Saturday, May 10 2003
SENATE 2004:

Jim Edgar's announcement Friday that he will not run for Senate gives the Democrats the early advantage in the contest for the seat currently being held by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Illinois has trended Democratic in recent Presidential elections and Republicans were lucky to even pickup the seat in 1998.

Edgar was a very popular two-term governor and would have given the GOP a very good chance to hold on to Fitzgerald's seat. Edgar's departure leaves the field wide open for the Republican nomination. Karl Rove was in Illinois earlier this week trying to get Edgar to commit to a run and Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that if Edgar declined, "Rove said financial whiz Jack Ryan, who gave up investment banking to teach at an inner-city Catholic school for three years, and new state GOP chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka would be next in line."

The Democratic side is wide open with state Comptroller Dan Hynes perhaps an early favorite. With Edgar now out neither party is likely going to have a big name in the race which gives the advantage to the Democrats. Bottom line this seat will likely end up a Democratic pickup.

Robert Novak reports in last Sunday's Chicago Sun Times:

Democratic insiders, acknowledging little chance of recapturing the House in 2004, have all but given up hope of winning a Senate majority, unless there is such a transcendent development as an economic collapse. The early calculation in Democratic circles is for a net loss of four additional Senate seats, extending the 51-49 Republican majority to 55-45. Democratic seats are in real jeopardy in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, South Dakota and Nevada. In contrast, Alaska is the only Republican Senate seat up next year that clearly tilts to the Democrats.

18 months is an eternity in politics and a four seat pickup for the GOP seems a little optimistic at this point. The early line would give the Democrats pickups in Illinois and Alaska with Republicans offsetting that with pickups of their own in South Carolina and Georgia. Most of the remaining Republican seats look pretty safe, whereas the Democrats are vulnerable in North Carolina, South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, California and Washington.

Obviously Bush's popularity and the competitiveness of the Democratic nominee will also have a large influence on the outcome of the Senate races. Barring a political disaster for President Bush the Democrats appear to have very little chance of regaining control of the US Senate.

Bennett, Robert - (R - UT)
Bayh, Evan - (D - IN)
Bond, Christopher - (R - MO)
Boxer, Barbara - (D - CA)
Brownback, Sam - (R - KS)
Breaux, John - (D - LA)
Bunning, Jim - (R - KY)
Daschle, Thomas - (D - SD)
Campbell, Ben - (R - CO)
Dodd, Christopher - (D - CT)
Crapo, Michael - (R - ID)
Dorgan, Byron - (D - ND)
Fitzgerald, Peter - Retiring
Edwards, John - (D - NC)
Grassley, Chuck - (R - IA)
Feingold, Russell - (D - WI)
Gregg, Judd - (R - NH)
Graham, Bob - (D - FL)
McCain, John - (R - AZ)
Hollings, Ernest - (D - SC)
Murkowski, Lisa - (R - AK)
Inouye, Daniel - (D - HI)
Nickles, Don - (R - OK)
Leahy, Patrick - (D - VT)
Shelby, Richard - (R - AL)
Lincoln, Blanche - (D - AR)
Specter, Arlen - (R - PA)
Mikulski, Barbara - (D - MD)
Voinovich, George - (R - OH)
Miller, Zell - Retiring
Murray, Patty - (D - WA)
Reid, Harry - (D - NV)
Schumer, Charles - (D - NY)
Wyden, Ron - (D - OR)

The Current Senate is 51 Republicans - 49 Democrats.

FOX News Opinion Dynamics May 6-7 Poll:
Bush 58% v. Kerry 29%
Bush 57% v. Lieberman 31%
Bush 56% v. Gephardt 30%

Some people misinterpreted the last sentence of my post yesterday - "Republicans should not underestimate Hillary Clinton the way liberals continue to underestimate that idiot - George W. Bush." - as a slap at the President. Sometimes sarcasm doesn't come through in print as well as it does on the radio or on TV. My point was not that the President is an idiot. Rather I continue to be amazed by the otherwise intelligent people I talk to on the left who think President Bush is a moron. It's truly astonishing the number of people who continue to honestly believe Bush is an idiot. Of course the real idiots are the ones who think the President is an idiot. My point was that President Bush has done very well over the last ten years having his Democratic opponents underestimating his abilities. Republicans should not make the same mistake with Senator Clinton.   J. McIntyre 4:45 pm

Friday, May 9 2003
HILLARY IN 2008: Fred Barnes' article that appeared in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal is now available on the web at The Weekly Standard website. He argues that Senator Clinton has been doing a good job in positioning herself for a 2008 Presidential run. He is exactly right.

There is no question that Senator Clinton wants to be President. Hillary and Bill are politically smart enough to know that all the speculation that 2004 may be a political replay of the '92 election is highly unlikely.

As Barnes points out, there very well may be a "draft Senator Clinton" movement at sometime in the next year, but unless President Bush's job approval has nose dived there is little chance the Clintons would jump at the '04 opportunity. Likewise there is no chance Hillary will accept the VP slot on a ticket she thinks is going to lose.

Quite frankly, Senator Clinton would like to see one of the group of nine who were down in South Carolina last weekend do a Kamikaze run into the Bush/Rove juggernaut in 2004. She'll keep her nose to the grindstone in the Senate "working for the people of New York" and hoping the economy continues to struggle during Bush's second term.

Hillary also knows that Ross Perot's gift to her husband is unlikely to be repeated in her run for the White House. Without a third party candidate siphoning off significant votes from the GOP nominee, Senator Clinton is going to have a very difficult time beating any Republican in 2008 regardless of the economy.

Hillary knows that her liberal base is rock solid. So she is very astutely using her seat on the Armed Services Committee and her calculated support for the war in Iraq to develop a reputation as a hawk on defense. Expect her to continue to attempt to build that reputation between now and 2007 when she officially announces her run for the White House.

In a two-person race in 2008 Senator Clinton knows that for her to have any chance in the general election she will have to win over millions of voters in the political center who may be very skeptical of her agenda and motives. Winning in New York is a lot different from winning in Florida, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin - all the type of states she will have to carry if she expects to be President.

Rightly or wrongly Hillary thinks the Democratic nomination is hers for the asking, and she is more or less right. So she is effectively running her 2008 general election campaign right now in her moves to get to the political right in the Democratic Party on issues of defense and national security. Expect her to continue to do so on every major defense issue over the next four years. Republicans should not underestimate Hillary Clinton the way liberals continue to underestimate that idiot - George W. Bush. J. McIntyre 7:37 am

Thursday, May 8 2003
SMOKING GUN: I've been burned a couple of times for jumping on stories about WMD discoveries in Iraq so I'm going to be overly cautious about trumpeting the seizure of this mobile weapons lab as a smoking gun. Still, it seems to lend credence to the idea that Iraq had an active, sophisticated WMD program specifically altered to avoid detection by inspectors.

I wonder whether this find will in any way put a dent in the perception on the left that the Bush administration lied about its main justification for war. Probably not. We're in a place now on WMD where the goalposts are constantly moving: Weapons lab? Big deal. Show me the weapons. Only 10 litres of anthrax? You said there were thousands. And on and on.

At this point anything less than finding "an Iraqi superdome" full of weapons (to crib from Nick Kristof's latest column) is simply not going to be good enough for those on the left. And even if were to find such a cache don't think for a minute it would prompt any mea culpa pieces by David Corn & Co. We'll see a shrug of the shoulders followed by a "shocking" new expose detailing how Bush's evil oil-gubbing buddies are pillaging Iraq, subverting Kyoto, and causing a massive healthcare crisis in the U.S. Oh yeah, I forgot, they're also trying to repeal Roe v. Wade.

Jonathan Chait chastises his fellow liberals in today's Washington Post for letting their hatred of President Bush drive them into cynical and faulty positions on the war, including the WMD issue. Read the whole thing.

REVERSE PSCHOLOGY: I suspect being lectured to by Bob Byrd and being hounded by the likes of Henry Waxman will send Bush's approval rating up another point or two.

CHECKING IN ON THE DEMS: John Edwards has fundraising issues. So does John Kerry. Joe Lieberman unveiled his big idea yesterday and Newsweek's Howard Fineman says Howard Dean isn't fading away just yet. Dick Gephardt gets into the game in Arizona. And will Bob Graham even win his home state? - T. Bevan 7:27 am

Wednesday, May 7 2003
BUSH'S MILITARY RECORD: I should have nailed Krugman on it yesterday but Andrew Sullivan does the job this morning. I wrote a piece on this subject nearly two years ago, specifically detailing Bob Kerrey's involvement in pushing AWOL accusations against Bush. I suggest you read the entire piece, of course, but here is a brief chronological summary:

May 2000: The Boston Globe prints a story about George W. Bush's "missing year" in the Texas Air National Guard. Bush issues brief statement rebutting the charges.

Late September 2000: prints column from an Iowa farmer attacking Bush's military record.

Early October 2000: Paul Begala brings up questions about Bush's service record on Meet the Press saying, "He never showed up for an entire year. Bush tells us to our face hell restore honor and integrity to that Oval Office when I believe hes not telling the truth that he never, in fact, reported to the National Guard in Alabama."

October 31, 2000: The Boston Globe prints a reprise of its original accusations under the title "Questions remain on Bush's service as guard pilot." Senator Bob Kerrey calls The Globe and gives an unsolicited interview charging that Bush went "AWOL." The charges make national headlines.

November 3, 2000: The Friday before the election, Kerrey holds press conference with fellow Senator and Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Inouye and calls on Bush to make all of his military records public. Later that day The New York Times prints a review of Bush's military records saying that the claims are "unfounded."

November 5, 2000: Two days before the election Kerrey appears on Meet the Press and is questioned as to whether his attacks on Bush's military record are "way out of bounds." Kerrey replies, "They're not way out of bounds. Certainly, if -- I mean, if I'd gone over the line and implied that he didn't serve honorably, I apologize. He did serve honorably. But I don't think he understands that when you come forward and represent your military service, you've got to represent it right, and he didn't."

The point of my article, written in May 2001, was to highlight Kerrey's hypocrisy in light of his admissions about his service in Vietnam and his willingness to leverage his status as a war hero against Bush for partisan political gain in the 2000 election.

But as you can see, questions about Bush's military record - which liberals like Krugman now accept as absolute fact - all stem from a single article printed in The Boston Globe nearly six months before the election. Not coincidentally, these charges were then recycled right before the election by Gore operatives like Begala and prominent Democrats like Senator Kerrey.

Now, I suppose you can believe the original The Globe story is accurate and then ignore the fact that not one single news organization followed up and substantiated the charges over the next several months - despite being in the middle of a heated Presidential campaign.

And I suppose you could also believe that the only indisputable fact about the entire affair - that George W. Bush received an honorable discharge from the Texas Air National Guard - was just part of a cover up orchestrated by Poppy and the U.S. military. It's your right to believe this stuff, it's just not supported by any real evidence. - T. Bevan 7:26 am

Tuesday, May 6 2003
"RESCUE CALIFORNIA": Rep. Darrell Issa & Co. formally launched a campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis. Thanks to the historically low turnout last November they only need to get 897,158 valid signatures to force an election this fall. The LA Times reports that fledgling recall efforts have already netted about 100,000 signatures and these will be folded into the "Rescue California" campaign. Another note from the article: Davis, who once had more than $30 million in his campaign war chest, has a paltry $1.4 million cash on hand. Combine that with a 27% job approval rating and it could be "hasta la vista" for Davis later this year.

TWO CENTS ON BENNETT: I guess I'm somewhere in between those on the left who are wetting themselves (check here and here) over the "revelation" of Bill Bennett's gambling and those who want to dismiss it altogether. Yes, Bennett's actions were neither illegal nor unethical. In that respect, it's hard to see any big deal.

If it can be shown, however, that Bennett has opposed expansion of gambling to other states as a matter of public policy because he thinks it's a bad thing for our society, then I think you've got a problem and a legitimate charge of hypocrisy. Joshua Green tried to make this linkage in the Washington Monthly article:

Despite his personal appetites, Bennett and his organization, Empower America, oppose the extension of casino gambling in the states. In a recent editorial, his Empower America co-chair Jack Kemp inveighed against lawmakers who "pollute our society with a slot machine on every corner.

Despite this accusation, everything I've read points to the opposite: that Bennett has specifically refrained from "moralizing" about gambling, exemplified by this quote from yesterday's NY Times:

As Mr. Bennett told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1995, "I've played poker all my life and I shouldn't be on my high horse about it."

And despite Green's effort to use a Jack Kemp editorial as a proxy, his entire article is based on the premise that Bennett is a hypocrite because he is willing to moralize about everything BUT gambling:

"Few vices have escaped Bennett's withering scorn...There is one, however, that has largely escaped Bennett's wrath: gambling."

Green's real argument - that Bennett's legal gambling in Vegas or AC is the moral equivalent of drug abuse or adultery - is slick but disingenuous. Of course you have to acknowledge that in certain cases an addictive gambler, just like an addictive alcoholic - can take a harsh toll or even destroy a family. And if the numbers regarding Bennett's losses are true they are certainly eye-popping, but losing 8 dollars or 8 million dollars doesn't make his actions any less legal or less ethical.

Personally, I was much more offended by the tone of the article itself than by the accusations it contained. Green's transparent "hypocrite" hatchet job just brimmed with revenge over the lost battles of a former president. Like this choice quote:

"Bennett--who gambled throughout Clinton's impeachment--has continued this pattern in subsequent years."

Why exactly is it relevant whether Bennett gambled in Atlantic City during Clinton's impeachment? It's a pretty tall order to smear a private citizen for legal behavior and to try and rehabilitate the highest publicly elected official in the land for perjury and adultery all in the same sentence. Sorry pal, that history's already been written and all the Washington Monthly hit pieces in the world on conservatives aren't going to rewrite it.

TWO CENTS ON BUSH: How many of you knew - just KNEW - as soon as Bush's jet touched down on the USS Abraham Lincoln that it would send Maureen Dowd into a spasmodic fit? The event also seems to have made Paul Krugman even more unstable than normal.

While perfectly predictable, the responses of Dowd and Krugman offer me a nice opportunity to revisit the President's speech. Some pundits, like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds questioned whether the event was too staged, too political, and too hubristic. It looks like most people disagreed with them and I have to say I'm one of them.

I think there are a couple of reasons why. First, I don't think most people view these kind of events with such a cynical, political eye. They realize these types of things are staged - and certainly some can come off terribly hollow and contrived - but I think the connection the President showed with the troops made it very real for everyone watching.

Perhaps more importantly, I think the event resonated with a great number of Americans who - even if they may not have been fully supportive of the war - believe the best about the motives of their country, their President, and are comfortable and supportive of the military.

Conversely, Bush speech drove liberals absolutely insane. They were absolutely disgusted by the whole event: from the symbolism to the rhetoric, to the display of emotion. Think about that for a minute. To be disgusted by the event on Thursday, you have to honestly believe any or all of the following:

1) President Bush is the illegitimate leader of the country
2) President Bush is a moron
3) President Bush is an evil, greedy, oil-thirsty warmonger
4) America is an aggressive, imperialistic country
5) America is a racist, oppressive country
6) The American military is a ruthless, brutal force bent on taking innocent lives.

There are any number of possible additions to this list but the common denominator remains: most far-left liberals hold cynical, deep-seated suspicions about America's motives, her military, her capitalist system and, of course, an outright hatred of her current President. Thank God eighty or ninety percent of the country still feel exactly the opposite.

TWO CENTS ON THE DEMS: Yet another segue to the current crop of Democratic Presidential candidates. I don't want to analyze the debate (short version: Lieberman and Gephardt win, the Seven Dwarfs lose) but rather to take the point I made above and apply it to the party as a whole.

What does it say about the state of the Democratic party that candidates who have shown even the slightest support for action in Iraq have been treated like lepers by the base of the party?

In fact - and I'm not trying to be flip here - if you actually sit down and try to sum up what these people have stood for over the last few years and what they've stood against, allowing for some generalizations this is what you get:

Universal healthcare
Abortion on demand
Affirmative action

Tax cuts
The War in Iraq
Allowing conservatives onto the federal bench (especially if they are young, smart and Hispanic).
School choice
A balanced energy plan

To be fair, the job of the minority party is to try and obstruct the opposing President's agenda. But it usually helps if you've got something - anything - by way of an alternative to offer. It also helps if whatever plan you're offering is based on some positive ideals.

The point I'm trying to make isn't some earth-shattering revelation. A fundamental premise of liberal ideology is that government is an integral part of solving all of society's domestic problems. Liberals are therefore perfectly positioned to thrive when there is insecurity at home, and to take advantage when problems and unrest mount.

But I think the situation has been exacerbated by September 11 and by the Democrats' willingness to bow to their base and oppose the President's agenda across the board. It's looking more and more like they've now placed themselves in a position where the only way they can beat Bush in 2004 is by exploiting potential tragedies to America - either another terrorist attack or an economy that has slipped into a depression. Even under such dire circumstances a Dem victory against Bush isn't guaranteed. - T. Bevan 8:11 am

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