research being blown wide open by a company that developed a method of extracting ESCs without damaging the underlying embryo. Is it perfect? not yet. So give it a couple of years; perhaps by then, it will be possible to do the procedure in utero. The point remains: whether in 2006 or 2008, the moral objection goes away... due to a technological advance.
We live in a world where a science-fictional mentality is mandatory; "realism" demands it.
August 17, 2006
Democratic Defenestration: the Ever Shrinking Democratic "Big Tent"
In a rage that independent candidate and incrumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman (80%) is doing so well in the election against the man who defeated him in the primary, Ned Lamont, some senior Democrats now openly talk about stripping Lieberman of his rank and committee assigments, should he beat the other fellow:
If he continues to alienate his colleagues, Lieberman could be stripped of his seniority within the Democratic caucus should he defeat Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election this November, according to some senior Democratic aides.
Why all this "Dem angst," as the Hill puts it?
“I think there’s a lot of concern,” said a senior Democratic aide who has discussed the subject with colleagues. “I think the first step is if the Lieberman thing turns into a side show and hurts our message and ability to take back the Senate, and the White House and the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] manipulate him, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people in our caucus.”
Wow; Joe Lieberman is being manipulated by the White House. He's a sock puppet -- quick, somebody call Patterico!
It sounds to me as if Lieberman is being set up as the fall guy; perhaps the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sensing that they're not really going to "take back the Senate," regardless of their breathless rhetoric, are already sowing the seeds to scapegoat Joe Lieberman when they return to face their infuriated constituents and fellow caucusers. "Don't blame us... it's all Joe's fault! If he had just accepted oblivion gracefully, we would have 60 Democratic senators today!"
And what exactly has Lieberman been saying that undermines the Democratic message and leads senior aides to suspect some dark conspiracy between their former VP candidate and Karl Rove, the "Moriarty" of the stolen Bush presidency? Ah, here we have it:
The view that Lieberman should lose his seniority is likely to become more ingrained among Democrats if Lieberman continues to align himself with Republicans, as he has in the last few days. Lieberman took a call from senior White House political strategist Karl Rove on the day of his primary election. And since losing, he has adopted rhetoric echoing Republican talking points.
“If we pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England,” Lieberman said about U.S. troops in Iraq and the recently foiled terrorism scheme. “It will strengthen them, and they will strike again.”
Of course, much of the Democratic leadership of both House and Senate is on record demanding exactly what Joe Lieberman decries: a "redeployment" (that is, a bug-out) from Iraq by a date certain, so that the terrorists and the insurgents know they only have to hang on so long, and they will be rewarded with another country to despoil and use as a base for future operations against a retreating United States.
Jumping Jeffords, with such blasphemy as this on his lips, it's a wonder Lieberman doesn't spontaneously combust from the Devil's grip on him.
Here is another unnamed aide trash-talking Lieberman:
Allowing Lieberman to retain his seniority could put the senator now running as an independent in charge of the Senate’s chief investigative committee. If Democrats took control of either chamber they would likely launch investigations of the White House’s handling of the war in Iraq and homeland security. [And that's just what most Americans want: more investigations, possibly even another impeachment hearing. After all, it worked so well for the Republicans in 1998!]
“Lieberman’s tone and message has shocked a lot of people,” said a second senior Democratic aide who has discussed the issue with other Senate Democrats. “He’s way off message for us and right in line with the White House.”
“At this point Lieberman cannot expect to just keep his seniority,” said the aide. “He can’t run against a Democrat and expect to waltz back to the caucus with the same seniority as before. It would give the view that the Senate is a country club rather than representative of a political party and political movement.” [The Senate is a movement?]
The aide said that it would make no sense to keep Lieberman in a position where he might take over the Governmental Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, the latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters shows Lieberman beating Lamont by 12% (and beating the Republican -- what the heck's his name again? -- by 49%):
The latest Quinnipiac University poll, conducted between August 10-14, shows Lieberman leads Democrat Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman with little political experience who has played on anti-war sentiment, by 53 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in November's election. The Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger drew 4 percent, the poll shows.
It is impossible by definition for the front-runner to be a spoiler. But that doesn't faze your typical Democrat, who never stops to think that the problem may not be Joe Lieberman's apostasy: perhaps it's the Democratic Party that is out of synch with the Democratic Party.
In any event, this is turning into a very interesting race: the more the Democrats diss Lieberman and talk openly about punishing him for not changing his views and embracing Bush Derangement Syndrome, the more they push him into the waiting arms of the Republicans. It's not that he'll actually turn his coat; but he will be less restrained, more willing to vote for Republican proposals... it's Lieberman unbound and unzipped!
If this is the way Democrats fight for the heart and soul of America, I'm more confident than ever about the looming November elections.
July 7, 2006
Here's a Switch --
UPDATE AND BUMP: See bottom of post.
In a bizarre twist of politics, the Democrats are fighting like the dickens over Rep. Tom DeLay... to keep him on the ballot in Texas, rather than to boot him off. The theory -- and I think it's so transparent, it's going to create blowback -- is that with DeLay's "ethical" problems (i.e., he incurred the wrath of notoriously vindictive and partisan D.A. Ronnie Earle), having DeLay's name on the ballot will so turn off Texas voters, that they'll vote for the Democrat in a strongly Republican district.
I suppose it could work... if, as Democrats believe, Texas voters are all as dumb as a box of bratwurst. Otherwise, they will easily be able to figure out just what the Democrats are up to.
Indicted former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay must stay on the November congressional ballot despite withdrawing from the race, a federal court ruled on Thursday in a decision that could help Democrats win this key seat.
Texas Republicans quickly responded they would appeal the decision by the U.S. court in Austin, Texas, for the right to choose another Republican to run against Democrat Nick Lampson. The seat is crucial to Democratic hopes to pick up the 15 seats needed to regain control of the House of Representatives.
Well, then I can confidently predict that those "hopes" will be dashed: I have nigh religious faith that Texans are not the bunch of slope-browed, eye-ridged, knuckle-dragging, drooling, cousin-marrying, dimwitted, bone-headed ceeement-heads with an extra chromosome that Ronnie Earle and his Democratic chums in Austin imagine describes any Southerner who actually believes in God, the flag, and the Lone Star state. (For example, I'll bet they can even work their way through the snarled syntax of that last sentence.)
In other words, I suspect them Texans'll say to theirselves, "podner -- now why would those Dem-o-crats be wantin' to keep ol' Tom on that dad-burned ballot, when we all know they tuck to him like a snake tucks to a mongoose?" And at some point (probably in the first 1.3 seconds after asking the question), the answer will occur: pretty much just what I wrote above about the Dem-o-crats thinking that DeLay on the ballot will cause all these "stupid" Texicans to vote for Nick Lampson (former D-TX, 75% from the ADA in 2002).
Now, I don't know about you, but I get positively mean when I sense someone thinks I'm as dumb as a big, dumb, ol' cow-patty sandwich. Especially when I'm pretty sure I top him in the IQ department by a couple of stories or mebbie three. So count me among those who think that this shenanigan will not only not help the Democrats capture the Texas 22nd district -- it will blow up in their faces like that guy in Pennsylvania who tried to light his barbecue using gunpowder.
U.S. Judge Sam Sparks in Austin said DeLay could take his name off the ballot by formally withdrawing from the race. If DeLay formally withdraws, the Republican Party cannot replace him, likely giving the seat to Democrat Lampson.
DeLay's office predicted on Thursday the decision would be overturned by a U.S. appeals court.
They'd be better off if it wasn't... blowback is a beautiful thing to watch -- from the other side!
And here is what Tom DeLay and the Republicans could do to ensure that's exactly what happens: they must make a game out of it. DeLay should stump all across Texas, but definitely hit the 22nd a few times; and he should mock the Democrats' dirty trick in every speech. Get the audience laughing with him at the "East-Coast liberals and their Austin lapdogs" and how they think all real Texans are as dumb as first-loser in a head-pounding competition.
Then, with great fanfare, the Republicans should hold their own "private primary" in the district... at their own expense and in their own venues. Any Republican registered in the 22nd district is urged to go to the local church or Elk's lodge or barbecue pit and "vote."
Tom DeLay should announce that everyone should vote for him -- and on the day he takes office, he'll immediately resign. Then Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces that as soon as DeLay resigns, he will appoint the winner of the "private primary," no matter who it is... guar-an-teed.
Thus, Texas Republicans will know that if they vote for Tom DeLay, they're not really voting for Tom DeLay; they're voting for the guy who won the (unofficial) Republican primary. He'll get both the staunch GOP votes and also the votes of anyone whose reaction to getting smoke blown in his face is to blow some smoke right back at 'em. Whoever the Republican "nominee" is, he'll get his appointment to the seat.
Then, if the Democrats demand a special election to replace the appointee -- Republicans go to town, campaigning on the theme, "look what these here jerks are doing now! Look how much money they're costing the district, just to play their limp-wristed reindeer games." By the time the special election is actually held, the GOP appointee will win confirmation by 80-20... and the net effect will be a strongly Republican seat will become a total Republican lock for the next three electoral cycles.
And then we'll see who looks as dumb as a stuffed bunny-wabbit lacking a leg and a head.
UPDATE: Rhymes With Right notes that governors don't have authority to appoint a replacement member of the House, should one resign -- only senators. Therefore, here is the new scheme: DeLay runs, promising to resign the moment he takes office; he wins, he resigns; then there is a special election, and the Republicans get to vote in a real primary for whomever they want -- and again, the campaign reminds everyone that "this expensive special election was brought to you by... the Democrats! Who insisted that DeLay had to be the standard bearer because they thought you were so stupid, you would vote for the Democrat."
That should work just as well as the above scheme... and even better, it's actually legal!
June 30, 2006
Culture of Corruption Rules!
Former Gov. Don E. Siegelman of Alabama was convicted yesterday of bribery, according to the New York Times:
After twice telling a judge it was deadlocked, a federal jury on Thursday convicted former Gov. Don E. Siegelman and a former HealthSouth chief executive, Richard M. Scrushy, on charges that they conspired in a bribery scheme seven years ago.
Two other defendants who had served in the Siegelman administration were acquitted on charges that they participated in a racketeering scheme during Mr. Siegelman's term in office.
Now, I don't know Mr. Siegelman from Adam. I don't make a practice of assiduously following the gubernatorial history of states other than my own. And of course, I know that Alabama is a very conservative state... but some Southern states do have Democratic governors.
Naturally, I was curious: is this more grist for Nancy Pelosi's mule? I skipped a bit then read a few paragraphs (or "grafs") further...
At a news conference after the verdict Thursday, the acting United States attorney, Louis Franklin, praised the jurors for holding Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy "accountable for what they did."
"The message to everybody else is that public servants have a fiduciary duty to the citizens of Alabama, and they should take that very seriously," Mr. Franklin said.
Yup, sounds good. Darned Republicans and their corrupt culture! Will their perfidy never cease? But still, there was that nagging feeling that it was a little odd that the Times had not yet mentioned any party affilliation for Mr. Siegelman. Some more grafs later (you understand I'm skipping other, even more boring grafs in between these excerpts):
The verdict came after a six-week trial and 11 days of deliberations. Mr. Siegelman was convicted of conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and obstruction of justice. The jurors convicted Mr. Scrushy of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. The longest term, up to 20 years, is carried by the mail fraud convictions.
Mr. Siegelman's former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, and his former transportation director, Gary Roberts, were cleared on all charges.
All right, all right; I've milked this goat for all she's got. Here's the payoff, which was probably visible from the first couple of sentences:
Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, called the case a ruthless campaign tactic by Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican who defeated him four years ago. During the trial, Mr. Siegelman campaigned unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor, sometimes soliciting votes on the courthouse steps.
Having held most of the state's executive offices, Mr. Siegelman once cast himself as Alabama's first "New South" governor. Considered progressive, he was elected governor in 1998 on the promise to pay college tuition for Alabama students with an education lottery.
There you go: the Times was finally forced to admit that Siegelman was a Democrat... in the eleventh graf of the story!
It turns out that the lottery was a huge bust for Siegelman: it was presented as a ballot initiative, the centerpiece of the governor's economic package, and the state lottery campaign cost at least $2 million... which Siegelman personally guaranteed. When the initiative went down in flames -- defeated, in a simple twist of fate, by a counter-campaign by religious conservatives who opposed financing children's education by legalized gambling -- Siegelman found himself suddenly having to cought up a couple of million bucks.
Hence his desperate need for bribes: Scrushy funneled $500,000 into Siegelman's pocket in exchange for appointment to a state board that regulates hospitals; as the CEO of HealthSouth, Scrushy stood to gain a lot more than $500,000 from being able to craft regulations that benefited his own company at the expense, one presumes, of his competitors.
All right, now let's engage in a little bit of alternative history. Suppose the governor caught up in this had been a Republican instead of a Democrat. How many of you think that this New York Times story would have begun thus:
After twice telling a judge it was deadlocked, a federal jury on Thursday convicted conservative Republican Gov. Fester Bestertester and former HealthSouth chief executive, Karbunkle, on charges that they conspired in a bribery scheme seven years ago.
Mr. Bestertester, a former fellow governor of President George W. Bush and his brother Jeb Bush, was a very vocal champion of "clean government" until his arrest for bribery and mail fraud. HeathSouth is a conservative multinational corporation, much like Halliburton, the company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney; CEO Karbunkle was a frequent GOP fundraiser who had often met with the Republican governor for private, one-on-one "advisory meetings."
At a joint press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged voters to end the "Republican culture of corruption," citing legal troubles by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, among many others.
June 29, 2006
Time to Withdraw From Geneva... If We Can
Hugh Hewitt says that the actual majority decision of the Supreme Court in the Hamden case does not reach quite as far as the unholy quadrumvirate of Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter did: interpreting the 1949 Geneva Conventions to apply to terrorists captured abroad. Specifically, he says that Justice Kennedy did not join that part of the opinion, opting instead for the narrower view that only the procedures of the military tribunals need comply with Geneva, because some of those held in Guantánamo Bay are members of the Taliban, which was an organized militia (as if mere membership meant they couldn't be terrorists).
I don't know if he is correct; maybe it is actually a majority position. But let's assume Hugh is right, and contrary legal commentators are wrong. That still means that the entire war on jihadi terrorism now hangs by the thread of Justice Anthony Kennedy's sanity and common sense... and that that is a slender lifeline indeed.
If that's where the Court, as a majority, stands, then we're still alive; we're on life support but not dead yet. But -- and it's a Big But -- if "Coin-Flip" Kennedy changes his mind and joins with Stevens, we may find ourselves in a true horror movie.
Because of the terrible danger that this may happen, I sincerely believe it is time for the United States to withdraw (by any means necessary) from the Geneva Conventions... if Justice Stevens will even permit the president and Congress to do so.
This drastic reaction is thrust upon us by the plurality's action, led by ultra-liberal Justice John Paul Stevens. There are now four justices who hold that terrorists must be treated as prisoners of war under the conventions.
To arrive at this weird conclusion, they completely ignored Article 4 of Convention III, Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which defines who is and who is not a "prisoner of war"... and which clearly and unambiguously excludes terrorists. Article 4 holds that:
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy...
(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
I do not believe that Stevens ever addressed this provision, which undeniably excludes unlawful combatants, such as al-Qaeda terrorists, from consideration as prisoners of war. He simply dismisses it without discussion and, in essence, declares all unlawful combatants to be legal combatants from now on.
But this clearly was not our intent when we agreed to the conventions. Such unlawful combatants were excluded when we signed, and there's solid evidence we still hold to that exclusion even now.
There was an addition to the conventions, Protocol I, enacted in 1977 that muddied the waters, having the effect of declaring that states party to it must treat even unlawful combatants as they would treat prisoners of war... without calling them prisoners of war.
But because of this very provision, the United States refused to accept Protocol I. We are not signatories to it... shouldn't that alone have convinced Stevens that he was flatly wrong about what we intended when we ratified the original conventions in 1949?
Even the website for the Geneva Conventions itself is at odds with Justice Stevens and his posse:
Combatants who deliberately violate the rules about maintaining a clear separation between combatant and noncombatant groups — and thus endanger the civilian population — are no longer protected by the Geneva Convention.
So how would the terrorists' new status, were a plurality of the Court to become the majority, affect how we must treat them? It would mean, as Stevens argued, we must treat what used to be considered unlawful combatants as well as we treat ordinary American soldiers being tried by courts-martial.
In particular, Justice Stevens, writing for 80% of the majority, opined that Convention III, Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Article 3, applied to al-Qaeda and other terrorist prisoners. Article 3 requires the following:
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons....
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
The latter requires, as a matter of course -- and this is how the quadrumvirate interpreted it -- that any tribunal trying such prisoners must afford them all the legal protections afforded members of the military being court-martialed... including the right to be present, along with the civilian attorney of their choice, for all introduction of evidence, including highly classified evidence exposing methods and personnel of our intelligence-gathering capabilities.
I would think this would also require the production of all relevant "witnesses" that the prisoner demands at his trial -- which could mean yanking from the field every soldier involved in apprehending him, since the capture is certainly relevant to his case.
As one blogsite put it (I wish I could remember which one), that could in theory mean having to undeploy entire units and send them back to the United States for every trial where a clever attorney (Ramsey Clark, for example, who would of course happily volunteer) figures out that rather than disrupt the entire war, we would just drop the case.
This is absolutely nutty, and I cannot believe that a subsequent Court would really enforce that. But we don't have a subsequent Court; we have this one. And this one, under the direction of Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter, and with only the thin reed of Anthony Kennedy preventing it from being a majority of the Supreme Court, has proven that it jolly well might enforce just such a provision... since four justices did exactly that.
All right, so we can't try them by any rational form of tribunal, since we certainly cannot risk exposure of secrets to the attorney provided by al-Qaeda for each prisoner. But the Court did say we could still hold the prisoners for the duration of hostilities. So no problem, right?
Yeah. Sure. Look again at Article 3, section 1, subsection (c):
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
I am sure that the quadrumvirate would hold that this utterly and completely prohibited the interrogation of captured terrorists, no matter where they were captured, where the interrogation took place, or what the circumstances were of the capture. If we caught one of three couriers carrying modified airborne ebola in aerosol containers, we could not, under Hamden, interrogate the prisoner to find out where the other two couriers were.
Certainly nothing more than asking him politely -- certainly not by any method that might outrage his personal dignity. Like, say, waterboarding.
At the moment, I think Congress can redraft the law allowing for tribunals to cover this by requiring a finding by the President of the United States first that a particular detainee is an unlawful combatant anent the Geneva Conventions, and only then can he be tried by the military tribunal. Presumably, this finding would be subject to litigation in the courts; but it's a fairly cut and dried issue, and the test could be written right into the new law.
But that's assuming Kennedy doesn't flip again. If he does, all bets are off.
Simply put, four of the nine justices, through their hysterical and borderline treasonous malinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions, would turn them into an international suicide pact. Stevens sees no "practicable" reasons why captured al-Qaeda terrorists with knowledge of an imminent WMD attack upon the American mainland should not be treated exactly the same as a United States Marine accused of pilfering the petty cash, with all the same rules, protections, and privileges, which includes protection against any form of aggressive interrogation.
So I believe -- purely for defensive purposes -- that it is now time to withdraw from the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It was a good treaty, and it served its purpose; but that was then, this is now.
Wait a minute, Dafydd... what about less drastic measures? If Kennedy flip-flops again, can't Congress just redraft the law to restore our ability to interrogate captured terrorists?
I cannot imagine they could: treaty obligations are considered by the Court the equivalent of constitutional provisions, and they cannot simply be waved away by legislation. No more than could Congress simply pass a law overturning part of the First Amendment. If a majority of the Court ever held that our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions required us to treat captured terrorists like members of our own military in courts-martial, Congress could not simply overrule that finding.
And evidently, they also cannot limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. They already tried that... and the Court (the full Court, Kennedy concurring) simply rejected it, notwithstanding the constitutional provision that says Congress has exactly that authority. Article III, section 2, of the United States Constitution:
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
All right; but what would happen if we did withdraw? Wouldn't that be dangerous for our own soldiers?
The second glib response is that if we do withdraw and no longer extend those protections to others, others will not extend them to us. But this is facile sophistry, because the only enemies we're likely to fight now or in the future -- whether Stalinist North Korea or al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups -- already ignore the Geneva Conventions... as the abduction of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, currently being held hostage by Hamas, demonstrates: holding hostages is against the Geneva Conventions.
Those countries that actually do abide by them are precisely those Western nations (like the United States) that would abide by them even if fighting a country that did not... and that we're not going to end up at war with in the first place. And even if we did, we could quickly negotiate a temporary treaty incorporating the Geneva protections for the duration of that war.
There is no downside to withdrawal, because the West has accepted their spirit, as it applies to wars against actual countries. For example, we ourselves adhere to the conventions in our treatment of Taliban and Iraqi insurgents who were captured fighting as armed militias while wearing uniforms and such; we do not apply the same interrogation techniques to them that we apply to captured unlawful combatants, such as terrorists.
Even though some Taliban members are at Gitmo, they are precisely those who behaved as unlawful combatants... which is why I'm not in the least confident that Justice Kennedy grasps the distinction; if he thinks that a terrorist becomes a non-terrorist because he happens to be a member of an organized army, even if he acts contrary to the conventions, then Kennedy could easily fall into Liberal-Land hand in hand with the quadrumvirate. It's a short and slippery slope.
So long as the conventions hang out there, and so long as there is no stomach on the part of other countries to negotiate a new protocol making absolutely clear that terrorists are unlawful combatants and are not covered by the protections of the conventions -- and why should they, especially signatories like Iran and Syria? -- the Geneva Conventions are a ticking time bomb, just waiting for one more Supreme Court justice to turn the plurality into a majority.
But the real question is whether the Court -- Kennedy included -- would allow us to withdraw. Having gone so far, would they go the rest of the way and hold that the conventions are eternal, and that we cannot withdraw even if we choose?
I've been looking and looking through them, and I cannot find any reference at all to withdrawal: nothing forbidding it, but no procedures for leaving, either. If Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter are willing to cripple -- essentially obliterate -- our ability to interrogate captured terrorists; and if even Kennedy considers following the conventions more urgent than surviving the war the jihadis imposed upon us; then I'm sure all five of them would move swiftly to prevent any attempt to wriggle out of the straightjacket by withdrawing from the Geneva Conventions altogether.
Which leaves us in a constitutional crisis: has the Supreme Court actually become "more equal" than the other equal powers? Is the only solution impeachment of justices -- assuming the Court would even allow that?
And would the Democrats, in the last analysis, vote to impeach even if Kennedy were to flip on the critical issue of treating all captured terrorists as prisoners of war? Or would they vote to acquit, sacrificing any hope of winning the war against jihadi terrorism in their BDS-driven need to hurt George W. Bush?
The Court has left us with a dreadful Sword of Damocles dangling above our heads. What are we going to do about it?
June 28, 2006
An amendment to allow Congress to bar the desecration of the American flag failed today in the Senate by a single vote -- 66 to 34, where 67 was needed -- and with three Republicans voting against it: Mitch McConnell (KY, 100%), Lincoln Chafee (RI, 40%), and Bob Bennett (UT, 88%)... quite an ideological spread.
Ryan Sager wrote in Real Clear Politics blog opposing the amendment -- but I find, as usual, that my own position doesn't really mesh with any organized group. (Like Robert Anton Wilson, I am "politically non-Euclidean.)
Since everybody else is yammering about this development, I suppose I'd better join the bandwagon. Read on.
Heed my warning.
- On the one hand, I completely oppose this amendment.
It's vulgar, among other things. Amendments to the United States Constitution should not be about such little, petty things like banning flag-burning or the sale or possession of alcohol; we should restrict amendments to wide, sweeping questions of liberty, like the "Civil War" amendments, or to fundamental changes to the structure of the Constitution, such as the 12th and 17th amendments (which changed how we elect the president, vice president, and senators).
- But on the other hand (imagine this entire section in the droning monotone of today's JFK), I believe it should already be perfectly within the capacity of Congress to ban flag burning.
I have never accepted the absurd extension of the word "speech" to include non-verbal actions, gestures, protests, pantomimes, works of art, strip-shows, or destruction of property. It's a rude malappropriation of everything the Framers fought for in the Revolutionary War.
They were men of reason, not mindless passion. When they wrote the First Amendment --
-- speech meant verbal communication, whether oral or written. Had they meant other forms of conveying an idea, they would have written "abridging the freedom to express an idea," the clumsy phrase used by Justice William Brennan in Texas v. Johnson (491 U.S. 397, 1989), the decision, by the slim and unconvincing margin of 5-4, that struck down all laws banning the desecration of the flag.
Of all things you could accuse James Madison of, paucity of rhetorical skill is not among them. If he meant something other than verbal communication, he would have made it clear.
I can see a very good argument for extending, or "incorporating," this amendment to state (and local) legislatures, particularly after the reorganization of the relationship between the federal government and the various states following the 14th Amendment. They were no longer mini-republics in their own right, with D.C. being there just to adjudicate disputes between the states and to handle problems too large for any one state (foreign trade, for example, or interstate commerce).
Post-1870, states were starting to become what they are now -- inferior bodies subdividing the United States. And by the "incorporation period" in the 20th century, the only vestige of the early days of the republic came during the quadrennial presidential nominating conventions, when every delegation declared itself the representatives of "the sovereign state of so-and-so!"
But even then, speech meant speech. I'm not sure when speech came to mean everything from drums to puppets to nude dancing, but it's been folderol since the year dot. Burning a flag -- anybody's flag -- is no more "speech" than is burning down the house; and Congress should be able to ban it anywhere it has jurisdiction, while states should be able to ban it everywhere else.
- But on the third hand, how does this definition affect my view of the constitutionality of the BCRA, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold?
(And Fred Barnes is right: of all people, Sen. Russell Feingold, WI, 100%, has some chutzpah attacking this amendment on grounds of freedom of speech!) If I say the First Amendment applies only to actual speech... then how can I say that the BCRA should be unconstitutional, as I do say?
I think I introduced this concept before, but maybe it was just in my dreams. The key is the idea of transactional rights.
I define a transactional right as any condition that is necessary to the enjoyment of a liberty right. For example, freedom of the press clearly applies to printing a newspaper (like, duh). But the First Amendment doesn't say a word to stop the government from banning the sale of paper, ink, and printing presses, does it?
Nevertheless, those items are utterly necessary to produce a newspaper. Thus, the right to purchase what you need to publish a newspaper is a transactional right associated with freedom of the press. (Everybody knows this; my contribution is to tease it out from the general right and give it an evocative name.) Transactional rights are what prevent Congress, too clever by half, from skirting the Second Amendment by banning the sale of ammunition -- which the text itself doesn't mention.
Clearly, arguing in favor of a particular candidate for office is a perfect example of freedom of speech. Since the expenditure to publicize your argument is absolutely necessary to allow it to be heard by those who want to hear it -- as necessary as paper and ink to publishing a newspaper -- therefore, the right to spend money campaigning for a candidate is a transactional right associated with freedom of speech (and also petitioning the government, in the case of "issue ads"). The same reasoning applies to spending money to support someone else campaigning for your candidate -- including a political party or the candidate's own campaign manager.
As a judge, I would have trashed the BCRA immediately: the core protected liberty is a verbal argument to elect one candidate instead of the other. Once again, that is the meaning of speech: verbal communication. A sock on the jaw may be eloquent indeed... but it's nonverbal and should not be protected by the First Amendment (pace, Raymond Chandler).
- On the fourth hand -- weren't Cottus, Briareus and Gyges, the "Hecatoncheiros" sons of Uranus, called the Hundred Handed? -- if the Supreme Court steadfastly refuses to restrict freedom of speech to speech, and insists upon confounding it with freedom of dancing and eating and Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloons, does that make it all right to go ahead and enact a dumb constitutional amendment just to clarify matters?
No, not in this case: this amendment is too bloody narrow, singling out just one kind of non-verbal communication for Congress to be allowed to ban. That's ridiculous; are we supposed to go down the list, ratifying amendment after amendment just to fix a stupid Court decision?
So on the last hand, I oppose this amendment; but I'm appalled that Brennan forced Congress to have to argue about enacting it.
June 24, 2006
Bush Quietly Creeping Up in the Polls
I just flipped over to Real Clear Politics' polling page and discovered that Bush's current average is 38.8% approve, 53.8% disapprove.
That's just 1.2% point off of the magic number of 40%, above which a president this late in his tenure is considered to be doing reasonably well. As we get close to November, I suspect his numbers will continue to rise slightly -- because of the fecklessness of The Men Who Would Be King in 2009, if for no other reason.
It wouldn't take much of a rise for Bush to end up with an approval rating in the mid-40s by election day... particularly if the pollsters begin looking at "likely voters" instead of "American adults;" they'll be doing that anyway for the match-up polls, so they may shift to that pool of respondents for the job approval (I don't know whether that's customary).
Thus, far from the president being a liability and having Republicans run away from him (as the Kool-Aid drinkers in the Democratic Party inevitably prophesy), Bush may yet again become a positive force in the reelection of Republicans and successful challenges to Democratic incumbents.
Let's keep an eye on those polls as we run up to the election.
June 7, 2006
Although it's likely that Brian Bilbray will fail to reach either 50% (which I anticipated he would) or a 5% margin over Francine Busby (which I actually predicted) -- with 100% of the precincts reporting, the semi-official tall stands at 49.33% for Bilbray, 45.46% for Busby -- we still can't close this one out just yet. If you look at the very top of the page at the link, you will read this little cautionary note:
There are approximately 68500 Absentee / Provisional ballots still to be counted
That total is for all of San Diego County, I believe; obviously, only a small portion of those ballots are for the 50th district special election. Even so, a movement of 0.67% upward (or downward) is entirely possible.
(There was also a 50th district primary for November; the tallies are in, and the nominess are -- wait for it -- Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray! This will be the third of three rounds in the Busby-Bilbray title match, winner leaves town.)
Typically, absentee ballots tend to favor Republicans (though that's changing), while provisional ballots tend to favor Democrats (though that's changing). It is unlikely in the extreme that those ballots will change the outcome of the race; Busby is not going to wake up in a few days and find herself the winner.
But it wouldn't take many ballots, especially in such a low-turnout election as this (126,000 ballots cast), to add or subtract a fraction of a percent to either candidate... and in fact, that is guaranteed: whatever the final results, they will not be exactly 49.33% and 45.46%.
Currently, the two are separated by about 4,872 votes. If Bilbray were to add a net 850 to his total out of however many absentee and provisional ballots have not yet been tallied in this race, that would probably do it; 900 for sure.
It will take a few days to finally resolve all of the provisional ballots, and I doubt California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson is going to change the results page again until he can announce the final final results. Bilbray is very close to a majority (less close to my 5% prediction, alas), and he might well achieve it when the smoke clears.
I know a person can grow old just waiting, but sometimes that's the only thing to do.
In evaluating this race, it's important to pay attention not only those who voted for the Democrat or the Republican, but also those who voted otherwise... especially when trying to prognosticate.
While Bilbray got only 49.33% (semi-final, remember), another candidate, William Griffith, got 3.67%; Griffith is an ultra-hard-right conservative who ran against Bilbray by calling him too liberal.
Here's a profile of Griffith.
In addition, the Libertarian Party candidate, Paul King, took 1.53%. There are two kinds of LP members: those whose primary focus is drug legalization, who are apostate Democrats; and those whose main focus is to shrink the government, who are renegade Republicans. (There is a nonzero intersection of people for whom those are equally important, but it's smaller than you would imagine.) King clearly seems to be in the latter camp; he may support drug legalization, in a vague way; I don't know enough about him. But what brought him into the race, he says, is shrinking the government.
Even without adding King, the clear "right-wing" vote in this election was 53%... which is just about what we calculated as the total vote among all the Republicans voting in the April preliminary. I suppose that some of those who voted for a far-right Republican (like Eric Roach, 14.46%, or Howard Kaloogian, 7.45%) just didn't find Bilbray conservative enough for them, so they voted for Griffith, who was barely an "also-ran" (0.82%) in the prelims -- running as an Independent (specifically, the hard-right American Independent Party), as he did yesterday and probably will in November.
If you add King in as a (probable) small-gov Libertarian (as opposed to a pot-puffing Libertarian), that would make it 54.5% voting to the right; there were no candidates running to Busby's left... she got all the Democrats plus all the Leftists who voted.
That means the Right vs. Left vote in CA-50 was 54.5% to 45.5%, just about how the district voted in the 2004 presidential contest (55-44 Bush), despite the huge drop in Bush's job approval since then. Again, this is not a good sign for Democrats in November.
(By the way, centrist Democratic Rep. Jane Harman (70%) easily held off her primary opponent, Leftist Marcy Winograd; Harman won more votes in her hotly contested primary than did Republican Brian Gibson in his uncontested primary -- 26,670 to 20,455. I think Harman is a shoetree for reelection in November.)
A Bird In the Bush Ain't Worth Much
It's looking more and more like Brian Bilbray won the critical California 50th district race to succeed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who currently resides in prison. But it's not yet clear whether the second half of my prediction will come true; at the moment, with 96% counted, Bilbray leads by only 4.2%, not 5%... but it wouldn't take much to add an extra 0.8%, so we'll have to wait a day or two to see whether I get a full point or only a half.
But a win is a win, in any case.
However, this retention shines a big, bright light on the Democrats' dilemma: their strategy for taking back the House relies upon winning a bunch of races -- many of which just don't look at all likely to fall to them. They must win virtually every open seat, and they must wrest a number of seats away from Republican incumbents... one more, now that the Cunningham seat will remain with the GOP up through the election.
The main unifying theme of the Democrats this year has been the Republican Kulture of Korruption; but if it's going to work anywhere, it would have to be either in Cal-50 or in Tex-22 (Tom DeLay's erstwhile seat). The Democrats just lost Cal-50 when it was open; I don't think they're likely to win it in November, when Bilbray will be the incumbent. (In fact, he'll probably do better... the power of name recognition, which works even for former congressmen being re-elected in a different district).
And as far as the Texas seat goes, the biggest boon that Democratic candidate Nick Lampson had going for him was that he was running against the indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX, 88%).
But now he's not; DeLay is resigning from Congress this Friday, and presumably his brief replacement in the 109th Congress will be chosen by a special election (open, anyone can run). Thereafter, the Republican parties in the four counties that have voters in the 22nd district (Fort Bend, Harris, Galveston, and Brazoria) will select a nominee to replace DeLay on the ballot for the 110th Congress.
But with DeLay himself, the lightning rod, gone from the scene, it's very likely that Tex-22 will stay in Republican hands in both the special and the general elections.
So where does that leave the Democrats? They staked everything on winning Cal-50 and Tex-22, and it looks pretty unlikely that they'll win either one. There is only one other Republican congressman who is in serious legal jeopardy: Bob Ney of Ohio (88%). And Ney is very unlikely to be indicted before November, if he is at all.
So far, all that the Democrats have against him is rumor and inuendo, and that's nothing like indictment (as in DeLay's case), and certainly nothing like conviction and la calabooza, as with Cunningham. If the Democrats can't make the Kulture of Korruption theme work in those two cases, I'm very skeptical they can make it work for a smoke-but-no-fire-yet representative like Ney.
When all is said and done, I doubt that this election is going to turn on charges of Republican corruption -- especially with the various Democrats who have suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of the law. I believe it will turn on other issues: policy issues, such as immigration, taxes, and the Iraq war.
It's still possible for the Democrats to take the House back; but they will need to have a real campaign after all. Yet so far, they haven't even made the effort to come up with an agenda, let alone a "Contract With America."
And perhaps even more important here in California, the "Meathead" Amendment, Proposition 82 -- taxing the rich to pay for "free" preschool for all California kids, pushed onto the ballot by Rob "Meathead" Reiner -- went down in flames. Go, team!
This is the ballot proposition where Reiner was caught red-handed (shouldn't that be blue-handed?) funneling at least $23 million of taxpayer money into an ad campaign for his pet Proposition 82; so at least in this case, crime did not pay.
June 5, 2006
Anutter Grutter Cutter?
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has at least a good possibility of reversing what was arguably the worst Supreme-Court decision of the Bush era... a position that was ardently supported by the Bush administration itself.
The Supreme Court agreed today to consider an issue of enormous importance to parents and educators across the country: the extent to which public school administrators can use racial factors in assigning children to schools.
The court accepted cases from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., for its next term. The school districts in both cities defeated challenges to their assignment procedures in the lower courts.
"Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of affirmative action," Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This is huge."
The earlier case to which I alluded was Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), in which the Court held that the "affirmative-action" (racial preferences) in the University of Michigan's law school were constitutional. And the reason I think there's a reasonable chance to chip away at that awful decision is that it was 5-4... with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writing for the majority.
O'Connor has since retired, of course, replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito: if Alito actually opposes racial preferences, as I suspect he does, then he could be the crucial flip-vote that might begin wrenching the country towards racial sanity.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in the meanwhile and was replaced by Chief Justice John Roberts; but Rehnquist was in the minority in this case. So assuming that Roberts is as opposed to "affirmative action" as Rehnquist was, this will result in no change. But the O'Connor retirement could lead to racial preferences moving from a 5-4 win to a 5-4 loss.
Seattle school administrators have wrestled for decades with the de facto segregation that tends to mirror the housing patterns of white, black and Asian families in the community. Students can pick among high schools. But since some schools have more applicants than they can handle, the district relies on tie-breakers, including whether a sibling attends a certain school, distance from a prospective student's home and race, to decide who gets into the over-subscribed schools. A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in 2000, contending that it was unfair for the school district to consider race.
There are two cases here, and it could end up with another split decision (like Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- the latter involving U of M's undergraduate admissions, where the Court struck down racial preferences). The problem is that in the Kentucky case, there is an existing federal judicial order to desegregate:
The Kentucky case arises from a suit filed by Crystal Meredith, who contends that her son Joshua was not allowed into the neighborhood school because he is white. The Jefferson County school district has a history different from Seattle's, in that the Louisville schools operated for years under a federal order to desegregate. In 2001, the district began using a plan that includes racial guidelines. The plan was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
I have always argued that the way to combat official segregation is by the complete lack of segregation... not by segregating in the other direction. It's as unfair to the white Joshua Meredith that he's kept out a good school because he's white as it was to black kids during Jim Crow to be kept out of good schools because they weren't white.
But we'll see how the Court sees it. Keep your eyes on the prize....
May 27, 2006
Matthew Dowd: Americans, Republicans, Conservatives Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Matthew Dowd, GOP poller extraordinaire, writes that the ultra-hardline conservatives who insist that the American people demand "enforcement only" and hate the "amnesty" of the Senate bill have it exactly backwards. In fact:
Dowd's memo says that an internal RNC poll conducted by Jan Van Louhuzen finds that "overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law."
More, from the RNC internal poll: "When voters are given the choice of other immigration proposals, strengthening enforcement with a tamper-proof identity card (89% among all voters, 93% among GOP), various wordings of a temporary worker program (the highest at 85% among all voters, 86% among GOP), and sending National Guard troops to the border (63% among all voters, 84% among GOP) score the highest among both all voters and Republican voters."
Also: "Voters don't consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty."
Hm. So... you mean that maybe the hysterical Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL, 96%) might actually be misinformed when he says that he speaks for "the base?"
Captain Ed posted on this; that's where I saw it. But it doesn't seem to be getting much coverage from most of the conservative bloggers.
And that's too sad; isn't it better to confront the strongest arguments against one's position? Isn't truth more important than any one person's "position" on an issue?
I think a principled response from someone who opposes the Senate bill would be to say something like:
I don't buy this argument; the GOP rank and file understand the core of the immigration dilemma much better than the enforcement-only gang, perpetually gnashing their iron teeth like Baba Yaga, making a sound like a thousand pots and pans clattering down the chimney.
It turns out that polling by Dowd and also his analysis of major media polls aligns very well with the principled compromise that Big Lizards has advocated for months; it seems that we, not some other blogs, truly had our finger on the pulse not only of America, not only of the Republican Party, but even of self-described conservative Republicans. Not bad, even if we are toasting our own kazoo.
I think we should listen to the base... but not because they agree with me. In fact, it's the other way 'round: I changed my mind on several points of this discussion because people I respect -- members of the Republican base -- offered arguments that made a lot of sense to me.
One of the interesting points that Dowd found was that hardly anyone considers an earned path to citizenship to be "amnesty" for illegal immigrants:
Voters don’t consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty. Seventy percent (70%) of voters say illegal immigrants who have put down roots in the U.S. should be granted legal status after they go to the back of the line, pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and have a clean criminal record; just 25% say that would be amnesty and we should instead impose criminal penalties on illegal immigrants in the U.S. Republican and conservative opinion is only slightly lower—68% of conservatives and 64% of Republicans support granting legal status over criminal penalties.
Voters want comprehensive reform, including a temporary worker program and legal status, not inaction. When voters are given the choice between a comprehensive reform plan of getting tough on border security and a temporary worker program or no reform at all (below), 71% choose comprehensive reform and 19% choose no reform. Support for comprehensive reform is even higher among GOP base voters—80% of conservatives and 72% of church-going Protestants want comprehensive reform over no reform.
It's certainly possible for a principled conservative to reject Hagel-Martinez (actually, whatever bill comes out of the joint conference), regardless of how popular it is, not only among Republicans but among conservative Republicans. But at the least, such opponents should recognize and admit that an enforcement-only stance, or a "status quo" stance, will likely damage Republicans in 2006... rather the buoying them up, as some have suggested.
Americans, Republicans, and conservative Republicans actually support comprehensive immigration reform, and they will not take it lightly if the enforcement-only crowd burns down the bill, rather than acquiesce in creating a path to citizenship for the illegals already here -- as supported by 80% of Americans and over 75% of Republicans.
Cud for thinking.
April 18, 2006
Politics As Unusual
The newest wrinkle in the "Seven Days In April" (Tony Blankley's term) conspiracy of generals to unseat Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and hurt Republicans in the November elections) brings the essentially political nature of the rebellion into sharp focus. Oddly, though it's a day old, it's still not being reported in American mainstream news media -- at least not as I write this.
Brit Hume mentioned on Special Report yesterday that the newest addition to the Griping Generals is none other than former NATO commander and former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. But I can't find that news on any American news feed (via Google News search; I don't subscribe to the hideously overpriced LexisNexis)... not even on FoxNews.com.
It's reported in foreign news sources, however. ABC News Australia:
A former commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, has joined six other retired United States generals in calling for the resignation of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
He says Mr Rumsfeld has also lost the confidence of some serving officers, because of his handling of the war in Iraq and because they believe Mr Rumsfeld does not listen to advice.
General Clark, who was a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004, said Mr Rumsfeld had pushed the US into war in Iraq, before the diplomatic process had ended.
But you won't find it by searching abcnews.go.com here.
The Guardian has it, though they fail to note the political significance:
Mr Rumsfeld's position became more tenuous after six retired generals called for him to quit, followed by the revelation he was "personally involved" in "degrading and abusive" treatment of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, according to an internal military inquiry. On Saturday General Wesley Clark became the seventh ex-commander calling for him to go.
The Guardian misses the fact that Clark is not just an "ex-commander," he was also a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket.
And here's the Beeb, which highlights what the Guardian skipped:
Ex-Nato commander Gen Wesley Clark, who ran for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2004, backed calls for Mr Rumsfeld to resign....
Gen Clark said in a television interview: "I believe secretary Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go."
Gen Clark said he believed Mr Rumsfeld, along with Vice-President Dick Cheney, had helped push the Iraq invasion when there was "no connection with the war on terror".
Gen Clark said the secretary had lost the confidence of some officers in the military who were asking for "somebody in the military chain of command who will listen".
Gen Clark has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
So what is the political component here? Why do we say the addition of Candidate Clark changes the complexion of the criticism? Because it makes it clearer than ever that this is a political revolt against Republican policy, driven by the Democratic Party -- not the concerns of unbiased military professionals.
The leadership role played by Gen. Anthony Zinni -- who, according to Fred Barnes, organized this political stunt by actually telephoning generals to talk them into joining the rebellion -- already pointed towards the real core of dissent, as opposed to the stated reasons: they're unhappy with the 2004 election results and hope to do better in November.
Big Lizards has noted the intensely political nature of Gen. Zinni's opposition to Rumsfeld from our first post on this subject. Zinni is widely expected to be Rumsfeld's replacement if John Kerry wins election in 2008; other Democrats might also consider him. Zinni opposed the "unnecessary" Iraq War from Day-1; he has repeatedly said that sanctions against Saddam Hussein were working and keeping him "in his box."
In 2000, Zinni himself said that Iraq had WMD, active WMD programs, and that there was a danger that terrorists could get WMD from Iraq and other state sponsors of terrorism. But starting just before the 2004 election, Zinni began claiming the opposite, that the Bush administration manipulated pre-war intelligence on WMD to manufacture casus belli.
We noted how the Democrats immediately began using the talking points generated for them by the Gripers to attack the Bush administration. And now the mask is off: a once and Democratic candidate openly joins the ranks of the Gripers.
I believe the Democrats have once again overplayed their hand, as at the Paul Wellstone memorial. When the Gripers only comprised generals who had actually served under Rumsfeld, they could be portrayed as simply worried and concerned that Rumsfeld was screwing up the war.
When General Zinni emerged as the ringleader, however, that started to make clear the political motivation of the group (as well as making the generals themselves seem like sock puppets)... but only to those who followed politics closely enough to know who Zinni was in the 1990s and could be in 2009.
And with the emergency of Wesley Clark, light dawns. Even the most casual follower of current events should remember that Clark ran for president as a Democrat in 2004 then withdrew and campaigned for John Kerry; that he was the preferred candidate of Michael Moore and most of the Hollywood lefties; that he opposed the Iraq War even before it began, testifying against it before Congress in 2002; and that he touts himself as a "progressive" from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Clark should now seize the mantle of "spokesman" from Zinni; Clark is unquestionably the best-known member of the Grumbling Gripers, and one would think that he can get "face time" more easily than Zinni. But the curious reluctance of the antique media even to mention that Clark is now part if the mob seems peculiar... does it mean the MSM realizes how this changes the tenor of the revolt from concerned-but-loyal troops to partisan hacks feeding talking points to the Democratic Party? Or are they just being slow on the uptake, as so often in recent years?
Since the 1960s, the New Left has followed a deliberate policy of infiltration and subversion of great American institutions, twisting them into front groups for "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party": newspapers and television news, movies and television entertainment, schools (public and private), the clergy of several major religions, the Girl Scouts (they're still trying to get inside the Boy Scouts), corporate America, the Civil Rights movement, the AMA and APA, and so forth.
In this, they are only following in the footsteps of the Master, for such subversion was an integral part of the worldwide Communist subversion of the 1930s through the 1950s, the Stalinist period. (The red-diaper babies of the New Left, from the Port Huron Statement on, have basically been Luddite Stalinists, more radical than their pro-industry Communist parents. Their "useful idiots" are progressives, such as Zinni, Clark, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), and the like.)
It is now clear that they have infiltrated and subverted at least some portion of the military, reaching all the way up to the highest rank (Zinni and Clark are both four-stars). There exists now a slice of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps that is in fact the military branch of the Democratic Party. They serve the Party, not the country; although the public face comprises entirely retired general officers, they claim they have many allies within the active-duty ranks... and there is no reason to doubt that they do.
Certainly Tony Blankley buys it, per a column from which I got that catchy phrase "Seven Days In April" up top (hat tip, Scott Johnson at Power Line). Blankley references and quotes from a Washington Post column by former ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke:
First, it is clear that the retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside.... Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the planning period for the war in Iraq, made this clear in an extraordinary, at times emotional, article in Time magazine this past week when he said he was writing "with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership." He went on to "challenge those still in uniform . . . to give voice to those who can't -- or don't have the opportunity to -- speak."
Holbrooke is a relentless Democratic campaigner; President Clinton seriously considered him for Secretary of State to replace the retiring Warren Christopher (Clinton picked Madeleine Allbright instead). Holbrooke goes on in that column to insist the generals "are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats." He does not claim, however, that they are not overt Democrats; and indeed, the two ringleaders assuredly are. The rest repeat earlier Democratic talking points (such as that there was "no post-war planning"). [Hat tip to commenter jd watson, who spotted an error in the succession order of Clinton's two Secretaries of State. - the Mgt.]
Holbrooke makes clear his own sympathy with this group of revolting retired and active-duty generals:
The major reason the nation needs a new defense secretary is far more urgent. Put simply, the failed strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be fixed as long as Rumsfeld remains at the epicenter of the chain of command.
Tony Blankley wonders whether a conspiracy among active-duty generals to retire, one by one, and then immediately denounce the Bush administration and the Secretary of Defense, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Republicans in general might constitute a crime, either under the federal civilian law or the UCMJ:
A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.
But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.
Big Lizards is less concerned about that aspect (does Blankley suggest that Alberto Gonzales begin issuing arrest warrants?) than we are curious whether anyone will actually believe in such a drip, drip, drip of sudden and "independent" resignations and denunciamentos -- or whether, with each new "falling star," the public will grow more and more skeptical of the political independence of the group.
Especially when it is led by Wesley Clark, the man who would be president.
Big Lizards anticipates the latter: as we implied a few posts ago and mention supra, the Democrats have yet again overplayed their hand. But then, like the scorpion and the frog, it is their nature to do so.
April 16, 2006
"Retired Generals," Democrats Join Forces Against Bush
In a move that shocked exactly no one, Democrats have run with the ball that the "retired generals" handed off to them, accusing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush of incompetence and mismanagement of the war -- and citing the generals, of course, as representing the entire active-duty military:
"My view is that the secretary should step aside," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "Besides the fact that the Iraq war has been mismanaged... we should listen to what these generals are saying...."
Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said the critical comments from the retired generals could be considered a reflection of current senior officers not permitted to criticize Rumsfeld or Bush.
"We need a new direction in Iraq," he said. "We're looking at some incompetency in addition to the arrogance issues that have been raised. ... (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice talked about a thousand tactical mistakes the other day in Iraq the other day. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement."
Once again, we're offered a proxy measurement for morale -- rather than simply asking soldiers about their morale. This is very similar to what the Zogby poll did in February (and which Big Lizards discussed here and here). Dodd assumes that the retired generals who criticize Rumsfeld are representative of "current senior officers" -- but those retired generals who praise Rumsfeld speak only for themselves.
If anybody were in any doubt about the crassly political aspect to those "retired generals," we need only wait a few days to see if any of them now speaks out against having his deeply held, a-political convictions hijacked by the Democratic Party. Since we know they're not shy about voicing their opinions, if they say nothing about Democrats seizing upon their carping to urge people to vote against the Republicans, I think we will have our answer.
Anybody making book on whether a single one of these six retired generals will say, "hey, wait a minute -- I didn't mean everyone should vote Democratic; I just want us to send another 300,000 men to Iraq, even if we have to draft them!"
A man (or woman) who makes general is not stupid... and he is not a political naif. He knows how his words and deeds will be interpreted, because if he didn't, he would have been weeded out long before.
When a bunch of generals, led by persistent Bush critic Anthony Zinni, come forward and all demand that Donald Rumsfeld be fired, they are well aware that the Democrats and the press will seize the golden opportunity. When Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) then do exactly what everyone expected them to do, it's difficult not to conclude that the griping generals have gotten just what they wanted.
But Richardson may have pushed his attack a little too far for credulity:
"What you're seeing is deep frustration in the military," he said, "deep frustration within our troops who are not getting enough armor. ... It is obvious that Secretary Rumsfeld did not listen to them. ... That's why we're in this morass."
Yes, Governor, that's it; the Iraqis have been unable to form a unity government so far because our troops have to muddle along with last month's body armor.
Look for more of these stunts as the election looms, each one dutifully reported by the media as yet another example of the military rising up in righteous rebellion against the hated tyrant.
April 15, 2006
The Captain Veers Off Course
Captain Ed appears to join the Ignatius Chorus calling for Bush to throw Rummy overboard "in order to bring Congress back in line on the war and to reassure the electorate that fresh eyes will review the military plan for it."
Honest to goodness, this is about the rummiest idea I've ever seen on an otherwise excellent blog. I mean, this is bonkers.
I admire Rumsfeld greatly, and wish that the situation did not bring us to this question. But if replacing Rumsfeld with another SecDef with a better relationship with Congress and higher credibility with voters can assure our full and unified commitment to the war on terror, then bringing in John McCain or Joe Lieberman may be the best move for the war.
First of all, the very idea that Bush can regain momentum and swing Congress to his side by caving in to the liberals is nutty. When has showing weakness and appeasement ever helped a president?
Check out John Hinderaker's insightful addendum to a Paul Mirengoff post on (duh) Power Line (I've reparagraphed it, because I have a phobia about big lumps of text):
Here is why I think so many liberals are anxious for President Bush to replace Rumsfeld: they have staked a great deal on the proposition that the Iraq war has not gone well, and, in fact, has been a disaster. But they are troubled because they are not at all sure that is true.
By any reasonable standard, casualties have been low and Iraq's progress toward democracy has been impressive. This doesn't mean the project couldn't still go off the rails; it clearly could. But it is also possible--likely, I think--that the Iraqis will succeed in forming a government, violence will continue to decline, our troops levels will be substantially reduced, and, in a year or two, the consensus will be that the war was pretty successful after all.
This, I think, is what liberals fear most. They want President Bush to stipulate, in effect, that the war has been poorly conducted and has been a failure. That's the way in which firing Rumsfeld would rightly be interpreted.
This would largely insulate liberals against the consequences if the war does, in fact, turn out to be successful. The same logic, I think, explains why liberals are always hectoring President Bush to "admit his mistakes." What they fear, deep down, is that the President's policies haven't been mistakes at all.
John's point is well taken: where do David Ignatius and Captain Ed get the idea that keelhauling Secretary Rumsfeld would be seen as anything but a complete capitulation to Harry Reid -- as well as the tacit admission that the Democrats have been "right" all along?
Everyone, and I do mean every Man Jack of them, Jack, would take such an action as a sign that the war was a fraud and a terrible failure, the last three years a "complete waste," and that all those soldiers died in vain.
McCain would immediately send an additional several hundred thousand troops, trying to refight Vietnam (and this time winning it, by Jiminy!) Lieberman would sit and stare, a deer in headlights.
It would be an unmitigated political disaster of the first division.
But more to the point, if we step away from politics for a bit -- what makes anyone think that either McCain or Lieberman has the slightest ability to actually run the Department of Defense? It's one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world, full of hotheaded generals (every one of whom knows how to really win this war), with a budget in the hundreds of billions, employees in the millions (including civilians), dealing with tens of thousands of defense contractors, hundreds of other countries (scores of them our enemies), liasing with every other department in the country, and with responsibilities ranging from guarding the White House to housing NORAD and US Strategic Command in Cheyenne Mountain, whence we could unleash nuclear devastation upon the entire world.
And upon that single entity rests the continued existence of the United States of America.
My God, it was bad enough when Clinton stuffed Les Aspin and Bill Cohen into the job (William Perry was at least qualified on paper). I don't care how long somebody has served on the House friggin' Armed Services Committee; that doesn't make him eligible to run the Pentagon. Not even during peacetime.
Rumsfeld was ambassador to NATO and then Chief of Staff to the President of the United States before he was Secretary of Defense the first time -- and even he was arguably unqualified (on paper) back then, though he proved his mettle by successfully fighting Hammerin' Hank Kissinger in a turf war -- and beating him. He was far more qualified in 2001, when Bush appointed him; besides his previous stint as SecDef, he had served as CEO of several multinational corporations by then, as well as on many Defense-oriented administrative boards, commissions, and committees.
Oh, and have we forgotten that Donald Rumsfeld was eight years in the Congress? Obviously, being a Congressman does not automatically mean you can get along well with your colleagues: neither McCain nor Lieberman seems to have much cachet with his own party these days.
This is silliness compounding silliness. Let's see if we can all stop panicking long enough to recognize that Donald Rumsfeld is no more a liability today than he was five years ago... and that he has now won two wars, is currently winning one and a half peaces (I only give him half a star for Afghanistan), and has almost singlehandedly -- and successfully -- instituted the biggest change in how we fight wars since Ulysses S. Grant.
Let the man alone to do his job, please.
April 12, 2006
Something Missing From This Picture
Here is the New York Times' entire discussion of the vote results. See if you can guess the missing piece:
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday, Busby had 56,147 votes, or 44 percent. Bilbray had 19,366 votes, or 15 percent, followed by Roach, a political newcomer who spent $1.8 million on his own campaign, who had 18,486 votes, or 14 percent, according to unofficial results.
Notice anything missing? (Audioize the Final Jeopardy theme running in the background.)
Suppose you're a casual reader, and you want to predict whether the Democrats or the Republicans will win the seat in the June runoff. What would you calculate? "Hm... the Democrat got 44%, but the Republicans, even added together, only got 29%. Obviously, this race is a lock for the Democrats!"
The "missing link" is the Times' failure to report that besides Bilbray and Roach, there were a dozen other Republicans... and that in reality, if you add together all the Republican votes, they got over 53% for an absolute majority. But you'd never know it if all you read is the New York Times.
Lest you think this is merely an oversight, the Times did manage to find one (1) Republican voter to quote:
John Towers, a 51-year-old Republican who voted for Roach, said he felt betrayed not only by Cunningham, but by the policies of the Bush administration.
''I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Republicans are so disgusted they just stay home,'' said Towers, of Cardiff.
"Media Madness" indeed!
Legacy of a Duke: Republicans Rock!
No, not the Duke; the other Duke, disgraced and convicted former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, once R-CA.
Yesterday, an election was held to fill the congressional seat vacated by Cunningham (on the specious grounds that a criminal can't serve in Congress -- as if that hadn't happened before!) The race was touted as an important bellwether of the fate of the Republican majority in the Congressional elections next November.
Let Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics explain the importance of California's 50th District:
If the Democrats are going to net 15, they are going to have to do very well with the open seats. There are only about 7 of them, including CA 50, that are on the table for the Democrats. Unseating incumbents is a very difficult job these days. They will need to take all 7 of these open seats to take the House - thus, they will have to take CA 50. Losing CA 50 means that they will have to defeat 11 to 14 incumbent Republicans. That sounds easy, but putting together an 11- to 14-person list entitled "Republicans Who Will Definitely Lose" is very hard to do.
This is not to say, however, that CA 50 is a sufficient condition for the Democrats to capture the House. In other words, winning CA 50 is not a sign that the Republican majority is doomed, or even is in serious jeopardy. [Emphasis added]
Cost notes several points in the Democrats' favor in CA-50... advantages which make the district atypically likely to flip from R to D (which is why it means little for the Democrats to win but a lot if they lose):
- The district used to be strongly Republican; but lately, it has barely trended above the national average of Republican sentiment. Thus, the other seats Democrats must take to regain the House are by and large more conservative than is CA-50.
- This is a district (as we all know) whose Republican representative turned out to be a crook... as in indicted, pled guilty, sentenced, currently enjoying a hundred-month stretch in Butner Fed. Obviously, that should tend to depress the Republican turnout; even if the Democrats take it this year, they could easily lose it again in 2008.
Finally, here's one that Jay Cost didn't note. I don't know where he lives, so perhaps he doesn't know that the California Republican Party is peculiarly incompetent; it comprises the most bumbling bunch of simpletons of any state GOP in the United States.
It's a biannual astonishment that they even manage to win their safe seats, let alone the difficult ones. They are not representative of Republican Parties in other states, whose leaders don't actually pick fleas off each other and peel bananas with their feet, as ours do.
There was only one strong Democrat running in the race, Francine Busby, a member of the Cardiff School Board. The other Democratic candidate, Chris Young, barely registered in polls.
There were a bunch of Republicans, however: fourteen to be exact. Because of multiple candidates, there were only two likelihoods:
- Francine Busby might win more than 50% of the vote; if so, she would be elected immediately to fill the remainder of the term.
- Busby might win only a plurality; in this case, there would be a runoff on June 6th -- the same day as the primary for the November election.
Possibility (1) was the best hope for the Democrats, of course, since they would have the seat immediately; while (2) was the best that Republicans could hope for: with so many of them running, there was no chance that any would get more votes than Democrat Francine Busby. The real question, however, was how many votes would fall to each party.
For example, it was entirely possible that Busby might win only a plurality... but her votes combined with Chris Young might top 50%. Alternatively, it's possible that the Democrats, Libertarian, and Independent might together deny the Republicans a majority. Either of these would have made the June 6th runoff very dicey indeed, as the top Republican would have to pull votes from other parties to have a chance of winning.
The final results are now available; note that we have highlighted all the Republican candidates in bright blue type:
|Candidate||Party||Percent of the Vote|
|Brian P. Bilbray||Republican||15.15|
|Victor E. Ramirez||Republican||0.66|
Here is the breakdown by party:
- Libertarian: 0.60%
- Independent: 0.82%
- Democrat: 45.24%
- Republican: 53.33%
This party breakdown tells us two things: first, that the "third parties" in fact played no role at all in this election; their performance was less than pathetic. But second and most important, in the race between the Democrats and the Republicans, the GOP outpolled their rivals by more than 8%.
In fact, even if we only count those Republicans who finished ahead of the number-two Democrat, that still adds up to an absolute majority of the vote (51.62%). This bodes very well for the Republicans retaining the 50th District of California... hence, by Jay Cost's analysis, of retaining the House of Representatives.
The runoff will be between Francine Busby (D) and Brian Bilbray (R), the two top vote getters; if the Republicans rally behind Bilbray, the seat is easily held.
If the Democrats cannot collectively get to 50% -- or at least hold the Republicans below 50% -- in a district that is so stacked in their favor as this one is... they will have a long, uphill battle ahead of them to capture Congress.
April 10, 2006
Dear Stephen Laffey of Rhode Island:
Can I call you Steve? All right, sorry.
Mr. Laffey, have I got a campaign spot for you. Please use this in your upcoming primary race against Sen. Lincoln Chafee (?-RI) for the Republican nomination.
As we all know, Lincoln Chafee is the RINO-in-chief of the Senate: he voted against the Iraq War. He voted against confirmation of both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. He has openly flirted with joining Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) in his doomed effort to censure President Bush for the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program.
Lincoln Chafee has been a thorn in the eyes of the Republican Party ever since his appointment to the Senate in 1999 (following the sudden death of his beloved father, former Rhode Island governor, former Secretary of the Navy, and four-term United States Sen. John Chafee -- a real, albeit moderate, Republican, respected and liked by everyone on all sides of the debate).
Heck, Lincoln Chafee wouldn't even vote to reelect his own party's president in 2004. He made a snotty point of writing in President Bush's 80 year old father, former President George H.W. Bush, instead. And he bragged about it to the press!
"Linc" is the most reliable Republican senator on the Hill: that is, Lincoln Chafee can be relied upon to vote against Republican interests in every clutch situation.
I agree with Hugh Hewitt: I would rather see you get the nomination, Mr. Laffey, even though it likely means the seat goes Democratic: the loss of "Linc" wouldn't make any difference in Congress.
So here's your ad, Mr. Laffey. Just a very quick spot with you speaking to the camera. You are addressing Lincoln Chafee directly. And you say:
Lincoln Chafee, I knew John.
John was a friend of mine.
Senator... you're no John Chafee.
And with that -- the nomination is yours for the plucking. At that point, I will give you the campaign ad that will win you the Senate seat itself.
Dafydd ab Hugh
April 5, 2006
A Clinton Campaign Tough-Love Letter
It's spring, when a young journalist's thoughts lightly turn to campaigning for the Democrats. Here is one such campaign commercial for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY -- "have carpet, will travel"), masquerading as a "news article." But if this is a love letter, it's a bit of tough-love:
It was a case of Clinton deja vu. "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right about America," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who seems to be aiming for a return to the White House, said Wednesday as she wrapped up her speech to a Hispanic organization.
Excuse the crowd if they had heard it before. The New York Democrat, who clearly took good notes, had very slightly revised her husband's old standard, from his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1993.
"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America," President Clinton told the nation then.
Note, however, that we cannot accuse Sen. HIllary of plagiarism: she did not say that "there is nothing wrong with American that cannot be cured"... she said "that cannot be fixed." See the difference, the originality?
Here's the campaign part in the story (written by Donna Cassata and Ron Fournier). Alas for Sen. Hillary, it's mostly campaign nostalgia:
Policies aside, the Clintons' political skills and style were on display Wednesday.
The former president's smoothness - even rival Republicans marveled at it through two terms - quickly captured his crowd. Conversational, self-deprecating, largely extemporaneous, he was part tutorial, part lecturer, part comedian.
With one hand in his pocket and the other for gesturing, he joked that he missed his introduction because he was "backstage and half deaf" and recalled John Quincy Adams' dismissive comment that "there's nothing so pathetic as a former president...."
He explained that an inability to play on golf's senior tour, limited saxophone skills and a hardworking ethos forced him to created the William J. Clinton Foundation to take on the challenges of global interdependence.
Alas for Sen. Hillary, Ms. Cassata and Mr. Fournier can't find a whole lot to praise about Milady's delivery; they pass along broad, "nudge nudge wink wink" hints for her to pick up and run with:
Addressing the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's legislative conference, the former first lady held the side of the podium or rested her hands on a folder containing notes or texts. In the first few minutes, she looked down to find a number or a name in a speaking style that resembled a law school professor....
About halfway through the speech, she stopped touching the podium. Her hands came together in the form of a steeple but often broke free to gesture. She did not do the famous Bill Clinton thumbs-up, but she held both her hands out, palms up - a gesture that seemed to be an invitation to join her on the stage.
The pair even gently try to steer Milady towards the issues that (they believe) are the Democrats' strong suits for 2008:
She focused on the major problems facing the country - immigration, global competition, health care - that she said Republicans have not tackled....
She revisited the better economic days of her husband's presidency, arguing that work needs to be done after President Bush's term ends.
Yep, that's the burning issue that animates the voters of America today: global competition! Health care for immigrants! And there's yet another backward-look, yearning for the glory days of Bill Clinton -- let's all party like it's still 1999.
The writers gloss over this final point, but I think it's really the core of the story and should have been the lede. This is very, very bad for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospects in the presidential race:
Deep into a speech with several partisan riffs, she delivered her first significant applause line, saying immigrants are hardworking, law-abiding people who deserve our respect.
Let's ponder that: Sen. Hillary was only able to get a "significant applause line" when she was "deep into [her] speech." And how amazing it was to get applause for praising immigrants -- when speaking to the legislative conference of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
April 4, 2006
"The Hammer" - a Class Act to the End
As you all probably know by now, Tom DeLay (R-TX) has decided not to run for reelection; in fact, he is resigning from Congress very shortly.
Naturally, the Democrats prefer to spin this as some sort of vindication of the charges filed against DeLay by liberal Democratic thug Ronnie Earle, D.A. of Travis County, TX; but in fact, there has been no movement whatsoever in the case in the last two or three months, nothing that would have changed DeLay's mind.
The Democrats are also crowing that this must be due to the looming scandal of disgraced and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
DeLay is under indictment in Texas as part of an investigation into the allegedly illegal use of funds for state legislative races.
Separately, the Texan's ties with lobbyist Jack Abramoff caused him to formally surrender his post as majority leader in January, within days after the lobbyist entered into a plea bargain as part of a federal congressional corruption probe.
This is intentionally deceptive -- more even than usual with the liberal news media... because AP's David Espo knows or should reasonably be expected to know that DeLay surrendered his majority leadership not because of anything to do with Jack Abramoff, but because he was formally indicted ("ham sandwich" style) by Earle, and because the Republicans had reinstated the rule requiring members to resign from any leadership position if indicted.
There is a word for intentionally misleading readers in an effort to bear false witness against a person; I'm sure we all know that word by now, having watched the moral contortions of the Democrats and their journalistic "plumbers" for many years now.
The real reason that DeLay is stepping down now is so simple and honorable, the Democrats cannot fathom it. They have no experience with such matters. But in fact, Tom DeLay spelled it out in simple English:
"I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative personal campaign," DeLay said. "The voters of the 22nd district of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about and that affect their lives every day and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me...."
In an interview Monday with The Galveston County Daily News in Texas, DeLay said his change of mind was based partly on a poll taken after the March Republican primary that showed him only narrowly ahead of Democrat Nick Lampson. "Even though I thought I could win, it was a little too risky," the paper quoted him as saying.
DeLay wants the GOP to hold his Houston seat... and he knows that's tricky, if the Democrats make it all about Tom DeLay: after years of smearing him with every charge short of mopery with intent to gawk, and with an indictment, however bogus, hanging over his head, the Republican vote in his district might have been depressed if he were the nominee.
So he has stepped aside to allow the party to choose another Republican to run for that staunchly Republican seat -- thus neatly taking one potential pickup off the table for the Democrats. (When they get over their glee at seeing the back of Tom DeLay, they may eventually realize how he outfoxed them to the very end. They'll probably hate him twice as hard.)
The seat will remain Republican. The Texas redistricting will remain in place. And the dirty tricksters will be thwarted once again.
Thanks, Tom; you were a hard man, but an honorable one. You cut corners where everybody else did, because those were the rules of the game (your gerrymander of Texas simply replaced the previous Democratic gerrymander... and it had the advantage of at least restoring voice to the Republican majority of Texas.) And you always campaigned hard for your party, whether you personally liked the candidate or not; even the Left has to admit that, however grudgingly:
And while he was a conservative, he raised millions of dollars for the campaigns of fellow House Republicans regardless of their ideology, earning their gratitude in the process.
Just as they also quietly admit their perennial Abramoff smear is based upon absolutely nothing in DeLay's case:
More recently, former DeLay aide Tony Rudy said he had conspired with Abramoff and others to corrupt public officials, and he promised to help the broad federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that already has resulted in three convictions.
Neither Rudy, Abramoff nor anyone else connected with the investigation has publicly accused DeLay of breaking the law, but Rudy confessed that he had taken actions while working in the majority leader's office that were illegal. [In fact, Abramoff went farther, telling friends he had no negative testimony about Tom DeLay whatsoever. -- the Mgt.]
They lodge the same charge, in reckless disregard for the truth, against every single Republican running for election.
But in the end, even without any fire, the cyclone of smoke blown by the Democratic hit squad threatened to completely obscure the real issue, which is winning the war against jihadi terrorism. We cannot allow the Democrats to capture the House, because they will undo everything Bush has done in the last six years -- and spend the next two in a futile, tit for tat impeachment "show trial" of George W. Bush.
So Tom, a good man, "came to the aid of his party," and took himself out of position as Target Number One. This makes it that much less likely that Democrats can succeed at sabotaging the war, the economy, the military restructuring, rebuilding our intelligence capability, and every effort at reforming the government that Bush has proposed or enacted.
Vaya con Dios, Congressman Thomas Dale DeLay; you'll be missed.
March 14, 2006
A Circular Firing Squad
A few days ago, brimming with indignation about a clownish assault on the president by liberal to moderate Republicans determined to "distance" themselves from George Bush -- as if voters would admire their "courage" in speaking truth to power -- I made a gloomy prediction:
The GOP had a great chance this year. Normally, the second-term midterm election is very bad for the incumbent party... but this time, the Democrats have been unable to come together on any platform, plan, or campaign theme whatsoever. The Republicans were well poised to maintain their majorities in both the House and Senate.
Until now. It's not that Republicans will vote for Democrats; but with the Congressional GOP attacking and trying to bring down the Republican president, a huge chunk of the Republican electorate may simply decide to stay home -- "a plague on both your houses." Today, if I were betting, I would wager that the Democrats pick up at least ten seats in the House and four or five in the Senate; maybe more. And I'm no longer even sure the Republicans deserve the majority anyway. Thanks, Mr. Stupid.
Bah. I should know better than to rely upon the Democrats to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face. Whenever I stray from my normally sunny optimism and sink into pessimistic near-despair, I turn out to be wrong: optimism is not just healthier, it's actually a better model of the universe!
In fact, it took the Democrats less than a week to find a way to kneecap themselves, returning us to the electoral status-quo ante... especially given the speed with which the Bush administration strong-armed the Prime Minister of Dubai to offer the Big Lizards modest proposal of inserting an American intermediary in between the United Arab Emirates and control of terminal operations at six American ports.
With the combination of Bush's alacrity in staunching the bloodflow and the Democrats renewed determination to lose at any cost, I think we're back on track for an election of zero movement: a couple of seats here or there, going perhaps either way -- and then everything resumes its preset orbit in Congress. Here are the signs of the Derangement Party's electoral death-wish:
- Joe Biden (D-DE) dives over the Murtha cliff;
- Russell Feingold (D-WI) lunges for the censure chimera;
- John Conyers (D-MI) fires blindly for the impeachment jackpot.
First, "Slow" Joe Biden (as Hugh Hewitt calls him) has begun loudly demanding that we pull out of Iraq if we haven't won in the next six months. Heck, even the soldiers in Zogby's poll gave us a year!
Six months is, as I recall, the same timeframe that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) suggested for "redeploying" ourselves "over the horizon" from Iraq (I guess that would be to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Turkey), hoping to turn victory into Vietnamesque defeat... so Biden is not exactly being Mr. In-Between here (nor is he "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate"-ing the positive).
The U.S. should pull troops from Iraq after this summer if the political conditions in the country do not improve, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.
By "after this summer," I conclude he means September: just six months. Biden added the following, evidently blissfully unaware that the Iraqis voted in a constitution back in October:
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is aiming for the 2008 presidential race, said the Iraqis must have a constitution that unites fighting factions of the society or "it's game over."
I guess we now know what Joe doesn't know. Say, Joe, what do you know?
Feingold is a weirder case. Like most senators, he is a lawyer (Harvard Law, 1979); and even though he only practiced for three years before tumbling into his endless political career, he should certainly know better than to refer to the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program as "[Bush's] unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States." CNN can only gaze in silent envy at Feingold's economy of conspiracy-mongering.
The senator attempts to conjure the image of the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr. being wiretapped by the FBI for speaking truth to -- oh, wait, I already used that one. "I can call spirits from the vasty deep!" declares Russell Feingold.
Instead, the NSA program more resembles the "Magic" program, the codeword for the decryption of the Japanese military code before we entered World War II.
Feingold was roundly dissed by the rest of the Democratic caucus, who one and all became extraordinarily absorbed with other business when Sen. Feingold tried to drum up support for "censuring" Bush. The only previous president who was ever censured was Andrew Jackson in 1834, for yanking the federal lettuce out of the Whig bank, as I understand it.
And naturally, given his "druthers," Rep. Conyers has to go Feingold "one louder": Conyers is pushing for out and out impeachment of the president, though he hasn't quite figured out the grounds yet. From the AP story:
In the House, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is pushing legislation that would call on the Republican-controlled Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeachment.
I can just hear Conyers now, gesturing at Robert Byrd's dogeared copy of the Constitution: "Help me out, guys... there's gotta be something in there about talkin' Texan being a high crime or misdemeanor!"
Oh yes, that's just what Americans want... another impeachment battle! During wartime! Even Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of the Daily Kos cringed when impeachment was raised at a recent blogger-con.
Just when you think the Democrats will finally pick up the ball and run with it, they pull off an incredible, fifty-yard reverse lateral instead. What a difference a week makes.
March 10, 2006
Addendum to "Careful": Words Apart
Newsflash! The Associated Press is biased against Bush.
I know this shocks you, since we all believe that the elite media is non-partisan, unbiased, as pure as the driven dandruff. But now that RealClearPolitics finally has the AP-Ipsos poll up that we discussed in the previous post, and I finally got a chance to look at the actual numbers; and now that AP has a more complete story out about the poll, which includes a couple of minor little facts that didn't get mentioned in the earlier story that I linked last night... well, see for yourself.
The first point to note is my usual objection to such polling: this is a poll of national adults, a respondent pool that historically leans much further to the left than "registered voters," or even better, "likely voters." When asking about political questions -- and this entire poll is political in nature -- it only makes sense to restrict poll reporting to respondents who actually participate in the political process. Otherwise, it's like asking a teetotaller to rate the taste of different beers!
Also, as usual, Ipsos polled 6% more Democrats than Republicans (35 to 29); and of course, they did not weight for party affiliation. (When Independents were pushed to declare which way they leaned, the total rose from 35-29 to 51-39; but that might actually be picking up current attitude, rather than actual party affiliation, and they are right not to weight for that disparity.)
The very first sentence of the earlier story is a blatant falsehood, according to AP-Ipsos' own polling. It claims:
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
But it fails to mention that Bush's job approval now is exactly the same as it was in October and November of last year; and in fact, it's within the margin of error of every single poll Ipsos has taken in the last six months (except for December, when it bumped up very slightly). The same is also true for the right track/wrong track numbers, for Bush's handling of the economy, of foreign policy and terrorism, and of Iraq, each of which has been more or less the same for the past six to twelve months.
Respondents' opinion of Bush's likeability, honesty, and strength actually improved over the last poll, taken in November. Their opinion of his intelligence dropped, but their opinion of whether he is "arrogant" remained unchanged.
Thus, it is impossible to honestly portray this poll as showing any sort of trend away from Bush; more than anything else, it shows that people's opinion of him has barely budged in the last six months or longer.
But there is one more point which makes very clear the biased reporting about the poll (not the poll itself, which, despite its shortcomings, seems honest). Here is the smoking gun:
In the earlier story, written by AP Political Writer Ron Fournier, this is what AP had to say about the prospects for Iraq:
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency.
But in the newer story, written by Will Lester with "contribution" by Fournier and AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson, one additional poll result is added; this result is not even mentioned in the first story by Fournier:
People are evenly divided on the prospects for a stable, democratic government in Iraq, with the number expecting a stable outcome about the same as a year ago, the poll found.
Sound a bit contradictory? All is explained by actually looking at the poll itself, which you can find here.
On the Iraq question, the sample was actually split in half: one half was asked "How likely is it that civil war will break out in Iraq?" This sample responded as reported in the earlier story (and the current), with 77% saying "likely."
How likely is it that civil war will break out in Iraq?
But the other half of the sample was asked a different question, one which did not suggest the negative answer:
How likely is it that a stable, democratic government will be established in Iraq?
What a difference the wording makes! As I've said before, the exact wording of a poll has a tremendous impact on the results you get. In fact, this result has held remarkably steady since at least April of 2004, when the numbers were 50% saying stable democracy was likely and 49% saying it was unlikely.
I believe that the new, sensationalist question was asked simply to produce a shocking response, which then became the headline of the second story. ("Somewhat likely" was one of the allowed responses, and it was lumped with "likely" for reporting. 39% said it was "very likely," 39% said it was "somewhat likely.")
The result that half the people expect a stable democracy in Iraq is snuck into the Lester story towards the very bottom, where it's unlikely to be seen by the great majority of readers.
In other words, as I noted in the previous post, this is a "media push" to try to turn people against the president, even though the underlying poll is not a push-poll. The problem isn't the poll itself; it's no more incompetent than 90% of the rest of the polling done by the Antique Media. The problem is the reporting on the poll, which is extraordinarily slanted.
But I think this might not have been such a surprise after all.
(In the extended entry below, I discuss two more demonstrably false claims in the new story, one about violence in Iraq, the other about American and British casualties.)
More bias is also evident in the second story, which repeats a pair of falsehoods to explain the president's supposed "drop" in the polls (despite the fact that he has not actually dropped).
Claim number one:
Violence in Iraq has escalated since the destruction of a 1,200-year-old shrine in Samarra in late February.
This is simply false, through and through. Violence did escalate right after the bombing; but then it subsided, and today, it's about where it was before the bombing. This sort of reporting especially leads people to imagine that Iraq is on the brink of civil war... the false idea that violence is getting worse and worse with no abatement.
Claim number two:
As the political situation in Iraq threatens to disintegrate, the toll of deaths and casualties for U.S. troops continues to mount.
There are only two possible ways to interpret this statement:
- Every month, the total number of casualties since March 2003 either goes up or stays the same; the total number of casualties never decreases.
- Every month, the number of casualties that month is higher than in most previous months.
Interpretation number one is simply ludicrous. Of course the number can only go up... unless we imagine that, as time passes, the dead rise and people get "unwounded" -- not healed but never wounded in the first place. So the only non-tautological interpretation is number two.
Which is an utter canard. The number of deaths and woundings per month is going down, not up. So either Mr. Lester is a fool, an ignoramus, or a liar; I suppose he can take his pick.
Shortly before the vote, starting in October, 2005, the number of U.S. and U.K. deaths rose sharply (as expected, with the terrorists trying to disrupt the vote). It jumped from a monthly average of 1.73 per day to 3.16 per day. Then in November, it dropped to 2.87, then to 2.19, then to 2.06 average per day. It "rose" to 2.07 in February, but that is simply an artifact of February having only 28 days: there were actually fewer deaths in February than January (58 and 64, respectively).
And this month, in ten days, there were only ten deaths -- a rate of 1.00 per day, less than half the rate of previous months. In fact, in 2005, there were a total of 874 American and British deaths in Iraq, or 2.46 per day. So far in 2006, in 69 days, there have been only 132 deaths -- for a daily rate of only 1.91. If that keeps up for the rest of the year, it will mean only 698 American and British deaths, for a drop of more than 20%.
If March is more typical than January and February -- the months immediately following the election and including the rise in violence following the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque (the "Golden Mosque") in Samarra, then we should see fewer than 400 deaths in Iraq in 2006... which would be less than half as many who died last year.
But wait! They said "the toll of deaths and casualties," not just deaths. Passing over the minor ignorance here -- "casualties" already includes both deaths and woundings -- maybe they're saying that the drop in deaths is more than made up for by a supposed rise in woundings.
Wrong again: woundings have also been dropping. (Note that we are now talking only about U.S. woundings; I can't find statistics about British woundings.)
In the 22 weeks from September 28th, 2005 through March 8th, 2006, there were 2,249 total woundings in action (102.2 per week). Breaking it down further, in the last 13 weeks of 2005 (through January 4th, 2006), there were 1,574 woundings, or 121.1 per week. In the first 9 weeks of 2006 (starting January 5th), there were only 675 woundings for 75.0 per week, a drop of 38% from the end of 2005 to now.
During this same 22-week period spanning the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005, there were 3,753 woundings, which works out to 170.6 woundings per week -- compared to 102.2 recently. So in one year, the number of woundings dropped by more than 40%.
All right, sure -- maybe the total number of woundings is going down. But not all wounds are the same. Maybe AP means the severity of the woundings is increasing.
Nope; that too is going down. The military splits out woundings into two groups: those for which the soldier is returned to duty within 72 hours (minor wounds), and those for which he remains out of action for more than 72 hours (moderate to severe wounds). The percent of moderate to severe wounds in the 22-week period from 2004 to 2005 was 48%. The percent of moderate to severe wounds in the comparable period from 2005 to 2006 was only 39%. 61% of soldiers wounded were returned to duty within 72 hours.
None of this has been reported by the Antique Media. Instead, they continue to use phrases like "the toll of deaths and casualties for U.S. troops continues to mount." Is it any wonder that so many Americans think things are getting worse and worse, rather than better and better in Iraq?
Careful What You Wish For...
Correction: see below.
This one is a perfect example of a "media push" story -- an article designed not to inform us about the news but to drive the news. Like a push-poll, article style:
Bush's Approval Rating Hits New Low
March 10th, 2006
by Ron Fournier
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.
So nearly 80% of people think "civil war will break out in Iraq;" and not unrelated, nearly 70% think we're headed on "the wrong track." However, virtually every military expert now agrees that the danger of civil war in Iraq is almost past, and that it was never very great in the first place.
The violence was concentrated in areas where (not coincidentally) many reporters stayed; it was deliberately staged to get maximal news coverage by CNN and the nets. And we now learn that the attacks were never widespread among the people; they were restricted to extremist groups among the Sunni (al-Qaeda In Iraq) and the Shia (al Mahdi Militia), men in black on both sides committing tit-for-tat revenges against each other. It was wildly exaggerated by a news media anxious, for several reasons, to video Iraq's descent into utter chaos.
And the Antique Media managed to convince the American people that civil war was just around the corner! With such a complete catastrophe, all of our plans dashed in the flames of the horrific "civil war," it's no wonder people think Bush has failed so terribly. After all, as AP breathlessly reminds us, Iraq is "the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency."
All right, so everyone is trembling, waiting for the civil war... but civil war never comes.
Instead, the government is formed; it seems stable; and even though there is some violence -- this is the Middle East, for heaven's sake -- the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds continue to make political progress. And the Sunnis become even more aggressive about driving Zarqawi and his bloodthirsty foreign terrorists out of Iraq, as they have already begun to do (hat tip John Hinderaker at Power Line).
So how do Americans react to the unexpected good news from Iraq? My guess is that they start to realize they were duped by the Left... that is, by the news media acting in concert with the Democrats. Expecting the worst, when something actually fairly good happens, they greet it with relief and even exuberance.
It's as if, thinking you have stomach cancer, you go to the doctor in dread; but you find out that you only have acid reflux, which is somewhat serious but absolutely nothing like stomach cancer. Don't you feel a great joy and relief? "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world," and all that?
Here is what else can happen before the election, if the GOP and the president simply decide to do so:
- Bush and the Republicans can make up, now that the ports deal is resolved. They can even have a fairly calm dialog about what to do about other ports whose terminal operations are controlled by foreign-owned companies (or even companies owned by enemy foreign governments, such as the Communist China-owned COSCO, which manages terminal ops at the Port of Long Beach). Democrats will probably oppose forcing divestiture on the Chinese, arguing that Communists who attacked us in 2001, seizing an American EP-3 airplane and holding its crew hostage, are much less dangerous than our Arab allies.
Correction: as commenter Romeocat caught, the plane was an EP-3. I misremembered it as a different surveillance plane, the EC-130. Mea culpa!
- Bush and the Republicans can agree on a significant reduction in spending; the Democrats oppose it, demanding higher spending while they scream about the budget deficit.
- Bush and the Republicans in Congress can come to an agreement on building a border fence, which is very popular in the heartland, the South, and the West (not too well liked in Vermont but surprisingly popular in New Jersey). The Democrats scream that this violates the constitutional right of Latin Americans to illegally enter the United States to vote for Democrats in key contests, and they oppose it with every erg of energy they and their Mecha puppeteers have left.
All of a sudden, Bush won't be getting 74% approval from Republicans; he'll be getting 89%. Because a lot of Independents are very concerned about spending and illegal immigration (the remnant Perotistas), Bush will go from a 35% approval to a more natural 50% approval among that demographic. And his overall approval rating will therefore rise from 40% to 50%.
Maybe. Maybe not; but the point is, every one of these events lies in the hands of the president and the Republican Congress alone. Either Bush, Hastert, and Frist decide to come together... or they decide to fight a bitter battle to the end. The Democrats are of no consequence.
Because the Democrats have chosen to have no national platform whatsoever, they have likewise chosen for their fate to be in the hands of George W. Bush come November; Bush is always a strong finisher.
Yet here they are, wasting time publishing foolish polls that will only increase their indolent disconnect from the election eight months from now.
So it goes... and goes, and goes, and goes.
March 9, 2006
Dubai Ports Whirled
Obviously, everybody here already knows that DP World has ended the controversy -- at least as regards the UAE-owned company -- by agreeing to sell to some American company the P&O Ports subsidiary that controlled terminal ops at the American ports.
"DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations ... to a United States entity," the firm's top executive, H. Edward Bilkey, said in an announcement that capped weeks of controversy.
Relieved Republicans in Congress said the firm had pledged full divestiture, a decision that one senator said had been approved personally by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Democrats were left whining and complaining that they were blindsided by this and didn't yet know everything, with both Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-Hillary's Shadow) saying, in essence, yeah, well, "the devil is in the details." (I think they're really upset that their wonderful wedge issue just got snatched away.)
They're right that nobody knows yet what American company will step up to manage the terminals, since there is no American company that has any experience in running terminal operations for ports of such size; but at least it's moving more or less the direction I hoped it would from the beginning.
Of course, the easy way out would be for some American company -- Halliburton, let's say -- to take control and simply retain all the British and Amerian employees of the American subsidiary of P&O Ports, a division of Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Navigation Company, who currently run terminal ops at those same ports. Since they're already doing those jobs (and since most are American, and the non-American ones are mostly Brits), that should satisfy everyone all around. I can't imagine that a current employee of P&O would object to doing the same work, at the same location, at the same compensation, but wearing a different hat.
The most interesting questions are now:
- Who gets the contract?
- Who wins and loses for 2006 and 2008?
- What about all the other terminals operated by foreign companies, including companies owned by foreign governments -- including companies owned by foreign governments that are hostile to the United States, such as Red China -- which owns the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), which operates the terminals in the Port of Long Beach, CA, in a deal approved in 1997-1998 by then co-presidents Bill and Hillary Clinton?
Let's take them in order....
The American Company
Along with many others, I would love to see this go to Halliburton... but it's not fair to shortchange other U.S. companies just to poke a finger in Chuck Schumer's eye. All right, fun -- but not fair!
An open bid should be solicited, restricted to those companies that actually have the resources to operate those terminals effectively, with an advantage to U.S. companies that already operate terminals at smaller ports (of which there actually are some, I'm given to understand).
And I think DP World or the U.S. should strongly encourage, perhaps even require, that as many of the current employees be retained there as possible... because otherwise, terminal operations will be disrupted, there will be problems; and inevitably, chaos breeds security breaches.
Winners and Whiners
A quick run-down of how this affects the political landscape. And a more run-down political landscape I don't think I've ever seen!
The Democrats are not automatic losers in this... but it's likely
They will of course claim that it was their intervention, holding President Bush's feet to the grindstone, that "forced him to call off his crazy deal to sell American ports to al-Qaeda," or however Minority Loser Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) plans to phrase it.
I think most folks realize it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who were out in front on this issue... so I doubt the Democrats can rewrite history to the extent they would like. And much depends upon point number 3 above and how the congressional Republicans proceed from here.
The congressional Republicans probably win
They no longer find themselves at war with their own party leader; they no longer run the risk of Bush defeating them -- never an eventuality to be discounted -- and they can move on to other subjects. Now they can give Bush nearly everything he wants on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program without looking like wimps, because they can say "we stood up to him on the ports issue!"
If they're smart, they'll take on point number 3 from the list above; that would give them some follow up to clearly distinguish themselves from the Democrats on the campaign issue of national security, which is of course the most important issue facing the United States today.
But the Republicans could turn this deal into a Pyrrhic victory if they decide to humiliate the president by dancing about and crowing "We killed the ports deal! We kicked the Bush's butt!" Even worse than a sore loser is a rotten winner; Americans absolutely hate that.
The president definitely wins.
First, it's an unpopular deal he no longer has to defend. I believe it was defensible, and I believe President Bush could have defended it... but he would have had to drop everything else and tour the country incessantly, doing nothing but explain why there was no threat to the United States from allowing a UAE-owned company to run the terminals at some American ports.
Now he doesn't have to do that. And like Harriet Miers, out of sight, out of mind: I doubt that many Republicans will care in November that back in February, Bush believed DP World would do a good job in port terminal operations.
Bush particularly wins if the Republican Congress decides to press its political advantage in point 3. Bush can jump out in front on that issue and force the Democrats into a defensive posture again: either Hillary Clinton repudiates her own previous policy about COSCO and the Port of Long Beach; or she admits she had no power whatsoever in the White House at that time and didn't even have an opinion on an issue she finds so momentous today; or she tries to sell America on the idea that Red China operating American terminals and the United Arab Emirates operating American terminals are totally different issues.
In fact, Bush can really come out a winner here if he devotes the next eight months to campaigning on three issues:
- Come out swinging in favor of a general revamping of terminal operations at all American ports, forcing COSCO and the Saudi and Singaporese companies to sell their American subsidiaries to an American company (possibly the same one the UAE will sell to). At the very least, this should apply to every foreign company that is owned or controlled by a foreign government... otherwise, the charge of anti-Arabic bigotry will be very tempting to make.
(What would be even more bizarre would be to become hysterical over terminal ops by a company owned by the UAE -- a strong American ally in the war on jihadi terrorism -- but to be indifferent to the same issue anent a company owned or controlled by Saudi Arabia -- a mediocre "ally" who sometimes cooperates against terrorists... but also eagerly spreads anti-American propaganda and is the home of Wahabbism. That would almost sound like anti-ally bigotry!)
- Stand up and embrace the proposal to build a "security fence" along the entire southern border with Mexico... extracting only the agreement from the nativists in Congress that once the fence was approved, they would turn to Bush's proposals to reform the entire immigration process, have some sort of guest-worker program, and modernize the whole kit and kabootle with 21st-century technology. Not an agreement to pass it... just to bring it up and give it a fair shake in Congress.
This would definitely reel in those Republicans whose biggest concern is illegal immigration. And I think it would also make plain, after it was constructed, that such barriers don't work anywhere near as well here as in Israel... because the vast bulk of illegales coming into the U.S. do so for economic reasons, which simply is not true for Palestinians crossing from Gaza or the West Bank into Israel.
When breaches are made in the fence faster than they can be repaired, Congress and the American people will understand that no wall, no matter how strong, can withstand a million people trying to knock it down. We have to find a way to separate the honest, decent immigrants from the terrorists, criminals, drug runners, and other unsavory characters who hide among them.
- Bush must embrace the movement among fiscal conservatives in Congress for a much more "austere" budget with an additional $650 billion in cuts over five years... $350 billion from Medicare and the rest from other programs, including "entitlement" programs, but not including Social Security.
Bush doesn't have to go whole hog on this; he can probably work out a compromise... perhaps even the same amount, but backload some of it, so that there is less pain up front. And he should combine this support with a push for the "modified, limited" line-item veto that would probably pass constitutional muster.
If Bush charts a more fiscally conservative course, that will reassure many Republicans and even some Democratic conservatives and raise his stock considerably within his own party. And that is where his drop in job approval comes from: the fact that only about 3/4ths of Republicans now approve of the job he's doing. If he gets GOP support up to a more respectable 90% level, his job approval will rise to nearly 50%.
All Them Thar Other Ports Operated By Ferriners
Over and over, opponents of the ports deal insisted that it wasn't just anti-Arab bigotry; they were just opposed to any company owned by a foreign government operating terminals at American ports. All right; I take them at their word... so let's go after all the other ports that have the same or similar arrangements.
I am sure that the lovely Michelle Malkin would happily support such a move. She cannot possibly be pleased that the Clintons foisted off a company owned by the government of Red China, China Ocean Shipping, as a legitimate "business interest" to control terminal operations at the Port of Long Beach, just down the coast from us here at Big Lizards. So would Scott Johnson at Power Line, who also objected to the DP World deal, and Hugh Hewitt (who didn't oppose but had doubts), and indeed, every other conservative commentator who didn't like the idea of terminal ops being run by a company owned by the UAE.
I'm equally sure that Americans have probably forgotten about COSCO... and likely never even knew (before l'affair Dubai) that Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and many other countries strongly connected with or infiltrated by terrorists ran American port terminals. But when they're reminded of or told about it, they'll be equally unhappy with that arrangement as they were with this.
So let's call the Democrats' bluff. They say they're big national-security buffs -- so shouldn't they support forcing all those companies to make similar divestiture arrangements? I suspect we'll instead hear many choruses of "that's totally different!" from the Left Bank of American politics.
And that gives Republicans the chance to get to the right of the Democrats on national security again -- and also show them up as hypocrites, especially Hillary, since (as noted above) it was she and her husband who rammed the Red China deal through... at precisely the moment that the People's Liberation Army was funneling money into Clinton campaign coffers. You remember -- the real reason he should have been impeached, which the cowardly House Republicans refused even to vote on.
Who's with me on this? If the UAE, our ally, shouldn't be allowed to control port terminal operations here, then surely the same should be true for Communist China, our enemy. Or even Saudi Arabia, whose interest in fighting terrorism seems to wax and wane with the level of direct threat to the House of Saud.
All right, those are my preliminary thoughts. For my next post, I think I'll do something short and sweet... then include the entire text of Tolstoy's War and Peace as a footnote. Sound good?
February 7, 2006
Color Me Candid
It's a red (state) letter day when Democrats wake up to a morning cup of reality.
Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities....
Democrats described a growing sense that they had failed to take full advantage of the troubles that have plagued Mr. Bush and his party since the middle of last year, driving down the president's approval ratings, opening divisions among Republicans in Congress over policy and potentially putting control of the House and Senate into play in November.
The problem is that the Democrats have always looked to Europe for a role model... so much so that they never quite grasp the dynamic of an American election.
Typically in a parliamentary system, voters do not vote for individual candidates; instead, they vote for a party. There are usually multiple parties, and parliamentary seats are often assigned on the basis of the nationwide percent of voters, or the voters in wide regions. Amorphous "feelings" that voters have about the ethics or competence of the government can quickly translate into a big gain for the opposition party, as we just saw in Canada.
But American elections are the exception: here, virtually every election comes down to a contest between two people: one a Democrat, the other a Republican. (Yes, I know there are rare occasions where a third-party candidate wins, such as Bernie Sanders or Jesse Ventura.) In the normal case, it is not enough to pull the other party down; you have to prove to the voters that you, yourself, will do a better job than your opponent.
Thus, just because President Bush's job approval numbers are down in the forties, and the generic congressional polls favor the Democrats, doesn't mean that the Democrats will pick up any seats; they have to convince voters, on a state by state, district by district, contest by contest basis, that this particular Democrat would do better than that particular Republican.
And without any sort of a positive agenda, how can they do that?
Instead, they fall afoul of the American electoral expression that you can't beat something with nothing. Bush had a lot of tough problems on his plate; he did reasonably well, but normal second-term disappointment among Republicans, coupled with the fanatical hatred of the Democrats, combined to push his approval number down. But the Democrats haven't made the sale either; all they've done is convince the American voter that they're a bunch of whiners and complainers.
And they still won't take responsibility for their own failings:
Democrats said they had not yet figured out how to counter the White House's long assault on their national security credentials.
I suppose it never occurs to Democratic leaders to stop demanding that we funnel national-security decisions through the snail-paced court system, or that maybe the American people are more concerned about their children's lives than about whether terrorists are being rendited to countries where they'll receive the harsh treatment that the Democrats won't let them receive here.
And they said their opportunities to break through to voters with a coherent message on domestic and foreign policy — should they settle on one [!] — were restricted by the lack of an established, nationally known leader to carry their message this fall.
Yeah, it's not their fault nobody listens to them; it just because no Democrat has any national stature -- because nobody will listen to them!
(Say... did you know that John Kerry served in Vietnam? And that Howard Dean didn't?)
There is one member of the caucus who seems to have grasped the bull by the tail and stared the facts in the face: Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL), or "Osama" Obama, as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Margaritaville) called him.
"I think that two-thirds of the American people think the country is going in the wrong direction," " said Senator Barack Obama, the first-term Illinois Democrat who is widely viewed as one of the party's promising stars. "They're not sure yet whether Democrats can move it in the right direction."
Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: "We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes."
Alas, this particular senator has a bad habit of lurching back and forth between insightful candor and outrageous partisan attacks. He has even managed to enrage John McCain (R-AZ), the man who never met a Democratic he was unwilling to pair up to tweak the Republican base. As Tom Bevan at RealClearPoliticsBlog noted, McCain recently sent a furious letter to Obama, castigating the freshman Democrat for going back on his word to McCain.
The responses of various putative Democratic "leaders" speak volumes beyond the literal words.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Failed presidential candidate John F. Kerry
"Our megaphone is just not as large as their megaphone, and we have a harder time getting that message out, even when people are on the same page."
You might have an easier time getting the ear of the American people if you weren't dialing up a filibuster from Switzerland of a popular Supreme-Court nominee. (No word on whether Kerry's actual words were "je voudrais un feeleeboostaire!")
Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Wait -- which finger is that?
"We're going to keep hammering this," said Mr. Dean, the party chairman, referring to the scandals. "One thing the Republicans have taught us is that values and character matter."
Like we said, you can't beat something with nothing: even mediocre values and character beat the complete lack of either values or character.
Former Sen. Al Gore, from a Martin Luther King Day speech this year
Jolt Cola poster boy
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent such abuses....
At the same time, the Executive branch has also claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture and have plainly constituted torture in a widespread pattern that has been extensively documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.
Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated.... They violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, and our own laws against torture....
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's extravagant claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
Is comment really necessary?
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag)
The silence of the scams
(Hillary, having flashbacks to her 2000 Senate campaign, refused to answer any questions about the Democratic Party or what she believed.)
If the Democratic Party really wants to know why they have no traction at all going into the 2006 midterms, well, the mirror's right over there, friends.
February 1, 2006
The Two-Edged Sword, Revisited
He notes that the Alito Rule is one of procedure, not substance, and that Republicans may be willing to match the Gainsayer Party on procedural issues... for the sake of consistency, if nothing else:
As I tried to explain in my post asserting an "Alito rule," the criteria for voting on judicial nominees has a procedural element to it, at least in the sense that it's more important to have a consistently applied rule than to have any particular rule. I think Republican politicians will grasp this. If not, for what it's worth, conservative bloggers will be there to enlighten them. [Emphasis added]
I'm a little skeptical, since to most folks, there is no difference between procedure and substance: voting to filibuster a vote on a judge is the same as voting against that judge, I suspect, in the minds of the average voter; to most folks, the distinction is lawyer-talk.
Thus, if Republican voters are angry at the Democrats for "voting against" a qualified judge, they might well be equally angry at the Republicans for doing the same thing. We skate across thin ice when we neglect the appeal of basic fairness to the American voter... it's one of our core national principles.
But at a deeper level, I'm torn: I don't know whether I hope that Paul is right, because that would help the GOP cause of getting more judicial conservatives on the courts... or hope that Paul is wrong, since I think it's just plain wrong for a minority to filibuster a majority-supported nominee, whether to the bench or a cabinet or other administrative position.
Do we hope for democracy to prevail, whatever the cost? Fiat justicia ruat coelum? Or do we hope for an undemocratic response to preserve future democracy? Paul Mirengoff has, quite deliberately, I am sure, set us a variant on the greatest dilemma in ethics: dare we tolerate the intolerant?
I don't know the answer to that question (though I do know how to integrate some transcendental functions). This is dangerous stuff.
January 29, 2006
Hillary Comes Crawling Back, Chapter Two
In the previous chapter, we met an anxious Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham furiously tacking left by denouncing Bush's international al-Qaeda surveillance program, indicating rather a bit of desperation in her quest for the Democratic nomination.
On Friday, she poured more gasoline on the doubt-fire by throwing in her lot with Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and JFK and joining the nascent filibuster against Judge Samuel Alito... a filibuster doomed to failure (on several fronts): not enough Democrats, no support within the rank and file, the certainty of the constitutional option if they manage to scrape up forty-one senators, and the strong popular support for Alito within the American voting public.
Sen. Hillary Clinton yesterday backed a rebel band of Senate Dems seeking to filibuster a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito.
Democratic leaders had warned that filibuster efforts were going nowhere and would let President Bush score easy political points, but Clinton said, "I oppose his nomination and support efforts to block his confirmation."
"I do not think Judge Alito would advance the principles Americans hold most dear," she said, adding she would vote against a move to cut off a filibuster should one occur.
So after several years of positioning herself as a "centrist," the Semi-Divine Ms. C. is busily throwing all that work away in an increasingly hysterical tack to the left. This is not the action of a woman confident of the Democratic nomination, but rather one seeing it flutter out the window, as the Democratic Party lurches further into the fever swamp of Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, and Howard the Dean. This is a portrait of a woman astride a merry-go-round horse, on her last time 'round, seeing the brass ring pulling further into the distance behind her -- and she makes a last, desperate lunge for it....
And topples off onto the ground, dazed and stunned, wondering what just happened. Bye, bye, Blackbird.
As I said last time,
The fact that Clinton now finds it necessary to reassure the Democratic base that she does too suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome -- evidently a litmus test for nomination -- tells me that she is starting to get nervous about 2008, despite her likely easy win in her reelection this year. Look for the bipartisan "Sunday morning Hillary" to go MIA, and the shrill and screechy "Saturday night Hillary" to reappear from whatever limbo she has been banished to these last few years.
I don't think it will help; it will only solidify the belief, among both Left and Right, that she is just an opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected... and not even as good a one as her husband.
I see no reason to moderate or temporize this analysis, so I double down and let it ride.
January 28, 2006
The Delirious Democratic Dichotomy
In debate, there is a fallacy called the false dichotomy. This is best exemplified by the structure of the argument made by creationists (or followers of "intelligent design," which amounts to the same thing as creationism): creationists cannot prove their thesis, because it involves a one-time intervention by an "intelligent watchmaker" that isn't being repeated anymore. So instead, they content themselves with trying to poke holes in evolutionary theory (which they insist upon calling "Darwinism," even while they reject, with puzzlement, the label "Wilberforcism" for their own ideas). The structural theory of the argument runs thus:
Since there are only two possible alternatives -- evolutionary theory as of this moment or creationism -- then if we can "prove" that current evolutionary theory doesn't explain every, single observed fact, then logically, people must reject current evolutionary theory and take up creationism instead.
The fallacy, of course, is in the first subordinate clause: it's demonstrably false that "there are only two possible alternatives." For one thing, if indeed a fact is found that contradicts current evolutionary theory, then under the rules of science, the theory would be changed to accomodate the new observation; that is the way science always proceeds (and far from being a "weakness" of science, that is its greatest strength).
The revised theory would then be a third alternative to the first two. Hence, the fallacy of the false dichotomy.
It took a while for the penny to drop, but I finally understand why the Democrats argue the way they do. And if you've read up to this point, then you're probably way ahead of me: clearly, it is now the Democrats who operate under the same false dichotomy: Democrats have convinced themselves that the only alternative to George Bush is Harry Reid... so if they can get voters to dislike Bush or his policies, the voters must necessarily flock to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008.
This is why Democrats have not bothered putting forth any unique plans, agenda, or platforms of their own. There is no need, since, in the Democratic playbook, attacking Bush and the Republicans is the same thing as putting forth a positive Democratic agenda... and it's much easier and lot more fun.
Alas for the Democrats, if this were really a good argument, then the American people should have flocked to the Democrats in 2004; in fact, Bush not only got more voters than he did in 2000, he got a larger share of all the votes, a clear majority this time. And 2000 was before the Democratic campaign had such success in demonizing the president. More tellingly, Bush in 2004 got more votes than the Republicans got in 2002, when Bush's approval rating was still sky high from the 9/11 effect. Clearly, souring on Bush does not equate with supporting the Democrats.
Yet this year, they plan to run, once again, on the platform "we're not Republicans, and we hate Bush." Whoever is their nominee in 2008, his primary argument will doubtless be "I am the anti-Bush -- whatever Bush did I will undo, whatever he prevented I will promote and applaud." They may as well change their name to the Gainsayer Party.
Or the Kramer party. There was an episode of Seinfeld when a man collapsed from some medical ailment in Jerry's apartment; Jerry (I think) said, "quick, elevate his feet to get blood to his head!" Whereupon a hysterical Cosmo Kramer immediately shouted, "no, elevate his head to get blood to his feet!" That's Reid and Pelosi, on a nutshell.
The problem with this approach is, of course, just the same as with the creationists' argument: Bush and Reid are not the only two alternatives. And just as the response of evolutionary theory to a fact that doesn't fit is not to throw out the fact, but rather to remake the theory so that it does take that fact into account... so too is the most natural Republican response to voter rejection of some of Bush's agenda to remake the GOP agenda in ways different from those of George W. Bush, but still consonant with Republicanism.
This November, scores of Republican senators and representatives will agree with their constituents that Bush's proposals on X, Y, and Z issues won't work -- but will offer a different, yet still Republican-based proposal for dealing with them instead. If Bush is wise, he will embrace as many of these as he can, in order to meet more of his goals, albeit by different means.
And in 2008, not just the Democrats but also the Republicans will be running an anti-Bush campaign, to some extent. George Allen and John McCain will each be saying, anent some issues, "Bush's goals were laudable, but his specific policies failed... and here is how I will go about achieving those same goals differently." It will be a powerful argument, dashing Democratic hopes that as the American people turn against Bush (mostly because of false accusation), they will necessarily flip towards the Democratic Left.
The American voter has clearly demonstrated over the past few years that he thinks the Republican agenda is the worst one possible for the country... except for all the other parties' agendas. So it turns out, in the end, that the Republicans in Congress are no dumber than the American voter -- but the Democrats are.
Surprise, surprise, on the jungle cruise tonight.
January 25, 2006
Hillary Comes Crawling Back
After tacking far to the right of the Democratic Party by supporting (however limply) the Iraq War, Hillary is now trying to tack back leftward by lambasting Bush for the NSA international surveillance program. Yet she manages to demonstrate some of the same incoherence her husband used to do.
Here is her main complaint:
"Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way," the New York Democrat said.
All right; so her objection is that Bush should have followed the law. But wait....
Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, told reporters she did not yet know whether the administration's warrantless eavesdropping broke any laws. But the senator said she did not buy the White House's main justifications for the tactic.
Say, that's a pretty tricky balancing act: eavesdropping on al-Qaeda is bad because Bush didn't follow the law, but she's not actually sure whether Bush followed the law.
Here is another curious argument, referring to the attorney general's argument that Article II of the Constitution gives the president the authority to conduct surveillance for national-security purposes:
"Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission," she said. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established by Congress to approve eavesdropping warrants, even retroactively, but Bush has argued that the process often takes too long.
The existence of FISA may well be an argument against the policy (a bad argument against the policy), but it certainly has nothing to do with the question of whether "the Constitution inherently" gives that authority to the commander in chief. This is logical gibberish... it's like saying that the argument that the right to bear arms is inherently rooted in the Second Amendment is "kind of strange" because we also have federal laws allowing the FBI to carry guns. It's a non-sequitur.
She buttresses her claim that the Article II argument is "kind of strange" by adding that the argument that the congressional Authorization of Miliary Force also confers that authority is "far-fetched." Under such withering legal reasoning, I'm not sure Bush has any alternative but to end the program immediately! Oh, wait... after she "blast[ed]" Bush for the program, she mysteriously failed to call for him to end it. Like the rest of the Democratic Party.
Clinton also demonstrated her Criswell impersonation:
Clinton talked to reporters after addressing the mayors in a speech that criticized Bush's health care, economic and anti-terrorism policies.
Pointing the Democratic-leaning crowd to the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 31, she said his message amounts to "You're on your own."
Hm. Isn't that speech about six days in the future? I know the White House hands out advance copies -- but isn't that usually earlier on speech day, or at most the night before? I'm a little skeptical that Bush is actually going to stand up on Tuesday and announce, "mayors -- you're on your own!"
The fact that Clinton now finds it necessary to reassure the Democratic base that she does too suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome -- evidently a litmus test for nomination -- tells me that she is starting to get nervous about 2008, despite her likely easy win in her reelection this year. Look for the bipartisan "Sunday morning Hillary" to go MIA, and the shrill and screechy "Saturday night Hillary" to reappear from whatever limbo she has been banished to these last few years.
I don't think it will help; it will only solidify the belief, among both Left and Right, that she is just an opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected... and not even as good a one as her husband.
January 24, 2006
Hillary Will Never Be the Presidential Nominee
...Not in 2008, not ever.
[Special: note that my emphasis has changed; the main argument here is that Hillary won't be nominated because she is not particularly electable, due to her baggage, her position as a senator, and because she cannot rally the leftist base. Today, I emphasis the base part: she is not likely to be nominated even more directly because the base has steadily soured on her and the "co-presidency" with her husband.
[Everything here is still operative: Democrats have actually come to believe that progressives are more electable these days than moderates. But today, I would reverse the priority order, putting her conflict with the leftist base first.
[Without further comment, here we go, reposted from July 11, 2005, on Captain's Quarters. -- The Mgt.]
I absolutely believe, conventional wisdom notwithstanding, that Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham will never be the Democratic nominee for president. (She might not even be a candidate, if she thinks she's going to lose; but her ego may compel her to try, just as John Kerry's did.)
The reason is fairly simple: because she simply cannot win election, and she will be tainted by the Kerry Kurse. Bluntly put, senators are simply not elected president unless they have achieved a position closer to the idea of a chief executive of the country... such as a governorship or the vice presidency.
There have been only two exceptions since 1900: Warren Harding, and of course, John F. Kennedy. And at least in the case of the latter, the election was razor-thin, even against Richard Nixon, a man who was violently hated by half the country even as early as 1960 (due to his work on the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and to his outing of Helen Gahagan Douglas as a Red). Harding was the last convincing senatorial win, crushing the former governor of Ohio, James M. Cox, in 1920.
This is not an accident. A senator is simply one of a bunch of people (currently 100), not single-handedly responsible for "governing" any large governmental organization... and Americans, by and large, do not see the presidency as an entry-level job. Would it make sense for a Fortune-500 company to hire a CEO who had never even been a high-level manager?
But there is an even more basic reason senators tend not to get elected: by the very nature of the job, a senator is a deal-maker... that is, a compromiser. They do not decide, they debate; they do not govern, they negotiate, they cut deals, they sacrifice one principle for another.
Senators are not leaders; even the so-called leadership is not what most folks think of as leading: it's more like herding cats, or trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.
A senator inevitably votes for a bill that is anathema to his constituents -- in exchange for a colleague's vote on a bill that the first senator's constituents want; and both senators pray nobody finds out until after re-election.
But during a presidential campaign, at least in recent years, every least controversial vote of a candidate when he was in the House or Senate is pored over, dissected, deconstructed, and vacuum-molded into an attack ad by his opponents, first in his own party's primaries, then in the general by the even more brutal nominee of the opposite party. You must remember... we saw this exact dynamic in both the 2000 and the 2004 elections: in 2000, Gore was able to rise above his Senate past by pointing to his eight-year stint (seems like eighty) as vice president. He nearly won!
But in 2004, JFK was utterly and irrevocably defined by his Senate career: a mediocre hack who grandstanded his way through the decades, lurching from one outrageous statement to another, and never actually running anything in his entire life... not even his own finances, since his fortune came from inheritance and then a pair of fortuitous marriages. The only things he ever did apart from legislative politics was a very brief stint as a prosecutor, and of course his even briefer stint as a Swift-Boat commander.
Aside from that last, everything I wrote above applies equally to Hillary Rodham... except, of course, that it isn't "decades" in her case but, by 2008, less than a single decade. Other than that, during which she has done nothing of any significance (also like Kerry), her only important jobs were as head of the Legal Services Corporation... and as Bill Clinton's wife.
Every position she obtain after that marriage was "inherited" from her husband, from her disasterous foray into socialized medicine (the Mussolini-esque "Task Force on National Health Care Reform") to her election as a senator from a state she had never lived in her life, procurred for her by her hubby's election team.
Amazingly, she managed, during this period, to rack up the highest negatives that any first lady has ever suffered... another reason she will never be the Democratic presidential nominee. Her nomination would be catastrophic for the party, as it would galvanize Republican voters against her like nothing before, eclipsing even 2004 -- and especially Republican women, who Hillary has scorned and dissed from Day-1. This at a time when the only way the Democrats can hope to win the presidency is if Republican voters are apathetic and fail to turn out; for Ken Mehlman has already proven that when both sides turn out heavy, the Republican wins.
It might be different if there were absolutely nobody to carry the banner of the Democratic Left. She might be nominated then, though she would still lose the general election. But that simply is not the case; there are any number of better-qualified liberals willing to run, starting right at the top with Howard the Dean. Despite his promise not to run if he were chosen as chairman of the DNC, there is actually no law against it. And he is a governor and a former presidential candidate with a proven base of support. Then there is also Gephardt, Biden, Gore, and possibly even Tom Daschle. Slightly more moderate Dems like Mark Warner will probably appeal to the crossover constituency that Hillary is comically trying to woo at the moment.
I believe that Hillary will end up being the forgotten women in 2008. Her borrowed cloak of power will be moth-ridden and threadbare, and she will be "just another senator," one of a hundred, and not a very powerful one at that.
And she will not be the Democratic nominee -- then or ever.
January 19, 2006
10,000 McCainiacs... - UPDATED
...won't be enough.
UPDATE: See below.
"H-Bomb" over at Ankle Biting Pundits considers whether John McCain is "gaining more steam" among conservatives for the presidential nomination (hat tip Paul Mirengoff at Power Line). He (I don't know the gender, so I'll stick with the neutral "he") notes that originally, the only movement towards McCain was among "Beltway conservatives;" but recently, a conservative friend of his from New Hampshire told him he would support McCain -- but asked H-Bomb not to reveal his name.
I find this unconvincing in the extreme (to be fair, H-Bomb seems less than convinced himself). First of all, McCain already won New Hampshire when last he ran in 2000... so it's hardly surprising that some people in New Hampshire support him -- even if they didn't in 2000.
First, some disclosure: I have never been a fan of John McCain; so factor that into your assessment of my assessment of his chances. But let's take a look anyway at McCain's strengths and weaknesses in the 2008 primaries to see if there is anything to this "steam."
McCain's greatest asset in the general election (if he were the nominee) is simultaneously his greatest weakness in the primary: his status as a "maverick" within the Republican Party. Time and again, he has moved against the interests of conservatives... only to turn right around and bite moderates on the ankle.
Being a maverick means McCain has no natural power base within the party.
Moderates have several very significant problems with John McCain:
- Moderates hate the fact that he is strongly anti-abortion, the litmus test among liberal Republicans as it is among all Democrats.
- He's also pro-Iraq War, going even farther than the administration in calling for hundreds of thousands of additional troops to be sent in to un-Iraqify the fight and turn Iraq once more into a protectorate (would be bring Paul Bremer back to serve as permanent colonial governor of Mesopotamia?)
- He also supports Bush's attempt to pick judges who would move the federal courts towards judicial conservatism, rather than activism; the Souter wing of the Republican Party, like the Democrats, sees an activist court as the great bulwark against the hated conservatives.
But on the conservative side, McCain fares even worse:
- He opposes tax cuts.
- He pushed through the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), better known as McCain-Feingold in the Senate, which most conservatives see as a terrible assault on freedom of speech.
- He was the primary organizer of the so-called "Gang of Fourteen," which conservatives see as having thwarted their chance to formally reject judicial filibusters by changing the rules of the Senate.
- He has attacked, belittled, and smeared George W. Bush many times since 2000, blaming Bush for a scurrilous attack on McCain during the South Carolina primary. Even after campaigning for Bush in 2004, McCain has made it clear in many ways that he still blames Bush for the push-poll.
I have yet to hear from a single conservative who believes Bush himself, rather than some local campaigner operating on his own, was actually responsible for the nasty "push-poll" that implied McCain had fathered a "black child." Bush has never campaigned that way before or since, and it makes no sense that he would do so then, when it was already unlikely that McCain's New Hampshire momentum would carry over into the South -- when running against a popular Southern governor.
- He reflexively and viciously attacked the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth when they began to question John Kerry's fabricated heroism in Vietnam; some see this as one Vietnam vet sticking up for another -- but mostly I've heard conservatives seeing this as one senator sticking up for another (McCain is almost fanatical about Senate power and prestige).
- A lot of conservatives want to see the U.S. begin to withdraw from Iraq, turning over more and more of the responsibility for protecting that country to the Iraqi army... while McCain wants to send massive numbers of troops to retake the country as an American protectorate, canceling all the democratic gains of the last year. There is even the suspicion that McCain has a secret plan to reinstitute the draft in order to get an Army big enough to do so.
To me, at least -- though I'm more of a libertarian from the Right than a conservative -- it seems as though the Democrats want Iraq to be Vietnam so we can lose again... while McCain wants Iraq to be Vietnam so we can win it this time... but in Vietnam style, i.e., to destroy Iraq in order to save it. But I don't want to refight Vietnam on anybody's terms; I want us to fight -- and win -- in Iraq on the terms we have chosen: democratizing Iraq as the first step in democratizing the Middle East. McCain would set foreign policy back thirty years.
"Outsider" Primary Voters
Without a base on either the moderate or conservative side, where can McCain turn for support in the primaries? Certainly not to any huge influx of new voters, as Arnold Schwarzenegger got in California (running as a maverick Republican in the recall of Gray Davis) or as Jesse Ventura got in Minnesota (running as a Perotista). There are several factors working against McCain becoming the sort of "movie-star candidate" who has been elected before (Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Schwarzenegger, and Ventura):
- First is McCain's temperment: he is widely seen as one of the biggest hotheads in Washington, which is saying quite a lot. He also holds a grudge, and he comes across as a mean man.
- One factor rarely mentioned: McCain's age. In 2008, he will be 72 years old. The oldest man ever elected to his first term as president was Ronald Reagan, of course; he was 69, but he looked much younger. (Reagan was 73 when he ran in 1984, but that was for reelection, after a widely successful first term. Different species entirely. Yet even so, his age became an issue in his reelection until he deftly defused it in his first debate with Walter Mondale.) McCain, by contrast, definitely looks his age, with snow-white hair and a skin condition. Folks may argue that this is an unfair criterion... but "politics ain't beanbag," appearance counts, and it will become an issue.
The only person older than McCain to run for his first term was Sen. Bob Dole... and he lost to a scandal-ridden and politically self-destructive Bill Clinton in 1996... not a good precedent for McCain.
- His status as a four-term senator from Arizona, who will have served nearly twenty-two years in the Senate by the time of the 2008 primaries, forever closes the door to him being considered a "Washington outsider." He is a consummate insider.
Note: McCain is a senator with no experience as an executive at any level of government. Although this makes it very tough to win in the general election, it's not a drawback in gaining the nomination, oddly enough: of the fifteen presidential elections since World War II, six have included a Democratic or Republican nominee whose highest political office was as U.S. senator.
Likewise, it's not particularly a problem that he's already a primary loser; in those same fifteen elections, at least five eventual nominees had previously run and lost in a presidential primary campaign: Al Gore ran for president in 1988 but lost the nomination to Michael Dukakis; Bob Dole ran for president in 1980, as did George H.W. Bush -- both later became nominees (in 1996 and 1988, respectively). Ronald Reagan made a serious play for the nomination in 1976, almost dislodging the incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford. And of course George McGovern ran in 1968, losing the nomination to Hubert Humphrey (also coming in behind Eugene McCarthy).
So let's take those two canards off the table: they're important for the general election -- only one senator (Kennedy) and only two former presidential-primary losers (Reagan and Bush-41) actually won the office... but they don't mean Jack in the primary.
However, I simply cannot see how McCain gets nominated:
- If primary voters are looking for a Washington outsider, a maverick, a dark horse candidate with a strong emotional appeal, they already have a better one: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
- If they're looking for a conservative, they have several to choose from, particularly Sen. and former Gov. George Allen of Virginia and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.
- If they want a moderate, there is always Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
- If it looks as though 2008 will be the Year of the Woman, then perhaps Kay Bailey Hutchison will throw her head into the ring. Besides, McCain probably looks terrible in pumps and a dress.
- And if, perversely enough, the GOP primary electorate is desperate for a Washington insider and deal-maker... well, there's always Bill Frist of Tennessee.
There simply is no compelling reason to think that McCain can prevail over all these gentlemen, except for the fact that the mainstream media love him; he's their favorite Republican. But that can hardly be considered a mark in the plus column!
UPDATE: In this piece on the 2008 nomintion, I tackled the question "will he be?" My old blogmate Captain Ed asks the other side of the issue: "should he be?"
In Does John McCain Stand For Anything?, the Captain lands in the "No" column with a resounding smackdown. This is a must read!
January 18, 2006
Ideological Crazy Quilt
A follow-up to and expansion of my previous post, Offered For Your Approval.
Today, on Daniel Weintraub's usually excellent Bee-blog California Insider, under the title Ideological samplers, he opined the following anent Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham:
It's one thing to waffle, straddle or flip-flop, and both Clinton and Schwarzenegger have done some of that at times. But that is not the same thing as being an ideological sampler, picking and choosing positions from across the partisan spectrum. The critics would do well to note the difference. [Emphasis added]
Pardon my frankness, but this is absolute rot. And I'm surprised at Daniel for falling for this line; he is, I believe, a Democrat, and I'm sure he has been hearing this claim -- that the Democrats are not wafflers, they're ideological samplers -- ever since 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for office. It's the standard dodge to rationalize voting for the $87 billion before voting against it.
There are two ways to go about deciding one's positions on important issues. The wise way is first to decide what you really believe, deep down in your soul: what are your core principles? What animates your philosophy?
For example, some of my core beliefs are:
- Human liberty is the most important goal.
- Decent life is precious, but it is not infinitely precious.
- We must have the courage to fight for what we believe.
From just these three animating principles (three among many others), I can draw a conclusion: we must fight to preserve and expand human liberty, even if the fight puts our own lives at risk. I would have been a patriot in 1776, not a loyalist. But this is a conclusion, not a core principle: it is derived from core principles.
I can also conclude that it's morally right for us to fight to liberate the Iraqis -- hence, that this war is honorable. Someone else might conclude the opposite, that since there is little chance (he may believe) that this fight will be successfull, we'll simply squander precious lives and put our own liberty at risk (by drawing counterattack, he decides, which would cause our government to curtail our liberties for the sake of our lives). Each of us draws valid conclusions from the same core principles (depending on our view of the facts on the gound), even if our conclusions are polar opposites.
When a person derives his conclusions from core principles, it shows: he is consistent, articulate, and even stalwart, because unless one of his core principles is that he is more important than anyone or anthing else in the universe, he will be willing to lay down his life to achieve critical goals derived from his core principles: protecting his family, defending his country, fighting for liberty and freedom, even -- in the case of jihadis -- dying to destroy the infidels who threaten the souls of the faithful. The principle, whatever it is, comes first; the policies are derived from the principles.
But there is another way to arrive at one's positions on the major issues... and that is the method here defended by Weintraub. If a person has no animating principles, he can simply pick one position from column A and two from column B, selecting them based upon expediency, the nature of the Now. The ideological sampler becomes an ideological crazy quilt, "a thing of shreds and patches" hastily stitched together, the banal seascapes sewn right up next to the hellish glimpses of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
In this mad worldview, the position du jour is the primary source, and any "principles" must simply be deduced from what the subject does. Sensationalism, sensualism, solipsism, and nihilism are the four main branches of this epistemology; its followers comprise adrenaline junkies, decadent dilettantes, ultimate egoists, and visionaries of the Void. Nowhere is coherence. All is higgledy-piggledy:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(From W.B. Yeats, "the Second Coming," emphasis added)
It's easy to justify voting for it before voting against it, because in between Then and Now, the wind shifted: Then, the forces of wartime solidarity prevailed; but Now, the elections loom and Democrats seek ways to differentiate themselves from George W. Bush and the Republicans.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we oppose same-sex marriage, because the American people have our ear; but on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the Advocate and GLAAD are more strident, so we applaud Gavin Newsom and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. "Saturday night Bill" and "Sunday morning Bill" -- Dick Morris was specifically talking about Bill Clinton, but the strange interlude serves as metaphor for the entire Democratic Party, with a tiny number of exceptions (Joe Lieberman, Zell Miller, that lot).
Alas, as a Democrat -- or at least, a liberal Republican à la Lincoln Chafee -- Weintraub cannot see that a country founded upon core principles and moral certitudes cannot be run as an ideological crazy quilt, any more than a naked atheist can be the pope.
When we have peace and prosperity, we can indulge the crazy quilters... for a short while. But in times of national stress, whether military, sociological, or economic -- well, like Paris Hilton, they simply become too high maintenance to afford.
January 13, 2006
About Poor King Charles' Domestic Spying Conducted Without a Warrant
Among the oddest observations of a very odd twelvemonth of politics is the increasing obsession that liberals (in politics, in the media, in academe) have with the NSA intercept program, which they insist upon referring to as "Bush's domestic spying which he conducted without a warrant."
Apart from the fact that it is an international, not domestic program, that it consists of intercepts, not spying, and that numerous circuit courts have held that warrants are not necessary (and none has held that they are), I suppose there's nothing wrong with this formulation. But it does seem to creep into everything!
Those of us ancient enough to have gone to school when pupils were actually required to read works of English literature like David Copperfield might remember the character Mr. Dick, who was similarly obsessed with the execution (or murder) of Charles the First, king of England. Speaking of Mr. Dick and his endless "Memorial" account of himself to "the Lord Somebody or other," David says:
I found out afterwards that Mr. Dick had been for upwards of ten years endeavouring to keep King Charles the First out of the Memorial; but he had been constantly getting into it, and was there now....
Every day of his life he had a long sitting at the Memorial, which never made the least progress, however hard he laboured, for King Charles the First always strayed into it, sooner or later, and then it was thrown aside, and another one begun. The patience and hope with which he bore these perpetual disappointments, the mild perception he had that there was something wrong about King Charles the First, the feeble efforts he made to keep him out, and the certainty with which he came in, and tumbled the Memorial out of all shape, made a deep impression on me.
Bearing this in mind, read the following paragraph from an AP story about the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings and see if it doesn't strike a chord:
While Judiciary Committee Democrats praised Alito for his intellect, they questioned statements early in the nominee's career on abortion, as well as later rulings on civil rights. Democrats also said they were not satisfied with Alito's responses about presidential powers, especially in light of the Bush administration's expanded domestic spying that has been conducted without warrants.
Aside from the suspicion that someday, somehow this is going to end up before the Court, and that Alito will be sitting on it, and that therefore he might make a judgment -- does the NSA intercept program have any connection whatsoever with Judge Alito? He never worked for the NSA, he never worked for President Bush, he has never been involved in any intelligence agency, so far as I know. He has never heard a case about the NSA intercept program, hence he likely has no particular judicial opinion on it; any opinion he has is just the same as any other well-informed lawyer might have reading news stories and (perhaps) blogposts on the subject.
But we knew that poor King Charles the Martyr would sooner or later stray into the questioning of Alito by Democratic senators, despite the feeble efforts they made to keep him out:
As lawmakers launched Alito's confirmation hearings Monday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee made clear they had added another item to their list of top-tier issues confronting the New Jersey jurist: whether Alito would permit President Bush to maintain his surveillance of people within the United States, including American citizens, without first seeking warrants from a the federal courts....
"Under the president's spying program, there are no checks and balances," alleged U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "There is no outside review of the legality of this brazen infringement on the civil rights and liberties of the American people."
The NSA intercept program has become the great Democratic obsession of 2005/2006. It crops up in the most unlikely places. One reason Democrats gave for refusing to reauthorize portions of the Patriot Act was poor King Charles' head. King Charles also made an appearance in the Abramoff scandal, as Democrats tried to find a way to tie Charles the Martyr's domestic spying conducted without a warrant to members of Congress accepting golfing trips to Scotland (did poor King Charles golf?)
With the looming Senate hearings that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has already promised, investigating the precise details of how and why poor King Charles lost his head (and exactly what year it was -- did you say 1649? that seems much too long ago), I don't anticipate any respite. I'm sure that despite heroic efforts, King Charles will creep his royal way into the elections this year, and his martyred head may even be the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's agenda, such as it is, for the next two years.
The Democrats are unfazed by the fact that the last president likewise had no warrant when he cut off poor King Charles' head; in fact, President Clinton's own domestic spying conducted without a warrant -- Echelon -- severed far more heads than Bush's much more limited expanded domestic spying conducted without a warrant. But that, I suppose, is totally different.
Perhaps, if I show that I can get through at least this penultimate paragraph without any mention of poor King Charles' head -- was that 1649, you said? is that in the histories? -- the Democrats will follow suit for the rest of this year.
Oh dear... I'm afraid I shall never keep him out!
January 7, 2006
About Those Minnesota Republicans...
Just a quick, cheap-shot response to John Hinderaker's Power Line post about the Minnesota Republican congressional contingent joining the call for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down as House majority leader, a call he heeded today (much to my dismay; in this sense, Quixotic Democratic D.A. Ronnie Earle won: he forced DeLay from his leadership position, even if the entire, trumped-up case against DeLay collapses before trial).
Two Minnesota Congressmen, Jim Ramstad and my own Representative, John Kline, are supporting the petition....
There aren't a lot of people whose judgment I defer to on principle, but John is one of them. If he thinks a change in leadership will be good for the party, the Congress and the country, that's good enough for me.
Well, I suppose. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that DeLay's DeParture now opens up the second-highest leadership position in Congress, on which DeLay had a DeLock until now... and that the two top candidates to replace him are Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner (R-OH)... both fellow Midwesterners of Ramstad and Kline (and incidently Hinderaker), as opposed to DeSoutherner, DeLay.
But I'm sure we can rely on their national stature not to allow regional chauvinism to DeCide their positions on the leadership fight!
January 5, 2006
The great news out of Pennsylvania today is that football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann has announced, as widely anticipated, that he will run for the governorship of that state, diving into the race to challenge Democratic incumbent Ed Rendell.
Swann, who played for the Steelers for nine years, helping them win four Super Bowls, hasn't opened up much about his political philosophy; but he has dropped some hints:
Swann has so far revealed little about his political philosophy or the initiatives he would pursue as governor. He has advocated reducing certain business taxes and said he opposes abortion rights.
I think it safe to say he's a Republican more aligned with Rick Santorum than with Lincoln Chafee.
And speaking of Sen. Santorum (R-Endangered Species List), I can't help but think that if Swann gets the nomination, his candidacy will help Santorum, who faces the electoral fight of his career this November. Swann is a very attractive candidate: he's exciting, he is doubtless beloved in Pennsylvania, and if elected, he would be the very first black governor in that state's history -- all of which should draw a lot of folks into the race to vote for him who ordinarily would not be voting at all, or would be voting for the Democrat... just as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did in 2003. And if Swann campaigns with Santorum by his side, as I'm sure he will (assuming he survives the primary -- if there is one), some of that luster could fall upon Santorum, perhaps giving him just enough juice to defeat state treasurer Bob Casey, jr, the moderate, pro-life Democrat who is also the son of two-term, popular former Governor Bob Casey, sr.
Frankly, I would love to see the PA GOP endorse Swann over Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton III. It would probably avoid a primary fight and allow Swann to focus his campaign on the Democrat, rather than fellow Republicans. A quick glance at the two campaign-website photos should tell you everything you need to know about which candidate would run the most energetic campaign:
Candidates Lynn Swann (top) and Bill Scranton III (bottom)
In any event, Swann's entry into this race will energize the Republicans and give Pennsylvanians something to talk about other than whether Rick Santorum is too conservative for the Keystone State.
December 15, 2005
In a Captain Renault moment, we were all shocked, shocked when Mitt Romney announced that he would not run for reelection in 2006 as governor of Massachusetts... thus freeing himself to run for the presidency in 2008.
The New York Times has a longish analysis of his various feathers and black eyes. He has been moving to the right on a host of issues lately, clearly trying to challenge other Republican contenders (former Virginia Gov. George Allen, former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, possibly Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and of course current pain in the butt from Arizona, Sen. John McCain) from the right. But Romney's earlier, more socially liberal positions may cause a problem, unless he confronts them head-on and explains why he recently changed his mind on, e.g., abortion, stem-cell research, global warming, drilling in ANWR, and other hot-button issues.
The NYT article tries to stir up some religious hatred (AP doesn't mention it):
Analysts said Mr. Romney's business background and telegenic qualities are politically appealing, while his changes of position on issues like abortion and his Mormon faith, a religion that some evangelical Christians dismiss, are vulnerabilities.
This is nonsense; the idea that evangelical Christians would refuse to vote for a conservative Republican candidate simply because he's a Mormon is nothing but anti-Christian bigotry in the mind of the NYT reporter (Pam Belluck); and the fact that she felt compelled to outsource the bigotry to some unnamed "analysts" tells us that she was uncomfortable with the slander even while making it.
There are some advantages and disadvantages to Romney's campaign that the Times doesn't mention:
Because he hails from a liberal Yankee state, Massachusetts, some Southern voters may be somewhat leery... particuarly when a fellow Southerner (George Allen of Virginia) is running against him in the primaries.
If Romney wins the nomination and ends up running against Gov. Mark Warner of VA, this could be a problem; but I think the only Southern state that Warner might win against Romney would be Virginia, and even that is a big maybe. When it comes right down to it, although Southern states are willing to vote for Democrats at the state level (Warner himself, for example), they tend to be very reluctant to vote for them for president.
But by the same token, a conservative Republican from Massachusetts will probably do better in the Midwest than a conservative Republican from the South; while I'm extremely skeptical about religious bigotry on the part of "evangelical Christians" (on the part of liberals is another story), there is no question that regional bigotry is alive and well.
But there were a number of states in the Middlewest (or thereabouts) that narrowly went to the Democrats in 2004, including Michigan (17 ev), Wisconsin (10), and Minnesota (10), any one of which would replace Virginia (13 ev, if that went to Warner) and still give Romney the win.
- And speaking of Michigan, it can't hurt that Romney's father, George Romney, was a twice-elected governor of that state in the 1960s.
This primary season will put me into a quandry I haven't had before in my entire adult life: there will be on the Republican primary ballot not one, not two, but three candidates (at least!), each of whom I think would make an excellent president: Romney, Allen, and Pawlenty (I think Tim Pawlenty is still a possibility; he hasn't officially said no, has he?). In addition, while I'm not all that wild about Giuliani, I don't despise him the way I do McCain. So who to vote for?
Of course, in reality, I won't have this dilemma... since I live in California, by the time our primary is held, the nomination -- and possibly even the general election -- will already have been decided!
December 6, 2005
The Dean Drive
In the 1950s, a crackpot named Norman Dean "invented" what he called, with characteristic modesty, the Dean Drive. This device supposedly produced linear momentum without any reaction mass: that is, Dean claimed it would just zoom off in a straight line without having to expel anything behind it, like a jet or rocket must.
The fabled John W. Campbell, jr., editor of Astounding Science Fiction, the best science-fiction magazine ever published, had by then entered his crank phase, championing such cockamamie ideas as the the Hieronymous Device and Dianetics. Campbell siezed upon the Dean Drive as the epitome of his almost religous faith in the ability of backyard inventers to circumvent the fundamental laws of the universe. Like, you know, gravity.
Today, we have a new Dean Drive: the drive by Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean to circumvent the fundamental laws of electoral politics. In this case, by getting the entire Democratic Party to run on a platform of higher taxes at home and defeatism abroad... and imagining that this will levitate the party to victory in 2006 and 2008.
Dean's descent into utter crackpottery began during the 2004 elections, but it continues apace as he desperately battles to bring about a great defeat in Iraq, for which he presumably will claim credit as he runs for president in 2008 (hat tip to the enigmatic eloi, Michelle Malkin). Some samples for your election delectation:
Dean: US Won't Win in Iraq
Posted By: Jim Forsyth
San Antonio WOAI.com
December 5th, 2005
(SAN ANTONIO) -- Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years....
"I've seen this before in my life. [From the sidelines, he means. -- the Mgt.] This is the same situation we had in Vietnam. Everybody then kept saying, 'just another year, just stay the course, we'll have a victory.' Well, we didn't have a victory, and this policy cost the lives of an additional 25,000 troops because we were too stubborn to recognize what was happening."
Aha, so the Murtha-Pelosi Proposal is about to become the new sailing orders for the Democratic Party... excellent! (Imagine this said in my best impersonation of Monty Burns.) What other suggestions does Mean Howard Dean have to offer?
"The White House wants us to have a permanent commitment to Iraq. This is an Iraqi problem. President Bush got rid of Saddam Hussein and that was a great thing [that's mighty white of him -- BL], but that could have been done in a very different way. [Perhaps levitating him out of the country by use of the Dean Drive! -- BL] But now that we're there we need to figure out how to leave. 80% of Iraqis want us to leave, and it's their country."
Translation: been there, done that. Time to go. Who's on Letterman tonight? I really love that turn of phrase: "now that we're there we need to figure out how to leave." For such a short trip, we could have walked.
Here's a rather startling claim:
And we need a force in the Middle East, not in Iraq but in a friendly neighboring country to fight (terrorist leader Musab) Zarqawi, who came to Iraq after this invasion.
Gosh, that will come as a great shock to the Kurdish victims of Zarqawi's terrorism during his (formerly presumed) year running Ansar al-Islam in northern (Kurdistan) Iraq from 2002 to 2003 -- a year before "this invasion," while Saddam Hussein was still firmly in charge. Starting right after Zarqawi received medical treatment in a Baghdad hospital restricted to leading members of Hussein's inner circle.
Governor Doctor Dean seems not only "stuck on stupid" but stuck in the 70s. First, there are the incessant Vietnam comparisons; and now this:
Dean also compared the controversy over pre-war intelligence to the Watergate scandal which brought down Richard Nixon's presidency in 1974.
"What we see today is very much like what was going in Watergate," Dean said.
Well! Who can argue with that?
All I can say, contemplating four more years of Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) running the Democratic caucus in the Senate, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Minority Leader in the House, and Howard Dean as the philosophical mentor of the party as chairman, is "bring -- it -- on!"
Victim of Mad How Disease? Dean puts his finger on the root of the problem.
Norman Dean never had any success selling his "Dean Drive": his secretiveness, lying, and raging paranoia always got in the way. That plus the fact that Dean's idea was a nonsensical pile of junk to begin with. I doubt that his contemporary namesake will do any better... and mostly for the same reasons.
December 5, 2005
Senator, Heal Thyself
The New York Times article on the commission report spends nearly as much time on the reaction by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who sees the report as "a top-to-bottom indictment of the federal government's lack of resources, focus and expertise in fighting the domestic war on terror," as it does on any of the commissioners themselves. Schumer was especially scathing about the money spent by the Bush administration and the Republican Congress:
"The report is a top-to-bottom indictment of the federal government's lack of resources, focus and expertise in fighting the domestic war on terror," Mr. Schumer said. "New York State is particularly hurt by the terribly unfair and inefficient homeland security funding formula and the lack of a federal program for communications interoperability among first responders. We can and must do better."
But a lengthy investigation by the New York Daily News found that one of the the primary examples of "the distribution of Department of Homeland Security money based on politics rather than on potential risk" is the porkbarrel spending in New York State itself, involving both Republicans (Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Rudy Guiliani) and Democrats in the New York congressional delegation (Schumer included), and both federal and state agencies. Hat tip to the raptor-like eye (and haunting beauty) of the nigh-omniscient Michelle Malkin.
Some of the details uncovered by the NY Daily News of "emergency spending" enacted in New York are troubling indeed:
- Hundreds of millions to businesses that were not significantly affected by 9/11
- Millions more for projects already in development before 9/11, some that were already funded, others that were still awaiting funding
- "Huge contracts were given to companies and organizations linked to the very officials tasked with deciding how to spend the money — creating, at a minimum, the potential for multiple conflicts of interest."
- Huge bribes forked over to induce companies to stay in lower Manhattan... including companies that had never expressed any thought of leaving
- Eligibility rules made so porous that "virtually no one was ineligible"
In fact, the original figure for aid to New York -- $20 billion -- was pulled directly out of Charles Schumer's, er, hat:
The magic number of "$20 billion" that President Bush first said he would give New York was actually pulled from thin air, a figure born of politics and compassion rather than actuarial calculation and meaningful analysis.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) came up with the number in an effort to match the amount of emergency money being planned for anti-terrorism security across the country — legislation that made no specific mention of New York.
"To ask for more than $20 billion — more for New York than for all the military and the rest of the country — would seem excessive," Schumer told the Daily News. "But to ask for less than $20 billion would be derelict in my duties as a New York senator. So I figured, 'Let's match it, $20 billion for the rest and $20 billion for New York.'"
Schumer remembers Bush asking, "New York really needs $20 billion?"
"At least that, Mr. President," Schumer replied.
"You got it," said Bush. [Emphasis added]
So until Sen. Schumer leads an effort to crack down on porkbarrel spending in New York "based on politics rather than on potential risk," it's a bit thick for him to wag his finger about such unaccountable spending in the rest of the country.
Oh, wait -- Charles Schumer is being hypocritical? That's a story? As Emily Litella says...!
December 3, 2005
Ace of Aces
Ace over at Ace of Spades linked our post Which Hand Do You Choose; as I always do, I read the post that linked us... and boy, am I glad I did.
Ace's own post (below the part where he links us) is just about the clearest, most succinct, and most devastating critique of the entire liberal "cheerleaders for defeatism" clique I've read. Definitely better than our own post that he linked! (Note, this is not simple modesty, because I have none.)
Just a sample to whet the appetite:
Their careers, political and media, depend upon an American defeat in Iraq. They cannot hope for an actual Al Qaeda military victory; that's simply an impossibility. They need Bush to concede defeat in the jaws of victory, and to do that, they need to convince the American public that a war moving towards full victory is actually doomed to certain defeat.
They need this. They cannot recapture power without it. And if convincing the American people to save their asses by forcing Bush to surrender requires them lying about white phosphorus, "propaganda" in Iraqi newspapers, and the like, they'll do so, gladly.
Read the whole post: if this doesn't put it all on a nutshell for you, you're too reductionist!
November 30, 2005
It's Official: House Democrats Are Cowards
Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "came out."
She came out as a craven, an appeaser, a "cheese-eating surrender monkey." One might have thought, from the lopsided vote on cutting and running last week (403 to 3 against, and read all about it here), that the Democrats would at least maintain the facade of moral courage through the next election.
Evidently, that was a bit beyond their powers; for today, Pelosi announced that she now supports the Murtha Madness: an immediate withdrawal, commencing before the December 15th vote in Iraq, that would have all U.S. troops out of Iraq within six months... and to hell with what happens next!
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday backed a call by Democratic Rep. John Murtha to quickly start the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
"I will be supporting the Murtha resolution,'' Pelosi said of Murtha's resolution calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq at the earliest practicable date.
Naturally, this being Reuters, they had to repeat the canard that John Murtha (D-PA) was a war hawk and a conservative:
Murtha, of Pennsylvania, is a decorated Vietnam veteran and one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats who had supported the Iraq war although he criticized President George W. Bush's handling of it.
The reality, as has been ably demonstrated by Captain Ed and by Paul at Power Line, is that John Murtha was always a fair weather feather. On those deployments that he deigns to support at all (he never supported the mission in Somalia, even back under Bush-41, when it was simply famine relief), he supports military involvement up until the moment we start taking casualties. Then he turns against the deployment and demands the boys be brought home.
Veterans for Common Sense notes that Murtha was already bad-mouthing the Iraq War six months before it even began [Kaus to Patterico to Big Lizards]. And in response to a Washington Post headline, the About-Face of a Hawkish Democrat, Captain Ed wrote:
But that isn't an "about-face" at all. Eighteen months earlier, in May 2004, Murtha had already started demanding that the US pull out of Iraq, although he did it outside of the halls of Congress. As Murray herself reports -- in the sixteenth paragraph -- he told CNN in an interview that further mobilization was impossible, and that made Iraq unwinnable. He started talking up a pullout eight months before the Iraqis held their first election, seventeen months before their constitutional plebescite, and nineteen months before their upcoming elections to elect their first permanent, constitutional republican government.
Even worse, Murray fails to do any research at all on her subject, accepting the Democratic-hawk line without question. Had Murray looked into Murtha's record, she would have found that the Pennsylvania Democrat has a record of only supporting military operations until the first casualties get reported. In fact, the only time prior to 9/11 that America's military faced off against terrorists and warlords in battle, Murtha demanded that Bill Clinton withdraw them immediately from Somalia -- and got what he wanted.
And now Nancy Pelosi has hitched the Democrats' wagon to the plummeting meteor of Jack Murtha. I suppose congratulations are in order: it's always astonishing when a Democrat is actually willing to come out and speak truth to cower!
November 29, 2005
I predicted some months ago that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-NY) would not be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008 (or ever, actually). Here's reason number 217 why not. "Defending" her 2002 vote authorizing war in Iraq, Hillary writes:
"I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war," the New York senator said in a lengthy letter to thousands of people who have written her about the war.
At the same time, she said the United States must "finish what it started" in Iraq.
Dafydd's Fast Translation: Stay the course, follow the Bush war agenda, but sit in the back seat and bitch the whole time.
If I were a liberal, I would be out looking for an anchor, a length of chain, a boat, a deep body of water, and Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, I'm not a liberal; so I can just sit back, pop a Caffeine-Free Diet Dr. Pepper, and enjoy the show!
Winkin' Mark Warner
Did lame-duck Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) actually grant clemency to Robin Lovitt, not because "evidence in Mr. Lovitt's trial was destroyed by a court employee... in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law," as he claims, but rather because Lovitt would have been the 1,000th execution in the United States since the Supremes allowed it to resume in 1976 -- and Democrat Warner doesn't want the "mark of Zorro" burning on his cheek as he runs for president in 2008?
I have the creepy feeling that Democratic primary politics had a lot more to do with Warner's only grant of clemency than any facts about the case itself. (Jed Babbin, substituting for Hugh Hewitt, just expressed the same opinion, so at least it's not just me.)
November 16, 2005
Nowhere Bridge Is Nowhere Now
The Sierra Club, of all sources, is reporting that the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska has been stripped from the budget by the Senate Appropriations Committee:
The Senate Appropriations Committee removed earmarks for two controversial "bridges to nowhere" in Alaska: the Gravina bridge, which would connect Ketchikan to an island of 50 people, and the Knik Arm bridge, which would link Anchorage to a sparsely populated area. The projects have been the subject of strong criticism because of the general backlog of existing roads and bridges in desperate need of repair, especially those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to the National Association of Civil Engineers, one in four bridges nationwide is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, not including the damage from Katrina and Rita.
If the Sierra Club is correct (hey, first time for everything), this is excellent news indeed; these earmarks were terrible embarassments, not only for the majority Republicans but for the Senate and the United States itself. Let's keep our fingers crossed this isn't just some absurd misunderstanding!
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the would-be Speaker of the House, has come out of her corner swinging. Alas, she seems as likely to hit the referee, the judges, and spectators in the first eleven rows as to hit her opponent, George W. Bush. (Via Daniel Weintraub's Bee-blog, California Insider.)
She gave a speech today designed to "develop an agenda that will help the Democratic Party retake power in the House" and "silence critics, even within her own party, who say she and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada haven't done enough to give disgruntled voters a reason to turn away from Republicans." In a hard-hitting, name-taking, prisoner-rejecting, high-ground-staking, high stakes, low-comedy departure from the Democratic norm -- we don't need no steekin' platform! -- she has drawn a line in the sand, laid down the law, put up or shut up, put her foot down, and grabbed the bull by the tail to look the facts in the face.
She has come out in favor of (wait for it) -- technology!
(Whatever happened to the good old days, when everybody opposed technology?)
But this is technology with a difference, the difference being Ludditism. Nancy Pelosi demands more energy, but only from sources proven ineffective at producing any:
"We should be spending America's energy dollars in the Midwest, not the Middle East," Pelosi is scheduled to say, proposing a crash federal research program into "high-risk, high-reward, revolutionary energy technologies."
"Our goal is energy independence, and we intend to achieve it within 10 years," she adds.
Those technologies include plant-based fuels such as ethanol and new engines for hybrids and biodiesel vehicles. [Emphasis added]
Not a word about drilling in ANWR, in the Gulf of Mexico, off the West Coast; shale oil; building more refineries; high-temp ceramic engines; or even nuclear power. Those are bad technologies; you can tell them from the good variety because the bad actually stand a chance of producing real energy.
Pelosi says the United States, the Internet's birthplace, has fallen behind other countries in broadband penetration, which she says threatens the country's economy. She wants to double federal funding to bring broadband into more American homes, businesses and schools, give businesses a tax credit for bringing such access to rural or other underserved areas and promote wireless Internet access.
Yes, we certainly can't trust the market to protect the constitutional right to high-speed broadband internet connectivity for all Americans; just think, there are some people still muddling along with dial-up! It's an emergency; the federal government must intervene quickly, before we lose another entire generation to slow surfing.
Pelosi also wants to boost the number of scientists, engineers and mathematicians in America by 100,000 over the next four years by providing more scholarships and other financial aid to students. In 2004, America graduated 70,000 engineers, while China turned out 10 times as many.
Ah -- and if this doesn't work to bridge that technological gap, she can simply use the same techniques as China: decide in advance how many engineers you want to graduate this year and simply order that many students to switch majors to engineering.
Folks, I rib you not, this is the upcoming Democratic party platform: Vote Democrat -- we're the Age of Aquarius, while they're the stodgy, old Picean plesiosaurs! Nancy Pelosi's response to the Global War on Terrorism? Ethanol! Imminent collapse of Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security? Broadband! The battle to protect traditional marriage? More state-subsidized engineers!
Sometimes you look at her and wonder. Other times, you just look.
November 13, 2005
A Sunshine Republican...
...Is Better Than an All-Weather Democrat
SCHIEFFER: President Bush accused his critics of rewriting history last week.
Sen. McCAIN: Yeah.
SCHIEFFER: And in--he said in doing so, the criticisms they were making of his war policy was endangering our troops in Iraq. Do you believe it is unpatriotic to criticize the Iraq policy?
Sen. McCAIN: No, I think it's a very legitimate aspect of American life to criticize and to disagree and to debate. But I want to say I think it's a lie to say that the president lied to the American people. I sat on the Robb-Silverman Commission. I saw many, many analysts that came before that committee. I asked every one of them--I said, `Did--were you ever pressured politically or any other way to change your analysis of the situation as you saw?' Every one of them said no.
This post is dedicated to all those commenters who insist that we have to dump all the RINOs (Republicans in name only) because "they're no better than Democrats, so we may as well have clarity by voting them out, even if they're replaced by actual Democrats."
John McCain is a sunshine Republican: he supports a great many Democratic ideas (his signature issue, campaign-finance "reform," for example, but there are many others -- tax increases, global warming, same-sex marriage); he was the founding member of the Gang of Fourteen, which prevented Republicans from getting rid of the judicial filibuster; he has a dislike of Bush bordering on hatred, stemming from an incident in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary: somebody who supported Bush over McCain circulated absurd and false flyers saying that McCain's adopted child from Bangladesh was actually "black," that McCain was gay, and that his daughter Cindy was a drug addict; to this day, I believe, McCain is still convinced that it was done at Bush's orders -- or at least that Bush passively acquiesced.
There has never been a shred of evidence that Bush had anything to do with this, but that's not relevant to McCain's inner belief (if indeed I am even correct about what McCain believes in the deepest cavity of his heart).
"Here comes the big butt," as Larry Elderberry likes to say. BUT -- nobody can name a single Democrat in Arizona who could possibly replace McCain as senator who would have come right out and said that it is the people accusing Bush of "lying us into war" who are the ones actually lying.
In fact, I believe that every nationally-known Democrat still serving in national office would have been terrified to call these liars what they are; it is too important a meme to the Democratic Party to allow free thought on the question.
But John McCain did; in defending Bush and the war itself, he was considerably more aggressive and blunt than Scott McClellan, Dick Cheney, or even George W. Bush himself. He believes we should send a lot more troops... but he has never been even ambivalent on the moral propriety of invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein; he has defended it with courage and vigor, as Kennedy -- not that one, the one who was president -- would say.
And that is the point: on many issues, such as the Iraq War and abortion, it is far, far better to have John McCain in the Senate than any Democrat you can name; better for the Republican Party, better for the president, and better for conservatives.
A Republican would need to be a heck of a lot worse than McCain before it would be rational to push him out, knowing he might be replaced by an "all-weather" Democrat. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) comes close, but not even he qualifies most of the time: for one thing, Chafee always votes for the Republicans on organizational votes; he doesn't vote for Harry Reid (D-NV) for majority leader, for example.
Beware the purists! They always prefer to lose in purity rather than win by compromise, no matter how minor. That is because they don't actually have to govern.
November 11, 2005
Sobering Reminder - UPDATE (twice!) and bump
UPDATE: See below.
Just a few days ago, in a stunning victory, the Senate voted to approve drilling in a microscopic sliver of ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Today, we have this news:
Arctic drilling dropped from House bill
It could still return when, if Senate and House negotiate budget
House leaders late Wednesday abandoned an attempt to push through a hotly contested plan to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling, fearing it would jeopardize approval of a sweeping budget bill Thursday.
They also dropped from the budget document plans to allow states to authorize oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts — regions currently under a drilling moratorium.
"But wait!" you cry, "we have the majority! How could the Democrats block drilling in the House, where there is no filibustering?"
Oh, that's easy:
The decision to drop the ANWR drilling language came after GOP moderates said they would oppose the budget if it was kept in the bill. The offshore drilling provision was also viewed as too contentious and a threat to the bill, especially in the Senate.
This is the point that I think a lot of conservatives miss when they savagely swarm-attack George W. Bush for not ramming through more conservative legislation: the fact is that while Bush has had a Republican majority in both houses since 2003, he has not had a conservative majority in either house of Congress for his entire administration. Given that serious limitation, he has done staggeringly well; and that also explains why he must often compromise or bargain -- such as with his immigration proposal and the MediCare prescription-drug benefit --rather than maintaining absolute purity on all ideological issues (were he even inclined to do so).
It also explains why George Bush is the president and not someone like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
There is still a good shot at getting drilling in ANWR; since the Senate voted for it, if Sen. Frist (R-TN) has picked senators for the joint conference who insist upon it, and if Hastert picks representatives who support it or don't care, they may reinsert it... and once it's been approved by the joint committee, it's much harder for the fourteen Republican defectors in the House to prevent its passage.
Marnie Funk, a spokeswoman for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said that Domenici considers the ANWR provision, which the Senate approved, “one of the most critical components” in the budget package. “He is committed to coming back to the Senate from the conference with ANWR intact,” she said.
But please bear this in mind for the next three plus years: unless more conservatives are elected to Congress in 2006, it will be impossible to get a "conservative agenda" through... not because Bush isn't a good leader or isn't trying hard enough, but because leading Congress is like herding cats: you can only take them wherever they planned to go anyway.
UPDATE: And now, the House has canceled the vote on the budget bill entirely! It seems that even after getting their way on ANWR drilling, those same House "moderate" Republicans demanded that budget reductions stay away from Medicaid, Food Stamps, and other entitlement programs.
I have no idea where they imagine significant cuts can come from if both entitlement programs and necessary military spending are off the table... so the only two possibilities are that these "moderates" want Bush to slash money meant to pay for anti-terrorism and nation-rebuilding operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else we're engaged in the world -- or else they want him to balance the budget by some huge tax hike on "the rich," which (if the usual definition is used) typically means any family making more than $35,000 per year.
What did I tell you?
They hope to reschedule the vote for sometime next week, after the holiday weekend (God forbid the congressional darlings have to work on a Saturday)... but nobody is holding his breath.
UPDATE II: John at Power Line has an interesting alternative take on what all these shenanigans tell us.
But I still like mine better.
November 10, 2005
"In But Not of" California
Here are some thoughts, in no particular order, upon further reflection on the California elections.
Where were you conservatives?
Hugh Hewitt rightly points out that Arnold Schwarzenegger has not really reached out to the conservative base of the California Republican Party:
Name the conservative icon upon whom you depend and to whom you go for solid advice? There isn't one.
Name the single conservative cause with which you are associated.
Spending restraint? Private property rights? Limits on abortion? Second Amendment advocacy? Judges?
You have picked fights with all the right people, but over what? Redistricting that might have cost the GOP crucial seats in D.C., a spending cap that wasn't, teacher tenure tweaks? Again, mixing it up with the public employee unions was fine, but off-year elections aren't exactly gladiator time, especially when the budget got passed because your advisors didn't want a show-down in the summer....
Bring in some senior advisors with pedigrees on the right and listen to them. Ask Bruce Herschensohn to spend a couple of days a week in the offices, as a "minsiter without portfolio." You don't have to do a thing he recommends, but there is no more respected figure on the California right than Bruce. Associated with Bruce, but also with Reagan, is Ken Khachigian. Ask Ken to take up a post somewhere on the battlements. And raid Hoover --get Robinson to convene a three day idea-fest with the folks who haven't spent their lives trading quarter percents with Sacramento's lobbyists.
But this is a rare moment when I'm really going to take Hugh to the woodshed. All right, Mr. Smarty-Pants Political Mavin... where the hell were Bruce Herchensohn and Ken Khachigian in this bloody ballot fight?
What is Hugh's point? That Herschensohn could have helped us out, but that he sat on his hands and did nothing because he didn't get a personal invitation from the governor? Well for God's sake, neither did I: but I did everything I could to push for these initiatives, in particular the two most important ones: Propositions 75 (paycheck protection) and 77 (redistricting reform). Just click on the Politics - California topic on the right (it's under Politics).
I'm sure those posts must have bored a lot my non-Californian readers. But I wouldn't give up; this is my state, and I'm not going to hand it over to the corrupt Left without a fight.
Evidently, Brush Herschensohn made a different choice.
If "there is no more respected figure on the California right than Bruce," then why the hell can't I find him on the front lines? Or even the rear guard? Did he even write a column about these initiatives? I sure didn't see it, and I can't find one now.
How about Tom Campbell? Bill Simon? Where was everybody? For that matter, where was Hugh Hewitt? The only California story I recall on Hugh's site in the past few weeks, the very time that the initiatives started to have trouble, was about the UC San Diego student who made a porn film. I listen to Hugh's radio show pretty religiously (I don't mean I don phylacteries; I mean I listen every day), and I don't recall any segments devoted to, say, paycheck protection, or even to Proposition 73, that would have required a waiting period and parental notification before a minor got an abortion. If there were, it wasn't enough for me to notice, let alone Hugh's readers who weren't sure whether they would vote. I guess Hugh Hewitt is "in but not of" California.
It's nice he found time to lecture Schwarzenegger about why he lost; but why couldn't Hugh find time to fight for the initiatives while he still had a chance to change the outcome, when he could have fired up the base? In fact, damned few California bloggers or pundits pitched in to help, and almost no well-known conservative (or at least Republican) politicians. Where were Pete Wilson and George Deukmeijian?
How many people did the Cal-GOP bus to the polls? How many did they call and remind about the election, urge to vote? I know I got exactly ZERO phone calls from human beings urging me to support these initiatives; I did get a couple from Democratic activists trying to talk me into voting against them. I even called the local Glendale GOP headquarters myself several times, asking what I could do to help the election: they said "we'll get back to you," and of course they never did.
This is Dan Lungren and Matt Fong all over again. This was a very low-turnout election. Had the conservative base turned out and voted, we would have won -- at least on a few of the initiatives, including the most important one, Proposition 75 (paycheck protection).
Look, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a conservative. He has never claimed to be a conservative. Yet he has done many things for conservatives in this mixed state in the past two years: for example, he vetoed the same-sex marriage bill, despite the fact that he supports same-sex marriage, because the voters had voted against it.
He refused to raise taxes, even when that would have made it much easier to cut a deal with the Democrats in the legislature. And he pushed an initiative onto the ballot that was undeniably conservative -- a big one, too: Proposition 75 would have required public-employee unions to get written permission before using any membership dues money for political purposes. Not only that, but the Governator also endorsed Proposition 73, which put restrictions on abortion. Conservatives can maybe argue against Propositions 74 (teacher tenure reform), 76 (state spending restrictions), and 77 (redistricting reform) for not being "pure" enough conservatism... but 73 and 75 were purer than Ivory Soap.
And of course, since no good deed goes unpunished, how did conservatives respond? By sitting on their hands and refusing to turn out and vote. Great strategy, guys! Now guess what? Hugh's advice to Schwarzenegger has become garbage, because the governor is now the lamest of all lame ducks. As Daniel Weintraub noted, the reason Schwarzenegger went to the ballot box in the first place was that the Democrats in the State Senate and the Assembly refused to negotiate in good faith. So he went over their heads to the people.
And because the conservatives refused to turn out, they turned the governor's threats into idle smoke. Now Schwarzenegger has absolutely nothing to bargain with, nothing he can threaten, and the only things he can offer is Liberalism Lite.
Gee... how much good-faith negotiating with Governor Schwarzenegger do you suppose the Democrats intend to engage in now? How much of the conservative agenda do you think will get enacted? Smooth move, Ex-Lax.
Sometimes I completely understand why we're so often called "the stupid party." I know many of you weren't thrilled with every initiative Schwarzenegger was pushing, and you're angry that you can't get a hard-core conservative governor in this blue state, and you wish he were Ronald Reagan. But for God's sake, even Reagan knew enough to understand that if half a loaf is all that you can get, you take it and be glad... then you start bargaining for the other half.
But you know what we have now? Crumbs. Bupkis. And now there's about a 50-50 chance we'll have Governor Angelides by January 2007. Let's do the math: ultra-leftist state legislature + left-liberal governor = what?
I suspect conservatives who sat home and sulked may soon come to feel like the Sunnis shortly after that first election. The only difference is, we won't get a Mulligan.
November 9, 2005
Same Old Same Old
Post-Mortem and Dead-Dog Party
Well, very disappointing results in California. I tend to be optimistic (have you noticed?), so it's always a shock to me when Republicans get in a "mood," sit home, and sulk, ceding the election to the Democrats -- and then complain that Gov. Schwarzenegger isn't doing enough conservative stuff!
But taking the long view across the nation, what we saw was a "status-quo" election: voters everywhere decided not to change anything. That was bad for Republicans in California, New Jersey, and Virginia (two liberal Democratic states and one mixed state), but good for them in New York City, Texas, and Ohio.
- California: every initiative failed -- the Governator's four, parental notification, both the consumer activist phramaceutical plan and the one pushed by the pharmaceutical companies, and even energy reregulation, a big deal with the California Democrats. Short-term fallout: bad news for Arnold; unless he creates a huge turnaround in GOP support (or the Dems nominate a doofus), he's a dead duck in 2006. But the legislative Democrats don't fare any better.
- New Jersey: Sen. Jon Corzine won as governor; ho-hum. This one was never in any doubt. And of course, NJ was already in Democratic hands before the election, so it's not a crushing defeat for the Republicans or a "harbinger" of 2006, no matter what the MSM tries to sell you. Short-term fallout: Corzine may now fancy himself a serious contender for the presidency, having been both a senator and a governor. But massive vote buying ($60 million to buy his senate seat, another $30 to buy the governor's mansion) may play well in Sopranos territory, but it's not the righteous stuff to get elected president.
- Virginia: I thought we had a shot in this one; Jerry Kilgore started out the campaign strong, but he was a weak finisher, and he was hurt by Republican apathy in the wake of the various setbacks of the first year of Bush's second term. Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, buoyed by the stratospheric approval ratings of Mark Warner (the outgoing Democratic governor), finished strong, persuasively beating Kilgore by five points. Note that, again contrary to the MSM spin, Virginia is not a "red state," at least as far as the governorship goes. As Rich Galen points out, four of the last six governors of Virginia have been Democrats. Short-term fallout: Mark Warner's stock for 2008 significantly improved, which may cause problems for La Hill, giving her another strong competitor to the "moderate" mantle she is (falsely) trying to claim. I don't believe she will even be nominated, and this is just one more straw on her camel's back.
- New York City: the huge surprise was that Mayor Michael Bloomberg got only 59% of the vote, instead of 99%. This is the fourth straight election in which Democrats have been thumped in the city they have long thought of as their capital... and it's the most decisive drubbing in modern New York City history, larger even than Fiorello LaGuardia's 1937 landslide of 19%. Short-term fallout: shellshocked New York Democrats will huddle to decide whether they would have better luck running a Chupacabra in 2009.
- Texas: another entry in the "I saved traditional marriage" sweepstakes! There are now nineteen states (I believe) that have passed explicit constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Short-term fallout: one out of every twenty-three left-liberals in the country will spontaneously combust.
- Ohio: curiously, in Ohio, it was the Democrats who were desperate to have someone other than the legislature draw the district boundaries. I have no idea if the Ohio redistricting (State Issue 4) was as egregious a gerrymander as the one in California -- it's hard to top "perfection" (not a single seat changing parties in 2004). But in any event, the voters rejected the identical change whether it would benefit Republicans (California Proposition 77) or Democrats (Ohio). Short-term fallout: nothing changes (same with 77). Ohio State Issue 4 was rejected by an even bigger margin (70 to 30) than was California Proposition 77 (59-40)... and three other significant, Democrat-backed changes to Ohio elections procedures (State Issues 2, 3, and 5) were likewise turned back.
So not a great day, but not a catastrophic one, either. Basically, everything was put on hold by the voters until 2006 (or 2009, in the case of New York).
November 3, 2005
Little Demo In Slumberland
John over at Power Line (easily the second snappiest dresser of those three) mulls the motive behind the Democrats' hysteria -- now -- over pre-war intelligence:
Democratic activists desperately want to block Judge Alito from ascending to the Court, but the reality is that Senate Democrats are powerless to achieve that goal. Alito's qualifications are unassailable, the Democrats are a minority party, and the Republicans are united in the conviction that Alito deserves a vote. A filibuster isn't out of the question, but if the Dems try it, it will fail.
So the Senate Democrats can't come through for their party where it counts. I doubt that the timing of the Month of Valerie is a coincidence; I suspect it is intended mostly to distract the Democratic base from the reality of the Senate Democrats' impotence.
I don't mean to be fip, but I think John has hold of the means, not the motive. He has to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face.
Ever since the catastrophe of 1994, the Democratic Party has lived in a fantasy world of its own devising. Unable to face the reality of losing the House and Senate in 1994, then the presidency in 2000, then the Senate again in 2002 (after Jumpin' Jim Jeffords' defection was discounted), and most recently the 2004 reelection, they have been unable to recover sanity, daily drifting deeper into political schizophrenia... to quote Adam Savage, "I reject your reality and substitute my own."
I don't need a psychiatrist like Charles Krauthammer or Thomas Szasz; the signs are manifest. Most overtly and trivially, there are the two distinct TV shows set in fantasy universes where the Democrats are in charge of everything: the West Wing and Commander In Chief. Arguably, many Democrats demanded a show like CinC because they were unsatisfied with the West Wing -- because they had a few Republican characters who were not totally corrupt raving lunatics.
But the dementia manifests in uglier ways, too: many Democrats still, to this day, refuse to admit that Bush won the election in 2000 or in 2004. A U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), actually tried to prevent the Ohio electoral votes for Bush from being certified in January of this year, presumably on the grounds that John Kerry was the "real" winner there.
Democrats have wallowed in increasingly occult conspiracy theories and nightmarish fantasies, from George W. Bush conspiring with Arabs on the 9/11 attacks to Republicans and the Army Corps of Engineers plotting to blow up the New Orleans levees "to kill the black people." Karl Rove has assumed monstrous significance, as if he were an incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (for the younger set, Dr. Evil). Creepy cartels of neocons (read "Jew-o-cons") secretly seize control of the world for their nefarious Zionist plans.
Many left-liberals now live in a world that is as thrilling and horrific as the H.P. Lovecraft "Cthulhu" Mythos *, full of dark, eldrich gods, nameless cults, and unspeakable rites. Reliable, old, secret-society paranoia has resurged, of course: the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers, even the Illuminati; but new and bizarre cults have formed around the basic template of "Famous Right-Winger X is secretly in league with Evil Villain Y"... for example, Osama bin Laden is actually a Mossad agent working for Ariel Sharon, Bush-41 started the Gulf War in order to build an oil pipeline for Mullah Omar, and Saddam Hussein is actually a mole who has been under Donald Rumsfeld's thumb since the early 1980s. Other brand new (tired old) cult archetypes include the specter of "globalization," with the World Trade Organization taking the place of the Knights Templar or the Hashishim "Assassins;" and the omnipotent, omnipresent Haliburton standing in for Wolfram & Hart in the Buffy spinoff Angel.
Let's be clear about this. Reality does not come packaged in stories; but our brains are hardwired to comprehend events in dramatic form, with heroes, villains, a climax, and a denouement. So we (all of us) dream up "the story of our lives," in which the dreamer is the protagonist, someone or some group is elected to be antagonist, and life becomes a series of chapters, each ending in a cliffhanger.
For Republicans and conservatives, who are in the ascendency and generally happy with life, the tale is a modern-day adventure-romance, typically with a happy ending. But for Democrats and liberals, who have seen nothing but dark chapters for years now, the tome is a Clive Barker bloodfest, a King Lear tale of madness and woe, a science-fiction black comedy like the Matrix, or a Walter-Mitty fantasy of easy triumph and cheap, childish victory, depending how much angst the tale-singer can take before breaking from reality entirely. Read the New York Times quickly, then ask yourself whether it wouldn't have even more verisimilitude with a wicked stepmother and a dragon.
The Democrats have no "plan" for how to use pre-war intelligence against Bush... no more than John Nash (Russell Crowe) had any well thought out purpose for hallucinating "Agent Parcher" (Ed Harris) and his machinations in a Beautiful Mind. They are demon-driven to expose the evil, just as D.A. Jim Garrison was driven to expose the massive conspiracy behind the assassination of JFK (a plot that required the connivance of Lyndon Johnson, the FBI, the Soviets, and the 82nd Airborne). And it doesn't matter that nobody will listen anymore, that Democrats have "no one left to lie to," in Christopher Hitchens' memorable phrase. Like Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) in Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they are condemned to stagger forever along the street, flagging down cars and screaming the warning: "They're already here! You're next!"
* Spellchecker attempted to correct this to the "Chihuahua Mythos."
October 28, 2005
The Grand Mulligan
At last, Real Clear Politics has a real clear blog! So far, I love it. I had no idea this was coming; I knew that the paucity of "commentary" was due to an ongoing site redesign, but even before they started that, Tom and John tended to post little each week... I hope they can keep up the current pace.
John MacIntyre's only contribution so far (he posted it twice, first as preview) is also, in my opinion, the most significant:
The politics of this is very simple to distill: 24 hours ago liberals were giddy in anticipation of multiple indictments and what other early Christmas presents the Special Prosecutor might bring. Meanwhile, conservatives were despondent over the prospect of having to beat up on a President they want to support, all because of the unfortunate Miers nomination.
With the announcement of Miers' withdrawal everything changed. Conservatives are the happiest and most energized they have been in months. Liberals like Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy have a sick feeling in their stomach, because they realize the conservative suicide pact has been called off and the Senate is likely to get a rock solid appointment who is anathema to everything they believe - and they know there is little they can do to stop that person from getting on the court.
Let me amplify that if I can. It's very, very common for the presidential wheels to come off in the second term: it happened to Clinton, who spent years fighting impeachment; to Reagan, who had to deal with Iran-Contra; to Nixon (duh!); and to Johnson, whose Vietnam troubles forced him to withdraw from reelection in 1968. The last president to have a fairly smooth second term was Dwight D. Eisenhower, and that began nearly fifty years ago!
What is not so common is for a president in his second term to get a Mulligan. I don't play golf, but I understand that means a do-over. Reagan earned himself a Mulligan with his magnificant speech in which he apologized to the American people for allowing personal concern for the hostages to overwhelm his common sense, leading him to make an arms-for-hostages deal. (I actually think that Iran-Contra policy was correct, by the way; but the speech was still a transcendent political moment.) After that point, his approval soared, and he was able to complete an ambitious second-term agenda, with more tax cutting and the final vindication of his stubbornness in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), the beginning of the collapse of the Evil Empire.
I do not believe Bush pushed Miers out the airlock. I think that was entirely her idea. And I know that Bush did not armtwist Patrick Fitzgerald into laying the golden egg -- one major indictment after two plus years of high-profile investigation, and it was an indictment of someone that 75% of the electorate has likely never heard of, a man with the improbable name of "Scooter." Yeah, yeah, the investigation continues, blah blah. But the admission that after two years and millions of dollars, Fitzgerald still could not find even a single charge to lay against Karl Rove makes it extraordinarily unlikely that the next couple of years with a different grand jury will turn up anything significant.
So I guess somebody out there just plain likes George W. Bush. (I wonder if he's given God a nickname?)
But gift it was; Christmas came early for the Bush family. And now W. has the chance to start off fresh with a reasonably clear scandal slate -- and a unified base, assuming he takes advantage and names a "consensus" candidate... where the consensus is between the various wings of the Republican Party, and to hell with what Ted Kennedy and Charles Schumer want!
There are two main areas where Bush needs to offer a strong proposal: spending and immigration. In both cases, he can build on ideas he has been floating for years, but which he has been too busy with other agenda items -- like, you know, an economic crash he inherited from his predecessor, ditto a staggering terrorist attack, and fighting two wars -- to really pursue: illegal immigration and excess federal spending.
Take a look at a couple of ideas for both of them; I plucked these from ideas that Bush himself has floated, but which are still in "emergent" form, not yet fully articulated to the American people or to Congress:
- He really does have an immigration plan, and it really is significantly different from the "amnesty" caricature that the Tancredoites have flung at it.
He has a very good story to tell here: everybody now agrees that with the present flood across (mostly) the southern border, there is no possible way to wall them all out -- let alone round up millions of people already here, hold them (where, in special camps?) while awaiting immigration status determination, and then ship them somewhere, anywhere, especially if the countries of origin refuse to accept them.
The only possible way to get control of our borders is first to reduce the number of otherwise honest immigrants who sneak in solely to work and earn a better life for their familiies. The system must be regularized, giving would-be immigrants a clear path they can follow that will lead from immigration to assimilation to citizenship -- with lots of emphasis on that middle item, how to be an American. Give immigrants a door, and they won't keep trying to come in by the window.
Yes, I've heard the arguments: why should we reward all those illegal immigrants by letting them in? The problem is that finger-pointing has led to nothing but millions more immigrants... completely unregulated, out of control, and invisible to the eyes of the INS. Great plan!
The obvious analogy is to a flood -- and a dam: if you stop and think about it, no matter how strong your dam is, the swelling water will eventually shatter it or overflow the top unless you let just as much water through the floodgates as pours in at the back end. Again, duh! The only question is whether the deluge sneaks over the top and around the sides, or overwhelms us entirely -- or is channeled and controlled through the gates... where it can be harnessed to generate energy and push this increasingly soggy analogy to the breaking point.
If Bush were to couple immigration reform and regularization with a vigorous effort to beef up terrorism-focused border security, particularly at the northern border and the ports, and heavy sanctions on companies that hire illegal aliens, I think he could even get Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) on his side... especially if he were to reach across to Tancredo and John McCain for help in developing the program in the first place.
You can't bring the hammer down on companies now, because they need to hire immigrants to survive; but once they can get that lower cost, unskilled labor legally (which today they cannot), there is no more excuse to get it illegally. I'm talking jail time for corporate officers.
And when the decent and honest immigrants are coming in openly through the door, that frees the border patrol to act more like the military against those evil-doers who still try to sneak in under the wire, since there must be some nefarious reason why they can't just go through the checkpoints legally like everybody else.
We need better checking of ships' cargo and a refocus of the CIA onto tracking known terrorists, even when they're "whitewashed" through the Great White North... something like Able Danger, with no apologies and no bowing to the PC crowd. It's a great idea, and it's about time Bush put the hard choice to Congress with a truly hard sell -- and totally out in the open. I think the American people would be behind it, if you told them of the program's successes, even in the limited form it had. I'll bet most Americans don't even know about it (sadly, most Americans don't read Captain's Quarters!)
- A presidential plan to rein in spending. Alas, Republicans discovered that they, too, can imitate drunken sailors when they get control of the Congressional grouch bag. This has got to stop. Republicans disagree on what constitutes valid spending, but every one of us agrees that spending is too high.
Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) approach was well intentioned but stupidly executed: why go after only one senator's pork, and one of the most powerful ones at that -- Senator-for-Life Ted Stevens of Alaska? Everyone in the Senate pushes for "pork," and one man's pork is another man's urgently needed projects for the constituency.
There is nothing wrong with pork; there's just too much of it. So instead of trying to completely eliminate it, why not just reduce it... for everyone? Since everyone in the House supposedly represents the same number of constituents (more or less), give everyone a "pork allotment": that allotment can be traded to other representatives (consolidated) in exchange for various other favors -- keeping a helpful federal program going, for example -- but the total level would be limited, and the president would promise to veto any budget that failed to abide by the pork allotment. For senators, it's a little tricker, because they represent varying amounts of people; but some formula based on the allotments for each representative within the state, so the House and Senate versions of the budget are the same, should work.
Not everyone would go along at first... but if the president were to veto a budget or two, just to prove that he's now serious about it, the American people would cheer. And there would be no way to override such a veto in the face of overwhelming public pressure to "hold down spending," especially since Bush could use the fairness argument: there is an overall pork allotment, and as with Milo Minderbinder, "everybody has a share."
In fact, I think it would be a stroke of genius if Bush were to call it exactly that: a Pork Allotment. He could explain it to the American people with a wry grin, then go on to praise local "pork" projects, and say that he didn't want to stop all that... just hold it down enough that overall spending can be decreased. The amount of pork allowed per budget would be deterimined by the state of the economy: more pork when the economy is good, less if it turns down. Perhaps even an exterior panel, similar to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which determines in a bipartisan way which military bases to close or move, and which has been tremendously successful in Congress. (Everyone grouses about it, but they still accept the recommendations.)
Bush could join that to a general cut in many other, larger budget items -- across the board, even some aspects of the military budget (we can get into that later). The combination would make it clear the Republicans were utterly serious about stopping the spending spree.
With those in place, we would see a reinvigorated presidency, one of those rare times when the second term could produce more substantial achievements than even the first -- which "merely" produced tax cuts, corporate reform, strong economic recovery from the Clinton Recession of 2000-2002, recovery from the worst terrorist attack in American history, the transformation of two terrorist states into democracies, the reintroduction of faith into social work (and I'm not talking about Harriet Miers' nomination!), the realignment of much of the district- and circuit-cout judiciary towards judicial conservatism (that finally began to occur after the 2004 reelection, but the seeds were planted starting in 2001), and the brilliant idea -- which needs to explode forth into new proposals this term -- of the "ownership society."
If Bush grabs hold of this Grand Mulligan and does just a couple things right, the rest will fall into place... and in 2008, the Republican nominee for president will welcome President Bush's help barnstorming across the country!
I supported Harriet Miers' confirmation (with, as I said, caveats) because I thought it was bad for the party if she were rejected or forced to withdraw.
She was of course forced out, and I do believe damage has been done to the party -- hence to the country, because the Democrats are so wretched and such appeasers that anything that gives them political support is, I believe, bad for America. (If in the future they find their way back home to sanity, I will withdraw this sentiment.)
Damage has been done; do not be deceived. But repairs are still possible... if we act swiftly.
Clearly, the president must nominate someone who is acceptable to the judicial conservatives, but also someone who will not so turn off the Seven Dwarfs that they refuse to pull the trigger on the Byrd option, stopping a filibuster. That is not an easy task.
Hugh Hewitt suggests Michael McConnell. He is trying for an end-run in this case: McConnell was not filibustered last time around; the J-Com sat on his nomination for more than a year, but that was because of Jumpin' Jim Jeffords,
Republican Democrat from Vermont, who gave the chairmanship to Patrick "Leaky" Leahy. (What with Leahy and Fitzgerald, I have decided that from now on, I will be instantly suspicious of anybody named Patrick.) Hugh's idea is that, having refused to filibuster McConnell in 2002 -- he was confirmed after the election which gave control back to the Republicans, but before the new Congress was even seated! -- the Gang of 14 would find it very hard indeed to yell "extraordinary circumstances" now in 2005. Thus, Hugh reasons, they wouldn't get the votes they need to stop cloture; so the "nuclear option" wouldn't even come into play.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Both sides are plagued by numbers. Most Republicans (I think) want to eliminate judicial filibusters altogether. The principled argument is that the Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and either consent or reject in a timely manner. The filibuster leaves the nominee in limbo, neither confirmed nor chucked out -- and is an abdication of Senatorial duty. If he were rejected, the president could name another nominee; but with the nomination still pending, the slot just stays open. On the Supreme Court, that would mean an eight-justice panel that could end up splitting 4-4 endlessly, leaving appellate court rulings in place -- even when they contradict each other from circuit to circuit.
But to get this passed, they need at least 51 votes, one of which can come from Vice President Dick Cheney if the Senate splits 50-50. There are 55 Republicans in the Senate; so they can lose up to five Republican senators and still vote to end judicial filibusters; but if they lose six, they lose the vote (I am assuming no Democrats will vote for the Byrd Option).
The "Seven Dwarfs" (Republican members of the "Gang of 14") are John McCain (AZ), Mike DeWine (OH), Lindsay Graham (SC), John Warner (VA), Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), and Lincoln Chafee (RI). Two others not in the Gang but still potentially trouble are Arlen Specter (PA) and Charles Grassley (IA).
I believe Chafee, Snowe, and Collins are very likely defectors on this vote; so the GOP can only afford to lose two out of the remaining six worrisome senators in order to push this through.
But the Democrats have their own numbers to fret about. They need 41 votes to sustain a filibuster (that is, to deny cloture, the calling of the question), and the Democrats have only 45 members in their Senate caucus. I believe that for any reasonable nominee, no Republicans (not even Chafee) will vote to filibuster... thus, the Democrats can only afford to lose four of their number and still possibly prevent cloture. For a popular candidate, they may have trouble with some of their own members of the Gang (the Seven Skunks?), including Ben Nelson (NE), Joe Lieberman (CT), Mary Landrieu (LA), Ken Salazar (CO), and Mark Pryof (AK); plus there are other "red-state" Democrats, such as Bill Nelson (FL) and Kent Conrad (ND). The Democrats must hold four of these seven to be able to sustain a filibuster.
Hugh thinks that there will be too many defections from the Democratic side for Judge Michael McConnell, and they will not be able to get their 41. I take a different tack, since I am always willing to consider politics, so long as it's not at the expense of the party or country. I would rather see Emilio Garza as the nominee, even though he is 58 years old (to McConnell's 50), because -- I will be very naked about it -- Hispanics are a very fast-growing voting group; they tend to be more culturally conservative than blacks, Asians, or Jews; and they have shown a willingness to vote Republican -- as much as 45% may have voted for Bush in 2004; so I want to see them encouraged by a Republican Party that recognizes their contribution. Since even the Rebel Alliance has said in the past that Garza is acceptable, I see no reason not to consider politics when deciding between two candidates who both earn the seal of approval. After all, if you don't win presidential elections, you don't get to name any judges at all.
Regardless of who is "at fault" in the Miers debacle, Bush must move swiftly to repair the breach in the GOP coalition -- both the elections coalition and the ruling coalition. He must nominate someone who will mollify the judicial conservatives, but he cannot nominate someone who will scare off the weak sisters in the Seven Dwarfs. He owes us that much.
But we also owe a duty to the president. If any one group tries to completely take over, it will shatter the coalition, and we may well see Chairman Leahy in the Judiciary Committee... in which case, no appointment will move, not even to the Supreme Court. The power of the chairman to disrupt and delay confirmation hearings is almost absolute.
The Rebel Alliance must be satisfied with anybody reasonable. If Garza or Edith Jones is nominated, they cannot say "no, we demand Luttig!" And the Seven Dwarfs must not insist upon a "consensus" candidate who would be, in reality, impossible to find: nobody who is acceptable to Patrick Leahy (VT), Joe Biden (DE), Ted Kennedy (MA), Chuck Schumer (NY), and Dick Durbin (IL) is going to be acceptable to Orrin Hatch (UT), John Kyl (TX), Sam Brownback (KS), or Tom Coburn (OK). It's just not possible: they have such disparate worldviews that "never the twain shall meet."
Both sides of the recent rift -- the White House and the Rebel Alliance -- must reach across to the other. So long as Bush makes a serious effort to find someone with a track record of judicial conservatism, the Rebels should stand behind the president and his nominee and push to get him or her confirmed. Not only that, but I believe the rank and file Republicans need to be much more proactive in helping pass the president's agenda, even if they don't believe in each and every single plank: there is such a thing as compromise... if all the nativists refuse to support Bush because he won't round up all twelve million illegal immigrants and ship them back by parcel post, and all the fiscal conservatives refuse to support Bush because he didn't veto the Highway bill, and the religious Right turns their backs (or sits on their hands in 2006) because Bush hasn't brought prayer back into the schools, while the libertarian Republicans take a walk because he won't fund stem-cell research... well, "there was nobody left to speak out." Say hello to President Dean and a Democratic Congress.
And then none of these groups gets what they want -- though they may end up getting what they deserve.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." Franklin meant it literally, which, thank God, we no longer have to fear; but if you hang the Republican president out to dry, don't be surprised if you find that your own prospects wind up wilting on the same clothesline.
October 24, 2005
And How Are You, Mr. Wilson?
I am remiss in posting this; Scott from Power Line had this up more than a week ago!
But it's worth noting: the best timeline of the Plame-name blame-game imbroglio is by (no surprise) Stephen Hayes, writing in the Weekly Standard: "The White House, the CIA, and the Wilsons".
Note that the "unuseful idiot" of the category is creepy liar Joseph Wilson -- not Stephen F. Hayes!
Read it and shriek.
October 21, 2005
It's Morning in Medicaid
How did this manage to slide by unnoticed? (Warning, you have to click past the advert.)
U.S. Gives Florida a Sweeping Right to Curb Medicaid
By Robert Pear
Published: October 20, 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - The Bush administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for Florida on Wednesday that limits spending for many of the 2.2 million beneficiaries there and gives private health plans new freedom to limit benefits.
The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states, shifts from the traditional Medicaid "defined benefit" plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which the state sets a ceiling on spending for each recipient.
Children under the age of 21 and pregnant women will be exempt from the limits.
Medicaid is, of course, the federal/state system for insuring the poor (Medicare insures the aged and the disabled). Traditional Medicaid is a classic "defined benefits" plan, where the state decides on the benefits and then shops for the cheapest way to pay for them; when such plans run into financial trouble, their only alternatives are to cut benefits or raise taxes, neither of which is politicall palatable.
Florida's new system is a "defined contribution" plan, joining a number of other states that have gotten federal wavers to shift from defined benefits to defined contributions or otherwise reform their broken Medicaid programs.
"Defined contribution" has long been considered the Holy Grail for libertarian and conservative analysts of programs like Medicare, urged by both the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation; it relies upon consumer choice to keep costs down. Cato writes:
Under the traditional defined benefits approach, an institutional purchaser such as an employer determines what range of services it will cover, then seeks or creates a plan that will provide those services for an acceptable price. It has become increasingly difficult to sustain a defined benefit system. A steady stream of emerging technologies requires an equally steady stream of decisions about which ones will be covered by the plan. Moreover, it has become nearly impossible to provide such benefits economically, in the face of rising health care inflation and increasingly impotent cost-cutting tools.
In contrast, under defined contribution, the employer determines up front how much it will spend for health care, then typically provides an array of options from which beneficiaries can choose (Wye River Group on Healthcare et al., Parrish 2001, Blumenthal 2001). Those options can assume various forms. In the oldest, most familiar version, the contribution essentially represents a voucher for a conventional health plan. The employer assembles a collection of plans from which employees can choose, and then defines its own contribution according to the least expensive of those plans.
Unlike a defined-benefits plan, under the new system, recipients will be able to select more expensive health-care plans than the state is willing to pay for, so long as the recipient picks up the rest of the tab. The recipient gets an expensive plan for little of his own money, and the state keeps its own costs down.
Florida is not the first state to make the transition, of course; but I believe they are the biggest. And while states like Vermont have pilot programs, Florida is actually implementing the changes system wide.
The new Florida plan also incorporates private medical care into the state Medicaid program:
Joan C. Alker, a senior researcher at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, said: "Florida's proposal is one of the most far-reaching and radical proposals we've seen to restructure Medicaid. The federal government and the states now decide which benefits people get. Under the Florida plan, many of those decisions will be made by private health plans, out of public view"....
For each beneficiary, Florida will pay a monthly premium to a private plan. Insurance plans will be allowed to limit "the amount, duration and scope" of services in ways that current law does not permit.
The Florida plan includes many of the very same features that President Bush has proposed for national Medicaid. From the New York Times article:
- Recipients must select a private health-care "Medicaid" plan. If they do not, the state will automatically enroll them in a private plan of the state's choosing.
- Recipients can choose to completely opt out of the Medicaid system; in that case, Medicaid will partially subsidize the employee share of an employer-sponsored health-insurance program (the article doesn't say how this works with the self-employed). Such persons will still pay the same co-payments, and they will have the same deductables as other members of that same employer-sponsored health insurance.
- Recipients who enroll in weight-loss or stop-smoking programs will receive Medicaid subsidies to help pay for them.
- The state and feds will pool money to spend up to $1 billion per year on hospitals that treat a large number of indigent or uninsured patients.
President Bush has been flogging Medicaid reform since his first days in office, at least since August, 2001. But the administration has finally begun to focus like a laser beam (as Clinton used to say) on presenting a fleshed-out proposal... which likely will look a lot like the Florida program.
We certainly could do worse; we're doing worse right now! But with these reforms, most of the projections of massive future liabilities will melt away, because market forces will actually hold costs down -- for the same reason that Cadillacs don't cost a million dollars: too much competition. Perhaps a successful program in the fourth largest state in the United States will spur Congress finally to enact such reforms nationwide and encourage other states to follow suit.
Then Medicare could be reformed the same way; and the public-private partnerships in Medicare/Medicaid could remove some of the terror on the Left, allowing meaningful Social Security privatization before the entire system crashes and burns. Although privatization of "entitlement" programs is inherently conservative, it is not inherently anti-Leftist. They're only against it because conservatives favor it.
I expect only two of these (probably Medicaid and Medicare) to be enacted during Bush's presidency; but that in itself would be a stunning conservative domestic legacy, especially coupled with his tax cuts, with the Patriot Act and other criminal justice reforms, and (I still hope) general tort reform. As we begin to see the benefits of a free market in what was previously thought to be sanctified to dictatorial bureaucracy, anything could happen.
October 18, 2005
Soldiers' Answers Weren't Scripted
When we wrote about the so-called "staged" teleconference between the president, ten American soldiers, and one Iraqi soldier, we introduced Sgt. Ron Long, who actually participated in the conference. We e-mailed Sgt. Long to ask if the soldiers themselves actually wrote their own answers, or if the answers were supplied by (or even edited by) the White House.
Sgt. Long did not respond personally, but he answered the same question in his blog. The blogpost quotes a fellow soldier from the 278th Regimental Combat Team, Lt. Gregg Murphy, who was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Murphy was chosen for the Tikrit teleconference because he had spent the last three months leading an Iraqi army training program near the Iranian border. The article is titled "Soldiers' questions weren't scripted, participant says," by Edward Lee Pitts.
"We wanted to give President Bush a no-kidding assessment of what we have all been working 14- (to) 18-hour days on for the last 11 months," said Lt. Gregg Murphy, of Chattanooga. "We gave him the God’s honest truth as we know it."
Although the soldiers themselves gathered before the teleconference to "brainstorm" what questions President Bush was likely to ask and how best and most accurately they could answer, there was no coercion, suggestion, or even editing by administration personnel.
[Lt. Murphy] said the only guidance the solders received was to avoid using military jargon that would confuse the general public and to write out bullet points to keep their comments concise and clear. Lt. Murphy said writing out key points kept the soldiers from being nervous.
"[Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber] did not orchestrate the interview," Lt. Murphy said of the Defense Department employee. "We were nervous, and she put us at ease. Nothing more."
As for the reharsal, Lt. Murphy has this to say:
[T]he military rehearses all the time. "We do that so that when we actually have to execute, there isn’t any confusion," he said. "Rehearsing is why we are so good at what we do."
This should be the final refutation of the initial knee-jerk and entirely predictable -- scripted, if you will -- response by the Associated Press, reprinted in the Washington Post, that smarmily implied (without quite saying) that the soldiers were either too dumb or too intimidated by the president to give honest answers, and that the White House had scripted the entire event.
On the one hand, you can believe the nod-and-a-wink insinuations of a reporter whose only connection to the teleconference is that he saw some of the rehearsal inadvertently broadcast -- footage that does not show even one single reported instance of the White House altering a soldier's answer. Or you can believe the straightforward words of two of the actual participants in the teleconference, a lieutenant and a sergeant who have each spent many months fighting in Iraq (the latter as a combat medic) and are still there on the ground, dealing with Iraqi citizens, Coalition forces, and terrorists on a day-to-day basis.
It's your choice.
October 15, 2005
Earle-y to Bed -- and Stay There
Yesterday, on Special Report With Brit Hume, Brian Wilson had the most fascinating report yet on the growing national embarassment: the Persecution and Assassination of Tom DeLay, As Performed By the Inmates of the Travesty County District Attorney's Office, Under the Direction of the Marquis de Earle (with only the most muted apologies to Peter Weiss).
The most important piece of evidence on which Crusading D.A. Ronnie Earle based his multiple attempts to properly indict Rep. DeLay is single a piece of paper. After Earle found that DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), sent that now famous $190,000 check to the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC), the only way that Earle could allege "money laundering" was to claim that the transaction was a sham whose only purpose was to disguise "soft" money being funneled indirectly into state campaigns in defiance of Texas law. His only piece of evidence to that effect was that, as the indictment puts it:
[O]n or about the thirteenth day of September, 2002, in Washington D.C., the defendant, James Walter Ellis, did provide the said Terry Nelson with a document that contained the names of several candidates for the Texas House of Representatives that were supported by Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, namely, Todd Baxter, Dwayne Bohac, Glenda Dawson, Dan Flynn, Rick Green, Jack Stick, and Larry Taylor, to whom the defendant, James Walter Ellis, requested and proposed that the Republican National Committee and the Republican National State Elections Committee make political contributions in exchange for the committees' receipt of the proceeds from the aforesaid check, and that contained amounts that the defendant, James Walter Ellis, and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC suggested be contributed to each of the said candidates;
Yesterday, Brian Wilson reports, the Travis County Assistant D.A. was in court, and he was asked to produce this critical document, which had been subpoenaed by the attorneys for Ellis and DeLay.
He was unable to produce "said" document. Not that he didn't produce A document; he simply said he was "unable to authoritatively confirm" that it was in fact THE document mentioned in the indictment. However, he rallied, the document he produced was "factually similar" to the document upon which the entire indictment rested!
Brian Wilson reported that the document contained names of several Texas politicians, some of whom had received money from the RNSEC and some of whom had not. I suppose this is "factually similar" to the actual document they allege existed in that both are pieces of paper, both have words printed on them, and both contain lists of names of prominent Texans. I eagerly await testimony from an eyewitness who claims he saw someone in a conspiratorial meeting... he won't be able to swear it was actually Tom DeLay, but it was surely someone who was "factually similar" to DeLay, in that he was a male and had some funny sort of accent.
I wanted to link to an article about this latest Keystone Kops escapade, but amazingly enough, at this point, I cannot find a single article about this absurdity -- not even on FoxNews.com. Since they actually had video of the incident as it unfolded and discussion with the attorneys right after they came out of the courthouse, I would find it hard to believe it never occurred; but in the mad world of the MSM, even being caught on videotape doesn't mean something really exists: it only exists when one of the media news managers decides it exists. Perhaps I hallucinated the entire thing.
Here we have a story that even the MSM agrees is important: the indictment of the second most powerful man in the House of Representatives. And five years after Ronnie Earle began hounding DeLay, three years after the alleged crime of "money laundering" occurred, at least a year after the D.A.'s office began investigating this particular transaction, and eleven days after obtaining the new, improved indictment from the third grand jury to investigate, we discover that the District Attorney's office doesn't even have the critical piece of evidence that underpins their entire case.
But evidently, that's just not news.
Sad to say, except for those of you who watched Brit Hume last night, "you read it here first."
October 13, 2005
AP Response to Bush Teleconference Staged!
UPDATE 18:23: See below.
Now the AP has taken to attacking the president for supposedly "staging" a teleconference with soldiers... because they rehearsed in advance which soldier would answer which question.
Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged
Oct 13, 2005
by Deb Riechmann
WASHINGTON (AP) - It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.
When I first read that paragraph, my Skept-O-Meter™ went off like the Queen Mary's foghorn. What did Ms. Riechmann mean, the questions were "choreographed?" Aren't the questions always choreographed?
During an interview, for example, the interviewer always knows in advance the major questions he will ask, the order he will ask them, and to whom they will be directed (if multiple subjects are being grilled simultaneously). Often the subject also knows, to allow him to do whatever research is necessary to come up with a more detailed answer. Typically, major questions spawn follow-up questions; we have no clue from the AP story whether this happened this time, even though that would reveal much about the charge of being "staged."
So what the heck does Ms. Riechmann mean? How is this different from any other interview situation? Remember, the president is the interviewer, not the subject; he's playing Brit Hume, for a change of pace.
"I'm going to ask somebody to grab those two water bottles against the wall and move them out of the camera shot for me," [Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison] Barber said.
A brief rehearsal ensued.
"OK, so let's just walk through this," Barber said. "Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?"
"Captain Smith," Kennedy said.
"Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?" she asked.
"Captain Kennedy," the soldier replied.
And so it went.
Yes... it went, rather than crashed, because the soldiers actually knew in advance the order in which they would speak! They didn't talk over each other or tussle for the microphone. Will Bush's perfidy never stop?
"If the question comes up about partnering - how often do we train with the Iraqi military - who does he go to?" Barber asked.
"That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said.
"And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit - the hometown - and how they're handling the political process, who are we going to give that to?" she asked.
And here at last we have the substance of the charge of "choreographing" the questions: that the soldiers knew in advance which of them was the expert in a particular area -- hence who would actually answer the questions pertaining to that area.
This is what the Associated Press is trying to pass off as another "scandal" in the Bush administration. This barely even counts as a college try; Ms. Riechmann may as well have just used the pre-existing template titled Bush the Lying Liar Version 23.
Does even the Left doubt any longer the bias of the press against this president and against Republicans in general? Or do they just go through the motions occasionally, tossing a bit of tainted, gray meat to their base, more or less as a hobby?
Of course, they had to close with an eyebite from somebody hostile to Bush:
Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a "carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.
"If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."
I don't know what branch of the service Mr. Rieckhoff served in (if any), but it's evidently one where junior officers stay at the Pentagon and only privates and non-coms actually venture into the field.
I wonder whether he applies that same scorn to a certain fellow who was a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam, the exact equivalent rank to "captain" in the Army or Marines: Lt. John F. Kerry.
UPDATE: I have now listened to the 4:26 audio that National Public Radio made available (hat tip to Octavius), and contrary to some of the commenters to this post and some lefty blogs, such as This Divided State, there is not one, single instance of anybody "coaching [the soldiers] along the way" (as Bryan at TDS claims).
Allison Barber asks one question and listens to Captain Kennedy's answer; she does not tell him to change anything or give him any feedback whatsoever. She runs through a couple of other questions but doesn't wait for the soldiers to answer.
Let me repeat something I said above, because it may not have sunk in. When you are evaluating verbal acuity or mental quickness, you don't want to reveal the questions in advance; you prefer to watch the subject squirm. But when you want to gather solid information, you do give him the questions in advance, so he will be prepared with complete and accurate answers.
President Bush was not giving these soldiers a pop quiz, for heaven's sake. He wanted to hear what they had to say when they'd had a chance to think about it. And even if every one of them had been given an opportunity to rehearse speaking his answer -- on national TV and before the Commander In Chief -- it is neither "staged" nor "choreographed," except in the most technical meaning of those words, and there is no example at all of "coaching."
These are the real opinions of real soldiers who know what the hell they're talking about. Even if half of them are captains.
October 6, 2005
Harry Reid's Babysitting Service
This morning, President Bush delivered yet another exceptionally good speech on the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), this time to the National Endowment for Democracy in D.C. Bush candidly explained where we are now, what our strategy is for the future, how Iraq fits into the plan, and what specifically we're doing to continue winning that smaller war, as well as the larger GWOT itself.
In response Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) issued a terse and Kennedy-esque -- Ted Kennedy-esque, that is -- "response" that did not respond to anything the president said; in fact, it clearly was written before the speech, comprising nothing but boilerplate invective from the disloyal opposition. But even so, I will take up the smart man's burden and let you know what Sen. Reid said. It's a tedious task, but somebody gotta do it.
Reid: The Rhetoric Doesn't Match The Reality
Thursday, October 6, 2005
Washington, DC – Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today on Bush’s continued failure to talk straight to the American people about the war in Iraq:
Failure to "talk straight?" What about Harry Reid's continued failure to use the English language with clarity and precision? What on earth does that phrase, "talk straight," mean anyway? I'm really getting sick of this argument-by-illiterate-catch-phrase... and yes, I do include McCain's "Straight-Talk Express."
"Talk straight" is quite evidently a placeholder phrase, like a movie stand-in: you insert it into a sentence to take the place of what you really mean to say, so you can get the lighting and camera angles right without wasting the real term's time. The problem arises when, after you polish up the sentence, you forget to go back and replace the placeholder with the real words!
In that case, you end up with nothing but airy persiflage: things are looking bad, because the president won't bite the bullet and just do what needs doing. It's gut-check time, Mr. President! It's now or never! The American people eagerly await the straight talk, the real deal... but all you give us is the same-old, same-old. Our patience is not limitless, sir! For the last time, the American people demand to know just exactly where you stand: are you going to stick with the failed policies of the past? Or will you finally, at long last, move forward boldly into the future?
Once again the president had an opportunity to lay out for the American people the facts on the ground in Iraq and his strategy to achieve the military, political and economic success needed in order to bring our troops home.
Uh... yes; exactly like that.
Once again, he failed to do so. Instead, the president continued to falsely assert there is a link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of September 11th, a link that did not and does not exist.
He did? I just read the speech, and I don't see anything like that in what I read. Of course, I have an unfair advantage over Sen. Reid... I actually did read the speech before attempting to comment on it.
Here is what Bush actually said on this subject, as opposed to what Harry Reid imagined Bush would say a couple of days ago, when Reid actually write his "response":
We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it — in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites. First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands." Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 — only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.
Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. Now they've set their sights on Iraq. Bin Laden has stated, "The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries. It's either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation." The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.
Third, the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation.
I'm curious which part of this Reid rejects. Does the good senator argue that al-Qaeda doesn't really mind us being in the Middle East, that they've decided democracy and peace are pretty cool after all, and that they've given up their Blofeldian ambitions of world domination?
Or maybe it's the second paragraph that Reid disputes: perhaps Harry Reid argues that if we pulled out of Iraq instanter, then Zarqawi and his butt-monkey brigade would be mollified and would likewise leave Iraq to return to certain arrest and execution in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Egypt. Or that they would emmigrate out of Iraq to Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cechnya, but they would retire from the mindless mass murder biz; perhaps they would become shrimp farmers or start a cotton plantation.
If it's Bush's third point that Harry Reid pooh-poohs, then I can only conclude that Nevada's favorite son believes in the power of Islamist jihadi redemption: sure, the terrorist killers may have claimed they want a globe-spanning caliphate from "al-Andaluz" and the Moorish North Africa, the Persian Caliphate eastward to India, the deserts of Arabia, then following the old Ottoman Sultanate through Algiers, Tripoli, Egypt, through Mesopotamia right up against the Caspian Sea in Russia, up around into Europe, across Hungary, and right up to the gates of Vienna, Austria, plus the new elements of the ummah -- Indonesia (the largest Moslem country), Micronesia, the Philippines, and everything in between Australia and China.
Sure, maybe that's what they say; but it's just trash-talk (not straight talk, as Harry Reid gives us). They don't really want nukes, chemical weapons, or biological agents. And Israel? Heck, the jihadis are willing to "live and let live" alongside all those Jews and Crusaders. Don't harsh their mellow, man!
Show of hands: anybody here persuaded by Sen. Reid's read on the Jihadi mindset?
Once again, he failed to do so. Instead, the president continued to falsely assert there is a link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of September 11th, a link that did not and does not exist.
Harry Reid's homework list:
- The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America
- Countdown to Crisis : The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran
- 9/11 Commission Report: Staff Statement No. 15, Overview of the Enemy
(The official version of the document from the 9/11 Commission is unsearchable; they seem to have messed up something in the pdf. Here is a searchable version of that same document.)
The truth is the Administration’s mishandling of the war in Iraq has made us less safe and Iraq risks becoming what it was not before the war: a training ground for terrorists.
"Made us less safe." Hm. We're safer with an avowed and bitter enemy of America in charge of the world's second-largest known oil reserve, a military machine that includes missiles and chemical artillery shells, active and ongoing programs to develop nuclear and chemical/biological weapons, and who has deep, extensive, and rapidly expanding alliances with al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups that desperately desire to destroy America -- than we are with 140,000 American troops in Iraq protecting a democratic state that is about to vote on a constitution (and if they reject it, upon another, and another until they get their democracy)?
Yeah, I can see that... if the pronoun "us" in "made us less safe" stands for "Democrats in Congress," and "safe" refers to their electoral prospects. Indeed, Bush's entire prosecution of the GWOT has made Democratic seats in Congress very unsafe indeed, as the last couple of elections -- and the prospects for 2006 -- have shown. So in that sense, Harry Reid is right about this claim. Ten points for Slytherin!
I do note, however, that while Iraq may have become a training ground for terrorists, what it has mainly trained them to do is to be killed by the thousands by Coalition forces. And it has unquestionably become a training ground for American forces, turning us into the premier urban-terrorist warfare-fighting military on the face of the Earth.
It is clear our window of opportunity is closing in Iraq and the president continues to fail to provide a strategy for success in order to prevent this outcome.
See above, long discussion of Reid's obsession with torturing the English language until it converts.
My Democratic colleagues and I submitted four specific questions to the president about his strategy for Iraq that the American people demand be answered.
Which particular American people would those be? I don't recall being asked. Then again, statistical probability suggests that the vast majority of the people will not, in fact, be questioned for any particular poll. I'm willing to believe that Reid, Kerry, Leahy, Schumer, and Kennedy (and any other colleagues Reid has left) all got together and commissioned Gallup or Pew Research to poll the American people on which particular, specific four questions they demand the president answer, which turned out to be the very four that Reid asks below... so if he could give us a link or even a citation of this poll, it would be very helpful.
Instead of answering those questions, the president offered the same failed approach, stay the course. We cannot continue to stay the course, we must change the course. The American people and our brave men and women in Iraq deserve better.
It's like déjà-vu all over again!
Ah... here come those four questions that were determined by extensive polling among statistically weighted representative samples of the American people:
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’S KEY QUESTIONS ON IRAQ
- How many capable Iraqi forces do we need before we can bring our troops home?
- What is the administration doing to forge a political consensus?
- What is the administration doing to make Iraq’s neighbors a part of our strategy?
- What progress is being made on the reconstruction in Iraq and how do we know taxpayers dollars are being spent wisely?
Let's see if we can answer the senator's questions; then he can say "my job here is done" and head back to the video-poker slots.
How many capable Iraqi forces do we need before we can bring our troops home?
I have no idea how to answer this. What is a "force?" If he means "how many individual soldiers," that's a much larger number than if he means "how many battalions."
And what does he mean by "capable?" Wretchard of the Belmont Club has done a bravura job of analyzing just what we have done so far in building up a free Iraqi army, composed of volunteers led by officers who actually care about democracy and freedom, to take the place of the Saddam's old army, led by would-be military dictators (such as Col. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the King of Clubs on my quasi-official Iraqi Deck of Death) and largely manned by wretched Shiite and Kurdish conscripts who desperately didn't want to be there and would flee at the first opportunity.
First the raw numbers. Secretary Rumsfeld reports there are "technically 194,000 Iraqis" in the security forces. In terms of what may properly be referred to as the Iraqi army, General Casey said there were 100 battalions in all. These were divided, in terms of their capability into three categories: Category 1, 2 and 3 -- with Category 1 being the most capable [and available, per Wretchard's update].
The widely circulated report in the press that of 3 Iraqi battalions that were formerly combat ready, only one is currently rated in that status is an example of how the 'quantity of men' issue has been misunderstood. That number turns out to be the number of Iraqi battalions in Category 1, which as we shall see later, is not the critical category at all.
When Democrats disparage the capability level of the Iraqi troops, they refer only to the paucity of "Category 1" battalions; but Category 1 refers to a capability nearly equal that of the United States; and by this measure, virtually no other nation in Christendom has more than one or two such battalions, most not even that. Even Israeli units don't come up to our present capability to fight an urban war against terrorists... though we certainly couldn't have said that prior to the Iraq War. It is the units in the middle capability level, Category 2, that form the backbone of the fighting force in Iraq, as Wretchard explains:
The eightfold increase in company-level operations in five months (from 160 company level operations in May rising to 1,300 in September) is one crude way to estimate the rate of training of Iraqi battalions . If operational tempo has not increased, this suggests that since there are 100 battalions now then there were only about 12 in May and the US military transition teams have been training about 18 new battalions each month. This is a very crude estimate, but it should in the correct order of magnitude.
Of these 100 battalions the truly important number are those in Category 2 (not the Category 1 batts the press was interested in) because it is on these that the operations over the next six months will be fought. The members of Press realized this in the course of the briefing and attempted to get the speakers to state this number without success.
All right, let's pick one measure that Reid might have meant and run with that. What does he mean by asking "how many capable Iraqi [battalions] do we need before we can bring our troops home?" Does he imagine that is the goal: as soon as there are X number of operational Iraqi battalions, we splitski?
This is a perfect example of Democratic illogic. Bush has enunciated a perfectly comprehensible "exist strategy": as soon as the Iraqis begin to be able to take over their own defense, we begin to pull out. This could be accomplished with the 100 battalions in place now, if they improve their capabilities. Or we could raise another fifty battalions who are at the same level as today. Or we could degrade the terrorist ability so much that a mere seventy Iraqi battalions would be enough to drive them out... there are many routes to the victory condition.
Look at it this way. You're driving to the Grand Canyon. When is the trip officially finished -- when you arrive at the parking lot of Bright Angel Lodge? Or do you pull over and park when you have traveled exactly three and a half hours or 210 miles, no matter where you actually are?
What is the administration doing to forge a political consensus?
Among whom? Is this question left over from a previous set of four about, say, Social Security reform?
What is the administration doing to make Iraq’s neighbors a part of our strategy?
Well, we're telling Saudi Arabia to stop exporting jihadi materials to American mosques; we're welcoming Kuwait's and Jordan's recognition of Israel; we're trying to bring Iran's nuclear program before the UN Security Council; we're supporting Turkey's bid to join the European Union; and we're pressuring Syria to pull its intelligence agents out of Lebanon and fighting a riverine campaign along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to seal the Iraq border against Syrian terrorist incursion. Why do you ask, Sen. Reid... has your newspaper been stopped?
What progress is being made on the reconstruction in Iraq and how do we know taxpayers dollars are being spent wisely?
First question in this double-question, reconstruction progress: ca. September 29th, 2005, see this post from Good News Central.
Second question, how we know taxpayer dollars are being spend wisely: we know, obviosuly, because they're being spent by the Bush administration, not by the Democratic Congressional caucus. Was this a trick question?
And that appears to cover the entirety of Sen. Reid's "response." I suspect I'll never have to write this again... because the next time President Bush gives a speech about Iraq -- or about Hurricane Rita, the repeal of the death tax, or the Patriot Act -- Harry Reid will send out this same general, all-purpose "response," and I can just link back to this post.
October 5, 2005
Ron and Tom's Bogus Journey, part Deux
Once again, Democrats prove that, contrary to what some may think, it really is possible to fall off the floor.
If you -- I mean they -- today, Ronnie Earle -- oh for heaven's sake, just read this, from the Austin American Statesman:
Prosecutor Reveals Third Grand Jury Had Refused DeLay Indictment
Newly impaneled grand jury returned money-laundering charge within hours
By Laylan Copelin, American-Statesman Staff
October 4th, 2005
A Travis County grand jury last week refused to indict former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as prosecutors raced to salvage their felony case against the Sugar Land Republican. [emphasis added]
In a written statement Tuesday, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle acknowledged that prosecutors presented their case to three grand juries — not just the two they had discussed — and one grand jury refused to indict DeLay. When questions arose about whether the state's conspiracy statute applied to the first indictment returned last Wednesday, prosecutors presented a new money-laundering charge to second grand jury on Friday because the term of the initial grand jury had expired.
Working on its last day Friday, the second grand jury refused to indict DeLay. Normally, a "no-bill" document is available at the courthouse after such a decision. No such document was released Tuesday.
Ronnie Earle claims that after prosecuting the case with single-minded zeal -- "obsession" would be a better word -- for literally years, he suddenly discovered "new evidence" over the weekend, coincidentally just after fatal problems arose with the first indictment from the first grand jury, and just after a second grand jury refused to return an indictment. Amazing how perfectly that worked out. God must be in Ronnie Earle's back pocket.
DeLay's legal team, led by Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin, has been taking to the airwaves to portray Earle as an incompetent prosecutor who is pursuing DeLay only as a political vendetta.
"It just gets worse and worse," DeGuerin said. "He's gone to three grand juries over four days. Where does it stop?" [emphasis added]
I find it quite telling that the first grand jury, which returned the first (flawed) indictment, and the third, which returned the second indictment four hours after being seated on their first day, were both empaneled by Democratic judges; but the second grand jury, the one that heard Earle out but refused his call to indict (a very rare thing in a venue where the defense isn't even allowed to participate) was empaneled by a Republican judge.
Is it perhaps just barely possible that there might be something to this "partisan" charge after all?
October 4, 2005
Ron and Tom's Bogus Journey
I have now read all the way through the second indictment of Tom DeLay by Ronnie Earle, the obsessesed "Inspector Javert" of Travis County, TX. In fact, I read through it several times. And I'm completely befuddled.
Now, I'm what's known in the Navy as a "sea lawyer." That is, I'm not an attorney, but I sometimes play one in my own mind. So I may be unaware of case law that might clarify this indictment further. But so far as I can make out, reading the indictment and the sections of the Texas Election Code that it cites, it doesn't really even allege a crime... and in any event, the connection to Tom DeLay is as tenuous as gossamer.
DeLay is only mentioned twice in the indictment:
John Dominick Colyandro, James Walter Ellis, and Thomas Dale DeLay, the defendants herein, with intent that a felony be committed... did agree with one or more persons... that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the aforesaid offense, and the defendant, John Dominick Colyandro, the defendant, James Walter Ellis, and the Republican National Committee, did perform an overt act in pursuance of the agreement....
[T]he defendants, John Dominick Colyandro, James Walter Ellis, and Thomas Dale DeLay, did knowingly conduct, supervise, and facilitate a transaction involving the proceeds of criminal activity that constituted an offense classified as a felony under the laws of this state....
In both cases, the only "law of that state" cited is the Texas Election Code, chapter 253, subchapter D. I didn't have any trouble finding that code section online, either (subchapter D begins at 253.091).
Sec. 253.104. CONTRIBUTION TO POLITICAL PARTY. (a) A corporation or labor organization may make a contribution from its own property to a political party to be used as provided by Chapter 257.
Chapter 257 lists the detailed restrictions in section 257.002:
Sec. 257.002. REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO CORPORATE OR LABOR UNION CONTRIBUTIONS. (a) A political party that accepts a contribution authorized by Section 253.104 may use the contribution only to:
(1) defray normal overhead and administrative or operating costs incurred by the party; or
(2) administer a primary election or convention held by the party.
(b) A political party that accepts contributions authorized by Section 253.104 shall maintain the contributions in a separate account.
In other words, money contributed by corporations is "soft money," which can't be used directly for campaigns; and parties must maintain separate accounts to segregate "soft money" from "hard money" (contributions from individuals). This is exactly the same as the federal prohibition -- not surprising, since the Texas statute was modeled on the federal statute.
But the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC) responds that this is exactly how they handled these transactions, and indeed, all such soft-money transactions, since they must obey federal law themselves. They had two separate accounts, one for "soft money," the other for "hard money". The money from Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), which came from corporations, went into the "soft money" account. But the money sent back for use in political campaigns came from the "hard money" account.
Ronnie Earle calls this "money laundering." Now, I don't know about Texas, but to me, money laundering can only occur if the initial source of the money is itself criminal. I've never before heard the term used to mean money legally donated to a political party or political action committee.
Also, don't you have to show that the money at the end of the process is the same money that was criminal at the beginning -- that is, that there is no separate and distinct origin of the end money? But in this case, when the RNSEC donated money to the Texas campaigns, the money came from their separate "hard money" account collected from specific, named, and reported individual donors. It was not the same money.
Well, maybe there technically wasn't any crime; but what about the spirit of the law? Did this agreement attempt to circumvent the law? Again, the answer is emphatically No, it did not: Texas set up a procedure to follow for corporate/union money on the one hand and money from individual donors on the other; all that TRMPAC did was follow those rules.
In fact, it appears that Ronnie Earle has charged the defendants with willfully conspiring to obey the law.
The purpose of campaign finance reform is twofold: to strictly limit the amount of money that can be donated by corporations and unions to campaigns, and to sever the direct connection between candidates and deep-pocket donors. The money sent into the Texas campaigns came from individual donors, not corporations; every dollar sent to Texas was a dollar that could not be sent to any other state or federal campaign. Those Texas corporations could have contributed a billion dollars, and the RNSEC still would not have had one, single extra dime to spend on political campaigns!
And as far as severability, Earle's indictment doesn't even allege that a single candidate was told "pssst! this money is actually from such-and-such a corporation." There is no allegation they were even told it was from TRMPAC. So far as I can tell, the candidates would only know they had gotten money from the Republican Party.
Well how about coordination? Does the list of proposed recipients of the money that TRMPAC sent to the RNSEC make it into money laundering? Again, that seems quite a reach: the whole point of money laundering is to conceal the source of criminal proceeds or their destination; yet both the point of origin (XYZ Corporation) and the destination (RNSEC) were not only not concealed, they were reported to the Federal Elections Commission.
The final absurdity is the contortion that Ronnie Earle had to go through in order to extend the indictment to Tom DeLay himself. Every single act alleged in the indictment is the act of somebody other than Tom DeLay; hence the conspiracy charge... Earle has to prove that Tom DeLay "did agree" to do all the things that other people did, which Earle alleges were illegal.
But unless Earle has some explosive evidence that nobody else has heard about, the only thing Tom DeLay agreed to do is found a political action committee; he left all the day-to-day decisions to the people who actually ran it.
This indictment is no less tendentious (and ridiculous) than the first; the only difference is that Earle has added "money laundering," so he can threaten DeLay with a 99-year sentence. A bogus travesty has just been converted into a double-secret bogus travesty, if I can mix my movie metaphors.
October 3, 2005
The Evitable Collapse
Beebop, in the comments of Bill Bennett, Won't You Please Come Home?, called my attention to an article by Charles Murray linked at Real Clear Politics: "The Hallmark of the Underclass," from the Wall Street Journal's opinionjournal.com, Sunday, October 2, 2005.
It is a sobering article, even for those of us who haven't been drinking. Murray argues that Hurricane Katrina blew down the screens our society had erected to shield the "underclass" from view.
We haven't rediscovered poverty, we have rediscovered the underclass; the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years; and the programs politicians tout as solutions are a mismatch for the people who constitute the problem.
What is the underclass? The Democrats like to portray all those currently in poverty as the underclass, undifferentiated between the deserving poor -- those who are temporarily poor because of bad luck, but who otherwise exemplify the virtues our society tries to inculcate -- and the undeserving poor, who are poor because of stupid choices they have made (and typically continue to make, over and over, until their miserable lives end in well-earned misery). But this is a tendentious (and tedious) class-warfare argument that Murray, of course, has no intention of perpetuating.
Charles Murray restricts the label "underclass" to the "looters and thugs," the "young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes," the "young males who choose not to work," even when jobs are available, and the "inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children. They are the underclass."
The underclass manifests as the "yeah, right, whatever" society (my quotation, not Murray's) who believe that life is pure destiny, though they would not have the words to describe it so concisely. They are not actors; they are passive elements that are acted upon by outside forces. Criminality is only one manifestation of the underclass; another is the complete lack of ambition or the mental connection between material comfort and holding a job:
Criminality is the most extreme manifestation of the unsocialized young male. Another is the proportion of young males who choose not to work. Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9%. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20% during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30% in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job. The dropout rate among young white males is lower, but has been increasing faster than among blacks.
Theodore Dalrymple, "a British doctor and writer... [who] now works in a British inner city hospital and a prison," published an entire book on the subject of the underclass: Life At the Bottom, © 2001, Ivan R. Dee Publisher. Dalrymple put his finger on the definition of the underclass, something which we urgently need to understand:
Nevertheless, patterns of behavior emerge -- in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?
Dalrymple considers and rejects "economic determinism, of the vicious cycle-of-poverty variety," "genetic or racial determinism," and "the role of the welfare state." That last cause contributes and may even be a necessary precondition. Not even welfarism, however, makes the underclass inevitable.
What Dr. Dalrymple finally realized, after interviewing and treating literally thousands upon thousands of patients, is that the universal defining characteristic of the underclass is an idea: the utter lack of responsibility for their own lives. They all believe themselves to be helpless victims of forces beyond their control. It's immaterial whether those forces are economic, occult, or medical; it is the collapse of free will that sends a man or woman spiraling into the underclass.
The contrary idea [that we lack free will], however, has been endlessly propagated by intellectuals and acaemics who do not believe it of themselves, of course, but only of others less fortunately placed than themselves. In this there is a considerable element of condescension: that some people do not measure up fully to the status of human. The extension of the term "addiction," for example, to cover any undesirable but nonetheless gratifying behavior that is repeated, is one example of denial of personal agency that has swiftly percolated downward from academe....
In fact most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia. Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent).
In yet another brick in the wall of evidence that the underclass is growing to devour an ever-larger segment of society, Drudge linked an article from the Associated Press: Marriage On the Rocks in Britain.
Marriage is on the rocks in Britain, with the proportion of unmarried people set to exceed that of married people within 25 years as more men and women opt to live together without constraints, according to government statistics published this week.
The proportion of married men is expected to fall from 53 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2031, while the percentage of married women will decline from 50 percent to 40 percent, Britain's Office for National Statistics predicted Thursday.
The "Population Trends" report predicted on the other hand that the number of unmarried couples living together will almost double from two million in 2003 to 3.8 million in 2031.
We each have anecdotes that bring home the shock of the growing underclass -- including those rich in material wealth but impoverished of moral courage. My wife, Sachi, took a class in ethics at university some years ago; the students were asked what they would do if they discovered their best friend at work had been embezzling funds from his employer for months. Out of a class of forty-five students, exactly two said they would turn their friend in... by coincidence (perhaps), the only two girls in the class. (It was a class for engineering students only.)
When Sachi said that of course she would turn in the thief, that she could never remain friends with a person who could do such a thing, one of her male classmates sniggered "that's just like a woman!" He almost lost some teeth -- Sachi was furious.
Charles Murray gloomily notes (he was born with a dark thundercloud over his head) that none of the legislation proposed in the wake of Katrina stands even a chance of truely changing the mindset of the underclass. They will help the deserving poor, of course; but the deserving poor hardly even need help: with a mindset that a man is responsible for his own life, virtually nothing short of death can keep him down.
One might argue that by definition, only the deserving poor "deserve" to be helped. But reforming the underclass is not an act of altruism, which I find repugnant. Altruism is selflessness in the sense Ayn Rand used the term, the complete negation of self: a true altruist will take food from the mouth of his own starving child to give to another man's child.
Reforming the underclass -- ripping from their brains, root and branch, this crazed idea that somebody or something else is really to blame for the calamities the befall them -- is rather a life-and-death necessity for society. For even if we're willing to write off as "subhuman" the tens of millions of human beings in the underclass, without any concern for what will happen to them; even if we have icewater coursing through our veins; there is still the cancerous effect of such dreadful memes: they grow and metastasize through the body politic, infecting the young at all levels of society. As Dalrymple writes,
Worse still, cultural relativism spreads all too easily. The tastes, conduct, and mores of the underclass are seeping up the social scale with astonishing rapidity.... Never before has there been so much downward cultural aspiration.
Murray characteristically despairs that anything can or will be done. "Five years from now," he concludes, "the official evaluations will report that there were no statistically significant differences between the subsequent lives of people who got the government help and the lives of people in a control group. Newspapers will not carry that story, because no one will be interested any longer."
Murray's implication is that we are destined to tailspin inevitably down into a smoking hole; but this is flatly wrong. There is much we can do... but first we must shake not only the passivity induced by underclass-style disconnect between actions and consequences but also Murray's passivity of despair, cultural malaise, and gloom. What is most urgently needed to avoid losing yet another generation to the underclass mentality is not massive piles of money, nor smaller classrooms, nor better pedagogies, nor unions, nor governments, nor even homeschooling, though any of these can help along a program founded upon the proper strategy.
What we need more than anything else is to admit, first to ourselves and then to our children, that our own cultural virtues are worth learning and passing along. That there really is a right and wrong path; that evil exists, but so does good; that every person is absolutely responsible for the direction of his or her life. We need to teach that stealing is wrong; cheating is wrong; lying is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Those who say "there are no right or wrong answers" are colossally foolish. That still, small voice is not just a "Jiminy Cricket" to be crushed underfoot but a moral compass telling you that what you are doing is wrong. There are civil institutions -- police, military, religious, judicial, service organizations, and especially youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts -- that are worth preserving, not destroying. That voting may be a right, but voting intelligently is a duty. That children are for marriage, and that parenthood is for life. That sobriety is vital, while intoxication is toxic.
In other words, we need once again to begin teaching Civics to the young. It was stupid to stop in the first place... another brainy scheme from eggheaded intellectuals who never see the connection between ideas and their natural consequences. We need to begin teaching civics and requiring a passing grade in order to advance and graduate. And we need, above all else, to teach personal responsibility and accountability: as "Red" Foreman said in the only great line I ever heard on the TV series That 70s Show, "son, bad things happen to you because you're a dumbass."
The final collapse of society is not inevitable; it is, in fact, thoroughly evitable.
We didn't get to the edge of this cliff overnight; and it will take at least a generation to back away from the abyss. But two generations have already passed since Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his 1965 report for the Department of Labor, The Negro Family: the Case for National Action, warning of the impending dangers of fatherlessness, illegitimacy, divorce, and welfare dependency. Two lost generations.
If we allow another twenty years to pass, it will be three lost generations. The alarm is ringing; it is time to wake up.
October 1, 2005
Bill Bennett, Won't You Please Come Home?
UPDATED: See below.
The Bill Bennett imbroglio is about the all-time stupidest dogpile I've ever seen.
All right, all right, so it's not as stupid as the attacks that drove Dr. Laura Schlessinger off the TV airwaves. And yes, I reckon it's not as absurd as the scrum of imbeciles who insisted that Rush Limbaugh said that all feminists were members of the American Nazi Party.
And I suppose I have to confess that the most barking mad pile-on in recent history was the mob that grabbed their torches and pitchforks and marched off to assail silicone breast implants. So let me rephrase my opening comment: this is about the stupidest dogpile I've seen in weeks.
Let's start with fact number 1: Former Drug Czar and Secretary of Education William Bennett did not at any time suggest that we should abort all the black babies in order to reduce crime.
Fact 2: Nor did he at any time say, imply, or suggest that blacks were responsible for all crime in America.
Fact 3: He didn't even offer his comments as a valid analogy; he offered that argument -- which is taken from a rather silly book called Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner -- as a reductio ad absurdum showing that all such extremist extrapolations are ridiculous and tend to be morally reprehensible.
However, we also have Fact number 4; a lot of people are dancing around this one, because even conservatives have been cowed into political correctness. I, however, simply care more about the truth than I do about people's hurt feelings.
Fact 4: The violent crime and homicide rates are tremendously higher for blacks and Hispanics than they are for non-Hispanic whites, Asians, and many other groups (Jews, for example).
If half of all violent Asian criminals were to reform, turn over a new leaf, and become honest citizens, it would slightly lower the violent-crime rate of the United States; but if half of all violent black and Hispanic criminals were to cease committing crimes, it would drastically lower the national violent-crime rate.
Here is what Bennett actually said:
Bennett's comments came Wednesday, during a discussion on his talk show "Morning in America." A caller had suggested that Social Security would be better funded if abortion had not been legalized in 1973 because the nation would have more workers paying into the system.
Bennett said "maybe," before referring to a book he said argued that the legalization of abortion is one of the reasons the crime rate has declined in recent decades. Bennett said he did not agree with that thesis.
"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," Bennett said, according to an audio clip posted on Media Matters for America's Web site. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, you know, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."
First, we should sit down, have a good, stiff martini, and then read the allegedly "extremist" remarks. Perhaps the calming effect of the alcohol will paradoxically allow us to react with the intellect, not the emotion. There is nothing remotly offensive to blacks in Bennett's words. If a person thinks he's offended, he has allowed knaves and demagogues to make a fool of him.
The only offensive thing that I saw was Howard Dean -- in between bleating that Republicans never worked a day in their lives, are evil, and are full of hate -- rushing to the microphones to scream about "Bill Bennett's hateful, inflammatory remarks," which Dean caricatured as "reprehensible racial insensitivity and ignorance," and demanding that the Republican Party "denounce them immediately as hateful, divisive and worthy only of scorn." Dean went on to laud "the virtues that bring us together, not hatred that tears us apart and unjustly scapegoats fellow Americans." Hm....
I'm still waiting for the word from Byrd: will Sen. Robert Byrd take a break from comparing Republicans to Nazis to chastise Bennett for being divisive?
And perhaps we'll be treated to the spectacle of Rep. Charles Rangel, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Rep. Major Owens pausing for a moment from saying the George W. Bush is "more diabolical" than Bull Connor to lecture Bill Bennett on being racially insensitive.
I do think the Doofus On Parade award must go to whichever rocket scientist at the Associated Press came up with the headline to the AP article "White House Condemns Bennett's Remarks."
That condemnation? Here it is:
"The president believes the comments were not appropriate," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
Oh, the humanity! Move over, Emile Zola.
Before retiring from this field of screams, I should note some voices of sanity out there in Blogoland. Paul Mirengoff at Power Line notes that several leftist sites have to some extent defended Bennett's remarks, or at least called for some proportionality. [Correction note: I had originally attributed this post to John Hinderaker, but it was Paul's post. --the Mgt.]
John particularly singles out Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong. Here is DeLong:
Bennett did not "concede" that "aborting all African-American babies 'would be... morally reprehensible.'" That was his point. His caller said: "Abortion is bad because it has worsened the financing of Social Security." Bennett says: "Stay focused. We're anti-abortion not because we think that abortion is a means that leads to bad ends like a higher Social Security deficit; we're anti-abortion because abortion is bad; make arguments like 'abortion is bad because it increases the Social Security deficit' and other people will make arguments like 'abortion is good because it lowers the crime rate' and we'll lose sight of the main point."
Bennett is attempting a reductio ad absurdum argument.
Never attempt a reductio ad absurdum argument on talk radio. You can't keep exact control over your phrasing in real time, and so somebody is bound to think you are endorsing the horrible absurdity that you are rejecting.
DeLong is entirely correct... and the first paragraph of his post should dispel any tentative thoughts that he might be a closeted fan of William Bennett.
A tip of the hat to a couple of Bennett-hating lefties who nevertheless are able to separate their dislike for the man from a dispassionate evaluation of the words. Such finesse is found all too infrequently on both Left and Right.
UPDATE October 1st, 2005 15:06:
Over on Captain's Quarters, Captain Ed makes a point that requires response. He takes issue with my example above thus:
Less convincing is Dafydd's argument supporting Bennett's assumption. Dafydd says this:If half of all violent Asian criminals were to reform, turn over a new leaf, and become honest citizens, it would slightly lower the violent-crime rate of the United States; but if half of all violent black and Hispanic criminals were to cease committing crimes, it would drastically lower the national violent-crime rate.
But part of that argument's veracity comes from the fact that the Asian population accounts for 3.6% of US population as a whole, while blacks and Hispanics account for 24.8%. Dafydd's argument is obviously true, and just as obviously irrelevant. And Bennett still would have been better off choosing white babies as a way to lower crime, because they would account for roughly three-quarters of all births and could contribute much more to the lowering of the crime rate. In 2003, white births outnumbered black births 6-1.
The Captain, while well intentioned, is simply wrong here; my argument's "veracity" (I believe he meant accuracy) derives, not from the relative proportions of the population, but rather from the relative rates of criminality of different cultures within the United States.
Captain Ed seems to be under the mistaken impression that all races are equally represented at the table of criminal victimization. This simply is not correct. Nota bene: I will confine my discussion here to blacks, not Hispanics, for two reasons: first, Bennett used the example of blacks; second, the best source of data on criminality in the United States is the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and they do not segregate Hispanic whites from non-Hispanic whites.
Before getting to the stats, however, an important caveat is in order. One thing Captain Ed said is completely correct... but he wrapped it inside something profoundly incorrect.
At the heart of that assertion, Bennett has to assume that all other things being equal, blacks are more likely to commit crime than non-blacks as part of their innate nature, and not as part of an environment.
The Captain is perfectly correct that there is nothing "innate" within blacks (or any other race) that compels them to commit crime; there is no evidence of any sort of connection between melanin and criminal tendencies. However, he errs in assuming that the only two possible explanations for crime are either racial -- which every serious researcher rejects -- or environmental, by which Ed appears to restrict himself to factors such as poverty. He completely ignores the importance of culture. The sad fact is that most blacks grow up in a culture that tells them violent "acting out" is not only permitted, it's a sign of rebellion against a racist system.
Most blacks overcome that conditioning, of course; the great majority of blacks are not criminals. Alas, a much higher percent are than people who grow up in different cultures which teach different behaviors. This is hardly a shocking or unprecedented observation; the exact same tragedy has been noted by a number of black commentators -- from Spike Lee to Louis Farrakhan to Al Sharpton, Charles Rangel, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, the late Carl Rowan, and Colin Powell. The late Sen. Patrick J. Moynihan (who was not black, obviously) produced a lengthy "white paper" (no pun intended) on the problem of black illegitimacy and violence back in the 60s, and the problem has only gotten worse since.
The problem is not race. The problem is culture. But culture, unlike race, can be voluntarily chosen -- or rejected. Larry Elder is a very vocal proponent of this point of view: blacks cannot choose their parents (as who can?), and they have the disadvangate of growing up in a culture that teaches a lot of destructive behavior; but they have the ability and the duty to reject those teachings... just as I had to consciously reject the teachings of exclusionism, bigotry, racism, and cultural isolationism that I inherited from my Jewish upbringing: I kept the good parts of Jewish culture and rejected the bad.
That said, let's look at the crime problems of black culture (not "race") in America.
The seminal statistical snapshot of criminal victimization in the United States is the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the United States Department of Justice. It includes a number of statistical tables, which you can access here.
Take a look at Table 40 in the complete set: Percent distribution of single-offender victimizations, by type of crime and perceived race of offender.
Although self-reported blacks account for only 12.3% of the population (according to the census figures Captain Ed linked), they account for 21.3% of all crimes of violence. Individual crimes show even greater rates: blacks account for 39.5% of all attempted robberies, 40.9% of attempted robberies with injuries, 49.5% of completed robberies, and 55% of completed robberies with injuries.
This particular publication does not discuss homicide, because it's based on surveys of the victims of crimes. In another BJS publication, however, Homicide Trends in the United States: 2002 Update, we find the following statistic for 2002:
Blacks were 6 times more likely to be homicide victims and 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicides in 2002.
During the study period 1976-2002, 86% of white murder victims were killed by whites, and 94% of black victims were killed by blacks.
Another important measure of criminality is the annual FBI publication Crime In the United States, which reports arrests. Table 43 breaks it down by race:
In 2002, 50% of people arrested for "murder and non-negligent homicide" were black, though only 12.3% of the population were black; and only 1.2% were Asian, even though 3.6% of the population are Asian. 47.7% were white, and the white percent of the population is 75.1% (both the census and the FBI stats lump Hispanic whites in with other whites). Similar distributions exist in every category of violent crime and most categories of property crime. (Whites are overrepresented only in DUI, liquor laws, and drunkenness -- three areas where blacks are not overrepresented... in fact, underrepresented in the first two).
Therefore, it is simply erroneous to assert, as Captain Ed does, that the race of the babies aborted in the grotesque example that Bennett was decrying would not matter in lowering the crime rate:
Do we know that the crime rate would go down, any more than if we aborted every white baby in America? No, we do not, and that mistaken assumption creates the much smaller but legitimate criticism of Bennett's remarks....
And Bennett still would have been better off choosing white babies as a way to lower crime, because they would account for roughly three-quarters of all births and could contribute much more to the lowering of the crime rate.
Mathematically, since whites are underrepresented in both the crime and violent crime rates, aborting white babies would raise, not lower, the crime rate. Bennett, who understands these statistics very well (and grieves over them), chose the example that made statistical sense, even though it turned out to be offensive to those who don't want to hear certain home truths. Talk to Larry Elder sometime about some of the bad elements of black culture, and how they can be overcome without having to abandon "being black" at all.
Again, an important caveat is worth repeating: these are not problems of race; they are problems of culture. What Bennett was saying -- not as adroitly as he would have written, had he the opportunity -- was that crime is not evenly distributed by culture, and it may be tempting for some to wish away, via abortion, those subcultures that contribute so much more crime than others... but that such fantasies are ludicrous and offensive. Similarly, it's ludicrous and offensive to offer some asinine economic argument against abortion. Abortion is either right or wrong entirely on its own, without regard to ancillary questions of either crime or the funding of Social Security.
The example Bennett chose, while disturbing, was nevertheless a truth we need to confront: cultural relativism is a comforting but thoroughly discredited idea: it is a dangerous fantasy to believe that all cultures are the same.
Since culture, unlike race, can be chosen, it's the responsibility of each individual, no matter what color he is or what culture he inherited at birth, to choose a culture of decency, not one of indecency. There are many areas of black culture that are positive, beneficial, and uplifting, as with every other culture. Most blacks manage to retain these elements while dropping the elements that are destructive and degrading. Others, however, trap themselves in the negative aspects: it is the task of the decent to bring the rest to their senses.
September 22, 2005
Predictions: Judiciary-Committee Democrats Fail to Rise Above Lowest Expectations
Crash and burn on my prediction for the J-Com vote! I wildly overestimated the Democrats' ability to recognize their own best interest. The vote of course included five Democrats voting against, not just Ted Kennedy: what is astonishing to me is that Joe Biden, Charles Schumer, and even Dianne Feinstein voted against Roberts. Dick Durbin I can understand; he's not exactly the sharpest crayon in the tank. But Dianne Feinstein? She's never been a wacko before; liberal, but not a captive to the MoveOn crowd.
Oh well; this of course means that more than twenty Democrats are going to vote against Roberts in the full Senate... but are they going to get forty willing to filibuster? I don't think they can: Harry Reid, leader of the opposition, insists he will not vote against cloture; besides, Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl, and Pat Leahy voted for Roberts, while Mark Pryor, Tim Johnson, Max Baucus, and Ben Nelson have already declared support, with Mary Landrieu and Kent Conrad "leaning" towards Roberts; that should make at least ten Democrats ostensibly unwilling to filibuster, which would make a filibuster impossible. So Patterico's earlier prediction is still possible... though since he unwisely signed aboard my prediction, I get to split the ignominy!
My other prediction, about the Iraqi Constitutional vote, is still live, of course. I sure hope the Iraqi voters are smarter than the Democrats....
September 21, 2005
Patrick Leahy Says He'll Back Roberts
UPDATE: Crash and burn on the prediction about the vote in the Judiciary Committee! Read all about it here.
In a move that seems to have shocked everybody except Patterico and myself, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Democratic J-Com stalwart and filibustering fool, announced today that he will vote in favor of John Roberts, Bush's nominee to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Leahy, D-Vt., said he still has some concerns about Roberts. "But in my judgment, in my experience, but especially in my conscience I find it is better to vote yes than no," he said. "Judge Roberts is a man of integrity. I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."
Although Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), both on the Senate Judiciary Committee, have yet to formally announce their votes either way, both gave interviews in which they said that Roberts was the best Supreme-Court nominee either had ever seen. I find it hard to believe they would say that -- and then vote against him.
In the meanwhile, as I expected, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) announced his own position:
Moments after Leahy spoke, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, announced he would vote against Roberts.
"There is clear and convincing evidence that John Roberts is the wrong choice for chief justice," Kennedy said. "I oppose the nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same."
There are other Democratic senators yet to announce: Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Herb Kohl (D-WI); still, I think my prediction, that Roberts will get all of the senators on the Judiciary Committee except Ted Kennedy, is looking pretty prescient at the moment.
September 18, 2005
Predictions, Predictions: the Iraqi Consitutional Vote
UPDATE: Crash and burn on the prediction about the vote in the Judiciary Committee! Read all about it here.
One of my favorite thrillseeking pastimes is making high-level predictions. Unlike those by psychics, mine are specific and near enough that everyone will remember to check -- thus I dance on the high-adrenaline tightrope between, as Charlie Brown would put it, being a hero or being a goat.
(I actually have a fairly good track record, because I do not make my predicions anywhere near as randomly as I pretend.)
The Iraqi constitution, which their parliament just voted to be put to the Iraqi people, can only be derailed by either a majority vote against (not politically possible) or by its rejection by three provinces, each with more than two-thirds against.
This time, I'll just flip a coin *: Dafydd the Great, wearing turbin and holding back of hand to forehead, predicts that no more than one province will muster the necessary 67% rejection. (Actually, I believe none will; but I'm hedging my prediction slightly.)
In an earlier, unrelated prediction posted on Captain's Quarters about the vote on John Roberts' nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I prognosticated that every Democrat on the committee except Ted Kennedy will vote to support Roberts in the vote recommending his nomination to the full Senate.
All of my predictions will have the primary category "Predictions," to make for easy tracking. After each is decided by the quantum vicissitudes of time, I will update it, scoring Dafydd the Great either a hit, a miss, or a mixed result (a wash).
* I'm lying again, as I warned you I might. I don't make my predictions by flipping a coin. I've been following this upcoming election for some time. My thinking was also influenced by this post by Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters. So there.
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