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June 30, 2006

One More Rudy Post for the Road

Look at the top two news items being highlighted at the top of his Solutions America Web site:

Giuliani and History

June 27, 2006 - With Rudy Giuliani crisscrossing the country in support of Republican candidates and raising money for his new political action committee, it is beginning to look inevitable that he will seek the presidency in 2008. Despite his lead in many early polls, skeptics still dismiss his chances of winning... More

Giuliani Leads New York Presidential Pack, Quinnipiac University New York State Poll Finds; Bloomberg Tops Pataki As Presidential Pick

June 23, 2006 - Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leads Sen. Hillary Clinton when New York State voters rate native - or not so native - sons and daughter as possible Presidents, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Mayor Michael Bloomberg leads Go... More

Nope. No way. No how. This guy's not running for anything.

The Canary Chirps Again on Inflation

Immediately following the release of the Fed's statement yesterday, which took a much more dovish stance against inflation than a few weeks ago, gold prices surged and the dollar plummeted. Like a canary in a coal mine, these market movements indicate that a "pause" by the Fed in its rate hiking campaign would be an inflationary mistake.

Before advanced technologies, coal miners used caged canaries as a signal for the build-up of dangerous gases. If the bird died or had problems breathing, the miners knew there was a problem.

For inflation, the canaries are commodity prices and the value of the dollar. The sensitivity of these markets to detect monetary policy ease or restrictiveness has become very clear in the past decades. If the Fed prints too much money, commodity prices rise and the dollar falls. When the Fed is too tight, the opposite happens.

The price of gold fell from roughly $400/oz. in 1996 to less that $260 in 1999. Other commodity prices also fell, while the dollar surged to its highest level in decades. Despite these early warnings from gold and the dollar, the Fed was still blindsided by a brush with deflation in the early 2000s. It did not pay attention to the canary; and this was a huge mistake.

Since 2001, with the Fed fighting deflation, gold and other commodity prices have been on the rise and the dollar has been falling. These are early signs of an overly accommodative monetary policy, and it should not be surprising to see "core" measures of inflation beginning to rise. Nonetheless, many on the Fed and a large contingent of private sector and academic economists downplay the signals sent by these markets.

One typical argument is that commodity prices play only a small role in the US economy, especially as services grow relative to manufacturing. But this argument misses the point. It is not the feed-through of rising commodity prices (even oil) that causes inflation. Rather, it is easy money that causes inflation, and the sensitivity of these markets to dollar liquidity means that they provide the earliest warning sign of a Fed mistake. Commodities and currencies are traded every moment of every trading day and their prices are finely calibrated with the supply of dollars in the system.

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

Political Video of the Day

In honor of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Graceland with President Bush today -- in which the prime minister took the opportunity to sing some Elvis tunes -- here's some archival footage of Koizumi on CNN.

It seems this guy just can't control himself.

For some footage from today's press conference, try CBS or CNN (warning, though: it loads slowly).

More on Rudy

In further Rudy news (no, I'm not on the payroll -- yes, I am a Rudy supporter), Rudy buddy Bernard Kerik finds his name next to two words today that make presidential candidates nervous: "plead guilty."

To wit:

Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik plead guilty Friday to accepting thousands of dollars in illegal gifts while he was head of the city's Correction Department.

As part of a plea deal, Kerik will stay out of jail but he'll pay $221,000 in fines.

In court Friday, Kerik admitted accepting $165,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment from a construction company seeking to do business with the city. He also admitted that he failed to report a loan as required by city law.


In a statement released Friday, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, "Bernard Kerik has acknowledged his violations but this should be evaluated in light of his service to the United States of America and the City of New York."

I tend to think this will have minimal impact on Rudy's chances in '08. But how much of this stuff is there lurking in the shadows from his time as mayor? Cronies with shady histories, low-level corruption in the city government, etc. I mean, this is New York City. Not exactly a Disney ride, despite what you hear about the new Times Square.

It's something to watch.

American Research Group vs. Rudy

I've had a bee in my bonnet about this for a little while, so I figure I'll get it out, since American Research Group has released yet another poll making it appear as if Sen. John McCain were the undisputed frontrunner in the race for the '08 GOP nomination.

ARG's recent Rhode Island poll shows McCain with the support of 50 percent of likely Republican primary voters in the state. Mitt Romney comes in second with 14 percent. Newt Gingrich rounds out the top three with 4 percent. Giuliani's name isn't even on the list of candidates respondents are asked to choose from.

When Rudy Giuliani is added to a second question on the GOP primary in ARG's poll, it's McCain 43 percent, Giuliani 19 percent.

So, what does this mean? It means that any candidate added in a second question like this is likely to register a far lower level of support than if they'd been included as a top-tier candidate in the first question. ARG lists McCain, Romney, Gingrich, George Pataki (George Pataki!?!?!?), George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, and Mike (I heart) Huckabee as first-tier candidates, but thinks Rudy Giuliani shouldn't be on the table until the second question?

Assuming that these two questions must at least be randomized to make these legitimate polls (so that the order wouldn't matter), I shot an email over to ARG to ask what was up. This is the response I got from Dick Bennett:

We added Giuliani after the first ballot and did not randomize the order of the questions.

While he has been more active lately, there are still no signs on the ground that he will run. I continue to hear from activists that Giuliani will only get in the race if McCain does not.

Hope this is helpful.

Yes, it is. It lets me know that as far as the race between McCain and Giuliani going into '08, ARG's polls not only can, but must, be ignored.

So, how does the other polling on the McCain-Giuliani contest pan out? Well, the polling from Strategic Vision, for instance, shows Giuliani well ahead in most of the states the firm has polled.

Here are their respective percentages in a few states, as measured by SV:

[Giuliani / McCain]

PA: 39 / 28
WA: 35 / 28
FL: 39 / 28
GA: 27 / 22
N.J.: 45 / 32
WI: 28 / 25
N.Y.: 53 / 13

One exception in the SV polls is Michigan, where McCain leads 39 / 22.

[except for New York, all those samples are of likely voters -- in New York, the sample is of registered voters]

So, lastly, why does all this matter? Well, because in crucial primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina, ARG polls show McCain with a commanding lead. But it's likely this lead is entirely illusory, based more on a poor survey design than a reflection of reality.

As Giuliani's intentions have become more and more obvious -- and are at least on par with Newt Gingrich's as far as seriousness, to say the absolute least -- ARG should correct this immediately.

Below the fold is a look at two states, IA and MA, where ARG polling seems to conflict rather baldly with other public polls.


ARG (likely Republican caucus voters, April 25 - May 2, 2006)

without Giuliani

John McCain: 26
Bill Frist: 10

with Giuliani

John McCain: 23
Rudolph Giuliani: 16

Victory Enterprises (potential Republican caucus attendees, Aug. 8-10, 2005)

With Giuliani on first question

Rudy Giuliani: 22
John McCain: 22

VE also polled the candidates' favorable/unfavorable/no opinion numbers:

McCain: 44/33/17
Giuliani: 66/9/16

[note that McCain has far lower favorables in Iowa, and far higher unfavorables]


ARG (likely Republican primary voters, April 25 - May 2, 2006)

Without Giuliani

McCain: 48
Romney: 17

with Giuliani

John McCain: 42
Rudolph Giuliani: 21

Boston Globe poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire (likely Republican primary voters, Aug. 9-17, 2005)

Rudolph Giuliani: 29
John McCain: 26
Mitt Romney: 19

Now, admittedly, in both cases the Rudy-optimistic poll was taken in 2005 and the Rudy-less-optimistic poll was taken in 2006. But I haven't seen one poll over time that's shown such a massive drop-off in support for Rudy. This is clearly a methodology question. And ARG's wreaks havoc with Giuliani's numbers.

In Praise Of Anatol Lieven

Most writers on foreign policy offer up the usual cant. One notable exception to this is Anatol Lieven, who writes fairly regularly for The National Interest, The Financial Times, and The London Review Of Books. I had a chance last year to pick up his book, America Right Or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, and found it to be the best analysis yet on the recent tumult in American politics. He has a new book coming out this fall, written with John Hulsman, called Ethical Realism and American Foreign Policy. It should be worth reading closely. Lieven has emerged as the best analyst of the potent combination of American idealism, religious fervor, and nationalist sentiment.

In the Summer 2006 issue of The National Interest, Lieven reviews the career of Francis Fukuyama, the apostate from neoconservativism. I can't recommend the article enough, not only for its discussion of Fukuyama's interesting career, but also for Lieven's casual apercus on American life -- observations that are worth fleshing out at great length. One example:

"Truly deep and radical thought in the foreign-policy-oriented sections of U.S. academia and think tanks is deadened both by the hegemony of American civic-nationalist ideology and by the interlacing of these institutions with the organs of government. As a result, too many formally independent American experts in fact tailor their every statement so that it can never be held against them by a possible political patron or at a Senate confirmation hearing. As a retired U.S. ambassador put it to me recently, 'in terms of free debate and moral courage, there is nothing worse than a permanent campaign for unelected office.'"

That observation goes a long way to explain how the United States found itself in its current agonizing position.

Hamdan Coverage

Plenty of Hamdan coverage today, led by Ron Cass here at RealClearPolitics. If you're looking for more commentary, there's an absolute deluge on Buzztracker.

Bush at 40, Dems at 47

Three new polls have come out in the last two days (FOX News, LA Times/Bloomberg, and Hotline/Diageo/FD), all showing President Bush's job approval rating at 41%. He's now over 40% in the RCP Average for the first time in months.

Democrats still hold more than a 10-point lead in the RCP Average for the Generic Congressional ballot. CNN, FOX, and Hotline all show the Dems' lead well under 10-points, however, while the LA Times, Gallup, ABC News/Wash Post and Pew all have them leading by 12-16 points.

Occupation Lite

That's what Charles Krauthammer calls our policy in Iraq:

The most serious misconception had nothing to do with troop levels or whether to disband an army that had already disbanded itself. It had to do with gauging Sunni intentions. Decades of iron rule over the Shiites and Kurds had left the Sunnis militantly unreconciled to any other political order. [snip]

For better or worse, we chose occupation lite. The insurgency continues, and it is not going to be defeated militarily. But that does not mean we lose. Insurgencies can be undone by co-optation. And that is precisely the strategy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Given that his life is literally on the line in making such judgments, one should give his view some weight.

He intends to wean away elements of the insurgency by giving them a stake in the new Iraqi order. These Sunni elements -- unreconciled tribal leaders and guerrilla factions -- may well decide that with neither side having very good prospects of complete victory, accepting a place and some power in the new Iraq is a better alternative than perpetual war.

The Bush administration is firmly behind this policy. And who is sniping at it from the sidelines? Democratic senators, fresh from having voted for troop withdrawal rather than victory as our objective in Iraq, led the charge to denounce any sort of amnesty for insurgents who had killed Americans.

Apart from the hypocrisy, there is the bizarre logic: Is the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have died in Iraq to decree an impotent, completely hypothetical policy of retribution? (Who, after all, is going to bell the cat?) Or is it to create conditions for precisely the kind of Iraq -- self-governing and internally reconciled -- that these courageous soldiers were fighting for?

A Thinning Reed?

Last Thursday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee issued its final report on the investigation into the infamous Jack Abramoff/Michael Scanlon lobbying-related scam that bilked six Indian tribes out of an astonishing $66 million. The report also included a series of rather unflattering details for former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, now running as a Republican candidate for Georgia Lt. Governor's office.

According to the Committee's report, Abramoff funneled $4 million in fees from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to Mr. Reed's consulting firm, Century Strategies, through a number of conduits: first through Abramoff's lobbying firm Preston Gates, then via Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform (ATR), and eventually through an entity controlled by Michael Scanlon called the American International Center (AIC).

Nell Rogers, a planner for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, testified before the Committee that Abramoff indicated the use of financial conduits was necessary "to accommodate Mr. Reed's political concerns."

On the day the report was released, Mr. Reed reiterated that he was misled by Abramoff into believing the money paid to Century Stategies had not come from gaming interests. Mr. Reed also strained to play up the bright side of the Committee's findings, saying, "The report confirms that I have not been accused of any wrongdoing."

Will this be enough to persuade Georgia Republicans, who go to the polls in just over three weeks to decide Mr. Reed's fate?

A new poll taken over the weekend (after news broke of the Committee's report) showed Mr. Reed's lead over his primary opponent, Casey Cagle, shrinking to a mere three points, 44-41, down from a six-point lead in May. Also of concern: nearly half (47%) of Republicans surveyed in the poll have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Reed.

We'll know on July 18 whether Mr. Reed will survive his first run for elective office, or whether the sticky web spun by Jack Abramoff will claim another victim.

June 29, 2006

Two Kosola-Related Items

No. 1: Salon.com blogger Peter Daou's friends think he's sold out by going to work for Hillary (in order to boost her netroots cred).

No. 2: The N.Y. Post wonders why '08 Dem hopeful Mark Warner has yet to fire netroots favorite Jerome Armstrong, despite the fact that he was involved in shilling for worthless dot-com stocks. The implication floated -- one has to assume by Hillary operatives -- is that Warner is afraid of getting his kneecaps busted by the Townhouse mafia.

The intersection of lefty bloggers and lefty politicians continues. A messy process.


Let's just keep this simple, it is not good for the Republican Party if Rick Santorum loses.

Santorum Begs for Debates

Wow. This is embarrassing.

Usually it's the long-shot challenger who has to hound the aloof incumbent for debates. But, down by 52-34, Santorum is the one who's started a Web petition to get Bob Casey to debate him:

I am troubled that Sen. Rick Santorum's likely opponent refuses to speak directly to the voters of Pennsylvania through a series of debates. He appears to be delaying this opportunity to debate Rick Santorum and his primary opponents simply to avoid having to confront the issues and take positions.

On the other hand, Sen. Santorum continues to be outspoken about his beliefs and accomplishments, ensuring this campaign is based on substance, not rhetoric. The intensity of the 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate is escalating, and Pennsylvania voters deserve the opportunity to make an informed decision on Election Day.

I agree with Rick Santorum that discussing the issues in an open and honest forum will serve the citizens of Pennsylvania well. Bob Casey, Jr. should accept Sen. Rick Santorum's challenge immediately and agree to ten debates between now and Election Day.

Sign this petition and then ask others to join you.

It will be a healthy day for the Republican Party -- and America -- when Santorum is sent packing.

Political Video of the Day

Part of the reason for looking at political videos every day is to find new ways politicians are using the Web to communicate with constituents.

With that in mind, here's a peak inside Rep. Jack Kingston's (R-GA) "Journeys With Jack" series being produced by his interns and distributed over YouTube.

In this video, Rep. Kingston talks with a member of the Minutemen and, oddly, a slightly out-of-character Stephen Colbert.

You can click here to browse through all of the Journey With Jack videos, including the congressman answering a question from a constituent, the congressman getting a briefing from the Minutemen, and the congressman presiding over a rather bizarre trivia contest with Ben Stein (where the comedian[?] gives disturbingly specific information as to where he lives).

You can send in nominations for the video of the day, as ever, to:


Romney On Gay Marriage

Yesterday Mitt Romney joined a group of religious leaders in Massachusetts to call for a ballot initiative in 2008 to define marriage between a man and a woman:

"I'm concerned whenever there is discussion that suggests that there might be a way of keeping the voters from expressing their will," said Romney, who used the word "democracy" 10 times at a State House press conference that included reporters from national news outlets.

"That's not the nature of democracy and that's not the country and the commonwealth I love," Romney said.

Romney went beyond calling for a vote on same-sex marriage, saying he shared O'Malley's belief that same-sex marriage ought to be banned.

The governor called legalized gay marriage "a huge error and wrong."

"The ideal setting of society overall, is a setting where there's a mother and a father," Romney said.

Though I personally don't favor a federal marriage amendment, I find Romney to be among its most eloquent defenders. He made a reasonable and persuasive case for the FMA in a recent letter to the Senate, and I've also seen him make the same case on the stump. Obviously, the issue appeals greatly to many Republican base voters, but I suspect the tone and tenor with which Romney approaches the subject will resonate with a broader audience as well.

Sharon's Way

The JPost has an interesting column on whether the current fighting in Gaza shows that Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan was wrong.

Columnist Larry Durfner says no, Sharon's way is still the right way:

The two IDF soldiers killed at Kerem Shalom this week were the first two fatalities caused by Gazan Palestinians during the 10 months since disengagement.

By comparison, Gazan Palestinians killed 148 Israelis and 11 foreigners in the five years between the September 2000 start of the intifada and last September's completion of the withdrawal, according to Foreign Ministry statistics.

Now, Durfner argues, what's needed is to secure the border with Gaza as Israel secured the border with Lebanon.

And, I might add, to continue treating the Palestinians as in an open state of war with Israel. There is not, and never has been, a peace process.

Arizona Next?

Will Arizona's "clean elections" system come under fire after the Supreme Court's Vermont decision?

It's certainly possible. In Vermont, the invalidated law held that individuals could donate $200 to a state House or state Senate candidate. In Arizona, the maximum is just under $600.

Sounds ripe for a challenge to me.

(hat tip: Skeptic)

Barone on Utah

As usual, Michael Barone has the final word on Chris Cannon's victory in Utah and what it might mean for immigration reform:

It is conventional wisdom in many quarters that Republican voters overwhelmingly favor a border-security-only approach to immigration. Cannon's victory casts some doubt on that.

Yes, there were extenuating factors; there usually are in elections. Last week, Jacob imprudently told the Salt Lake Tribune that he thought Satan was responsible for recent business reverses that prevented him from putting as much of his own money into his campaign as he had intended. Even in a very religious district--the Utah Third is the home of Brigham Young University and probably has the highest percentage of Mormons of any congressional district in the United States--that probably made him sound a little wacky. Cannon's record on issues other than immigration is impeccably conservative--a plus in a district that voted 77 percent to 20 percent for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004. Still, Cannon's victory stands for the proposition that support for a comprehensive immigration bill is not political death in a Republican primary, even in a very conservative district that has been affected by immigration (in 2000, 10 percent of its residents were Hispanic; presumably the percentage of Hispanics voting in the Republican primary this year was much smaller).

It should be noted that this is not the first time Cannon has been opposed in the primary by an anti-immigration candidate. In 2004, he beat Matt Throckmorton by 58 to 42 percent in a turnout of 47,335. This time, he beat Jacob by 56to 44 percent in a turnout of 57,895. Both challenges had high visibility, though Jacob evidently spent more money. Yet the results look pretty much the same in percentage terms, and the numbers suggest that an increased turnout did not bring out a landslide of anti-immigration voters.

Barone says he thinks Cannon's victory, combined with movement from folks in the Senate like Arlen Specter, now makes passage of an immigration bill this year a possibility.

Texas Redistricting Fallout

One of the effects of the Supreme Court's upholding Texas's mid-decade redistricting is that now Democrats can try the same trick in states where they have control of the governorship and the legislature.

From ABC's The Note:

In an interview with ABC News, DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel identified Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, New Mexico, and North Carolina as the ripest targets for Democrats to pursue mid-decade redistricting.

"Every party is going to squeeze every last bit of pulp out of this lemon to make lemonade and they are going to go after this with every thing that they have got," Emanuel told ABC News.

How big is this? LA Times political reporter Peter Wallsten (author of the new One Party Country, on how the GOP's electoral machine works) writes that: "By some estimates, this could mean at least five new House seats for Democrats, along with a host of newly competitive Republican seats -- an outcome that would inject parity to a political map that has tilted in the GOP's favor for more than a decade."

However, he notes that Democrats face a couple of political and structural problems that are likely to prevent them from taking advantage.

First of all, many Democrats are on the record as vociferously opposed to gerrymandering, including likely incoming New York governor Eliot Spitzer.

What's more, the racial politics would be difficult for the Democrats to manage. Typically, civil-rights leaders have looked for concentrations of black voters to elect black representatives. Distributing these black voters differently might lead to more Democrats being elected, but fewer African Americans.

Is this palatable to black leaders as part of a strategy to even the electoral playing field with Republicans? Or is it too politically volatile?

Hamdan Roundup


The Supreme Court just announced a 5-3 decision against the Bush adminstration in the Hamdan case. Right now, all the major papers are carrying the AP story from Gina Holland.

Here is the version from Reuters. And another from CNN.

UPDATE: Marty Lederman at SCOTUSblog: "The Court appears to have held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling."

UPDATE: Seems like Andy McCarthy's "pre-mortem" was on the money.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has now updated its page with a story by William Branigin calling the decision a "stunning rebuke to the Bush administration."

UPDATE: CNN has video of Jeffrey Toobin, Bob Franken on the decision.

UPDATE: Text of Hamdan decision in pdf format here.

UPDATE: Reuters - Ruling Won't Affect Guantanamo Inmates

UPDATE: From the Court's majority opinon, which included Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy:

For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power toproceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions. Four of us also conclude, see Part V, infra, that the offense with which Hamdan has been charged is not an "offens[e] that by . . . the law of war may be tried by military commissions."

UPDATE: From Scalia's dissent:

On December 30, 2005, Congress enacted the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). It unambiguously provides that, as of that date, "no court, justice, or judge" shall have jurisdiction to consider the habeas application of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Notwithstanding this plain directive, the Court today concludes that, on what it calls the statute's most natural reading, every "court, justice, or judge" before whom such a habeas application was pending on December 30 has jurisdiction to hear, consider, and render judgment on it. This conclusion is patently erroneous. And even if it were not, the jurisdiction supposedly retained should, in an exercise of sound equitable discretion, not be exercised.

UPDATE: From Thomas's dissent:

Under either the correct, flexible approach to evaluating the adequacy of Hamdan's charge, or under the plurality's new, clear-statement approach, Hamdan has been charged with conduct constituting two distinct violations of the law of war cognizable before a military commission: membership in a war-criminal enterprise and conspiracy to commit war crimes. The charging section of the indictment alleges both that Hamdan "willfully and knowingly joined an enterprise of persons who shared a common criminal purpose," App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a, and that he "conspired and agreed with [al Qaeda] to commit . . . offenses triable by military commission," ibid.7

The common law of war establishes that Hamdan's willful and knowing membership in al Qaeda is a war crime chargeable before a military commission. Hamdan, a confirmed enemy combatant and member or affiliate of al Qaeda, has been charged with willfully and knowingly joining a group (al Qaeda) whose purpose is "to support violent attacks against property and nationals (both military and civilian) of the United States." Id., at 64a; 344 F. Supp. 2d, at 161. Moreover, the allegations specify that Hamdan joined and maintained his relationship with al Qaeda even though he "believed that Usama bin Laden and his associates were involved in the attacks on the U. S. Embassies in Kenya and Tazania in August 1998, the attack on the USS COLE in October 2000, and the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001." App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a. These allegations, against a confirmed unlawful combatant, are alone sufficient to sustain the jurisdiction of Hamdan's military commission.

UPDATE: From Alito's dissent:

The holding of the Court, as I understand it, rests on the following reasoning. A military commission is lawful only if it is authorized by 10 U. S. C. §821; this provision permits the use of a commission to try "offenders or offenses" that "by statute or by the law of war may be tried by" sucha commission; because no statute provides that an offender such as petitioner or an offense such as the one with which he is charged may be tried by a military commission, he may be tried by military commission only if the trial is authorized by "the law of war"; the Geneva Conventions are part of the law of war; and Common Article 3 of the Conventions prohibits petitioner's trial because the commission before which he would be tried is not "a regularly constituted court," Third Geneva Convention, Art. 3, ¶1(d), Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, [1955] 6 U. S. T. 3316, 3320, T. I. A. S. No. 3364. I disagree with this holding because petitioner's commission is "a regularly constituted court."

UPDATE: Joint statement by Sens. Graham & Kyl:

"We are disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision. However, we believe the problems cited by the Court can and should be fixed.

"It is inappropriate to try terrorists in civilian courts. It threatens our national security and places the safety of jurors in danger. For those reasons and others, we believe terrorists should be tried before military commissions.

"In his opinion, Justice Breyer set forth the path to a solution of this problem. He wrote, 'Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.'

"We intend to pursue legislation in the Senate granting the Executive Branch the authority to ensure that terrorists can be tried by competent military commissions. Working together, Congress and the administration can draft a fair, suitable, and constitutionally permissible tribunal statute."

UPDATE: Senator Russ Feingold statement:

The Supreme Court's decision concerning military commissions at Guantanamo Bay is a major rebuke to an Administration that has too often disregarded the rule of law. It is a testament to our system of government that the Supreme Court has stood up against this overreaching by the executive branch.

UPDATE: Senator Cornyn statement:

"This is a blockbuster decision, and it will take some time to determine the consequences of what the Court said today. But they've opened the door to a legislative remedy, and as Congress plays a key role in this debate, we'll work with the administration to reach a solution.

"We're not talking about simple criminals--these detainees include the most violent terrorists in the world. And let's not forget who we're talking about in this particular case: Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan and is charged with delivering weapons and ammunition to al Qaeda, providing logistical support to bin Laden's bodyguards and participating in weapons training.

"The Court does not call into question the U.S. government's power to detain terrorists while hostilities continue. This is critically important because we can't allow terrorists to simply return home and restart their war plans. Guantanamo will remain open so long as it is in the national security interests of the United States."

UPDATE: Bush to work with Congress over court concerns

Orin Gives Oxygen

The New York Post's Deborah Orin begins her column today with a thought experiment:

Imagine the outrage, especially from the Left, if President Bush were to hire an Internet guru who had a past as a Web shill for a worthless dot-com stock.

I'm sure you know where she's going. Read the whole thing.

Our Deficit of Time

Earlier this week in the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby had a column on the recent study in the American Sociological Review on loneliness and social interaction in America. Dick Meyer has a piece today on the same issue. The introduction from the report sums up the main thesis:

Since 1985, the number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled. The mean network size decreases by about a third (one confidant), from 2.94 in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. The modal respondent now reports having no confidant; the modal respondent in 1985 had three confidants. Both kin and non-kin confidants were lost in the past two decades, but the greater decrease of non-kin ties leads to more confidant networks centered on spouses and parents, with fewer contacts through voluntary associations and neighborhoods. The data may overestimate the number of social isolates, but these shrinking networks reflect an important social change in America.

Meyer offers several ideas on why this may be occurring:

The main culprits are work time and commutes. Both have increased since 1985 and both take time away from families, friends and voluntary participation. As women entered the workforce in bulk, the total number of hours family members spent working outside the home went way up. As people fled the cities, suburbs and exurbs boomed and so did commute times.

This especially affects "middle-aged, better-educated, higher-income families." As the paper points out, these are exactly the people who build neighborhoods and volunteer groups and those are the social structures that have most atrophied in the past 20 years.

The more speculative hypothesis is that perhaps new communications technologies have led to people forming wider, but weaker social ties that are less dependent on geography. E-mail and cheap phone calling have made it easier to stay in frequent, sometimes constant touch with lots of people, no matter where they are.....

Certainly, it's hard to escape complaints about the busy-ness and time-stress of life these days; it's an obvious, bad problem. For most people I know, it is exacerbated by the technology that is meant to make it easier for us to communicate and stay connected.

Instead of feeling in touch, many feel on a leash. Portable, gadget driven communication doesn't count as soul-feeding bonding for many people I know, but is rather a cruel mockery. Explaining social isolation will be controversial, but not as difficult as repairing it.

In my mind there is no question that the explosion of cable/satellite TV and the Internet are major contributing forces, along with a myriad of other factors that contribute to these results. But in the end what they all lead to is a deficit of time in the day.

What most of us lack in this world today is time. And building real friendships and relationships is something that takes time. And time is something we haven't figured out how to make more of.

Playing Nice

Apropos Seth Swirsky's column this morning contrasting the basic decency of George W. Bush with the incivility of some Democrats, here's a snippet from GQ's interview with Russ Feingold:

What are your dealings with W. like?

Feingold: You know, I haven't had a lot of face-to-face contact with him over the years. But he's been very pleasant. What struck me recently was, I had, you know, just proposed censuring him. But McCain and I had also just gone to Iraq. And Bush wanted to have all the various people who had just been to Iraq come up to the Roosevelt Room in the White House and brief him. So we walk in, and I shake his hand, and he gives me not just the regular shake but the whole deal. [demonstrates a double-fisted handshake] And he said, "How ya doin', pal?" You know.

Despite five years worth of ad hominem attacks on his intelligence, faith, integrity, etc., Bush still treats even his most ardent opponents with a great deal of decency and civility.

Needless to say, civility has not been the Democrats' strong suit in recent years - not just toward the President but Republicans in general. Howard Dean's remark from last June springs to mind: "Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."

Or John Kerry's off camera attack during the 2004 Presidential campaign: "These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen." After the remarks were made public and caused an uproar, Kerry famously refused to apologize, lest he be seen as weak by his Bush-hating base.

Unfortunately, Kerry's response is a perfect example of the one idea that seems to have taken deep hold on the left over the last few years which is that civility equals weakness and, conversely, that being rude and uncivil is somehow an expression of toughness and strength.

June 28, 2006

Political Video(s) of the Day

The other day, we checked in on National Journal's No. 2 rated Senate race (out in Montana). Today, let's look in on No. 1: the Santorum-Casey race in Pennsylvania.

Both candidates have put lengthy biography videos up on the Web.

Here's Santorum's:

And here's Casey's:

It's worth noting that Casey's video leads off the bat with this quote: "How much longer must the concerns of Pennsylvanians take a back seat to an intolerant ideology?"

Santorum's video is much more focused on his can't-get-no-respect political career, where he's been counted out and then come from behind to win.

So far, it looks like Casey's approach is doing better, by a margin of 52-34, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

Pew: In 2006, Democrats Enjoy 'Distinct Advantages'

Yesterday, Pew released a poll showing the Democrats with "distinct advantages" going into this year's midterm elections.

The bullet points (summarizing their press release):

* Voters continue to say they favor the Democratic candidate in their district, by a 51% to 39% margin.

* The level of enthusiasm about voting among Democrats is unusually high, and is atypically low among Republicans. In fact, Democrats now hold a voter enthusiasm advantage that is the mirror image of the GOP's edge in voter zeal leading up to the 1994 midterm election. [46% of Democratic voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, compared with just 30% of Republicans. In October 1994, Republicans held a comparable advantage on this measure (by 45%-30%)]

* Public anger with Congress continues to rise, and anti-incumbent sentiment has reached new highs.

* Increased Democratic intensity is mostly driven by anger toward President Bush and Republican leaders, not by support for the party and its leaders. Fully 64% of Democrats say their party is doing only a fair or poor job in standing up for its traditional positions on such things as protecting the interests of minorities and helping the poor.

Read the whole report here.

Court Upholds Most of Texas Redistricting Map - Mark Davis

As the Supreme Court gives a virtually complete thumbs-up to the Texas redistricting plan sired by Tom DeLay, some of the reaction has contained moments of thorough nonsense.

First among these is the notion that DeLay was involved in some Republican "power grab." If so, it was a grab only in the way that one would grab one's own property from the hands of a thief. As redistricting was undertaken, the Texas congressional delegation featured 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans, an abomination in a state as red as Texas. (I would similarly scoff if a liberal enclave like Massachusetts had a majority of Republican members of Congress).

The legislature failed to redistrict right after the 2000 census, leading judges to do it instead. The state Constitution calls for lawmakers, not judges, to draw districts, so the legislature tackled it again in 2003, arriving at a plan that made Democrats apoplectic because it stood to strip them of more than a half-dozen seats in Congress, a development an objective observer would call a return to a delegation reflective of the electorate.

But in the hands of analysts to whom anything Republicans do is bad, and anything Tom DeLay does is worse, this thoroughly proper development is couched in the most sinister of terms.

The only portion of Texas redistricting that snagged on the high court was Republican Henry Bonilla's 23rd district. Somehow the loss of some of the Hispanics there struck the justices as a denial of "minority voting rights," whatever those are.

Is there such a thing as a racial constituency's right to the likelihood of a congressman of a certain race or party? Even before that debate starts, one must dispense with the shallow analysis that a heavily Hispanic district must be a Democrat district. Rep. Bonilla, a popular Republican who stood ready to run for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat if she had run for Governor, garnered nearly 70 percent in the 2004 vote in a vast district nestled along the Mexican border.

The days when minority constituencies can be pigeonholed are dwindling. The Supreme Court seems to be behind the learning curve on that development.

- Mark Davis
Host of The Mark Davis Radio Show

Obama on Evangelicals

Obama: Democrats must court Evangelicals.

It sounds reasonable enough. But is it?

The Democrats have run very close in the last two presidential elections without doing this (at least without doing it successfully). And they tend to make fools of themselves when they try.

Bill Clinton could pull off that kind of pandering. Hillary Clinton clearly won't be able to.

They're going to need another strategy.

Romney and Mormonism

Mitt Romney is quickly emerging as the only plausible '08 alternative for social conservatives to more socially moderate frontrunners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain (and, yes, I'm putting them in that order for a reason).

The elephant in the room, however, to use my new favorite phrase, is Romney's Mormonism. Evangelical conservatives are uncomfortable with it -- not necessarily hostile, but totally in the dark as to what Mormonism even is. (It's bad luck for Romney that Big Love had to start this year -- even if GOP primary voters aren't exactly HBO's target demographic.)

Here's a short item on Hotline On Call about a visit by Romney to Pat Robertson's 700 Club.

One question: What's his response to people who think Mormonism is a cult?

Not a promising start.

"racism and xenophobia are not Republican virtues"

Don't blame me. Rep. Chris Cannon apparently said it quite a bit during his hotly contested primary against Buchananite and Tancredoite John Jacob.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Cannon won that primary by a commanding 12 points, 56-44.

What does this mean for the anti-immigration folks? Well, over at The Corner, immigration liberal John Podhoretz notes that some of his more restrictionist colleagues are sounding like Daily Kossacks.

A loss is a loss is a loss. It turns out that anti-immigration sentiment is weaker in the GOP than some thought -- especially in the West.

And some of us think that's a very good thing.

TheTypical Fallacy of the WSJ OpEd Page

The Wall Street Journal is indispenable. The news section brings interesting perspectives to the great issues of the day, the Marketplace and Money & Investing sections are always finely done, and even the Personal Journal has a mix of essential material.

That's why the opinion section is such a disappointment. The latest example: Bret Stephens' "Global View" column, entitled "Democrats Need A Foreign Policy Clue. Here's One" in yesterday's paper.

The immediate occasion for Stephens' piece is the new book, "With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Deafeating Jihadism and Defending Liberty," edited by Will Marshall of the Democratic Leadership Council.

I'm a big fan of Will Marshall and the DLC, and, while I haven't read the book, I'm sure it is typically outstanding. The list of contributors -- ranging from Ken Pollack to Graham Allison -- is certainly impressive.

But Stephens uses the opportunity to create a foreign policy strawman that is grossly unfair to Democrats. Stephens bemoans the Democrats' seeming refusal to fully endorse President Bush's agenda of democracy promotion. OK, as far as it goes, although I recall Harold Koh, a prominent Clinton State Department figure, once say that the essence of Clinton's foreign policy was democracy promotion. But there is no doubt that the center of gravity has moved in the Democratic Party, and probably in the country, too. Iraq has had a certain chastening effect. But Stephens goes on to say that "it ought not to be impossible to mobilize the Democratic Party behind an aggressively anti-Islamist foreign policy that rallies support for the effort in Iraq."

This is the typical Republican conflation of the Bush doctrine with opposition to Islamist fanaticism. I don't know of any Democrats who want to compromise with Al Qaeda or have any truck with jihadism. Democrats -- for the most part -- would instead argue that invading Iraq is not only ineffective in the struggle against terror, but possibly counterproductive.

There are three separate and important debates that all Americans should consider. First, should the promotion of democracy be at the center of American foreign policy? Second, if the answer to the first question is yes, should we use armed force in the effort? And, third, how would democracy in Iraq quell jihadism?

There is a tremendous amount of debate among serious people in both parties about each of these questions. Democrats have played a key part in these debates, and most Democrats -- but by no means all -- have differed from President Bush in the answers to the three questions mentioned above. But their differences do not, contra Stephens, mean that they don't take seriously the great national security questions of the day. Nor do the differing answers of most Democrats imply that they don't care about foreign policy or American interests abroad.

For Stephens, to disagree with President Bush is to be a fellow traveller with Michael Moore, whom Stephens reflexively invokes in his article. Michael Moore -- the Ann Coulter of the Democratic Party -- richly deserves rebuking by prominent Democrats. But Democrats and Republicans alike should reject facile thinking in favor of a serious debate about the role of America and its military in the world today. The best Democratic thinkers are inspired less by Michael Moore than by George Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr. I don't think either of those great men would have much use for either Michael Moore or George W. Bush.

What Bolton Says

My column today covers some impressions of Ambassador John Bolton gleaned from a conference call with him on Monday. At the tail end of the call I managed to ask Ambassador Bolton about the New York Times' leaking of the SWIFT story, and this is what he said:

"This is one that, the publication of those stories is really very hard to defend....this is revealing something that was quite important and has been very effective in watching how the terrorists move money around, laundering it so that they can move it to places where they need to use it. And at some point somebody needs to make a decision in responsible media whether that World War II spirit that said "loose lips sink ships, don't spill our secrets", is something we still believe or not. So I don't think we can calculate the negative effect of the publication of that - how bad it's going to be."

By the way, if you're looking for a counterpoint to my column, Niall Stanage puts a hit on Bolton in the New York Observer this morning, airing conspiracies that Bolton's real agenda is to destroy the U.N. rather than reform it and/or he's merely positioning himself to write a big tell-all book in the future.

I have no doubt Bolton is tough and aggressive, or that his style may rankle some in Turtle Bay. The question, however, isn't so much whether Bolton is tough but whether he's fair and reasonable as well. I don't know that I've seen any evidence suggesting he's fallen short on either count. Recognizing that the term "fair and reasonable" is subjective, I'd still be delighted for Bolton's critics to lay out exactly which parts of the reform package being pushed by the U.S. Mission they find to be unfair and/or unreasonable and why.

How Far is Ehrlich Behind in Maryland?

In the first survey taken since Montgomery Country Executive Doug Duncan dropped out of the Democratic primary in the Maryland Governor's race last week, a Washington Post poll shows Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich trailing Democrat Martin O'Malley by 11 points among registered voters and by 16 points among those "absolutely certain" to vote. The Ehrlich campaign took issue with the poll, without delving into specifics:

Ehrlich declined to comment, but aides said they did not believe he trailed by such a large margin; communications director Paul E. Schurick said the campaign's most recent poll, conducted in mid-May, showed O'Malley ahead by 5 points.

"We've always known this was going to be an incredibly difficult and close race," Schurick said. "But there is something in this poll that strikes us as wrong."

The only other recent poll in the race, an April 18 survey of 500 likely voters by Scott Rasmussen, showed Ehrlich trailing O'Malley by nine points, 42-51.

That was before Duncan dropped out, of course, so it seems plausible Ehrlich is trailing by double digits right now. Either way, the race is going to be exceedingly close in the end, and while I wouldn't count Ehrlich out just yet, he is certainly going to have to fight tooth and nail to hold onto his job.

Duking It Out

Andrew Cohen wrote a less than convincing op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday saying a "collective sort of reverse insanity has descended upon the media" in the Duke lacrosse case. Cohen rails against the way reporters have been lapping up the defense's arguments and says that the judge "long ago should have stepped into this case and shut up the defense teams with a gag order."

My beef with Cohen's piece is that he makes only two passing references to Mike Nifong's deplorable behavior at the start of this case when Nifong waded into the media frenzy and did more than seventy interviews, including at least a few where he touted the certainty that a rape had occurred. Just how fair would it have been to gag the defense team after such a prejudicial media onslaught induced by the District Attorney?

Just because Nifong subsequently decided (after his election was secured, of course) to unilaterally disarm and stop talking about the case with the press doesn't mean the defense should have to surrender its right to discuss the case as well.

My other issue with Cohen's article is that it makes no reference to Nifong's mind-boggling decision to postpone the trial until the spring of next year. One logical way to clear up all the posturing and uncertainty surrounding the case is to get it into the courtroom as soon as possible. Surely if there has ever been a case that merited expediting, it's this one.

Instead, however, we have nine more months of speculation awaiting us, and the accused have nine more months of living in hellish limbo. Cohen writes:

The point is that we don't know. We haven't seen all of the evidence, haven't examined all of the testimony; haven't had the privilege of seeing the case unfold at trial the way it is supposed to.

How true. But also written like a man who isn't waiting to stand trial for a crime he may not have committed.

Ward Churchill's Strange Defense

Ward Churchill issued a statement yesterday blasting the University's recently completed investigation which resulted this week in an official recommendation that he be fired. Churchill writes:

The investigative report produced by the panel, while voluminous, misses the mark entirely.

The panelists were required by the rules to restrict their inquiry to whether I actually committed fraud and plagiarism.

Instead, they indulged in a repetition of the "Scopes Monkey Trial," presuming to assert the "truth" of the various historical and legal questions involved, in a manner comfortable to themselves and to those they seemingly perceive as comprising the "American mainstream." Such enforcement of orthodoxy was plainly not within the panels legitimate mandate.

Indeed, as regards the allegations of fraud raised by Interim Chancellor DiStefano, whether what I wrote is true or false is irrelevant. The ONLY relevant consideration is whether I had reason to believe it was true.

On this score, I did, and still do, and the panel proved nothing to the contrary. This is amply reflected in the evidence the panel left largely unaddressed in its report. Much the same pertains to my having supposedly "invented" historical incidents, and the alleged implications of my ghostwriting.

As to the panels findings that by a "preponderance of the evidence" I twice engaged in plagiarism, a simple question presents itself: What, exactly, is a "preponderance" of no evidence at all? Of course, the report produced by the investigative panel is designed to make the opposite of all this seem true. In fact, it seems reasonable to suggest that the very length of the document was meant to obscure its lack of substance.

I haven't been following this so closely as to have memorized the intimate details of the charges against Churchill, but his response seems bizarrely non-responsive...

The Blogwars (Cont.)

Jonathan Gurwitz of the San Antonio Express-News fires back against.......you guessed it, Daily Kos.

Wal-Mart, The Red Army, and Nuclear Proliferation

To my mind, few publications are as consistently interesting as the London Review of Books, and the June 22 issue is a case in point. As in the New York Review of Books, pieces in the LRB are not so much reviews as extended meditations prompted by the book or film ostensibly under consideration. Three articles really stand out in the current issue.

First, there is a great piece by John Lanchester on the subject of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a fascinating business to be sure, and Lanchester's review is worth reading if only for the notion that Sam Walton and Andy Warhol had something in common and for learning about the the marketing of Vlasic pickles. It is one of the most balanced and insightful pieces I've read on the controversial company.

Second, John Connelly examines (subscription required) the Red Army in World War II. Today, in the midst of Iraq and Afghanistan, the death of a single marine or soldier makes the evening news, which treats the casualty as the tragedy which it rightfully is. But it was not that long ago -- less than one hundred years -- where fifty thousand troops (or more) would die in a single battle, often in a day or two. Think of the Somme or Verdun, where whole generations were wiped out. Or imagine service in Stalin's Red Army. Troops were so ill-equipped that they trained with wooden rifles and replicas of tanks. The Soviet soldier was often sent into battle with no weapon at all, with the hope that the soldier could lift a rifle from a dead compatriot on the battlefield. And retreat was not an option; the secret police waited behind the lines to summarily execute anyone who retreated from a firing position. Soviet leaders expected their soldiers to die, which they did in big numbers. Of the 400,000 men in the Red Army's armored regiments, 310,000 were killed. These troops were not even referred to as "soldiers" or even "men." Rather, the Soviet leadership, knowing that death was all but certain for the men, simply called them "lives" -- as in "We need 100,000 more lives for Stalingrad." While the troops proved to be enormously brave, only the Nazis exceeded them in brutality toward civilians. Connelly notes that the Red Army raped at least 100,000 women in Berlin alone. The article is well worth your time.

Finally, Brian Jones discusses (subscription required) the crisis over Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. Jones' provocative argument stems from his conclusion that biological weapons are both easier to make and more difficult to deter (as their origins can be more difficult to trace than nuclear weapons). Even if we thwart Iran's nuclear ambition, the country can just continue to develop its BW capability. Alternatively, if we were to change the regime, Iran could easily collapse into a chaos that would allow terrorist groups to thrive and develop BW capability. So, Jones concludes:

"It will always be difficult to control nuclear proliferation without provoking a different threat that may be just as deadly but easier to develop and harder to deter. Military interventions, even if they succeed in setting back nuclear programmes, areunlikely to destroy them completely and may only strengthen hostile regimes. Or a regime may fall, leading to a breakdown of civil order, as has happened in Iraq. In either case, the likelihood of an unconventional response to perceived aggression using methods associated with terrorists will increase. We appear to be faced with an uncomfortable choice beteween promoting a world of strong, stable nation-states, some of which will be anipathetic to Western political and cultural values, or living in a more chaotic global society. . . . Before supporting precipitate action to halt Iran's nuclear programmme, Britain should consider whether that would undermine the chances of establishing a stable global framework, in which more states would possess nuclear weapons, but in which rogue states and terrorists would find it hard to survive, let alone to develop WMD."

To me, this is a fruitful way to think about the Bush/Blair doctrine.

Check out all these articles, and the LRB in general.

Utah 3rd: Loose Cannon

With 85 percent of precincts reporting (at 1:40 a.m. Eastern), it looks as if Rep. Chris Cannon, supporter of President Bush's immigration policy, will survive a challenge from Tancredoite John Jacob by a healthy margin.

Read Hillel Halkin

Also on the Israeli situation, I would be remiss not to link the most recent column by Hillel Halkin, also written just before the current military operation.

Halkin, who writes a column for The New York Sun (from Israel), is perhaps the sharpest person writing on Israel today -- put down that Tom Friedman column (as if I needed to tell you). And despite his being perhaps one click too far to the Left, I can't recommend his pieces highly enough.

Anyway, with the praise out of the way, here's a bit of his column, titled "An End To Ambiguity":

Make it clear that, as far as the government of Israel is concerned, it and the Palestinian Authority are now in a state of war and that Israeli policies will be adjusted accordingly.

Until now, ever since the creation of the Palestinian Authority by the 1993 Oslo accord, Israel's relations with this Authority have been absurdly ambiguous. On the one hand, the PA has supported anti-Israel terror, both by funding it and its organizations, and by turning a blind eye to it when it has been committed and refusing to bring its perpetrators to justice. Yet on the other hand, because the Palestinian Authority has always publicly disclaimed responsibility for terroristic acts, and has mendaciously asserted that it is not to blame for them and has done all it could to prevent them, Israel has refrained from declaring it an enemy state.

Although this has been a gross charade all along, there have been perhaps justifiable political and diplomatic reasons, from an Israeli perspective, for allowing it to take place. But these reasons have now exhausted themselves. The Palestinian Authority now has a Hamas government - and however this government may twist or turn, and however it may have tried to disassociate itself from the hundreds of Kassam rockets shot from the Gaza Strip into Israel with its complicit knowledge in recent months, it can not disassociate itself from the Hamas soldiers who raided the Israeli outpost on Sunday.

Israel should therefore say to this government: "The charade is over. While we are willing to negotiate through neutral parties a prisoner exchange involving Gilad Shalit, we are also declaring war on you. From now on we will treat you as any country treats another country it is at war with. We will close all our borders with you, cease providing you with all services, and consider any branch of your government, any of its members, and anyone on your side contributing to your military effort, legitimate war targets. We will do our very best to avoid harming civilians, and we will expect you to do the same, but anyone else, from Prime Minister Ismail Heniya down, is from now until further notice a legitimate target. And when you're ready to sue for peace-and-quiet, let us know."

Rest assured that Hamas will sue fast. This time, though, Israel will have to insist that the quiet, if not the peace, be real and lasting.

Bold added. This is the only way for Israel to deal with the Palestinian Arabs.

The election of Hamas officially ended the peace-process charade.

June 27, 2006

Watching Gaza

As Israeli troops move into Gaza, one of the best places to stay tuned for news and commentary will be The Jerusalem Post.

News here.

Opinion here.

In this editorial, written before the move into Gaza, the JPost calls for holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for all acts of terrorism against Israel.

There is no peace process. Especially with Hamas in control. It's time for Israel to take off the gloves.

Flag Letters

The flag amendment is dead for now. But we all know it'll be back.

So, with that in mind, here are the responses from RCP Blog readers to my earlier post expressing some skepticism about the amendment.

Most surprising, to me at least, was that the letters ran about 3-to-1 against the amendment.

A sampling (a little heavy on the pro-flag-amendment ones, for balance) after the jump.

To the editor:

Put really simply, the American flag is the symbolic representation of our country. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have died or been maimed fighting to protect our country. Many of them died protecting the physical flag. Read accounts of 19th century battles. Look at what our foreign enemies do to our flag when they have managed to capture one. They desecrate it.

It is hardly a violation of anyone's first amendment rights to speech to forbid the physical desecration of our country's symbol. You say it's a right. Because you say so? Because the supreme court changed it's collective mind on the issue after many decades? The Congress and States through the amendment process have the constitutional right to correct the Supreme Court.

I hope this amendment finally passes.

Bill Brockman
Atlanta, GA

* * *

If the coercive power of the state includes banning the burning of leaves in your backyard, what's the big deal to include a flag? If leaves (or air quality) deserve such protection, does not the flag?

Paul Smith
Dallas, TX

* * *

You are right up until the point that the flag burning amendment is passed by 2/3rds of House and Senate and 75% of the states. Then it becomes equal to the first amendment. We will have said through our political process that we support free speech but we won't extend that protection to flag burning.

This is exactly how the political process is supposed to work. Take a controversial issue, put a huge political hurdle requiring lots of commentary and debate and overwhelming popular acceptance to enact it.

I don't like the campaign finance reform (not because I think the campaigns are a pure as the driven snow, but because of the distortions in political speech it imposes). But if they went to the same process to make it an amendment, fine.

Make a substantive argument on why there should not be a flag burning amendment that doesn't involve the first amendment. At best most people can come up with is that they don't think it is such a serious issue to warrant an amendment or that we should show ourselves more tolerant. But if 75% of the country (as represented by the state legislatures that would pass it) think it is worth while, that the idea of what the flag stands for should be respected, then those arguments against the ban have had their say and failed.

I just wish that proponents of other controversial public positions (e.g. gay marriage, abortion, unauthorized release of national secrets) would go through the rigor of crafting, promulgating and passing an amendment.


* * *

We the country continues to be troubled by the 'free speech' movement of the Sixties which, through the courts, became the law of the land. When the definition of speech became broadened to any form of expression, all kinds of 'hell' became legal. If anyone wonders where all the pornography came from, they just need to look to the courts application of 'free speech'. And, of course, this re-defining of what constitutes speech affects everything from flag burning to campaign contributions to nakedness to you name it. We need the Supreme Court to help re-establish speech as the Constitution drafters knew it. Then the voters can operate within that framework. Life would be simpler, less political and certainly 'cleaner'.

Ralph Wright
Colorado Springs, CO

* * *

I agree completely that Flag Burning should not be prohibited. Burning the US Flag should remain distastefully legal and legally distasteful. Burning the flag is insulting to all of who love our country, and especially to all of those who served in the armed forces, knew or loved someone who did, or lost someone in the service of their country.

But, distasteful as it may be, burning the flag is free speech, just as our swift and merciless condemnation of those that do it is free speech.

The Flag is not a religious symbol, and writing an amendment to protect it is nothing short of elevating it to that status.

Better for us to allow those people who hate their country so much as to disrespect those who died preserving it - and those show themselves - than to take away that right.


* * *

I agree with your assessment regarding the flag burning amendment. Yes, flag burning is disgraceful and is a slap in the face to every veteran who has fought and died protecting the citizens of the United States. However, freedom of speech was one of the many rights for which those veterans died. No difference exists between some anti-American liberal intellectual (Ward Churchill) professing his hatred of the United States and someone torching an American flag. Flag burning uses symbolism, while someone like Ward Churchill uses words. The First Amendment begins by stating "Congress shall make no law...", but that is what Congress is about to do: enact a law restricting free speech.


* * *

Your statement "Either American citizens have the right to speak -- to express themselves, to associate -- or they don't." is, I am sure, a knowing oversimplification. The courts have already placed/allowed many limits on these rights, many of which are obviously appropriate (i.e., fire!, slander). Personally, I have no problem with flag burning as a means of expression and would probably, but not certainly, vote against the proposed amendment if I had a vote. But I also accept that some persons whom I respect, in good faith and not solely or primarily from base political motives, believe that flag burning is a uniquely pernicious form of expression that should be prohibited. If they succeed, I will choose to accept it as a vindication of the right to seek and obtain an amendment of the Constitution and not as betrayal of a sacrosanct First Amendment. Nor do I believe that the comparison between campaign finance restrictions and flag burning is apposite. Campaign finance restrictions truly inhibit vital political speech and have never (as far as I know) been proposed as the subject of a constitutional amendment. In sum. I wish you had confined your opposition to a flag burning amendment to its merits instead of making an attack ad hominem on those who support it.

Jim Hunter

* * *

Glad to see a little common sense on this issue. How many flags get burned each year anyway? What about all the Supreme Court decisions addressing use of the flag as speech? It is a sad waste of time.


* * *

You've never been more right. Watching the "conservative" party pander like this is disgusting.

Keith Morton
Northfield, IL

* * *

First off, thank you for your blog and realclearpolitics.com! I believe that this is the best clearinghouse of political philosophy and thought on the internet. To get this quantity of conservative-liberal, libertarian-statist, capitalist-socialist views, I would have to go to numerous sources. So, again, thank you!

Onto your blog entry - You state that:

Either American citizens have the right to speak -- to express themselves, to associate -- or they don't. Campaign-finance reform is a liberal's way of stifling speech he or she doesn't like. And a ban on flag burning is a conservative's way of stifling speech he or she doesn't like (emphasis added). Either both restrictions of speech are OK, meaning the government can restrict speech when a majority of citizens or their legislators want that speech restricted, or neither one is OK.

Would you admit that that liberals and conservatives use different methods to achieve their goals? Liberals use the courts and extra-constitutional means by changing the law and meaning of the Constitution. Conservatives use the legal process within the Constitution to change the "rights" of all Americans, with 2/3 vote in both houses and 3/4 vote in all state houses - giving the American people ample opportunity to voice their opinions. Liberals don't.

You would have to admit that, if someone believes that this practice should be banned, this is the proper and legal way to accomplish this, correct? Personally, I welcome the debate on freedom of speech and flag burning - and all of the merit and demerit attached.

The national discussion is whether flag burning is a "right". Conservatives put this discussion up for debate - liberals, as a habit, don't. I happen to agree with your libertarian assessment - that there should not be a Constitutional Amendment to give Congress the right to regulate this issue - it is best regulated as a public safety issue, which is grounded, versus an emotional issue, which is not grounded. Finally, I think your cynicism of politicians' motive is very valid, but your explanation of conservative-liberal methods is glossed over for the reader.

Tim Hediger

* * *

Why is it necessary to burn the American flag to make a point? All this does is to show one's hatred and contempt for his/her country and him/her self. I look at this as another sign of contempt liberals have for America, this somehow assuages their guilt as was so well stated by Shelby Steele. Why is it so necessary to show such hate, it adds nothing to any debate. Isn't this hate we are trying to get out of our society? The left rightly deplores hate crimes against, women, gays, etc. Are we not within our rights as rationale beings to insist that debate on any issue be civil and displayed without contempt? I think so. I have a son in the army. His tour will soon be up. I am glad of this not for the obvious safety reasons, but I recognize that there are many in America who are not worth his sacrifice or any other American boy or girl. Those who live by hate will die by hate.

Joe Bartlow

* * *

People think freedom of speech only applies to speech that doesn't
offend them. While I think burning the US flag is despicable, limiting
freedom of speech is more despicable.

Randy R

* * *

The First Amendment is about protecting the message, not the medium. (No, they're not the same.) I have a constitutional right to express my contempt for Senator Clinton. But that doesn't give me the right to parade around the U.S. Capitol stark naked with "Hillary Sucks" tattooed on my behind. There are alternatives. What possible message is contained in flag desecration that cannot be communicated through some other means?

The courts have always recognized that the First Amendment has an exception for "fighting words." I have a right to say "I don't like you." But when I start insulting your mother and questioning her sexual proclivities that protection goes away, and I'm the one who is to blame when you try to smash my face. Flag burning is also "fighting words," especially for veterans. Flag burners aren't trying to articulate any particular message beyond "I hate America." They are trying to attract attention and piss people off - not constitutional rights.

I'm especially angry with the Supreme Court's hypocrisy in declaring flag burning protected, but cross burning not. Cross burning is far more closely tied to a specific message. A nasty message, but one with constitutional protection. Please explain why some anti-American toe-rag can burn a flag at a military funeral, but some cone-headed klansman can't burn a cross on his private farm.


* * *

I was sad to see that only two GOP senators voted against the amendment. I was pleased to see Mr. McConnell was one of them and I think that is especially fitting in terms of your linked argument on campaign finance "reform." As I am sure you recall, Sen. McConnell was the leader of the fight against the abhorrent McCain-Feingold Act and refused to go along despite tremendous pressure to do so.

His stand was in marked contrast to President Bush who signed the bill into law despite having stated his belief that all or some of the legislation was unconstitutional in his opinion. While I generally support our president it seems clear from the wording that signing legislation the president believes to be unconstitutional directly violates his oath of office. The fact that many presidents have done so does not excuse it.

I do disagree that campaign finance reform legislation is purely or even mostly a left wing interest. I would agree that Democrats are usually keener for it, but it is really about incumbency protection. Sadly two of the chief pillars of incumbency protection, campaign finance reform and district gerrymandering, are also two of the few areas where the two parties work well together.

It is particularly galling to me that the Senate can't find the time to do the heavy lifting of their jobs by figuring out Social Security, spending cuts, corporate tax questions, Medicare/aid, immigration, or dozens of other things but has loads of time to worry about flag burning.

In any event, the amendment thankfully failed to receive the 67 votes necessary and will hopefully die, at least for a while.

Will Althoff

Flame Out

The flag-burning amendment has failed.

By one vote. 66 to 34. (It needed 67 to pass.)


Hillary Clinton is hiring Peter Daou, author of Salon.com's Daou Report. He was also director of blog operations for John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

Daou has a post announcing it here.

In particular, Daou talks about the importance of "closing the triangle":

Since launching the Daou Report in December 2004, I have written extensively about a 'triangle' comprised of the traditional media, the political establishment, and the blogosphere. I have argued that "closing the triangle" (i.e. enhancing the connection between the three entities) is imperative for the Democratic Party and the progressive netroots. My thinking on this issue is informed by my experience directing blog outreach and online rapid response for the Kerry-Edwards campaign.


Which brings me to the point of this blog post: I have been offered - and accepted - what I believe is a unique opportunity to help close the triangle: joining Senator Clinton's team as a blog advisor to facilitate and expand her relationship with the netroots.

That's all well and good. But what does the closing of this triangle mean for the independence of the Left side of the blogosphere (and for the Right when the same situation arises)?

I'm not sure I have an answer, but in the wake (or, is it still going on) of Kosola, people seem to have a lot of questions about what it means for there to be a free flow of bloggers between the journalistic and consultant worlds.

And, pace Kos, the concern isn't just old media types and conservatives wanting to destroy the lefty blogosphere. But when consultants are working with bloggers behind the scenes and collections of blogs are actively working to coordinate their "message" (ahem, Townhouse), then how do you tell a blog from a tentacle of a larger activist machine?

Maybe that's the point. The Left would certainly ask, how do you tell any given conservative writer from a cog in the vast right-wing-conspiracy-slash-noise-machine?

So, more questions than answers here, I guess.

But congrats to Daou. Hillary certainly needs the help with the netroots.

Viagra: Rush to Judgment

The Left will want to have fun with this Rush Limbaugh story. And who could blame them.

But, according to the Drudge Report, Rush is at least doing what he can to diffuse it:


But why would someone allegedly go through illegal means to get Viagra? Isn't it pretty easy to obtain legally?

Why Does James Taranto Hate America?

I'll get to posting the flag letters shortly (y'all sent in a LOT of them), but right now I wanted to highlight and agree with James Taranto, writing in today's Best of the Web:

No doubt you are dying to know where this column stands on the flag-desecration amendment. The answer is, we are against it. Our view is that the Supreme Court got it right in 1989: Insofar as desecrating the flag is an act of political expression, it is protected by the First Amendment. (The objection that it isn't "speech" is overly literal. What we're doing now--causing pixels to form meaningful patterns on thousands of computer screens--isn't exactly speech either, but we like to think the First Amendment protects it from government interference.)

Burning the flag is a stupid and ugly act, but there is something lovely and enlightened about a regime that tolerates it in the name of freedom. And of course it has the added benefit of making it easier to spot the idiots.


More Good Advice for the Dems

Forbes' Rich Karlgaard on the Democrats and the Kos media boomlet:

Democrats will never win as a "screw them" party. In U.S. politics, the party that captures the moral high ground and frames the debate in optimistic terms generally wins. The Roosevelt, Truman and J.F.K. coalition did exactly that. Clinton's eight-year-interregnum of optimism succeeded against the fatigue of Bush 41 and the cynicism of Dole ... never mind that Bush and Dole were war heroes and honorable men, and Clinton was a rascal. Clintonism's best apostle was never Clinton; it is Tony Blair.

But to the Kos crowd, Clintonism, the DLC, Tony Blair and the whole tradition of Truman-J.F.K. strong defense and democratic intervention is one big sellout -- Republican lite.

It would be one thing if the Kos crowd made its arguments from a Gandhi-esque moral high ground. But they don't. Callousness and moonbat conspiracy mongering animates their foreign policy ideas. Jealousy rules in economics. Revenge will be the order of the day if these haters actually win. But I don't think the Kos crowd will win. "Screw them" doesn't sell in America. Never has. Never will.

If you're Karl Rove, you can't wait to pin the Kos tail on the Democratic donkey this fall and in 2008.

Running Joe Lieberman out of town is not the answer to the Democratic Party's problems.

Political Video of the Day: Return of the Morph Ad

We all remember the morph ad. Powerful weapon in 1994.

Now, Joe Lieberman's netroots liberal challenger, Ned Lamont, has brought it back. (Lieberman used his own retro tactics here, reviving a 1988 ad involving a bear.)

Remember, you can send in nominations for the political video of the day to:


Unpleasant Image of the Day

I apologize in advance for inflicting this on you:

"I'd rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep."
-- Joe Biden (D-DE), on his interest in running for president

If his children read the papers, I don't see how they'll ever sleep soundly again.

Utah 3rd

Utah's 3rd congressional district today is home to a Republican primary that will be watched by both sides of the immigration debate.

Rep. Chris Cannon, who supports the president's plan, faces possible defeat by John Jacob, a restrictionist supported by Rep. Tom Tancredo's Team America PAC.

Polls open at 9 a.m. Eastern, close at 10 p.m. Eastern. Results will be posted online here.

Burning the Constitution

I realize this might not be a popular view around here, but is there anything more ridiculous than the constant attempts to write a ban on flag burning into the Constitution? And is there anything more saddening than the fact that the Senate is only a hair's width away from putting its stamp on this foolishness?

I'm sorry, but how can anyone with an ounce of respect for the First Amendment support this?

Either American citizens have the right to speak -- to express themselves, to associate -- or they don't. Campaign-finance reform is a liberal's way of stifling speech he or she doesn't like. And a ban on flag burning is a conservative's way of stifling speech he or she doesn't like. Either both restrictions of speech are OK, meaning the government can restrict speech when a majority of citizens or their legislators want that speech restricted, or neither one is OK.

The whole point of the Bill of Rights, though, is that some decisions are simply beyond the reach of the democratic majority. Some individual rights are not subject to a veto by your neighbors.

Flag burning may be abhorrent. But it is a right.

Weakening the First Amendment is far too high a price for the Republican Party to wring some cheap publicity and political points out of forcing Democrats to choose between besmirching the Constitution and aggravating those foolish enough to equate a vote for free speech as a vote against patriotism.

Of course, I expect many readers to disagree with me. Want to weigh in?

Write to ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

I'll try to post a batch of your thoughts later.

More Vermont, More Bauer

As promised, here's more Bob Bauer on the Vermont campaign-finance decision.

This morning, he surveys Breyer's decision and tries to figure out if the First Amendment has anything to do with it -- or whether Breyer just decided he didn't particularly like the Vermont system, and then went about rationalizing a way to strike it down.

Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case. The Vermont decision was a happy development, but we're still miles away from the Supreme Court striking down the whole ridiculous business of campaign-finance "reform" as anathema to our Constitution.

Ann Coulter and the Grateful Dead

As a pretty big fan of the Grateful Dead I found this interview with Ann Coulter, solely on the Dead, interesting. (Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.)

The Political Fallout from the New York Times' Leak

This story is a further example of how the political environment can change very quickly. President Bush was already looking better after two weeks of positive news (holding CA-50, killing Zarqawi, Rove cleared, a new government in Iraq) before the New York Times irresponsibly disclosed details of a top secret program aimed at protecting the nation from future terrorist attacks. The program was legal, effective, and had strong bi-partisan support: both 9/11 Commission Vice Chair Lee Hamilton and Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) strongly urged the Times not to disclose the program.

Politically, this is a clear winner for Bush and the GOP. The issue plays to Bush's strengths and continues to paint the picture of the President as a stalwart fighter, protecting America's safety while the left-wing press does their best to undermine as many successful anti-terror programs as possible.

The Times and the far left are so completely out of touch with where the country is on national security and terrorism issues they probably thought this disclosure would hurt Bush politically. They are clueless.

But while this is a huge win politically for Bush, it doesn't have to be a loss for Democrats. This brewing scandal is a tailor-made opportunity for a Democrat to show his or her independence from the far-left, borderline anti-American media. Hillary Clinton would measurably improve her chances of becoming President if she walked down to the Senate floor and denounced the New York Times for harming American security.

So while the issue helps Republicans, it provides a huge opportunity for Democrats to send a message to the public on how seriously they take the War on Terror. They would be smart to take it.

Vermont Commentary Roundup

Just to add to the excellent post by Ross Kaminsky earlier, here's a roundup of commentary on the Vermont campaign-finance case (in which the Supreme Court struck down the state's limits on campaign spending and campaign contributions):

Allison Hayward: Offers an amusing (and informative) Randall v. Sorrell roadmap.

Allison Hayward (yes, again): Offers an attack on the idea of "balancing" an individual's right to free speech against other state interests, even when the balance occasionally comes out in favor of free speech, as in yesterday's Vermont decision. ("Speech or associational activity can be restricted by the government consistent with the First Amendment if the authorities have a good enough reason. So the Court balances.")

Bob Bauer: The anti-campaign-finance-regulation progressive election lawyer weighs in with an analysis of the decision, complete with a diagram of all the ideological contortions Justice Breyer had to go through along the way. Expect more from him Tuesday morning.

Adam Bonin: Sumarizes things for the crowd over at Daily Kos. An interesting discussion in the comments thread as to the legitimacy and usefulness of campaign-finance regulation in general. (I remain of the mind that there's a Left-Right coalition to be formed against campaign-finance "reform." The problem is there's an Incumbent-Incumbent coalition perpetuating it now.)

Eugene Volokh: Takes up the ever-vexing question of whether money is indeed speech.

Rick Hasen: The campaign-finance-regulation supporter offers a nice summary of what will happen next: battles across the country over whether particular local regulations are constitutional.

Rick Hasen (yes, yes, yes, again): Follows up with an argument that while the Supreme Court has upheld contribution limits for now, this decision could be the beginning of the end for campaign-finance "reform" (he doesn't use the scare quotes) in general and the beginning of the beginning of the long-hoped-for (among conservatives) dismantling of the awful Buckley decision that started this whole mess.

By the way, everyone, Happy Clean Money Day!!!

The Promiscuous Octopus on the Slate

Over at Slate, they're having a dialogue on the good/evil of Wal-Mart in the American economy. I've long been a defender of the promiscuous octopus -- just doing my part to stick it to the little guy on behalf of The Man.

Anyway, on the pro-Wal-Mart side is Jason Furman, who wrote a controversial paper on Wal-Mart as a progressive success story (PDF).

Here's a passage from his opening salvo, over at Slate:

Are you as surprised as I am by how quickly Wal-Mart's critics move past the issue of low prices? You will hear comments like, "Yes, Wal-Mart may have somewhat low prices, but let's talk about its impact on workers, the environment, trade with China, etc." But given just how important these low prices are to the hundreds of millions of Americans that shop there, I hope I can beg your indulgence to linger on them for a few moments.

A range of studies has found that Wal-Mart's prices are 8 percent to 39 percent below the prices of its competitors. The single most careful economic study, co-authored by the well-respected MIT economist Jerry Hausman, found that grocery sales by Wal-Mart and other big-box stores made consumers better off to the tune of 25 percent of food consumption. That doesn't mean much for those of us in the top fifth of the income distribution--we spend only about 3.5 percent of our income on food at home and, at least in my case, most of that shopping is done at high-priced supermarkets like Whole Foods. But that's a huge savings for households in the bottom quintile, which, on average, spend 26 percent of their income on food. In fact, it is equivalent to a 6.5 percent boost in household income--unless the family lives in New York City or one of the other places that have successfully kept Wal-Mart and its ilk away.

He's right, of course. A huge portion of the Wal-Mart debate happens among people who shop at Whole Foods. I've hardly ever been inside a Wal-Mart. I'm more of a Fresh Direct guy these days. But the people who get hurt when, say, the unions in New York City keep Wal-Mart out are the ones who would be saving a significant chunk of their budget if a supercenter could open in Queens or The Bronx and Staten Island.

June 26, 2006

Political Video of the Day

In today's political video of the day, we take a trip to Montana, and the National Journal's No. 2 rated Senate race this November (by likelihood of the seat switching parties). In this race, State Sen. Jon Tester takes on Republican incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns, who has come under an immense amount of fire for his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In this ad, Tester's first (according to the information included with the video at YouTube), he takes a page from the Brian Schweitzer school of Montana politics, emphasizing image over policy. Now-governor Schweitzer famously courted Montana voters in 2004, becoming the state's first Democratic governor in 20 years, by running a lot of TV ads featuring his dog and his gun.

With Tester, the image is all about the haircut in this ad titled: "Creating a Buzz."

The ad drew this response ad (a parody) from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, titled "Liberal Values."

There's been some controversy over the Republican ad's claim that Tester is a bad tipper.

Is Free Speech Making a Comeback? - Ross Kaminsky

In a decision released today in the case of Randall et al v. Sorrell et al, a divided Supreme Court invalidated Vermont's strictest-in-the-nation campaign finance laws.

The Vermont laws included some provisions which exceeded restrictions in many other states, including (quoting from the Court's decision):

1) "A political party and all of its affiliates together abide by exactly the same low $200 to $400 contribution limits", a provision the Court found to violate the right to associate in a political party,

2) "The Act excludes uncompensated volunteer services from its "contribution" definition, (but) does not exclude the expenses volunteers incur, e.g., travel expenses, in the course of campaign activities." This makes it difficult to use volunteers, again violating right of association.

3) The Vermont law's limits were not indexed for inflation, meaning "that limits already suspiciously low will almost inevitably become too low over time."

By a 6-3 vote (the 3 being Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg), the Court reversed lower courts' decisions which allowed Vermont's political speech gag rule and sent the cases back to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. The Supreme Court's ruling reaffirms the Buckley decisions prohibition on states limiting candidates' spending.

The first major campaign finance case is the well-known Buckley v Valeo. In the decision in the current case, there is a fascinating and not-so-subtle argument about Buckley among the justices who agreed that the Vermont law was unconstitional.

The generally spineless Justice Breyer made a point of arguing that Stare Decisis (essentially respect for precedent) caused him to believe "subsequent case law has not made Buckley a legal anomaly or otherwise undermined its basic legal principles." Justices Scalia and Thomas retort with "Buckley v. Valeo provides insufficient protection to political speech, the core of the First Amendment, is therefore illegitimate and not protected by stare decisis, and should be overruled and replaced with a standard faithful to the Amendment."

Not everyone has seen the light of freedom however. From the opinion of the liberal Justice Stevens: "I am convinced that Buckley's holding on expenditure limits is wrong, and that the time has come to overrule it. I have not reached this conclusion lightly." In other words, not only does Stevens think contribution limits are OK, but he also thinks the Buckley decision should have allowed expenditure limits. Justices Ginsburg and Souter are lost as usual. Luckily Stevens and Ginsburg are the most likely judges to retire next.

In any case, there is a clear indication here that further challenges to campaign finance would be met by a Court which is more interested in protecting the First Amendment than we've seen in a long time. Indeed, in his concurrence in today's judgment, Justice Kennedy simply concurred in the judgment rather than participating in a big debate, reminding us that he disagreed with the Court's ruling in the original challenge to McCain-Feingold (also called "BCRA") in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. Kennedy (who will forever in my mind be the villain from the Kelo case) made arguments in his concurrence which bear repeating:

The First Amendment guarantees our citizens the right to judge for themselves the most effective means for the expression of political views and to decide for themselves which entities to trust as reliable speakers. Significant portions of Titles I and II of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA or Act) constrain that freedom. These new laws force speakers to abandon their own preference for speaking through parties and organizations. And they provide safe harbor to the mainstream press, suggesting that the corporate media alone suffice to alleviate the burdens the Act places on the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.

Today's decision upholding these laws purports simply to follow Buckley v. Valeo and to abide by stare decisis...; but the majority, to make its decision work, must abridge free speech where Buckley did not. Buckley did not authorize Congress to decide what shapes and forms the national political dialogue is to take. To reach today's decision, the Court surpasses Buckley's limits and expands Congress' regulatory power. In so doing, it replaces discrete and respected First Amendment principles with new, amorphous, and unsound rules, rules which dismantle basic protections for speech.

A few examples show how BCRA reorders speech rights and codifies the Government's own preferences for certain speakers. BCRA would have imposed felony punishment on Ross Perot's 1996 efforts to build the Reform Party. BCRA makes it a felony for an environmental group to broadcast an ad, within 60 days of an election, exhorting the public to protest a Congressman's impending vote to permit logging in national forests. BCRA escalates Congress' discrimination in favor of the speech rights of giant media corporations and against the speech rights of other corporations, both profit and nonprofit.

To the majority, all this is not only valid under the First Amendment but also is part of Congress' "steady improvement of the national election laws." Ante, at 6. We should make no mistake. It is neither. It is the codification of an assumption that the mainstream media alone can protect freedom of speech. It is an effort by Congress to ensure that civic discourse takes place only through the modes of its choosing. And BCRA is only the beginning, as its congressional proponents freely admit:

"This is a modest step, it is a first step, it is an essential step, but it does not even begin to address, in some ways, the fundamental problems that exist with the hard money aspect of the system." 148 Cong. Rec. S2101 (Mar. 20, 2002) (statement of Sen. Feingold).

Our precedents teach, above all, that Government cannot be trusted to moderate its own rules for suppression of speech. The dangers posed by speech regulations have led the Court to insist upon principled constitutional lines and a rigorous standard of review. The majority now abandons these distinctions and limitations.

Today's ruling is the first major crack in the wall which government has built between citizens and politics (to protect incumbents, primarily) in the past 30 years. There are at least 3 Justices who obviously want to overturn most campaign finance law and one who is open to overturning at least expenditure limits. I would also expect Justices Roberts and Alito to be open to hearing arguments which tend in the direction of weakening campaign finance laws as violating our First Amendment rights. I hope that citizens in other states bring such challenges.

When the Founders wrote the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, it was primarily political speech which they were thinking of. What would Jefferson say if he learned that political speech has become the least protected type of speech in our great Republic? It is some combination of tragic, embarrassing, and dangerous that we have let politicians muzzle us by claiming they are preventing corruption when all they are really doing is preventing competition.

Quote of the Day

"I don't like my home being a national laughing stock. This circus didn't need to happen." - Durham County Commissioner Lewis Cheek, speaking about the Duke rape case at a press conference today announcing a petition drive to get his name on the ballot to challenge Durham DA Mike Nifong in November.

The West Is Not "the West," Part I

Here's my two-part plea to pollsters: A) When possible, give regional breakdowns of national polls, B) and when you give these breakdowns, don't pretend there's a political entity called the "West."

While the Northeast, the South, and the Midwest are all relatively coherent political beings, which can be discussed as regions despite the obvious fact that there is infinite texture to any measure of public opinion, there is no such thing as the West. There is the Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington), and there are the eight states of the interior West (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). There is no West.

To take one current example: the recent Pew analysis of President Bush's approval ratings. Now, I love the folks over at Pew, and they're always extraordinarily accommodating about breaking out their data in different ways. But let's just look at Bush's approval rating percentages, broken down by four geographic regions:

Dec. 2004: 39
May 2006: 27
Change: -12

Dec. 2004: 56
May 2006: 36
Change: -20

Dec. 2004: 48
May 2006: 32
Change: -16

Dec. 2004: 46
May 2006: 33
Change: -13

It looks, with a four-region breakdown, as if Bush is strongest in the South (though he's taken the biggest fall there) and weakest in the Northeast.

Now let's look at the West broken down between the coast and the interior (a breakdown provided by the kind folks over at Pew):

Interior West
Dec. 2004: 56
May 2006: 48
Change: -8

Pacific Coast
Dec. 2004: 41
May 2006: 24
Change: -17

Suddenly, we've got a new high and a new low. Bush is doing worse on the Pacific Coast than in the Northeast (24 vs. 27 -- though, granted, that might not be statistically significant) and he's doing far better in the interior West than in the South (a rather stunning 48 vs. 36). What's more, the interior West has seen the least movement in Bush's poll numbers between December of 2004 and May of 2006, a testament to just how solid his support is in the region.

What does it mean? Well, that's a question for another post. For now, my point is simply this: Any regional breakdown labeled "West" is simply an average of the Pacific Coast and the interior West, which are quite separate in their politics. Such a designation is utterly useless for understanding America's political geography.

And given that the interior West is beginning to be seen as a strategically crucial region for both parties (not just in my book, but also in an intriguing new book coming out later this year from Democratic political science professor Tom Schaller), it's time to start looking at it as a distinct entity.

Brooks Blasts Kos

Oh, how I'd like to violate the fair use doctrine with David Brooks' latest column blasting Markos Moulitsas. But, alas, I can only offer a snippet of Brooks' satirical takedown:

They say that the great leaders are gone and politics has become the realm of the small-minded. But in the land of the Lilliputians, the Keyboard Kingpin must be accorded full respect.

The Keyboard Kingpin, a k a Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way. And in this way the Kingpin has made himself a mighty force in his own mind, and every knee shall bow.

As expected, one of Kos's goose-stepping lieutenants by the name of "mcjoan" retaliates with an interminable list of diatribes against Brooks, concluded by her (his?) own:

What has been amply demonstrated is David Brooks' willingness to lie about anything and everything to serve his Republican masters. Nothing he writes is to be taken seriously or believed. He just does not tell the truth.

Brooks serving his Republican masters? At the New York Times? Despite the fact that David Brooks is moderate and exceedingly mild mannered - not to mention very critical of the Bush administration on a whole host of issues - he must be part of some top-secret "neocon" listserv (which includes Lieberman-lover Marty Peretz, no doubt) that is beamed out weekly direct from the Blackberry of _________ (insert name of most-hated member of Zionist-Likudnik cabal running the White House and the country).

Surely that's where Brooks gets instructions about which topics he should write about, and which ones he should "starve of oxygen."

Should the NY Times Be Prosecuted?

Yesterday on FOX News Sunday Rep. Peter King called on the U.S. Government to prosecute the New York Times for its recent article revealing the SWIFT program:

To me, the real question here is the conduct of the New York Times. By disclosing this in time of war, they have compromised America's antiterrorist policies. This is a very effective policy. They have compromised it. This is the second time the New York Times has done this.

And to me, nobody elected the New York Times to do anything. And the New York Times is putting its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people. And I'm calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of the New York Times, its reporters, the editors that worked on this, and the publisher. We're in time of war, Chris, and what they've done here is absolutely disgraceful. I believe they violated the Espionage Act, the Comint (ph) Act.

This is absolutely disgraceful. The time has come for the American people to realize and the New York Times to realize we're at war and they can't be just on their own deciding what to declassify, what to release.

If Congress wants to work on this privately, that's one thing. But for them to, on their own -- for them to decide -- for the editor of the New York Times to say that he decides it's in the national interest -- no one elected them to anything.

Michael Barone discusses the subject of prosecuting the New York Times in his column today, and while he does say that " it certainly is in order to prosecute government officials who have abused their trust by disclosing secrets," he doesn't come out and squarely advocate prosecuting the paper.

Nevertheless, Barone concludes by expressing the sort of frustration and incredulity that many Americans, myself included, feel when trying to compute why the Times felt compelled to expose the SWIFT program. Barone writes:

Why do they hate us? Why does the Times print stories that put America more at risk of attack? They say that these surveillance programs are subject to abuse, but give no reason to believe that this concern is anything but theoretical. We have a press that is at war with an administration, while our country is at war against merciless enemies. The Times is acting like an adolescent kicking the shins of its parents, hoping to make them hurt while confident of remaining safe under their roof. But how safe will we remain when our protection depends on the Times?

I think that last question is rhetorical. There used to be a time in America when the publishing of classified information, especially in a time of war when such disclosures could materially benefit our enemies, was something that was taken very, very seriously. Not any more.

The New York Times, motivated by its own political ideology and dislike of the current occupant of the White House, has elevated itself on the back of the First Amendment to the role of unelected arbiter of U.S. national security interests.

How ironic is it that the Times, which has spent years (along with the rest of the liberal establishment) railing against the Bush administration for perceived abuses of executive power, continues to abuse the First Amendment for partisan political purposes? I'm sorry but, Bill Keller's effort this morning notwithstanding, there is simply no other explanation that can justify why the Times would expose, over the pleas of the United States government, a completely legal program designed to hunt down terrorists and protect American citizens.

June 25, 2006

A Fine Day for Edwards

John Edwards's 2004 presidential campaign has agreed to pay a $9,500 fine for accepting illegal contributions from a prominent Little Rock trial lawyer and his law firm.

I'm, of course, opposed to all campaign-finance regulation. But my guess is that Edwards is not, and there was no lack of clarity at the time as to what went on here being illegal.

Hypocrisy from the insufferable huckster Edwards. Not a surprise.

June 24, 2006

McCain at the Reagan Library

McCain says: "If we don't remember what we were elected to do, we'll lose our principles and our office."

He also says the GOP's current fiscal record is: "not a record Ronald Reagan would have been proud of."

A man after my own heart.

Except totally, totally not.

The Neo-Con Owner Weighs In

Over at The Plank, Marty Peretz (one of TNR's "neo-con owners") has a masterful reply to Kos's recent rantings:

Forgive me. But I never read Daily Kos until today. Well, now that I've read it, the first thought that came to me is how illiterate Kos is, just plain illiterate.


And his rant against us, well, borders on a nut case's. When a high-minded or, rather, high-strung moralist is accused by The New York Times of journalistic hanky-panky and then by TNR of running an ideological censorship bureau, reminiscent of the old Catholic Legion of Decency, he will go off the rails. And he did. "This is what The New Republic had evolved into--just another cog of the Vast RIGHT Wing Conspiracy." An old professor of mine once warned me against writers who use capital letters for emphasis. Good advice she gave me. Capital letters suggest some imbalance in the mind of their employer. In whose interests has TNR sought "to destroy the new people-powered movement"? Kos answers his own question: "for the sake of its Lieberman-worshipping neo-con owners; that it stands with the National Review and wingnutosphere in their opposition to grassroots Democrats." Don't look at Kos's grammar. He's ranting.

It feels a bit demeaning to defend oneself against Kos. But I am one of the neo-con owners, and I am titular editor-in-chief. So here goes: The New Republic is very much against the Bush tax programs, against Bush Social Security "reform," against cutting the inheritance tax, for radical health care changes, passionate about Gore-type environmentalism, for a woman's entitlement to an abortion, for gay marriage, for an increase in the minimum wage, for pursuing aggressively alternatives to our present reliance on oil and our present tax preferences for gas-guzzling automobiles. We were against the confirmation of Justice Alito. And, institutionally, TNR was against several policies that I favor, including allowing the government more rather than less leeway in ferreting out terrorists and allies of terrorists. From today's newspapers: I see nothing wrong with the feds scrutinizing international monetary exchanges in the dragnet for enemies of not just our civilization but civilization. But TNR is a heterodox institution, a concept Kos surely cannot fathom.

After covering YearlyKos, I was of the mind that conservatives shouldn't dismiss the netroots movement, no matter how easy it is to pick on the more unhinged of the commenters at Kos or the other major sites. This is a movement that's getting itself together as the conservatives did decades ago; in time, they could have a real impact.

But to the extent that the movement is built as a cult of personality around Kos himself -- around, that is, an unstable egomaniac bent on a sort of binge-and-purge model of management -- well, conservatives might not have that much to worry about.

Media Alert: Kudlow Radio

I'll be on Larry Kudlow's radio show at 10:30 est this morning on New York's WABC Listen here.

June 23, 2006

Right to Life vs. Right to Speak

Over at TAPPED, Ezra Klein relates some great quotes from a breakfast The American Prospect had with Grover Norquist (does this mean that TAP has followed TNR in its defection to the Right?).

The best one was on McCain's chances in 2008:

"The right-to-life folks have figured out that McCain can't get them their judge. His goal in life is to etch Keating 5 off his tombstone and replace it with 'campaign finance reform.' But no judge will look at the constitution and see room for campaign finance reform but not abortion."

That's probably true.

Political Video of the Day

Since we have something of a Rudy theme going on, here's the political video of the day, courtesy of the New York Daily News's Daily Politics blog.

This was shot at a University of Oklahoma speech back in 2004, according to the info included with the video, and, well, I'll let the camera man explain:

I was filming from the 2nd-3rd row... Mayor Giuliani was speaking at the University of Oklahoma when all of a sudden, the guy behind me goes a little nutzo and explains his conspiracy theory on 9/11.

Base-uh-keely, Wal-Mart did it.



Remember, send in videos for the political video of the day to:


(And thanks to all those who've been sending in.)

The Queen of Saboteurs - Larry Kudlow

NY TIMES.jpgThe New York Times is doing one heckuva job underming U.S. national security.

The Gray Lady's latest attempt to thwart the men and women charged with the vital task of unearthing terrorists, and capturing them before they steal any more innocent American lives, came last night when, against the repeated requests of the White House, the paper went ahead and revealed yet another classified program designed to gather information used to foil terrorist attacks like 9/11.

The saboteurs at the Times provided secret details into the Bush administration's use of subpoenas to gather large troves of data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Belgium-based consortium that handles international bank transfers. Financial data is used to identify terrorists before they get a chance to kill. It is an eminently sensible program, and one that has reaped rewards.

In one instance, the SWIFT program was used to capture a top Al Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, in Thailand in 2003.

The folks running the printing presses at the Times don't seem to care about any of this. They went ahead and made the determination that the SWIFT program was "a matter of public interest."

Gabriel Schoenfeld, the editor of Commentary magazine, had this to say about the New York Times in an interview with The New York Sun:

"They're courting prosecution...They're increasingly behaving like if we were in the middle of World War II and they learned of plans to invade Normandy. Because they decided it's a matter of public interest, they'd publish it. I think this is reckless and likely to encourage Attorney General Gonzales to prosecute them, if not for this story, for some of the other things they've done."

The New York Times is blinded by its hatred of George W. Bush. And, because of this, these boneheads compromise the lives of all Americans.

The Gray Lady has become the Queen of Saboteurs.

Is Helen Thomas a Lapdog?

Eric Boehlert is at it again, pushing the laughable and tendentious theme of his new book that the media are just "lapdogs" for the Bush administration:

It's been a head-scratching spectacle this week to watch Democrats in the Senate debate war resolutions that would press the administration to begin bringing troops home, and then be depicted in the press as the likely losers in the unfolding political battle. Losers because Democrats are "divided" (New York Times), "struggling for consensus" (Washington Post), and "squabbling among themselves" (Knight Ridder), as opposed to Republicans who appear unified behind Bush's 'stay the course' Iraq policy. (Democrats weak and confused, Republicans strong and resolute. Does the press ever got tired of that manufactured storyline?)

Boehlert calls this the press accepting "the GOP spin," as if pointing out the obvious is somehow falling into some devious Rovian trap.

Here's some more GOP spin: Democrats are "openly struggling with a lot of the difficult issues." Oops. That's Senator Hillary Clinton today. Okay, so maybe liberals like Boehlert think she really is a Republican who's on Karl Rove's talking points distribution list.

More GOP spin here: Democrats are "leaderless," "speaking in a cacophony," and need to "get their act together." That's lapdog Helen Thomas, writing in the Seattle PI this morning. Granted, Thomas is arguing from the other side of the equation - urging Democrats to be more united and resolute in standing up to the Bush administration - but her argument is basically the same: Democrats are "divided," they are "squabbling among themselves" and they do, in fact, look "weak and confused," especially when it comes to the issue of Iraq.

Boehlert is frustrated (quite understandably, if you ask me) that Democrats, despite having public opinion moderately in their favor (at least on paper) about the war in Iraq, won't stand up and vote together to withdraw from Iraq because they fear the political repercussions. And rightly so.

There was absolutely nothing stopping Senate Democrats from voting in favor of John Kerry's amendment the other day to "redeploy" our troops in Iraq - yet 32 Democrats voted against it. And had all Senate Democrats stood up in favor of the Kerry amendment, Boehlert would no doubt have seen the sort of press headlines he so desperately craves: "Democrats united on 'Redeploying' Troops in Iraq." Or something like that.

What's really driving Boehlert crazy is that he knows (as does everyone else in America that follows politics closely at all) that most Senate Democrats really do want to vote for something like the Kerry amendment. If the vote on the Kerry amendment had been conducted by secret ballot, almost every single Democrat in the Senate would have voted in favor (and maybe a few Republicans, too). But because Senators can't vote by secret ballot, because they have to stand up, be counted, and ultimately be held accountable for their decisions by voters in their respective states, most Democrats couldn't vote in favor of the Kerry amendment. They're divided, and they're struggling. It's a political reality. And it's ludicrous to call the press "lapdogs" for pointing out such a basic fact.

Rudy Red and Blue

Which New Yorker currently thinking about making the jump to the national stage has the most solid backing from their home (blue) state? Well, we all know Gov. George Pataki's at the bottom of the list... But who's at the top?

It's: Rudy, with 61 percent in a new Q-Poll saying he'd make a good president. Hillary comes in a distant second in (I repeat, blue) New York, with 49 percent saying she'd make a good president. Next is New York City's Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with 47 percent. Bringing up the rear, with an embarrassing 25 percent, is the Gov.

Rudy's at 86 percent among just Republicans in New York -- Republicans who, unlike the rest of the country, know all about his social positions.

But remember folks: He could never, ever win.

The GOP's Love of Free Speech

Speaker Dennis Hastert is making something of an ass of himself with blustering legal threats against the Sunlight Foundation, which has been doing an admirable job shining, yes, sunlight upon a potentially shady real-estate transaction in which the speaker is involved.

Oops. I said something the speaker did is potentially shady. Maybe his counsel will send a blustering legal threat my way.

Hillary the Protectionist

Cato's David Boaz writes that Hillary has made the famous parable of the Candlemakers' Petition (asking to be protected against competition from the sun) a reality:

Last month, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and nine colleagues (ranging from Barbara Boxer to Tom Coburn) endorsed a petition from -- you guessed it -- the domestic candlemaking industry asking the secretary of commerce to impose a 108.3 percent tariff on Chinese candle producers.


But perhaps the comparison is unfair. After all, Clinton and the National Candle Association aren't asking for protection from the sun, only from Chinese candle producers who are allegedly "dumping" candles in to the American market "at less than fair value."

What's the difference, though? Any source that supplies light to American consumers is a competitor of the American candle industry. And any source that can deliver the light cheaper than American candle companies is a tough competitor. Domestic producers will no doubt gain by imposing a 100 percent tariff on their Chinese competitors. But they could also sell more candles if the government required "the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds -- in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses," as Bastiat's candlemakers requested.

In our modern world, the candlemakers might also propose that electric lights be banned. Think what that would do for the Syracuse candlemaking industry!

Of course, Hillary hardly needs to pander so hard to upstate New York to keep her job. Her likely Republican challenger, KT McFarland, is the one who said Hillary's helicopters were watching her house:

A freshman pol unused to getting shafted, she was recently pasted in the press for saying Mrs. Clinton was spying on her apartment via helicopter. She calls it a joke that went awry. She also says it nearly did her in. "I sat in a ratty old robe, tears spilling down my face. To ease my anguish, I killed off half a pint of ice cream. Next morning I was in a fetal position. Still crying. And my husband was traveling. Not even there to comfort me. It was a tough baptism."

There's no crying in politics, I've heard. Except if you're challenging Hillary for Senate this year. In that case, close the drapes, light a Syracuse-made candle, pop "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" into the DVD player, and weep like a colicky baby.

The Immigration Cudgel

The House GOP has actually managed to do the right thing on immigration this year: nothing. That's because it is, and always has been, an utter non-problem.

With unemployment below 5 percent, it can't credibly be claimed that immigrants "took 'er jibs." And if too many Mexicans are undocumented in America and living off the grid, it's because we haven't provided them with a reasonable, legal way to be in our country.

There are definitely reforms that are needed to our immigration system, but they're along the lines of President Bush's guest-worker program, not building a wall. There's never been a crisis, save the political crisis created by Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs.

And as the Wall Street Journal editorial page writes this morning, the only people who are likely to get bitten by this "crisis" are the House Republicans who ginned it up and then decided to punt:

Looking at House Republicans who are vulnerable this year, we can't find a single one who will lose because of support for President Bush's comprehensive immigration reform. That isn't Heather Wilson's problem in New Mexico; she always has a tough race and favors both border security and a guest worker program. Chris Shays also won't save his seat by rallying the bluebloods in Greenwich, Connecticut, against their Mexican maids and construction workers. On the other hand, J.D. Hayworth could lose his seat in Arizona despite taking his anti-immigration riff to any radio or TV show that will have him.

What might well cost all of them their seats is the growing perception that this Congress hasn't achieved much of anything. If Republicans want a precedent, they might recall what happened to Democrats who failed to pass a crime bill in the summer of 1994. Already in trouble on taxes at the time, Democrats looked feckless on crime and health care and went down to crashing defeat. Immigration could do the same for Republicans, who have been flogging the issue for months as a grave national problem. Doing nothing about it now risks alienating even those conservatives who merely want more border police.

In fairness to the House Republicans, the immigration road show they are planning to put on might just work. And maybe they can blame the Democrats (somehow leaving out Bush and McCain) for the stalemate.

But if using the issue as a political cudgel without actually doing anything is their plan -- well, that just highlights what a nasty little bit of racial pandering and scapegoating this is and has always been.

Will Vegas Kill Hillary in 08?

More speculation on 2008 from a well-connected liberal pen pal of mine:

Edwards maintained his strong organization in Iowa as this [Iowa] poll demonstrates. Hillary will buy some good organizing talent in the state, but these are anti-war caucus goers who are, paradoxically, also extremely pragmatic (that's how they settled on Kerry, who they figured--wrongly--would be an anti-war warrior who could, therefore, beat Bush). She's going to lose both ways--she'll pull neither the hard core anti-war votes (Edward's early renunciation of his Iraq vote is looking brilliant), nor any of the pragmatic voters (Warner stays in the picture here, especially with his surprising netroots support--Markos and, obviously, Jerome are surprisingly open to him). If Vilsack can't do better than this poll demonstrated, he won't even bother to run, which frees Harkin to support Hillary, something of a plus for her (although he didn't help Dean very much last time around).

But another problem for her looms: There's a reasonable chance the DNC might put a Nevada caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire. Why is that a problem for Hillary? Because a caucus, of course, is all organizational turnout--and the only organization that matters in Nevada Democratic politics is the 60,000 member strong Culinary Workers Unions in Nevada (the union that has 90% of the Las Vegas strip organized, enabling Latino hotel maids and their families to live a middle class life--and the union that reelected Harry Reid by 500 votes or so in, I think, 1998). A couple of years ago, Nevada magazine rated D. Taylor, the brilliant leader of that union the third most powerful person in the state after Harry Reid and the Governor. And who will the Culinary Union support? John Edwards. This isn't Iowa--Culinary will get its people out for Edwards.

Iowa, Nevada....certainly doesn't lock things up for Edwards, but would deal a huge blow for Hillary's inevitability. Where she finally gets help is not New Hampshire but the Southern and industrial states. Charlie Cook's poll shows her getting 50% of the minority vote among the Democratic field, more than from any other subgroup--I'm now convinced that Bill's magic with African-Americans does help her to a large extent, despite the fact that she lacks his political gifts.

Edwards, Warner, and Hillary as the likely finalists--Wes Clark as a possible dark horse if he can exploit his national security credentials by contrasting them to what the others lack--the bloggers like him, too, but I think he's everyone's VP.

So--while I'm on a roll--I'm convinced that McCain killed himself with the GOP base re: immigration, and, notwithstanding Ryan Sager re: Giuliani, the party will never nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay rights nominee (moreover, one who actually lived with gay men for several months while separated from his (second) wife (sharing the same bathrooms!)--don't think that story won't circulate in South Carolina if he runs--alas, these things matter to some Republican primary voters.

So you're left with Allen and Romney. As a very smart and very prominent neo-con friend of mine says: If Republicans nominate who they want to nominate, it will be Allen, if they nominate who they should, it will be Romney--and, say a Romney/Cornyn "Health Care for all, plus a bit of gay bashing and, with a fresh look, we'll solve this Iraq thing asap" would beat Hillary 54-46. Edwards/Clark would be a toss-up.

On the latter point, I think that Allen is the only GOP nominee--Bush plus chewing tobacco and confederate flags, minus brush on the ranch--that Hillary might beat (very close race, like the last two).

Feel free to join in the '08 parlor game by sending your thoughts to me here.

And Now For the Bad News

Andrew Sullivan links approvingly to results from the latest survey from the Pew Global Attitudes Project showing support for Osama bin Laden tanking in Muslim countries. Pascal Riche at TPM Cafe also highlights various pieces of good news from the survey.

While Sullivan did throw out a weak caveat about "mixed results," let me run through some of the more disturbing aspects of the survey in more detail. (You can view the reports here: Part I | Part II | Part III | Topline Results of Survey - pdf )

The first thing that jumps out of the survey is that Muslims in Britain appear to the most radicalized in Western Europe. British Muslims take a dimmer view of relations between Islam and the West than do their counterparts in Germany, France and Spain. Muslims in Britain also see more of a conflict for devout Muslims trying to live in modern societies, and they have, by far, the most negative attitudes toward non-Muslims living in Western countries. Finally, only 17% of British Muslims believe Arabs carried out the attacks on 9/11, compared to 33% Muslims in Spain, 35% of Muslims in Germany, and 48% of Muslims in France.

Not surprisingly, the Pew Survey shows anti-Semitism continues to be rampant in Muslim societies. As you can see from the chart below, Jordan and Egypt are the worst offenders of the countries surveyed, but even among Muslims living in Germany, Britain, and Spain, roughly one in three holds "very unfavorable" attitudes toward Jews:

Unfavorable Rating
Nigerian Muslims
Spanish Muslims
British Muslims
German Muslims
French Muslims

Historical data provided by Pew shows the trendlines are mixed, though the most significant shifts are clearly toward more anti-Semitism, not less: since May 2005 "unfavorable" attitudes toward Jews have risen 22 points in India, 19 points in Spain, 5 points in Turkey, 4 points in Russia, and 1 point in France and Britain, while they have declined slightly in Indonesia (4 points), Pakistan and France (3 points), and Jordan (2 points).

Another disturbing aspect of the survey is that while support for suicide bombings looks to have declined significantly in Jordan (perhaps as a result of the hideous Zarqawi-sponsored bombing of a wedding in Amman in November '05), 15% of Muslims living in France, Spain and the UK (and 7% of those living in Germany) support the killing of innocents via suicide bombs "often" and/or "sometimes." Furthermore, 12% of Muslims living in Britain, Germany and Spain said "many or most" Muslims in their respective countries "support Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda."

According to stats from the CIA factbook, Muslims make up 2.7% of the population in Britain, 3.7% in Germany, and between 5-10% in France. This site estimates the Muslim population in Spain to be around 500,000.

Some back-of-the-napkin math based on these numbers leads one to the estimate that there are somewhere between 900,000 to 1.5 million Muslims living in just these four European countries who either support suicide bombings, Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda, or both. Does that mean they're all going to strap on bombs or head off to terrorist training camps in Somalia or Sudan? Of course not. But it does, I think, help put the threat of Islamic extremism to the West in perspective, particularly in the context of how the ideology of radical Islam continues to imbed itself in open, tolerant societies.

The fact that many Muslims have lost confidence in Osama bin Laden is good news, no doubt about it. But the results of this survey show that we still have plenty of reasons to be concerned about the nature of the threat we face.

Giuliani Time

The New York Daily News somehow seems to have gotten the crazy idea that Rudy Giuliani is running for president:

Rudy Giuliani's political action committee's mission is to help elect Republicans - but right now, the prime beneficiary appears to be Rudy himself.

The vast majority of the $141,389 spent in May by Solutions America went to building up the former mayor's own political operation as he ponders a run for President in 2008 - including $35,000 on private planes to shuttle Giuliani staffers around the country, records filed yesterday show.

"It indicates that he is putting together a skeleton political operation of his own, and paying for the staff he needs to get it done," said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

Other bills paid by Giuliani's PAC included more than $30,000 on fund-raising consultants; $25,000 to reserve the posh Four Seasons restaurant for a Solutions America fund-raiser last June 13; $19,500 on the PAC's Web site, and nearly $10,000 to Giuliani's former speechwriter.

The only outside contribution by the PAC - which describes its sole mission on its Web site as helping to "elect Republican candidates dedicated to finding responsible, common sense solutions" - went to Republican state Sen. Jeff Lamberti of Iowa, a key presidential battleground state.

Well, gol-ly! You think so!?

The CW that Rudy isn't going to run, or can't win the GOP nod, is going to collapse completely by the end of 2006, I predict. Rudy will run, and he can win. (I'm not saying will, mind you, but can. There's no structural reason he can't win).

And, no, I haven't just imbibed the Kool-Aid being served over at Giuliani Blog, but if you're interested in the '08 race -- and particularly a certain mayor -- you should be reading it. It's one-sided. But that's its charm.

(P.S.: Some wiseacre from Camp McCain seems to have purchased "John McCain Ringtone" ads at the top of Giuliani Blog. Nice touch.)

June 22, 2006

The Disconnect

In her OpinionJournal column today, Peggy Noonan writes that the elites of both parties have really started hating their bases recently:

It has occurred to me that both parties increasingly dislike their bases, but for different reasons and to different degrees. By both parties I mean the leaders and representatives of the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. I believe I correctly observe that they feel an increasing intellectual estrangement from and impatience with the activists who people their base of support.

And this is something new.

In the past, Republican leaders in Washington bowed either symbolically or practically to the presumed moral leadership and cleanness of vision of the people back home.


Now they seem to bow less. They know the higher wisdom on such issues as immigration. They feel less fealty to the insights of the base. They know more than the base, are more experienced than the base, have a more nuanced sense of reality. And as for conservative social issues groups, the politicians resent those nagging, whining pushers-for-the-impossible who are always threatening to stay home or go elsewhere. (Where?)


On the Democratic side, it is not just as bad but worse. They don't only think they're more sophisticated than their base, more informed and aware of the complexities. I believe they think their base is mad.

This seems to be the continuation of a recent theme for Noonan. A couple weeks ago she wrote about how it was time for a revival of third-party politics in America. "Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter," she wrote. "They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc."

The question, however, is what a third party would stand for. If there's a political impulse not fully represented by a political party right now, it's populism. Down with the gays, up with the minimum wage, down with free trade, up with the U.S.-Mexico wall.

The two-party system has its faults, but it curbs Americans' ugliest impulses (for now) by keeping a lot of people who believe in the same bad ideas in different parties.

If it's a battle of the elites versus the masses, count me with the elites.

Caught Up in the Net Neutrality

OK, so for those of you still sorting through what on earth to think of net neutrality, here's a good rundown of the topic by Reason editor Nick Gillespie -- if you want the libertarian perspective, that is, and I know you do.

Basically, his argument boils down to: Wait and see. The theoretical problems of not having net neutrality aren't that bad, and they aren't particularly likely either:

Consider this recent New Republic house editorial, which presents a very representative argument in favor of net neutrality. Subtitled "The Bush administration prepares to wreck the Internet," the piece conjures up the following dread scenario:
Imagine you were choosing whether to buy a book from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble's website, and you knew that Amazon's site would load much faster, allowing you to scan books and sample their content much more easily. Or imagine that Fox.com's streaming video came up instantly and CNN.com's balked. Or that whitehouse.gov loaded quickly while the site of a contentious political magazine was plagued by delays.

Forget for the moment that ISPs haven't kicked in tiered service yet, so there's no real telling what form(s) it might take. As Julian Sanchez noted at Reason Online back in April, the fears of net neutrality boosters--an entertainingly broad coalition ranging from high-tech behemoths such as Google and Microsoft and Amazon to political groups such as MoveOn and the Christian Coalition--revolve so far around a phantom menace. "It's true...that ISPs could misuse their control of the onramps to the Internet in a shortsighted attempt to extract monopoly rents, rather than benefit consumers," wrote Sanchez. "That's not a reason for preemptive regulation; it's a reason to see what happens... Hasty regulation that responds to hypothetical abuses may also prevent us from discovering benefits we haven't yet hypothesized."

Let's assume that The New Republic's worst fear of a fast-loading foxnews.com page comes true, even for those of us who prefer other, even more fair-and-balanced, less-comical news sources such as, say, The Onion. What are you likely to do in such a situation? Lump it or leave the company that delivers your broadband (as The Washington Post has reported, more than 60 percent of U.S. ZIP codes are served by four or more high-speed providers, a figure that will only continue to increase)? At the very least, you'll bitch and moan to your provider, which is known to have some beneficial effects, even with near-monopolists.

Essentially, the answer to any problems that might arise from net non-neutrality (net partiality?) is simply more competition between ISPs. And the less regulation there is, the more ISPs there are likely to be competing.

Consumers won't stand for Internet service that's not to their liking.

Political Video of the Day

From the Colbert Report, here is Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial Page Editor Daniel Henninger (in all seriousness) comparing a woman marrying a snake in India to gays and lesbians marrying in the United States:

If only Republicans can keep the conversation focused on gays -- as opposed to spending and Congress' general disregard for actual conservative principles -- perhaps they can just pull 2006 out of the toilet.

, send in videos for the political video of the day to:


(And thanks to all those who sent in links today.)

'A Paranoid Hellcat'

While researching this morning's post about Maria Cantwell I came across this piece by Mike Seely who worked as her Deputy Press Secretary during her victorious 2000 Senate campaign. During the course of defending Cantwell's stance on the Iraq war as principled, Seely absolutely savages his former boss:

Cantwell is far from perfect. In fact, she ranks high among the most difficult people I've ever worked for or with. The seven months I spent in her charge felt like seven years. The campaign, larded with her RealNetworks stock windfall, spent more money on Red Vines than most candidates spend on direct mail. And conspicuous consumption during happy hour became all but a necessity, as it was invariably better to be half in the bag when Cantwell, a paranoid hellcat of a boss who rolls through staff like toilet paper, would make her daily sweep through the office, berating everyone in sight. [snip]

Essentially, we worked for Maria in spite of Maria. Yet if you were to ask Cantwell, the only person responsible for her victory over Gorton was the person who stared back at her in the bathroom mirror each morning. Her lack of gratitude and common human decency were simply repulsive. When the campaign ended, virtually nobody sought to accompany her to D.C. in even the cushiest of capacities. Good night and good luck, Senator, was the collective adieu.

Read the whole thing.

Quote of the Day

"This case has taken an unbelievable, and horrendous emotional toll on all my family, especially my wife. We are committed as a family, along with Reade, to do everything necessary to restore our good name....The bond in the amount of $400,000 was too large an amount for me to post, but I was prepared to do everything possible to prevent my son from spending time in jail for a crime he did not commit." Philip Seligmann, father of accused Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, in an affidavit filed in court today.

Duncan Out

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan has dropped out of the Democractic primary in the Maryland Governor's race, saying he's recently been diagnosed with clinical depression. Duncan's exit clears the way for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley to take on Governor Ehrlich.


Take the Ann Coulter vs. Adolf Hitler quiz.

I got a 7 out of 14. I'm not sure what that says.

(via Sullivan)

Forget the Economy, It's All About the Politics Stupid! - Larry Kudlow

There's a big political hullabaloo brewing this election year over a minimum wage hike. What a surprise. This thing only seems to pop up during election years.

The economics of a minimum wage hike are terrible.

Think of fast-food restaurants and small eating establishments that hire young workers of all colors and races, especially during the summer. These students and others will be priced out of the labor market because of the higher minimum wage.

Did you know that only about 2 ½ percent of the total workforce (slightly less than 2 million people) qualify for the minimum wage according to the Department of Labor Statistics?

And did you also know that roughly four-fifths of all the minimum wage workers are un-poor? Two-thirds of the minimum wage workers actually come from families where at least one other family member has a job. (These stats courtesy of Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw's website.)

Think students in high school or college.

But, unfortunately, the politics may prove too compelling this election year. So here's my thought:

Tie a minimum wage hike to a tax cut for large and small businesses. Or even a big estate tax cut.

Then, the costs of a minimum wage hike would be offset by lower tax costs. We would get another tax cut on capital that would obviously help spur the U.S. economy.

I guess my hope here is to turn a negative into a positive.

About That WMD

Such is the nature of the U.S. news media that a seemingly substantial revelation about WMD in Iraq is ignored by most major media outlets and gets A10 placement in the Washington Post.

It also says something about the nature of our politics these days that the news has sent the right half of the blogosphere into a frenzy of speculation about why it is only coming to light now while the left half of the blogosphere, from what I can tell, seems completely disinterested and concerned with more important matters.

The Most Essential John Kerry

From this morning's Note, John Kerry summarizes the state of the current Democratic Party:

Trying to battle the naysayers, Sen. John Kerry told CNN's Anderson Cooper last night that Democrats are "unified on the most essential ingredient, which is the failure of this administration, their lack of honesty with the American people about what is really happening in Iraq. We're unified about the fact that you need to begin redeployment of American forces now. I think there is a unity in moving in a new direction."

First the bold: Yes, being unified on the general concept of thinking the Bush administration has screwed up is the "most essential" issue facing America today. Very inspiring. It's a wonder how he lost in '04.

Now the italic: This simply isn't true. If there were unity about "redeployment" (a.k.a. retreat), there wouldn't be a debate on the Democratic side. They'd each come up with a figure (1 month, 8 months, 3 months), average them out, and there's your Democratic resolution on Iraq. There's actually disunity, most prominently featuring the party's likely '08 standard bearer.

It is truly amazing watching the Democrats do all they can to throw their best chance at taking back Congress in 12 years.

Cantwell's Troubles Continue

A new Rasmussen poll shows Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell continuing to struggle in her reelection bid, now leading Republican Mike McGavick by only 4 points, 44-40. Zogby's latest has Cantwell up 5 points, 48-43, but also shows the race tightening.

Like Hillary Clinton, Cantwell continues to pay for her unwillingness to recant support for the Iraq war and to call for a withdrawal of U.S. forces. Like Hillary, Cantwell was recently booed by activists at the state party convention. University of Washington Political Science Professor David Olson points out the obvious in the Seattle PI today, "Any time you see the incumbent booed and party stalwarts having to intervene to turn those dissident voices off, that's not good."

June 21, 2006

Mark Warner's Map Changers

I just got this in the (e)mail minutes ago from our friends at Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC. It's a contest where people can vote on which candidates the PAC will give money to.

In this round, voters are (s)electing 10 candidates, each of whom will receive $5,000 from Forward Together PAC. Then there will be a final round, and one lucky candidate will get a fundraiser with Mark Warner himself.

Note, however, that the contest rules refuse to get involved in contested Democratic primaries, or primaries with late filing deadlines (which may become contested, I suppose).

Here's what the PAC sent out:

Dear Ryan,

The 2006 elections will be an opportunity for Democrats. For the first time in many years, Democrats have a strong chance to win majorities in both houses of Congress. Forward Together PAC has already contributed to more than 50 campaigns in more than 30 states. Now we are opening up the process.

You can help us choose the next group of candidates we'll support. We are looking for fresh faces with fresh ideas - solutions-oriented Democrats with a focus on the future - candidates who will help us change the political map. Which candidates are you supporting? Come to the Forward Together Web site and vote for the ten candidates you believe should be Mark Warner's Map Changers.

To be eligible for the Map Changers contest, a candidate must be a Democratic challenger running for Governor, the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives. We are not taking sides in any contested primaries, and did not include candidates from states with late filing deadlines.

This round of the Map Changer candidate contest will run through June 29th. The top ten vote getters will each receive a $5000 contribution from the Forward Together PAC, and advance to the final round. The ten finalists will compete for the Grand Prize - a fundraiser with Governor Warner. Vote today: http://www.forwardtogetherpac.com/mapchangers

Thank you,

Mame Reiley
Forward Together PAC

It's an interesting bit of outreach from DLC Dem Mark Warner to the netroots. (Is this from the brains of Warner Internet strategist Jerome Armstrong?) He's certainly making quite a play.

[Also: If I had to guess, the grand prize winner is between Jon Tester in Montana (a must-win Senate seat for Democrats this fall) and James Webb in Virginia (an it'd-be-really-really-nice-to-win Senate seat for Democrats this fall).]

Political Video of the Day

Since Web video has gotten so much better recently, particularly through YouTube I've found, we're going to try something new: the political video of the day.

I'll be scouring the Web some myself, but I'd most love nominations sent in by you, the readers, of the funniest, most informative, most interesting politics-related videos making their way around the Web -- or, as of yet undiscovered. You see a particularly hard-hitting campaign ad? Send it in. A really bad ad? Send it in. An interesting clip from one of the Sunday shows floating around? Send it in.

To: ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Today, we're going to start off with the Frontline special aired last night, "The Dark Side," about Cheney's role in the War on Terror. This is the first clip of 10 up at You Tube. It also looks like PBS is going to post the whole video here soon. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

It's PBS, so the politics are certainly slanted the way they're slanted. But, from the clips I've watched (haven't seen the whole thing yet), it's fairly gripping.

A Washington Post chat with the producer appears here.

Again, send those videos in to:


There will be a heavy preference for YouTube and other formats that can be embedded in a blog posting, as well as videos that can be downloaded.

Coach K Breaks His Silence

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski held a press conference yesterday and spoke out for the first time on the lacrosse case. Here is a partial transcript of his remarks:

On keeping low media profile during the spring: I think it is important for me to remember my place. I am the basketball coach. I am not the president, I am not the athletic director and I am not on the board of trustees. You have to be careful not to make statements outside of your realm. However, behind the scenes, I have tried to be very supportive of our athletic department, the coaches, the players, our president and the board of trustees. To me, the real story about this spring, without talking about the case because you have to let that run its course, is the community. I love our community because for the last few months, a number of people who have come into our community and raised a lot of questions, which they are entitled to do, that could have provoked things that where not a part of this situation. Our community is so darn good that they did not allow it. I don't look at this being a white community, an African American community, a Hispanic community, I look at this being a great Durham community. The students at the two universities [North Carolina Central and Duke] should be applauded.

I do think for us as a university, we have to always be mindful of the fact of the major reason we are here is because of our students. We have to give our students support in whatever situation, you have to be there to support them, to give them guidance and to just to be there and say 'We are with you.'. That is what I have tried to do behind the scenes. Giving support does not mean you are choosing sides, giving support is what a university should do whether it be at North Carolina Central, Duke, Forham, Illinois or Army. We are in the kid business and that is what I have tried to do behind the scenes.

I don't like the remarks that attack athletics, not just at Duke but anywhere and I think that the people that do that are very narrow-minded in the total scope of what a university or college does. All of the coaches that coach here are teachers. I write about 100 lesson plans a year and they are different ones than the ones I used the year before. I then have a chance to coach games and all that, but we teach more than coach a game. We know our students very well and the lessons that are learned on the court compliment the lessons that are learned in the classroom, because it should be unified effort in an educational process.

At the U.S. Military academy where I went to school, it [athletics] was a way of learning about teamwork, about spirit, about how to handle success and failure, how to be a complimentary player, a star player, how to be loyal, how to communicate in a frenzied moment, how to communicate to show compassion. In other words, it's a crucible of real life things, that's what sports do and to learn those lessons while you're getting this education that you get, the great education that you get in an English classroom, in math or whatever it is, that combination is total education.

We have many great graduates of this university who participated in intercollegiate athletics who are running major corporations, who are operating on people, who are defending people, who are counseling people, and to say that intercollegiate athletics is not an integral part of any university is so ridiculously wrong. It is so narrow-minded and I'm glad that our administration and our board of trustees recognize this.

On Coach K's behind the scenes support:
I have just tried to add support, whether it be just saying to my athletic director 'I'm with you' or to my president, 'What can I do.' With our lacrosse coach [Mike Pressler] and his wife, who are beautiful people, whether it's taking them out to eat or having them over to our house. We have done those things and we are proud of them. The Presslers are our dear friends.

I don't know what Mike Pressler did wrong in this case, whether he's judged in a whole other thing that's another matter. He is a good man. My feeling is that he is here 16 years, his players, former players and families swear by him. As far as my friendship with him, he is going be my friend.

The Kerry Principle

Kate Zernike writes:

Mr. Kerry now describes the war in Iraq as a mistake, even though he once supported it. His critics say they believe the new stand reflects more politics than principle, and ignores other Democrats' concern that setting a fixed date will leave those in tough re-election fights open to Republican taunts that they are "cutting and running" in Iraq. [emphasis added]

In truth it's exactly the opposite: Kerry voted in favor of the Iraq war because he felt it was the politically expedient thing to do at the time knowing he was going to run for President. His entire history, from his post-Vietnam protests to his vote against the Gulf War in 1991, demonstrates Mr. Kerry's principles quite clearly.

Better Off Dead

I've been thinking for a while that killing an immigration compromise was close to a no-brainer for House Republicans. Why? To start with, eighty-five percent of Congressional Republicans voted in favor of some version of an "enforcement-first" type approach. The base of the party clearly supports enforcement-first, so just as a purely political matter, negotiating a compromise with the White House, a small minority of Republicans, and a whole lot of eager Democrats that included some sort of amnesty would be like shooting the GOP base in the stomach - or worse.

Furthermore, the polling on immigration has been mixed and, I think, generally confusing. Despite numbers cited by the White House and others pointing to support for a guest worker program and a "pathway to citizenship," the public seems very much of the enforcement-first mindset as well.

For example, in the most recent Wall Street Journal poll, voters were asked whether they'd be "more likely" or "less likely" to vote for a candidate who favored "increasing border security by building a fence along the border with Mexico." Fifty percent said it made them "more likely" to vote for the candidate, 26% said it made them "less likely," and 22% said it made no difference. However, when voters were asked the same question about a candidate who favored "a guest worker program for illegal immigrants who have been in the United States at least two years," 40% said "more likely," 34% said "less likely" and 21% said "no difference." That's a net positive of 24 points for those who support border security versus a net positive of only 6 points for those who support a guest worker program.

Another data point worth mentioning is from the most recent Democracy Corps poll which asked whether voters supported President Bush's recent proposal of putting 6,000 National Guard troops on the border to "increase border security and limit illegal immigration." Overall, 65% supported the idea and only 31% opposed it. More tellingly, nearly half of those surveyed (48%) said they strongly supported putting troops on the border, while only 20% strongly opposed the idea.

Which leads me to the next reason it was a no-brainer for House Republicans to kill the immigration bill: why on earth would they negotiate away something they've already won? President Bush has already given away the enforcement side of the equation. All border-state Governors have signed off on his plan and the first National Guard Troops have already started arriving at the border. The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement just completed a 19-day long series of raids netting close to 2,100 illegal immigrants. Bush has already committed to doubling the number of Border Patrol Agents over the next two years, building some physical barriers and massively upgrading hi-tech survelliance equipment along the border.

I realize this may seem like "half a loaf" to conservatives, but the fact is the Bush administration is finally showing signs of taking the issue of illegal immigration more seriously, which is what Republicans have wanted all along. Besides, the principal ingredient for a tougher policy on illegal immigration is political will and leadership. We've already got laws on the books that aren't being followed. The House can stiffen penalties as much as they want, but it won't make a single bit of difference if the agencies involved look the other way on illegal immigration or don't enforce the law.

The bottom line is that the Bush administration has taken steps on enforcement - steps which the Republican caucus and the public very much support. There's simply no need for Republicans to turn around and give away an amnesty-type compromise that will endanger their majorities in Congress. Nor does the latest polling indicate they are going to suffer any more than Democrats - and, in fact, less than the President - for not getting an immigration bill. As far as Republicans should be concerned, this thing is better off dead.

Kill Bill: Reaction To the Death of Immigration Reform

Immigration reform is dead - at least for now. Speaker Hastert's decision to call for a series of "field hearings" (whatever those are) on immigration before sitting down to work out the details of a compromise with the Senate means the jig is up. ""Right now," Hastert said, "I haven't heard a lot of pressure to have a path to citizenship."

Here's a roundup of reactions gleaned from various news reports:

Senator John McCain: "I respect their [House Republicans'] views, and I hope that we can still continue discussions, and hopefully we can reach an agreement."

Senator Ted Kennedy: "This is clearly a delay tactic by the House Republicans, who have been dead set against comprehensive reform from the beginning. One has to wonder why there are going to be continued hearings ... other than just to delay and kill the bill."

Senator Hillary Clinton: "It looks like another effort to score political points by refusing to do what needs to be done. This Congress sure won't do anything that's in the best interest of Americans so far as I can tell."

Senator Arlen Specter: "There's a general recognition that we need a bill. We're going to get together. We're going to sit down and try to work it all out."

Senator Harry Reid: "The Republican House wants to defeat the immigration bill. This is a stall."

Dan Perino, White House Spokesman
: "The president is undeterred in his efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. [He is] committed to working with members to see if we can reach a consensus on a bill that will help solve our nation's immigration problems."

Congressman Tom Tancredo
: "Odds were long that any so-called compromise bill would get to the president's desk this year. The nail was already put in the coffin of the Senate's amnesty plan. These hearings probably lowered it into the grave. This is an issue that we can run on and win in November. By training Americans' focus on the Senate's amnesty pact, we'll create momentum for an enforcement-first bill after November. As more light is shed on the Senate's bill, more and more Americans find reasons to oppose it."

Majority Leader John Boehner: "We want to have a very clear idea of what is in the Senate bill and what people think of some of the provisions in the Senate bill. The American people want us to secure our borders. They want us to enforce our laws."

Senator Lindsey Graham: "The question is, Is it better to solve the issue before the election, or is it better to make people mad and do nothing? I think it is hard to go to the electorate when you have the White House, the Senate and the House and say that you cannot at least go through the effort of trying to get a bill. That would to me be a sign of inability to govern."

Senator Jeff Sessions: "The problem with the Senate bill is that it is a tremendously important issue that had very little serious thought given to it. The House can provide the nation an opportunity to find out what's in the bill."

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer: "This is a device to put off the issue, so they don't have to highlight their divisions."

Senator John Cornyn: "I think it's clear the Senate will have to move closer to the House position to get it resolved."

Senator Dianne Feinstein: "My own view is that Republicans want to use it as a campaign issue. I think it is a good idea to let this thing settle for a while."

Senator Mel Martinez: "I realize that the House has not addressed two of the three major aspects of the Senate bill."

I'll be back a bit later with more comment on the subject.

A Kos-ola Timeline

Over at NRO, Jim Geraghty posts a "Kos-ola" timeline, noting payments by Democratic candidates to the netroots and the netroots' subsequent supportiveness.

Basically, I'd say this shows nothing particularly fishy. It's the same catch 22 that comes with think tank funding. Do Cato Institute scholars say what they say because the think tank gets some money from the oil industry, or are they ideologues and the money flows to where the thinking is friendly? The fact that people who think alike support each other shows very little.

It's this most recent case, with the netroots suddenly being so friendly to DLC centrist Mark Warner that should be (and, well, is) raising some eyebrows.

(Also, if you click through to NRO, you might see the Solutions America PAC -- i.e. Giuliani 2008 -- banner ad.)

UPDATE: Kaus weighs in here.

The HomoseXual Agenda

The loving Christians over at Focus on the Family (Dr. Dobson's non-partisan, non-profit, non-political political soap box) have some harsh words for the current X-Men movie (which it turns out is part of the "homoseXual" agenda):

From the perspective of the [comic book] series, people were to be judged not by the condition of their genes but by the content of their character. Cruelty and persecution were deplored, kindness and brotherhood affirmed. Anyone who's ever been picked on for being different (and how many of us know what that's like) could testify to how precious these themes can be.

Again, though, even such a positive message as this can be distorted -- and has been.

Case in point: Homosexuals have embraced X-Men as a metaphor for their experience, seeing themselves as persecuted victims of a society driven by no more than fear, ignorance or bigotry.

That's right. Tolerance is great and all, Jesus said. Just not for the queers.

June 20, 2006

Tancredo: South Park Republican?

Tom Tancredo apparently named his political action committee Team America PAC. (I learned this via The Note.)

I could be very late to this news. But what a name.

Being from Colorado, maybe he thinks he can lock up the South Park Republican vote.

He might, however, want to check out South Park's answer to illegal immigration before committing to the association.

Attention, Wal-Mart Shoppers

Are Wal-Mart shoppers the new NASCAR Dads? The new Soccer Moms? The new Security Moms?

As in, the new phrase that gets hyped by the media out of all proportion but still ultimately gets at something crucial about the current state of American politics?

Quite possibly.

Man Doesn't Bite Dog

Over at NRO, Michael Ledeen seems to think it should be news when our troops don't massacre women and children.

Has he thought that one through?

So Much Negativity

Two very negative polls about 2008 are out right now. One asked which candidate "frightens" people the most, and the other asked whom people would "definitely not vote for."

Hillary came out on "top" in both polls. More grist for the left-wing, anti-Hillary mill ("She's too polarizing! We need to nominate Russ Feingold!").

Here's the breakdown.

Poll 1 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics):

Which candidate frightens you the most?

All: 36 percent
Democrats: 22 percent
Republicans: 58 percent

All: 17 percent
Democrats: 29 percent
Republicans: 6 percent

All: 15 percent
Democrats: 10 percent
Republicans: 18 percent

All: 11 percent
Democrats: 14 percent
Republicans: 8 percent

For Giuliani vs. McCain watchers, it's worth noting that Giuliani is far more feared by Democrats than is McCain, whereas they're roughly even among Republicans. Is this good news for Giuliani fans because their man strikes fear in the hearts of the enemy? Or does it show he's too polarizing for the general election? His negatives in this poll are still less than half those of Hillary, so I'd call it a good thing.

And I think the fact that Giuliani's the most-feared candidate by Democrats, by far, strengthens -- in a roundabout way -- the notion of Giuliani's strength with the conservative base. Does the base want a McCain, whom liberals love? Or a Rudy, whom liberals fear?

Poll 2 (CNN):

Respondents were asked whether they would "definitely vote for," "consider voting for," or "definitely not vote for" three Democrats and three Republicans who might run for president in 2008.

Hillary Clinton and John Kerry tied at 47 percent, as to whom voters would "definitely not vote for." Gore beat them with 48 percent of the "definitely not vote for" vote. (Far fewer respondents would even consider voting for Hillary [28 percent] versus Kerry [35 percent] and Gore [32 percent].)

On the Republican side, Gov. Jeb Bush -- riding his brother's coattails into oblivion -- walks away with the prize: 63 percent of respondents wouldn't even consider voting for him. McCain comes in second in that contest with 34 percent saying definitely no. Rudy does best, in third place, with only 30 percent saying definitely no. Rudy also has a higher base of support than McCain in the poll, with 19 percent saying they would definitely vote for him, versus 12 percent saying the same of McCain.

* * *

What do these polls, taken together, tell us? Well, Poll 1 is of registered voters, not likely voters; and Poll 2 is of "adult Americans." So ... not a ton.

But they do seem to confirm the CW that Hillary is polarizing and an extremely problematic candidate for the Democrats. (Over at NRO, JPod has his doubts about the CNN poll because of the group sampled. But are there polls of likely voters showing that Hillary isn't polarizing? Polarizing doesn't mean she can't win, of course ... but it does probably mean she can be stopped.)

At the same time, these polls also show that Giuliani is more popular with Republicans, and McCain is more popular with Democrats. (And if 34 percent would definitely not vote for McCain in that CNN poll, a lot of those people are probably Republicans.) Which position would you like to be in going into a Republican primary?

Obrador Rising in Mexico

Another new poll shows leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador extending an ever-so-slight lead in Mexico's presidential race. Two weeks before voters go to the polls, Obrador gets 36.5% of the vote, Felipe Calderon of PAN is at 32.5%, and PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo brings up the rear with 27%. A poll by the same firm taken two weeks ago had Obrador leading by one percentage point.

A different poll (via Austin Bay) taken recently showed Obrador holding steady at 34% while Calderon's support dipped slightly to 31% from 33% in that group's last poll and Madrazo trailed with 30%.

What will an Obrador victory on July 2 mean for the United States? Trouble, most likely. Check out more coverage on the RCP topic page for Mexico.

New York's Clean Politics

A report from New York City's Campaign Finance Board says that roughly 22 percent of contributions in the 2005 election cycle (mayor's race, City Council and some other offices) came from contractors and lobbyists that had business with the city.

Is it just me, or does that seem quite low? Let's hear it for New York City's squeaky clean political culture! (Forget that the public-sector unions run Albany like their own personal piggy banks.)

The report didn't count the tens of millions (supposed) prospective presidential candidate Mayor Bloomberg donated to his own reelection effort.

Don't Mess With McKinney

The day after news leaked out last Friday that Cynthia McKinney wouldn't be indicted for striking a Capitol Hill police officer, Jeffrey Scott and Bob Kemper from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution served up this big wet kiss for Georgia's most notorious Congressperson.

Yesterday the Capitol Hill Police held a press conference expressing disappointment with the grand jury's decision and urging the House Ethics Committee to take up action against McKinney:

"This is solely about what is right or wrong," said Lou Cannon, president of the D.C. Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. "It is wrong to assault a law enforcement officer who is performing his duties. No matter what your status, occupation or other factors, everyone must obey the law." [snip]

Also Monday, Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, released a letter he sent to the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee complaining about the investigation conducted by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein.

"It is clear to us that the accused is receiving special treatment from Mr. Wainstein," Canterbury wrote. "This is unacceptable. Had the officer's attacker been a visitor to the Capitol instead of a U.S. representative, it is likely that he or she would have already stood trial."

Members of Congress getting special treatment? You don't say. Don't hold your breath for the ethics committee to step up, either. McKinney pulled out the race card to smear the Capitol Hill Police, for God's sake. Imagine what she'd do to her poor fellow House members if they tried to take action against her.

Corny Energy Policy

If you missed it, the Wall Street Journal had a terrific editorial over the weekend as to why ethanol is still a bad idea, even in the current "crisis":

U.S. taxpayers today pay twice for ethanol: once in crop subsidies to corn farmers and again in a 51-cent subsidy for every gallon of ethanol. Without such a subsidy, ethanol simply wouldn't be cost competitive with gasoline. Then last year, Congress went further and passed a new ethanol mandate, requiring drivers to use at least 7.5 billion gallons annually by 2012.

The immediate consequence of this new mandate was higher gasoline prices this spring, since the ethanol industry was ill-equipped to meet the new demand. Ethanol must also be carried by truck or rail, rather than through pipelines, and it requires special blending facilities. All this has both raised prices and created gas shortages around the country. But rather than blame their new mandate for the higher prices, the Members of Congress blamed, of course, Big Oil.

Ah, but what about the other alleged virtues of ethanol? One favorite is that every gallon of ethanol will supplant a gallon of gasoline imported from tyrannical Mideast oil regimes. Thus, a la Brazil, ethanol can help the U.S. achieve the miracle of "energy independence."

Sorry. The most widely cited research on this subject comes from Cornell's David Pimental and Berkeley's Ted Patzek. They've found that it takes more than a gallon of fossil fuel to make one gallon of ethanol--29% more. That's because it takes enormous amounts of fossil-fuel energy to grow corn (using fertilizer and irrigation), to transport the crops and then to turn that corn into ethanol. The Saudis ought to love the stuff.

Ethanol might have a place in a Giuliani-style "diversification" of U.S. energy policy. But it still have a long way to go as a technology.

The Net: Still Stuck in Neutral

The other day, I asked if anyone knew of a good introduction to the "net neutrality" debate.

Here's a decent piece from the Weekly Standard. In it, Andy Kessler argues that both sides are wrong (which seems about right):

FINDING IT HARD TO UNDERSTAND the "net neutrality" debate? On one side are the hip, cool, billionaire web service companies like Google, eBay, Yahoo, and even Microsoft. Net neutrality is their rallying cry. Despite the fact that they are basically schlocky ad salesmen on a grand scale, they're pushing this quaint, self-serving '60s notion that the Internet is a town square--all for one and one for them, or something like that. Everyone should be allowed to hang out in the town square and use it as they please, one low price, eat all you want at the buffet.

On the other side are the monopolist plumbers like Verizon and AT&T and Comcast. These are the folks who laid the pipe that delivers the Internet--the blogs and pirated movies and photos of Shiloh Brangelina--to your house or office. They think the Internet is more like a giant shopping mall, and they're the mall owners. You the customer can walk around as if you were in the town square, but the tenants (see billionaire web service companies above) are going to have to pay for the upkeep of the premises. If they're one of the anchor stores, they might pay a lot.

In an effort to skim their own fees off the Google crowd, lobbyists and Congress have also taken up the fight. So far, the telcos are winning--a bid to add net neutrality language to a telecommunications bill was shot down 269-152 by the House on June 8--but this is one of those bizarre
issues where both sides are off their rocker.

Being the Weekly Standard, the piece offers its own big-government solution: threatening to seize telecommunications facilities under eminent domain.

Other than that, though, worth a read.

Bottom line: As in most things, it would be better if Congress didn't act.

June 19, 2006

Waiting for Vermont

No decision again today from the Supreme Court on the Vermont spending-limits case.

Rick Hasen's Election Law blog notes the passing of time and notes that Thursday is the next opportunity for opinions.

Hasen also notes speculation as to which justice might be writing the opinion:

Marty Lederman just called me with the following observation. He notes that Justices Kennedy and Breyer are the only Justices who have not authored opinions from the February session (in which both the Texas and Vermont cases were argued). Marty says that anything is possible, and there may be multiple opinions, but his guess at this point is that Kennedy and Breyer are each the lead author of one of these opinions.

Pure speculation. Generally speaking, Kennedy would be OK news (would rather it be Scalia, as, well, always) and Breyer would be very bad news. But, of course, this is again 100% speculation. And not even my own. It's speculation passed on twice on the Internet. You should probably forget you even read it.

Watching the Teachers Unions

If you aren't reading Mike Antonucci's Education Intelligence Agency Communiqués on American education -- especially keeping tabs on the nation's teachers unions -- then you should be. You can sign up to have it delivered, if you're obsessed like I am.

His section on ridiculous rules in teachers contracts is particularly delightful, for those of you who follow the issue and long ago realized that teachers unions' interests are diametrically opposed to those of children (and often to those of teachers, as well, especially charter-school teachers).

The June 12 Communiqué has a bit on the current scandal in New York, where the state teachers union (New York State United Teachers) took payments from financial giant ING Group to steer its members toward ING's investment funds. Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Eliot Spitzer gave NYSUT a slap on the wrist. He's accepted donations from the union in the past, and will likely recieve their help in the near future.

My colleagues at the New York Post editorial page have a bang-up editorial on the whole kerfuffle here.

Union politics as usual in the good old Empire State!!!

Is Sullivan Serious?

OK, I'm not here to defend torture, but can Andrew Sullivan and the reader he quotes approvingly here really say what they're saying with straight faces?:

The Captured Soldiers

All we can do apart from searching for them is pray for them. But Rude Pundit has some thoughts about what we'll say if we discover that they have been tortured. Money quote:

What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions "torture"? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, "Well, we don't do that shit ... anymore"?

No it couldn't. Pray for the safe rescue of the soldiers - and for the president who abandoned Geneva.

Right. Because the terrorists have adjusted their level of atrocity based on American policy. Just like they attacked us on September 11 because of Israel and the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

Just ask Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, Tom Fox, and the countless others slaughtered by the Islamist thugs.

We shun torture to preserve our own dignity as a society, not because we expect mercy from the enemy. They will show us none.

To pretend otherwise is naive and morally blind.

UPDATE: Sullivan clarifies a bit here.

Will on the GOP's Western Problem

George Will's Sunday column took a position with which I'm quite sympathetic, that not only is the Tancredo wing of the GOP wrong on immigration, but it's also short-sighted politically in its willingness to alienate Latino voters. Winning Latinos doesn't have to mean amnesty or open borders, but it does mean keeping your distance from, say, the Minutemen.

Anyway, toward the end, Will got into just how close the election was out West in 2004, as a warning to Republicans:

Remember this: Out West, feelings of all sorts about immigration policy are particularly intense, and if John Kerry had won a total of 127,014 more votes in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, states with burgeoning Latino populations, he would have carried those states and won the election.

It's actually worse than that. I'm not sure what Will's source for the 127,014 votes is, but the number I came up with in my book -- and which the fact checkers at the Atlantic went over for the excerpt in this month's issue -- is fewer than 70,000 votes that would have needed to switch from Bush to Kerry in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado to flip the election.

Using the Washington Post's final listing of election results, one gets the following:

New Mexico: margin of 6,047
Nevada: margin of 21,567
Colorado: margin of 107,567

Add those up and you have just more than a 135,000-vote margin in those three states, meaning half -- a little under 70,000 -- would have to switch from Bush to Kerry to arrive at a Kerry electoral-college victory.

This is all, of course, just playing with numbers. But it does make clear that just as much as 60,000-odd votes would have flipped Ohio and the election, 60,000-odd votes would have flipped the Southwest and the election.

The Southwest and the greater interior West constitute a swing region that the GOP needs to start worrying about.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in America is strongest in the South, and the issue can be used strategically in races throughout the country. But it's very dangerous to the GOP in the West.

Down on the Border

If this strikes you as news, you haven't been paying very close attention:

Demos find border a top issue for rural voters

By Daniel Scarpinato

Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.18.2006

SIERRA VISTA -- When Victor Walker knocks on the doors of fellow Cochise County Democrats to talk about his candidate of choice for Congress, the topic quickly turns to immigration.

"The common theme is, 'People broke the law, they should be treated like lawbreakers,' " says Walker, former Cochise County Democratic Party chairman, who is campaigning for Gabrielle Giffords.

"They want to vent. The issue comes home particularly when your property is being trashed. They don't like that," he says.

The tough talk by Democrats in border areas of the state is in striking contrast to the way liberals tackle the issue in nearby Tucson, or for that matter, in Washington. Elsewhere, they use words like compromise and comprehensive. In this neck of the woods, Democrats talk enforcement.

Al Gore = Jack Bauer

A reader sent through a link to this interview with Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim, the director of "An Inconvenient Truth." The two sat down together for the latest installment of "Unscripted" on AOL's Moviefone.

At the very end of the interview Gore is stumped by the question, "If you were to cast any actor to play you in a movie, who would it be?" But Guggenheim, who directed the first three seasons of the hit TV show "24" with Kiefer Sutherland, jumps in to compare Gore to Bauer:

"And I thought about it, and I was like, well, it's kind of like watching Al Gore, going from city to city trying to save the world and no one will listen. And I was like, well, the only difference is really, that with 24 it's pretend, and this is real."

Murtha's Fuzzy Math

Congressman John Murtha continues to make a fool of himself by suggesting we can effectively fight the terrorist insurgency in Iraq by "redeploying" our troops to a military base in Japan. Here's what he told Tim Russert yesterday in the course of arguing that we don't need a presence in Iraq to conduct the sort of quick-strike missions like the one that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

REP. MURTHA: So--and we don't have to be right there. We can go to Okinawa. We, we don't have--we can redeploy there almost instantly. So that's not--that's, that's a fallacy. That, that's just a statement to rial [sic] up people to support a failed policy wrapped in illusion.

MR. RUSSERT: But it'd be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa.

REP. MURTHA: Well, it--you know, they--when I say Okinawa, I, I'm saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly.

They can? The two 500-lb bombs that killed Zarqawi were dropped by F-16 fighter aircraft. According to the U.S. military:

In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point.

Okinawa is 4,899 miles from Baghdad. Do the math.

Murtha also continued to play fast and loose with certain poll data points. He once again said "80 percent of the Iraqis want us out of there" a claim which many people questioned and which was eventually sourced by the liberal Think Progress to a single poll question from March 2006 contained in this report put out by the Brookings Institution. The question is worded "do you approve the government endorsing a timeline for U.S. withdrawal." Not to be a stickler, but Iraqis endorsing a "timeline for withdrawal" is not quite the same as saying they "want us out of there."

Another example: Murtha stated flatly to Russert yesterday, "The public is two-to-one against what we're doing, and they want a change in direction." That was news to me, because I distinctly remember the latest NBC/WSJ poll results on the question of whether Iraq was worth it or not: 40% said 'yes,' 52% said 'no.' Same thing with the most recent CNN poll (54% said the Iraq war was a mistake, 42% said it was not) and the latest USA Today/Gallup poll (51% say mistake, 46% not). You do not need an advanced degree in mathematics to know these numbers aren't even close to two-to-one.

So where did Murtha get his "2-1" ratio? It looks like he cherry picked it from the latest CBS News poll in which 33% responded the war in Iraq was "worth it" and 62% said it was "not worth it." As you can see, however, the CBS numbers are by far the worst of the entire batch of polls - which is no doubt why Murtha chose to cite them. Ironically, the next question on the CBS survey asks the following: "Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the U.S. have stayed out?" Forty-four percent said we did the right thing, 51% said we should have stayed out.

Congressman Murtha is free to spin the absurd notion of pulling out of Iraq as a simple "change of direction" as he did yesterday, but at least he could do it without misstatements and mischaracterizations.

Vermont Should PACk It In

As we await a Supreme Court decision on whether Vermont's campaign-finance system (with its limits on what individuals can spend) is Constitutional, here's a data point indicating that at the very least it's pretty ineffective:

Vermont's campaign finance law hasn't slowed the flow of money into campaigns since it was passed in 1998. Instead, the money merely follows a different path, one in which political action committees figure prominently.

Read the whole thing.

A P.S. on the Washington State Radio Case

OK, I'm a bit obsessed, but this has to be noted. There are two parties who have especially not distinguished themselves in this assault on free speech in Washington state:

1) Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham has twice upheld this egregious assault on free speech, twice turning a blind eye to the fact that this lawsuit constitutes little more than raw intimidation by one side in an initiative campaign against the other. He's a small fry in the legal system, and the important issues here will be decided by far bigger fish -- but because of his lack of respect for the First Amendment, the damage was already done in the I-912 campaign last year.

2) The Washington state press, and specifically the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have behaved atrociously throughout this entire fight. The P-I ran editorial after editorial in favor of the gas-tax initiative, yet somehow felt its advocacy shouldn't count as a contribution while that of two conservative radio hosts on the other side should. The paper even wrote at least one snarky editorial to that effect. (I questioned the P-I's editorial page editor on his logic in this column last year ... I found it less than convincing.) I'm on the opposite coast from Washington state, so I could have missed the papers out there rushing to Wilbur & Co.'s defense. But I doubt it. It seems that if it isn't their ox being gored, they can't be bothered to exercise their First Amendment rights to speak up.

Free Kirby, Free Speech

Over at National Review, the editors urge: Free Kirby Wilbur!

Yes, the man with two first names is in a pickle over in Washington state. As I mentioned earlier this week, Wilbur is in the middle of perhaps the most important free-speech case currently ongoing in America: The outcome of this case could set a precedent where speech on the radio -- by radio hosts speaking their minds -- would be considered a "campaign contribution" under the law.

Specifically, Wilbur and his co-host, John Carlson of Seattle's KVI-AM, were vocal opponents of an initiative to impose a gas tax in Washington state last year (the initiative won despite their opposition, the gas tax was imposed). Agents of the government, with a financial interest in the ballot initiative carrying, filed suit to force Wilbur and Carlson's radio station to report their air time as an in-kind contribution to the anti-gas-tax campaign. The fact that the hosts helped collect money and signatures was used as evidence that they should be considered part of the campaign, as opposed to citizens simply speaking about it -- magically converting their "speech" into a "contribution."

A trial court judge decided this was a compelling argument. The air time was assigned a value, and the reporting was made. Now, the Institute for Justice is challenging the trial-court finding in the Washington State Supreme Court. For those who don't immediately see the significance: If speech has a monetary value, it has to be reported; and, far more importantly, it can be limited just like any other cash contribution.

Oral arguments in the case took place on June 8, and can be viewed online here.

I spoke to IJ attorney Michael Bindas on Friday, and here's the status of the case:

Time frame: There's no telling when the court will issue a decision, but the justices seemed to understand there is some urgency. There are, of course, elections this year. And the uncertainty surrounding the issue of whether radio speech can count as a campaign contribution needs to be resolved.

Next step: If the Washington State Supreme Court's decision were adverse to the defendants (for our purposes, let's call them "the good guys"), the appeal would be to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Precedent: To IJ's knowledge, the trial court was the first ever to treat "pure political speech essentially as a monetary contribution." There have been FEC complaints where radio stations have been targeted under a similar theory to that in the Washington state radio case, by politicians unhappy with talk show hosts' coverage. The FEC has uniformly rebuffed these complaints.

So, that's where things are. Keep your eyes peeled.

June 18, 2006

Mark Warner's Internet Bubble Boy

Mark Warner's Internet strategist (Kos co-author Jerome Armstrong) appears to have a shady past touting bum stocks on Internet message boards, according to a story in the New York Post (Kaus says the Times broke it first, in the black hole known as TimesSelect, a.k.a. TimesDelete).

I guess the comparisons of Mark Warner to BluePoint (read the article) are inevitable. Kos & Co. were certainly giving an overly warm welcome to Warner, a (gasp!) centrist Democrat, last weekend at lefty-fest YearlyKos -- which has caused some degree of consternation in some quarters.

Armstrong seems to go as far as he can in the Post article to deny the SEC charges, without violating his agreement with the SEC that he ... not deny the charges.

My only problem with the Post story? It didn't ask Armstrong: Where would you turn? How far would you go? How hard will you fall?

Kaus Not Bearish on Lieberman

Mickey Kaus doubts whether the new Lieberman "bear ad" is as bad as I think it is:

It seems juvenile to me. But doesn't its effectiveness hinge on whether (and how much) Connecticut Democrats hate Lowell Weicker?

Well, I'm from Connecticut. And though I was very young when Lieberman beat Weicker, it's always seemed to me since then that Republicans in CT hate Weicker more than Democrats there do (at least, his name was cursed in my Republican household). And given that Weicker's main issue in all of this seems to be the Iraq war, it sure looks to me like he's aligned with the Democratic mainstream.

But, aside from Connecticuters' views on Weicker, I think the problems with the ad are two-fold. First off, there's the question of surface perception (or, as Mickey might have it, "visceral surface revulsion"). It simply makes Lieberman look a) foolish (especially with the "stand-by-your-ad" tag at the end) and b) desperate, for I think obvious reasons.

The second fold: The ad's questionable "truthiness."

The claim that Lamont is really a Republican in disguise is bizarre, given that this is the main knock on Lieberman. It seems to be based on Lamont's votes as a Greenwich selectman -- i.e. on town issues, that probably don't have much bearing (sorry, couldn't help it) on national politics. Meanwhile, Lieberman is standing with the president in defense of an unpopular war. (Rightly, I think, but that hardly matters.)

The other claim -- the ad's main claim -- also seems tenuous at best. Weicker did consider an independent run, since he opposes the war and wants to see Lieberman taken out. And he stopped considering it when Lamont got in the race. And now Weicker is holding a big fundraiser for Lamont. But the idea that an independently wealthy candidate riding a wave of pre-existing anti-war sentiment is a puppet, or will be overwhelmingly beholden to one prominent backer, just seems silly.

At base, it looks like Lieberman is trying to change the subject from substance to personal smears. It makes him look weak. And at a time when every other piece of news (i.e. a closing gap in the polls) is making him look weak as well, it plays into a story line that ends with him losing and/or being forced to run as an independent.

June 16, 2006

The Resilient Economy - by Brian Wesbury

Imagine you were working on a 500-piece puzzle and had assembled 497 pieces, but found out that the last three pieces did not fit. In fact, you realized that they were from a completely different puzzle all together. What would you believe, that the three pieces were the right ones and the 497 were wrong, or vice-versa?

This is an important question for people looking at economic data these days. Those who think the economy is slowing focus on the 0.1% increase in retail sales during May. But, one or two-month slowdowns in economic data mean nothing. Retail sales are up 7.6% in the past year and 8.5% at an annual rate over the past six months. Excluding autos, retail sales increased 0.4% in May and are up 9.1% in the past year and 9.6% at an annual rate in the past six months.

Moreover, the future for retail sales does not look dour at all. Yes, non-farm payrolls increased by a less than expected 75,000 in May, but the household survey reported a 288,000 jump in employment. The Household Survey has been a much more accurate predictor of economic strength in this recovery than the Establishment Survey.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6% and average hourly earnings have accelerated sharply in recent months, rising at a 4.2% annualized rate in the past six months. Wages and salaries have accelerated as well, rising at a 7.9% annual rate in the first four months of 2006. Tax revenues to the federal government are growing even faster (13% above last year during the first eight months of this fiscal year) and people do not pay taxes on income they do not earn.

While industrial production data showed a decline of 0.1% in May, output has climbed 5.2% at an annual rate in the past three months and 4.4% in the past year - both faster than overall GDP.

Early data for June signals a rebound. Initial unemployment claims have fallen to 295,000, while the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey was 13.1 in June - a level that is indicates real growth in the 3.5% to 4.0% range. New orders in the Philadelphia area rebounded strongly in June with 31.8% of area manufacturers reporting rising orders and only 14.1% reporting declining orders - another signal of stronger than anticipated growth ahead.

Along with data that reflects a solidly growing economy, inflation remains elevated. The Consumer Price Index expanded by 0.4% in May, while the "core" CPI jumped 0.3%. No matter how you slice and dice it, "core" inflation is clearly running well above the Fed's comfort zone.

The bottom line is that the economy is still in very good shape, while inflation is moving higher. It may be easy to pick out some data here, or some anecdotal evidence there, that paint a picture of slower growth. However, that evidence is in the distinct minority. When put together, a vast majority of the data reflects an economy that continues to roll along much as it has for the past three years.

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

Neutral on Net Neutrality

So, the Christian Coalition is aligned with MoveOn.org, and both are aligned with Moby.

Either net neutrality is really good or really, really bad.

I'm guessing bad.

Here's a decent entry-point to the debate, if you follow some of the links. I must admit, though, I still don't think I know enough about the issue to render an informed opinion.

If anyone's seen a good, balanced article that explains the basics, send it in to ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com.

Dems Crashing Back To Earth?

My Sun-Times column this month looks at the rough ride Dems have been having over the last few weeks.

Federalism Fans

All you Federalist Papers fans out there (you know who you are)...

Over at NRO, Jonah directs folks to a new online version, with a clever URL: here.

For a searchable version, however, check out Yale's online version: here.

(A search for "pirates," for instance, pulls up only one hit. I would have thought there would be more pirate-related material in there.)


For anyone having trouble viewing the Lieberman "bear" ad that Tom just posted (at least I couldn't get it to open), here it is through YouTube.

It's enough to make one think maybe Lieberman deserves to lose.

Bearish on Lieberman

I must agree with Josh Marshall, Joe Lieberman's new ad is one of the most ridiculous campaign spots I've ever seen.

Meanwhile, Lamont continues to close the gap.

Questioning Vilsack's Quest

It's been a rough week for Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. First came the results of the latest Iowa poll, which showed him running a disappointing fourth in his home state (with 10% of the vote) and trailing John Kerry (12%), Hillary Clinton (26%), and John Edwards (30%).

Next came a less than fruitful effort trying to court the nutroots in Las Vegas. Ryan Lizza reports:

Sadly, Tom Vilsack, governor of Iowa and chair of the DLC, doesn't make the cut on Kos's top candidate list. Vilsack shares Richardson's lack of pretension, but he doesn't combine this man-of-the-people image with the de rigueur pandering or free meals. Instead, like Warner, he's burdened by DLC baggage, and he gets shoddy results. He sits on a poorly attended education panel with two know-it-all bloggers who dominate much of the session. Afterward, at his meeting with bloggers, 13 people show up, five of them national reporters. "Are you guys bloggers?" he asks of the other eight. During the panel's Q&A, one of the education panelists, Teacher Ken, interrupts the governor. "Let me respond to his question," Teacher Ken insists.

Vilsack gives lip service to the transformative power of the Internet on politics, noting the promise of a direct democracy project called the Progressive Caucus, but he also pointedly notes, "There is some maturing that has to take place" in the liberal blogosphere. "I think, in a more mature situation, you would see less focus on the personalities and more on the politics and the policies," he says. Pressed, he adds, "Well, you know, Daily Kos is banging away at the DLC. We don't need to do that. Because there is a set of values that I think people on Daily Kos have that define them as Democrats and a set of values that define me as the chair of the DLC. And you know what? I'm not the enemy. I'm a pretty decent guy, if I say so myself." Before wrapping up, Vilsack adds, "Al From takes some hits, and, clearly, Joe Lieberman, you know? We don't need to do that."

I have never met Vilsack before, and he strikes me as an extremely bright and knowledgeable governor. I almost feel bad for him. I want to--but don't--explain that, in the liberal blogosphere, he will now be the enemy.

Vilsack did manage to end the week on a positive note, impressing New Hampshire voters during a visit yesterday. Vilsack is a likeable guy with an endearing life story, but that isn't enough to put to rest the serious doubts Democrats have about his potential candidacy:

"I had a picture of Eugene McCarthy, a picture of Bobby Kennedy in my head. I had a very positive impression," said Seldin, a fixture in Concord Democratic politics. "But is he serious? And can he raise the money?"

We'll have to wait and see, of course, but I'd be surprised if the answer to that last question turns out to be 'yes.'

Quote of the Day

"I love her and hope she runs for president, but ... That voice, you know, it sort of gets on your nerves. I wouldn't want to have her as my mom, to have to hear that voice all the time." - 23 year-old Jennifer Stephens, after listening to Hillary Clinton deliver the commencement address at Adelphi University.

Turning Against Nifong

Another interesting twist in the Duke rape case: Jackie Brown, the woman who ran DA Mike Nifong's primary campaign, jumped ship and is now heading up the effort to get County Commissioner Lewis Cheek on the ballot to run against Nifong this fall. Cheek has been urged to enter the race by those critical of Nifong's handling of the Duke case.

Brown has worked for Cheek in the past, but it's still pretty clear she doesn't think too highly of the way Nifong has conducted himself during the Duke investigation:

"Durham has been the center of controversy for a long time and I believe it needs some leadership to take it in the right direction," Brown said. "Lewis is a leader; he's a gentleman."

While acknowledging, "We don't know everything Mr. Nifong knows," Brown said the Duke lacrosse rape case was a factor in her decision to help Cheek try to unseat the man she just helped elect.

"I don't see any progress made at this point," she said.

The Raleigh News Observer has more:

Although criticism of Nifong's handling of the Duke lacrosse case arose during his primary campaign, Brown said she did not abandon her candidate because she had never lost a campaign. But she fielded many questions about Nifong.

"I cannot tell you how many hundreds of people called me toward the end of his campaign saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' It really started before he got elected," she said.

The News Observer also reports that Ronald Leary, a former sheriff and big Nifong supporter, has also decided to switch sides and support Cheek. To be put on the ballot, Cheek needs to round up signatures from 6,303 registered voters in the next 14 days. Something tells me that won't be much of a problem if Cheek decides to run.

Meanwhile, the defense lawyers' assault on Nifong continues here and here.

Rove Gives Paper the Vapors

From the looks of this editorial, the good folks at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appear to have come down with a case of the vapors over news of Karl Rove's non-indictment:

Sometimes it feels like there's no justice. That's a sentiment likely to be shared by many Americans in the wake of this week's announcement that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has decided not to charge top White House aide Karl Rove in his investigation of the Valerie Palme leak case.

The feelings of frustrated justice are not just partisan sour grapes, although some of that certainly exists among Democrats who were prematurely convinced of Mr. Rove's legal complicity. The truth is that disappointment might be felt by any fair-minded person who remembers what exactly was at the heart of this case and who was involved. [snip]

Mr. Rove may yet be called as a witness in Mr. Libby's trial -- as perhaps Mr. Cheney will too. Unfortunately, as we have lamented before, the trial won't occur until after the November elections, so whatever is learned there won't inform the voters in time. Optimism is limited in any case. For all his vaunted independence and thoroughness, Mr. Fitzpatrick doesn't seem to have achieved much.

In the meantime, Mr. Rove is pictured smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary. And who can say he is wrong? Yes, sometimes it feels like there's no justice.

Liberals were so heavily invested in the frog-march fantasy, I can understand their disappointment in getting a big lump of coal for Fitzmas.

New Jersey Senate

New Jersey is shaping up to be a problem for Senate Democrats. Most of the recent punditry has focused on Republican troubles and whether or not Democrats can recapture Congress, but when looking at the Senate for 2006, perhaps a better question might be: can the Democrats even pick up seats?

Republicans are getting a "two-fer" from Jon Corzine's decision to leave the Senate for New Jersey's Governor's mansion last year. First, as a sitting Senator with a willingness to spend enormous sums of his personal wealth, Mr. Corzine would have been a very difficult incumbent for Republicans to unseat. In his win in 2000, Mr. Corzine outspent his opponent Bob Franks $63 million to $6 million.

Second, as Governor Mr. Corzine has done his best to reenact the politically disastrous politics of the Florio administration. Like Florio in 1989, Mr. Corzine has called for higher state taxes causing his approval ratings to fall into the 30's. In 1990, this led to a political environment where the relatively unknown Christie Todd Whitman came within 3 pts (50%-47%) of beating incumbent Senator Bill Bradley - despite being out spent fifteen to one.

This is the playing field shaping up for Mr. Corzine's replacement, Senator Bob Menendez, who has neither Mr. Bradley's stature nor Mr. Corzine's money. To complicate matters further, Mr. Menendez's opponent, Tom Kean, Jr. is the son of the popular former Governor Tom Kean.

Polling over the last 6 months by Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports show a close race with both candidates hovering in the high 30's/low 40's. Quinnipiac's last six polls (averaged out since November) show Menendez ahead 41% - 37%. Rasmussen's last six over the same time frame give Kean the edge 39% - 37%.

New Jersey was once a quintessential swing state that has become consistently more Democratic on the national level. The last time Republicans carried the state in a Presidential election was 1988. But George W. Bush managed 46% in 2004, a six-point improvement from 2000. And the state Democratic party has been skating on thin ice in the recent major elections for Governor and Senate, surviving the Torricelli and McGreevy scandals with shrewd gaming of the system which may be catching up with the state party.

While President Bush's woes and Republican angst on Capital Hill may be dominating most of the national headlines, the political environment may be quietly shaping up for Republicans to pickup a Senate seat in blue state New Jersey.

No Reform for the Reformers

It turns out that new political movements, even those with an eye toward alleviating "the corruption of the political process by money," are stymied by the very campaign-finance laws of which folks of their ilk are so fond. Who knew?

The Unity '08 folks are about to find out. And how.

Bob Bauer (if you're not reading his Web site for the latest on campaign-finance regulation and its various grotesqueries, you really should be) gives an amusing account:

The longing for unity and the dream of a better, more consensual politics may not survive an encounter with the federal campaign finance laws. See FEC Advisory Opinion Request 2006-20. Unity 08, a 527, represents this longing and this dream, and it hopes to forge for presentation to the American public a bipartisan ticket and a program broadly appealing to the middle on the "crucial problems" ... facing the country. One of these problems, it states, is "the corruption of the political process by money" ... and it is now before the Federal Election Commission with a proposal that it raise money for its activities without complying with the federal contribution limits. Reform without limits, at least for the reformer: this is a proposal commendable for its candor and freshness, and it may point the way to a new "middle" on reform, which allows for reform packaging but dispenses with bothersome content, such as limits.

Those who want "reform," we all know, are pure of heart. So why should they have to live by the rules they've written for everyone else? The rules are there to stop corruption, and the reformers are -- by definition! -- the antithesis of corruption.

The logic is air tight.

To be fair, the folks on the Unity '08 Founders Council aren't necessarily responsible for McCain-Feingold, but they do declare that: "Both [major parties] are unduly influenced by single-issue groups. Both are excessively dominated by money."

So, sorry guys. But the only way we major-party types can be sure that you're not unduly influenced by single-issue groups and that you're not excessively dominated by money is for you to adhere to all applicable rules and regulations.

After all, you wouldn't want even the appearance of corruption to taint such a promising new paradigm in American politics.

June 15, 2006

Full Disclosure

It's come to our attention that Thomas Riehle's recent article, published on RealClearPolitics on Tuesday, failed to properly disclose a business relationship between his polling firm, RT Strategies, and the pro-Wal-Mart group, Working Families for Wal-Mart.

The data cited in Riehle's article on Wal-Mart is derived from questions Working Families for Wal-Mart paid to have added to RT Strategies' monthly omnibus poll. This is a service RT Strategies offers to anyone in return for a fee, but it is most certainly something Riehle should have disclosed upfront when writing an opinion essay about the results. He has acknowledged and apologized for the mistake. We apologize to our readers as well.

Press Conference Caps Bush's Best Week in Months - by Ross Kaminsky

Wednesday's press conference given by President Bush in the White House Rose Garden was the best I can remember him giving...ever. Despite the mother of all red-eye trips, a secret trip to Baghdad to meet with the Iraqi Prime Minister (who didn't know Bush was coming until 5 minutes before he arrived), Bush was obviously energized.

He didn't say anything like "ingrinable" or "strategery", and even made what I, as a stupid movie geek, found to be a very funny joke when he called on a reporter named Roger, and then said "Roger, Roger."

There was a minor gaffe which we learned about later: Bush asked a reporter if he was going to ask a question "with his shades on" not knowing that the reporter has an eye disease for which he has to wear sunglasses. Bush called the reporter later and apologized in what seemed like a very pleasant conversation. (Click HERE for the story.)

In any case, Bush gave a good answer to every question. He was firm about our support for Iraq. He stressed the importance of our commitment there, made no promises about withdrawing troops, and had excellent retorts for stupid questions like "Why didn't you tell the Iraqi Prime Minister sooner that you were coming?" (Those might not have been the exact words, but that was the question.) Bush's obvious answer: "I'm a high-value target for some."

The conference over all was the most solid performance I've seen from President Bush and was a great highlight to a solid week for him.

Al-Zarqawi was killed, Rove was not indicted, he made a successful trip to Baghdad, and he had his first noticeable uptick in poll results in months.

All this is a fragile foundation but a foundation nonetheless for improved Republican prospects for November, including making it more likely that GOP candidates will not shy away from having the President campaign for them.

I believe that some part of today's stock market rally, the first in 8 trading days for the Nasdaq, was due in some part to the improving possibility of the Republicans keeping control of Congress. As Oscar Wilde might say if he were still around "The only thing worse than electing Republicans to Congress is not electing Republicans to Congress", and that's especially true for financial markets.

In any case, although I'm not a huge fan of President Bush, I'm glad he had a good week. In this case, it meant we all had a good week.

Letters From The Corps

Thanks to all the current and former Marines and other members of the U.S. military who emailed in response to my column yesterday. Getting the kind of response I did from the troops over a simple, humble 700-word article praising the United States military is more proof, I think, that the media in this country does a terrible job celebrating and honoring those in uniform who defend it.

Here's an example of the type of response I received:

Thank you for taking up the cause and standing up for the Marine Corps. I saw the same cartoon from one of the Marines I served with years ago. I have tried on my own to try to generate some condemnation and some help in standing up to an unjustified cheap shot by a person who does not have a grasp on reality. My outrage was not so much at him using the very freedoms that thousands of better men and women have sacrificed over the years to provide him, no it was the fact that the most important tenet of our legal system he denied to every single Marine including the ones accused of atrocities by saying that a crime and a cover up occurred before the investigation and the courts-martial were even held. Every American is entitled to the presumption of innocence until they are convicted of a crime. Thank you once again for conducting yourself in an honorable manner and defending an institution that has been defending before this country was even established.

And another who voices more detailed frustration with the media:

I am a Marine Captain and Iraq War Veteran and I just wanted to send you a thumbs up and good old Marine Corps OOORRRAAAHHH!

Frankly many of my peers are worn down by the media and their constant "gotcha" techniques of reporting. We are tired of many stories of goodwill going unreported. When I was in Iraq, specifically Baghdad, the Iraqis were concerned about one of their local schools because it had been used by insurgents. Myself and several of my Explosive Ordinance Disposal Techs entered the school and found over 50 suicide-bomber vests and a brief case bomb. Nearly 1,000lbs of explosives were set to blow as a boobytrap. And I am sure you know what a 1,000lbs of explosives looks like when detonating after witnessing Zarqawi's safe house being blown up.

My point is that for every kind act to spread goodwill and win the hearts and minds of good Iraqi people nearly goes unreported. However, every single negative issue is splashed across the front pages. WE are tired of living in a fish bowl. We are tired of living at such a high standard and held to that standard while politicians who we expect to do the same continually get away with corruption, bribery, sexual misbehavior, etc., etc. This leaves us to wonder why we in the Military who aim to live at an unprecedented standard of discipline are hung out to dry but politicians and media types get a free pass.

We are tired of the "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" of the media. How can they possibly think or know with any relevance what happened in a fire fight? How can they possibly question a leaders decision in the middle of a shootout? The answer is that it is disrespectful to those men and women in uniform who have to make the critical decision in a split second. And a lot of those decisions are made by what we in the Marine Corps call "Strategic Corporals." These are young men around the age of 21-22 years old make death-defying decisions in the heat of battle.

I would like to ask some of the media types what type of decisions they were making when they were snot-nosed college graduates? They ever yell to the Marine on their left or right to advance against an enemy who is hell bent on killing you! I will freely admit mistakes are made, we are not perfect, to err is human, however this standard is not applied to we hardchargers in the Marine Corps or our sister services. We are expected to be at superhuman standards nearly 100% of the time. I would ask you how many days have you had were things just were not going your way and you decided I am going home laying down on the couch taking a few aspirin and calling it a day. In war there is no days such as these, you have to be on your game every minute of every day watchful of each of your Marines.

Finally I just wanted to say great article and please keep fighting for this notion that we are doing just and honorable work for our great nation even if we make a few mistakes don't destroy the trust because we are only human.

Here's a slightly different take:

As a four year veteran of the Marines (1961-65) I, of course, stand ready to defend the honor of the Marine Corps. However, the honor of the Marines needs no defending. For 230 years the Marines have fought this nation's battle and as the Marine Corps Hymn says "First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean." There have been failures of discipline in the Marine Corps in the past and they will no doubt occur in the future. However, what makes the incident at Haditha so sad is that it is so rare.

There is one final aspect about this episode that non-marines don't understand. Marines could care less what the world thinks of them. The opinion of a marine's buddies is what counts. I rather suspect that the judgment of other marines is much harsher toward the malefactors at Haditha than any opinions mustered by supporters or critics of the Iraq war.

One veteran who is opposed to the war sent this:

I certainly agree as a veteran that it is honorable to serve in the United States military. In fact, my family has done so in every war back to the revolution. That being said, there is no honor in being ordered to invade a country that was not a threat to the United States. The Marines have been put in an untenable situation by the administration. Those responsible for sending them should be held accountable because they are the ones that initiated the war crimes, which have undoubtedly occured in Iraq. (You're seriously out of touch with reality if you don't think so). The grunts on the ground are victims along with the thousands of Iraqis who have been killed since the invasion and occupation by US troops.

And finally, just to prove that there are, in fact, some virulently anti-military folks out there, I received this:

Mr. Bevan:

What a bizarre little column.

I have a son. He is two. If I am successful in raising him, he will never be a killer for the United States. More correctly, he will never be a killer, period. He will never see "putting on the uniform" as something honorable to do.

Do you share President Reagan's admiration of the United States Marine Corps? Do you believe the job Marines do is inherently good and worthy of high esteem? And if your son or daughter chose to join their ranks, would you feel an enormous sense of pride?

Absolutely not. The acceptance of any military job at this point is to buy into an imperialist scam.

People are being asked to put the lives of their children on the line for ever-shifting reasons and motives. Staying as far out of military service is a right and just thing to do.

It always surprises me that conservatives, of which I am assuming you consider yourself, consider the United States a noble nation brought together and bound together by shared ideals, then they are willing to betray ideals for "the greater good," or "the good of the country." When the nation based on these beautiful ideals betray those ideals, of what good is that nation? How deserving our our allegiance is that nation?

All of this without even mentioning the appalling inhumanity of the corrupt beasts holding the office of president and vice president.

I am an American by birth, not choice. My only goal is to survive in this country, but I hold no feeling of warmth or allegiance. We have a broken government on every level, and the people in high offices lie, and fools like you call it truth. My highest goal is that my son will never be in the meat grinder of the military. Ever.

The honor and nobility of the U.S. military is only enhanced by the fact that its members serve, fight, and die to protect the rights of people like this, even though many would argue they do not deserve it. Thankfully, as I tried to point out in my column, these folks are a small minority, and the vast majority of Americans do in fact hold military service in very high esteem. Semper Fi.

June 14, 2006

Hadji Girl: The Aftermath

Little Green Footballs posts the "Hadji Girl" video (of a Marine singing about an ambush in Iraq and using a little Iraqi girl as a human shield) that is causing such a stir. YouTube apparently has removed the video "due to terms of use violation," as the message on the Web site says. (This is very bad policy on YouTube's part. If it's going to be a useful source of news and information it can't censor.)

The conservative closing of ranks over this incident is perhaps understandable. A large segment of the media wants to use incidents like Abu Ghraib and the alleged crimes at Haditha to undermine support for the Iraq war.

But this video is at best bad PR, and at worst a bit sick. Yes, as LGF points out about 10 times, the song's lyrics make it clear that the insurgents kill the little girl in question -- but why is this lyric a big laugh line?:

So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me.

As the bullets began to fly

The blood sprayed from between her eyes

And then I laughed maniacally

There's a difference between pre-judging Marines who are over in Iraq risking their lives for blowing off a little steam with some very dark humor and thinking that the American war effort doesn't need any more black eyes at home or on the international stage.

The Marine in the video did the right thing by apologizing. That should probably be the end of it. But if we're in a PR war as well as a hot war with the Jihadis, as a broad consensus on the Left and Right agrees we are, it's not an unpatriotic or "blame the troops" mindset to find incidents like this disturbing and in need of some corrective action.

The Kos Establishment OR Kaus vs. Kos

Mickey Kaus finds the treatment Mark Warner got at YearlyKos questionable -- as well he should. As I reported over at the New York Sun's blog, Warner was the only one of the four prospective 2008 candidates who got to address the entire Kos convention (at lunch on Saturday), and he got a very nice introduction from Markos himself.

Kaus attributes this treatment to "Warner's hiring of Moulitsas' buddy, Jerome Armstrong." That's part of it. Another part of it is that, as Markos said in his introduction, Warner was the second big shot -- after Harry Reid, in whose backyard (Las Vegas) the whole event was being held -- to accept the Kos invitation. Pandering, apparently, can get you to second base with these folks.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. If a political gathering wants to reward politicians who are early to sign up, good for them. But Kaus is right that it's more than a little hypocritical for a group of bloggers that constantly rails against the political establishment, and particularly centrist Democrats, to extend political-establishment-like treatment to a centrist Democrat just because he returns their phone calls.

The second round of stories out of YearlyKos seem to be focusing on whether the Kos folks are really anti-establishment or just trying to burrow their ways into the establishment as quickly as possible after making a splash on the Internet. That Jerome Armstrong is working for Mark Warner points toward the latter conclusion. Call him the Ana Marie Cox of the lefty blogosphere.

And call Mark Warner savvy for buying off a potentially problematic interest group (or at least its leaders) so cheaply.

'Fitzgerald Called. Case Over'

That's the message that popped up on Karl Rove's Blackberry as he prepared to take off to New Hampshire on Monday afternoon, according to Anna Schneider-Mayerson's interview with Rove lawyer Robert Luskin the New York Observer. Luskin also has some choice words for Truthout's Jason Leopold and the unseemly role the lefty blogosphere played in spreading lies about his client:

The weekend Mr. Leopold's story went online, Mr. Luskin said he had "mainstream-media reporters calling me saying, 'I'm embarrassed to make this call, because I know this can't be true--I've covered this story, I understand the process, I've got my sources--but my editors tell me I need to call and ask, "Is there any truth in this?"' "That is a function of the tension that there is now between the mainstream media and the blogosphere. On the one hand, it seems to me that the CBS National Guard stories were the poster child for the principle that sometimes the blogosphere keeps the mainstream media accountable, and it seems to me that this story is, if you will, the poster child for the fact that the blogosphere is itself often not accountable, and that there are a universe of folks out there who have got personal or political agendas who were masquerading as news sources. That is just as destructive in its own way, or more than the mainstream media's insularity is on the flip side."

The "Anti-Rathergate" is not a bad characterization of Truthout's role in the affair, especially since Leopold and his boss Mark Ash continue to cling to their now thoroughly discredited story of a Rove indictment much the same way Dan Rather did (and probably still does) cling to his belief in the forged TANG documents.

I see Ash and Leopold have now moved on to the diabolically insane gambit of trying to resurrect their tattered credibility by questioning Luskin's:

The entire basis for the information that "Rove has been cleared" comes from a verbal statement by Karl Rove's attorney. No one else confirms that. As Karl Rove's attorney Robert Luskin is bound to act - in all regards - in Rove's best interest. We question his motives.

Truly and utterly pathetic.

Bush Regains His Mojo - by Larry Kudlow

Things are looking rather good right now for the President.

I'm sure he has been savoring this steady stream of good news. With some new, talented faces behind him in the West Wing, a powerful and resurgent White House team is welcoming a string of successes here at home and in Iraq. There is a new, unmistakable bounce in the President's step. Bush is confident, he is on message, and he is fighting the good fight.

In short, he has regained his mojo.

Not everyone is happy about these developments. Those poor Democrats, they don't know what to do with themselves. In between all their bickering, they just can't seem to figure out what to do about Bush's momentum and success.

Look no further than national security. In our critically important war on terror, without a doubt the most pressing issue of our time, the Dems have not changed their tune one bit. They remain off-key and more than a little suspect in protecting our safety and freedom.

Take this latest welcome blow to Al Qaeda, with the well-deserved death of their murderous leader/thug/enemy of peace and fomenter of violence, Al-Zarqawi; or the growing cohesion in Iraq's nascent government, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet shows increasing signs of promise. Observe the surge of American support for our vitally important Iraqi campaign in the polls.

All of this is great news. Or so you'd think.

But not for the Democrats. These positive developments have them wringing their hands, lost somewhere in outer space.

Instead of praising our progress in the war on terror, instead of getting firmly behind our Commander-in-Chief and signaling their commitment to finishing what we began, all we get is more bad ideas and a lot of head scratching from these folks. Just look at their leaders:

John "Flip-Flop" Kerry has raised the rhetoric for troop withdrawal;

Harry Reid too--he gave a talk at a lefty blogger convention this past Saturday echoing Kerry's cut and run call;

(Murtha? Well, you know where he stands);

Hillary Clinton thinks a timetable is a bunch of nonsense (good for her). But Hillary is a minority in the party. The Senator from New York was greeted with a chorus of thunderous boos yesterday by a bee's nest of Democratic activists. (In case you were wondering, John Kerry, who also spoke, was cheered wildly when he advocated his cut and run plan.)

The point here is that the wishy-washy Democrats still don't have a real message. They are still running for cover. At this pivotal time in our nation's history, a time when strong, effective leadership is needed to defeat these enemies of peace and democracy, the Democrats offer no game-plan, no leadership, and no consensus. They are defeatists.

Things don't look much better for the Dems on the economic front. (No real surprise there.) Try as they may, they still can't manage to kick their tax and spend habit.

As Karl Rove reminded everyone in New Hampshire yesterday, Democrats want to raise our taxes; Republicans want to reduce them. Democrats want an increase in spending; Republicans want a reduction. And, until they move towards pro-growth tax and spending reform, Democrats are not going to win elections.

The fact is that the Laffer curve tax-cut paradigm remains the most powerful policy weapon in American politics. When you tax something more, you get less of it. JFK and LBJ both adhered to this principle, as did Ronald Reagan. Papa Bush deserted it and got whooped. Bill Clinton originally opposed it, and the Dems lost Congress as a result. When Clinton finally embraced it during his second term (with a cap gains tax cut) he did well.

George W. Bush successfully used tax cuts in 2003 to re-ignite the American economy, and lead the GOP to big election victories in 2002 and 2004. And the President and Karl Rove are going to use it again in 2006. But, as long as the Dems keep banging their heads against the Laffer curve brick wall, they are doomed to defeat.

There is still a lot of time left between now and November. But, given Bush's resurgence, Democrats' dissension, continuing good news from Iraq and our war on terror, a continued strong economy with historically low unemployment, and the fact that Bush is on message and looking stronger than ever, well, you've got to reassess the conventional wisdom about the Dems picking up any seats in November.

Sure, the Dems have an opportunity to gain some ground, but it is an opportunity they will likely squander. Their message remains poor. As John Kasich pointed out recently on "Kudlow and Company," nobody ever won a close race by promising tax hikes. And, as the President correctly stated at his news conference, this is exactly what these guys will do.

No matter how they dress it up, no matter how they cut it, Democrats are angling yet again for tax hikes.

The stubborn fact remains that the Republican Party is the party of optimism and growth, while the tentacles of pessimism are still tightly wrapped around the Democrats. It remains the party of defeat and decline. They lack Ronald Reagan's sunny vision of America and the policy ammunition to effectively nationalize these races with an attractive message. This is the real political problem for the Dems. And until they get a new message, they're toast.

It's only June, but right now, with the way things are shaping up, it's looking more and more like a GOP Congressional hold to me.

Did I mention that the President regained his mojo?

Rudy vs. Bush

The New York Times spins Rudy's energy-policy speech yesterday for the Manhattan Institute as a rare rift between Bush and Giuliani. That's fair enough. (Though, all Republican candidates are going to have to create a little space. It's the nature of running for the presidency that you have to identify problems you want to fix, even if the last guy was on your side.)

It should be noted, however, that if there was a rift on energy policy, there was also one on education. Specifically, responding to a question from the audience, Rudy gave an impassioned brief for school choice, evincing some disappointment that the Bush administration had not made this core conservative cause a priority.

My own column on the event for the N.Y. Post gives a rundown.

The Assault on Our Troops

benson_marines.jpg Steve Benson's recent cartoon in the Arizona Republic disparaging the U.S. Marine Corps (via Malkin) is a fitting example of the subject of my column today.

Someone who thought the U.S. Marine Corps was an honorable institution worth defending would never have drawn that cartoon, especially since we clearly don't have all the facts about Haditha and no one has yet been charged. But Benson wasted no time in assuming the absolute worst about our troops and what happened in Haditha, nor did he waste any time in smearing the Corps as a whole.

As one former Marine wrote to the paper, "The Marine Corps is a very proud organization and is proud of its history. We are a band of brothers, not a band of murderers."

wasserman_gitmo.gifHere's another cartoon by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe that does an equally offensive smear job on the U.S. military over the recent suicides at Guantanamo Bay. It's very reminiscent of Senator Dick Durbin's "gulag" remarks on the floor of the Senate and really a despicable distortion of the truth, as well as a vicious attack on the integrity of the men and women who put themselves at great personal risk every day in Gitmo to help protect America.

Navy Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., the man who directly oversees operations at Guantanamo Bay, recently responded to critics with an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune detailing the quality of treatment received by detainees. According to Admiral Harris that treatment includes: 12 hours of recreation and exercise per day, three meals a day that meet cultural (halal) dietary requirements and that cost three times as much as the food served to our troops, korans, prayer beads, rugs, five prayer sessions a day, a library stocked with 2,000 titles in Arabic, and medical care including dental work, eye exams, vaccinations, and screenings for colon cancer.

If that isn't enough to make your blood boil over how the media constantly portrays treatment of detainees at Gitmo as inhumane, Harris also writes that:

many detainees persist in mixing a blood-urine-feces-semen cocktail and throwing this deadly concoction into the faces of the American men and women who guard them, feed them and care for them. Most of the time after such an assault, our guards decline the opportunity to take a day off. After a quick medical checkup and a shower, they prefer to put on a clean uniform and return to duty. And the only retribution they exact on the detainees is to simply continue to serve with pride, dignity and humanity. [snip]

The young Americans serving here in Guantanamo are upholding the highest ideals of honor and duty in a remote location, face to face with some of the most dangerous men on the planet. Your readers should be proud of them. I am proud to be their commander.

So how is it that Dan Wasserman's first reaction to news that three suspected terrorists took their own lives is to paint the soldiers at Guantanamo as hooded executioners and Nazi-esque looking concentration camp commanders? The media continues to demonstrate that it has lost its moorings when it comes to defending the honor and integrity of U.S. troops.

Joe Wilson Going Forward

Upon the news that Karl Rove will not be indicted, Joe Wilson's lawyer hinted at the possibility of further, private litigation. Just what does he have in mind?

Over at The New York Sun's blog, I give an account of a statement Wilson made in a MoveOn.org meeting at YearlyKos this weekend that sheds a tiny bit of light on the question.

Victory in Newark

School choice supporters (including yours truly) cheered when reformer Cory Booker was elected mayor of Newark back in May. But the extent of his power was still up in the air, as most of his slate of Municipal Council candidates faced run-off elections.

Well, those elections took place yesterday, and Booker's slate won big.

The Newark teachers union can't be happy. And when teachers unions are unhappy, the sun shines just a little brighter and the birds sing just a little more sweetly.

Good luck to all in Newark.

June 13, 2006

Amendment Kabuki?

The flag-burning-amendment dance is a tiring one, but am I missing something or is the amendment scarily close to passing the Senate?

USA Today tells us:

The American Legion, which supports the amendment, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes it, both say there are 66 votes to pass it.

Whether advocates can find the 67th vote to send the flag amendment to the states for ratification remains unclear. A Senate vote is set for the week of June 26.

Now, some of those 'yes' votes might evaporate if this ludicrous idea suddenly looks like it might become a reality (plenty of senators, one must guess, support the amendment based on the premise that it won't pass), but it's still too close for comfort.

Especially when all 50 states have non-binding resolutions supporting such an amendment.

Maybe I'm way out of the conservative mainstream on this one (it wouldn't be the first time, and I'll work actively to make sure it's not the last), but do that many Americans really lack a working understanding of the concept of freedom of speech? I mean, we know Congress and the Supreme Court and the president lack such an understanding. After all, McCain-Feingold became law. But it's hard to believe the American people are that threatened by political dissent.

Rudy's Night Out

After giving a talk this afternoon to a Manhattan Institute crowd about energy policy (more on that later), Rudy Giuliani's Solutions America PAC will be having a major fundraiser (is any Rudy-related fundraiser non-major these days?) in New York City. According to the Hotline On Call blog, it will be chaired by Eliot Spitzer enemy and Home Depot founder Ken Langone. Ken Mehlman will also be headlining.

Some 175 donors and $1 million in cash raised are expected.

Is the Economy Really Slowing Down? - by Brian Wesbury

Real GDP expanded at a 3.3% annual rate in the second quarter of 2005. This was followed by a 4.4% growth rate in the third quarter and then a post-Katrina swoon of 1.7% in the fourth quarter - which many took as a sign that the economy was slowing. Nonetheless, a post-Katrina rebound boosted real GDP to a barn-burner 5.3% rate in the first quarter of 2006. First Trust Economics' expects second quarter growth to slow to 2.8%.

Assuming that this forecast is correct, real GDP will have expanded at a 3.5% rate during the four quarters ending in June. Not bad for a year with nine rate hikes, $3 gasoline, $70 oil, $11 natural gas, the loss of our 35th largest city to a hurricane, a slowing housing market, stumbling consumer confidence, and general malaise in most national polls regarding the health of the economy and the performance of our President.

The question, however, is not what the economy has done, but what it will do. A majority of economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, believe that the economy will continue to weaken as this year unfolds. The story line goes as follows: The cumulative (and lagged) impact of rising interest rates and energy prices, combined with a slowdown in housing will undermine consumer purchasing power.

Certainly, it appears that this is exactly what happened in our current quarter. Real consumer spending is expected to slow to 2.0% annualized growth from 5.2% in the first quarter, while real residential investment is expected to decline by 3.0% after growing at an equivalent 3.0% annual rate in the first quarter.

However, the assumption that this trend will continue is a forecast, not a given. We do not believe that the economy will slow much, if at all, in the second half of 2006. Leading indicators of business confidence remain robust. Heavy duty (above 14,000 lbs.) truck sales were 10.5% above year-ago levels in the first quarter, while capital goods orders (excluding defense and aircraft) were up 9.2% year-over-year in April.

In addition, while consumer attitudes have swooned, the actual state of the consumer has improved. The unemployment rate fell to a cycle low of 4.6% in May and average hourly earnings have increased 4.2% at an annual rate in the past six months, their fastest six-month growth rate since 2000. Moreover, household wealth hit another record high in March, rising to $53.8 trillion. Contrary to conventional wisdom, US households are some of the best savers in the world. In an additional sign of economic strength, tax revenues are surging - up 14.6% last year and 11.2% so far in 2006.

The underlying drivers of the economy are still pointed upward. Productivity is strong, tax rates remain low and our models suggest that a "neutral" federal funds rate is roughly 6%. The Fed is definitely less loose than they have been in recent years, but monetary policy is not yet tight.

As long as these underlying forces remain pointed in their current direction the economy will continue to grow at a faster than average pace. The things we worry about have nothing to do with rate hikes, high energy prices or the housing market. The four things that can kill an economy are all policy related - tax hikes, trade protectionism, government over-spending or regulation, and bad monetary policy. Talk of a major budget summit being pushed by some in Congress and the White House, that could address entitlement spending, is especially dangerous if it leads to tax hikes. But any deal is still way off in the future. In the meantime, the economy is robust enough to grow strongly in the second half.

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

War on Terror No Longer the Dominant Voting Issue?

Scott Rasmussen has an interesting post on why the President's job approval numbers have not bounced following Zarqawi being taken out by U.S forces last week. The point that should be the most concerning to GOP politicians and strategists is his point at the end:

Another possibility, suggested by a wealth of polling data, is that Iraq and the War on Terror are no longer the dominant voting issues. For the first time since 9/11, we will have an election decided on issues closer to home. Immigration, the economy, and other domestic topics may ultimately decide the critical election contests this November.

I touched on this a couple of weeks ago in "The Fading Political Impact of 9/11."

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....

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......

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...... 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.

This is the single most important political development as it pertains to the fall elections and, to repeat, it is not good news for the GOP.

Cheating Bush Out of 6.8%

ABC News stretches the boundary of the word "approximately" in this story on Newt Gingrich:

With mid-term elections coming in November and Bush's approval ratings at approximately 30 percent...

Actually, Bush's most recent RCP average job approval rating is 36.8%. I suppose the authors of the ABC News story could be referring to the last ABC News/Washington Post poll - taken nearly a month ago, by the way - which had Bush at 33%. Theoretically, they could also be referring to the new CBS News poll (also 33% job approval) that came out last night.

But every other poll taken in the last month- eight of them, in fact - has Bush at 35% or higher, including a new USA Today/Gallup poll that has the President at 38%. So I suppose, given the new standard offered by ABC News, we could also characterize Bush's approval ratings as being at "approximately" 40%, though I suspect it's highly unlikely you'll find anyone in the MSM rounding up in favor of the President.

Bush Bounce: Statistical Noise or a Modest Uptick? - by Scott Rasmussen

President Bush failed to get an immediate political bounce from the news that al-Zarqawi was killed last week. The reasons why cannot be determined with assurance, but let's first look at the numbers.

Just before al-Zarqawi was killed, 32% of Americans gave the President good or excellent marks for handling the situation in Iraq. That figure actually slipped a point to 31% in our poll conducted in the days following the good news.

At Rasmussen Reports, we also measure consumer and investor confidence on a daily basis. Following the capture of Saddam Hussein, there was an immediate bounce in the nation's economic confidence. By contrast, economic confidence in the U.S. actually fell slightly in the days following the al-Zarqawi news (it's now come back, but no surge is evident).

Same thing on the Bush Job Approval ratings... Initially, there was absolutely no bounce. Today's reading is 42%. That's up a bit from 40% and we will have to watch to see if that's statistical noise or a modest uptick. At the moment, the default assumption is statistical noise (the President's daily Job Approval ratings have been remarkably stable lately--within three points of the 40% level on 58 out of the 60 days).

A couple of other polls have been released suggesting that the President may have enjoyed a bounce from the latest news. But, the news stories assume more than the numbers can justify. Those polls are quite likely a reliable measure of current views, but they are comparing current readings to results from a month or more ago. Many factors (including statistical noise) could account for the slight improvement they have found.

The more intriguing question is why there was no bounce for the President. One possibility is that there have been so many potential "turning points" in Iraq that the public has adopted a wait and see attitude. Rather than celebrating a turning point, Americans may be waiting for proof in the form of decreased violence and reduced U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

Another possibility, suggested by a wealth of polling data, is that Iraq and the War on Terror are no longer the dominant voting issues. For the first time since 9/11, we will have an election decided on issues closer to home. Immigration, the economy, and other domestic topics may ultimately decide the critical election contests this November.

Nifong Subpoenas Under Fire

John Stevenson of the Durham Herald-Sun reports:

A lawyer representing nearly three dozen Duke lacrosse players has filed another motion seeking to throw out subpoenas issued by District Attorney Mike Nifong last month.

In the May 31 subpoenas, Nifong demanded that Duke University turn over the home addresses of 47 lacrosse players and two other students, and also campus identity-card data that could track their whereabouts around the time of the alleged sexual assault the night of March 13.

Defining a 'Loophole'

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has a wonderful editorial this morning on campaign-finance "reform":

The late Murray Rothbard, a UNLV economist of national repute, used to tell a story about his mentor, the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises.

Sensing he would not fare well in greater Germany during the Nazi era, von Mises migrated to New York, where he would meet socially with a group of young American student economists. As English was not his first language, some of the American idioms left von Mises puzzled. At one point he interrupted to ask, " 'Loophole,' what is this word you keep using, 'loophole'?"

Once this term of art for analyzing the American system of taxation and regulation was explained, von Mises summarized, "Ah, so a 'loophole' is when they have left something unregulated."

In particular, the editorial takes on the current hyperventilating over the fact that the FEC has -- can you imagine this? -- left political emails unregulated. Papers like the Washington Post have been screaming that this will create a flood of possibly corrupting political spam.

Right. Spam is a very effective tool. And the people who pay for it will control our politicians like puppets.

Somebody stop these people before they reform again.

Quote of the Day

"Maybe multiculturalism is just a nice idea for people who haven't been bombed yet." - Mark Kelly of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. quoted by HDS Greenway in this morning's Boston Globe.

Rove Won't Be Charged in CIA Leak Case

Not the news Chris Matthews and Joe Wilson wanted to wake up to this morning.

NRO's Byron York reports Rove's attorney Robert Luskin released a brief statement this morning:

On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove.

In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation. We believe that the Special Counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct.

York goes on to say:

A decision by Fitzgerald -- one way or the other -- had been anticipated for months. There was widespread speculation that Rove might face charges for lying to Fitzgerald's grand jury much like those filed by Fitzgerald last October against Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. Now, it appears that will not happen. And so far, at least, no one has been charged with violating any of the underlying laws in the case -- either the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act.

Rove's fate has been the subject of intense discussion among critics of the Bush administration. Perhaps foremost among them is former ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was the CIA employee at the center of the affair. In August 2003, Wilson vowed to pursue Rove vigorously, saying, "At the end of the day it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

This removes the specter of what would have been another damaging round of extremely bad PR for the White House had Bush's longtime political consigliere been indicted and it also gives Rove the peace of mind to pour all of his focus on November's elections.

June 12, 2006

McCain and the Right

McCain does his best to court fiscal conservatives at a speech in New York City.

More On Moran (say it fast)

A reader writes in that the GOP as a whole chastising Moran for earmarking is a bit like Dick "Go #$%^ Yourself" Cheney chastising Moran for his language.

Turn Up the Radio

Who here remembers the Washington state radio case? Everyone should, because it's the front-line of the war on speech in America. In short, the outcome of this case could set a precedent where speech on the radio -- by radio hosts speaking their minds -- would be considered a "campaign contribution" under the law.

That means it could be regulated, limited, banned, fined, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.

I wrote about the case here for the N.Y. Post, back in July of 2005.

The anti-gas-tax campaign that was at issue is done and gone (the bad, pro-tax guys won in November), but the court case is still kicking around, with the Institute for Justice, as ever, bravely leading the charge against government oppression. IJ gives a summary of the case here, with links to amicus briefs by the ACLU, the Washington State Association of Broadcasters and others.

Nothing less than the First Amendment is at stake here, and in all fronts of the War on Speech (a.k.a. "campaign-finance reform"). Keep your eyes and ears open. Because there're a lot of people who want your mouth closed.

Earmarking Stones

The RNC has already sent out an email blast about Rep. Jim Moran's stupid comment about what he'll do if the Democrats regain the majority in Congress. Specifically, he'll earmark the s--t out of the federal budget.

Fair enough.

Somehow, though, I think this fiscal-high-mindedness play is a losing issue for the GOP of the Medicare prescription-drug bill, the No Child Left Behind law, the Bridge to Nowhere, and -- oh yeah -- the explosion of earmarks from 1,400 in 1995 to 14,000 in 2005.

Glass houses and all that.

Herbert Takes the Bait

You didn't seriously think Bob Herbert could resist writing a column about Robert Kennedy's article claiming Republicans stole the 2004 election in Ohio, did you?

Here is how it works. First, make no mention of the numerous criticisms and debunkings of Kennedy's piece and declare the article absolutely conclusive:

But Mr. Kennedy, in his long, heavily footnoted article ("Was the 2004 Election Stolen?"), leaves no doubt that the democratic process was trampled and left for dead in the Buckeye State. Mr. Kerry almost certainly would have won Ohio if all of his votes had been counted, and if all of the eligible voters who tried to vote for him had been allowed to cast their ballots. [emphasis added]

Then throw in a requisite smear of Republican African-American Ken Blackwell:

The point man for these efforts was the Ohio secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who was both the chief election official in the state and co-chairman of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio -- just as Katherine Harris was the chief election official and co-chairwoman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida in 2000.

Next, bury the lede in the first sentence of paragraph nine:

No one has been able to prove that the election in Ohio was hijacked.

Finally, conclude with a wild-eyed generalization about evil Republicans systematically subverting democracy and a statement against the war in Iraq:

The lesson out of Ohio (and Florida before it) is that the integrity of the election process needs to be more fiercely defended in the face of outrageous Republican assaults. Democrats, the media and ordinary voters need to fight back.

The right to vote is supposed to mean something in the United States. The idea of going to war overseas in the name of the democratic process while making a mockery of that process here at home is just too ludicrous.

Voila! Almost as easy as using the Bob Herbert automatic column generator!

Duke Case Collapse

Here's how Duff Wilson and Jonathan Glater of the New York Times characterize Mike Nifong's case against the Duke lacrosse players:

When a woman hired to dance at a Duke University lacrosse team party claimed that members of the team raped her, Michael B. Nifong, the district attorney for Durham County, responded with an aggressive, unflinching and very public investigation.

"There's no doubt in my mind that she was raped and assaulted at this location," Mr. Nifong said on national television after the case surfaced in March. Mr. Nifong called other lacrosse players "hooligans" who had aided, abetted or covered up for the rapists. Local police officers seemed equally certain that they had a horrific crime to solve.

But in the intervening months, the case has come to appear far less robust.

Just calling it a 'bust' would be more accurate. Almost every single piece of evidence that has come out in this case has favored the defense. Even the cornerstone of the prosecution's case, the medical exam from Duke hospital that found the accuser had "injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted vaginally and anally," now looks to be much less conclusive than what DA Mike Nifong (and the press and everybody else) made it out to be, especially now that court papers have been filed alleging the accuser "had sex with at least four men and a sexual device in the days immediately leading up to the off-campus party." That group includes the accuser's boyfriend, whose seminal fluid is the only substance conclusively to have been found in or on the accuser so far, despite the fact she told police that the thirty-minute long gang rape she claims took place in the early morning of March 14 did not involve the use of condoms.

In other words, the DA's case is in shambles. As I've written before, however, Nifong's determination to proceed with this case, despite botching the identification process and indicting at least one player who has a seemingly air-tight alibi Nifong seems to have been unaware of, puts him in the disastrous position of having become personally invested in the outcome. The New York Times article ends with a similar conclusion:

Mr. Vann said Mr. Nifong could drop the case, but the political price would be high. "He'd have hell to pay from the African-American community," he said. "They'd say, 'Give her her day in court. What do you have to lose? If you lose, at least the jury made the decision.' So he's kind of stuck."

Nifong didn't stand up to the African-American community prior to the election, so there is no reason to think he'll do it now. As Thomas Sowell suggested not long ago, it looks like Nifong's strategy - and his best hope for minimizing potential damage from the growing likelihood of the case either being thrown out or resulting in acquittals - is to stretch out the process and hope the country gets bored with the story and moves on to something else.

The Kerry Files - Part II

This morning on RealClearPolitics Tom Lipscomb has Part II of his reporting on John Kerry which combines an analysis of the public record with accounts from more than two dozen interviews conducted over the last week to try and get to the bottom of Kerry's claims about the skimmer mission on December 2-3, 1968 that led to his first purple heart.

Some people might wonder why we're rehashing this story now. Two reasons, really. The first is that the media declined to hash it out properly in the first place. What Lipscomb has done (and continues to do) is to gather up all the evidence from the public record and the parties involved and lay it all out, which is something I don't believe any mainstream media outlet has ever done. As I mentioned in my last intro, Lipscomb isn't out to try and prove or disprove one side of the story or the other, only to put out the facts as he finds them and let the chips fall where they may.

The second reason we're rehashing this story is John Kerry himself. In the recent New York Times piece by Kate Zernike (the one that prompted the first article by Lipscomb that ran on RealClearPolitics last week) Kerry reasserted that he was in command of the three-man skimmer mission on Dec 2-3, and that "it is a lie" to say Bill Schachte was on the boat. Why is that important? Because Bill Schachte, who was second in command at Coastal Division 14 at the time and eventually rose to rank of Rear Admiral and acting judge advocate general of the Navy, says he was on the boat with Kerry and tells a different version of events that night. So Kerry is publicly calling a retired Rear Admiral of the United States Navy a liar.

Kerry claims he has "all kinds of ways of proving" his version of the story. Lipscomb makes a couple of recommendations on how Kerry could clear the whole thing up. Read the story and decide for yourself. Most importantly, compare the work Lipscomb has done investigating the charges and reporting the story versus the way the New York Times handled Kerry's claims.

More Kos Koverage

More Kos Koverage, specifically mine, can be found over at the New York Sun's blog, It Shines for All.

Here on Mark Warner's visit.

Here on Howard Dean's speech.

And here on a literal tinfoil hat brigade.

And there's more if you scroll around.

Rudy's the One

Over at The American Thinker, they're wondering why Charlie Cook is so damned quick to write Rudy Giuliani off as a contender in 2008.

Unsurprisingly, our good, anonymous friend over at Giuliani Blog is asking the same question, too.

While I won't be so quick to cast aspersions on Mr. Cook's impartiality as some, I think the storyline that Rudy can't win is over and done with. All indications are that the right-wing of the Republican Party is quite fond of Giuliani and quite, shall we say, less-than-enamored of John McCain. OK, here's a better way of putting it: They despise McCain. Especially down in South Carolina, where a Rudy-McCain primary could be decided.

There is simply no justification at this point for not taking Rudy extremely seriously as an '08 candidate. He may choose not to run. He may be too far left for the Republican base. But if you're going to take McCain seriously, you're going to have to take a guy the Right likes a hell of a lot better than McCain seriously, too.

McCain Gets Loopholed

Usually when incumbents craft campaign-finance regulations, they stack the deck in favor of, well, themselves. And as far as winning reelection to the House and Senate (or whatever state office is in question when state laws are crafted), they're pretty much on the mark.

This amusing Boston Globe story, however, reports how McCain-Feingold is helping Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney outflank other Republicans competing for the 2008 presidential nomination -- including one Sen. John McCain:

Since July 2004, Romney has set up affiliates of his political action committee, the Commonwealth PAC, in five states. By having donors spread their contributions across the various affiliates, Romney has been able to effectively evade the $5,000-per-donor annual contribution limit that applies only to federal committees, which most presidential aspirants set up to build initial support for their candidacies.

The multi-state system is helping Romney raise money quickly from relatively few contributors, and foster valuable political relationships around the country. It also is a strategy several potential opponents for the Republican nomination cannot use: Federal office-holders, under new campaign finance rules, are barred from operating such state affiliates.

How long could it possibly be before McCain calls for the closing of yet another loophole?

June 11, 2006

The Edwards Juggernaut?

Okay, so the title is a bit hyperbolic, but the new Iowa poll showing John Edwards leading the pack of Dem presidential hopefuls does represent, I think, the first time any Democrat has beaten Hillary in a '08 primary poll thus far. It also reminded me of a couple of emails I received in response to a post I wrote a couple of months ago about Hillary's chances. Here is a sample:

I haven't talked to one activist Democrat--not one!!--anywhere in America (and I'm pretty well connected and talk politics all the time) who thinks Hillary will win and will support her nomination. This is both pragmatic and ideological, but mostly the former.....Right now she's a money/hype machine, but I don't think she'll last past the end of March. Look for a name you haven't mentioned who will get strong labor and black support--as well as have a funding base--to give her and Warner a run from the left (but not the hopeless left, like Feingold): John Edwards.

The Iowa poll really says more about Hillary's potential weakness than it does Edwards's strength. The fact that Democrats in Iowa continue to be skittish about her candidacy (to be more accurate, her electability) is yet another possible warning sign for Hillary.

RELATED: Peter Brown wrote a cautionary article last week about Hillary's chances in Florida and Ohio.

Covering the Kos Kids

The Yearly Kos Convention has attracted all the big name journalists who have filed stories this morning:

A Mixed Bag of First Impressions by Democrats at Blog Rendezvous - Adam Nagourney, New York Times

Net-Savvy Democrats Aim to Pack a Digital Punch - Ron Brownstein, Los Angeles Times

Bloggers' Convention Draws Democrats - Dan Balz, Washington Post

Democratic Rivals Woo Liberal Bloggers - Charles Hurt, Washington Times

Democrats court influential bloggers
- Scott Shepard, Cox News/AJC

Even the foreign press is in town for the event: Top politicians pay homage to king of bloggers - Paul Harris, The Observer

In local coverage, Lawrence Mower of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on Howard Dean's speech. And Launce Rake of the Las Vegas Sun has a piece from yesterday on Wes Clark's speech.

Quote of the Day

"When I say he is not a conservative, what I really mean is that he is not a movement conservative, an intellectual conservative. I think Bush's conservatism is more instinctual -- sort of Archie Bunker-type gut instinct. It's in his gut and not in his brain. He's really not an intellectual person." - Bruce Barlett in the Raleigh News & Observer.

June 09, 2006

Murtha's Moves

Michael Crowley has breaking news at The Plank about a brewing leadership battle among House Dems.

Carville & Greenberg's Advice

Very interesting strategy memo from James Carville and Stan Greenberg released yesterday. The gents from Democracy Corps begin by saying:

We are on the verge of a change election that can produce major Democratic gains. Indeed, this new national Democracy Corps survey suggests that voters are prepared for an upheaval and change of party control, if the challengers define this election, run as outsiders and show voters where they would take the country. Right now, Democrats are underperforming, but voters are listening and receptive to them, and ready to respond to an effective campaign.

Carville and Greenberg go on to cite intense public dissatisfaction with the direction of the country under President Bush (as measured in their latest poll) as one of the main Democratic advantages this year and argue that the data indicates Democrats are just a bit shy of where they need to be to recapture control of Congress.

"The voters want to give the Democrats a bigger margin than they are currently achieving," Carville and Greenberg write. "If the challenger campaigns are effective, they can catch this wave."

But then Carville and Greenberg sound the following warning:

If the Democrats and challengers fail to show voters something more, this disillusionment could show itself in fragmentation to smaller parties and more likely, a stay-at-home protest. The current measures of potential Democratic turnout and enthusiasm are not impressive. And while it is likely that a low turnout election will hurt Republicans more than Democrats, a stay-away protest vote could also cut into the margin Democrats might have achieved.

There has been no improvement in feelings about the Democrats in this change environment; in fact positive views of the party have actually declined over the past few months, with negative assessments slightly higher than positive ones.

Read the whole memo here (pdf). Full poll data available here (pdf).

Hooray for the Death Tax! - by Larry Kudlow

Okay, so the estate tax cut went down in the Senate; class warriors rejoiced.

Congratulations to Democratic Senators, Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ron Wyden, and Mark Pryor, who all voted against death tax repeal, after voting in favor of it a few years ago. At last! They have finally have come to their senses!

Congratulations are also in order for Republican Frank Keating. After crusading for abolition of the death tax when he was governor of Oklahoma, he is now getting right-sized in firm opposition as K Street's newest insurance lobby hero.

I think all of this is great. America should attack rich people. We must abolish wealth. It's a tremendous drag on our economy. It's high time that we made the rich, poor.

In fact, for all the xenophobes that want to depart the illegal immigrants who are helping our economy, may I respectfully suggest that their generals (i.e. Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, and Tom Tancredo and company) consider expanding their dragnet? Let's deport rich people too!

These rich people are bad for America.

We don't want their ingenuity, or their entrepreneurship, or their capital investment. They are not crucial to creating new high growth companies and jobs. We just don't want them. Actually, I think we should figure out ways in the name of egalitarian socialism, to tax their dollars even more times. It definitely is right that they're not taxed enough.

So, in addition to taxing rich incomes, once as salaries, a second time as corporate profits, a third time as dividends, a fourth time as capital gains, and a fifth time at death, there must be a way to tax them again.

Perhaps, if they donate huge contributions to charities there should be a tax?

Or if they build a new church or synagogue, tax 'em. Or if they create another college, tax em. Or if they finance private scholarships, or inner city kids' education at parochial schools, or Hebrew schools, tax 'em. Or if they just go about their business and consume goods and services, can't we have a special tax surcharge? Or if they buy a new home that employs ten, twenty, or fifty construction workers, I say slap a high rich person's tax. Or if they hire a driver, tax 'em. If they show up at a five-star restaurant, tax 'em.

In fact, lets criminalize the entire class of successful American entrepreneurs. Let's haul out the Joint Tax Committee and Congressional Budget Office's distributional tables, and target the upper-end income earners for special wealth taxes.

I like the idea from my crazy Wall Street Journal editorial friends, who talk about "dying for dollars." Maybe we can even impose jail sentences for rich people! No more interest income just like the radical fundamentalist Muslims!

Let's publish their names in newspaper and blog sites. Let's encourage the class warfare, "soak the rich" advocates to swarm over them when they appear on streets and towns, just like the animal rights people, who throw paint on women in mink coats.

We must strive to make America like France or Germany--income leveling; income redistribution. Remember how well this worked with the old Soviet Union?

Actually, I checked the international tax tables and found that the U.S. only has the third highest estate tax rate of the top 50 countries. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Only third? We tax estates at a 46 marginal rate, but Japan is the best at 70 percent, followed by South Korea at 50 percent. We are pikers. We must not let this happen. How can we let Japan be ahead of us on taxing rich people?

The fact that 24 countries have a zero estate tax rate, including China, should not concern us. They don't know what they're doing. And, surely, we don't want to be competitive in the world economy. We want to hang a sign out: "Capitalists are unwelcome to the United States." Let's make the whole country like New York.

This idea of keeping more of what you earn and own is just plain stupid. In fact, this whole capitalistic notion, which is spreading worldwide, is just one of these temporary, bizarre, worldwide trends that will undoubtedly be soon reversed, as people come to their senses.

Czech Republic, Estonia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, they're obviously all nuts with their zero tax rates on estates. Did I say Mexico? That's perfect. As I said earlier, we will deport all our rich people to Mexico. At a zero estate tax rate, they're likely to produce and invest so much more, that they will completely revive the stagnant Mexican economy.

Instead of creating thousands of new businesses and millions of new jobs in America, along with funding schools, colleges, symphonies, cultural centers, hospitals, medical research and so forth, they can do it for Mexico. That of course will solve our immigration problem. What a great idea! Why didn't I think of this earlier?

Meanwhile, Senator Kyl's fallback position of a fifteen percent rate, after exempting the first five million dollars of an estate, is an equally demoralizing idea. That would move us much too close to Canada, Australia and Argentina, which also have a zero rate. That would also promote the foolish incentive idea that there is a link between reward and work, or reward and risk. This crazy, far-out, ultra right wing idea that it must pay after-tax to work and invest is insane.

After all, we know that the best way to generate more saving and investment in this country is to tax it more. That'll do the trick. Contrary to the brilliant Arthur Laffer, the tax the rich crowd must be exactly right with their newfangled, modernistic, 21st century idea that if you tax something more, we will get more of it. Huh?

This may all sound wrong, but these soak the rich guys are deep thinkers. They have their fingers on the pulse of the hundred million strong Investor Class. They know that the worldwide spread of free market economics, which was launched by Reagan and Thatcher, twenty-five years ago, and which has raised global prosperity to record heights, caused the phenomenal growth of middle classes in places like India, China, and Russia, along with record amelioration of poverty, is absolutely nuts.

After all, capital is the enemy of labor! Forget about the obvious fact that you can't create a new job without a business. And you can't fund a new business without capital. Forget all that. It's obviously wrong.

Once again, capital is the enemy. Rich people are evil. We have to put an end to all this capitalist, supply-side nonsense.

By the way, when is Karl Marx' birthday? I have to stop writing now, so I can go look it up. I can't wait to celebrate the master's birthday...

Quote of the Day

While the right-wing routine of constantly questioning the patriotism of those opposed to the Iraq war is more than a little tired, and a cheap way to try to shut down dissent to boot, even lab rodents eventually learn to stop pressing the button that delivers the electric shock.

Daily Kos denizens? Not so much.

- Ryan Sager covering the YearlyKos convention in Vegas for the New York Sun.

Covering Zarqawi

Just how left wing is the editorial page of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune? So left wing, in fact, that the editors decided to adapt a CNN interview with Michael Berg - the pacifist, Bush-hating father of Nick Berg who was beheaded by Zarqawi in May 2004 - to run as a piece of commentary on the op-ed page today. To be fair, the editors did manage to squeeze out an editorial admitting - albeit begrudgingly - that the "rough justice" delivered to Zarqawi yesterday was a good thing.

nypost_zarqawi.gif nydn_zarqawi.jpgAt the other end of the spectrum we have the New York Post and the New York Daily News, both of which carry full page color pictures of a dead Zarqawi on their covers, with the Post adding an extra, humorous, but politically incorrect touch with a speech bubble coming out of Zarqawi's mouth that says, "warm up the virgins."

The Post's headline story runs under the title "Evil Zarqawi Blown to Hell" and the Daily News carries a very similar front-pager under the headline "Zarq is Blown Right To Hell."

The Star-Tribune, however, pulls down a wire story from Newsday for its headline coverage ("Al-Zarqawi was betrayed") and devotes its own reporting manpower (in the person of James Rosen from the paper's Washington D.C. bureau) to producing a 742-word companion piece under the headline "But What About Osama?" As the title suggests, the tone and tenor of Rosen's piece is "yeah, but..."

For terrorism experts, though, Bin Laden is still Public Enemy No. 1.

"It's a good thing to have gotten Al-Zarqawi, but it doesn't end the insurgency in Iraq, and it certainly doesn't bring us any closer to finding Bin Laden," said Charles Pena, author of a new book on terrorism and an analyst with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy in Washington. [snip]

"In the Iraqi context, the raid against Zarqawi is important, but in terms of the global jihad, it doesn't matter. But Bin Laden's death would matter in the global jihad landscape. Bin Laden started the entire organization. He has been the symbolic figure for global jihad."

The inability of U.S. and Pakistani forces to capture Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, she said, "is very disconcerting to intelligence sources fighting the war on terrorism, and it also continues to provide inspiration" to their followers.

The Post and the Daily News may be over-the-top tabloids trying to sell papers at the heart of Ground Zero, but at least they seem generally happy about the fact that we just snuffed out one of the worst terrorists on the planet. The Star-Tribune, on the other hand, seems able to muster only a bare minimum of enthusiasm and unable to focus, even for a single day, on the hugely positive aspects of Zarqawi's death.

The Non-Sequitur Times

Boy oh boy. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney really pulled some rabbits out of his hat on Thursday with his ode to how CA 50 is a portent of Republican doom, did he not? The piece reads as if, fully intending to write a "GOP is doomed" storyline regardless of the actual result, he sat down Wednesday morning and came up with every last reason he could think of why the Republican win was really a loss - and then did not go back through the list to toss out the ones that do not pass the smell test.

The smelliest assertion was the following:

Of the 10 most competitive races for House seats now held by Republicans, as identified by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, only 2 had Republican margins of victory in 2004 greater than the one posted by Mr. Cunningham here that year. Of those two, one is held by Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, who is under federal investigation in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the other by Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who is retiring.
Outside mathematics, you probably cannot get closer to a tautology than this.

As any quality congressional analyst will tell you, one of the major criteria of placing a race on a "most vulnerable" list is the incumbent's share of the vote in the previous election. This is, as a matter of fact, the key reason. So, to make note of the fact that incumbents who won close scrapes are on a vulnerable list is to do little more than restate the definition of a vulnerable list. That is essentially what a vulnerable list is.

There are usually two other reasons why districts are on a vulnerable list. The first is whether they are open seats. The reason for this is that open seats tend to vote according to the district's partisan division - which gives the out-party a better opportunity to win (as their partisans will be much less likely to vote for the other party). The second is whether there is a scandal in the district. The reason for this is that races that feature incumbents usually turn on the voters' evaluations of the incumbent. A scandalous incumbent invariably prompts negative reviews, followed by votes for the out-party. This speaks to the limitations of partisanship - it is why Chicago's North Side voted out Rosty in 1994, why Ney is so endangered despite facing a 4th rate challenger, why DeLay is packing up his office today, and why Nancy Pelosi would breathe a big sigh of relief if William Jefferson would just resign.

So, that only 2 other races feature Republicans with a margin of victory greater than Cunningham's is, in part, a consequence of the fact that there are more incumbent-held seats than open seats on Mr. Cook's vulnerable list. This is the GOP's SINGLE GREATEST STRENGTH this cycle. They are defending relatively few open seats. If the GOP had as many vulnerable open seats this year as the Democrats had in 1994 (4-to-5 compared to 28), the Party of Lincoln would be all-but-sunk.

Accordingly, to the extent that Nagourney is not speaking tautologically, he is exactly wrong.

Where the Action Is

"Is this heaven?"

"No. It's Iowa"

So went one of the memorable exchanges between Ray Liotta and Kevin Costner in the classic movie, Field of Dreams. They were talking about baseball, of course, but political junkies might well say the same thing about the Hawkeye state this year.

In addition to already being a well-traveled stop for the parade of 2008 White House wannabes from both parties, Iowa is home to two of the most competitive House races in the country, as well as one of the most-watched Gubernatorial contests. After the primary on Tuesday, those races have officially taken shape, and they promise to be every bit as exciting as advertised.

In the Governor's race, Democrats face a tough battle to defend the vacancy left by the retirement of the popular, two-term incumbent Tom Vilsack. Secretary of State Chet Culver won the Democratic primary on Tuesday, and he'll do battle with Republican Congressman Jim Nussle. A hypothetical match-up between the two from a poll taken at the end of April showed Mr. Culver with a 6-point lead over Mr. Nussle.

Democrats also face a competitive race in the 3rd Congressional District where incumbent Leonard Boswell is seeking a sixth term against Republican State Senator Jeff Lamberti. Boswell won with 55% of the vote in 2004 while President Bush carried the district by a meager 267 votes. Republicans tout Mr. Lamberti's fundraising prowess - he out raised Boswell two-to-one in the first quarter of this year and has more than half a million cash-on-hand - as yet another reason they hope this race stays competitive.

The open seat in Iowa's 1st Congressional District created by Jim Nussle's decision to run for Governor is considered by many to be the Democrats' top pick up opportunity in 2006. Businessman Mike Whalen bested two other Republicans to win on Tuesday, and trial lawyer Bruce Braley came out on top of a four-way primary battle to win the Democratic nomination. Even though Mr. Nussle won reelection eight times in this district, it tilts Democratic and voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry by seven points each over George W. Bush.

In addition to the increased competition created by open-seats, Iowa has exquisite balance at the state level: 30.4% registered Republicans vs. 30.6% registered Democrats, the state went to Gore by 1 point in 2000 and to Bush by 1 point four years later. Recent redistricting by the non-partisan Legislative Services Bureau has created more competition at the Congressional level as well. Put all these elements together and it's easy to see why Iowa will be where the action is this November.

June 08, 2006

Lieberman's Tin Ear

Kevin Rennie, a former Republican State Senator from Connecticut who now writes a weekly column for the Hartford Courant, responds to my post earlier today about Lieberman's troubles:

I've thought for weeks that Lieberman does not understand how much his fellow Democrats have come to loathe him here. His first attempts at a fightback have been incoherent. His ads are flaccid attempts to paint Lamont as a Republican in disguise. And this "Greenwich millionaire" theme rings hallow. Lieberman has always courted Greenwich millionaires and would probably like to be one himself.

The odd thing is that Lieberman is showing such a tin ear. His first ads were mournful. I hear he has no stomach for putting some rough stuff on the air.

The premise of the Lamont campaign has been they could win if they were within 10 a week before the August 8th primary.

There you are.

Rennie wrote that Lieberman was in trouble back on May 21. His latest column looks at the dismal turnout expected for Connecticut's August 8th primary - another factor that could work in Lamont's favor if his campaign runs a sharp GOTV effort.

How We Got Zarqawi

This article on the backstory of the military's targeting of Zarqawi reads like a Tom Clancy novel. And guess who may have played a key role in facilitating the intel that got us Zarqawi? The man who has proven more indispensable to our cause in Iraq than any other so far: Zalmay Khalilzad. The AP reports:

What may have changed the Americans' luck was U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's efforts to mend relations with Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs, alienated by the U.S. invasion and by the new Shiite-dominated government.

"Khalilzad shaped the environment so they could open lines of infiltration," O'Connell said.

At the same time, the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, stung by U.S. efforts to deride him as a foreigner killing Iraqis, began cozying up to Sunni insurgents. That was probably his undoing, since Khalilizad was doing the same thing, O'Connell said.

"Once that happened, all we needed was a guy inside the insurgency to tell us where he was and, bam, we got him," he said.

You really need to read the whole thing.

To see what other people are saying about Zarqawi's death, check out the plethora of commentary on the subject via RCP Buzztracker.

No Threat, No Response

Gwynne Dyer writes in the Arab News that terrorism doesn't pose much of a threat and that we really shouldn't do much in response:

There isn't a major terrorist threat; just a little one. The massive overreaction called "the war on terror" is due to the fact that 9/11 hit a very big and powerful country that had the military resources to strike anywhere in the world, and strategic interests that might be advanced by a war or two fought under the cover of a crusade against terrorism. If 9/11 had happened in Canada, it would all have been very different.

A kind of 9/11 did happen in Canada. The largest casualty toll of any terrorist attack in the West before 2001 was the 329 people who were killed in the terrorist bombing of Air-India Flight 182, en route from Toronto to London, in 1985. Two hundred and eighty of the dead were Canadian citizens. Since Canada has only one-tenth the population of the United States, it was almost exactly the same proportionate loss that the United States suffered in 9/11.

It was immediately clear that the terrorists were Sikhs seeking independence from India, but here's what Canada didn't do: It didn't send troops into India to "stamp out the roots of the terrorism" and it didn't declare a "global war on terror." Partly because it lacked the resources for that sort of adventure, of course, but also because it would have been stupid. The investigation was not very successful, and twenty-one years later most of the culprits have still not been punished. But Sikh terrorism eventually died down even though nobody invaded Punjab, and nobody else got hurt in Canada. Sometimes not doing much is the right thing to do.

What a bogus analogy. Militants living abroad engaging in terrorist attacks to influence the politics of their home country is not remotely the same as being attacked on your home soil by a group of terrorists who've publicly declared war against your country and your way of life. If two IRA militants living in New York bombed an Aer Lingus flight killing hundreds of American citizens, for example, I sincerely doubt even a "crazed warmonger" like George W. Bush would invade Ireland.

The fact that terrorists aren't all card-carrying members of the same al-Qaeda network obscures the bigger, more important question, which is whether we can all agree that there is a nasty, fascist ideological strain pulsing through Islam that represents a serious threat to our values and our way of life. Unfortunately, as Caroline Glick wrote in the Jerusalem Post this Sunday, the inability of some multiculti leaders in the West to come to this seemingly obvious conclusion is what makes Islamofascism all that much more of a threat:

It is against the backdrop of the refusal of Western elites to acknowledge the fact that there is a global jihad that the true danger of radical Islam becomes clear. Many argue that the forces of global jihad are no match for their enemies because they lack regular armies.

Yet because of the defiant, irrational and immoral refusal of Western political, cultural and media elites to acknowledge the threat that internal and external jihadist forces manifest to the very notion of human freedom, they make it impossible for their societies to take measures to protect themselves.

Witches & Harpies

Ann Coulter doubles down on the nasty rhetoric by calling the 9/11 widows "witches and harpies."

I watched her interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show and I think there's a valid point in there somewhere about a "doctrine of liberal infallibility," but it's long since been lost amid Coulter's scorching language and brass-knuckle attitude. It's been like watching a rhetorical version of Sherman's March to the Sea.


All four South Dakota Republican State Senators who voted against the abortion ban passed in February (HB1215) were defeated in Tuesday's primary. In his column today, David Kranz of the Argus Leader ponders the role abortion will play in November.

Big Losers In Iowa

David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register provides more evidence that labor unions are losing their political juice.

More Warning Signs For Lieberman

In a new Quinnipiac poll out this morning, Joe Lieberman's lead over fellow Democrat Ned Lamont among likely Democratic primary voters has slipped to 15 points. Among all Democrats Lieberman's lead over Lamont declined from 46 points last month (65-19) to 25 points this month (57-32) .

Also of concern for Lieberman: his approval rating among Connecticut Democrats is down to 49 percent, which is an 11-point drop from the May 2 QPoll (it's at 56% overall). His favorability rating among Democrats also took an 8-point hit, dropping to 40%.

Froma Harrop profiles the Lamont campaign in her column this morning and concludes with the following:

The second big question is: What will Lieberman do if he loses to Lamont? Some think he will run as an independent, as which he could pick up conservatives who wouldn't be voting in the Democratic primary. Whatever, Connecticut voters are in a raw mood, and that does not bode well for the senator many call "Bush's boy."

Harrop is in luck, because the Quinnipiac poll posed the question about Lieberman running as an Independent in the general. The result? Lieberman (I) 56%, Lamont (D) 18%, Schlesinger (R) 8%.

Lamont is still a long shot, but at the moment he's a long shot with "joementum." If the trends we see in the QPoll continue, things could get very uncomfortable for Lieberman.

Zarqawi, R.I.H.

Some people deserve to rest in peace (R.I.P.), others deserve to rot in Hell (R.I.H.). Abu Musab al-Zarqawi certainly falls into the latter category, and the world is much better off now that he's been "terminated."

They say things are always darkest before the dawn, and things have been pretty damn dark in Iraq lately. David Ignatius's column yesterday was incredibly depressing, as has been almost every piece of news we've seen or heard from Iraq over the last few weeks.

So Zarqawi's death provides some much-needed good news and, hopefully, a boost of positive momentum for the Iraqi government. Maybe someday we'll look back on Zarqawi's death as a turning point in this struggle, but for the time being we shouldn't be under any illusions it will materially change the situation in the short run. Indeed, as John F. Burns reports this morning, that's exactly how our guys are approaching it:

Gen. Casey, nearing the end of his second year as the American commander here, confined his remarks to a spare summary of the raid that killed Zarqawi. The general shook Mr. Maliki's hand vigorously after the Iraqi leader made the formal announcement of Zarqawi's death, but otherwise seemed at pains not to overstate the significance of the moment.

Zarqawi, he said, "is known to be responsible for the deaths of thousands" with his terror attacks, and his death would be a major blow to Al Qaeda.

But he added a sober note, saying that "although the designated leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq is now dead", hard fighting in the war lay ahead. "This is just a step in the process", he said.

In other words, yesterday was a good day at the office. Let's hope there are more good days to come.

June 07, 2006

Anti-Americanism and Hewitt vs. Campos

Yesterday morning on RealClearPolitics we posted a column by Paul Campos of the Rocky Mountain News in which he attacked Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds and Peter Beinart for what he calls a "Rose-Colored View of History." Later in the day, Hewitt had Professor Campos on his radio show for a lengthy interview, which is well worth reading in full on RadioBlogger.

One comment I found interesting is Campos's assertion that "no country is inherently, morally superior to any other country." This is not an uncommon sentiment among many on the left who for some reason are repulsed by any attempt to elevate the moral status of the United States. But it is amazing to me to see someone as intelligent as Campos (not someone before this interview I considered a wild-eyed lefty) make an assertion that is so obviously wrong and lacking in common-sense.

The United Sates isn't or wasn't morally superior to Nazi Germany? Or Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's China or the Taliban's Afghanistan? Or today's theocracy in Iran or Kim's dictatorship in North Korea? I mean come on. His comment is ridiculous.

I've written about this before, but one of the greatest liabilities the Democratic party has today, especially in the politics of a post-9/11 world when we are at war and where the average Jane and Joe American rallies unapologetically around the American flag, is the blatantly anti-American attitudes so prevalent on the left. It is just a killer liability.

RFK, Jr.'s Other Motive

A reader emails to suggest RFK's real motive for reviving the "we wuz robbed in Ohio" meme: to smear Ken Blackwell, the Republican candidate for Governor:

I saw the guy [RFK, Jr.] on Cavuto and, aside from coming away with the impression that the man is seriously unhinged (Al Gore, you have a soul brother), I couldn't ignore the huge number of times that he uttered the name Ken Blackwell; this in spite of Neal's consistent attempts to bring him back to his allegation. Now, we know the Dems possess a severe idea deficit, but can it be that they believe the only way they can win the Ohio governor's race is to create a non-scandal like this one. My answer to this was to unlimber the checkbook and stroke one for Ken's campaign, even though I live in Virginia.

There is certainly a great deal of truth to this. Why revive a story eighteen months after it's been thoroughly debunked? Because it's five months before the next election, of course. RFK, Jr. does make a valiant effort in his Rolling Stone piece to portray Blackwell as the head of the conspiracy to defraud Ohio voters.

As Robert Novak wrote recently, African-American Republicans are the Democratic Party's worst nightmare, and among the number of impressive black GOP candidates in the running in major races this year, Blackwell probably has the greatest chance of winning. The implications for 2008 are also not lost on Democrats. Ohio is almost certainly going to be a pivotal battleground state in the Presidential race - if the not the pivotal battleground state as it was in 2004 - and control of the Governor's mansion will unquestionably help their chances. If the race is as close as last time, it could be enough to make the difference.

California-50: 2006 Is No 1994

My initial reaction to the California-50 results is that they tell us very little and quite a bit at the same time. Yesterday, I wrote the number I was going to be focusing on was 45% and whether the Democrat Busby could get herself above the 44% - 46% ceiling that Gore/Nader in 2000 (46%), Kerry in 2004 (44%) and Busby/Young in April (45%) had butted up against in California-50. Today the results are in and the answer is.......NO.

With 99.6% of the precincts reporting Busby has 45.45%. Just two months ago in April, Busby and the lone other Democrat won 45.1%. Had Busby materially fallen below the 44%-46% area, that would have been a bad omen for Democratic expectations this fall. Conversely, had she been able to pull off the upset it would have been a major signal that GOP control of the House was in serious jeopardy. Instead, the results are in that middling area where it is neither good nor bad for either party.

Another way to look at the results, however, is that they actually reveal an enormous amount about what to expect this fall. And this is the message California-50 may be sending, don't expect big change in November.

Many political reporters and pundits are playing up an impending disaster for Congressional Republicans, but what California-50 foretells, if anything, is that the odds favor that this is going to be a rather boring mid-term. It's not 1994 or 1980 or 1974. It's just a boring mid-term where Democrats are likely to pickup a couple of Senate seats (Pennsylvania and Montana??) and a handful of House seats, something like 6-10.

Contrary to what you may have read recently about more Republican seats in play, this analysis has been the overall state of play for months. California-50 is just one more piece of evidence that minor Democratic pickups are most likely what to expect this fall, not major change.

The Hammer Pounds One More Time

One of DeLay's biggest political assets - and some would also argue one of his biggest liabilities - is his hard-charging, take-no-prisoners attitude. That attitude is on display in today's USA Today where DeLay chastises his fellow Republicans for defeatism:

The former No. 2 House leader criticized his Republican colleagues for "panic, depression and woe-is-me-ism," and predicted they will lose control in November "if they continue the attitude they have right now."

Whether you love or hate Tom DeLay, there's no denying he was an effective political operator. House Republicans are currently floundering in the wake of his influence: on one hand they're suffering from a political atmosphere of which Tom DeLay is poster boy and architect, on the other hand the discipline in the Republican caucus isn't what it used to be.

The Winners

California: In the country's highest profile primary race yesterday, Brian Bilbray beat Francine Busby by four and a half points, 49.5 - 45 in the 50th district. Phil Angelides beat Steve Westly by 4 points in the Democratic primary for Governor and will match up against Arnold.

Alabama: Governor Riley easily fended off a primary challenge from former Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, Roy Moore. On the Democratic side, Lucy Baxley bested former Governor Don Siegelman 60-36 and will go up against Riley this fall.

Iowa: Secretary of State Chet Culver hung on to win the Democratic primary for Governor and will square off against Jim Nussle in November. In the race to fill Nussle's open seat in IA-1, Democrat Bruce Braley will battle Republican Mike Whalen.

Montana: Republican Senator Conrad Burns easily defeated his primary opposition (72-22) and will face Democrat Jon Tester, who also won yesterday's primary easily (60-36) despite being outspent 2-1 by his opponent.

New Jersey: Albio Sires won the race to fill the 13th Congressional District seat vacated by Democrat Robert Menendez. In the Senate primary, both Menendez and Republican Tom Kean, Jr. cruised to victory, winning 84% and 76% of the vote, respectively.

South Dakota: in the Gubernatorial primary, Democrats chose a 67-year old retired surgeon named Jack Billion to go up against incumbent Republican Mike Rounds this November.

New Mexico: In the Senate primary, Republicans picked Dr. Allen McCulloch to try and unseat four-term Democrat Jeff Bingaman this fall.

Iran Now Has Time and Validation - By Alan Warms

Interesting analysis of the latest U.S. move with regards to Iran in Captain's Quarters last night. Captain Ed concludes with this paragraph:

I'm not sure that this offer will ever get accepted. It looks more like a final move to show that we would present as much flexibility as possible without giving up on the key goal of stopping Iranian uranium enrichment. In that sense, the offer is brilliant. If Iran accepts it outright along with a verification regime that ensures their compliance, it still gives us a trade-off that will put Iranian nuclear development off for enough time to hopefully see a more rational government replace the mullahcracy. Bush has positioned the US perfectly to either accept this diplomatic solution or to pursue tougher options with little difficulty.

I don't agree. For the last 26 years the United States has refused to recognize the Iranian Government for a variety of very good reasons. More recently, throughout the 90s and today, we have Iran's control of Hezbollah; the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; and more recently their statements on Israel, where they take the usual Arab position of non-recognition one step further by proactively discussing ways to "fix the problem." So we have a rogue state that has done absolutely nothing in the past 25 years or the past 2 years to deserve a change in our posture, most recently of course the breaking of the seals of the IAEA.

Our policy has been that we will not negotiate alone, and we will not make concessions without adherence to already existing international law. By breaking this policy, in the absence of any move on Iran's part, we have unfortunately accomplished several things, none of which serve the U.S.'s interest.

First, we've validated Ahmadinejad's entire negotiating position and stature within Iran. He's gotten the Great Satan to "bend to its knees" and to provide him and his country what he wants. More important than any substance of our concession, however, is that we have shored him up within Iran and the fact that we had to deal with them directly at all. Second, and this is where I really disagree with Captain Ed, I have no doubt about Iran's aims: they want nuclear weapons, period. Therefore, Iran will do everything they can to continue to develop nuclear weapons while preventing sanctions. And this concession has bought them another 12-18 months for them to continue down that path, before the next bump in the road, a la the Agreed Framework with North Korea.

If I believed for a second that Iran really just wanted to develop nuclear power, then perhaps it was a good move. But it is exceedingly obvious that is not the case. What Iran needs is time. And we have just delivered it to them, while shoring up an evil regime. As I said in my post yesterday, we need to get tough, and not give Iran the two things they crave most: legitimacy and time. We have failed in that regard.

Have we made the Security Council happy? Sure. Are we now perceived as less "unilateral?' Undoubtedly. But as we know from the run up to the Iraq war, even after Resolution 1441 and all the machinations around it, when the time comes to enforce sanctions on Iran, the criticism from the left will be no less harsh as a result of making the wrong move.

June 06, 2006

Bernanke's Back on Message - by Larry Kudlow

Ben Bernanke got back on message with his strongly worded statement yesterday that, "maintaining low and stable inflation is essential for achieving both parts of the dual mandate assigned to the Federal Reserve by the Congress. In particular, the evidence of recent decades...supports the conclusion that an environment of price stability promotes maximum sustainable growth...."

He specifically mentioned the mild upcreep of recent inflation reports over the past 3-6 months as being, "unwelcome developments."

Stock markets have been jolted downward, and this correction will run its course. But more rate hikes from the central bank as they drain excess cash from the economy will in the medium and longer run, be very positive for the economy and stock market.

In effect, Bernanke is reaffirming his numerical inflation target of 1 percent to 2 percent. Basically this is a price rule that will conquer long run inflation expectations. It's a good thing.

Meanwhile, the economy is much stronger than Wall Street and media demand-siders are telling us. Profitability is high; productivity is strong; business is healthy; jobs are rising; and tax rates are low. Commodity stocks are plunging as the dollar is recovering.

This is as it should be, as markets discount a slower pace of dollar creation. When dollars are scarce, the greenback rises. Before long, this will spread to rising financial assets, especially stocks. Commodity assets are sold. This forms the basis of the market correction.

But the health of business will carry the day after the correction is completed.

It is good to see Mr. Bernanke regain his footing. His monetary manhood is back. He is putting away his Neville Chamberlain umbrella.

Inflation appeasement is over.

Krauthammer on Gay Marriage Debate

Charles Krauthammer is the clearest thinking analyst in politics today, and last night on Brit Hume's roundtable he summed up the politics and policy of the gay marriage debate very well.

Well, obviously in part its politics, but changing the definition of the oldest social institution in the human race, one that has been a man and a woman in every society for a long, long time, is a big deal. And if it's happening in a country, it's a legitimate issue and I think there is a legitimate issue here in that the president is right that judges have abrogated this decision which ought to be left to people either acting in referendum or in -- through their representatives. And that -- there are states, like Massachusetts in which it's been imposed and states like Georgia and Nebraska, where there has been a constitutional amendment where the people have spoken in large numbers and been stopped, stymied, by a judge.

But I think the answer is not a constitutional amendment, which would be in the name of the popular sovereignty, but ironically, it takes it away, because if you ever had a state in which a majority wanted to institute gay marriage, it would not be allowed to under this constitution. So it's a little bit contradictory, to act in the name of popular sovereignty and to pass a law which would extinguish.

The way you do it is change the ethos of the judiciary so that if you get the Defense of Marriage Act, which he spoke about earlier, at the Supreme Court, it's upheld and that it keeps it in one state and doesn't spread it all over the country. And having a president who nominates a guy like Sam Alito is a way in which we change that culture rather than changing the constitution.

Special Report's end of day roundtable is one of the best ways to quickly keep on top of the political ups and downs in Washington. RealClearPolitics will have each night's transcript available every morning at the RCP Resource Center and on the left column of the front page.

The Wrong Approach to Iran - by Alan Warms

Amazing and unbelievable. On the same day I discover the fantastic Pew Forum Q&A with Princeton's Bernard Lewis, (hat tip Hugh Hewitt) we also get news that the United States has made yet another concession to Iran - agreeing to provide nuclear technology in exchange for the abandonment of weapons programs.

Put aside for a moment the Pew session, we already know from Jimmy Carter and North Korea that this approach doesn't work - it just gives the regime more time, money, and skills to continue to develop nuclear armaments.

What's really galling about this move is that we are in fact rewarding Iran and Ahmadinejad for their complete disregard for the U.N. and the IAEA. As Bernard Lewis said in the Pew Forum transcript, this is precisely the WRONG approach:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Professor Lewis, if this is 1938 -- and I assume your sympathies lie with Churchill (laughter) -- what Churchillian policy would you therefore advocate -- and I'll name three crises -- for the U.S. to follow: one, versus Iran, two, in relation to Hamas and three, in relation to the insurgency in Iraq?

MR. LEWIS: Well, in two simple words: Get tough. I have not suggested that we should launch an armed attack on Iran. I don't think that's necessary. I don't think we should do anything that would either offend or tickle Iranian national pride. We're doing both at the present time. We're offending them by saying you mustn't have nuclear weapons, and we're tickling them by allowing their leaders to present themselves as defying the mighty West, standing alone and successfully defying the United States. I think that's the wrong way to do it. There are other things that one can do to indicate displeasure and to help those there who want a big change.

Have we learned nothing in the 5 years since September 11th? Earlier in the transcript, Lewis compares today to 1938. Every concession we give Iran leads them to believe that we have more concessions to give. We need to get tough, NOW. The problem is for a long time we've said no bilateral negoations with only the U.S., and certainly no concessions ahead of Iranian concessions. We've now given in on both items; thereby completely validating Ahmadinejad's approach, and no doubt shoring up his support in Iran.

California 50 and Control of the House

The number to look for in this race is 45%. Can the Democrat Francine Busby get over 45% of the vote in today's runoff against Republican Brian Bilbray?

This race to fill the seat of the disgraced Randy "Duke" Cunningham has been on the radar of the national press for some time as a potential harbinger of what the country may see this November. The only problem is that the first vote in April where Busby managed only 43.7% didn't really confirm the media hyperventilating that Republicans are heading for a disaster in the Congressional midterms. Of course, that could all change today if Busby is able to pull off the upset and squeeze out a victory.

Working in Busby's favor is the Democratic primary for governor, a neck and neck race between Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, which could serve to boost Democratic turnout in the district. SurveyUSA's final pre-special election poll in April showed Busby with 47% (she won 43.7%) and Bilbray with 13% (he won 15.3%). Their final poll for today's vote gives Bilbray the edge 47% - 45%. This poll was taken before Busby was caught telling a predominantly Hispanic audience that "you don't need papers to vote." It is hard to tell just how much of an effect this will have on the outcome, but it is safe to say it is probably not a positive for Busby's chance of pulling off the upset.

In 2000, Gore and Nader won 46% of the vote (43% and 3%) and in 2004, with Nader off the ballot, Kerry managed to get 44% of the vote. In the special election this April Busby and the other lone Democrat won 45.1% of the total vote. These past results for the Democrats all seem to be topping out in the 45% area.

If there really is a Democratic surge building this year you would expect to see it in the final results in today's election. The inability of Busby to break out above that 45% area would be an indication that perhaps much of the media hype about the Democrats taking over Congress is just that, hype. Democrats may try to spin a sub-45% showing by Busby as not a big deal because of the strong Republicans bias of the district or a last minute gaffe, but the reality is this is exactly the type of race Democrats are going to have win at around a 75% clip if they hope to net the 15 seats they need to take over the House.

On the other hand, if Busby does win today, given the amount of money the RNC has thrown into this race (5 million), it would have to be viewed as a major warning sign that a Democratic takeover in the House is much more than just hype and in fact may be a real likelihood.

Let's see what the voters say.

June 05, 2006

RFK Jr. and the Case of the Missing Credibility

Why exactly RFK Jr. likes to hitch his wagon to a never-ending train of already debunked conspiracy theories is anyone's guess, but he certainly isn't covering much new ground with his Rolling Stone article on the "stolen" 2004 election in Ohio.

It is perhaps the worst of signs for a liberal when Salon is the forum for his or her most thorough dressing down. Farhad Manjoo writes, in that day-pass protected Shangri-La:

If you do read Kennedy's article, be prepared to machete your way through numerous errors of interpretation and his deliberate omission of key bits of data. The first salient omission comes in paragraph 5, when Kennedy writes, "In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots." To back up that assertion, Kennedy cites "Democracy at Risk," the report the Democrats released last June.

That report does indeed point out that many people -- 26 percent -- who first registered in 2004 did not find their names on the voter rolls at polling places. What Kennedy doesn't say, though, is that the same study found no significant difference in the share of Kerry voters and Bush voters who came to the polls and didn't find their names listed. The Democrats' report says that 4.2 percent of Kerry voters were forced to cast a "provisional" ballot and that 4.1 percent of Bush voters were made to do the same -- a stat that lowers the heat on Kennedy's claim of "astounding" partisanship.

Such techniques are evident throughout Kennedy's article. He presents a barrage of seemingly important, apparently damning data to show that Kerry won the race. It's only when you dig into his claims that you see what thin ice he's on.

It goes on like that.

OK, just a little more, so you want have to go get that day pass:

Kennedy's headlining claim is that 357,000 voters, "most of them Democratic," were either prevented from voting or had their votes go uncounted, making Kerry (who lost by 118,000) the likely true winner. Kennedy finds these "missing votes" in the damnedest places. He counts 30,000 voter registrations that were deleted from voter rolls, in keeping with state law, as mostly Kerry voters, though it's impossible to know if those were even real people. He says that 174,000 mostly Kerry voters didn't vote because they were put off by long lines. But the source states it was actually 129,543 voters, and that those votes would have split evenly between Kerry and Bush. And that same source -- the Democratic Party's report once again -- notes conclusively: "Despite the problems on Election Day, there is no evidence from our survey that John Kerry won the state of Ohio." But Kennedy doesn't tell you that.

Ah, heck, go get the day pass...

And once you're done there, read Bob Bauer's analysis of the impact the Kennedy piece is having. Bauer, a progressive campaign-finance lawyer (and, by the by, campaign-finance-reform opponent), writes that Kennedy's article satisfies Democratic partisans while shifting the debate on election reform in a way that mostly benefits Republicans.

A snippet:

Robert Kennedy, Jr, meet John Fund: the two of you have more in common than you know. True, Kennedy would argue that some of the criminal and unethical behavior here is uniquely Republican or right wing in nature--such as in the targeting of minority and African-American neighborhoods, which is fairly condemned as a standing disgrace. But he is also portraying a system so vulnerable to fraud that Republicans can have their way with it, engineering the purposeful disenfranchisement of enough voters to change the outcome of a Presidential election.

If this is so, then anyone can aspire to carry out the same kind of plot. Hence: election fraud, not enfranchisement, becomes the central issue of the day--just as Republicans would like to argue, and just as they do, all the time and as a matter of institutional policy.

I'm not sure I agree with Bauer on the policy, that a focus on voter fraud is such a bad thing. But he couldn't be more astute on the politics.

Notice to Disappear

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune ran a jaw-dropping report on the catch-and-release program of non-Mexican illegals entering the country that included this:

Non-Mexican immigrants aren't pervasive, accounting for about 10 percent of the apprehensions, the remainder being Mexicans, said Josiah Heyman, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. Last year, 165,175 non-Mexican immigrants were arrested, and 114,912 of them were released, Border Patrol figures show.

If I'm doing the math correctly that's a release rate of 69.5%. It's very difficult to disagree with T.J. Bonner, the president of the union of Border Patrol employees, who decried this as a "failed policy" and a "national embarrassment."

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald has an equally disturbing report this morning that begins:

Police officials statewide are decrying revolving-door treatment of illegal immigrants they are forced to release when overwhelmed federal authorities fail to take action, a Herald review found.

Even in cases when cops verify a person is illegal, police chiefs say their officers often can do nothing because federal immigration agents with the power to detain them are seldom available to respond.

"It's out of control," Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith said. "A lot of them (illegal immigrants) are running around gainfully employed and it's tough to get a handle on it. We have to operate within the rules."

We really have gotten to a point where the issue of illegal immigration needs to be addressed, and Republicans in Congress deserve credit for grappling with the issue despite the fact it is causing a very tumultuous debate and exacerbating a split within their party during an election year.

The Kerry Files

Like many, I was shocked to see John Kerry proactively reignite the debate over some specific details of his war record, though I was less than surprised reading Kate Zernike's uncritical write up of Kerry's account in the New York Times back on May 28. I was even less surprised when Tom Lipscomb called to say the Zernike article had grabbed his attention with its almost complete disregard for items already in the public record, and that he was interested in doing a multipart series trying to get to the bottom of a number of issues surrounding Kerry's record - once and for all. The first installment, which is a response to Zernike's May 28 piece, is running on RealClearPolitics today.

As many of you know, Lipscomb is a Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Future and has written extensively about the issue of Kerry's military records in the Chicago Sun-Times, Editor & Publisher and the New York Sun. He knows this story inside and out. And, despite what some people will almost inevitably say about him based on what he's written, Lipscomb's interest in this story has nothing to do with politics. He's not a big fan of George W. Bush, nor does he harbor any special animosity toward John Kerry. He's never met a Swift Boat Veteran, though he once attended a dinner where John O'Neill happened to be in the same room.

Lipscomb's gripe is with the way the MSM covered this story during the 2004 election - and now how it has covered it again in 2006; an unwillingness to demand the release of Kerry's full record and a general lack of interest in thoroughly investigating and evaluting some of the charges made by the Swift Boat Vets. Lipscomb isn't out to "get" Zernike (whom he describes as a "fine reporter on education and social issues"), only to point out that for some reason she failed - as did the editors at the New York Times - to do due dilligence investigating Kerry's claims and instead simply reprinted them. Lipscomb says that "there are likely to be holes in the Swiftie stories as well as Kerry's. But there are never grounds for assuming ONE side needn't be questioned and the other side universally discarded."

Since the Times has once again proven unequal to this fundamental task, Lipscomb decided to undertake an effort to do it on his own, and we've agreed to work with him.

Pinch's New York Times

From the Rocky Mountain News' Vincent Carroll on New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." - Mark Twain

But of course it is not easy to keep your mouth closed when you are publisher of The New York Times and the son of the previous publisher. You are a very important person and have known this your entire life. Speaking is largely what you do, even if you happen to embody the very worst characteristics of your generation - a tendency toward moral preening, self-inflation and historical amnesia.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has been publisher of the Times since 1992 and his shallowness has been on display for years. But never more so than in a commencement address he delivered last month at State University of New York at New Paltz.

"When I graduated from college in 1974," Sulzberger declared to much applause, "my fellow students and I . . . were determined not to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. We had seen the horrors and futility of war and smelled the stench of corruption in government.

"Our children, we vowed, would never know that.

So, well, sorry. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life, the right of gays to marry or the rights of women to choose.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drives policy and environmentalists have to relentlessly fight for every gain.

You weren't. But you are. And for that I'm sorry."

The breathtaking arrogance of this litany lies not in its politics, which are what you'd expect, but in its sheer childishness.

What serious adult could possibly anticipate a world in which environmentalists - or any other interest group - are given free rein to define national policy, and in which U.S. leaders are indifferent to safeguarding a commodity crucial to their economy?

What serious adult would expect consensus over efforts to redefine marriage or how to treat millions of people who entered this country without permission? It seems Sulzberger graduated from college anticipating a world in which no one ever disagreed with The New York Times. How revealing to make such a confession.

The crowning touch of these passages, however, is their false contrition - the apology for a state of affairs that he and his audience both know Sulzberger had nothing to do with creating. He is sorry that the world has not lived up to his standards for Utopia. It's a 12-year-old's lament delivered by the publisher of the most powerful newspaper in the land to an audience that in some cases sounds, based on the cheering, almost as immature as he is.

This provides an insight into why the New York Times has fallen so far in the last decade, particularly the last 5 years. The Times' article on John Kerry that ran over Memorial Day which prompted Thomas Lipscomb's "The Truth, John Kerry, and The New York Times" on RealClearPolitics today would not have run in the New York Times of 20 years ago.

Cynthia McKinney's Special Case

To prove the point of my column last Wednesday about a growing frustration with members of Congress - both Republican and Democrat - who cling to a sense of entitlement and don't have to play by the same rules as the rest of the public, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports this morning on the continuing case of Cynthia McKinney:

The grand jury investigation of 4th District Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney enters its third month today with no hint from the federal prosecutor about how much longer it will take to settle a case that legal experts said should have been wrapped up in a matter of days. [snip]

"Right from the start this U.S. attorney has handled this case differently from every other case," said Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "And it's because she is a sitting congresswoman." [snip]

What most angers the police about the McKinney case is that it involves an assault -- no matter how minor -- of a police officer. [snip]

In legal terms, McKinney's case "is as simple as you can get," said George Washington University legal expert Jonathan Turley. Usually anyone who hits a police officer is immediately arrested on felony charges, police and legal experts said.

You or I hit a cop and we go to jail, period. If a member of Congress does it, especially one who is willing to stoop to playing the race card, the case gets special treatment so that it is "settled quietly and privately, avoiding a public spectacle."

Quote of the Day

From USA Today's story on the continuing train wreck also known as the Katherine Harris Senate campaign:

Pollster Ed Goeas says he left [the Harris campaign] because "I kept giving her advice that she chose not to take." That includes his final words of wisdom, which were: "Get out."

Howard's End

Howard Dean is, by far, the most irresponsible head of either of the two major political parties this country has ever seen. Here he is giving succor to moonbat conspiracy theorists in the latest installment of the "we wuz robbed" meme by Robert F. Kennedy in this month's Rolling Stone:

''We know that there was substantial voter suppression, and the machines were not reliable. It should not be a surprise that the Republicans are willing to do things that are unethical to manipulate elections. That's what we suspect has happened, and we'd like to safeguard our elections so that democracy can still be counted on to work.''

June 02, 2006

US Shows Some Cleverness with Iran - by Ross Kaminsky

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a shift in the US position on Iran that is both more and less than it seems.

The US has offered to participate in direct talks with Iran for the first time in a quarter century if Iran suspends its uranium enrichment program.

In my view, there is little chance of a US diplomat and and Iranian negotiator sitting across a table from each other anytime soon with such a pre-requisite.

Rice's announcement was thus not a serious attempt to get face-to-face discussions with a country that has consistently asserted a sovereign right to do anything it wants with nuclear technology.

Instead, what we are seeing is the US putting itself in a position to say with some creditiblity "We have tried everything else" when pushing forward with economic sanctions and eventually with military action (which I think is at least a 50/50 proposition on some limited scale.)

There have probably been some truly intense discussions behind the scenes with Russia and China, along the lines of "We'll try the diplomatic route, but only if you will go along with us to harder methods of persuasion of that doesn't work." And there must have been threats of some sort made to Russia and China, roughly along the lines that we will do what we have to with or without them, as we did in Iraq. What I wonder is why those threats would have made any difference, given the mess that is Iraq at this time. I guess Condi came up with more persuasive threats than I have thought of so far, possibly including reminding Russia and China that they both have Muslim separatist minorities who wouldn't mind getting their hands on a nuclear weapon or at least a "dirty bomb" from a newly-proliferating Iran.

The mullahs who run Iran are many things, but they are not stupid. They realize that the US is putting them in a corner...a corner of international isolation, by saying we will participate in diplomatic efforts if Iran stops what can only be a military use of fissile material.

To this point, Iran has consistenly stuck its thumb in the eye of the rest of the world, emboldened by the Chinese and Russian reluctance to go along with "persuasion". (This behavior by the Chinese and Russians is something we should neither forgive nor forget, but which we must put aside until Iran is dealt with.) The shift in US position and rhetoric makes Iran's next step a rather difficult choice.

Two options are the most probable: 1) Just say no, figuring that Iraq has taken too much out of the US for us to respond forcefully, especially given likely continued blockading of the Security Council by Russia and/or China, and 2) Just say OK, and come to the table for long drawn-out discussions of what they can extort from the US for "permanent" cessation of uranium enrichment programs. In all likelihood, if Iran says "OK, we have stopped enrichment", they will be lying. They have no intention of stopping before they have developed a nuclear weapon. The question is whether they will be good enough at hiding from inspectors, satellites, and spies to keep the underground program from being discovered. If I had to bet on it, I'd bet they can and they will.

"Net Neutrality" and Congress

The issue of "net neutrality" is going to become increasingly more important as giant corporations battle to gain advantage in this new media and telecommunications landscape. Ken Yarmosh has a good piece today that gives a decent overview of the playing field:

The term 'network neutrality' relates to the regulation of the Internet or more specifically, to the underlying networks that make the Internet possible. Described by one of its more popular supporters David Isenberg, a former AT&T executive, network neutrality "means that the network does not discriminate among different types of traffic based on the traffic's source, destination or content."

In consideration of this definition, to this point network neutrality has essentially been a guiding principle of the Internet. Network providers like Verizon or Qwest have not "discriminated" against different types of network traffic - they have not prioritized content of one site or one content provider over another. Internet users can access websites and content from Google and Yahoo! on equal terms. But without the principle of network neutrality in place, how that content gets served might vary based on how much these and other companies were willing to pay.

Telcos like Verizon argue that they should be able to control how their networks operate. They are the ones investing billions of dollars into network infrastructure. When Yahoo! offers users streaming video that is bandwidth intensive, Verizon sees higher traffic and network use but not necessarily higher profits. They want to change that and pricing their service at different levels - 'discriminating' network traffic - is their answer.

This issue has been rolling under the radar for a while now and I see little chance that Congress and the Judiciary will not have to insert themselves into this battle at some point in the next 2-5 years.

June 01, 2006

Oh, Canada!

Sobering email from a reader in Montreal responding to my post this morning on border security and Canada's passivity toward Islamic radicals:

As someone with close friends who work in the Canadian refugee system, I can tell you with great assurance that you're correct to worry about Canada's chronic laxity in regards to Islamic radicals and other foreign militants on Canadian soil. If anything, it's almost worse than you describe, since it's become an institutional problem, and not just a purely political one.

It will be very difficult - politically, legally and logistically - for Canada to remedy this state of affairs. Even the Stephen Harper government, with all the best intentions - and I have no doubt he shares these concerns and takes them seriously, far more so than his liberal predecessors - will find it difficult to do, particularly while he is constrained by his government's minority status. I suspect it will take a crisis to create the conditions for dealing adequately with the problem.

Let's hope not.

Fight and Might

Peter Beinart's new book , The Good Fight, is out. Beinart discusses The Good Fight on the latest episode of the Glenn and Helen show. Kevin Drum also has comments.

I hope to tackle Beinart's book in the near future, right after I get done reading "With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Defeating Jihadism and Defending Liberty." The book is a collection of essays edited by PPI Director Will Marshall. Listed among the contributors are Graham Allison, Reza Aslan, Michael McFaul, Ken Pollack, and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Should be interesting reading.

This is all part of the push back of the Democratic center, something I covered in a column a few weeks back.

Put Up Or Shut Up

Reuters reports a cause for cautious optimism:

Major world powers struck what a senior U.S. official called a "substantial agreement" on Thursday on a package of incentives for Iran to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work as well as penalties if it did not. [snip]

"We have substantial agreement with the Russians and the Chinese. We are agreed certainly on the need for moving forward in the (U.N.) Security Council if Iran doesn't respond to the offer," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

As Ambassador John Bolton told Neil Cavuto earlier today, "This is put-up-or-shut-up time for Iran." Let's see what they do.

'Beyond Dumb'

NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi shoots himself in the foot and then stuffs it directly in his mouth.

McCann's Twisted 'Logic'

A number of readers emailed in response to my post on columnist John McCann's insidious comment about the Duke case ("the lacrosse boys brought it on themselves, though -- even if the accuser's lying") to point out that this twisted logic could be applied equally to the accuser.

Of course, McCann would have been immediately relieved of his column-writing duties had he suggested the accuser in the Duke case "brought it on herself" by "not keeping her nose clean," yet apparently there's no problem with making that argument about the lacrosse players.

Northern Exposure: Why the Border With Canada Is More of A National Security Threat

The Houston Chronicle reports on border security - with Canada:

Only one terrorist has been caught crossing the U.S. border with explosives and a detailed plot to harm Americans. He came through Canada. [snip]

The United States has only 1,000 agents to patrol the 4,000-mile northern border, compared with 10,000 agents monitoring less than half the distance along the Mexican border, U.S. officials say.

This is a subject I touched on last November when a number of elected officials in the Republican Party made inaccurate and/or unsubstantiated claims about al-Qaeda operatives having crossed our Southern border ( see here, here, and here).

Obviously, the flow of illegal immigrants across the Southern border is massive and represents a serious problem for the United States as well as a potential threat to national security. But the greater threat to U.S. national security is the unsecured border with Canada.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, the border with Canada, as noted above, is much longer and less well manned than the one with Mexico.

Another reason is the mentality of the United States government toward the Northern border. Awhile back I asked a good friend of mine who manages the North American operations for a Fortune 100 transportation company how easy it would be for al-Qaeda to put a nuke in the back of an eighteen-wheeler, hire a Mexican to drive it across the Southern border, park it in downtown Los Angeles and walk away. He said it would be much harder than I thought, and his explanation surprised me.

Our approach to the Southern border for the last four decades has been based on a strategy of interdiction: stopping the flow of drugs and immigrants. We've become quite good at it (despite being overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the task) and the various bureaucracies that have bloomed as part of the effort now provide a level of redundancy that most people don't realize. For example, we have a number of different agencies working on the Southern border (though probably not with the level of coordination we'd like) performing their own regulatory and/or security-related functions: Customs, DOT, ATF, DEA, and others, as well as Border Patrol.

Conversely, our approach to the border with Canada for decades has primarily revolved around commerce and making it easier for goods (and people) to flow back and forth across the border. Again, we've gotten pretty good at the job of streamlining the process. Most of this has been done in the context of working with large, reputable companies who have their own security protocols and safeguards, but the larger point is that we've had a vastly different mentality, and taken a much different strategic approach with our border with Canada over the years.

The final, and perhaps most important reason the border with Canada is a greater national security threat to the United States than the border with Mexico is the mentality of the Canadian government toward Islamic radicals and al-Qaeda-type operatives over the years. Ahmed Ressam (aka The Millennium Bomber), the Algerian-born al-Qaeda operative caught crossing the U.S.-Canadian border in December 1999, is but one example. In his book Disinformation, Richard Miniter quotes author and National Post columnist Stewart Bell who has written extensively about Canadian connections to terrorist attacks, including the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, the 2002 Bali bombing, and the 2003 bombings in Riyadh. Bell writes:

The list of specific government failures is extensive, from an immigration system seemingly incapable of deporting even known terrorists, to laws that have proven ineffective at shutting down charities and ethnic associations fronting for terror. But it all stems from a political leadership unwilling to take a stand and secure Canadians and their allies from the violent whims of the world's assorted radicals, fundamentalists, and extremists.

Time and again, politicians have been tested, and they have failed. They have dined with terrorist fronts, lobbied on behalf of captured terrorists, and given extremists access to the decision-making process. Canada's official terrorism policy - in effect, denying that there is a problem - is merely a public relations strategy intended to manage Washington in order to prevent the Americans from imposing border security measures that would slow North-South trade.

As much as we'd like to hope this trend has been reversed by the election of Stephen Harper's conservative government in Canada, there are signs the new boss might very well be the same as the old:

Canada will not embark on an untested identity card system to meet U.S. border concerns, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday. [snip]

He said he is hopeful that the Americans will come to see that the passport requirement will not enhance security significantly but will have significantly hurt trade and tourism.

Clearly, we have to find a balance between economic and security interests with both Canada and Mexico. But as far as the threat of terrorism goes, I continue to be more concerned about our exposure from the North.