Friday, November 22, 2002
THE RACE TO THE LEFT: Man, it's just over two weeks from the midterm elections and Al Gore is already overexposed. His most recent interview contains a collection of criticisms of the Bush administration that is literally detached from reality.

Meanwhile, on his web site two days ago Rich Galen hypothesized the following:

"John Edwards of North Carolina will run as far to the left as necessary because he is not interested in running for reelection to the Senate from the Tar Heel state, thus leaving Kerry as the de facto moderate in the race."

As if on cue, Edwards came out yesterday blasting the Bush administration for underfunding education (apparently the spending increases on education passed last year are woefully inadequate) and outlining a "College for Everyone Plan" which includes a free year of school in exchange for an undetermined amount of community service. In a nutshell, Edwards' vision for education: more money, no vouchers. Gee, I wonder if the teachers unions are going to be okay with this......

And as this article shows, the race to the left is only beginning for the entire Democrat presidential hopeful field - with the exception of Al Sharpton who already makes Karl Marx look like a moderate. Gore has already made it to the left of Howard Dean on healthcare - which is no small feat - and it's going to be interesting watching these guys try to "out left" each other on the environment, the war, prescription drugs, and on down the list. Since the general electorate is nowhere near as liberal as the Dem presidential posse, the trick is to make sure all of the lefty rhetoric and proposals are enough to fire up the base but also leave enough wiggle room for the eventual nominee to start crawling somewhere back to the middle as soon as the primaries are over. The more heated the primary battle, the tougher that task is going to be.

CULTURAL IMPERIALISM: Responding to yesterday's post of Ruth Rosen's article (see PRO-PRO-PRO CHOICE below) a reader sends this piece. Even if you disagree with the argument, it's a thoughtful, interesting take on how the West approaches the concept of "international family planning."

Thursday November 21, 2002
GETTING TO KNOW CONDI: A group of African-American columnists recently sat down to interview Condoleezza Rice. Guess what? They were impressed. Give credit to Sheryl McCarthy of Newsday and even the excessively vituperate Derek Jackson of the Boston Globe for publishing columns praising Condi's intelligence, drive and, most importantly, recognizing and respecting her right to hold views different from their own without resorting to the reflexive "Uncle Tom," "sell-out", "house slave" rhetoric so characteristic among liberal African-Americans. Now when can we get a sit down with Clarence Thomas?

HAVEN'T YOU HEARD?: Seumas Milne has reached what could be the apex of liberal antiwar blather in his article in the Guardian today. He asserts that "western politicians are having to face the fact that they are losing their war on terror" and indeed it is a war we cannot win militarily. Here are the money excerpts:

By their nature, terrorist or guerrilla campaigns which have deep social roots and draw on a widespread sense of injustice - as militant Islamist groups do, regardless of the obscurantism of their ideology - cannot be defeated militarily.

The grievances al-Qaida is able to feed on throughout the Muslim world were once again spelled out in Bin Laden's latest edict. But there is little sign of any weakening of the wilful western refusal to address seriously the causes of Islamist terrorism.

It was only a matter of time, regardless of any success in the War on Terror, before the root cause argument resurfaced with vim and vigor. But it's laughable nonetheless to posit that the War on Terror is a "complete failure" or that the Western world would in a better position today if we hadn't toppled the Taliban and had instead spent the last 14 months trying to placate bin Laden and remedy the perceived "injustices" felt by militant Islamists.

PRO-PRO-PRO-CHOICE: Here's a rather hysterical piece by Ruth Rosen, pleading for young women to join the battle against the evil Bush administration before they can repeal Roe v. Wade and throw all abortion providers in jail. I was struck by Rosen's characterization as abortion on demand as an "essential component of women's health."

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE BASH TOM DELAY?: Ellen Goodman is pissed that Tom Delay is getting a free ride in the media. Who knew The Economist was sexist?

TRIBUTE TO BOB: Bret Stephens is probably one of the best, yet least known columnists around. Today he pays a tribute to Bob Bartley, outgoing editor of the WSJ.

BLACK AND WHITE: This has nothing to do with politics, but I couldn't resist posting it anyway. You may or may not have heard (unless you live here in Chicago in which case you definitely know) that Michael Jordan has been involved in a legal/paternity dispute with a former mistress. But according to Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times, the horror of horrors isn't MJ's infidelity - "black women forgive almost anything" - it's that he cheated with a white woman. Mitchell even goes so far as to say that race played a role in Jordan's handling of the matter:

Worse yet, Jordan admitted that he paid Knafel $250,000 to keep silent about the affair. Now, maybe he would have paid a black lover the same amount, but I doubt it. In fact, I'm willing to bet the only thing a black woman would have gotten under these circumstances was a "too bad" and free tickets to Bulls games.

That's an affront to black women everywhere and to Michael Jordan's dignity. I'm sure he would have paid the same amount to silence any woman he knocked up (or thought he knocked up) while married just to protect his image.

Wednesday November 20, 2002
THE NEW DEPT: It's done. Yesterday the Senate passed the bill authorizing the establishment of a new Department of Homeland Security. (By the way, notice the NY Times headline that includes the vote total 90-9 as if to say, "See, Democrats are for Homeland Security, too!")

But will this new bureaucracy actually make the homeland more secure? Perhaps a little. The meat of the job still lies with the usual suspects - the FBI and CIA - and their ability to gather and share information. They aren't included in the new department so it's tough to say how much improvement we can expect.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the Department of Homeland Security. I think a huge reshuffling of the government bureaucracy is a good thing, not only because shaking things up will invariably promote new ideas and serve to refocus the energy of government in the proper direction (i.e. protecting its citizens) but also because it will help provide a tangible sign to the American public that the government is responding to their concerns.

IMMIGRATION DEBATE: Anthony Brown argues that mass immigration from third world countries "will alter dramatically the shape of Britain and the world, in almost all ways for the worse." Brown tackles a number of arguments but fails to touch on the issue of national security, a more and more critical component of immigration policies of the West. Whatever your views, it's a piece worth reading.

TIMES ONE: A brief mention of Paul Krugman's column yesterday, the one that had Josh Marshall fawning over "why Krugman is so important in today's media ecosystem." First, while I am generally in favor of privatization of the government workforce, I think Krugman's concerns over 1) exactly how much money this would save and 2) the potential reemergence of a spoils system are valid and shouldn't just be dismissed as liberal red herrings.

My problem is the cynical lens through which Krugman, Marshall and the rest on the left view the proposal of ANY new idea or policy which doesn't fit comfortably within their worldview. Liberals don't want to go to war with Iraq so they float the bogus argument that it's all about Bush and oil. The War on Terror and the issue of Homeland Security? They're just the Boy Emperor's political tools to distract attention from the economy. Tax cuts? Why they're just a payoff to Bush's rich buddies, of course. The list goes on.

Krugman's current incarnation is that the idea to privatize part of the government workforce couldn't possibly have any true merit, it's just another example of Bush attempting to manipulate the structure of government to his personal political advantage and demolish a base Democrat constituency. Would Krugman have assigned the same cynical motivations if Bill Clinton had proposed such a plan? I doubt it.

TIMES TWO: It's actually been refreshing to open up Maureen Dowd's columns and not have to sift through 800 words worth of vicious, ad hominem attacks on President Bush twice every week. Sure, she takes a little slap at Bush today (you didn't expect her to quit cold turkey, did you?) saying:

"It must rankle bin Laden to see Mr. Bush striding the globe as Top Gun, a suddenly unstoppable cowboy who soared in the midterm elections by threatening the evildoer his father easily defeated and eclipsing the evildoer who transformed his presidency."

Even so, the biggest problem with Dowd's columns lately is that they just really aren't very funny or insightful - not that they've ever been that way to begin with. Recounting her escapades at a shopping mall in Riyadh isn't high art or drama, it's a waste of ink. Give it to somebody else who is serious and has something important to say. - TB 10:55 am

Tuesday November 19, 2002
TRIB MISTAKE: I wanted to comment on this article yesterday but didn't have a chance. Salim Muwakkil is an editor at In These Times and a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune. For those of you who don't know, In These Times is a small, hard-left magazine published out of Chicago that (according to their web site) "has provided groundbreaking coverage of the labor movement, environment, feminism, grassroots politics, minority communities and the media." The Chicago Tribune, on the other hand, is the 7th largest paper in the United States with a daily circulation of more than 600,000 (as of 9/01) and a reputation for being "balanced" - though that's certainly a relative distinction and depends upon your perspective.

So what to make of Mr. Muwakkil's paean to Cynthia McKinney? It's a tribute that included this not-so-subtle swipe at Jews:

"McKinney doesn't fit the insurgent image the media delights in portraying. But in a nation besotted with propaganda favoring Israel's right-wing government, McKinney's balanced positions seem radical."

This is followed by a line which lauds McKinney for her "skepticism" but makes no reference to the former Congresswoman's outlandish accusation that the Bush administration knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks:

"Her skepticism of the Bush administration's global belligerence rankles a public nurtured on a steady diet of pious patriotism."

Ah, that troublesome love of country is always getting in the way. Muwakkil seems to be trying to make the argument that only those aren't patriotic are able to see things "as they really are."

There's nothing wrong with a paper wanting to have a number of different views represented on its back page, especially in a city as large and diverse as Chicago. But I think the Tribune editors did the paper (and the city) a disservice by letting this misguided piece out the door. - TB 7:49am

Monday, November 18, 2002
MEET THE PRESS: Nancy Pelosi had her big coming out party with Tim Russert yesterday. Michael Crowley over at TNR wasn't too impressed. I have to concur. Pelosi stuttered, stammered and looked woefully unprepared to articulate answers to questions she should have easily anticipated. She didn't provide anything substantive on questions of war or the economy, other than alluding to the fact that the Dems are in the process of getting their act together.

Initially, I was willing to cut Pelosi some slack because she was obviously nervous and it was, after all, her first big-time interview since being elected Minority Leader. But the more I watched I kept thinking, "she really doesn't have a clue what she's trying to accomplish in this interview."

Is this really the best person for the Dems to have in the spotlight? She may be a talented politician. She may be a decent organizer, and on and on. But as a spokesperson for the party she's got a lot of improving to do and not a lot of time to do it. There are a number of House Democrats better equipped to deliver the message to the American public than Pelosi and I don't fully buy the argument that 1) the out of power party needs a "radical" to energize and organize the base or 2) the Minority Leader won't be a leading face of the party over the next two years. These days the messenger is almost as important as the message.

The Senate debate between Landrieu and Terrell was also good theater. Right off the bat Terrell got caught in the now infamous "Russert Trap" over the issue of which "tax increases" she wanted to repeal and how much money that would save. Terrell was unable to cite a number which produced a very Bill McBride-like moment.

Landrieu did a good job of pounding the message that she's a moderate and she got some nice help from Russert when he asked Terrell whether John Breaux represented "Louisiana values" and, if so, didn't that mean Landrieu represents 90% of Louisiana values since she's voted the same as Breaux 90% of the time in the Senate.

I thought the big news, however, was Terrell coming out in favor of a Constitutional amendment banning abortion. Russert sped quickly to the "so you want to throw doctors in jail?" follow up, which Terrell stumbled over a bit. I'm sure the folks at NARAL and NOW, after wiping the drool from their chins, went straight into the studio and converted the clip into a scary 30 second commercial complete with an ominous sound track and close ups of Justice Scalia . But given the conservative nature of Louisiana it's not at all clear that this will work to Landrieu's advantage - perhaps just the opposite. And indeed Landrieu fell all over herself yesterday to voice favor for a number of abortion restrictions, including a ban on partial birth abortions. I think it's fair to assume that while abortion didn't play a major role in any of the 2002 Senate races it's probably going to play a role in this one. - TB 9:30am


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