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May 31, 2006

So What If The Duke Accuser Lied?

It's hard to believe anyone could write the following line, but John McCann does it anyway in today's Durham Herald-Sun:

"The lacrosse boys brought it on themselves, though -- even if the accuser's lying.

This is despicable. Would McCann, who is black, even think of writing the same thing if the case involved a white accuser and 44 black members of the football team? Of course not.

McCann brushes off the injustice suffered by the Duke lacrosse players with the trite phrase, "that's what can happen when you don't keep your nose clean." This is a cowardly cop-out, not to mention McCann is invoking a standard that is unrealistic as well as unjust. Does he mean anyone who attends a party where there is beer and strippers can be falsely accused of anything under the logic that attending the party in the first place isn't "keeping your nose clean?"

Setting aside the fact that three young men stand accused of a crime that could cost them the better part of their lives behind bars, the forty-four Duke players who have not been charged with committing any crime didn't deserve to have their reputations trashed and their season cancelled, or to be stigmatized and abandoned by the Duke faculty and university administration. To suggest the players brought all this on themselves by the mere act of attending a party is more than grotesquely unfair, it's also a clever way to absolve those in the media and the community whose behavior toward the Duke players has been so shameful throughout this entire episode.

I understand it's difficult for some to focus on the facts in this case because the facts, at least at the moment, aren't very favorable toward the accuser. As a result, this case is upsetting a whole host of traditional liberal stereotypes and tactics, not the least of which is a seemingly innate liberal reflex to attack white males as symbols of privilege and racial oppression whenever possible.

McCann's suggestion that the Duke players deserve the way they've been treated "even if the accuser's lying" shows just how warped that mentality can be and represents a new low point in the whole tragic saga.

The Decline of Liberal Thought

Joel McNally proves Dennis Prager's point from last week about the "decline of liberal thought" with this line about Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and immigration:

"If Sensenbrenner really wanted to be honest about what he's up to, he would simply add an amendment declaring white to be our national color."

Don't Our Marines Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt?

Sean Hannity's exchange on FOX News' Hannity & Colmes last night sums up my emotions on the Haditha story:

HANNITY: Colonel Cowan, let me go back to you and let me get some facts on the table here.
Not one Marine has been charged with anything as of yet. We are now getting other information that, for example, that Brigadier General David Brahms, who was quoted as -- you know, as saying this is going to be worse than Abu Ghraib has said, "I'm sorry. Quotes attributed to me have been taken completely out of context, its meaning distorted. Many facts that are favorable to believe the Marines involved have not yet been disclosed in this particular case."
You know what's bothering me, Colonel? You know what? We're wrong on cases like Richard Jewell. We were dead wrong. Nobody thought we'd find Elizabeth Smart. We found her. We were wrong in that video that we had of the mosque where the Marine had to shoot and all these liberals politicized this war rushed to judgment.
COWAN: Right, right.
HANNITY: If anybody deserves a right to at least have their day in court, are we not going to give it to the Marines and not have people like John Murtha politicizing this war and accusing these guys of killing civilians in cold blood? Could we at least give this to the Marines that are risking their lives for us?
COWAN: We should, Sean. You know, John Murtha and John Warner, who's a U.S. senator, both of them former Marines, were both briefed on where these investigations are right now.
Senator Warner came out very carefully, very casually said this doesn't look good but we'll let the investigation continue, and we'll get the results when it's done.
In contrast, Senator -- John Murtha, Congressman Murtha, who I saw about an hour ago live on another news network, was extremely emotional about it to the point that he was really almost losing control. And, indeed, condemning and convicting these young Marines.
I expect, Sean, at the end of the day...
HANNITY: Yes.
COWAN: ... we may find that some incident happened over there, but we will certainly also find that every Marine who was there did not participate in this, that anyone who was there, most of them did not want this to happen, and many of them reported it to their superiors.
HANNITY: Well, here's the problem, Bob, that I have. He said, quote, "They killed innocent civilians in cold blood."
We had John Kerry saying that our soldiers are going into the homes of Iraqis in the dark of night and terrorizing women and children. And similar comments such as this.
Do you remember the name Ilario Pantano?
BAER: I do absolutely.
HANNITY: A year ago, Bob, Ilario Pantano was charged with two counts of premeditated murder and other war crimes related to his service in Iraq. And he and -- he wrote this piece in the Washington Post. They painted him as he said as a monster, until an autopsy blew away this case out of the water and the Marine Corps dropped all charges against him.
You know, I don't know what evidence they have now, but nobody's been charged, and we don't know the facts. Is it not unfair for an American congressman to go out and say that these guys are killing innocent civilians like this in cold blood?
BAER: Oh, no doubt about it. And we've taken these troops and put them in the most dangerous part of the world ever, in years and years, in Anbar Province. And we have to find out what happened. Especially these guys...
HANNITY: Well, we do know one thing that happened. We do know that a bomb went off just seconds before. We do know that. We know Marines were killed then and Marines were injured there, didn't we? We do know that they were trying to find the people responsible.
And it angers me to some level to think that people can sit in their comfortable offices in Washington or in a studio without the facts and adjudicate this case like this.
BAER: I agree with you. But what intelligence did they have? Maybe somebody pointed this house out, and they kicked the door down and it was dark? You just don't know. And I agree with you. You've just got to wait. These guys...
HANNITY: They deserve the benefit of the doubt, don't they?

You're damn right our Marines deserve the benefit of the doubt. I watched the beginning of NBC Nightly News' broadcast on the Haditha incident last night and I felt sick, angry and depressed. I know this story has to be covered, I know that we have an obligation to the 99.99% of all the other troops in the field and to the American people to find out what really happened, and if there was wrong doing to punish the individuals who grotesquely crossed the line. But can't the story just be mentioned in passing or relegated to page A19 where they put all of the good news about Iraq and the economy, until at least the military finishes its investigation?

Why the urge to cover this story on the front page and lead your broadcast with it when no one has all of the facts? Who does that help? Don't our men and women who are putting their lives on the line for our country every day deserve at least that respect?

May 30, 2006

Immigration Wisdom

For today's immigration quiz, see if you can name the person who wrote the following:

Illegal immigration should be a simple slam-dunk for any serious citizen. The principles that leap out are obvious and historically irrefutable:

First, anything illegal is by definition wrong. We are opposed to illegal drugs, to illegal violence, to illegal immigration. It is against the law, and it should be stopped.

Second, any nation has an absolute obligation to protect its sovereign border. If you can't block people from coming across your border, you really can't protect your citizens.

Third, everyone knows where our border is. As dozens of nations have done before us, we must learn to guard it effectively. The sad reality is that an open border separating a wealthy welfare state from a poor developing country will attract millions of illegal immigrants. It is our duty to have an effectively protected national boundary. It is the federal government's job to see that we do.

Fourth, when people have succeeded in illegally entering the United States, there should be a quick and efficient method of deporting them. Hours or days - not months or years - is the correct length of time. Whatever laws need to be changed to make speed and efficiency possible must be changed. The current legal circus encourages illegal immigrants and makes it surprisingly easy for them to stay in the United States for a lengthy period of time.

Fifth, any costs incurred by state and local governments in taking care of illegal immigrants should be reimbursed by the federal government. This is a federal problem. If it costs the federal government money, that will simply provide an incentive for Washington to get its act together and solve the problem.

Sixth, stopping illegal immigration may ultimately require everyone to carry employee identification cards that have holograms or other hard-to-counterfeit devices. The current black market in identity cards makes a mockery of our laws. When the deliberately crooked illegal immigrant can get a green card faster than the deliberately law-abiding legal resident, there is something wrong.

Seventh, we should develop a guest-worker program to allow foreigners to work temporarily in the United States. This may be the safety valve that allows Mexico and its neighbors to accept a tough, decisive United States policy against illegal aliens. The right kind of guest-worker program, modeled on those in effect in Europe, will allow economically aggressive immigrants to come to the United States on a temporary basis, creating a win-win relationship: they contribute to the American economy while taking earnings back to their native country.

Eighth, this much clearer and more aggressively enforced system will also allow us to be more practical and helpful in issuing visitors' visas for people to come to the United States. The long lines at our consulates - the result of our suspicious attitudes - are hurting American tourism. Ironically, we are stopping people who would like to spend their money but not stopping their cousins who want to sneak in and work illegally. We have the worst of both worlds.

Ninth, within this framework we should be as open and enthusiastic as ever about people who want to come to enter America as legal immigrants. Preference should go to immigrants who possess knowledge, skills, and investment capital. We should also favor those who are reuniting immediate (but not extended) families. The open door should remain open.

Finally, we should not knowingly give welfare or government aid to illegal immigrants except for emergency health care. The whole notion of knowingly allowing illegal residents to collect welfare is a sign of just how out of touch the welfare bureaucracy has become.

There is no magic to solving the problem of illegal immigrants. It is not intellectually challenging. Throughout history, countries that have survived have learned to maintain their borders. There are plenty of practical examples of how to get the job done. If we work at it we can dry up 95 percent of illegal immigration within two or three years. Our challenge is getting to a clear decision, developing a workable plan, and implementing it relentlessly.

That was Newt Gingrich eleven years ago in his book To Renew America.

Paulson is a Good Choice - by Larry Kudlow

People tell me it's not easy being a pro-Bush Republican in the executive suite at Goldman Sachs.

So give Treasury nominee Hank Paulson some credit for holding the line. And give Josh Bolten credit for indefatigably recruiting Paulson, his former Goldman partner, even in the face of apparent turndowns.

Mr. Paulson is a well-regarded, top-rated Wall Street exec at the powerful Goldman Sachs who will bring considerable credibility to the top Treasury job. He is a confirmed free trader who strongly supports deepening economic relations with China.

Mr. Paulson also supported Bush's investor tax cuts, and has worried out loud about the impact of SarBox on American competitiveness.

Goldman insiders tell me that he is something of a "greenie," having been active in the Nature Conservancy, but they say he's no Al Gore, and prefers technology advances by private enterprise to solve energy and any global warming issues.

We don't know his specific view on the value of the U.S. dollar, but hopefully he'll work with Ben Bernanke to strengthen the greenback and hold down inflation expectations.

Whether there's a pro- growth tax reform agenda, or a new look at Social Security and other entitlements remains to be seen.

My guess is Mr. Paulson will command much more policy influence at the Treasury than his predecessors had. All in, Paulson looks like a good choice, strong, capitalist choice.

More on Immigration Reform......

More immigration emails on "The Republican Crossroads on Immigration":

Sir - I am part of the middle-class rage that you so sensibly address. I believe that the reason this immigration issue resonates so deeply with folks like me is because it is both a real and metaphorical example of the lack of respect to fundamental conservative principals that the Republican party and The President have displayed in the last few years. If these two entities haven't and won't protect our border, why should I grant them anything? Your solution is a good one, but I don't think they really care enough to implement it. Thank you.

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I generally agree with everything posted on your blog, except for immigration.

1) Immigration was not on my radar screen, I don't even know where this issue came from all of a sudden.
2) I don't know anyone (not to sound like Pauline Kael here) who felt this issue was important. I have friends, family members, and co-workers all across the political spectrum, and this issue never came up.
3) I basically feel immigration strengthens our country - these are hard working people who come here to work and support their families.
4) The fact that these are illegal immigrants doesn't mean that much to me as part of the public policy question. After all marijuana is illegal (the 'nation' decided pot should be illegal presumably the same way in which it determined what constituted an illegal immigrant)
5) This could be a chance for the Republican's to capture the Hispanic vote in the same way the democrats have captured the black vote.
6) I am not worried about assimilation - I have several 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics who work with and for me, and they seem as American as any other ethnic group.
7) As for the solution to the issue - I am sure we need some process to convert 'undocumented' workers into 'documented' workers, but I just can't see us expelling millions of hard working people.

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The S.2611 is a joke & the House members know it. We all seem to be treading with a PC attitude. These people are here ILLEGALLY and the real people probably at one time came from immigrant families or with ties to immigrant families know the difficulties of obtaining citizenship(my wife for one).

There should be NO free passes. NO AMNESTY. Close the borders like a drum, go after the employees( their only concern is cheap labor = bigger profits) & after the jobs dry up & the people decide what they will do (3 to 7 years) then the Congress can visit this issue again with the "NO AMNESTY APPROACH"

This is I think what "We the people" WANT.


Nominal GDP, the Fed and Nirvana - by Brian Wesbury

Ask anyone what the Federal Reserve controls and you will most likely get an answer having to do with interest rates. And while most people should be forgiven for believing this, they would be dead wrong. The Fed has direct control over only one thing - money.

By using open market operations, the Fed can add or subtract reserves from the US banking system at will. When it adds reserves the federal funds rate falls. When it subtracts reserves, money becomes less plentiful, and the federal funds rate rises.

While 99% of the stories carried in the business press focus on these changes in interest rates when talking about the Fed, it is not the rates that matter, but the money. The growth rate of the money supply determines the growth rate of nominal GDP, or total spending.

The idea is simple really and is described by "The Quantity Theory of Money." This equation (MV=PQ) is attributed to Irving Fisher. The equation says Money x Velocity = Price x Quantity.

More succinctly, the change in the money supply and the change in how fast that money is spent will equal the change in total spending. If the Fed increases the money supply by 6% (and velocity does not change), then nominal GDP (real growth plus inflation) will grow by 6%. The faster the money supply grows, the faster total spending grows - assuming constant velocity.

In the 1930s, the Fed allowed the money supply to contract. This incredibly damaging mistake caused nominal GDP to decline. The US experienced deflation and falling real output at the same time. In the 1970s, the Fed created too much money. Between 1978 and 1981, nominal GDP grew at an annual average rate of 10.9% - real GDP averaged 1.8%, while inflation averaged 8.9%.

Understanding this is the key to understanding Fed policy. It shows exactly how accommodative Fed policy has been in the past few years. During the deflationary years of 2001 and 2002, nominal GDP grew just 3.3%. But in the past three years, nominal GDP has grown at an annual average of 6.8% - the fastest three-year growth rate since 1990.

Moreover, our models indicate that to be "neutral," the federal funds rate should be within 1% or less of the growth rate of nominal GDP. A "neutral federal fund rate" is when money supply and money demand are in balance - when nominal growth is stable.

In other words, if the Fed had hiked rates faster in 2004 and 2005, nominal GDP would have stabilized at a slower rate and the Fed would already be at neutral. Instead, the measured pace of Fed rate hikes left the Fed "behind the curve." Our models suggest that today's 5% rate is roughly 100 basis points below a true neutral rate. The longer it takes the Fed to hike rates to 6%, the faster nominal GDP will grow and the higher the neutral rate will become.

While conventional wisdom suggests that the Fed will pause soon, we suspect that this is just wishful thinking by many who felt the Fed would stop hiking months ago. While 16 consecutive rate hikes have created a great deal of consternation for those who view the Fed only in terms of interest rates, monetary policy is not yet tight. The more accurate description is that policy is just "less loose." If the Fed can lift rates to 6% by autumn, our models would judge this as monetary policy nirvana.

The Republican Crossroads on Immigration

A flood of emails this morning on my column examining the Crossroads the Republican party faces on Immigration reform and how to deal with illegal immigration.

I am puzzled too. This is ineptness beyond comprehension.

The debate has become one of immigration rather than one of illegal immigration. I am for legal immigration - I am a legal immigrant and a naturalized citizen. I am not for illegal immigration. But the Senate obviously can't recognize the difference.

The second issue is one of a secure border. It belies credulity that we are fighting a war thousands of miles away to enhance global security while having our own southern border leaking like a sieve.

I don't think much of Congress. I have been a strong Bush supporter mainly because I thought he would do the right thing even if he could not explain it very well. Now i'm starting to wonder whether it is fatigue that is overtaking him or just presidential hubris.

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So absolutely True! But I fear Bush and the GOP are so totally corrupted that your outstanding, common sense advise will be completely ignored. I know it all started much earlier than Katrina, but using that tragedy as the historical marker, this President and his Administration, and the Republican controlled Congress, have been so disconnected from the "The People" that there is no doubt in my mind that they are going down to defeat and taking us all with them.

Bush and the GOP have gone crazy with power and greed, and they've lost all contact with reality. Middle of the road Republicans and Independents who put these guys into power have been "turning off" by the thousands since Katrina. Donations and campaign workers are slowing and will be tougher to come by. And, come Election Day, they'll stay away from the polls by the millions.

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Enjoyed your RCP article on the building rage on illegal immigration. I certainly feel that way, but then again, I also felt that about Kelo, and I haven't seen a backlash there either.

So when you assert that there's a growing backlash building in the grassroots, I'm hopeful that you're right, but I didn't see any grounding for the assertion within the text.

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Concerning your May 30, 2006 article "The Republican Crossroads on Immigration", I think you have the politics of this right in every detail. I hope the Republicans follow your "roadmap".

One practical issue that I think you should consider.

Among the 11 million illegals estimated to be here, half or more, I think I've read, have been here over 5 years. And theoretically a percentage (maybe 10?) has been here since the 1980's. Their kids are now, possibly, college graduates.

If "close the border" comes first, some years (we're talking "Washington time" here) will pass before "path to citizenship" happens, if it ever does.

Please picture the "established illegal," who has been here since 1990 and whose family is now engaged more in America than in the homeland. And now there is a dying parent back home. What to do?

1. Go home to hold the hand of the dying mother and face the now-closed border, and the possibility of never being reunited in America with wife and children and grand children.

2. Or all leave (Tancredo's dream!) and throw away the last 15 years of building a life here. (fat chance!)

3. Or continue to lay low in America, hoping that someday "selfless" Congressmen will see that they aren't the only ones deeply affected by their cynical quest for re-election.

Love your articles, but, as President Bush says, "this issue affects real people living real lives." Personally, I am delighted that some of my fellow Republicans (McCain and Graham of SC to name two) have retained the ability to be practical and compassionate without giving away the store.

Given the high emotion on this issue, do you think failure to deliver a comprehensive immigration overhaul will open the door to a centrist third party (McCain-Lieberman, for example), which will use the immigration stand-off to end "domination by extremists" in the established parties?

As I read the 5/30 USA Today "Four Factions" survey, 75% of approximately 75% (75x75=56%) favor doing the "right thing" with regard to those illegals already here. I, for one, am growing desperate for a non-extreme choice.

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I have been voting for the GOP in every election from 1992 (the first year I was eligible to vote) to this most recent presidential election. I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty however that if the GOP decides to keep alive its fantasy of "appealing to Hispanic voters" through granting an amnesty to these eleven million (or more) illegal, they can consider me a vote lost...permanently. Let's be clear on what "amnesty" means to a pissed off soon-to-be-former-GOP-voter like myself. Any governmental action that allows illegals to acquire citizenship in the United States without returning to their home of origin and applying for citizenship like everyone else on planet earth is an amnesty and I will refuse to support permanently the "right wing" party if it chooses to go down this path of lawlessness and blatant political pandering.

I can only be betrayed and abused so many times after all and if they decide to mock the value system of their conservative voters on this issue or compromise in any way with this horrid senate legislation, I will enjoy watching the GOP crash and burn as all conservatives of conscience desert this travesty of a political party during the next election and not vote at al

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Ronald Reagan signed the last amnesty in 1986. When all those hundreds of thousands were marching through Chicago with their Mexican flags and "Che"


Sec. Snow Resigns

Just over the wire: "Treasury Secretary John Snow has resigned and will be replaced by Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr., a senior administration official said Tuesday." Bio on Paulson here. Wikipedia entry here.

USA Today's Immigration Math

This morning USA Today serves up a seemingly authoritative analysis concluding that the nation is divided into "four clusters that are roughly equal in size but vary dramatically in point of view" on the issue of illegal immigration. USA Today dubs the groups "hard-liners" (25%), "the unconcerned" (23%), "the ambivalent" (27%), and "the welcoming" (27%).

Buried in the description of this last group, however, is this nugget of information:

The most sympathetic of any group toward illegal immigrants and the most likely to believe their removal would hurt the economy. The only group that thinks dealing with illegal immigrants already here should take priority over border security. [emphasis added]

Uh, doesn't that mean roughly 73% of Americans believe border security is a priority? And doesn't that put the lie to the claim that there is some dramatic variance among the public's point of view on the issue? USA Today didn't just bury the lede on this story, it looks like they missed it altogether.

Chavez For President

From a nifty little puff piece on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Donna Santiago, an unemployed single mother from the Kensington section of Philadelphia, never thought much about Venezuela before January, when she received a load of discounted heating oil courtesy of the South American nation.

Santiago was so ecstatic - her family was among a lucky 181,000 low-income households in the Northeast that received 40 million gallons of discounted oil - she told the program organizers she wanted to thank Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez personally.

Much to her surprise, she got her wish.

Last month, Santiago and her two daughters - none of whom had ever traveled abroad before - were flown to Caracas with about 60 other heating-oil beneficiaries at Venezuela's expense. After a two-day whirlwind tour of Chavez's accomplishments, the American visitors got an audience with the charismatic president himself.

"All I had heard about Chavez was that he was a dictator," Santiago, 38, said after returning to Philadelphia. "The man is far from that. He's a really warm person. I wanted to bring him home and stick him in the White House."

I also liked the part about the government-funded vocational cooperatives that offer six months worth of "training." One guy who worked in a shoe-manufacturing cooperative told the paper, "It's not like we're going to start making shoes right away. First they teach you human values."

RELATED: Uribe's win in Colombia "halts Latin America's march to the Left."

McCain Delivers Ethics KO to Reid

John McCain's public relations team must be in heaven over press reports about Harry Reid's free ringside seats in Vegas, because you don't often find a more favorable contrast than this:

Sen. John McCain of Arizona insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Mr. Reid for a championship match between Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins, one of 2004's most-hyped fights. [snip]

Andrew Herman, a Washington lawyer who frequently works with Congress, agreed. "I think it is pretty clear what Senator McCain did in the current atmosphere in Washington was certainly the more prudent thing."

May 27, 2006

Galloway's Defense

First the execrable British MP George Galloway said it would be "morally justified" for a suicide bomber to kill Tony Blair, then Galloway tried to twist the words of Blair's wife Cherie in his defense:

In a statement last night Mr Galloway recalled the 2002 incident involving Mrs Blair. Like her, he said, "I understand why such desperate acts take place and why those involved might believe such actions are morally justifiable."

Mrs Blair did not actually go that far. In her remarks about suicide bombers she said: "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress."

Bad Photo Finish at Duke

Those who've been following the Duke case know much of what the Raleigh News & Observer reports today about how the police botched the identification process:

The March 21 photo lineup was made public in a motion by lawyers for team captain David Evans. The motion asks for more evidence from the files of police and prosecutors about the lineup and other records.

It is unclear whether the accuser identified any players in the March 21 lineup. Defense attorneys said they did not get a report on the procedure. [snip]

In a second lineup April 4, the woman picked out four players as possible attackers with varying levels of certainty, a police report on the lineup says. She said then that she was "about 90 percent sure" Evans was one assailant but said he had a moustache that night. Evans' attorneys say Evans has never had a moustache.

For the March 21 lineup, Durham police used official photos of the lacrosse players identical to those posted on GoDuke.com, the official Web site of Duke athletics. The police arranged the photos in groups labeled A through F, according to the motion filed Friday.

Evans' photo was labeled F-5. A Post-It note referring to group F said, "Did not pick any."

"Eight days after the alleged assault, and two weeks before the April 4 identification procedures in which she selected [Evans] with 90 percent certainty if he had a moustache, the complainant viewed a picture of [Evans] in this case and did not identify him as one of her alleged assailants," wrote Evans' attorneys, Joseph B. Cheshire V and Brad Bannon of Raleigh. "Incredibly, though, there is no narrative report ... about these photo identification procedures."

The March 21 lineup, as described in the motion, might have violated the Durham Police Department's policy on photographic lineups in two ways:

* The policy calls for "filler" photographs of people who are not suspects in the case. The March 21 lineup apparently included only Duke lacrosse players.

* The officer running the lineup is supposed to document the procedures, results and number of photos viewed. Evans' attorneys said they received no such report.

The N&O article also has details from a report from the officer who first came in contact with the accuser on the morning of March 14:

The accuser said that when the two left and got in the other dancer's car, someone from the party came out and asked them to return, Shelton wrote. Nikki wanted to go back into the house, Shelton wrote, but the accuser didn't, and the two argued.

"She said at that point some of the guys from the party pulled her from the vehicle and groped her," Shelton wrote. "She told me no one forced her to have sex."

Shelton called his watch commander to report the woman had retracted her rape allegation. A few minutes later, Shelton wrote, he learned that she had told the examining doctor that she had been raped.

"I returned to the room where she was and asked her if she had or had not been raped," Shelton wrote. "She told me she did not want to talk to me anymore and then started crying and saying something about them dragging her into the bathroom."

Media Alert: RCP's John McIntyre on Larry Kudlow's Radio Program at 12:00

I'll be on Larry Kudlow's radio show on New York's WABC starting at noon eastern today. You can listen to it live here.

May 26, 2006

Mexico's Curriculum

Buried deep in this long article in Wednesday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer examining the effect of the debate over immigration reform in Eastern Washington's heavily Hispanic agricultural counties, I came across this surprising factoid:

"Often, students enroll in schools within days of arriving in Washington after long, winding journeys through California. Sixteen-year-old Yaret Ortíz was one of them.

Ortíz is enrolled in an online Spanish curriculum created by the Mexican government and tailored to state requirements." [emphasis added]

I wasn't aware the Mexican government was in the business of writing online Spanish curricula for U.S. school districts, but it turns out it currently does this with six districts in 5 states through a web portal set up here.

It gets even more surprising. Upon further investigation I stumbled across a link to the "Oregon-Mexico Education Partnership," established in 2004 to help migrant workers living in Oregon for the purpose of:

*Having more education for their life and work

*Improving their home language

*Learning English "the easier way"

*Supporting their children with their own example

*Improving their self-esteem, and pride for the Mexican culture

*Obtaining official educational certificates from Mexico"

The program also declares that it can help "Mexican citizens in the US federal prison system who can get their education while incarcerated, and leave the prison system with a greater knowledge than before, ready to serve their country with positive contributions."

I'm hard pressed to understand why the state of Oregon needs to be funding and facilitating programs to improve literacy in Spanish or "pride for the Mexican culture" - especially among those who are living here illegally.

Clearly, the Mexican government has its own agenda, part of which is to help its citizens living in the United States. On one hand, that is a completely legitimate rationale and a function that many governments perform on behalf of constituents. But on the other hand, because the government of Mexico has done virtually nothing to halt the flow of its citizens entering and living in the United States illegally, and because the Mexican treasury relies so heavily on remittances from its citizens living here illegally, these programs are an outrage in that they seem designed to promote an infrastructure that supports illegal immigration.

The problem illegal immigration presents to the United States' public education system is substantial. Certain communities have struggled to find a way of dealing with the enormous strain placed on the public education system by the huge influx of Spanish-only speaking migrant families. Title IC of the No Child Left Behind Act mandates federal assistance for the education of migratory children and has resulted in the creation of specialized "Migrant Ed." programs like this one in Southern Oregon. The goal, which is admirable enough, is to help keep the children of migrant workers in school and learning, rather than on the streets getting into trouble.

The question is whether these programs are performing the essential function of helping kids and parents assimilate into communities or whether they're having the opposite effect, allowing certain communities to become more and more balkanized. It's a question worth asking, especially in the context of an immigration reform bill that may provide a path to citizenship for many currently living here illegally and may also dramatically increase the number of temporary workers allowed into the country.

Blair's Visit

An email from a longtime reader in the UK on Tony Blair's press conference last night:

The midday news shows made a lot of the "embarrassing" scene where the president wanted Blair to survive till the end of his term. The consensus seems to be that the trip, so far, has done the PM more harm than good and the slide will continue.

I thought they both had a good press conference and I don't agree with Glenn Kessler & Michael A Fletcher, in today's Washington Post, that Blair was dour and exhausted. He was a little tired, but you ain't seen nothing yet if you think Blair is dour. [Gordon] Brown is the very definition of Calvinist dour and can make the jolliest person miserable in a few nano seconds. He makes Cheney look like an outrageous extrovert.

The Senate Confirms

General Michael Hayden as Director of Central Intelligence by a vote of 78-15. Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, 57-36. The four Democrats who voted in favor of Kavanaugh were Byrd, Carper, Landrieu, and Nelson.

Debbie Stabenow's No Vote

Looking at yesterday's roll call on the Senate immigration bill, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow's 'no' vote is interesting. Only four Democrats voted against the bill: Nebraska's Ben Nelson, West Virginia's Robert Byrd, North Dakota's Byron Dorgan, and Stabenow. Nelson, Byrd and Stabenow are all up for reelection, but both Nelson and Byrd aren't really vulnerable, and their votes don't seem out of character with their records and positions. Dorgan is probably reflecting the overwhelmingly wishes of his conservative North Dakota constituency. But Stabenow's vote is totally out of character for a Senator with 100% ratings among many liberal Democratic interest groups.

Stabenow, a first termer who won with only 49% of the vote in 2000 currently has a somewhat comfortable lead in all the major polls. But after watching Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm's once-comfortable lead evaporate into a dead-heat dog fight with Republican Dick DeVos, Stabenow was probably looking to preemptively take the immigration issue off the table as a weapon for her ultimate GOP opponent, either Mike Bouchard or Keith Butler.

Politically, it's a smart move by Stabenow in a state where the unemployment rate is 2.5 points higher than the national average, and it provides a small insight into where the politics of the immigration bill may be cutting in close races where there isn't a substantial Hispanic vote.

Granholm Struggling

For the third time in two weeks, a poll has come out showing Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm trailing Republican challenger Dick DeVos. The latest survey has Ms. Granholm behind Mr. DeVos by 3 points, 45-42, while two surveys conducted during the first week of May showed Ms. Granholm down one point to Mr. DeVos.

Ms. Granholm's problems are twofold. First, she faces a challenger with bottomless pockets. One reason for Mr. DeVos's rise in the polls is that he's spent an estimated $4 million since mid-February saturating the airwaves with ads. Ms.Granholm has yet to launch a paid media campaign for her reelection bid.

The bigger issue facing Ms. Granholm, however, is the Michigan economy. Data released this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the state's unemployment rate jumping four tenths of a percent in April to 7.2% - two and a half points higher than the national average. While some of the service sectors of Michigan's economy are showing very modest growth, the all-important manufacturing sector continues to contract, shedding 3.1% over the last twelve months.

Ms. Granholm has been scrambling to try and create the perception of positive economic momentum. A trip to Japan last week netted commitments from a dozen companies for more than $80 million worth of investment in Michigan and an estimated 400-plus jobs. This week Granholm signed legislation shifting millions of dollars worth of road projects scheduled for 2007 forward into election year, a move she says will eventually produce another 7,100 additional jobs.

It may not be enough. If the economy continues to sputter, DeVos's biggest asset in this race may turn out not to be his vast wealth but his experience as a successful businessman. "I understand how to turn around an enterprise that is in serious decline," DeVos told a group at the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday, "When I look at Michigan, I see the same challenges, and I know the same approach will work." If voters agree, Governor Granholm could find herself among Michigan's unemployed come the end of this year.

May 25, 2006

Hamid Mir: al-Qaeda Has Nukes

The Canada Free Press (CFP) just sent out an email promoting a number of stories on their site, including this interview with Hamid Mir. I'm not familiar with Mir or the CFP, so I don't want to vouch for the credibility of either, but the material contained in the interview sure does make for interesting reading:

RM: It has been reported that you believe Al-Qaeda has nuclear weapons. How did you come up with this conclusion?

HM: I came up with this conclusion after eight years of investigation and research in the remote mountain areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I traveled to Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Russia and met dozens of people. I interviewed not only Al-Qaeda operatives but met scientists and top U.S. officials also. I will have the details in my coming book.

At least two Al-Qaeda operatives claimed that the organization smuggled suitcase nukes inside America. But I have no details on who did it. But I do have details about who smuggled uranium inside America and how.

I am very careful when speaking about Al-Qaeda's nuclear capabilities. I've met many people in Al-Qaeda who have claimed that uranium and nuclear bombs were smuggled to America, and I'll quote them in my book. However, when I speak for myself, I don't rely on claims by Al-Qaeda. I rely upon my own investigations.

RM: How many nuclear weapons does Al-Qaeda possess?

HM: As far as I know, they smuggled three suitcase nukes from Russia to Europe. They smuggled many kilos of enriched uranium inside America for their dirty bomb projects. They said in 1999 that they must have material for more than six dirty bombs in America. They tested at least one dirty bomb in the Kunar province of Afghanistan in 2000.

They have planned an attack bigger than 9/11, even before 9/11 happened. Osama Bin Laden trained 42 fighters to destroy the American economy and military might. 19 were used on 9/11, 23 are still "sleeping" inside America waiting for a wake-up call from Bin Laden.

Read the whole thing.

Duke Does Duke - Badly

Lynne Duke's article in the Washington Post on the Duke rape case is a noxious mix of racial innuendo and political correctness:

In the sordid but contested details of the case, African American women have heard echoes of a history of some white men sexually abusing black women -- and a stereotype of black women as hypersexual beings and thus fair game.

The mainstream media have largely tiptoed around the brutal truth that has been discussed among black women in private conversations, in the blogosphere and on college campuses. It is that the Duke case is in some ways reminiscent of a black woman's vulnerability to a white man during the days of slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crow, when sex was used as a tool of racial domination.

But of course. And if we switched the race of alleged offenders and victims in the case, Lynne Duke would no doubt churn out a 1,453-word front-page article examining the "brutal truth" and the echoes of "slavery, reconstruction, and Jim Crow" of a rush to judgment against black men who were suspected of sexually assaulting a white woman.

This case really shouldn't be about race, and Lynn Duke's effort to shoehorn it into a metaphor for the devaluation and exploitation of black women in modern America borders on the pathetic. The reason the alleged victim is getting "no benefit of any doubt" - as Julianne Malveaux is quoted as saying in the article - isn't because of the color of her skin but because nearly all the evidence publicly available in the case points to the very real possibility she's lying.

Duke pushes her agenda further by quoting Durham community activist Victoria Peterson:

"White men have always been fascinated with black women over the years. That's nothing new," says Peterson, who launched Durham Citizens Against Rape and Sexual Abuse in response to this case. With outlets such as BET and others portraying African American women as highly sexed, "young white boys, they want to touch, they want to see," Peterson says.

Where's the evidence for that claim? Even if Ms. Peterson's general, presumably non-expert opinion about the attitudes of young white males toward African-American women happens to be correct, fascination is still a long way from rape.

Facts can be inconvenient things, and based on the data available the facts are that the vast majority of rapes and/or sexual assaults are not interracial. According to statistics from the Department of Justice, the estimated number of rape and sexual assault cases in 2003 involving a white offender and a black victim was 0.0%. Over the course of the last eight years white-on-black rape/sexual assault cases averaged 6.9%, while black-on-white rape/sexual assault cases over the same period were slightly higher at 10.8%.

Clearly, this doesn't rule out the possibility that three white college students gang raped an African-American woman back in March, as alleged. But it does add some perspective to Lynne Duke's article in the Post. The particulars of this case are bad enough without dredging up and promoting ancient, racially divisive ghosts - especially if it turns out the rape charge is a lie.

RealClearPolitics on Forbes.com

As part of our continuing partnership with Forbes.com, today they have launched the first video cast of RealClearPolitics on Forbes.com. Check out my interview with Larry Kudlow on the disconnect between the President's sagging approval ratings and the booming economy. Larry and I also get into the impact of the illegal immigration debate, the growing threat of protectionism to the U.S. economy and much more.

The Fading Political Impact of 9/11

In the early stages of the 2004 election campaign I suggested that the Democrats would actually be better off if Iraq turned into a huge success. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the reason is that it would have served to dampen the impact of the strongest asset working in President Bush's favor, which was the post-9/11 world.

If there is a single factor that caused most analysts to misinterpret what would happen in the 2002 and 2004 elections, it was underestimating the effect of September 11th on American voters. To be clear, I am not suggesting that strategists and pundits weren't aware that 9/11 had changed the political playing field. Of course they were. But as much as you heard the line that "9/11 changed everything," few political analysts really understood just how much it changed the playing field.

The 2002 election came eight weeks after the 1-year anniversary of the 2001 attack, right in the middle of the build-up towards the spring 2003 offensive in Iraq. And 2004 was the first presidential election after 9/11; the more the Democrats and Kerry talked about Iraq and the war, the more they unwittingly played right into the President Bush's strength.

So here we are today nearing the summer of 2006, and each passing week and month causes the 9/11 effect to diminish. The pathetic hyperventilating over how we treat terrorists and the NSA efforts to prevent another attack are warning signs of the distance we continue to move from the nation's collective resolve the morning of September 11th.

Contributing to the slow backslide into a September 10th mentality is the incredible success of the Bush administration. Yes, you heard that right, the incredible success. At the end of the day, the two most important facts to the American people are security and economic growth. In the months following 9/11, with an economy already in the middle of a deflationary spiral brought on by the collapse of the NASDAQ 5000 bubble, if you would have told people that the country would pull out of its economic slide and experience the growth we have seen the last three years and we wouldn't be hit again by terrorists, most people wouldn't have thought it possible.

But this success, coupled with the passing of time, chips away at the political effect of 9/11. Robert Tracinski writes of President Bush's September 10 approval ratings in RealClearPolitics today and in many ways that is exactly what we are seeing politically. Obviously, there are other issues at work that are contributing to President Bush's woes and Republican angst - the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, the Harriet Miers fiasco, out of control spending and illegal immigration -- but in the broader sense, make no mistake about it, we are seeing a fading away of the 9/11 effect.

Of course this can change in a flash with the next successful attack, but if this trend continues it will have a major impact on the 2006 and 2008 elections -- and the consequences will not be favorable for Republicans.

May 24, 2006

Larry Kudlow: Bernanke is Off Message

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is totally off message.

His admission to Senator Jim Bunning of a "lapse of judgment" in the Bartiromo kerfuffle is pure process--not content. His "data-driven" approach to policy is backward looking driving through the rear view mirror.

Bernanke should go back to his confirmation hearing statement, when he stated that price stability is the cornerstone of economic growth. This should be his main message. He should resurrect his numerical inflation target. And he should publicly say that enhanced dollar value is vital to price stability.

Also, he should reemphasize forward-looking market price indicators, which includes a widening breakeven inflation spread in the TIPs bond market, abnormally high gold and commodities and a dollar exchange rate that is too low. A few more quarter-point rate hikes will contain inflation and actually strengthen the economy, along with the stock market.

The rising volatility in U.S. and worldwide stock markets is because Bernanke is off message. The U.S. Fed calls the tune for world money. Right now, the tune is off key.

Until Mr. Bernanke gets back on message, with clarity, expect more market volatility.

Again, the message should be: price stability, price stability, price stability.

Remembering Lloyd Bentsen

Carl P. Leubsdorf has a great tribute to Lloyd Bentsen in today's Dallas Morning News.

Are We Going to Treat Illegals Better Than U.S. Citizens?

Here is what President Bush said in his speech on Monday, May 15:

I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. [emphasis added]

Now look at this from item #2 on Senator Charles Grassley's list of the "Top 10 Flaws" in the Senate immigration bill:

Under the bill, illegal aliens get an option to only have to pay three of their last five years in back taxes. Law-abiding American citizens do not have the option to pay some of their taxes. The bill would treat lawbreakers better than the American people.

Even for those who favor comprehensive immigration reform, the idea that illegal immigrants will be granted an "option" to pay back taxes is going to be a tough pill to swallow.

How Not To Handle Immigration Disagreements

Note to elected officials pursuing immigration reform in Washington D.C.: constituents generally don't react well to condescension.

Don't bother calling Sen. Richard Lugar's office to express your opinion about the immigration issue unless you agree with his opinion of not enforcing the southern border and amnesty in the form of a guest worker program. I made that mistake. His staff was rude and belittling. I was scolded as if he were talking to a teenager.

I was told I could not understand the problem. I would like to tell Lugar something. The people of Indiana do not want amnesty in the guise of a guest worker program. We did that in the 1980s. It did not work. We do not want an open border. We want you to go after the employers and verify Social Security numbers. Give the police the power and funds to deport illegals. I am tired of pressing #1 for English.

I would like to say to Sen. Lugar the problem is with entrenched politicians in the pocket of big business with the attitude of your staff, go away "little people," we know what is best for you.

Hey Indiana, the problem with Dick Lugar is that he has not had to look for a job recently like the rest of us.

It Depends on the Definition of 'Impeachment'

Jesse Jackson is more incoherent than usual in his Chicago Sun-Times column yesterday. He spent the first few hundred words screeching about how talk of impeachment is merely a desperate attempt to demonize Democrats by "the right-wing noise machine and their spear carriers in the mainstream media." According to Jackson, the charge is purely a political ploy to rouse Republicans for the election, and there's no truth to it - despite what John Conyers might say on his web site.

Toward the end of the piece, however, Jackson asserts that Bush has been shredding the Constitution with sweeping claims of executive power and that "a Democratic Congress would have a constitutional duty to investigate and challenge the president's claims." Jackson continues, "investigating potential high crimes and misdemeanors isn't partisan. It isn't about ''settling scores.'' It's about protecting the Constitution and preserving the republic and the rule of law."

So which is it? Is talk of impeachment just a Republican effort to demonize Democrats and scare voters for this fall's election, or do Democrats feel investigations are warranted into potential "high crimes and misdemeanors" by the President? And if it's the latter, how on earth can pointing out that fact be considered "demonization"?

May 23, 2006

Married to Bias at the NY Times

Greg Sargent breaks in his new blog by lambasting Pat Healy's silly front page article in the NY Times dissecting the Clintons' marriage. Sargent writes:

political reporters love to write about politics as if they are merely disinterested observers of political events and the public's perceptions of them, when in fact they play a very key role in shaping those events and perceptions.

Carol Platt Liebau is happy to see Sargent recognize something conservatives have known for a long time.

Rubbing Salter in the Wound

Mickey Kaus says McCain aide Mark Salter jumped foolishly "into the mosh pit of self-righteousness" by attacking New School commencement speaker Jean Sara Rohe. He's right, of course, in that by dignifying Rohe's speech with such a stinging response, Salter blew up publicity of the issue and pitted himself and his man against a 21-year old girl.

As to the substance of Salter's criticisms, I happen to think they're more on the mark than off. Rohe finished her remarks at the New School commencement by saying this:

Finally, Senator Mc Cain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace.

This is the sort of mushy, "kumbaya" leftist pablum that is deserving of derision, especially when it comes from a Greenwich-Village-ensconced student whose idea of hardship is having to forego an extra shot in her Starbucks latte, lecturing a war hero and statesman who can't lift his torture-riddled arms over his head about how the real problem in the world is that we can't join hands in a big circle with bin Laden and al-Qaeda and work out our differences.

Rohe also wrote in her blog post yesterday at HuffPo that when she saw Senator McCain before the speech she "almost wanted to warn the guy that I was about to make him look like an idiot so that he would at least have a fighting chance and an extra moment to change his speech to save himself." What utter arrogance. Rohe shouldn't have worried her pretty little head about McCain; had he been so inclined he could have easily humiliated her on the spot and probably reduced her to tears, but he wisely chose not to. Nevertheless, Rohe's line prompted the retort from Salter the next day that "the only person you have succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself" - a remark that seems to have been taken grossly out of context in the NY Daily News article linked to on Drudge.

In other words, Salter has every right to be pissed, even self-righteously so, on behalf of his boss. Whether or not it's good politics to express that anger publicly is another matter, though a largely irrelevant one. The whole thing will be over in another six minutes and we can all get back to really important matters like speculating about Al Gore running for president in 2008.

Like a Pig in Slop

Arianna jets off to Cannes to buzz with the Hollywood crowd about the second coming of Al Gore.

Big Failure in the Big Easy

Lou Dolinar is a veteran reporter for Newsday, now retired. In September of last year, he wrote a story for RealClearPolitics about "what went right" during Katrina, detailing how the rescue efforts were vastly underplayed by the media. Over the course of the last few months, Dolinar has been interviewing National Guardsmen and digging further into what happened on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and this time he's produced an even more mind-boggling and damning account of the story the media missed. Read it in its entirety here.

May 22, 2006

Harry Reid: Daschle Redux?

Sherman Frederick, the publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, writes that Harry Reid's kowtowing to the Pelosi wing of the Democratic party has made him unelectable in Nevada:

And finally, Harry Reid has never been a thoroughbred racehorse on the track of Nevada politics. He's been more like a stubborn mule who never gives up, never gives in. And, in the heat of past races, he's been known to kick a few opponents in the head.

"Landslide Harry" is used to close races. Races that can be decided by a few thousand, and even a few hundred votes. But those were races before Harry became the top Democratic dog in the U.S. Senate. Before he disappeared as a conservative Democrat from Nevada. Before he started eyeing Nancy Pelosi's wardrobe.

Nevadans elected the Harry I've hiked the desert with in blue jeans and dusty work boots. But on national TV they see a guy in a capri and sandals.

Not pretty.

And, more to the point, not electable in Nevada.

Reid doesn't stand for reelection until 2010 so discussions about his electability are obviously premature, but the question is interesting nonetheless: will Reid's heightened visibility as the leader of an exceedingly angry, left-leaning party hurt his standing at home?

Tom Daschle makes for an interesting point of comparison. After assuming the role of Democratic Minority Leader in January 1995, Daschle cruised to reelection in 1998. By the time Daschle was ready to stand for reelection in 2004, however, he was the leader of a much different party. The Democrats' bitter loss to George W. Bush in 2000, the attacks of September 11, the War in Iraq, and Democrats' loss of the Senate in 2002 all contributed to an increase in partisanship and a leftward swing in the party. Add in the proliferation of cable news and the rise of the Internet, and Daschle was more visible than ever to his constituents back home not just as their home-state Senator but also as the leader of an angry, liberal Democratic Party.

Daschle had always been able to finesse a fairly liberal voting record in a heavily Republican state with excellent constituent relations and a mild-mannered demeanor. But in 2004 he was tagged as an "obstructionist" and upended 51-49 by a popular, well-financed conservative challenger, marking the first time in more than half a century a sitting Senate leader from either party was ousted from his seat.

A couple of notable differences between Daschle and Reid; Reid has a more conservative voting record in a much less Republican state. Reid also won't have to contend with a hotly contested Presidential race in 2010, a factor which almost certainly helped doom Daschle in 2004 (he lost to Thune by 4,500 votes while Bush carried South Dakota by 22 points).

After barely surviving a challenge from John Ensign in 1998, Reid won big in 2004 - but did so by spending an astronomical $7 million dollars against very weak opposition. Since then he's been the face of the party along with Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean, and his approval ratings in the last half of 2005 have remained in the high 50's - though they look to have become a bit more volatile in the last few months. Ultimately, Reid's fate will be determined by the quality of his opposition and the mood of Nevada voters in 2010, but it will be interesting to watch his numbers over the course of time, especially if the country is faced with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and/or President Hillary Clinton in the coming years.

Sitting Pretty

George Skelton says Gov. Schwarzenegger is sitting pretty at the moment and that he's been "stumping all over California in recent days, side-by-side with Democratic legislators, signing the bond bills and taking a victory lap."

Also sitting pretty is Democratic Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who is up 27 points on the hapless Katherine Harris according to a new Rasmussen poll.

Get all the latest news on the RCP Politics & Elections page.

May 21, 2006

Freepers for Rudy

The folks over at Free Republic take up the question from my last post: Rudy or McCain?

According to the new Giuliani Blog, the Freepers prefer America's Mayor:

Charlie Cook and the BDBM (Brain-Dead Beltway Media) say there's no way for a pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights Republican to win the nomination. It's not a conclusion with which I agree, but if you're going to believe that, at least be consistent and also admit that a pro-amnesty, pro-tax RINO like John McCain has no chance.

...

Now, to be fair, this group [that would be the Freepers] isn't thrilled by either Rudy or McCain. But Rudy seems far more acceptable to them. A sizeable percentage say they'd abandon the party if McCain were the nominee. A smaller subset say that about Giuliani. Not a single one says they'd support McCain over Rudy.

They also reprint some of the comments.

Giuliani Blog (with a slick logo, I must say -- is this run from inside America's Mayor World Headquarters?) seems to be a fairly comprehensive roundup of all things optimistic when it comes to the prospects for Rudy winning the GOP nod in '08.

Are Conservatives Bailing Out On Bush?

Richard A. Viguerie, one of the tactical godfathers of the conservative movement, tears President Bush (and Congress) to shreds in the Washington Post today. Viguerie writes, "sixty-five months into Bush's presidency, conservatives feel betrayed." He goes on to warn that "when conservatives are unhappy, bad things happen to the Republican Party."

Viguerie's piece is yet another sign of the conservative exodus taking place from the Bush administration. Jed Babbin struck a similar note in RealClearPolitics on Thursday, and I covered the topic in my column in the Chicago Sun-Times, which ended with this:

"With the midterm elections only a few months away and Republican majorities in both chambers hanging in the balance, demoralizing the group of people your party needs most to win in November is a dangerous move. If Bush is going to sign a comprehensive immigration bill that includes a guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship for those currently living here illegally, he'd better make sure there is a significant, immediate and well-publicized effort to shore up border security. If that happens, Bush might be able to win back some of the trust he's lost with conservatives on the issue of illegal immigration. If not, it'll be gone for good."

My column generated a number of emails, most running heavily against the President. Here is a taste of the sentiment:

"I think you are too optimistic. I am probably considered to be part of the Republican base and I can't conceive of anything that Bush could do in his remaining time in office that would salvage my trust in him. Even if he built a wall from the Gulf to the Coast, it would take years of real enforcement of the law for me to trust him. This isn't going to happen because Bush is not going to build a wall (other than a few token miles in order to get his bill passed), he is not going to enforce the law, and he doesn't have the time. In my mind, the Bush administration is over. At this point, all we can do is try to control the damage and hope for more promising prospects in 2008."

Very ominous signs for the GOP. An immigration bill could be the straw that breaks the back of the Republican majority in Congress.

Sunday Brooks

David Brooks slips this beaut into his column today in the New York Times:

"Every few weeks, perhaps coinciding with the full moon, the left half of the blogosphere will arise from its habitual state of paranoid rage and soar into a collective paroxysm of anticipatory glee over the thought of Karl Rove's imminent indictment. Alas, the indictment never comes."

May 19, 2006

Giuliani vs. McCain

Michael Kinsley's column today gets into the great irony of the (potential) Giuliani vs. McCain battle in the GOP primaries in 2008: McCain agrees with the Religious Right on most things, but they hate him. Giuliani disagrees with the Religious Right on most things, but they (at least for now) love him.

This is borne out by polling. To take just one example, a November 2004 Gallup poll found that, in a field of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Jeb Bush, Giuliani came out on top with 47 percent of the vote from all Republicans. He got 47 percent from the subset of conservative Republicans. Meanwhile, McCain got only 23 percent of the subset of conservative Republicans (26 percent from all Republicans).

Now, those numbers, as mentioned, are from 2004. But things don't seem to have changed very much in the interim. A Gallup analysis (subscription only) from February 16, 2006, has this to say about support for Giuliani vs. McCain:

Who is supporting Giuliani vs. McCain?

There are some important ideological distinctions among the potential GOP candidates. Giuliani is known as a conservative on crime and national security, but supports abortion and gay rights. McCain has a reputation for being a "moderate" but has a mostly conservative voting record, particularly on economic and social issues. Other candidates are even further to the political right.

Given these differences, it is interesting to focus on candidate preferences according to Republicans' personal ideology.

Gallup finds some slight differences in the vote choice of "conservative" and "moderate" Republicans. Giuliani leads McCain by a 31%-to-26% margin among self-described Republican conservatives. By contrast, McCain has a slight edge over Giuliani among "moderate" Republicans, 38% to 33%. Neither of these leads is statistically significant given the margin of error associated with the small sample sizes of these subgroups.

Three candidates with reputations as solid conservatives -- Virginia Sen. George Allen, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback -- all receive minor levels of support from conservative and moderate Republicans, alike.

So Giuliani is the candidate of conservatives, and McCain is the candidate of moderates? Yes, this is definitely off.

At least for the Republican primary, the question seems to be this: What will win out among conservative primary voters? Emotion (they like Giuliani) or cold, hard calculation (they can't stand McCain, but he has the right positions)?

Of course, there could be some other candidate to come and swoop in and grab the conservative vote. But no one's gotten to it yet. And, amazingly, Rudy seems to have a pretty decent chance of locking that vote down early -- if he plays his cards right and develops the right policy platform.

McCain might be making nice with Falwell, but Rudy's with Ralph.

This is still a wide-open race, the most wide-open Republican primary since 1964 -- that's how conservative movement historian Lee Edwards pegged it when I interviewed him for my book. Things are going to get really, really interesting.

All Politics Is Local

In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, only 29% of people said they feel the country is generally going in the right direction, while 69% answered they feel the country is "pretty seriously off on the wrong track." Not much news there.

Interestingly, however, the Post followed this standard survey question with two other "right track/wrong track" questions, further probing public attitudes. When people were asked how things are going in their "state," 45% said things were going in the right direction while 52% said things were off on the wrong track. The results for a question about respondents' "local community" were even more pronounced: 58% said things were moving the right direction and only 41% said they were off on the wrong track.

That's close to a fifty percent swing between the how the public perceives things to be going at the national level versus the local level. We can speculate as to the reasons behind such a dramatic shift, but the implication seems clear: the more general the question about the direction of the country, the more likely people are to respond in a pessimistic way. At the local level, at least according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll, a decent majority of the public doesn't seem to think things are going too badly.

We find a similar dynamic with Congressional job approval ratings. When voters are asked to generically "rate the job Congress is doing," poll after poll shows public approval mired in the low thirties. But when voters are asked more specifically to rate the job their individual Congressman is doing, ratings are significantly higher.

You can see the potential implications of these numbers for a midterm election composed of 435 local races for the House of Representatives - many in districts gerrymandered to the incumbent's advantage. If the public is generally satisfied with the direction of things in their local community and also generally satisfied with the performance of their current Congressman, the odds of change become less likely.

May 18, 2006

Senator Martinez Changes His Tune

martinez_small2.gifReader G.W. from Florida thought he remembered Mel Martinez taking a much tougher line on immigration during his 2004 Senate race and decided to do a bit of digging. Sure enough, candidate Mel Martinez's position on immigration that appeared on his 2004 campaign web site is noticeably at odds with the piece of immigration legislation Senator Mel Martinez put his name on recently. Here is what Martinez said in 2004 regarding the issue of immigration:

We are nation of immigrants. The hard work and contributions of millions of legal immigrants are an important part of our America's history. Our immigration policy, however, must first and foremost ensure the security of our great nation and its citizens. Especially during these treacherous times, our focus must be on preventing those who would harm us from entering our country and in providing the resources our border agents need in order to accomplish this. I oppose amnesty for illegal aliens. I support a plan that matches workers with needy employers without providing a path to citizenship. Immigration to this country must always be done through legal means. [emphasis added]

Divided We Stand

Reader and blogger Mike Wallach offers an interesting solution to the problem of how libertarians can organize themselves for maximum political impact: Always vote for divided government. Always.

That divided government keeps down spending is now the conventional wisdom. The idea of using that concept as the central organizing principle of a political movement ... it's far-fetched. OK, it's implausible.

But it might stop anything much from ever getting done in Washington, D.C., which is a start.

(Of course, it could also lead to an outbreak of "bipartisanship" -- the worst of all possible political outcomes.)

Mr. Show Trial

Republicans probably wish they could get John Conyers to write an op-ed in a major paper every week from now until Election Day. Instead of having the desired effect of defusing fears that Democrats will lead the charge to impeach Bush if they win control of the House in November, Conyers' op-ed generated lots of chatter - most of it serving to remind people just how nutty, self-indulgent, and relentlessly partisan he is.

Thomas Bray touched on this in a RealClearPolitics column last week:

Last June Conyers commandeered a basement conference room in the Capitol to stage a mock hearing into impeachment charges over the Iraq war. "[Conyers] banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him 'Mr. Chairman,'" recounted Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank. "He liked that so much that he started calling himself 'the chairman' and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as 'unanimous consent' and 'without objection so ordered.'"

"As luck would have it," Milbank wryly noted, "all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes....Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides' entreaties to end the session. 'At the next hearing,' [Conyers] told his colleagues, 'we could use a little subpoena power.' That brought the house down."

Conyers also orchestrated the "unofficial" hearings into "voter irregularities" in Ohio after the 2004 elections, featuring sober and judicious testimony from the likes of Jesse Jackson, Sheila Jackson Lee and some guy from Air America radio. Conyers opened the hearings on Wednesday, December 8 - five weeks after the country had officially rendered its verdict - by notably declaring in the present tense: "I very much want John Kerry to be the next President of the United States." As I wrote at the time:

This is partisan political theatre of the worst sort designed to undermine the integrity of the process. This is a group of Democrats, in the wake of losing another bitter election, taking the myriad of imperfections inherent in our process and blowing them up, stringing them together and assigning heinous motives of conspiracy and racial oppression.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, they do all of this using the self-righteous, morally superior credo that they want to "count every vote." Except they're only interested in counting "all the votes" in Ohio, because that is the only state in America where the outcome of the Presidential election could possibly be altered.

Conyers has been working to try and undo the 2004 election since the day it happened. I find it hard to believe he'll be able to resist the urge to give it another go if he gets subpoena power and the Judiciary Committee Chairmanship this November.

Bush, GOP Poll Numbers Fall After President's Speech

The reviews are starting to come in for the President's Monday Night Address to the nation and they're not what the White House was hoping to see. Just 39% of voters agree with the President's approach on the immigration issue while an equal number are opposed. To fully comprehend how bad that number is, remember that most Presidential addresses produce a bounce adding a few extra points of temporary support for the White House position. Just 35% believe the President's approach will reduce illegal immigration.

But the bad reviews don't stop there. Before the President's speech, Rasmussen Reports found that Democrats had a 10-point advantage on the Generic Congressional Ballot. Following the speech, the Democrats lead grew to 15 points, 48% to 33%. While the Generic Congressional Ballot is not particularly valuable in projecting House elections, it is a useful measure of the national mood and that mood is decidedly turning against the GOP at the moment.

The same trend can be found on the President's Job Approval Ratings. At Rasmussen Reports, we measure this rating every night and report the results on a three-day rolling average. Data released today (Thursday) is the first where most of the interviews were conducted after the Monday night address. The result, President Bush's Job Approval fell to the lowest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports--36%. Just 15% Strongly Approve, that's also the lowest on record. One telling detail is that just 65% of Republicans Approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing.

On the immigration issue itself, we asked survey participants to choose between two immigration bills. "One would improve control of the borders but do nothing about the status of working immigrants who are here illegally. The other would legalize the status of working immigrants who are here illegally but would do nothing to improve control of the border." By a 63% to 19% margin, voters prefer the bill that controls the borders but does nothing about the status of illegal aliens. Voters overwhelming believe that strict employer penalties are the best way to accomplish this goal.

Finally, there is one other bit of news that will grab the attention of Republicans everywhere. While the President's ratings have fallen over the past couple of weeks, Hillary Clinton's numbers are bouncing back. We've been conducting a Hillary Meter poll every other week for over a year and this week's survey produced the best numbers ever for the former First Lady.

May 17, 2006

Fed Must Get Back On Message - by Larry Kudlow

U.S. Treasury undersecretary Tim Adams told me on CNBC Monday night that he does not believe trade deficits have any strong impact on currency rates. Nor are they interested in "beggar-thy-neighbor" currency policies.

From this, I take away the thought that the Treasury may not really be trying to manipulate the dollar lower. Using a thirty nation index for the dollar, there really is not much decline at all following a massive run-up during 1991-2002.

Given the U.S. investment boom, as illustrated by yesterday's strong industrial production numbers, I would be a dollar buyer, not a seller.

Here's a thought for you inflationists out there: The business and investment boom sparked by lower tax rates three years ago will, over time, burn off any excess monetary calories. Lower tax rates are always associated with lower inflation. Lower tax rates raise the demand for money.

Ben Bernanke needs to do two things right now to calm inflation worries. It's real simple: First, get back on message by repeating his earlier mantra of the need for a numerical inflation target. This would reestablish the price rule.

Second, the Fed should keep raising their target rate in quarter point intervals, until the breakeven inflation TIPS spread drops down about 25 or 30 more basis points.

Fed policies have slowed the monetary base. Keep up this campaign.

Out of the Hot Tub, Into the Frying Pan

There was also a lot of blog response to the hot-tub libertarians column. I'll try to take the lines of argument one at a time.

One line of argument is that the libertarians should abandon the GOP because it's too close to the Evangelical, "fundamentalist" wing of the Right. One blogger making this case is the Cranky Insomniac:

Maybe I'm overly pessimistic, or maybe a significant slice of the "GOP forever" libertarians will suddenly decide that they don't have enough in common with other party elements to keep voting with them (as I did ten years ago, when I realized that "this party sucks," and split). But until this political Cialis takes effect, libertarians as a group will have about as much political clout as people who give Porter Goss as a reference.

We might as well keep kickin' it in the hot tub.

This is, of course, an extremely common view among libertarians: We don't have enough clout within the GOP, so let's not invest any energy in the GOP. The problem, though, is that this logic is circular. The GOP ignores libertarians because they're unengaged in politics, and they're unengaged in politics because the GOP ignores them. Libertarians can blame this on their numbers, but even the conservative estimate from Pew that they make up 9 percent of the American ideological spectrum robs them of such excuses. Libertarians are politically impotent because they're petulant and factious (and I say this as a libertarian), not because there aren't enough of them.

Another line of argument is that libertarians should be pouring all of their energy into third-party politics, i.e. the Libertarian Party. That's the argument over at Hammer of Truth (where I'm accused of being a "conservative"):

Other than playing lip service to the Second Amendment, when has the GOP been sensitive to individual rights? Is big-government conservatism the economic equivalent of the compassionate conservatism practiced by the GOP on homosexuals?

There is but one natural home for libertarians: the Libertarian Party. However, it's understandable that many libertarians avoid the LP because of frequently embarrassing election results.

...

[Sager is] half right. It is time to reclaim our libertarian roots, but the GOP is clearly not the answer. The time is now to form effective third-party and independent coalitions to get liberty-minded people elected to public office.

Of course, the GOP has never been a libertarian paradise. But, as I go into in great detail in my forthcoming book, there has long been a "fusionist" bargain where limited-government conservatives and social conservatives understood that they needed each other and that they both ultimately wanted a smaller state. The biggest change in the GOP coalition has been the decision by a large segment of social conservatives (goaded by neoconservatives like David Brooks) to start looking at the federal government as a friend and not an enemy. Libertarian efforts should be spent on persuading social conservatives back to our side and organizing within the GOP as opposed to outside it.

The last argument I'll deal with here is from Reason editor Nick Gillespie, who argues that the hot tub of real life is simply preferable to the cesspool of government and politics. It's a tempting idea and one that a lot of libertarians consciously or unconsciously buy into. And as an individual choice, it's fine. God knows not everyone finds immigration speeches and bridges to nowhere fascinating. But the business of governing is real life, and the outcomes of political fights will determine how much of our money is stolen in taxes, whether gay people can get married, whether cancer patients will risk arrest for using marijuana, whether people will be able to afford health care, etc. etc. etc.

Simply saying this stuff doesn't matter (or doesn't matter that much) doesn't make it so.

Libertarians need to get serious. And getting serious means organizing. And organizing means within one of the two major parties. I believe that can only be done within the GOP, that there is still a natural logic to fusionism.

But I'm happy to hear arguments otherwise.

We get letters... Hot-Tub Letters

Got a lot of responses to my column on hot-tub libertarians yesterday. Posted them here.

Libertarians are -- as ever -- a downcast bunch. And, of course, they can never agree on anything. Should we just forget about politics? How can anyone vote for the Democrats? How can anyone vote for the Republicans? How can anyone vote for the Libertarian Party?

OK. I made that last one up. No one votes for the LP.

More Immigration Op-Eds

End Border Lawlessness - Senator Jeff Sessions, Washington Times
A 'D' For the National Guard Solution - Ruben Navarrette, Seattle Times
Bad Politics in 2 Countries - Robert Robb, Arizona Republic
A Bush-league Record - Michael Goodwin, NY Daily News
American Interests Merit Top Priority - Jonathan Gurwitz, SA Express-News
Desperate Bush Turns To the National Guard - Joe Conason, NY Observer
The ABCs of Immigration - William F. Buckley, Universal Press
Bush's Charade: Problem is at Firms, Not Borders - Froma Harrop, Providence Journal
President Falls Way Short - Al Knight, Denver Post
The Latest Crazy Bush Move - Molly Ivins, Salt Lake Tribune
Senate Bill Disguises Vast Increase in Illegal Immigration - Maggie Gallagher, Yahoo
A Glimmer of Hope on Immigration - Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe
Bush's Immigrant Policy Sounds Like Kerry's - Richard Brookhiser, NY Observer

May 16, 2006

Bush Hits It Up the Middle?

Results from a snap Zogby Interactive poll on Bush's speech last night: "Overall, 47% said they liked the Monday speech, while 47% said they were disappointed."

Zogby also reports that "about seven in 10 Republicans said they generally liked the speech, while 29% said they were disappointed." Those numbers strike me as wildly off the mark, almost the inverse of what I would have expected. We'll have to wait and see what other data follows from Bush's speech.

GOP '06 Prospects Took a Hit Last Night

I didn't get to see the President's speech last night or the usual punditry that always follows, which is important in gauging how the politics will play. But after watching the speech this morning and from what I have seen and heard so far, it looks like the President missed a huge opportunity.

Leadership, something that has been President Bush's strongest asset, is what the country desperately needs on the polarizing issue of immigration. Instead, what we got appears to be a 2006 version of the status-quo immigration policies of the last 20 years. Bush missed a real opportunity to help fix a substantive problem facing the nation which politically would have significantly improved his standing among the public and his party's position heading into the midterm elections.

The seeds of any compromise that would be acceptable to the President's conservative base starts with an acknowledgment that the government has failed to secure the border and halt illegal immigration in the 20 years since Simpson-Mazzoli. Had the President made it clear that starting last night the federal government was going to put in motion what had to be done to seriously halt the flow of illegals, he would have laid the groundwork for an overall compromise that would include a pathway to citizenship or "amnesty."

The only way a huge portion of the President's base would accept what would be an effective amnesty is if they felt the government was finally serious about stopping illegal immigration. While there are many pieces to halting the flow of illegal immigration, the solution at its core is some sort of a fence. Without a fence and a real commitment, conservatives (correctly) view the President's proposal as a redo of the failed Simpson-Mazzaoilli legislation.

A week ago I had been prepared to make the case that the negativity toward the President and Republican prospects this fall had been way overdone by the media, and that the President and the GOP hold considerably higher cards than is conventionally thought by DC pundits. But the President cannot to continue to keep missing on opportunities to lead.

Energy and immigration are two enormous issues staring the country in the face and this President, who has led so ably on the war and the economy, appears to be taking a pass.

We will have to watch how the political dynamic unfolds over the coming days and weeks, but my initial reaction is instead of unifying the Republican base - a base that was definitely in need of unification given the current polls - the President simply pushed a huge issue that is splitting the GOP right back into the spotlight.

All election campaigns have big moments where candidates and parties have to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. In 2004, John Kerry had two huge opportunities in his VP pick and his acceptance speech. He blew both of them. Last night was one of those chances for Bush (and in turn '06 Republicans) and the President blew it as well. Just like Kerry's chances fell after the Edwards pick and his convention speech, Republican chances this fall took a hit last night.

Will Bush's Plan Hurt The National Guard?

An informed member of the United States military writes to point out some serious flaws with the way the Bush administration has constructed its plan to use the National Guard to assist with border control efforts:

During the Presidents address on immigration, we learned of the Administrations plan to use the National Guard with "up to 6,000 Guard members deployed to our southern border."

It was not until the release of the earlier White House Press Briefing where we would learn significant details of this plan. This is not simply 6,000 soldiers going to the border and doing a mission for a year. Rather it is 156,000 total soldiers rotating through the border at two week intervals over a twelve month time period.

Q: On the National Guard, did I hear right, they're going to -- each Guardsman is going to be there for three or four weeks, by training?

MS. TOWNSEND: Their annual training requirement is two to three weeks. And so what you will do is you will, at any one time -- 6,000 represents about 2 percent of the overall strength of the National Guard. It won't be the same 6,000 people there for 12 months, it -- as I said, it will depend on mission assignments. But what you will do is, during -- that 6,000, at any one time, will be comprised of individual Guardsmen doing their annual training requirement.

This plan has two significant problems that lead me to believe that while it was very likely first mentioned by a uniformed member of the military, it was in reality a "shot from the hip" that did not have a thorough military staffing performed. Last week while I was attempting to envision what the Administration would ultimately do, this same idea came into my mind however, it was quickly discarded.

The first significant problem is by the very nature of National Guard/Reserve Annual Training. There are 15 days to get to the duty station, unpack your equipment, learn what you need to do, gain proficiency at what you need to do, repack your equipment, then travel home. By the time that each soldier is able to make a contribution to border security they will be ready to leave. Instead of these soldiers being an asset to the Department of Homeland Security they will become an unwelcome burden consuming more than they are returning.

The second significant problem strikes close to home for those of us involved in training the Guard/Reserve. Civilians are familiar with the concept of serving "one weekend a month" (Inactive Duty Training (IDT)) and "two weeks of summer camp" (Annual Training (AT)). Weekend training focuses on performing administrative tasks along with individual soldier skills (Individual Training). The primary purpose of Annual Training is to provide unit readiness training (Collective Training) and evaluation of the unit performing its combat mission according to its "Mission Essential Task List." (METL).. While there may be some METL tasks that can be performed at the border, the major combat tasks will be neglected.

The National Guard Bureau, the Department of the Army and the United States Army Reserve Command have always ensured that Annual Training was devoted to performing wartime collective training. The 156,000 soldiers performing their Annual Training at the border will be deprived this badly needed unit training that they need to succeed in the Global War on Terror.

I sincerely believe that in twelve months when Congress evaluates this plan they will determine the combat readiness of a significant portion of the Army National Guard has deteriorated while border security has gained very little from that sacrifice. Ultimately, they will determine that funding for annual training has been spent inappropriately.

May 15, 2006

Excerpts From Bush's Speech

Here are some excerpts from Bush's speech tonight, straight from the White House's communications shop:

On the President's vision for comprehensive immigration reform:

"We are a Nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We are also a Nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals - America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. We will fix the problems created by illegal immigration, and we will deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair."

On Border Security:

"Since I became President, we have increased funding for border security by 66 percent, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 to 12,000 agents. . . .we have apprehended and sent home about six million people entering America illegally.

"Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that. Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border."

On the Importance of a Temporary Worker Program to relieve pressure on the border:

"The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across."

On enforcing our laws:

". . . we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility . . .

"A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law - and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place."

On the President's opposition to amnesty:

". . . we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully - and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration."

On assimilation:

". . . we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one Nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language."

On the tone of the debate:

"We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say."

Another Duke Indictment

A third lacrosse player, David Evans, has been indicted in the Duke rape case. From the AP story:

Evans' attorney, Joseph Cheshire, said the accuser identified Evans with "90 percent certainty" during a photo lineup. Cheshire said the accuser told police she would be 100 percent sure if Evans had a mustache -- something he said his client has never had. [snip]

Evans, who lived at the house where the party was held, was indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. In the past, he had been cited for a noise ordinance violation and alcohol possession.

He said that he and his roommates helped police find evidence at the house, and that he gave investigators access to his e-mail and instant messenger accounts. He said that his offer to take a lie-detector test was rejected by authorities, and that he later took one on his own and passed.

"You have all been told some fantastic lies," he said at the news conference.

dukelax.jpg This case continues to baffle. Evans and his roommates helped the police find evidence? Right now, all we know is that some DNA was found on a press-on finger nail found in a garbage can at the house, but a second round of tests has reportedly come back inconclusive. And Evans' attorney said that District Attorney Mike Nifong has "repeatedly refused to meet with lawyers to discuss evidence they believed would prove the rape did not occur."

Evans, a senior and one of the captains of the lacrosse team, took part in Duke University's graduation ceremony on Sunday where there were displays of solidarity with Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, the other two players indicted in the case. Time will tell if Mike Nifong is a dogged, determined prosecutor who is holding some very compelling evidence close to his vest or whether he is a reckless, overzealous DA who has just compounded a tragic error.

Bush's Immigration Gambit

The President's speech tonight on immigration is, in a word, huge. Conservatives are looking at it as one last chance for Bush to step up to the plate and put enforcement at the forefront of the debate, but from what's been leaked to the press so far it doesn't look like that's going to happen. A few thousand National Guard troops on temporary duty assisting Border Patrol officers falls so far short of the mark it's arguably worse than proposing nothing at all.

We'll have to wait and see what's in the actual speech, but if Bush doesn't offer a serious, credible pitch for securing the border, by the end of the week he'll be thinking back wistfully to the days when his approval rating was up in the mid-thirties.

It's ironic that Bush grabbed ahold of the traditional "3rd rail" of American politics and didn't get zapped (though he didn't succeed in getting Social Security reform, either) but he's quite possibly going to find himself getting scorched by the new third rail.

'Intellectuals' Pining for Higher Tax Rates

The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby is on a crusade to discredit pro-growth or supply-side economic policies. Today's column titled "The Return of Voodoo Economics" makes one wonder about what he doesn't like about 4% growth, under 5% unemployment, housing and the stock market higher, wealth being created and tax revenues at all time highs. I guess he pines for the pre-Voodoo Economics days of the 1970's when the highest marginal tax rate was 70% and the country had anemic growth, high unemployment and a Dow languishing below 1,000.

What gives Mallaby the right to think that he is a "serious" person when it comes to economic policy, but President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Majority Leader Frist and Finance Chairmen Grassley are not? Is Mallaby really that arrogant? Did it ever occur to Sebastian that maybe he is letting his ideological views get in the way of an honest appraisal of the facts?

Why is it so hard to explain the concept to many "intellectuals" that the idea is to grow the pie as big as possible, and that taking a smaller percentage of a bigger pie can yield more than a higher percentage of a smaller pie? Mallaby can quote all the economists and studies he wants to justify his attack on the economic wisdom of lower tax rates.

I'll just look at what happens in the real world.

Nations that pursue pro-growth economic policies and expand their economy at 3%-4% a year (or more) create wealth and a better life for their people, and also generate considerably more tax revenue to their governments. Nations that stifle economic growth with policies of high regulation and high taxes, create less wealth and less tax revenues for their governments.

Why has Chile prospered for 25 years, while Argentina languishes? Why are the treasuries of Hong Kong and Singapore flush with revenue? Why have the U.S. and Britain shown tremendous growth since Reagan and Thatcher while Continental Europe with their pseudo-socialism putters along with chronic double-digit unemployment? Go around the world these last 25 years and compare nations with high tax rates to countries with low tax rates, you'll find a pattern.

Growth produces wealth, which leads to higher tax revenues and a more prosperous nation. Less growth produces less wealth and in turn lowers tax revenues. High tax rates retard economic growth; low tax rates encourage more growth. It really isn't that complicated.

Seriously.

May 12, 2006

The First Snow Fall

President Bush had better hope today was not an omen for his new press secretary. After spending a couple of days zinging the media over its coverage, Tony Snow closed out his first week on the job with an off-camera press "gaggle" this morning that was, by Snow's own admission, "just a mess."

First the gaggle was scheduled for 9am, then rescheduled for 9:30am, and then began around 9:15am, much to the dismay of those who showed up thinking they were early only to find themselves stuck in the hallway outside Snow's jam-packed office unable to see or hear what the new White House press secretary was saying.

Despite the embarrassing logistical foul-ups of this first effort and the grumpiness it caused among some in the White House press corps, expect Snow to do a very good job of managing the press and the message as he gets fully up to speed. Snow's biggest asset, aside from his considerable smarts, is that he's just a darn nice guy. (By the way, this isn't meant to suggest Scott McClellan wasn't necessarily smart or likeable, just that neither of those qualities came through with McClellan the way they're going to with Snow.)

Dana Milbank's detailed account of the gaggle this morning gives a sense of what I'm talking about. Milbank described Snow as "disarming" and said he "offered a refreshing humility, admitting when he didn't know something." Later on Milbank described the scene this way: "Snow was aggressively friendly with the reporters, who didn't seem terribly grateful."

That's probably a fitting description of the way things will be when Snow steps in front of the cameras for the first time in the White House briefing room next week. He's going to kill with kindness, and have to wait and see how the press - and the public - react.

The Cold War Between Chavez and the U.S.

One of the biggest stories that has been developing these last two years is the rise of the hard left in Latin American and the increasingly aggressive moves of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Below is a post sent to us, from someone who is very much up to speed on the strategic state of play in the region.


The U.S. and Chavez are in the midst of a cold war that is getting way more intense. It's a very strange one. Both are using unconventional weapons because this isn't state-to-state conflict, it's a race to win hearts and minds of different peoples in a huge election year.

The U.S.' weapon of choice is bilateral trade pacts which hope to immunize nation's from falling prey to populist appeals to socialist economic polices. On the other side, Chavez's weapon is energy - to pork barrel to win political loyalty, and as a cutoff weapon for the disloyal. With the new Bolivian president, Evo Morales, nationalization of the country's oil and gas reserves, he's shown the powerful potential of the latter. But at the same time that Chavez is brandishing his energy weapon, regional blocs are breaking up and trade pacts are being signed, each one a symbolic rejection of Chavez.

Both trends are accelerating, so cross currents of the two forces is why events seem so momentous right now. It's like the world is being remade. An energy knife is going down the center of South America while the states on the edges are breaking off and signing trade pacts with the U.S.

The irony is - Chavez wants a stronger state; Bush wants a stronger independent citizenry. Yet Bush negotiates with states to get that citizen empowerment while Chavez makes populist appeals to citizens over the heads of their governments to ultimately get his own personal power.

I suspect we will have a full-fledged foreign policy crisis in Latin America, almost definitely with Hugo Chavez right in the middle of it, sometime in the next 2- 3 years.

One Vote From Death

Ann Althouse asks some interesting questions in reponse to Timothy Dwyer's piece in The Washington Post about the lone jury holdout who saved Zacarias Moussaoui from being put to death. Althouse writes:

This describes a fascinating group dynamic. Why did the lone dissenter remain anonymous? Was he (or she) afraid of the group's disapproval? Or was he instead worried that he couldn't articulate reasons good enough to fight back 11 opponents? Did he remain anonymous out of fear or did he perceive a strategy in remaining silent -- that is, could he predict the path the 11 would take?

Read the rest. To see what other people are saying about this story, check out BuzzTracker.

This Just In: Iran Is Lying

Over the wire comes a report that inspectors have found "traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian site linked to the country's defense ministry." (Via Powerline News).

Also, Reuters is reporting on a draft of a European Union declaration to be issued Monday that will call for Iran to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."

Fletcher Indicted

Kentucky Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher was hit with indictments yesterday with three counts of allegedly conspiring to violate the State Merit law. Fletcher says the indictments are politically motivated, and has filed a motion to have the Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo and his office taken off the case. The indictments come five days before Kentucky's primary next Tuesday.

"I don't have any comment about the timing of the indictments," said the lead prosecutor in the case Scott Crawford-Sutherland. "They are what they are."

Rendell Piles It On

New Quinnipiac poll shows Ed Rendell's lead over Lynn Swann in the Pennsylvania Governor's race jumping to a gaudy 22 points this month (55-33) from only a 10-point lead last month (47-37).

What caused the surge? Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explains the numbers this way:

"Gov. Rendell's numbers have bounced back as voters see no compelling reason to vote against him for a second term and no compelling reason to vote for Lynn Swann to unseat him. 'Teflon Ed' has come through another battle with the Legislature over property taxes looking like the good guy even if no meaningful tax reduction proposal was passed into law."

Rendell's approval rating rose 9 points to 55% over the last month, while the approval of the state legislature improved a modest 2 points, to 31%.

McDermott Taps Bubba

Bill Clinton has agreed to help raise money for Jim McDermott's legal defense fund when he arrives in Seattle for a Cantwell fundraiser next month. The Seattle Times reports:

Legal experts say it's possible McDermott's Seattle home, assessed at $781,000, could become involved if McDermott loses and is forced to pay a hefty judgment.

"We're not playing badminton here," McDermott said. "We're playing serious hardball. I'm not worried that they are going to win, but there is that possibility, and you got to be prepared."

McDermott should be worried: the reason he's in this mess is because Boehner's side keeps winning and McDermott keeps appealing the case. That, plus the fact he was too arrogant to take the deal Boehner offered years ago to drop the whole thing if McDermott issued an apology and donated $10K to charity.

May 11, 2006

Reply to Kaus

Mickey Kaus responds to my column on Immigration: South and West over at Slate. While no one peels the political onion quite like Kaus, I'll respond point by point:

On RCP, Ryan Sager argues that a hard line on immigration hurts Republicans in Western swing states, and helps them only in Southern states they've got locked up anyway. Problems with this thesis include 1) Sager seems to assume Bush had to make a big deal of immigration one way or another. He didn't. He could have kept it backburnered;

I didn't assume at all that Bush had to make a big deal out of immigration. I said that congressional Republicans taking a hard line on immigration was a bad idea politically. Bush might well have left the whole issue alone, knowing that it would split the Republican base when he could least afford it.

2) Bush's immigration-battered national poll ratings, however they're geographically distributed, are sapping his efficacy across the board every day and giving the press a club with which to beat him;

Absolutely. Again, if I were Bush, I would have left the whole thing alone. At least ahead of midterms.

3) Even with Bush making immigration a big issue, Sager points only to three contested Western House seats where a hard line hurts Republicans. In none does he show that the issue is decisive, or that Republican candidates aren't able to soften their stand if necessary to fit their constituency. Are there no three contested seats elsewhere in the country--the Northeast, say--where a hard line is helping the GOP candidate?

Kaus may be right, as far as the congressional races in 2006 go. Candidates can stake out their own positions, to an extent. But if the general message, nationally and bleeding down to the local level, is simply "congressional Republicans = kick out the Mexicans," then that will help in some places and hurt in others.

Specifically, as I argued in my column, it's likely to hurt in some Western places. Kaus asks if it might not help in some Northeastern places. I'm not sure why he thinks it would help in the Northeast, where anti-immigrant sentiment is fairly low. Where it could help is the South (where the GOP doesn't need the help) and the Midwest, where anti-immigrant sentiment is ticking upward.

Coming into 2008, though, I'd be more worried about immigration as an issue that could hurt the GOP electorally in the West while not doing enough good in the rest of the country to justify the bad.

RCP's BuzzTracker

For those of you who aren't aware, BuzzTracker is a feature RCP developed to monitor the buzz in the blogosphere on hot news stories, articles and blog posts. Throughout the day we will be featuring selected stories on the left hand column of the front page where you can click through and see a collection of blogs that have commented on that particular story. For example, today's USA Today story on the NSA's data mining of phone records with the big three phone companies has produced by FAR the most buzz in the blogosphere in a long time. Check it out.

Connecting-the-Dots, Data Mining and the Loss of Real Civil Liberties

In the run up to the 2004 election I debated a very left-wing professor who went on and on about how the Patriot Act was essentially a reincarnation of Gestapo or KGB tactics. I responded that I was of course concerned about individual liberties and the unfettered power of the state, but that in the post-9/11 world there is a balancing act between liberty and security, and that I would be more sympathetic to critics of the Patriot Act if they could point to specific cases of abuse. Show me the real alive Jane and Joe Americans who have had their liberties violated in some grotesque manner by the Patriot Act. Needless to say, the professor moved on.

I ask the same question today to the bloggers and pundits out there who are hyperventilating over the latest revelation that our security agencies are actually trying to do their job. Many of the people decrying these violations of civil liberties are the same ones who ripped the government for its inability to "connect-the-dots" prior to 9/11.

But the paranoia on the left, and in particular, the hatred for the Bush administration has become so intense there is an automatic assumption that the NSA has to be engaging in nefarious activity, spying on you and your neighbor. The idea that the agency is thinking creatively and proactively about how they can legally monitor the bad guys instead of just going about business as usual is, apparently, out of the question for some. The sad truth is it is probably going to take another devastating attack to convince many in this country that we are actually at war against Islamic jihadists.

That is something true civil libertarians should think long and hard about. The more vigilant we are today in preventing attacks, the more it will pay off in spades in terms of protecting our civil liberties in the future. Because if this country gets hit with a small nuke and 30,000 or 100, 000 Americans die, all of the debating will be over. The ensuing crackdown will be massive, and the loss of REAL civil liberties will become very, very possible.

Political Junkie Podcast Heaven

The Glenn and Helen Show interviews Ken Mehlman and Michael Barone on 2006 and 2008.

Herbert Gives 'Em Hell

In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert says Democrats are in need of "a moxie transplant." Herbert writes:

I have no more patience with this perennially pathetic patient, this terminally timid Democrat who continues to lie cowering and trembling on the analyst's couch, wondering why the Demolition Derby Republicans control virtually all of the levers of power in the United States.

Herbert's column is particularly interesting in that he wants Democrats to be more vocally antiwar and to rail against the Bush administration's "monstrous buildup of state power" that has "undermined the freedom and privacy of innocent people," and yet he chooses to cite President Harry S. Truman as a model for Democrats to emulate.

Let's count the ways this is ironic. First, as a Senator from Missouri, Truman supported FDR's scheme to pack the Supreme Court. As President, of course, Truman is most well known for making the exceedingly difficult and courageous decision to drop the bomb on Japan in 1945. Twice. He also ordered the invasion of Korea in 1950 to repel communist aggression, igniting a limited war which dragged on for three years and cost more than 33,000 U.S. lives. In 1952, Truman established the NSA. That was also the same year he ordered the seizure of American steel mills, an act which the Supreme Court later declared had exceeded Truman's constitutional authority.

Herbert laments that "there are no Trumans in sight in this Democratic Party." No kidding, because hardcore antiwar liberals like Herbert have driven them from the ranks. Truman believed in a muscular, assertive foreign policy that has long since fallen out of vogue with members of the post-Vietnam Democratic party. The truth is that if Harry "Give 'em Hell" Truman were alive today, Bob Herbert would skin him alive in the pages of the New York Times.

Get Your Panic Here

Bush, GOP Congress Losing Core Supporters - Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker, Washington Post

Polls show Bush's base starting to flee - Dick Polman, Philadelphia Inquirer

Bush's low ratings worry Republicans - Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor

Polls show Bush losing conservative support - John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

Out of the Loop

Lynn Sweet reports Speaker Denny Hastert was left out of the loop by the White House on the Hayden pick. So much for the White House shake up improving communications with key members of Congress, I guess.

Granholm in Trouble

Two new polls show Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm in the fight of her political life against Republican Dick DeVos:

EPIC-MRA (Date: 5/1-5/8, N=600LV, MoE +/- 4%)
DeVos 46
Granholm 45
Undecided 9

Mitchell Research (Date: 5/1-5/9, N=600LV, MoE +/- 4%)
DeVos 44
Granholm 43
Undecided 12

More details on the polls here.

Santorum Slipping?

The headline on the new poll out this morning from Quinnipiac University reads, "Santorum Still Slipping In Pennsylvania Senate Race." Quinnipiac has Santorum trailing Casey by 13 points (49-36) now, which is a slight deterioration from the eleven point deficit he was running in their last poll taken in April (48-37).

The Quinnipiac numbers contrast with the Franklin & Marshall Keystone poll released last week which seemed to indicate the race was trending in the other direction.

Howard Power

Australian Prime Minister John Howard tells British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith to bugger-off over the case of Australian Gitmo detainee David Hicks.

Buying Q-Tips to Fight Terror

The Arizona Republic investigated federal aid grants from the Department of Homeland Security and found that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent by local government officials on "equipment they are not certified to use or to pay for projects with only a tenuous link to homeland security." More:

an Arizona Republic review of thousand of pages of records and receipts found that some local governments made many questionable purchases under the guise of homeland security, including $38 leather wallets for all Capitol Police officers and a $47 hat badge for the police chief.

Many small cities and towns that are unlikely targets for a terrorist attack received disproportionate amounts of money, often more per capita than Phoenix, Tucson or Mesa....

State officials responsible for administering the federal funds said personnel shortages led to lax oversight and poor tracking in the initial years. But they also said they followed federal guidelines and approved purchase lists and have made improvements since 2003.

Who can honestly say they're surprised by this? It's true we're only talking about a few hundred thousand dollars, which is a rounding error in the grand scheme of things, but it does highlight a basic fact: when the government doles out money, people are going to spend it. And they're going to spend all of it whether they "need" to or not.

Libertarians Unbound

The debate heats up, over at Cato Unbound, as to the GOP's future relating to limited government.

David Frum takes on his critics (including me) here. (My response here)

David Boaz argues for libertarianism's "coherence" here.

Bruce Bartlett argues that freedom isn't just about small government (and that it's just another word for nothing left to lose) here.

And Ross Douthat touches on "fusionism" -- essentially, the argument that libertarians and social conservatives are natural allies -- here. (It's a topic on which I spill some considerable ink in my forthcoming book.)

Somehow, no one seems to want to make the argument that Bush has actually been a great conservative president. Did nobody call Fred Barnes or David Brooks?

May 10, 2006

McCain vs. the Constitution

George Will perhaps thinks too well of a certain segment of the Republican Party:

McCain hopes that in 2008 pro-life Republicans will remember his pro-life record. But they will know that, regarding presidents and abortion, what matters are Supreme Court nominees. McCain favors judges who think the Constitution is so radically elastic that government regulation of speech about itself is compatible with the First Amendment. So Republican primary voters will wonder: Can President McCain be counted on to nominate justices who would correct such constitutional elasticities as the court's discovery of a virtually unlimited right -- one unnoticed between 1787 and 1973 -- to abortion?

To be sure, McCain is no strict constructionist or textualist when it comes to the Constitution. No parchment, it seems, is sturdier in McCain's mind than his own iron-clad sense of right and wrong.

But how many Evangelical voters are constitutionalists? And how many just want to see abortion banned?

The ABA Ratings: Arbitrary or Corrupt?

Powerline's John Hinderaker points out the ridiculous and partisan downgrade of Brett Kavanaugh's rating by the ABA from "well-qualified" to "qualified."

No explanation, of course, as to what Kavanaugh has done since last year to cause six committee members to change their ratings.

Kavanaugh was interviewed on behalf of the ABA by a divorce lawyer named Marna S. Tucker, who then testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of the ABA. The Washington Times has more on Ms. Tucker:

Ms. Tucker has donated more than $10,000 to Democratic candidates and causes, according to Federal Election Commission records at www.politicalmoneyline.com, a Web site that tracks campaign contributions. She has never given to Republicans, according to the site.

The Washington Post described her as a "prominent liberal" in 1991 and the following year noted her friendship with Hillary Rodham Clinton, now a Democratic senator from New York.

Ms. Tucker also is a founding member and board director of the National Women's Law Center, an organization committed to abortion rights and other liberal causes.

It's easy to see why the ABA chose her to represent the organization's views before the Judiciary Committee.

FOX News' Charles Krauthammer was more direct on Special Report's panel discussion:

I think the ABA, the American Bar Association, is what's on trial here.

They changed the way they assessed him, from essentially an A to a B, over one year. Now, Kavanaugh didn't change in one year. He didn't lose his legal reasoning over one year. He didn't have shrinkage of his neurons over that one year. It's the ABA that changed.

So, how do you get a different rating a year after you had an A rating last year? And the answer is, either the ratings are arbitrary, or they're corrupt. They're arbitrary if, as the ABA is saying, you had a different committee and you might have had different people, in which case how can you -- you trust any of its judgments?

But it's corrupt if there was a change in the mood on that committee, and people, with the president's ratings down and more hostility to the administration, decided to go after this candidate, and decide to do endless questioning of people who knew him.

If you do endless questioning of people who know you or me, you're going to end up with a finite number of people who are going to be negative on you. And they -- they cite these negative reports. They -- they leak them to the press, and, presto, a downgrading of his assessment.

It's a corrupt process. And I wish that the administration had stuck with its promise of abandoning it years ago.

Krauthammer is exactly right, the administration made a mistake in citing the ABA ratings for earlier nominees. They should have stuck with their initial plan to do away with the ABA as part of the process.

Is Dick Morris Working for the DNC?

I just read Dick Morris' column in The Hill today where he gives the GOP the following advice:

The only way for a Republican to survive in 2006 is to run like a Democrat.......

Lately some have suggested that candidates use local issues to survive. But the wisdom of Tip O'Neill will not save a party that has convinced the nation that Gingrich was right -- that congressional races are national, not local. It is only by moving to the center and the left that the congressional Republican Party can respond to the massive voter anger its candidates encounter at every turn.

Unless the harness of party discipline loosens, GOP congressmen and senators will go, in step, over the cliff.

There may be individual Republican congressmen where this might be good advice (Chris Shays and maybe a few others, primarily in the Northeast), but on the whole, if Republicans follow Dick Morris' advice in this column they will guarantee themselves a disaster this November.

Forgetting About The Gulf

Sid Salter of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger says things are still unbelievably bad for the folks in the Gulf Coast:

The 2 4/7 cable TV news coverage has ceased. Katrina has crept slowly off the front pages of the newspapers. It's easier now to focus on broad questions of which government agency was too slow or too unresponsive after the storm.

But for far too many on the Gulf Coast, life is still like a haunting scene from Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Instead of the hard fiction of migrant workers in the dust bowl of the Great Depression headed for California, it's the harder reality of incredibly decent, hard-working people living in FEMA trailer encampments - cooking and eating outdoors, living hand-to-mouth on insufficient supplies that are unpredictable and hard to come by.

Churches and charities continue to battle poverty, hunger, despair and fear on a daily basis as victims continue to seek a hot meal or a blanket or safe shelter. Too many otherwise solid citizens have fallen between the cracks of government bureaucracies, insurance adjusters and the realities of unemployment.

Bitter truth: Too many had too little to fall back on prior to Katrina to make "recovery" more to them than a foreign, eight-letter word.

On this Sunday, locals stood three-deep in line to buy convenience store chicken, corn dogs and red hots as if the chefs at Gulfport's venerable old Vrazel's were serving the very finest French haute cuisine.

Hot food is hot food - and there are miles upon miles along the beachfront in which a public restroom, a store of any kind or the simple availability of even a cold drink is a dream not yet realized.

Waiting on Bense

The Miami Herald runs a very flattering profile of Allan Bense, current speaker of the Florida House and the person Republicans desperately hope will jump in the Senate primary against Katherine Harris:

During his stint as speaker, Bense won a fierce loyalty from many of his fellow Republicans and admiration from Democrats. During the session that ended last week, fellow legislators gave Bense a used Corvette as a going-away present.

''He's very objective; he's very open-minded,'' said Rep. Dudley Goodlette, a Naples Republican and one of the top leaders in the House under Bense. ``I've seen him have to be firm with people, but he's not abrupt and abrasive. He stands alone, in my judgment, with the four speakers I've served.''

Even Democratic legislators who have worked alongside Bense have praised his even-handedness and what they call fair treatment.

''Everybody had a fair shake,'' said Rep. Ron Greenstein, a Coconut Creek Democrat who was elected the same year as Bense. 'If I said, `This is important to me,' he said, 'Meet with me.' He's one of the few guys that respected my family, actually knows the name of my family. A lot of the people up here don't know any of that.''

Perhaps even more damning for Harris is that upon becoming Speaker, Bense pushed through a ban on all gifts and meals from lobbyists and legislators, even going so far as to ask his daugher, who was then a legislative lobbyist, to give up her career to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. How's that going to play alongside Harris' $2,800 dinner with Mitchell Wade, the man who pled guilty to bribing Duke Cunningham?

Bense has until Friday to make his decision.

UPDATE: Bense announced this morning he will not run.

Keep an Eye on Ken Blackwell in Ohio

In my column on Monday I made a passing comment that the odds right now favor the Democrats winning the Governor's races in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but losing in Florida. This is basically the conventional wisdom on these three races and it is confirmed in all of the early polling, though I wouldn't give too much credence to spring polls.

However, if there is going to be a surprise here it is going to come with Ken Blackwell in Ohio. Blackwell is an optimistic, conviction conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan. A football standout at Xavier University and former mayor of Cincinnati; Blackwell was first elected statewide in 1994 as Treasurer and then elected statewide again in 1998 and 2002 to his current position as Secretary of State. Having won three times statewide over the last 12 years is a much-overlooked asset for Blackwell's candidacy.

But perhaps the biggest factor that most national pundits are misinterpreting is the impact of the state's enormous disgust with the Ohio Republican party and in particular Governor Taft. A reader writes:

Blackwell - a longtime thorn in Taft's side - used his outsider status in the recent GOP primary where Republicans came out in force to vote despite being called demoralized by the drive-by media. He is a charismatic and skilled politician; do not be surprised if is able to wage a campaign that paints Strickland as the logical heir to Taftian politics (higher taxes, squishy social views, and the charisma of a fish) and himself as the true reformer.

I have thought for sometime this will be the Blackwell strategy and I think he is well positioned to make a credible case to the voters of Ohio that he is more of an agent of change than the Democrat nominee, congressman Ted Strickland. And the change component here is key. Michael Barone writes; "From the 1840s to the 1990s, no party held the governorship for more than eight years. Today the Republicans are in their 16th year of controlling the governorship and the legislature. Ohio is overdue to go Democratic." That is the single biggest obstacle to Republicans retaining the governorship and the only way Blackwell will be able to overcome this factor is if he can make himself the candidate for change. As a strong fiscal and social conservative, something both the current GOP Governor and the Democratic nominee are not, Blackwell has an opportunity to present himself to the voters as the candidate of change in the race.

My Ohio friend goes on to write:

The way pundits so casually dismiss Ohio as going to the Dems is uninformed. You can quote every poll there is between Strickland and Blackwell. I would caution you to look at every published poll leading up to 2005's Reform Ohio Now ballot initiatives. They showed those issues all passing by margins of between 5 and 20 points. After the state GOP's grassroots network of volunteers got done walking neighborhoods, making phone calls and driving folks to the polls, not one of the issues broke 40% affirmation. Never underestimate the network we on-the-ground folks have built up here over the last 5 years. It delivered the state for Bush in 2004. It defeated the RON initiatives in 2005. It is already formidable enough to have the New York Times - of all lefty cheerleaders - pretty much conceding DeWine will win this year (see last Sunday's edition) - and it will carry Ken Blackwell to victory.

These are all valid points and coupled with Barone's analysis of the raw voting numbers (not polls here, but actual votes) where he admits that the numbers from Ohio were not as bad for Republicans as he expected.

Turnout on both sides was robust, as it was in November 2004, when Ohio cast 5,627,908 votes, 687,491 more than its previous high (in 1992). People may be turned off by politics and politicians, but they're still voting like crazy--or at least in greater numbers than in the recent past. And people may be turned off by Republicans, but a lot of Republicans are still voting. This parallels what I saw in the special election last month in the 50th Congressional District of California. Somehow, despite all the discouraging news and dismal poll numbers, there are a lot of plodding, dull, dutiful people, too stubborn to take instruction from their betters in the mainstream media, who insist on going out and voting Republican. Hard to explain. But that's what the numbers seem to say.

And so at the end of the day, if you are looking for a surprise in the Big Three (FL, OH, PA) governor's races it is likely to come with Ken Blackwell in Ohio. Rendell, who is an underappreciated political force and a potential VP candidate in his own right (if the Dems are smart) is very unlikely to lose in Pennsylvania, not withstanding all of the buzz the star candidacy of Lynn Swann might generate. Florida looks like a boring race where the GOP will hold the state house. But the Ohio Governor's race will be one to certainly watch, because if Ken Blackwell can pull out a come from behind victory he will immediately be a serious VP candidate who would take Ohio out of play for Democrats, severely complicating their ability to get to 270 Electoral Votes and win the Presidency.

Sometimes forgive. Never forget.

A little message from Falwell to McCain.

John and Hillary Sleep Around

McCain's going to Falwell's Liberty University.

Rupert Murdoch is holding a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.

Being the leading candidate for your party's presidential nomination sure makes strange bedfellows.

May 09, 2006

Cato's GOP Blues

The discussion continues over at Cato Unbound as to whether the GOP and limited government have a future together.

Today, Cato's David Boaz weighs in:

Last week I turned on NPR and heard some crazy woman ranting "We have two oilmen in the White House. The logical follow-up from that is $3 a gallon gasoline. It is no accident; it is a cause and effect, a cause and effect." Then the next morning I watched CNN and discovered that the ranting woman was Nancy Pelosi.

So it's hard to summon up hope that libertarians might find common cause with the Democratic party.

But the Republican party doesn't seem very inviting lately, either.

As one astute commentator said recently: "The Republican Party in Washington is in trouble not because it's overrun by crooks, but because . . . it has degenerated into a caricature of the party that swept to power 11 years ago promising to take on the federal bureaucracy and liberate the creative genius of American society."

And Tony Snow was right.

(My take on his take here.)

Suffice it to say, everyone involved so far is pretty down on the GOP.

ALGORE For President? - by Larry Kudlow

The #1 Wall Street Journal most popular story yesterday was news that ALGORE may be considering a run for president.

Lo and behold, the ALGORE for president story is still holding strong today at #2.

This is an incredibly important story. Big news. Mr. Gore can single-handedly whoop Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and then save the Republican party from itself in the general election.

Mr. Gore is mounting an impressive subrosa campaign. He is cleverly disseminating his numerous speeches through the MoveOn.org website. Then, in turn, all the lefty bloggers run wildly with the ALGORE ball and spread the word among the Kyoto faithful.

The inventor of the Internet will of course run as a lefty. Think global warming; think nationalized healthcare; think anti-war; think "tax the rich." Just think of it!

Hillary, meanwhile, is fast on her way to becoming the establishment Democrat on the "right-wing" of the party. Rupert Murdoch is hosting a fundraiser for her!

The WSJ notes that ALGORE and Tipper recently bought a condominium in San Francisco to be closer to their two daughters in California and, let me add, to be much closer to Nancy Pelosi.

Several insiders say Mr. Gore is more likely to run if Mrs. Clinton does, than if she doesn't. So the battle will be joined.

I can't wait.

Can Hillary Be Stopped?

podhoretzbook.jpgThe title of John Podhoretz's new book is " Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton Will Be the Next President of the United States Unless..." and it looks to be a must read for all of us who love to play the 2008 parlor game. Today we're running an excerpt from the book where Podhoretz makes the case that Hillary's high negative ratings may in fact be to her benefit. Here's the nut of the argument:

So if most of those with negative feelings about nominee Hillary in 2008 are already hardcore Republican voters, all her nomination will do is ensure a high Republican turnout. Of course, the kind of angry attention her nomination would receive from Republicans would allow Democrats to play ju-jitsu and make use of the very sorts of attacks Republican will level against her to enrage Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters and ensure a high turnout on their end.

Thus her high negatives, in a perverse way, could inspire passionate support from Democrats who might otherwise have lukewarm feelings about her.

Podhoretz points to the fact that Democrats rallied hard around John Kerry in 2004 despite the fact he was "a candidate no one could love." He's certainly right about that, and he's right to conclude Democrats will do the same thing again in 2008 with Hillary (or any other) nominee.

The problem with Hillary's negatives, however, is that they are so high they hurt her claim of "electability" with the base, which was the sole force that propelled Kerry to the nomination in 2004 and had so many Democrats holding their noses in November.

As I wrote about recently, the left-wing base of the party dislikes Hillary on policy grounds AND is unconvinced she can win a general election (see some reader responses to that effect here). That's a lethal combination, and it leads me to believe Democrats will do one of two things in 2008:

1) make a principled move (and also a cathartic one) and nominate a far-left liberal like Feingold and risk going down in flames or
2) go the electability route again but with someone who has a more appealing national profile like Mark Warner or John Edwards

You know the saying that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing in the same way & expecting a different outcome." I find it hard to believe that Democrats, as desperate as they are, will put their electoral life in the hands of another cold, unlikeable, arrogant, elitist Northeasterner.

Then again, Hillary's star power, fundraising, and organization are of a different order of magnitude than everyone else which is why she may end up being "unstoppable."

Either way, Podhoretz's book is must reading for political junkies who can't help but look ahead to the next race for the White House.

Doves Don't Become President in Times of War

Marshall Wittmann offers a ton of good political advice to Democrats in his column today, but if there is one line they should focus on it is this one:

Presidential elections are won in the center by hawks and not by left wing populists with dovish inclinations.

Perhaps this might not have held true in the immediate post Cold War years of the 1990's, but it is certainly sound political advice in today's post-9/11 world.

One of the main reasons John Kerry lost in 2004 is because at heart he was a classic anti-Vietnam dove. Had Kerry stepped on stage in Boston when he reported for duty during his acceptance speech and repudiated his actions when he returned home from Vietnam, apologized to the soldiers he slandered, acknowledged he was wrong in the early 1980's when he fought Ronald Reagan's vigorous defense buildup, and declared that with the wisdom that comes from maturity and age he was now ready to lead America on the tough road ahead in the War against Islamic terrorism, John Kerry would be President today.

Of course, John Kerry couldn't bring himself to say all of those things because he believes none of them. In fact, his recent speech commemorating his testimony 35 years earlier to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirms that the real John Kerry is the John Kerry of 1971 who said that U.S. soldiers, "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

In 2004, enough of the country knew that was the real John Kerry and that is why he lost. If Democrats nominate another dove at heart, they will lose again.

Immigration Fight in Arizona

It's a microcosm of the national debate and the difficulties facing the GOP:

State GOP is divided on border dilemma

Matthew Benson
The Arizona Republic
May. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Republican lawmakers appeared deeply divided Monday over what to do about illegal immigration in Arizona, raising questions about whether a comprehensive crackdown on undocumented immigrants can be achieved this session.

A bill that would have combined several strategies to reduce border problems failed to materialize as scheduled Monday. Some lawmakers expressed concern that advances made earlier in the session might be in jeopardy, such as a bill that would penalize employers who hire such immigrants.

Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, an outspoken advocate of immigration reform, said he saw no resolution to the immigration problems during a discussion Monday among House Republicans.

"I'm tired of the pandering and posturing and failure to act on this issue," he said.

Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature said they still hope to unveil a comprehensive immigration plan within the next few days. The impending plan has been described as potentially the nation's most comprehensive crackdown on illegal immigration.

At stake is how to resolve the legislative session's biggest issue and arguably the biggest prize of the upcoming statehouse and gubernatorial campaigns.

"Illegal immigration is the Number 1 issue. Period," said House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix. "We have got to do something."

Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, was more blunt: "The citizens of Arizona expect us to secure the border. That's the top issue. If we finish the session without meaningfully addressing the border, frankly, I don't think any of us deserve to be re-elected."

Related: Immigration South & West - Ryan Sager, RealClearPolitics

Progress in Iraq

New Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki says the job of forming a government in Iraq is 90% done. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon has delayed deployment of 3,500 troops to Iraq "to give more time and flexibility to U.S. commanders in Iraq, led by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., while they and Iraqi leaders assess the insurgency and sectarian violence amid the formation of a new Iraqi government."

Along those lines, al-Qaeda correspondence recently captured and translated by CENTCOM (via Captain's Quarters) suggests that the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces are, slowly but surely, diminishing the influence and effectiveness of the insurgency:

At the same time, the Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin's control and influence over Baghdad.

This is the most heartening news of all, because while the formation of a new government will be a victory and will add a much needed sense of optimism and positive momentum, security remains the paramount concern.

Winners Don't Ask For Do-Overs

If there were any doubts about who "won" and who "lost" in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the convicted terrorist's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, filed the day after his sentencing and reported yesterday, should put those doubts to rest. Winners do not ask for do-overs, and they don't make excuses to justify their behavior, as Moussaoui tried to do in the court filing: "Solitary confinement made me hostile toward everyone, and I began taking extreme positions to fight the system." Sorry, dude, tell it to Allah.

This little episode proves, in a deliciously ironic way, that the jury made a courageous and correct decision to let Moussaoui rot. Like others, I have serious reservations about trying terrorists through our civilian court system because it's simply not built to handle enemy combatants during wartime. Whether or not the civilian court system was the best place to try Zacarias Moussaoui is still open for debate, but given Moussaoui's groveling, the correctness of the sentence he received is not. Put in a context our enemies can understand, in this instance Moussaoui turned out to be the weak horse, and the U.S. justice system the strong one.

May 08, 2006

More on 2006 and the 2008 Electoral Map

I have received tons of interesting emails on my column today looking at 2006's impact on the 2008 electoral playing field.

I found your analysis very illuminating. But note that Colorado won't vote for any Democrat for President who is left of Mark Warner, and there is no Republican Presidential candidate in '08 whom Colorado would not vote for. Remember that Bill Clinton won here in '92 only because Perot split the GOP vote, and Clinton won here in '96 only because he was a Dick Morris incumbent. Salazar won the Senate seat here by running as a conservative, rural, old-time Colorado family Democrat, heavily supported by the entire Colorado political and media establishment against a non-political novice. Bill Ritter, a privately pro-life, privately anti-death-penalty, religiously Catholic former prosecutor who was elected in overwhelmingly Democratic Denver, is trying to do the same. But he is running against Bob Beauprez, a publicly pro-life, pro-death-penalty, religiously Catholic, Republican Congressman with a Reaganesque personality and articulateness (and from a Salazar-like rural Colorado family), who was twice elected in a suburban/urban swing district wrapped around Denver. Ritter is unlikely to beat Beauprez even though the race will be close, but if he does it will be by being perceived as a conservative. It would indeed boost Democrat spending and morale here for president in '08 if he does, but it wouldn't flip the state to the Dems unless '08 turned out to be Mark Warner vs Herbert Hoover or Alf Landon. Which it won't.

I agree with the reader here, I see little chance the Democrats carry Colorado in 2008 unless it is a total blowout. Granted Kansas' border with Colorado probably juiced Dole's number several points against Clinton in 1996, but Perot grabbed 6.6% of predominantly GOP votes offsetting the Kansas effect. I don't see a Democrat in 2008 running better than Bill Clinton in 1996 where he still lost by 1½ points.

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From a very savvy DC pollster:

I totally agree with your assessment of the impact of a Democratic Congressional take-over in 2006 on 2008 politics. We have seen it so many times before--the best chance for a party to win the White House is to lose Congress, and vice versa. Ticket-splitters rule.

The point about Midwestern states trending Republican was an interesting point and a new one for me. At a meeting last week, a high official from the Michigan GOP asked whether the anti-Washington mood in the national polls could be translated into an anti-incumbent vote in state elections where Democrats control the statehouse. He was implying that the nation's grumpiness is being translated in the Wolverine state into anti-Granholm feelings (as reflected in the polls you cite.)

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Great analysis, great website. But when you look at the percents from 2000 to 2004 in the 4 Western states, don't forget that Bush was running against a Democrat AND Ralph Nader both times - and he ended up BEATING the combo by MORE in 2004 than in 2000.

Nevada
2000 - Bush 49.5 Gore/Nader 48.4
2004 - Bush 50.5 Kerry/Nader 48.5 - Bush gains 1.1 points

Colorado
2000 - Bush 50.8 Gore/Nader 47.7
2004 - Bush 51.7 Kerry/Nader 47.6 - Bush gains 1 point

Arizona
2000 - Bush 50.9 Gore/Nader 48.2
2004 - Bush 54.9 Kerry/Nader 44.5 - Bush goes from 2.7 win to 10.4 win

New Mexico
2000 - Bush 47.8 Gore/Nader 51.5
2004 - Bush 49.8 Kerry/Nader 49.6 - Bush goes from 3.7 loss to 0.2 win

How does this illustrate that these states are TRENDING DEMOCRATIC?!?!

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My oh my how you spin your analysis to make things rosier for the Repugs than they really are. Minnesota definitely tilting towards the GOP??? After its brief flirtation with the GOP, the fact of the matter is that Minnesota is going back to its Democratic leanings. I suppose in your odd way of thinking, the fact that the Dems picked up a whopping 20 plus state house seats in 2004 elections (more flip from one party to the other than in any other state in the U.S. in 2004,) and won 3 GOP leaning open state house/senate seats in special elections recently in the state means that Minnesota is heading towards the GOP?!!?! Klobuchar will win the Minnesota senate seat handily, and it is Pawlenty who will have to campaign hard to keep his seat.

This reader makes a good point about 2004 Democratic pickups in state races. But the type of trend I am talking about is decades in the making and the numbers from the last four presidential races speak for themselves. Clinton carried the state by an average of 14 points in 1992 and 1996 while Gore and Kerry won by 2 and 3 points respectively. Norm Coleman's switch from the Democratic to the Republican party and then subsequent Senate victory in 2002, coupled with the recent closeness in presidential contests (along with other factors) makes it pretty clear that once solid Democratic Minnesota is becoming a swing state.

Primary Primers & Bobby Byrd

Here are two primers for the primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia tomorrow.

In a related item, the Wheeling News-Register endorsed....Bob Byrd for a 9th term despite the fact the 88-year old doesn't face any primary opposition. The paper editorialized:

We do so in part because we believe it is important for the senator to know how much support he enjoys in the state he has represented so skillfully, for so many years. Byrd has been a staunch supporter of initiatives that could benefit our state -- and a fierce opponent of those he fears could harm us.

In other words, he consistently brings home the bacon:

The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee where he has served for all but one of his 47 years here, Byrd is known as the "King of Pork."

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, a taxpayer watchdog group, Byrd brought $399 million worth of pork to his state in 2005, or $220 for every resident.

In West Virginia, Byrd has more than 20 public works projects named after him and dozens of research and health centers, schools and scholarships.

Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council, says that Byrd's only real ideology is "spending for West Virginia."

Byrd says he sees "no better calling than bringing fresh water, roads and jobs," to constituents and has won at least 65 percent of the vote in his seven re-election campaigns, winning 78 percent in 2000.

In addition to being one of the most profligate spenders ever in the history of the Senate, on June 12 Byrd will become that august body's longest serving member as well, breaking the mark recently set by Strom Thurmond.

Fukuyama Speaks

Here's a taste of Joel Whitney's Q&A with Francis Fukuyama that ran in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle:

Q: As an intellectual leader of neoconservatism, do you have anything to say to other neocons who maintain their support for the Bush administration?

A: I just think that people need to look realistically at what our policy has brought forth. I know people say, "Well, we still don't know what's going to happen in Iraq." But I would say a realistic look at the situation, even the most optimistic upshot, is going to lead to the conclusion that it's very hard to say any of this was worth the price we've paid either in lives, economic cost or the reputation of the United States around the world. And we need to get beyond these justifying arguments about whether it was a good idea and move on to figure out what we're going to do now. Because I think that in a way saving American foreign policy from the backlash that is going to be inevitable against this failed policy, that's first on the agenda now.

This is The Enemy

UPDATE: The Jawa Report is now reporting that the individual having their head cut off is not Atwar Bahjat, but rather a Nepalese man who was murdered in August 2004.

From the RCP Readers Articles page Adam has submitted this piece from yesterday's London Sunday Times.

Part of Me Died When I Saw This Cruel Killing

Nobody but her killers knew just how much she had suffered until a film showing her death on February 22 at the hands of two musclebound men in military uniforms emerged last week. Her family's worst fears of what might have happened have been far exceeded by the reality.....

First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.

Then her arms were bound behind her back. A golden locket in the shape of Iraq that became her glittering trademark in front of the television cameras must have been removed at some point -- it is nowhere to be seen in the grainy film, which was made by someone who pointed a mobile phone at her as she lay on a patch of earth in mortal terror.

A large man dressed in military fatigues, boots and cap approaches from behind and covers her mouth with his left hand. In his right hand, he clutches a large knife with a black handle and an 8in blade. He proceeds to cut her throat from the middle, slicing from side to side.

Her cries -- "Ah, ah, ah" -- can be heard above the "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) intoned by the holder of the mobile phone.

Even then, there is no quick release for Bahjat. Her executioner suddenly stands up, his job only half done. A second man in a dark T-shirt and camouflage trousers places his right khaki boot on her abdomen and pushes down hard eight times, forcing a rush of blood from her wounds as she moves her head from right to left.
Only now does the executioner return to finish the task. He hacks off her head and drops it to the ground, then picks it up again and perches it on her bare chest so that it faces the film-maker in a grotesque parody of one of her pieces to camera.

The voice of one of the Arab world's most highly regarded and outspoken journalists has been silenced. She was 30.

This is the enemy we fight.

The "Allahu akbar" is the same words you hear from the four terrorists in 'United 93' and it will be the same words uttered by future jihadis when they hit us again.

May 07, 2006

Immigration: Lots and Lots of Letters

My column on immigration generated a lot of responses from the readership at RCP. It's an engaged bunch over here, and I look forward to lots more feedback.

I've posted a sampling of the responses over at my own blog, Miscellaneous Objections. I'd estimate they run about 4-to-1 against me.

For clarity's sake, I wasn't taking a side in my column, in saying that the immigration debate is driven more politically by the South than by the West (and one reader made a good point: the Midwest should in no way be ignored in this equation, with anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise there). I was simply offering a piece of political analysis.

But, since we're on the topic, my immigration position is roughly this: stronger border enforcement (but no wall) combined with a radical increase in legal immigration (guest-worker program or otherwise).

Also, some readers pointed out that the West is more pro-immigrant (or less anti-immigrant) because more people there are immigrants (first or second generation) themselves. While it would be interesting to see the numbers out West broken down by race or immigrant status, it's also beside the point. Those are the voters in the West, whatever the reasons behind the views that they hold. And the GOP wants their votes.

What's more, Hispanics are not sure-thing voters for the Democratic Party, as some readers claimed (making the case that letting more immigrants into the country is dangerous for the GOP demographically). The GOP doesn't have the lock on them that some Bush boosters would like to claim -- they still identify 2-to1 with the Democrats over the Republicans. But Bush's 40 percent is nothing to sneeze at. Hispanic voters are entirely up for grabs.

Markos Mole-itsas?

Is Markos Moulitsas a mole for the Hillary Clinton primary campaign? I have to ask on account of this piece on the Washington Post op-ed page today. Because, you see, the surest way to guarantee a candidate's election is to put them on the side opposite the Kos Krowd.

Kos waxes poetic about "Howard Dean's transformational campaign," where:

Even as the establishment mocked Dean and his supporters ("like a scene out of the 'Star Wars' cantina," laughed a rival campaign aide), his army of hyper-motivated supporters organized across all 50 states. This movement exploded onto the national scene when Dean began reporting dramatically higher fundraising numbers than his opponents.

Of course, we all remember Dean sweeping the primaries and triumphantly taking the oath of office as national health care rained down upon ... oh, wait. He came in third in Iowa, let out the yearrrrrrrrgh heard around the world and went onto a Mondale-esque defeat at the hands of JFK II and pretty-boy John Edwards.

Let me go out on a limb here: There is nothing Hillary Clinton worries less about in life than whether the folks over at Daily Kos think she's liberal enough.

In fact, in true Clintonian fashion, she could likely not be more delighted at being the target of the far-left's rage. The more they hate her, the more the rest of America will get the impression: maybe she's not that bad.

Kos suffers from the typical ideologue's delusion: My party loses when it doesn't do enough of what I want. It's a tempting delusion, found on both the Left and the Right, for sure. And it's not entirely without truth. Parties and candidates have to stand for something. If you look like you're just sticking your finger in the wind, the voters notice, and they don't like it. It doesn't mean they won't elect you -- it certainly doesn't mean that -- but they won't respect you.

The fact is, however, elections are typically won in the center. If Hillary gets knocked out in the primaries, it will be in favor of someone even closer to the center -- not someone out in Kosland.

Readers Respond About Energy Problem

I've gotten some informative and engaging comments from very knowledgeable readers in response to my column Friday about trying to solve the energy problem. Like this one from a nuclear engineer in California:

Our dependence on petroleum for liquid transportation fuels is a real problem. But calls for a new Manhattan Project forget one important distinction between the situation then and now. Nuclear fission was discovered in 1938 and was immediately recognized as a profound event. Chemical reactions proceed with energies of 2 to 5 electron volts. Fission of a single atom of uranium yields 200,000,000 electron volts. The potential for utilizing a source of energy one hundred million times more concentrated that any known earlier was the direct stimulus for the Manhattan Project.

The situation today is different. There are no new energy sources of recent discovery, let alone one eight orders of magnitude more powerful than those previously exploited. What we are seeing is that sources weaker, more diffuse, and less controllable are being pushed forward - wind, solar, biomass, tidal are all of piddly potential and unsuited to the market needs of today's industrial society. Many proponents are no doubt sincere in their advocacy yet they always seem to want taxpayer handouts but produce little energy and little progress. Efforts like the Manhattan Project and Apollo are not new science, they are only the engineering exploitation of new science.

The "alternative energy" sources will not solve our problems and only represent a diversion of capital and talent. They are false hopes.

Investments in basic research in physics are wise but can offer no promise of ever delivering, much less to any schedule.

In the mean time, we have to make some hard choices, some of them certain to produce loud and fervent political opposition. For transport fuel, the urgent program should be using fission reactors to make hydrogen on a commercial scale. This is worthy of a Manhattan Project effort. Note that the end-user may well not directly consume hydrogen. Combining hydrogen with the carbon in coal can produce liquid hydrocarbons usable in existing distribution and consumptive infrastructure.

The second critical policy decision should be to avoid the use of imported liquefied natural gas for electric power generation. Why set ourselves up for dependency on imported fuel for electricity just like we're dependent today for transport? Here in California we're rushing headlong in that direction and I see it elsewhere in the country too.

Or this one from reader C.D.:

As an engineer with experience in the electrical "Energy Sector" I am going to break the bad news to you, alternative energy will NEVER be more then a small amount (until fusion is discovered) of the total amount of electrical energy generated in this country. While I am not experienced in the "oil sector" we will always need oil not just for gas but for many other manufacturing (paint as example) processes.

The other area that many people don't seem to understand is unbelievable amount of infrastructure (cost in many billions) needed to support a change to something like ethanol , natural gas, propane , hydrogen, biodiesel* , electricity, methanol.

On top of that each of these has an inherent weaknesses lets take hydrogen as an example. Contrary to what you hear hydrogen is not free, the best (i.e.easiest source of) hydrogen is not the air its natural gas, which comes from guess where, yes, thats right, under ground with oil. Yes, you can get hydrogen from the water but it takes much (I mean a lot ) more energy then you would ever get back to separate the hydrogen atoms. You name an alternative and believe me I can easily show you how unlikely it will be that any of the alternatives will (for the most part) replace oil.

What should we do? In my mind is start drilling, where ever we can find oil. There is oil shale with a huge amount of embedded oil . It wont be cheap to separate the oil out, I have seen estimates that say break even is about $70 a barrel but better that nothing. The facts are clear (at least to me) we need oil, you can wish, hope and even pray for something else but it not going to happen anytime soon.

And finally this one, from reader J.O.:

I read your article today with interest. I too am frustrated with the energy mess, but first I'd like to address a few of your assertions.

According to this source, the Model T got 12-14 MPG, had 20 HP, weighed 1200 LBS, topped out at 30 MPH, despite not being encumbered with pollution control systems and air conditioning. Today's cars typically get about 25 MPG, boast 150 HP, weigh 3500 LBS, approach 100 MPH, and run far cleaner. If you page down at this site (graphic 2) you will see that in the last century the efficiency of the internal combustion engine has increased from about 4% to more than 40%. That's still low, but the improvement is 1,000%! Not too shabby, I'd say. The journey to get there might have been accelerated somewhat if governments had somehow focused more resources and pressure on the industry, but I doubt that we'd be a whole lot farther along. If my engineering education doesn't fail me, there are certain innate weaknesses in the "Otto Cycle", the technical name for the process used by most of our cars. The advances over those 100 years required many incremental advancements in technology.

You have also used the example of NASA's trek to the moon in under 10 years. Certainly it was a marvelous achievement, but it largely used existing technology and mathematics. Furthermore, it was basically a linear project involving a relatively small organization. So it was possible to focus NASA on the task at hand. I don't believe today's NASA would have a chance of achieving such a feat. Similarly, while I know less about nuclear energy, the Manhattan Project was narrow and supported by existing theory (math and physics). Note also that these were not private efforts. Are you suggesting that the Government should take on alternative energy by itself?

The whole of this issue is enormous. Hybrids, fuel cells, biofuels, diesel, electric cars. Popular Mechanics has a nice comparison of all these options and more. Here is the entire article. I think their analysis is lacking, but the facts are very useful. In short, these technologies have enormous remaining technical hurdles before they could replace our existing cars. In addition, in most cases, they are far too pricy when compared to gasoline today.

The President has thrown his weight behind ethanol. I strongly support Bush, I'm afraid that won't get us too far. We will certainly be able to implement ethanol-gasoline blends, but they will increase the cost and only slightly reduce our dependency on foreign oil. I agree that CAFÉ standards should have been raised sooner and farther, but that too will only help a little. I'm betting on electric cars. Electricity can be made (at high efficiency) from numerous fuels, including nuclear power. Motors don't pollute and are very reliable. The big issue is batteries. But those are getting better and could be designed to be swapped when drained. But I could be wrong.

And that's the point. The answer could lie in any of these technologies, or one that we haven't thought of yet. It's not a linear problem. We need people working in all directions. And that's what we have. We also need staying power, but have become notoriously impatient. We get instant info on the web, instant cash at ATMs, and on and on. We have a constant parade of more cell phone features that we didn't even know we needed. If we think about some improvement, we expect it to happen right away. Well, it won't happen with energy (or various other worldwide problems). It will be more like the improvement of the engine. It seems like it hasn't changed at all, but in fact its evolution is quite remarkable.

Again, we need patience and a strong dose of reality. Our system of free enterprise, not the Government, will solve the problem. But in the meantime we will endure higher prices and plenty of fits and starts.

A couple of points with respect to this last email. First, for the record, my stats on the mileage for the Ford Model T were taken from this page at the X-Prize Foundation page for their upcoming automotive prize which sourced the claim to a Detroit News article from June 2003. After tracking down the text of the article, it looks like the claim comes from a Sierra Club ad and thus may be a bit suspect. (Wikipedia also lists the fuel economy of the Model T at 25-30 miles per gallon).

J.O. makes a number of good points about the scope and the scale of some of the difficult questions involved, which I didn't get into due to space considerations. The Popular Mechanics chart is actually one of the things that first got me thinking about this column because it demonstrates that right now there doesn't look to be much of a consensus as to which direction we might be, or should be, heading with respect to alternative fuels.

Absent that, it's almost impossible to tackle the other huge issue, which is delivery. Consumers aren't going to buy cars that run on vegetable oil, or hydrogen, or anything else unless and until there is a delivery system in place that allows them to refuel vehicles with a certain level of ease and efficiency.

Lastly, the point of my column was about the lack of political leadership on the energy issue. As I said, we already have a lot of very smart people working on the problem in places like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, at the National Commission on Energy Policy, and very soon, groups will begin competing for the X Prize Foundation's automotive prize.

It seems to me the government could play a valuable role in designating the energy issue as an urgent national priority and helping fund and coordinate efforts a la the Manhattan Project. Even if, as the first emailer suggests, alternative energy sources are "false hopes" and the only true long term promise lies in R&D of fission reactors, that would be a valuable conclusion/policy determination to make.

May 05, 2006

Splitsville

This month, the Cato Institute's excellent online journal, Cato Unbound, is considering: "The GOP and Limited Government: Do They Have a Future Together?"

I happen to think it's a debate worth following.

David Frum kicked things off on Monday, arguing essentially that the chance for conservatives to make real progress toward a smaller federal government came and went in the 1990s. (I disagreed here.)

On Tuesday, Bruce Bartlett (a man who perhaps should be in this book) weighed in with an assessment of the prospects for limited government so bleak I contemplated jumping out my window before reaching the end of the fourth paragraph. That's where he suggested implementing a value-added tax to cover the inevitable growth in government spending (just from entitlements) over the next couple of decades. Every serious fiscal conservative has to absorb the gist of his argument here: Things will get worse before they get better.

Today, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam -- of Party of Sam's Club fame -- made the argument that the GOP has to adjust to the needs of its increasingly working-class base. (I suggest here that the GOP perhaps consider adjusting the base it's built.)

My old boss, David Boaz (EVP of the Cato Institute), is scheduled to weigh-in Tuesday. So, if you're interested in the future of the GOP, stay tuned to the discussion. It's the one the party is going to be having in a thousand different forms until there's a nominee in 2008.

Bring a rain slicker. Spittle will fly.

Friday Humor

Apropos my column today, here's a collection of cartoons lampooning the current price of gas:

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More below the jump.

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Power Line's Blog of the Week and the MN Senate Race

First, we'd like to thank the guys over at Power Line for designating The RCP Blog as "Blog of the Week" at their rapidly growing news & video sister site, Powerlinenews.

This morning on Powerline's home page, John Hinderaker follows up on my post on Rick Santorum closing his deficit in Pennsylvania with an update on the Minnesota Senate race between Mark Kennedy (R) and Amy Klobuchar (D). Hinderaker reports that a recent poll by the DFL shows the Democrat Klobuchar doing very poorly in outstate Minnesota, and as a result the race is a dead heat. John goes on to say:

If Mark Kennedy is really anywhere near even with Klobuchar at this point in the campaign, Klobuchar could be in serious trouble. Especially since she has a hard time keeping a staff together; her former colleagues in the Hennepin County Attorney's office have declined to endorse her, and she has already lost one campaign manager.

Minnesota is a state that has been trending Republican over the last decade. I suspect this race will be close and that Kennedy does have a real shot at making this a pickup for Senate Republicans.

Blair Suffers Again

As expected, Labour took it on the chin in local elections in Britain yesterday, scoring its lowest share of the vote since 1982. Tony Blair's party finished at 26%, one point behind the Lib-Dems and fourteen points behind the Tories and David Cameron. The projected result is a net loss of some 175-200 council seats for Labour, which is close to double what party leaders had hoped for, but far from the 400+ seat loss that analysts said would have represented a "total meltdown" for Labour and the absolute end for Blair.

Still, Blair has once again been hurt at the polls, and he responded today with a major reshuffling of his beleaguered cabinet. Embattled Home Secretary Charles Clarke is out, Foreign Office Secretary Jack Straw is being replaced, and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will stay on with a stripped-down list of responsibilities.

The Guardian, Britain's leading left-wing newspaper, casts the results of the election this way in its lead editorial:

Some inside government will argue that the depth of the crisis is exaggerated: a Labour campaign which trumpeted the party's record on lawlessness and antisocial behaviour was swamped by chaos at the Home Office. But others, perhaps the chancellor, believe the party's weakness draws on far deeper roots. That view is right. John Prescott and possibly Charles Clarke will be the scapegoats, but they are not only the cause of failure.

Tim Hames offers a similar take from the conservative perspective:

It would be staggering if the keystone cops activities of Charles Clarke, the personal life of John Prescott and the apparent hostility of nurses towards Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, had not made a bad situation worse for Labour in the last ten days of the campaign. But the trends that seemed to materialise in a complex series of ballots yesterday were not new nor do they herald a new political era.

Blair brushed aside calls for him to step down after Labour's weak showing in the last election, and he just recently made news by saying he planned on sticking around through 2009. After last night, Blair will probably be lucky to last through 2007 - and some think he may not even make it through the end of 2006.

Santorum Continues to Close Gap on Casey

In the most closely watched Senate race this year, embattled Republican incumbent Rick Santorum has pulled to within 6 points of State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr., 47%-41%. Franklin & Marshall's Keystone Poll released yesterday represents the first time since June of last year that Mr. Santorum has not trailed by double digits. Back in November Mr. Casey's lead was a whopping 16 points.

If the tightening in this race is confirmed by other polls in the coming days, it is obviously positive news for Mr. Santorum's chances of holding on to his seat, but it also exposes a disconnect between the much publicized national polls that trumpet Bush's low job approval and the poor generic polls for Republicans as signs of a huge Democratic wave this fall.

President Bush's job approval fell six points in the Keystone Poll - mirroring similar drops in his job approval in recent national polls - but over the same time Mr. Santorum narrowed Mr. Casey's lead by five points. Last month I pointed to the favorability gap between the two candidates as an opportunity for Mr. Santorum to shrink Mr. Casey's overall lead. This month the Keystone Poll's polling director, G. Terry Madonna, says little has changed in the race except that "Casey's unfavorable ratings have increased from 8 percent to 13 percent since February."

With Mr. Casey registering only a 13% unfavorable rating - as compared 33% for Mr. Santorum - there remains plenty of room for the Santorum campaign to drive Casey's unfavorable number higher. If President Bush can turn his job approval around just a little and Santorum is successful in continuing to drive Casey's unfavorables higher, this race can continue to tighten.

It should be stressed that this is only one poll and other polls may still show a double digit lead for Casey. But if they do not, this could be the first inkling that many pundits are misreading the national playing field with the focus on President Bush's poor numbers.

The Santorum-Casey race is not just another seat that is in play like Mike DeWine (R) in Ohio or Jim Talent (R) in Missouri. Democrats must beat Mr. Santorum to have any chance for a big election night this fall. It's hard to imagine Democrats will be in a position to take back the Senate - or the House for that matter - if the Santorum-Casey race is a toss-up heading into election day.

May 04, 2006

'United 93' and the Moussaoui Verdict

I found myself waiting for the verdict yesterday, not really sure what I wanted the jury to decide. I of course have zero sympathy for Moussaoui, but as someone who usually has no problem having an opinion on things, I found it a little weird my ambivalence as to what I thought should happen to Moussaoui.

Froma Harrop and Peggy Noonan have two very different takes on the verdict and I find myself agreeing more with Harrop when she writes:

So let's thank the jury for depriving Moussaoui of the glorious execution he yearned for. Instead, he'll be left to rot behind bars and die too old to enjoy the imagined virgins. That is the most appropriate punishment and also the best revenge.

And I reject Noonan's characterization that the verdict "speaks not of gentleness but fear." Having not served on the jury and heard all of the evidence, I do not know how I would have ultimately voted, but given what I do know, it is certainly possible I might have preferred life in prison for Moussaoui. And believe me it wouldn't have been out of fear. Who is Peggy Noonan to declare that these jurors were afraid?

I saw 'United 93' last week with the intention of writing a piece on the movie, but afterwards I found it difficult to write anything. Almost from the beginning I found myself on the edge of my seat the entire movie. When I see pictures of Moussaoui, I see him in that movie flying that plane. I think every American should go to see 'United 93'. I think our media that takes such perverse pleasure in showing pictures of Abu Ghraib ad nausuem and griping about the conditions in Guantanamo should have the guts to show the American people what happened on September 11, 2001.

I'm afraid that large portions of our society are so quick to find any fault in America that they lose track of who the good guys and the bad guys are. I am not afraid of letting Moussaoui rot in prison for the rest of his pathetic life.

Whether you agree or disagree with this verdict, we as Americans should be proud and unapologetic for how our system works. It isn't perfect, but it is the best.

Is Ahnold Back?

George Skelton suggests the Terminator is on the comeback trail:

As the Democratic candidates battle each other for their party's nomination, the Republican governor is quietly healing his wounds and moving into better position to run for reelection.

Skelton says Schwarzenegger is getting help from Democrats in the state legislature on his bond proposal because "Democratic lawmakers care less about hurting their party's future gubernatorial nominee than they do about polishing their own image, which is even more tarnished than the governor's."

RELATED: Marc Cooper just posted a nifty bit in LA Weekly detailing the weekend he spent "hanging out with the party hacks in Sacramento" at the convention of the California Democratic Party. Says Cooper, " it's worth spending a few days a year ambling around like a zombie just to remind yourself how utterly brain-dead both major political parties are."

Support For Roe

In today's Wall Street Journal: "U.S. support for Roe v. Wade is at its lowest level in decades, according to a new Harris poll."

May 03, 2006

Cole Gets "Hitch-slapped"

Goodness gracious, it's time to introduce a new verb to the blogosphere vernacular. You can be "fisked" or you can be "Hitch-slapped," which is what happened to Juan Cole in this piece on Slate last night (the one that everyone is talking about) and again on Hugh Hewitt's show earlier this evening. Here's a taste from the beginning of the interview:

Hugh Hewitt: Why don't you tell people what's going on here?

Christopher Hitchens: It's a blog war. Well, some of your listeners may know of Professor Cole of the University of Michigan. He is acclaimed, at least by himself, expert on matters Shiia, particularly, and he also says he's fluent in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. And for all I know, he is. But he's 10th rate, and he's a sordid apologist for Islamist terrorism, and for Islamist terrorist regimes.

You will not want to miss the rest.

'Races to Watch' at the NY Times

"Democrats Push Fight for House in the Northeast" is the title of Raymond Hernandez's piece in this morning's New York Times. It's more or less a reprise of the piece that Rick Klein authored in the Boston Globe five weeks ago: "Democrats see Northeast as ripe for picking."

Jay Cost wrote about the flaws in the Globe piece (here and here) and the Times article is equally flawed in that it features Connecticut 5 and New Hampshire 2 as two of the "races to watch." That may be what Rahm Emanuel is telling Hernandez and what he wants people to believe, but no one seriously thinks that Charlie Bass or Nancy Johnson are in trouble right now - or that the Dems necessarily need these seats to win control of the House.

For example, CQ has NH-2 rated "safe Republican" and CT-5 "Republican favored," Charlie Cook has both seats rated "likely Republican" (**see below), and National Journal doesn't list either among the Top 25 races in the country.

While the New York Times seems content to play along with the DCCC's spin that a bunch of Northeastern seats are in play, right now that's not the reality. Rob Simmons is vulnerable in CT-2, Chris Shays to a little bit lesser degree in CT-4, and Boehlert's open seat (NY-24) is also a very legitimate pick-up opportunity for the Dems. Beyond that, however, the pickings in the Northeast get slim pretty fast - as they do elsewhere around the country once you get beyond the handful of Republican seats that are seriously in play.

**Originally I listed this as "the most definitive category Cook uses," which is incorrect. It is the second-most definitive category. The chart I referenced only "competitive" races - Cook has the remaining Republican seats listed as "solid" which do not appear. Among the 47 Republican races Cook lists in his chart there are three categories: toss-up ("the most competitive, either party has a good chance of winning"), lean Republican ("competitive races but one party has an advantage") and likely Republican ("not considered competitive at this point but have the potential to become engaged").

Katherine Harris' Preemptive Strike

Katherine Harris just launched a new ad campaign designed to fend off a primary challenge from her fellow Republicans in the Florida Senate race. In the ad, which starts airing today and will run through the May 12 filing deadline, Harris calls herself a "fighter" and says, "''I never give up. I never give in. I will not quit." Properly translated, Harris' message is: "any of you mess with me and I'll mud wrestle you through September."

We'll have to see whether Harris' move turns out to be a desperation bluff or not, but she got a vote of no-confidence from Governor Jeb Bush yesterday. When reporters asked Bush whether he'd like to see another Republican enter the race he responded, "I hope so, yeah.'

McCain's Devilish Tongue

This doesn't strike me as the sort of thing that's going to help John McCain:

"I don't want it that badly," McCain says. "I will continue to do what is right. I will continue to pursue torture, climate change. If that means I can't get the Republican nomination, fine. I've had a happy life. The worst thing I can do is sell my soul to the devil."

Take off the last three words and the quote isn't very newsworthy. But by adding the phrase "to the devil," McCain gives off the impression he has to capitulate to evil to win the Republican nomination. That sort of statement will get an "amen" from Howard Dean and the left, but it's going to offend some Republicans and remind them of McCain's voluminous arrogance - as will this quote about campaign finance reform and the First Amendment.

Nifong Wins. Will Justice Win, Too?

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong won reelection in the Democratic primary last night, beating challenger Freda Black by close to 4 percentage points, 45.2 to 41.5. He is running unopposed in November, which is ironic, because if yesterday's primary vote hadn't been closed Nifong almost certainly would have lost:

"We had a lot of irate, irate Republicans who couldn't vote for district attorney," said Mike Ashe, director of the Durham County Board of Elections.

Despite Nifong's assurances that he's acted appropriately thus far, evidence continues to mount that he bungled the investigation and rushed to get indictments against two individuals, at least one of which now appears to have a very solid alibi.

After thoroughly reviewing the case in his column on Monday, esteemed legal analyst Stuart Taylor, Jr. concluded that "accumulating evidence strongly suggests that the charge may well be a lie." He also put Nifong among a group of people - including Duke's professors and administrators - who should be "ashamed of themselves" for the way the case has been handled.

Last night in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Nifong tried to portray the primary vote as a referendum on his integrity. Hardly. His behavior in this case has been truly disturbing: after giving more than 70 interviews in the immediate aftermath of the accusation where he spoke openly about the case and asserted that the victim was telling the truth, Nifong now won't respond to legitimate questions from either defense attorneys or the media about the various pieces of exculpatory evidence that have come out in this case. Furthermore, despite serious questions about how Nifong and the Durham police botched the identification process (by showing pictures of only Duke players to the alleged victim thereby making any sort of exoneration through misidentification impossible) Nifong indicates he's going to press ahead with a third indictment in the coming days.

Put simply, Nifong is stuck. If he drops the case now, or if it's dismissed or thrown out by a judge in the coming months, Nifong will be disgraced and branded a political opportunist. The only way he can salvage his reputation is to successfully prosecute the case against these boys, and that is an extremely dangerous position for a prosecutor to be in, especially when the evidence continues to build that the whole thing may be a fraud.

May 02, 2006

Communist Reincarnation in Latin America - by Larry Kudlow

With much of the national attention and debate fixated on Iran and Iraq, a number of folks are missing the growing communist threat rifling through Latin America.

Ronald Reagan fixed this in the 1980's with a strong, principled stand for democracy and backing the freedom fighters in El Salvador and Nicaragua. CIA Director Bill Casey undertook covert actions even in the face of left-wing Democratic congressional outrage and the stupid debate over the War Powers Act.

It worked in Central and South America, as the dominoes of democracy started falling everywhere.

Now, twenty years later, leftist governments are rearing their ugly heads in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and perhaps Mexico and Peru. U.S. oil companies are being nationalized. China is aligning itself with Cuba and Venezuela to explore and drill offshore oil just forty-five miles off the Florida Keys.

That begs the question, why isn't the United States drilling there?

And, perhaps more importantly, what is our government policy regarding this burgeoning leftward tilt in Latin America--which by the way is a safe harbor for a number of terrorist groups including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, all of which are actively plotting to destroy the United States?

This is very serious stuff. The U.S. government needs a clear and aggressive response to this leftist revolt that threatens our hemisphere.

And by the way, what actions will our government take to defend our corporations from expropriation? Since when do we allow foreign governments to take over the assets of American companies?

More On The U.N.

A U.S. diplomat stationed in Africa responds to my post on the U.N. yesterday, elaborating on one of the institutional dynamics that make reform improbable, if not impossible:

But let me address a problem down at the basic personnel level of the UN. Anyone who has ever worked with the vast, wasteful and self-indulgent UN in the field has to know this deep inside. First, two concessions: 1) I've never worked with the UN in NY or Vienna - just a lot in Africa; and 2) there are thousands of UN trench-level workers, making just a few dollars a day more than the people whom they have been hired to help, who do good work for good reasons. They are not the problem. Nor are the peacekeeper troops.

That problem is the UN careerists, drawn disproportionately from under-developed countries. These people hold, in the form of their position at whatever UN regional office they staff, the best job they could ever hope to get in this world. A UN career "servant" from a country like Niger, Guinea, C.A.R, etc. is making not 10 times, not 100 times, but in some cases 500 times what his nation's per capita income is. And he doesn't even have to live in the poor, dilapidated country in which he was born; he gets to travel around, alternating between modern western cities and other third world countries, where he lives as a diplomat, and educates his children in international schools. This is a huge jobs program for these people, and their governments (regimes, really) hand out a UN position knowing it is one of the finest things they can give a loyal supporter. The amount of overseas employment costs this represents is staggering, all with housing allowances, conference travel, diplomatic privileges, etc. Drive around a city with a UN office, and note the number of UN diplomatic plates compared with any other entity. Abuja, Dakar, Nairobi all would be great starting points to see this phenomenon. I'm told of a recent development conference held in Timbouctou, Mali. One has only to visit Timbouctou - or look at it on Google Earth - to see what a ridiculous stunt this was. I'd love to see the bill for that, and then, five years later, a report on all the good it did for north-of-the-Niger dwellers.

Bureaucracies are by their very nature resistant to change. The case of the U.N. is even more so, where some countries - including many despotic and corrupt regimes - view the sprawling organization as a posh fiefdom and a jobs program which operates with a $3.8 billion annual budget and little oversight. As our diplomat friend concluded, these third-world member states will try and "drive this gravy train until it runs out of track."

Hey Democrats.....It's the Contempt

The most recent issue of Time Magazine has an article by Caitlin Flanagan, a traditional, stay-at-home mom that should be read along side Brad Carson's piece on illegal immigration that I wrote about earlier today. The piece is more evidence as to why the Democratic party lost their majority to the Republicans.

I am a 44-year-old woman who grew up in Berkeley who has never once voted for a Republican....But despite all that, there is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn't in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Barbara Ehrenreich, the writers at Salon and much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags. I'm not leaving, but sometimes I wonder: When did I sign up to be the beaten wife of the Democratic Party?

Here's why they're after me: I have made a lifestyle choice that they can't stand, and I'm not cowering in the closet because of it. I'm out, and I'm proud. I am a happy member of an exceedingly "traditional" family. I'm in charge of the house and the kids, my husband is in charge of the finances and the car maintenance, and we all go to church every Sunday......

The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the '60s--civil rights, women's liberation, gay inclusion--we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues--paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him.

And now here we are, living in a country with a political and economic agenda we deplore, losing election after election and wondering why.

It's the contempt, stupid.

Contempt. That is exactly the right word. If there is one line that might make it impossible for Hillary Clinton to be elected President it is this gem, "You know, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas." And the written words don't do justice in portraying the contempt in Hillary's voice for "traditional" women who happened to have made a choice to stay at home and raise a family.

As long as the Democratic party continues to embrace interest groups on the far left that negatively portray America, stigmatize white middle class men and display contempt for "traditional" women Democrats are going to be constantly fighting an uphill battle. And the Internet has made this situation worse for Democrats as it has given voice to the loud horde on the left extreme, distorting the reality of where the voting public lies.

There are more voters like Caitlin Flanagan than there are like Markos Moulitsas across the country (and in must-win states like Ohio) but in this new internet world Democratic politicians and strategists are warped by the verbosity of the Deaniacs and Move.on.org crowd. Unless Democrats figure out that the internet left might not be where most of the voters are, they are going to wake up November 5, 2008 and wonder how they lost another presidential election.

The Intensity Gap

The biggest concern for the GOP in the new USA Today/Gallup poll isn't the President's job approval rating (34%, an all-time low for Gallup) and it isn't the 15-point gap in the generic Congressional ballot. It's the question about voter enthusiasm.

When Gallup asked voters "are you more enthusiastic about voting than usual, or less enthusiastic" this November compared to previous elections, 38% of Republicans and Republican leaners said they are "more enthusiastic" while 46% answered they are "less enthusiastic" and 15% said they feel about the same.

On the other hand, 50% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said they are "more enthusiastic" this year than in the past, 37% responded they are "less enthusiastic" and 12% said they feel the same.

Let's stipulate that measuring voter enthusiasm is a tricky business, and doing it six months before an election makes it even more of an academic exercise, but it is valuable insomuch as it gives us a general sense of the mood of voters at this particular point in time.

One bright spot for the GOP is that the Gallup poll showed a 5-point up tick in the number of people expressing "more enthusiasm" for this November versus the last poll taken at the beginning of April. Still, with the outcome of off year midterms driven so much by turnout, the Republicans can't be happy that in the last two polls taken by Gallup close to half of their voters have expressed "less enthusiasm" toward this year's elections.

The Democrats' Illegal Immigration Opportunity

Brad Carson has a great article today on illegal immigration and the Democratic party. Carson represented Oklahoma's 2nd district for two terms and gave up his safe seat for a shot at the Senate in 2004 but wasn't able to overcome John Kerry's 32-point drubbing in the state and lost to Tom Coburn by 12 points.

Carson recounts a dinner party he attended in Washington with prominent journalists, think tank heads and politicians where the largely liberal group expressed a "grave concern over the growing gap between rich and poor in the nation. But few offered any real solutions."

He refers to this group as the "overclass":

Nearly everyone at the party was part of what the writer Michael Lind calls the overclass, educated at the best universities and earning hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Their children attended private schools. Everyone had a fine retirement package and subsidized health care, and each was immune to the vicissitudes of middle-class economic life. From their cloistered positions, the solution to nearly all perceived problems - from globalization to crime -- is education, which was their own personal visa into the merit-obsessed overclass. For this group of people, immigration is not about inequality in America, but instead all about a cheap nanny, inexpensive lawn care, or proof of multicultural bona fides. Even to bring up the subject of immigration is to seem impolite, if not crass.

Carson's goes on to ask:

America tolerates an immigration policy that adds millions of very low-skilled workers every decade, who come to this country at the expense of low-skilled native workers. Why? There is no good explanation, especially for Democrats, who like to believe that their core constituencies are the middle and lower classes of America.

The illegal immigration debate is presenting Democrats with an enormous opportunity to drive a wedge in the Republican majority. Carson writes:

Democrats' major political obstacle is the increasingly intractable opposition of the non-union working and middle class, exactly the groups who most fervently oppose illegal immigration. While the opponents of immigration no doubt include nativists and xenophobes, the vast majority of those who oppose illegal immigration do so on sound public policy grounds. Illegal immigration is seen rightly as a threat to their economic livelihood. So when the Republican Party offers a platform that not only comports with their social and religious beliefs, but also addresses the one economic threat that is open to government solution, is there any wonder that the working and middle classes find solace in the GOP? Democrats should find a way to bust up this alliance between economic populists and social conservatives, and make many current Republican voters choose which of these movements matters most.

Ross Perot's 19% in 1992 represents the economic populists, a number that I suspect has grown in the last 14 years. It was this group that threw its lot in with the GOP in 1994 which provided Republicans with the troops for their takeover of Congress. George W. Bush has strengthened the social conservative element of this coalition, but these two groups (along with libertarian/small government conservatives) form an important part of the Republican majority. Economic populists like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan are extremely patriotic and abhor the anti-American strains of the political left, which is what prevents them from voting for most national Democrats.

A Democrat who is strong on national defense, unapologetic about American power and willing to get tough and stop illegal immigration could win a lot of these voters.

May 01, 2006

Rush Limbaugh and History

Hugh Hewitt on Rush.

What transparent garbage. Here's how Reuters describes Rush:
Under the deal the 55-year-old Limbaugh, best known as a brash and often moralistic talk show host, will see the case against him dropped in 18 months, his attorney said.

Rush Limbaugh actually is known now, and will be 100 years from now, as the most innovative and successful radio talk show host in history, the most powerful brand on air from 1990 forward, and, as the story proves again, the new media voice most hated by the old media monopoly he --almost single-handedly-- broke.

A century from now, the accounts of these years will not record any of today's anchors. But they will, almost certainly, note Cronkite and Limbaugh as the two broadcasters who defined a medium and changed the politics of their age.

Many in the media elite may laugh at the comparison of Cronkite and Limbaugh "as the two broadcasters who defined a medium and changed the politics of their age." They shouldn't.

One of the foundations of the current Republican majority was the busting up of the old media monopoly which for years had helped prop up an intellectually exhausted Democratic Party living off the fumes of FDR's New Deal. Talk radio was the precursor to the FOX News Channel and the Internet, all three of which are important pillars counterbalancing the left-wing tilt to the rest of the "Mainstream Media."

Limbaugh is the indisputable pioneer and leader of modern day talk radio and many of his enemies have been having fun with the recent deal on his prescription drug addiction, but Hewitt is dead on in his conclusion. Whether you love him or hate him, Rush's place in the history books is secure.

The Economic Boom Will Continue - by Brian Wesbury

Despite a great deal of pessimism, the US economy is booming. Real GDP grew by 4.8% in the first quarter, while "core" real GDP (consumer spending plus fixed investment) expanded at a 6.4% annualized rate. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, durable goods new orders surged 2.8% in March and are up 9.6% in the past year. Sales of both new and existing homes exceeded expectations in March, while commercial and industrial loans have expanded at a 14.5% annual rate during the first three months of 2006. For April, Wal-Mart blew away expectations and reported 6.8% same-store sales increases.

The reasons for this boom are entirely understandable. First, the US is experiencing an unprecedented period of productivity growth as technology proliferates. Second, tax rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends were dialed back to 15%in May 2003 - which turned on the entrepreneurial spirit almost instantaneously. Third, monetary policy remains accommodative, a fact that has been widely, and wildly, underappreciated.

Even though most people think of the Fed in terms of interest rates, in reality the Federal Reserve only controls one policy tool - money. When the Fed adds money to the economy, the growth rate of nominal GDP (otherwise referred to as total spending or aggregate demand) accelerates. When the Fed subtracts money from the economy, nominal GDP growth slows. In short, the amount of money in the economy determines the level of spending.

Nominal GDP slowed from roughly 6% growth in the late 1990s, to a deflationary 3% in the early 2000s. Since 2002, nominal growth has accelerated to its current rate of 6.7%. This acceleration in nominal GDP growth is an obvious signal of accommodative monetary policy. Rising commodity prices and a falling dollar also indicate that the Fed has been adding more liquidity than the economy really needs.

Historical relationships show that a growth rate of 6.5% in nominal GDP means that the neutral federal funds rate is somewhere between 5.5% and 6.0%. The longer the Fed holds rates below that level, the faster nominal GDP will grow, which in turn drives up the level required to be "neutral."

The bottom line is that the Fed is still accommodative. In addition, technology and tax rates are positive forces boosting the economy. For this reason, the economy is highly unlikely to slow as the conventional wisdom believes. The boom will continue.

(Brian Wesbury is the Chief Economist for First Trust Advisors in Chicago, IL)

United 93 - by Larry Kudlow

I saw United 93 on Sunday night. And I'm glad I did. It was riveting.

Yes, parts of it made me sad, as all Americans were on 9/11. But underneath that sadness came the usual anger at what the bloodthirsty terrorists had done to us.

The documentary style storytelling of what actually happened inside United 93 was unbelievably tense. And suspenseful. (Yes, suspenseful; though we knew the outcome of the episode, my wife and I did not of course know what happened inside the plane as Todd Beamer and other courageous passengers mounted their attack on the terrorist guards in order to get inside the cockpit.)

Writer/director/producer Paul Greengrass's rendition from interviews with family members and friends of the deceased was absolutely remarkable. So was the whole perspective of that terrible day as seen through the eyes of various civilian air-controllers and the military command center.

At one point, late in the movie, the head air controller in New York finally said, "Someone is at war with us and we are closing down all flights, domestic and international." Got that completely right.

The idea that this was war and nothing but war, would of course, later surface in President Bush's post 9/11 war time strategy. And many of the air controllers (both civilian and military) played themselves, another brilliant idea from Greengrass.

Should this movie have been made now? Is it too soon? Yes, to the first, and no to the second.

As David Beamer (who lost his heroic son Todd on United 93) wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently -- this flick is a wake-up call. I wish it had been made earlier.

And the shots of the World Trade Center attacks, both up close and from the distant tower of the Newark air control center, reminded me of this: Why the hell haven't the quarrelsome, dingbat New York and New Jersey politicians rebuilt those towers?

The Empire State Building was built in one year during the 1930's.

We will never be whole as New Yorkers or as Americans until those towers are rebuilt.

Woodrow Wilson Revisited

Mark F. Bernstein writes an informative review of President Woodrow Wilson in the latest issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly:

One key to understanding Wilson, historians agree, is his religious faith. "Wilson had the certitude of a fierce Presbyterian," [Columnist George] Will says. "He believed that there is a God and God has intervened in history before and can do so again." Adds [Wilson biographer A. Scott] Berg: "Wilson was a Presbyterian minister's son. Strictness and righteousness permeated everything he ever said or did."

Fascinating insights into Wilson's conception of the presidency may be found in Wilson's war message to a joint session of Congress, delivered on April 2, 1917, which [Univ. of Wisc History Professor John M.] Cooper calls the greatest piece of presidential oratory since Lincoln's second inaugural address. "I have called the Congress into extraordinary session," Wilson began, "because there are serious, very serious choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making." When, one might ask, was the last time a president spoke with such constitutional humility?

Cooper, however, thinks the key insight into Wilson's character can be found in the speech's peroration. Declaring that "the right is more precious than peace," Wilson said that America should feel privileged to "spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her," he concluded, "she can do no other."

"That last sentence is an exact paraphrase of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms," Cooper notes. "I think there's a key there. Wilson was wrestling with the same sort of problem Luther had, which was, how is the Christian going to live in a sinful world? We can only presume to know God's will imperfectly, and so we have to do the best we can. Luther's conclusion of what to do was: Sin boldly. Essentially, I think that's how Wilson portrays the United States, as a nation trying to be righteous and do good in the world. We're cast into this terrible situation where there is no good alternative. In a situation like that, he was going to sin boldly."

Definitely read the whole thing.

RELATED: Wilson, War, and Democracy

The UN Can't Be Reformed

On Friday, a bloc of third-world nations scuttled efforts to reform the United Nations, claiming that the proposed changes would give too much power to "rich" nations and, according to the UN Ambassador from South Africa, would violate "the right of every member state to have an equal say in the decision making of this organization." Thus has the UN proved once again it is an organization with a serious credibility problem that is incapable of meaningful reform.

Just how bad is it? In an interview published this morning in Britain's Telegraph newspaper, US Ambassador John Bolton describes life at the UN this way:

"This atmosphere is like a bubble. It is like a twilight zone. Things that happen here don't reflect the reality in the rest of the world. There are practices, attitudes and approaches here that were abandoned 30 years ago in much of the rest of the world. It's like a time warp."

U.S. contributions account for more than 1/5 of the U.N.'s total annual budget, and while Bolton has not threatened to suspend payment of those dues, expect pressure from Congress for some sort of penal action against the U.N. to grow.

Last June, the House passed a bill 221-184 - over the objections of the White House - calling for the U.S. to withhold payment of up to half its dues if the U.N. did not adopt a series of budget cutbacks and reforms, including the establishment of an independent oversight board and an ethics office. Congressman Henry Hyde characterized the bill as "radical surgery," but added, "Sometimes that's the only way to save the patient."

Next week the U.N. general assembly will hold elections for a new 47-member Human Rights Council to replace its discredited predecessor, the U.N Human Rights Commission, which over the years allowed seats to go to notorious human rights abusers such as Syria, Libya, Cuba and Sudan. This time around will likely be no different, and Senator Bill Frist is already urging the U.S. to withdraw support for the new U.N. body, saying that "despite superficial 'reforms,' this new body is all too susceptible to being compromised by the world's worst offenders of human rights."

This, of course, comes on top of the most recent outrage (previously mentioned here) of Iran being elected to a Vice-Chairmanship of the U.N. Disarmament Commission back on April 17 and the ongoing taint from the massive oil-for-food scandal.

All in all the U.N. has been making a mess of things lately and demonstrating why meaningful reform is going to be impossible. The reality is that it's both unreasonable and impractical for third-world countries to demand "equal say" to first rate powers in U.N. decision making. Zambia is never going to be treated equally to the United States or Japan, nor should it be. That doesn't mean the concerns and interests of second and third world countries shouldn't be addressed, but it does mean that the smallest member states that actively thwart the interests of the largest member states jeopardize the viability of the entire system.

If this sort of thing continues it's possible that at some point in the future we could see large member states forming and funding their own organizations (coalitions of the willing, you might call them) to address issues like Human Rights and non-proliferation, in which case some smaller member states at the U.N. might learn that having a small voice is better than having no voice at all.