October 27 2002
OF THE DAY: This
hilarious paragraph is from a
Las Vegas Review-Journal story assessing the prospects of
Democrat Dario Herrera in Nevada's 3rd Congressional District:
chances of winning are very slim," pollster Brad Coker said
Thursday. As for Herrera's 48 percent unfavorable rating, Coker
said, "I've seen worse, but most of those people are in jail."
I've found someone
else who agrees with me that Townsend will beat Ehrlich next
week. Also, a story in today's
Baltimore Sun says the candidates are frantically crisscrossing
Montgomery County trying to make up for lost time. The Townsend
folks say they'll need 65% or more out of Montgomery County to
win and KKT's county chairman claims that, "Kathleen Townsend
has probably the best grassroots, get-out-the-vote effort in Montgomery
County history." I've already started clearing out some space
in my wallet for a visit from my good friend Andrew Jackson....
- TB 4:48 pm.
reader sends the following:
as a moderate liberal I find it increasingly difficult to stomach
Krugman and I swear, Dowd has gone bonkers. Never been a fan
(or a reader for that matter) of Herbert. Never really understood
how he got there anyway. But what about Friedman? He's still
churning out B/A work.
I did skip
over Friedman in my initial post, primarily because he (along
with William Safire) frankly isn't in the same category as the
rest of The Times' columnists. Particularly with respect to the
Middle East, Friedman at least makes intellectual, often insightful
arguments (whether you agree with them or not) based on facts
and a deep understanding of the region. By and large, he has produced
some real admirable work over the last year and I think his writing
reflects that he is one of those liberals (a la Dick Gephardt)
whose views - at least on foreign policy - who were fundamentally
altered by September 11. Speaking of Friedman, it's time to grade
his column today:
is Hope (10/27)
Author: Thomas Friedman
Comments: Friedman writes a first hand account of the Bahraini
elections held Thursday. Here's the money graph:
What the more enlightened Arab leaders understand
today is that with the mounting pressure of globalization, population
explosions and dwindling oil revenues, their long acceptance
of political and economic stagnation — which they managed with
repression and by refocusing anger onto Israel and America —
is becoming unsustainable. While the first big explosion happened
in New York City, these regimes know that unless they get their
houses in order, and on a more democratic track, the next explosion
will be on their doorsteps.
While Friedman goes on to make the specific argument
that Bahrain's ethnic composition makes it a potential model for
a postwar Iraq, the overall tone of the article suggests something
more: that democracy is a panacea for Arab societies. This is
simply untrue. As we've just seen in Pakistan, without addressing
cultural factors that spawn hate and envy of Western Civilization,
democracy can easily provide another outlet for radical Islam
rather than be a cure for it.
That being said, I agree with Friedman that any
movement toward democracy - even in the most limited form - is
positive and a reason for hope.
On a related note, here's an interesting
interview with the Prince of Morocco on the subject of democracy
in the Arab world. -TB
October 26 2002
this tragedy less than 24 hours old the speculation has now turned
to how Senator Wellstone's death will effect the balance of power
in the Senate. My initial gut reaction, and my feeling still,
is Coleman is finished. The cold-hearted political reading to
me is, this tragedy has increased the likelihood of the Democrats
retaining the Senate. This is not to say the Democrats will definitely
hold on to the Senate, only that it is more likely this morning
had pulled slightly ahead of Coleman, due to his vote against
the President's Iraq resolution. As that bump for Wellstone faded
and Coleman continued to pound on Wellstone's ultra-left record
and the reneging on his pledge to only serve two terms, in my
mind, that in the end would be enough for Coleman to squeak out
a victory. Irrespective of however you broke down the Wellstone/Coleman
race with 10 days to go, the reality was this was a 50/50 contest
and either guy could have easily have won. Today I think the Democrats
have a very good chance of holding on to the seat. There is also
the strong likelihood that this will give a boost to Senator Carnahan's
struggling candidacy in Missouri. Talent had looked like he was
going to take that race, but the tragedy yesterday and its eerie
similarity to the crash two years ago that killed Mel Carnahan
and his son, will inevitably increase Mrs. Carnahan's sympathy
vote. I still think that Talent will win, but Senator Carnahan's
odds of holding on have improved.
the Democrats actually do in Minnesota is still very up in the
air, and I suspect that we will know in the next 24-48 hours.
The law seems to indicate that they need to find a replacement
for Wellstone by Thursday. However, as we have seen in New Jersey
and Florida two years ago, the law doesn't matter all the time.
The Democrats will make a cold political decision on what gives
them the best chance to hold on to the seat. The early indication
is because the law seems to be very clear and because the current
governor is not a Democrat, they are looking for replacement.
front-runner and clear Democratic choice is Walter Mondale.
a former Senator (1964-1976), Vice President (1977-1981) and the
Democratic nominee in 1984, Mondale is unquestionably an elder
statesman in the Democratic Party. That status coupled with the
Wellstone sympathy vote makes him a heavy favorite versus Coleman.
Where things are likely to get more tricky is if Mondale refuses
to run. The other
candidates mentioned in the Minneapolis Star Tribune - Wellstone's
son, David, Democratic U.S. Reps. Martin Sabo and James Oberstar,
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, former Secretary of
State Joan Growe, former DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Freeman,
former US Senate candidates Rebecca Yanisch and Mike Ciresi, former
state Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III, State Auditor Judi
do not have the same stature as Mondale.
Coleman would definitely have a chance if one of these were to
be the replacement. But my gut feeling is the sympathy vote here
would still be enough to let the Democrats win. However, unlike
Mondale these candidates would not be an open and shut case. Which
presents the DFL and the Dems with a potential dilemma. If they
don't think their replacement will win they may try to go the
Missouri route (even though the law seems to clearly say they
can't) and keep Wellstone's name on the ballot and work out some
deal with Governor Ventura. Because of the legal nightmare this
would create the Democrats will probably not go this way, unless
they feel it is the only way they can win. Since this option would
involve making up the law as we go, it's impossible to say which
side would have the advantage.
bottom line is, if Mondale decides to run this critical toss-up
state becomes a safe Democratic hold. If it is Humphrey,
Page or another lesser candidate I would give the edge to the
Democrats based solely on the sympathy vote, though Coleman would
certainly have a chance. And if the Democrats try and run with
Wellstone on the ballot, who knows what will happen, the only
thing I do know, is that it would be a mess. -JM
Friday, October 25 2002
TIMES: I read the New
York Times editorial page - but only because I have to. Otherwise
I would probably avoid it altogether, or do what more and more
people seem to be doing with respect to the Paper of Record's
famous back page: check in every now and then for a laugh. It's
just not a serious space anymore. Every once in a while there
is a halfway decent column, but for the most part the triumvirate
of Krugman, Herbert, and Dowd (for the moment I'll give a pass
to Keller and Kristof) churn out ideological screeds that have
little basis in fact - and in Maureen's case, little basis in
I have to read the Times, and because I'm one of those people
who likes to try and highlight the positives, I've decided to
help the Times' editors identify the best work of their columnists
by grading them. I'll try to do it daily, if I can stomach it.
Let's take a look at today's grades:
in Bikinis (10/25/02)
Author: Nick Kristof
Comments: Kristof takes to the streets of Riyadh to try and
gin up some indignation over the repression of women but ends
up frustrated and confused. I'm not really sure what Nick's
point is (and neither is he) other than to say that even though
all the women he interviewed were completely happy, we should
still condemn the Saudis for their treatment of women. How should
we do this? It sounds like Nick wants to organize a big "point
and jeer" campaign.
Parrot Society (10/25/02)
Author: Paul Krugman
Comments: Krugman plumbs new depths of vituperation, calling
Bush, "as slippery and evasive as any politician in memory"
and averring, "the Bush administration lies a lot."
His basis for making these comments? The Dana
Milbank article that appeared in the Washington Post recently
citing three instances in which Bush allegedly "embellished"
the facts. Taking a critical
look at the piece, however, Milbank can easily be accused
of doing the same to dramatize the angle of his frontpage byline.
But Krugman isn't content with using a couple of recent quotes
to call Bush a liar with respect to the war on Iraq. Instead,
he goes further, extrapolating the argument to declare Bush
has been lying all along about everything, and for good reason:
"There's method in this administration's mendacity. For
the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying
to maintain a populist facade." This allows Krugman to
circle back the standard liberal line: Bush is for rich people,
against the environment, controlled by the NRA and Christian
coalition, blah, blah, blah. It's a sloppy, rote formula, and
one Krugman uses all too frequently these days in his relentless
attacks on the Bush administration.
you have it. Feel free to email
me with your own grades and comments. -
TB 10:56 am
October 24 2002
Ruffini serves up a detailed analysis of the Maryland race
and concludes it will end in a one or two point Ehrlich victory.
Also, a reader offers the following observations on Townsend:
writers have noted, there's a lot to be said for her, in that
there is little to be said for her...no unstable marriage or
messy divorce, no criminal record, no drug abuse, no alcohol
abuse, no wild sexual escapades, no strange sexual preferences,
no dumping of secretaries in the drink and taking off, no killing
teenage love interests...not the kind of stuff you usually see
in the tragically (and sometimes humorously) flawed Kennedys.
But then again, there's nothing particularly positive to say.
KKT is just a run of the mill academic egghead. In the absence
of her maiden name she would very likely be just Kathleen Townsend,
10 points behind Ehrlich.
I agree there
has been a ton of ink spilled over KKT's milquetoast personality
and legendary dimwittedness, but that hardly prevents her from
firing up her base or disqualifies her as a credible candidate.
The argument about whether her based is excited enough to propel
her to victory rests to a large degree not on who she is but who
she is running against. Is Ehrlich enough of a "gun-loving,
abortion-hating right wing bogeyman" to get liberals - especially
African American liberals - to the polls on Tuesday? We'll have
the answer in twelve days. -
TB 7:58 pm
Pay attention to the media coverage of this case. Seth Gitell
has a great piece
on how the arrest shatters preconceived notions about the case
and what we should learn. In a more narrow, political context,
the fact the sniper wasn't an "angry white male" saved
Ehrlich from a potential disaster.
A reader reminds me not to forget Watergate in my analysis
of why the two parties seem to approach the issue of fraud differently:
Republican party was once deeply tainted by [Watergate]. Republicans
do learn from their mistakes, though. Maybe the scandals haven’t
caught up to [Democrats] yet because voters have yet to hold
their party accountable for these shenanigans as they did the
Republicans in 1976.
-TB 1:32 pm
IOWA WAVE: This
story in Roll Call plus new polls on the Iowa Senate
must have Dems giddy. Three incumbent Republican house members
are in trouble while the incumbent Democrat Governor and Senator
are crushing their Republican opponents - all this in a state
with serious budget problems.
PEOPLE: Check out the list
of wacky stuff on the ballot this year. -TB
October 23 2002
If you have about three minutes and a Real One video player, you
need to see this
story about the Doyle campaign in Wisconsin. They organized
a bingo game at a home for mentally retarded people and then,
after priming them with sodas and treats (not to mention a prep
speech that was cancelled after the cameras showed up), took them
upstairs to cast their votes for Governor by absentee ballot.
I'm sure Josh
Marshall thinks this is completely acceptable behavior. Either
that or a plot by the McCallum campaign......
I'm no holier-than-thou
idealist, and I'm sure both sides play fast and loose with the
rules. But I don't think there is any question that when it comes
to campaigning there seem to be lines Republicans aren't willing
to cross while Democrats go zooming by. Of course this is a generalization.
But I've noted at least a dozen or so stories in this blog over
the last couple of weeks of possible voter fraud, etc. and I can't
remember one that involved Democrats accusing Republicans. Is
this just because Republicans are the only ones crying foul? Possible,
but not likely. Media organizations love these types of stories
during election season and would aggressively pursue charges against
a Republican campaign.
thing that leads me to believe there is a fundamental difference
between Republicans and Democrats on the issue is need. Doyle
is in a moderately close race, but not that close. Every poll
has him up 8 or more points and his opponent - an incumbent Governor
polling in the mid-30's - shows no signs of threatening.. Tom
Harkin was cruising with a 15-point lead when his campaign sent
a mole into the Ganske meeting. It just boggles the mind why these
people would A) not recognize the unethical nature of such behavior
and B) risk it anyway when it's not necessary. Unless, that is,
they simply don't make any value judgments with respect to A or
B and just consider it business as usual. -
TB 5:32 pm
TROOPS: A cynic would conclude from this
story that John is right: any and all means will be used to
preserve Townsend's precious turnout in Montgomery county. I don't
have a problem, however, with trying to protect citizens going
to the polls. If the sniper isn't caught by November 5 it won't
matter, turnout is going to be severely depressed with or without
National Guardsmen. One thing I would have a problem with is postponing
the election, if only because of the terrible precedent it might
set for future wackos who don't like a particular candidate, etc.
On a related
note, I've been hearing from a couple different places that Townsend
DOES NOT have the intensity she needs in her base to win this
election. It appears the saturation coverage of the sniper case
has both deflected and diluted KKT's ability to speak to her base
and get them fired up. I'm sticking by my prediction - for now
- but I'm a whole lot less confident than I was a couple of days
ago. - TB 4:49 pm
OF DEMOCRACY?: This is a nice companion
piece to the NY Times stories on protests in Iraq (here
that have received so much attention. Bahrain is holding its first
elections in 30 years and four "leading political groups"
are boycotting the election. Oh, and the Crown Prince felt compelled
to announce that the sudden decision to hold elections had nothing
to do with pressure from the US. I'd be inclined to bet a whole
bag full of dinars he's lying.
want to overstate the case of democracy taking hold in the Middle
East. Still, the threads of the stories beginning to come of out
the region suggest the begginings of change - no matter how insignificant
or cosmetic they seem - in favor of democracy and against the
sort of tyranny that has dominated that part of the world for
so long. - TB 1:00 pm
RUNOFF: Republicans are desperately trying to keep Mary Landrieu
under 50% on election day to force a runoff in December. Doesn't
look like it's going to happen. According to this
poll, Landrieu only needs to capture one in five undecideds
to top the 50% mark. And in the latest
Mason-Dixon poll, she's at 44% and including 31% among white
voters, which bodes well for her on election day.
TAKE: I read Andrew Sullivan regularly. So when I saw this
passage from John Corry's piece today, I knew it sounded familiar.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not accusing Corry of a 'Doris Kearns
Goodwin' here, but the analogy is conspicuously similar. See for
gives us John Burns's brilliant reporting out of Iraq -- Burns
makes Nicholas Kristof, the other Timesman who's been there,
look like a college sophomore -- and it also gives us great
quantities of schlock." -John
Corry, The American Prowler 10/23
superb New York Times reporter, John Burns, has been writing
peerless reports from Iraq (they make Nick Kristof look like
a college stringer), and he delivers these two paragraphs today."
Sullivan, andrewsullivan.com 10/21
LIKE A VIRUS: Now we've got vote fraud accusations coming
out of Arkansas. Meanwhile, SD Republicans are calling
on Ashcroft to send in officials to monitor the election.
story concerning possible fraud deep in the heart of Texas.
October 22 2002
TO DECENCY: Call it whatever
you want, Mike, it ain't going to matter. You should have
stayed the race. Turning and running only made you look weak,
and that weakness now takes away from any message you're trying
to put back on the table - admirable as it may be.
SHADOW: Terry McAuliffe and the DNC are going to try
and take the "bump" out of Bush's campaign trip
by shadowing him with attack ads on the economy. It's a smart
idea, but will it work? So far, the evidence
doesn't indicate that Bush and the GOP are going to pay a
heavy price this election for a lagging economy.
OF THE DAY: "It may be too late to save Allard. People complain
about the Simon gubernatorial campaign in California. They ought
to look at Allard's campaign. What a disaster. Our chances of
taking back the Senate could really hinge on this boob." - RNC
Staffer quoted in The
EVERYWHERE: We've just posted the latest polls to our Senate,
and House pages.
Two others worth mentioning are the Ohio Governor's race (Taft
-R 51%, Hagan -D 44%) and the Michigan Governor's race (Granholm
- D 54%, Posthumus - R 41%). Both polls were conducted by Survey
USA from 10/18-10/20.
Advantage is releasing their latest tracking poll on the Florida
Governor's race this afternoon. I'm told it doesn't look too favorable
for Jeb. You can sign
up here to get the IA tracking poll at a special discount
for RCP users. I highly recommend it - you'll want to have the
inside scoop on this race down to the wire.
GAME: Check out the language in this
AP story about the Carnahan/Talent debate. She's already known
inside the beltway as a policy lightweight (that's a friendly
term), but it looks as if the media's expectations for her were
so low just showing up was a victory. No wonder she turned
down the invitation to debate on "Meet the Press."
MONEY'S ON KKT: Okay, John and I have a $20 bet
on who wins in Maryland - but only if the sniper is caught in
the next 13 days. - TB
ON MARYLAND: I
have a disagreement with Tom on this race. As someone who grew
up in Baltimore, I had been telling people as late as this summer
I didn't think Ehrlich had a chance. However, today not only does
he have a chance, he is going to win. In my trips back to the
state, it is clear all the intensity is on Ehrlich's side. There
is no question Townsend will win 85%-90% of the black vote, but
will there be that 120%, full-throttle effort by the Baltimore
City political machine to churn out Democratic votes? I don't
think so. And for her to win she is going to need the same type
of effort by the Democratic machine, that Parris Glendening got
in 1994. (By the way, that election was stolen from the Republican
Ellen Sauerbrey in Baltimore City, she "officially"
lost by 5,993 votes, out of over 1.4 million cast statewide.)
BIG factor that has the real potential to give the race to Ehrlich
is the whole DC sniper situation. Everyone has been focussing
on KKT's gun control ads and whether Ehrlich's pro-gun positions
will hurt him with the Sniper story on all the headlines. What
you are not hearing is, this guy has just killed
again today in Montgomery County. Glendening won the the 1994
and 1998 races carrying only two of Maryland's 23 counties
- Prince George's and Montgomery. Townsend is leading in only
these two counties and Baltimore City. She needs a massive turnout
from Montgomery and Prince George's County to win. Montgomery
and Prince George's are the two counties that surround DC, and
are the only two counties to date where the sniper has killed
in Maryland. If this guy is not caught in the next two weeks,
turnout will be SEVERELY depressed in these two critical counties
for KKT. And
she will LOSE. End of story.
Be prepared in the next two weeks, if this guy is sill at large
for the Democrats to ask for "special" voting allowances
because of the Sniper situation. -JM
NOT TERROR: A telling editorial
in the Arab News offers the weak argument that we shouldn't
rush to judgment over the recent bombings around the world because,
after all, it could just be the work of organized crime. Here's
the money equivocation:
is a high-profile and wicked menace. However, year in, year
out, the world’s drug barons arguably kill far more innocent
victims and wreak far greater social damage than ideological
murderers. Yet the Washington led-response to their activities
has never approached the determination currently being deployed
against international terrorism.
I don't think
the "let's ignore Islamofascism and focus on drug lords"
argument is going to fly - at least not in this country. -
TB 9:02 am
GUV RACE: Ehrlich leads by a whisker in the latest
poll and for the first time in decades Republicans are within
striking distance of taking back the Governor's mansion. It ain't
A good friend
of mine who works for a nonprofit group in Baltimore tells me
the African-American community is going to turn out huge for KKT.
Since Ehrlich's collapse at the Morgan State University debate
a few weeks ago, he has essentially given up on the black vote
and headed for the 'burbs. Last week the candidates were invited
to speak before a huge gathering of African-Americans and address
the issues on their agenda. Townsend attended, Ehrlich went to
the Redskins game.
ploy to use the DC sniper case against Ehrlich backfires, she
is going to win this race because of overwhelming support from
the black community.
The potential intrigue in this year's election gets the political
junkie juices flowing: the ramifications of a Talent win in Missouri
and, of course, the specter of another defection. The Washington
Times reports that a two-seat pickup by Republicans this November
would put the GOP on "Chafee
Watch." Can't you just see the press conference with
Daschle announcing the deal? Imagine the astonishment of Democrats
and the media if the GOP held their own press conference the next
day to introduce the newest Republican member of the Senate, Zell
Miller from Georgia. It's a little out there, but it could happen.
- TB 8:28 am
October 21 2002
SPIN: New Gallup
poll results. The headlines will read, "Bush Job Approval
Sinks to Lowest Level Since Before 9/11." What you won't
see is that support for military action in Iraq ticked up to 56%
and has remained more or less constant over since June. For a
look at the bigger picture click
REPEATS ITSELF: It looks like Bush
v. McBride is only a few weeks away.
LEAP: The day after the Bali bombing I read Maureen
Dowd's column and it struck me: if the paranoid, cynical anti-war
left in the United States really believes Bush is worse than Saddam
and that he is only interested in oil, then how long would it
take before someone blamed his administration for the terrorist
attack in Bali as a plot to extend the War on Terror? The answer,
as it turns out, is about
arguments advanced by this group of liberals is intellectually
equivalent to those of the often-ridiculed "black helicopter"
crowd on the right. Yet, astonishingly, we find these asinine
theories advanced not only by academics, but by certain members
of the United States Congress and three-quarters of the NY Times
day goes by without some new take on the morally inverted argument
that "Bush is more dangerous than Hussein" and that
the President will whatever it takes (lie, cheat, steal) to invade
Iraq for personal reasons (oil, revenge, imperialistic urges).
Given this line of logic, is it really such a stretch to conclude
that Bush would kill to advance his goals by staging the bombing
in Bali? It was only a matter of time before someone took this
DAKOTA: Another post on possible vote fraud? Nope. But there
is a story out of SD that deserves
a little attention. Libertarian Senate candidate Kurt Evans
dropped out of the race on Friday and endorsed John Thune. According
to the latest KELO-TV poll, Evans was at 5% (referred to in the
poll as "other") and his support was unchanged from
the previous month. If Evans' endorsement results in a point or
two bump for Thune - and there's no reason to believe it shouldn't
- that might be enough to push him over the top.
Okay, I couldn't
resist posting some more numbers on SD voter
registration. Again, the numbers aren't conclusive. But Democrats
are either doing a fantastic voter registration drive on Indian
reservations or a number of bad registrations have been submitted.
Giving out gifts
two weeks before an election is also a helpful tool to win votes....
INC.: For anyone who isn't getting the picture, read
this. Contrary to what the folks at The Nation think, al-Qaeda's
resurgence doesn't mean 1) we have failed in the War on Terror
or 2) dealing with Iraq and North Korea are separate, distracting
issues. What is does mean, however, is that we are truly enjoined
in a battle between good and evil where the targets are global
and circumstances fluid. Hezbollah is gathering
support from Iran and Syria. Al-Qaeda is using
a network of wealth to support
bombings through cells in various countries.
All of these
forces are swirling out in the world, probing for weakness, seeking
alliances. And, like a moth to a flame, they are all drawn to
the same thing, the ultimate source of power: a nuclear weapon.
It's only a matter of time before they coalesce around a regime
ready and willing to offer them the strength, power, and protection
of a nuclear weapon. If allowed to acquire a nuke, Iraq could
easily be that regime. Which is why we must pursue with the swiftest
possible speed rounding up the terrorists who do the killing,
controlling the nuclear weapons they aspire to kill with, and
disabling the regimes that facilitate their growth.
SAGA: Here's the
latest. The Republican Attorney General is quoted as saying,
""I'm still only aware of two cases where criminal law may
have been violated, and you've heard about those. I just don't
want the suggestion out there that there is widespread fraud when
we don't have any evidence of that."
VOTE: Two observations about this
study reported by the Washington Post. First, as a practical
matter, this bodes well for Democrats in that aging voters (especially
those in the middle and lower income brackets) are easily frightened
and motivated by ads saying that Republicans will rob them of
their Social Security and are against prescription drug coverage.
Second, on a personal level, I can't help but wonder about the
findings. As reported in numerous surveys, the online market for
news and political information continues to explode, driven primarily
by youthful online users (average age of around 35). Even niche
sites like ours that offer content typically associated with a
much older crowd have a much younger demographic composition than
you would expect.
may question the depth of their knowledge and sense of history,
the current 18-34 year-old population is an incredibly tech-savvy
generation that literally feeds off the Internet on a steady diet
of news, entertainment and information. They are perhaps more
in tune with current events that any previous generation. However,
as the study apparently indicates, this has yet to translate to
any real gains at the ballot box.
INJUSTICE: In a little "poetry cafe" in Manhattan,
rabid anti-Semite and NJ Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka soldiers
on. - TB 8:23 am