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July 31, 2006

Iranian ForMin In Beirut: Who Knew? - Peter Brookes

While the U.S. media focused on the U.N. Security Council's passage of a resolution today, giving Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment--or face the possible implementation economic and diplomatic sanctions--an equally important story regarding Iran escaped notice.

Today, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was scheduled to meet with his Lebanese counterpart, Fawzi Salloukh in Beirut. While no one is fooled by Iran's hand in the ongoing crisis, Tehran has so far kept a very low, public profile since it all started three weeks ago.

So why has Iran reared its head in Beirut at this moment? Three reasons: a) To weigh in with the Lebanese government about its interests in the outcome of the conflict as the pace of crisis diplomacy accelerates; b) Show support for--and encourage--its terrorist cat's paw, Hezbollah; and c) Warn the international community that how it deals with Iran's nuclear program, for example at the U.N. Security Council, will affect how Iran deals with Hezbollah and Lebanon. Unfortunately, this means we can only expect more troublemaking from Iran in the weeks ahead.

Heritage Foundation senior fellow, Peter Brookes, is the author of: "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States." peterbrookes@heritage.org

'Irreparable Damage'

Florida Republican Party sends letter to Katherine Harris revoking support, citing the "irreparable damage" faced by her campaign.

Gore Unhinged

Not him, the other one. The Progressive is carrying an interview with Gore Vidal in this month's issue. It's really hard to capture the "unhingedness" of Vidal without reading the entire interivew. He call Bush "a thug", compares the President and the Vice President to monkeys causing trouble, rants about stolen elections, and on and on.

Here is one question and answer worth quoting in full:

Q: You're a veteran of World War II, the so-called good war. Would you recommend to a young person a career in the armed forces in the United States?

gore_vidal.gifVidal: No, but I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We've never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It's as though we are evil. We strike first. We'll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It's like a war against dandruff. There's no such thing as a war against terrorism. It's idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It's advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.

Read the whole interview and you'll come away with a clear sense of the profound hatred and contempt this man has for America - and for everyone in it who doesn't share his views.

Deadlock on Judges

From Roll Call (sub req'd):

Senate Republicans, facing a major political battle and a tight legislative calendar, said last week that there's little chance they can move any of the remaining controversial judicial nominations before the November elections.

Both GOP Senators and aides said the four weeks remaining on the pre-election schedule provides them with little opportunity to engage in a potentially brutal floor fight over a polarizing court nominee.

The ideal time, they said, would be to consider a nomination now, before the Senate recesses for August and before the campaign season heats up. But that window is all but shut.

"If we don't move people before August, it's going to be harder to move them at all," said a Senate Republican aide. "Democrats can dig in, and they have the backdrop of the end of the session."

Another well-placed Republican Senate staffer said the chance of the chamber taking on a controversial nomination before Election Day is "Zilch. Zero."

Robert Novak touched on this issue last week, blaming Senators Frist and Specter for not pushing the issue harder and saying that "it seems too late for a Senate battle to impact the midterm campaign." Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, disagreed, writing in NRO last week that it is "late, but not too late, to focus the public on what is at stake with judicial confirmations."

If Senate Republicans can't gin up a fight over judicial nomations this fall, it will give the Republican base - already suffereing from a lack of enthusiasm - one less reason to get up and go to the polls on Election Day.

Why Hart Hearts Dean

altmire.gif Melissa Hart's campaign had to be happy to see this picture of her opponent, Jason Altmire, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday. Hart's 4th Congressional District in Western Pennsylvania leans Republican (Cook Partisan Voting Index R+3, voted for Bush by 9 points over Kerry and by 6 points over Gore) thanks in no small measure to the type of culturally conservative Democrats who can't stand the hard-left wing of the party which Howard Dean so perfectly epitomizes. Altmire's efforts to portray himself as a "centrist" to folks in Pa-4 can't be helped by cruising the district with Dean.


(Photo: V.W.H. Campell, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

July 30, 2006

Is 2nd Place the New 'Top'?

The New York Times says: "As the 2008 presidential campaign begins to take shape, with Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton at the top of the polls for their parties' nominations, they are increasingly underscoring their differences on issues like the war in Iraq and port security."

Can you spot the inaccuracy?

What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas

David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register has a bit of fun today ridiculing the Dems' recommendation to add Nevada as an early caucus state for 2008:

Iowa and New Hampshire should just shut up about this one. If Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee want to turn to the land of gamblers and brothels for an early test of their candidates' strengths, maybe it's best to let them go ahead. Few may take it seriously.

The party committee could have selected Arizona or New Mexico and created an event that would have posed a real threat to Iowa and New Hampshire. Instead, they chose Nevada.

It'll be fun watching the big-city folks in the national media taking the pulse of the "real America" from - Las Vegas.

"Brit, we're standing here outside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino interviewing likely caucus-goers as they head into tonight's Nevada caucuses. Excuse me, Ma'am, could I ask you what issues are most on your mind?"

"Taxes. All this withholding for people with cash incomes is a killer."

"And what do you do?"

"I'm a hooker. Want to go to a party?"

"Back to you, Brit."

Yepsen ends the column on a more serious note, however, suggesting that if candidates and the media start to "treat Nevada as a serious contest," local Dem officials in both Iowa and New Hampshire should move up dates of their respective contents into the first two weeks of January.

July 28, 2006

The War Over Detainee Rights

On Wednesday David Cloud and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times reported the details of a draft of legislation proposed by the Bush administration to address the issue of detainee rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision last month.

The 32-page memo (available in full as a pdf file here) was drafted by Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury and tagged with a "close hold" designation - meaning the memo's circulation was to remain limited. Still, Cloud and Stolberg report the memo was leaked to the Times on Tuesday by "an official at an agency that is reviewing it."

A source within the military community suggested to me the memo was leaked to the Times so that it could be attacked in an effort to weaken support for it. There is a significant debate raging both in Congress - particularly the Senate - and between uniformed and civilian lawyers in the JAG Corps and the Pentagon whether to pursue a military commission/modified tribunal plan such as the one drafted by Bradbury, or the approach supported by Senators McCain and Graham which would model legal proceedings for suspected terrorists after those provided for a military courts-martial.

The Bradbury draft contains some important points worth highlighting. First, it takes on the heart of the SCOTUS Hamdan ruling by explicitly stating the Geneva Conventions "are not a source of judicially enforceable individual rights." In other words, terrorist suspects like Hamdan cannot get access to our court system based on a claim that their Geneva Convention rights have been violated.

Second, the Bradbury draft places a great deal of discretion in the hands of the tribunal judge. The draft stipulates that "statements obtained by the use of torture" are not permitted, but in most other instances evidence will be allowable if the judge deems it has "probative value." Sections 102-6 and 102-7 lay out the case for why this approach is preferable:

(6) The use of military commissions is particularly important because the conflict between the United States and international terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces generally makes other alternatives, such as the use of Federal courts or courts-martial, are impracticable. The terrorists with whom the United States is engaged in armed conflict have demonstrated a commitment to the destruction of the United States and its people, to violation of the laws of war, and to the abuse of American legal processes. In a time of ongoing armed conflict, it is neither practicable nor appropriate for alien enemy combatants like al Qaeda terrorists to be tried like American citizens in Federal courts or courts-martial.

(7) Many procedures for courts martial would not be practicable in trying alien enemy combatants for whom this Act provides for trial by military commission. For instance, court-martial proceedings would in certain circumstances-

(A) require the Government to share classified information with the accused, even though members of al Qaeda cannot be trusted with our Nation's secrets and it would not be consistent with the national security of the United States to provide them with access to classified information;

(B) exclude the use of hearsay evidence determined to be probative and reliable, even though the hearsay statements from, for example, fellow terrorists are often the only evidence available in this conflict, given that terrorists rarely fight and declare their intentions openly but instead pursue terrorist objectives in secret conspiracies the objectives of which can often be discerned only or primarily through hearsay statements from collaborators; and

(C) specify speedy trials and technical rules for sworn and authenticated statements when, due to the exigencies of wartime, the United States cannot safely require members of the armed forces to gather evidence on the battlefield as though they were police officers nor can the United States divert members from the front lines and their duty stations to attend military commission proceedings.

This last point strikes me as absolutely essential. Obviously, we want to facilitate some sort of process for adjudicating cases of suspected terrorists, but it would be absolute insanity to establish such a high threshold so as to further burden our soldiers in the field.

President Bush will be making a choice between the two approaches in the very near future - perhaps as early as next week. As I mentioned earlier, my military source suggested that leaking of the Bradbury memo may be a deliberate attempt to try and influence Bush's decision by ginning up a negative reaction to the military commission approach. We'll have to see what happens, and what The Decider decides.

Political Video of the Day II

Well, today I just need to post two videos of the day, because I wouldn't want anyone to miss the Clinton Loves Lieberman ad running in Connecticut.

It's powerful stuff, assuming Bill still has the love of the Democratic base. (And I can't imagine that he doesn't.)

We'll see if it's enough to bring back the Joementum.

[Blank]-Feingold?

Two notes on the current push to revamp the presidential public-financing system:

1) Via Bob Bauer, we get a sense of how significant this push is. By radically increasing how much money candidates would get under public financing, this bill is attempting to make it almost impossible not to accept the cash. If your opponent's taking it, you'd better do the same. (Also see Bauer for how this is all just a step on the path to public financing of congressional races, which incumbent congressmen would just love.)

2) Note that one half of McCain-Feingold is absent from the current push. McCain, who can raise tons of private money -- remarkably, one has to note, for a "reformer" -- presumably wants to skip public financing. Feingold, who can't and who's involved in the current push, would be a direct beneficiary of the new system (talk about an appearance of corruption).

And so the campaign-finance-reform lobby keeps chugging along. Final destination: no speech allowed during federal elections, except for that granted by Congress and the president.

Political Video of the Day

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a new ad making it clear that they want 2006 to be all about Bush -- understandably enough.

Here's the ad: Now is the Time for a New Direction.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Hillary vs. Howard

Here is a fascinating piece from the New Republic on the rivalry between Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton.

A clip:

Dean and Clinton--the Democratic Party's two power centers--find themselves locked in a struggle for intraparty supremacy. Each camp considers the other's political strategy fundamentally flawed. Dean loyalists dislike Clinton's stance on Iraq and her cautious approach to leadership, and they also fear she is too polarizing a figure to win a general election. Meanwhile, Clinton partisans doubt Dean's competence in managing the DNC and believe him to be just the sort of antiwar, elitist, left-wing Democrat who will scare off white middle- and working-class voters.

Most interesting is that the Clinton folks are basically building a parallel party structure to totally supplant the DNC during the 2008 campaign.

While I think there's a lot to be said for Dean's 50 state strategy -- as I've mentioned, I think the Dems need to be looking seriously at the interior West -- I'd bet on Clinton in this fight. She's going to be all-but-unstoppable in the primaries. The Democrats would be smart to stop her. But they won't be able to.

Blue Is the New Red

I know Republican Senate candidates Michael Steele and Mark Kennedy are worried about the scarlet R this campaign season. But this seems to be taking things a bit far.

Behold Steele's and Kennedy's blue yard signs:

Steeleyard.gif Kennedyyard.gif

(Thanks to reader Keith Miller)

McKinney Down 25?

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A new poll by InsiderAdvantage shows Johnson leading McKinney 46 percent to 21 percent, with one-third of voters undecided. The survey recorded the responses of 480 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

An analysis of primary election results showed McKinney's support eroding slightly in predominantly black south DeKalb County, her traditional base. Johnson won more votes than McKinney in predominantly white north DeKalb, Rockdale and Gwinnett, according to the analysis.

InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery said his poll detected some interest among Republicans in the race, which would also work against McKinney. In last week's primary, many Republicans stuck to their own races, headlined by the confrontation between Christian Coalition leader-turned-lobbyist Ralph Reed and state Sen. Casey Cagle in the GOP race for lieutenant governor. A poll released by InsiderAdvantage four days before that race showed Reed and Cagle in a dead heat, but Cagle got 56 percent of the vote.

McKinney's campaign spokesman, John Evans, dismissed Thursday's poll results.

"I'm sure that one is skewed," Evans said, adding that Towery is a Republican. "You don't know who they polled, and so what can you do?"

McKinney received the endorsement of former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young who said, if you can believe it, that he is supporting the cop-beating McKinney because, "Congress needs controversy." Now there's a catchy campaign slogan.......

Iain Duncan Smith on Israel

Former British Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has a long, must read post on Israel over at Conservativehome.com. It includes this rather choice bit, upbraiding certain world leaders for hypocrisy:

The 'world community' asks Israel to act proportionately but what will 'world community leaders' do in order to protect Israel if it does act in a way that Annan, Chirac and Putin think appropriate? Not, of course, that these leaders act proportionately in defence of their own interests. Putin almost bombed Grozny back to the stone age when Chechnya wanted independence. Chirac ignored world opinion when France tested nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. Annan turned a blind eye to the corruption of the oil-for-food programme - corruption that contributed to the loss of thousands of lives every month in Saddam's Iraq. The best clue to understanding how the world will protect Israel in the next few years is to reflect on recent history. The best thing the world community does is talk. Disproportionate talking is in fact the only thing it does but jaw-jaw has not stopped the suicide bomb or missile attacks on Israel.

Read the whole thing.

Steele Still Digging

Michael Steele continues to dig himself a deeper political hole. As John Dickerson wrote yesterday in Slate, instead of hunkering down and taking his lumps, "Steele's slogan appears to be: 'More shovels!'"

Dana Milbank, no doubt perturbed at being called a liar by the Steele camp, is putting the boot in about as far as it will go - and Maryland Democrats are loving every minute of it.

Blago Defies Gravity

When Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich took the oath of office in 2002 he was considered a "rising star" in the Democratic Party. Four years later you'd be hard pressed to find anyone still willing to describe Blagojevich that way, as even many Illinois Democrats have come to view his first term as a huge disappointment.

Blagojevich's tenure has been characterized by a rocky relationship with the Democrat-controlled state legislature (strained from the very beginning by his decision to remain in Chicago instead of moving to the Executive Mansion in Springfield). The tension has increased over the years, and his reputation for back-room wheeling and dealing has now gotten so bad it's been reported that members of his own party demand assurances from the Governor in writing, so little do they trust his word.

Blago's record on fiscal matters is also a problem. While most other states have been able to take advantage of a strong economy to erase budget deficits and even post surpluses in recent years, Illinois continues to languish. Earlier this week it was reported that Illinois ran a $3 billion deficit in 2005, and a recent balance sheet analysis showed the state with an overall negative net worth of $17.5 billion - both worst in the nation by far.

Finally, there is the issue of corruption. Blagojevich cast himself as a "reformer" the first time around, yet his administration has been dogged by multiple scandals and wide-ranging investigations. Earlier this month U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald notified the Illinois Attorney General he had identified "a number of credible witnesses" and was investigating "very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" in the Blagojevich administration.

Despite all of these issues, Blagojevich remains favored to win this November. He's been blessed by a weaker than expected challenge - thus far, anyway - from Republican Judy Baar Topinka, who appears to be having little success energizing a state Republican Party that remains divided and demoralized after a string of recent failures and embarrassments.

A wave of early attack ads has helped Blagojevich extend his lead over Topinka to double digits in the most recent poll by SurveyUSA. Though the race will likely tighten toward the end, unless Patrick Fitzgerald hands down a crippling set of indictments before Election Day, Blagojevich seems headed rather inauspiciously toward a second term.

July 27, 2006

What Liberal Media? No, Really ...

CNN sticks the knife in at the end of a story about the Democrats' "Six in '06" agenda unveiling.

Here are the closing two paragraphs of their story:

At a meeting with reporters at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters, Democratic leaders unveiled a Web video with clips of the president saying "stay the course" interspersed with graphics such as "gas prices at an all time high."

They played the video on a small laptop in the front of the room full of reporters because, they said, they couldn't find a screen projector.

Ouch.

Joe-publican?

Will the Connecticut Republican Party endorse Lieberman if he loses the primary and runs as an independent? So asks the New York Post.

Answer: Probably not. But all the Republicans will vote for Joementum anyway.

Talking in Circles

What happens when a Berkeley linguist tries to save the Democratic Party through the power of language?

Find out in my review for the New York Sun of Geoffrey Nunberg's generously subtitled "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latté-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show."

Political Video of the Day

An embarrassing day for America: Maliki gets heckled by a war protestor.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Gay Marriage and Democracy

The recent court decisions -- in New York on July 6 and in Washington State yesterday -- refusing to create gay marriage by judicial fiat have had a remarkable effect on the public discourse surrounding the issue: They've brought it into being.

Granted, there's been a lot of hollering about gay marriage, particularly from the Republican Party denouncing the activist judges who want to rewrite our marriage laws. But the Democratic Party has been largely silent. It's presumed many Democrats are in favor of gay marriage or civil unions, but most keep their mouths shut or even make noises about "defending marriage" to avoid the inevitable political fallout of speaking up.

But now, Democratic politicians are being forced to take a stand -- since judges aren't going to be able to do the heavy lifting for them.

When New York's decision came down, governor-in-waiting Eliot Spitzer immediately said he supported gay marriage and would introduce a bill to create it. Now, Washington's Gov. Chris Gregoire has come out for the first time in favor of (essentially) civil unions.

The logic here is simple. When the courts are taken out of the equation, people actually have to take sides and then defend their positions. In some states, it will be easy to defend the anti-gay marriage position. In others, however, like New York and Washington, high-profile Democrats are going to have to start going with their consciences -- or, at least, with public opinion.

It will be interesting to watch New York and Washington in the coming year. Those watching New York can check out the legislative wiki, put together by Ben Smith at the Daily News, set up to track state legislators' positions on the issue.

McAuliffe Nostalgia

Let me steal the opening from Ruth Marcus' column on Alberto Gonzales yesterday and repackage it for my own purposes:

Howard Dean is achieving something remarkable, even miraculous, as DNC Chairman: He is making Terry McAuliffe look good.

Surveying the wreckage of Dean's latest imbecilic utterings, grotesquely overwraught analogies, and phony calls for unity, one really has to wonder: has there been a greater buffoon leading one of the two major parties in recent history?

Republicans remain thrilled by Dean's rise, of course, not only because he has an uncanny ability to make the Democratic party look bad with cringe-inducing headlines on a fairly regular basis, but also because he's created such a deep division within the party itself.

The bitter feud between Dean and DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel and over Dean's rapid cash burn rate and his insistence of pursuing a 50-state strategy at the expense of allocating all available resources toward this November is well known. And as Jay Cost wrote last week, with Democrats enjoying strong fundraising and a favorable national political climate, "the timing of this feud could not be worse."

Time will tell whether Dean's 50-state strategy turns out to be a smart, long-term investment or a collosal waste of resources. Much of the outcome will be determined by execution, and frankly Dean's track record in that department doesn't instill much confidence. As we learned shortly after his presidential bid imploded, not only was Dean fabulously undisciplined as a candidate, he was a terrible manager as well, and behind the scenes his campaign was an "utterly poisonous" mix of bickering and backbiting.

Luckily for Democrats, Dean is but one of three links in the party's '06 election chain, and the other two (Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel) are exceedingly disciplined, focused, and have put the party in the best possible position to make gains and perhaps recapture one or even both chambers of Congress this fall. But you know what they say: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If Democrats somehow manage to blow another opportunity this November, Schumer and Emanuel will get their share of criticism, to be sure, but expect most of it to flow to the trio's weak link, Howard Dean.

Dems Not Closing the Deal, Part I in a Neverending Series

Voters don't like Republicans right now, but they don't much like Democrats either.

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at public opinion coming into the midterms:

The Journal/NBC poll shows that Democrats have made little progress in improving their party's standing. The party's favorability rating, 32% positive and 39% negative, is as unflattering as the Journal/NBC survey has ever recorded. The Republicans' standing, now 33% positive and 46% negative, is near the party's record low.

The Journal's conclusion? 2006 may well hinge on local issues: "The 14% of voters who remain undecided in congressional races are especially interested in local issues. By 41% to 25%, those undecided voters say performance in the district will be most important to their vote."

(via The Note)

Straw Poll: 2008

Over at GOP Bloggers, they're holding another straw poll. The question this time (as in this Gallup poll): Which candidates would you accept as the 2008 GOP nominee and which would you find unacceptable?

You can vote right here:

Quote of the Day

"If the Congressman is on the ballot, in my opinion, he will campaign and will be successful. I think now his chances are greater [than before] because the lawsuit has stirred up our base." - Jared Woodfill, Harris County Republican Party chairman, speaking about Tom DeLay's chances of holding onto his seat in the 22nd district if the courts force him to stay on the ballot.

El Baradei Speaks

Der Spiegel carries a rather frightening interview with IAEA boss Mohamed El Baradei.

July 26, 2006

The Mystery Revealed

"HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead."

Blogola on the Right

Jim Geraghty at National Review reports that Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits -- and author of In Defense of the Religious Right -- has been blogging about John McCain, while also, undisclosed, working as a political consultant for him.

Geraghty's story has all the details and Hynes's response to the whole thing -- in which he accepts full responsibility and explains how the relationship came to be. Also, here's Hynes's post at his own blog (comments are open).

Two things strike me here:

First, Hynes is handling this correctly. There's basically no excuse for not disclosing the relationship earlier. And his past comments about similar scandals on the Left now look awfully hypocritical. But, unlike on the Left, it's not all deny, deny, deny. He handled something in the wrong way, and now he's saying so forthrightly.

Second, isn't McCain the one always hyperventilating about "circumvention" of campaign-finance laws. He and his pals even wanted to clamp down on the Internet recently to prevent bloggers from coordinating with campaigns. And now this is what his PAC is up to? Very odd.

Or, really, entirely predictable.

Opinion on Israel

One more from Pew: Americans stand united behind Israel.

Political Video of the Day

It seems Michael Steele isn't the only Republican Senate candidate this year trying to shake off the scarlet R -- for Republican.

Here's the first campaign commercial from Rep. Mark Kennedy, Republican candidate for Senate in Minnesota. You might notice it doesn't use a certain word. It starts with an R ...

Instead, the ad focuses entirely on Kennedy's family. For instance, here're his kids: "Dad likes to help people. He's principled, independent, just not much of a party guy. I meant he doesn't do whatever the party says to."

This is an open seat, being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, so it's a potential Republican pick up.

But this ad goes a long way toward showing that not many candidates out there think a Republican is such a great thing to be right now.

(Thanks to reader Cord Nuoffer for sending this in.)

As always, nominations can be sent to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

The Initiative Myth

There's a fascinating little paper out from Pew today on whether ballot initiatives really work as turnout-boosters in close elections. The impetus for the study is the fact that the Democrats are looking to copy the GOP's "success" with gay-marriage initiatives by ramping up their own minimum-wage initiatives.

Currently, such initiatives are on the ballot in Arizona, Missouri, Montana and Nevada -- and may be on their way in Ohio and Wyoming -- but is there any real reason to expect them to be effective?

Pew looks at the impact of gay-marriage initiatives in 2004 and concludes: not really. Pew writes:

Yes it's true that in 2004, all 11 same sex marriage ban ballot initiatives were approved by voters -- and by sizable margins, ranging from a 57% majority in Oregon to an 86% majority in Mississippi.

Yes, it's true that Bush carried nine of the 11 states where the gay marriage bans were on the ballot in 2004. But it's also true that, unaided by gay marriage ban initiatives, Bush won those same nine states in 2000.

Yes, it's true that, in the aggregate, Bush increased his percentage of the vote in those 11 states by two percentage points between 2000 and 2004. But across all 50 states, he upped his percentage of the vote by three percentage points.

And yes, it's true that turnout spiked in those 11 states by 18.4% between 2000 and 2004. But nationwide, turnout was up by nearly as much -- 16%. And in Red America (the 31 states that Bush carried in 2004), turnout was up a bit more -- 18.9%.

In short, toting up all these numbers, it seems safe to say that the 11 gay marriage initiatives had no across-the-board impact on the 2004 presidential race.

Pew makes one exception: Ohio was so close (Bush won with 51 percent), that it's hard to say any one factor didn't tip the scale. And, of course, if Ohio had gone the other way, so would have the Electoral College -- no small matter.

But, overall, I think this Pew paper confirms what's been obvious since the smoke cleared after 2004. Despite the loud proclamations from "values voters" that they had won Bush his reelection, national security was far-and-away the decisive issue. And I don't particularly buy that the gay-marriage initiative tipped the scale even in Ohio. The Bush ground game there, particularly with black churches, was very aggressive. (But I'd be interested to hear from anyone with real, solid proof it was gay marriage.)

But back to those minimum-wage initiatives. Can they drive turn out? Well, 67 percent of Democrats consider the minimum wage "very important" as an issue; only 43 percent of Republicans consider gay marriage "very important." So, theoretically, it should have an even bigger impact (bigger than zero, that is, if you believe the first part of Pew's analysis).

Still, I don't really buy this. If an explosive, headline-grabbing issue like gay marriage made essentially zero difference, why would a wonkier, less emotional issue get new, Democratic-leaning voters out to the polls? There would have to be some real intensity of feeling about the minimum wage out there in the countryside for this to make a difference.

The minimum wage enjoys widespread (if wrongheaded) support. But I don't think it runs very deep or is the basis for too much excitement.

Democrats Should Go To Maliki Speech - Brad Carson

Today, I received an email from a good friend who now works in Baghdad, trying to fix the mess that has become our Iraq effort. Now, like others, he's away from his family for many months, with the only reward the satisfaction that comes from trying to improve the world around him.

The impetus for his email was the call from many Democrats -- and some Republicans like Arlen Specter -- to boycott the speech of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki because of his denunciation of Israel's attacks on Hezbollah in Lebanon. Democrats are circulating a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert asking that the speech be cancelled until al-Maliki apologizes.

My friend in Baghdad writes:

"This may be good politics for some, but it is very bad policy and detrimental to our efforts in Iraq. There is nothing Maliki could say other than things against Israel and stay in office. Even Jalal Talibani, the Iraqi President who is a secular Kurd, and who is almost certainly very fearful of radical Islamic movements and who is definitely pro-America and would all but certainly like to see Hezb'Allah destroyed, has denounced Israel. The #1 thing Maliki has to do in the US is convince the US public and Congress to support Iraq for another couple of years. If a sizable number of Dems boycott the speech, they may do substantial harm to what all recognize as our National interests of helping Iraq succeed."

This strikes me as just about right. It doesn't compromise our friendship with Israel to support al-Maliki, even if domestic politics requires him to engage in rhetoric that we might find unpleasant. It is America's -- and Israel's -- interest to see al-Maliki succeed. And that is true whether or not you thought the Iraq invasion was justified to begin with.

Standing Alone in the Center

From the Indianapolis Star:

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana was one of 14 Senate Democrats -- and the only one considering a 2008 presidential bid -- who voted Tuesday for a bill that would make it a crime to take a pregnant girl across state lines for an abortion without her parents' knowledge.

Bayh's vote will incense pro-choice groups, of course, but he was never in danger of getting their endorsement anyway. Besides, the legislation provided Bayh with a perfect opportunity to stake out the sort of middle ground on the issue of abortion that vast majorities of Americans agree with deep in their gut:

"Bayh supports the right of parents to be involved in the major medical decisions regarding their children, absent a showing of abuse, incest or other compelling reasons," spokeswoman Meg Keck said.

The fact that so many Democrats - including all the serious potential standard bearers of the party in 2008 except one - shun this sort of common-sense approach to abortion and hew to the most extreme positions favored by the likes of NARAL shows just how much influence the pro-choice lobby continues to wield over the Democratic party.

Ex-Con

The Gay Patriot declares Pat Buchanan an ex-conservative.

Sounds about right to me. Anti-Semitism has been on its way out of fashion in the GOP for some time.

(via Insta)

The Lonely Fight Against Jim McDermott

In the course of illustrating just how difficult it is to unseat incumbents these days, Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly throws the spotlight on Steve Beren, the Republican running against "Baghdad" Jim McDermott in Washington's 7th District:

"I'm running to improve the political climate of Seattle by restoring the two-party character," said the 52-year old Beren. He is a former Democrat and Vietnam-era anti-war activist.

"Missionary work is a good analogy," Beren added. "Having been a liberal, having been where Seattle voters are now, I can speak to them."

Seattle is not just an anti-war bastion. Many of its left activists are infected with an ideology that blames America for every problem in the world except -- maybe -- wheat rust.

These activists are McDermott's core constituency. Heads nod in unison as the anti-war congressman speaks at Town Hall: Dramamine is needed if you're not a true believer.

By contrast, Beren sees "a justice, even a nobility" to the U.S. commitment in Iraq. "It is the most important issue between me and McDermott, between Republicans and Democrats," he argued.

As futile as Beren's efforts (as well as the rest of folks challenging well entrenched incumbents around the country) may be, you still have to respect those willing to take the time and effort to get out there and participate in the democratic process.

Cutting in Line

The conservative editorial page of the New Hampshire Union-Leader blasts the Dems' decision to slip Nevada in ahead of them on the 2008 schedule:

IN THE NAME of diversity, the Democratic Party is trying to strip political influence from grassroots Democrats and hand it to party insiders and special interests. Hence the party's move on Saturday to schedule a Nevada caucus before the New Hampshire primary in 2008.

Nationally, Democrats hate the idea of independent New Hampshire voters having such a prominent role in choosing the party's Presidential nominee. Why, they might not vote the party line!

New Hampshire primary victories led to the unseating of two Democratic Presidents: Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson. New Hampshire voters brought Gene McCarthy to prominence, voted for Paul Tsongas over Bill Clinton and pulled the rug out from under Howard Dean. Their votes cannot be controlled or anticipated, and that is unacceptable to the party brass.

So a convenient argument was concocted: New Hampshire voters are too white and too wealthy to be trusted with picking a President. The Democrats have to put the little guy back into the process! [snip]

Diversity? No, this is about recreating, to the extent possible, the old smoke-filled backrooms, where powerbrokers, not actual voters, choose candidates. Good of the Democrats to show just how hollow their populist rhetoric is.

This Just In...

Katherine Harris still on the road to political oblivion in Florida. I particularly liked the quote by Brad Coker, director of polling for Mason-Dixon: 'This candidacy was an uphill battle to begin with. But it can't even climb now. It just loses ground.''

Quinnipiac is out with a poll on the Florida governor's race today, which means they should release more bad news for the Harris campaign tomorrow.

Better Than Monday Night Football

McKinney agrees to debate Johnson. Monday, July 31, 7:30pm on C-Span. There will also be a second debate on August 5 on WSB-TV.

Housing Slowdown

Mark Trumbull of The Christian Science Monitor gives a national view of the housing slowdown. The effect is even more pronounced here in the Chicago area.

When 95% Perfect Isn't Perfect Enough

Last week I discussed Joe Lieberman's near-perfect voting record on "women's choice" issues, as determined by liberal interest groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood who are backing his campaign. The Hartford Courant reports that Lamont supporters gathered yesterday to attack Lieberman on the issue of abortion and gay rights to try and demonstrate that their guy is more than a single-issue candidate opposed to the war in Iraq:

By national standards, Lieberman has a stellar record on gay rights and abortion issues. He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federal PAC and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

"Joe Lieberman works in Washington with the leaders of these organizations every day. They know how difficult it is to get things done in a Republican town, and he's proud to get their support," said Sean Smith, manager of the Lieberman campaign.

When the Human Rights Campaign endorsed him earlier this year, the organization said, "Sen. Lieberman's strong support of fairness for all Americans, gay or straight, dates back three decades to a time when few of his peers were standing by his side."

But that is no longer enough for some activists in Connecticut, where the gay rights movement is eyeing the next prize, gay marriage - a step Lieberman is unwilling to endorse.

And while the abortion-rights group NARAL says Lieberman votes with it 95 percent of the time, some activists cannot forgive Lieberman for refusing to support a filibuster in opposition to the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an abortion opponent. Lieberman did vote against confirmation.

"The bar is higher here," Jepsen said, surveying the Pond House, where dozens of women, and a few men, mingled as they waited for Lamont.

The bar is higher? The bar can't get any higher than demanding absolute ideological purity. Even in deep blue Connecticut the issue of gay marriage is a close call, and Lieberman may be slightly outside of state Democrats on the issue - but not by much. A Quinnipiac poll from last April showed that a slight majority (53%) of Connecticut Democrats supported gay marriage while 42% opposed the idea. Independent voters, by the way, opposed gay marriage by a margin of 52-42, which is identical to the opinion of voters statewide (53 opposed - 42 in favor).

Again, look at Lieberman's voting record as determined by the largest gay & lesbian interest group, the Human Rights Campaign. Out of the seven votes they deemed most important last year, Lieberman voted for the HRC-supported position on six of them. Only eight Democrats in the Senate voted for all seven, putting Lieberman in the same company with Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, and ahead of Senators like Jim Jeffords, Tom Harkin, Dianne Feinstein and, oh yeah, Chris Dodd.

I understand the desire of the Lamont folks to try and make their candidate out to be more than a suit stuffed with antiwar anger and a resentment against Lieberman for not hating George Bush as much as they do, but the effort to attack Lieberman on other issues where he has a solidly progressive voting record makes them look even more like a group of hardcore ideological purists. With the amount of attention this race is getting nationally, I don't think that works to the benefit of the Democratic Party as a whole at all.

July 25, 2006

Political Video of the Day

A long one today ... John McCain's appearance Monday night on the Daily Show. He is, of course, loved by this crowd.

Conservatives should especially watch that ever-present McCain tension: between wanting to say what will make the crowd love him more and wanting not to hack away at President Bush.

Very fraught ...

As always, send in nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

The Idea of an EC Alliance

ec.gif What if a group of states comprising at least 270 electoral votes banded together in an alliance and pledged to support the winner of the national popular vote in the next presidential election? Presto: the electoral college would be done away with, but without all the fuss of actually going through the process of amending the U.S. Constitution. Is it legal? Apparently. Is it likely? Not anytime soon.

Nevertheless, the idea, proposed by Stanford University computer science professor (and registered Democrat and former California elector in 1992, by the way) John Koza, is attracting attention from around the country, according to this article in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

Just for fun, let's see how this might work. Let's begin with the assumption that an alliance containing the smallest number of members would be the easiest to form. We can also assume that less populated states (i.e. those with the fewest EC votes) would be less inclined to join such an alliance since the Electoral College was specifically designed to offer them protection against a popular vote.

By my count, the fewest number of states it would take to form alliance to get to the magic 270 is eleven: CA-55, TX-34, NY-31, FL-27, PA-21, IL-21, OH-20, MI-17, NJ-15, GA-15, and NC-15 (or VA-13). Can you see all these states agreeing to a EC-popular vote alliance? Theoretically possible, I guess, but not very likely.

You have to assume any sort of EC pact would be approved by state legislatures. That leads to two problems: first, that the pact could be broken any time a state legislature in any one of the member states changed hands, which would make any such alliance inherently fragile and unstable. Second, it seems to me an alliance running against partisan sentiments of a given state would create a fabulous disconnect for the public that would make state legislatures balk. Put another way, imagine Republican state legislators in Texas trying to explain to their constituents that even though Texas voted overhwelmingly in favor of a GOP Presidential candidate, the state's 34 electoral votes were going to the liberal Democrat.

A more likely change to the Electoral College would be moving to a proporational system for allocating EV's based on the popular vote outcome in each state. But that too has problems, political drawbacks, and seems unlikely to occur anytime soon. It looks like we're stuck with the clunky old system created by The Founders which, while it may outdated and not perfect, still chugs along providing a solid framework for executing the will of the people in the world's greatest federal republic. - Tom Bevan

JAY COST ADDS: Rational choice theory goes a long way to explain the problem with the idea of an EC alliance. Different states have different preferences for different presidential voting systems. I would say the most decisive interest for any given state is the extent to which their economic interests would be enhanced by each method for voting for a President. Some states - like California - would get more attention from presidential candidates, and therefore more economic benefit (the rallies, parties, media, etc), from them. They get ignored now because they are solidly Democratic or solidly Republican. But in this proposal they would not. So they would prefer it. Other states - in Tom's list, I would say MI, PA, OH and VA - would probably economically suffer from the change. They get lots of attention now, and would probably expect a decline in attention. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Greater Pittsburgh is a decisive actor in the state's allocation of EVs. But greater Pittsburgh only has about 1 million people - much fewer voters and much fewer swing voters. That makes spending in the Pittsburgh media market much less rational for a presidential candidate. So also all the campaign rallies become much less feasible. Pittsburgh would suffer, and therefore Pittsburgh legislators would oppose it, and so it will not pass through the state legislator. Lots of other small states - IA, NH, MN, WI, etc - would also suffer. In other words - any state that would economically benefit would support the proposal. Any state that would economically suffer would oppose it.

So - the question is whether the proposal would economically benefit states whose EC population is now 270. I think the answer is no. And I think the reason is that there are simply too many swing states. We all bitch and moan about how few states are actually on the table, but in 2004 there were about 20 states that were on the table. This meant the campaigns spent money in those states, which means all of those states have an economic interest in maintaining the current system. Even if states MIGHT benefit from the change - for many of them there is just so much uncertainty in the new system. How will campaign resources shake out? Uncertainty like this only enhances the appeal of the current system.

There are broader political implications here as well - a look at the map clearly indicates that a change would almost assuredly help Democratic candidates. The Electoral College has a small state bias - every state gets a minimum of 3 EVs. The GOP does better in the small states. So GOPers will want to preserve the current system. Partisanship in the state legislatures can therefore sink the whole thing. There are a whole host of states on that list that have at least one Republican chamber or one Republican governor who are sufficiently partisan to stop the thing.

And Tom correctly indicates the fundamental problem - there is NO enforcement mechanism. No state is penalized for breaking the pact. And, further, the pact is very unstable. If one state reneges, the logic for all states to maintain it disappears - and cooperation ends entirely. Even if we presume that there are enough states with a real interest in the proposal - we can imagine how easy it would be to induce a state to renege. Again, because it is obvious that the GOP would be the harmed party, the GOP candidate could easily "pay off" a state to renege. They might promise the veep spot to the governor. They might promise a package of tax cuts or spending increases to help a state's industry, etc. All the POTUS candidate would have to do is make it in a state's economic or partisan interests to renege. POTUS candidates have that power in spades!

So, I would say that (a) the proposal is not an equilibrium because too many states would oppose it; (b) even if it is an equilibrium, the ease with which a GOP POTUS candidate could induce a state to switch makes it a hopelessly unstable equilibrium.

Finally, I cannot help but comment upon the irony. What these big states are objecting to is the issue of "dictatorship" - i.e. a minority is making a decision against the expressed wishes of the majority. But they are actually trying to create a "dictatorship" of their own to solve this one! These proposals will not pass unanimously in the state legislatures - so, if you add up the constituents of state legislators who oppose the pact along with the states where EVERYBODY opposes it, you are likely to come up with a majority in opposition to the plan. - Jay Cost

Pushing Pork

E. J. Dionne Jr. has a nice piece up this morning, poking some fun at Republican incumbents running on their records of bringing home the bacon.

For instance, in a recent debate, presidential hopeful Sen. George Allen of Virginia bragged about securing a $671.3 million expansion of Craney Island, adding 580 acres and "offering a boost for a future port there.''

Even worse is a Web site from the embattled Sen. Conrad Burns in Montana. It has a section on: "What Conrad Burns Means to You!'' As in, what pork has he brought home from Washington, D.C.:

What's nifty is that Montanans can click on their city, town or region -- Billings, eastern Montana, Kalispell, Bozeman, Great Falls, Missoula, Butte or Helena -- and find out their share of the take.

The "Key Accomplishments for the Billings Area'' included the Montana Avenue Restoration, the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, Pompeys Pillar, the Armed Forces Reserve Center and the Airport Road and Zimmerman Trail.

Pompeys Pillar? According to Burns' site, it's "an interpretive monument dedicated to the only signature and physical evidence of their passage through the Lewis and Clark Trail.'' Further checking revealed that the "signature'' in question is Capt. William Clark's, carved into the monument on July 25, 1806. Very cool.

That is nifty. And disturbing in a now-familiar way.

The GOP majority in Congress (and the White House) has become extremely comfortable with the trappings of power. Sens. Allen and Burns are quintessential big-government conservatives, and increasingly symbols of what's wrong with the current Republican Party.

For all his faults, at least John McCain still has enough respect for the idea of small government not to go around bragging about pork (though, not enough to leave the First Amendment alone). Others, however, have tossed limited-government to the wind.

At least when Lieberman brags about pork it's understandable. He's a Democrat.

We used to expect better from Republicans.

Lieberman's 'Predicament'

Apparently, Ned Lamont supporters think the upcoming visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a big problem for Joe Lieberman.

According to the Hartford Courant:

Even if the senator skips the speech, Lamont's backers are delighted by Lieberman's predicament just two weeks before the primary.

"If he stays away, it will appear he's running from his record," Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan said. "If he goes, he'll remind people he's George Bush's biggest Senate cheerleader."

Well, sure, that's a nice spin for the Lamont folks. But what exactly is the real predicament? Of course Lieberman should go and show support for the new Iraqi government. Even people who opposed the war should be rooting for this government to get on its feet.

Of course, I know this is complicated for the netroots folks -- hoping for American victory even if one doesn't like the Bush administration -- but to normal people it's pretty simple.

About That Port Security...

A reporter from the Seattle Times rides along, undetected, in and out of the supposedly secure areas of ports in both Seattle and Long Beach, CA.

Granted, securing points of entry from the land-side of U.S. ports has been less of a priority than trying to secure points of origin and to inspect cargo containers that are making their way to U.S. ports from around the world. Still, the Seattle Times article demonstrates we still have some significant vulnerabilities in port security and as I'm sure we have at thousands of other soft targets around the country.

The Poodle Effect

Sixty-three percent of Brits surveyed in the lastest Guardian/ICM poll say Prime Minister Tony Blair has tied Britain too closely to the US. Obviously, Blair has been derided for some time by his critics as a "poodle" of the Bush administration, but the poll, taken from July 21-23, probably reflects a heightened 'poodle effect' based on public response to Bush's "Yo, Blair!" comment at the G8 the previous week. My friend in England tells me the British press and chattering classes have been relentlessly derisive toward Blair over Bush's informal, unscripted remark.

Proportionality Pecksniffs - Jed Babbin

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson has yet another tiresome liberal take today on the "disproportionate" response by Israel to the Hizballah rocket attacks and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. As all the other libs, EUnuchs and UN types have before him, Robinson bemoans the fact that, "Proportionate military action might have enhanced Israel's security, but video footage of grandmothers weeping amid the rubble of their homes and bloodied children lying in hospital beds won't make Israel more secure." But Robinson never defines what "proportionate" means. What "proportional" military action is enough to make Israel more secure without leaving civilian homes in rubble?

Proportionate responses can only be defined by the attack. If you fire one rocket with a twenty-pound warhead at me, I can return fire only to equal destructive effect. By definition, that means I cannot - even if I have you and your truck-mounted launching system painted with my laser designator - drop one of those 250-pounders hanging on my right wing to create a smoking hole in the ground where you now stand. It means never doing more than your attacker did to you. It means giving you the right to shoot those rockets at my house as many times as it takes to kill me, because I can never use whatever force I have to end your ability to attack me. By definition, proportionality means perpetual war.

As Adam Smith wrote in 1776 in "The Wealth of Nations," the first duty of the sovereign is defense. No logic, international law or treaty binds a nation to defend itself only in proportion to an aggressor's attack. The duty of a national government is to defeat an enemy so its people can live in peace and security. And that requires the infliction of the maximum amount of damage on the enemy in the minimum amount of time. Let's not speak any more about proportionality. It's another liberal code word for accepting defeat.

July 24, 2006

Media Alert

I'll be on Kudlow & Company later this afternoon (roughly 5:35 eastern) along with Peter Beinart and Kevin Rennie discussing Joe Lieberman and more.

Two on '08

Two columns on the '08 Republican primary today.

One, uh, mine ... In the N.Y. Post today, I look at Rudy Giuliani's chances to win the nomination and dub him the frontrunner. It's not just the polling (though, I look at a lot of that, including polls that try to answer how much his social positions and marital problems will hurt him), it's talking to ground-level operatives in states like South Carolina.

Republicans have been emailing to tell me I'm delusional. But, instead, I'll share with you the thoughts of one Democratic friend: "Man, I hope he's not the GOP nominee ... he'll be tough to beat."

[Also, thanks to The Note for enlightening me as to what a push poll is. The phrase is in quotes, though, because those are the precise words the CEO of Strategic Vision used to describe the poll in question ... though, it's obviously not an actual push poll.

UPDATE: Good Lord, does no one understand sarcasm. I know what a push poll is. The CEO of the polling firm used the term tongue-in-cheek (because his poll pushed Rudy's and McCain's negatives so hard). I quoted him. That's it.]

Two, Rich Lowry's clearly delusional column on Newt Gingrich's chances in '08. He's right that Newt is popular with the base. But he's also clearly 100 percent, flat-out unelectable in the general election -- the story ends there. Lowry's right about one thing though: I hope he runs. He would be a great addition to the field. He'd keep the other candidates honest and make them grapple with actual ideas. It would be a doomed effort. But it would be refreshing.

Too White, Too Rich

One more thing on the Lieberman primary ...

I'm definitely a day or two late on this, but what a phony Lamont is. According to the New York Times: "[Lamont] quit an exclusive country club in Greenwich this year, saying it was too white and too rich and he did not want it to become a campaign issue."

He'd been a member for more than 10 years.

Political Video of the Day

Seriously. God love my friends at the editorial page of the New York Post. But I can't imagine their endorsement is going put the Joementum back in Lieberman's Democratic primary campaign.

In their honor, today I'm digging this out from the archives: Bush on Larry King Live, desperately trying to avoid giving Lieberman the political kiss of death.

Send nominations, as always, to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Warner's Longstanding Vacation from the Mainstream

Presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA), and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) address the centrist Democratic Leadership Council today at its annual conference in Denver.

Not there? Netroots favorite Gov. Mark Warner, who's on a "longstanding vacation."

That vacation, however, seems to be from the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Warner's doing everything he can to court the netroots, who don't much like the DLC -- thus, he's letting them dictate that he stay away. Of course, our last Democratic president was a centrist, not an extremist, last time I checked.

'Holistic' Hollywood

This morning, Bob Bauer looks at whether "holistic" campaign-finance regulation might stifle the left-wing filmmaking community:

A "holistic" approach to influence would certainly have to reckon with so mighty an influence network [the Hollywood Left, that is]. The law is not yet equal to the task, but a minor step in this direction was taken in 2004, when complaints were lodged against Michael Moore's filmed assault on George Bush. Moore, faced with the electioneering communication prohibition, suspended his television advertising in the weeks before the election. This is one among other examples of an established connection between this kind of activity and the influencing of political opinion generally, and of voter choice in particular.

And now back to Clooney, who, interviewed about his involvement with political film-making, wisely said: "the most patriotic thing you can do in our country is question your government." He appreciates the elemental proposition that political debate--debate seeking influence--should be open to all wishing to join in. Commenting on Bill O'Reilly's attacks on his views, Clooney has said this: "Fair enough. They [conservatives] can say what they want. I can't demand freedom of speech and then say don't say bad things about me. But I'm also not going to stop presenting opposing views."

No, he won't stop or be stopped, unless faced with the demands, maybe sometime in the future, of "holistic" legal restrictions on political influence.

If campaign-finance regulation starts backfiring on the Left -- and, well, it already has -- one of the first casualties will be the Hollywood political money machine. Yet one more reason for the Left to start rethinking their alliance with the cleanies.

Colbert's Genius

Drudge links to a Palm Beach Post article on Stephen Colbert's wickedly funny segment with Congressman Robert Wexler that aired last week. For some reason I've never watched Colbert's show (though I still tune into Jon Stewart with some regularity), but I happened to catch the segment while channel surfing. The entire thing ran about five minutes, and it was one of the funniest pieces of television I think I've ever seen. Pure genius.

I had hoped the entire thing would turn up on YouTube at some point, [UPDATE: The full segment is up and available on YouTube here] but I see that someone has posted only the last 1:32 of it - which is still well worth watching since it includes the hilarious, if uncomfortable part (for Wexler) where Colbert goads the Florida Congressman into talking about cocaine and prostitutes. Enjoy.

Is Syria Panicking? - Peter Brookes

As a major diplomatic offensive begins with the surprise visit of Secretary of State Condi Rice to Beirut this morning, Syria is feeling increasingly isolated. And with good reason. Not only are other Arab states putting pressure on Damascus to rein in Hizballah, but the word this morning is that Syria will not be invited to attend this Wednesday's Rome conference on Lebanon.

Is Syria panicking? Could be. Just take a look at Damascus' evolving stance over the duration of the conflict. First, Syria said nothing about the Hizballah-initiated armed attack into Israel that resulted in the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. No surprise there as Hizballah is Damascus' cat's-paw after all.

Then as Israel responded to the Hizballah provocation with force and massed troops on the Lebanese border, Syria said that if Israel invades Lebanon, it will send in troops. Next we hear whispers that Damascus may be seeking an opening-even rapprochement--with Washington a year after the U.S. recalled its ambassador. Even more interesting, Syria said it is willing to help the U.S. with al Qaeda, in Lebanon of all places.

But while Syria's position seems to be softening, Damascus is, in actuality, desperate. It is becomes increasingly marginalized in this Middle East crisis by both the United States and other Arab nations, and may have little to no say in resolving the current Lebanese conflict. This would be a serious blow to Damascus' interests-and more painfully, its ego.

The United States should only engage Syria on the Lebanon issue if it is in our interest to do so, not merely to placate other regional players. And should we decide to do so, we must not forget in our haste to resolve the ongoing conflict about Syria's other transgressions including its involvement in the assassination of Lebanese politicians and journalists, its support of the insurgency in Iraq or its deepening ties with Iran. In the long run, if Syria wants to reestablish ties with the U.S., it's going to have to do a lot more than control Hizballah.

Peter Brookes is a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Email: peterbrookes@heritage.org

Winning the Clown Primary

Both Chris Dodd and Joe Biden rev up their respective presidential juggernauts by calling to filibuster John Bolton. So what if there's an ongoing crisis in the Middle East or that the United States Secretary of State is overseas on a diplomatic mission?

Surprisingly, Dodd beats out Biden for the award of giving the most inane reason for blocking Bolton: "Many ambassadors at the U.N. feel that he hasn't done a good job there." Letting the opinions of ambassadors from places like Iran, Cuba, China and the rest dictate who our ambassador should be? Now that's a serious commitment to multilaterialism!

Presumably, President Dodd would submit his short list for ambassador to the UN Secretary General for approval, and also call for a recurring sixth month review to make sure that our ambassador's colleagues at the U.N. still approve of the job he or she is doing.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey with a late entrant into the clown primary.

Beating McKinney

johnson2.gifWhen DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson announced last December he was taking on Cynthia McKinney, it seemed a bit quixotic. But that was before the Congresswoman from Georgia's 4th district sparked another national uproar by smacking a Capitol Hill police officer in late March, an event which has now placed her in serious peril of becoming an ex-member of Congress - for the second time.

Johnson's strong showing in the primary last Tuesday puts him in an excellent position to knock McKinney off on August 8. As noted here, history shows that when incumbents are forced into a runoff, it usually means bad news for them. McKinney received 47.1% of the vote to Johnson's 44.4%, with John Coyne picking up 8.5%. Coyne, who is white and does not live in the district, ran on a "boot-McKinney" platform, so a good share of his vote from last Tuesday, particulary the 4,000+ votes he received in DeKalb, should flow naturally toward Johnson.

When I spoke to Commissioner Johnson via phone last week, he said his strategy for the next three weeks remains the same as it has been since the beginning: pound the pavement, meet voters personally, and explain to them why he'd be a more effective representative than McKinney. "Politics is a team sport," he said, adding that McKinney's brash style has undermined her relations with fellow Democrats as well as members of the black caucus - all to the detriment of constituents in the 4th district. Johnson thinks a "tipping point" has been reached in the district and that voters are fed up with McKinney's "antics" and her unpredictable behavior.

As always, turnout will be key. Turnout last Tuesday was shockingly low: only 61,888 total votes cast (26% of registered voters) versus 117,670 cast in the 2002 primary. An analysis by the Atlanta Journal Constitution this morning shows that decreased turnout hurt McKinney across the board, and with turnout for the runoff expected to be as low or even lower than the primary, the question is whether she can whip up enough of a ground game to pull this one out.

gadebate.gif Another key may be the debate. Much was made of McKinney's decision to skip the primary debate with Johnson and Coyne. I asked Johnson how much of a factor he thought it was in the primary outcome, and he said that while it definitely hurt McKinney, "she would have been hurt as well" by showing up and having to debate the issues with him.

I suspect we'll get to test that proposition, since the Atlanta Press Club is sponsoring another debate set for July 31 at 7:30pm. Johnson has already agreed to attend. As of last week McKinney had not, but I can't imagine she thinks she can get away with skipping this one without crippling her chances on August 8.

Zogby/WSJ

New polls out for July.

Debating Rudy

Rudy Giuliani: wild card or front-runner?

July 23, 2006

Freedom vs. Funding

John Tierney (Remember him? No? Just because he's stuck in TimesDelete's black hole?) has an interesting column on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research in Saturday's Times.

He argues, essentially, that the research is better off without the federal funding:

Even before this week's veto, anger over the ban has prompted states and private philanthropists to put up their own money. They've committed well over $3 billion to this research in the next decade, which might be more than Washington would have provided anyway -- and the federal money would have come with strings attached.

Stem-cell researchers can benefit from the freedom enjoyed by scientists who developed in vitro fertilization, which Washington also refused to finance because it was originally denounced as immoral. The absence of federal involvement sped progress by allowing unregulated private labs and clinics to innovate.

Given the other sources of money for stem-cell research, including private companies that see potentially lucrative profits, there's no pressing need for Washington to get involved. And as long as some Americans -- a minority, but a passionate minority -- oppose the work, there's no reason to force them to subsidize it. The result would just be more pressure for Washington to impose restrictions on what researchers could do.

When I touched on this subject a couple days ago, libertarians wrote in to accuse me of going soft by supporting federal funding of science. Pro-lifers wrote in to accuse me of not getting the moral difference between killing embryos through IVF or killing them through embryonic stem-cell research. My point was that it's inconsistent to say IVF should be allowed but not to fund stem-cell research -- assuming the federal government was going to fund other types of basic science. The majority of Americans (by far) support stem-cell research, so the argument that people would be forced to subsidize research they find morally repugnant is a weak one. In a democracy you fund lots of stuff you don't like when the majority says so.

Anyway, the Tierney argument provides another coherent framework -- the one I subscribe to. The government doesn't fund research and doesn't ban it either (of course, no one's trying to ban the research in this debate). What's more, private philanthropy and the free market ultimately do a better job anyway.

What bothers me still, though, is that opponents of embryonic stem-cell research can't just be upset by the idea of federal funding. If the research is "murder" or crosses some moral line, then there's no rational position but to support an outright ban on it -- and on IVF, which kills far more embryos.

To be clear: I'm not supporting any such ban. I want to see this research continue. But it seems to me there are two binary choices: A) It's either moral (and legal) to create embryos for the purpose of destroying them OR it's not (and, thus, IVF and embryonic stem-cell research should be outlawed), and B) either the government funds basic science (including embryonic stem-cell research) OR it doesn't.

These two questions are mixed up constantly in this debate. But if we've already as a society essentially agreed that embryo-destroying research is permissible (if not beyond controversy), then it doesn't seem to me there should be quite so much fireworks around the question of federal funding.

Unless it's all just a way for the GOP to excite its religious base. Oops ... answered my own question.

July 22, 2006

Milton and Rose

Don't miss the OpinionJournal interview with Milton and Rose Friedman (linked on the main page). The distinguished couple, it seems, has some differences on Iraq:

Mr. Friedman here shifted focus. "What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression." Mrs. Friedman--listening to her husband with an ear cocked--was now muttering darkly.

Milton: "Huh? What?" Rose: "This was not aggression!" Milton (exasperatedly): "It was aggression. Of course it was!" Rose: "You count it as aggression if it's against the people, not against the monster who's ruling them. We don't agree. This is the first thing to come along in our lives, of the deep things, that we don't agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously--such as, I don't want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out--but big issues, this is the first one!" Milton: "But, having said that, once we went in to Iraq, it seems to me very important that we make a success of it." Rose: "And we will!"

And, I know RCPers will want to read this, they also go into immigration a bit. (Milton: "In principle, you ought to have completely open immigration. But with the welfare state it's really not possible to do that.")

Shifting Edupolitics

Another Kaus item...

Kaus notes some shifts in edupolitics.

For one, New York's governor-to-be, Eliot Spitzer -- a Democrat, as you may be aware -- has now endorsed opening more charter schools in New York state. (An issue on which I called him out for being reluctant to speak up here.) Spitzer's running mate -- David Patterson, a Harlem Democrat -- also supports the largely non-union schools.

For another thing, Kaus notes Clinton appointee Joel Klein's (five-years-old) support for charter schools and war against New York's United Federation of Teachers.

Third, Kaus notes that the lefty Center for American Progress may start ruffling some union feathers. (God willing)

Anyway, I wanted to address one question Kaus had: Is a new study on charter-school effectiveness out of New York state really meaningful? My answer (if I may be so bold as to step on Eduwonk's toes): a little, but not a lot.

[You can find a very biased union response to the report here (PDF).]

The study is a snapshot of the 2004-2005 school year, and shows students in charter schools outscoring students in nearby public schools. Noted conservative education wonk Fred Hess warned charter-school supporters (for tactical reasons) not to make too big a deal of these results. Essentially, snapshots like this control for ... well, nothing.

The essential problem is that state and city education bureaucracies don't study these issues appropriately. All education data should test how much progress students make in a year -- in other words, value added -- rather than taking snapshots. Essentially, you'd want to take a group of kids in a charter school, and then a similar group of kids who didn't get into that same charter school (admissions are done by lottery, so this would be random), and then compare the groups' results over the years.

But, there are very few studies done like this.

At the same time, this study confirms what we've all known for a long time in New York -- there are charter schools with scores that are simply off the charts. Take this example from the New York Post article:

At the Harlem Day Charter School, 100 percent of its fourth-graders passed the English exam and 94 percent passed the standardized math test.

By comparison, an average of 52 percent of students in neighboring schools in Community School District 4 in East Harlem passed the English test and 75.6 percent passed math.

These are kids who have improved dramatically after being plucked from traditional public schools. There's just no question. And since the point of charter schools isn't just getting high scores at every charter school, but rather experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn't, charter schools have been an unqualified success in showing us that there are educational models that can reach low-income, urban kids.

These models invariably involve: longer hours (more "time on task" and thus longer work days for teachers), frequent testing of students to identify where they need help, and strict accountability of teachers for their students' results.

All of these things are anathema to the teachers unions -- thus their hatred for charter schools. (And, oh yeah, teachers at charter schools don't like to unionize ... and that costs the unions dues-paying members.)

My basic plea on education: more charters, vouchers and experimentation ... AND (and this is a big and, hence the CAPS) an investment by cities and states in independent testing and evaluation bodies. State "accountability" systems are a joke, and almost all government-created data falls short.

New York City, for instance, has an Independent Budget Office that evaluates various things and puts out wonky reports. An independent body like this measuring the schools would be better than reports put out by city and state bureaucracies with overriding political agendas. The problem, of course, as with all "independent" bodies, is making sure that institutional players (and ideologues) don't take over. America's teachers colleges are already worthless because they're run by left-wing social-justice crusaders.

Back to the politics: There is a shift going on here among Democrats. New York will be the state to watch on that front. Will Eliot Spitzer take on the teachers unions that run the state's education policy when he takes office? Stay tuned ... I, for one, will be watching.

The Dems Go West ... and South

Nevada and South Carolina will be the Democrats' new early-'08 states. From The Hotline:

The committee voted to hold the Iowa caucus on January 14th, the Nevada caucus thereafter, the New Hampshire primary on January 22nd, and the South Carolina primary no earlier than January 29th. The window officially opens on February 5th.

Arizona and Alamaba were alternates.

What to make of this? Consider it a BIG gift to John Edwards. Nevada will be as much of a "labor" caucus as a western caucus. And South Carolina is Edwards's place of birth, and neighbor (uh, of course) to North Carolina, which Edwards represented in the Senate.

New Hampshire, meanwhile, is pissed.

Disunion of Facts

Mickey Kaus catches ABC's The Note hallucinating a revival in long-moribund union-membership numbers.

I'd noticed the same problem with the item in question. It references "a resurgence in union membership across the nation," but the story it links to ... well, says no such thing. Union membership remains in the tank where it has long been.

But, well, I didn't write it up. [So why are you writing it up now? To prove you're slower than Kaus?--ed You said that. It just seems like news our readers would be interested in.]

Since Kaus's permalinks are as bad as ever, his item is reproduced after the jump.

[UPDATE: Here's a permalink that works. Kaus post no longer reproduced below. Go look at Slate's ads!]

Securing Baghdad

Our top general in Iraq said yesterday coalition forces will be refocusing their efforts on securing Baghdad:

"The situation with sectarian violence in Baghdad is very serious," Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army, the head of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Friday. "The country can deal with the insurgency better than it can with the sectarian violence, and it needs to move decisively against the sectarian violence now."

The new Iraqi government announced last month that it was stepping up security efforts in Baghdad. The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who led Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, also prompted hopes that the tide of violence might subside.

But an intensifying cycle of sectarian attacks and revenge killings by Sunni and Shiite groups have engulfed the city. Many residents have been fleeing the capital. Two months after the new Iraq government took office, the security gains that "we had hoped for have not been achieved," General Abizaid acknowledged.

Let's hope this shift brings the desired result of taming the sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki will be in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to meet with President Bush and also with members of Congress in what one White House aide described as a "roll up your sleeves" type of visit.

Maliki continued to push ahead with efforts of national reconciliation yesterday, announcing the formation of a 30-member commission that will begin holding hearings and drawing up the details of the plan.

July 21, 2006

Political Video of the Day

A local Connecticut TV station reports on Lamont's surge in the Democratic primary versus Joe Lieberman.

Send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

The Drag on Rudy

Looks like the folks over at National Review are getting a bit worried about Rudy, no?

Seriously, though, I look forward to reading Kate O'Beirne's piece -- while expecting to disagree with it thoroughly.

More on Lieberman vs. Lamont

Some email feedback on the Lieberman-Lamont race.

I agree with your analysis on the Lieberman race. Frankly it is shocking that he may lose this race, but volatile times bring shocking changes.

I also think your analysis of a Lieberman independent campaign is right on the money. You are correct, because Lieberman's run as an independent is born out of weakness not strength. Ct voters regard him as a Democrat, so running under a different party will anger the party faithful and confuse the thinly informed. Both results do not help him. Also, independents tend to poll better in July than in October, when voters become serious and pragmatic. Voters will want their vote to count; therefore they may be reluctant to vote for an independent; although Ct did elect Lowell Weicker to governor as an independent. Lieberman should have the same name recognition that Weicker did, however Weicker ran as an independent from the beginning and for a different office than previously held. No doubt that Lieberman's running as an independent will be a never ending campaign topic, and one that does not help him.

Finally, this primary helps the Democratic party and proves that term limits are unnecessary. Lieberman entered this election as a strong, nationally prominent candidate. Supposedly, no one had a shot to beat him. Now it appears that he may lose the primary. The voters are engaged in a serious debate, and the country is better served by it- regardless of the result. Excluding a Lieberman independent candidacy, a battle tested candidate is a good thing heading into a general election.

By virtue of his wealth, Lamont could have run as an independent- he could also have claimed that this gave more voice to the voter because he would not beat Lieberman in a primary. Instead Lamont wanted the democratic nomination, and if he lost he would support the nominee; this does not hurt a party in the general election. This is playing the game by the rules, and it typically builds party interest. Lieberman should also respect the voter's choice, regardless of the number of votes cast. If Joe wants to win, then get his people out- he does have them. This is not Rome or Chile, and Lieberman is not a Senator for life.

Additionally Lieberman may have a lot of Republican friends, but they will support and campaign for the Republican nominee. Therefore, his independent run will likely strengthen the GOP chances to take the seat. Lieberman is a good Democrat, and he should be regarded as such regardless of the primary rhetoric. That status will not be there if he runs as an independent. Also elections mean something and the results should be respected.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The CT Dem. Primary is certainly one of the most fascinating races in the country this year.

As a Democrat who was NOT against the war to begin with, I am having trouble figuring out how I feel about Lieberman. He has always been a little to moderate for my personal politics, but I accepted him. The thing that upset me the most was when he came out strongly for Bush's current policy in Iraq. I think that he helped the Republican spin machine define Democrats (most of whom want a change of policy - not an immediate withdrawal) as the "cut and run" party.

That being said the one point that you missed is that the Democrats big hope this year is taking back the House, not make their Senate delegation more liberal.

With Lieberman at the top of the Dem column (and winning by 30%) in CT will draw more people to Dem Congressional candidates, and with three very competitive races, this Senate primary could actually have consequences for the house races in the fall.


Dems in the West

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet this weekend to vote on which states will join Iowa and New Hampshire in the early 2008 nominating process. Arizona or Nevada would be wedged in between Iowa and New Hampshire for an early primary or caucus. And a southern state, possibly Alabama or South Carolina, would follow closely after New Hampshire.

This is a very smart idea on their part.

Just ask these guys.

Worth 10,000 Words

I wish I knew who to credit for this cartoon:

israel_palestine_cartoon.gif

Bush's 'Back Rub'

If you haven't seen video of the President's now infamous 'back rub' of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, here it is:

Now, let's be serious. This wasn't a 'back rub' or even a 'neck massage' - unless you apply the loosest possible definition to those terms, which most people do not. It was a greeting.

Was it an appropriate greeting? Probably not. Was it "sexual harassment?" You must be kidding me. But that's what the almost always morally confused editors at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer think, even going so far as to make a glancing but utterly unserious comparison to the behavior of William Jefferson Clinton.

Hillary the Hawk

My Chicago Sun-Times column is up this morning.

Lieberman Going Down in Connecticut

It was August 7, 2000 when Al Gore picked Joe Lieberman to be his running mate. In a little under three weeks on August 8, 2006, Joe Lieberman's 35-year political career as a Democrat is likely going to come to an end. That is an amazing fall from grace for someone who was just hundreds of votes shy from becoming Vice President of the United States - and who in all likelihood would be prepping his run for President next year - and is now fighting for his political existence. Lieberman is not only likely to lose his primary match up against anti-war insurgent Ned Lamont, but it is increasingly likely that his fallback position to win in the general as an independent is far from the sure thing he thought it was only 4-6 weeks ago.

Joe Lieberman's world is imploding in slow motion right in front of him and he and his campaign clearly have no clue what to do. Yesterday's Quinnipiac poll confirms private polling and shows Lamont surging ahead of the three-term incumbent, 51% - 47%, a 19-point swing from Quinnipiac's last poll only six weeks ago showing Lieberman with a 55% - 40% lead. To make matters worse, Quinnipiac's numbers have been running considerably more favorable towards Lieberman, as Rasmussen Reports' June survey had Lieberman ahead only 46% - 40% and was taken around the same time Quinnipiac pegged Lieberman's lead at 15.

It's clear Lamont has the momentum. The polls look to be playing catch-up to the anecdotal evidence that all of the energy is on the side of the challenger. Lieberman's other problem is that he is utterly unprepared to execute the organizational ground game needed to get his voters to the polls on a Tuesday in early August. Cake walk wins in 1994 and 2000, coupled with solid job approval numbers which mirror the state's other Democratic Senator Chris Dodd have bred an arrogance and complacency that is catching up with the Lieberman campaign big time. Suddenly, they are finding themselves in a battle for their political lives and they are nowhere near fighting shape.

The news that former President Bill Clinton will be campaigning with the Senator may give his campaign a boost. But the fact that they are bringing him into Waterbury which Lieberman should have already had locked up, as opposed to Fairfield County where Lamont is the strongest, shows just haw far Lieberman is on the defensive.

If he goes on to lose August 8th the question is whether he can get things turned around in time for the fall. Right now, both Quinnipiac and Rasmussen have him ahead in a three-way race, by 24 points and 15 points, respectively. But Lamont will almost assuredly get a huge boost from a win in the primary, and Lieberman will be burdened with the baggage of a humiliating primary rejection.

Incredibly, Joe Lieberman may feel worse the day after the election this fall than he did six years ago.

Everything in Moderation

The Denver Post looks at what national Democrats can learn from Democratic pick ups in the West in 2004. Colorado senator Ken Salazar, for instance, won his Senate seat while John Kerry lost the state to George W. Bush.

The Post credits Salazar's "centrist message" taken to the "exurbs" and appealing to "independents, moderates and conservatives."

Netroots types, the Post notes, think centrism is the bane of the Democratic Party. Of course, all of the Democrats' best centrist candidates win (ahem, Clinton, the first one that is), and all their extremists lose.

As I've said before: Look to the West.

The centrist Democratic Leadership Council begins its annual "National Conversation" meeting Saturday in Denver.

(via The Note)

July 20, 2006

Counting Snowflakes

On the substance of the president's stem-cell veto, I have to admit I'm torn. Here's one bit of reporting I found illuminating, though. ABC's Jake Tapper did a little digging into the "Snowflake" adoption program the president touted when he issued his veto. He interviewed Ron Stoddart, the executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which is responsible for the frozen embryo adoption program.

Here's a clip:

Stoddart says that 110 babies have been born in total, with "20 more on the way." There have been 273 donor families, he says, donating anywhere from one to 10 embryos per couple. They have been matched with 178 adopting parents. My math was correct - that means 143 embryos did not survive the process.

"Typically when we transfer or thaw the embryos, about half of them survive thawing," Stoddart reports. "Of those that survive, about a third result in a birth." Two-thirds of the embryos that survive thawing don't become a baby either because of miscarriage or failure to implant in the adoptive mother's uterus.

Even in the creation of the snowflake children being used as the face of opposition to stem-cell research, other embryos were destroyed. What's more, simply as a byproduct of in vitro fertilization treatment in general, thousands of embryos are discarded/destroyed every year. I just can't get my head around any logic that says it's OK to destroy those embryos, but not to use them for research that might vastly improve the quality of life for thousands (and eventually millions) of living, breathing human beings.

As Andrew Sullivan has said, if we consider embryos full-fledged human lives, then mother nature is the biggest abortionist/murderer of all, between embryos that fail to implant in natural reproduction and miscarriages.

Sullivan, however, is actually supporting the president's decision to veto:

This isn't a ban on such research; it's a decision not to throw the weight of federal financing behind it. I respect the case of those who favor it; but, when push comes to shove, I'm with Bush on this. It took political courage to take this stand. And the morality it reflects - a refusal to treat human life as a means rather than as an end - deserves respect even from its opponents.

I don't buy this, though. If we shouldn't treat human life as a means -- and embryos are human life -- then this research should be banned. Otherwise (assuming the government is going to be in the business of funding basic science, which it is), there's no reason for the federal government not to throw the weight of its financing behind it.

If the research were unpopular, maybe that would be a different story. But the research enjoys solid majority support.

It seems to me you either have to support banning any process that willfully leads to the destruction of embryos -- including IVF -- or you have to accept stem-cell research and fund it like any other type of basic science.

The Party of Science

Mark Warner has apparently been getting standing ovations on the pre-pre-campaign trail by promising "an administration that believes in science."

The theme has gotten an unexpected amount of traction. Perhaps that's why I received this email today:

Dear Ryan,

President Bush vetoed legislation yesterday -- his first ever use of the presidential veto -- that would help to unlock the potential of stem-cell research that could change the lives of millions of Americans with potentially curable diseases.

As with so many Americans, this issue is personal for me. I have a daughter with juvenile diabetes and a mother with Alzheimer's disease. These are among the host of diseases for which stem cell research could produce a cure.

In the Bush administration, politics has trumped science: on climate change, alternative energy research, and on medical advancement that could save lives. This country needs an administration that believes in science and brings hope to the many Americans and their families suffering from these horrible diseases. Please join me in asking Congress to overturn President Bush's veto. Sign the petition today.

Governor Mark R. Warner
Forward Together PAC

While I continue to think President Bush's veto was smart politics in the short term (2006), the "anti-science" label could be very damaging to the GOP in the long term. The fact is that most people know somebody suffering from a medical condition that embryonic stem-cell research might help treat or cure. And there are very few people who value a clump of cells -- whatever its theoretical moral status -- over the health and well-being of their parents or spouses or children.

There's a real theme between global warming, evolution and stem-cell research, and the Democrats shouldn't have too hard a time connecting the dots.

'The Israel Lobby'

It seems the Mearsheimer-Walt Israel Lobby paper has given the Left an easy-to-remember code word for "Zionist conspiracy."

Even worse, they think they have plausible deniability as well.

Kos the Pessimist

It looks like Kos is feeling a bit pessimistic about November.

His analysis pretty much lines up with signs all over the place that people are really mad at Republicans, but not terribly motivated to elect Democrats.

Political Video of the Day

The Ohio Democratic Party is firing back at Sen. Mike DeWine's 9/11 ad that Tom's been writing about.

While DeWine's use of 9/11 imagery might have been out of line, implying that DeWine somehow failed to stop 9/11 as a member of the Senate intelligence committee strikes me as similarly ludicrous.

Bernanke's Testimony - Larry Kudlow

Some quick thoughts on Ben Bernanke's testimony yesterday:

The best thing I saw was his reference to a very healthy and sound business sector with high productivity, strong profits, plenty of cash, and a strong backlog of new durable goods orders, which suggests big capex spending in the future.

The testimony itself was fairly bland. It's an economic forecast-driven Fed outlook, based on the Fed's own models, that apparently show a sizable decline for economic growth in the second-half of this year, along with a moderating core inflation rate. Implicit in the forecast is about a 2.5 percent second-half growth rate that I think is too low. So, if Bernanke is operating policy through the economic growth rate, there will be one or two more tightenings this year. On inflation he could be right.

Bernanke's testimony was definitely not a supply-side approach to economics. He did mention a TIP-based forward indicator of inflation, but there's really no clear liquidity model that relies on sensitive market price indicators like gold, commodities, and the dollar. I do like the TIP model reference, which looks to me about 25 basis points too wide. I definitely favor a 5.5 percent fed funds rate target.

I was disappointed that Bernanke made no mention of the dollar. Nor did he mention lower tax rates on private investment as a spur to economic growth. Because of low tax rates, I continue to believe the economy will surprise on the upside in the month's ahead. That is why I think the Fed will feel compelled to raise rates a bit more. That being said, an investment-led expansion is counter-inflationary, as supply drives demand and more goods are available to absorb the existing money stock. Low tax rates are similarly counter-inflationary.

But this is a data-driven approach to Fed policy. Looking through the rear-view mirror, I preferred Alan Greenspan's seat of the pants approach, which left room for more scrutiny of market-based indicators of both inflation and growth.

All of this leaves me still nonplussed about our new chairman, who is very much a state of the art economic scientist. I just don't think scientific models are nearly as accurate as market-based price watching.

Iran-North Korea: Missiles 'R' Us - Peter Brookes

Iranian presence at North Korea's 4 July missile test was confirmed by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Chris Hill, in Senate testimony today. This should come as no surprise as the Iranian Shahab missile is based on the North Korean No Dong missile.

Unfortunately, it's most likely that the Iranian were there not to see more launches of the unsophisticated short-range SCUD or the medium-range No Dong, which is essentially already in Tehran's arsenal, but to see North Korea's new intercontinental range missile, the Taepo Dong II.

While the Taepo Dong II launch fortunately failed, Iran's presence at the test site demonstrates an ongoing security relationship between Pyongyang and Tehran--and Iran's interest in an ICBM-range missile that could someday be mated with a nuclear warhead to threaten the United States.

McKinney in Danger

From The Hill:

"[McKinney] is in a very difficult position. A well-known person tends to get all the votes they're going to get the first time around. That's the history," a knowledgeable CBC lawmaker said, predicting that Johnson would get Coyne's votes.

More in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz said he thinks Johnson will get plenty of contributions over the next few weeks. "There is a ton of anti-Cynthia money out there," he said.

Abramowitz said Johnson is a serious threat to McKinney. "Once you force an incumbent into a runoff, that means the incumbent is in big trouble," he said.

The runoff is August 8 . The winner will emerge as the heavy favorite to win against Republican Catherine Davis.

Time Out For The Open

Let me go way off topic for a moment to point out The British Open starts today. A good friend from England emailed earlier this morning:

The Open tees-off at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake over here in North West England this morning. I wouldn't worry too much about a European victory. If you have to support a Brit, there is always young Luke Donald who surprised everybody in the golfing fraternity by taking up a golf scholarship in Evanston rather than down in the sunny south. The old timers say he reminds them of Hale Irwin and Gene Littler. No bad role models, better than fat whining Monty!

To which I responded:

So cruel to poor Monty! Personally, I happen to like Monty well these days, as with each tournament he looks more and more like the star in some Aeschylean golf tragedy. His collapse on the final hole of the U.S. Open last month was perhaps the worst yet - one swing with an eight iron for victory. He couldn't even put it on the green. How he must have felt watching Mickelson come hacking down the treeline on that final hole!

A short while later I discovered that Monty addressed this very issue in the Daily Telegraph this morning ("Double-bogeys are just part of the fun for fans") and how age has helped him gain perspective on his career:

I can see that my performance in majors does not add up to failure. I've had six opportunities to win and these are not easy to come by. To put it another way, being in contention and throwing it away (as I feel I did at Winged Foot) is preferable to never being a contender at all.

I, for one, will be rooting for "fat whining Monty" this week, though he's off to a rather mediocre start with a 73 today.

P.S. Tiger Woods statement here. Official web site of the British Open here. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Good Question

Mary Ann Sieghart uses the details of yet another gruesome honor killing to pose the question, "What right have Muslims to claim moral superiority?"

Rarely does a news story bring tears to the eyes. But when I read the account last week of the murder of Samaira Nazir in an "honour killing" (surely an oxymoron), I nearly wept. Here was a bright, articulate graduate who had her throat cut, was stabbed 18 times by her brother and cousin because she wanted to marry a Muslim man whom her family had not chosen.

The details were particularly horrific. Her mother stood and watched as she was murdered -- how could any mother do that? Her two nieces, aged just 2 and 4, were forced to witness their father stabbing her, close enough to be spattered by her blood -- how could any parent do that? She screamed for help and neighbours saw her blood-soaked arm emerge briefly from the front door, but their attempts to intervene were rebuffed.

Sieghart's beef: "it is peculiarly galling for Westerners constantly to be dubbed "immoral" by Muslims, to be treated as if Muslims occupy the moral high ground while the rest of us swim in a sewer of moral decadence." I suspect many would agree with her.

Polls: CT, WI, PA

New polls out this morning (results from previous polls in parens):

Connecticut Primary
Quinnipiac (July 13 - 18, 653 likely Democratic primary voters, MoE: +/- 3.8%)

Lamont 51 (40)
Lieberman 47 (55)

Pennsylvania
Strategic Vision (July 14-16, 1,200LV, MoE +/- 3.0%)

Governor
Rendell (D) 49 (49)
Swann (R) 36 (38)

Rendell's job approval is at 47%, down a point from June.

Senate
Casey (D) 50 (49)
Santorum (R) 40 (40)

Santorum now trails Casey by 14.3 points in the new RCP Average. Check out all the details on the RCP Election Page for the Pa Senate Race.

Wisconsin
Strategic Vision (July 14-16, 800LV, MoE +/- 3.0%)

Governor
Doyle (D) 43 (45)
Green (R) 42 (46)

Doyle's job approval remains a dismal 38%, unchanged from last month.

A Liberal Take on WA-8

Joni Balter of the Seattle Times analyzes the race between Republican Congressman Dave Reichert and Democrat challenger Darcy Burner this way:

Many of us think the 8th is solid Republican because the representative from the district has been a Republican since the district was created. But the 8th is a swinger -- supporting Bill Clinton twice, Al Gore once, John Kerry once, Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, but also Republicans such as Slade Gorton and Dino Rossi.

Burner has been a Microsoft manager and businesswoman -- I like that -- but she has a minimal political résumé. Her political experience amounts to serving as president of the Ames Lake Community Club where she lives near Carnation. She counters with, "That's not what I am running on. I am running as a businesswoman and a mother."

In her head. Certainly candidates have risen to the people's House with limited political experience, but candidates usually need a beefier résumé than super mom, head of a homeowners' association and businesswoman.

Still, the more I think of this race, the more I think Burner might be the right candidate in the right place at the right time. [snip]

This race is still leaning toward the sheriff [Reichert]. But it no longer makes sense to readily dismiss Burner. She may win because Democrats, Republicans and independents in the 8th have had enough of Bush policies, so much so they decide to take a chance on an unknown and unproven Democrat.

Obama in '08 - The Remix

Jeff Zeleny revives the 'Obama in 2008' storyline again with this item noting that the junior Senator from Illinois will make his debut in Iowa at Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry event.

Personally, I think Zeleny's goes a bit far in ginning up another round of speculation about Obama running for President based on this tiny little nugget, but he's a political reporter and there just doesn't seem to be any end to the public's fascination with Obama and analyzing his every move.

July 19, 2006

Image Doctor

Good grief. According to US News & World Report, Mike DeWine's campaign doctored the images of the WTC towers used in the attack ad against Sherrod Brown that I mentioned the other day. Apparently some moron thought it would be a good idea to add computer generated smoke to a picture of the towers.......

I hate to beat a dead horse over the issue of fairness and hypocrisy, and I know Republican outrage was already at ear-shattering levels over the DCCC video, but how much louder do you think they would have screamed if Democrats had not only used images of fallen soldiers in a political video, but had doctored them to enhance the effect?

Mitt's Big Dig

Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post provides an answer to my question from the other day about Mitt Romney's handling of the Big Dig fiasco/tragedy:

In the nine days since a woman was killed in a Big Dig tunnel by concrete ceiling panels that broke loose and crashed onto her car, Massachusetts's governor has projected the image of a take-charge chief executive.

A reader email confirms:

I think the piece by Adam Reilly is just a bit of wishful thinking by one of Massachusetts' many disguntled liberals. I think you are on the mark with your observation that the story works to Romney's advantage. His press conferences since he took charge have been great -- a demonstration of real leadership. No one really faults him for not getting rid of Amorello. The statehouse is full up wall-to-wall with Democratic hacks. They protect their own and Amorello is a hack from way back. Everyone in the state knows it. In fact, it looks like it will, sadly, take a death to finally dislodge Fat Matt from his perch. The 900 pound gorilla of Boston talk radio, Howie Carr, remains a steadfast Mitt supporter. Mitt's presidential ambitions will only be enhanced by this episode.

Mitch, Mitt and Mormonism

A filmmaker named Mitch Davis wants to start a 527, and use it to fund a movie about Mormonism and Mitt Romney.

Talk about your uncoordinated expenditures.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports this story today and offers this assessment: "Davis' campaign -- which he acknowledges likely will start with donations from sympathetic Utahns -- could end up helping Romney make his religion a non-issue or end up reinforcing the cultish image many Americans have of the faith."

I'm going to guess the latter.

Davis directed the 2001 film, "The Other Side of Heaven." Here's the IMDB plot summary:

John H. Groberg (Christopher Gorham), a farm kid from Idaho Falls, crosses an ocean to become a Mormon missionary in the remote and exotic Tongan islands during the 1950's. He leaves behind a loving family and the true love of his life, Jean ('Anne Hathaway'). Through letters and musings across the miles, John shares his humbling and sometimes hilarious adventures with "the girl back home", and her letters buoy up his spirits in difficult times. John must struggle to overcome language barriers, physical hardship and deep-rooted suspicion to earn the trust and love of the Tongan people he has come to serve. Throughout his adventure-filled three years on the islands, he discovers friends and wisdom in the most unlikely places. John H. Groberg's Tongan odyssey will change his life forever.

Here's Davis's IMDB page, which also has information on a religiously themed project he has out in 2006.

More Snobbery

Tom Elia at The New Editor sends word about this post by Cenk Uygur (The Ugly Truth: Our President is an Imbecile) as more proof of liberal snobbery and condescension. Check Elia's post to see the highbrow quality of some of the HuffPo comments....

Meanwhile, here are a few treats from the mailbag regarding my post this morning. Be warned: there's a bit of rough language below the jump.....

Tom - I'll make sure I don't sit opposite you in restaurant. I think most Americans can tell the difference between snobbishness and cloddishness. When I went to school good table manners were considered one of the marks of a gentleman, a perhaps alien concept at RCP.

----------------------------------------------------

I've always loathed Conason, and always regarded him as a lightweight version of Carville, Begala, or Blumenthal.

I suppose that he regarded John Kerry's 2004 campaign reference to how Bush "f****d up" as truly authentic and spontaneous. Tell it like it is, Joe, and get down with The People!

----------------------------------------------------

Dearest Tom,

I'm no snob, but watching MissionAccomplished chewing with his mouth open and talking through his breakfast made me cringe. Maybe he should come back down here to Texas and chop some cedar. He could walk around the ranch all day with his mouth open and nobody would give it a thought.

And as far as snobbery goes, try checking out the Republican Right's sense of moral superiority when you have a couple of free decades. Talk about condescension. Because I'm not some Tom-Delay-trailer-trash-in-a-suit who attends a "mega-church," I'm destined for extinction at the Second Coming. Glory Hallelujah, nothing but Christ-like humility among God's elect down in Sugarland.

For a guy who's supposed to be "real clear" about politics, you exhibit all the symptoms of having a head full of s***. Maybe it's a issue you could take up with your pastor.

----------------------------------------------------

Hello Tom -

I'm a fifty-five year old lawyer in Atlanta. Please add to your list Franklin Foer of the New Republic. I made a point of saving his September, 2004 review in the NYT (of course) of "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer," written by one Warren St. John, who spent a season hanging out with fans of the University of Alabama football team and wrote about the experience.

The review just oozes the elitist scorn and condescension you note. Consider the opening line: "If you reside in the spiritual heartland of blue-state America, the Great Northeast, then you probably regard college football as a phenomenon in the same class as Wal-Mart and evangelical Christianity."

One of the fans described in the book Foer calls "a bumpkin who made a small fortune selling ice." Others are dismissed as "unabashed rednecks," i.e., they're rednecks and they're not even embarrassed about it.

And Democrats wonder why they can't carry a southern state.

----------------------------------------------------

While I agree that Chait and Conason are clearly taking a cheap-shots in their respective columns, to dismiss the facts stated in those same paragraphs you cite as "liberal snobbery" is equally ridiculous. I love how you hide behind the people of the South....as if they would somehow they feel proud of having a President who traveled once outside of the country before being elected (despite being wealthy) and who (unlike Blair) is completely incapable of making an appearance in which he doesn't seem disinterested, aloof, unserious, and lacking the gravitas of a statesman.

I clearly acknowledge that is NOT the case when Bush speaks about Iraq, a subject for which he clearly has a passion for. Unfortunately, there are other crises in the world, and he just simply appears (whether he actually is we'll know soon) overwhelmed by their complexity. Complex problems (like brain surgery and Middle East diplomacy), unfortunatley, do require individuals with a certain intellectual aptitude (see Condi Rice). Can you fathom Condi Rice behaving like Bush did this week? Didn't think so.

----------------------------------------------------

You are so completely right. The fact that Chait thinks "our"/Bush's intellectual and moral inferiority is just as obvious as how much he sucks at basketball is truly revealing...

----------------------------------------------------

Re the Conason article: You must be kidding. To call Bush a dimwit is 'being out of touch,' 'elitist?' The accusation is preposterous. And the criticism is far too pervasive for Conason to be singled out as deserving awards or recognition. On the other hand, you're the type of Rotarian source material that helped Sinclair Lewis win the Nobel Prize.

Political Video of the Day

In honor of Bush's first veto, here's Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) on "snowflake babies," during the Senate stem-cell debate.

Remember to send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Bush Curses, World Jumps - Jules Crittenden

A couple of days have passed. Its time for some sober reflection on the importance of Bush saying "shit."

It is not, as American commentators have suggested, either particularly good or particularly bad or in any way worrisome that the leader of the free world said "shit." A lot of us say it a lot, on and off the job. I said it the other day when I hit my thumb with a hammer in a home renovation project. Emphatically. Then I said it again later at work. Never mind why.

The big deal also was not this nonsense about Tony "Yo" Blair being Bush's poodle. Some Brit scribblers hate Bush, Blair agrees with Bush, Blair is Bush's poodle. Ok, fine. Brit tantrum noted, moving on ...

The real problem is that two decades after Ronald Reagan open-miked the infamous words, "We begin bombing in five minutes..." world leaders haven't figured out what a bully pulpit the open mike is. You'd think by now they'd be open-miking all over the place. Look what happened to the Soviet Union just a few short years after Reagan's open-mike "gaffe." No bombing involved.

Diplomacy generally calls for conveying messages in understated fashion that leaves room for both sides to maneuver. Forceful and threatening statements are avoided unless there is a firm intention to act on them, imminently. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is a notable exception, as he enjoys issuing threats he currently has no ability to carry out, such as the destruction of Israel. This has not done much to raise Ahmadinejad's standing anywhere except possibly at Hezbollah HQ, which is experiencing difficulties and may not have a very high opinion of the boss in Iran at the moment, either.

When Bush says something offhand in front of an open mike, everyone pays very close attention. At this very moment, you can be sure Syrian and Iranian intelligence analysts are examining all possible nuances of Bush's open-mike babble.

Bush can dismiss it as a joke. He can even ignore the fact that he ever said it. Because within the norms of diplomacy, he didn't say shit, as it were. But an important message still gets through.

In times like these, with Iran fighting a proxy war against Israel in Lebanon, Bush may want to consider a few more open-mike moments. Something along the lines of:

"Yo Blair, the irony is, if we just blew the shit out of Damascus and Teheran, that Hezbollah shit would come to an end pretty quick."

War on Wal-Mart

A big setback for the anti-Wal-Mart campaign. A federal judge has ruled that Maryland can't dictate what percentage of Wal-Mart's payroll must be dedicated to health care.

In essence, the Maryland law hurts Wal-Mart by making it track employees in Maryland differently than it tracks employees in other states.

The war on Wal-Mart, however, is sure to continue.

The McCain Bandwagon

The governor of Utah declares for McCain in '08.

McCain continues to play a formidable inside game. But he should be worried about that Gallup poll. Four out of ten Republicans consider him an unacceptable nominee. Only 25 percent feel the same about the supposedly unelectable Giuliani.

Election 2008: Republicans

The latest from Gallup on 2008.

2006 Jun 1-4
Republican registered voters
All Republican
Rudy Giuliani
29
28
John McCain
24
24
Newt Gingrich
8
8
Mitt Romney
6
7
Bill Frist
6
6
George Allen
5
5
Sam Brownback
2
2
Mike Huckabee
2
2
George Pataki
1
1
Other
3
3
None
4
4
All/any
1
1
No opinion
9
10

Interestingly Giuliani also leads among the potential field as the candidate Republicans find least objectionable, with only 25% describing Giuliani as "Not Acceptable." McCain polls in the middle with 41% saying he is "Not Acceptable, " though that is better than Romney, Frist, Gingrich, Brownback and Jeb Bush.

Election 2008: Democrats

For the Democrats, Gallup has Hillary Clinton far in away ahead, with the 2004 and 2000 nominees bunched together in 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

2006 Jun 1-4
Democratic registered voters
All Democrats
Hillary Clinton
36
37
Al Gore
16
16
John Edwards
12
12
John Kerry
11
11
Wesley Clark
4
4
Joe Biden
4
4
Russ Feingold
3
3
Mark Warner
2
2
Tom Daschle
*
1
Tom Vilsack
--
--
 
Other
3
3
None
2
3
All/any
*
*
No opinion
5
5

Liberal Snobbery v9.0

Joe Conason wins the award for the most snobbish, condescending, and elitist liberal pundit in the country with this line from his NY Observer column this morning:

To observe George W. Bush talking trash, chewing with his mouth open and demonstrating his ignorance of geography marks still another step down in the continuing decline of U.S. prestige. It's the diplomatic equivalent of flag burning.

A close runner-up is Jon Chait, who wrote this in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday under the heading, "Is Bush Still Too Dumb to Be President?:"

It's true that presidents can succeed without being intellectuals themselves. The trouble is that Bush isn't just a nonintellectual, he viscerally disdains intellectuals. "What angered me was the way such people at Yale felt so intellectually superior and so righteous," he told a Texas Monthly reporter in 1994.

When I went to college at Michigan, I occasionally played pickup basketball with varsity football players. They obviously felt athletically superior to me. I didn't resent them for it -- because they were.

Note to Conason and Chait: if you want Bush to make a rebound in the polls, keep it up.

One of the major failings of liberals (and liberalism in general) is an attitude that reeks of smugness, of arrogance, and of a sense of intellectual and cultural superiority. They're enlightened, the rest of us are not. And, as a matter of policy, they know what's best for us poor unwashed dolts living between Manhattan and Berkeley, and Brentwood and Georgetown. Limousine liberals often fail to connect with "regular" people because they talk down to them, primarily because liberals view so many of their values with contempt - especially if we're talking about the South.

So it is with the latest revelation of Bush's unscripted remark to Tony Blair. Not only are most people not offended by what the President said (or, more directly to Conason's snobbery, the way in which Bush chewed his food), I'm sure many people feel Bush's use of the s-word, which he believed to be a private remark, was not only apt but also the kind of blunt talk that's needed these days.

Strike on Israeli Navy Ship - Jed Babbin

Over the weekend, I spoke to a retired senior Israeli military officer who gave me some insights into the missile strike on the small Israeli navy ship.

The Hizballah terrorists - probably aided at the scene by Iranian Republican Guard officers and/or technicians - fired a Chinese-designed C-802 "Silkworm" missile at the ship. My source indicated that the missile may be Iranian-manufactured, but other sources indicate this is more likely a direct import from China. The Silkworm is a subsonic, radar-guided cruise missile that carries a warhead of about 120 pounds of high explosive. This Israeli ship, a corvette, is one of the smallest ships (about 1300 tons' displacement and 300 feet long) that qualifies as a "ship" rather than a "boat." (By comparison, a Nimitz-class carrier is about 98,000 tons and is about 1100 feet long). A missile such as the Silkworm, with a warhead that large, should be able to sink a corvette almost instantly. But this Israeli ship is a bit different.

For starters, it's apparent that the crew wasn't tuned in. Their anti-missile defense systems, which this former senior officer told me includes an Israeli-designed anti-missile missile system and a Vulcan cannon (very similar to the close-in weapon system mounted on our capital ships), could easily have destroyed the Silkworm before it hit. But for one thing: as open sources have reported the crew didn't think they were facing a missile threat so the system wasn't turned on. That may or may not be the real reason. My source didn't accept this explanation.

Two conclusions: First, this Israeli corvette is apparently the best of its kind in the world. It not only stayed afloat after taking a hit that should have sunk it in seconds, it regained power and got itself out of the line of fire; and second, the undemonstrated capability of the Israeli anti-missile system may be a decisive advantage in any larger war. (Note to Mr. Assad: survivable ships, no matter what their size, can deliver all sorts of weapons, and can loiter in range of targets almost indefinitely.)

Reed Goes Down

Ralph Reed, as of 1:30 a.m. Eastern, has conceded defeat in the Republican primary for Lt. Governor in Georgia.

The defeat seems fairly stunning in its magnitude, given that polls just a few days ago had the two men tied.

With 94 percent of precincts reporting, the margin is 56-44 in favor of Casey Cagle.

The storyline tomorrow is likely to be that Reed couldn't shake off his ties to Jack Abramoff.

TOM ADDS: The margin of defeat in this race is pretty shocking. Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution finishes a long story on the race this morning with this:

As for Reed, Bullock said he didn't see Reed coming back soon. "We've witnessed the final implosion of Ralph Reed," he said. With initial expectations placed on his candidacy, it would be hard to reignite broad support, Bullock said.

Supporters in Reed's emptying ballroom disagreed late Tuesday night.

"I'm obviously disappointed," said a tearful Sadie Fields, head of the Georgia Christian Coalition. "The state lost an opportunity. But he will be back. He has far too much to offer."

July 18, 2006

CCP Blog

The Center for Competitive Politics has unveiled a new Web site, complete with blog.

The CCP is the only anti-campaign-finance-regulation think tank around, so make sure to bookmark it and check back often.

John Edwards and the Magic Thumb

Here's an early campaign video from John Edwards, out stumping around the country for that favorite of demagogues everywhere, an increase in the minimum wage.

James Kelm asks why Edwards is paying to host these videos when he could distribute them for free. Not a bad question. But until the senator figures that out, here's Edwards's MoveDigital page.

(Around 1:00, Edwards breaks out the Bill Clinton thumb.)

McCain at the Manhattan Institute

Over at The New York Sun, Ira Stoll (my old boss) writes up John McCain's visit yesterday to the Manhattan Institute. It's a pretty good roundup of where McCain stands on the current crisis in the Middle East, immigration, government spending, trade, intelligent design and campaign-finance regulation.

I expect we might hear this line on intelligent design a few more times:

"From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution," Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, "When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there."

To hit a few things Stoll didn't ...

On Social Security, McCain reiterated his support for private (he said "personal") accounts. He called for bipartisanship (Can someone put a moratorium on that word?). But he also said we had to deal with "benefit promises that cannot be kept." It's not the first time he's said it, but isn't this a fairly straight-forward call for benefit cuts? And isn't that noteworthy from a presidential candidate?

On energy, McCain endorsed an idea Rudy Giuliani put on the table about a month ago, also addressing the Manhattan Institute: nuclear energy. "It's very rarely I use the French as a model," McCain joked, but their embrace of nuclear power is something to emulate. On ethanol, McCain reiterated his opposition to ethanol subsidies ("That's the first primary state he just attacked," a gentleman leaned over to me and said.) but noted that the higher the price of oil, the more sense ethanol makes economically.

On Israel, I'd just note how much of a given it's become that the Republican candidate will be an unbending supporter of Israel. I'm all for this, of course. But it really is remarkable. As I've said, opposition to Israel -- and calls for "balance" and examining "root causes" -- has migrated entirely to the Left. "What if some terrorist came across our border?" McCain asked. "We would react vigorously."

Asked a question about eminent domain, McCain said he would support a constitutional amendment to strengthen the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, in light of the atrocious Kelo decision from last year. Though, he added, he'd prefer to try to find a legislative solution first.

Lastly, on campaign-finance reform, he deflected a question (no doubt inspired by this George Will column) as to whether as president his desire to find judges who would uphold McCain-Feingold would make it difficult for him to appoint "conservative" (read: pro-life) judges. His answer, that Roberts and Alito are wonderful, wasn't much of an answer. Both justices voted to strike down Vermont's campaign-regulation system recently; and, one might be tempted to speculate, their presence would have led to a somewhat different outcome in the case McCain referred to as "McConnell vs. Whatever" [it's McConnell vs. FEC]. McCain also claimed campaign-finance "reform" is working -- a claim I'd love to see him try to back up with ... anything.

Another couple notes ...

McCain is great off-the-cuff. But man is he bad reading prepared text. Bueller ... Bueller ...

There was also, according to this guest list the Manhattan Institute handed out, a smattering of Giuliani operatives in the house. Keepin' an eye on the big guy.

Iraq Continues to Boil

The news in Iraq continues to darken. There has been some progress, yes, but also a spate of horrific violence that suggests the Maliki government may have lost its grip, at least temporarily, on shepherding forward a fragile political peace and process of national reconciliation. This dispatch from Saturday's Times of London painted an extremely discouraging picture, as does news this morning of large, military style executions in Mahmudiyah yesterday.

Last week at the Center For Strategic and International Studies, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad spoke at length about the numerous challenges we continue to face in Iraq, including the "significant" sectarian violence in Baghdad, the need for more Iraqi police, the influence of Iran, the need to reform the Interior Ministry, and more. Khalizad started his speech with an important and measured assessment of where we are:

I'll give my bottom line up-front: I believe Americans, while remaining tactically patient about Iraq, should be strategically optimistic. Most important, a major change, a tectonic shift has taken place in the political orientation of the Sunni Arab community. A year ago, Sunni Arabs were outside of the political process and hostile to the United States. They boycotted the January 2005 elections, and were underrepresented in the Transitional National Assembly. Today, Sunni Arabs are full participants in the political process with their representation in the National Assembly now proportional to their share of the population. Also, they have largely come to see the United States as an honest broker in helping Iraq's communities come together around a process and a plan to stabilize the country.

Moreover, al Qaeda in Iraq have been significantly weakened during the past year. This resulted not only from the recent killing of Zarqawi, but also from the capture or killing of a number of other senior leaders, and the creation of an environment in which it is more difficult and dangerous for al Qaeda in Iraq.

These are fundamental and positive changes. Together they have made possible the inauguration of Iraq's first-ever government of national unity with non-sectarian security ministers, agreements on the rules for decision-making on critical issues, and on the structure of institutions of the executive branch and a broadly agreed-upon program. They have also enabled political progress that resulted in the recent announcement of Prime Minister Maliki of his government's national reconciliation and dialogue project.

However, at the same time, the terrorists have adapted to this success by exploiting Iraq's sectarian fault line. A year ago, terrorism and the insurgency against the coalition and the Iraqi security forces were the principal source of instability. Particularly since the bombing of the Golden Mosque in February, violent sectarianism is now the main challenge. This sectarianism is the source of frequent tragedies on the streets of Baghdad.It's imperative for the new Iraqi government to make major progress in dealing with this challenge in the next six months. The prime minister understands this fact.

I'd also point out this story in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Rick Larson is a Democrat from Washington's 2nd District who voted against the war Iraq but who disagrees with his House colleagues about setting an arbitrary withdrawal date.

Larsen recently returned from his third trip to Iraq where he got a first-hand look at operations there, despite being confined to the Green Zone with sectarian violence rising in the city. The PI reports that, "Despite his limited view, Larsen is convinced progress is being made, though it is slow and remaking Iraq is a complex problem."

Larsen also provides one of the most apt descriptions of the difficulty of our current situation:

"Pieces are in place to move forward but there is a ton of work left to do and not all of it is ours," he said, referring to the need for the Iraqi government to unify its factions, to build a credible army and effective police force.

"Our problem is, we're just trying to be a lid on the boiling pot and trying to get people to turn the knob down to low in order to create some room for this reconciliation process to move forward."

Larsen said Iraq will succeed only when its fractured political system can solidify. That, he said, requires a cultural shift that takes time.

Iraq is certainly boiling at the moment. So long as the institutions comprising the new government hold together and the Sunni, Shi'a and Kurds continue to stay involved in the political process, the pot won't boil over into all out civil war. But without improved security in Baghdad, there's no telling how long the fragile coalition government can hold up against the constant pressure.

Stem-Cells: Pretty Good Politics

Jake Tapper over at ABC News seems to think that a Bush stem-cell veto would help the Democrats in 2006.

That seems pretty unlikely to me. I have no moral problems with such research, but I highly doubt President Bush or the GOP will pay any short-term price for such a move. Support for stem-cell research is probably not enough to get liberal voters to the polls. At the same time, social conservatives who have felt slighted by this administration ("hoodwinked" is more like it, actually) will be delighted that the president's first veto will be on their behalf.

In other words, stem-cell research is a great base motivator for Republicans, but not much of an issue for Democrats. People who oppose the research oppose it strongly, those who support it hardly ever think about it.

Long-term, I think the Republicans do risk branding themselves as anti-science -- between global-warming denial, anti-evolution dust ups, etc. And that would be to their detriment. But as for 2006: A stem-cell veto, while not necessarily great policy, is pretty good politics.

Gay Marriage Amendment Goes Down

The House votes down the gay-marriage amendment: It fell 47 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority. The vote was 236-186.

This is slightly better showing than the last time the amendment failed in the House, right before the 2004 election, by 227-186. In other words, there's been a net gain of 9 votes.

Devil Went Down to Georgia

Georgia holds its primaries today, meaning Peach State Republicans decide the fate of Ralph Reed's bid for Lt. Governor.

Election results will be available here.

Romney's Katrina?

A few days ago Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix wondered in print whether the tragedy associated with the collapse of the Big Dig's roof last week will have negative political ramifications for Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions. Reilly cites the fact that Romney failed to do much of anything to oust Matt Amorello, the man who has had ultimate control over the project since 2002:

Romney's unwillingness to be more aggressive with Amorello hasn't played well in local conservative circles. Last year, the Herald's generally conservative editorial board slammed the governor for giving up too easily; just this morning, WRKO-AM talking head and right-wing raconteur John DePetro slammed Romney for his lack of follow-through. ("What do you say to that guy who lost his wife? 'I tried, but Matt wouldn't leave -- sorry about your wife'?") So just imagine how well Romney's inability to pry Amorello loose -- and the state of the Big Dig in general -- are going to play nationally.

After all, the governor sells himself as a "Turnaround" artist, a man with a genius for taking bad situations and whipping them into shape. But as Romney looks back on his three and a half years in office, what real improvements to the Big Dig status quo can he cite? The price tag keeps going up. The project is coming apart at the seams. Despite all the tough talk, Amorello still runs the show. And someone just died. Talk about a treasure trove of opposition research.

Midway through Tuesday's press conference, Romney proposed an analogy between Michael Brown's management of Hurricane Katrina and Amorello's handling of the Big Dig. "I look at what happened -- it's obviously at a very different scale, but what happened with Hurricane Katrina? Michael Brown was responsible, and ultimately lost his job. Was he personally responsible for flying the helicopters and getting in the water? No. But he was overseeing the agency, and the president and the public at large lost confidence in his leadership." The governor failed to note, however, that a substantial portion of the public also lost confidence in President Bush. It's a point he may want to ponder."

romneydig.gifThis story has been completely overshadowed by the war in the Middle East, but I'm interested in knowing what readers in Massachusetts who've been following it closely on the local level think. It seems to me the story could work to Romney's advantage, in that it provides an opportunity for him to demonstrate leadership in the aftermath of a tragedy and a crisis of some magnitude. Like yesterday, for example, when Romney was up in front of the white board diagraming and explaining the nature and depth of the problem with the ceiling bolts. Most likely it won't have any effect whatsoever on 2008. Maybe I'm wrong. As I said, I invite readers who live in Massachusetts or have been following this story closely to email me their thoughts on the subject.

(Photo: Patricia McDonnell, Boston Globe)

Kos's Glass House

In this post Markos Moulitsas accuses Republicans of a double standard when it comes to using images of war. Hang on a second.

Kos implicitly supports the DCCC's use of an image of a flag-draped coffin in its latest video by saying, "the GOP doesn't like Democrats graphically reminding Americans the real cost of Republican 'governance.'"

So what did Kos think of the Bush campaign's 2004 ad featuring a split-second image of an American flag waving at Ground Zero? You guessed it, the left's master of consistency called it, "Bush's inevitable exploitation of our nation's biggest recent tragedy."

Tell me again who's guilty of applying double standards?

McCain Speaks - Part II

Yesterday I posted Part I of John McCain's remarks at the press conference with David McSweeney on Saturday. Here's the rest of what McCain had to say:

On what Republicans can do to improve their prospects for November: "I think this is going to be a very tough election, and what I think we Republicans need to do, maybe, is have the President veto a couple of these pork-barrel appropriations bills. I think we Republicans need to sit down together and resolve the immigration issue. We control the Presidency and both Houses of Congress we ought to be able to work out a reasonable program to enforce our borders, and to fix our broken immigration system. I think that progress in the war on Iraq is vital. We all know that the number one issue in every poll is the war in Iraq. By the way, I think the leadership the President will be showing in this present crisis [in the Middle East] will help him.

And I think we just need to overall show our base, our Republican base, that are very concerned about fiscal discipline, that we can get spending under control. I'm not worried about our base, which is concerned about fiscal discipline, to vote Democrat. But I am concerned that they might stay home because they're unhappy with our dramatically increased spending practices over the last six years."

On energy policy: "What I think we obviously need to do is expedite as much as possible progress on ethanol. I just came from Iowa, there are seven new ethanol refineries being built - they're already at 24 and they're building 7 more. Ethanol, when oil is $10 dollars a barrel, isn't that exciting. When oil is $70 or $80 a barrel it's very, very vital, and we're seeing a dramatic expansion of that.

I also believe that nuclear power is clean, is available, the technology is there, and we need to increase dramatically our nuclear power plants. I know that's controversial in some places. I would remind you that 80% of the electricity generated by the French is from nuclear power. The Japanese - everyone in the world is using nuclear power heavily, except for the United States of America.

We did close a bit of a loophole on CAFÉ standards - we may have to look at that some more. But I really believe that the two existing technologies right now are ethanol and nuclear power. Hydrogen is great. Many of these other new technologies are great, but when I get into the details of them they say, 'well, that's two, five, ten years away.'"

On whether Congress will pass an immigration bill before November: I really hope that we do. One major reason is, why shouldn't we be able to sit down together and work this out? We all are in agreement the system is broken. It's the product of 40 or 50 years of failed government policy - nobody understands that better than people from Arizona where we have terrible devastation associated with that issue.

But we should be able to sit down and discuss this. We've had several discussions with some of the House members. Congressman Pence from Indiana has had an idea that we've been discussing, Congressman LaHood has been in the meetings I have...

The President believes we need a comprehensive approach. I totally agree with the President. But once you accept that premise, it seems to me that everything is on the table as to how we could best enforce our borders, establish a temporary worker program of some sort, and dispense somehow with the problem of 11 million people who have been living in our country illegally. Some came yesterday; some have been here 60 or 70 years. So, if we can just have a dialog amongst us, it seems to me that we should be able to come to an agreement. I'm hopeful that we will.

From a pure political standpoint, shouldn't we be able to govern? Shouldn't we be able to sit down and address a major issue that is of major concern to the American people? I think the American people expect us to.

And again, I want to emphasize, we who support a comprehensive solution, as the President does, we're willing to discuss and compromise on almost every aspect of it. We're not locked in concrete on any specific aspect of it. So I hope we can, and I believe we can, and I'm guardedly optimistic."

On an immigration compromise that starts with a year of border enforcement before triggering other provisions of a comprehensive plan: "If tomorrow we said we're going to seal the border, and we're going to do whatever is necessary - and we are spending billions more now, we're hiring thousands and thousands of new border patrol, we've got the National Guard on the border, we're doing lots and lots of things - even if tomorrow we said we're going to set up a guest worker program...it would still take a couple of years. So you could be sealing the border and at the same time moving forward with all of the apparatus and bureaucracy associated with a program like that.

On the other hand, if you say you have to seal the borders, my friend, the Israelis just found out you can't "seal" a border. The only thing that's going to keep the Israelis safe from having people cross their border is to stop the threat. The only thing that going to keep people from coming across our border is to dry up the magnet, which is what attracts people, which is jobs.

And that's why if the only way you could work in America would be with be with a temporary worker visa - a tamper-proof visa - those people who are south of the border wouldn't want to come across illegally because there would be no job for them while they're here, because any employer who employed them without that document would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

On campaign finance reform: "We think that the McCain-Feingold bill has been largely successful. What hasn't been closed is the loophole concerning the 527's, which are a violation of the 1974 law. I don't mean to get too technical here, but right now we have the ability, because of this loophole the Federal Elections Commission will not close and should - and we're in court trying to get them to close it - people like George Soros, and wealthy billionaires are able to pour literally tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns. It's wrong. It needs to be fixed. The Federal Election Commission has to act.

The other provisions of the law have worked pretty well. But we really have a bad Federal Elections Commission. They are the ones who created the loopholes to start with, for soft money and others, and it's very regrettable."

MD Governor: Ehrlich vs. O'Malley

The Baltimore Sun's latest poll, released Sunday, showed Governor Ehrlich down 8 pts in his race against Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. Rasmussen Reports released their Maryland numbers yesterday and they give O'Malley a similar 7-pt lead.

MD Governor
O'Malley (D) 49 (51)
Ehrlich (R) 42 (42)

Normally an incumbent trailing and polling around 40% is bad news, but Maryland is a peculiar state politically where Democrats maintain roughly a 2-1 advantage in party registration. These two new polls are actually very good news for the Ehrlich campaign and indicate that the Governor is poised to pull this race out in November. This race has always been slated to be a dog fight to the end, but Ehrlich's ability to pull within 7-8 in the pre-Labor Day polls should be giving the O'Malley folks concern.

Maryland's economy is booming, unemployment is at 3.8% and Ehrlich's job approval is over 50%. These are not small factors that will all work solidly in Ehrlich's favor as this campaign kicks into high gear.

The Senate Democratic primary battle between Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume is also likely have ripple effects on the Governor's race. Democrats are caught in a little bit of a catch-22 situation. On one hand the conventional wisdom runs that an Mfume win over Cardin works to the GOP advantage in the fall. But the Democrats run a real risk of a depressed or unenthused black electorate come November if Cardin wins the primary in a squeaker.

It was the less than enthusiastic embrace for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the African-American community that helped put Erhlich over the top in 2002, and the Democrats risk a repeat of that performance with the rejection of Mfume.

The flip side of that for the Republicans, is that while Michael Steele almost definitely wants to see Mfume as his opponent, the conventional wisdom of an Mfume primary win on the Governor's race may have to be recalibrated in light of what would probably be a massive black turnout for Mfume in the general if he beats Cardin in September.

July 17, 2006

Define 'Independent'

The Lieberman-Lamont primary in Connecticut (August 8, mark your calendar) gave us a new axiom in Democratic politics: It is a sin to support an Independent over the winner of a Democratic primary.

But here's a caveat: Unless he's a Socialist.

Then it's cool.

(via BOTW)

Rallying in Berlin

Two weeks ago people were rallying in the streets of Berlin to cheer on nations in the world's greatest soccer tournament. Today Muslims showed up for a decidedly different purpose, chanting "death to Israel" and "death to Zionists."

Meanwhile,halfway around the world at a rally in support of Israel held in New York City today, there was no chanting of "Death To Lebanon" or "Death to Muslims." Only a recognition that Israel has a right to defend herself against unwanted aggression and provocation. Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, put it about as plain as could be:

"To those countries in there who claim that we're using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You're damn right we are. Because if your cities were shelled the way ours were, if your citizens were terrorized the way ours are, you would use much more force than we are using."

Zogby Worldwide

Zogby has a new Web site up focused on international polling.

Winning the Yard-Sign War in CT

Kevin Rennie says Lamont is crushing Lieberman in the yard-sign war:

Connecticut politicians love lawn signs. And they are everywhere for Lamont. The Lieberman campaign woke up recently to find itself badly behind in the anecdotal war over how many signs each side could plant. His campaign had to deploy majordomo and longtime aide Sherry Brown to gin up the lawn sign effort. It was a sign of the parlous state of his campaign that Brown made calls and delivered individual signs to supporters. Picture Susan Estrich stopping at your house in 1988 to stick a Dukakis sign in the grass. Dire is the word that comes to mind.

The Poliburo Diktat agrees with an anecdote of his own that provides a bit of additional texture to the depth of Lieberman's problems these days:

My dad lives near Manchester, Connecticut. While Connecticut is a blue state like its neighbors New York and Massachusetts, Manchester is an ordinary, middle-class, small American city. It's not Berkeley; it's not Ann Arbor. As we drove along Center Street Saturday evening, I counted six Lamont signs. None for Lieberman. One of my dad's neighbors, Walt T., is a long-time Democratic party regular, the type of guy who dabbles in town politics and writes letters to the editor of the local newspaper. He's not exactly a 20-something nutroots blogger. I was dismayed to see a Lamont lawn sign on Walt's lawn, too.

McCain Speaks - Part I

On Saturday John McCain was in town to give a boost to the campaign of Republican David McSweeney, who is mounting a serious challenge to Democrat Melissa Bean in Illinois 8th Congressional District. Here is a partial transcript of McCain's remarks and responses to questions from the media:

McCain on the crisis in the Middle East: "We are possibly on the brink of a major conflict in the Middle East. Israel has been attacked.

Many of our European friends have urged that the Israelis stop or pull back. I would remind you that if people crossed our border and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers, our citizens would expect a vigorous response.

I think it's important to recognize that Hezbollah and Hamas are both supported, and in some ways a creation of the Iranians. And the Iranians have provided them with training, with weapons, and the motivation to attack Israel. I don't think this attack would have taken place without the encouragement, at the very minimum, and the permission of the Iranian government.

Hezbollah must be disarmed. Hezbollah must be disarmed. If you had a ceasefire, which we all want, without the Lebanese government controlling its own country, in other words controlling Hezbollah and Hezbollah being disarmed, then you would see a recurrence of this kind of terrorist activity in the future.

Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations. They are dangerous in of themselves, but when they have a state sponsoring them, such as Iran and Syria are doing with Hezbollah, then the challenge becomes even greater."

On whether the U.S. has been too weak with respect to Iran: "I think that this administration has handled a very difficult situation with regards to Iran as well as we could. The focus up till now has obviously been on Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. We have stayed with our European allies and kept them with us as we go the UN Security Council. We have known, and this administration has known, of Iranian involvement in southern Iraq and their increasing influence there and problems they've created there.

But I'm not sure what else we could have done. Now we obviously have reason to get tougher with Iran. I've said on several occasions, it would be a terrible thing for us to have to intervene militarily because of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons. There would only be one thing worse and that would be Iran acquiring nuclear weapons."

On Iranian involvement in the fighting in Lebanon: "The drone that struck the Israeli ship could not have been achieved, either acquired or operated by Hezbollah alone. It had to have Iranian involvement in it and serious Iranian involvement in it, so I don't think there's any doubt in any expert's mind that the Iranians are heavily involved with equipping and training of Hezbollah including many of those rockets that are being fired as we speak into Haifa and other cities are Iranian made."

On the military option with Iran: "I want to make this clear: before we seriously consider a military option we have to make sure we've exhausted every other, including using the United Nations to impose severe sanctions on Iran. I am in no way advocating exercising the military option at this time, what I am saying is that we can't remove it."

Values and Waves

Tomorrow, the GOP puts up gay marriage again in the House, as part of their "American Values Agenda."

Will this, combined with an aggressive terrorism-related push, be enough to keep the Democrats out of power in 2006?

Thomas Mann lays out the case that a Democratic wave is building in the Washington Post. (Of course, his case is so full of caveats that it's basically meaningless -- but the analysis is still worth a read.)

Two 9/11 Movies

In today's New York Sun, I take a look at two new 9/11 movies: Oliver Stone's World Trade Center and the indie Great New Wonderful.

For those who were worried about Oliver Stone doing a 9/11 movie ... put your mind at ease. There isn't a political or anti-Bush frame in the entire film (which comes out in August, but which was screened for some journalists in Manhattan on Friday). As I go into a bit in the piece, I don't think it's a particularly good movie (it's sort of 9/11 by way of Michael Bay), but it's harmless enough and perhaps just one of a number of "reenactment" type films Hollywood will come up with before filmmakers feel they can say something of substance about that day.

Far more enjoyable than Stone's film was the intimate Great New Wonderful. That's in theaters now -- though, not in many of them. It's about 9/11 in only the most glancing way, but the overarching theme is New Yorkers coping with an unspoken grief in September of 2002. It's also, strangely enough, extremely funny.

One other note: Both films star Maggie Gyllenhaal, for some reason.

Political Video of the Day II

And, because you know you want to hear it for yourself, here is President Bush telling Tony Blair:

"What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit."

(via Wonkette)

Political Video of the Day

In what has to be some kind of a first, here's a music video and dance remix of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens's remarks about the Internet being a series of tubes.

We highlighted a Daily Show segment about this on Friday.

Remember, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

About Those Images...

dewinead.gifIt seems that right around the time the DCCC was pulling its latest video because of the vehement protestations of Republicans (and a couple of Democrats) over using a split-second image of flag-draped coffins, Senator Mike DeWine's campaign was firing up this website with an ad that put his opponent's picture on screen alongside images of the smoking WTC towers on 9/11 and mugshots of the 19 hijackers.

Clearly, attacking Sherrod Brown's voting record on national security is fair game, but don't Democrats have a legitimate gripe about the way this was done? Isn't DeWine using imagery from 9/11 for political gain? And will Republicans who just screamed their lungs raw over the DCCC video call on DeWine to take this ad down?

WSJ Middle East News Tracker

The WSJ has launched a useful tool to stay on top of the latest news out of the war in the Middle East.

Kean Catches Menendez

New Quinnipiac poll on the New Jersey Senate race shows Tom Kean taking the lead over Bob Menendez (results from previous June 15 Qpoll in parens):

Kean (R) 40 (36)
Menendez (D) 38 (43)
Undecided 18 (17)

Poll taken July 8-12, 985 registered voters, MoE +/-3.1%.

Misguided Dems

I've been meaning to comment on this post by Matt Stoller of MyDD last Wednesday because it's a perfect example of why Democrats often seem so misguided. The gist of the post is this: Stoller discusses opposition to Lieberman in the context of the potential fight created by another Supreme Court vacancy. "With a close filibuster vote for a SCOTUS nominee," Stoller writes, "you have to be able be able to bring unbearable pressure on individual Senators. They just have to know that the easy vote has costs."

Stoller calls the decision by NARAL and Planned Parenthood to back Lieberman "craven," and then adds:

In allowing Senator Lieberman to not filibuster Alito and still backing him for his reelection campaign against a reliably progressive candidate, the leaders of NARAL and Planned Parenthood have decided to throw away their political capital.

Let's be perfectly clear: the beef here isn't that Joe Lieberman voted for Sam Alito. He didn't. Only four Dems did: Byrd, Conrad, Johnson, and Ben Nelson.

And the beef really isn't that Lieberman is somehow less solid on choice issues than Lamont. Here's Lieberman's vote rating record with NARAL, Plannd Parenthood and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Assocation over the last 12 years:

Year
NARAL
Planned
Parenthood

NFP&HRA

2005
75
n/a
n/a
2004
100
n/a
100
2003
100
100
100
2002
100
100
100
2001
100
100
100
2000
100
100
100
1999
n/a
100
100
1998
n/a
100
100
1997
n/a
100
100
1996
n/a
100
100
1995
n/a
n/a
100

You simply can't get much more solid than that. (The 75% vote rating Lieberman received from NARAL in 2005 was based on a single vote: to confirm John Roberts. That's the same rating Russ Feingold received, by the way.) So why shouldn't Planned Parenthood and NARAL support Lieberman when he has a virtually perfect voting record on the issues they deem most important?

Because, Stoller says, Lieberman voted in favor of cloture and against filibustering Alito. Think about that for a minute. Eigtheen other Democrats voted the same way as Lieberman, including all six other Democratic members of the The Gang of Fourteen. Lieberman voted to give Alito an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate, and then voted against his confirmation.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with the ever growing influence of hardcore progressive activists in the Democratic party. Instead of trying to broaden their message to win more votes, more Senate seats, and ultimately more control over judicial nominations, they're focused on purging moderates and electing more hard-core left wing partisans who are willing to sign on to using extreme tactics to hijack the advise and consent duty of the Senate and to take the judicial nomination process hostage through the use of filibusters.

Colorado Governor's Race

New Mason-Dixon poll for the Denver Post on the Colorado Governor's race (results of last Mason Dixon poll from February in parentheses):

Ritter (D) 42 (43)
Beauprez (R) 35 (37)
Undecided 23

Poll taken July 12-13, sample 625 likely voters, MoE +/-4%.

Sun Poll in Maryland

Yesterday the Baltimore Sun released data from its new poll on the Maryland Governor's race. This morning we get the results from the Senate race. The poll of 1,200 likely voters was taken July 6-10 by Potomac Inc (MoE 2.8%). Numbers in parentheses are results from the last Sun poll taken in November 2005:

Governor
O'Malley 46 (48)
Ehrlich 38 (33)
Undecided 16 (18)

Ehrlich's approval rating in the poll is at 55%, with 36% disapproving.

Dem Senate Primary
Cardin 32 (30)
Mfume 28 (28)
Undecided 36 (37)

Senate General Election
Cardin (D) 47 (43)
Steele (R) 36 (32)

Mfume (D) 42 (38)
Steele (R) 40 (39)

For more on the Marlyand Senate race, see John's recent comments.

McGavick Landing Blows

Sunday's Seattle Times editorial begins, "If Washington's U.S. Senate campaign were a boxing match, the early rounds are going to Republican Mike McGavick."

July 15, 2006

Rudy and That Abortion Issue

"Rudy's record on abortion isn't just bad. Rudy's record is apocalyptic. Rudy makes Romney look like Pat Robertson. He is so far to the left on abortion he could probably compete for NARAL's endorsement against Hillary in 2008, and win it. How bad is it? He won a spot on the New York Liberal Party ticket for Mayor largely because of his pro abortion stance. Grrr. He avidly supported partial birth abortion in 1997. Grrrr. He supported public funding for abortion. Grrrrr. You get the picture. In short, no pro-lifer in their right mind could consciously vote for Rudy.

And yet? I love the guy."

-- SlimJim at RedState

Election News & Notes

A few interesting notes from around the country:

PA Senate: Rick Santorum fights for the support of veterans, defends his record on the Iraq war. Meanwhile, the AP reports on some of the issues surrounding Santorum's struggle for support. In the money race, Santorum holds nearly a 2-1 advantage, with $9.5 million compared with $5.2 million for Casey. Check out the RCP Election '06 page on the Pennsylvania Senate race for more news, polling data, and analysis on this race.

CT Senate: David Lightman of the Hartford Courant's Washington Bureau examines Joe Lieberman's voting record and comes to the conclusion: "By the numbers, Joe Lieberman is a true, consistent Democrat."

Deborah Orin of the New York Post says Hillary is kinda sorta backing Lieberman and also that, "more independents are registering as Democrats, presumably to vote for him."

MN Senate: DFLer Amy Klobuchar outraised Republican Mark Kennedy last quarter, posting $1.8 million to Kennedy's $1.6 million. She still trails Kennedy in the cash on hand category by half a million bucks.

WA Senate: How much did it cost Maria Cantwell to buy off her antiwar primary opponent Mark Wilson? $8,000 bucks per month, which is just slightly less than she pays her campaign manager. The Cantwell campaign released a statement saying, "Mark's experience as a candidate, military veteran, Teamster, progressive activist and small businessman make him an ideal person for the Cantwell campaign's outreach director." It's getting more and more expensive to buy off the netroots these days.

MI Senate: Republicans Mike Bouchard and Keith Butler continue to battle it out for the chance to take on Debbie Stabenow this November. Once thought to be vulnerable, Stabenow runs well ahead in hypothetical matchups against both challengers, and now reports having $7 million in the bank. The Michigan primary is August 8.

IL-8: The good news for Republican challenger Dave McSweeney? He slightly outraised incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean last quarter, $604,000 to $548,000. The bad news? Bean is sitting on close to $3 million in the bank while McSweeney has less than a half million. Senator John McCain is in town for an event today that will raise another $125K for McSweeney.

GA Lt. Gov: More good stuff from Baxter and Galloway at the AJC on the final hours of this dead heat race:

"Let's ponder on [Matt] Towery's contention that this race will be a 1,000-vote contest. If that's so, then it won't be over until Cobb, Cherokee and north Fulton counties weigh in.

Remember that it was Jared Thomas, as campaign manager for Tom Price, who pulled the upset of 2004 with a primary victory in the GOP race for the 6th Congressional District. Which covers exactly that territory. Thomas, of course, is now directing Reed's campaign.

IA-3: The Des Moines Register reports Incumbent Democrat Boswell raised $415K in Q2 and has over $1 million in the bank. Republican challenger Jeff Lamberti almost matches Boswell's pace, raising $374K in Q2 with $775,000 on hand.

OH Governor: Sometimes a quote is all you need, this time from Republican Ken Blackwell:"I'm sending the hound dogs after him [Democrat Ted Strickland]. We're going to track him down and make him debate the issues, side by side. We're going to make him show that he can drill down on these issues."

July 14, 2006

The Sound of Defeat

Katherine Harris' third campaign manager, Glenn Hodas, calls it quits: "It became unmanageable, unhealthy, uncontrollable." Bonus points for ripping a former boss with alliteration.

Hodas elaborated on the Harris horror show:

"I read the reports and I said 'There's no way all this stuff could be true.' But as time wore on, not only was it true but it was worse than reported," he said. He described "tantrums, micromanaging, an increasingly erratic behavior and counterproductive, damaging statements and activities." [snip]

Ed Rollins, a prominent political strategist who had served as President Reagan's political director and ran
Ross Perot's presidential campaign in 1992, also abandoned Harris' campaign.

He said Hodas' description was similar to what he had experienced.

"Everything is someone else's fault. If there's not a Starbucks coffee house within distance, it's someone else's fault," Rollins said. "After a while you say, 'Why am I putting up with this crap?'"

According to the AP, Harris says a new campaign manager "will be named shortly." Where in the world are they going to find anyone dumb enough to take that job?

Political Video of the Day II

On a more serious note, here's John Bolton before an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council over the situation in the Middle East.

Quote: "No reckoning with Hizballah will be adequate without a reckoning with its principal state sponsors of terror."

(via Outside the Beltway)

Hillary's Fiscal Responsibility

Off the wire from the Associated Press:

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential presidential candidate, said Friday that her re-election campaign for a second Senate term had more than $22 million.

The former first lady and Democrat said her campaign had raised almost $5.7 million over the last three months and had raised more than $43 million overall. The campaign has spent more than $21.7 million on her bid for another Senate term.

She's spent $21.7 million already running against drop-out Jeanine Pirro, crazy KT McFarland and John Spencer? I find that hard to believe. Maybe the AP writer should have added "and her bid for the White House."

Mercurial Matthews

Chris Matthews thinks Rudy Giuliani is going to be our next president ... along with John McCain ... and George Allen.

TOM ADDS: No she didn't. At the beginning of the clip Matthews asks his panelists to name someone, Democrat or Republican, who can match Giuliani on the issue of security. "Democratic strategist" Jenny Backus replied....wait for it.... John Kerry. It actually made me laugh harder than Jon Stewart's bit on Ted Stevens (see below).

Political Video of the Day

In this clip, Jon Stewart highlights some now notorious comments about the Internet from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Bridge-to-Nowhereland):

A series of tubes, indeed.

Michael Schiavo's Crusade

For those who may have missed it, Michael Schiavo is now a left-wing activist. Dr. James Dobson's utterly non-political Focus on the Family has the update here.

To be fair, I can see how what Schiavo went through could make a person want to seek revenge on the politicians who turned your life into a national media circus.

At the same time, no matter what her wishes about her own death, I feel fairly certain Terri Schiavo never expressed any desire to be used as a fundraising mascot for the Democratic Party.

Schiavo's Terri PAC is here.

Election 2006: Pennsylvania Senate Race

RCP will be rolling out its 2006 Election coverage between now and Labor Day. The first race we take a look at is one of the most watched in the nation and not surprisingly also the one seat most likely to switch parties. Here is a link to the page and I have clipped in the analysis below.

Pennsylvania Senate Race

At the age of 36, Rick Santorum rode the 1994 GOP surge to a 2-pt win over Harris Wofford, 49 - 47. In 2000, his outspoken social conservatism in the traditionally more moderate Northeast made him a prime target for Democrats, but unlike many other Class of '94 conservatives (Spencer Abraham, Rod Grams and John Ashcroft) Santorum defied the skeptics and won reelection with 52% of the vote.

This November it looks like the Democrats may be poised to accomplish what they couldn't get done six years ago.

State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., while not a charismatic campaigner, is a much better candidate, with a much better name (Casey's late father was a very popular two-term PA Governor) than Santorum's 2000 opponent, former Rep. Ron Klink.

Like his father, Casey is pro-life, which helps neutralize the abortion issue (an important issue in Pennsylvania). But unlike Klink, who was also pro-life, Casey is from the eastern part of the state. With Governor Rendell likely to pile up big margins in the Philadelphia suburbs, the Southeast quadrant of the state becomes a major battleground and Bob Casey is better positioned to win these voters than Ron Klink was in 2000.

When you look at the polling over the past year, Casey seems to consistently float in the 48-52 range while Santorum remains stuck below 40. Adding to Santorum's poll problems is his approval ratings have fallen into the 30's, which is very low for sitting Senators. Santorum regularly polls at the bottom of Survey USA's list of job approval for all 100 Senators. Cutting through the noise, Casey appears to have a rough, structural 50-40 lead. And that, in a nutshell, is Santorum's biggest problem: he is just down by too much.

There is no question that this race is going to close. And it would be a mistake to completely write off Santorum's chances of pulling out a come-from-behind win. Casey has blown big leads before, including a 20+ point lead against Rendell in the 2002 Democratic primary that turned into a 14-point loss.

Santorum is an excellent campaigner (much better than Casey) and he will also be very well funded. Right now he holds a 2-1 edge in cash-on-hand. Also Pennsylvania's senior Senator Arlen Specter, who literally owes his seat to Santorum, will be an asset in the critical Southeast part of the state where Santorum has to do well if he hopes to prevail.

Santorum needs to see President Bush's and the generic GOP numbers continue to improve and he needs to close his gap in the post-Labor Day polls back into the 6-9 pt range in the RCP Average. If both these things happen by mid-September (probably a 50-50 chance) this race can move back to a tossup. However, right now from where things stand today, it looks like Santorum is just fighting too big a headwind and, while poised to close substantially, looks likely to come up a short on election day.

The 'Stooges' Debate

tndebate.gif Ed Bryant, Bob Corker and Van Hilleary, the Republicans running for the Tennessee Senate nomination recently dubbed "the three stooges" by Democrat Harold Ford, debated each other last night. Details on the debate here.

The primary is three weeks away, and will take place on Thursday, August 3. The day after that Bubba will be in town on behalf of Tennessee Democrats and will also make a star turn at a separate event for Ford's campaign.

(Photo: Jeff Adkins, Knoxville News-Sentinel)

To Be Charitable

On the WSJ's op-ed page, Daniel Henninger looks at private-sector big shots like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett investing billions of dollars in philanthropy.

His concern? "Aficionados of philanthropy tell me the one thing that distinguishes expertise in business (or bridge) from expertise in philanthropy is that in philanthropy no one keeps score. It has no institutionalized bottom line. The very act of philanthropy is often its own validation."

It's a valid concern. And if Gates could bring business thinking and the concepts of measurement and accountability to the philanthropic world, that would be a greater contribution than anything else he might accomplish funding schools or fighting AIDS in Africa.

One philanthropist's good works are a drop in the bucket (even if we're talking about a very big drop), but more efficiency in that sector generally would be a sea change.

Bad Business

A lot of good stuff in the Wall Street Journal today. Let's start with this one from the Taste page: "Primetime Scrooges: For American businessmen, primetime is crimetime."

This topic is a perennial favorite of mine, but it's definitely worth revisiting. For any good capitalist, it's hard to ignore how often in TV and movies the "bad guys" are businessmen of one kind or another. Still, it's not often that someone quantifies it.

Thus:

According to a study published last month by the Business & Media Institute, in the world of TV entertainment, "businessmen [are] a greater threat to society than terrorists, gangs or the mob."

The study, titled "Bad Company," looked at the top 12 TV dramas during May and November in 2005, ranging from crime shows like "CSI" to the goofy "Desperate Housewives." Out of 39 episodes that featured business-related plots, the study found, 77% advanced a negative view of the world of commerce and its practitioners.

I don't actually think this trend is driven primarily by lefty hostility toward business (though, for some writers and producers, I wouldn't rule it out). It's probably mostly driven by laziness. I mean, do screenwriters have extreme hostility toward Russian nationalists? Or are Russian nationalists just a lazy way of having terrorist characters without making them Muslims?

When it comes down to it, there are only so many motives for murder (love-sex-jealousy, revenge, money) that can sustain an hour-long drama that anyone wants to watch. Maybe most real murders are the results of bar fights and drug dealers killing each other. But that'd be a pretty boring show.

So, popular entertainment hates business. But there's probably not an awful lot that can be done about it.

Quote of the Day

"So there's two things we can't do on Comedy Central. Show Muhammad and Tom Cruise." - Trey Parker, co-creator of South Park.

Bracing For Big Bucks in Washington

There's more than a little irony in the fact that Maria Cantwell, who poured $10 million of her dot com fortune into the 2000 Senate race to upset Slade Gorton by roughly 2,000 votes, is now bracing for an infusion of personal cash by her Republican opponent, Mike McGavick. Cantwell's personal wealth has detoriated vastly since the dot com bust - the Seattle Times reports her largest asset is a holding of RealNetworks stock valued between $1-5 million - and this time around she's in no position to compete with McGavick, whose net worth is estimated between $36-$65 million.

Lucky for Cantwell, however, she won't need any personal money now that she can raise cash from the Democratic establishment - something she's done quite well. Cantwell raised more than $2 million just in the last three months and has $6.4 million on hand. (No wonder she can spend a little extra cash to buy off her primary opponents).

McGavick raised an impressive $1.7 million during the same time period, but he's also spent a ton, as challengers with little name recognition are wont to do, and reports having just over $1 million in the bank. Hence the discussion of whether McGavick is going to pony up enough money to trigger the "millionaire amendment" that will allow Cantwell to raise the cap on contributions to her campaign.

A final interesting tidbit: the Washington state Democratic party has filed what appears to be a laughable complaint with the FEC alleging that the $28 million in stock options and bonus pay McGavick received last year as part of his compensation package after leaving SAFECO is an "illegal campaign contribution."

Gore's Disappointment

Do Democrats care about global warming? Ryan Sager says the answer is "no."

The Kidnapping of Democracy

That's the title of Tom Friedman's excellent column this morning. Friedman writes:

What we are seeing in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon is an effort by Islamist parties to use elections to pursue their long-term aim of Islamizing the Arab-Muslim world. This is not a conflict about Palestinian or Lebanese prisoners in Israel. This is a power struggle within Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq over who will call the shots in their newly elected "democratic'' governments and whether they will be real democracies.

The tiny militant wing of Hamas today is pulling all the strings of Palestinian politics, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Shiite Islamic party is doing the same in Lebanon, even though it is a small minority in the cabinet, and so, too, are the Iranian-backed Shiite parties and militias in Iraq. They are not only showing who is boss inside each new democracy, but they are also competing with one another for regional influence.

As a result, the post-9/11 democracy experiment in the Arab-Muslim world is being hijacked. Yes, basically free and fair elections were held in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq. Yes, millions turned out to vote because the people of the Arab-Muslim world really do want to shape their own futures.

But the roots of democracy are so shallow in these places and the moderate majorities so weak and intimidated that we are getting the worst of all worlds. We are getting Islamist parties who are elected to power, but who insist on maintaining their own private militias and refuse to assume all the responsibilities of a sovereign government. They refuse to let their governments have control over all weapons. They refuse to be accountable to international law (the Lebanese-Israeli border was ratified by the U.N.), and they refuse to submit to the principle that one party in the cabinet cannot drag a whole country into war.

Do As I Say

Talk about setting a bad example....

Never Quit the Fight

peters.jpg Ralph Peters's new book came in the mail the other day. As longtime RCP readers know, Peters's New York Post columns are often featured on the frontpage, and we're also proud to say that Ralph has become a direct regular contributor to RealClearPolitics in recent months.

"Never Quit the Fight" is a collection of essays written by Peters over the last three years. Peters has long been one of the most powerful voices around arguing for a robust approach to the War on Terror, and he's also been, without question, one of the most forceful and eloquent defender of U.S. troops anywhere in the world. And from the very start of the book's introduction, it's abundantly clear that Peters is less than pleased about the way things have gone since the late summer of 2003:

Despite glances backward and projections into the distant future, the themes addressed here were dictated by this brief, turbulent, inspiring, and disheartening period. A nation at war pretended that it was not. A presidential administration insisted that we were at war but acted as though the greed-spurred 1990's had never ended. A national election offered the American people one of the poorest choices in our history, between an incumbent administration that stood for arrogance, corruption, and security, and a challenger who emanated fecklessness, weakness, and a spirit of surrender. We gritted our teeth and chose the man who would fight over a man who didn't seem to stand for anything at all....

Abroad, our men and women in uniform fought remarkably well despite poor national leadership on one hand and a hard-left minority on the other that seemed to feel more empathy for Islamist terrorists than for our own troops. "Support our troops, bring them home!" became the most cynical political mantra since the McCarthy era. Yet our troops never wavered. They deserve far more respect and recognition than an insincere political class and our toxic media will grant them.

Nobody is more straightfoward or hard-hitting than Peters. If you're as much of a fan of his work as I am, "Never Quit the Fight" is absolute must-reading.

July 13, 2006

Political Video of the Day

Here's Marine lieutenant Ilario Pantano, charged with murder, and author of Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy, on the Daily Show Monday night.

A fascinating discussion, even if Jon Stewart goes a bit easy on him.

Remember to send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Plamegate Redux

Unable to get any frogmarch satisfaction out of Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame (Wilson) has now sued Vice-President Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and 10 other members of the Bush administration for "conspiring to destroy her career." Come again? Doesn't destroying someone's career mean ending it? Last I checked Plame was still a desk-jockey at the CIA.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is.....

Imagine my surprise when, after using the example of Bush's 2004 campaign ad showing an image 9/11 to chide some on the right yesterday for being a bit hypocritical with their outrage at the DCCC's new video, I read that Erick at RedState has used the exact same example....to charge Democrats of hypocrisy.

Let me see if I have this right. If you were against Bush using images of 9/11 in 2004 but aren't opposed to using images of flag-draped coffins in 2006, you're a hypocrite. So far so good. But if you weren't opposed to Bush using images of 9/11 in 2004 but are now up in arms over the use of an image of a flag-draped coffin, doesn't that also make you guilty of hypocrisy?

So unless Erick was opposed to Bush's use of the 9/11 image back in 2004, he's made a very effective case against himself, no?

More Muthanna

On Monday I mentioned the importance of the impending transfer of security in the Iraqi province of Muthanna. The transfer officially took place today.

Here's a snippet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's prepared remarks for the ceremony, focusing on the importance of success:

God forbid, if any failure in this experience occurs, I think this will lead to a big catastrophe and disappointment, which may affect all the process which we pursue in order to complete the full handover of security. This step requires the maximum state of harmony and cooperation between the governing officials and civil society organizations, with the tribes, clerics and all communities. You should work from now on to unite the lines and find an environment which results in leading to the success of this step.

Be aware that those who want vandalism, and who want to prevent security handover and success of political experience and Iraqi national unity, will spare no effort to undermine this step. Yet, by your will, integration, patience and attention, God willing, we will embrace this step and cut the hands which want to vandalize this area, which will be an important turning point in the history of Iraq.

Keep your eye on what happens in Muthanna.

McCaffrey on Gitmo

Retired General Barry McCaffrey visited Gitmo recently and filed a report which you can read in full here (via RedState). The following are a few of McCaffrey's key observations:

-- "The JTF Guantanamo Detention Center is the most professional, firm, humane and carefully supervised confinement operation that I have ever personally observed."

-- "There is now zero physical or mental abuse of prisoners in this facility by either guard personnel or military intelligence interrogators."

-- "The actual identities of all detainees are now known. One third of Detainees are privately cooperative. Six to eight percent have mental health problems. (15% of US prison population.) Ten percent are routinely, overtly hostile. Approximately one third of current detainees are extremely dangerous, trained, and clever --and might be classified as capable of leadership of terrorist operations."

-- "During the first 18 months of the war on terror there were widespread, systematic abuses of detainees under US control in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Some were murdered and hundreds tortured or abused. This caused enormous damage to U.S. military operations and created significant and enduring damage to US international standing. We have been routinely condemned by the international community."

-- "In my view, U.S. Military detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo are now operating professionally and in accordance with our historical U.S. Military standards and values. However, the international community no longer believes us. The publicly expressed beliefs of even our closest allies now border on hysteria. We are in most parts of the world believed to be a greater threat than North Korea and Iran. This is the context in which Guantanamo is being judged."

-- "We need to be completely transparent with the international legal and media communities about the operations of our detention procedures wherever they are located. Arrogance, secrecy, and bad judgment have mired us in a mess in Guantanamo from which we are having great difficulty in extricating ourselves. The current JTF detention operations commanded by General John Craddock and Rear Admiral Harry Harris should be a source of great pride to the U.S. military. Unfortunately, we are dragging some unwholesome historical baggage which has contaminated our current extremely professional handling of these dangerous and blood-thirsty terrorists."

Persian Perfidy - by Peter Brookes

Never underestimate Iran's treachery. As Hezbollah's "Sugar Daddy," Tehran is up to their necks in orchestrating war on Israel, using their terrorist toadies, Lebanon's Hezbollah.

It's all part of a deadly, devious plan to divert world attention from its nuclear weapons mischief--and hinder its referral back to the U.N. Security Council for possible punitive sanctions--by instigating a Middle East war.

Iran is completely mindful that its atomic aspirations are high on this weekend's G-8 summit agenda in St. Petersburg, Russia, too. Attention may, instead, turn to the Israel-Lebanon situation, getting Iran off the hotseat.

But perhaps more than anything else, Tehran doesn't want to miss an opportunity to remind Washington that it can make life much more complicated--and difficult--for American national interests, beyond its current support for the insurgency in Iraq, if it wants to.

The Imperial FEC

Today, Bob Bauer write about plans to remake the Federal Election Commission into an agency with sweeping powers to police political speech in America.

No surprise, the speech-regulation community is trying to rig things so that key "reformers" -- such as Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and counsel to presidential aspirant John McCain -- can serve on the new body while anyone with a more expansive view of the First Amendment would be effectively barred.

The War on Speech continues apace.

Losing Lieberman: A Jewish Exodus?

Over at New York's Jewish Forward, E.J. Kessler writes on the potential fallout among Jewish voters should Sen. Joe Lieberman lose his primary to Ned Lamont:

Some Democrats are nervous that if Senator Joseph Lieberman loses his primary to an antiwar challenger, thousands of hawkish Jewish Democrats who see the Connecticut lawmaker as their standard-bearer will either abandon the party or sit out the November election.

That, say several political observers, could make the difference in some hard-fought Senate races -- including contests in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- that Democrats must win in order to have any hope of taking back the Senate this year.

While this may or may not be right in the short term, it's seemed obvious to me since 9/11 that a significant number of Jewish voters ought to be realigning to the Republican Party. The situation is, in some ways, analogous to the southern white realignment toward the Republican Party in the 60s and 70s. Southern whites had a historical attachment to the Democrats, but the Republicans more naturally represented their interests.

Today, the home of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism -- not to mention weakness in the face of Islamic terrorism -- is on the Left, not the Right. Yes, the Right still has Pat Buchanan. But charges of "dual loyalty" and the like are now far more common among, say, the denizens of Daily Kos and Democratic Underground than they are anywhere else.

Supporters of Israel have no place in a "netroots" Democratic Party.

Rewriting the Rudy Record

Tom's not the only one who can post items on Rudy Giuliani ...

One thing to look for as Rudy's run for president becomes a reality is attempts to reappraise just how good a leader Giuliani really was of New York City. In that vein, longtime Village Voice writer and Giuliani hater Wayne Barrett has a book coming out trying to cast Rudy's performance on 9/11 in a new light.

An early look at the book, "The Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11," is out today:

Giuliani, for instance, detailed an Office of Emergency Management, but then located its headquarters inside what had long been identified as a prime target--the World Trade Center. It was, the authors write, "the only bunker ever built in the clouds."

There will certainly be more where this comes from.

Hillary's Secret '08 Election Strategy Revealed!

The only interesting part of Lois Romano's frontpage rehash of voters' doubt about Hillary Clinton in this morning's Washington Post comes at the very end:

"She will define herself, and we will have the money to do it," said one close adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Clinton has forbidden those close to her to speculate publicly about 2008. "People have to get to know her, know that she was once a Republican, that she's a big Methodist. . . . That will happen."

With quotes like that it's no wonder Hillary has forbidden her people from discussing 2008. This is idiotic on two levels. First, despite the obvious hubris of the Clinton crowd, Hillary still has to win the Democratic primary. Last time I checked, she wasn't particularly well liked by the folks who do the nominating, so letting that crowd know that Hillary's general election strategy is to promote her credentials as a former Republican and "big Methodist" is hardly going to help her.

On the other hand, the idea that centrists and independents are somehow going to be swayed by the claim that Hillary was "once a Republican" is laughable. You mean for a few precious pre-pubescent years in Park Ridge in the 1950's? Right before she went off to Wellsey, Yale Law, campaigned for McGovern, worked to impeach Richard Nixon, and married Bill Clinton? I know advertising is powerful, but it ain't that powerful - I don't care how much money she has.

An Act of War

There's a long, must-read editorial in the Jerusalem Post this morning, but here's the one sentence, Cliffs Notes version:

Hizbullah and Hamas must be dealt direct, heavy blows from which they will not quickly recover.

UPDATE: The New York Times offers limp support for Israel by acknowledging its right to respond, but the editorial contains also this knee-slapper: "calling the rockets an "act of war" by Lebanon's government was not a good idea."

Really? A terrorist group that is part of the ruling coalition of a sovereign government fires rockets into the terrority of another sovereign government killing soldiers and innocent civilians and it's a bad idea to call that an act of war? You've got to be kidding. The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah was an act of war. Just how fundamentally unserious can the Times' editorial page be when it comes to the global war on terror and matters of national security? Dont' answer that.

By the way, here are two more editorials on Israel worth reading:

Chicago Sun-Times: "the world needs to support Israel in its fight against terrorism and must condemn most harshly this act of war by Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian masters. Their intention is to destabilize further a region that is crying out for pacification."

Chicago Tribune: "All those who hoped that Hamas or Hezbollah would abandon terror when they gained political power must confront the fact that power has only emboldened their impulse to terrorism. This is terror as statecraft, terror by a ruling political party in one instance, and by a leading political party in the other."

Rudy Getting Serious

I know what you're thinking: a post on Rudy by someone other than Ryan Sager? Yes, it's true. Sager will no doubt be happy to learn that Rudy edged closer to a run for the White House yesterday, saying he is "seriously considering" it. Giuliani was in Maryland (he's everywhere these days) at a fundraiser for Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich. The Baltimore Sun has more on the event, and on Republican prospects in Maryland in general.

Noonan's Crisis

Peggy Noonan channels Maureen Dowd in a bizarre column that laments (and I mean, laments) the complexity of issues facing modern politicians and then comes to......no conclusion. "What's the answer?" Noonan writes, "I don't know. But there must be one, even though it's probably complicated." Ok. Thanks for that.

July 12, 2006

Reeding the Polls in Georgia

Ralph Reed faces Republican primary voters in his race for lieutenant governor in Georgia next Tuesday (July 18).

He's in some hot water over his ties to Jack Abramoff, as his opponent, state Sen. Casey Cagle, is pushing the issue hard -- even implying that Reed could soon face criminal charges.

So, how do the polls look? Here's Strategic Vision, which was in the field July 7-9:

4. If the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor were held today, whom would you vote for Ralph Reed or Casey Cagle? (Republicans only)

Casey Cagle 42%

Ralph Reed 41%

Undecided 17%


5. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Ralph Reed? (Republicans only)

Favorable 36%

Unfavorable 49%

Undecided 15%


6. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Casey Cagle? (Republicans only)

Favorable 43%

Unfavorable 36%

Undecided 21%


So, the head-to-head is a statistical dead heat. But Reed has lower favorable ratings than Cagle and much higher unfavorable ratings.

Many on the Left would be thrilled to see Reed go down. It may, in fact, be their first thrill in quite some time.

Global Preening

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has a new survey on global-warming attitudes.

Basically, most people (70 percent) believe global warming exists. Forty-one percent believe it's caused by humans, and 21 percent think it's caused by natural patterns.

Democrats are about 20 percentage points more likely to believe global warming exists; they're more than twice as likely to blame humans.

Most interesting, however, is that while Republicans rate global warming the absolute least important out of 19 issues tested by Pew, Democrats don't consider it all that important an issue either. They rate it 13th out of 19 issues -- health care, education, the economy, Iraq, terrorism, the deficit and the minimum wage all beat out what they claim to believe is a cataclysmic climate shift, caused by man, about to wreak havoc on the earth.

What this shows, I think, is that most global-warming politics is truly about moral preening and liberal guilt over living in a prosperous society. That's not to say one can't legitimately be concerned about climate change. But it does mean that most Democratic voters know they're supposed to believe in global warming and blame SUVs if they want to be considered good, socially conscious people.

When push comes to shove, however, they don't actually expect anyone to do anything about global warming. They just want to know their leaders are properly concerned.

Quote of the Day

"While Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are out building bridges in the community that will determine whether or not they can be the next POTUS, John McCain continues to act as if the next presidential election will be conducted via a Rolling Stone reader's poll."
-- "The Bij," at Red State

Political Video of the Day

Here's the YouTube version of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising video Tom discusses below.

It's titled: "A New Direction for America."

I generally agree with Tom's reaction. The GOP held its national convention in New York City in 2004 for a reason, to highlight 9/11. It left the party open to criticism that it was "exploiting 9/11." But 9/11 defines our modern era, so the criticism rang hollow.

For Democrats opposed to the Iraq war, the pictures of coffins symbolize the human toll they believe isn't justified by the mission in Iraq. We, as conservatives, are likely to disagree with this -- but it's a perfectly legitimate piece of political message-making.

Perhaps marginally more interesting is the odd series of numbers and letters -- 91108GOP -- under a picture of Tom DeLay (visible around second 24). What on earth is that doing there?

And, of course, the only spoken words in the entire video are from ... Bill Clinton: "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."

Unfortunately for them, the same can't be said of the Democratic Party these days.

An Excess of Outrage

The gents at RedState and Ankle Biting Pundits are raging over a new video by the DCCC which uses an image of flag-draped coffins and another with a gun supporting the helmet of a fallen soldier. They're using words like "outrageous," "appalling," and "disgusting" to describe the Democrats' use of these images. I'm sorry, but I don't see it and, quite frankly, the outrage seems misplaced, if not a bit phony and hypocritical.

The charge that Democrats are "using dead solders" for political purposes sounds an awful lot like the gripe the left made against President Bush in 2004 for using an image of 9/11 in one of his campaign ads:

President Bush's day-old reelection advertising campaign generated criticism and controversy yesterday, as relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes charged that television commercials using images from the attacks were exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

"The idea that President Bush would rally support around his campaign by using our loved ones in a way that is so shameful is hard for me to believe," said Rita Lasar, a New York resident whose brother, Abe Zelmanowitz, died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. "It's so hard for us to believe that it's not obvious to everyone that Ground Zero shouldn't be used as a backdrop for a political campaign. We are incensed and hurt by what he is doing."

bush9-11.gif I had absolutely no problem with Bush using an image of 9/11 in his campaign ad for a very simple reason: it was a defining moment in our country's history, and served as the subtext of the entire campaign, including Iraq. Both campaigns talked about 9/11 and about our response to it, and both campaigns enlisted support from victims' families to appear at political events, including the nominating conventions. So why on earth shouldn't President Bush have been allowed to show a tasteful, split-second shot of an American flag waving in the foreground amid the devastation at Ground Zero?

The same thing goes for the DCCC video. The war in Iraq is the defining issue of our time, and the Democratic party is vehemently opposed to it. Soldiers are, in fact, dying in Iraq on an almost daily basis. So why can't the Democrats show a split-second visual depiction of that reality? What are they supposed to do, show a graph of the U.S. casualty rate to depict the sacrifices we're making in Iraq? Not mention them at all?

The DCCC video may be a terrible political move, because to the extent it's viewed by a non-leftist audience it will reinforce the idea that Democrats are cynical defeatists on the issue of Iraq. But charges that the use of those images in the video make it somehow "disgusting," "appalling" or otherwise beyond the pale simply don't stick.

I Yam What I Yam

In Illinois, in the middle of a campaign swing (for '06 candidates, calm down), Rudy Giuliani defends his social liberalism:

"I am who I am," Giuliani, who is exploring a 2008 presidential bid, said during a Topinka campaign appearance at Benedictine University in Lisle. "There are a lot of things about me that somebody who's conservative might think were very, very good, and there might be some things they don't think are as good."

...

"The Republican Party is a very big party. It's a very broad party," Giuliani said. "I think that [GOP governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka] is absolutely right: Nobody gets to define it, the voters--in the case of the Republican Party--the Republican voters get to define it, and they define it based on what's important to them."

I'm not sure the Popeye defense will work. But maybe it's better than doin' the Falwell nuzzle.

MEANWHILE: Rudy's ex-wife does what she can to cause trouble.

Woodward to November

The Note wonders whether this book will provide the GOP with a late-October surprise.

Whistling Dixie

Der Spiegel interviews Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. She seems really, really upset with FOX News:

Spiegel: If the right to freedom of expression is an untouchable fundamental American right, does that not make your critics the people who are truly unpatriotic?

Maines: It seemed like traditional values had been temporarily suspended. I didn't recognize this country, we didn't know what year it was and we didn't know what country we were in. The Republicans and right-wing groups were very organized and they knew exactly what they were doing. It seems like our media is dominated by right-wing media moguls like Rupert Murdoch (Fox News). If you don't share their opinions, they label you as a terrorist or a person who doesn't have any family values. Unfortunately, people in the US who don't have the time to seek out the truth through neutral news sources have a real problem.

Speigel: So perhaps the conservatives are the more patriotic ones?

Maines: Not in my view. These people may think they are patriotic, but I think they are irresponsible. And this whole episode has fundamentally changed my definition of patriotism. Do I have a flag on my car? No. Do I stand up for my rights as an American? Yes.

And by the way, if you're interested, Maines has this to say about Hillary's chances in 2008: "It would be crazy for the Democrats to make her their candidate. I don't think the country is ready to vote for a woman in the White House."

A Coordinated Attack on Free Speech

The Supreme Court may get another chance to weigh in on campaign-finance regulation soon. The speech-regulation community (God bless their collective little hearts) is once again suing the Federal Election Commission for not being zealous enough in trying to stamp out coordination of independent political groups with candidates for federal office.

The concern, among the pro-regulation folks, is that supposedly independent groups could actually coordinate their advertising with candidates for federal office. Sounds like free speech? No, not to the regulators it doesn't (nothing does). If advertising or other support for a federal candidate is coordinated, the argument goes, this creates a debt on the part of the politician -- or, worse, the dreaded "appearance of corruption."

The problem, back on planet earth, is that it's virtually impossible to enforce the ban on coordination. That's because there's no limit to the ways in which politicians can coordinate with outside groups. They don't have to sit down for a meeting or exchange phone calls or strategy memos. They can make broad statements about strategy on TV. They can do the same on the Internet. They could wear a particular tie.

The point is, any regulatory regime that could effectively stamp out coordination would be unacceptably intrusive into the internal affairs of independent political groups, raising obvious First Amendment concerns.

Of course, the First Amendment has never been a barrier to McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan before. But that doesn't mean the courts will go along.

Anyway ... as usual, Bob Bauer has the definitive legal analysis here.

A Western Primary

Here's an update on the efforts of some Democrats to create a western primary -- possibly between Iowa and New Hampshire, or possibly after New Hampshire but before February 5, 2008:

A group called Democrats For The West would like to see that plan [for a western primary] put into action. Since 2004 they've joined the Western Governors' Association, the Western States Democratic Chairs' Caucus, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and at least one Republican governor--Jon Huntsman of Utah--in lobbying for a western regional primary. Huntsman has signed legislation rewriting the state's election law and has pledged $850,000 to the project.

Spearheading the effort for the Democrats is veteran Party activist Michael Stratton, a member of the DNC Commission that made the original recommendation. "The future of the Democratic Party lies out west," Stratton says, arguing that if the DNC is going to add early primaries, it should be in areas with a strong Democratic tradition. "There are a lot of people who are hungry to come to the process," Stratton says. "If we're adding states to the mix, I think we are all concerned that they be places where we can in fact win."

Throughout the summer, the DNC will continue to deliberate its primary reform project. The Rules and Bylaws Committee is scheduled to meet again in July to review the state proposals. In lieu of a regional primary, which now appears unlikely for 2008, Democrats For The West has appealed to the DNC to reserve at least one of the early slots for a western state.

Yep. There's something to this idea of the West as the new battleground.

As Drudge might say, developing...

McCain, Pataki, and Congressman Kickass

I highly recommend Chris Jones' piece on John McCain in the latest issue of Esquire which we have linked on the frontpage this morning. In sum, the piece amounts to a big sloppy kiss for McCain, but it's really entertaining and exceedingly well written. If you don't have a chance to read the whole thing, however, here's a taste of what you're missing:

At the bottom of the stairs, McCain is greeted by John Sweeney, a hard-right Republican congressman in a tough race for reelection in New York's twentieth district. Sweeney is a bear-sized Irishman with a high forehead and a baritone voice; on behalf of Bush, he helped stop the 2000 recount in Miami, earning him the nickname "Congressman Kickass." But now he is on the verge of getting his own ass kicked, dragged down like every other Republican by his president's approval ratings and a few mistakes of his own, including his appearance at a frat party where he reportedly pushed back too many Keystone Lights. Tonight he has called in the cavalry, and the cavalry has arrived in the form of John McCain.

They man-hug and climb into a car for the ride to the hotel. It is late, and McCain is starting to feel heavy-lidded, but he begins peppering Sweeney with the names of local members of Congress and wonders aloud how each is faring. For every name that McCain rattles off--"How's Sue? How's Walsh? What about Reynolds?"--Sweeney answers with doom.

"I think the whole state's in play," he says.

McCain knows this to be true, and he nods.

A big part of the problem, Sweeney says, is Governor George Pataki: "He's checked out, and everybody knows it. Plus, there's still that big hole in Manhattan. You know what his approval rating is? Twenty-nine."

"Twenty-nine?" McCain says.

Pataki has long been rumored to want to run for the Republican presidential nomination, to run against McCain long before either man will get his chance to run against Hillary Clinton. By Jesus, there will be blood in the sawdust on the floors in New York. In 2000, Pataki worked hard to keep McCain off party ballots across the state. That led to McCain's stopping his campaign bus in front of the Russian consulate in New York City and shouting, "Comrade Pataki, give us our ballots!" McCain eventually won a place in a race that he went on to lose in part because of Pataki--but also, interestingly, because of John Sweeney, who campaigned aggressively for Bush. Sweeney has been forgiven for his sins, after he supported McCain in his fight to rid baseball of steroids and to find better body armor for the troops in Iraq, but Pataki has not.

"I don't know anyone with a twenty-nine," McCain says, "who thinks he can make a run for president."

Ouch. There's much more, so do try and read the whole thing.

It Depends on the Definition of "Illegal"

A reader emails to point out a contradiction in Carville & Greenberg's immigration talking points:

In your blog piece The Dem Playbook For 2006: No Amnesty you quote Greenberg and Carville, including this sentence:

We are for expelling the criminals and allowing a path to citizenship for the law abiding immigrants who pay taxes.

I'm married to an expensively-documented immigrant, and I know full well that there already is a path to citizenship for law abiding immigrants who pay taxes, so there is no need to allow a path for them. If they are talking about a citizenship path for illegal immigrants, well, by definition they are not law abiding, so they are talking nonsense.

It looks to me like they are trying to put all immigrants together, both legal and illegal, which I find offensive. I am for legal immigration, but totally against illegal immigration. And I think most legal immigrants, and spouses of legal immigrants, feel the same way.

Of course, the contradiction applies to some Republicans as well. Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship would argue that their plan contains an admission of guilt on the part of illegal immigrants which carries a penalty: removal from the United States if you've been here less than two years or a fine and the payment of (at least some) back taxes for those who've been here longer than two years.

I can see how this compromise grates on most people's inherent desire for fairness - and is downright offensive to those who stood in the long lines and paid the high fees required to immigrate legally to the United States - but unfortunately fairness isn't a practical standard to apply when we already have 12 million people here illegally. If it were, the logical answer would be to round up every illegal immigrant in America and send them home to wait their turn in line.

Incidentally, this is where I have a beef with some House-led restrictionists who want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they call the Senate compromise amnesty. But on the other they also say they're not in favor of mass deportation. When asked what they'd do to address the roughly five percent of the American population currently living in the country illegally, they fall back and cite the thoroughly unconvincing argument that "attrition" will naturally take care of the problem. As if the millions of illegal immigrants who've made lives here in the United States over the last two decades, complete with homes and families, are going to just give it all up to move back to Mexico.

I think that's why we've seen the public coalescing around the one part of the plan that most everyone seems to agree upon, which is to focus on getting control of our borders. I also think that once that task has been accomplished to a substantial degree and the government has proven itself serious about addressing the issue of halting illegal immigration, you'd find much broader and deeper support for allowing those here illegally to access some sort of pathway to citizenship.

'Santorum, Social Engineer'

Perhaps my least popular post ever here was a criticism of Sen. Rick Santorum. My problem with Santorum, however, isn't that he's a Christian conservative (though there are more than a few social positions of his to which I would take exception). What Santorum represents that is unhealthy for the GOP, in my view, is big-government social conservatism.

The Cato Institute's David Boaz lays out Santorum's views on the role of the federal government here, quoting from some Santorum campaign materials as well as from a profile of Santorum by Jonathan Rauch. In his profile, Rauch recounts the many government interventions the senator supports in his book, It Takes a Family: "national service, promotion of prison ministries, 'individual development accounts,' publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, strengthened obscenity enforcement, covenant marriage, assorted tax breaks, economic literacy programs in 'every school in America (his italics), and more."

Over at National Review (a pretty pro-Santorum place), Jonah Goldberg chimes in, calling Santorum a "social engineer" and reaffirming the more traditional conservative view that the federal government's role in promoting civil society should mostly be limited to staying out of the way:

Civil society discourages radical individualism (hint: that's why they call it society). But it is the historic mission of conservatism to keep government from destroying civil society, not to use the State to "design" civil society along whatever passes for the fashionable conservative position at a given moment.

Goldberg qualifies his agreement with Boaz and other libertarian critics of Santorum a bit. But basically what he's enunciating is the concept of "fusionism," the idea that libertarian conservatives and social conservatives should both support a limited federal government.

Santorum-style conservatism abandons the old fusionist bargain between conservatism's two main branches. And to the extent the GOP moves in his direction, it leaves libertarian conservatives (such as myself) unsure of why they should support the modern Republican Party.

July 11, 2006

When Will Rupert Buy It?

A political version of MySpace designed to bridge the gap between Left and Right and remake public-policy debate in America?

Sounds pretty ambitious.

If Rupert Murdoch starts sniffing around, though, you'll know something's up.

New Republic Update

Here's an update on the Eve Fairbanks ConservativeMatch article in The New Republic.

One of the conservative men Fairbanks went out with on a "date" for her article had some objections.

Another of the men, however, thinks she treated him quite fairly. He comments here.

Political Video of the Day

Here are two of the ads from the Georgia Lt. Governor primary that Tom mentioned earlier today.

Here's an ad from Ralph Reed, aimed at his opponent, Casey Cagle (the company that did the ad even has "dirt" right in its name):

And here's Cagle's anti-Reed ad. Tagline: "Ralph Reed: His values are for sale."

Send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Murdoch Wins Again

Reuters:

Online teen hangout MySpace.com ranked as the No. 1 U.S. Web site last week, displacing Yahoo Inc.'s top-rated e-mail gateway and Google Inc.'s search site, Internet tracking firm Hitwise said on Tuesday.

News Corp.'s MySpace accounted for 4.46 percent of all U.S. Internet visits for the week ending July 8, pushing it past Yahoo Mail for the first time and outpacing the home pages for Yahoo, Google and Microsoft's MSN Hotmail.

This Just In...

Markos Moulitsas, Josh Marshall, and Ann Coulter's syndicate and publisher all agree: plagiarism claims lame.

So much for that hefty chunk of iThenticate stock I bought the other day.

Smearing McCain

Over in the comments at Red State, there's a discussion of whether John McCain's "breaking" under torture in North Vietnam is something his political opponents (conservatives, that is) can use against him.

It's a disgusting idea. And it's likely to backfire on the person who tries it.

WaPo: Terrorist Propaganda Outlet

Here's a question: Would the Washington Post grant op-ed space to Hitler?

Well, they've come as close as they might today, printing a screed (linked from the main page) from Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader currently in charge of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas, of course, has as its primary goal the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Here's a sample:

If Israel will not allow Palestinians to live in peace, dignity and national integrity, Israelis themselves will not be able to enjoy those same rights.

Charming. The Washington Post is paying for ink for Hamas to threaten Israeli civilians, including women and children.

How about this, then: If the Palestinian Arabs chose to elect a government committed to the destruction of Israel, Israelis will no longer pretend there is any such thing as "the peace process."

Meryl Yourish asks a good question: Who actually wrote this piece? Since public figures almost never write their own pieces, and this one is filled with Western buzzwords ("fair and free elections," "democratically elected government, "collective punishment," "resisting the illegal, ongoing occupation," "root causes," "fail to address the underlying conflict," etc. etc.), someone must have helped.

What's more, how much blatant anti-Semitism did the Post have to remove from the first draft?

Usually the Washington Post is a step above the New York Times on these issues. Today, it stained its reputation.

Truly disgusting.

DoD Memo on Terror Detainees - Jed Babbin

The new memorandum about the status of terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and elsewhere - signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England on Friday -- is being widely misreported. The memo, which is reproduced in full below, doesn't say that the terrorists are now POWs under the Geneva Conventions or that they will be afforded the full rights and protections of the Geneva Conventions.

What it does say is that with the exception of the military tribunals tossed out by the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan, the treatment of the terrorist enemy combatants - under the cited Defense Department and Army manuals - is believed to be consistent with Geneva standards. The media hype of this is entirely wrong.

There is no torture or humiliating or degrading treatment (ask Sen. McCain) of prisoners, and the International Committee of the Red Cross already has access to the prisoners at Gitmo. The only change that this memo may - and I stress may, not shall -- force is the revealing of secret locations at which terrorists are held, or closing these locations and moving all not there already to Gitmo. That, in itself, would be a huge change and a very destructive one. But the new memo doesn't decide that question. The press should quiet down a bit until we know more.

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An Heir to Bush

Here's E. J. Dionne Jr. on "The GOP's Looming Battle." (linked on the main page)

He's certainly right that Bush has no heir. And right now, with Bush's poll numbers where they are, nobody really wants to be his heir. The closest thing Bush has to an heir, as Dionne points out, is Sen. John McCain. McCain is really the only Republican who benefits right now from tying himself to Bush. He's already known as Bush's antagonist, so he won't be tied to the administration's failures. But by demonstrating a (suspiciously newfound) loyalty to the president, he can perhaps assuage the concerns of those who despise him for what they see as his serial treachery against W. and the GOP in general.

The most anti-Bush candidate is probably Newt Gingrich, who has been highly critical of the administration recently. (If his candidacy should become serious, look for him to paint the Bush years as a betrayal of the 1994 Republican Revolution.)

Rudy and Mitt are both somewhere in between. Both support the president intensely, but both stand ready to paint themselves as "problem solvers" who (by implication) will actually get something done in Washington, D.C., where Bush has failed.

It's interesting, also, that none of the candidates being taken seriously right now are from the South [with the exception of Gingrich, who a) isn't a typical southern candidate and b) isn't being taken that seriously yet].

I have a piece up today arguing that the GOP has to rebalance itself between its western and southern wings. I think Rudy or McCain (despite my objections to Mr. First Amendment) would do that. Romney, on the other hand, despite being a northerner, seems to be running in a southern Republican mold, heavily emphasizing religion and values.

The only certainty: With such an open field, it's going to be a real battle.

Bombay

The AP has as many as 100 dead in the Indian train bombings.

UPDATE (12:52): That number is now up past 135.

A Strategy For Lieberman?

Perhaps Lieberman can make peace with Lamont, put him on the payroll, and then hold a press conference and announce that Democrats are united and that "Ned stands up for what he believes in, and I'm proud he is here today to say that he believes in me." Okay, maybe not. But it worked for Maria Cantwell.

On the Lamm in Co.

Guess who's coming to Colorado's 7th district to raise money for Democratic Congressional candidate Peggy Lamm? Surprise.

Rogue Waves

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For some reason I find rogue waves fascinating and today's New York Times science section has an interesting and sort of random article "Rogue Giants at Sea."


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War in Georgia

With the Georgia primary only one week away, things have gotten nasty in the Republican race for Lt. Governor between Casey Cagle and Ralph Reed. Cagle's new ad is brass knuckle tough, claiming Reed "sold out" conservative values, linking him not only to the Abramoff casino scandal but also to sweatshops in the Mariana Islands and throwing up the terms "forced abortions" and "child prostitution" next to Reed's picture. As Tom Baxter & Jim Galloway of the AJC's political insider say, "There's no shaking hands and wishing best of luck after a TV ad like this."

Reed's ads (viewable in the lower left corner of his website) have been tough as well, charging Cagle with a violation of ethics while on the State Senate Banking Committee and for supporting Kelo-style eminent domain seizures. Cagle rebuts the charges in both ads here.

Baxter and Galloway have two other interesting tidbits on this race. The first is audio of a phone call in support of Reed by Georgia Democratic warhorse Zell Miller. Miller says, "I've known Ralph for 26 years.....I know him and I trust him, and I wanted you to know, so can you."

The other tidbit is a new poll from Insider Advantage showing this race an absolute dead heat, with Reed and Cagle both winning 37% of the vote. Cagle is up from 27% and Reed up from 32% in IA's last survey.

Romney Impresses in Iowa

David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register knows more about Iowa politics than anybody in the country. So it's not an insignificant thing when when he sits down and writes, "of all the 2008 Republican presidential candidates making the rounds in Iowa, none is doing better than Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts."

July 10, 2006

McCain's Next Reform

"I would never say this publicly, but some of these talk-show hosts -- and I'm not saying they should be taken off the air; they have the right to do what they want to do -- I don't think they're good for America."
-- Sen. John McCain, from a profile in the coming issue of Esquire

Lord knows how McCain respects those First Amendment rights.

John and Jeb

Is Jeb Bush a potential John McCain running mate?

Would asking this question make RudyBlogger blow a fuse?

WSJ: Conservatives and Immigration

The Wall Street Journal has a humdinger of an editorial up making the conservative case for liberal immigration policies.

This is, of course, a contentious issue on the Right -- one guaranteed to generate angry mail no matter which side one is on. But for a clear, coherent statement of the Bush-McCain-Reagan approach to immigration reform, it doesn't get much better than this.

Here's a bit:

Our own view is that a philosophy of "free markets and free people" includes flexible labor markets. At a fundamental level, this is a matter of freedom and human dignity. These migrants are freely contracting for their labor, which is a basic human right. Far from selling their labor "cheap," they are traveling to the U.S. to sell it more dearly and improve their lives. Like millions of Americans before them, they and certainly their children climb the economic ladder as their skills and education increase.

We realize that critics are not inventing the manifold problems that can arise from illegal immigration: Trespassing, violent crime, overcrowded hospital emergency rooms, document counterfeiting, human smuggling, corpses in the Arizona desert, and a sense that the government has lost control of the border. But all of these result, ultimately, from too many immigrants chasing too few U.S. visas.

Those migrating here to make a better life for themselves and their families would much prefer to come legally. Give them more legal ways to enter the country, and we are likely to reduce illegal immigration far more effectively than any physical barrier along the Rio Grande ever could. This is not about rewarding bad behavior. It's about bringing immigration policy in line with economic and human reality. And the reality is that the U.S. has a growing demand for workers, while Mexico has both a large supply of such workers and too few jobs at home.

Some conservatives concede this point in theory but then insist that liberal immigration is no longer possible in a modern welfare state, which breeds dependency in a way that the America of a century ago did not. But the immigrants who arrive here come to work, not sit on the dole. And thanks to welfare reform, the welfare rolls have declined despite a surge in illegal immigration in the past decade.

The editorial also addresses the "cultural" issue. Then there's this: "Contrary to what you hear on talk radio and cable news, polls continue to show that the conservative silent majority is pro-immigration, and that it supports a guest-worker program as the only practical and humane way to moderate the foreign labor flow."

But really, as they say, read the whole thing.

A Parents Union

Most of you, no doubt, are familiar with the problems created by teachers unions.

Well, in Los Angeles, they're starting a parents union to fight for reform against the status-quo-protecting unionized teachers.

This should be interesting. We've reached a critical point in the debate over education reform where the unions have basically zero credibility with the public but virtually limitless power over state and local legislators. The question is how to bring public sentiment to bear in the face of institutional resistance. A parents union is at least one idea.

Grab some popcorn. Things in LA are about to get good.

(via Eduwonk)

Political Video of the Day

For today's political video: the pro- (er, also a bit anti-) McCain ad highlighted by Howard Kurtz this morning.

It's not quite, well, this site. But it's not far off.

Send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

A Huge Step in Iraq

muthanna.gifMaj. Gen. William B. Caldwell held a press briefing today discussing the impending turnover of security forces in the Muthanna province in southern Iraq. Caldwell described it as a "huge step", and I don't think that's in any way an overstatement.

Muthanna will be the first province in Iraq to assume total control of its security forces: all mutlinational forces will withdraw from urban areas and take on a supporting role, while the local police will assume full responsibility and be under the direct control of Muthanna's governor. In addition to being another sign of slow but steady progress in Iraq, Muthanna also represents an important test case for the future transition of the rest of the country's security forces.

General Caldwelll stressed that the transition to "provincial Iraqi control has many long and difficult days ahead" and also that it's not something that will be rushed to accommodate political concerns:

The transfer of security responsibility in Muthanna province remains a very real and tangible beginning to a new phase in the history of Iraq. Take note: This is just the first province of 18 that will go through this process; a process that is not driven by any timeline other than the readiness of leaders and the people of each Iraqi province. Muthanna now begins that journey. Transitions to provincial control are conditions-based. They can neither be rushed nor fabricated, but they can be crafted by diligence, stewardship, patience and the vision of the Iraqi people.

As you can see from the graphic above showing security assessments in Iraq for May, this is going to be a huge, arduous undertaking. But a successful transition in Muthanna will be a tremendous first step down that road.

The Dem Playbook For 2006: No Amnesty

Stan Greenberg and James Carville are out with a new strategy memo for Democrats which is very interesting reading, as always. First, they outline the GOP playbook:

The Republicans have a strategy, which is familiar to us from 2002 and 2004, but in a very new context. Rove is working methodically, issue after issue, to energize Republican loyalists and above all, to consolidate the Bush 2004 voters - one-in-five of whom are now voting Democratic for Congress. Half of the undecided voters backed Bush in 2004. So, the Republicans will work "no amnesty," "cut and run," "gay marriage," and "tax and spend" because they have no choice. But it is important to understand how far they have to go. First, just 50 percent of Republicans "strongly approve" of Bush, down from 76 percent at the beginning of 2005 and 61 percent at the beginning of 2006. Recent efforts have left the number unmoved. Second, the number of voters identifying themselves as Republican has dropped from 37 percent to 34 percent since the last election (comparing the last five Democracy Corps polls), which may make the Republicans even more desperate. Expect that Rove and the Republicans will only become even more intense in the use of these issues.

Next Greenberg and Carville describe how to neutralize and/or undermine the GOP's most potent issues. The section on immigration was especially interesting:

No Amnesty; Enforce the Laws. The San Diego experience teaches us that Republicans can turn nuance into "amnesty". Indeed, in this survey, one of the Republicans' strongest definitions for the election centers on immigration and enforcing laws. However, the Democratic message (tested in earlier surveys), done right, can contest this effectively. It emphasizes no amnesty and a respect for the law, even as we allow a path to citizenship for the law-abiding. Democrats should attack Bush and the Republicans for losing control of the borders and no longer penalizing employers for employing illegal immigrants. We are for expelling the criminals and allowing a path to citizenship for the law abiding immigrants who pay taxes. Our approach is no amnesty and respect for the laws. [emphasis added]

Isn't the italicized phrase another indication of support for an "enforcement first" immigration policy? Remember, it was the Democracy Corps' own poll from last month that showed 48% of respondents "strongly supporting" Bush's decision to put National Guard troops on the border to "increase border security and limit illegal immigration into the country." Another 17% "somewhat" supported the policy, bringing overall support to 65% with only 31% opposed (11% somewhat against and 20% strongly against).

Tax Cuts, Budget Deficits and the Economy - Brian Wesbury

This week, the White House will revise its fiscal year 2006 budget deficit estimate to roughly $300 billion, a significant reduction from its January forecast of $423 billion. This will continue the White House's pattern of very conservative estimates.

Our calculations suggest that the federal budget deficit this year will be approximately $260 billion. This is down from $318 billion in FY-05 and $413 billion in FY-04.

Strong gains in tax receipts have overwhelmed increased federal spending. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) data show that federal tax receipts during the nine months ending in June were 12.8% above the same period in FY-05. Withheld income taxes increased 9% in June from last year; non-withheld income tax payments surged by 20%, while corporate tax receipts grew by 17%.

If federal receipts continue to grow in a similar fashion during the final three months of this fiscal year, they will climb to an all-time high of $2.4 trillion dollars, $275 billion above last year, $400 billion more than in 2000, and equal to 18.5% of GDP.

Federal spending is on track to increase 9% this year, and will end the year at 20.7% of GDP, up sharply from the 18.4% share in 2000. If federal spending had remained at 18.4% of GDP this year, the US would have recorded a small surplus of $21 billion.

It has become popular to say that, "tax cuts do not pay for themselves." In fact, Henry Paulson, who will be sworn in today as the 74th US Treasury Secretary, was all but forced to say this in his confirmation hearing last month. The problem is that it is not clear whether this statement actually means anything.

In a static world, tax cuts do not pay for themselves. But the world is not static. As Secretary Paulson said at his Congressional hearing, tax changes affect people's behavior. As a result, tax changes alter the course of the economy. To assume otherwise is naive. Equally as important is the fact that different types of tax cuts impact the economy in different ways.

In 2001, most reductions in marginal income tax rates were phased-in over many years. But, if people know that tax rates will be lower in future years they will push as much economic activity as they can into those lower tax years. This resulted in anemic economic growth (and declining tax revenue) during 2001, 2002 and early 2003 even though the Fed was cutting interest rates.

The 2003 tax cut ended the phase-in, accelerated the tax cuts and reduced tax rates on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains. This caused an immediate acceleration in business investment and tax revenues surged. In fact, inflation-adjusted tax revenues have grown more than 10% annually over the past two years; a feat rarely accomplished in US economic history.

As a share of GDP, tax receipts are still well below the 1998-2000 average of 20.3%. But those were abnormal years. Since 1930, there have only been 19 years in which the tax share of GDP was at or above 18.5%, and in the past 20 years, tax receipts have averaged 18.3% of GDP. This means tax receipts in 2006 will be above historical norms.

Since the tax cut was passed in May 2003, US GDP has expanded by more than 20%, or roughly $2.2 trillion. To put this in perspective, we have added more to GDP in the past three years than an entire China (current estimate of $1.9 trillion in annual GDP). In the three years before the tax cut, GDP in the US grew just 10.4%.

Most importantly, tax revenue trends suggest that government statistics are underestimating economic growth. People and companies do not pay taxes on income or profits they do not earn. There is no sign of a slowdown in the budget data.

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

Politics on Demand

Hitting a favorite topic of mine, Howard Kurtz looks at how YouTube is affecting politics.

Edwards and ACORN

Is there a man more manifestly unfit for the presidency than John Edwards, failed one-term senator and failed vice presidential candidate?

Nonetheless, he's been getting a lot of buzz recently as he receives heroes welcomes from various lefty, quasi-socialist groups. Here's an account of his recent visit with ACORN.

Those not familiar with ACORN's destructive, authoritarian urban agenda might want to check out a profile of the group by City Journal's Sol Stern, from 2003.

You can read ACORN's "People's Platform" here.

Mitt vs. McCain

A Bob Jones University executive says Evangelicals in South Carolina might be able to accept Gov. Mitt Romney in 2008 (despite the Mormonism), if he's the only alternative to the hated Sen. John McCain.

But, wait ... isn't there another alternative?

Can DeLay Win?

The Houston Chronicle reports that Tom DeLay told a crowd on Friday night that Dems wanting to see DeLay kept on the ballot this November, "may get exactly what they want."

So the obvious question is, if DeLay runs, can he win?

This morning we received an email from a reader who says he worked for one of DeLay's Republican primary opponents, laying out the case why it would be foolish to bet against The Hammer:

Since Tom DeLay resigned, events have changed significantly. The Abramoff scandal is dormant and has been replaced with Democratic scandals. Stockton has failed to make the ballot as an independent in CD22. Bilbray won in San Diego, in spite of the Democrats making scandal the centerpiece of the campaign. Bilbray had a lot of baggage and still the Democrat got about the same vote percentage as Kerry. Conrad Burns seems to be holding his own in Montana and even Ney is surviving in Ohio.

The Democrats have won the first two rounds in the legal battle to keep Tom DeLay on the ballot. However, it should be noted that DeLay could have made a stronger case to assure the Federal Judge that he would be a resident of VA in November.

With Stockton failing to get on the ballot, the potential for a DeLay win has shifted significantly. Stockton would have taken 5-15 % of the vote. The Libertarian candidate will get about 2%, Lampson should get about 45-46% (using the San Diego vote and previous CD22 votes as a guide), and the balance will go to DeLay. Lampson may have good funding and name recognition; however, his ground attack will be no match for DeLay's GOTV. DeLay's GOTV is world class. He understands the potential voters in CD22 better than the FBI. He can reach out and touch DeLay voters, swing and potential Lampson voters with directly targeted individual phone calls, direct mail and even personal visits. He can run both a negative and a positive stealth campaign similar to the one he ran in the primary. He can be whatever he needs to be to each individual household. He can also persuade swing and weak Lampson voters without upsetting his base. He is a master at individual marketing.

DeLay has the support of some Democrats. Some of them are conservatives but some of them like the fact that DeLay fought for the district. If the extreme left types (Daily Kos, MYDD, Burnt Orange Report) try to help Lampson it will help DeLay. The district is conservative and Lampson does have a voting record.

There are many Republicans in CD22 who are mad at Tom DeLay for gaming the system, the party and the voters in the district. However, they are also mad at Ronnie Earl. If DeLay is forced to run, he becomes the stalking horse for several candidates who want to run in a special election, if DeLay is convicted (after he is elected). DeLay becomes the generic Republican candidate in spite of his baggage. A generic Republican is stronger than any one of the individual candidates who could replace DeLay. DeLay has usually had a large under vote. He may do better than usual as a generic Republican.

It may be an ugly win but don't bet against Tom DeLay if he stays on the ballot.

Grover's Groove & 2008

Jonathan Weisman suggested in yesterday's Washington Post that Grover Norquist's influence in D.C. has declined as a result of his Abramoff connections, most recently publicized in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee final investigative report. Michael Crowley, however, isn't buying the idea that Grover has lost his groove.

In a related, and far more interesting discussion, at least to me, Grover opines on the 2008 presidential race in an interview with the ediorial board of The American Prospect:

Jim Ridgeway: So who you guys want to run for President?

Norquist: I passed out a piece on 2008 and I'll summarize it. My assumption is that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. I believe the debates will be Hillary Clinton and seven guys sitting around a table, her chair will be four inches taller than everybody else's, and Biden will say things like, "I was thinking today how clever and brilliant and witty Hillary was, which reminded me that Evan Bayh is an idiot." And so, they'll kick each other under the table while praising Hillary, and then one of them gets to be vice president. So that's my operating assumption on the Democratic Party.

Marie Cocco: That's the best analysis I've heard actually.

Norquist: On the Republican side, the guy who wins is the guy who stands in the middle of the circle I told you about ... all the moving parts of the conservative movement. There are also legacy voters, Republicans who are voting Republican because the guy at Little Roundtop was a Republican and I'm from Maine. Just as there are little old ladies in Mississippi who agree with Ronald Reagan but vote for George McGovern because Sherman was mean to Atlanta. So you have legacy voters, but over time that diminishes and you get new legacy voters. Children of people who liked Reagan are voting for Republicans.

But the moving parts of the conservative movement -- guys who can and will walk in or out of the room -- will become active, will become political activists and help move votes. The guy who stands most comfortably right now in the middle of that room is George Allen. Now George Allen's liability is that he looks and sounds too much like George Bush. What's the negative about him? He comes across like George Bush. But he's right in the middle and that may be good enough for him.

You've got the guy from Massachusetts, Governor Romney, who I had hoped that his campaign, whether he won or lost, would put anti-Mormon bigotry behind us in the same way the Kennedys did for opposition to Roman Catholicism. But I'm afraid that with Big Love and Anderson Cooper talking about that guy in Texas all the time -- the polygamist -- that the Mormons as quote thing instead of settling down gets pushed up. And there was some very interesting polling ... 40 years ago, would you vote for somebody who agreed with you on most things who was otherwise black, Jewish, or Mormon? Blacks and Jews -- won't vote for them, 30 percent; Mormons -- won't vote for them, 18 percent. Flash forward to today. Blacks and Jews -- 1 or 2 percent wouldn't vote for them; Mormons -- 18 percent. So bigotry against Jews and blacks went down like this and the Mormons didn't move at all. I was hoping, still hoping, that we could get past that and the aggressively secular left, which has helped us so much to create a more ecumenical right, will allow us to bring the Mormons in at the same time. But that may not happen.

He wants to be in the center of the room, but his problem is he's never lived in the United States. He's lived in Utah and Massachusetts, and that sort of thing gives you an odd idea of where everybody is. Remember Dukakis? There was a comment by that lady who was his campaign manager, Estrich, who said that she was in a room ... or maybe somebody was talking about her. There was a room of 20 of his top people and this guy saying this was the only one who didn't live inside Route 128. So you have some sense of their ability to project out into the rest of the country, what's going on in Kansas is limited. I grew up in Massachusetts, in the 128 beltway. I believed New York City was the Midwest until I was in my 20s. I thought the world centered on Boston and Cambridge and then there was everywhere else. So Massachusetts and Utah are difficult places to get your bearing on the country.

Also running, not running, may be running, is Jeb Bush. I think he'd be the strongest candidate. He's the best Republican governor in the country. He could jump dead-center on the coalition, and has a track record as governor of tremendous success. Oh, people say you can't run another Bush, people will say "dynasty." Well, when you run against Hillary Clinton, that's a harder argument for The New York Times to make. It's not impossible, but harder. And I would argue that when you talk to him, he sounds different, he acts different.

Ellen Ratner: What about the fact that dynasty ... if you have Hillary Clinton running, you have two families that have controlled this country for 30 years.

Norquist: I share that concern, and if I didn't think that Jeb Bush was a really really powerful, wonderful political leader, that would be controlling. It's bad enough that the North Koreans and the Egyptians and the Syrians are going to be laughing at us for the next eight years -- "Oh yeah, you said we couldn't have Mubarak II, now you do that." It would be a little hard for us to be telling people, oh you should be like us. "We are like you ... Assad -- Assad. We do this." It is an argument. I just think it's more difficult with Hillary running. It's a problem for either of them. If they run against each other, it's more neutralized.

The challenge for McCain is that he lost in 2000 because he was ten paces off dead-center -- campaign finance reform. He was generally a Reagan Republican except for campaign finance reform, and that was enough to up-end him because the right-to-life people were concerned, the gun people were concerned, the tax people were concerned. I ran two press conferences on campaign finance reform, one in New Hampshire and one in South Carolina, just before those primaries. He was running around telling people I spent $12 million to kneecap him in South Carolina. I held a press conference. But it had the effect of unsettling the base of the movement. People said he's not with us on this stuff. So his challenge is, having been 10 paces off, he's now switched his positions on taxes, on guns, on judges, on Kyoto, and he's got to run as the guy who flip-flopped on central issues.

And the other challenge he has, and George Will wrote about this, he can't give the right-to-life people the judges they need, and they figured it out. Because his No. 1 goal in life is to chisel off Keating 5 from his tombstone and spray-paint on campaign finance reform. There are no judges in America who look at the Constitution and say it's flexible enough for campaign finance reform but not flexible enough for Roe v. Wade, OK? Judges will either say campaign finance reform is unconstitutional and Roe v. Wade is bad law, or campaign finance law is OK and Roe v. Wade is OK, too. So he's got a number of challenges on that one.

What's interesting is that his numbers have not fallen with immigration, which pleases me, because it's like the one issue he's good on, and trade ... he's good on trade. And my friends say, "immigration's a big issue; everybody will hate people who are pro-immigrant." I don't see John McCain's numbers falling as a result of his position on immigration. The counter-argument is wait till they get him in New Hampshire and start talking about it, and that my be true, but you'd think if it was as powerful an issue as they thought it was and he was the No. 1 proponent of amnesty that you'd see numbers, unless all they're registering is name ID, and that's sometimes what the political pollsters tell you...

Watch Rick Perry, Texas ... second-best governor in the country. He cut spending $10 billion after Bush left because somebody had been spending too much money in Texas before Perry had taken over. And he could go, "Hey, I've done this before guys." Otherwise, Brownback wants to run as the social conservative as opposed to the way he views everybody else who wants to run as economic conservatives. That's the Gary Bauer strategy.

Truman's Ideological Heirs

Noemie Emery has a great article in this week's Weekly Standard on Harry Truman and his foreign policy ideological heirs. She confronts many of the myths modern day liberal hawks push concerning Truman's legacy and George W. Bush's foreign policy. She asks:

One wonders, would today's liberal hawks have made of him (Truman) and Korea, given their penchant for neat, well-planned wars that end quickly, and their standard of zero mistakes? Would they have screamed for the scalp of Acheson? Ripped Truman to shreds for having gone in too rashly? Flayed him alive for undoubted misjudgments? Said (as did John Kerry and some "pro-war" Democrats) that while they supported the invasion in theory, they had never expected Harry Truman "to f-- it up as badly as he did"? If they quail at the expense of Iraq, what would they have said to the expense of Korea? If they quail at casualties of under 3,000, what would they have said to the more than 37,000 dead? Would they have been among the 23 percent who stayed loyal to Harry? Or would there have been second thoughts, mea culpas, and abject, not to say groveling, apologies to the antiwar left?

What is fascinating is while the Beinarts and Holbrookes debate the history of Truman's legacy, ground zero of the fight for the Democratic Party is on display in the Connecticut primary battle between one of the few remaining Harry Truman Democrats in Joe Lieberman versus the McGovern/Howard Dean/Netroots Ned Lamont.

And if Lieberman is defeated August 8th (I don't anticipate Lieberman losing) it may be the final nail in the coffin for the dwindling band of FDR/Truman/JFK/Scoop Jackson Democrats.

July 09, 2006

Kult of Kos

Kossacks: Tolerating dissent since 2002.

(via Kaus, member of the Evil Triangle of Triangulations since 2006)

July 08, 2006

Political Video for the Weekend

Sen. Joe Biden defends his recent comments about Indian-Americans and Dunkin' Donuts.

Krauthammer on NYC Plot, the Press and No Attacks Since 9/11

From yesterday's Special Report roundtable, Charles Krauthammer on the FBI's uncovering of the plot to attack transit tunnels under the Hudson River running into New York City, the press, and no attacks since 9/11.

The big mystery here is in two months we're going to be at the fifth anniversary of 9/11. There's not a person I know who would have expected we go one year let alone half a decade without a second attack. And because of our patriotic press, we now have some idea of how it was done. Tracing the money, tracing -- listening on in their phone calls and also having the bad guys, the big, the leaders of the bad guys in secret prisons getting interrogated, under difficult conditions, shall we say. With all of that has been exposed in our press, it explains to a large extent why we have not had a second attack.

It's not an armistice, and it's not an accident, it's good work on our part, however our sources and our methods are now in jeopardy as a result of that.

Larry Kudlow Program: 12:00 - 1:00

I'll be on Larry Kudlow's program from noon - 1:00 ET today. Listen live here.

July 07, 2006

Novak: Rudy Is Running

According to Robert Novak, Rudy is running.

Email on Mitt

Two very interesting (and very different) perspectives responding to my earlier post about the issue of Romney's Mormonism. First, from a reader in Mississippi:

I go to a very fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church. We have a membership of two thousand. We have had studies on the Mormon church. To put it very mildly, we consider it a devilish cult.

Now none of us are going to say that in public. And if Romney is running for President, he would get no votes in our church. The most powerful political medium in the Baptist church is the Men's Brotherhood Breakfast held one Sunday per month. We talk about the church mission projects, church politics, and secular politics. You can be assured Romney's Mormon faith will be discussed. Guess how many votes he'll get. Throughout the entire South all these Baptist churches have these breakfasts and politics is discussed. Romney's religion will be discussed.

Believe it or not, the most popular GOP candidate is Rudy Giuliani. McCain has little support because of campaign finance and he's too kootchy-kootchy with liberal Democrats.

That's the way it looks from the small-town Deep South.

Next from a Mormon reader in Utah:

I bristle at the notion that Mormon beliefs, as touching the President of the United States, would be perceived as somehow wackier, less believable, more harmful, less worthy than say Catholicism, Protestantism, or any other major American religion. After all, it is 2006, not 1844 (year of martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith at the hands of Missouri and Illinois mobbers).

I would add, however, that many fellow Mormons in our fair state of Utah won't vote for Mitt just because he is Mormon. That may sound strange, but if you know a little bit about our history and our theology you would discern we are less likely to vote in blocs than say a century ago.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has changed dramatically these past 50 years. While there continues to be a virulent prosecutorial strain among a certain percentage of the American population, the church has become more widely accepted and appreciated than ever before. You need only reference the church's efforts to assist in humanitarian efforts throughout the world to get a sense of the value Mormons place on being good citizens of the world. Mormons don't expect pats on the back or glowing reviews from respected columnists (although that helps too). Mormons only want to be accepted. Which leads me back to Mitt. It will be a shame if the electorate rejects Mitt simply because they don't like how he chooses to worship.

As for me, I will wait until all the candidates are declared and their positions clarified before deciding. I hope everyone else will do the same.

As I said, it will be very interesting to see how this whole thing plays out over the next year and a half.

Evangelicals for Mitt

There's a new group blog (Tom Bevan mentions it below), Evangelicals for Mitt.

The main activity right now seems to be closing their eyes, sticking their fingers in their ears, rocking back and forth, and murmuring over and over: "There is no Mormon problem ... There is no Mormon problem."

Sorry. Sorry. Just poking a little fun. (I'm not without my own '08 obsessions.)

The folks over at Evangelicals for Mitt have taken issue with Tom's discussion of the Los Angeles Times poll indicating that some 37 percent of Americans say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon for president.

There are some reasons for Mitt-ers (what to call Romney supporters ... McCain has McCainiacs ... ) to be not overly discouraged. A lot of the people who wouldn't vote for a Mormon are liberal Democrats, so that at least won't hurt Romney in a primary. The question was an abstract hypothetical, meaning that it takes no account of how voters will feel about a given Mormon candidate once they get to know him. And Evangelicals may just be completely cool-headed voters who will evaluate all candidates on the issues and decide Romney's the best (though, if they're just looking at issues, I wonder why McCain wouldn't walk away with their votes ... oh, yeah, that emotion thing ... ).

However, while 50 percent of liberal Democrats say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon, a full 35 percent of conservative Republicans and 33 percent of moderate Republicans say they wouldn't either. So, it's not as if the problem is all on the Left (where the objection to Mormons seems to be that they have a reputation as ultra-conservative, not that their religion is "weird"). And, when I talk to people in the South, the response to Romney I invariably get is, "Well, he's gonna have to explain that Mormon thing. I don't know what that is."

I think he can explain it and that Evangelicals can and will get over it. But the problem is he'll be doing the opposite of what Kennedy did. Instead of saying, "my religion won't affect how I govern," he'll be saying, "I'm a devout Christian and believe in Jesus." He may sway the Right with that. But will it create even more problems on the Left?

Political Video of the Day

On MSNBC, Tucker Carlson and Ronald Kessler of Newsmax.com discuss whether Sen. John McCain has the temprament to be president.

Kessler recently wrote this piece about McCain's "out-of-control anger."

Remember to send nominations for the Political Video of the Day to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Is Ann Coulter a Plagiarist?

Very interesting. Editor & Publisher and the New York Post (which Coulter labels as "New York's second-crappiest paper" in her latest column) both report that Coulter's syndicate is going to look into charges of plagiarism leveled against her by John Barrie in the New York Post last week.

Barrie appeared on Keith Olberman's show Wednesday. On Thursday he did a phone interview with Justin Rood at TPMmuckraker where he said some curious things, including, " "By the way, if I never read Ann Coulter again, it will be too soon." Rood also reported:

It didn't take long to find evidence of plagiarism, Barrie said. "After we found three in the book, we called it quits. I think we found four of her syndicated columns that had problems." But the task proved draining, he said -- on himself, not his technology. "After combing through Ann Coulter for a while, it doesn't take long before you want to call it quits. I want to prove the technology, but I don't want to make my eyes bleed."

Why Barrie feels the need to make such public protestations against the content of Coulter's writings is beyond me, and truly irrelevant to whether she's lifted other people's material or not.

According to the E&P story, published late yesterday afternoon, Barrie had yet to return a phone call to the contact person at Coulter's syndicate, nor had he responded to E&P's phone calls requesting comment. It looks like Barrie did manage to give a comment to the Post yesterday, however, after Coulter's publisher came to her defense:

Steve Ross, senior vice president of Crown Publishing group, which published the book, defended his best-selling polemicist by noting there are 19 pages of endnotes.

"We have reviewed the allegations of plagiarism surrounding 'Godless' and found them to be as trivial and meritless as they are irresponsible," Ross said.

"The number of words used by our author in these snippets is so minimal that there is no requirement for attribution." [snip]

Barrie stuck to his guns yesterday, telling The Post he believes Coulter ripped off other people's writings in an effort to "maintain her status as a celebrity author in any way she can."

Maybe Barrie is right, but I find it hard to believe that Coulter, who relishes her role as liberals' Public Enemy No. 1 and who is also smart enough to know her work is going to draw the sort of intense scrutiny that would uncover any instances of plagiarism, would expose herself in such a way.

The Case of the Missing Hellcat

Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly pens a letter to DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer complaining that Maria "Hellcat" Cantwell is MIA from her own Senate race:

With the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Michael Dukakis as notorious examples, Democrats waste away the summer and set the stage for losing in the fall.

Republicans have learned to use the dog days as a time to "define" both themselves and their opponents, a key step for later harvesting votes.

And that may be happening out here on the Left Coast.

Caught up with the opening act of the 23-day OpenMike tour Monday and watched our state's Republican Senate candidate, Mike McGavick, give an artful speech before about 65 Oak Harbor Republicans. [snip]

While listening, a major Democratic giver's e-mail last week came to mind: "I'm worried about Maria's campaign."

What campaign is that?

Connelly goes onto lament the clumsy, shopworn attacks on Republican Mike McGavick and the fact that Cantwell isn't out on the hustings. Connelly says Cantwell isn't "raising comfort levels with the home folks. We get only the old Schumer gambit of tightly controlled media events." Definitely read the whole thing.

Bush in Chicago

bushbday.jpgThe President is in the Windy City today where he'll hold a press conference, promote his economic agenda, and do a fundraiser for Republican Illinois Gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka. Bush arrived last night and celebrated his birthday by dining with Mayor Richard Daley (remember, he's a uniter, not a divider!) at the Firehouse Grill on Michigan Avenue.

RELATED: Transcript of President Bush and Laura Bush on Larry King last night.

(Photo: Jon Sall, Chicago Sun-Times)

More on Mitt's Mormonism

In the event you missed it last night, Cal Thomas asked the question "Can a Mormon Be President?" Meanwhile, David French at Evangelicals for Mitt calls my recent post (Romney's 37% Problem) "off base" and says he believes most Southern evangelicals will not have a problem with Romney's Mormonism. Furthermore, French thinks that attacks against Romney's faith will backfire:

I believe that a frontal attack on the Governor's religion would have an effect that is opposite of that predicted by many pundits. It is easy to forget that many evangelicals are deeply disturbed at the way in which the left and especially the mainstream media (What am I saying? The left and the mainstream media are the same entity) have consistently mocked and attacked their faith. It is much easier for me to imagine evangelicals getting angry at religion-based attacks on a man of obvious and demonstrated integrity and a man who forcefully and eloquently advocates political and moral values that evangelicals share. Remember, in the context of a presidential race, the attacks will not be seen as simply attacks on a religion but also as attacks on a person . . . a person that evangelicals will like. I believe evangelicals will respond to dirty tricks by saying, "Let's leave the religious bigotry to the Democrats."

He may be right. The only problem is that any attacks on Romney's faith certainly won't be "frontal." They'll be whispering campaigns conducted under the radar and behind the scenes. And the inevitable Time cover story or 60 Minutes piece that Douthat mused about won't come off as overt attacks on Romney either, though they will manage to raise questions and focus attention on his faith.

One final factor that shouldn't be overlooked is plain old human nature: what people say publicly versus what they do privately behind the curtain of a voting booth can often be two different things. It's obviously impossible to quantify, but there will be some who say they support the idea of a Mormon being president but simply won't pull the lever for Romney when it gets right down to it if they have questions about or are uncomfortable with certain aspects of his religious beliefs.

Maryland Senate Race

The race to succeed long time Maryland Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes is getting very intriguing. Baltimore Rep. Ben Cardin has long been thought to be the frontrunner to win both the Democratic primary and the general election in November. However, with the primary only nine weeks away, a recent Washington Post poll gives former Rep. Kweisi Mfume a 7-point lead among likely Democratic primary voters, 33 - 26. A win by Mr. Mfume, the former president of the NAACP, would set up a race against Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and would guarantee another African-American in the U.S. Senate.

While Mr. Cardin is still probably the favorite to win the early September primary, he is walking a tightrope in how aggressively he attacks Mr. Mfume, searching for the right balance that wraps up the primary without antagonizing critical African-American support he will need to win in November. One concern for Mr. Cardin, highlighted by the recent poll, is that the more Mr. Mfume appears to have a real shot at winning the primary, the higher the likelihood for major disappointment in the black community, particularly in Baltimore City.

Already the primary has taken on strong racial overtones, with Mr. Cardin drawing over 80% of his support in the Post poll from white voters, while Mr. Mfume is likely to garner nearly 90% of the sizable black vote. African-Americans comprise 28% of Maryland's electorate and represent an even greater force in Democratic primaries. Mr. Mfume's African-American support in Baltimore City and Prince Georges County is likely to get him near 40% of the vote, but with minor candidates expected to draw 10% or less, he is going to need closer to 45% to upend Mr. Cardin. Mr. Mfume's challenge is to sell himself in the heavily-Democratic Washington Suburbs as Maryland's Barack Obama, as he is probably going to need at least 25% of the non-black vote to win.

From the Republican viewpoint, even though a primary victory by Mr. Cardin would likely lead to Mr. Steele garnering more of the black vote in the general election, the GOP would still much prefer to face Mr. Mfume on the Democratic side. In the Washington Post poll, Mr. Steele runs 12 points better among likely voters against Mr. Mfume than he does against Mr. Cardin.

The outcome of the September 12 primary could have national implications as well. Democrats need a six-seat switch to take control of the Senate this November, which realistically means holding every one of their vulnerable seats. The Maryland Senate seat is not one the Democrats want to be fretting about on election night, but if Mr. Mfume can pull off the primary upset, this race will vault into one of the most watched and competitive Senate races in the nation this year.

Lieberman and Lamont Debate Earmarks

And one more note on the Lieberman-Lamont debate, perhaps of particular interest to conservatives ...

At one point, the two Democrats got into a fairly direct confrontation over pork, a.k.a. earmarks -- with Lieberman defending them (and bragging about the bacon he's brought home) and Lamont calling for reform.

To the transcript:

LAMONT: But let me talk about the ethical scandals in Washington, D.C., talk about that transportation bill. Talk about that bill with 6,341 earmarks. An earmark is a special piece of pork written by a lobbyist, submitted at the last moment. And it's wrong. It's legal, but it's wrong. If you're not shouting from the rafters that this is wrong, then you're complicit and you're part of the problem.

That bill also included the infamous bridge to nowhere. That's a lot of the waste. Those are the misplaced priorities. Those are the facts that we have 63 lobbyists for every Congressman in Washington, D.C. I think it's so important we get people to Washington, D.C. who are free of lobbyists influence, who can't be bought, who are going stand up and act on behalf of the public good.

LIEBERMAN: Joanne, he hasn't answered the question. I take it that he is saying he will not release the his returns. I think that's an insult to the public's right to know. I want to say briefly about that bill, that transportation bill, of course, we were all against the bridge to nowhere. But there are earmarks that are good.

Is he against the earmarks I put in the bill for $50 million to decrease congestion along I-95, or the money that I got for intermodal transportation centers at New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Stamford, or the money for ferry service from Bridgeport -- New Haven and Stamford to take cars off of I-95? Those are good earmarks which I gather he'll be against.

NESTI: Thirty seconds, Mr. Lamont, please, if you'd like to respond to that.

LAMONT: Look, you want to boast about how many earmarks you bring to the state of Connecticut? Alaska gets 10 times what we do. We're not doing very well on that front. But more importantly, I think we should outlaw these earmarks.

(CROSSTALK)

LAMONT: Hear me out, sir. I think we should outlaw these earmarks. I think they corrupt the political process. I think they are written by lobbyists and they're wrong.

LIEBERMAN: Try to explain that to the (inaudible).

LAMONT: I think these things should go through the congressional process. Sir, you have been there for 18 years. You support the earmarks, you work with the lobbyists, and that's what needs to be changed.

LIEBERMAN: The earmarks are great for Connecticut.

Being against earmarks is fashionable in certain circles these days, on both the Left and the Right. But Connecticut voters love their pork, maybe with a little nutmeg, and it's hard to see Lamont's position playing well with a lot of earmark-dependent constituents.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of play that exchange gets locally.

July 06, 2006

Lieberman-Lamont vs. Reagan-Carter

Here's my quick summary of the Lieberman-Lamont debate this evening in Connecticut (here's the transcript):

Lamont actually praised Jimmy Carter's infamous cardigan speech.

And Lieberman repeatedly channeled Reagan, telling Lamont: "There you go again."

Here's the slightly longer version:

Joe Lieberman clearly gave the impression of a man fighting for his political life. But he wasn't flailing. He coolly took Lamont apart, limb by limb, revealing the netroots favorite's candidacy as what it is: a childish lashing out by the Democrats' anti-war base at an extraordinarily ill-chosen target.

Lamont has one issue and one issue only: the Iraq war. And it's an issue about which, should he be elected, he would be able to do absolutely nothing. How does he differ substantively from Lieberman on health care, education, dealing with North Korea, Social Security? Hardly at all, despite a lot of blustering during the debate.

In fact, it hardly seems as if Lamont knows anything about national policy, save what his staff has briefed him on. All he has to say is that Lieberman is too close to George W. Bush.

I admit I came in as a Lieberman supporter (one of his many conservative supporters). But in my first prolonged exposure to Lamont I found him deeply unimpressive.

Lieberman was on the attack. He interrupted Lamont repeatedly. And some of his shots were low blows, such as bringing up ludicrously irrelevant votes from Lamont's time on the Greenwich town council.

But, ultimately, Lamont offered no compelling reason for Democratic voters to throw Joe overboard, except to throw a tantrum over their opposition to the Iraq war. Lieberman still believes the war was right. Lamont believes it was a mistake and that Bush misled the country. But Lamont has no clear idea what the U.S. should do next, other than withdraw -- an idea that the vast majority of Americans finds to be unacceptable.

When the topic moved beyond the Iraq war and Lieberman's decision to prepare for an independent run (awk-ward!), Mr. Joementum did an excellent job of painting himself as the adult -- understanding that any big piece of legislation involves tradeoffs and skilled at bringing home the bacon to the Nutmeg State.

If I were Lieberman, I would try to squeeze as many debates in as possible between now and August 8.

ACLU vs. CT

The ACLU is filing a federal lawsuit to block Connecticut's new campaign-finance system.

The problems with the system, according to the ACLU?

First of all, it puts the two major parties at a huge advantage by giving them public funds for campaigns. To qualify for public funds, a minor party candidate not only has to raise a significant amount of money on his or her own, but he or she also needs to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures -- a virtually impossible task, and one that was intended to be so by the Legislature.

Second, the system bans campaign contributions from lobbyists, state contractors and their families. This is an extremely broad ban, which raises significant First Amendment concerns.

The ACLU, of course, was part of the broad coalition that challenged the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

Will He or Won't He?

Welcome to the latest installment of Rudy: Will he or won't he?

In tonight's episode, we take a look at the most recent email dispatch to subscribers to his Solutions America PAC.

From the Desk of Rudy Giuliani

Dear Friend,

Thanks for joining my team. Your support is vital to our effort to ensure that America remains safe and prosperous well into the future. Twice a month, you'll be receiving an email update from Solutions America giving you updates on our progress, including information about candidates we're supporting and recent news items that may be of interest.

Independence Day is a time for reflecting on the blessings of being an American - the ability to live our lives in freedom. Leaders from the founding fathers to Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan have constantly sought to expand freedom here at home and around the world. The responsibilities and opportunities of our own time are no less great as we work to win the war on terror while handing our nation to the next generation better than it was given to us.

Candidate Update

As part of that effort, I've been traveling across our country to help strong Republican candidates succeed in November's midterm elections. Recently, I campaigned with David McSweeney, an energetic candidate for Congress in Illinois' 8th District. I also spent time with Jeff Lamberti, a candidate for Iowa's 3rd Congressional District who shares my belief that we must reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. They are among the GOP's best hopes to pick up seats in Congress this fall.

In the coming weeks, I'll be campaigning for Senator Mike Dewine of Ohio in Cleveland on July 10th and Senator Rick Santorum on July 11th in Pittsburgh.

I believe in optimism and playing offense as we approach the 2006 elections, and I encourage you to tell your friends about us and to consider making a contribution to Solutions America so that we can continue to support strong Republican candidates across the country.

In the News

The re-launch of Solutions America with its first fundraiser of the year sparked some discussion in the past month, as did recent speeches I gave on our nation's need for a diversified energy policy and increased school choice through vouchers, which I believe is a civil rights issue for our time. Some articles detailing these recent events can be reached below:

Giuliani and History

Peggy Noonan on Rudy and School Choice
Rudy Goes Nuclear
$2M Rudy is Life of the (Republican) Party

I look forward to sending out another update in two weeks. In meantime, enjoy the summer, stay civically involved, and thank you again for your support.

Sincerely,

Rudy Giuliani

Aside from noting the appearance on behalf of Rick Santorum, I'll just point out that each of the articles linked at the end is about, or makes prominent mention of, Rudy's prospective 2008 presidential run.

Lieberman-Lamont

Sen. Joe Lieberman and primary challenger Ned Lamont debate at 7:00 Eastern tonight.

It's being carried on C-SPAN right now.

And President Bush is on Larry King Live at 9:00.

The Lottery

What if voting were more like the lottery?

Arizona wants to find out.

You know what they say: You can't win if you don't vote!

Stevens's Séance

Progressive campaign-finance opponent Bob Bauer turns his weary eye to Justice Stevens's breathtaking dissent in the Vermont campaign-finance-reform case. In that case, of course, the Supreme Court struck down Vermont's limits on how much candidates can spend as well as excessively low limits on how much citizens can contribute.

What's remarkable is that the decision was only 6-3, meaning that three justices think that the First Amendment is actually without meaning.

But the Stevens dissent is of particular interest -- for purposes of mockery -- in that it makes a wholly unsupported appeal to the authority of the Founders:

I am firmly persuaded that the Framers would have been appalled by the impact of modern fundraising practices on the ability of elected officials to perform their public responsibilities. I think they would have viewed federal statutes limiting the amount of money that congressional candidates might spend in future elections as well within Congress' authority.5 And they surely would not have expected judges to interfere with the enforcement of expenditure limits that merely require candidates to budget their activities without imposing any restrictions whatsoever on what they may say in their speeches, debates, and interviews.

Why is he so persuaded? God knows. But there's certainly nothing in his dissent to persuade anyone else.

What an utterly unfit man to sit on the court.

Shades of Stephen Glass?

Eve Fairbanks, a young writer at the New Republic, wrote this article about Republican dating sites. In it, she recounts three dates she had with men through ConservativeMatch.com.

Now, however, this gentleman claims to be one of the men she went on a "date" with -- and he questions some small, factual details about her story.

The man here seems clearly peeved (understandably) to have been treated like a bear at a zoo. And the facts in dispute are quite minor.

But the New Republic certainly seems to get in a lot of trouble when it does sneering color stories about conservatives.

UPDATE: Our friend above is not the only interview subject to have had a negative experience with Ms. Fairbanks.

Political Video of the Day

Mid last month, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) made the following unfortunate remark to an Indian-American supporter:

"You CANNOT go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent ... I'm not joking."

(via Hotline On Call)

Remember to send in nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

UPDATE: What is it with Biden and Dunkin' Donuts?

Learning From Israel

I stumbled across this local story which is both heartening and depressing at the same time. Local police officers have been training in Israel, learning tactics to beef up homeland security:

They saw security measures in action at Israeli schools, ports, malls and power plants, and even came within 3 miles of missile attacks.

Israel has experienced nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in the past decade, they said, although the country has clamped down and now thwarts an estimated 91 percent of suicide bombs. [snip]

The three men talked Wednesday on how Israeli security tactics were becoming more relevant to American communities. The group said that some lessons learned in Israel would show up at local festivals and venues.

"There will be things that people won't see or be touched by, but operational tactics that could be helpful," Laine said.

Urban said it was enlightening that even a large mall that sees as many as 16,000 cars a day could search each of the cars for bombs and each of the customers' bags once inside.

While sporting events in the United States require security checks of visitors, Americans largely remain free to come and go. That lifestyle might be curtailed eventually, Urban said, and residents should open their minds to that looming change.

"It's not a question of if it's going to happen," he said, "but more of when and to what extent."

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans readily accepted longer lines and fortified security measures, Laine said.

"But over time, it has become a frustration for people because they have forgotten what happened to our country," Laine said. "There's a prevailing feeling that we're immune again."

I think I might take issue with that last line. While I agree with the officer that public complancency about the nature of the terrorist threat we face, in general, has grown as we've moved farther away from September 11, most of the polling I can recall doesn't indicate a feeling that the public feels "immune" to terrorist attacks. If I remember correctly, when asked about the likelihood of another terrorist attack in the U.S. in the next 6-12 months, a decent sized majority still responds that an attack is either "very" or "somewhat" likely. Obviously, that number has dropped as we've moved further away from 9/11 as well, and it will continue to slide as long we remain free of another attack, but we're still a long way from most people feeling we're "immune" from terrorism. In fact, it seems fanciful to think we'll ever truly feel that way again.

Judge Rules DeLay Must Stay

A Texas judge has foiled, at least temporarily, Tom DeLay's master plan to have himself replaced on the ballot this November to save his seat for Republicans. The Houston Chronicle reports on what the ruling means:

Sparks' ruling halts the process of replacing DeLay on the ballot, but the GOP is expected to appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Republicans lose on appeal, DeLay will have to decide whether to campaign for an office from which he already has resigned.

Texas-22 has been on the Democrats' hit list for some time, even though it is a blood-red Republican district and there is some disagreement among political analysts over just how competitive a non-DeLay race may be. Putting DeLay back in the picture hardly clears things up.

Death Benefit

From the Houston Chronicle:

What he couldn't do in the courtroom, former Enron Chairman Ken Lay may finally be able to achieve in death -- avoid a criminal record.

Lay, 64, who died of a heart attack in Aspen, Colo., early Wednesday morning, will likely have his case vacated, meaning it will be as if he were never charged.

More Bad News For Bean

Last month Melissa Bean's reelection bid in the 8th Congressional District in Illinois hit a rather sizeable bump in the road when the state AFL-CIO refused to endorse her - political payback for her vote in favor of CAFTA last year.

Now comes word that third-party candidate Bill Scheurer has made it onto the ballot in November. Scheurer is a lay minister and "progressive" peace activist who ran against Bean in the 2004 Democratic primary, winning 22% of the vote. Adding insult to injury, it turns out that Scheurer made it onto the ballot with the help of labor unions, which provided volunteers to help him collect signatures and have also donated more than $30,000 to his campaign this year.

A third-party progressive candidate with even minimal union backing is bad news for Bean, who is in a competitive race with Republican Dave McSweeney to hold onto the seat she took from Phil Crane in 2004. Illinois-8 is a decidedly Republican-leaning district (Cook Partisan Voting Index R+5), so if Scheurer manages to siphon off even a couple of points from Bean it could prove lethal.

On the plus side for Bean: she ran unopposed in the primary and is flush with close to $2 million cash-on-hand while McSweeney is essentially broke after spending more than $2.4 million (the vast majority of which came from his own personal fortune) to outlast a crowded primary field. McSweeney has been bringing in Republican dignitaries left and right - Speaker Hastert, Vice President Cheney and Rudy Giuliani all made appearances in Chicago in June - in an effort to fill his coffers and post a respectable number for the latest FEC filing.

The money race becomes all that more important now that Scheurer is on the ballot. Unless McSweeney proves to be utterly incompetent - which isn't very likely - Bean is going to need to outspend him in a big way to compensate for the vulnerabilities created by a challenge from her left and lack of union support.

Gay Marriage in New York

The New York State Court of Appeals (the state's highest court, confusingly enough) has ruled 4-2 this morning that the state's ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

This should be a relief to proponents of same-sex marriage, at least if they've absorbed the lesson of just how destructive the Massachusetts decision ended up being to their cause.

In a decision penned by Judge Robert S. Smith, the court properly deferred to the Legislature: "We emphasize once again that we are deciding only this constitutional question," Judge Smith wrote. "It is not for us to say whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong."

Amen.

Democrats might also be relieved that the court refrained from handing Karl Rove the key to the 2006 election.

(The text of the ruling can be found here. [PDF])

July 05, 2006

Do Libertarian Democrats Exist?

Markos Moulitsas has been making noise about the idea of co-opting the libertarian label -- and a tiny, tiny bit of the ideology -- as part of a Democratic comeback, focused particularly on the Mountain West.

Now, Terry Michael offers A Libertarian Democrat Manifesto.

Zero Progress

Over at Gawker.com, you can watch a time-lapse video of the "progress" at Ground Zero over the past 101 days (March 26 - July 4).

Yes, I suppose this is of primary interest to New Yorkers. But the utter bureaucratic failure at the World Trade Center site -- presided over by one George Elmer Pataki -- is a national disgrace.

The Bush Boom - Larry Kudlow

Conventional demand-side economists keep talking about an economic slowdown. (See today's WSJ front-page story (reg req)).

These folks are stubborn if nothing else. They ignore the huge success of supply side tax cuts that lowered the marginal tax rate on capital to the lowest level in history.

Private business investment continues its surge. It remains an explosive engine of growth creating jobs, incomes and consumer spending.

The thought here is very simple: Low tax rates on capital benefit both businesses and consumers. In fact, a combination of record low taxes and record high profits is the key to understanding our current economic boom, which is the greatest story never told.

Just take a look at today's factory orders report for May. It shows that order backlogs are surging at a 13 percent rate. This is yet another indicator of the business boom.

Moreover, the ADP jobs report hints at a much stronger than expected jobs gain in Friday's report--368,000 new jobs in June, compared to street consensus of only 160,000. (This is the largest monthly increase in employment since the ADP index was created five years ago.)

Yet, the demand-siders continue their doom and gloom. They've predicted four or five growth pauses in the last three years, as the economy shrugged off their pessimism and roared ahead. They have been wrong over and over again. And all signs suggest they will continue to be wrong.

Low tax rates work. Just look at the economy.

Political Video of the Day

With all of the global warming talk today, here's the preview for Who Killed the Electric Car?

Over at TCS Daily, Ralph Kinney Bennett has penned a response. His basic argument: It's the battery, stupid. Electric cars actually work well for short distances, living up to all the promises of their proponents. But, ultimately, they can't go very far without needing to be recharged -- and recharging takes forever.

In other words: Who killed the electric car? The Energizer Bunny.

So, as with Robert Samuelson's argument about global warming, the problem here is engineering, not politics.

Rudy Announces for Prez on Page Six?

Well, not quite.

Still...

Swingin' Bill Richardson

I've been out recently, and I'll be out more in the future, arguing that the Southwest and the broader interior West are the new swing regions in American politics. Democrats in the West are groping their way toward a new formula that steers away from class warfare, while still being "progressive," and taking advantage of growing dissatisfaction with the Big Government Conservatism of George W. Bush's Republican Party.

So, it's a bit intriguing to find the Wall Street Journal's editorial board heaping praise on New Mexico's Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, for cutting taxes (sorry, no link):

Another Democratic Governor who's embraced tax cutting and benefited politically is New Mexico's Bill Richardson. Since winning the state house in 2002, he has cut the state's top income tax rate to 4.9% from 8.2% and cut the capital gains tax in half. 'This was our way of declaring to the world that New Mexico is open for business,' Mr. Richardson tells us. 'After all, businesses move to states where taxes are falling, not rising.'

But don't tax cuts produce budget deficits? Not in New Mexico, which now has a half-billion-dollar surplus and has seen tax revenues soar by 27% this year, faster than in any other state over the past year, according to the Rockefeller Institute state revenue report.

We asked Mr. Richardson how he thought his party could regain its competitiveness with the GOP on the national level. His answer is good advice for Democrats everywhere: 'We have to be the party of growth and the American dream, not the party of redistribution.'

Something new is clearly taking root in the West.

(via The Note)

Watching the Dictators

Today will be the last day of Mike Antonucci's always-thorough, wall-to-wall coverage of the National Education Association's annual conference.

You can find all of it here.

Watch as the NEA debates measure after measure that has little or nothing to do with education!

Thrill as it sends money to the states to fight education reform in all its devious guises!

Gasp as it explores the idea of a U.S. Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing every child in America a free, high-quality, public education! (Forget that dusty old Tenth Amendment! It's old news! Why do you hate children so much!)

But really, read it. The teachers unions dictate education policy in much of the country. There's a reason our schools are so dysfunctional.

The Blame for Urban Schools

It seems Democrats bear a disproportionate amount of blame for the failures of urban schools (something about their being pupets of the teachers unions -- I forget), and it might start causing them trouble with African-American voters.

Who knew?

(via Eduwonk)

Engineering the Truth

Robert Samuelson tackles the real inconvenient truth about global warming: Even if it's entirely man-made, and even if it's going to have devastating consequences, we still don't have any way to solve the problem.

It's not a political problem, it's an engineering problem.

No matter how much we try to punish ourselves at home for the sin of living well, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is going to rise dramatically on account of the developing world.

So how do we solve the engineering problem? That's unknowable right now. But if the government's going to "act" on global warming, it would be better to spend money on research and development than to beat up the private sector with more and more restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions.

Israeli Wife Swap

Is this really such a good idea: an Israeli version of "Wife Swap"?

Meanwhile, the JPost highlights the musings of a 26-year-old "average Palestinian girl" with a blog (Musings of a Palestinian Princess).

Such noble attempts at cross-cultural understanding ...

Regardless, the situation continues to escalate in Gaza.

Of course, the problem isn't those willing to engage in "dialogue." It's the Palestinian Arab terrorists that have no interest in the state they could have tomorrow if they'd stop slaughtering Israeli civilians.

Ken Lay Dead at 64

Ken Lay is dead of a heart attack.

'You're a Traitor, Joe!'

Rick Klein of the The Boston Globe reports that some loveable lefties were out under the Democratic party's "big tent" yesterday in Connecticut celebrating the Fourth of July:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was smiling past the hecklers yesterday in this town's massive Independence Day parade. ``Shame on you!" one yelled. ``War-monger!" screamed another. ``You're a traitor, Joe!" came a third voice.

A traitor? Because he supports the policy of the United States government in Iraq? Eating one's own is not pretty business.

Joel Connelly, a reliably liberal columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, debunks the idea that Lieberman is a Bush stooge by running down a list of Lieberman's accomplishments, and then asks:

Does his inflexibility on Iraq cancel out or diminish Lieberman's contributions in a host of fields ranging from the environment to human rights?

Is the Democratic Party a tent big enough that it can still hold those who want the United States to proactively confront tyrants, a tradition dating to FDR and Hitler?

We'll know for sure on August 8, but it's looking increasingly like the answer to that last question is either "no" or "just barely."

Meanwhile, in The Hill Jonathan E. Kaplan looks at how Lieberman's potential run as an independent may affect Dems challenging in House races in Connecticut.

Romney's 37% Problem

On Monday The Los Angeles Times released the third batch of results from its most recent poll, dealing with religion and politics. The number with the most significance for 2008 isn't very shocking: "Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate."

The article runs down the standard list of potential political problems created by Mitt Romney's faith, but then turns to Mike Murphy for the pro-Romney spin:

Republican political consultant Mike Murphy, who advised Romney in his gubernatorial bid, said any discussion about Romney's religion as a potential obstacle to the presidency was premature, and probably misplaced. Murphy also has counseled the Massachusetts governor as he tests the waters for the 2008 presidential race.

"I think the poll is wrong," Murphy said. "I think this is a classic example of how with polling data, you can find something that is not predictive at all."

Besides, Murphy said, "When he ran for governor of Massachusetts, everybody said there was no way a Mormon would win in one of the most Catholic states in America. I've been to this movie before."

With all due respect, winning in Massachusetts is a far cry from winning the Republican presidential primary - as Murphy well knows. In addition to the LA Times poll, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Romney's religion is going to be anywhere from a moderate to severe handicap, especially in the South (see Robert Novak and Amy Sullivan). And Ross Douthat provides a nimble description of why Romney's problem isn't just confined to the GOP primary:

So the Republican primaries would be tough on Romney, and he would be a ripe target for an enterprising Rove wannabe with a taste for dirty campaigns. A few flyers about polygamy in South Carolinian mailboxes, or some push-poll telephone calls about the weirdness of the Book of Mormon in the Catholic Midwest . . . well, you get the idea. And things wouldn't get any easier in the general election, when the media would suddenly discover all sorts of juicy details about Joseph Smith's faith that are just crying out for a Time cover story, or a 60 Minutes special. If you think that journalists have had a field day with George W. Bush's fairly banal brand of evangelical Christianity, well, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Romney knows he has to deal with the issue of his religion, and he's already been addressing the subject in small groups in places like Iowa - with some success, according to David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register. Romney's pitch to evangelicals boils down to the following: "The great majority of Americans want a person of faith to be their leader. They recognize there are going to be differences in doctrines, but they want to see what the values are the person has as a leader."

But there's a problem with this approach, as Adam Reilly pointed out in Slate not too long ago. By positioning himself as a social conservative and wooing evangelicals this way, Romney forecloses the option of defusing the faith issue with a JFK-style pronouncement that it won't affect his politics. Romney is trying to win over voters who explicitly want a candidate's faith to be part of what drives their policy decision-making, so he is inevitably going to have to deal with some hard questions about his religion.

Romney's plan is to try and minimize any detailed discussion about the peculiarities of his faith and also try to minimize the extent to which the issue will hurt him in the South by winning early contests. Part of this strategy relies on Michigan moving up the date of its primary to coincide with South Carolina and also possibly closing it to independents, giving Romney a potentially decisive boost against McCain. (For some heavy detail on the McCain-Romney battle in Michigan see Mark Hemmingway in the current issue of the Weekly Standard).

Though I remain skeptical of Romney's chances I will say this: he's very impressive in person and can be very persuasive. If anyone has a chance of clearing the Mormon hurdle, Romney is as good a bet as you're likely to find.

July 04, 2006

Patriotic Video of the Day

What the Fourth is really all about ...

... this beautiful land and blowing things up without getting (seriously) hurt.

Hope everyone had a great holiday.

God bless America.

The Brits Hate Us, Love Us

Ah, the Brits. Love 'em. Too bad they don't love us back, at least according to a new poll in the Daily Telegraph, which reads like a Wayne Rooney stomp right in Uncle Sam's groin:

As Americans prepare to celebrate the 230th anniversary of their independence tomorrow, the poll found that only 12 per cent of Britons trust them to act wisely on the global stage. This is half the number who had faith in the Vietnam-scarred White House of 1975.

Most Britons see America as a cruel, vulgar, arrogant society, riven by class and racism, crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite.

Ouch.

Not to worry, I have the antidote to all this U.S.-bashing here, from Brit Tim Montgomerie:

It's easy to think of reasons to hate America - we're fed them on a daily basis by our friends at the BBC - but the 4th July is a day to celebrate our transatlantic friends. When we even have Tories idiotically suggesting that we should be as worried about the President of Iran as the President of America it's time to remember why some of us love America...

There are few other countries that could be trusted with so much power. America is a democratic country committed to the extension of freedom throughout the world. In his second inaugural address George W Bush said that "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." Does America always live up to this self-interested ideal? No. It sometimes acts incompetently and sometimes hamfistedly but rarely in a malign way. We are fortunate not to live in a world where China or Russia are the superpowers - using their power for ill. Or a world where Chirac or Schroeder are the commanders-in-chief - appeasing the world's despots in return for commercial gains.

Thanks, Tim. And thanks to all of our other friends in Britain, here on the day we celebrate our independence from England, an event which also marked the eventual beginning of one of the longest, strongest, and most influential alliances in the modern era.

What Does YouTube Mean for Politics?

Here's an issue that's near and dear to my heart: What does YouTube mean for American politics?

When slick, or not-so-slick, video advertisements can reach millions of people for only the cost of producing the spot, politics has changed -- whether it's for better or worse, or a little or a lot.

The question is, "How?" Does cheap, viral video make it easier for candidates to have unfiltered, not-reduced-to-soundbites discussions with the American voter? Or does it mean that every cough, sputter, and misstep ends up in a million mailboxes as the outrage of the week?

It probably means both.

What's important, I think, is not to overestimate the importance of viral video, or the Internet in general, as a means to reach the average American voter. The Internet is a user-directed medium, so advertising on it is going to do little or nothing to reach out to the average, unengaged citizen. (This is one reason, among many, that it makes absolutely zero sense to regulate spending on Internet campaigning under campaign-finance laws.)

Instead, the Internet is mainly a tool to motivate your activists, a purpose to which viral video seems well-suited.

As for reaching actual voters ... well, nothing's going to replace traditional radio and television buys anytime soon, as best I can tell.

Still, watching this medium evolve, and watching political actors experiment with it, is great theater. That's why we've started watching political videos here at RCP in the past few weeks.

And we'll continue to watch this emerging area of political discourse with your help. Remember to send in nominations for the Political Video of the Day to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

No Release

The JPost has an analysis of why releasing Palestinian Arab prisoners to gain the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit would be a terrible idea.

Not only would it invite more terrorist kidnappings, it would be a major political victory for Hamas over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

While "moderates" like Abbas hardly deserve to be taken seriously right now, since they lack the support of their people, it's important that Palestinians come to understand that moderation is the way toward getting what they want -- not more terrorism.

Global Warming: The Real Consensus

It was highlighted on the main site on Sunday, but people should make sure to read the op-ed by MIT professor of atmospheric science Richard Lindzen in the Wall Street Journal.

In it, Lindzen goes to great lengths to sort out the true scientific consensus on global warming from the exaggerations of Al "ManBearPig" Gore.

Essentially:

* "Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998."

* "There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today."

* "Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming."

However, figuring out just how much warming can be attributed to carbon dioxide, and how much to natural climate fluctuations that we simply don't understand, is "currently impossible."

Andrew Sullivan says he finds the piece highly persuasive, but thinks we should basically follow a "one percent doctrine" that says that even if the probability of humans setting off a global climate catastrophe is tiny, the consequences are so dire that we must take the threat seriously. He's also itching -- as ever -- to make Americans suffer for the sin of driving cars and living well. (People who ride bikes shouldn't call for gas-tax increases, especially when they're so big on "shared sacrifice.")

But what if the conservative concern is right, and the consequences of most anti-global-warming political initiatives would be economically ruinous? And, perhaps more importantly, what if even these economically ruinous policies would be completely futile, given the sharp increases in greenhouse gasses coming from the developing world?

The cure still seems worse than the not-yet-reliably-diagnosed disease.

July 03, 2006

More Rudy v. McCain

Of course, I'm not going to let the day pass without a Rudy post ...

Over at Red State, they're holding a poll of their conservative readership as to whom people would support if the primary came down to Rudy v. McCain. Currently, the tally is running 81 percent to 18 percent in favor of Rudy. There are, however, as of this writing, only about 70 votes.

These types of polls are so far from scientific it isn't even funny. But informal polls do represent the self-selected, politically active types. The kind of people who matter in primaries and sign up to work for candidates. And I have yet to see an informal poll of conservatives that favors McCain. (If anyone's seen one, send it in.)

(via Giuliani Blog)

Political Video of the Day

First there was the Joe Lieberman-George W. Bush Look Who's Talking ad, where netroots favorite Ned Lamont put Bush's words in Lieberman's mouth and vice versa.

Now, Michelle Malkin's Hot Air has created an Internet-only ad firing back. It puts Markos Moulitsas's words -- including a reference to his famous rant about the contractors killed in Fallujah in 2004 ("Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly. That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. [sic] They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.") -- in Ned Lamont's mouth.

I'm not sure it's a terribly effective piece (Kos's words here aren't particularly outrageous, and only Republicans are likely to see this video, which doesn't help in a Democratic primary). But there it is.

In other Lieberman-related news, the Connecticut Democrat now says he will run as an independent should he lose in his party's primary. So far, Sen. Chuck Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has implied that the national party will stand behind Joe.

Look for the anti-Lieberman Left to cite the DSCC's mission statement quite a bit in coming months: "Our mission is to elect more Democrats to the United States Senate."

Half a Brain

Admittedly, this isn't politics-related, but the July 3 New Yorker has a remarkable piece on an operation called a "hemispherectomy." It seems one can live with just half a brain, i.e. one hemisphere. Sometimes you might remove a hemisphere because of a tumor, sometimes because it grows larger than the other half of the brain.

Basically, you can function close to normal physically and suffer no loss in intelligence. The article's a good read, too.

OK. You want a political angle? It seems it's better to remove the right hemisphere of one's brain than the left.

Draw whatever conclusions you will.

(And, if you're asking, "What do they put in place of the brain they remove?" ... well, they've tried sterile ping-pong balls. But, apparently, the brain's own drip of cerebrospinal fluid fills the cavity just fine.)

Making the Case Against Campaign Finance Reform

NRO's Sixers blog notes at least one race where money wasn't everything.

Updates From Mexico City - Michael Barone

I am watching the election returns from my hotel room at the Four Seasons, across the Paseo de la Reforma from the Marquis Reforma, where Lopez Obrador is spending the election evening. I am also checking the website of IFE, the nonpartisan electoral commission which by and large seems to have been doing an excellent job.

7:55pm (Central Time). The president of IFE is on the air explaining that polls were open in 99.94% of precincts. He is speaking seriously and slowly, so slowly I can almost understand his Spanish (a Mexican friend is with me, helping me to follow the coverage).

8:00pm, Mexico City (Central Time). Televisa announces that its exit pollster Televisa Mitofsky has declared the presidential election too close to call. This is what one might have expected from the most recent polls and from what I have heard about the exit polls earlier this afternoon (not from anyone connected with the exit poll firms or their clients).

8:25. PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo previously agreed to IFE's request that he make no speech until 11:00pm. But now he is on television, in a non-speaking part, as the PRI party president denounces the exit polls and demand that IFE not release its quick count at the scheduled time. He says PRI has its own statistics showing Madrazo winning, and that it will respect no result until the votes are counted by hand and the official result is certified on Wednesday. This looks like a desperation move, since no one expects Madrazo to finish higher than third; he doesn't want to be counted out at 11:00, when presumably either Lopez Obrador or Calderon will be indicated as the winner or that it will be indicated that one of the two will be the winner. Madrazo looked weak on camera, trying his best to smile at times; the picture of a candidate standing mute is not an image of strength.

8:35. Televisa says that Consulta Mitofsky has projected the result of the congressional elections as follows: PAN 35%, PRD (and two other parties) 31%, PRI (and Greens) 28%, Nueva Alianza 5% (enough to make them an official party) and Alternativa 1%. This is good news for PAN, which previously was the second largest party in Congress, and bad news from PRI, which was the largest party in Congress--and indeed the majority party from 1929 to 1997. Since it is generally expected that Lopez Obrador will run ahead of his party and Calderon not much ahead of his, this again suggests a very close election.

8:45. The IFE website has election results for some 340,000 votes--out of more than 40 million expected. It shows Calderon with 41%, Lopez Obrador 33%. Calderon is running 4%-5% ahead of PAN candidates for Congress (depending on whether you look at the Senate or Chamber of Deputies); Lopez Obrador is running 5%-6% ahead of PRD candidates for Congress. Presumably these returns are from disproportionately PAN areas (or else the exit poll showing it too close to call is way off, which is exceedingly unlikely). On the other hand, if you apply the differences between the candidates' percentages in these raw vote totals with their parties' expected percentages in the Congress elections, you come up with a rule-of-thumb result of Calderon 39%-40%, Lopez Obrador 36-37%%. That would be consistent with a too-close-to-call exit poll. But this is just speculation.

8:55. The campaign coordinator for the PRD is claiming that the Covarrubias exit poll show a plurality for Lopez Obrador. With 602,000 votes in from 2% of actas (precincts), the IFE raw vote count shows Calderon 41%, Lopez Obrador 33%, Madrazo 19%. Again this is almost surely disproportionately from PAN areas. Televisa reports that PRI is in a meeting asking IFE not to give any results, primarily the quick count scheduled for 11:00.

These raw votes presumably don't include much from the rural areas where PRI is expected to be strongest. But they do suggest that Madrazo may be hard put to reach the 27% he was getting in the pre-June 20 polls.

9:05. Another exercise. The 2% raw vote shows PAN's congressional vote 2% above the Consulta Mitofsky exit poll estimate, PRD's congressional vote 4% below it and PRI's congressional vote about even. Applying those differentials to the raw vote percentages, we come up with Calderon 39%, Lopez Obrador 37%, Madrazo an embarrassing 19%. TV Azteca (the number two network in viewership) shows the same estimate of the final congressional vote as Televisa Consulta Mitofsky, except it has the Nueva Alianza at 4% and Alternativa at 2%; the three major parties are the same: PAN 35%, PRD 31%, PRI 28%.

9:10. Marcelo Ebrard (PRD) is projected by TV Azteca as the winner in the race for mayor of Mexico City, with 52% to 28% for Demetrio Sodi (PAN). This is in line with preelection polls. Ebrard was part of Lopez Obrador's regime during his five years as Mayor of Mexico City, and is likely to carry on his municipal policies. He could establish himself, as Lopez Obrador did, as a serious candidate for president in 2012 (Mexico does not allow reelection). There are four elections for governor, with only one expected to be close, in Jalisco, the fourth largest state; its largest city is Guadalajara. TV Azteca projects PAN's Emilio Gonzalez as the winner over PRI's Arturo Zamora, by a 46%-41% margin. That indicates the exit pollster is willing to project in a race with a 5% margin; so don't expect the presidential election to be decided by that margin.

9:15. The PAN candidate is projected as the winner for governor in Guanajuato, with 64% of the vote. Guanajuato is the home of President Vicente Fox; he was elected governor there in 1994, and that state north of Mexico City, with a large and vibrant private sector, is heavily pro-PAN. In Morelos, a small state just outside of Mexico City which includes Cuernavaca, the PAN candidates is projected as the winner over the PRD by a 38%-32% margin. This despite the corruption scandals involving the current PAN governor. The TV Azteca analysts (a good lot more centrist than those on Televisa) note that PRI's and PRD's alliances with smaller parties are not helping them much. My sense is that PAN, which ran second for Congress in 2000 and lost ground in Congress and other elections in 2003 and (in governor races) later years, is showing considerable strength: a good sign, perhaps, for Calderon.

9:18. Take that back about Televisa: they just announced they're putting on Enrique Krauze, the eminent historian and intellectual, who is no fan of Lopez Obrador. Televisa is announcing that IFE has 80% of its 7,600 quick count sample, half an hour earlier than expected.

9:22. Enrique Krauze is taking the long view: he is saying that this is the second clean election, and that if we get through this we will have a whole century of clean elections ahead of us. He notes that we are going to have a very divided Congress, and that the next president will have the same problems with Congress that Fox has had. It's going to be very difficult to pass any laws, but it will be better than the past. He praises Lopez Obrador's last speech, in which he used the word "concord," a very important word in democracy. Whoever wins, he will have to use concord, given the division of powers. We need to watch carefully what Congress and the executive does. Krauze's interlocutor notes that Consulta Mitofsky projects Ebrard (PRD) over Sodi (PAN) in Mexico City by 51%-26%. That's similar to TV Azteca's 52%-28%--who cares about a point or two when the margin is so large? Krauze says PRD in Mexico City has to be generous with the losers. Televisa has similar PAN margins to TV Azteca's in Guanajato and Jalisco. Krauze notes that the Cristeros used to be numerous in the PAN "bastion" of Guanajuato--the Cristeros were Catholics who were fought against and killed in large numbers by the PRI's founding revolutionary generals in the 1920s. History reverberates today. Krauze signs off by touching his inked thumb with the interviewer's. They're both celebrating Mexico's free, open and clean elections. Thirty years ago Jose Lopez Portillo was elected president with 100% of the vote; in 1988, Carlos Salinas won by a 49%-37% margin which many people think included many stolen votes. Those days are gone.

9:35. Ten minutes ago IFE posted an update, with 2.85 million raw votes from 7% of precincts. It shows Calderon 40%, Lopez Obrador 35%, Madrazo 19%. PAN continues to lead in the races for Congress (an average of 37%) over PRD (28%) and PRI (26%). It looks like PRI will be only the third largest party in Congress--a humiliating result. But one should note that PRI holds governorships in states with (as memory serves) 55% of Mexico's population. State elections matter in Mexico, and governors can make a significant difference. PRI has remained an alternative to PAN in the north and to PRD in the south; it still benefits in governor elections from the fact that, until this year at least, it has been the one party with competitive strength all over the country. PAN has been very weak in the south, PRD in the north. But tonight's results may change that.

9:45. PRI wants to stop the quick count being announced at 11:00; PAN wants to make sure it is announced. Leaders of both are talking to the president of IFE, who has a tough job tonight.

9:46. Looking at the above raw vote totals and the difference between the congressional raw vote and the exit polls' projected votes, if you adjust the presidential candidates' totals accordingly, you have a 38%-38% tie between Calderon and Lopez Obrador, with Madrazo at a humiliating 21%. It looks like a long night ahead.

9:49. I should note that it rained heavily in Mexico City at about 5:00, one hour before polls closed. Did this hold down last-minute turnout? If so, that probably hurt Lopez Obrador, who has been running far ahead in the Mexico City metropolitan area (Distrito Federal and Estado de Mexico), which has about 20% of Mexico's people.

9:50. PRD is calling for its supporters to go to the Zocalo at 11:00 for a victory party. The Zocalo is the historic center of Mexico City, the capital of the Aztecs where Cortez invited Montezuma for dinner and then held him captive. The nearby pyramid of the Templo Mayor, excavated as recently as 1978, was where many of the Aztecs' human sacrifices died. Today the Palacio Nacional is on the east, the Catedral on the north; Lopez Obrador has promised to conduct the government from the Palacio Nacional, instead of Los Pinos, the mansion in the Parque de Chapultepec, where Vicente Fox and his predecessor Ernesto Zedillo have conducted business.

9:58. Televisa is showing video of the process at the polls. When a Mexican voter enters the polls his voter ID card--with its picture and signature and hologram--is checked by one official with the list which shows a replica of each registered voter's card. Then the card is checked and held by another official who hands the voter his paper ballots (different ballots for each office). Then after the ballot is deposited, the card is checked again and handed back by a third official, and the voter's thumb is stamped with indelible ink. This is a much more rigorous process than in most of the United States--and would presumably outrage those Democrats who take the preposterous position that demanding a picture ID from a voter is a violation of civil rights. I have more confidence in Mexico's election procedures than I do in those in much of the United States.

10:00. The Televisa reporter at PRI headquarters on Insurgentes Centro reports that PRI is planning no celebration. Things look pretty quiet there.

10:05. I can hear the helicopters hovering over the Paseo de la Reforma, watching what is going on. Lopez Obrador is at the Marquis Reforma Hotel across the street, and PAN's victory celebration is set for the circle containing the Angel of Independence several blocks away, where Vicente Fox held a victory rally exactly six years ago to the day. Unfortunately, the Angel is under repair and is under a tarpaulin.

10:08. IFE raw vote figures as of 9:59, with 6,080,000 votes in and 15% of precincts reporting. Calderon 39%, Lopez Obrador 35%, Madrazo 19%. The congressional raw vote is PAN 36%, PRD 39%, PRI 26%. Adjusting the presidential candidates' percentages, as I have before, by using the differences between raw vote percentages and exit poll projected percentages, I come up with Calderon 38%, Lopez Obrador 38%, Madrazo 21%. Of course these numbers could be off, if the projected percentages are off by a point or two, as they easily could be. The exit pollsters evidently felt confident releasing these numbers because they clearly showed PAN in first place. PAN has declared that it is the winner, but didn't say on what basis. This seems premature to me. I certainly would like to see Calderon win.

10:20. According to Televisa, IFE has 85% of its quick count sample. However, it's also reported that IFE may not announce the quick count if it is determined that the election is too close to call. That determination will be made by five professional statisticians employed by IFE. That seems fair. If one candidate is ahead in the quick count by 0.2%, there's no assurance that he will end up the winner when all the votes are counted. To give one candidate the apparent sanction of victory would be unfair. I'm glad I'm not the president of IFE tonight.
It has just been announced that the turnout if 59% of the 71 registered voters, or about 42 million voters. That's compared to 122 million in the United States in 2004. That's about the same percentage of total population in both countries--though we have a larger percentage of residents who are not citizens.

10:39. Just accessed the IFE 10:28 update on the raw vote. Some 9.3 million votes counted in 23% of precincts. Calderon 39%, Lopez Obrador 36%, Madrazo 19%. Congress vote: PAN 36%, PRD 29%, PRI 26%. Using my earlier analysis, we come up with Calderon 38%, Lopez Obrador 38%, Madrazo 21%: no change from the 9:59 figures. This projects to a popular vote of about 40.4 million, if the turnout in reported precincts is proportionate to those in all precincts. Which suggests that the winner will have about 16 million votes.

10:52. Televisa is announcing that one minute before 11:00 IFE will present an envelope to each of three major parties and all members of the IFE committee with the quick count totals, with the decision of the statisticians as to whether the result should be announced. They are walking on untrodded ground.
A PRI spokesman on TV now is claiming victory for Lopez Obrador in Estado de Mexico, the largest state in the country.

10:55. One announcer on Televisa is saying they are going to announce a winner. Another says no, IFE does not have a statistically significant sample--that is, the margin in the quick count is so small that there is a statistically significant probability that it points to the wrong winner. One announcer, who usually takes the left line, says that Calderon has a lead. But does he really know?

11:00. Luis Carlos Ugalde, the president of IFE, is on the television now, in an official IFE broadcast segment. The election between the first and second candidates is too close to call. This has been determined by independent scientific statisticians. The official counting will start on Wednesday, July 5. There is no winner: they have to count every vote. He asks the parties to be responsible and the candidates to respect the decision of the majority. The celebration parties should stop, and the candidates and their supporters should wait for the results. The margin between the first and second candidates is so small that they cannot declare who has won.

11:07. Vicente Fox on TV. Says the president of IFE says there are no conditions to declare a winner of the presidential election. First shot with bookshelves and Mexican flag, then close head shot on Fox. The observers impartial should determine the result; IFE deserves respect from all Mexicans, with its professionalism and guarantee of impartiality. The candidates should preserve tranquility and respect for the impartiality and transparency of the electoral process and IFE. I don't have the whole transcript, of course, but it was an impressive and commanding performance.
Six years ago, at just about this hour, President Ernest Zedillo came on television and, after 71 years of PRI governance, announced that he recognized that Vicente Fox was the next president of Mexico. He recognized the transfer of power from one party to another. Tonight Fox ratified the decision of Luis Carlos Ugalde not to declare the election decided and called on all the candidates to respect the electoral process. This was, in my view, as historic and inspiring a move as Zedillo's six years ago. He took command and demanded everyone respect the process. Would that someone had been able to take and had taken command in the United States in November 2000.

11:16. Televisa is reporting that at PRD headquarters they didn't have Ugalde's statement on their TV. But at PAN they head the whole message.
Lopez Obrador is on TV now. He says he respects the institutions and IFE. However, I want to inform that according to my data we won. We have information we have at least 500,000 votes more. We are going to keep informing people, and I have said I will respect the result if it is one vote. I'm demanding to IFE that they respect our results. I'm going to the Zocalo to inform people and I believe that this result is irreversible, that we won, and I thank the majority of Mexico that supports me and I'm supporting poor people but I respect people of all classes. From tomorrow and the following days, when this result has been confirmed, I'm going to start a call to a national pact that includes those the businessman, the church, civil society, persons intellectuals artists; I want to extend a friendly hand and I don't hate, I'm a friendly man, for those who are losing in my estimation. I've never seen them as enemies. I'm going to start consultations with them when I am president, and put the interests of my party below the interests of Mexico.
He looked ashen-faced and not quite in command; there was some tension between his declaration that he was the winner by 500,000 votes and that he would respect the results. He spoke many conciliatory words, but he didn't foreclose the possibility of complaining that the election was stolen.

11:25. PRI headquarters: people milling around and looking totally dejected.

11:26. Zocalo. Crowd is cheering, knowing that Lopez Obrador is coming--but surely not as much as they would be if they had known he was declared the winner.

11:26. Felipe Calderon at PAN headquarters. Sounds forceful. We respect the process, Luis Ugalde. However, we know that someone has published data that contradicts IFE [Lopez Obrador], so he is giving his data from different polling companies. According to IFE data, we declare ourselves the winner. Arco exit poll PAN 37%, PRI 23%, PRD 25%. Another PAN 36%, 25% PRI, PRD 33.4%. Beltran PAN 37%, PRI 23%, PRD 35%. Marketing Political PAN 38%, PRI 23.5%, PRD 34%. Quick polls Economista PRI 22%, PRD 34%, PAN 38.8%. (Sounds like a dry, but emphatic, statistician.) IFE data from website 35.7% PRD, PAN 38.35%. He says he can declare with the data he is the winner. According to many different polls, I am the winner. But I will wait for the data to be processed by IFE, we will respect the decision of the authorities and defending every vote of the Mexicans. I want to congratulate the new PAN governors, Morelos, Guanajuato, Jalisco. I respect the ballots much clearly, PANistas, PRIistas, PRDistas, put aside our differences, that's what citizens are demanding, start a new conciliation phase national. We will be watching the results and we will be fully respecting the results. As soon as I am declared the elected president, I will try to make peace with the other parties. We will start a new period of peace for all Mexicans.
My interpretation and guess: the IFE quick count showed Calderon ahead, but by a very small margin. Calderon cited exit polls (which of course could be wrong); Lopez Obrador cited their own count (which, like most partisan counts, is more dubious than those from independent organizations).

11:40. Televisa reports that PRI says it's the only party that respected IFE's request that they not talk. This is pathetic. Everyone knows Madrazo finished a bad third and is not in contention. Thirty years ago PRI won 100%; now it's down to about 20%.

11:44. The PRI president is on now, with Madrazo smiling wanly beside him. Says we don't want to support virtual victories. It's the PRI suggesting massive election fraud--as my onetime boss Meg Greenfield might have said, that's a double oy vey. Now he says, we accept the cleanness of the election, and PRI is the most important factor of stability in this country.

11:46. Lopez Obrador in the Zocalo. He regrets that IFE is trying to grab votes from me. They have to respect our victory. "Duro! Duro! Duro!" He's suggesting that "they" are stealing the election. Much more emphatic than previous television appearance. My main support is the poor people (balloons or something exploding in background); it's mine because we won.

11:50. Calderon on TV again, saying the same thing. Looking at their demeanors, my sense is that Lopez Obrador thinks he's probably lost and Calderon thinks he's probably won--but probably neither is sure.

11:59. It sounds like Televisa is ending their coverage. I guess justifiably so--what more could happen tonight? TV Azteca seems to have already ended its election coverage. Televisa is now doing what looks like summing up. Announcer says PRI is going to have the role of legitimizing the election tomorrow--because they have to recognize that they're in third place. Or because they're going to negotiate concessions from the next government. Given their bad showing, insider dealing is the only way to keep themselves in the federal politics game (as I said above, they're still a major factor in state politics).

12:01. The latest IFE raw vote figures, as of 11:40 (there was too much action on TV to update before this), with 43% of the precincts in and 17.5 million votes. Calderon 38%, Lopez Obrador 36%, Madrazo 19%. Congressional (average); PAN 35%, PRD 29%, PRI 26%. In congressional vote, PAN is at its exit-poll-projected percentage, PRD 2% below, PRI 2% below as well.

In summary. This is one of the most astonishing and electrifying election nights I have ever witnessed. In a country which didn't have seriously contested elections from 1929 to 1994, we have just witnessed the culmination--or the beginning of the culmination--of one of the most closely and seriously contested elections in the history of major democratic nations in all time. Nobody I have encountered in covering this election had any serious confidence in predicting which candidate would win. And, it turns out, for good reason. This was--is--very, very close. You can infer from Lopez Obrador's and Calderon's statements between 11:00 and midnight that Lopez Obrador thought he probably lost and Calderon though he probably won. But probably. Given the close count, neither could be sure. Lopez Obrador was craftier, laying a predicate for claiming that the election was stolen. But his evidence was not overwhelming, and the seriousness of Ugalde, who is not a political appointee, cuts the other way. Lopez Obrador, characteristically, claimed the high moral ground as the advocate of the poor--but felt obliged to acknowledge that he recognizes the legitimate interests of all elements of society. He does not feel free to paint himself as another Hugo Chavez.

I cannot be sure what negotiating and behind-the-scenes discussions have been going on in Mexico City over the last couple of days, but you can be sure there were many. The polling numbers up to June 20--and the fact, easily ascertainable by insiders, that subsequent polling found little change--indicated that the election could easily be a dead heat. The question then is whether the loser would acknowledge the legitimacy of his defeat. Always it was likelier that Calderon would do so than Lopez Obrador. The broadcasts of Ugalde and Fox after 11:00 were clearly choreographed, presumably after extensive discussions and debates on election night, probably running up to the minute of their taping. There are many aspects of the IFE regulatory scheme that I, as an American cherishing the First Amendment, find off-putting. Banning campaigning several days before the election (which many European countries as well as Mexico do), banning publication of polls conducted more than 12 days before the election, banning foreign networks from making such references (which prompted Fox News, which has provided little reporting from Mexico, from transmitting its feed into the country from last Thursday to Sunday night): all these stick in my craw. But different countries have different ways of conducting democracy. Germany bans Nazi propaganda; it would be protected in the United States by the First Amendment, but we can understand why the Germans might take a different course. Mexico, with its history of electoral manipulation, bans certain political reporting. But we might do the same, for good reason, if we were in their shoes. History has its claims.

In any case, Mexico has a better system guarding against election fraud today than we have in most of the United States. Its voter ID program is much more rigorous. It has paper ballots, which take more time to count, but which also provide a paper trail for recounts. It has a national superintending electoral administrative agency, which our federal system of holding elections would not permit. All this is the legacy of PRI Presidents Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo, who calculated that Mexico could not take its place among advanced nations without a transparent and fair electoral system. They deserve great credit for the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in Mexico in 2000, and for what appears likely to be the resolution of an extremely close fair election in 2006. Salinas voted quietly this year in Tlalpan and Zedillo in Pedgregal, rich neighborhoods on the south side of Mexico City, relatively unnoticed. But they are the worthy architects of this system, which is deserving of respect.

12:55. The IFE update as of 12:45 on raw votes. Calderon 38%, Lopez Obrador 36%, Madrazo 20%. Congressional: PAN 35%, PRD 30%, PRI 26%. The congressional vote is increasingly in line with the exit poll projections (PAN 35%, PRD 31%, PRI 28%). Extrapolating, you get Calderon 38%, Lopez Obrador 37%, Madrazo 22%--just 1 point higher for Lopez Obrador than in the raw vote totals. This is based on 58% of precincts, with 24 million votes. We are evidently getting away from the situation where you might imagine that heavily pro-Lopez Obrador states are not yet reporting. Calderon's popular vote margin of 395,000 votes is holding.

American politics has been poisoned over the last six years because many Democrats have believed that the Republicans stole the 2000 election for George W. Bush. Mexico faces the risk that many PRDistas will believe that PANistas stole the 2006 election for Felipe Calderon. This is a downside risk for democratic states in part because aficionados of left parties are more inclined than their opponents to believe, when they have been declared the losers, that they really won. They believe that they occupy the moral high ground as defenders of the poor (Lopez Obrador surely has a better claim on that title than America's Democrats) and because they are more open to the idea that powerful conspirators have manipulated the process (as opposed to Milwaukee Democrats taking advantage of election-day-registration laws by importing Chicago blacks to vote in marginal Wisconsin).

We Americans should await the unfolding of IFE's vote count. It will be significantly more reliable, I think, than the vote count in many American jurisdictions, and more worthy of respect. Particularly because Mexicans of various political persuasions have been working manfully (to adopt Harvey Mansfield's vocabulary) over the last dozen or more years to produce a fair and transparent election process. A Lopez Obrador victory will produce much trouble for the United States, although exactly how much trouble is uncertain; he would probably be less like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez than like Brazil's Lula da Silva. Moreover, a Calderon government would not be an unalloyed blessing for the United States; we have had our serious disagreements with Vicente Fox's government, and a Calderon government would not be much different. On the contrary, if he wins by a narrow and (however vociferously) disputed margin, his government might be more adversarial. If you believe, as I do, that Lopez Obrador's economic policies would forestall the growth and modernization of Mexico's economy, which is so closely linked to ours through NAFTA, then you should hope, as I do, that the IFE process produces a Calderon victory. But you should not bank too much on it. If, as I think possible, the United States dodged a bullet because Lopez Obrador lost crucial votes in the Mexico City metro area by a rainstorm an hour before the closing of the polls on July 2, then rejoice in that lucky chance and thank whatever god you think is responsible--keeping in mind that the Aztec gods might still not be entirely out of commission in the Valley of Mexico. But remember also that no Mexican government can be our lockstep ally, and that even as we work to fortify our border and enforce our immigration laws, we must also think how we can work in intelligent ways to strengthen the government in our neighboring Mexican--with 100 million people to our 300 million--whether it is led by a relatively friendly Felipe Calderon or--less likely it seems as I am writing than it was six or seven hours ago--a rhetorically unfriendly and politically wily Andres Manuel Lopez Obador.

The New York Times' Damage to Our Nation's Security - Jed Babbin

The New York Times and its media camp followers are mischaracterizing the impact of its latest publication of secret information. They have totally shifted the debate to a straw man argument - that in order to keep secrets, they must be convinced that publication will lead to the loss of life - and that the administration's spokesmen, from the president on down, have taken to tearing up the straw man.

The New York Times - and its latest partner in perfidy, the LA Times - say they decide publication of secrets on the basis of whether their publication will directly result in the deaths of Americans. They point to the World War II standard, in which ships' sailing times, if published, could have resulted in German submarines sinking the ships. But al-Queda and Hizballah and the rest have no U-boat wolfpacks. Terrorists cannot kill unless we are unable to detect and interdict the means by which they do. And they rely, equally importantly, on the refusal of the nations of Old Europe and the Pacific to cooperate with us publicly.

We have had, in the past year, three instances of stories published by the Times and the Washington Post that have severely reduced our ability to interdict, capture and disrupt terrorists. These actions, by the most irresponsible press in the history of the nation, have greatly reduced our ability to fight the war against terrorists and to protect our homes from terrorist attacks. In two of the three - the WaPo story of the secret CIA prisons and the NYT articles on the SWIFT program tracing terrorist fund transfers through the Belgian conglomerate - the newspapers revealed both directly and indirectly the nations that were cooperating with us in secret. And "were" is the operative word.

As WaPo reporter Dana Priest admitted on Meet the Press Sunday, the CIA has had to relocate some of its secret prisons because it was revealed that nations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere were cooperating with us in secret. What we don't know is what else those nations were doing - including sharing intelligence with us on terrorist operations - that may also have been interrupted. Now, with the NYT report on the SWIFT program, we know that the exposure may result in the program's termination. According to a UPI report, "The Belgian government says it will look into U.S. data mining of private financial records held by SWIFT -- a Brussels-based global banking entity." We need to ask what are the legal frontiers in this case and whether it is right that a U.S. civil servant could look at private transactions without the approval of a Belgian judge," government spokesman Didier Seus said..." Belgium, which has been publicly opposed to the Iraq invasion, won't allow itself to be discovered cooperating with us in tracing terror financing. Its politics of appeasement require that the SWIFT program be terminated.

Since 9-11, none but a few of our former allies have given us more than lip service to help fight terrorism. And among them, fewer still have been willing to do so openly. When those who cooperate in secret are exposed, the damage is enormous, whether someone dies the next day or not. The NYT and WaPo bloody well knew, before the stories ran, that their publication of the CIA prisons and the SWIFT program would make it impossible for some nations to continue cooperating with us. By using their power to interrupt nations' cooperation with us, the New York Times and the Washington Post have done more damage to our nation's security than Usama bin Laden has been able to since 9-11. They have become a weapon in the terrorist arsenal. Their claims to still be guardians of our freedom are laughable, and tragically so.

July 01, 2006

Truth, Justice and the Capitalist Way

I saw Superman Returns the other day, and one line caught my attention. It's apparently caught a lot of people's attention. Of course, the premise of this movie is that Superman has returned after a long absence. The editor of the Daily Planet asks (roughly), "Does he still stand for truth, justice ... and all that stuff?"

Not, mind you, the American way.

Apparently, this was quite deliberate on the part of screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, who talked about the decision to The Hollywood Reporter:

"The world has changed. The world is a different place," Pennsylvania native Harris says. "The truth is he's an alien. He was sent from another planet. He has landed on the planet Earth, and he is here for everybody. He's an international superhero."

In fact, Dougherty and Harris never even considered including "the American way" in their screenplay. After the wunderkind writing duo ("X2: X-Men United") conceived "Superman's" story with director Bryan Singer during a Hawaiian vacation, they penned their first draft together and intentionally omitted what they considered to be a loaded and antiquated expression. That decision stood throughout the 140-day shoot in Australia, where the pair remained on-set to provide revisions and tweaks.

"We were always hesitant to include the term 'American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," Ohio native Dougherty explains. "The ideal hasn't changed. I think when people say 'American way,' they're actually talking about what the 'American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

While audiences in Dubuque might bristle at Superman's newfound global agenda, patrons in Dubai likely will find the DC Comics protagonist more palatable. And with the increasing importance of the overseas boxoffice -- as evidenced by summer tentpoles like "The Da Vinci Code" -- foreign sensibilities can no longer be ignored.

"So, you play the movie in a foreign country, and you say, 'What does he stand for? -- truth, justice and the American way.' I think a lot of people's opinions of what the American way means outside of this country are different from what the line actually means (in Superman lore) because they are not the same anymore," Harris says. "And (using that line) would taint the meaning of what he is saying."

The movie was entertaining enough (though way too long on time and way too short on internal logic). But is treating America the way a congressman treats an advisor caught with a transvestite hooker really the best way to open a movie the week before the Fourth of July?

In the filmmakers' defense, however, they're simply trying to maximize profit. And nothing could be more American-way-y than that.

Flagbert

I know this is a bit late, but just to return to the topic of flag burning -- I know it's a popular one -- here's Scott Adams's take (yeah, the Dilbert guy):

It seems to me that the great thing about the flag is that it symbolizes something inherently indestructible: the concept of freedom. You can burn the flag as many times as you want and the concept of freedom is not only still there - it's stronger. I like that about my flag. I would go so far as to say it's my flag's best feature.

I wouldn't mind if Congress were considering changing some other feature of the flag. For example, if they wanted to represent Rhode Island with half a star, I could get behind that. But I'd hate to chip away at my flag's freedom feature.

Adams's Dilbert Blog often delves into politics -- or, well, politics-like topics. Worth checking out.

Postrel's Kidney Crusade

Virginia Postrel continues her slow-motion smackdown of the National Kidney Foundation -- not a likely target for a smackdown, you say? read on -- this time, for some creative math justifying their position that it's never, ever, ever OK to pay organ donors. Even if it would save lives.

USA Today weighs in here, with an editorial endorsing very limited incentives for organ donors.

Postrel's crusade, for those who haven't been following it, got started when the former Reason magazine editor donated a kidney to Sally Satel (who says libertarians are all selfish?) and was a bit horrified with the process.

It's an important issue -- 6,000 people die each year on organ waiting lists.

The USA Today editorial highlights several ideas under consideration:

* Under a "futures" contract, the estate or family of an adult who agrees to donate organs might receive some financial remuneration, typically less than $10,000, for funeral and other expenses. Organs would go into the donor system, not be sold to individuals.

* LifeSharers is an existing network of 4,500 donors. Members agree to specify that when they die, priority in getting their organs should go to other members, also registered as donors.

* More controversial, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin allow tax deductions of up to $10,000 to compensate living donors for travel, expenses or lost income. This is legal because the money comes from the state. It also requires screening for psychological fitness.

These all sound good to me. And I'm sure there are even more creative ideas out there.

All that stands between people waiting for organs and a better chance at survival is getting over the cultural taboo that it's somehow wrong to compensate someone for an organ. By starting with non-monetary incentives (or indirect monetary incentives) like those above, we can at least get the ball rolling.

The Supreme Court Term That Was

Over at OpinionJournal, James Taranto takes a look at the Supreme Court term that was. Chief Justice Roberts has said that he struggles for unanimity or near unanimity on the court, yet in many key decisions at the end of this term the court was fractured, with as many as six separate opinions on key cases such as Texas redistricting, Vermont's campaign-finance limits and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Can Roberts's judicial minimalism -- his adage is "if it's not necessary to decide more . . . it is necessary not to decide more" -- accomplish anything? Taranto notes that minimalism can lead to a lack of clear guidance for lower courts and the public in general. Better, perhaps, to set out bright-line tests, as is Justice Scalia's wont. And since the court is still fractured among liberal, conservative and swing justices, none are about to lay down arms for the sake of unanimity.

In the end, Taranto figures things won't improve until conservatives get "maybe another new justice or two."

Bonus Koizumi Video

Here's the Koizumi at Graceland video that wasn't at YouTube yesterday.

One commenter notes the rather dark news running on the ticker below.