July 9 2004
WHAT'S WRONG WITH KANSAS?: George
Will had an excellent column
yesterday deconstructing Thomas
Frank's new book "What's the Matter With Kansas?
How Conservatives Won the Heart of America."
says "the pre-eminent question of our times" is why people
misunderstand "their fundamental interests." But Frank
ignores this question: Why does the left disparage what
everyday people consider their fundamental interests?
He says the left has been battered by "the Great Backlash"
of people of modest means against their obvious benefactor
and wise definer of their interests, the Democratic Party.
The cultural backlash has been, he believes, craftily
manufactured by rich people with the only motives the
left understands -- money motives. The aim of the rich
is to manipulate people of modest means, making them angry
about abortion and other social issues so that they will
vote for Republicans who will cut taxes on the rich.
fevered thinking is a staple of what historian Richard
Hofstadter called "the paranoid style in American politics,"
a style practiced, even pioneered, a century ago by prairie
populists. You will hear its echo in John Edwards's lament
about the "two Americas" -- the few rich victimizing the
frequently lapses into the cartoon politics of today's
enraged left, as when he says Kansas is a place of "implacable
bitterness" and America resembles "a panorama of madness
and delusion worthy of Hieronymus Bosch." Yet he wonders
why a majority of Kansans and Americans are put off by
people like him who depict their society like that...
you believe, as Frank does, that opposing abortion is
inexplicably silly, and if you make no more attempt than
Frank does to empathize with people who care deeply about
it, then of course you, like Frank, will consider scores
of millions of your fellow citizens lunatics. Because
conservatives have, as Frank says, achieved little cultural
change in recent decades, he considers their persistence
either absurd or part of a sinister plot to create "cultural
turmoil" to continue "the erasure of the economic" from
hits the nail right on the head as to why liberal Democrats
do so poorly away from the coasts and the big cities. President
Bush's comment the other day goes right after this vulnerability:
going to carry the South because the people understand
that they share -- we share values that they understand.
They know me well. And I am -- I believe that I did well
in the South last time, I'll do well in the South this
time, because the Senator from Massachusetts doesn't share
their values, and that's the difference in the campaign.
the "here" the President was referring to is the
South, he could just as easily have been talking about small
town Ohio, Montana or yes, Kansas. The Democrats don't seem
to have absorbed the reality that the only two Presidents
they have gotten elected in the last 35 years have both
come from small southern towns.
back to George Will's column. At the end he writes:
economic problem, as understood during two centuries of
industrialization, has been solved. We can reliably produce
economic growth and have moderated business cycles. Hence
many people, emancipated from material concerns, can pour
political passions into other -- some would say higher
-- concerns. These include the condition of the culture,
as measured by such indexes as the content of popular
culture, the agendas of public education and the prevalence
of caution to Will and all free-market Republicans: it is
far from certain that "we can reliably produce economic
growth and have moderated business cycles, " at least
all of the time. Capitalism and free markets have had a
great run these last 25 years and there is no disputing
that the benefits have far outweighed the negatives. But
it is the height of arrogance to think that economic problems
have "been solved."
is true that we have solved most of the economic problems
that have bedeviled industrialized economies over the past
200 years, but some of these solutions have created economic
and financial conditions for which there are no historical
amount of debt and leverage that has systemically crept
into our entire financial system (and thus the economy)
over the last 25 years presents a multitude of risks. While
this is not meant to be a doom and gloom prophecy, it's
only prudent to recognize these increased risks. One might
ask, if it was so easy to reliably produce growth, why did
the Japanese economy essentially stagnate for an entire
decade after their enormous growth of the 70's and 80's?
I know, the U.S. isn't Japan. But that's not the point.
The point is that the business cycle and certainly the boom
and bust cycle of the financial markets has not been repealed.
And with a general population that has more and more of
their wealth tied to the stock market, this is not a small
concern is not only in the financial markets, but also a
housing market that has encouraged the public to leverage
up even further, with more and more refinancing and inflated
appraisal values on top of a housing market that's, let's
just say, not cheap.
class warfare issues may not be driving voters in Kansas
today, it would be a mistake to think that all economic
problems have been solved forever. The key to Will's assertion
- "the economic problem, as understood ...has been
solved"- are the words as understood. The
problem is what we understand today about the current economic/financial
condition of the global economy might not be the same 10
or 20 years from now. - J. McIntyre 7:23 am Link
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Thursday, July 8
LATE BLOGGING: Come back
around 1 pm Eastern for today's installment. In the meantime,
go read this great post over at The
Belmont Club. - T. Bevan 8:49 am
July 7 2004
A TALE OF TWO JOHNS: The more I think about John
Kerry's choice of John Edwards yesterday, the more I wonder
if the Dems aren't in a bit of trouble.
consider what Kerry gains from picking Edwards: youth, enthusiasm,
and a bit of sizzle (to use the Wall
Street Journal's phrase). All important things for a
campaign, to be sure, but nothing substantive.
pundits who favor the Edwards pick also argue that Kerry
gains a surrogate who can "reconnect" with rural
and working class voters in the Rust and Bible belts. Or
Kuttner condescendingly put it in today's Boston Globe,
Edwards will be able to "enlist culturally conservative,
white, working class voters who may be gun-toting, abortion-hating,
Arab-bashing, tub-thumping fundamentalists." And people
wonder why Democrats ever lost touch with this constituency.
is a very likable guy and it's probably true that he will
generate a connection - either real or imagined - with some
rural and working class voters. Whether he can pass
that connection on to John Kerry is another matter altogether.
In the end voters will still have to look up at the top
of the ticket and pull the lever for an aloof, patrician
New Englander as their choice to run the country.
other thing Kerry assumes by picking John Edwards is his
"Two Americas" message. Granted, it's a lot better
than Kerry's brand of class warfare populism, and it will
unburden Kerry from dealing with those overzealous
speechwriters who keep forcing him to use the phrase
"Benedict Arnold CEO's." Still, it's class warfare
nonetheless and it's now going to be a
central theme of the Kerry campaign.
match these gains from picking Edwards against the biggest
issues in this election: Iraq and the economy, in that order.
Both are improving, and that's bad news for any Democratic
ticket, no matter who's on it.
what Kerry's pick indicates to me most is that he still
doesn't get it. The ghosts of 9/11 and national security
are going to loom large in this election and by selecting
Edwards, Kerry is essentially saying he thinks he's fine
on the issue of national security. He isn't, and his 20-year
voting record proves it.
are fawning over Kerry's for having the "courage"
to pick someone as charismatic as Edwards as a tacit acknowledgment
that Kerry recognizes his weakness as an aloof, stand-offish
personality. And he is both of these things.
true weakness, however, isn't so much his personality as
it is his position on national security. There are indications
he recognized this weakness as well (flirtations with McCain,
Biden, Cohen, Clark, et al), but in the end Kerry decided
likeability was more important than enhancing his credibility
on national security.
this will end up being a smart political decision on Kerry's
part. People do want to like their president. I happen to
think it's a mistake, not only because it's a longshot to
think John Edwards is going to have enough charisma for
the both of them, but because after 9/11 people want a leader
whose top priority is protecting the country. T.
Bevan 7:36 am Link
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July 6 2004
EDWARDS: He's been the favorite for weeks
so this should come as no surprise, though to be honest
I didn't think Kerry would tap Edwards. What's interesting
about this pick is what it tells you about how the Kerry
camp views the state of the race. I suspect that despite
all of their public declarations about how they love their
current position, there was a realization behind the scenes
that the status quo was leading to a Bush reelection.
is tacit acknowledgment that they needed to do something
to give the campaign an adrenaline shot. But while this
pick may play well in the next three weeks I don't know
how well it is going to work after Labor Day when the real
may see polls in the next few weeks showing Kerry competitive
or even ahead in North Carolina, forget about 'em, the Kerry-Edwards
ticket will carry no southern states. Edwards may be enough
to solidify a Bowles victory in the NC Senate race and help
on the margin in a couple of the other open Senate seats
in the South, but he is not going to turn Georgia, North
Carolina or Florida into Kerry wins.
Edwards pick is a poll-driven mistake. At the end of the
day they probably kept coming back to all of their internal
polls showing Edwards giving them a bigger bump than all
of the other possibilities. Don't get me wrong, Edwards
is not a disastrous choice. The press is going to love it,
and there is no question he will bring a youthful vibrancy
and vigor to the Kerry campaign.
Matthews was suggesting a couple of weeks ago that Edwards
will clean Cheney's clock in the VP debate with his trial
lawyer expertise. Well, we'll see. Everyone keeps forgetting
about that little event three years ago in September, and
I suspect Cheney's supreme competency and seriousness will
provide a stark contrast to the boyish charm of Senator
many ways the Edwards pick is the Kerry campaign's attempt
to recreate the magic of the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992.
The Democrats' problem is we live in a very different world
today from the 1990's, when the collapse of the Soviet Union
had relegated national security to the backseat.
is a very serious election, and the Bush-Cheney campaign
will make that abundantly clear. Kerry would have been better
off with the safe, solid choice of Dick Gephardt who at
least would have helped potentially win Missouri.
will give Kerry the bump in the polls they were looking
for, but on election day Erskine Bowles is the real winner
from this pick, not John Kerry. J. McIntyre
8:23 am Link
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VEEP DAY: Kerry is scheduled
to announce his choice today. The NY
Post says it's Gephardt - and it very well could be
- but there are still a few tidbits of information floating
around suggesting otherwise.
reader pointed us to this
aviation bulletin board site saying Kerry's plane has
been repainted with "Kerry-Edwards." Another reader
emailed to say he heard the BBC report that Vilsack is going
to be the guy.
bottom line is that we won't know until we know. However,
I'd be surprised if the NY Post would stake their reputation
on a hunch. They certainly must have some reliable sources
for the story.
already chronicled the reasons why Gephardt makes the most
sense for Kerry. The downside to Gephardt is that he's such
a bland, well-known quantity among the press his selection
isn't going to generate nearly as much interest in the ticket
as a fresh, outsider pick would have.
there's Gephardt's support of the war. In the midst of a
Michael Moore-induced spasm of paranoid, antiwar fever,
Kerry is serving up to the base as his running mate a guy
who famously stood "shoulder to shoulder" with
the President on Iraq. The response will probably be something
akin to when a hyperactive five year old is told by his
parents to sit down and eat his vegetables.
the end, however, even though Kerry might get more excitement
out of his base and more hype in the press by picking someone
else, that isn't what he needs. What Kerry needs is to win
over middle-of-the-road union workers in Iowa, Michigan,
Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. On that
score he'll get more mileage out of Gephardt than anyone
else. And, by the way, winning Missouri would be nice as
be back with more after the pick....
GOODIES: Lots of good stuff in blogosphere while
I was away. John
Hinderaker has a touching story about he and Scott Johnson
taking two U.S. servicemen and their wives to dinner at
a steakhouse in Minneapolis.
Chrenkoff has more good news from Iraq that you won't
see in the mainstream media. -
T. Bevan 6:22 am Link
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July 4 2004
VEEP BUZZ: Mark Halperin on This
Week with George Stephanopoulos suggested that Kerry
had a face-to-face meeting with his VP choice Thursday night
at Madeleine Albright's house in DC. He then said that of
the three major contenders most often mentioned (John Edwards,
Richard Gephardt and Tom Vilsack) only Dick Gephardt was
in Washington. Halperin added that Senator Joseph Biden,
and former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen might have been
in DC as well.
& SPINNING BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL: At the beginning
of the program Iraq's interim prime minister Iyad Allawi
was interviewed and I found him to be very impressive. The
interview today jives with the other times I have seen Allawi
and it appears that Iraq, and the United States, might have
found a real leader who will set the stage for some real
progress in Iraq.
been steadily impressed with Stephanopoulos program and
he does a good job of having serious guests and usually
informative roundtables However, he can't help himself sometimes
to get in a partisan cheap shot. Today's was the graph and
discussion of the President's job approval where he referenced
the latest CBS
News/NY Times poll to make the argument that President
Bush was in trouble.
highlighting the CBS/NYT poll number of 42%, Stephanopoulos
was able to frame the story line that Bush's job approval
is more in the realm of presidential losers like his father,
Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The problem here is the most
recent polls from ABC/WP, NBC/WSJ,
CNN/Gallup, FOX/OD, Annenberg, Battleground, Rasmussen,
Harris, Pew, LA Times, NPR and AP/Ipsos ALL have
the President's job approval between 45% and 52%.
could have just as easily taken the Battleground
poll, a well respected bipartisan poll that was released
last week that showed the President's approval at 51% to
make the argument that based on historical job approval
President Bush was actually closer to winners like Nixon,
Reagan and Clinton.
had an agenda to frame the conversation in a way that made
President Bush look weaker than he really his and that is
why he cherry picked the NY Times poll to highlight. Matthew
Dowd spoke the truth when he suggested that in reality the
President's approval rating is currently in a gray area
between where incumbent Presidents are usually comfortably
reelected and where they normally lose. J.
McIntyre 4:22 pm Link
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