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August 31, 2006

A Plug: Mosaic

If you haven't, you might want to check out Mosaic, an online video site with translated newscasts from the Middle East.

They sure do hate Israel over there at Al Jazeera.

Note to White House - Jed Babbin

For the past day or so the Dems have been challenging the Bush administration to name any of their brethren who are talking about cutting off funds for the Iraq war. The White House should take another look at this explanation of Sen. Carl Levin's proposal, offered as an amendment to the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill.

Levin's proposal was for a phased withdrawal from Iraq and then,

"...during and after the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq, the United States will need to sustain a nonmilitary effort to actively support reconstruction, governance and a durable political solution in Iraq." (emphasis added)

Sounds like a cutoff of funds for any military support to me. When I think about 1974, Levin's proposal sends a shiver up my spine.

Sager Book Talk Sept. 6 at Cato with Michael Barone

Before too many people flee for the holiday weekend, I wanted to alert D.C.-area RCP Blog readers that I'll be speaking Sept. 6 (next Wednesday) at the Cato Institute at noon about my new book, just out from Wiley, The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party.

You can register to attend here. There will also be a feed online.

I'll be talking about big-government conservatism and the GOP's building identity crisis -- especially what it means for the Republican Party's hold on the eight states of the interior West. And I'll be joined by the famed Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report and of course coauthor of the Almanac of American Politics, who will offer commentary.

Should be fun. You might even get a free sandwich from the think tank that understands better than any other that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

What the ...

What in the world is wrong with Republican candidates this year?

From the AP:

Republican Sen. Conrad Burns [R-MT], whose recent comments have stirred controversy, says the United States is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night."

Macaca? Taxi cabs? Only Christians should legislate?

At least he didn't mention convenience stores.

TOM ADDS: This is Burns' third outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease in the last six weeks. For an experienced politician, he's sure acting an awful lot like a novice.

The $1.5 Million Dollar Man

President Bush raised a million five for the Corker campaign last night. Get more news on the RCP Politics & Elections page.

Mfume vs. Cardin

A new SurveyUSA poll conducted for 9 News shows Kweisi Mfume leading Ben Cardin, 42-38, with 13 percent undecided. The two Democrats square off in a televised debate tonight at 7pm on Maryland Public Television.

Russ Smith has been watching this race and chastising Cardin for taking it too easy on Mfume. We'll see if Cardin finally decides it's time to take off the gloves.

Tasini Gets His MoveOn

Anti-war Hillary Clinton primary challenger Jon Tasini is finally getting the MoveOn.org poll he's been itching for, which could throw the online group's endorsement behind him in New York.

According to an email sent out by his campaign just minutes ago:

URGENT! Vote in MoveOn Poll TODAY! Dear Friends,

Your efforts over the last few weeks to encourage MoveOn to poll its members about the New York Senate Democratic primary have succeeded! MoveOn sent out a poll TODAY in the Tasini vs. Clinton race.

If you're a MoveOn member, please check your inbox right NOW for a ballot from MoveOn and vote right away. The poll closes at 11:00 a.m. Friday.

Jonathan needs to get 66% of the vote to win the MoveOn endorsement. Please tell everyone you know who's a New York MoveOn member to check their email right NOW for a ballot from MoveOn, and ask them to vote for the progressive, anti-war Democrat Jonathan Tasini. Remind them that in addition to her vote for the Iraq war and continued support of the occupation, Hillary Clinton supports NAFTA and so-called free-trade agreements that are costing us jobs at home, that she sat on the board of Wal-Mart for six years, opposes single-payer health care, opposes same-sex marriage, and is the second largest recipient of lobbyist money right after Rick Santorum. Tell them that a vote for Jonathan Tasini is a vote to end the war, stop abusive corporate power, and provide Medicare for All.

We're delighted that MoveOn has been so responsive to its membership in sending out this poll. Please reply to them right away, and vote for what you believe in!

Thanks for all you do! We couldn't do it without you.

The primary is Sept. 12, so this will be too late to make much of a difference, even if Tasini does get the required 66 percent. Still, it will be an interesting measure of Hillary's problem or non-problem with the netroots. It's been my contention, so far, that Hillary's ability to avoid a serious primary challenge (as in a protest candidate such as Ned Lamont) shows that she can roll the netroots pretty easily.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I doubt they'll be much of an obstacle on her march to the nomination.

Galloway's Vision

Sure, we have to put up with former President Jimmy Carter saying silly and ridiculous things all the time, but at least we don't have to live with George Galloway.

In case you missed it, here's a YouTube clip of the British MP in Beirut earlier this week congratulating Hassan Nasrallah for a "historic victory" over Israel and declaring that Tony Blair did everything he could to "intensify" the suffering of the Lebanese people.

If that were not bad enough, today Galloway pens an op-ed for The Guardian in which he writes that Israel must accept a "comprehensive settlement" that includes the right of return for Palestinians, a contiguous Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem and "internationally guaranteed Palestinian control over its land, air, sea and water" - which is more or less a negotiated, less violent version of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vision of "wiping Israel off the map."

Galloway concludes by saying:

The Arab world is waking up to its potential power. It has seen the Iraqis confound Anglo-American efforts to recolonise their country, the unbreakability, whatever the cost, of the Palestinian resistance, and now the success of Hizbullah. If there is no settlement there can only be war, war and more war, until one day it is Tel Aviv which is on fire and the Israeli leaders' intransigence brings the whole state down on their heads. Nor is it only Israel that will pay the price for continued conflict: the enduring injustice of Palestinian dispossession has already poisoned western-Muslim relations and helped spill violence and hatred on to our own streets. There is still time to choose peace. But make no mistake, with the victory of Hizbullah, a terrible beauty is born.

This is reprehensible stuff, even by Galloway's standards. He needs a good drubbing - and I know just the person to give it to him.

Political Video of the Day

Is it just me, or has the Lieberman campaign created some of the worst political ads in recent history?

This ad has also had the benefit of getting the Lieberman campaign into a ridiculous argument over whether the footage on screen is of a sunrise or a sunset.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Taking Rumsfeld's Bait

Rich Lowry says the Dems are "being monumentally stupid in taking the bait of Rumsfeld's speech." He's right. Besides, the Dems don't need to respond to Rumsfeld, because their kindred spirits in the media - particularly on the editorial boards of major metro newspapers - are doing it for them.

For an admittedly less than comprehensive list, see today's editorials in the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Newsday, for starters. There's also William Arkin in the Washington Post, Fred Kaplan in Slate, and Dan Wasserman's cartoon in the Boston Globe.

UPDATE: Sorry, I forgot to include this whopper of a rant by Keith Olbermann:

Lesson Number One

Here's a lesson for people running for office: don't start spouting off statistics during radio or television interviews unless you're sure about them - especially if you're discussing white hot subjects like race and abortion.

Giving Thanks

Wow. Paul Hackett makes an ass of himself on national cable television with an angry, unhinged, ad hominem attack. Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid must be patting themselves on the back for forcing this guy out of the Ohio Senate race.

War Talk

Stephen Bainbridge argues that "Democrats need to talk about the war, while Republicans need to talk about something else." Kevin Drum generally agrees, though from a slightly different angle.

August 30, 2006

Mark Warner: Futurist

Give Mark Warner points for this much: He really wants to court the Internet crowd. I just got this in from his PAC, Forward Together:

GOVERNOR MARK WARNER GOES VIRTUAL IN "SECOND LIFE" ~First American political figure to hold an event in the virtual world~ Alexandria, Virginia-- Imagine a world where politicians tell the truth, focus on the future, and work together with their fellow citizens to solve problems. Forward Together PAC is working everyday to make that a reality. And it isn't stopping at the boundaries of physical space. Tomorrow Governor Warner will become the first American political leader to engage in the online virtual world, Second Life.

Governor Warner, in the shape of an animated avatar, will enter into Second Life this Thursday afternoon (August 31st) at 3:30 p.m. Eastern to announce the first-ever virtual-world town hall on American politics later this fall. The Governor will conduct a brief interview with Second Life's embedded reporter, Hamlet Au, and officially launch Forward Together PAC's new Second Life group.

"Since I left the Virginia governor's office this year, I've traveled across the country to 24 states helping solutions-oriented candidates campaign for congressional and statehouse races," said Governor Warner. "In Second Life, distances and time differences vanish. It will allow us to reach people through a whole new medium."

"Social technologies can be great tools for political change, and virtual worlds like Second Life might be the next tool for engaging people in the real world democratic process," said Governor Warner. "We want to use Second Life to continue the conversation about the direction of our country. My avatar is also pretty funny looking. That alone makes it worth checking out."

For those interested, here's the Web page for Second Life. What you might notice right off the bat is that the virtual world is full of a lot of avatars of busty women in bikinis. This is clearly the political medium of the future.

Should be interesting.

Lessons For '06

Today Stan Greenberg and Matt Hogan of Democracy Corps released a strategy memo for 2006 built around the results of a post-election survey (pdf) from the 2005 Virginia Governor's race. Dem Corps interviewed 2,300 Virginians last fall, including 600 registered voters who did not turn out to vote. Here are the key findings:

* Failure to mobilize the Republican base doomed Kilgore. The demoralization of Bush voters and lack of enthusiasm for Kilgore seriously hindered the Republican candidate's chances, underscoring the dangers of taking the base for granted.

* Non-voters were disillusioned with Bush, unimpressed by Kilgore. Those who voted in 2004 but not in 2005 overwhelmingly supported Bush over Kerry, but mounting frustration with Bush and a lack of fondness for Kilgore prevented them from turning out. While many incumbents will be better received by voters than Kilgore, the impact of the disillusionment with Bush highlights why it is so important for progressives to tie incumbents to Bush.

* Positive agenda was crucial to winning over swing voters. While Kilgore alienated voters with his attacks on Kaine's position on the death penalty, Kaine reaped the benefits by focusing on education, an issue that was of particular importance to both his base and swing voters.

* Republicans voter outreach program is not to be underestimated. Although Kilgore's turnout effort came up short, his campaign was much more effective at contacting both base and swing voters, as well as those who were still undecided in the final days of the campaign.

* Essential to have sufficient resources for the final few weeks of the campaign. Nearly one in five voters did not to decide who to vote for until the last few days of the campaign and 40 percent held off until October.

Regarding this last point, see Perry Bacon, Jr. in Time.com. Democrats clearly have the edge in enthusiasm and the political wind at their backs, but Republicans have a slight edge in money and a generally superior ground game. Whether that will be enough to save the GOP majority or simply mitigate the size of the Dem wave in November remains to be seen. As I said the other day, the second half of the game doesn't even start until next Tuesday.

UPDATE: More fodder on battle for the House from Robert Novak (via Drudge):

If The Election Were Held Today: To date, we have discussed this election in terms of what the final outcome will look like in November. We have also mentioned Republican fears that, as one House committee chairman has said privately, Republicans will lose 25 seats -- or as we were told that national internal polls suggested, they could lose as many as 26 seats.

From here in, now that primary season has approached its end, we will resist such broad prognostication, particularly since we have not yet seen evidence that such huge losses are imminent when looking at the races as we always have in past cycles -- on a district-by-district basis. As we noted last week, "it is still at least challenging to construct a scenario of a 15-seat Democratic gain without positing some improbable upsets."

The emphasis, by the way, is in the original.

Senator Porky

But of course. Senator Stevens may want to reconsider his comment that the Internet is "not a truck" because when bloggers get done with him I suspect he's going to feel like he was hit by one.

Carterwatch Update - Jed Babbin

It should come as no surprise that former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami would be coming here for the annual UN anniversary celebration. And granting him a visa to do so is also no surprise. And, unfortunately, there is also no surprise in Harvard is offering Khatami a forum to spread his "message," or for our worst former president, Jimmy Carter, to be offering to meet with Khatami.

Khatami was Iran's president from 1997 to 2005, part of the time the mullahcracy was diddling the EU in the now-years-long nuclear kabuki dance. The White House - according to a Washington Post report - says that Khatami is free to meet and speak freely while visiting America. Mr. Carter has no standing to deal with Iran, so what harm can he do? Maybe the same he did in the Der Spiegel and Daily Telegraph interviews earlier this month.

Of Iran, Carter has specific memories. His presidency foundered on the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis. Perhaps he and Khatami can have a meaningful discussion. One that is, as the Post report cites a source saying, "poignant." It is a comfort to know that Carter's talk with Khatami won't be part of the "serious" talks Iran suggests it will have with us.

McCain: Cooked?

For a long time, the rosiest polls for John McCain regarding the 2008 GOP primary were coming from the Cook Political Report. Not anymore.

Previously, a Cook Political Report/RT Strategies Poll (June 1-4, 2006) had found McCain up as follows (among Republicans and leaners):

McCain - 29%

Giuliani - 24%

Romney - 8%

Field WITHOUT Giuliani:

McCain - 37%
Romney - 10%
Gingrich - 9%

Now, the same poll, taken August 25-27, finds Rudy solidly in the lead:

Giuliani - 32%

McCain - 20%

Gingrich - 10%

Field WITHOUT Giuliani:

McCain - 30%
Gingrich - 14%
Frist - 11%

"Thinking about Rudy Giuliani, some people say he really cleaned up NYC as Mayor and made it a safer place, and then he showed real courage as a leader after the attack on the WTC. Other people say that his views on some issues -- because he is pro-choice on abortion, and supports gun control and gay rights -- make it hard for them to support him for Pres."

Which Is Closer To Your View? (GOPers only): Now vs. 2/26

GOPers should nominate Giuliani for pres.: 56% vs. 50%
GOPers should not nominate Giuliani for pres.: 38% vs. 43%

Note that the last question there is very important -- how do Republicans line up when pushed on Giuliani's supposedly candidacy-sinking social views? Answer: They still support him. And despite the constant refrain that the more Republicans learn about Rudy the more they'll recoil, his numbers actually seem to be getting better with time.

GiulianiBlog has more analysis of the results and the full cross tabs. Giuliani's supporters, it seems from the cross tabs, are more conservative and more pro-Bush than McCain's, who are, unsurprisingly, fairly liberal.

Rudy might not run. Or there might be other reasons he won't win. But the idea that he's unacceptable to the conservative base is refuted again and again and again by the polls and the facts on the ground in states like South Carolina.

PS: Here's a preview of Rudy on judges.

Political Video of the Day

A clip from Bush's interview last night with NBC's Brian Williams in New Orleans:

The highlight is when Bush seems to describe his reading list as "epileptic." (Of course he meant "eclectic" -- he kind of starts with one word and ends with the other.)

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Who's the Pig in the Closet? - Larry Kudlow

God help the poor, piggy senator behind the "secret hold" on S.2590.

Whoever this Porky Pig lawmaker is, you can take it to the bank that he/she isn't getting much sleep these days. And, if this senator is sleeping (with the help of handfuls of Ambien no doubt), they're likely dreaming of a way out of the wretched mess they created for themselves.

Here's a question: Why in the world would any above-board lawmaker attempt to shelve this pork transparency legislation?

What's so scary about a little old website that would allow voters to see where their own hard-earned tax dollars are going? What the heck are they so afraid of?

It's great to see the power of the blogosphere on this one. Both sides have come together calling for an end to the earmark madness. As Martha is apt to saying, "This is a good thing."

From Glenn Reynolds of both Porkbusters and Instapundit (who deserves credit for spearheading this whole thing) to the fiscally responsible Club for Growth's Andy Roth, all the way across the political spectrum to the lefties over at Daily Kos, bloggers have spoken in one unified voice and have issued their edict: NO MORE PORK.

It isn't everyday that you see virtually unanimous agreement from the left and right. But, when you do, whenever both sides of our polarized, political divide rally together against an "as-yet" unidentified lawmaker; whenever red and blue voters join hands and turn purple in a common cause, well, you've just got to know that they're on to something.

After all, this is our money lawmakers are playing around with, not theirs. Much of Washington seems to have forgotten this fact, which is why cancerous pork-barrel earmarking skyrocketed to around 13,000 earmarks this year, costing taxpayers $64 billion dollars. It is also the reason why some shady senator sees fit to put a secret hold on valuable legislation that would help clean up this earmark nightmare.

When you consider the resounding success of President Bush's tax cuts, and all the money that's been pouring into the Treasury as a result, you've got to shake your head in disbelief and think: Had their been some fiscal accountability in Congress this year, some tightening of the budget belt, we'd be in a far better budgetary position.

God help this poor lawmaker. Porky may get roasted.

More Race Problems for Allen

The Nation has dug up an old photo (well, just from 1996) of Allen with leaders of the segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens.

The CCC's statement of principles gives a pretty good flavor of things:

We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.

Allen's not the only Republican to have winked at the CCC. But he's the only one who was -- until recently -- considered a serious candidate for the presidency in 2008.

Duking It Out With the Times

Stuart Taylor, Jr. unloads - and I mean unloads - on the New York Times for its recent front pager on the Duke Lacrosse case authored by Duff Wilson and Jonathan Glater. (You can read what I wrote about the NYT piece last week here).

In a related nugget of embarrassing news for Durham DA Mike Nifong, yesterday a judge threw out the three year old misdemeanor shoplifting charges Nifong's office brought against Moezeldin Ahmed Elmostafa, the taxi driver who is central to indicted Duke Lacrosse player Reade Seligmann's alibi. The Durham Herald-Sun reports:

Several defense lawyers had accused District Attorney Mike Nifong of bringing the misdemeanor shoplifting charge against Elmostafa as a pressure tactic in the controversial rape case.

In April, Elmostafa signed a sworn affidavit saying he drove Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann to a bank machine, a fast-food restaurant and a campus dorm at about the time an exotic dancer claimed she was raped by Seligmann and two others at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. in mid-March.

A month later, Elmostafa was arrested on a 2003 warrant charging him with shoplifting at the Hecht's department store at Northgate Mall. The charge was reduced to aiding and abetting earlier this month.

The prosecutor in the case said he was the one who had the warrant served against Elmostafa and denied there was any motive to intimidate. He says the reason the DA's office waited three years to bring charges is because there had been a misspelling of Elmostafa's name. With Nifong's credibility already in the tank, that seems farfetched. Read the rest of the story and decide for yourself.

Plamegate: Another Hitch-Slap

First Juan Cole, now Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Christopher Hitchens nimbly points out the hypocrisy and sheer chutzpah of Isikoff and Corn being instrumental players in ginning up allegations that Plamegate was a blatant Bush administration hit job, and then turning around (and making money on a book, no less) and fingering Richard Armitage as Novak's original source. In other words, there was never any "there there."

This is how Corn responded on his blog last night after Hitchens' story went up:

A bunch of emails arrived today from people asking for (or, demanding) a response to Christopher Hitchens' attack in Slate on me and my coauthor Michael isikoff. I'm going to refrain from taking the bait, as we prepare for next week's release of our book. HUBRIS has plenty in it to discomfort anyone taking his or her cues from my former colleague.

Interesting. Corn's credibility is disappearing faster than a martini in Hyannisport and he says he is not going to "take the bait" - which is a euphemism meaning he won't "answer legitimate questions." Corn concludes by saying that his book is "far more about the fraudulent selling of the war than the leak case." The question at hand, however, is the media's fraudulent selling of the leak case and David Corn's central role in it.

Plamegate is turning out to be, as some have long suspected, exactly the opposite of what we've been led to believe. It was not a revenge-inspired hit job by the Bush administration, but an example of D.C.'s insider culture at its worst: a public, partisan, and dubious attack launched in the op-ed pages of the country's biggest newspaper, followed by innocent gossip between a reporter and a high-level official (and the subsequent shameful silence of that official, influenced by interdepartment fears and rivalries), followed by a firestorm of media speculation and innuendo, followed by an investigation, followed by an indictment for obstruction of justice over a crime that was never committed, followed by revelations that the whole thing wasn't what it was portrayed to be by critics of the administration and the media.

August 29, 2006

Travels With Andre

agassi.jpgLike many people, I despised Andre Agassi when he first showed up on the national tennis scene with his long hair and his "image is everything" persona. Now, like millions of fans, Agassi is one of my favorite figures in all of sports.

Agassi is playing in his final U.S. Open, which will also be the final tournament of his career. Yesterday he needed 3 1/2 hours to come back and beat Andrei Pavel in his opening match, as 20,000 fans stood in Flushing Meadows and cheered him on at match point.

Las Vegas Weekly put together a tribute to Agassi which includes a brief piece by David Granger, the editor of Esquire, and another by Ron Kantowski, a sportswriter for the Las Vegas Sun.

The gem of the bunch, in my opinion, is this piece by Andrew Corsello, a writer for GQ Magazine, in which Corsello recounts his first encounter with the 8 year-old tennis phenom from Las Vegas. It is an absolute scream. But it also pinpoints the origin of Agassi's brashness: his extraordinary talent and gift for the game which precious few players have known.

It's been a marvelous journey to watch Agassi's transformation from a cocky young kid into a humble, hardworking man who has fans cheering his every point and now hoping the magic will last just two more weeks. Whatever the outcome at the U.S. Open, I, for one, am going to miss seeing Agassi's now trademarked bald head, his pigeon-toed shuffle, but most of all, his heart.

(Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press)

UPDATE: Here's a nice tribute to Agassi's final appearance at Wimbledon on YouTube:

Bush: Very, Very Unpopular

How unpopular, you ask?

So unpopular that CNN.com's running an online poll of who would win a debate between Bush and Ahmadinejad, and Ahmadinejad is winning by 63%-37% (with more than 70,000 votes cast).

Yes, yes -- it's an online poll. But would Hitler have out-polled FDR, even on a CNN "QuickVote"?

Dr. Frist is on the Case

Majority Leader Bill Frist presses the issue of the secret hold placed on S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Frist writes on his blog:

It is deeply ironic that bipartisan legislation dedicated to transparency in government has been obstructed by the least transparent possible means. But I've not given up ... and neither has a united blogosphere.

Led by sites like PorkBusters, TPM Muckraker, and GOP Progress, online activists across the political spectrum have worked to clear away the obstruction against this bill through hard work and the process of elimination. While the count is still climbing, they have publicly received a response from 89 Senators regarding the secret hold - and I'm proud to say that members of my online grassroots organization, the iFrist Volunteers, have made a major contribution to this effort in calling Senators and securing their promise they have not held up the bill, nor will they hold up the bill. The growing success of this effort perfectly demonstrates the value of the database that S. 2590 would create ... because it proves that Americans with a passion for citizen journalism and empowered by technology can cooperate across party lines to make a real difference.

So, to get this bill passed, I am calling on all members, when asked by the blog community, to instruct their staff to answer whether or not they have a hold, honestly and transparently, so I can pass this bill. And I encourage Minority Leader Reid to do the same.

All I can say is that whoever is blocking this bill had better hope they're not up for reelection in November - assuming we find out who it is before then.

Short Takes

You like nice, concise analysis? Here's Orin Judd summing up Rudy Giuliani's presidential prospects in 21 words:

He can't run in IA, can't beat McCain in NH and then is a non-starter in SC. He won't run.

How about a nice, 54-word movie review? Try Louis Wittig in the Daily Standard:

There's almost nothing you need to know about the movie Snakes on a Plane that you didn't get from the title. Samuel L. Jackson gets on a trans-Pacific flight. A few hundred poisonous snakes get loose in the cabin. Samuel L. Jackson handles it in a way that Richard Gere probably wouldn't have. The end.

Hurting the Party?

Some folks are making the argument that the Club for Growth is hurting the Republican Party. Over in The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru offers a refreshing defense of ideology over partisanship.

Essentially, holding a majority doesn't mean anything if that majority has no principles.

Political Video of the Day

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has put out a harsh ad attacking Steve Laffey, conservative primary challenger to Sen. Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island.

The ad hits Laffey hard on immigration:

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Does Jerry Weller Have a Conflict or Not?

Anytime you see an obviously far left-leaning publication do a story on a Republican (or a far right one writing about a Democrat, for that matter) you have to approach it under the assumption that it's probably been constructed as a hit job - though some are done much more deftly than others.

That being said, this piece on Illinois Republican Congressman Jerry Weller in the Chicago Reader is fascinating. In late 2004, Weller married a top member of Guatemala's parliament, Zury Rios Sosa, who also happens to be the daughter of former dictator and head of her political party, General Efrain Rios Montt. Complicating matters is that Weller serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere whose jurisdiction includes issues involving Latin America.

The Reader piece alleges that Weller's marriage to Sosa has caused him to be silent on matters involving Guatemala, including drug trafficking and human rights. I don't know enough to say whether there's any truth to the charge, but Weller's unique relationship seems, at least on the surface, to represent somewhat of a conflict of interest. Read the story and decide for yourself.

The Anti-Semitism Lobby

As if anyone needed further proof of the outright anti-Semitism behind the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel Lobby paper, check out this dispatch from Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. In the words of Stephen Colbert, all you need to know: "At the invitation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), they held a forum at the National Press Club to expand on their allegations about the Israel lobby."

It's really a tour de force of anti-Semitic tropes, from the dynamic duo's usual focus on Bush administration officials with Jewish last names to Walt telling a gaggle of Arab admirers that if one criticizes Israel in America, "it might have some economic consequences for your business."

And then there's this at the end:

Before leaving for an interview with al-Jazeera, Mearsheimer accepted a button proclaiming "Walt & Mearsheimer Rock. Fight the Israel Lobby."

"I like it," he said, beaming.

Beam away, Nazi.

Posner Speaks

Don't miss the latest episode of the Glenn and Helen Show. This week's guest is Judge Richard Posner, and he discusses terrorism, surveillance, and civil liberties in the context of the Constitution and the U.S. court system. It's all the subject matter of his new book, "Not a Suicide Pact."

Zogby and Virginia

A lot of criticism this morning for citing a Zogby Interactive poll on the Virginia Senate race. In short: The criticism's right.

The race is definitely tightening in the wake of Allen's Macaca comments, but that particular poll doesn't deserve any weight -- the methodology's just junk. Some better polls are here.

No Travel Necessary

Somebody should have told this reporter he could have saved himself a lot of trouble by going to Connecticut to cover the Democratic Senate primary.

A Thousand Words

This shot of Rita Cosby and John Mark Karr perfectly captures the distasteful nature of today's tabloid media culture:

cosby-karr.jpg

(Photo: Jack Dempsey, Associated Press)

Cantwell Finds Her Antiwar Groove

Josh Feit writes in the Stranger this week that Maria Cantwell has finally found her footing with an antiwar message that sells:

On Saturday, August 19, at a Maria Cantwell rally just outside Vancouver, Washington, the U.S. Democratic senator scored the biggest cheers of the afternoon with her new and improved position on the war. "Changing the agenda means changing the course in Iraq," Senator Cantwell said, to a burst of applause. "The president says we can stay there for as long as it takes. I disagree. I say, 'Let's make sure... we start to bring our troops home at the end of this year.'"

Upon closer inspection, Feit finds that while Cantwell's "new and improved" position seems to be placating the antiwar base of the Democratic party in Washington, it's more of a rhetorical smoke-and-mirror job than a real substantive shift. Nevertheless, if Cantwell can succeed in bringing even a portion of these voters home before November it will be a solid boost to her campaign.

Right now, Cantwell's lead over Republican Mike McGavick stands at 9 points. That number is inflated a bit by a new SurveyUSA poll showing her with a 17-point lead. Three other polls released in the last two weeks show the race between 5 and 8 points. The first batch of polls after Labor Day will show exactly where this race stands. If Cantwell busts out to a double digit lead in the RCP average, the race is probably over. If McGavick can keep it close - meaning 5-7 points or better - with the debates and a bit of luck, he'll make it to election day with at least a chance of scoring an upset.

Goodbye Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman

The accursed NY Times firewall hides a very interesting column by John Tierney this morning, reporting on the mood at a recent libertarian conference in Amsterdam (where else?) sponsored by Reason Magazine (who else?). Tierney writes:

I have bad news for the G.O.P. regarding that promising new bloc of voters, the South Park Republicans. It turns out they're not Republicans, at least not anymore. [snip]

The G.O.P. used to have a sizable libertarian bloc, but I couldn't see any sign of it at the conference. [Matt] Stone and [Trey] Parker [the creators of South Park] said they were rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2008 simply because it would be weird to have her as president. The prevailing sentiment among the rest of the libertarians was that the best outcome this November would be a Democratic majority in the House, because then at least there'd be gridlock.

"We're the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience," said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. "Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we'll stick around for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People."

This is definitely a warning sign for the GOP, and yet another reason why Republicans are struggling this year. I'll try to come back with more on this later, and I'm sure Ryan Sager will have something to say about Tierney's column as well, given that he's one of the aforementioned disgruntled libertarians and has already taken a look at the size, scope, and potential damage caused to the GOP by massive libertarian defections.

August 28, 2006

The Pander Defense

Explaining her recent, odd, and disturbing comments about the separation of church and state (and how it is a "myth"), Katherine Harris has offered a wonderful explanation:

"My comments were specifically directed toward a Christian group," said Harris, a Republican senate candidate from Longboat Key.

C'mon! I was just pandering!

Allen-Webb: A Dead Heat

In Virginia, in the wake of Macaca-gate, Sen. George Allen and his Democratic challenger, James Webb, are now in a dead heat. This is a departure from Allen's consistent lead previously.

In related news, Giuliani will be at a fundraiser for Allen on Wednesday. Standing behind Sen. Macaca right now is, despite it all, probably a fairly safe choice and a decent way to stay on the "right" side of the conservative base.

The Great Dem Purge - Part II

And so it begins. Matt Stoller of MyDD leads the nutroot charge against Rahm Emanuel:

I've noted on multiple occasions the whiny tendencies of Rahm Emanuel. Rather than running on a progressive winning set of messeages [sic], Rahm has decided that primping before the press as 'Rahmbo' while whining about progressives will give him a win-win. If we win the house, he's a hero. If we lose the House, it's because of bloggers/Al Sharpton/Lamont/ Moveon/Soros/Pelosi. [snip]

And I hear a lot that even though progressives don't agree with him, he's at least a strategist. Let me just say that no he is not. Party strategists do not scream at major donors in public to journalists, because if they do then they create a disincentive for participation. Party strategists do not attack progressives in a progressive year and create policy platforms that immediately discount Democratic ability to accomplish anything. Party strategists do not race-bait against African-American leaders. Party strategists force candidates to do a good job, not to hire the right consultants. Party strategists do not call a right-wing Independent that needs Republican votes to win in Connecticut a 'Democrat'.

Rahm Emanuel is not a party strategist. He is an extremist ideologue, a Bourbon Democrat, and he will be a huge problem for progressives moving forward. Progressives would do well to develop our own set of strategic coordinators, rather than thinking that someone like Rahm Emanuel is at this point anything but destructive and selfish.

Excuse me while I wipe down my computer keyboard. I spit Diet Coke all over it after reading Stoller, of all people, fingering Rahm Emanuel an "extremist ideologue." This is the sort of stuff that should scare sensible Democrats out of their minds. Rahm is a centrist. He's a Clintonite. Six years ago years ago that wasn't a sin. Now to a growing portion of the party, it's grounds for excommunication. Apparently, unless you've taken a heavy pull from the nutroot Kool-Aid, you're not welcome or wanted.

Rahm may be arrogant, abrasive and heavy-handed in his tactics, but he also happens to be pretty darn good at his job, which is recruiting candidates, raising money, and putting together a solid message and ground game. He's doing his best to keep Democrats enough in the middle of the road to win in November, and folks like Stoller would do a lot better to listen to him than fragging him and trying to run him out of town.

Harwood Follows the Money

The WSJ's John Harwood on election spending trends so far this season. For more, bookmark the RCP Resource Center, updated frequently with election-related transcripts and video.

Santorum's Bushism on Islamic Fascism

Two weeks ago President Bush was "widely criticized by Muslim leaders Thursday for saying that the breakup of an alleged plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean was a triumph in the 'war against Islamic fascists.'

It is, therefore, hardly a coincidence that Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum used the same formulation in a speech today. The Associated Press reports:

HARRISBURG, Pa. - U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum on Monday drew parallels between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries.

"Were the Japanese imperialists with their mind-set and their ideology the same as the Nazis? Obviously not. Were they same at [sic] the fascists in Italy? Obviously not. But they were still a common enemy," the Republican told about 250 people at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon.

Interesting. Maybe this guy really knows what he's talking about. And, to a lesser degree, this guy as well.

For more, visit the RCP Election '06 Page for the PA Senate Race.

McCain Transformation Watch

Sen. John McCain now says he would consider speaking at Bob Jones University.

Plame It on the Rain

James Taranto sums up the end of the Plame affair here.

This is really looking like the most stunning humiliation for the anti-Bush Left in ... well, ever.

Political Video of the Day

Behold the religion of peace, as the now-released Fox News journalists convert to Islam at gunpoint ...

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Derb on Sullivan

Over at The Corner, noted homophobe (before you send angry emails, realize he wouldn't object to this characterization!) John Derbyshire gives a brief review of Andrew Sullivan's new book.

Despite references to "Sullivan's fundamental hedonism" and "the perennial present-centeredness of those who don't intend to reproduce themselves," it's worth a read just for the fact that -- despite it all -- these two Brits have fundamentally similar ideas about what's wrong with the GOP and how conservatism should be understood.

War on Wal-Mart

The Democrats' campaign against Wal-Mart seems to be in the news a lot in the last few days. So, if you're new to the issue, and want to understand the politics behind it, definitely check out this segment from the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Report:

Gigot: Democrats are picking another fight with business. At least a half dozen of the party's presidential contenders have appeared at protests across the country this summer, denouncing the retail giant Wal-Mart for what they say are substandard wages and health-care benefits. It's a rallying cry many Democrats believe will prove powerful in the midterm elections. But could it backfire?

Kim, explain this to me. This is a company that employs something like 1.3 million Americans; 127 million Americans shop there at Wal-Mart during the week. Yet Democrats think this is terrific politics. Why?

Strassel: I don't think it's terrific politics with the general public or the people who work at Wal-Mart. What it is, is it's meant to suck up to the unions who are powerful in elections. And this is a union issue. This hasn't been talked about enough in the Wal-Mart campaign. What you have here are unions that are very unhappy. They have never been able to organize the largest employer in the country. But more importantly, Wal-Mart's success, its phenomenal low-cost structure, is putting a lot of pressure on their own employers. And that is causing lost jobs, fewer stores, shutdowns. And so, what you have here are unions, who are now trying through laws, like these Wal-Mart laws you've seen around the country, and through political pressure, to force Wal-Mart to actually have to take on the high cost structure that their own employers have.

Gigot: Just so people understand this union issue. You're talking about Wal-Mart entering, now, the grocery store business, which is very heavily unionized at Kroger, Safeway, Jewel, companies like that. And they have a relatively high cost structure, so when Wal-Mart goes in, they undercut the prices. That's one reason they can charge lower prices. And these unions are upset because they hurt the employment at Kroger and Safeway.

Strassel: That's absolutely right. And it's retailers, too. There are retailers who are unionized, and Wal-Mart is not.

Henninger: Another point to keep in mind here. They have singled out Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart is not an absolutely unique company in the United States. Their earnings come in--their profit margin was about 3.7% last year. Their share price in mid-2003 was $57; it's down to $43 now. They need to increase those margins. They operate on a thin supermarket-like margin. And if they were to do all of the things the Democrats are urging them to do, they'd be wiped out. They'd go out of business. And it's no different whether you're a Wal-Mart or Target or Costco or any other big corporation.

Riley: And I think the grocery-store point is very important here, because it reveals the other agenda here. One agenda is unionizing Wal-Mart. But if you look at the unions driving this anti-Wal-Mart campaign--the United Food Workers and the Service Employees Unions--these are not manufacturing unions. These are grocery-store workers. And their separate agenda, aside from just organizing Wal-Mart, is to stop Wal-Mart from opening more grocery stores. Period. So there are a couple agendas going on here.

My general sense is that this is ridiculously bad politics for the Democrats. The people who hate Wal-Mart already vote Democratic -- that is, urban elitists who've never been inside the store and staunch union members who can't compete with the store. The people who shop at Wal-Mart and like the bargains, on the other hand, are up for grabs. And this will only push them toward the Republicans.

Once again, special-interest politics is leading the Democrats down the wrong road.

'the whole premise of the party'

"If we can't win in this environment, we have to question the whole premise of the party."
-- James Carville, quoted by Al Hunt

There's a lot to be said for this. If they can't make it here, they can't make it ... anywhere.

Obama: Anything There?

I agree with Tom that Obama's gesture was quite something. Obviously it's part political theater, but that's a big part of what leadership is: political theater by another name.

I have to admit that I've been as impressed as anyone with Obama as an orator and retail politician. He has an appealing plain-spokenness and real charisma.

At the same time, what troubles me about him isn't just his lack of experience (though there is that), but that when you scratch the surface, there's not much there other than very traditional Democratic pabulum. He's in a position where he could be taking a real lead on an issue like, say, school choice. It's a tremendous boon to the African-American community, but the Democrats are locked in a chokehold by the teachers unions. Obama could step up to the plate and change the politics of this issue in a meaningful way that would benefit millions of minority and low-income children. Yet, he takes a pretty standard Democratic line on education.

Now, the simplest explanation here is that he basically believes the standard Democratic line on most issues. And, well, that would make sense. He's a Democrat. But if he doesn't have anything unique to say, then he's just the same-old-same-old in a more appealing wrapper. And I don't think that will take him very far.

So, I think conservatives have to respect Obama's skills, even if they find nothing on which to agree with him. But unless Obama finds some substantive way to appeal to voters right-of-center, his skills will probably end up in service to a once-bright, but ultimately failed political career.

Free Speech and Its Discontents

Make sure to check out Bob Bauer on the "alarmingly ambiguous" relationship between modern "progressives" and free speech.

Gauging the '06 Wind

Al Hunt writes the most bullish Election '06 analysis for the Dems to date:

Barring an unexpected and big event, Democrats will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November and conceivably the Senate, too. Whether it's a tsunami or just a powerful wave, the political dynamics are moving in that direction, or more accurately, against the Republicans and President George W. Bush.

Democratic insiders, who months ago thought their chances of winning a majority in the House were no better than even, and that the Senate was a lost cause, have become far more optimistic. Now, they say, winning the House is a lock, and the Senate is within reach.

Michael Barone obviously doesn't see it that way. His column today suggests that recent terror-related events have created a possible "change in the wind" for Republicans this November.

My own opinion is that the political dynamics remain poor for Republicans this November, but it's way too early to suggest, as Hunt does regurgitating on behalf of Democratic strategists, that "winning the House is a lock." It's not even Labor Day. To say Dems have a lock on winning House at this point would be like declaring the game over at halftime. Sixty days is an eternity in politics, especially when people are just on the verge of starting to pay attention to what's going on.

The Republicans could very well end up losing the House. But anyone who says they know that for certain at this point in the cycle is either lying or just spinning for effect. Indeed, Hunt's piece seems almost perfectly constructed to convey an "air of inevitability" to the election, and to preemptively start managing perceptions about the outcome in November.

Tribune Reporter Jailed

Another story in the local paper that deserves national attention: Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Paul Salopek has been jailed in the Sudan and accused of being a spy.

Obama's Travels

Senator Barack Obama's trip to Africa is getting a lot of coverage, especially in the local press (no surprise there). Lynn Sweet is traveling with Obama and keeping a blog for the Chicago Sun-Times. Jeff Zeleny is doing the same for the Chicago Tribune.

If you've followed the trip at all you know that Obama's reception in Africa (Kenya in particular) has bordered on reverential. I was particularly impressed by Obama's decision to publicly take an AIDS test on Saturday to raise awareness of the issue and to help break down some of the social taboos that still exist regarding AIDS in Africa. Give Obama credit for making a smart, meaningful gesture - and one he certainly didn't have to make.

Ruby on Rails

The Chicago Tribune has an interesting profile of David Heinemeier Hansson, dubbed the hottest computer programmer on earth after developing the revolutionary new software tool, Ruby on Rails.

The New Ward Churchill

Meet William Woodward, the new Ward Churchill:

A tenured professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire believes an "elite" group within the federal government orchestrated the September 11th attacks on America.

William Woodward has already raised that possibility in his classroom and later this year hopes to teach a class that would explore Sept. 11th "in psychological terms -- terms like belief, conspiracy, fear, truth, courage, group dynamics."

Not surprisingly, Woodward's remarks are not going over well with folks in New Hampshire.

The Forgotten War

Michael Totten reports on Israel's other rocket war - the one with Gaza. I thought this piece of dialogue between Totten and his guide was interesting:

"How many rockets are hitting the city right now?" I said.

"Not as many today," he said. "Because of the war in Lebanon."

"What does Lebanon have to do with it?" I said.

"All the journalists forgot about us during the Lebanon war. So the terrorists are waiting for the media to come back before firing rockets again. They don't want to waste those they have."

"That can't be the only reason," I said. "The IDF has been active in Gaza this entire time. Surely that has something to do with it."

"Yes," he said. "Also because of the IDF."

Later two more Israelis repeated what Shika said about Hamas and Islamic Jihad cooling their rocket launchers while the media's attention was elsewhere. I haven't heard any official confirmation from either side that it's true.

On one hand, this makes no sense. Why would Hamas and Islamic Jihad want the world media to focus on them launching rockets into Israel and killing innocent civilians? You'd think that would hurt their cause and that it would be more beneficial to them to be able to get away with attacking Israel without the media paying any attention.

But then it occurred to me why it might make sense after all: Hamas and Islamic Jihad may be waiting for the media, not to report on their attacks but to catalogue the inevitable carnage generated by Israel's response. They need the cameras to focus on the burned out car hit by an IDF missile strike, the chanting of the angry Palestinian mob, and the howls of grief of family members - images we've all grown so accustomed to now they're as predictable as clockwork. In other words, Hamas's missiles don't serve a military purpose so much as they serve as part of the public relations war against Israel.

The Spitzer Juggernaut Hits a Bump

Jacob Gershman of the New York Sun runs down the details on Elliot Spitzer's questionable use of a private jet.

This Just In...

Krugman blames Bush for pace of Katrina reconstruction. Next week, Krugman will blame Bush for failing to have the World Trade Centers rebuilt, and also for Pluto being stripped of its status as a planet.

The Police State Canard

Richardson Lynn, the Dean of the John Marshall Law School, takes Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to task for saying that ""We've got to have a legal system that lets us . . . prevent things from happening rather than . . . reacting after the fact." Lynn responds:

No, actually, we don't.

There are countries with such a legal system, and we would not want to live in any of them: Syria, Iran, North Korea -- name your favorite axis of evil.

The only kind of legal system that could "prevent things from happening" requires a highly intrusive program of government surveillance of all communications (e-mail, letters and phone calls) and financial transactions of private citizens, incentives for people to spy on neighbors or family members, and lifting all restraints on interrogation and investigation of suspects.

If you don't have all three, it won't work. If Chertoff is willing to preserve some features of an open society in Patriot Acts II-IV, the new legal system will not prevent all things from happening. [snip]

The horror of losing friends and loved ones in the inexplicable violence of terrorism is surely one of our deepest fears. But someone has to say: There are worse things.

The politician who says that restrictions on liberty are justified "if even one life is saved" cannot be taken seriously. We constantly make public policy decisions by carefully balancing risk in favor of the greater good. On balance, the slight risk of massive loss through a successful attack is outweighed by the freedoms that are our natural right. It is entirely rational to accept some level of terrorism, crime or disorder rather than live in a police state that claims to guarantee perfect safety.

Lynn's basic argument about respecting civil liberties is fine, so far as it goes, but his beef against Chertoff is vastly overblown and it's is tinged with the type of purist civil libertarian claptrap that infuriates me. America is not now, nor will it ever be a "police state." Nor have our personal freedoms been diminished in any significant way since 9/11.

What we have tried to do, in the wake of watching 3,000 of our innocent fellow citizens incinerated before our very eyes five years ago, is to try and find ways of protecting ourselves against foreign and domestic terrorist threats. It seems to me we've done so with a great deal of respect and attention to civil liberties - even though the process has been awkward and clumsy at times. Our first reaction was a swift dose of common-sense: tear down the wall between intelligence agencies and let them communicate, and give them the same tools to track terrorists that they currently have to track mobsters and drug dealers.

But, yes, we also eventually ended up with a dorky, color-coded alert system that means virtually nothing to the average American and thousands more government employees who stand around at airports offering little additional protection. And, out of a respect for civil libertires - or more accurately the perception of civil liberties in America - we've been unable to bring ourselves to profile the rather well-defined group of people who constitute the greatest potential threat (statistically speaking) to our free society.

I think John mentioned this a while back, but it's worth repeating again: Civil libertarians who've been berating the President and bemoaning the relatively mild measures that have been taken to protect the country over the last five years are going to find themselves in a very tough spot if the country suffers another devastating attack.

Let's hope Dean Lynn remembers to teach his students that while it's absolutely right to cherish and defend civil liberties, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Our Worst Former President, Again - Jed Babbin

Jimmy Carter is at it again. It was only about two weeks ago when the former president said, in an interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel, that Israel was unjustified in attacking Lebanon. Now, speaking to the British Daily Telegraph, he's condemning British PM Tony Blair for being too compliant and subservient to President Bush.

The Der Spiegel interview was, itself, a comprehensive view of Mr. Carter's view of the Middle East and the war on terror. Flacking his new book, Carter was asked whether he believed that the hatred of the US throughout the Arab world he stated in his book indicated that Washington's calls for democracy in the Middle East had been discredited. The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate answered, "No, as a matter of fact, the concerns I exposed have gotten even worse now with the United States supporting and encouraging Israel in its unjustified attack on Lebanon."

That was too much for the interviewer who followed up by asking, "But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?" Carter was undeterred. "I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for the massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon." Carter added later that he believed he spoke for the vast majority of Democrats. Now the UK Sunday Telegraph brings Carter's wisdom to Britain.

The Telegraph article begins, "Tony Blair's lack of leadership and timid subservience to George W Bush lie behind the ongoing crisis in Iraq and the worldwide threat of terrorism, according to the former American president Jimmy Carter." Carter begins by expressing surprise and "extreme disappointment" at Blair's behavior. And it gets worse. Carter blames Blair for what he believes to be a disaster in the Middle East resulting from a wrongheaded policy of pre-emptive war: "We now have a situation where America is so unpopular overseas that even in countries like Egypt and Jordan our approval ratings are less than five per cent. It's a shameful and pitiful state of affairs and I hold your British Prime Minister to be substantially responsible for being so compliant and subservient."

Carter's comments - as offensive as they are ill-timed - will hurt Blair badly. Blair is trying to hold on to office beyond the end of this year at a time when even the hapless Cameron Tories are catching up to him, and his own ministers are working determinedly to maneuver him out of office quickly. Blair - like him or not - has as clear an understanding of the global terror threat as anyone else in his nation or on the Continent. Any new Labor prime minister could easily withdraw British troops from Iraq suddenly, resulting in a substantially weaker coalition presence there at a critical time. That appears to be just what Carter has in mind.

August 26, 2006

October Surprise Comes Early For Laffey

Laffey Says He Regrets Writing Anti-gay Columns in College" - Boston Globe

Check out the RCP 2006 Election page for more on the Rhode Island Senate race.

Moving on the War

Earlier this week John McCain made news for criticizing the war effort. Now he's making news by stressing support for it.

Embattled Republican Congressman Chris Shays is now calling to set a "timetable for the withdrawal" of U.S. troops and Joe Lieberman says he's willing to "take a look" at Shays' proposal.

Ironically enough, all of this is happening just as we're seeing improvement in the security situation in Baghdad. Columnist David Ignatius, no huge fan of the Bush administration's management of the war, recognized the progress in a column filed from Baghdad Thursday. In tomorrow's Washington Post, Ignatius files another column from Iraq in which he writes "We don't need radical new plans for federalism, or sharp deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops, as anxious members of Congress have recently recommended."

Ignatius argues we should set deadlines for the transition to Iraqi control buttressed with local incentives for success and penalities for failure. To accomplish a successful transition, Ignatius says that "Americans need a little more patience and Iraqis a little less."

The Harris Horror Show Continues

Katherine Harris' Senate campaign in Florida continues to operate somewhere between a soap opera and a really bad television reality show. This week Ms. Harris suffered yet another gaffe after a rally in a hangar at the Orlando airport turned up only 40 people. Ms. Harris explained the poor attendance by saying there had been a last-minute change of venue after a tree had fallen on the original building, but airport officials said no such accident occurred and that Ms. Harris was in the hangar originally booked by her campaign.

Shortly after the event, Ms. Harris parted company with her political director, yet another name added to an already embarrassingly long list of high-level staff defections. Ms. Harris is now working with her fourth campaign manager and third communications director since the campaign began last year.

Despite the constant chaos and ridicule surrounding Ms. Harris, a new poll shows that she continues to hold more than a two-to-one advantage over her nearest primary opponent. But that opponent, retired two-star Admiral LeRoy Collins, has picked up 12 percentage points in the last six weeks, along with endorsements from five of the major papers in the state. With only eleven days left before the primary, however, Admiral Collins' surge will probably come up short, in which case the Harris Horror show will extend its run through November 7 before being cancelled permanently by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

All in all a very disappointing result for the GOP in a Republican-leaning state with a Democratic incumbent who was once high on their list of potential targets.

August 25, 2006

In Other Mike Huckabee News ...

Mike Huckabee: Big-Government Conservative.

Political Video of the Day

From The Hotline, here's Arkansas governor, and possible '08 GOP presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee playing bass in a cover band -- with amusing pop-up commentary:

(via Wonkette)

Hillary and Ned

Clinton meets with Ned Lamont (Hillary, that is).

Another '08 Straw Poll

GOP Bloggers is doing another '08 straw poll. You can vote below.

George Allen: Jewish?

According to New York's Jewish Forward, Sen. George Allen is: Jewish.

According to Forward columnist Eve Kessler:

This might complicate life for Allen, a practicing Episcopalian who besides running for re-election this year in Virginia is often mentioned as a possible Republican 2008 contender. Political analyst John Mercurio of National Journal's noted tip sheet, The Hotline, said that any complication "would depend largely on how this information was revealed."

"If it was discovered that Allen knew this family history, but attempted to keep it under wraps for whatever reason, it could do great harm to any political campaign," Mercurio wrote in an e-mail. "He'd face serious questions, in the wake of the Macaca incident and his history with the Confederate flag, of whether he's both racially prejudiced and anti-semitic. Given the intensely pro-Israel sentiment that exists in this country today, that could be a huge political liability -- but on the other hand, if this is something he discovers and promptly reveals about himself, and does so with a sense of pride in his family history, I don't think he'd face much backlash at all."

I think Allen's '08 campaign is pretty much over no matter what. But, as Kessler goes into, he wouldn't be the first politician to suddenly "discover" his Jewish heritage.

The 'Hole' in Nagin's Head

As offensive as Mayor Nagin's "hole in the ground" comment is in its phrasing, let me chime in with a note of not-really defense as a New Yorker: It is appalling that New York City is still left with an open wound approaching the five-year anniversary of 9/11.

The failure of the New York City and state governments to get their act together on rebuilding Ground Zero has been a governmental failure approaching the level of incompetence shown by Nagin in New Orleans (if not quite matching it). And the blame falls squarely on one man's shoulders: Gov. George Pataki. Now, Mayor Bloomberg hasn't covered himself in glory in all of this -- his obsession with other development projects around the city (such as trying to land the Olympics) has diverted attention from Ground Zero. But it is the governor who holds real power in New York state, and Pataki's incompetence and sheer laziness have led to a deadlock that still has no end in sight.

His performance at Ground Zero alone disqualifies Pataki from the presidency (if he really harbors any such delusions). Eliot Spitzer will have his shot at fixing this mess starting next year. Let's all hope he does better.

The Duke Lacrosse Files

So, District Attorney Mike Nifong leaked all 1,850 pages of evidence in the Duke Lacrosse rape case to the New York Times in hopes of countering the public perception that the whole thing is a sham and a textbook example of prosecutorial abuse. Duff Wilson and Jonathan Glater only partly oblige, producing a lengthy and detailed account that, while certainly promoting aspects of the case that are favorable to the prosecution, still contains a whole lot of question marks and red flags about the accuser's story and, most importantly, about the way this case has been prosecuted.

Perhaps the biggest question raised by the story is the source for much of what appears in the article itself: 33 pages of typed notes and 3 pages of handwritten notes by Sergeant Mark D. Gottlieb. Defense lawyers say Gottlieb initially told them he "took few handwritten notes" on the case, so they were surprised to receive 33 pages of typed notes from him with details addressing specific problem areas of the prosecution's case in a final disclosure of documents made to the defense four months after the rape allegedly took place. Wilson and Glater write:

The sergeant's notes are drawing intense scrutiny from defense lawyers both because they appear to strengthen Mr. Nifong's case and because they were not turned over by the prosecution until after the defense had made much of the gaps in the earlier evidence.

Joseph B. Cheshire, a lawyer for David Evans, one of the defendants, called Sergeant Gottlieb's report a "make-up document." [snip]

Mr. Cheshire said the sergeant's report was "transparently written to try to make up for holes in the prosecution's case." He added, "It smacks of almost desperation."

Even beyond the issue of Gottlieb's notes, there are so many interesting tidbits and angles in the article you should really sift through it all yourself. But here are two things that really jumped out at me. First, here is how Wilson and Glater report the initial police search of the house on North Buchanan street:

Mr. Evans and the two other team captains who shared the house were there. Police reports say they cooperated fully. Not only had there been no rape, they said, there had been no sex at all. They talked for hours without lawyers, gave DNA samples and offered to take polygraph tests. The officers declined the polygraph offer because, they said, DNA evidence would solve the case.

Initial reactions often say quite a bit, and if the police report is accurate - and we have no reason to believe it's not - it would appear to describe the actions of three innocent people. David Evans is among one of the three charged in the case, so it seems implausible, to say the least, that he would sit down and talk with police for hours without a lawyer present and offer up a DNA sample (later requested by the prosecution and eventually coming back negative) were he guilty of raping someone just a day prior.

The other bit that struck me was Nifong's refusal to meet with Reade Seligmann's attorney to hear evidence of his alibi:

In mid-April, the defense lawyers tried repeatedly to meet with the district attorney to share what they describe as evidence favorable to their clients. He rebuffed them, they say.

Mr. Nifong met with three of the lawyers on April 13 but cut them off when they talked about exculpatory evidence, saying he knew more about the case than they did, according to James D. Williams Jr., who represents a player who was not charged.

Mr. Osborn says he offered to show Mr. Nifong proof of a solid alibi for Mr. Seligmann. That includes cellphone records, an A.T.M. record, a time-coded dormitory entry card and a taxi driver's account. Time-stamped photos show that the women were dancing at the party until 12:04 a.m. According to his cellphone bill, between 12:05 and 12:13, Mr. Seligmann made eight brief calls, of 36 seconds or less, six of them to his girlfriend's number, and then phoned a taxi at 12:14 a.m. and left the party shortly after.

Mr. Nifong has never explained his refusal to meet with the lawyers or review their evidence.

"I've known the guy for 25 years," Mr. Osborn said in mid-April. "I went over and thought surely he'd listen to me on it. And he sent some messenger out and said, 'I saw you on the TV saying your client was absolutely innocent, so what do we have to talk about?' He wouldn't even see me himself."

The timeline seems to indicate Nifong was hell bent on delivering indictments. After three weeks and three different sessions, the accuser finally made identifications on April 4. On April 10, Nifong turned over the results of DNA tests to the defense showing that not a single match had been found. On April 13, he rebuffed defense attorneys' attempts to provide exculpatory evidence, including what appears to be an air tight alibi for Seligmann. Five days later, on April 18, Nifong indicted Finnerty and Seligmann (it took another month to indict Evans, on May 15). All of this was occurring while Nifong was running for reelection in a primary that took place on Tuesday, May 2.

Mayor Nagin's "Hole in the Ground"

The next few weeks will see a furious struggle to frame two important anniversaries, with the media spinning in overdrive to play up the importance of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and at the same time to downplay the significance of the five-year anniversary of September 11. The reasons are simple: Katrina helps Democrats, 9/11 helps President Bush and the GOP.

60 Minutes is already getting geared up, but Mayor Ray "Chocolate City" Nagin didn't help his cause - or the MSM's - with his quip to CBS's Byron Pitts that, "You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed....."

That's nice. Let me give a little piece of unsolicited PR advice to Mayor Nagin: comments like that will quickly have the country siding 95% with New York and against New Orleans.

I get pissed just thinking about Nagin contemptuously describing the ground where Islamist's attacked and murdered over 2,500 Americans as simply "A hole in the ground."

I'd love to see a full scale, accurate and honest documentary covering the entire Katrina crisis period of Mayor Nagin and the New Orleans city government and compare that to Mayor Giuliani and New York City's response to 9/11.

The press can continue its crusade against George W. Bush (and there is no question the Federal government made mistakes in their handling of Katrina), but as more and more of the truth comes out, the historical facts are going to prove that to the degree someone, or government, is to "blame" for this natural disaster, a large part of the responsibility falls on Nagin and the City of New Orleans.

UPDATE: To prepare for the media onslaught that is coming, it's worth reading (or rereading) Lou Dolinar's piece for RealClearPolitics in May that tries to take a look at what really happened with the some of the state and federal governments response to Katrina, as opposed to the media's overarching theme that George W. Bush was either incompetent, didn't care, or both.

How Big Will Immigration Be in November?

Some hints to the answer can be found in the Christian Science Monitor , the Arizona Republic, and the Boston Globe.

McGavick's Confession

Mike McGavick has taken the unusual step of posting an open letter on his blog in which he preemptively confronts a number of mistakes in his personal and professional life, including a 1993 DUI charge. McGavick writes:

I know that the character attacks against me will not stop. So, how about I just tell you directly the very worst and most embarrassing things in my life for you to know, and then I will get back to talking about how much the U.S. Senate needs a new direction.

Here it is: I have lots of faults, and I have made some mistakes that I deeply regret.

In my personal life I reflect on two great failures:

Most important, my first marriage ended in divorce, and as a result my eldest son, Jack, grew up with me as a "part-time" dad.

Those who have gone through a divorce know the pain and special challenges of raising a child under such circumstances. I am happy to report that my former wife, Kim Rainey, and I did a good job of staying focused on Jack's well-being and parented successfully (thus far!). Admittedly, Kim carried the lion's share of the burden (as so many moms do), but she was a great help in assuring that I would have a constant role in Jack's life. Jack is now 18, off to college, and is a kind and well-rounded young adult. I am especially pleased by how my younger sons look up to their big brother Jack, an environment fostered by my wife Gaelynn.

The second terrible mistake, which was difficult to discuss with my teenage son, was that I was cited for DUI when I cut a yellow light too close in 1993. I was driving Gaelynn home from several celebrations honoring our new relationship and should not have gotten behind the wheel. Thankfully, there was no accident, but it still haunts me that I put other people at risk by driving while impaired. All in all, it was and remains a humbling and powerful event in my life.

McGavick also discussed the DUI in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday. The Seattle Times reports that, "McGavick told The Associated Press that he blew .17 percent on the blood-alcohol meter -- well above Maryland's legal intoxication threshold."

McGavick ruined the confessional mood by declaring that the disclosure wasn't a "campaign tactic." It clearly was a tactic - and probably a very smart one at that. In 2000, we saw what hiding a DUI can do when it's revealed days before election day. By getting it out in the open (on a Friday at the end of August, no less) with more than two months left before the vote, it essentially becomes a non-issue for McGavick and strips his opponent of a potential October Surprise.

The only way this can hurt McGavick is if there is something else in his background that turns up between now and November 7. Then, having gone out of his way to confess to voters "the worst and most embarrassing moments" of his life, McGavick would look doubly bad - and he would pay for it dearly at the polls. But as things stand, this is a very shrewd political move and another example of why McGavick is such a formidable challenger to Cantwell in Washington state.

(For more on the Washington Senate race, visit the RCP Election 2006 Page).

August 24, 2006

Bloomberg '08

New York's Mayor Bloomberg says no to a presidential run.

Good choice.

The Religion Problem

Pew has just put out its yearly survey on religion and public life. No surprise, the Democrats have a religion problem. According to the report: "Fully 69% of Americans say that liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of schools and government."

It adds, however: "The proportion who express reservations about attempts by Christian conservatives to impose their religious values has edged up in the past year, with about half the public (49%) now expressing wariness about this." That includes 31 percent of Republicans who think conservative Christians go too far in imposing their religious values.

Forty-nine percent may still be a minority. But in a 50-50 political climate, and with the number seemingly on an upward trajectory, it's nothing at which to sneeze.

Political Video of the Day II

Lefties are up in arms over a series of ads being run by the Center for Union Facts (a conservative outfit opposed to unions -- particularly public-sector ones -- here's some info on them) in Michigan, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon, and on the Internet.

I'm not sure if the center is going to be effective, but its message is certainly the right one. While private sector unions have shrunk down practically to nothing, public-sector unions grow like a cancer in states like New York and California. If "cancer" seems an overly harsh metaphor, you don't live in the Empire State or have any stake in education reform.

The unions have immense political influence, and then they use that influence to make the laws more favorable to themselves, give themselves pay raises, get more political power, and then start the cycle all over again. There's no end in sight for the taxpayers, or for kids trapped in failing, decrepit public schools.

Anyway, here are some of the ads in question:

On teachers unions...

On so-called "card-check" organizing (designed to bully workers who don't want to organize a union -- the New York teachers unions are trying to foist this on non-unionized charter-school teachers)...

And here's one satirizing the benefits of unions generally...

OK, so it's really political videos II, III and IV.

Election 2006

For those who might have missed it, we've launched a bunch of new pages for the 2006 Election. As always, you can get a list of all the day's political news on our Politics & Elections page. We're now updating this page throughout the day as new politics stories become available, so be sure to check in throughout the day to get the latest.

We've also added two new definite bookmarks for poll junkies: The first is a new page aggregating Election 2006 polls by day, and the second is a page of RCP Averages for competitive '06 Senate races.

Last but not least, we've added individual Election 2006 pages for Senate contests in Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Virginia, and Connecticut.

Maryland and Tennessee will be up shortly, with competitive Governor and House races to follow shortly thereafter.

Big News

Also: This is big news for Mark Warner's campaign.

Mark Warner's Expensive Butter

Remember when Mark Warner spent $50,000 buttering up Kossacks out at their convention in Las Vegas?

Well, Byron York now reports the figure was closer to $70,000.

That, combined with the hiring of Kos buddy Jerome Armstrong certainly seems to have bought a lot of deference from the netroots to a classic, centrist, DLC Democrat.

Political Video of the Day

Speaking of the tightening Pennsylvania Senate race, here's Bob Casey touting "balanced budgets" -- a rhetorical gift the profligate GOP Congress has given every Democrat in America:

Of course, when he talks about "investing," that sounds an awful lot like spending (and taxing).

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Iowa Dems Pull Ahead

David Yepsen reports on an interesting development in Iowa:

Democrats have pulled ahead of Republicans in voter registrations in Iowa -- the first time that's happened since 1994, according to state registration records.

A year ago, the GOP still led the Democrats. This change is another signal that 2006 could be a bad year for the Republicans.

Yepsen goes on to speculate about reasons for the shift before concluding:

Yes, it's early. Yes, registration numbers are not predictors of election returns. Yes, candidates can stumble. So Democrats shouldn't start singing "Happy Days Are Here Again."

A quiet humming will do.

Incidentally, this reminds me of the plethora of stories we saw in 2004 on the surging number of Democratic registrations in swing states around the country. This September 26, 2004 article by Ford Fessenden of the New York Times is a perfect example of what I'm referring to:

A sweeping voter registration campaign in heavily Democratic areas has added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, a surge that has far exceeded the efforts of Republicans in both states, a review of registration data shows.

The analysis by The New York Times of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio - primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods - new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000. In comparison, new registrations have increased just 25 percent in Republican areas. A similar pattern is apparent in Florida: in the strongest Democratic areas, the pace of new registration is 60 percent higher than in 2000, while it has risen just 12 percent in the heaviest Republican areas.

We all know how that turned out. It should be noted, however, that Yepsen is working with real numbers in Iowa and not guestimates, so he may indeed have identified a trouble spot for GOP candidates in the Hawkeye state.

Danny Davis in Hot Water

From the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago congressman Danny Davis and an aide took a trip to Sri Lanka last year that was paid for by the Tamil Tigers, a group that the U.S. government has designated as a terrorist organization for its use of suicide bombers and child soldiers, law enforcement sources said.

Rove's Test

Julie Hirschfeld Davis pens a sharp profile of Karl Rove in today's Baltimore Sun:

Publicly optimistic, despite the threat of Republican losses this fall, the man Bush calls "the architect" is quietly dispensing advice, helping with strategic planning and raising money. His task includes some spine-stiffening for skittish candidates who worry that their support of the president, including backing for the war, could count against them at the polls.

Not so, says Rove, who has argued that Republicans will win based on a full-throated defense of the war and Bush.

Rove is a master at maximizing opportunities and playing offense, and the events of the past two weeks in Connecticut and London have emerged as a fat curveball hanging right over the '06 plate.

Interestingly, though Rove is known for the acuteness of his political antennae, he finds himself at odds with a number of Republicans over the issue of immigration:

Many Republicans have listened politely [to Rove on immigration], then gone their own way. Rove made two trips to Capitol Hill this year to rally support for the plan, only to draw responses ranging from tepid to derisive, attendees said.

"What you have is the chief political strategist in the White House being told by elected officials who are on the front lines [that] 'This is not working -- your strategy does not comport with what I'm seeing,' " said Michael Franc, a congressional specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Clearly Rove is promoting the President's policy, and it's impossible to know just how he would advise candidates to deal with immigration were he not working for the White House.

The important takeaway from the article, however, is that the renewed focus on national security and the war on terror is doubly beneficial for Republicans. Not only do these issues draw a sharp, mostly favorable contrast for the GOP this November, but they are the dominant, overriding concern of the vast majority of Republican voters. In other words, to the extent this election is focused on national security it will dampen and/or paper over fractures in the GOP on other issues like immigration and spending.

The Post's Priorities

George Allen's apology to S.R. Sidarth gets A1 treatment in today's Washington Post. Is it really one of the six most important stories in the world today, or does the Post have its priorities a bit out of whack?

Fearing Success

The New York Times editorial page is "deeply disturbed" by the pronouncement that welfare reform has been an "unqualified success."

Bush's Back

We haven't even posted on it, but conservatives are emailing me about this "stab in the back" from McCain to President Bush:

Republican Sen. John McCain, a staunch defender of the Iraq war, on Tuesday faulted the Bush administration for misleading Americans into believing the conflict would be "some kind of day at the beach."

The potential 2008 presidential candidate, who a day earlier had rejected calls for withdrawing U.S. forces, said the administration had failed to make clear the challenges facing the military.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

Those phrases are closely associated with top members of the Bush administration, including the president.

I think McCain is probably right on the substance here. The administration did under-sell the difficulties at times. But this also highlights one of the great political difficulties when it comes to McCain's '08 run (at least in the primaries): He can't distance himself from an unpopular president and an unpopular war without playing into the "McCain is disloyal" storyline. A lot of conservatives don't want "a repeat of Bush," so to speak, but any criticism -- however veiled -- from Sen. Maverick is going to be ill-taken.

Others (not just Rudy, but Mitt, and ... whoever else) can gently and indirectly criticize Bush without igniting a firestorm. McCain has to tread much more lightly.

August 23, 2006

Santorum: Too conservative? Or not conservative enough?

On OpinionJournal this morning, Jason Riley has a piece on the tightening Senate race in Pennsylvania. While Santorum likes to paint himself as a victim of the hostile media, Riley reminds conservatives that the senator largely made his own bed:

Santorum shares some of the blame for his current predicament. In 2004, he backed liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter for re-election over the conservative challenger Pat Toomey. Mr. Santorum was eyeing the majority leader post and thought his support for the incumbent would help him lure moderates votes in the GOP caucus. Two years later, however, his embrace of Mr. Specter has probably dampened enthusiasm among Mr. Santorum's conservative base, where turnout is a concern. Indeed, one of the questions Mr. Santorum faced at the town hall meeting was a sarcastic "What's it like working with Sen. Specter?"

Another arguable misstep was publishing a controversial book last year when he was sizing up a White House run. Mr. Santorum is a conservative Catholic, and his biggest political liability may be the perception that he's some kind of theocrat. Releasing a manifesto on how government can be used to propagate Christian moral values has only reinforced that negative image. And it's unlikely to help him with moderate Republican voters in those all-important collar counties of Philadelphia come November.

So, at once, Santorum has managed to be too conservative (on morals issues) and not conservative enough (in shunning a Club for Growth primary candidate). This sounds about right to me. Santorum -- love him or hate him -- is undoubtedly the poster-boy for a new strain of big-government conservatism that's making inroads in the GOP.

Let's just say I don't quite agree with Mr. Riley's concluding sentence. In fact, I think he's just about 180 degrees wrong on that particular point.

McCain Bags a Deaniac

Specifically, his Web guy.

McCain Bags Another Biggie

Time's Mike Allen has the scoop.

Political Video of the Day - II

Democrat Darcy Burner is challenging Republican Dave Reichert in Washington's 8th Congressional District. Here is Burner's latest ad:

The left is none too happy with Burner's effort. Matt Stoller of MyDD says the ad misses all the big targets. And Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake writes, "I'm quite sure most donors would be horrified to see their cash being pissed down a hole like this."

Allen Apologizes

The damage control continues for Senator Allen. He's now called S.R. Sidarth directly and apologized.

UPDATE: The DSCC has reprinted the text of an email by Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams.

UPDATE II: I'm a big fan of Ryan Lizza, but his piece at TNR today cataloging passages from Senator Allen's sister's book veers dangerously close to parody. Lizza informs us that he's "re-read the book and plucked out the most significant details about the senator," and then goes on to list this as his first example:

* George called me Ugly and I called George a Moron and George called me a Dog and I told George to Shut Up. (page 5)

How or why Lizza considers this a "significant detail" that is relevant to anything about the Senator's reelection or potential presidential aspirations is beyond me. As I said, if this isn't parody, it's awfully darn close, and you can understand why the Allen campaign feels like they're being mistreated by the press.

Iran Falls Short

Here's the State Department's terse response to Iran:

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696 made clear the conditions Iran must meet regarding its nuclear program.

Yesterday the Iranian government conveyed its response to the package of incentives provided on June 6 by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China. We acknowledge that Iran considers its response as a serious offer, and we will review it. The response, however, falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council, which require the full and verifiable suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

We are consulting closely, including with other members of the Security Council, on next steps.

Meanwhile, a report from the House Intelligence Committee released today says our intel on Iran is so spotty that it's questionable whether the U.S. "could effectively engage in talks with Tehran on ways to diffuse tensions."

Political Video of the Day

There's a reason people hate peace activists. And this is it:

It's better than some of the staged shots from Reuters in Lebanon, though!

(via Gawker)

As always, send in nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Polls Indicate Potential Shift in '06 Playing Field

The weekend after the Lamont win and the foiled airline terror plot I suggested that "last week was the first solid week for Republicans in some time. " Those two events were followed by last Thursday's ruling, by a Jimmy Carter-appointed judge in favor of the ACLU, against the Bush administration's NSA wiretapping program aimed at intercepting al-Qaeda communications from overseas.

In the first batch of polls (CNN, USA Today/Gallup, NYT/CBS, Rasmussen) taken after all three of these events, the RealClearPolitics Poll Average for President Bush's Job Approval has risen to 40.8%, while the RCP Generic Average has closed to single digits, Democrats +8.5%. This shouldn't be misconstrued as evidence that everything is great for the GOP heading into the fall elections, but it is the first time in almost six months both RCP Averages have crossed these respective levels (Bush over 40% and the Generic deficit less than 10%). This is significant, and it's not a coincidence that it comes on the back of these three high profile news events.

The Left-wing netroots crowd along with the NY Times is all atwitter about the latest polling suggesting the public's negativity toward the war in Iraq is at an all time high. The number one story on BuzzTracker for much of yesterday - with blog posts overwhelmingly from the Left - was a report on the CNN poll indicating opposition to the Iraq war was at an all time high. The NY Times' write-up this morning on the NYT/CBS poll focuses heavily on Iraq and is titled "Poll Shows a Shift in Opinion on Iraq War." However, as I mentioned following Lamont's win in Connecticut, political pundits and reporters make a mistake by conflating rising unrest toward the situation in Iraq with support for the Dean/Pelosi/Lamont position on Iraq. This is because a portion of the negativity on Iraq is frustration from conservatives that the U.S. has not been aggressive enough with its enemies in Iraq and elsewhere. These people upset with Iraq, are not MoveOn.org type voters.

So from a political standpoint, when looking at national polls, the numbers for the Generic Ballot and Bush's Job Approval are far more relevant in their implications for November's mid-terms than specific polling on Iraq. And to the degree the press focuses on Iraq-related polling and not the change in the President's Job Approval or the Republican vs. Democrat ballot test, they are potentially missing a shift in the political landscape. We will need to watch to see whether this bounce for President Bush and Republicans is just a temporary boost from terror-related news or a permanent and more sustained turn.

August 22, 2006

Rudy Leads in Iowa

Yes, I know, Rudy could never win the GOP primaries in '08.

That's why in a new poll Rudy "has drawn the support of 30 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers."

That's the lead, by the way, 13 points over McCain.

(via Giuliani Blog. If you're not reading it, you should be.)

Political Video of the Day

Harold Ford Jr. campaigning for Senate in Tennessee, ranting against globalization:

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Lamont vs. Lieberman: Tightening?

A new ARG poll seems to show a significant tightening of the Connecticut Senate race. It puts Lieberman ahead of Lamont by a statistically insignificant 44%-42% (with the pathetic Republican at 3%).

That would be a dramatic tightening only a week after a Q-Poll showed Lieberman ahead 53%-41%.

I don't buy it (nor do I hold ARG in high regard generally). But there it is.

UPDATE: Maybe the ARG isn't such great news for Lamont after all.

No Doomsday Yet - Larry Kudlow

Although there are still a few more hours left in the day, the Islamic doomsday scenario scheduled for today, August 22, appears not to be in place. Maybe the airplane bombing terrorist threat foiled by our British cousins at MI5 and Scotland Yard was aimed at the doomsday scenario. We will always be thankful for the Brits.

But the big Internet story in recent days was the potential significance of August 22nd as a possible target date for a massive terrorist attack commemorating the return of the 12th Imam; a supposed day of reckoning for Shiites who believe that August 22nd corresponds to the end of the world.

Stock market investors were wearily eyeing the top of yesterday's Drudge Report which featured this story. But veteran portfolio manager Mike Holland told us on Kudlow and Company last night that he didn't believe a word of it. Blessedly, Mr. Holland looks to have gotten it right.

Stocks have been rising in recent weeks on the strength of a stronger than expected American economy, where resilient consumers and highly profitable businesses are outperforming the doom & gloom, cacophonous, cult of the bear on Wall Street.

Within shouting distance of 5-year highs, the bull market economy and stocks, backed by President Bush's successful low tax rate program, continue to outperform the bearish consensus. It is the greatest story never told. It continues to dodge doomsday.

And then we have President Bush, under fire from both the left and the right, who very clearly communicated a strong positive vision for the upcoming congressional elections during yesterday's news conference. Bush is attempting to take command of the election year Republican strategy to avoid a doomsday scenario this November.

He said, "Look, issues are won based on whether or not you can keep this economy strong--elections are won based on economic issues and national security issues...I'd be telling people that the Democrats will raise your taxes...I'd be running on the economy and I'd be running on national security. But since I'm not running, I can only serve as an advisor to those who are."

The latest Gallup Poll shows Bush's approval now at 42 percent, up from 31 percent in May. But here's the real anti-doomsday shocker: among registered voters, the Republicans have closed a 12-point deficit on the generic congressional ballot in early last June to only 2 percentage points now, with the Dems at 47 percent and the Republicans at 45.

It may well be that the "Armageddon Imams" are actually helping the down on their luck GOP.

With terrorism on the front page, Democrats are losing ground rapidly, almost as much ground lost as the Boston Red Sox, who just got slammed for five straight games by the New York Yankees. Now that's doomsday.

As for the rest of this story, I say keep the faith. Faith is the spirit.

Public Financing: A Bust

Former FEC commissioner Brad Smith argues, rather convincingly, that the presidential public-financing system has not been a success by any measure -- despite the utterly unsupported claims by a number of columnists and reform advocates.

WSJ on Allen: 'a dismaying indifference'

Over at OpinionJournal, Brendan Miniter weighs in on George Allen:

Mr. Allen's problem is neither that he is a vicious campaigner nor that he is a modern-day George Wallace. Rather, it is that for more than two decades in state and federal office, he has displayed a dismaying indifference to his adoptive state's racial history. And it is this political tone-deafness that is now weighing down his political future with Southern baggage.

Read the whole thing.

Bush's Beliefs

Over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, guest blogger David Weigel of Reason magazine takes bemused notice of this post from National Review Online:

Bush has virtually never in his political career made a decision that he didn't think was the right thing to do and the right way to do it. Conservatives who are piling on the anti-Bush bandwagon should consider that this trait--which makes the Bush family historically great--is a historical rarity to be treasured. This administration would do well to be more concerned with its popularity -- the President and even Vice President should appear every week in press conferences and on the Sunday talk shows -- if only to strengthen the political viability of their agenda, and be able to shape the terms of debate. But it was not so long ago that Americans could only wish for a president who was obviously trustworthy, upstanding, and principled. And the day is not far off when we will think ourselves lucky to have seen this President defend the honor and integrity of his office--and the American people--for eight years.

As a fellow libertarian, let me give a slightly different take: I think the NRO poster, Mario Loyola, is right.

Small-government conservatives have many reasons to be unhappy with the Bush presidency, but that Bush hasn't done what he believes is right is distinctly not one of them. In fact, Bush has been remarkable for the number of times he's marched against the political wind: Social Security privatization, immigration liberalization and the continuation of the Iraq war are just a few examples.

Where he's gone against conservative principles is in areas where he simply doesn't have any conservative principles. For a man who came into office without a foreign policy, Bush is uniquely unengaged in domestic policy.

He sold-out small-government values on education in his first major bill as president because he really doesn't believe the government is the problem in public schools -- he thinks the federal government just needs to enforce stricter standards.

He gave free-market health-care reform short shrift and signed the Medicare prescription-drug bill because he didn't see anything particularly wrong with massively expanding the size of the welfare state.

He signed off on pork-filled highway and farm bills because reducing pork has never been a priority in his administration.

These aren't moral failings, or a failure to stand up for what he believes in. He simply doesn't believe in a number of principles that used to define conservatism.

(One act that was a moral failing, however -- where Bush knew he was doing wrong -- was signing McCain-Feingold. He admitted as much in his signing statement.)

Now, I would argue that Bush was fairly disingenuous in his 2000 presidential campaign, painting himself as a small-government conservative at crucial junctures (I go into this in my book). But, overall, I do believe Bush has shown a unique disregard for public opinion. And, yes, I think that's a positive trait.

Grassroots Partisanship

Bob Bauer takes a look at how the FEC might vote on proposed new rules to ease the campaign-finance laws' restrictions on issue advertising. He argues that campaign-finance regulation has become so complex and unwieldy that it's no longer sound to assume they'll break down along party lines.

In this case, that might actually be good news for freedom of speech.

Response on Rudy

Re: Tom's speculation --

Yes, I'm reading the Wayne Barrett book on Rudy and 9/11 right now. It's for a review, though, so no response until early next month.

Barrett's got an extreme chip on his shoulder regarding Rudy. Though, that doesn't mean he might not make some entirely credible points.

Pat's PR

Either Pat Buchanan has an unbelievable PR operation or these stories are just a really fortuitous coincidence for the launch of his new book on immigration.

By the way, if you're looking for a thoughtful, less apocalyptic take on the subject, I recommend Michael Barone's recently re-released book "The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again."

UPDATE: Speaking of coincidences, you can catch Barone discussing immigration, his new book, Pat Buchanan, and more on Pundit Review Radio.

UPDATE II: Britain faces some uncomfortable immigration realities as well.

Tracking Rudy

Rudy is traveling the country breaking out the checkbook for Republicans and downplaying his support for gay rights.

And in the NY Daily News, columnist Errol Louis reviews the new anti-Rudy book by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins and concludes that it's time to downgrade Rudy's status as a mythical hero of 9/11. I'm sure Sager's response is already in the works...

Sour on Santorum

The Washington Times offers a surprisingly downbeat look at Rick Santorum's battle for reelection. Charles Hurt runs down a list of problems plaguing Santorum's campaign, most notably the lingering bitterness among conservatives over Santorum's decision to support moderate Arlen Specter over conservative Pat Toomey in 2004:

"I still feel the knife in my back from that," Mr. Clift said. "We worked very hard for Pat Toomey. All [Mr. Santorum] had to do was keep his mouth shut, and we'd all be fat, dumb and happy supporting him right now. I won't lift a finger to help him."

In addition, he said, "I'm not pulling the Santorum lever this time. I'll write my own name in before I'll vote for him."

Although many conservatives told The Washington Times that they will not campaign for Mr. Santorum as actively as they would have otherwise, they'll still vote for him.

"There is no enthusiasm," said Tim Krieger, a lawyer in Westmoreland. "If you press Republicans, they say, 'Yeah, Santorum is better than Casey,' but they're not going to spend their Saturdays knocking on doors."

This race has narrowed considerably in the recent weeks. The Santorum campaign feels they'll be able to make up even more ground in the debates, and they've been pressing hard to get the two men on stage as many times as possible between now and November. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports today that Casey has agreed to four debates with Santorum, including a nationally televised match up on Meet the Press on September 3.

Primary Moves

Joe McQuaid of the New Hampshire Union-Leader rages against Democrats for changing their primary schedule:

NEW HAMPSHIRE means so little to the Democratic Party that it added crude insult to great injury to the Granite State over the weekend.

It not only confirmed its plan to ignore more than 50 years of tradition and grassroots people politics here. It ordered its 2008 Presidential candidates not to campaign here if we continue to protect our first-in-the-nation primary.

Secretary of State William Gardner had the right response to all this:

"It's insulting and disrespectful to the people of New Hampshire for Chairman Dean to threaten potential Presidential candidates if they dare to set foot on the soil in this state.''

It is also typical of the Number One Liar in the Democratic Party. For it was Howard Dean who claimed to want to protect our primary when he was campaigning here for his party's nomination in 2004.

Meanwhile, David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register says the primary shift may produce exactly the opposite effect the DNC intended with respect to Iowa:

If the purpose of the change was to diminish the significance of the Iowa caucuses, it failed. Packing so many events so closely after the Iowa events just makes Iowa more important. There is not enough time between these caucuses and primaries for a candidate to recover from a setback here -- or to slow the winner's momentum.

Yepsen goes on to speculate on the shifts that are bound to happen as New Hampshire looks at ways to preserve its status as the country's first primary.

August 21, 2006

Fallout From Macaca-Gate in Virginia

SurveyUSA has a new poll out tonight in Virginia that shows Allen's 19pt lead in their last poll dwindling to only 3pts in what can only be described as post Macaca fallout. This is on the back of a Rasmussen poll last week that showed a 5 pt race and tightening towards Webb. My position had been that Allen's remarks had done more damage to his '08 presidential run than his Senate reelection, but these polls certainly call that analysis in question.

Let's just say that I remain skeptical that this race has suddenly become a 3-5 point race because of the Macaca incident 10 days ago. The SurveyUSA poll indicates a 40 point swing among younger voters toward Webb which the size of in some ways defies common sense. Ten, fifteen, even twenty points sure, but a 40-point swing I don't buy. There is more analysis on the RCP Virginia Senate Page, but I would caution against drawing sweeping conclusions from these two polls.

Allen: 'no longer a real contender for the nomination'

That's not me speaking, it's Charlie Cook.

Funniest Line of the Day

I have to hand it to Kate O'Beirne:

"Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Mormon."

The London Plot: Real After All!

So, now that British authorities have charged 11 people and "uncovered large caches of bomb-making components as well as 'martyrdom' tapes of the type often prepared by Islamic suicide bombers before they attack," does Andrew Sullivan want to walk back his speculation last week that there was no London bomb plot or that it wasn't "imminent"?

I'm a Sullivan fan, which I know isn't fashionable in conservative circles these days. But Bush hatred can become pathological. (I should know: I take three separate medications every day to ward it off myself.)

While we don't know exactly what role torture-induced Pakistani intelligence played, I think even torture opponents have to have the intellectual honesty to admit that sometimes it works. There may be moral reasons not to torture, the intelligence may be less reliable than through other methods, but to pretend that everything's simple -- because, hey, who needs to argue about torture if it doesn't even work! -- is just intellectually dishonest.

It looks to me as if this plot was imminent by any reasonable definition -- i.e., it could have gone off within days or a week of the arrests -- and torture may have played a role in stopping it. I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise. But I don't think either scenario disproves or proves the usefulness of torture.

Political Video of the Day II

Here's a second one I can't resist: Sen. George Allen (of Macaca fame) doing a cameo years ago in the 2003 pro-Confederate film Gods and Generals (you can even see him listed on the IMDB page as a Confederate officer).

Remember: This guy's not even from the South.

Just what are the Southern rights Allen felt such a need to celebrate? (You can ask former Klansman Sen. Robert Byrd, also an extra in the movie, the same question.)

(via Sullivan guest bloggers)

UPDATE: Well, the hate-mail has flown on this one.

Two general categories:

1) Do I know the movie is based on a trilogy of books by Michael and Jeff Shaara (and that the 1993 film "Gettysburg" is based on another volume from the trilogy), which taken together are not generally considered pro-Confederate?

Well, I've not made a study of the film, but I'd read that and I've seen it on cable. Let's just say I think the film gives the Confederacy more sympathy than it is due while whitewashing the issue of slavery (the only two black characters with speaking parts are pro-Confederacy).

2) Is anyone who takes pride in their Southern heritage a racist, by my logic?

Well, here was my main point: GEORGE ALLEN DOES NOT HAVE A SOUTHERN HERITAGE! He grew up moving around the country following his father's coaching career; and his father was from the Midwest. His obsession with cultivating a Southern, good ol' boy image and embracing all things Confederate is, therefore, rather inexplicable and a little bit disturbing. And it certainly doesn't do his chances of winning the presidency any good.

Back to the question at hand, though: No. Having pride in one's Southern heritage is nothing shameful, in my view. Honorable men fought and died on both sides in the Civil War. But that heritage and that war can't be extricated from the moral crime of slavery.

I don't know if George Allen is a racist -- in fact, I think that's unknowable. Politically, however, he's got a race problem. It's of his own making. And this is one more piece of it.

Lamont and Tasini

After Lamont's (Pyrrhic) victory in Connecticut, why aren't the netroots trying to take a bite out of Hillary in her Democratic primary? They do, after all, despise her for her support of the war and general moderate makeover.

Well, I sat down last week with Hillary's Democratic challenger, union leader and organizer John Tasini, and he had a pretty simple answer: The netroots are afraid of Hillary:

"Many progressives fear confronting my opponent's machine - which does take names and does keep lists," Tasini told me over lunch in the West Village last week. "People are hedging their bets - Washington is a place that hinges on access." Otherwise, Tasini said, "Why take on Joe Lieberman and not Hillary Clinton?"

None of this bodes well for the netroots' chances to "stop Hillary" in 2008.

Political Video of the Day

There's been something of a war of words going on between Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John Kerry. Here's Kerry on a call-in show a few days ago accusing Lieberman of using Republican "scare tactics" and calling the Connecticut senator "a disgrace."

As always, send in nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Raise Taxes? - Larry Kudlow

Does the Congressional Budget Office truly believe that higher tax rates over the next ten years will expand economic growth and lower the budget deficit? This forecast of theirs simply defies economic common sense.

If that were the case, then why not raise tax rates across the board back to 70 percent, where Reagan found them, or even 91 percent, where JFK inherited them?

If it pays less to work and invest, after tax, as implied by the CBO, does anyone really believe people would work harder?

Over then next ten years, the budget agency expects 2.8 percent annual growth, when in fact over the past 50 years, growth has averaged 3.5 percent. What's more, rapid growth over the past 25 years with lower tax rates has greatly boosted this 50-year average.

So the idea that higher tax rates might balance the budget, or that an extension of lower tax rates will generate a $1.7 trillion higher deficit, just makes no sense at all.

Mainstream economists today believe that tax incentives matter. All but the farthest left economists like Paul Krugman and his ilk believe that economic behavior is highly responsive to changing tax rates. The CBO is telling us otherwise and it just doesn't figure.

Of course, these long term economic and budget projections remind us of Friedrich Hayek's fatal conceit. That is, government planners can accurately predict the future. I don't think so. Consequently, with all due respect to the professionals at CBO, I just don't buy into their new numbers.

Perhaps they should focus more clearly on the here and now. What's happened in recent years following the Bush tax cuts is a stronger economy, much higher tax revenue collection, and continuous downward estimates of the budget gap.

This is the real story.

Lockdown

If you missed it Friday, here's the New York Times on Sen. John McCain's effort to lock down every bit of political and fundraising talent in the country.

There's no denying it's an impressive effort. All the other '08 candidates have a tough road ahead of them. The only thing that could stop McCain is ... well, how much conservatives hate him.

Why Giuliani and McCain Are the Clear Frontrunners - Mark Davis

I was watching John McCain on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, and something came over me for the first time: a willingness to entertain him as the Republican nominee for President in 2008.

I might prefer other candidates along the way. George Allen and Sam Brownback could wind up duking it out for the Reagan base. Mitt Romney will get deserved attention, and a Newt Gingrich candidacy does not draw as much skepticism as it used to.

But if Rudy Giuliani can top a Pew Research Center poll as he did last week, and if his numbers and McCain's can reach 45 percent when no single candidate can crack 25, that says GOP voters are laser-locked on the war views of the candidates (Condoleezza Rice at 21 was the only other name topping 9 percent), and less compelled by the "God, guns and gays" issues which have lifted some recent candidacies and destroyed others.

This is a good thing. Not that conservative voters should stop caring about past core issues, but some of the topics that have taken up an enormous amount of breath and time at GOP conventions of late are things that just don't have a lot to do with the presidency.

Gun control fills the plates of mayors and sometimes governors. I don't for a minute think a President Giuliani is coming to get my gun.

Gay marriage is steeped in the judiciary. We don't have to have a chief executive who lives and breathes this issue -- we surely don't have one now. We need judges who will give states the freedom to set their own gay marriage laws, the only status quo that honors the Constitution. Even a "moderate" GOP candidate can grasp that as he makes judicial appointments.

And as for religious issues, we seem to be finally arriving at an understanding that government may acknowledge the vital role of faith in our nation's history and traditions, but may not act in ways that compel citizens toward-- or away from-- any religious thought or behavior. I'm ready for such matters to be left to the individual and left out of campaign ads.

The bottom line: it used to be a given that candidates deemed too liberal on some social issues could not compete for the Republican nomination.

9/11 truly did change everything. Now they can, if their war credentials are strong enough. And in McCain and Giuliani, the GOP may have its most able aspirants by far in the race to see who gets the reins in the war on terror in January 2009.

- Mark Davis
Host of The Mark Davis Radio Show

August 19, 2006

Kudlow Radio at 12:00 ET

I'll be on Larry Kudlow's radio show on New York's News Talk Radio 77 WABC at noon eastern time. Tune in and listen here.

August 18, 2006

Bush Responds to Wiretap Ruling

President Bush answering questions on U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor decision finding the NSA eavesdropping unconstitutional.

Q Mr. President, the federal ruling yesterday that declared your terrorist surveillance program unconstitutional -- the judge wrote that it was never the intent of the framers to give the President such unfettered control. How do you respond, sir, to opponents who say that this ruling is really the first nail in the coffin of your administration's legal strategy in the war on terror?

THE PRESIDENT: I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live. You might remember last week working with the -- with people in Great Britain, we disrupted a plot. People were trying to come and kill people.

This country of ours is at war, and we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war. The judge's decision was a -- I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree. That's why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld.

I made my position clear about this war on terror. And by the way, the enemy made their position clear yet again when we were able to stop them. And I -- the American people expect us to protect them, and therefore I put this program in place. We believe -- strongly believe it's constitutional.

And if al Qaeda is calling in to the United States, we want to know why they're calling. And so I made my position clear. It would be interesting to see what other policymakers -- how other policymakers react.

Republicrats

Over at The American Prospect, Ezra Klein has an interesting article (subscription required) on what he calls, "The Rise of the Republicrats." No, he's not trotting out the old warhorse about there being no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. He's looking at how the Republican Party has abandoned all pretense of being the party of small government and has instead embraced the Leviathan state -- leaving the Democrats, the usual champions of the Leviathan state, in something of a bind.

It's a subject near and dear to my heart (and I make a brief appearance in the article).

Klein argues:

The dilemma for conservatism is obvious: How can a pro-business, pro-tax cut, and anti-entitlement creed such as today's conservatism cater to this constituency [Southern, working-class, white, socially conservative] without abandoning everything it has believed for 40 years? For much of the old guard, such a radical re-imagining of conservatism may prove impossible. But some younger, less tradition-bound conservative thinkers are sketching out a pro-government philosophy that supports conventionally progressive proposals like wage subsidies and child-tax credits but places them in a new context -- as rear-guard protective actions in defense of the nuclear family. That is, whereas progressives argue for economic justice for a class or classes, these conservatives are arguing for economic favoritism for families, buttressed by government policies that encourage and advantage them as the central structure of American life. It isn't hard to see the potential appeal of that approach, and it could corner Democrats and liberals into being the party of the poor, while the GOP becomes the party of parents.
Klein's certainly right about what's happened to the Republican coalition -- i.e. that it's shifted away from the West and toward the South, and away from economic conservatism and toward economic populism married to cultural populism.

At the same time, I think it's faintly ridiculous to attribute the slide toward big-government conservatism to a younger generation "re-imagining" what conservatism means (Ross Douthat's and Reihan Salam's proposal for the GOP to become the Party of Natalism was interesting, but it isn't quite policy yet). Instead, big-government conservatism has grown out of purely cynical machinations by Republican politicians and public intellectuals who were neutered during the Gingrich years, and are now desperately trying to cling to power and relevance.

Big-government conservatism hasn't meant stealing from the rich to give to the middle class. It's meant meaningless gestures on education (No Child Left Behind), massive government giveaways to corporations and the elderly (the Medicare prescription-drug bill), and pork-laden highway and farm bills. The fact is that while there are Republican politicians who have signed on to this Protecting the Nuclear Family Through Big Government way of thinking -- chief among them Sen. Rick Santorum, who might not be with us much longer -- they don't set policy in the GOP. And if they started to, the party would split in half. Or in thirds.

It's also a strange assumption that the Democrats aren't the ones better poised to become the middle-class Mommy Party. It's only the War on Terror, and only by a few points, that has kept the GOP in power since 2002. Entitlement reform, child tax credits, middle-class "values" talk -- these are all hallmarks of the Clinton Era Democratic Party. The only thing standing in the way of the Democrats returning to power in the guise of such a party is -- well, the Democrats. It's the progressive netroots who want to purge the Democratic Party of all Clintonian (read: election-winning) tendencies domestically, and of all hawkish (read: election-winning) tendencies on foreign policy. A revival of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party (the Big-Government-Republican wing of the Democratic Party, if you will) is the only thing that will keep the Democrats from becoming, as Klein puts it, "the party of the poor." (The real danger, I might add, is becoming "the party of the poor and the pacifists.")

How the Democrats choose to react to the changes taking place in the Republican coalition and the Republican policy program is their business. (Though, I'd agree with Klein that moderately small-government voters -- particularly in the West -- are a group they should be looking to court.)

But the idea that small-government conservatism is dead, or that the libertarian wing of the GOP is just going to roll over and play dead, is mistaken. Small-government conservatism is far from obsolete. In fact, given the entitlement crisis we're all headed toward, especially we in the younger generation, it's more vital than ever. Market-based health-care reform, private Social Security accounts, school choice -- all of these ideas form the core of a policy platform that, if pursued skillfully, should appeal tremendously to the rising generation of voters, as well as to most of the GOP's traditional base. (Bush's Ownership Society actually gets at the core of this concept, but has been pursued ineptly.)

Anyway, pick up TAP and read Klein's whole, insightful article. Just don't mistake Republican incompetence, opportunism, and corruption for a new conservative ideology.

Ouch

Ouch.

Political Video of the Day

More of the YouTube campaign ... I've seen few campaigns as aggressive as the Bob Casey effort in the Pennsylvania Senate race when it comes to posting videos online.

Santorum's tightening things up. But here's the Casey campaign going after him hard on Social Security:

Of course, for this to be effective, a lot of senior citizens would have to be on YouTube. So, there are still some benefits to conventional media.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Republicans and Security Moms

Has the GOP lost the crucial "security moms"? The Washington Post says yes:

Married women with children, the "security moms" whose concerns about terrorism made them an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004, are taking flight from GOP politicians this year in ways that appear likely to provide a major boost for Democrats in the midterm elections, according to polls and interviews.

This critical group of swing voters -- who are an especially significant factor in many of the most competitive suburban districts on which control of Congress will hinge -- is more inclined to vote Democratic than at any point since Sept. 11, 2001, according to data compiled for The Washington Post by the Pew Research Center.

Married mothers said in interviews here that they remain concerned about national security and the ability of Democrats to keep them safe from terrorist strikes. But surveys indicate Republicans are not benefiting from this phenomenon as they have before.

Disaffection with President Bush, the Iraq war, and other concerns such as rising gasoline prices and economic anxiety are proving more powerful in shaping voter attitudes.

The study, which examined the views of married women with children from April through this week, found that they support Democrats for Congress by a 12-point margin, 50 percent to 38 percent. That is nearly a mirror-image reversal from a similar period in 2002, when this group backed Republicans 53 percent to 36 percent. In 2004, exit polls showed, Bush won a second term in part because 56 percent of married women with children supported him.

...

Significantly, Pew and other polls in recent days have found little or no advantage for Republicans in the aftermath of last week's foiled terrorist plot in London, even as Vice President Cheney and GOP leaders have warned that the event showed the risk of voting for a Democratic Party that they say is dominated by security doves.

The terrorism issue isn't a bottomless well for the GOP. There's going to be real fatigue with the Iraq war and constant state of alert. If true, the fact that the London plot barely even registered with voters seems pretty significant.

This isn't to say the GOP shouldn't keep up its tough approach to the War on Terror. But they can't act like clowns on every other issue and expect their current good luck to last forever.

Snakes on a Senate

Sometimes I think the Democrats might win big in November.

But sometimes I see their latest attempts at "hipness" and revise my opinion.

Behold, courtesy of Sen. Chuck Schumer: Snakes on a Senate.

York on S.C.

Byron York went to the Charleston leg of Rudy's South Carolina trip Wednesday. He reports on the warm reception Rudy received, but also has some typical observations on the fact that the former mayor is behind the curve in the organizing department:

Are social issues less important, or will they come on strong in due time? No one will know the answer to that question for a while, but there are also more practical aspects that can determine the success of a presidential campaign. And in South Carolina, even at this very early point in the race, Giuliani appears to be substantially behind other Republican candidates.

There's no doubt Giuliani's visit to Charleston looked presidential. There was a lot of security, a lot of men in suits with earpieces. His entourage included staffers from Solutions America, Giuliani's political action committee, and from Giuliani's company, Giuliani Partners. (The group included Chris Henick, the former top aide to Karl Rove, who joined the firm in 2003.) But that's a traveling group. In terms of an organization on the ground in South Carolina, Giuliani doesn't really have one.

Compare that to his fellow front-running rival, Sen. John McCain. The news in South Carolina political circles in the last few weeks has been the number of prominent state politicos who have signed up with McCain. There's the attorney general, Henry McMaster, who was once thought to be closer to Giuliani than McCain. The two were U.S. attorneys together years ago, and Giuliani describes McMaster as a good friend, but on Wednesday McMaster told the South Carolina newspaper The State that, "I think Rudy would be a superb candidate, but my choice right now is for Sen. John McCain."

McCain has also locked up the former attorney general, Charlie Condon, as well as Bob McAlister, the former top aide to legendary governor Carroll Campbell. And of course, there's the current governor, Mark Sanford, who backed McCain in 2000 but can't jump on the bandwagon again until he wins re-election in November. (Sanford's wife Jenny came to the Giuliani fundraiser, explaining her husband couldn't make it.) And, finally, there's Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is so close to McCain that during a recent visit to Columbia, McCain absentmindedly referred to Graham as "Cindy" -- the name of McCain's wife.

No doubt this is all true (though Rudy nabbed a big fish himself Wednesday). But we'll see what happens after November '06. Rudy's public statements have all been to the effect that he won't announce or officially organize until after the midterms. Whether this is good strategy or not, I can't say.

Political reporters would give him more credit if he were doing the organizing now, but he's not playing to them. My sense is he's trying to stay above the fray for as long as possible. Might work; might end up having to play a lot of catch-up with Sen. Maverick.

Public Financing Fraud

E.J. Dionne Jr. today bases his entire column on a claim without a shred of support: That the presidential public-funding system has "worked."

How do we know it worked? Well ... uh ... a lot of presidential candidates took the free money. Big surprise.

Bob Bauer takes on this logic this morning on his blog:

We can't really say that the system "worked" or "served the nation well" when we can't assert, because we can't know, what would have happened without this system.

But it's actually worse than that. It's not just that we "don't know" if it's worked. We do know something much more important: That the public is at best indifferent to the program, and at worst actively hostile to it. A lot of people may say they like public-financing if you word the question in a biased way in a poll, but where the rubber meets the road, in the voluntary tax check-off box, Americans let their real feelings be known: In 2005, only 9 percent of filers elected to support the Presidential Election Campaign Fund; the number's been declining for years.

If people want to defend public financing, great. But the press tends to let them get away with simply asserting things that are -- on the face of it -- patently ridiculous.

It's The National Security, Stupid

Will Democrats be able to thread the national security needle this year, opposing Iraq without coming off as soft on the War on Terror? That's the subject of my Chicago Sun-Times column this month.

John Podhoretz covers similar ground in the New York Post today, writing that "This country needs to have an open debate about the War on Terror right now - right this second - and this country will benefit from the Democratic Party taking a serious look at his its own confused stand on the matter."

And over in Roll Call, our good friend and centrist Mort Kondacke (reg req'd) laments the fact that both Republicans and Democrats are playing politics with the country's most important issue:

In 2006, and for as long as the war against terror lasts, our leaders should be judged on how they contribute to defeating the radical enemy.

They should be judged on what ideas they produce for prevailing in Iraq; on how to thwart Iran's drive for nuclear weapons; and on how to win the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims, and keep the allegiance of Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans, while still "profiling" terrorists.

Republicans should be able to say they are better at fighting terrorism without implying that Democrats are disloyal. And Democrats should be able to challenge Bush on Iraq and terror policy without claiming (as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman did this week) that "from the very beginning," the administration "saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited."

Anyone who does not believe that we Americans are all in this together should heed the words and deeds of al-Qaida leaders, who hold that using weapons of mass destruction against infidels is God's work.

UPDATE: More from Ken Bode in the Indianapolis Star:

For the sake of its 2006 candidates, the Democratic leadership must develop a convincing message that Bush policies have diminished America's safety, fueled Islamic radicalism and failed to shore up security at home. That should be possible because it certainly is true, and the campaign slogan now suggested for the 2006 campaign sounds like a good one: "Feel safer? Vote for a Change."

A clear message is especially important in this election because otherwise, like McGovern in '72 and Kerry in '04, the Democratic Party's candidates are going to be Swift boated by Rove, the conservative commentariat and by its own right wing.

Romney on the Rise

Good article by Neil Swidey from last Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine which examines the effect the George Romney "brainwashing" event in 1967 has had on his son Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts and potential 2008 GOP presidential candidate.

"The brainwash thing - has that affected us? You bet," says Jane Romney, Mitt's sister and an actress in Beverly Hills. "You go, 'OK, can't go there. Don't want to get into that.' . . . Mitt is naturally a diplomat, but I think that made him more so. He's not going to put himself out on a limb. He's more cautious, more scripted."

For Mitt, the episode was even harder to make sense of because it happened in the middle of his two-year stint as a Mormon missionary in France. When he left Michigan in 1966, his father was en route to resounding reelection as governor of Michigan and the drumbeat grew louder for his presidential run. When Mitt came home in 1968, his father was already a footnote. Since then, he's heard plenty about his father's fateful interview, but, amazingly, Mitt Romney had never seen the actual footage until I showed it to him last month........

The article is an interesting look at the Massachusetts Governor, whose stock continues to rise in the pre-season nomination phase we are currently in for 2008. With Virginia Senator George Allen's recent Macaca gaffe downgrading his status a few clicks, Romney is fast emerging as the alternative to the two moderate heavyweights McCain and Giuliani. Allen's bigger problem (who in many ways was poised to become the conservative choice in the race) is the reality that the country is not exactly pining for another southern, folksy-talking politician wearing Cowboy boots. So, Macaca or no Macaca, 2008 was probably not going to be George Allen's year, simply because he reminds people too much of George W. Bush and he appears to be not seasoned enough, especially when compared to Giuliani, Romney and McCain.

But back to Romney: If the Mormon issue wasn't floating around in the background, he would almost certainly be the clear frontrunner for the nomination. Expect to see Romney's stock continue to rise as many conservatives unhappy with the prospect of McCain or Giuliani start to line up behind the Massachusetts Governor.

More Fauxtography?

The Miami Herald reports on bloggers who are challenging the recently released photographcas of a recuperating Castro.

Is CO-4 in Play for the Dems?

Colorado's fourth congressional district is not the kind of seat Republicans can afford to see seriously in play after Labor Day if they hope to retain control of the House of Representatives in next year's Congress. The district is reliably Republican: President Bush carried it in 2004 with 58% of the vote. Yet a newly released poll by SurveyUSA for KUSA-TV in Denver gives the incumbent Republican, Marilyn Musgrave, a small four-point lead, 46% to 42%. A Democratic poll done by Strategic Services in June pegged Rep. Musgrave's lead at a mere point.

More troubling for Ms. Musgrave is the 8% going to Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness. Colorado was one of Ross Perot's best states in his third-party bids for President in the 1990s, and Mr. Eidsness is a legitimate threat to garner 5%, or more, of the vote in November. The SurveyUSA results indicate Mr. Eidsness siphoning 7% of Republican voters versus only 2% from Democrats.

Most analysts still rate this contest as "Republican favored" but there are early warning signs that Ms. Musgrave may be in a dogfight to hold on to her seat, especially given that her winning percentage of the vote in 2004 declined to 51% from the 55% she captured in 2002.

While the Reform Party candidate aspect mitigates some of the national implications of this race, it is another piece of evidence suggesting that Democrats are indeed well positioned to potentially pick up the 15 seats they need to capture the House.

August 17, 2006

Iowa, Unofficially, and More on S.C.

An Iowa State Fair unofficial straw poll has Hillary Clinton and John Edwards tied on the Democratic side, and John McCain leading Rudy Giuliani 24 percent to 22 percent.

Here are the results:

The dems:

Hillary Clinton 33% (Love her or hate her, Iowans know who she is)
John Edwards 33% (Still popular. And how many ladies told me he's hot?)
Tom Vilsack 13% (At least he did better than the Des Moines Register's Poll)
John Kerry 9% (2004 is a long time ago)
Evan Bayh 3% (One guy called him Birch)
Russ Feingold 2% (Who is he, many asked us)
Joe Biden 2% (1988 is really a long time ago)
Tom Daschle 2% (Will he really run?)
Wesley Clark 1% (The General could be in for a quite a battle)
Mark Warner 1% (The new democrat is a new name to many Iowans)

The repubs:

John McCain 24% (Met many friends at the fair)
Rudy Giuliani 22% (9/11 made him strong among "r's")
Condoleeza Rice 22% (Never been a politician. Many here say she should)
Newt Gingrich 10% (Contract with America still pretty strong)
Mitt Romney 9% ("R" in a "D" state at home; middle of the pack here)
Bill Frist 6% (The doc may need some more patients)
Mike Huckabee 2% (Lost a ton, hasn't found a ton of support)
George Pataki 2% (Stands tall among peers, falls short in poll)
George Allen 1% (Is the Hall of Fame coach more known here?)
Sam Brownback 1% (So much for sharing the midwestern love)

The Hotline also reports that McCain has locked up the support of Maj. General Stan Spears, "the chief of the state's National Guard forces and the man who almost single-handedly convinced thousands of veterans to vote for Bush."

All in all, not a bad day for Mr. Maverick.

Video Request

Does anyone have a copy of or link to the DSCC ad that Hispanic groups found so offensive (conflating illegal immigrants and terrorists, supposedly)?

The DSCC pulled the ad off its Web site and off of YouTube.

I suspect a lot of people would like to get a look.

Political Video of the Day

More Macaca Madness ...

Here's ABC News doing a segment on the George Allen's '08 campaign ender:

It features an interview with S.R. Sidarth, who seems to be having fun milking his 15 minutes.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Loopholes and Loopiness

The Wall Street Journal's news pages (the ones biased the same way as the rest of the media) seem to think Ned Lamont exploited a "loophole" in spending his own money to run his campaign. Actually, the Supreme Court has determined that the ability to do so is a fundamental right.

Bob Bauer lays it all out here.

There's a pretty immense irony, though, that the champion of the anti-corporate netroots left is a self-financing multi-millionaire. Rich people are the only ones we can trust these days, apparently -- no one can buy them.

Hollywood Gets It, Netroots Don't

Our good friend Duane over at RadioBlogger has a picture of the large ad Nicole Kidman and many other Hollywood celebs took out in the LA Times today. It is worth taking a look, as the ad is impressive and very encouraging. The language is clear and unambiguous and signed by over 80 Hollywood luminaries.

We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs.

BuzzTracker has this as the number one blogged story today and the response from the far left netroots crowd is sadly typical. This from Booman Tribune:

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Hollywood drank the kool-aid.

Apparently actors Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton and William Hurt, and Directors Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner and Sam Raimi cannot read the New Yorker.

I also condemn the taking of civilian life by organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I'm just not dense enough to blame them for the deaths of over 700 Lebanese people. Those deaths fall firmly on the plate of Dick Cheney, Ehud Olmert, and George W. Bush. They took those lives months ago when they agreed to use the next provocation to destroy Lebanon and its infrastructure. Thankfully, Olmert resisted Cheney's request that they destroy Syria's infrastructure and kill their civilians too.

I'm no sympathizer with Islamic terrorism. I just don't like being lied to. Apparently, Nicole Kidman doesn't mind.


Looking past this year's mid-terms, at what point will Democratic Party regulars realize the netroots crowd is marching their party into an utterly unelectable position (at least nationally) when it comes to national security and the War on Islamic Radicalism?

The Dems' problem is there is no leadership to pull the party back from the brink, and the only one who has the stature in the Party to pull it off -- Bill Clinton -- can't because of his wife's bid for the '08 nomination.

Thwarted Attack Has Little Impact on Public Confidence - S. Rasmussen

The War on Terror entered the news again last week with reports from London of a thwarted terrorist attack. A few days later, news of a cease-fire agreement in the Middle East took over the front page. All of this had surprisingly little impact on American public opinion. The latest Rasmussen Reports update on public confidence in the War on Terror shows that just 38% of Americans believe the U.S. and its allies are winning. That's down just a single point from 39% earlier in the month but it matches the lowest level of confidence ever recorded in our nearly three years of tracking this question.

A month ago, before hostilities erupted again in the Middle East, 44% thought the good guys were winning.

Gonzales on the UK Terror Bust and the Patriot Act

Salena Zito of the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh interviews Attorney General Gonzales on the Patriot Act and the airline terror plot broken up in London last week.

Palmetto P.S.

A P.S. on Rudy in S.C. ...

I didn't make it over to the Charleston event at night (though I tore up the South Carolina highways trying). But here are some accounts from people who did:

Bruce Smith from the AP. He quotes Rudy, asked whether a mayor of New York can win in the South: "Since there were certain groups in New York who thought I was the most conservative mayor in the history of New York, I wish they would come down here now and go around saying that."

This piece, from the Greenville News, has a good account of a private meeting Rudy held in the morning with state GOP movers and shakers. They seem to have received him well.

It's also worth noting that Barry Wynn, the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and the finance chair of President Bush's re-election campaign -- who's sounded very favorable on Rudy in the press -- now is committed to Rudy outright, should he run.

Rudy in the Palmetto State

Yesterday, I went down to South Carolina to check out Rudy's swing through the Palmetto State. You can read my full account in The New York Sun.

But here's an extended clip:

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- If Rudy Giuliani does run for president in 2008, the Palmetto State is everything that's supposedly going to trip him up in the primaries: It's Southern (Mr. Giuliani's a Yankee), it's religious (61% evangelical, the sixth highest concentration in the nation), and it's predisposed to go with the guy whose "turn" it is (think Bob Dole in 1996).

But none of those hurdles seemed terribly high as Mr. Giuliani sprinted from event to event yesterday, starting with a fund-raiser for a local GOP congressional candidate in Greenville, moving on to a motivational speech around the corner, and finishing up with another fundraiser at night for the state GOP, on the other side of the state in Charleston.

...

The crowd responded warmly. As Mr. Giuliani finished taking questions from the audience, Fred Butler, 87 years old, of Greenville, piped up and said he hoped greatly that the former mayor would get into the 2008 GOP contest. "How much do I owe you?" Mr. Giuliani cracked as he wrapped things up.

Mr. Butler, speaking to me after the fundraiser, said that Mr. Giuliani is currently his top choice for the 2008 primary. "I know he did a good job in New York City, and I think he's just a good man," Mr. Butler said. He added, "I think he would garner a lot more votes than anyone I could think of right now."

A retired plant manager, Mr. Butler told me he was prepared to support Senator McCain after his win in New Hampshire in 2000, "but after he made his pitch down here, I voted for Bush." As for Mr. McCain's chances this time around, Mr. Butler doesn't seem particularly ready to give the senator another chance: "He's not as popular as a lot of people think, not as popular now as he was then ... I don't think he'll get the nomination."

I made a special effort to find some Rudy detractors. The only guy I could find who wouldn't vote for Rudy, however, was at the mayor's speech to the Get Motivated crowd later in the day. He was a Democrat, so he didn't fit into my story about the primary. And the two other Democrats I talked to after the Get Motivated speech -- well, they said they would vote for Rudy.

The Right Way to Deal With Being Taped

The GOP's candidate in Washington, Mike McGavick, demonstrates the right way to deal with kids from your opponent's campaign taping your every move. (Hat tip: Rich Lowry)

Is Iraq a Lost Cause?

The New York Times carries a very grim story about Iraq on the front page today, complete with statistics on roadside bombings and blind quotes from senior Defense Department officials and military affairs experts. From start to finish the story conjures up the idea that Iraq is an absolute lost cause.

Allow me to juxtapose the doom and gloom assessment of the New York Times with a different perspective. Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson in Baghdad who is currently leading a Congressional delegation visit to Iraq. I asked him directly whether the recent shift of coalition troops to Baghdad had produced any noticeable effect on security in the capital. Secretary Nicholson responded that it was his understanding that incidents in Baghdad have decreased over the last two weeks. The delegation met with General Casey and President Talabani yesterday morning, and Nicholson characterized the current mood as "guardedly optimistic."

I asked Nicholson about the ongoing level of sectarian violence. Nicholson said that it continues to be a serious problem, but that he was impressed by the level of maturity and experience displayed by senior leaders from all three communities (Shia, Sunni, and Kurd) with whom they'd met. I also asked specifically why Muqtada al-Sadr is allowed to continue operating and whether there is any plan to deal with him directly. Nicholson answered that Sadr "must be dealt with" and that while he "doesn't cooperate well with Americans" and has a large following (including a minister in the cabinet) that is problematic, Sadr is, at least to some degree, participating in the government. In other words, Sadr has to continue to be managed and brought under control through the political process.

I asked the Secretary to address the growing perception that our Iraq policy is failing and/or evolving into an "unwinnable" situation. Nicholson said he wished Americans could visit Baghdad and see things for themselves, because he felt they would "get a much different feeling" about the situation than what they're getting from the mass media at home. Nicholson added that his impression was that the feelings were more positive today than they were when he visited a year ago. I interrupted to ask if his delegation had traveled outside the Green Zone, and he responded that they had been outside the Green Zone several times during their trip and were headed to other parts of Iraq today to assess things and visit with troops.

Two final notes on the interview. I asked about the morale of our troops. Secretary Nicholson called it "outstanding" and "extraordinary." He told a quick story about a West Point lieutenant he had just visited in the main hospital in Baghdad who had been injured by an IED, resulting in his 3rd Purple Heart. He said the soldier told him how passionately he still feels about the work his unit continues to do in Iraq.

I asked whether there was any discussion about changing troop levels in the future, either up or down. Nicholson said the subject had been brought up by members of the delegation and said the answer is "it depends" but added that "it sounds like it's possible we could have troop draw downs" in the near future because coalition forces are wrapping up their training of the Iraqi Army, which is performing very well and continuing to assume more direct responsibility for territory and operations. Nicholson added, however, that the Iraqi police force, which is a critical component to establishing consistent, long-term local security, hasn't come together as quickly and much more work needs to be done bringing them up to the same level of competency as the Iraqi Army.

For more detail on current operations on the ground in Baghdad, go read Major General William Caldwell's briefing yesterday. Caldwell says they are "cautiously optimistic" about progress so far and reports that they "have a positive trend happening" in neighborhoods like Dura, Shula and Amariyah:

Progress thus far in the three areas that we're operating in: Nine hundred tons of trash have been removed from those three neighborhoods already, with more being removed each day. Kilometer after kilometer of barriers emplaced, building what some may call the semblance of a gated community, affording them greater security with ingress and egress routes established and manned by Iraqi security forces with coalition forces in support to ensure that the people have a safe neighborhood to live in.

More than 7,000 homes and businesses have been cleared.

Nineteen mosques have been cleared. They have detained 47 persons. Nearly 300 weapons have been seized. Eight weapon caches have been found. More than 340 weapons that Iraqi citizens are authorized to have in their homes have been properly registered and remain there with them for their personal security.

Over 700 local citizens are currently employed, with more being employed each day. The economic piece, so vital to what we are all attempting to achieve here in the Baghdad area, is starting to take place. We see new stores in Dura opening each day. Residents tell us that within Dura itself just recently, two banks have opened that have not been opened for over two years, and Iraqi security forces are down there helping provide the security necessary so that they can function in a safe environment.

The district advisory council chairman is pushing members to take responsibility and to help clean up their neighborhoods. The district advisory council is working to motivate the local population to work with both the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces operating there.

Humanitarian assistance packages have been passed to the neighborhood advisory councils for them to decide where the greatest need is within their neighborhood, and to provide that to their citizens. Medical assistance teams have been formed and will start operating in these areas later this week.

National police and coalition force commanders are engaging with the population, both in person and by radio, to explain what's going on for the operation so that people understand what is attempting to be accomplished and how they will make the difference about what they do.

Taken together, the impressions from General Caldwell and Secretary Nicholson give a much different picture than the one provided in the New York Times today - and on most days, for that matter. If even you discount Nicholson's comments for administration spin, or assume that Caldwell is putting the best possible face on the security operations in Baghdad, you're still left to confront the fact that some progress is being made. Instead of hearing about it, however, we get the relentless negativity of the media, epitomized by the Times story today. The situation in Iraq is serious, no doubt about it. But it is far from hopeless. U.S. troops, and Iraqi forces and leaders haven't given up hope that Iraq can be saved. We shouldn't either.

D.C.'s Market Moves

Though David Broder's column will probably get the lion's share of attention, Republicans should be far more worried by what Jeff Birnbaum writes in the Washington Post this morning:

Democrats' Stock Is Rising on K Street

Firms Anticipate A Shift in Power

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17, 2006; Page A01

Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.

K Street is like D.C.'s version of the stock market, where potential moves are analyzed, anticipated and "priced" into the system based on probability. A few Republicans in the Midwest giving doom and gloom quotes to David Broder is one thing, K Street gearing up for a Dem take over is quite another.

Lieberman Leading Lamont by 12 Points

New Quinnipiac poll of likely voters (no link available right now) has Lieberman up 53-41 over Lamont. Republican Alan Schlesinger is pulling a mere 4%. Here's a bit from the write up that is sure to drive Lamont's netroot supporters even further out of their minds:

In this latest survey, Lieberman leads 75 - 13 - 10 percent among likely Republican voters, and 58 - 36 - 3 percent among likely independent voters, while likely Democratic voters back Lamont 63 - 35 percent. Two percent are undecided, but 28 percent of those who name a candidate might change their mind before Election Day.

"Sen. Lieberman's support among Republicans is nothing short of amazing. It more than offsets what he has lost among Democrats. As long as Lieberman maintains this kind of support among Republicans, while holding onto a significant number of Democratic votes, the veteran Senator will be hard to beat," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D.

Looks like Lieberman finally found some real Joementum!

August 16, 2006

Some in Hollywood Get It -- Kidman Condemns Hamas, Hezbollah

Australia's Herald Sun reports:

Nicole Kidman has made a public stand against terrorism.

The actress, joined by 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times newspaper.

It specifically targets "terrorist organizations" such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas," the ad reads.

"If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die.

"We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."

A who's who of Hollywood heavyweights joined Kidman on the ad.

The actors listed included: Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton and William Hurt.

Directors Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner and Sam Raimi also signed their names.

Other Hollywood powerplayers supporting the ad included Sumner Redstone, the chairman and majority owner of Paramount Pictures, and billionaire mogul, Haim Saban.


Macaca Mania - Mark Davis

It seems that someone should weigh in on Sen. George Allen's "macaca" gaffe who is not out to draw and quarter him. But nor will I make excuses. Here are the facts:

1. At an August 11 campaign stop in rural Breaks, Virginia, Sen. Allen playfully pointed out a young man shooting video for his Democrat challenger James Webb. This kind of political mischief is common as opponents hope to catch each other in gaffes they can use in campaign commercials.

2. The videographer was of Indian descent, S.R. Sidarth, a student at the University of Virginia.

3. Smiling throughout, Sen. Allen welcomes the scrutiny, pointing Sidarth out to supporters and suggesting that "Macaca, or whatever his name is" should show Webb the footage as evidence of a candidate who actually gets out to speak with real Virginians. (Continuing that theme, Allen says "Welcome to America," which makes sense in that context but served to fuel the furor since Sidarth was the only face of color in the crowd. The full quote is "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

4. Allen suggests that the crowd should "give a welcome to Macaca, here." There is modest applause, and he heads into his planned remarks on the war on terror.

5. The debate now rages over whether "macaca" is an ethnic slur worthy of tarnishing Allen's reputation. The Allen campaign says it was a play on "Mohawk," a nickname given to Sidarth by the Allen campaign because of his hairstyle.

So let's go to work.

"Macaca" is a genus of monkey, including the familiar macaques one might see at a zoo. Some say it is a French slur toward North African blacks, but that usage is usually "macaque," just like the monkey. The folks at Wikipedia contend that it is interchangeable with "macaca," and that oh, by the way, "macaca" is among the slurs occasionally used by white supremacists.

While David Duke, Tom Metzger and a few Francophone bigots might be in touch with this term, virtually no one in America was before this week. The stigma projected onto this event by Allen's enemies, as if he had dropped an n-bomb on somebody, is simply ridiculous.

That said, what we do have here is a remarkably stupid moment from someone who might want to be President.

I don't believe for one second that George Allen is a bigot. I believe that he intended no personal slight to the young man. What kind of idiot says an intentionally hurtful thing into a camera during an important campaign?

But one could also ask whether a smart man hurls a vague, foreign-sounding nickname toward the only non-white face in a crowd? And then does it again seconds later?

The "Mohawk" excuse is lame. The kid's hair is not in that style and isn't even that remarkable. And how does one get from ""Mohawk" to "Macaca?" Twice!

If the Senator drew attention to Sidarth once in passing, to show that he welcomes video scrutiny from Webb, that would be one thing. But to invite the crowd to welcome him with what seemed like mocking applause was downright creepy.

Sen. Allen also fell prey to the messenger blame game, contending that his remarks "have been greatly misunderstood by members of the media."

While his opponents will indeed trump this up to portray him as a closet Klansman, the blame for this mess falls directly at the Senator's feet. He of all people should know that white conservatives get zero benefit of the doubt for foot-in-mouth moments like this. I fully expect to maintain my interest in him as a 2008 candidate, and I assume there will be no more gaffes of this type.

- Mark Davis
Host of The Mark Davis Radio Show

Rudy in South Carolina

Scott Shepard at Cox News curtainraises Rudy Giuliani's swing through South Carolina today.

All the usual questions: He's got a great profile from 9/11, but can he overcome the social issues, etc., etc.

We'll see ...

Are Pinch's Days Numbered at the NY Times?

Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker has done a great job chronicling the disastrous leadership "Pinch" Sulzberger has brought to the New York Times these past few years. In his piece today he suggests that Michael Wolff's "Panic on 43rd Street" in the latest Vanity Fair is the beginning of the Left's realization that Pinch is driving the paper into irrelevancy.

Anyone who understands the importance of the Times in setting the agenda for the entire media establishment realizes that without the Times to lead the way, lesser media properties in broadcasting and publishing might stray away from the left wing party line. Fox News has done better than any other media startup in recent memory by openly grazing in the conservative meadows. Despite intense derision by the Times and others in the Left establishment, it has prospered far more than they.....

The Times is steadily becoming damaged goods. Its prestige is not what it once was. Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, Judith Miller, and other mere employees have done plenty of damage. Just last weekend (no doubt too late for Wolff's deadline), current executive editor Bill Keller made the jaw-dropping admission that he had lied to his readers about his decision not to publish a story on the NSA telephone intercept program before the 2004 presidential election, a matter of great concern to the Left. Even worse, Keller had a guilty conscience about the lie, but did not fess up until caught in an inconsistency and questioned by the paper's public editor, Byron Calame.....

Sparing his readers the gory details of the business decline of the New York Times Company, Wolff cuts to the chase: the paper version of the Times is dying, and there is so far no evident way for the expensive-to-produce content to be viable as an internet publication. His readers are warned that there will be a future without their daily dose of conventional Left wisdom. He goes so far as to predict it will be:

Just another newspaper company coming to its natural end.

And, anyway, how do you exactly define "end"?

You mean NO New York Times? Nada? Darkness?

Well, yes, in effect.

Vanity Fair readers are now informed that their favorite newspaper is doomed under the helmsmanship of Pinch.

I don't know that I would describe the New York Times as doomed, but there is no question the paper has been colossally mismanaged the last 5 years. Very ironic for a paper that editorializes ad nauseum about the Bush administration's incompetence as the country clips along at over 3% GDP growth, under 5% unemployment, and almost five years out from 9/11 without a substantive terrorist attack at home, while NY Times Company stock languishes near 5 year lows.

Middle East Despots Emboldened by Israel's Failure

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, praising Hezbollah's "glorious battle" against Israel is arguing that US plans for the Middle East, i.e. for peace and democracy, have now vanished and that Israel is now known to be vulnerable.

In another subtle but very important point, Assad says that it is time for Arab nations to stop feeling pre-emptively defeated, to gain confidence, and to work toward ultimate defeat and destruction of Israel.

Of the world's many dictators, Assad is one of the most pathetic. He is an optometrist, trained in England, who was handed his job by his father. It is no accident that he keeps his moustache looking much like Hitler's.

But despite the degree to which Assad has been a bad actor and made a nuisance of himself and his country, he is small potatoes compared to the damage which Iran could cause.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who to the western eye certainly seems unbalanced, is probably much smarter and more clever than we give him credit for. He also controls a much bigger and better military than Assad.

Therefore, we must pay close attention to his rhetoric despite any desire to brush him off as all bark and no bite. And it is particularly disturbing to hear Ahmadinejad spouting the same very dangerous line as Assad:

From the Iranian president's web site:

"Aside from the humiliation it (Zionist regime) received as a result of its failure to achieve its military objectives, the myth of the regime's military invincibility has been destroyed thanks to the the enduring faith and resistance of Lebanon's Hezbollah," he said. "Henceforth, all power equations in the region will witness a change," he added.

It is no coincidence that the same day Amhadinejad released a statement saying that "Enemies fail in attempts against Iran's nuclear issue." Middle Eastern dictators are feeling empowered, at our great peril.

We are now seeing the long-term damage done to Israel, and more importantly our own American interests, in the Middle East by the muddling uncertain prosecution of the war by Israel. In my estimation, there is almost no chance that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will keep his job through the end of the year.

In the first time in Israel's history, they have a Prime Minister and Defense Minister who have no real military experience. Unfortunately, they demonstrated their ineptness and uncertainty in the most damaging way, leaving Israel the non-victor in a war with an enemy they absolutely had to defeat.

Make no mistake, this outcome is effectively a loss by Israel. We should all recognize that it is just as great a loss for America and anybody who treasures freedom, life, and everything the world has brought us since the "nasty, brutish, and short" life of the Middle Ages, the life that Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Ahmadinejad want to return us to.

August 15, 2006

Political Video of the Day

Here's C-SPAN's unedited "60 Minutes" Ahmadinejad interview (it's broken down into seven parts on YouTube):

I've got to say: This New Hitler guy is testy.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

How Bad is Jimmy Carter? Don't Answer That

Honestly, we've reached a point beyond parody when the far left wing German magazine Der Spiegel has to be the one injecting a sense of moral clarity into a discussion with Jimmy Carter:

Spiegel: You also mentioned the hatred for the United States throughout the Arab world which has ensued as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Given this circumstance, does it come as any surprise that Washington's call for democracy in the Middle East has been discredited?

Carter: No, as a matter of fact, the concerns I exposed have gotten even worse now with the United States supporting and encouraging Israel in its unjustified attack on Lebanon.

Spiegel: But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?

Carter: I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.

And then there was this:

Spiegel: What makes you personally so optimistic about the effectiveness of diplomacy? You are, so to speak, the father of Camp David negotiations.

Carter: When I became president we had had four terrible wars between the Arabs and Israelis (behind us). And I under great difficulty, particularly because Menachim Begin was elected, decided to try negotiation and it worked and we have a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt for 27 years that has never been violated. You never can be certain in advance that negotiations on difficult circumstances will be successful, but you can be certain in advance if you don't negotiate that your problem is going to continue and maybe even get worse.

Spiegel: But negotiations failed to prevent the burning of Beirut and bombardment of Haifa.

By all means, read the rest of the interview. A bit later on, after suggesting Fidel Castro's return to health is "not beyond hope," Carter tells the magazine, "I think I represent the vast majority of Democrats in this country." Republicans will eagerly confirm that Carter has it exactly right.

More on Allen and Race

Race is always a difficult issue to discuss unemotionally in America for obvious reasons. My central problem with the Sen. Allen "Macaca" kerfuffle is the tendency of many (primarily in the media and on the politically-correct left) to see racial victimization in many instances where none exists, as well as the double standard that is applied when it comes to race and Republicans. Especially when the full and complete history of the Republican and Democratic parties does not give one party a monopoly on racial morality.

Let's stipulate up front that there is a difference between being racist and being insensitive. My point earlier was that the kid's contention that Allen singled him out because "he was a person of color" just doesn't really pass the sniff test when you watch the video. The kid was singled out because he was with the Webb campaign video taping Allen.

Now, was Allen's choice of words insensitive? Sure, I concede that his words could be construed as insensitive. But that does not necessarily make them racist. Which is why, unless there is something more here that we do not now know about this event, this is a "phony" racial incident.

How come it is Republicans who get hit with racist tag with the utterance of potentially insensitive remarks? How much uproar was there when Senator Clinton cracked that "Gandhi used to run a gas station in St. Louis?" And then there was Senator Biden just recently caught on tape saying, "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent." I don't remember either of these "insensitive" comments by U.S. Senators, who are also running for President like George Allen, making the front page of the Washinton Post.

And then there is the case of former majority leader Trent Lott who was demoted (correctly) by his fellow Senate Republicans for praising ex-segregationist Strom Thurmond. Meanwhile Democratic Senator Chris Dodd gets a pass when he heaps similar-type praise on former KKK kleagle Robert Byrd, the man who dropped the "n-bomb" (twice) during a television interview just a few years ago.

Finally, there is something just a little off putting about passing judgment on an individual who you don't know, as a racist. Real racism is a scourge and a disease and it shouldn't be trivialized or swept under the rug, but the left in America is far too quick to use the racist, bigot, sexist, and homophobic labels as tools to silence debate from those they disagree with ideologically.

I'll stick by my first reaction to this video that this is a manufactured racial incident, but I will concede that perhaps someone with George Allen's history and politics and ambition should perhaps be more sensitive when broaching issues of race.

More on Allen

Over at TAPPED there's a further discussion of this Allen "macaca" comment. I've got to say, the more I hear, the more I think this looks really bad for Allen. For one, Allen speaks French, which makes it quite doubtful he didn't know what the word meant.

You can also read the rest of what Garance Franke-Ruta has to say at TAPPED about the uses of the word.

That he said this on camera -- on a camera being held by his opponent's staffer -- well, this guy is simply beyond stupid.

Casey Leads Santorum 48% - 42% in Quinnipiac Poll

The latest Quinnipiac poll confirms the Morning Call poll from a couple of weeks ago that this race has indeed tightened considerably. I never took seriously Quinnipiac's supposed 18 point lead for Casey back in June, so I don't think Santorum has suddenly picked up 12 pts, but there is no question that he has closed the gap.

Santorum, of course, still has a host of problems working against his bid for a third term, but Casey's campaign should be very concerned to what is happening to their vaunted lead. One of the major considerations in RCP's ranking this race as Lean Democrat and why Casey is still likely to win, is simply the size of the deficit Santorum has to make up.

We have said from the outset to expect Santorum to close hard, but thought he would just come up short in the end, primarily because he simply had too deep a hole to climb out of. But if more polls continue to confirm this a 5-8 point race, rather than a 11-14 point race before Labor Day, this contest becomes a complete toss up. And with a Green Party candidate very much a real possibility to siphon critical votes away from Casey, suddenly Santorum may be very much back in the game. (RCP PA Senate Page | All Pennsylvania Senate Polls)

Dell's Woes

An anecdote that only adds to Dell's PR nightmare:

Last month, Thomas Foqueran, 62, of Arizona was loading his truck and smelled smoke. Flames were shooting out of his Dell Inspiron laptop, which he had placed on the passenger side of the vehicle, and the fire spread as it ignited ammunition that was also in the truck. The truck, a 1966 Ford F-250 passed down from his father, was destroyed by the fire.

"I see Dell commercials half a dozen times a night, saying 'What can we build for you today?' " Foqueran said. "And I say, 'grandpa's truck.' "

This Just In...

Apparently, NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller is now a conservative.

Allen and Race

I'm afraid I have to disagree a with John on the "phony" racial incident with Sen. George Allen.

Allen was clearly going after the kid because he was from the opposing campaign, but the way he went after him was a big mistake and showed a distinct lack of racial sensitivity. Whether he was using the French word for a type of monkey (and let's remember, his mother spoke French), pronouncing the kid's name as nonsense because he couldn't remember an Indian-sounding name or doing just about anything else, it was a recipe for disaster.

I'm not going to proclaim that Allen is a racist. But I didn't consider that New Republic piece a "hit" -- indeed, I found what Ryan Lizza reported extremely disturbing. Allen's strange fixation on all things Confederate and his utter ineptitude with all matters racial are going to be big hurdles in any 2008 campaign.

Now, I admit I'm biased. I think Allen is a profoundly unimpressive man and candidate. He's pretty much at the bottom of the '08 field, as far as my own personal preferences. But even his supporters, I think, would be hard-pressed to claim he doesn't have a race problem -- even if that problem is just the media's (unfair) perception of him as a good-ol-boy Southern racist.

First Lady on the Stump

Just how important is the race in Illinois' Sixth District for Republicans this year? Laura Bush's presence yesterday at a fundraiser for the Roskam campaign answers the question. In a brief speech before a crowd of 280 packed into a banquet hall in Addison, the First Lady praised Roskam's record as a teacher and state legislator, saying that he would be an able successor to fill the "big shoes" left behind by Congressman Henry Hyde.

At $250 per plate and with pictures with the First Lady going for a cool $1,000, the event reportedly raised some $225,000 for Roskam - a significant boost for a hotly contested race heading into the home stretch. As of June 30 Roskam held a $400,000 cash on hand advantage over Duckworth, and he went out of his way to point out that while both campaigns have raised over $2 million thus far, 98% of Duckworth's money is coming from sources outside the Sixth District.

There are three major currents in this race right now. One is the specter of outside influences. Duckworth doesn't live in the district and was hand-picked by the Democratic party establishment types over the local veteran candidate Christine Cegelis. Roskam never misses a chance to point out that he was born and bred in the district while Duckworth's candidacy is essentially a creation of Rahm Emanuel, Dick Durbin, and Hillary Clinton.

Another related current is the issue of debates that I mentioned last week. Today Roskam is scheduled to sit across from another empty chair in a debate sponsored by the city of Elmhurst. Elmhurst is the second largest community in the district, and it was also host to a debate between Hyde and Cegelis in 2004, which has the Roskam campaign asking why it's not good enough for Duckworth this time around.

The last current in the race, which is the least local and perhaps biggest of all given Tammy Duckworth's status as a disabled war veteran, is Iraq. Roskam was hounded on the subject by a local reporter at a press conference after the event with Mrs. Bush, asking whether he thought Don Rumsfeld should be fired (no comment) and whether he supported Bush's "stay the course" policy. Roskam responded that he believes we should "finish well" in Iraq, without defining exactly what that term means. Roskam acknowledged that he's heard a wide range of opinions on Iraq as he's knocked on 5,000 doors throughout the district, but added that he believes the sixth is "not a timetable district" and "not a cut-and-run district."

More on the event with First Lady Laura Bush: Chicago Tribune | Chicago Sun-Times | CBS2 News | Daily Herald

Olmert Government Going Down

A devastating indictment of the Olmert government by the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick.

Diplomatically, in the space of five weeks the government managed to undermine Israel's alliance with America; to hand Syria, Hizbullah and Iran the greatest diplomatic achievements they have ever experienced; and to flush down the toilet the unprecedented international support that US President Bush handed to Israel on a silver platter at the G-8 summit.

The UN cease-fire that Olmert, Livni and Peretz applaud undercuts Israel's sovereignty; protects Hizbullah; lets Iran and Syria off the hook; lends credibility to our enemies' belief that Israel can be destroyed; emboldens the Palestinians to launch their next round of war; and leaves IDF hostages Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in captivity.....

Yet the reason that this incompetent, embarrassment of a government must go is not simply because it has delivered Israel the worst defeat in its history. This government must go because every day it sits in power it exacerbates the damage it has already caused and increases the dangers to Israel.

Iran has been emboldened. Its success in the war is now being used by the ayatollahs to support their claim of leadership over the Arab world. In evidence of Iran's success, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met in Cairo with Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. So now, after 27 years of official estrangement, Egypt is moving towards establishing full diplomatic relations with Teheran.

The Palestinians have been emboldened. Hamas leaders and spokesmen are openly stating that just as Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 precipitated the Palestinian terror war in September 2000, so Israel's current defeat in Lebanon will spur the outbreak of a new Palestinian terror war against Israel today.

THE AMERICANS have lost faith in Israel as an ally. After he gave Israel every opportunity to win this war, even signaling clearly that Israel should feel free to go as far as Beirut if necessary, President Bush was convinced that Olmert simply didn't want to fight. The Americans were shocked by Israel's performance. They know that we can win when we set our mind to it and were flummoxed when presented with an Israeli leadership that refused to even try.

Like I said yesterday, I see little chance the Olmert government does not fall.

Agonizing Over Torture

The left wing editorial page of The Guardian agonizes today over the revelation that much of the intelligence used to bust up the bomb plot last week was allegedly obtained using torture:

Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."

Set aside for the moment legal questions about whether such evidence would be admissible in court and let's focus on the morality. Last December Charles Krauthammer argued the following in a Weekly Standard cover story:

However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). And once you've established the principle, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, all that's left to haggle about is the price. In the case of torture, that means that the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible, but when--i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances: how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.

Michael Kinsley responded the following week, calling Krauthammer's argument a case of "salami-slicing:"

You start with a seemingly solid principle, then start slicing: If you would torture to save a million lives, would you do it for half a million? A thousand? Two dozen? What if there's only a two-out-of-three chance that person you're torturing has the crucial information? A 50-50 chance? One chance in 10? At what point does your moral calculus change, and why? Slice the salami too far, and the formerly solid principle disappears.

If the reports out of Pakistan are true, this theoretical debate just became much more interesting, because we now have a very real slice of salami. If more than four thousand lives were saved as a direct result of intel obtained using torture, does that make it justified? I think it's clear what Krauthammer would say. But what about Kinsley? Are four thousand innocent lives a big enough slice of salami for him?

Santorum Down 6

New Quinnipiac poll (no link available at the moment) has Rick Santorum trailing Bob Casey by only 6 points among likely voters, 48-42, with 5 percent going to the Green candidate Carl Romanelli and 5 percent undecided.

The vital signs for Santorum still remain weak, job approval and reelect at 42 percent each, but both of those indicators have ticked up over the last month, with the Senator's job approval rising by four points and his reelect rising by 5 points.

Get all the latest on the Pennsylvania Senate Race on RCP's 2006 Election Page.

August 14, 2006

The Phony Racial Incident in Virginia

I just watched the video Ryan put up on Senator Allen in Virginia that the Washington Post is trying to spin in to some kind of racial incident, piggy-backing on The New Republic's racial hit on Allen a couple of months ago.

Democrat James Webb's Senate campaign accused Sen. George Allen (R) of making demeaning comments Friday to a 20-year-old Webb volunteer of Indian descent...... In an interview, Sidarth said he suspects Allen singled him out because he was the only non-white face in the audience, which he estimated included about 100 Republican supporters.

"I think he was doing it because he could and I was the person of color there and it was useful for him in inciting his audience," said Sidarth. "I was annoyed he would use my race in a political context."

Watch the video for yourself. It is pretty clear, at least to me, that Allen is good naturedly ribbing a guy who is following him around and harassing him. The reason for him being singled out is not because the Webb volunteer, is non-white, but rather because the guy is following Allen around, unwanted, trying to catch him on film in an embarrassing incident.

Do you honestly mean to tell me that if Sidarth was just there all alone, among a hundred people Allen would have singled him out because of his ethnicity? Gimme a break. The guy was singled out because he is there unwanted, filming.

James Webb has a lot of things going for him that many Democrats do not have, but stooping to cheap racial tactics isn't helpful and it is not smart politics in Virginia. He'd be better off sticking to the issues.

Political Video of the Day II

Welcome to the new age of YouTube politics ...

So, the James Webb Senate campaign in Virginia sends a 20-year-old volunteer of Indian descent to follow around Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) with a video camera. Allen, annoyed with the tactic, calls the young man -- whose actual name is S.R. Sidarth -- "Macaca or whatever his name is" on camera.

Instant racial incident.

Allen goes on to say: "Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

In fairness to Allen, I think it's pretty clear the "welcome to America" comment isn't about Sidarth being Indian, but about Blue America versus Red America -- Hollywood vs. rural Virginia.

Media Alert

Listen to John McIntyre on the Hugh Hewitt Show (Jed Babbin filling in) this afternoon at 5:40 central.

Political Video of the Day

A reminder to netroots activists: You have until September 12 to pull off a Lamont against your mortal enemy, Hillary Clinton, in the New York Democratic Senate primary:

Unfortunately, this guy, Jonathan Tasini, doesn't seem too inspiring. Then again, neither does Lamont.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Skeptical Conservatives

Heather MacDonald sounds more than a bit like Andrew Sullivan in defending "skeptical" conservatives in The American Conservative:

Skeptical conservatives--one of the Right's less celebrated subcultures--are conservatives because of their skepticism, not in spite of it. They ground their ideas in rational thinking and (nonreligious) moral argument. And the conservative movement is crippling itself by leaning too heavily on religion to the exclusion of these temperamentally compatible allies.

Conservative atheists and agnostics support traditional American values. They believe in personal responsibility, self-reliance, and deferred gratification as the bedrock virtues of a prosperous society.

But, then she adds this: "They view marriage between a man and a woman as the surest way to raise stable, law-abiding children."

I'm not sure where opposition to gay marriage fits in as an intrinsic part of non-religion-based conservatism.

Still, the article is worth a read.

hitlerblog.blogspot.com

Well, this is a first: The new Hitler has a blog.

You can see the actual site here (there's a link in the upper right-hand corner for English).

You can read a Reuters dispatch here.

There's even an online poll:

"Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?" Yes or no.

I voted 'no.' Right now, 'no' is ahead 57-43.

(via Sullivan)

Israel Misses Ariel Sharon

On Saturday I quickly commented after reading Ralph Peters' observation that the Israeli government had made a complete mess of its prosecution of the war that this would not have happened had Ariel Sharon still been Israel's Prime Minister.

From a historical standpoint it is interesting to watch the many ripples from Sharon's unnecessary stroke and its impact on the future of Israel and the Mideast.

I really wonder whether Hezbullah, Syria or Iran would have been so cavalier about escalating the situation vis-a-vis Israel with Sharon in charge of the IDF. I don't think it is an overstatement to say that the original Hezbullah provocation would likely never have occurred.

Israel's enemies may have hated Sharon, but they feared and respected him. Peace through strength.

Second, had the same Hezbollah attack occurred, I suspect Sharon would have not equivocated in directing Israel's response.

A very seasoned friend of RCP, who thoroughly understands Israeli security concerns, U.S.-Israeli relations and the Mideast landscape writes:

It is hard not to conclude that for Israel, the war has gone badly. Several times the IDF prepared for a major ground offensive, then pulled back. Hizbollah is well armed and well trained, but they are only a few thousand fighters. Olmert and Peretz had never run a war, and it showed. The media war would be lost regardless of what Israel did, due to the biases of many in the international press, and how Hezbollah threatens journalists in their territory. But the real war had to be won, in the sense that Hezbollah was forced out of southern Lebanon. It wasn't.

Israel would have absorbed serious casualties fighting Hezbollah on the ground once reserves were called up (which normally takes 72 hours), since Hezbollah was well dug in. But in a month, they should have chopped them up. For too long, Israel relied on air power, and it was not enough. I think the US conceded on the UN resolution, in part, because we thought Olmert could not get the job done, and a long inconclusive war was not in our interests (nor Israel's, with war costs over $5 billion and counting, and over 100 IDF dead). Recriminations are beginning in Israel over Olmert's leadership.

I think Sharon would have moved in ground forces in large numbers quickly, and with air superiority, Israel would have prevailed. This was amateur hour and gives many bad signals to Israel's enemies, who are as committed to its destruction today, as they ever were, and better armed. The war has shown how vulnerable Israel is to rocket and missile fire, so borders, and walls mean less. Inevitably the rockets will get more accurate, longer range, and more lethal.

My guess is that the government of Lebanon will be unable to win compliance from Hezbollah to disarm, in Southern Lebanon or elsewhere. Why would they, or their sponsor in Teheran, agree voluntarily to, in effect, force themselves out of business. So this war is only round one, I think.
The issue of how to deal with Iran's soon to be completed nuclear program now looms larger than ever.

In another email, he reiterated that "Sharon would have gotten the job done. This was amateur hour."

I suspect the Olmert government will fall.

A Well of Good Will

Public Opinion Strategies finds a "well of good will" for Israel in the United States. Fifty-seven to 9 percent, Americans sympathize with Israel over the Arab nations.

Interestingly, though -- if not exactly surprisingly -- that support falls to 50-12 among independents and 43-12 among Democrats. (It's an astounding 83-1 among Republicans.)

The Democrats might not quite be there yet, but they're on their way toward being the anti-Israel party. They're already the weak-on-defense-and-Israel party, so it won't be a long fall.

'Reform' Hypocrisy

Why do campaign-finance "reform" advocates hate civil dialogue so? Those who follow these matters might remember how Sen. John McCain famously snarled at FEC Commissioner Brad Smith (a dogged "reform" opponent) and refused to shake his hand at a public hearing. Well, here's another bit of "reformer" pleasantness for the ages.

Bob Bauer -- noted progressive campaign-finance attorney and campaign-finance-regulation skeptic -- co-wrote an op-ed last week for the New York Times, expressing, well, skepticism about campaign-finance regulation. Bauer's piece was thoughtful, well-reasoned and engaged in no ad hominem attacks against reformers.

The response came in the Sunday NYT letters section: a ludicrous bit of name-calling and hyperbole from Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 and Trevor Potter of the Campaign Legal Center.

Here's a sample:

Mr. Baran and Mr. Bauer...have facilitated efforts by their clients to undermine the campaign finance laws, and then opposed efforts in Congress to deal with the resulting scandals. ...It is no surprise that these lawyers representing different political parties tell us they meet periodically for cozy lunches to discuss their mutual disdain for the campaign finance laws.

On his blog today, Bauer issues an appropriate -- and, let me say, scorching -- response, calling the "reformers" on their refusal to engage in civilized debate and their reliance on a Black Hat / White Hat narrative to make up for their utter lack of rigor or reason:

Wertheimer and Potter are counting, once again, on the Grand Reform Narrative to ease their way past a close examination of the reform record. This is a Narrative that slights argument and appeals with great success to the instinctive acceptance, in the press and among some members of the public, that politics is corrupt; that reformers are laboring valiantly in the public interest to clean it up; and that they must contend always with tireless resistance from the beneficiaries of the corrupt order. It is a labor-saving argument: it summons forth the fear of demons and excuses any attention to reasoned exposition. "Reform" is good: how could it not be, since it is "reform"?

Bauer goes even further in exposing the sleaze and hypocrisy these "reform" groups perpetrate. While they've tried to ruin Bauer's legal practice for having the audacity to publicly question the "reform" program, they go merrily about finding ways to help Sen. McCain solicit soft money without running afoul of his own laws.

(Those not familiar with McCain's antics as relates to the Reform Institute should familiarize themselves. The group, which can accept soft money, is essentially an appendage of the McCain operation -- hiring his staffers between campaigns and working toward his greater glory generally. He's, not surprisingly, been known to do favors for corporations and individuals who donate to it. I wrote up the scandal in The Post here.)

Anyway, it's nice to see once again that those who support "reform" can only operate from a commitment to sweetness and light, while those who oppose it are ravenous beasts, feasting on the flesh of our dying democracy. Campaign-finance regulation has sure brought us a more civilized public square.

Is It About Iraq or Not?

Bob Herbert (Times Delete) seizes on the London-based bomb plot to reiterate mainstream liberal belief that Iraq was 1) a colossal mistake 2) a "diversion" from the real War on Terror and 3) a catalyst for spawning waves of new jihadis around the globe. Herbert writes:

The disrupted plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger jets bound for the United States was a reminder, as if we needed a reminder, that the threat of terror remains both real and imminent. And it was a reminder that the greatest danger to Americans here at home continues to be an attack by a group affiliated with, or inspired by, Al Qaeda.

That being the case, what in the world are we doing in Iraq? [snip]

The truth, of course, is that the demolition derby policies of the Bush administration are creating enemies of the United States, not defeating them. It cannot be said often enough, for example, that the catastrophic war in Iraq, which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands, was a strategic mistake of the highest magnitude. It diverted our focus, energy and resources from the real enemy, Al Qaeda and its offshoots, and turned Iraq, a country critically important to the Muslim imagination, into a spawning ground for terrorists.

And so it must be true that if we didn't have the "demolition derby policies" of the Bush administration (i.e. Iraq), we'd have fewer enemies, fewer jihadis and therefore less terrorism.

Last night I was a guest on Bruce DuMont's radio show, and we spent the second hour of the program listening to Bruce interview Gregory D. Lee about the terrorist connection with Pakistan. Lee served as the head of the DEA's Karachi office and worked throughout Pakistan between 1994-1998. His biography also includes this:

In 1995, while assigned at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, he [Gregory Lee] directly participated in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and later testified at his trial. At the time of his arrest, Yousef was plotting to destroy 12 US airliners simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean, which would have caused the deaths of over 3,600 people, more than that experienced on 9/11.

Indeed, after successfully bombing the WTC towers in 1993, Ramzi Yousef fled to Pakistan where he spent the next two years (allegedly with the help of Khalid Sheik Muhammed) hatching a terrorist plot almost identical to the one foiled last week. That was 3 years into Bill Clinton's first term, 6 years before other members of al-Qaeda successfully flew jetliners into the Twin Towers, and 8 years before the first coalition soldier stepped foot in Iraq.

The point is that while Iraq is a vital front in the War on Terror and part of a broader, long-term strategy in the global struggle against a rising violent fundamentalist strain of Islam (see Michael Gerson's superb sketch of the issue in Newsweek) it's too easy, too convenient, and fundamentally wrong to say that Bush's policies are responsible for causing more terrorism.

C-Span will air the full Mike Wallace interview with President Ahmadinejad at 8pm EDT tonight. They will air the 60 Minutes edited version, followed by the full 90 minute interview.

Gore Just Misses - Again

Interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle comparing the massive popularity of YouTube with Al Gore's media venture Current TV. The nut:

Current "caught the (viewer-created content) trend early, but it is kind of surfing by them," said John Higgins, business editor at Broadcasting & Cable magazine, a trade publication for the television industry. "These guys (at Current) had all the right ideas and all the same machinery in place that YouTube did, but they didn't quite do it. Lighting struck 10 feet to the left of them.

Ahmadinejad's 60 Minutes Interview

I watched Mike Wallace's interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with great interest. If the interview were a boxing match, the Iranian President won in a blow out. This is more a comment on Ahmadinejad's skill, however, than a slap at Wallace. In Wallace's defense, as a guest in Tehran interviewing the President of Iran, he has an obligation to treat the man with a certain amount of deference and respect.

But Wallace really isn't the point here. He deserves credit for just scoring the interview. In all likelihood Ahmadinejad is going to have a profound effect on what happens on the world stage these next five years and Wallace's interview was a chance to at least gather more information on this very pivotal figure.

I found the interview itself quite disturbing. Much has been written about the similarities between today and the 1930's in relation to appeasing Ahmadinejad and Iran, but there was something about the man's demeanor and appearance that I found eerily similar to Adolf Hitler. In the late 1920's and early '30's Hitler was written off as a sort of silly looking rabble rouser by the real powers behind the scenes in Weimer Germany. Even as late as January 1933 when Hitler assumed the Chancellorship, much of the German "establishment" thought that he could be controlled. They were, of course, wrong.

We see similar stories today, speculating on how Ahmadinejad is really just a pawn used to placate the masses and really doesn't have control and/or make the actual decisions in Iran. We'll see.

I found his answers to Wallace extremely cunning, crafty and dangerous. You can almost hear Hitler spouting out "grievances" of the Sudentland Germans and the Germans in Danzig when you hear Ahmadinejad take up for the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iraqis. Granted, Hitler controlled one of the most powerful and advanced societies in the world by the late-1930's, and Ahmadinejad's Iran is far lower on the scale as a threat to project force. However, Ahmadinejad is making a play in many ways to speak for the world's one billion "aggrieved" Muslims, where Hitler only professed to speak on behalf of a mere 100 million Germans.

The solutions here are obviously not easy. No one wants war with Iran or, for that matter, war with a billion Muslims.

This morning the New York Times editorial page unhelpfully seeks to blame the Bush Administration for this growing crisis, insinuating that if only the United States had played nicer with other countries around the world this problem would magically not exist. The Times is utterly naïve and delusional as to what it might take to neutralize Ahmadinejad, but unfortunately their approach and mindset represents the mainstream thinking of most of our allies.

The truth is the relentless advance of technology will make it utterly impossible to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons at some point in the future, no matter what we do. Given that we cannot change the fact that Iran will gain nuclear weapons, if they want them, the serious policy needs to be towards changing the Iranian regime and its current President.......before it is too late.

August 13, 2006

Good Week for the GOP

The San Diego Union-Tribune Insight section has my piece on the fallout from the Lamont win in Connecticut earlier this week and its implications for the Democratic Party for those who haven't already seen it.

The win in Connecticut's by anti-war Ned Lamont over pro-war Sen. Joe Lieberman, while joyous for the far-left netroots crowd, is a bad harbinger for future Democratic Party prospects nationally in 2008 and beyond.

The closeness of the election only makes the outcome more frustrating for Democratic strategists. Had Lieberman eked out a victory, the Connecticut Senate primary would have been a huge win for the Democratic Party as it would have been able to reap the dividends of all the energy (and voters) that Lamont's candidacy had attracted, while at the same time sending a message to the country that the Democratic Party is large enough for pro-war Democrats. Had Lieberman held on and won, he undoubtedly would be reaching out to left-wing Democrats and pushing further away from President Bush and the Republicans. Instead, Lieberman will now be ostracized from the party and will be reaching out to independents and Republicans while chastising the extremists in the Democratic Party.....

Anti-war Democrats and much of the mainstream media continue to confuse anti-war with anti-lose. The incessant commentary that two-thirds of the country is against the war completely misreads the American public, as much of the negativity toward the war isn't because we are fighting, but rather a growing feeling that we are not fighting to win or not fighting smart.

Democrats went down this road in the late 1960s with Vietnam and they are still carrying the baggage from that leftward turn. Lamont's win is a big step back to that losing formula. During the height of the "progressive" revolt against the war in Vietnam, Americans voted 57 percent for Nixon and Wallace in 1968, followed by a whopping 60 percent for Nixon in 1972 against the avowedly anti-war George McGovern......

The Democrats have an insurgency of their own that is rapidly gaining strength, and Lieberman is the first high-profile victim. But in the long run the real victim will be the Democratic Party if it continues to purge the few remaining FDR/Truman/Scoop Jackson Democrats from its ranks.

Had Thursday's news from London broke a week earlier Lieberman would likely have won last week. Instead, the Democrats are faced with their VP nominee of six years ago echoing GOP talking points on the war....

If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England, it will strengthen them, and they will strike again.

A couple of percentage points more and Lieberman would have instead been attacking G.W. Bush.

With the Lamont win and the airline terror plot, from a political standpoint, last week was the first solid week for Republicans in some time.

Inside Hezbollah's Free Fire Zone

Michael Totten has pictures and a report from the front line on the Lebanese/Israeli border.

August 12, 2006

Sharon's Stroke

Ralph Peters in today's New York Post.

Israel has made a number of mistakes, but one has been fateful, if not fatal. It didn't fight hard enough when it had the chance. Now it's ready to fight seriously - but the window may have closed.

Let's hope not. Israel must smash the terrorist presence in southern Lebanon. Beyond dispute. It has to create a new reality on the ground.

By the time you read this, the IDF may be approaching the Litani River with 40,000 combat troops and hundreds of armored vehicles. Or the diplomats and politicians may have handed victory to the advance guard of the latest Persian satraps.

Would any of this have happened had Ariel Sharon still been in charge?

August 11, 2006

Political Video of the Day

Stephen Colbert explains the "independent Democrat."

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Fallows Responds

Yesterday, I mentioned James Fallows's piece on "Declaring Victory" in the last issue of The Atlantic. Particularly, I asked how it held up in light of yesterday's news.

Well, now Fallows himself has weighed in with a free piece on The Atlantic's Web site.

A choice passage:

Immediately after news of the arrests broke, President Bush took the opportunity to remind the country that it was "at war with Islamic fascists." No such reminder came from the British authorities, who had actually broken the plot. This is consistent with Britain's response after the subway bombings one year ago, when the government, press, and public prided themselves on the speed with which life returned to normal - while the police and intelligence agencies hunted down the responsible parties. It is also consistent with the argument that an open-ended state of war has become a major handicap in the long-term effort to penetrate potential terrorist cells, dry up their supply of recruits, and deny them shelter and support from other Muslims.

It's a difference in approaches well worth noting.

The Politics of Terror

Does the liquid terror plot help the Democrats going into the midterms? A Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted last week, found Democrats with the edge on terrorism:

Unlike in the 2004 election, when Republicans clearly benefited from the terrorism issue and a general sense of insecurity among many voters, the politics are muddled this year. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted last week, found Democrats with an eight-point edge when people were asked which party they trusted more to handle terrorism issues.

"I can't help but admit that I had a small knot in my stomach this morning," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. "It was eerily familiar. But upon reflection, we are in a fundamentally different place in 2006 than we were in 2002 and 2004. For two or three generations, Republicans have, in the main, had a very substantial advantage on national security. The reality is, they have squandered that advantage in the sands of Iraq."

In the Post poll, 47 percent approved of Bush's handling of the terrorism issue, a 10-point drop from a similar stage two years ago. But Republican strategists say the polling misses the political significance of the new focus on terrorism and war. Conservatives are generally unhappy with the party over issues such as immigration and federal spending, but they care more about security matters than any other group, and their motivation to vote Republican may now resurface.

I don't particularly buy that, on its face. But I'm willing to be persuaded. Let's see how the same numbers come out next week -- after a major terror plot has been thwarted on Bush's watch.

Superprecedent or Giant Mess

Is the 1976 Buckley decision (which opened the door to modern campaign-finance regulation) a "superprecedent" or just a big mess.

Bob Bauer reports, you decide.

Chatterboxes

Everyone is chattering about the possibility of a McCain-Lieberman ticket in 2008. Austin Bay. Michael Barone. David Brooks. Andrew Sullivan.

Rudy!

Wow. Ask and you shall receive. I got an overwhelming amount of email on the Rudy v. McCain question, with all sorts of interesting angles and insights. Let me quickly summarize two recurring themes from the emails of people who support Giuliani over McCain:

1) Leadership: Rudy may not have a voting record but he does have a record. There's his leadership during the crisis of September 11, of course, which is forever etched in people's minds. But there's also his leadership in turning around New York. He cut taxes, reduced crime massively, and made the city livable again. This goes back to the reason Governors usually have it over Senators when it comes to running for President: they're not in Washington D.C. back-slapping and bloviating but instead are out governing, solving problems and producing tangible results - good or bad.

2) Loyalty/Integrity: Despite the argument that it's McCain's turn because he's "paid his dues," many just don't see him as a loyal party man - for obvious reasons. But the problem is deeper than McCain's willingness to go against Republicans on key issues, there is a real sense of dislike toward McCain among some for his self-aggrandizing chumminess with the media. In other words, it's not just that McCain disagrees with Republicans on some issues but the way in which he does the disagreeing that irks them. Rudy doesn't seem to engender any of those same feelings - just the opposite, in fact.

Generally speaking, there was a very small group that said Rudy's position on social issues was a deal-breaker (his refusal to get behind the ban on partial birth abortions was mentioned), and another small group that said they would sit out a general election featuring either Giuliani or McCain on the ticket, but more than ninety percent said they would vote for either Giuliani or McCain over any Democrat - some enthusiastically and some holding their noses.

There was an overwhelming sense that social issues, while still important, pale in comparison to the number one priority which almost every single person agreed is defending the country against terrorism. One emailer pointed out that abortion, gay rights, and the rest will be ultimately settled by the courts anyway, so while a President's values on those issues might still be of some importance, given the fact that we're currently in the middle of a very long, very dangerous war with potentially catastrophic consequences the overriding concern in 2008 is electing someone who is tough, competent, and can manage and respond effectively to the threats we face at home and abroad.

UPDATE: By the way, I don't have time to respond to Sager's response at the moment, but it's well thought and well argued, as usual. Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards has more as well.

The Pakistan Connection

The Times: Arrest of duo in Pakistan 'triggered bomb plot swoop'.

Two British Muslims arrested eight to ten days ago in Lahore and Karachi gave vital information about the alleged plot to detonate chemical suicide bombs on US-bound passenger jets, officials in Pakistan claimed today.

See also Tom Joscelyn in the Weekly Standard.

Why Aren't We Profiling?

The Bank of England releases the names of 19 suspects (pdf):

The Bank of England, as agent for Her Majesty's Treasury, has today directed that any funds held for or on behalf of the individuals named in the Annex to this News Release must be frozen...

1. ALI, Abdula, Ahmed
DOB: 10/10/1980
Address: Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom
2. ALI, Cossor
DOB: 04/12/1982
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
3. ALI, Shazad, Khuram
DOB: 11/06/1979
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
4. HUSSAIN, Nabeel
DOB: 10/03/1984
Address: London, United Kingdom, E4
5. HUSSAIN, Tanvir
DOB: 21/02/1981
Address: Leyton, London, United Kingdom, E10
6. HUSSAIN, Umair
DOB: 09/10/1981
Address: London, United Kingdom, E14
7. ISLAM, Umar
DOB: 23/04/1978
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
8. KAYANI, Waseem
DOB: 28/04/1977
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
9. KHAN, Assan, Abdullah
DOB: 24/10/1984
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
10. KHAN, Waheed, Arafat
DOB: 18/05/1981
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
11. KHATIB, Osman, Adam
DOB: 07/12/1986
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
12. PATEL, Abdul, Muneem
DOB: 17/04/1989
Address: London, United Kingdom, E5
13. RAUF, Tayib
DOB: 26/04/1984
Address: Birmingham, United Kingdom
14. SADDIQUE, Muhammed, Usman
DOB: 23/04/1982
Address: Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom, E17
15. SARWAR, Assad
DOB: 24/05/1980
Address: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
16. SAVANT, Ibrahim
DOB: 19/12/1980
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17
17. TARIQ, Amin, Asmin
DOB: 07/06/1983
Address: Walthamstow, London, United Kingdom, E17
18. UDDIN, Shamin, Mohammed
DOB: 22/11/1970
Address: Stoke Newington, London, United Kingdom
19. ZAMAN, Waheed
DOB: 27/05/1984
Address: London, United Kingdom, E17

When are we going to start using common sense and profile?

The Washington Examiner editorializes:

We recognize that the vast majority of Muslims do not share the Jihadist obsessions with killing Americans, Brits and other Westerners. But there is one undeniable fact about the 1993 World Trace Center bombers, the Sept. 11 murderers, the Madrid bombers, the London subway bombers and the present liquid bomb plotters......There is no room left for the blind politically correct procedures that ignore this reality -- our enemy is nearly always a young to middle-aged man from a Muslim nation or culture, and it is madness not to focus mainly on those who most readily match the known profile.

God Bless the Brits - Larry Kudlow

"We are confident that we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction and to commit, quite frankly, mass murder. Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale."-London Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Stephenson

Just in case anybody forgot, we are in the middle of a war.

Thank God for the British authorities. They did excellent work in unearthing this latest evil plot.

By the way, they used "sneak and peak" tactics to go into the homes of the terrorist suspects. These are tactics not permitted in the U.S. without a warrant.

There's a lesson here: Give the authorities whatever powers they need during wartime. Let's not forget the importance of total electronic surveillance, in addition to "sneak and peek."

By the time you tell the right number of Senators, House members, various judges, assorted bureaucrats and God knows who else, it could be too late. Please think of that.

There are reasons for taking these wartime measures which may infringe upon civil liberties, but does anyone truly believe we should be worried about the civil liberties of terrorists?

It is a miracle that the British security folks uncovered this plot. Their work saved untold innocent lives. God bless them.

Duckworth Ducking Debates?

Republican Peter Roskam sat across from an empty chair yesterday in Addison, Illinois, and he couldn't have been happier. The event was a debate hosted by the town mayor, and the extra chair was there for Mr. Roskam's opponent in the Sixth District Congressional race, Democrat L. Tammy Duckworth. But Ms. Duckworth never showed up, causing the Mayor to declare "It is insulting that Tammy Duckworth would refuse to participate in a discussion of issues important to our voters."

The Roskam campaign wasted no time in pouncing on Ms. Duckworth's no-show, emailing out the Mayor's comments along with a photo of Mr. Roskam sitting next to Ms. Duckworth's empty chair.

Attendance at debates is rapidly becoming an issue in this race. Ms. Duckworth has agreed to four debates with Mr. Roskam, but she has also turned down at least four other opportunities, citing "scheduling conflicts." Roskam Campaign Manager Ryan McLaughlin was quick to take advantage of that excuse, saying "Tammy Duckworth can find time to go to San Francisco for three days to raise liberal special interest money, but when it comes to talking issues with voters she apparently is 'unavailable'."

The flap over debates is welcome news for the Roskam campaign, which has been on the defensive since President Bush vetoed the stem cell research bill back on July 20. Mr. Roskam supports a full ban on embryonic stem cell research, and Ms. Duckworth has been aggressively using the issue to portray Mr. Roskam as out of the mainstream as well as to further tie him to Mr. Bush - something Democrats believe will be a potent strategy for defeating Republicans and possibly winning back the House this fall.

Thriller

Are Democrats nationwide happy about Lamont's victory? Zogby says they're thrilled: "Nearly four out of five Democrats (79%) were happy the former Democratic vice presidential nominee was knocked off by Lamont."

It's also made them more optimistic about the fall, apparently.

Rudy and Me

Having come to be known as something of a Rudy Giuliani fan -- and having been mentioned by name a few times in the piece -- I thought I should respond in some detail to my colleague Tom's "Deconstructing Giuliani," which takes a bit more of a skeptical line than my own as to Rudy's chances in the '08 Republican primary.

I'll start out by saying that while I am a Giuliani fan generally, and while he's currently my favorite for '08, it's early yet, and I'm open to arguments from all candidates. What's more, my optimism about Giuliani is not solely based on horse-race polls showing him in the lead, but is instead based on a wide range of polling data that I think paints a comprehensive picture of his electability -- and, much more importantly, I am persuaded that many social conservatives, even in the South, are very open to hearing Rudy out. Whether he can close the deal with them -- well, that question is many months away. But he's in the running with these voters, and in a serious way.

Anyway, on to Tom's criticisms of my Rudy optimism and his criticisms more generally of Rudy as a candidate. It's very welcome that Tom has gone beyond the usual "God, guns and gays" analysis that counts out Rudy, an analysis that's shallower than water on a plate.

Tom delves into some more serious issues. And I'll look at them one-by-one:

Immigration:

Tom says that Rudy's "overall position on immigration is essentially indistinguishable from McCain's." I don't think this is right.

Tom cites, in particular, a recent interview Rudy did with Bill O'Reilly. Here's The Hotline's partial transcript of that interview:

On illegal immigration: "When I got into office I had 400,000 illegal immigrants, give or take 100,000. ... The Immigration and Naturalization Service would only deport 1,500 to 2,000 a year. So I said to myself I have 398,000 illegal immigrants because the federal government is not going to do anything about this. It can't. So I had to figure out how do I deal with it. ... We made sure that their children were allowed to go to school for which we were criticized. But if I didn't do that, I would end up with children on the streets. ... And we tried to make their lives reasonable."

More: "You've got to take a practical approach to it. There are 12 million illegals in this country. We got to stop illegals from coming in. And a tremendous amount of money should be put into the physical security that's needed to do that."

My takeaway from that interview was that Rudy is shifting toward an enforcement-first position on immigration. And if he's running against McCain in '08, he'd be blind, deaf and dumb not to make such a shift. As mayor of New York City, he couldn't control the border. He had to deal with the cards the federal government dealt him. As president, he can set different priorities.

McCain is the face of "amnesty" to conservatives. Giuliani hasn't had to cast votes on the issue. He has the luxury of defining himself.

The First Amendment:

With my particular obsessive opposition to campaign-finance regulation, this is a particularly strong point against Giuliani. Let me be clear, I have no double standard here: To the extent that Rudy Giuliani still supports campaign-finance reform, he is just as much an enemy of the First Amendment as John McCain or any other politician who supports anything less than the full repeal of that dreadful law.

That said, let me make a somewhat nuanced (read: weasel-like) argument for Rudy over McCain on this issue. There's a big difference between campaign-finance "reform" being your signature issue and the centerpiece of your domestic agenda and simply supporting it from the sidelines. McCain is obsessed with his "reform" crusade, and will pursue "circumventions" of McCain-Feingold to the end of the earth, perpetuating a never-ending cycle of new reforms, the failure of those reforms, and then new patches to deal with the failures of the previous reforms. Giuliani, on the other hand ... well, I just can't see it being a big issue for him. At worst, he would leave us with the (unhappy) status quo.

That said, show me the '08 GOP candidate proposing to get rid of McCain-Feingold, and I'll slide a point over into his column. Newt Gingrich has the right position on this, but sadly is not really in the running. George Allen voted against McCain-Feingold and is opposing 527 reform, so a point goes to him as well -- but I happen to dislike almost everything else about Allen (he's what we call a "big-government conservative").

(On issues like the Brooklyn Museum, I defy Tom to dig up the conservatives who will be upset with Rudy for fighting obscenity paid for with the public's tax dollars. This is clearly a plus, not a minus.)

Judges:

Judges, it turns out, brings us right back to campaign-finance regulation. I would contend, borrowing heavily from George Will, that McCain's mania to preserve his "reformer" legacy is precisely what should make him unacceptable to conservatives on the issue of judges.

To quote Will (in a column all McCain detractors should have bookmarked or tucked away somewhere safe):

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

In other words, there are exceedingly few judges who would uphold campaign-finance "reform" but strike down Roe.

Any Rudy candidacy would have to include a promise to the social right on judges -- something along the lines of: "judges in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts." I assume this is the direction he will go.

Admittedly, I am a social liberal, so it's no surprise that I'm not worried about Giuliani's social liberalism, as far as my own vote. But I think he can cover his bases on all of the issues above -- though, I would like to see him move toward Gingrich's position on campaign-finance (essentially: get rid of the restrictions and replace it all with instant Internet disclosure).

So, that's my response. You should also check out this post from RudyBlogger.

August 10, 2006

Degraded

Dan Drezner posts this analysis from Stratfor, which seems on point to me:

There are four takeaway lessons from this incident:

First, while there obviously remains a threat from those not only sympathetic to al Qaeda, but actually participating in planning with those in the al Qaeda apex leadership, their ability to launch successful attacks outside of the Middle East is severely degraded.

Second, if the cell truly does have 50 people and 21 have already been detained, then al Qaeda might have lost its ability to operate below the radar of Western -- or at least U.K. -- intelligence agencies. Al Qaeda's defining characteristic has always been its ability to maintain operational security. If that has been compromised, then al Qaeda's importance as a force has diminished greatly.

Third, though further attacks could occur, it appears al Qaeda has lost the ability to alter the political decision-making of its targets. The Sept. 11 attack changed the world. The Madrid train attacks changed a government. This failed airliner attack only succeeded in closing an airport temporarily.

Fourth, the vanguard of militant Islamism appears to have passed from Sunni/Wahhabi al Qaeda to Shiite Iran and Hezbollah. It is Iran that is shaping Western policies on the Middle East, and Hezbollah who is directly engaged with Israel. Al Qaeda, in contrast, appears unable to do significantly more than issue snazzy videos.

Iraq may be going poorly (OK, it is going poorly ... very poorly), but there are a lot of things we're doing right in the broader struggle.

Political Video of the Day

Not to make light of the thwarted terrorist attack, but ...

I don't think this ad is going to fly anymore:

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Forced To Be Free

Raise your hand if you want compulsory voting?

No, seriously. You'll be fined if you don't raise your hand.

Large Scale and Small Scale

Update to my item below:

Ross Douthat makes some similar points here. In particular, he notes that al Qaeda's propensity to go for big, dazzling attacks makes it less of a threat on a day-to-day basis. Such attacks are harder to pull off, and more likely to be uncovered before completion.

As a New Yorker, I wonder every day why there haven't been more small-scale attacks on soft targets. It would be almost impossible to stop and be much more disruptive of daily life. But al Qaeda's logic is aimed toward a world war and a global conflagration. All the more reason I think de-escalation has its merits.

The New Chicago School

On to more trivial news, for the moment, it looks like both Lowe's and Target have caught on to a tactic that used to be Wal-Mart's specialty: If a city wants to make it hard to do business, just don't do business there.

Chicago's city council passed a bill last month that requires "big-box" retailers to pay their workers $10 in wages and $3 in benefits by 2010. Mayor Daley can still veto it -- and he should. Otherwise, big-box retailers are 100 percent within their rights to refuse to be bullied by economically illiterate local legislative bodies.

Meanwhile, ACORN is going after Target with a letter-writing campaign (ouch -- that ought to bring them to their knees).

Declaring Victory?

The news today that British authorities have thwarted a major terror attack aimed at airplanes traveling from Britain to the United States immediately put me in the mind of the article in this month's (September) Atlantic by James Fallows, titled "Declaring Victory" (pay link). The subhead sums up much of the argument: "The United States is succeeding in its struggle against terrorism. The time has come to declare the war on terror over, so that an even more effective military and diplomatic campaign can begin."

So, does news of another major attack -- even one that's been thwarted -- throw cold water on Fallows's argument? To quote weasely commentators everywhere: yes and no.

Essentially, Fallows argues, al Qaeda as it once existed has been degraded to a point where it's virtually meaningless. What we're really fighting now is a dispersed network of successor terrorist groups around the globe. But calling the fight against these groups a "war" isn't terribly useful.

Fallows writes:

As a general principle, a standing state of war can be justified for several reasons. It might be the only way to concentrate the nation's resources where they are needed. It might explain why people are being inconvenienced or asked to sacrifice. It might symbolize that the entire nation's effort is directed toward one goal.

But none of those applies to modern America in its effort to defend itself against terrorist attack. The federal budget reveals no discipline at all about resources: the spending for antiterrorism activities has gone up, but so has the spending for nearly everything else. There is no expectation that Americans in general will share the inconveniences and sacrifice of the 1 percent of the population in uniform (going through airport screening lines does not count). Occasional speeches about the transcendent importance of the "long war" can't conceal the many other goals that day by day take political precedence.

Far from serving any purpose, Fallows writes, the designation of this as a "war" is a great way to guarantee that we'll lose:

Perhaps worst of all, an open-ended war is an open-ended invitation to defeat. Sometime there will be more bombings, shootings, poisonings, and other disruptions in the United States. They will happen in the future because they have happened in the past (Oklahoma City; the Unabomber; the Tylenol poisonings; the Washington, D.C.-area snipers; the still-unsolved anthrax mailings; the countless shootings at schools; and so on). These previous episodes were not caused by Islamic extremists; future ones may well be. In all cases they represent a failure of the government to protect its people. But if they occur while the war is still on, they are enemy "victories," not misfortunes of the sort that great nations suffer. They are also powerful provocations to another round of hasty reactions.

The point, he argues, should be to de-escalate our rhetoric and deny our enemies the global war they want:

War implies emergency, and the upshot of most of what I heard was that the United States needs to shift its operations to a long-term, nonemergency basis. "De-escalation of the rhetoric is the first step," John Robb told me. "It is hard for insurgents to handle de-escalation." War encourages a simple classification of the world into ally or enemy. This polarization gives dispersed terrorist groups a unity they might not have on their own. Last year, in a widely circulated paper for the Journal of Strategic Studies, David Kilcullen argued that Islamic extremists from around the world yearn to constitute themselves as a global jihad. Therefore, he said, Western countries should do everything possible to treat terrorist groups individually, rather than "lumping together all terrorism, all rogue or failed states, and all strategic competitors who might potentially oppose U.S. objectives." The friend-or-foe categorization of war makes lumping together more likely.

The United States can declare victory by saying that what is controllable has been controlled: Al-Qaeda Central has been broken up. Then the country can move to its real work. It will happen on three levels: domestic protection, worldwide harassment and pursuit of al-Qaeda, and an all-fronts diplomatic campaign.

This is certainly not the first time someone has questioned the usefulness of the term "War on Terror" when it comes to our current conflict. It's always been troubling, this idea of waging war on a tactic. And it's always had disturbing parallels to the unwinnable War on Drugs.

But I think as we reach the fifth anniversary of 9/11/01, and as we near the end of the Bush administration, the question of how to conceive of the struggle in which we're involved, the question of who exactly we're fighting, the question of what exactly will constitute victory -- and what parts of this "war" will we all be fighting for the rest of our lives -- will have to be dealt with in some more systematic way. And with a change of administration, we will get some much-needed new blood and willingness to take a step back.

In 2004, there was much derision -- deservedly -- of John Kerry's characterization of the "War on Terror" as chiefly a law-enforcement matter. But "War" isn't quite right either.

In many ways, it's days like today that represent our biggest victories against the Islamic extremists. When we thwart an attack, unearth a network, disrupt their operations and jail their "soldiers," we've lived another day without their having scored a blow. Is this "law enforcement"? No, it's something much more aggressive than that -- a combination of domestic security, international law enforcement, intelligence gathering, diplomacy, arm-twisting of both friendly and hostile "allies" (it will be very interesting to get a sense of how much help Pakistan was to the U.S. and Britain in all of this), etc.

It's not law enforcement really, but it's also not war. It's something new. And five years in, we still don't have a good vocabulary to describe it.

Fallows and others may be underestimating the remaining operational capacity of al Qaeda -- details on the scope of its role in planning the airplane bombings will emerge, presumably.

But the underlying point that we must "normalize" the War on Terror seems sound.

Friends in Pakistan

Very interesting:

Pakistani intelligence agencies helped the British authorities foil the terror plot to blow up aircraft travelling between Britain and America, highly placed sources in Pakistan said today.

The agencies have been working closely with British anti-terror police in monitoring the activities of the suspected terrorists for some time, many of whom have links with Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups, The Times has learnt.

A Dangerous World

I'm a little late getting to news about the foiled terror plot (New York Times | Washington Post) which serves as today's reminder that the world is now an exceedingly dangerous place.

The insidious specifics of the plot also call to mind part of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's reply to Senator Clinton during last week's Armed Services Committee hearing: Does the enemy have a brain and continue to make adjustments? You bet.

bbcgraphic.gifUPDATE: My friend in England emails: "Focus of police investigation seems to be in the Thames Valley (Oxford - London corridor) where nine houses are about to be evacuated in the town of High Wycombe. An American expert on Sky News has mentioned large quantities of ammonium nitrate being found."

Apparently, Chertoff is receiving high marks overseas so far. You can see a video of his statement here. My friend also rates highly the peformance of new British Home Secretary John Reid, who is running point in Britain while Tony Blair is vacationing in the Caribbean, adding, "the journos are wary of him as he can be very prickily with what he perceives to be snobbery." You can see a video of Reid's statement here.

McCain & Giuliani

Most who responded to my column on McCain from last week agreed with the characterization that he is out of touch with the conservative base on a few key issues, including immigration and campaign finance reform.

Today, I take a look at how Rudy Giuliani stacks up on those same issues. Again, I'm interested in hearing what people think - particularly from conservatives explaining why they're willing to support Giuliani even though, as a matter of policy, Hizzoner carries all the same baggage as McCain on those issues - plus plenty of other suitcases as well. Email me your thoughts: tom-at-realclearpolitics.com

Do As I Say.....

Al Gore successfully scares the pants off another celebrity, this time Burt Bacharach at the HuffPo:

I finally saw "An Inconvenient Truth" the other night, and it scared the life out of me. I was stunned at the reality of it all; now days later, still not being able to get what I saw out of my mind. [snip]

I sat in the theatre anxious for the end, so I could check into trading my Lexus for a hybrid. I know very little about cars, but I know my household can make a difference with an energy-saving car.

But as Peter Schweizer writes in USA Today, Gore's "carbon-neutral lifestyle" isn't as life altering as one would expect, given that we're facing certain cataclysm over global warming. Those who preach must be pure, right? Somehow I don't think we'll find Gore's undies drying on a clothesline in the backyard of his 10,000 square-foot Nashville home.

August 09, 2006

The Straight Talk Express Rolls On

John McCain has locked down two major South Carolina social conservatives.

McCain is clearly playing the best game right now as far as early organizing. We'll see if it's enough to overcome conservatives' seething discomfort with the man.

Flattered by Evil

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes Mike Wallace go weak in the knees. Nothing surprising here, folks.

I'll let the Hollywood Reporter tell it:

Wallace dismissed the common perceptions of Ahmadinejad.

"He's actually, in a strange way, he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way," Wallace said. "He's very, very short but he's comfortable in his own skin."

Despite problems with translation -- there was only one translator for a time during the interview -- Wallace said Ahmadinejad was patient.

"He couldn't have been more accommodating. He had a good time doing the interview," Wallace said. And he believes that it was Ahmadinejad's idea to do the interview. He acknowledged that he had become a much-desired interview subject but told the veteran CBS journalist that he remembered a discussion the two had over a year ago when Ahmadinejad was in New York.

"I don't know if you remember this or not but you and I had a talk over breakfast at the United Nations," Ahmadinejad told Wallace. "Do you remember that you asked me at the time if I would sit down with you ... and I said by all means, let's do it." Wallace said he was surprised that Ahmadinejad had remembered.

Oh my God! Hitler remembered my name!

Compare and Contrast

Thoughtful analysis versus, well, the opposite.

A Man of the People

Reading over Kos's list of winners and losers from last night's primary, this one stood out:

Losers: Lobbyists. They've paid good money to buy Joe Lieberman. How do you buy a guy that doesn't need money? That isn't willing to be corrupted by their strings-attached cash?

You must be joking. Since when did the left adopt the belief that wealth equals incorruptibility? The Senate is full of millionaires, but I thought Washington, D.C. was engulfed by a culture of corruption. Or is it only wealthy Republicans who fall under the evil influence of lobbyists? By Kos's logic I guess if we fill the House of Representatives with 435 millionaires the corruption problem in D.C. will be solved. How's that for a vision of progressive "people-powered Democracy?"

But Kos's comment serves to highlight the broader point of how successful the left has been at shaping and selling Lamont's candidacy. It's been strange to watch the left rally around such an empty vessel - a limousine liberal and complete political neophyte from Greenwich - and stranger still to watch them try and pass off the blue-blood millionaire as a "man of the people."

Like earlier this year when Lamont resigned his decade-long membership in an almost all white country club in a new found sensitivity to its lack of diversity. Weeks later Maxine Waters, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are parading him through the streets of New Haven, singing his praises to African-American voters and working aggressively to defeat a guy who left home forty years ago of his own volition to go march on behalf of the Civil Rights movement.

Kos's portrayal of Joe Lieberman as corrupt is also a joke. But it made for a good Lamont sound byte during the campaign ("67 lobbyists in D.C. for every member of Congress"), so the notion that Lieberman has been "bought" by lobbyists is part of the script.

Incidentally, if Kos is so concerned about elected officials being beholden to special interest groups, who you do you think would be less likely to be influenced by outside forces: an independent elected by a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, or someone elected by a more narrow partisan base who rose to prominence at least in part with the help of left wing pressure groups like Moveon.org?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for anyone who wants to run for public office getting into the game. And Lamont is telegenic, articulate, did a good job of staying on message and deserves credit for doing enough of the right things (and not making any critical errors) to ride his wave all the way to oust a three-term incumbent - no small task. My point is that Lamont has always struck me as an accidental candidate or worse, a synthetic fabrication of the left, and a very odd choice to be the focal point of an intra-party battle of this magnitude and with so much at stake for the future of the Democratic Party.

Lieberman Going Forward

So, how does the picture look for Lieberman going forward? While polls before the primary showed the senator handily winning a three-way race, there's no telling how much his primary loss will knock him down in the public estimation.

Will he seem like a desperate loser?

Will Democrats be mad he's not stepping aside?

Will Republicans rally around him?

Political Wire looks at some CT exit polls and finds that "one in five Lieberman voters does not think he should seek an Independent run in November." But keeping four-out-of-five of his primary voters isn't bad -- especially if he can win over some independents and presumably most Republicans (the GOP candidate is a joke).

TNR's Jason Zengerle takes a look at things here. He notes that the competence factor doesn't seem to be improving any as Team Lieberman transitions into the independent general election campaign mode: Someone already beat them to registering www.connecticutforlieberman.com.

Curb Your Pollution

Shouldn't Larry David and wife have been driving a Prius?

Polls in Black and White

Democrats try to figure out how to read polls like Republicans ...

The key insight:

When Republicans segment voters into groups, they typically use the "most important issue" questions to do it, whereas Democrats typically use demographics, speculating, for instance, on how married women or African Americans will vote and then tailoring their campaign strategies to the various groups. While demographics offer insights into who is thinking what, it is much more useful to be able to identify the single issue that will determine someone's vote.

Of course, you also have to have appealing positions on those issues. Maybe the Democrats will figure that one out next time around.

The Era of Big Government Is ...

Hillary Clinton: big-government conservative?

Reader Emails on Lamont-Lieberman

Here are some emails in response to my column on Lamont's win and the political ramifications.

Funny how you avoid mentioning the winning formula of Dems like Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt. It looks like the Republican wing of the Democratic Party is swiftly shrinking with Lieberman now joining their ranks, lockstep with their pro-lobbyist, corporate decision making. This wasn't just about the war. It was about Schiavo, it was about Lieberman receiving more money from Enron than any other Dem in the senate, and it was about Lieberman supporting Bush's Social Security lunacy.

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Excellent commentary. I thought the Lamont people handled the PR dreadfully last night - no decent podium, no backdrop, no American flag. Here was an opportunity for him to move to the center and we got only the tired people and the tired rhetoric from the far left. Lamont didn't look like a potential US Senator; he looked like the spokesman for a rag-tag army of neophytes.

Moreover, his speech was deadly for himself and leftists across the nation, and the GOP should seize this opportunity. When Lamont invoked JFK's "we should never negotiate from fear, but never fear to negotiate," my wife asked me, "Negotiate with whom? The terrorists and killers? They'd behead him before even sitting down at the table."

These leftists are unserious about the state of the world and our national security.

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I respectfully beg to differ with your analysis. The results of the election last night are significant, but in the opposite way that you tried to portray them. Mr. Bush's policy in Iraq was completely repudiated because it makes no sense. "Staying the course" when you are headed over the falls is not a strategy for success.

I am a moderate democrat from NY who watched the CT race with great interest. Lieberman is only interested in Lieberman. His whole body language and rhetoric shows you this. I have felt this since the 2000 race. He was not willing to do the heavy lifting that Gore needed, because that might reflect badly on "Saint Joe."

It's a real shame when 18 years of feeding at the trough isn't long enough. Why can't he just take a vacation and start a new life for him and his family. I predict that his ultimate humiliation is still waiting in the wings in November. Forget "Connecticut for Lieberman" it should be "Lieberman for Lieberman".

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Excellent. The Democrats once again will shoot themselves in the foot. I find it amazing the democrats forget what happened to us on Sept 11.
I am not a huge Bush supporter but he is doing the right thing.

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I totally disagree with your take of Lieberman's fall. I'm a conservative who always felt the war was stupid and most Americans now feel the same. This will cause most GOP candidates to run away from Bush and I expect a bloodbath in November. Iraq is just going to get worse and anyone supporting it will be in trouble. Also by November we could have higher gas and economic problems.

I am voting democratic this year for the first time with the hope that this wakes up the GOP and we can get back to conservative principles and after a couple years of democratic rule the country may wake up. It will be good to have democrats in power for short spans, it is not a good thing when one party has total control of the govt. What do we really have to show for 6 years of republican rule. One really screwed up and dangerous world!

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The main reason the Senator lost to Lamont was as a result of his unwavering support for the Iraq fiasco and his apparent closeness to Pres. Bush. I watched the 2000 debate between him and V.P. Cheney, it was a laughable performance. Cheney was allowed to get away with outrageous statements ,which should have been responded to. Sen. Lieberman has allowed himself to be manipulated by the White House. What was that kiss all about?

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Those Democrats who believe that their time is best spent purging their party of heretics should read "Ode To Catalonia", George Orwell's account of his time fighting for the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell spent six months freezing in a trench, and was shot through the neck in combat. When he was sent to Barcelona for medical treatment he learned that he - along with everyone in the militia in which he served - was on the communist's death list, and he barely escaped with his life. Most of his comrades were not so lucky.

The Spanish leftists were more concerned with ideological purity and absolute control than they were in fighting for their freedom, and their reward was forty years of Fascist rule under Franco.

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As a former lifetime Republican who feels that the Bush/Cheney administration has been an absolute disaster for the United States, I sorrowfully have to agree with your evaluation. Another 8 years of right-wing neo-cons running this country and it won't be fit to live in.

I don't speak other languages and Canada is too cold and Australia is too far.

Gallup on McCain

Gallup has just put out "A Closer Look at Americans' Views of John McCain."

Here's the lead:

John McCain is considered by many to be the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. He is rated positively by a majority of Americans, and is unique in that evaluations of him are similar among Americans of different partisan affiliations. While that would make him a formidable candidate in a general election, he could be vulnerable in Republican presidential primaries and caucuses. Indeed, in a recent poll Gallup found Republicans were more likely to find Rudy Giuliani or Condoleezza Rice, rather than McCain, as acceptable Republican presidential nominees.

That's, of course, no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. What's surprising is the reasons some Republicans don't like McCain. It's not just issue positions like immigration and campaign-finance "reform." It's equally that Republicans simply don't like him.

Says Gallup:

Republicans are about equally likely to mention aspects of McCain's character as they are his issue positions as a negative for him. Thus, any image problems McCain may have within his own party may be due as much to his personality as it is to the stances he has taken on controversial issues.

Issue positions can be finessed. Being an arrogant "maverick" in love with the sound of your own quips ... not so much.

Political Video of the Day

Today, folks, is an easy one. While we're all obsessing over Lieberman-Lamont, Democratic primary voters actually got one right down in Georgia.

So, without further ado, here's Cynthia McKinney singing in the wake of her loss to Hank Johnson:

There's also a nice rant about electronic voting machines. I actually share some of her skepticism (paper ballot do the job just fine), but I think her 59-41 loss came to her the old fashioned way.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

UPDATE: An extended version of the congresswoman's vocal stylings can be seen here.

Make Lamont, Not War

John argues the Dems have just taken a step back toward the formula that first brought them McGovern for President, followed by a three-decade long national security deficit in the polls. Last night did seem like a 60's acid flashback, no? Reverends Sharpton and Jackson on the stage smiling, the crowd holding up peace signs and chanting "bring them home." I expected to see Jane Fonda walk up on stage at any moment.

If you think that's too much of a caricature, or overestimates the potential damage Democrats have just caused themselves by kicking Joe Lieberman to the curb in favor of an anti-war, anti-Bush stuffed shirt millionaire from Greenwich, you should take a look at this letter Michael Moore just posted to his web site. Here's the beginning:

Friends,

Let the resounding defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman send a cold shiver down the spine of every Democrat who supported the invasion of Iraq and who continues to support, in any way, this senseless, immoral, unwinnable war. Make no mistake about it: We, the majority of Americans, want this war ended -- and we will actively work to defeat each and every one of you who does not support an immediate end to this war.

Nearly every Democrat set to run for president in 2008 is responsible for this war. They voted for it or they supported it. That single, stupid decision has cost us 2,592 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. Lieberman and Company made a colossal mistake -- and we are going to make sure they pay for that mistake. Payback time started last night.

A majority of the public may not be happy with progress in Iraq, but neither do they subscribe to Moore's view that it is "senseless," "immoral," or "unwinnable." Despite what he may think, Michael Moore's rabid, far left partisanship is never going to represent the majority view in this country. The problem is that Moore now represents the majority view within the Democratic party - further cemented by Lamont's victory last night - and that just might cost them another decade or two in the wilderness.

Game On

If you thought the RNC would be well prepared to start making political hay out of a Lamont victory, you'd be right.

August 08, 2006

Lieberman Concedes

Joe Lieberman concedes to Ned Lamont. (It's looking like a 4 point margin.)

At the same time, Lieberman leaves pretty much zero doubt that he will be running as an independent.

"As I see it, in this campaign, we've just finished the first half, and the Lamont team is ahead," Lieberman said. "But, in the second half, our team, team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory in November."

TOM ADDS: Lieberman's speech sounded as much like a victory speech as Lamont's. Looks like Chris Dodd had the shortest job in the history of politics trying to talk Lieberman out of an independent run. I also liked the jab about the web site being hacked. That'll be sure to send the nutroots into a foamy-mouth rage as the campaign enters another 90 days worth of craziness. Lieberman-Lamont is the gift that just keeps on giving.....

CT Senate Results Bad News For Dems

A more detailed analysis will follow in the morning, but if these numbers hold up (Lamont 52%, Lieberman 48%) it is just about the worst result possible for the Democratic Party. First, it almost guarantees that Lieberman will run as an independent and given the arc of the public polling it is very possible that Lamont peaked about two weeks ago. Lieberman's 48% makes him the clear favorite in the three-way. Republicans Chris Shays and Rob Simmons have received a boost in holding on in their vulnerable districts, two seats the Dems have to win if they hope to capture the House. And as much as mainstream Democrats may try to downplay this result as a Connecticut issue, the rejection of a three-term Senator who was the party's VP nominee only six years ago will have repercussions throughout the country and they don't help the Democratic Party.

(UPDATE: Here is my more detailed analysis on the political impact of Lamont's win.)

CT Gov Race Update

The Dem primary for Governor between Dan Malloy and John DeStefano is a barnburner. With 84% reporting the two candidates are separated by less than 2,000 votes.

CT Update

Just posted to the Hartford Courant web site:


Earlier this evening, as Connecticut's smallest towns reported their results, Lamont led by as much as 10 percent. Lamont was strong in the state's smaller towns, picking up lopsided wins in places like Mansfield, home to the University of Connecticut, Salisbury, Cornwall and Falls Village.

But the vote tallies were much closer in larger communities. Lieberman strongholds, such as the Naugatuck River valley in Western Connecticut, were also going heavily for Lieberman. The state's larger cities were trending for the incumbent. Lieberman won Waterbury and Stamford and was barely leading in the state's largest city, Bridgeport, where some precincts had not reported by 10:15 p.m. The senator, however, lost his hometown of New Haven 52 percent to 48 percent.

Meanwhile, Down in Georgia

With 51% of precincts reporting, McKinney is getting thrashed. There are still more than 80 precincts to report in DeKalb, but if you compare the current results with the vote from the primary vote of July 18 you'll see that McKinney is going to have to make up a huge amount of ground.

Three weeks ago she pulled 26,788 votes out of DeKalb, while Johnson got 24,488 and John Coyne (who ran an anti-McKinney campaign) received 4,045 votes. McKinney is currently trailing Johnson by 1,000 votes in DeKalb and 5,000 votes overall.

UPDATE: From the AJC:

The McKinney Web site noted voting machines not working or mysteriously casting incorrect ballots, "insecure" voting equipment, police harassment, and poll workers refusing to hand out Democratic ballots.

At one campaign stop Tuesday, McKinney said, "We also had a problem at Midway [elementary school polling place], where my name was not on the ballot," McKinney said.

"My opponent's name was on the ballot. ... We are disappointed that the secretary of state's office has not dealt adequately with these electronic voting machines and the deficiencties. Also, polling places have opened up and some of the machines were not zero-counted out. ... And that is a problem. That is a serious problem."

Dana Elder, the precinct manager at the school, said there was a power failure around 2:20 p.m. affecting one machine that lists registered voters in the precinct, but it posed no problem because there was another backup machine. The broken machine was fixed within 10 minutes and did not affect the actual voting machines, Elder said.

"It was really nothing," Elder said.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office kept an eye on the elections, with 15 roving monitors on the ground in the 4th District, said spokeswoman Kara Sinkule.

Sinkule noted that the complaints were only coming from the McKinney campaign. "We are not having voters saying we are having equipment malfunctions," Sinkule said.

McKinney has always held a distrust of the state's new touch-screen voting machines. She has appeared at events promoted by activists opposed to electronic voting in Georgia. One of her congressional aides, Richard Searcy, was one of the most outspoken critics of Georgia's electronic voting platform before taking a job in McKinney's office.

When McKinney beat out five opponents in the Democratic primary in 2004 to re-claim her congressional seat, she did not question the voting machines' accuracy or the results. On Tuesday, she was anything but silent on the issue.

"Voters should be able to go into the precinct with the assurance that their vote is actually going to be cast, first of all, and counted," McKinney said Tuesday. "But at this point we have had voters to tell us the voting machines took several tries before they would actually even cast the correct ballots."

McKinney made other claims about voting problems but did not elaborate or take questions before disappearing into a truck.

Is It Over?

Drudge is reporting the race has been called for Lamont.

Lastest totals show Lamont up 52-48 with 76% reporting.

L vs. L

You can track the results:

here

and


here

Lieberman is definitely trailing in the early tally.

UPDATE: Things are tightening up. People are freaking out at DailyKos.

To quote one Kos commenter: "I feel as though I've been through this before. And it did not end well."

UPDATE II: This seems slow, but it's a town-by-town breakdown.

Scarborough's Advice: 'Go Left, Young Man!'

Over at the Huffington Post, Joe Scarborough scoffs at the logic that says a Lamont win will hurt Democrats this fall:

The logic is laughable and similar to what I heard from Republican leaders in 1994.

That was the election year when the most conservative wing of the GOP took over the party and swept into power in the US Congress.

None would have predicted that outcome just two years earlier.

George Bush's loss to Bill Clinton in 1992 had put Republican operatives and strategists in a panic. They feared that Bush had been beaten like a drum because radical conservatives like Pat Buchanan, Phyllis Shaffley and Pat Robertson had hijacked the GOP Convention. So while Bill Clinton spent the next two years moving left, the Republican National Committee desperately sought moderate candidates that would talk, walk and vote like, say, Joe Lieberman. The goal was to blur all differences between Republicans and Democrats.

Because of that logic, I spent most of 1994 fighting Republican bureaucrats on the local, state and federal level who did everything in their power to elect my very moderate opponent in the GOP primary. A week before the primary, the Republican Congressional Committee campaign director let me know that I might as well give up. 1994 would be the year of the Moderate.

Yeah, right.

Read it all.

Joementum in Action

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post has an update on two campaign stops in Lieberman's final hours:

boxojoe.gifNeither of Lieberman's events drew much of a crowd -- the first was at a gourmet food store named Nica's Market, the second at Claire's Corner Copia, a vegetarian restaurant. But turnout for the rallies wasn't the goal. The two stops were little more than photo ops for the assembled media to get in a final question or two before Lieberman sequestered himself in Hartford to monitor the election results. [snip]

In a brief speech before entering the store, Lieberman said there was a "real surge occuring" in the race, saying that voters were rejecting the idea -- propagated effectively by businessman Ned Lamont's campaign -- that a vote for Lieberman was a vote to support President Bush. "George Bush ain't on the ballot," said Lieberman. "It's me and the other guy." [snip]

As he was leaving the store, Lieberman ran into a man who told him that he had gone into the voting booth planning to vote against the incumbent but had changed his mind. That seemed to energize Lieberman, who retold the story to a gaggle of reporters before hopping back on his bus.

Polls close in just over an hour and a half. A few hours after that we'll know whether Joementum '06 was any better than the version we saw in 2004.

(Photo: Darren McCollester, Getty Images)

The Out of Towners

Blogging at Courant.com, Colin McEnroe takes a dig at the NYT and WaPo:

One observation. Out of state reporters appear to have been intentionally misled about the intentions of the Lieberman team. Call it disinformation. Call it rope-a-dope. One thing you cannot call it is the truth. Go back and talk to your sources, kids. You got played.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Joe2006.com

Michael Cooper at the New York Times' blog - that's right, the NYT has a blog called "The Empire Zone" - conducted a phone interview with Joe Lieberman's Internet consultant, Dan Geary, to try and get to the bottom of the dispute over the mysterious disappearance of the Lieberman campaign web site, www.joe2006.com. Geary told Cooper:

"Midmorning yesterday, a very rapid, instant number of server queries to the site -- not just traffic to the site -- completely disabled our network,'' he said. "It's like trying to drink from a fire hose.''

Mr. Geary said that the attack had disabled the campaign's e-mail. He said he has had to redirect the site's traffic to another one of his servers.

"It's a really dark day,'' he said. "I'm a huge fan to how the Internet has really opened up the process.'' Now, he said, campaigns will have to focus on online security.

Meanwhile, lefty bloggers like Kos are still claiming the Lieberman camp is lying and that it was a combination of cheap and incompetent web hosting and not a DOS attack that crashed Lieberman's site. What a bizarre, quirky ending to a rollercoaster campaign.

UPDATE: TRex at lefty blog Firedoglake goes even further, suggesting that Lieberman crashed his own web site so they could blame it on Lamont and use it as the basis to challenge the results of the election. But Lieberman's camp has already responded that they don't plan to challenge the results.

UPDATE II: Matt Stoller at MyDD has more, including this rather humiliating correction:

It looks like this could be simple incompetence on the Lieberman campaign's part. They aren't apparently running a load-balancer or a firewall. In case you're wondering, Dan Geary is the web genius at Dewey Square who is in charge of hosting Joe2006.com. I've written about Dewey Square before. Now aside from corporate lobbying and campaign work, they are Beltway screw-up artists extraordinaire, apparently. Someone from Dewey Square confirmed to me that Geary doesn't work for them and never has. My apologies.

Institutional Breakdown at Reuters

A reader who says he spent more than a decade working as a news photographer for major media outlets in Washington D.C. sends along the following comments on the Reuters/Hajj fiasco:

Firstly, the Reuters PR person's comment that Adnan Hajj was trying to "remove dust marks" is disingenuous on the face of it. Virtually every wire service photographer today shoots digitally -- there are no "dust marks" to remove. It's quite simply impossible. Secondly, his alteration of both photos (the smoke and the aircraft flares) from what I have seen was sloppy and amateurish -- it's clear he just coarsly cloned bits of the image over and over again.

This causes me to wonder two things: Firstly, while cleaning or repairing an image fault may be permitted (although, for example, a photographer in North Carolina was just fired by his newspaper for simply making the backround of a photo richer in color -- a change he claimed was necessary because the camera failed to capture the true quality of the color he saw), this can NEVER be done by cloning, especially by cloning significant chunks of picture, as Hajj did.

Secondly, where were the editors? I have read that Hajj was apparently filing directly into the Reuters World desk, bypassing the Beirut bureau, but even this is no excuse. If the pictures I have seen were indeed the photos distributed, they are clumsy and obvious manipulations, and any desk editor worth his salt should have seen them for what they were INSTANTLY.

Next, filing a deliberately misleading caption (for example, identifying flares as missiles or bombs) should be a firing action. The only excuse Hajj could have was that he couldn't tell the difference, which would lead one to wonder why he is trusted to cover this fighting in the first place.

BTW, the "time stamp" thing on the Qana pictures is a spurious argument. If it means what I think (the time marker for when the picture was transmitted to clients from the wire service), the time on the picture is meaningless. Editors would transmit the best picture first, then continue sending pictures from the event in order of importance and quality, not in the order they were shot. They might even transmit a picture hours or days later at the request of a client.

I know that there is a big difference between covering the White House, as I did, and Beirut, where the men with guns are not as polite as the Secret Service. However, there are two inviolable rules here:

1. You've got to be able to trust your stringers. They are reporters too, trusted to transmit the FACTS, not what they think or what they believe, but what simply, actually happened.
2. Your editors -- at every level, from the guy simply running the desk to the big guy incharge of all photos -- are there to watch for this stuff.

Pelosi's Crowd

The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives shows up in Des Moines to stump for Leonard Boswell and tout the Dems' unity agenda and draws a crowd described as "more than 50 students, college officials and Democratic activists." Seems a bit smallish to me. Maybe everyone's busy getting ready for The Fair. Anyway, at least Pelosi did better than John Kerry on his most recent visit to the Hawkeye State.

A 2006 Wave

A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds an anti-incumbent wave building in America akin to that in 1994.

The key finding:

Especially worrisome for members of Congress is that the proportion of Americans who approve of their own representative's performance has fallen sharply. Traditionally, voters may express disapproval of Congress as a whole but still vote for their own member, even from the majority party. But 55 percent now approve of their lawmaker, a seven-percentage-point drop over three months and the lowest such finding since 1994, the last time control of the House switched parties.

The "own representative" number is the key. It doesn't mean the Democrats will take over. But it's far more meaningful than numbers on general disapproval of Congress or general party preference.

There's still no major uptick in affection for the Democrats, though, and that may prove the GOP's saving grace -- once again.

Pataki for WHAT!?

If only we could all be spared Gov. George Pataki's pretend presidential campaign.

He's already the worst governor in the nation, presiding over the most dysfunctional state government in the nation.

We don't need a Katherine Harris-level embarrassment on the '08 primary stage.

Political Video of the Day

Two today, both last-minute Lieberman ads. Perhaps encouraged by the senator's recent tightening in the polls, his campaign has cut two very hastily assembled ads.

The first is simply a clip from his "closing argument" speech Sunday, focused particularly on Iraq and interspersed with reaction shots from the audience. It's two-minutes long, and in it he says he feels a "heavy personal responsibility" for the war and wants to bring the troops home "as fast as anyone."

And here's a second, 30-second spot featuring Sen. Chris Dodd -- and a picture at the end of Lieberman with Bill Clinton (a nice counterpoint to all the Joe-kissing-George-W. images).

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

What Motivates the Base

Marc Ambinder of the Hotline got his hands on a copy of a memo distributed by Fred Steeper at the RNC gathering in Minneapolis last week.

Steeper's firm contacted 1,305 past Republican voters by telephone between June 26-29, gauging reactions to some 50 potential topics and/or messages for the coming election. They identified 18 messages that aroused the passions of Republican voters, breaking them down into the following two categories and subsets:

-- Global War on Terror (Foreign Threats, Domestic War Against Terrorism, Democrats Weakening Global War on Terror)

-- Domestic Issues (Tax Cuts, Cultural Values, Heath Care Reform, Democratic "Big Government" Health Care Proposals)

Steeper also identified three additional messages that "also have good potential for mobilizing the Base." They are:

1) Bias Media Coverage of Iraq: "One of the strongest issues in the survey is 'the media never reporting good news from Iraq.' Almost 60% of the Base expresses extremely high dissatisfaction with the media coverage of the situation in Iraq." (See Jed Babbin's post earlier today for a good example of this.)

2) Democrats' Threats of Impeachment/Censorship of President Bush: "Sixty percent (60%) of the Base has extremely negative feelings about the Democrats' impeachment threats - placing it among the strongest in the survey." (See Byron York's article yesterday for a good example of this.)

3) Democrats' Distortion of Medicare Prescription Drug Program: "A 55% majority of our seniors have extremely strong feelings about 'Democrats who want to take the Medicare prescription drug benefit away from seniors.'"

Most of this seems par for the course, though I'm a bit surprised at all of the attention devoted to healthcare. What's most interesting about Steeper's list, however, is what's not on it. Not a single mention of immigration? No mention of spending or judges? I find it hard to believe that these topics wouldn't move the needle on Republican anger, though I suppose it would depend to some degree on how the question was phrased. Then again, that would be measuring a level of anger Republicans voters feel toward their own members of Congress, which is probably not something Steeper was hired to do.

CT Voters' False Consciousness

For a sense of the utter nuttiness that's taken hold on the Left regarding the Lieberman-Lamont primary, check out David Sirota's blog. Sirota spins out four "scripts" for four possible scenarios tomorrow: Lieberman wins big or wins small, or Lamont wins big or wins small.

Now, I'm all for rooting for your guy. But what's amusing throughout Sirota's entire analysis is that only a win for Lamont can be authentic, in his view. A Lamont win means the "people" have won; a Lieberman win means "Big Money" and "neocons" and "the Establishment" have won.

How about this instead? Regardless of who spent more money, or who had more establishment support, Connecticut is an exceedingly small state. This race has been covered to death in both the local and national press. Any voter who cares has had ample opportunity to hear both sides. Both sides are fighting hard. And no one should be in the dark as to where either candidate stands on the main issue in this race: the war in Iraq.

I may personally hope Lieberman pulls it out (though, there's even more to be said for him switching parties), but whatever happens it will be an expression of the will of Connecticut Democrats.

L vs. L Day: The Main Event

For all you Lieberman vs. Lamont obsessives out there today, here's a rundown of how to watch the results come in.

Here's the CT Secretary of State's Web site. Here's the Web site that's supposed to have election results.

Note, though, that this thing won't be settled until tomorrow morning. The AP helpfully provides this timeline for how quickly the vote was tallied in 2004 (there were, of course, more votes to tally in that election, so this is very rough):

First Reports from Counties: 8:35 pm ET

20% of Precincts Statewide by: 10:00 pm ET

90% of Precincts Statewide by: 1:01 am ET (Wednesday)

100% of Precincts Statewide by: 9:44 am ET (Wednesday)

This is likely to be a close one, with a small number of voters despite all the attention, so it could go into extra innings.

In other words, get some sleep, and then see if anyone's conceded over your corn flakes tomorrow.

You might also guess they'll be following things pretty obsessively, say, here.

(HT: The Note for some of these links)

A Reformer Without Results

Jan Baran and Robert Bauer have a must-read op-ed in the New York Times today (not, thankfully, in the TimesDelete black hole).

Baran is a lawyer for Republicans and Bauer a lawyer for Democrats. In their piece, they lay out the case that campaign-finance reform has accomplished precisely nothing (except fattening their own wallets, as politicians pay them to navigate our increasingly Byzantine system).

Here's a sample:

Our law practices, which have grown tenfold since 1981, have certainly prospered from the seemingly unappeasable demand for reform. But it cannot be said that others -- those active in the political process, or the public at large -- have done nearly as well. The law is not only increasingly complex but, in many cases, counterintuitive, requiring ever more nuanced clarifications from regulators.

Some reformers genuinely believe that it is possible to drive money out of politics and still observe the command of the First Amendment. Others see practical advantages. Many politicians favored McCain-Feingold because it prohibited certain advertising that mentioned opponents' names, or because it authorized them to raise more money if they were challenged by wealthy, free-spending opponents. The bill also attempted to strike at "negative" political speech -- known to ordinary Americans by its other name, "criticism"-- by requiring candidates to publicly approve their ad content.

In 2004, the first election year during which McCain-Feingold was in effect, negative campaigns overwhelmed the government's efforts to discourage them, and fund-raising records fell beneath the frenzied pace of collections by candidates, parties and interest groups.

By 2005, a rash of scandals, including the Abramoff and Cunningham cases, had answered the question of whether this legal crusade would quash corruption.

This is an extremely important point. Campaign-finance-regulation champions pretend that their "reforms" have "worked" -- though no one can define what having "worked" might even mean. They constantly lower the bar and declare themselves to have cleared it.

Meanwhile, government is as corrupt as ever, and incumbents are more entrenched than ever.

Given how ineffective Sen. John McCain's trademark domestic policy reform has been, I might even propose an '08 campaign slogan: A reformer without results.

Straight Talk Online?

Another pro-McCain blogger with less than fully disclosed ties to the campaign.

A General Fed Up With The MSM - Jed Babbin

There is so much mis-reporting about the successes of Iraq, even our generals sometimes get fed up sufficiently to write a letter to one of the offending papers. The Washington Post is one of the chief offenders, and has been for years. (If you have any doubts about it, see the ravings of WaPo Pentagon reporter Tom Ricks posted in yesterday's PowerLine.)

The latest offense by the Washington Post is another example of news manufacturing concocting stories in contravention of facts. Here's the letter Gen. Bill McCoy - who's in charge of construction projects in Iraq -- sent to the Washington Post on Sunday. They haven't printed it yet. Will they ever?

Sunday, 06 August 2006

Maj. Gen. William H. McCoy Jr.
To the editor of the Washington Post,

After spending almost three days traveling with and being interviewed by one of the co-writers of a very poorly written article ("Much Undone in Rebuilding Iraq, Audit says", Washington Post, August 2, 2006), I'm astounded at how distorted a good story can become and what agenda drives a paper to see only the bad side to the reconstruction effort here in Iraq. Instead of distorting the facts, let's get to the truth.

There is no flailing reconstruction effort in Iraq. The United States has rightfully invested $20 billion in Iraq's reconstruction - in the opinion of many here, we should do more. This massive undertaking is part of a wider strategy for success in Iraq that involves the establishment of a democratic government, the development of professional Iraqi security forces, and the restoration of basic essential services and facilities to promote the sustained economic development of this new country.

Yes, this reconstruction effort has been challenged occasionally by security, poor materials, poor construction program management practices, and in some cases poor performance by contractors for a variety of reasons. The Department of State and Defense professionals over here, many of them civilian volunteers, and the Iraqi associates who risk their lives every day to have a future that approximates what America has today, continuously see the challenges and develop and implement solutions. This is a core part of managing construction anywhere in the world and, while somewhat more complex here, it is successfully being accomplished. Have we been guilty of poor planning and mismanagement? The answer to that is, at times, yes. But professionals constantly strive to overcome challenges that arise and we are succeeding and making Iraq better every day!

The heart of the article rests on several old statements by the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction which infer these are recent or recurring problems. The SIGIR knows that, in fact, program management, construction quality, progress, and accountability have all improved significantly since the early days of the effort some three years ago. Yet, the reporters' "project problems" comments infer that these are recent issues. Such actions inflame public opinion in the United States and create resentment by the very people so many conscientious Americans over here are trying to help here in Iraq and worse, embolden our very enemies.

When I arrived here a year ago we planned to complete 3,200 reconstruction projects. Today we are focusing on the completion of 3,700 projects. We've started 3,500 of those projects and completed almost 2,800...and work is continuing! This is not a failure to meet our commitment to the Iraqi people as the article states. In some cases we are not executing the same projects - we have changed to meet new priorities of three government changes in Iraq since our arrival - but in all cases, rest assured, these projects will be completed. We discussed this at length with the reporter...and he was taking notes and recording our conversations.

We told the reporter that, while 141 health clinic construction projects were taken away from a U.S. contractor who failed to perform, they were re-awarded to Iraqi contractors who are already demonstrating progress, have improved quality and shown their great desire to work with the United States to help Iraq improve ... and they are doing so phenomenally!

We did talk to the reporter about on electricity. Three-quarters of Iraq gets twice as much electricity today as they did before the war. Furthermore, we are working with the Minister of Electricity to improve the situation in Baghdad daily and have doubled the hours of power from four to eight in the capitol in the last six months in spite of the fact that demand is markedly increased with Iraqis' new ability to buy personal electrical products.

What is truly amazing to me is that we took the reporter to the Nasiriyah prison project and, while it is true that we terminated the prime U.S. contractor for failure to perform, the Iraqi sub-contractor continues to work there (now directly for us) and his progress and quality have improved significantly ... and he saw that! We are not turning unfinished work over to the Iraqis as he stated in his article; we are fulfilling the U.S. commitment to the people of Iraq and using Iraqis to do it!

The reporter didn't tell you about the hundreds of dedicated military and civilian professionals he saw over here working to make Iraq better, or the Iraqis who come to work every day at their own peril because they believe in what we, and they, are accomplishing together.

He failed to tell you about Aseel or Salah who worked for the Corps of Engineers since we arrived in 2003, because they wanted to make their country like ours, but who were recently brutally murdered in the streets because they worked for the Americans.

He never wrote about the Water Treatment Plant he visited that will provide fresh potable water to over half a million people in southern Iraq in just two more months, or the one in northern Iraq that is providing water for the 330,000 citizens of Irbil.

He never told folks back home about the thousands of children that are now in 800 new or rebuilt schools, or about oil production now being back to pre-war levels and getting better everyday, or raw sewage being taken out of the streets and put back in the pipes where it belongs, or about the thousands of miles of new roads, or post offices, police stations or courthouses or... well, he just left a great deal out now, didn't he?

Why?

Perhaps it's because some in the press don't want the American people to know the truth and prefer instead to only report the negative aspects of the news because "it sells papers."

We deserve better from those who claim the protection of the Constitution we are fighting to support and defend.

America, don't give up. You are doing much better over here than all too many of your press will tell you. If you are tired of fighting for freedom and democracy for those who so strongly long for the country we have, then think of the alternatives for a moment. Iraq will be better for our efforts and so will the world. And you are making it happen. Be proud and keep supporting this vital effort. It is the most important thing America can do.

Thank you. I invite you and your staff to come over at any time to get the facts. I took a risk with Mr. Mosher and obviously got what I consider to be a very unbalanced representation of what he saw, personally. But I still believe in general in the press and will always be open to helping you tell a balanced story.

Essayons! Deliverance!

Maj. Gen. Bill McCoy
Commanding General
Gulf Region Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Multi-National Force-Iraq

Signs

War in the Middle East, global warming, and now this? The end is definitely nigh.

A Poke in the Eye

Geez, if Lanny Davis thought he's gotten some nasty emails from lefties over his support of Lieberman, wait till he sees what his inbox looks like after today's column in the Wall Street Journal. Keep your eye on BuzzTracker to gauge the outrage toward Davis.

Bears on the Prowl - Larry Kudlow

Judging by recessionary worries in the press and blogosphere, the cult of the bear appears to be alive and well.

The bears are focusing on housing, consumers and the slightly inverted yield curve. It's a heavy demand-side forecast approach. Supply-siders like myself look at low tax-rates on capital, high productivity, record profits, and strong industrial production.

While the jobs trend is slowing, it remains quite healthy. And 100,000 to 120,000 average monthly job gains are consistent with roughly 6 percent growth in personal income. The main point is a very low cost of capital and very high investment returns to nurture investment.

The bears ought to consider the high level of commodity prices as a sign of U.S. and world economic strength. The yield curve is not deeply inverted, but only slightly. Back in 2000 the curve was hugely inverted for about a year and the Fed deflated the money supply in 2000 after rapidly inflating it in 1999.

World political risk and uncertainty is keeping commodity prices way above equilibrium. Inflation-adjusted GDP growth is slowing toward a 3 percent trend line, but this seems more a function of rising inflation, which is crowding out real growth.

Inflation is the biggest factor in the economic outlook. If it jumps to 4 or 5 percent in the next year, then real growth will surely slump and the balance of forces could conceivably slip into recession.

An interesting thought on inflation -- industrial and energy prices have, of course, surged. But in the technology sectors prices continue to deflate.

The Fed is moving into a more restrained monetary stance, as illustrated by the decline of commodity and economic-sensitive stocks since the May 10 FOMC meeting. But there's a big difference between a flat curve and a deeply-inverted curve.

Also worth noting is that corporate credit spreads are narrow, another sign of business health and profitability. Unit prices are running ahead of unit costs, another positive for profits.

The bears also overlook the strength in business. In the last cycle, the most accurate measures of corporate profits peaked in 1997 and deteriorated through 2002. I just don't see any of this right now.

I also don't see any imminent government policy blunders like a move to higher tax-rates, heavy regulation or protectionist tariff increases. If the Dems take over Congress come November, I think President Bush will morph into Grover Cleveland and veto Democratic tax hike proposals.

Over the next 12-18 months, prior Fed restraint will definitely slow down money GDP growth. But that same restraint should also contain inflation around the 2.5 percent zone. Hence the probability of a 3 percent real GDP trend is still reasonably high.

An abrupt oil spike to $90 or $100 would be a recessionary factor. And who can predict events in the Middle East? But back at home, the supply-side impetus within our resilient and durable free market capitalist economy is still underrated, or shall I say "misunderestimated" by the cult of the bear.

Primary Day Primer

Hang on to your hats. Lieberman's campaign is claiming Democrats are "coming home" to their candidate after flirting with Lamont. Doug Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac poll, says momentum has shifted and the race remains "unsettled." The last QPoll shows Lieberman making up significant chunks of ground in three of the five Congressional districts, and 7% of those surveyed remain undecided. There are roughly 700,000 registered Democrats eligible to vote today, 29,000 of whom are new voters who have reigstered since May 1 (suggesting they're independents/crossovers). It's all down to turnout now. Here's a final news roundup on the race:

It's Down To The Wire - Hartford Courant
Lieberman and Lamont Battle to the Wire - New York Times
Lieberman's Troubles Go Beyond War - Washington Post
Lieberman: I'll Do Better - Bristol Press
Lieberman's Chief Criticizes Lamont's Use of 'Outsiders' - The Register Citizen
Lieberman Cuts Into Deficit - Waterbury Republican-American
GOP Hopeful Watches, Waits - Greenwich Time
Senate Race 'Like Christmas Morning' For Media - Hartford Courant

In Georgia's 4th Congressional district, it's D-Day for Cynthia McKinney. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the latest Insider Advantage poll of 400 likely voters shows Johnson leading McKinney 53-40 with 7 percent undecided. More stories:

Low Turnout Expected - Macon Telegraph/AP
4th District Dems Fight Down to the Wire - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Polarizing McKinney Tries to Galvanize Her Backers - Macon Telegraph/AP
Johnson, McKinney debate one more time - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Finally, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that primaries are taking place today in Colorado, Missouri, and Michigan. Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz is trying to fend off a tough primary challenge by Tim Walberg in Michigan's 7th District.

August 07, 2006

A Mixed Bag

New ABC News/Washington Post poll out. Here's the data and the write up by Peter Baker and Claudia Deane which strikes me as a bit overdone with a hint of setting up a "1994 anti-incumbent national wave" meme in advance of a Lamont victory today.

Bottom line: Bush's job approval ticked up slightly this month, as did Congress's. Generic ballot number unchanged. RCP Averages updated for all three indicators: Bush JA | Congress JA | Generic Ballot

Hillary in New Hampshire

"Lying b**** . . . shrew . . . Machiavellian . . . evil, power-mad witch . . . the ultimate self-serving politician . . . criminal . . . megalomaniac . . . fraud . . . dangerous . . . devil incarnate . . . satanic . . . power freak."

And that's the Democrats.

(Of course, the research comes from ARG, so take it with a grain of salt.)

McKinney's Base

Fresh in the inbox, an email from an admirer of Cynthia McKinney:

I am just curious as to why it is so easy to identify racist-spirited White males like yourself? For some obviously absurd reason you have equated racism with the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers are NOT racist. In fact, the organization started to protect Blacks who were being attacked by your people (relative to your dad) who are the KKK. Racism is innately a White trait. Blacks are NOT against any other race. Most of what you perceive as racism from us is simply a response to people like you.

Cynthia McKinney is NOT a racist, nor is she a disgrace. She is a strong, brilliant, and outstanding woman whom we all admire. Many of you in the White media are so antagonistic regarding her that you fail to see all of her great qualities. Anyone who supports the Black community is demonized by characters like you. If you would study psychology you would find that this is a trigger for you because of your foundation as a child. Your infancy or boyhood infrastructure of prejudice against Blacks has caused harm to an otherwise person with probable quality. As I googled for Cynthia McKinney on the internet I came across several of your disparaging remarks which I perceived to be more about you than McKinney. At that point I obliged myself in writing this little note to you.

Not to split hairs, but I said the Black Panthers were anti-Semitic, not racist - even though they're quite clearly racist as well, starting with their leader Malik Zulu Shabazz. Nevertheless, it's an eye-opening look at the mentality of at least some of the people who support Cynthia McKinney.

Paging Andrew Sullivan

I'm guessing he's already noted this case somewhere, yet: Arabic Speaker Discharged for Being Gay.

It still manages to shock.

Not much of a way to fight a war.

Colorado Says: Look to the West

Roll Call (sorry, no link) has a story today about Colorado's efforts to win the right to host the DNC in Denver in 2008.

Needless to say, I think this is a terrific idea.

Here's the top of the story:

Colorado's Congressional delegation has a message for the Democratic Party: Look West.

In a bid to bolster Denver's status in the heated race to win hosting rights for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Colorado's Congressional Democrats are working hard to tie their city to the electoral future of their party.

Congressional delegations for the other two metro areas that are finalists, Minneapolis/St. Paul and New York City, also are lobbying Democratic decision makers, but in a lower-profile way and with less of an emphasis on becoming a future hub of growth for the party.

"If Democrats have any chance at winning back (a) the House and (b) the White House, we're going to need a Western-focused strategy," said Lisa Cohen, chief of staff for Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.). "That's been one of our main selling points."

In the 2004 elections, Colorado Democrats not only picked up a House and a Senate seat, they also unexpectedly won majorities in the state House and state Senate - all despite a Republican advantage in registered voters and a victory for President Bush in the presidential race.

"For two elections, Western and Southwestern voters have turned their states into shades of purple," said Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). "If you consider voter attitudes and the changing demographics in the region, these states will be permanent battleground states in presidential elections. With Denver as the site of the 2008 Democratic convention, it will give us an opportunity to showcase a region where Democrats are running winning campaigns with independent leaders who understand average Americans and who have common-sense solutions to the challenges we face as a nation."

You'll have to pick up Roll Call to read the whole thing -- or subscribe online. But the basic point is sound: Demographics and ideology both point to the interior West as a possible pickup for the Democrats, especially versus a big-government, big-religion GOP.

The DNC makes its decision at the end of this year.

(via The Note)

Political Video of the Day

Lieberman's plea: Can't we just agree to disagree on Iraq?

Tomorrow, CT Democrats will give their answer.

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Roadmap to Impeachment

Over at National Review, Byron York has a detailed piece on Rep. John Conyers's roadmap to impeach President Bush. Conyers's report, titled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance," doesn't sell itself as an impeachment document. The Democrats want to win in '06, after all, and the public has very little appetite for such shenanigans -- even if it's not all that fond of the president right now. But there's hardly any other way to interpret this document.

Just read Conyers's own description of the report, as recounted by York:

"Approximately 26 laws and regulations may have been violated by this administration's misconduct," Conyers wrote Friday in a message posted simultaneously on the DailyKos and Huffington Post websites. "The report...compiles the accumulated evidence that the Bush administration has thumbed its nose at our nation's laws, and the Constitution itself."

Most of the charges are ludicrous -- though, I'd caution conservatives to realize that some of them are not entirely, especially as relates to domestic surveillance -- but the substance hardly matters. The Senate would never convict, even if a Democratic House were to impeach. The entire thing would be a destructive waste of time.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party gave up the high ground on impeachment a long time ago. There would be no way, I should think, for the GOP to declare any charge thrown at the president "frivolous" after the circus of the Clinton impeachment.

L vs. L Day

Yes, for the next 36 hours or so, it's going to be Lieberman vs. Lamont day (it's a long day -- just ask Joe).

If Lieberman does lose, ABC's Jake Tapper has a pretty good theme for "what went wrong": lateness. Writes Tapper: "Lieberman was late to realize the challenge posed by Lamont, he was late to realize the anger of antiwar liberals, and he was late to aggressively combat the charges Lamont made that seemed to take hold."

He was also late last night, as the polls were tightening, to a "closing argument" speech to Connecticut voters. So late (50 minutes), in fact, that local news crews packed it in and a lot of free media went down the tubes.

It's hard to run for anything when you keep shooting yourself in the foot.

UPDATE: BTW, here's the speech.

Sliming McGavick

Joel Connelly in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "The anti-McGavick campaign has been a mean, low-down attack on a stand-up guy."

Meet Anna Diggs Taylor

She's the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in eastern Michigan who could "alter the war on terror" any day now with a ruling on the ACLU's suit to strike down the Bush administration's NSA surveillance program. The Detroit Free Press runs a lengthy and interesting profile on Taylor playing up the importance of her decision before coming to this rather anticlimactic conclusion:

But even if Taylor harpoons the spying program, experts said, the decision likely would be overturned by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Given the composition of the 6th Circuit and its previous rulings in related areas, it seems more likely to favor national security over civil liberties if that issue is squarely presented," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. "And that's what this case is all about."

Quote of the Day

"In Lebanon, Hezbollah is nowhere near ready to surrender. To end a war which has now been dragging on for 58 years, somebody's ass has got to, finally, be whupped." - Vin Suprynowicz writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Defending Dingell

Conservative radio host Paul Smith defends Rep. John Dingell in today's Detroit News:

Congressman John Dingell and I are from completely different political worlds. We often disagree about the best way to get to the same goal. We both love our country deeply, and, we both despise terrorists and terrorism.

Seems odd that I would have to make those last two points clear to anyone who knows either one of us or knows that we are friends.

I did not see or hear the "Flash Point" interview with Devin Scillian that has caused some folks to question Dingell's patriotism or loyalty to America's allies; or even worse, that he would support Hezbollah over Israel.

I didn't need to. I have 50 years of his public record to go by.

Read the rest to see the examples Smith cites.

McKinney's Black Panthers

Check out this nugget on the McKinney campaign buried at the end of a story in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Several people dressed in black suits and boots followed McKinney around. The patches on their clothes said: "New Black Panther Party Freedom or Death." The organization does not have an official role in McKinney's campaign and are not on her organization's payroll, said McKinney's campaign manager, John Evans.

nbpplogo.gif So members of the "largest organized anti-Semitic black militant group in America" just show up spontaneously to follow McKinney around during the final hours of her campaign? This woman is nothing if not a predictable disgrace.

You'll remember that during the waning, desperate days of McKinney's last primary loss to Denise Majette, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan magically appeared for a rally in the 4th district . Farrakhan wasn't "officially" there on behalf of the McKinney campaign either, of course, though I believe he encouraged people to vote for her. Just another rabidly anti-Semitic coincidence, I guess.

And who can forget the famous remarks by Cynthia's father, Billy McKinney, who blamed her loss on the fact that "Jews have bought everybody. Jews. J-E-W-S."

By the way, it may be that the anti-Semitic appeal doesn't pack as much of a punch as it used to, because Billy was back on the op-ed pages of the Atlanta Progressive News this weekend claiming that it isn't the "J-E-W-S" who are pulling the strings orchestrating the revolt against his daughter - this time around it's the "R-E-P-U-B-L-I-C-A-N-S."

Santorum vs. Casey

Last Friday I posted on the Morning Call/Muhlenberg poll that had Santorum pulling to within 6 points of Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. The full numbers were released yesterday (Casey 45%, Santorum 39%) and the good news for Santorum in the Morning Call poll is he has closed Casey's lead to single digits; the bad news is he can't get his head-to-head number over 40%. One of Santorum's problems is his horserace numbers appear to mirror his job approval numbers (in the Morning Call poll they are both at 39%.) That's a big problem for the incumbent, given that he is unlikely to see his job approval get back above 50% before election day.

From Santorum's standpoint, a six-point race is certainly better than the 18-pt Quinnipiac poll back in June, but he needs to get his head-to-head numbers with Casey closer to 45%, rather than 40%, to really get back in the game.
(Click here for all the PA Senate polls.)

Lieberman vs. Lamont

Quinnipiac's final poll gives Lieberman a ray of hope as it is the first poll that has moved in his direction since February. Conceivably, Lamont may have peaked too soon giving Lieberman a window to squeak by, but the balance of evidence still points to Lamont having the broader momentum as well as the turnout advantage. With Lamont likely to win the primary, the question turns to the three-way in the fall (assuming Lieberman stays in the race).

Looking at the state's registration and recent voting trends, 40% is the rough number Lieberman needs to stay above in order to remain the favorite in the three-way race against Lamont. Given all of the energy on the challenger's side, it wouldn't be surprising if Lamont outperforms the polls, and perhaps significantly. If Lamont wins by more than 20 points (62-38), Lieberman is in all likelihood finished. However, if Lieberman is able to pull within single digits that would be a very good sign for his chances in the fall. Lieberman's distance from 40% will be the best tell on how the three-way race will shake out.

And of course if Lieberman pulls off the come from behind victory, while crushing for the far left, it will be a big win for the Democratic Party. (Click here for all of the CT primary polls.)

August 06, 2006

Jeff Flake Says I'm Wrong

If you missed it the first time around, the Arizona Republic has reprinted my column on conservatives' love-hate relationship with John McCain in today's Viewpoint section in which I suggest that McCain's position on immigration is a liability for him with the GOP base.

Editor Phil Boas has paired my column with a piece by Republican Congressman Jeff Flake who argues that "McCain's advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform is one of his strongest assets." Read them both and let me know what you think.

Iraq is Vietnam, Except When It Isn't

Given that the left has been pushing the "Iraq-is-a-Vietnam-like-quagmire" storyline since about May 2003, I found this passage in Dan Balz's article today discussing the potential political implications of a Lamont victory for the antiwar left rather humorous:

Still, many party moderates say they see worrisome parallels to what happened to the Democrats during Vietnam, when they opposed an unpopular war but paid a price politically for years after because of a perception the party was too dovish on national security. [snip]

But leaders of the net-roots activists, and some party strategists, argue that as antiwar sentiment spreads Democrats stand to gain politically by aggressively challenging Bush's war policies. Parallels to Vietnam are inaccurate, they say, because of the nature of an Iraq war that has become a low-level sectarian civil war. [italics added]

In other words, Iraq is Vietnam, except when it isn't. We'll know soon enough whether the netroots are the cutting-edge of antiwar activism sweeping the nation or, to paraphrase Marshall Wittmann, just a bunch of "McGovernites with modems."

Round Two to Johnson

Here's how the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, not known to be particulary tough on Cynthia McKinney, scored the second debate between McKinney and challenger Hank Johnson:

Johnson: Perhaps his best performance in a televised debate. Questions to McKinney were short and direct. Showed confidence and an understanding of issues.

McKinney: Seemed rattled and frustrated at times. Refused to directly answer some questions from the panel.

Full write up here.

Honest Ned

"I don't know anything about the blogs."

August 04, 2006

Santorum Closing on Casey

Rasmussen's latest poll shows Santorum down 11 points an improvement of 4 pts from his poll in June. However, a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg poll apparently has Santorum pulling to within six points.

HARRISBURG -- Buoyed by a summer advertising blitz, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. has erased Bob Casey's broad lead in the battle for public opinion, closing to within a handful of points of the Democratic state treasurer, a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll has found..... More critically for Santorum, whose views on abortion and other social issues tend to alienate moderate Republican voters, the percentage of voters who say they have a favorable opinion of him is increasing..... Look for complete results of the poll Sunday, exclusively in The Morning Call.

We'll see whether other polls show this kind of tightening (Zogby's last two Interactive polls pegged Casey's lead at seven and nine points), but if Casey loses his double-digit lead, pre-Labor Day, the conventional wisdom on this race (including RCP's) will have to change.

Political Video of the Day

The Hillary vs. Rumsfeld showdown from yesterday:

The highlight, around the 5 minute mark, is when -- after a long tirade from Sen. Clinton -- Rumsfeld begins his response: "My goodness ... "

As always, send nominations to:

ryan-at-realclearpolitics.com

Transcript below the fold, via Raw Story:

CLINTON: Mr. Secretary, we're glad you're here. In your opening statement, you referenced the common sense of Americans. Well, I think it's fair to say that that collective common sense overwhelmingly does not either understand or approve of the way you and the Administration are handling Iraq and Afghanistan. Under your leadership there have been numerous errors in judgment that have led us to where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have a full fledged insurgency and full blown sectarian conflict in Iraq. Now, whether you label it a civil war or not, it certainly has created a situation of extreme violence and the continuing loss of life among our troops and of the Iraqis. You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order. You disbanded the entire Iraqi army, now we're trying to recreate it. You did not do enough planning for what is called Phase IV and rejected all the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown. You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence, and the spread of Iranian influence.

Last year, Congress passed the United States Policy in Iraq Act, which I strong supported. This law declares 2006 to be a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead, for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq. However, we appear to be moving in the opposite direction. With the number of US forces in Iraq scheduled to increase, not decrease - that's the only way I think you can fairly consider the decision with respect to the 172nd Stryker brigade.

So, Mr. Secretary, as we return to our states for the August recess, our constituents have a lot questions and concerns about the current state of affairs in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't need to remind any of us that we continue to lose our young men and women â€" 120 from New York alone. Besides the US loses, violence does seem to be increasing. From January to June of this year there were 14,338 Iraqi civilian casualties, at least as far as anyone can count. In May and June alone, more than 5,000 deaths and 5,700 injuries. In a July 22 article in the New York Times, General Abizad was quoted as saying, “Two months after the new Iraqi government took office, the security gains that we had hoped for had not been achieved."

Then, there was the big ballyhooed announcement of “Forward Together" and the commitment by the new Iraqi government to secure Baghdad. Two months into that, it's clear it's not working, and we are putting in more American troops and following the lead of Senator McCain's line of questioning, removing them from other places that are hardly stable and secure.

In Afghanistan, your Administration's credibility is also suspect. In December 2002, you said, “The Taliban are gone." In December 2004, President Bush said, the “Taliban no longer is in existence." However this February, DIA Director Lieutenant General Maples said that in 2005 attacks by the Taliban and other anti-coalition forces were up 20 percent from 2004 levels and these insurgents were a greater threat to the Afghan government's effort to expand its authority than in any time since 2001. Further, Gen. Eikenberry made a comparable comment with respect to the dangers that are now going in Afghanistan and the failure to be able to secure it. Obviously, I could go on and on.

A recent book, aptly titled Fiasco, describes in some detail the decision-making apparatus that has lead us to this situation. So Mr. Secretary, when our constituents ask for evidence that your policy in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successful, you don't leave us with much to talk about. Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the Administration's strategic blunders, and frankly the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

RUMSFELD: My goodness. First, I have tried to make notes and to follow the prepared statements you've presented.

First of all, it's true, there is sectarian conflict in Iraq and there is a loss of life and it's an unfortunate and tragic thing that that's taking place. And it is true that there are people who are attempting to prevent that government from being successful. And they are the people who are blowing up buildings and killing innocent men, women, and children and taking off the heads of people on television and the idea of their prevailing is unacceptable.

Second, you said the number of troops were wrong. I guess history will make a judgment on that. The number of troops that went in and the number of troops that were there every month since, and the number of troops that are there today reflected the best judgment of the military commanders on the ground, their superiors, General Pace, General Abizad, the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense and the President of the United States. I think it's not correct to assume that they were wrong numbers, and I don't think the evidence suggests that and it will be interesting to see what history decides. The balance between having too many and contributing to an insurgency by a feeling of occupation and the risk of having too few and having the security situation not be sufficient for the political progress to go forward, is a complicated set of decisions and I don't know that there's any guidebook that tells you how to do it. There's no rule book, there's no history for this. And the judgments that have been made have been made by exceedingly well-trained people, the gentleman sitting next to me, the people on the ground in Iraq. They were studied and examined and analyzed by the civilian leadership and by the President, and they were confirmed. So I think your assertion is at least debatable.

The idea that the army was disbanded I think is one that's kind of flying around. My impression is that, to a great extent, that army disbanded itself. Our forces came in so fast. It was made up of a lot of Shia conscripts who didn't want to be in it and thousands or at least many, many hundreds of Sunni generals who weren't about to hang around after Saddam Hussein and his sons and administration were replaced. The work to build a new army has included an awful lot of the people from the prior army, and it has benefited from that.

Third, the assertion that the government rejected all the planning that had been done before is just simply false â€" that's not the case. The planning that had been done before was taken into account by the people who were executing the post major combat operations activities. The comments about Baghdad, I'll possibly let General Abizad comment on, the goal is not to have US forces do the heavy lifting in Bagdad. There are many, many more Iraqi forces in Baghdad. The role of the US forces is to help them, to provide logistics, to assist them as needed, and to create a presence that will allow the Iraqi security forces to succeed and then as our forces step back, allow the Iraqi security forces to be sufficient to maintain order in the city. I can't predict if it will work this time. It may, or it may not, it happens to represent the best judgment of General Casey, General Chiarelli and the military leadership. And General Abizad and General Pace and I have reviewed it, and we think that it is a sensible approach, as General Abizad testified earlier.

Afghanistan. I don't know who said what about where the Taliban had gone, but in fact the Taliban that were running Afghanistan and ruling Afghanistan were replaced, and they were replaced by an election that took place in that country, and in terms of a government or a governing entity, they were gone - and that's a fact. Are there still Taliban around? You bet. Are they occupying safe havens in Afghanistan and other places, correction in Pakistan and other places? Certainly they are. Is the violence up? Yes. Does the violence tend to be up during the summer and spring, summer, and fall months? Yes it does. And it tends to decline during the winter period. Does that represent failed policy? I don't know, I would say not. I think you've got an awful lot of very talented people engaged in this, and the decisions that are being made are being made with great care after a great deal of consideration. Are there setbacks? Yes. Are there things that people can't anticipate? Yes. Does the enemy have a brain and continue to make adjustments on the ground, requiring our forces to continue to make adjustments? You bet. Is that going to continue to be the case? I think so. Is this problem going to get solved in the near term about this violence struggle against extremism? No, I don't believe it is. I think it's going to take some time. And I know the question was some wars lasted three years, some wars lasted four years, some wars lasted five years. The Cold War lasted 40 plus years. And the struggle against violent extremists who are determined to prevent free people from exercising their rights as free people is going to go on a long time and it's going to be a tough one. That does not mean that we have to spend the rest of our lives as United States armed forces in Iraq. The Iraqis are going to have to take that over. We can want freedom more for the Iraqi people than they want for themselves. And Senator Thune mentioned earlier about that issue. And I would point out, the number of tips that have been coming from Iraqi people have been going up steadily, they're at a very high level, and it does suggest to me that the Iraqi people do want to have a free country, as I mentioned, because of their voting patterns. So I would disagree strongly with your statement.

CLINTON: Well Mr. Secretary, I know you would and I know you feel strongly about it, but there's a track record here. This is not 2002, 2003, 2004-5, when you appeared before this committee and made many comments and presented many assurances that have frankly proven to be unfulfilled. And,

RUMSFELD: Senator, I don't think that's true. I've never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words. And you'd have a dickens of a time trying to finds instances where I've been excessively optimistic. I understand this is tough stuff.

CLINTON: Well, Mr. Chairman, I would like unanimous consent to submit for the record a number of the Secretary's former comments, and also may we keep the record open for additional questions.

CHAIRMAN: Record will remain open until the close of business today for all members to contribute additional questions.

CLINTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Never Too Early for '08

The South Carolina Republican Party has set a date for its first '08 primary debate. According to the Washington Times:

Mark your calendar, Republican White House hopefuls.

The South Carolina Republican Party announced yesterday that it will hold a presidential primary debate on May 15, 2007, at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

South Carolina wants to be the first Republican primary in the South although no date has been set.

Just nine months away!

Losing Joementum

According to the Washington Post: "Facing a likely defeat, Lieberman has scrapped plans for a massive and costly get-out-the-vote operation on primary day, according to several Democratic sources."

Instead, Lieberman will be focusing on his likely independent bid. But if he gets crushed in a landslide in the primary, even that independent bid might start to look shaky.

Hillary the Hawk

Hillary Clinton calls for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. How nervous is the Lamont-Lieberman spectacle in Connecticut making her? Democratic primary voters look set to take out their anger on a Democrat who strongly supports the war ... a New Democrat who has the full backing of a certain former president, currently of Chappaqua. Those 2008 Democratic primary waters might feel just a bit colder for Hillary after August 8.

Nonetheless, Hillary's made the right choice in supporting the war. She wouldn't even stand a chance in the general election if not for her hawkishness. Better to have some hurdles to overcome in the primaries as opposed to a mountain to climb in the general -- at least when you're in as strong a position as far as fundraising and institutional support as is the former first lady.

The End of the Right?

E.J. Dionne may have a special affinity for declaring various ends to conservatism. But that doesn't mean he's wrong. Make sure to check out his piece today (also linked on the main page) on "The End of the Right?"

Sure, the GOP's in trouble in 2006. But its problems go much, much deeper than that. Under George W. Bush, conservatism has ceased to mean much of anything at all. It's not about small government, it's not about fiscal discipline, it's not about states' rights, it's not even about competent war leadership. And, as Dionne says, it reached something of a low last night with the Republicans trying to swap an increase in the minimum wage (which Republicans are supposed to hate as a government intrusion into the economy -- and an economically illiterate one at that) for a repeal of the estate tax (a good idea, certainly, but far from a top priority).

How has Bush led us to such incoherence? Andrew Busch, author of Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right, put it well in an op-ed on OpinionJournal earlier this week: "Mr. Bush has neglected the critical task--carried out by Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich--of advancing a public argument that connects his otherwise disparate policy decisions to a broader philosophical framework. He has failed to articulate the philosophical argument for limited government that once defined the Republican Party."

Busch argues, correctly I believe, that coherent argument is much more important to the GOP than to the Democrats. They want to give away free stuff; that's easy to understand. We want to take away free stuff, lower taxes, and strengthen the economy and civil society; and that takes a lot more explaining. Without coherent argument or any sense of conservative first principles, Bush has repeatedly given away the store in the name of compassionate conservatism: with the worthless No Child Left Behind law, with the extravagant Medicare prescription-drug bill, etc., etc.

How to come back? Busch outlines a conservative plan based on:

• holding the fiscal line on both taxes and spending;

• re-energizing a public philosophy of constitutionalism and limited government;

• supporting a measured cultural traditionalism;

• incrementally introducing mechanisms for greater choice and accountability into existing public programs;

• concerted campaigning in the black and Hispanic communities on the basis of moral and religious standards, as well as entrepreneurship;

• continuing to promote the vitality of civil society.

It all sounds pretty good to me. There's no time or way to bring the Republican Party around by this fall. But as we head into the 2008 primary season, conservatives concerned about the direction of the party should keep these concepts in mind.

Just because Republicans have been winning elections doesn't mean conservatism is triumphant. In fact, given the compromises that have been made to get here, true conservatism may well be in its worst shape ever.

Grassroots Sneaking in the Window

When Congress comes back into session, roughly 60 days before the November midterms, it will essentially be immune from criticism. That's because Congress -- acting, of course, only in the interest of "clean" politics -- passed a ban on ads that mention federal candidates' names in the window 60 days before the general election, as part of McCain-Feingold in 2002.

So, say the Senate takes up an immigration bill granting full amnesty to all illegal immigrants this fall -- it will be almost impossible for grassroots groups to advertise against it, because they won't be able to run ads during this period naming the people who are sponsoring or voting on the bills. Criticizing them by name during this window is against the law. You can't ask voters to "call Congressman [So-and-So]."

It's almost unbelievable, but it's the system we live under thanks to Sen. John McCain.

In a stab at remedying this, the FEC will consider an "interim final rule" later this month to loosen the noose on grassroots advocacy.

However, even these loosened regulations would still be an atrocity. They try to draw a line between criticizing a congressman "as a candidate" and criticizing him or her "as an officeholder." The former is unacceptable, apparently, because it comes with the threat of voting against that candidate (you can't vote against an officeholder, I guess, all you can do is cluck your tongue or write a letter); and that's "electioneering," which Americans aren't allowed to do anymore by our masters in the "reform" community.

Of course, the entire point of grassroots lobbying for or against a bill is that you're supporting or threatening the reelection of a congressman or senator. That's kind of what our entire democratic system is based on. You do what we want, or we try to kick you out.

It's nice to see the FEC trying to do something. But McCain's law is a cancer that the Supreme Court is going to have to remove.

Is Bill Owens Back in the '08 Game?

On Monday, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed what has been called the toughest set of immigration laws in the country. The centerpiece of the twelve bills, HB 1023, requires those receiving government services to provide proof that they reside in the United States legally. The governor's office estimates some 50,000 of the one million people currently getting benefits from the state of Colorado are illegal immigrants. Critics assailed the new laws as "reprehensible," but the Denver Post noted yesterday that state offices reported "few glitches and fewer complaints" implementing the new procedures and that an expected rush of filings from immigrants seeking temporary waivers "did not materialize."

Conservatives are generally giving Mr. Owens high marks for his leadership on the issue. The stricter immigration measures, which Mr. Owens said would be his last legislative act as governor, came after he called the Democrat-controlled legislature back into a special session in mid-July. Don't be surprised to see his triumphant orchestration of the immigration legislation rekindling talk of Mr. Owens' political future as well.

Mr. Owens was touted as a rising GOP star and potential contender for the 2008 nomination after winning a landslide reelection in 2002. But a surprise separation from his wife of 28 years in late 2003 raised some questions, as did his support for a referendum in 2004 to repeal the ratchet provision of Colorado's taxpayer bill of rights, allowing the state to quickly increase spending.

Mr. Owens has given no indication he's serious about mounting a White House bid, and with a decent-sized field of GOP candidates already actively raising money and building organizational support in key states, time is running short. But this week's success on immigration may serve to remind certain Republicans that a popular, two-term governor from the West with a solidly conservative record might not be such a bad choice as a running mate.

August 03, 2006

And an NR Piece Worth Reading

Worth reading in the current National Review is Byron York's piece on John McCain's chances in South Carolina. I don't just like it because of it's pessimistic lead when it comes to Mr. Maverick's chances there. But the first few paragraphs are a thing of beauty to any McCain opponent. South Carolinians' feelings about McCain, York reports, are "a little, well, complicated":

"Like everyone else, I'm here to support the party," says one woman asked for her thoughts about McCain.

"Well, yes, but what about McCain?"

"Like everyone else, I'm here to support the party," she repeats.

"Let's not talk about McCain," adds another attendee. And those are just the people who decided to come. When the state Republican party sent out invitations a few weeks earlier, it received quite a few responses with messages like "I can't believe you're inviting him to speak" and "I'm not coming." And that was from the party's list of loyal donors.

In fairness, the piece then goes on to list McCain's strengths in the primary, including: his hard line on spending, his military service and defense credentials, and the GOP's tendency to nominate the guy whose turn it is.

McCain has definitely earned a second hearing from a lot of people who were turned off by him in 2000. But between immigration, campaign-finance "reform" and a general distrust of any conservative so beloved by liberals, it's going to be a tough road for McCain.

Ultimately, York's conclusion is probably best summed up in this line from his piece: "The senator from Arizona is a big deal, the man to beat, the man whose time seems finally to have come. And yet, for many conservative Republicans, there's still something about him that doesn't feel quite right."

For people obsessed with 2008 at this early date, York's piece is probably worth picking up the magazine on the newsstand.

NR's Rudy Tropes

Well, I just finished Kate O'Beirne's hit piece on Rudy Giuliani in National Review (the one with the Rudy in drag cover). I'd been looking forward to a well-reasoned refutation of those Rudy optimists among us. I may be of the mind that Rudy has a good shot in the Republican primary -- but I also think there's a good case to be made to the opposite effect. The O'Beirne piece isn't it.

For those who don't have access to National Review's print edition, all the piece does is trot out the old standbys:

1) Polls are meaningless: All the love for Rudy will evaporate on contact with sunlight.

2) Rudy is a liberal: Surprisingly enough, the mayor of New York City has done and said some liberal things.

3) Rudy's divorced twice, married thrice: It was messy.

The only discernible new reporting (remember reporting?): A couple of calls to political strategists spouting the CW, one of whom is working in a competitor's camp (What are the odds said camp is not Camp McCain?). What does that gentleman have to say? Well, I'll let the NR piece tell it:

Analysts west of the Hudson see little chance that Giuliani will get the nomination. When asked why not, one veteran strategist in a competitor's camp laughingly answers, "God, guns, and gays," and -- as though to drive the point home to Giuliani, who is a devoted Yankees fan -- adds, "Three strikes, you're out." Like others, the strategist concedes that the public's 9/11 image of Giuliani transcends partisan politics, but argues that the image won't last in a heated primary battle.

Yes, by all means, let's keep the GOP the party of God, guns and gays. This will win the Republican Party elections unto infinity -- despite the fact that national security is the only reason we held on in 2002 and 2004.

Now, I've got no problem with God or guns (I've got no problem with gays either -- though, as a good conservative I guess under this formulation I'm supposed to). But is this really all it means to be a Republican anymore? What of small government? What of entitlement reform? What of aggressive energy exploration?

I know these are all harder issues to sell. But is the only purpose of supporting Republicans to expand Medicare recklessly and make sure the flag-burning amendment gets a vote every couple years?

Well, anyway, enough with that rant. There may be a very convincing case to be made against Rudy's viability (not his inevitability, mind you, just his viability). But this wasn't it.

Where's Harry Truman? - Larry Kudlow

The Republican Congress will be blamed for the widening corruption problems endemic to the Iraq War. It could be another nail in the GOP's election year coffin.

Today's WSJ story by Yochi J. Dreazen "Audit of Iraq Reconstruction Finds Corruption Worsening" is a very tough story that suggests a breakdown of Congressional oversight. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's latest quarterly audit estimates $4 billion per year corruption costs in Iraq. The story goes on to report that "the Bush administration continues to wind down its ambitious Iraq reconstruction program, which has spent ten of billions of dollars on rebuilding efforts that have largely failed to restore basic services such as water or electricity to pre-war levels."

Oil smuggling continues to siphon off revenues. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker says 10 percent of Iraq's refined fuels and 30 percent of its imported fuels were being stolen. Additionally, Mr. Bowen concludes that "the Bush administration's overall handling of Iraq contracting -- from relying on no-bid contracts even when major fighting had ended, to failing to standardize contracting regulations to help prevent fraud -- was deeply flawed." He goes on to say that the U.S. has not provided proper contracting and procurement support necessary to manage reconstruction efforts begun three years ago. And he also sites widespread mismanagement among competing U.S. government agencies.

Again, reports like this will damage Republican Congressional management and oversight of the Iraq war. Poll after poll shows that American voters are not happy about Iraq for any number of reasons. Most of the media commentary focuses on the White House and the Pentagon, but Congress plays a key role through its oversight functions. If more stories like this circulate in the media, Congress will be blamed.

When Harry Truman was an unknown senator from Missouri during WWII, he chaired hearings that rooted out corruption in various war-related contracts among defense suppliers. Truman made a real name for himself doing this. This is a key reason why FDR put him on the ticket in 1944.

Where is today's Harry Truman in Congress?

I say all this as a war hawk and a war supporter. I want to win this war. I do not want to cut and run. I agree with President Bush's basic mission of spreading democracy and freedom to the Middle East.

But after three democratic elections in Iraq, it does not seem that we are winning this war. And if we are not winning it, then one has to worry about the possibility that we may lose it. And that would be a very bad thing.

Lamont's Lie and the Flyer That Started It All

Under normal circumstances, such an obvious, out-and-out lie like Lamont's comment "I don't know anything about the blogs" would damage a candidate. This time, probably not so much. Nevertheless, it's interesting to see Lamont throw the crazies who've essentially made his campaign under the bus so quickly when their antics put some heat on him.

Let me also step back for a minute to talk about the Lieberman flyer that started this whole thing, sent the nutroots into a rage and eventually led to Hamsher's blackface graphic fiasco. You can see the flyer here (you should read the full post because the blogger's outrage is also instructive).

The front side of the flyer shows the picture of Clinton and Lieberman to which Hamsher added her "progressive stylings" and also bullet points detailing Lieberman's record on civil rights. The back side of the flyer asks the question, "What Is Ned Lamont's Civil Rights Record?' and then quotes two paragraphs from a New York Times article on Lamont's recent decision to resign his longtime membership at the nearly all white Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich.

Why quoting a New York Times article is considered a "racist smear" against Lamont is beyond me. As far as campaign tactics go, this isn't even PG-rated. Putting out a targeted piece asking African-American voters to take a good hard look at Lamont's record on civil rights issues seems completely fair. Lord knows if Joe Lieberman belonged to a white-bread Greenwich country club for more than a decade and then resigned weeks before a tough primary election to try and woo black voters, the progressive left would go nuts - even more nuts than they already are - against him. (It's not even worth mentioning what the left would do to a Republican who did what Lamont has done, and whether they'd consider a flyer quoting the NYT to be a "racist" campaign tactic).

Brilliant

James Webb, Democratic Senate candidate in Virginia versus Republican George Allen, finds upon entering politics that campaign-finance reform has not worked.

His solution: more campaign-finance reform.

Brilliant.

(via The Note)

Entourage

Ned Lamont says he's not responsible for anything his blogger backers do that might be offensive (like posting a doctored picture of Lieberman in blackface).

Then why was the blogger in question part of his entourage when he went on Colbert?

(via The Corner)

Political Video of the Day

This clip of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), where he says he is not against Hezbollah, is a bit misleading. It's edited so that Dingell says he's not against Hezbollah, but leaves out that he condemns Hezbollah for the current violence.

Nonetheless, the full clip doesn't particularly make Dingell look good, either. In fact, it's clear he considers Israel and Hezbollah morally equivalent.

The key quote: "I don't take sides for or against Hezbollah or for or against Israel."

Death to Castro

Make sure to check out Peggy Noonan's column today at OpinionJournal (also linked from the main page). While she semi-defends the Cuba embargo, she also ... well, admits it's been a catastrophic failure and says now is the time to lift it. I have to agree on both counts.

Here's the argument:

What to do now?

How about this: Treat it as an opportunity. Use the change of facts to announce a change of course. Declare the old way over. Declare a new U.S.-Cuban relationship, blow open the doors of commerce and human interaction, allow American investment and tourism, mix it up, reach out one by one and person by person to the people of Cuba. "Flood the zone." Flood it with incipient prosperity and the insinuation of democratic values. Let Castroism drown in it.

...

Allow Americans to go to Cuba. Allow U.S. private money into Cuba. Let hotels, homes, restaurants, stores be developed, bought, opened, reopened. Use Fidel's death to reintroduce Cubans on the ground to Americans, American ways, American money and American freedom. Remind them of what they wanted, what they thought they were getting when the bearded one came down from the Sierra Maestre. Use his death/illness/collapse/disappearing act as an excuse to turn the past 40 years of policy on its head. Declare him over. Create new ties. Ignore the dictator, make partnerships with the people.

Yes give more money to Radio Marti and all Western government efforts to communicate with the people of Cuba. But also allow American media companies in. Make a jumble, shake it up, allow the conditions that can help create economic vibrancy and let that reinspire democratic thinking. The Cuban government, hit on all fronts by dynamism for the first time in half a century, will not be able to control it all.

That is how to undo Fidel, and Fidelism. That's how to give him, on the chance he's alive, a last and lingering headache. That's how to puncture his mystique. Let his people profit as he dies.

If he is actually ill, why not arrange it so that the last sounds he hears on earth are a great racket from the streets? What, he will ask the nurse, is that? "Oh," she can explain, "they are rebuilding Havana. It's the Hilton Corp. Except for the drills. That's Steve Wynn. The jackhammer is Ave Maria University, building an extension campus."

Imagine him hearing this. It would, finally, be the exploding cigar. That's the way to make his beard fall off.

Make his beard fall off? That, ladies and gentlemen, is why they pay her the big bucks.

Lamont Cruising

Quinnipiac's final poll in the CT Senate primary shows Ned Lamont pulling away from Lieberman, 54 to 41. Kevin Rennie said last week on Kudlow & Company he thought Lamont would win in a walk, and it looks like that may very well be the case.

The next question, of course, is whether a serious thrashing in the primary will hurt Lieberman's chance of winning this race as an Independent. The hapless and confused campaign he's run against Lamont will no doubt raise many questions about whether Lieberman will be able to turn things around.

UPDATE: Kos thinks it's still going to be tight:

But the word is that Lamont's internal numbers show their guy with a narrow lead, while Lieberman's own numbers show him with a narrow lead. Split the difference, and this race is tied, no matter what the Q-poll might say.

Ultimately, these polls will spit out results based on a particular turnout model, and no one really knows what turnout will look like for an unprecedented August primary in this state. But at the end of the day, whose turnout model will you trust most -- I'm going with the two campaigns on the ground and have the best intelligence about what turnout might look like.

Some might think I'm dampening expectations. I'm not. I'll be interested in the trend lines of this poll, since momentum can be measured fairly accurately whether the turnout model is good or not. But if we do see some big blowout numbers, it doesn't necessarily mean we've got this thing in the bag.

Kos is right about taking primary polling with a grain of salt - something I mentioned just yesterday in the Georgia race. But the trendline in this race is unmistakable. There had been talk about whether Clinton's visit would help Lieberman stop the bleeding and also whether Lamont had "peaked too soon." This poll doesn't offer any evidence to support either of those assertions. Furthermore it's rare to see a candidate withstand a move of this magnitude (a 59-point swing in 12 weeks in the QPoll).

Maybe Lamont is just a paper tiger, a Dean-esque creation of the lefty blogosphere that is all buzz and no bite. I doubt it.

There They Go Again - Jed Babbin

It's fascinating how the press first contrives a story and then its herd mentality takes over and runs with it, hyping it to the skies regardless of the truth. The latest exercise began Wednesday afternoon at Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld's press conference. After someone from Reuters first posed the question, CNN's Barbara Starr asked it again: why Mr. Rumsfeld turned down a Senate Armed Services Committee request to testify at a special hearing on Iraq on Thursday. Rumsfeld answered that because he was making himself available to the whole senate answering questions on the war that same morning he'd determined that he couldn't do both. It went all down hill from there because the Dems know the earlier session Thursday won't be before the tv cameras. They want bread and circuses, not answers to questions.

Lolita Baldor, an AP reporter, wrote a breathless piece in which she said Rumsfeld's action was, "...raising a new furor on Capitol Hill over the three-year-old conflict." The furor is limited in her story to a chest-deep harrumph from Sen. Kennedy ("America is in deep trouble in Iraq, yet Secretary Rumsfeld refuses to explain and defend his policies in full public view tomorrow") and a nice letter from Hillary asking Mr. Rumsfeld to change his mind. No Republicans - not even John Warner who could easily be confused for a Dem - were quoted.

From here, it's going to follow the usual pattern. The New York Times will have a Doug Jehl story about how Rumsfeld is hiding from the devastating questions he'd face (the secret list of which will appear in Jehl's story). That will precede MoDo's Sunday vespers session about why we need a female SecDef), Chris Matthews will have Sen. Dodd on to say that the Pentagon is an Augean Stable that needs to be flushed out, WaPo's Dana Milbank will have a front page above-the-fold piece on Senate Dems' outrage and Katie Couric will be overheard on a shuttle flight shouting into her cell phone about how she needs to get on the air early to make sure this story is treated with the seriousness it deserves. (And while all this media talent was spinning up its macrodander, Rumsfeld decided to show up after all. He's just mischevious enough to do that just to see the media continue to spin.) But how do stories like this get concocted?

The answer isn't available from AP. I called night bureau chief Robert Glass who, when I asked him about it, sounded as calm as Leo Bloom after Max Bialystock screamed at him. (He told me to send my inquiry to editor Alan Fram. I did and have not received an answer last night or today.)

Where's the Dem war room that is running this show? How is the Dem spin machine driving these reporters so relentlessly? Who is the Dem Moriarty at the center of the web that pulls the media in and manipulates it so? Or is it, as we expect, just Teddy and Chris Dodd chugging scotch in some back room in the Capitol and dialing random numbers? Stay tuned. This is gonna be fun to watch. And please do watch. Something tells me you won't be seeing any Republicans on the nightly news asking why the Dems are demanding we cut and run. It's not like the Dems have anything else to say.

August 02, 2006

Iran's Supreme Leader Speaks - Peter Brookes

As the pace of the fighting and diplomacy accelerate, Iran has shown increasing public interest in the Middle East conflict. Out of seemingly nowhere, Iran's Foreign Minister visited Beirut on Monday for meetings with the Lebanese government--and, undoubtedly, Hezbollah.

And now, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the real pillar of political power in Iran, and the person with the first--and last--word on questions of Iranian foreign policy, has spoken out. It isn't good.

On Iranian state television today, Khamenei praised Hezbollah for its "jihad" against the "enemies of Islam," stating that it was fighting on the "frontline" for the defense of all Muslims. He also claimed that the war was part of a "premeditated U.S.-Zionist action" for "dominating the Middle East and the Islamic world."

This public pronouncement undoubtedly means that Iran will support Hezbollah to the bitter end of this conflict, unnecessarily prolonging it--and making any chance of Hezbollah's disarmament, as called for by U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, elusive at best.

Plus--knowing these comments will be transmitted around the globe, read closely by Muslims from Morocco to Malaysia, it's also a bid by Iran to assume a position of leadership not only in the Middle East--but of the Muslim world, too.

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

Rating McKinney

A reader from Georgia emails:

Just to clarify the facts regarding McKinney's claim that she was the highest rated member of the GA Democratic delegation. It is completely misleading. Her higher rating on the "legislation" portion of the scale was based on the fact that during 2005, she introduced one bill that ultimately passed the House--a minor piece of legislation making Arabia Mountain in Dekalb County a "National Heritage Area." However, this bill has not yet been passed by the Senate.

On the congress.org website, it is very difficult to even find the "legislation" ratings because they are one of three components of their overall "power" rating and, as you point out, on that overall rating, McKinney fares very poorly.

Moreover, the congress.org measure does not reflect a member's reputation with his/her colleagues. If such a measure was taken, it would undoubtedly show McKinney at or near the very bottom. The best evidence for this is the fact that not one of her colleagues in the Georgia Democratic delegation has been willing to campaign for her or even to endorse her reelection. Their silence speaks volumes.

This Just In...

Al Sharpton is a hypocrite. Who knew?

Bush, Bartlett and Free Trade

Rich Karlgaard takes on Bruce Bartlett.

Feeling Liberated

Christina Bellantoni writes a great hook for her Washington Times story this morning:

The fries on Capitol Hill are French again.

So is the breakfast toast in the congressional cafeterias, with both fries and toast having been liberated from the appellation "freedom."

Read the whole thing. And in the department of just deserts, it looks like Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), co-author of the idiotic resolution, is about 90 days or so away from being liberated from his seat in Congress.

The Feud

It's not quite Hatfield vs. McCoy, but the feud between Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean is very real, and potentially a very serious problem for Democrats this November.

Jim VandeHei reports on the continuing schism between Dean and members of the House Democratic caucus, led by Emanuel, who are gravely concerned (and more than a bit upset) that Dean isn't putting together a strong enough turnout operation focused on the most competitive races this fall:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- who no longer speaks to Dean because of their strategic differences -- is planning to ask lawmakers and donors to help fund a new turnout program run by House Democrats. He recruited Michael Whouley, a specialist in Democratic turnout, to help oversee it.

"I am not waiting for anyone anymore who said they were going to" build a turnout operation, Emanuel said. "It has got to be done."

While the anger toward Dean is real and growing, as VandeHei reports later on this is almost certainly a preemptive strike on the part of Emanuel and Pelosi aimed at setting up Dean to be the fall guy should Democrats fail to win back the House. It's absolutely going to work, too, since Dean has exposed himself by stubbornly sticking with his '50-state strategery.'

How Low Can She Go?

The embarrassment and disgrace continues:

U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris received a grand jury subpoena from federal investigators and concealed the fact from top campaign advisers hired to help her deflect negative publicity, her former campaign manager has disclosed.

If Katherine Harris were a racehorse, she would have been put down long ago. Instead, she stumbles on in one of the worst campaigns in modern history.

McKinney Down, But Will She Be Out?

A new Insider Advantage poll shows McKinney making up some ground but still trailing challenger Hank Johnson by 15 points, 49% to 34% with 17% still undecided. Note: it's always best to cast a very skeptical eye on polls with such small sample sizes (300LV, MoE+/-6%), and even more so when we're talking about polling done for primaries. Insider Advantage had the Lt. Governor's race between Ralph Reed and Casey Cagle a dead heat in their final poll, and we all know how that one turned out. So beware.

Another footnote on the race: Hank Johnson picked up the endorsement of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. Editorial board member Mike King signed the endorsement, arguing Johnson's humble style is what's needed:

His [Johnson's] voting record in Congress would not likely differ much from McKinney's, but he would stand a much better chance of securing federal dollars and other resources for the district than McKinney, who has alienated virtually all her colleagues in the House, even those who once supported her.

Johnson can come off as a tentative, soft-spoken politician who rarely seems confrontational -- the polar opposite of the incumbent. His critics worry that he may not be strong enough to withstand the relentless pressure of lobbyists and special-interest groups. He would do well, if elected, to seek the counsel of veteran House members such as U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in how to make the adjustment from a county commissioner to a federal legislator.

McKinney had the same chance to seek such wisdom. She either refused or ignored it. Johnson will not be so arrogant.

UPDATE: The AJC fact checked McKinney's claim from Monday night's debate that she was rated the highest among all Democratic members of the Georgia House delegation, including Rep. John Lewis, according to a ranking compiled by a group called Congress.org. The AJC reports:

A closer look at the Web site's marks, however, shows that McKinney's statement is accurate, but doesn't tell the whole story. Congress.com confirmed that McKinney was the only member of the Georgia delegation to get legislation passed, which afforded her the highest ranking on legislation, but overall she ranked 12th out of the 13 Georgia House members when other criteria were included. In the overall "power rankings," she rated 408 out of 438 House members.

August 01, 2006

Moderating Raul

A reader from Ft. Lauderdale emails in response to my earlier post on Fidel & Raul:

I've been following the Castro news down here closely (last night there was no other news on the 11:00 PM newscasts). Everyone agrees with your assessment that Raul is more of a menace than Fidel except one source: NPR. On Morning Edition this morning, they were suggesting that he is far more supportive of free market reforms than Fidel.

You know, that's the first time I ever heard NPR say something negative about Fidel.

Copycat Clinton

Today's New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton wants to "revitalize rural America:"

In a speech delivered on a 152-year-old family farm, Mrs. Clinton called for major federal investments to expand broadband Internet access in rural communities, promote the development of alternative fuel sources like corn-based ethanol and encourage medical school graduates to practice in agricultural areas.

"We can build a new rural future,'' Mrs. Clinton said, after listing economic problems that she said have led many Americans to abandon rural life. "We can bring back our Main Streets. We can keep people, particularly young people, here.''

Hmmm, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before? Oh, yeah:

"Young people deserve the choice to stay in the communities where they grew up, instead of being forced to leave home and move away just to get a good-paying job. As Governor, I'll work with business leaders to strengthen Virginia's traditional industries, and help companies find new ways to use technology to revitalize these traditional industries."

That was Mark Warner running for office in 2001. Here he is four years later touting the accomplishment of The Regional Backbone/Roots of Progress Initiative: "In Virginia, we have put down 700 miles of broadband in our rural communities so folks don't have to leave home to find a quality job."

Clinton's been in office six years, and she's just now bringing up the subject? How very 2008 of her. One of Warner's biggest appeals is that he's a guy who has proven the ability to connect with Republican-leaning rural communities by addressing economic development issues, and without getting bogged down on social issues as so many national Democratic party figures typically do these days. Hillary Clinton is among those who could benefit from such a strategy, which is why she's employing the time-tested method: "if you can't beat 'em, steal their ideas and pass them off as your own."

Dancing on Castro's (Almost) Grave

The streets of Miami are bursting with joy over news of Fidel Castro's possible demise. Jules Crittenden writes in the Boston Herald:

In Miami's Little Havana, they are gearing up to party. You can rest assured they are looking forward to the brief reign of Raul, and the power struggle and ultimate collapse of Castro's commie dream that is to follow. Let us just pray the Cuban Communists can just smell the cigar smoke and go quietly. Hey ... speaking of doddering Raul, I thought this was supposed to be a classless society.How come, of all the high-ranking card-carrying commies in Cuba, after an exhaustive island-wide search, no doubt, the best candidate to replace Fidel is his kid brother? Aren't they going to have an election or something? ... Oh, right, never mind.

Having lived in Miami for a couple of years back in the late nineties, I can tell you it is really hard for most Americans to fathom the depth of hatred Cuban-Americans living in Miami feel for Castro for what he's done to their homeland. I think the proximity is what makes the emotion that much more acute - like watching something you love being destroyed day by day just on the other side of a plate glass window.

As for what comes after Fidel Castro in Cuba, no one knows for sure. Raul is by all accounts more of a menace than Fidel, and as Crittenden mentions, the best that can be hoped for is that he takes the eternal escalator ride down to join his brother in very short order.

Beyond that, there's hope for a brighter future for Cuba - though it's by no means guaranteed.

McKinney's Attack

To my dismay, I missed the debate between Cynthia McKinney and Hank Johnson last night. The Gwinnett Daily Post reports the 30-minute event contained plenty of sparks:

Customarily, candidates shake hands following a debate. But there was none of that on Monday night after U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney and Democratic primary challenger Hank Johnson spent a half hour trading barbs on topics from her missed votes to his personal financial troubles.

It seems McKinney launched a personal attack on Johnson for a bankruptcy filing back in the 1980's. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes McKinney's attack this way:

"Was it sound judgment when you didn't pay federal taxes over several years, resulting in federal tax liens? Was it sound judgment when you refused to pay multiple debts, resulting in lawsuits and garnishments against you?"

Given McKinney's past history, accusing her opponent of lacking "sound judgment" is laughable. That point was driven home later on in the debate when McKinney dodged the issue of her own judgment in smacking a Capitol Hill police officer by saying, "I wasn't charged with anything." Not exactly what most people would consider setting a high bar.

More to the point, however, McKinney's attack on Johnson for a bankruptcy filing strikes me as desperate. Most voters - including those in Georgia's 4th district, I would think - can sympathize with someone who struggles their way through financial troubles. Unless McKinney is alleging Johnson did something illegal, which I don't believe is the case, stomping on the guy for going broke twenty years ago seems vicious, mean-spirited, and politically unwise.

It seems Johnson took advantage of opportunity with a pitch-perfect response to McKinney's attack, saying that he's gotten back on his feet and adding that, "It was a humbling experience to go through." Again, unless something untoward comes to light about Johnson's financial troubles , I don't see how he doesn't come out the victim here.

A Brave New World in Colorado

Yesterday Governor Bill Owens signed a package of new immigration laws which he called the toughest in America. Among the new set of laws is one unbelievably draconian measure that "requires applicants for public benefits such as welfare to provide proof that they are legally in the United States."

UPDATE: Judge in Chicago grants one year stay of deporatation for 11 illegal immigrants arrested in a sweep last month. Here's the kicker:

The delay gives the immigrants a chance to stay in the country if Congress approves a bill granting legal status to many of the nation's 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants. That measure has stalled, for now, but many analysts think the prospects will improve after the November elections.

Getting An Early Spot on the Romney Bandwagon

David Yepsen continues his effusive praise of Mitt Romney in today's column:

While some experts say Romney's Mormon faith will hurt him with some voters, it seemed to be helping him here Saturday. Romney organizers said several church members showed up and are deciding on their own to volunteer. "We don't have to work it," said a key operative. "It works itself."

It's a measure of Romney's dedication to his Iowa effort that he broke away from the "Big Dig" calamity in Boston to keep his commitments in Iowa. Romney has taken charge of the investigation into the collapse of some ceiling tiles inside a Boston tunnel, a collapse that killed a woman, closed part of the system and raised new questions about the safety and quality of work done on the project. Some in Boston thought he should have remained in the state to deal with the issue.

Romney wins good reviews for his can-do style and upbeat message. Charisse Schwarm, a longtime GOP activist from Lake Mills, sought me out to note how he reminded her of Ronald Reagan and the effect he had on crowds.

That Reagan standard is a tough one for any Republican to meet. If Romney's meeting it with people like Schwarm, he's well on his way toward winning the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses.

Curiously absent from Yepsen's column is any mention of the biggest news of Romney's visit: namely that he caused an uproar and committed the first real gaffe of the preliminary '08 race by using the phrase "tar baby" in the course of discussing the Big Dig. Romney apologized for the remark yesterday.

Clinton to the Rescue

clinton.gif Bubba knows a thing or two about legal bills. That's why he was in Seattle last night, yukking it up at a fundraiser for Rep. Jim McDermott to help the Congressman pay the $600,000 he owes after losing numerous appeals in the now decade-old case brought against him by John Boehner (background here and here).

Clinton also headlined an event for embattled Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, raising an estimated $500,000 for her campaign. But Cantwell's problems have almost nothing to do with money, and the roughly twenty protesters gathered outside the event were a reminder of exactly what those problems are. Cantwell has struggled to manage a disgruntled and divided base, and she's been criticized from all quarters for essentially going AWOL from her own campaign while Republican Mike McGavick has been out and about on his Open Mike tour, earning free media and winning rave reviews.

All that being said, however, Cantwell did get a nice bump in the lastest poll: a Rasmussen Reports survey released yesterday shows her leading Republican Mike McGavick by eleven points, 48-37. Rasmussen attributes the 7-point spike to the launch of Cantwell's first statewide ad campaign (you can view the ad here). We'll have to wait and see just how long the bounce lasts.

(Photo: Scott Cohen, Seattle Times)