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Power User
Posts: 42527

« on: October 04, 2006, 02:22:12 AM »

Woof All:

Herewith begins a catch-all thread.


Bush and the Perception of Weakness
By George Friedman

There is good news for the Republican Party: Things can't get much worse. About five weeks from the midterm elections, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) asserting that the situation in Iraq will deteriorate in 2007 is leaked. On top of that, Bob Woodward's book is released to massive fanfare, chronicling major disagreements within the White House over prosecution of the Iraq war and warnings to U.S. President George W. Bush in the summer of 2003 that a dangerous insurgency was under way and that the president's strategy of removing Baathists from the government and abolishing the Iraqi army was a mistake. These events are bad enough, but when U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) -- the head of a congressional committee charged with shutting down child molesters using the Internet -- is caught sending e-mails to 16-year-old male pages, the news doesn't get much worse.

All of this is tied up with the elections of course. The NIE document leak was undoubtedly meant to embarrass the president. The problem is that it did, as it revealed the rift between the intelligence community and the White House's view of the world. The Woodward book was clearly intended to be published more than a month before the elections, and it was expected to have embarrassing revelations in it. The problem is that not a whole lot of people quoted in the book are denying that they said or did what was described. When former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card is quoted as trying to get U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld out of office and the assertion is made that first lady Laura Bush tried as well, and denials are not flying, you know two things: Woodward intended to embarrass Bush just before the election, and he succeeded. For all we know, the leak about Foley asking about a 16-year-old's boxer shorts may have been timed as well. The problem is that the allegations were true, and Foley admitted what he did and resigned.

These problems might be politically timed, but none of them appears to be based on a lie. The fact is that this confluence of events has created the perception that the Bush White House is disintegrating. Bush long ago lost control of leakers in the intelligence community; he has now started to lose control over former longtime staffers who, having resigned, have turned on him via the Woodward book. Bush appears to be locked into a small circle of advisers (particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld) and locked into his Iraq strategy, and he generally appears to have suspended decision-making in favor of continuing with decisions already made.

Now, this may not be a fair perception. We are not in the White House and do not know what is going on there. But this is now the perception, and that fact must be entered into the equation. True or not, and fair or not, the president appears to be denying what the intelligence communities are saying and what some of his closest advisers have argued, and it appears that this has been going on for a long time. With the election weeks away, and the Foley scandal adding to the administration's difficulties, there is a reasonable probability that the Republicans will get hammered in the elections, potentially losing both houses of Congress if the current trend continues.

One theory is that Bush doesn't care. He believes in the things he is doing and, whatever happens in the 2006 elections, he will continue to be president for the next two years, with the power of the presidency in his hand. That may be the case, although a hostile Congress with control over the purse strings can force policies on presidents (consider Congress suspending military aid to South Vietnam under Gerald Ford). Congress has substantial power when it chooses to exercise it.

But leaving the question of internal politics aside, the perception that Bush's administration is imploding can have a significant impact on his ability to execute his foreign policy because of how foreign nations will behave. The perception of disarray generates a perception of weakness. The perception of weakness encourages foreign states to take advantage of the situation. Bush has argued that changing his Iraq policy might send the Islamic world a signal of weakness. That might be true, but the perception that Bush is losing control of his administration or of Congress can also signal weakness. If Bush's intent is the reasonable goal of not appearing weak, he obviously must examine the current situation's effects on his ability to reach that goal.

Consider a matter not involving the Islamic world. This week, a crisis blew up in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which is now closely aligned with the United States. Georgia arrested four Russian military officers, charging them with espionage. The Russians demanded their release and halted the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia -- a withdrawal Moscow had promised before the arrests gave it the opportunity to create a fundamental crisis in Russo-Georgian relations.

Normally a crisis of this magnitude involving a U.S. ally like Georgia would rise to the top of the pile of national security issues at the White House, with suitable threats made and action plans drawn up. Furthermore, the Russians would normally have been quite careful about handling such a crisis. There was little evidence of Russian caution; the Russians refrained from turning the situation into a military conflict, but they certainly turned up the heat on Georgia as the crisis evolved on its own. The Kremlin press service said Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about Georgia in a telephone conversation Oct. 2, and that Putin told Bush third parties should be careful about encouraging Georgia.

The Russians frankly do not see the United States as capable of taking meaningful action at this point. That means Moscow can take risks, exert pressure and shift dynamics in ways it might have avoided a year ago out of fear of U.S. reprisals. The Russians know Bush does not have the political base at home, or even the administrative ability, to manage a crisis. Both National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are obsessed with Iraq and the Washington firestorm. As for Rumsfeld, Woodward quoted the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, as saying Rumsfeld lacks credibility. That statement has not been denied. It is bad when a four-star general says that about a secretary of defense. Since the perception of U.S. crisis management is that no one is minding the shop, the Russians tested their strength.

There is, of course, a much more serious matter: Iran. Iran cut its teeth on American domestic politics. After the Iranians seized U.S. Embassy personnel as hostages, they locked the Carter administration into an impossible position, in which its only option was a catastrophic rescue attempt. The Iranians had an enormous impact on the 1980 election, helping to defeat Carter and not releasing the hostages until Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. They crippled a president once and might like to try it again.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was involved in the hostage-taking and got a close-up view of how to manipulate the United States. Iran already undermined Bush's plans for a stable government in Iraq when it mobilized Shiite forces against the Baghdad government over the summer. Between that and the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Iran saw itself in a strong position. Iran then conducted a diplomatic offensive, as a former Iranian president and the current Iranian president both traveled to the United States and tried to make the case that they are more moderate than the Bush administration painted them.

With five weeks until the U.S. congressional midterm elections, the Iranians would love to be able to claim that Bush, having rejected their overtures, was brought down -- or at least crippled -- by Iran. There are rumors swirling about pending major attacks in Iraq by pro-Iranian forces. There are always rumors swirling in Iraq about attacks, but in this particular case, logic would give them credibility. The Iranians might be calculating that if Iranian-sponsored groups could inflict massive casualties on U.S. troops, it would affect the U.S. election enough to get a Democratic Congress in place -- which could cripple Bush's ability to wage war and further weaken the United States' position in the Middle East. This, of course, would increase Iran's standing in the region.

The Iranian perception is that the United States does not have the resources to launch either an invasion or massive airstrikes against Iran. The Bush administration's credibility on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is too low for that to be regarded as a plausible excuse, and even if strikes were launched to take out WMD, that rationale would not justify an extended, multi-month bombing campaign. Since the Iranians believe the United States lacks the will and ability to try regime change from the air, Tehran is in a position to strike without putting itself at risk.

If the Iranians were to strike hard at the United States in Iraq, and the United States did not respond effectively, then the perception in key countries like Saudi Arabia -- a religious and geopolitical rival of Iran's -- would be that aligning with the United States is a dangerous move because the U.S. ability to protect them is not there, and therefore they need to make other arrangements. Since getting the Saudis' cooperation against al Qaeda was a major achievement for the Bush administration, this would be a major reversal. But if Riyadh perceived the United States as inherently weak, Riyadh would have no choice but to recalculate and relaunch its foreign policy.

Iran and others are feeling encouraged to take risks before the upcoming U.S. election -- either because they see this as a period of maximum American weakness or because they hope to influence the election and further weaken Bush. If they succeed, many U.S. allies will, like the Saudis, have to recalculate their positions relative to the United States and move away. The willingness of people in Iraq and Afghanistan to align with the United States will decline. If the United States is seen as a loser, it will become a loser. Furthermore, the NIE and the Woodward book create the perception that Bush has become isolated in his views and unable to control his own people. He needs to reverse this perception.

It is easy to write that. It is much harder to imagine how he will accomplish it, particularly if there is a major attack in Iraq or elsewhere. Bush's solution has been to refuse to bend. That worked for a while, but that strategy is no longer credible because it is not clear that Bush still has the option of not bending. The disarray in his administration and the real possibility of losing Congress means that merely remaining resolved is not enough. Bush needs to bring perceived order to the perceived chaos in the administration. Between the bad luck of degenerate congressmen and the intentions of the Iranians, he does not have many tools at his disposal. The things he might have done a year ago, like replacing Rumsfeld, are not an option now. It would smell of panic, and he cannot afford to be seen as panicky. Perhaps Bush's only option at this point is to remain self-assured and indifferent to the storm around him.

Whatever the perception in the United States, Bush's enemies overseas are not impressed by his self-assurance, and his allies are getting very worried that, like Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, his political weakness will not allow him to control the U.S. course.

We believe that, in the end, reality governs perception. But we are not convinced that, in this case, the perception and the reality are not one and the same; and we are not convinced that, in the coming weeks, the perception is not in fact more important than the reality. And if the Republicans lose the upcoming elections, the perception that Bush lacks the plans and political power needed for decisive action will become the reality.

For Bush to be able to execute the foreign policy he wants, his party must win the midterm elections. For that to happen, Bush must get control of the political situation quickly. To do that, he must change the perception that his own administration is out of control.

Easy to write. Harder to do.
Power User
Posts: 42527

« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2006, 09:09:05 AM »

 October 27, 2006
10:01am EDT

MIKE HENDRICKS COMMENTARY - COMMENTARY: Hey, put that syllable back!
The Kansas City Star | Aug 28, 2006

In open split with Bush, top US conservative calls for independent movement
AFP | May 21, 2006

Minority report: the frustration of some black and Latino operatives raises the question: how much longer can democrats count on historic loyalties?
The American Prospect | Jul 1, 2005

Quills Highlights Librarians
Library Journal | Nov 1, 2006

The Last Word: James Carville
Newsweek | Oct 30, 2006

No Problem With the Veil
Newsweek | Oct 30, 2006

Harvard Political Review says, "The Patriot is leading a surprisingly well-organized charge into the world of Internet politics."
The one-stop source for politics and public policy, nationwide.

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Is There Progress Through Loss?
A national election, a national decision.

Friday, October 27, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

A year ago I wrote a column called "A Separate Peace," in which I said America's leaders in all areas--government, business, journalism--were in some deep way checking out. They saw bad things coming in the world and for our country, didn't think they could do anything about it, and were instead building a new pool or buying good memories for their kids. Soon after I was invited to address a group of Capitol Hill staffers to talk about the piece. When the meeting was over a woman walked up to me. She spoke of what was going wrong in Washington--the preoccupation with money, a lack of focus on the essentials, and the relentless dynamic of politics: first thing you do when you get power is move to keep power. And after a while you don't have any move but that move.

I said I thought the Republicans would take it on the chin in 2006, and that would force the beginning of wisdom. She surprised me. She was after all a significant staffer giving all her energy to helping advance conservative ideas within the Congress. "Yes," she said, in a quiet, deadly way. As in: I can't wait. As in: We'll get progress only through loss.

That's a year ago, from the Hill.

This is two weeks ago, from a Bush appointee: "I hope they lose the House." And one week ago, from a veteran of two GOP White Houses: "I hope they lose Congress." Republicans this year don't say "we" so much.

What is behind this? A lot of things, but here's a central one: They want to fire Congress because they can't fire President Bush.

Republican political veterans go easy on ideology, but they're tough on incompetence. They see Mr. Bush through the eyes of experience and maturity. They hate a lack of care. They see Mr. Bush as careless, and on more than Iraq--careless with old alliances, disrespectful of the opinion of mankind. "He never listens," an elected official who is a Bush supporter said with a shrug some months ago. Along the way the president's men and women confused the necessary and legitimate disciplining of a coalition with weird and excessive attempts to silence Republican critics. They have lived in a closed system. They now want to open it but don't know how. Listening is a habit; theirs has long been to suppress.
In the Republican base, that huge and amorphous thing, judgments are less tough, more forgiving. But there too things have changed.

There remains a broad, reflexive, and very Republican kind of loyalty to George Bush. He is a war president with troops in the field. You can see his heart. He led us in a very human way through 9/11, from the early missteps to the later surefootedness. He was literally surefooted on the rubble that day he threw his arm around the retired fireman and said the people who did this will hear from all of us soon.

Images like that fix themselves in the heart. They're why Mr. Bush's popularity is at 38%. Without them it wouldn't be so high.

But there's unease in the base too, again for many reasons. One is that it's clear now to everyone in the Republican Party that Mr. Bush has changed the modern governing definition of "conservative."

He did this without asking. He did it even without explaining. He didn't go to the people whose loyalty and support raised him high and say, "This is what I'm doing, this is why I'm changing things, here's my thinking, here are the implications." The cynics around him likely thought this a good thing. To explain is to make things clearer, or at least to try, and they probably didn't want it clear. They had the best of both worlds, a conservative reputation and a liberal reality.

And Republicans, most of whom are conservative in at least general ways, and who endure the disadvantages of being conservative because they actually believe in ideas, in philosophy, in an understanding of the relation of man and the state, are still somewhat concussed. The conservative tradition on foreign affairs is prudent realism; the conservative position on borders is that they must be governed; the conservative position on high spending is that it is obnoxious and generationally irresponsible. Etc.

This is not how Mr. Bush has governed. And so in the base today personal loyalty, and affection, bumps up against intellectual unease.

The administration tries to get around this, to quiet the unease, with things like the Republican National Committee ad in which Islamic terrorists plot to kill America.

They do want to kill America, and all the grownups know it. But this is a nation of sophisticates, and every Republican sipping a Bud at a bar in Chilicothe, Ill., who looks up and sees that ad thinks: They're trying to scare the base to increase turnout. Turnout's the key.

Here's a thing about American politics. Nobody sees himself as the base. They see themselves as individuals. And they're not dumb. They get it all. They know when you're trying to manipulate. They'll even tell you, with a lovely detachment, if you're doing a good job. (An unreported story this year is the lack of imagination, seriousness and respect in the work of political consultants on both sides. They have got to catch up with American brightness.)

The Republican establishment, the Republican elite, is quietly supporting those candidates and ideas they think should be encouraged. They are thinking about whom they will back in '08. But they're not thinking of this, most of them, with the old excitement. Because they sense, in their tough little guts, that the heroic age of the American presidency is, for now, over. No president is going to come along and save us, and Congress isn't going to save us. Events will cause a reckoning, and then we'll save ourselves. And in this we will refind our greatness.
The base probably thinks pretty much the same. They go through the motions, as patriots are sometimes called to do. As for the election, it reminds me not of 1994 but 1992. That year, at a bipartisan gathering, I was pressed for a prediction. I said it was a contest between depression (if Republicans win) and anxiety (if Democrats win). I said Americans will take anxiety over depression any day, because it's the more awake state.

Al Gore was later told of this, and used it on the campaign trail. Only he changed "anxiety" to "hope." Politicians kill me.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on
Power User
Posts: 42527

« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2006, 07:12:31 AM »

The Election and Investigatory Powers of Congress
By George Friedman

There is now only a week to go before midterm congressional elections in the United States. The legislative outcome is already fairly clear. President George W. Bush lost the ability to drive legislation through Congress when he had to back away from his Social Security proposals. That situation will continue: The president will not be able to generate legislation without building coalitions. On the other hand, Congress will not be able to override his vetoes. That means that, regardless of whether the Democrats take the House of Representatives (as appears likely) or the Senate (which appears less likely but still possible), the basic architecture of the American legislative process will remain intact. Democrats will not gain much power to legislate; Republicans will not lose much.

If the Democrats take control of the House from the Republicans, the most important change will not be that Nancy Pelosi becomes House Speaker, but that the leadership of House committees will shift -- and even more significant, that there will be upheaval of committee staffs. Republicans will shift to minority staff positions -- and have to let go of a lot of staffers -- while the Democrats will get to hire a lot of new ones. These staffers serve two functions. The first is preparing legislation, the second is managing investigations. Given the likelihood of political gridlock, there will be precious little opportunity for legislation to be signed into law during the next two years -- but there likely will be ample opportunity and motivation for congressional investigations.

Should the Democrats use this power to their advantage, there will be long-term implications for both the next presidential election and foreign policy options in the interim.

One of the most important things that the Republicans achieved, with their control of both the House and Senate, was to establish control over the type and scope of investigations that were permitted. Now, even if control of only the House should change hands, the Democrats will be making those decisions. And, where the GOP's goal was to shut down congressional investigations, the Democrat Party's goal will be to open them up and use them to shape the political landscape ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

It is important to define what we mean by "investigation." On the surface, congressional investigations are opportunities for staffers from the majority party to wield subpoena power in efforts to embarrass their bosses' opponents. The investigations also provide opportunities for members of Congress and senators to make extensive speeches that witnesses have to sit and listen to when they are called to testify -- a very weird process, if you have ever seen it. Congressional investigations are not about coming to the truth of a matter in order for the laws of the republic to be improved for the common good. They are designed to extract political benefit and put opponents in the wrong. (Republicans and Democrats alike use the congressional investigative function to that end, so neither has the right to be indignant.)

For years, however, Democrats have been in no position to unilaterally call hearings and turn their staffs and subpoena powers loose on a topic -- which means they have been precluded from controlling the news cycle. The media focus intensely on major congressional hearings. For television networks, they provide vivid moments of confrontation; and the reams of testimony, leaked or official, give the print media an enormous opportunity to look for embarrassing moments that appear to reveal something newsworthy. In the course of these hearings, there might even be opportunities for witnesses to fall into acts of perjury -- or truth-telling -- that can lead to indictments and trials.

To reverse their position, the Democrats need not capture both the House and Senate next week. In fact, from the party's standpoint, that might not even be desirable. The Senate and House historically have gotten in each other's way in the hearing process. Moreover, there are a lot of Democratic senators considering a run for the presidency, but not many members of Congress with those ambitions. Senators who get caught up in congressional hearings can wind up being embarrassed themselves -- and with the competing goals of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and some of the other candidates, things could wind up a mess. But if the House alone goes to Democrats, Pelosi would be positioned to orchestrate a series of hearings from multiple committees and effectively control the news cycles. Within three months of the new House being sworn in, the political landscape could be dominated by hearings -- each week bringing new images of witnesses being skewered or news of embarrassing files being released. Against this backdrop, a new generation of Democratic congressmen would be making their debuts on the news networks, both while sitting on panels, and on the news channels afterward.

Politically, this would have two implications. First, the ability of the White House to control and direct public attention would decline dramatically. Not only would the White House not be able to shut down unwanted debate, but it would lack the ability even to take part in setting the agenda. Each week's subject would be chosen by the House Democratic leadership. Second, there will be a presidential election in two years that the Democrats want to win. Therefore, they would use congressional hearings to shape public opinion along the lines their party wants. The goal would be not only to embarrass the administration, but also to showcase Democratic strengths.

The Senate can decide to hold its own hearings, of course, and likely would if left in Republican hands. The problem is that, at the end of the day, the most interesting investigations would involve the Bush administration and corporations that can be linked to it. A GOP-controlled Senate could call useful hearings, but they would be overwhelmed by the Democratic fireworks. They just would not matter as much.

So let's consider, from a foreign policy standpoint, what would be likely matters for investigation:

What did the Bush administration really know about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did Bush dismiss advice from the CIA on Iraq?

Did the administration ignore warnings about al Qaeda attacks prior to 9/11?

These, of course, would be the mothers of all investigations. Everything would be dragged out and pored over. The fact that there have been bipartisan examinations by the 9/11 commission would not matter: The new hearings would be framed as an inquiry into whether the 9/11 commission's recommendations were implemented -- and that would open the door to re-examine all the other issues.

Following close on these would be investigations into:

Whether the Department of Homeland Security is effective.

Whether the new structure of the intelligence community works.

Whether Halliburton received contracts unfairly -- a line of inquiry that could touch Vice President Dick Cheney.

Whether private contractors like Blackwater are doing appropriate jobs in Iraq.

Whether the Geneva Conventions should apply in cases of terrorist detentions.

Whether China is violating international trade agreement.

And so on. Every scab would be opened -- as is the right of Congress, the tendency of the nation in unpopular wars, and likely an inevitable consequence of these midterm elections.

We can expect the charges raised at these hearings to be serious, and to come from two groups. The first will be Democratic critics of the administration. These will be unimportant: Such critics, along with people like former White House security adviser Richard Clarke, already have said everything they have to say. But the second group will include another class -- former members of the administration, the military and the CIA who have, since the invasion of Iraq, broken with the administration. They have occasionally raised their voices -- as, for instance, in Bob Woodward's recent book -- but the new congressional hearings would provide a platform for systematic criticism of the administration. And many of these critics seem bruised and bitter enough to avail themselves of it.

This intersects with internal Republican politics. At this point, the Republicans are divided into two camps. There are those who align with the Bush position: that the war in Iraq made sense and that, despite mistakes, it has been prosecuted fairly well on the whole. And there are those, coalesced around Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Warner, who argue that, though the rationale for the war very well might have made sense, its prosecution by Donald Rumsfeld has led to disaster. The lines might be evenly drawn, but for the strong suspicion that Sen. John McCain is in the latter camp.

McCain clearly intends to run for president and, though he publicly shows support for Bush, there is every evidence that McCain has never forgiven him for the treatment he received in the primaries of 2000. McCain is not going to attack the president, nor does he really oppose the war in Iraq, but he has shown signs that he feels that the war has not been well prosecuted. This view, shared publicly by recently retired military commanders who served in Iraq, holds out Rumsfeld as the villain. It is not something that McCain is going to lead the charge on, but in taking down Rumsfeld, McCain would be positioned to say that he supported the war and the president -- but not his secretary of defense, who was responsible for overseeing the prosecution of the war.

From McCain's point of view, little would be more perfect than an investigation into the war by a Democrat-controlled House during which former military and Defense Department officials pounded the daylights out of Rumsfeld. This would put whole-hearted Republican supporters of the president in a tough position and give McCain -- who, as a senator, would not have to participate in the hearings -- space to defend Bush's decision but not his tactics. The hearings also would allow him to challenge Democratic front-runners (Clinton and Obama) on their credentials for waging a war. They could be maneuvered into either going too far and taking a pure anti-war stance, or into trying to craft a defense policy at which McCain could strike. To put it another way, aggressively investigating an issue like the war could wind up blowing up in the Democrats' faces, but that is so distant and subtle a possibility that we won't worry about it happening -- nor will they.

What does seem certain, however, is this: The American interest in foreign policy is about to take an investigatory turn, as in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Various congressional hearings, like those of the Church Committee, so riveted the United States in the 1970s and so tied down the policymaking bureaucracy that crafting foreign policy became almost impossible.

George W. Bush is a lame duck in the worst sense of the term. Not only are there no more elections he can influence, but he is heading into his last two years in office with terrible poll ratings. And he is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives -- a loss that will generate endless hearings and investigations on foreign policy, placing Bush and his staff on the defensive for two years. Making foreign policy in this environment will be impossible.

Following the elections, five or six months will elapse before the House Democrats get organized and have staff in place. After that, the avalanche will fall in on Bush, and 2008 presidential politics will converge with congressional investigations to overwhelm his ability to manage foreign policy. That means the president has less than half a year to get his house in order if he hopes to control the situation, or at least to manage his response.

Meanwhile, the international window of opportunity for U.S. enemies will open wider and wider.
Power User
Posts: 42527

« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2006, 02:35:34 PM »

Recently the "Levine Breaking News" has started appearing in my email box.  Thus it has no track record with me.  That said, the following just appeared:

"*4 LEADING MILITARY PAPERS: 'RUMSFELD MUST GO': An editorial set to appear on Monday -- election eve -- in the four leading newspapers for the military calls for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The papers are the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times. They are published by the Military Times Media Group, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc. President Bush said this week that he wanted Rumsfeld to serve out the next two years."

The timing and the political impact of publication the day before such pivotal elections are intriguing to say the least.
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2006, 03:50:21 PM »

Off one of the lists I peruse:

Midterm elections - history lesson - reality check

Posted on 11/14/2006 6:09:32 AM EST

Time for a history lesson. The media and the Democrats  want you to believe that somehow this election was different. No, the losses the GOP suffered WERE to be expected. Let us review, shall we?

President                Mid-term        Senate        House

Grant (R)                1870        -4        -31

Grant (R)                1874        -8         -96

Hayes (R)                1878         -6          -9

Arthur (R)                1882         +3         -33

Cleveland (D)                1886        +3        -12

Harrison (R)                1890        0        -85

Cleveland (D)                1894        -5        -116

McKinley (R)                1898        +7        -21

TR (R)                1902        +2        +9

TR (R)                1906         +3        -28

Taft (R)                1910        -10        -57

Wilson (D)                1914        +5        -59

Wilson (D)                1918        -6        -19

Harding (R)                1922        -8        -75

Coolidge (R)                1926        -6        -10

Hoover (R)                1930        -8        -49

FDR (D)                1934        +10        +9

FDR (D)                1938        -6        -71

FDR (D)                1942        -9        -45

Truman (D)                1946         -12         -55

Truman (D)                1950        -6        -59

Ike (R)                1954        -1        -18

Ike (R)                1958        -13        -48

JFK (D)                1962        +3        -4

LBJ (D)                1966        -4        -47

Nixon (R)                1970        +2        -12

Nixon (R)                1974        -5        -48

Carter (D)                1978        -3        -15

Reagan (R)                1982        +1        -26

Reagan (R)                1986        -8        -5

Bush '41 (R)                1990        -1        -8

Clinton (D)                1994        -9        -54

Clinton (D)                1998        0        +4

Bush '43 (R)                2002        +2        0

Bush '43 (R)                2006        -6        -28

(1) With only four exceptions, EVERY single President since Lincoln has lost seats in the House in the midterm elections. The only ones to buck the trend were the Roosevelts (TR because he was the mostly popular President EVER his first term, FDR because of the Depression), Clinton (because of Republican miscues during the Impeachment) and Bush '43 (because of 9/11). GW was bound to lose this one.

(2) Midterm years in bold are the dreaded "six year itch". I have marked 1966 as one in that LBJ was finishing out what would have been JFK's second term. GW is his sixth year. Losses in the midterm were almost certain.

(3) Wilson (1918), FDR (1942), Truman (1950) and LBJ (1966) all lost seats both in the House and Senate when the country was at war. McKinley (1898) gained Senate seats, but lost seats in the House. Guess the country had mixed feelings about thumping Spain. Bush '41 can also be considered in this group as the country was gearing up for Gulf War I. Another category that GW fits into

(4) In terms of serious setbacks in the midterms this one doesn?t even come close. 1894 ranks as the all-time thumping with an astounding 116 House seats and 5 Senate seats changing hands. 1994, 1974, 1966, 1958 (I thought everyone liked Ike), 1938 (so much for the New Deal being popular), 1946, 1930 or 1874 were much, much worse. So counting our blessings is in order.

(5) Voters don't like scandals and take it out on the party in power. Midterm years underlined are considered scandal midterms. 1994 is in the list due to the number of scandals in Congress plus the Clintons were hip deep in scandals as well. Foley, et al doomed the Republicans at the start.

(6) Voters don't like excess spending. The thumping the Republicans received in 1890 was a voter rebellion against the "Billion Dollar Congress". The same can be said about FDR's spanking in 1938 (New Deal overreach) and Clinton's in 1994 (attempted takeover of the health care system). With bridges to nowhere is it any wonder the GOP lost seats?

(7)The historical average is a loss of 3 Senate seats and 34 House seats for the President's party in the midterms. For the "six year curse" the averge is 6 Senate seats and 39 House seats. The 2006 losses fit the historical norms.

Given the political history of our nation and add in the fact that most of the races were decided by very thin margins all the hand wringing is unjustified. Time to dust off the jeans and get back into the fight. This little history lesson should remind you that in our Republic the political fortunes of the parties ebb and flow. So the next time a liberal gloats in your face, remind him or her that this wasn't 1994, 1946 or 1938 and it sure as heck wasn't 1894.
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2006, 05:07:08 PM »

I love the spin. I'm sure that had the Republicans won, it would have been nothing but "Told you so, silly lefties!"

Instead you'll break out voting statistics from the past 50+ years, explain that the winning candidates were really moderate to conservative liberals, and basically not admit that you just plain lost. "This year's election results are not a mandate for change!" you'll say, "Just an aberration, par for the course, history proves it!" Funny, when Bush won the last election by a whopping couple of percentage points y'all said the "mandate for change" was clear. Hypocrisy at its finest.

For me the best part of election night was watching the pundits on FOX scratch their heads and say "WTF just happened?!?!?!?" They've been so fattened by the past 6 years' easy meal ticket that they can't understand why the country decided (on its own, might I add) to try a different diet.

And I've been just as disgusted by the Left's gloating about an election that was clearly not about Democrats, but about the? country's perception that the gang in charge is not getting the job done. Hey Dems, how about a plan for the next coupla years, whadda ya say?

Elections are lost because the populace gets tired of mismanagement, corruption, overspending, and (IMHO) the consistent ability of both parties to b.s. until the realities of their respective shortcomings are revealed.

Perhaps we should all take the blinders off for a bit a realize that politician's ultimately serve only one interest group: THEMSELVES

Give either party enough rope... wink

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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2006, 06:20:55 PM »

I love the spin. I'm sure that had the Republicans won, it would have been nothing but "Told you so, silly lefties!"

Dang, and I thought I was just cleverly sneaking in that my election day guess Republicans would lose by margins common in interim elections proved true. Clearly some sort of Freudian anti-gloating was instead occurring. Henceforth I will cease all pattern recognition attempts.

Or not. 

wink back at ya. . . .
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2006, 11:21:44 PM »


You are one of the reasons I continue to return to this forum. Keep it up.


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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2006, 02:51:47 PM »

I get this via the Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal" 5 days a week.  Lots of tasty tidbits for poliitical junkies every day.

November 27, 2006

In today's Political Diary:

Third Party in a Coal Mine
Kingston of All Media
The German Way
Here Comes the Tax Hike (Quote of the Day I)
We Wuzn't Robbed! (Quote of the Day II)
New Zealand Pols Try to Live Up to their Names

Libertarians, Independents and Greens - the New Axis of Evil

Democrats were certainly the big winner from this month's midterm elections, but they shouldn't be too complacent. They won a plurality of votes but not a majority of votes. Both parties need to worry that third party and independent candidates are winning an increasing share of the vote and determining the outcome of more and more close races.

Political analyst Richard Winger has developed the approach of using the top office on each state's ballot to gauge the support of each party. Under his method, Democrats won 49% of the vote in the latest election, Republicans 46% and others 5%. In 36 states, the "top office" he looked at was a governor's race, in eleven states it was U.S. Senator and in the remaining three states without a major statewide contest it was the total vote for U.S. House.

The 5% figure was the second highest vote for alternative candidates at the top of the ballot since 1934, only slightly exceeded by the result in the last midterm election of 2002. This year Republicans would have kept control of the U.S. Senate if voters who backed Libertarian candidates in Montana and Missouri had voted for the GOP incumbents instead. "It's clear that a good way of charting public dissatisfaction with major parties is to see how much they lose market share to candidates everyone knows can't win, but people still want [to use] to send a message," says Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia.

Democrats still bitterly complain that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader cost them the 2000 election in Florida when his 94,000 votes vastly exceeded the 547 votes that Al Gore lost to George W. Bush by. If the new Democratic Congress doesn't deliver on its promises, liberals may be the ones experiencing a critical part of their base defecting to Green Party or other protest candidates next time.

-- John Fund

YouTube Insurgent

Georgia Republican Congressman Jack Kingston has always been one to embrace innovative approaches to politics. As head of the Republican Theme Team, he was one of the first members to start his own blog. He was also eager to sit down with comedian Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central for an interview and unlike some Members who've visited with Mr. Colbert, managed to emerge looking neither arrogant nor clueless.

After this month's GOP loss of Congress, Mr. Kingston decided to campaign for a vacant spot in the GOP leadership, namely the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference. As part of his unconventional effort, he posted a campaign message on, the ubiquitous bulletin board for video junkies. "Thank you very much for opening this," Mr. Kingston told viewers at the beginning of his video. "I'm doing this because so many of you guys haven't been returning my phone calls and anyhow it saves all of us a little time."

Mr. Kingston says the YouTube posting attracted a decent amount of attention and was a useful reminder to Members "that there are lots of fun ways to send a message." Though his high-tech campaigning didn't land him the conference job, he came much closer than expected, losing only narrowly to establishment favorite Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida. Expect to see Mr. Kingston keep honing his alternative media skills as he continues to convince his colleagues that the way to reach younger voters is to supplement traditional media efforts with something completely different.

-- John Fund

How Not To Fix Social Security

Germany just "fixed" its Social Security system and what's frightening is that the same flimsy plan is likely to be heralded here in the U.S.

Under the deal between the conservative Christian Democrats and the leftwing Social Democrats, the German system will be shored up by raising taxes and cutting benefits. How ingenious. William Shipman, a worldwide expert on government pension programs and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says under the plan, the payroll taxes paid by a German worker would rise from 19.5% of his income to 22% in 2030. His full retirement benefit would drop from 54% of pre-retirement income to 43% by 2030. The age at which he can begin collecting benefits would rise from 65 to 67.

Germany was the first nation to devise a Social Security system -- under Otto von Bismarck in 1889 -- and when Franklin Roosevelt signed into law our Social Security Act some 50 years later, he cited Germany as the model to emulate. We've been following the German lead ever since. Mr. Shipman calculates that the average young German worker can now expect a monthly benefit upon retirement that pays at best half of what he would have earned if he could have saved the money himself. Here in the U.S. Generation X and Y workers are already facing a similar lousy rate of return from Social Security -- a payoff that would get a lot worse if we go the German direction.

Whether Germany's younger voters will rebel against this kind of financial child abuse is not known yet, but America's kids would be wise to start paying attention. Mr. Bush and the Democrats are said to be planning a grand entitlement program overhaul, and the parameters sound suspiciously like the German fix. Congressional Democrats succeeded in shooting down Mr. Bush's reform proposal based on private savings last year but offered no plan of their own. Today we have a better sense of where Washington politicians are headed. Bottom line: The case for private accounts is stronger than ever especially if you are one of the tens of millions of workers in your mid-40s or younger who would end up paying more and getting less.

-- Stephen Moore

Quote of the Day I

"Judging from the hints flying around Washington, the administration sees how to bridge this divide [on Social Security]. Democrats may be allergic to personal Social Security accounts, but they are enthusiastic about other ideas for personal retirement accounts that just don't have 'Social Security' in the title.... [E]veryone would get the chance to contribute to an account and receive a government contribution as a match, with the most generous match going to low-income workers. To pay for this program, the government could prune the existing $150 billion patchwork of tax breaks for saving. This patchwork is extraordinarily, scandalously regressive: 90 percent of the tax breaks go to the richest 40 percent of taxpayers" -- Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby.

Quote of the Day II

"Diebold, one of the biggest manufacturers of computerized voting machines was until recently headed by a CEO who happened to be a vocal supporter of President Bush. Writing in the New York Times in 2003, Paul Krugman sought to blow the lid off: 'You don't have to believe in a central conspiracy to worry that partisans will take advantage of an insecure, unverifiable voting system to manipulate election results... The credibility of U.S. democracy may be at stake.' That theme was rolled out again this election season on left-wing blogs and in the print media. There was even an HBO documentary, 'Hacking Democracy,' which emphasized the danger of Diebold disenfranchisement. But then, just as the paranoia reached its peak, a funny thing happened: The Democrats won on Election Day. As suddenly as they had blared to life, the alarm bells fell silent. The critics paused for a moment, then burst out in a new refrain: The people have spoken! The realignment is here! Democracy works! And so the Diebold villain has retreated to the shadows for the next two years, at least" -- from an editorial in National Review.

A Brash Exit

New Zealand's governing Labour Party now trails in the polls after winning election last year by only the narrowest of margins. But Prime Minister Helen Clark has little to worry about if the opposition National Party continues to self-destruct.

Despite a strong platform based on lower taxes and less government spending, the Nationals lost last year's election by 2% of the popular vote, for which many members blamed former central banker Don Brash, the Nats' leader. Mr. Brash's public gaffes were many: He excused himself after performing poorly in an debate with Ms. Clark by saying he took it easy because she's a woman; he attacked Labour for neglecting the sanctity of marriage, then admitted to one affair and refused to deny a second.

Mr. Brash, who was once nicknamed Mr. Magoo by his own chief of staff, had vowed to resign if his party lost and many members were growing tired of waiting for him to keep his promise. He finally quit last Thursday amid rumors of an impending revolt led by party finance spokesman John Key, who has now assumed the title of party boss.

Under Labour Finance Minister Roger Douglas in the 1980s, New Zealand arguably bested even Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in shrinking the state, reducing subsidies and trade barriers, and encouraging market-based growth. But it's been a while since New Zealand was a policy pioneer. Polls today show the Nationals leading Labour by as much as 13%, but the next election isn't scheduled until 2008. Whether the conservative party's popular free-market agenda will prevail then may depend on whether it has found the key leader to match its brash ambitions.

-- Adrian Ho

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« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2006, 12:53:17 AM »

A longtime aide to Jimmy Carter has resigned from the Carter Center think tank, calling the former president's new book on Israel and the Arabs one-sided and filled with errors.
Kenneth Stein, the Carter Center's first executive director and founder of its Middle East program, sent a letter that bluntly criticized the book to Carter and others.
Stein wrote that the book, "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid," was replete with factual errors, material copied from other sources and "simply invented segments," according to an excerpt of the letter published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Deanna Congileo, Carter's spokeswoman, said the former president stands by the book.

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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2007, 09:51:29 AM »

Earmark Victory
January 18, 2007; Page A16
If Republicans are wondering how best to shorten their time in the minority, they could do worse than to build on this week's Senate earmark victory. That reform success proves how good policy translates into good politics.

The Senate on Tuesday passed significant earmark reform, 98-0. But that unanimous tally masks the bitter battle that preceded the vote. When Republican freshmen Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint first launched an effort last summer to make earmarks more transparent, they struggled. Republicans had to be dragged into even minimal reform, and among their first acts after losing the election was to attempt to slip thousands more earmarks into their lame-duck spending bills.

Still, minority status has a way of focusing the mind, and combined with continued DeMint-Coburn shaming, Senate Republicans appear to have re-embraced some principles. When Majority Leader Harry Reid last week attempted to water down House Democrats' earmark reform, Messrs. Coburn and DeMint rallied enough fellow Republicans (and a few Democrats) to outmaneuver the spenders. Red-faced at getting caught trying to submarine their own party's plan for reform, Senate Democrats did an about-face and jumped on the earmark-reform bandwagon.

The result was a mini-competition as to which side of the aisle was tougher on earmarks, and a final bill that goes beyond even the House reform. Senator DeMint passed (98-0) an amendment that broadens the definition of an earmark; even those slipped into last-minute conference reports will have to be disclosed. Under the original Senate legislation, 95% of earmarks would have escaped scrutiny.

More amazing was Democrats' new enthusiasm for oversight. Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin -- who started off trying to tank Mr. DeMint's reform -- finished by passing an amendment (also 98-0) that requires lawmakers to post their earmark requests on the Internet 48 hours before a vote. (The House version of the bill simply requires a public disclosure form.) California Democrat Dianne Feinstein also joined in, passing by voice vote a provision that would bar lawmakers from including earmarks in the classified parts of a bill or a conference report unless they also included language in unclassified terms describing the project, funding levels and sponsor. Classified reports were among the ways that former Rep. Duke Cunningham -- now in federal prison -- hid his earmark payoffs.

None of this is to suggest earmarks will disappear in Washington. The real test will be whether lawmakers can restrain themselves from inserting pork-barrel projects. The news isn't encouraging. We hear federal agency telephones have been ringing off the hook, as Congressmen use back-channels to secure earmarks that they'd rather not appear in public.

Still, the reform is a good start. Republicans made headlines with their demands last week, and the news stories were a welcome change for a public appalled by Congress's spend-happy ways. If conservatives had shown this sort of commitment to their small-government ideals back when it mattered, they might still be in the majority.
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2007, 07:23:32 AM »

Spending Sincerity Test
January 24, 2007; Page A12
Members of Congress applauded President Bush's lines about spending restraint last night, but we are about to get a test of their sincerity when the Senate votes today on the line-item veto.

The official description of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg's legislation is "rescission" authority, and it is notably less powerful than the genuine "veto" power Congress granted Bill Clinton in 1996 before it was struck down by the Supreme Court. But the impulse behind it is the same: Give Mr. Bush and his successors the power to single out and send back to Congress the thousands of wasteful "earmark" projects that bloat today's spending bills. Congress would then be required to vote, up or down and within 10 days, on the spending cuts.

It's no accident that Mr. Gregg's bill is nearly identical to a rescission amendment offered by former Democratic Senator (and one-time Majority Leader) Tom Daschle in 1995. In fact, Mr. Daschle's version gave the President more power, allowing him to submit as many as 13 rescissions a year, compared with only four in the Gregg proposal. No fewer than 37 Democrats voted for the Daschle amendment in 1995, and 20 of them are still in the Senate.

Yet how times, and partisanship, have changed. West Virginia's Robert Byrd took to the Senate floor this week to denounce Mr. Gregg's amendment as "garbage" -- his eloquence is legendary -- and to complain that it gave too much power to the President. That's an old Byrd song when Republicans are in the White House. But back in 1995, with Mr. Clinton in office, the earl of earmarks noted that the Daschle proposal "does not result in any shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive. It is clear cut. It gives the President the opportunity to get a vote . . . So I am 100 percent behind the substitute by Mr. Daschle."

California's Dianne Feinstein also hailed rescission authority in 1995 as a "deterrence" to "the pork barrel." Wisconsin's Russ Feingold extolled it as "a useful tool." Washington's Patty Murray said the President should have the power to veto "pork items" that "contribute to our deficit." North Dakota's Byron Dorgan in 1996 said it would be "helpful in imposing budget discipline." Senators Chris Dodd, Carl Levin and Joe Biden also had nice things to say.

If this crowd meant what they said, Mr. Gregg will easily get the 60 votes he needs to overcome a filibuster. Yet so far not a single Democrat has publicly supported the measure, and Republicans had to threaten to hold up the ethics reform bill last week even to get an item-veto vote on the Senate floor. This is all the more remarkable given that the Senate Democratic caucus is teeming with wannabe Presidents who would love the power that Bill Clinton once had if they ever make it to the White House. Perhaps they lack confidence in their candidacies.

Or perhaps they simply don't want to hand Mr. Bush anything he could call a victory. Democrats ran hard against GOP overspending last year, so voters will be watching what they do in the run-up to 2008. A vote against the line-item veto is a vote for earmarks and spending as usual.
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2007, 08:33:40 AM »

Senator Feingold's Sin
The backseat generals are exposed.

Friday, February 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The Senate is teeming with courageous souls these days, most of them Republicans who have taken that brave step of following the opinion polls and abandoning their president in a time of war. Meanwhile, one of the few senators showing some backbone in the Iraq debate is being shunned as the skunk at the war critics' party.

Sen. Russ Feingold held a hearing this week on Congress's constitutional power to shut off funds for the Iraq war, and followed it up a day later with legislation that would do just that. The Wisconsin pacifist might not understand the importance of winning in Iraq--or the cost of losing--but at least there's an element of principle to his actions. He's opposed the war from the start and his proposal to cut off money after six months would certainly end it. It also happens to be Congress's one legitimate means of stopping a war.

Mr. Feingold's reward for honesty was to preside over what might have been the least-attended hearing so far in the Iraq debate. And those of his Senate colleagues who did bother to show up looked like they couldn't wait to hit an exit door. "If Congress doesn't stop this war, it's not because it doesn't have the power. It's because it doesn't have the will," declared Mr. Feingold. Ted Kennedy--one of two Democrats who put in an appearance--could be seen shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

That's because Sen. Feingold is coming uncomfortably close to unmasking the political charade playing on the Senate stage. Critics of President Bush want an unhappy public to see them taking action on the war. So we have the Biden-Warner compromise resolution condemning the plan to increase the forces. There is also talk of capping troops, of requiring redeployments to Afghanistan, of benchmarks and progress reports.

All these proposals have one overriding thing in common: While they may hurt the war effort, none are significant enough for Congress to take responsibility when Iraq is irrevocably lost. This is President Bush's war, and his critics won't take any step that puts them on the hook as well. Sen. Feingold's sin is to suggest that Congress do something more than play politics.
It's a delicate high-wire act, made more complex by the opponents' need to reassure the public that their actions, which will surely encourage the enemy and deflate troop morale, won't, in fact, encourage the enemy or deflate troop morale. This has led to the spectacle of the Senate one day unanimously voting to confirm Gen. David Petraeus, and the next taking up resolutions that would kneecap his plan for success. John Warner and Chuck Hagel are all for the troops, just not for letting them win. Very courageous indeed.

Meanwhile, back in the distasteful department, Sen. Feingold's hearing also drew attention (darn him!) to the other pachyderm in the room: the Constitution. The Senate next week may well pass a resolution that criticizes the Iraq troop buildup, yet notably it will be "nonbinding." Should the president ignore it--which he will have the legal and moral right to do--pressure will increase for Congress to take real steps to micromanage the war, say with a troop ceiling.

But as constitutional scholars testified at the hearing, Congress (even one worried about its political backside) does not have an unfettered right to be commander in chief. The Founders specifically chose not to give Congress the right to "make" war, worried that this term might allow legislators to conduct military engagements. Instead, Congress was restricted to "declaring" war, which is what it did when it authorized President Bush to invade Iraq. Another constitutional power is to end war, by refusing to appropriate money. But "in the conduct of war, in the conduct of foreign affairs, the president is in fact the decider," said University of Virginia professor Robert Turner.

It is thus dawning on senators that any plans for tinkering with Iraq might not prove so easy. Mr. Feingold largely focused on the question of cutting off funds, but the three or four other war opponents present were eager to coax the assembled witnesses into giving them constitutional cover for other actions.

Sen. Dick Durbin floated the latest brainstorm: Since Congress's authorization of the Iraq war was premised on finding WMD and deposing Saddam Hussein--and since we never found WMD and Saddam is now gone--doesn't Congress have the constitutional right to revisit the war authorization? Even the liberal scholars, who'd been picked for their willingness to testify that Congress can do whatever it wants, looked peaky at the idea. That included onetime assistant-attorney general Walter Dellinger, who felt so strongly about executive power in the 1990s that he advised President Clinton to invade Haiti without congressional authority, but today believes the Republican in the Oval Office is getting away with too much.

The pesky Constitution is a new hitch for the war critics, whose strategy was to briefly act as backseat generals, get the headlines, and then wait for President Bush to take the fall. Instead, Sen. Arlen Specter was gauche enough at the Feingold hearing to worry out loud that Congress was setting down a path that may lead to a "confrontation" between the two branches.

He might well worry. If one thing has defined the Bush years, it has been the president's willingness to exert his executive authority in defense of America. He's done it with detainees, with wiretaps, with military commissions. And he fervently believes success in Iraq is crucial to American security. In any thorny debate over just how much authority Congress has to interfere, it's a good bet Mr. Bush's own legal team will be pointing out the strong constitutional case that only the president has the right to decide where and how to deploy troops, as well as noting the peril of ceding any of that authority to 535 mini-me commanders in Congress.

What happens then? What happens if President Bush ignores Congress's attempt to direct the war? A few in the Democratic Party would love for an excuse to commence impeachment proceedings, but the rest understand that's political suicide. Then there's court. If liberals were unhappy about the Supremes deciding the 2000 election, imagine the theater of nine black robes deciding the outcome of the Iraq war.
Whatever comes, Congress is to blame. For a month the Senate has been trying to wrestle control of Iraq from the president, but undercover, and in a way that that avoids accountability. Sen. Feingold shone a light under that rock this week, and now the hard questions begin.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2007, 10:33:10 AM »

Rep. Jefferson is the man in whose refrigerator the FBI found $90,000 in cash.


Rep. Jefferson to Get Homeland Security Seat
Associated Press
Saturday, February 17, 2007; Page A09

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who yanked embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson off a powerful tax committee last year, has decided to put him on the Homeland Security panel, aides to the Louisiana Democrat confirmed yesterday.

The move infuriated some Republicans, who accuse him of being a potential security risk.

Jefferson has been the subject of an ongoing federal bribery investigation related to a telecommunications deal in Africa. His Capitol Hill office and his homes in Washington and New Orleans have been raided by the FBI, and he was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee last June after affidavits and evidence seized in the raids became public.

Nevertheless, Jefferson won reelection in December to a ninth term, and he has been an outspoken critic of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Pelosi's decision to appoint Jefferson to the committee must still be formally approved by House Democrats.

"It sends a terrible message," said Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), the committee's ranking Republican. "They couldn't trust him to write tax policy, so why should he be given access to our nation's top secrets or making policy for national defense?

"Members of the committee have access to intelligence secrets, plots here in the country, overseas, and people under suspicion. This shows how unimportant the Democrats think homeland security is," King said.

Jefferson's chief of staff, Eugene Green, called King's criticism "ridiculous and just politics."

"Representing New Orleans as he does, we're very concerned as to what happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," Green said. "It's just natural for the congressman to serve his constituents on a committee of this nature."

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« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2007, 10:29:53 AM »


Democrats at War
Prime Minister Pelosi and Secretary of State Lantos undermine U.S. foreign policy--and maybe their own party.

Friday, April 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Democrats took Congress last fall in part by opposing the war in Iraq, but it is becoming clear that they view their election as a mandate for something far more ambitious--to wit, promoting and executing their own foreign policy, albeit without the detail of a Presidential election.

Their intentions were made plain this week with two remarkable acts by their House and Senate leaders. Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed Senator Russ Feingold's proposal to withdraw from Iraq immediately, cutting off funds entirely within a year. He promised a vote soon, as part of what the Washington Post reported would also be a Democratic offensive to close Guantanamo, reinstate legal rights for terror suspects, and improve relations with Cuba.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her now famous sojourn to Syria, donning a head scarf and advertising that she was conducting shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Damascus. If there was any doubt that her trip was intended as far more than a routine Congressional "fact-finding" trip, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos put it to rest by declaring that, "We have an alternative Democratic foreign policy. I view my job as beginning with restoring overseas credibility and respect for the United States."

Americans should understand how extraordinary this is. There have been previous battles over U.S. foreign policy and fierce domestic criticism. In the 1990s, these columns defended Bill Clinton against "the Republican drift toward isolationism and political opportunism" amid the Kosovo conflict. But rarely in U.S. history have Congressional leaders sought to conduct their own independent diplomacy, with the Speaker acting as a Prime Minister traveling with a Secretary of State in the person of Mr. Lantos.
Yes, Congressional Republicans have visited Syria too. But Ms. Pelosi isn't some minority back-bencher. Without a Democrat in the White House, she and Mr. Reid are the national leaders of their party. Even Newt Gingrich, for all his grand domestic ambitions in 1995, took a muted stand on foreign policy, realizing that in the American system the executive has the bulk of national security power. He also understood he would do the country no favors by sending a mixed message to our enemies--at the time, Slobodan Milosevic.

What was Ms. Pelosi hoping to accomplish, other than embarrassing President Bush? "We were very pleased with reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process," she told reporters after meeting with dictator Bashar Assad. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria."

She purported to convey a message from Israel's Ehud Olmert expressing similar interest in "the peace process," except that the Israeli Prime Minister felt obliged to issue a clarification noting that Ms. Pelosi had got the message wrong. Israel hadn't changed its policy, which is that it will negotiate only when Mr. Assad repudiates his support for terrorism and stops trying to dominate Lebanon. As a shuttle diplomat, Ms. Pelosi needs some practice.

Mr. Lantos probably got closer to their real intentions when he told reporters that "this is only the beginning of our constructive dialogue with Syria, and we hope to build on it." The Pelosi cavalcade is intended to show that if only the Bush Administration would engage in "constructive dialogue," the Syrians, Israelis and everyone else could all get along.

This is the same Syrian regime that has facilitated the movement of money and insurgents to kill Americans in Iraq; that has been implicated by a U.N. probe in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; and that has snubbed any number of U.S. overtures since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Perhaps if he works hard enough, Mr. Lantos can match the 22 visits to Damascus that Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Warren Christopher made in the 1990s trying to squeeze peace from that same stone.

In fact, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Lantos both voted for the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 that ordered Mr. Bush to choose from a menu of six sanctions to impose on Damascus. Mr. Bush chose the weakest two sanctions and dispatched a new Ambassador to Syria in a goodwill gesture in 2004. Only later, in the wake of the Hariri murder and clear intelligence of Syria's role in aiding Iraqi Baathists, did Mr. Bush conclude that Mr. Assad's real goal was to reassert control over Lebanon and bleed Americans in Iraq.

With her trip, Ms. Pelosi has now reassured the Syrian strongman that Mr. Bush lacks the domestic support to impose any further pressure on his country. She has also made it less likely that Mr. Assad will cooperate with the Hariri probe, or assist the Iraqi government in defeating Baathist and al Qaeda terrorists.

Back in Washington, Harry Reid says his response to Mr. Bush's certain veto of his Iraq spending bill will be to escalate. He now supports cutting off funds and beginning an immediate withdrawal, even as General David Petraeus's surge in Baghdad unfolds and shows signs of promise. If Mr. Bush were as politically cynical as Democrats think, he'd let Mr. Reid's policy become law. Then Democrats would share responsibility for whatever mayhem happened next.
So this is Democratic foreign policy: Assure our enemies that they can ignore a President who still has 21 months to serve; and wash their hands of Baghdad and of their own guilt for voting to let Mr. Bush go to war. No doubt Democrats think the President's low job approval, and public unhappiness with the war, gives them a kind of political immunity. But we wonder.

Once we leave Iraq, America's enemies will still reside in the Mideast; and they will be stronger if we leave behind a failed government and bloodbath in Iraq. Mr. Bush's successor will have to contain the damage, and that person could even be a Democrat. But by reverting to their Vietnam message of retreat and by blaming Mr. Bush for all the world's ills, Democrats on Capitol Hill may once again convince voters that they can't be trusted with the White House in a dangerous world.
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« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2007, 10:32:51 AM »

The Wolfowitz Files
The anatomy of a World Bank smear.

Monday, April 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.

Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.

The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.

The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:
"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member." (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)

That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.

Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."

Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President, with the General Counsel, communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources "so as to implement" it immediately.

And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll, the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.

Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.

Based on this paper trail, Mr. Wolfowitz's only real mistake was in assuming that everyone else was acting in good faith. Yet when some of these details leaked to the media, nearly everyone else at the bank dodged responsibility and let Mr. Wolfowitz twist in the wind. Mr. Melkert, a Dutch politician now at the U.N., seems to have played an especially cowardly role.

In an October 24, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz, he averred that "because the outcome is consistent with the Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed." A month later, on November 25, Mr. Melkert even sent Mr. Wolfowitz a personal, hand-written note saying, "I would like to thank you for the very open and constructive spirit of our discussions, knowing in particular the sensitivity to Shaha, who I hope will be happy in her new assignment."

And when anonymous World Bank staffers began to circulate emails making nasty allegations about Ms. Shaha's job transfer and pay in early 2006, Mr. Melkert dismissed them in a letter to Mr. Wolfowitz on February 28, 2006, because they "did not contain new information warranting any further review by the Committee." Yet amid the recent media smears, Mr. Melkert has minimized his own crucial role.

All of this is so unfair that Mr. Wolfowitz could be forgiven for concluding that bank officials insisted he play a role in raising Ms. Riza's pay precisely so they could use it against him later. Even if that isn't true, it's clear that his enemies--especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own--are now using this to force him out of the bank. They especially dislike his anticorruption campaign, as do his opponents in the staff union and such elites of the global poverty industry as Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development. They prefer the status quo that holds them accountable only for how much money they lend, not how much they actually help the poor.
Equally cynical has been the press corps, which slurred Mr. Wolfowitz with selective reporting and now says, in straight-faced solemnity, that the president must leave the bank because his "credibility" has been damaged. Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team.

The only way this fiasco could get any worse would be for Mr. Wolfowitz to resign in the teeth of so much dishonesty and cravenness. We're glad the Bush Administration isn't falling for this Euro-bureaucracy-media putsch. Mr. Wolfowitz has apologized for any mistakes he's made, though we're not sure why. He's the one who deserves an apology.
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« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2007, 12:00:26 PM »

Hat tip to David Gordon:


Following the Money Trail Online

From David Pogue comes this referral to an interesting site.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one.

That's what I keep telling myself, anyway, to avoid becoming depressed by

It's a new Web site with a very simple mission: to correlate lawmakers' voting records with the money they've accepted from special-interest groups.

All of this is public information. All of it has been available for decades. Other sites, including, expose who's giving how much to whom. But nobody has ever revealed the relationship between money given and votes cast to quite such a startling effect.

If you click the "Video Tour" button on the home page, you'll see a six-minute video that illustrates the point. You find out that on H.R.5684, the U. S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, special interests in favor of this bill (including pharmaceutical companies and aircraft makers) gave each senator an average of $244,000. Lobbyists opposed to the bill (such as anti-poverty groups and consumer groups) coughed up only $38,000 per senator.

Surprise! The bill passed.

If you click "Timeline of Contributions," you find out that -- surprise again! -- contributions to the lawmakers surged during the six weeks leading up to the vote. On this same page, you can click the name of a particular member of Congress to see how much money that person collected.

Another mind-blowing example: from the home page, click "California." Click "Legislators," then click "Fabian Nunez." The resulting page shows you how much this guy has collected from each special-interest group -- $2.2 million so far -- and there, in black-and-white type, how often he voted their way.

Construction unions: 94 percent of the time. Casinos: 95 percent of the time. Law firms: 78 percent of the time. Seems as though if you're an industry lobbyist, giving this fellow money is a pretty good investment.

A little time spent clicking through to these California lawmakers' pages reveals a similar pattern in most of them.

(A few, on the other hand, appear to be deliciously contrary. Jim Brulte has accepted over $67,000 from the tobacco industry, but hasn't voted in their favor a single time. Is that even ethical -- I mean, by the standards of this whole sleazy business?)

For some reason, doesn't reveal these "percent of the time" figures for United States Congress, only for California. You can easily see how much money each member has taken, but the column that correlates those figures with their voting record is missing.

Now, not all bills exhibit the same money-to-outcome relationships. And it's not news that our lawmakers' campaigns accept money from special interests. What this site does, however, is to expose, often embarrassingly, how that money buys votes.

I probably sound absurdly naive here. But truth is, I can't quite figure out why these contributions are even legal. Let the various factions explain their points till they're blue in the face, sure -- but to cut checks for millions of dollars? isn't always easy to figure out, and not all of its data is complete. In fact, it's not even evident from the list of bills which ones have already been voted on -- a distinct disappointment, since the juicy patterns don't emerge until the vote is complete.

On the other hand, it's painstakingly non-partisan. And it uses very good data; for example, the information on contributions comes from the Center for Responsive Politics (the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group behind, and each special industry's interests (for or against each bill) are taken exclusively from public declarations of support or opposition (Web sites, news articles, Congressional hearings and so on).

Spend a few minutes poking around. Check out a couple of the people you voted for. Have a look at how often their votes align with the interests of the lobbyists who helped to get them elected.

And be glad makes it so easy to spot those correlations.

Labels: Humanities
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« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2007, 09:29:10 PM »

Fascinating site.  A couple of thoughts about the site.

I perused numerous Cal. Legislatures.  It seems to illustrate with special clarity the power of the unions in California.  Isn't that what Schwarzenegger learned?

When the government is the largest or one of the largest employers of a state, and these employees have the right to unionize then the rest of the taxpayers are at their mercy.

What the site doesn't address per se is whether these candidates were truly influenced by the money or were inclined to vote that way anyway and *that* is why they garnered such support.   Similarly, these people were probably elected with the financial support of said interests, and are merely voting the way that was intended all along.  It makes sense for special interests to keep in power "their" guys and gals rather then waste money on those legislaters who will likily use their own money to vote against them.

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« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2007, 10:33:10 PM »

CCP, I see your post came through as I was writing - looks like our observations overlap...

I like David Gordon's site and I appreciate the link to maplight.  It's important to track money and watch over the people's representatives as closely as we can.  After that, I just don't follow their logic to its conclusion.  For example, if a pro-life organization gives to a pro-life congressman, or a trade group gives to a free trade supporting congressman, and they vote in the way that they already said they would vote, what have we uncovered?  It seems that this system needs to track at least one more variable, such as changing a position in correlation with timing of the money in order to support the claim that "money buys votes".

Quoting the original post: "I probably sound absurdly naive here. But truth is, I can't quite figure out why these contributions are even legal."

My answer:  Likewise, maybe I'm missing something, but let's say you have a legitimate business and the regulators are considering legislation that you think is unwise, unfair and would devastate or destroy your investment and lifework.  This kind of thing happens all the time.  Shouldn't you have the same right to vote, to speak, and to contribute to campaigns that everyone else has?

Let's take his example: "You find out that on H.R.5684, the U. S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, special interests in favor of this bill (including pharmaceutical companies and aircraft makers) gave each senator an average of $244,000. Lobbyists opposed to the bill (such as anti-poverty groups and consumer groups) coughed up only $38,000 per senator.  Surprise! The bill passed."

I've admitted my pro-free-trade views, so forgive me but I have no idea why an anti-poverty or pro-consumer group would oppose a free trade agreement with Oman or how they would justify soliciting money from their members to oppose the sale of American, life saving medications into a friendly foreign market or even into a questionable one.  In my view, it's too bad a pharmaceutical or aircraft maker feels they need to contribute to a campaign for the right to sell American products overseas.  The fact that there is more money on one side of the issue doesn't tell me anything about whether of not money changed a vote or whether or not the greater public interest got a bum deal.

I'm not saying there is no corruption of motives, but money also plays a positive influence.  We saw recently a roomful of Republican candidates debate, share the stage and microphone and receive equal time, no matter how little support they really had.  It takes serious amounts of money to run for high office and mount a winning campaign, so contributions raised are one indicator of which candidates are connecting in the campaign. As they see they aren't connecting, some hopefully will drop out voluntarily along the way.  If anti-special interest people want campaigns to be public financed in equal amounts, then we might see a hundred or a thousand candidates share the stage and demand equal time. 

Don't we spend more money getting out the message on laundry detergent than we do on candidates and positions on public policy?

If we could get the money out of politics, we would then have the pundits, editors and news anchors controlling the message.  Some might think that would be better.  I don't.
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« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2007, 01:45:18 PM »

Peggy Noonan column below rips Bush for breaking the conservative coalition into pieces.  As a conservative, the truth hurts.  For her, it started in Jan 2005 with the the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world.  For me it began with the partnership with Ted Kennedy for an expanded federal takeover of schools.  By the time the Medicare prescription drug entitlement came around I was only a Republican if faced with a choice like Kerry (or Hillary), otherwise homeless.  Even when he makes the right decisions, like tax cuts or perhaps Iraq, he can't explain them, so public support flows to the opponents. Noonan makes the obvious point on immigration - do the first part first.

Too Bad
President Bush has torn the conservative coalition asunder.

Peggy Noonan, WSJ
Friday, June 1, 2007 12:00 a.m. EDT

What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.

The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.

But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."

The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."

Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.

I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill--one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions--this is, always and on every issue, the administration's default position--but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.

They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!

If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.

The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.

One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he'd been elected to Reagan's third term. He thought he'd been elected because they liked him. And so he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found himself shocked to lose his party the presidency, and for eight long and consequential years. He had many virtues, but he wasted his inheritance.

Bush the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.

Now conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party. They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but it's time. It's more than time.
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« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2007, 09:01:24 AM »


Neither Bush senior or Bush junior could communicate very well.

I remember hearing Bush senior after listening to Clinton give a speech on the reasons for and benefits of globalization lament something to the effect, why couldn't I say that (or more or less express myself like that)?

You may be right about Newt.  He has great oratory skills but can't seem to put a lid on off handed comments that come off badly in soundbites.  Like his recent comments about Rove.  While they are not necessarily wrong it is the way he says them that comes off badly.  He rose to prominence in the Republican party for being an attack dog not because of diplomatic skills.  There is something about his personality that always eventually seeps through that is a turn off.  He may be a better policy man then "front man".
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« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2007, 09:12:29 AM »

As the Presidential race 2008 thread bears witness,  smiley I'm favor Newt at present.

What did he say about Rove?
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« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2007, 11:38:42 AM »

***What did Newt say about Rove?***  (article below)

Well it seems to be a calculated move to separate himself from Bush as he plans his bid to run for President.  It appears he got the confidence to do this from watching the recent election in France.  David Brooks has written an article titled something to the effect that the Republicans need a person of Newt's mind with Fred Thompson's temperment but since I don't subscribe to the NYT or NYT select I can't pull it up.  This latter article seems to express my reservations about Newt.  I fear he would be unable to broaden his appeal beyond a strictly Republican base.  I don't know if he could win against Hillary's dogged determination to babble anything to bribe as many voters as possible to win. 

At this time though I'm with you.  I would likely vote for Newt.  Second would be Romney.  But there is something about Romney that he lacks that natural charismatic leadership quality.  Perhaps he can yet overcome this with continued careful study
and work, but there is something about the truly great leaders that just can't be taught or learned.  It is some innate quality.  Reagan had it.  Schwarzenneger comes close.  Colin Powell had it.  I am not a student of him but it appeared Tony Blair had it.  I don't think Clinton had it at all.  Being a great BS artist is not what I am talking about.  Besides he never won more than 48% of the popular vote.  Without a great leader our country will go the way of Rome.  Newt is the only one with that "it" IMHO.  Obama, well as Noonan says, he ain't no Abe Lincoln.  On the other hand it may not be obvious who has that "it" until afterwards. 

   *****Gingrich Lambastes President and Rove

Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: May 30, 2007

WASHINGTON, May 29 — President Bush has presided over a Republican Party in “collapse,” and Karl Rove’s strategy in the 2004 presidential election was “maniacally dumb” for focusing so heavily on the conservative base.

The words, perhaps, of Howard Dean, the Democratic national chairman? Or John Edwards? Nancy Pelosi, maybe?

None of the above.

That harsh assessment of the president and his chief political adviser is being offered rather by former Representative Newt Gingrich, who engineered the Republicans’ Congressional election victory of 1994 and went on to become speaker of the House.

Mr. Gingrich made the comments in an interview with The New Yorker, parts of which were published in this week’s issue. They opened a new feud between himself and the White House, which replied with a stiff defense late Tuesday.
criticism speaks to a question that has hung over the race for the Republican presidential nomination since its early start this year: How will the candidates contend with the unpopularity of the president who heads their party? And will any of them break from him forcefully?

Mr. Gingrich is not in the race at the moment, but he has dropped many hints that he might eventually be. Should he get in, he suggested, he will be considerably more willing than the others have so far been to critique the competence of the incumbent.

He is quoted in The New Yorker as suggesting that a Republican will win the White House by running against Mr. Bush as Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency in France by running against his fellow party member Jacques Chirac, in whose cabinet he had served.

“What’s fascinating about Sarkozy is that you have an incumbent cabinet member of a very unpopular 12-year presidency,” Mr. Gingrich said, “who over the last three years became the clear advocate of fundamental change.”

He compared the state of the Republican Party now to its state after the Watergate scandal and blamed in part Mr. Rove’s election strategy in 2004.

“You can’t be a governing national party and write off entire regions,” Mr. Gingrich said. “All he proved was that the anti-Kerry vote was bigger than the anti-Bush vote.”

Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Mr. Gingrich, said his remarks had been reported accurately.

Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, disputed Mr. Gingrich’s assessment.

“It was President Bush who in 2004 got 25 percent more votes than in 2000,” Ms. Perino said. “He had the largest number of votes ever, and he led his party to increases in seats in both houses of Congress based on a strategy that showcased the president’s vision for the country.”

The 2004 strategy “defined differences between the president and his opponent on major issues like taxes, security, freedom and personal choice,” Ms. Perino said. “It was not at all a strategy about being against something; it was about being for something.”

Ms. Perino had no comment on Mr. Gingrich’s judgment that the Republican nominee would essentially have to run against Mr. Bush to win the election.*****

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« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2007, 11:49:23 AM »

Note: It's nice that the system warns of a new reply while typing. CCP covers the Newt story well but I'll put this in anyway FWIW.  I agree with CCP that it seems to be a run for President strategy.
"What did [Newt] say about Rove"

Marc, my comments slipped back a page on the 2008 Presidential thread, but the link is here of Newt ripping Bush and Rove in the current New Yorker.  6 pages or so of disgruntled party faithful, but worth the read.

Not in the that article, but Delay's book says Newt couldn't keep focus, kept jumping to new ideas.  I think Dick Armey said of Delay that he combined his solid conservatism with earmarks and pet spending for members' reelections.  My comment was that all those negatives seem to hold some truth, though I love all 3 of them when they stick to their principles.    - Doug
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« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2007, 01:11:09 PM »


Well, I sure don't see anything objectionable to what Newt said or any reason to think him less presidential timber , , ,
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« Reply #25 on: June 09, 2007, 09:37:52 PM »

The site should expand to include the nepotism going on with our idealistic pols in DC.  Like how many have family memebers who get what any rational person can conclude are bribes for to lobby on the behalf of those paying for influence:
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« Reply #26 on: June 29, 2007, 12:50:31 PM »

June 29, 2007

In today's Political Diary:

Roiling Up Whitewater
Seeking Radio Silence
'Partisan' Is Anyone You Disagree With (Quote of the Day I)
Fairness Indoctrination (Quote of the Day II)
Only His Friends Call Him 'Knuckles'
Whitewater: A Scandal About Nothing?

It's been more than a decade since Mark Fabiani served as a top spinmeister for the Clinton administration, adroitly batting away questions from reporters on the "scandal beat," which covered far more than Monica Lewinsky. There was also the Whitewater land deal, Travelgate, Filegate and Attorney General Janet Reno's sudden firing of every U.S. Attorney in the country in a single day.

Now Mr. Fabiani is chief counsel for the San Diego Chargers, and is deep into trying to secure a new stadium for that football team. But reporters have suddenly been reminded of his old role by a new biography of Hillary Clinton by Carl Bernstein, one of the famous Washington Post reporters who uncovered Watergate. Mr. Fabiani, who evidently spoke at length with Mr. Bernstein for "Women in Charge," appears to be the source for some fascinating revelations about his time protecting the Clintons from scandal probes.

Contrary to all the assertions that the Whitewater land deal was a silly story, Mr. Fabiani's private view was that notwithstanding "the Clintons' protestations to the contrary, it was a reasonable issue to explore in a presidential campaign. [The] governor of a state who had regulatory authority over a savings and loan was in business with the owner of the savings and loan.... And the owner of the savings and loan was probably carrying more than his share of the costs of the business, the piece of [Whitewater] land owned jointly with the Clintons."

Later in the book, Mr. Fabiani says there was a "serious fear" that First Lady Hillary Clinton would be indicted. One of Hillary's lawyers told Mr. Bernstein that Ms. Clinton had "run everything" in the aftermath of the suicide of White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster, her former law partner. "Then she had denied it. You could see her... getting so intimately involved in... how you handle [Foster's] office, and what you are going to do with the documents, and who's going to search the office. You can see her jumping into this."

Mr. Fabiani left the Clintons' employ shortly after the 1996 presidential election because, as Mr. Bernstein put it, he was "deeply disturbed" about White House senior aide Bruce Lindsey's handling of investigations into the 1996 Clinton-Gore fundraising scandals, which involved illegal foreign money. Mr. Fabiani is reported in the book to have been worried about Mr. Lindsey's use of "continuing false characterizations" with respect to one part of the scandal and the "seeming expectation" that he would "lie as well" about other parts.

As Chris Reed of the San Diego Union-Tribune put it in his blog, "this is fascinating stuff to political junkies, and very relevant given Hillary's good shot at the White House." Indeed, focus groups frequently point out that one of the major obstacles to a Hillary campaign is the general sense of many voters that they'd rather not relive the roller-coaster experience of the Clinton White House. The first ride was quite enough, thank you.

-- John Fund

 A Subject Made for Talk Radio

"There's nothing fair about the Fairness Doctrine," is how Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican and former talk-show host, put it yesterday before the House voted 309 to 115 in favor of his bill to block any future president or the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the 1949 Fairness Doctrine, the regulation that for some four decades stifled discussion of controversial issues on the airwaves by requiring broadcast stations to provide "equal time" for opposing commentary.

Democrats, many of whom are sympathetic to muzzling conservative talk radio, were spooked by the power of hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to make their lives miserable. Even Democratic Rep. David Obey put on a brave face as he rose to support the Pence bill. "Rush and Sean are just about as important in the scheme of things as Paris Hilton," he told the House. "I would hate to see them gain an ounce of credibility by being forced by a government agency or anybody else to moderate their views enough that they might become modestly influential or respected."

Mr. Obey is, of course, fooling himself. It was precisely the fear of populist talk radio that compelled over half of Democrats in the House to back the Pence bill rather than court the anger of the airwaves.

If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn't duplicate the Pence bill in the Senate, he'll be missing a great political opportunity. The Senate is a hotbed of pro-Fairness Doctrine sentiment. In recent days, John Kerry, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California have all touted its revival. "In my view, talk radio tends to be one-sided. It also tends to be dwelling in hyperbole. It's explosive. It pushes people to, I think, extreme views without a lot of information," Ms. Feinstein recently said.

In the language of politicalspeak used by most Members of Congress, what Ms. Feinstein was really saying is that talk radio has gotten too powerful and it's time radio hosts were sent a warning that it's incumbents in Congress who write the rules that determine whether they can stay in business or not.

Mr. Pence's successful effort is just the latest embarrassment the Democratic House majority has suffered at the hands of the Republican minority. "Republicans sure know how to be an effective minority better than the Democrats did," complained Democratic Rep. Zack Space of Ohio.

For now, the Fairness Mongers and their Democratic Congressional allies are clearly on the defensive.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"The partisanship scolds are extremely vague about which chunk of Americans is being left out by the growing extremism in Washington. It is true that some broadly popular views are underrepresented in national politics. A detailed political typology released by the Pew Center in 2005 showed that Democratic voters are not as socially liberal as their leaders and Republican voters are not nearly as economically conservative. So there is a sizable base of socially traditionalist, economically populist voters to be had. Unfortunately, the partisanship scolds invariably cater to exactly the opposite demographic: elites who favor free trade, open immigration, cutting entitlements, and social tolerance" -- Jonathan Chait, writing in the New Republic on the severe limits of Michael Bloomberg's potential popularity as an independent presidential candidate running against "partisanship."

Quote of the Day II

"I think that [former Clinton White House Chief of Staff] John Podesta's group, the Center for American Progress, produced that report, entitled 'The Structural Imbalance of American Talk Radio,' that set the stage for a number of extremely prominent, powerful people to step forward and begin to make the intellectual case to return the Fairness Doctrine. Should, you know, quite frankly, a Democrat take control of the White House, the FCC in a Democrat administration could simply do this by a change in regulations" -- Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, in an interview on Fox's Hannity & Colmes show, on the origins of the new Democratic effort to quiet talk radio by reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

Nice Nussle

When Iowa Republican Jim Nussle was chairman of the House Budget Committee a few years ago, he earned a reputation as a political brawler. A few colleagues even gave him the nickname "knuckles." Now that President Bush has tapped him to be the new White House budget director, that reputation is being turned on him. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey immediately criticized the nominee, comparing him unfavorably to outgoing Budget Director Rob Portman. The White House has "gone from someone who liked to work things out to someone who is actually confrontational," Mr. Obey complained. "It's an act of absolute confrontation."

We know Mr. Nussle a bit. He's not the political bruiser that some now accuse him of being, but certainly knows the ins and outs of the federal budget. He also knows how ridiculous federal spending priorities can be. In his time as budget chairman, he led a brave but failing effort to nick 1% off non-defense spending in every federal department, took a risky stab at entitlement reform while others shied away, and ferreted out some egregious cases of Medicare waste and fraud.

President Bush is still paying a price for not vetoing a single spending bill and developing a reputation for being too indulgent of Congress's spending habits. If bringing in Mr. Nussle is an indication that Mr. Bush intends to knock a few heads on Capitol Hill, he'll likely draw applause from outside the Beltway.

-- Brendan Miniter

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« Reply #27 on: July 02, 2007, 06:19:50 PM »

No big shocker here, but I'm curious to hear what everybody who bitched about Paris Hilton thinks of this.

Bush commutes Libby prison sentence

By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer 50 minutes ago

President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case Monday, stepping into a criminal case with heavy political overtones on grounds that the sentence was just too harsh.

Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."

Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."

Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative's identity. He was the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.

Reaction was harsh from Democrats.

"As Independence Day nears, we are reminded that one of the principles our forefathers fought for was equal justice under the law. This commutation completely tramples on that principle," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said through a spokesman.

Libby's supporters celebrated.

"That's fantastic. It's a great relief," said former Ambassador Richard Carlson, who helped raise millions for Libby's defense fund. "Scooter Libby did not deserve to go to prison and I'm glad the president had the courage to do this."

A message seeking comment from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's office was not immediately returned.

Bush said Cheney's former aide was not getting off free.

"The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged," Bush said. "His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting."

A spokeswoman for Cheney said simply, "The vice president supports the president's decision."

The president's announcement came just as prison seemed likely for Libby. He recently lost an appeals court fight that was his best chance to put the sentence on hold, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons had already designated him inmate No. 28301-016.

Bush's statement made no mention of the term "pardon," and he made clear that he was not willing to wipe away all penalties for Libby.

The president noted Libby supporters' argument that the punishment did not fit the crime for a "first-time offender with years of exceptional public service."

Yet, he added, "Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable."

Bush then stripped away the prison time.

The leak case has hung over the White House for years. After CIA operative Valerie Plame's name appeared in a 2003 syndicated newspaper column, Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald questioned top administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, about their possible roles.

Nobody was ever charged with the leak, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage or White House political adviser Karl Rove, who provided the information for the original article. Prosecutors said Libby obstructed the investigation by lying about how he learned about Plame and whom he told.

Plame believes Libby and other White House officials conspired to leak her identity to reporters in 2003 as retribution against her husband, Joseph Wilson, who criticized what he said was the administration's misleading use of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Attorney William Jeffress said he had spoken to Libby briefly by phone and "I'm happy at least that Scooter will be spared any prison time. ... The prison sentence was imminent but obviously the conviction itself is a heavy blow to Scooter."


Associated Press Writer Matt Appuzo contributed to this report.
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« Reply #28 on: July 02, 2007, 10:03:55 PM »

Voting Rights Turnabout
A victory for disfranchised Mississippi voters--and they happen to be white.

Monday, July 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Last week a federal district judge found direct evidence that the political machine in Noxubee County, Miss., had discriminated against voters with the intent to infringe their rights and that "these abuses have been racially motivated."

Among the abuses catalogued by Judge Tom Lee were the paying of notaries public to visit voters and illegally mark their absentee ballots, manipulation of the registration rolls, importation of illegal candidates to run for county office, and publication of a list of voters, classified by race, who might have their ballots challenged. The judge criticized state political officials for being "remiss" in addressing the abuses. The U.S. Justice Department, which sued Noxubee officials under the Voting Rights Act, has called conditions there "the most extreme case of racial exclusion seen by the [department's] Voting Section in decades."

Explosive stuff, so why haven't you heard about it? Because the Noxubee case doesn't fit the media stereotype for voting rights abuses. The local political machine is run by Ike Brown, a twice-convicted felon. Mr. Brown is black, and the voters who were discriminated against were white.

Judge Lee concluded that Mr. Brown retained his power "by whatever means were necessary." According to the judge, Mr. Brown believed that "blacks, being the majority race in Noxubee County, should hold all elected offices, to the exclusion of whites." (Whites are 30% of the county's 12,500 people, but only two of the 26 elected county officials.) Judge Lee also criticized top officials of the state Democratic Party for "failing to take action to rectify [Mr. Brown's] abuses."

Last month a memorial service was held in Philadelphia, Miss., about 50 miles southwest of Noxubee, for three civil rights workers who were murdered while trying to register black voters during the "Freedom Summer" of 1964. Their deaths helped spur Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which swept away poll taxes and other impediments to black voting. Ever since then, a consistent media story line has been built around fears that the South's racist past will return to squash black political aspirations.
But the reality isn't so simple. While voter suppression by whites still goes on and must be curbed, so too does incompetence by election officials that calls into question the validity of elections, along with outright voter fraud. The right to vote includes the right not to have one's vote diluted by someone who shouldn't be voting, votes twice or doesn't even exist. Yet mild measures to increase the integrity of the ballot box, such as photo ID laws or efforts to better police absentee ballots are routinely attacked as attempts to restore Jim Crow voting procedures.

Just look at the coverage of the Justice Department's botched removal of seven U.S. attorneys. Congressional Democrats have gone into overdrive to prove the Justice Department canned them for their failure to pursue voter fraud cases, which it felt should be given a higher priority. The confirmation hearing for Hans von Spakovsky, a sitting member of the Federal Election Commission, has drawn bitter opposition because some former Justice Department officials make strained claims he pushed for laws requiring voters to show a photo ID as a means to suppress black voter turnout. He is also accused of derailing two investigations into possible voter discrimination and causing enforcement of voting rights cases to plummet. In fact, the Bush administration filed 35 voting rights cases in its first five years, as opposed to only 25 by the Clinton administration in its last five years.

Critics of the Bush Justice Department bitterly complain that its priorities have shifted away from traditional voting rights enforcement and have questioned if Justice should be filing "reverse discrimination" voting rights cases like Noxubee. Joseph Rich, the chief of Justice's voting section until he resigned in 2005 to join the liberal Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, has said he thinks the Noxubee case had merit but wonders if it was "really a question of priority" for a department with limited resources. "The Civil Rights Division's core mission is to fight racial discrimination," Mr. Rich told "That doesn't seem to be happening in this administration."

In reality, what the old civil rights establishment seems to be most upset about is a shift of priorities. They note the Bush administration has so far only filed two complaints on behalf of black voters, compared with eight filed by the Clinton administration during its last six years. Liberals note that of the voting rights cases the Bush administration has filed so far, seven have been on behalf of Hispanics. But Hispanics are now the largest minority in the country, and it's hardly surprising that more cases would arise involving a population that includes many new citizens unfamiliar with how to combat voter discrimination.

Judge Lee's ruling shows that there was extensive evidence of voter fraud in Noxubee County. More than 20% of the county's ballots were routinely cast by absentee voters, despite requirements that everyone have a valid excuse to obtain one. A major reason for their proliferation was that Mr. Brown, in his capacity as head of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee, would pay notaries public to complete absentee ballots for voters, sometimes without their knowledge or consent. According to Judge Lee, Mr. Brown and his allies then "put in place a nearly all black force of poll workers and managers, over whom they had effective influence and control, and who, under Brown's direction, ignored or rejected proper challenges to the ballots of black voters."
During the 2003 primary election, witnesses testified that Mr. Brown personally left the local sheriff's office (where he had set up shop across the hall from where ballots were counted) to tell poll workers to "count every vote, count them every one right now." Kevin Jones, the incumbent superintendent of education, who is black, confirmed that Mr. Brown told poll workers to count the votes and that they complied.

Mr. Brown also went through the absentee ballots in other precincts the night before the Aug. 26, 2003, runoff and put Post-it notes on some ballots with instructions indicating they should be rejected. Judge Lee found that "witnesses who saw the yellow stickers maintained that every sticker seen was on the ballot of a white voter."

The boss left nothing to chance. Witnesses testified that on the day of the runoff, as voters cast ballots in person at polling stations, poll workers walked up unsolicited to black voters "taking their ballots and marking them without consulting the voters." Terry Grassaree, the chief deputy sheriff for the county, threatened Samuel Heard, a candidate for sheriff against Mr. Grassaree's boss, that "I'll put your ass in jail" after Mr. Heard complained about illegal distribution of campaign literature at the polls.

Mr. Brown sounded like Huey Long when he explained his actions. "This isn't Mississippi state law you're dealing with," he told Libby Abrams, a poll watcher for Mr. Heard, Ms. Abrams testified. "This is Ike Brown's law." When Ms. Abrams responded that she planned to have four poll watchers on hand as votes were counted, Mr. Brown told her "Fine, fine, have as many as you want. I'll send the police on around to arrest you."
Mr. Brown also published a list of 174 names of voters he claimed were illegally voting in Democratic primaries while they intended to support Republicans in the fall election, and suggested he would challenge them. He said he planned a crusade to "root out disloyal Democratic elected officials and voters," including Larry Tate, a black county supervisor who had angered Boss Brown by supporting Sen. Thad Cochran and Rep. Chip Pickering, both Republicans.

The defense Mr. Brown mounted against all these charges was that he had acted legally and was motivated solely by a desire to elect Democrats. He called the Justice Department's lawsuit an example of "persecuting the victim" and noted the irony that after the white establishment had oppressed blacks for 135 years federal officials had the "preposterous" effrontery to challenge blacks who had achieved political control of Noxubee County only a dozen years ago.

Judge Lee had none of it. "If the same facts were presented to the court on behalf of the rights of black voters, this court would find that [the Voting Rights Act] was violated," he wrote. As part of his ruling, he gave lawyers on both sides 30 days to file briefs in the civil matter laying out how they will end the election abuses. Defendants who violate his order could face contempt of court and fines.

It's unclear how much Mr. Brown plans to comply. He isn't returning phone calls from reporters. He may not be intimidated by the prospect of fines, having served time in federal prison a decade ago for tax fraud. Last year he refused to sign a consent decree in which county officials promised not to harass or intimidate white voters, fill out absentee ballots for voters, or coach them.

Mr. Brown also contends that Judge Lee's order may be moot because of last month's ruling by another federal judge in a lawsuit filed by state Democratic Party officials. They, like Mr. Brown, were upset by Republicans voting in the Democratic primary under Mississippi's open primary law. "They come over and vote in the Democratic primary and it's for the white candidates and then in the general election they run and vote for Republicans," complained Ellis Turnage, the attorney for the Democratic Party. The Democrats asserted that state law guarantees them the "freedom not to associate" with interlopers in their primary.
District Judge Allen Pepper, a Clinton appointee recommended by Sen. Trent Lott, agreed, but he handed the Democrats a Pyrrhic victory by ordering the state to create closed primaries--but also to require photo ID at the polls. Democrats who have long used incendiary rhetoric to block approval of a photo ID law are howling.

The irony of their complaint wasn't lost on Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. He noted that "Democrats, many of whom fought long and hard during the bad old days to open up Mississippi's closed political system, are attempting to make their own case for 'freedom not to associate.' " Secretary of State Eric Clark, a Democrat, said his party made a "serious mistake" in filing the lawsuit. "I believe in opening doors to voting and not in closing doors," he said.

But should Judge Pepper's order stand, it may have the salutary effect of finally cleaning up Mississippi's election records, which the Greenwood Commonwealth, the largest newspaper in the Delta, notes "still has people on the rolls from the 1960s who haven't voted in decades, yet federal rules make it almost impossible to purge their names." That is an invitation to voter fraud and manipulation à la Ike Brown.

Despite abundant evidence that protective measures such as photo ID and tighter controls on absentee ballots aren't designed to suppress voter turnout, the civil rights establishment continues to resist against any effort to improve ballot integrity. Yet as former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young has noted, showing ID is a daily fact of life in America now, and getting such IDs in the hands of poor people would help them enter the mainstream of American life. A poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News last year found Americans backing a photo ID law by 80% to 7%, with two-thirds support among both blacks and Hispanics.

At the conclusion of his ruling in the Noxubee case, Judge Lee cited the ruling of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Welch v. McKenzie, a 1985 case in which the court held that "the right to vote includes the right to have one's ballot counted. This includes the right to not have one's ballot diluted by the casting of illegal ballots or weighting of one ballot more than another."
Half century ago the issues involved were literally black and white. Now they are murkier and more nuanced. Not all villains in voting rights cases are white. I've interviewed Democratic candidates from St. Louis to Detroit to Newark who acknowledge that many of our voting systems are so underfunded and sloppy as to invite either rampant incompetence or outright fraud. The Justice Department's victory in Noxubee County isn't a win for one race over another, it's a signal that some rethinking of old stereotypes is in order.

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« Reply #29 on: July 02, 2007, 10:47:32 PM »

I think the Scooter-pardon is covered well here.
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« Reply #30 on: July 05, 2007, 07:54:43 AM »

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 3:23 p.m. EDT

Clemency for Terrorists
In August 1999 President Clinton granted executive clemency to 16 members of FALN, the Puerto Rican terror group behind some 130 bombings, including one that killed four people at New York's Fraunces Tavern in 1975. Even the ultraliberal New York Times looked askance:

To be sure, an American President has an absolute power to pardon. But that does not relieve him of the obligation to defend any and every decision to intervene in the criminal justice system. Indeed, this President's rare use of the pardoning power makes it all the more important for him to reveal his reasoning. Of more than 3,000 applications for clemency filed since 1993, he has granted only 3. The suspicion is rampant that his motivation was a political effort to please the Puerto Rican community that is crucial to Mrs. Clinton's hopes in the coming Senate race from New York.

The House voted 311-41 for a nonbinding resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the President should not have granted clemency to terrorists." All 41 of those voting "no" were Democrats, as were 71 of the 72 members who voted "present" (the other was a self-styled socialist who abjured formal membership in the party).

Nancy Pelosi, now speaker of the House, did not vote. But the Congressional Record reveals that was only because she showed up late;

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, on the last vote, H. Con. Res. 180, I was detained in traffic while returning to the Capitol. Had I been present, I would have voted "no."

Pelosi was unwilling to criticize a president of her own party when he turned loose terrorists convicted of such crimes as seditious conspiracy, possession of unregistered firearms and interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. Keep that in mind as you read her statement yesterday:

The President's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence does not serve justice, condones criminal conduct, and is a betrayal of trust of the American people.

The President said he would hold accountable anyone involved in the Valerie Plame leak [sic] case. By his action today, the President shows his word is not to be believed. He has abandoned all sense of fairness when it comes to justice, he has failed to uphold the rule of law, and he has failed to hold his Administration accountable.

For our part, we're just happy that a good and patriotic man won't have to go to prison as a sacrifice to the Angry Left. Plame kerfuffle personage Matt Cooper makes a good point:

Why not just pardon the guy? Why leave him with the stigmata of a convicted felon and a $250,000 fine to add to his legal bills--even if they are taken care of by the generosity of so many of his friends. (By the way, can the Scooter defense fund now release the names of donors?) If Bush had the courage of his convictions, he would have been like Jack Nicholson in a A Few Good Men and admitted that he thought [Plame's blowhard husband, Joe] Wilson was a jerk and that he believed what happened afterwards was right. Instead, Bush vowed to take action against the leakers.

By the way, what about the real "leaker" of Plame's "identity," Richard Armitage? Is he ever going to face "justice"?

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

"Nonviolent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system."--Sen. Hillary Clinton, Democratic debate, June 28

"Today's decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. . . . This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice."--Sen. Hillary Clinton, press release, July 2
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« Reply #31 on: July 05, 2007, 08:01:17 AM »

Second post of the AM, this from the NYTimes.  Rog, does this one make sense to you?  I respect Kinsley for his intellectual integrity in writing it and he makes a point clearly that I had only vaguely intuited.
The Lying Game
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Published: July 5, 2007

WHEN the Republicans in Congress impeached President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, they insisted that it wasn’t about sex, it was about lying. Of course that wasn’t true. Even at the height of their power-mad self-delusions (when Newt Gingrich was conducting his own affair with an aide while prosecuting the president), Republicans realized that to make lying an impeachable offense was opening a door no politician should eagerly walk through.

Of course it was really about sex. Nevertheless, those of us who thought impeachment was an outrageous abuse of power by the Republicans had to accept that Mr. Clinton had, clearly, lied. And our argument was this: Mr. Clinton made a mistake. He should not have lied. But he lied in answer to questions he should not have been asked. He should not have been put in a position where he had to choose: he could lie under oath, and be impeached or worse, or he could tell the truth, and embarrass himself and his family, and probably still be impeached or worse.

In short, he was caught in a “perjury trap.” Bill Clinton chose wrong — it all came out anyway — and he defeated impeachment, though you wouldn’t say he got away scot-free.

On Tuesday, President Bush commuted the sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, who was convicted of lying to investigators about the C.I.A. leak case. Mr. Libby will escape prison, but he won’t get away scot-free either. He faces a fine of $250,000 and two years of probation, and if he was thinking of cashing in big on K Street like so many of his administration colleagues, he had better think again.

Mr. Libby’s critics are not the people who criticized Mr. Clinton. And his defenders are not Mr. Clinton’s defenders. But the scripts are similar. The Libbyites believe that their man is being railroaded and shouldn’t have been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for his involvement in a campaign of leaks intended to discredit a critic of the administration, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Mr. Libby’s critics respond that this isn’t about leaking, it’s about lying.

But of course this really is about leaking. It’s the nefarious, though inept, campaign to sully Mr. Wilson that outrages critics of the administration. True, Mr. Libby was not the source for Robert Novak, whose column identifying Mr. Wilson’s wife as a C.I.A. operative started the whole business. And Mr. Libby’s most prominent leakee, Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who went to jail rather than reveal a source, didn’t actually write about the case. But Mr. Libby was part of the cabal that was conspiring to discredit Mr. Wilson and, more generally, to convince people that Iraq was strewn with nuclear weapons.

So when Mr. Libby was questioned by federal investigators pursuing the leaks, he too was caught in a perjury trap. He could either tell the truth, thereby implicating colleagues and very possibly himself, in leaking classified security information (the identity of Mr. Wilson’s wife), or he could lie. In either case he would be breaking the law or admitting to having done so, and in either case he could have gone to prison. Mr. Libby, like Mr. Clinton, made the wrong choice.

There is nothing wrong with a perjury trap, as long as both sides of the pincer are legitimate. The abuse comes when prosecutors induce a crime (lying under oath) by exploiting an action that is not a crime. The law about “outing” C.I.A. operatives is apparently vague enough that it isn’t clear whether Mr. Libby violated it. But let’s leave that aside. Exposing one of your country’s intelligence officers is a bad thing to do. If it isn’t against the law, it ought to be, right? Well, this is where the press comes in. At first many in the press supported appointing a special prosecutor to investigate.

The crime, if there was one, was leaking government secrets to journalists. If you were investigating that crime, where would you start? Yes, of course, by questioning journalists. The government leakers, if you found them, would be protected by the Fifth Amendment. You would need more and different evidence, and only journalists had it.

The special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, followed this commonsense logic straight into a First Amendment buzz saw. News organizations that insisted on the need to get to the bottom of the leak also insisted that no journalist should have to supply information to this investigation.

The leaks that The Times and other papers defended so ardently were not laboratory examples of press freedom at work. Quite the opposite: they were part of the nefarious campaign by the vice president’s office to discredit Mr. Wilson — itself part of the larger plot to convince the world that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was of course part of the plot to get us into the war in the first place. And it worked.

It takes two to leak. How can it be fair that one party to the leak doesn’t even have to testify about it, because leaks are so vital to the First Amendment, while the other party might go to prison for it? And if that is unfair, how is a perjury trap fair when it forces a leaker to choose between going to prison for the leak and going to prison for lying?

So as much as I dislike the war in Iraq, as much as I dislike President Bush, as much as I expect that I would dislike Mr. Libby if I ever met him, I feel that he should not have had to face a perjury trap: the choice between prison for lying, or prison for his role in a set of transactions that the press regards as not merely O.K. but sacrosanct. In fact, if journalists had a more reasonable view about this, the reporters whom Mr. Libby tried to peddle this story to would have said, “Look, outing C.I.A. agents is bad and we are not going to help you do it anonymously.” I bet that today, commuted sentence and all, Mr. Libby wishes they had done just that.

Michael Kinsley is a columnist for Time magazine.

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« Reply #32 on: July 09, 2007, 01:50:46 PM »

Karl Clinton?

The Scooter Libby case may have ended with President Bush's decision to commute the former White House aide's sentence, but attendees at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, an annual gathering of largely liberal philanthropists, still had to get some final words in.

At a Saturday question-and-answer session with Karl Rove, the White House aide came under fire for his alleged role in the revelation of CIA agent Valerie Plame's name. Mr. Rove outlined his minor role in the scandal, claimed he had cooperated fully with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and emphasized that the original leaker of Ms. Plame's name was found to be Richard Armitage, then a top deputy to Secretary of State Colin Powell. "Remember, the underlying offense of Armitage talking to Novak was no violation. There was no indictment," said Mr. Rove.

At that point, Colin Powell, who was in the audience, stood up to provide his own version of the Plame affair. He agreed that no crime had been committed in revealing Ms. Plame's name and that Mr. Libby "got in trouble for an entirely different set of circumstances." Mr. Powell also expressed frustration with how the government's investigation had dragged on. "The FBI knew on Day 1 of Mr. Armitage's involvement, yet for two months after that the FBI kept investigating," he told the Aspen audience. "They kept investigating to see who else might be involved and when they finished their investigation -- they couldn't finish it. Therefore, a special counsel was brought in, Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, who spent another two years on it.... I think this [would have better] ended early on and not dragged out the way it has been."

The crowd, which was clearly not sympathetic to the Bush administration, was polite during the discussion, in contrast to the incivility with which Mr. Rove was received by some when he appeared at the Ideas Festival last year. The change may have partly been due to his disarming manner. The White House aide began his remarks by noting he had enjoyed driving in from Denver the day before. Along the way, he stopped at an inn in the town of Twin Lakes for coffee. He noted that when a man standing in line at a the registration desk was told Karl Rove was on the premises, his instant response was: "I'd like to hit that son of a bitch."

Mr. Rove then deadpanned: "I knew I was getting close to Aspen." Once in Aspen, Mr. Rove said he had another interesting encounter when he arrived at the Aspen Institute.

"There's a guy in a Land Rover, very expensive, and he's got a car full of people, and takes one look at me, a scowl on his face, and says, 'Go home.' And as he goes off, I say, 'I am home.'" Mr. Rove noted that he had been born in Denver and lived in several Colorado towns, including one very close to Aspen, during his childhood.

All in all, Mr. Rove charmed the crowd. Indeed, Ross Douthat of the Atlantic magazine thinks Mr. Rove managed to "out-Clinton" former President Bill Clinton, who also appeared at the Ideas Festival. He says Mr. Rove won over the audience with his "jokey anecdotes" which were then followed up with a presentation that "drowned the crowd in policy detail, complete with a series of PowerPoint slides on immigration and global warming."

-- John Fund
Political Journal/WSJ
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« Reply #33 on: July 23, 2007, 07:27:16 AM »


The Southwick Stonewall
July 23, 2007; Page A14
It isn't easy to get Republican moderate Senator Arlen Specter into a fighting partisan mood. But Democrats are achieving this rare feat as they continue to block nearly every nomination by President Bush to the federal appeals courts.

After six months in charge of the Senate, Democrats have approved exactly three appellate court judges. Last Tuesday, the White House announced four more appellate nominees, taking to nine the number now in a Senate holding pattern. Several circuits are in dire need of new judges to cover the work load, but Democrats are betting they can drag things out long enough so Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama get to fill these posts.

It's important to understand how unusual this is. The Senate and White House have often been run by different parties in the last two years of a Presidency, and at least some judicial nominees have been confirmed. In the last two Reagan years, Democrats confirmed 16. And in the last two Bill Clinton years, Republicans confirmed 15.

During the Clinton years, then-ranking minority member Patrick Leahy was the one deploring judicial vacancies. In February 2000, he lamented that "The Senate is back to a pace of confirming one judge a month. That is not acceptable, does not serve the interests of justice and does not fulfill our constitutional responsibilities." Hmmm. One a month sounds lightening-quick compared to the pace under Senator Leahy's own Judiciary Committee. And that complaint of stalling tactics came seven months closer to a Presidential election than we are today.

The current Senate stonewall has been on particular display in the case of Mississippi State judge Leslie Southwick to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And that's what has Mr. Specter, the ranking Republican on Judiciary, fired up. Recently he called some conservative activists into his office to disclose that after Judge Southwick was nominated in January, Mr. Specter received explicit promises from Democrats that the nominee would get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Judge Southwick's nomination was once considered a consensus choice. No one disputes his qualifications, and as a judicial moderate he had been unanimously approved by Democrats for a seat on the federal district court. But the judge has since run afoul of what appears to be a new Democratic racial litmus test for judges from the South. "Mississippi has never had an African-American on the circuit even though it has the largest African-American population of any state," Mr. Leahy remarked last month. Perhaps Mr. Bush could nominate someone more racially suitable, he suggested.

In case this racial quota idea didn't fly, Democrats have also played the familiar race card. Of particular "concern," they claimed, was Judge Southwick's concurrence in a Mississippi decision regarding an employee who wasn't fired after using a racial slur in comments about a co-worker. That case was one of more than 6,000 opinions that Judge Southwick signed or joined. But let's take a closer look, shall we?

Though the racial slur makes the headlines, that's not what the court's ruling condoned. The decision in Richmond v. Mississippi Dept. of Human Services was narrow, affirming the ruling of an employment board created by Mississippi law and given broad latitude to set hiring and firing policies across the state. In reviewing the board's decisions, Mississippi courts must follow specific parameters -- they can only overturn based on a finding of legal error or "arbitrary and capricious" judgment. In other words, by affirming the board's decision, the court's ruling was not on whether it considered racial name-calling grounds for firing, but whether the state board had made distinct and material errors.

Many from Judge Southwick's past have stepped forward to support him. His former African-American law clerk A. La'Verne Edney spoke with particular dismay at the racial charges. "It did not matter the parties' affiliation, color or stature," she wrote about his judicial approach, "what mattered was the law." Now a partner in a Mississippi law firm, Ms. Edney added: "It is unfortunate that there are some who have made [Judge Southwick] the chosen sacrifice to promote agendas and have set out to taint all that [he] has worked so hard to accomplish."

Mr. Leahy's posse maintains that the broader point is the need for more African-Americans on the bench. But African-American judicial nominees don't fare well at the hands of Democrats either. When President Bush nominated Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, liberal activists called her nomination "window-dressing." Claude Allen's nomination to the Fourth Circuit was opposed by the NAACP. And Justice Clarence Thomas is regularly denounced by those who claim to care about diversity on the bench.

It's hard to get straight answers on this subject, so we were glad for a recent article in the Afro-American Newspapers that at least had the benefit of honesty. "[Judge] Southwick," the paper noted, "is considered by civil rights groups to be too conservative to serve on the Fifth Circuit." That breaks the Democratic code, and we hope Mr. Specter and Republicans are willing to make judicial nominations a very public brawl.

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« Reply #34 on: July 30, 2007, 10:01:59 AM »

Whose Ox Is Gored
After Bush's victory, liberals shouted "Voter fraud!" Why have they changed their tune?
Monday, July 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

When Republicans win elections, liberals are quick to cry fraud. But when actual fraud is found, they are just as quick to deny it, if Democrats are the ones who benefit.

Just before the 2004 election, the influential blog warned of a "nationwide" wave of voter fraud against John Kerry. After the election, liberal blogger Josh Marshall urged Mr. Kerry not to concede because the election had been "too marred with voter suppression, dirty tricks and other unspeakable antics not to press every last possibility" of changing the outcome. When Congress met in January 2005 to certify the election results, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D., Ohio) challenged Mr. Bush's victory and forced Congress to debate the issue. Months later, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean maintained that blacks had been the victims of "massive voter suppression" in Ohio.

But now liberals are accusing the Bush Justice Department of cooking up spurious claims of voter fraud in the 2006 elections and creating what the New York Times calls a "fantasy" that voter fraud is a problem. Last week Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, claimed that the administration fired eight U.S. attorneys last year in order to pressure prosecutors "to bring cases of voter fraud to try to influence elections." He said one replacement U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., was a "partisan operative" sent "to file charges on the eve of an election in violation of Justice Department guidelines." But the Kansas City prosecution was approved by career Justice lawyers, and the guidelines in question have since been rewritten by career lawyers in the Public Integrity section of Justice.

But last week also brought fresh evidence that voter fraud is a real problem and could even branch out into cyberspace:

• California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, reported that state-approved hackers had been "able to bypass physical and software security in every [voting] machine they tested," although she admitted that the hackers had access to internal security information and source codes that vote thieves wouldn't normally have.

• The Florida secretary of state's office reported it had found "legally sufficient" evidence that some 60 people in Palm Beach County had committed voter fraud by voting both there and in New York state. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has launched a formal probe. In 2004, New York's Daily News found that 46,000 people were illegally registered to vote in both New York and Florida.

• Prosecutors in Hoboken, N.J., last week announced they are investigating a vagrant who was part of a group of voters observed to be acting suspiciously outside a polling place in an election last month. After he signed a voting register in the name of another man, he was confronted by a campaign worker and fled the scene. He later admitted to cops that he had been paid $10 to vote.

• Last week the U.S. Department of Justice recommended that an outside party be appointed to oversee Democratic primary elections in Noxubee County, Miss. In June, federal district judge Tom Lee found that Ike Brown, the Democratic political boss of Noxubee, had paid notaries public to visit voters and illegally mark their absentee ballots, imported illegal candidates to run for county office and manipulated the registration rolls.

But the most interesting news came out of Seattle, where on Thursday local prosecutors indicted seven workers for Acorn, a union-backed activist group that last year registered more than 540,000 low-income and minority voters nationwide and deployed more than 4,000 get-out-the-vote workers. The Acorn defendants stand accused of submitting phony forms in what Secretary of State Sam Reed says is the "worst case of voter-registration fraud in the history" of the state.
The list of "voters" registered in Washington state included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, New York Times columnists Frank Rich and Tom Friedman, actress Katie Holmes and nonexistent people with nonsensical names such as Stormi Bays and Fruto Boy. The addresses used for the fake names were local homeless shelters. Given that the state doesn't require the showing of any identification before voting, it is entirely possible people could have illegally voted using those names.

Local officials refused to accept the registrations because they had been delivered after last year's Oct. 7 registration deadline. Initially, Acorn officials demanded the registrations be accepted and threatened to sue King County (Seattle) officials if they were tossed out. But just after four Acorn registration workers were indicted in Kansas City, Mo., on similar charges of fraud, the group reversed its position and said the registrations should be rejected. But by then, local election workers had had a reason to carefully scrutinize the forms and uncovered the fraud. Of the 1,805 names submitted by Acorn, only nine have been confirmed as valid, and another 34 are still being investigated. The rest--over 97%--were fake.

In Kansas City, where two Acorn workers have pleaded guilty to committing registration fraud last year while two others await trial, only 40% of the 35,000 registrations submitted by the group turned out to be bogus. But Melody Powell, chairman of the Kansas City Board of Elections, says Acorn's claim that it brought the fraud in her city to light is "seriously misleading." She says her staff first took the evidence to the FBI, and only then Acorn helped identify the perpetrators. "It's a potential recipe for fraud," she says, noting that "anyone can find a voter card mailed to a false apartment building address lying around a lobby and use it to vote." Ms. Powell also worries that legitimate voters who were registered a second time by someone else under a false address might find it difficult to vote.

In Washington state, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that in lieu of charging Acorn itself as part of the registration fraud case, he had worked out an agreement by which the group will pay $25,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation and formally agree to tighten supervision of its activities, which Mr. Satterberg said were rife with "lax oversight."

Last year several Acorn employees told me that the Acorn scandals that have cropped up around the country are no accident. "There's no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances," says Nate Toler, who was head of an Acorn campaign against Wal-Mart in California until late last year, when Acorn fired him for speaking to me.

Loretta Barton, another former community organizer for Acorn, told me that "all Acorn wanted from registration drives was results." Ironically, given Acorn's strong backing from unions, Ms. Barton alleges that when she and her co-workers asked about forming a union, they were slapped down: "We were told if you get a union, you won't have a job." There is some history here: In 2003, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Acorn to rehire and pay restitution to three employees it had illegally fired for trying to organize a union.

Acorn president John James told reporters last week that his group will cooperate with election officials to make sure "no one is trying to pull a fast one on us." "We are looking to the future," he said in a statement. "Voter participation is a vital part of our work to increase civic participation."

But the Acorn case points up just how difficult it is to convince prosecutors to bring voter fraud cases. Donald Washington, a former U.S. attorney for northern Louisiana, admits that "most of the time, we can't do much of anything [about fraud] until the election is over. And the closer we get to the election, the less willing we are to get involved because of just the appearance of impropriety, just the appearance of the federal government somehow shading how this election ought to occur." Several prosecutors told me they feared charges of racism or of a return to Jim Crow voter suppression tactics if they pursued touchy voter fraud cases--as indeed is now happening as part of the reaction to the U.S. attorney firings.
Take Washington state, where former U.S. attorney John McKay declined to pursue allegations of voter fraud after that state's hotly contested 2004 governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 133 votes on a third recount. As the Seattle media widely reported, some "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage lockers, and still others were ineligible felons. Extra ballots were "found" and declared valid 10 times during the vote count and recount. In some precincts, more votes were cast than voters showed up at the polls.

Mr. McKay insists he left "no stone unturned" in investigating allegations of fraud in the governor's race but found no evidence of a crime. But in an interview with Stefan Sharkansky of in May, Mr. McKay admitted that he "didn't like the way the election was handled" and that it had "smelled really, really bad." His decision not to prosecute was apparently based on the threshold of evidence he insisted be met before he would even deploy FBI agents to investigate: a firsthand account of a conspiracy to alter the outcome of the election.

But Mr. McKay is incorrect in saying that he had to find a conspiracy in order to reach the federal threshold for election crimes. In Milwaukee, after the 2004 election U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic investigated many of the same problems that were found in Seattle: felons voting, double-voting and more votes cast than voters who signed poll books. In 2005 Mr. Biskupic concluded that he had found nothing that "has shown a plot to try to tip an election," but he nonetheless prosecuted and won six convictions for felon voting and double-voting.

Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association in Washington state, says he is pleased that the evidence his group compiled was helpful in securing the indictments of the seven Acorn workers last week. But he can't help but wonder if the Acorn workers who forged registrations last year were part of the cadre of election workers who were allowed by a local judge after the 2004 governor's election to seek out voters who had given problematic signatures on their voter-registration cards and helped them "revise" their registrations in order to make their votes valid. "We may never know whether Acorn workers forged signatures in 2004, but we know they did in 2006," he says. "Those who think voter fraud isn't an ongoing problem should come to Washington state."

Instead, Sen. Leahy and other liberals are busy dismissing concerns about voter fraud, no doubt in an effort to make certain the Justice Department drops the issue as a priority before the 2008 election. But the blunders and politicization of parts of the Bush Justice Department notwithstanding, voter fraud deserves to be investigated and prosecuted. The Justice Department may be dysfunctional and poorly led, but the Democratic Congress seems more interested in paralyzing its activities than helping to fix the problem.

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« Reply #35 on: August 06, 2007, 11:32:20 AM »

Mad House
Congress needs an intervention.

Monday, August 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The House of Representatives almost turned into the Fight Club Thursday night, when Democrats ruled that a GOP motion had failed even though, when the gavel fell, the electronic score board showed it winning 215-213 along with the word FINAL. The presiding officer, Rep. Mike McNulty (D., N.Y.), actually spoke over the clerk who was trying to announce the result.

In the ensuing confusion several members changed their votes and the GOP measure to deny illegal aliens benefits such as food stamps then trailed 212-216. Boiling-mad Republicans stormed off the floor. The next day, their fury increased when they learned electronic records of the vote had disappeared from the House's voting system.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made matters worse when she told reporters, "There was no mistake made last night." Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had to rescue her by acknowledging that, while he thought no wrongdoing had occurred, the minority party was "understandably angry." Under pressure, the House unanimously agreed to create a select committee, with subpoena powers, to investigate Republican charges the vote had been "stolen."

Congress appears to be gripped by a partisanship that borders on tribal warfare. In a forthcoming book, Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein compares it to a "second Civil War" that has led to "the virtual collapse of meaningful collaboration" between the two parties. Public disenchantment with Washington is such that now both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic former senator Sam Nunn of Georgia are musing openly about an independent run for president. But Congress itself has to act if it doesn't want to degenerate into one of those fist-wielding European or Asian parliaments we occasionally see on TV.

The breakdown has been a long time coming. In the 1980s, after almost 40 years of control, House Democrats had become arrogant and casually exercised the near-absolute power that body gives the majority. In 1985, Democrats insisted on handing a disputed Indiana House seat to the Democratic incumbent by a four-vote margin despite clear evidence that ballots had been handled in a completely arbitrary way during a special recount by a House task force. In 1987, Speaker Jim Wright held open a budget vote for an extra 10 minutes in a frantic effort to convince someone to change his vote. The maneuver prompted then-Rep. Dick Cheney to call Mr. Wright "a heavy-handed son of a bitch."
Republicans didn't act any better during the reign of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In 2003, a massive Medicare prescription drug entitlement was passed only after a vote was held open for three hours at 3 a.m. as Mr. DeLay strong-armed reluctant GOP members into voting for it. Votes were held open at least a dozen times during the last years of the Republicans' troubled control of the House.

Democrats issued a report in early 2006 pointing out the abuses of GOP rule. None other than Newt Gingrich admitted that he thought his party was too dismissive of the rights of the minority and risked a backlash if Democrats regained control.

Indeed, that happened with stunning speed after the GOP's fall from power last November. Despite Ms. Pelosi's pledge that "we would have the most honest and open government," the new majority quickly adopted a whatever-it-takes approach to passing legislation. Last week alone, a dubious ethics bill was passed less than 24 hours after being introduced. The bill expanding health-care coverage to children was rewritten at 1 a.m., a rule harshly limiting debate was passed at 3 a.m., and the bill was sent to the floor for a final vote the same day.

The Senate operates under a different rule book that is more open to debate. But it has its own problems, such as allowing individual senators to put holds on legislation and presidential nominees without revealing that they're behind the delaying tactic. It's become a cliché that nothing passes the Senate without 60 votes. But that wasn't the case in the past. Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson dominated the Senate in the 1950s with just a one- or two-vote advantage over Republicans and routinely passed legislation by margins that close. When filibusters were real and actually required senators to stay on the floor, they were threatened--and employed--less frequently.

But it's the House where the elbows have become sharp as razor blades. Despite efforts by members to form a "civility caucus" to find ways to cooperate across party lines, it is increasingly apparent that the inmates of the House asylum aren't the best judges of how to better working conditions there.

Almost exactly a year ago, former speakers Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich, a Democrat and his Republican successor, appeared at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss "How Congress Is Failing America." The two old warhorses conducted a remarkably civilized exchange and proved that with the passage of time they had clearly put aside old animosities. Mr. Foley joked that if he heard today's Newt Gingrich on the campaign stump, his reaction would be "I think I'll vote for this guy." He added in a more serious vein, "I think he's absolutely dead right in his diagnosis of what's happening to this country and to the Congress."
Both men decried a runaway spending process, the demise of bipartisan committee deliberations, and the gerrymandered districts that have led to the election of more fierce partisans and fewer centrists. Both called for an end to the earmark culture that distorts budget deliberations. The two agreed that for real change to occur, Congress needs fresh blood. However, they disagreed on the desirability of term limits, with Mr. Gingrich favoring them and Mr. Foley demurring.

Mr. Foley also made a very prescient warning. He urged his fellow Democrats not to exact retribution or respond in kind to heavy-handed GOP tactics should they win back control that November, as they ended up doing: "Democrats [should] clearly and intensely [promise] that if they take the majority back again, they will not go back and try to pay back, so to speak, what they felt were the excesses and even the outrages of this period, but will promise minority rights in reaching those majority decisions."

Clearly, his fellow Democrats in the House haven't been following his advice. Maybe they ought to appoint Messrs. Foley and Gingrich to head an outside task force to recommend ways to make the House work again. If the House had the sense to recognize it had to appoint a select committee to investigate last Friday's vote fiasco, it should see the possible benefits of having an outside group weigh in on its dysfunctional ways.

Democrats and Republicans alike have an interest in reform. Scenes like last Friday's meltdown on the House floor can only lower Congress's dismal approval ratings. With both parties held in low regard, we could be heading for a repeat of the 1990 and 1992 elections, which took place at a time of economic uncertainty and bipartisan congressional scandals involving the House bank and post office. In those years, House incumbents in both parties went down to defeat--14 in 1990 and 24 in 1992.

Incumbents loathe political uncertainty. If Democrats and Republicans don't find a way to stop the erosion of pubic confidence in their work, they could be heading into a 2008 election in which neither party has a clear advantage and voters are looking to take scalps in both their camps. This just might be one of those rare times where House members should resort to outside intervention.

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« Reply #36 on: September 18, 2007, 09:33:23 AM »

The Mukasey Nomination
Earth to Washington: Mukasey fits the job. Don't screw up this one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

If the legal issues that have most preoccupied Washington the past six years are suggestive, then President Bush has found the right man to be Attorney General in Michael Mukasey.

From the moment the White House proposed and Congress passed the Patriot Act after September 11, Washington has struggled to create a set of policies for the war on terror that weighs the role of civil liberties with the need to fight a determined and mortal enemy. Mr. Mukasey's professional life stood at the center of these tough legal issues six years before September 11.

As a federal judge in the southern district of New York, Judge Mukasey presided over the 1995 trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheikh," whom the government charged with a plot to blow up the United Nations building, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. After a nine-month trial and conviction, Judge Mukasey sentenced Abdel Rahman to life in prison.

In rejecting an appeal of that conviction, the Circuit Court said of Judge Mukasey's handling of the blind-sheikh case that he "presided with extraordinary skill and patience, assuring fairness to the prosecution and to each defendant and helpfulness to the jury. His was an outstanding achievement in the face of challenges far beyond those normally endured by a trial judge." Afterward, along with Judge Kevin Duffy who handled a related case, Judge Mukasey for years received protection from the U.S. Marshals Service, in response to credible threats against him.

That is to say, Judge Mukasey as well as any lawyer in the U.S., understands what is normal and what is not normal about the war on terror. As such he has more than adequate standing to discuss these matters with Congress, in good faith, and then preside over the Justice Department's administration of them.

It remains to discover whether Senate Democrats will be willing to engage Judge Mukasey at this level of seriousness, or whether their primary target remains the Bush Presidency itself. After Ted Olson's name was floated for the job last week, Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy put out a statement that the AG nominee must be willing to "act as an independent check on this administration's expansive claims of virtually unlimited executive power." We thought Senator Leahy's party had to win the Presidency before writing Justice Department policy.
In the past Judge Mukasey has shown he can push back hard against arid accusations. In 1994, William Kunstler argued that Mr. Mukasey's Judaism demanded recusal in the trial of an accused Muslim terrorist. Citing similar attempts against black judges and even Mormons, Judge Mukasey wrote: "The objection here is not based on race or sex or the Mormon religion, but the motion in this case is in all relevant ways the same as the motions in those cases. It is the same rancid wine in a different bottle."

Judge Mukasey has written op-ed articles for The Wall Street Journal defending the Patriot Act and describing the limitations of existing legal institutions and statutes to handle terrorist cases. On the latter, Judge Mukasey wrote that shaping an adjudicatory framework suitable for handling this special class of terror defendants is Congress's job. Congress, he said, needs to "fix a strained and mismatched legal system before another cataclysm calls forth from the people demands for hastier and harsher results."

If there is reason at all for concern in the Mukasey nomination, it would be that the level of seriousness he has brought to bear on these problems, from the bench and in his writings, has become largely alien to life in official Washington. Thus we wonder whether Judge Mukasey realizes how poisonous Washington has become and whether he has the hide to survive it.

Inside the Administration, he can probably resist those at the State Department who want to close Guantanamo, largely because they haven't offered a credible alternative. The bigger test will be the Democratic demand for a special counsel to investigate the U.S. attorney firings. He'll have to resist this assault on executive authority, even at the risk of not being confirmed.

Notwithstanding Judge Mukasey's past support from Senator Chuck Schumer (with the President's announcement, the Senator's inevitable caveats are already landing), the nomination is going to need active political cover from the White House. Its behavior the past several days makes that an open question.
After Ted Olson's name floated out of the Washington vapors last week, he was subjected to an absurd attack on his "partisanship" from Harry Reid and Mr. Leahy. Set aside that Mr. Olson is widely regarded as one of the nation's top Constitutional lawyers arguing cases before the Supreme Court or that he served as Solicitor General without a peep of partisan accusation.

Shorn of the rhetoric, Mr. Olson's offense was providing legal services to one party's political opponents, a standard that would disqualify half the D.C. bar from serving in a Clinton Administration. The upshot was that Mr. Bush angered natural allies by letting a loyal conservative take it in the neck for days, and he opened himself to the appearance of backing down against Mr. Reid's threat to block an Olson nomination.

Against all this, Michael Mukasey's nomination to be Attorney General is salutary. For the Democrats, it offers an opportunity to set aside wheel-spinning obsessions like the U.S. attorney firings and focus on the manifestly more serious issue of thwarting terror plots. As for the Bush Presidency, it at last may have an Attorney General who has the heft to make the legal case for the tools needed in this war.

Earth to Washington: You finally have the right man for the right job at the right time. Try not to screw this one up.

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« Reply #37 on: September 21, 2007, 09:22:31 AM »


Schip of State
Can President Bush hold the line on spending?

Friday, September 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Congress will soon ship the White House a bill that throws huge amounts of new dollars at the government's health-insurance program for children. President Bush will veto it. What happens next will demonstrate whether the beleaguered Mr. Bush has any hope of getting his party to toe the fiscal line in upcoming spending battles, and by consequence whether Republicans have any hope of restoring their fiscal credibility with voters.

It's a big moment, all the more so because the battle over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or Schip, is a perfect first example of how Democrats intend to play their spending fights this fall. They're demanding at least $30 billion more than Mr. Bush's own generous $5 billion Schip increase. Any congressional Republican who votes against this hike will be accused of leaving "poor kids" to suffer without health care. The goal here, as it will be in all the big money fights to come--appropriations bills, a farm bill--will be to make it too politically hot for Republicans to stand by their spending principle.

So far, that strategy is working a treat. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner both understand that this fall is their big opportunity to make things right with the base, at least on spending, prior to next year's election. They've been exhorting--or perhaps better to say begging, pleading, beseeching--their members to think about the lost GOP brand, and to help President Bush snap shut the government wallet. At least in private, the members keep assuring their leaders that, yes, yes, they get it.

But as Schip shows, this resolve wafts away in the face of any Democratic press conference accusing Republicans of meanness toward children. It was none other than ranking Finance Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley who helped craft the $35 billion Senate Schip increase; the Iowan went so far as to suggest he was being a fiscal prude because his bill was cheaper than the blowout $50 billion expansion from House Democrats. That proved a good-enough excuse for more than a dozen other spend-happy Republicans to help give Democrats 68 votes for the bill in early August. For the record, that's one more vote than Sen. Harry Reid needs to override a presidential veto.

This bodes ill for big spending battles to come. Despite last year's pledges to restore budget discipline, Democrats have been so busy chasing phantom Justice Department corruption and paying back campaign contributors with symbolic votes that they've yet to finish a single spending bill. With just nine days left in the fiscal year, they'll have to pass a continuing resolution next week to allow the government to keep running.
It also means Democrats are all but assured to try to finish the budget by wrapping most or all of the spending bills into one giant omnibus provision. You can bet that jalopy will screech in at many billions of dollars higher than Mr. Bush's top line number. You can also bet that hanging from its sides will be special-interest booty galore--money for roads, bridges, Katrina victims, low-income seniors, homeless veterans and border security. All this will be designed to make it difficult for Republicans to vote it down. And if temptation isn't enough, Democrats will also claim that GOP members who sustain a presidential veto will be responsible for shutting down government.

Or take the farm bill, the House version of which has earned a veto threat because of its lack of reform, and because it is the first in decades to include a hefty tax increase to pay for all its handouts. Democrats will allege that farm-state Republicans who vote against it are traitors to their ag constituents, who stand to continue getting big subsidies.

Sitting between his party and a potential spending binge is, therefore, the president's veto pen. The fight over Schip has moved to the House, where most Republicans, to their credit, voted against the initial bill. But with House Democrats now promising to pare back the legislation to Senate size, and to remove its more offensive provisions, GOP opposition is crumbling. More than a few are thinking about next year's elections, and how nice it would be to avoid claims that they helped throw impoverished kiddies to the health-care wolves.

Many House Republicans in fact are working under the assumption that Mr. Bush will compromise, and give them cover for blowing through his initial Schip limit. They can't quite bring themselves to believe that the White House would put them in the very public and embarrassing position of having to override their own president on a question of fiscal responsibility.
And, to be fair, why should they? For six years the administration failed to pick a fight on spending when Republicans controlled Congress, instead letting every highway bill, farm giveaway and pork project rush through. The White House's newfound spending religion has unfortunately come at about the same time the president's poll numbers have gone in the tank. Don't think at least a few Republicans won't use that as an excuse to buck him now.

Yet it's precisely the position Mr. Bush is going to have to put his own Republicans in if he hopes to remain relevant in the ensuing spending fights. The big spenders on both sides of the aisle are sniffing for any sign of White House weakness, and will rightly view any slipping or sliding as license to break the piggy bank. If the president rolls on Schip, he'll be rolled on every spending question from now until he packs the china. Mr. Bush seems to understand the bigger stakes, and only yesterday gave a feisty speech outlining yet again why he intends to veto the current Schip legislation, and warning yet again that he won't back down.

Congressional Republicans would be wise to take him at his latest word, for their own sake. The recent GOP campaign over earmark disclosure is good politics and a start to recognizing voter anger over Washington's spending ways. But it's also a one-trick pony. Conservatives voters will see the bigger test of re-found fiscal responsibility in whether its Washington representatives are willing to say no to big new government spending. That begins with Schip.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.

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« Reply #38 on: October 11, 2007, 06:50:54 AM »


Hillary Talks About 'It'
October 11, 2007; Page A20
In an interview in yesterday's Washington Post, Hillary Clinton said she had contributed to the country's mood of bitter partisanship and wants to "put an end to it." The senator hedged her words for future revision by referring to the problem throughout the interview only as "it."

Thus, she spoke of "having gone through it, having been on the receiving end of it and in campaigns that were hard fought maybe on the giving end of it . . ." When the reporters pressed her to explain her views on polarization, she said: "I've talked about it a lot, and I think I will continue to talk about it in a lot of different ways."

It's a start. I would like to put a question to the senator: Would you defend Rush Limbaugh's speech rights against the pressure that was brought upon him on the floor of the Senate by your colleagues Harry Reid and Ken Salazar? Colorado's Sen. Salazar went so far last week as to say he'd support a Senate vote to "censure" Mr. Limbaugh. Rhymes with censor.

When Sen. Reid attacked Mr. Limbaugh on the floor of the Senate, some felt that Mr. Limbaugh was a big boy and perfectly capable of defending himself. I'm not so sure. If Mr. Limbaugh and his critics at Media Matters want to have a street fight, that's their business. But Sens. Reid and Salazar aren't just a couple of opinionated guys; they are agents of state authority, and they were leaning hard on Mr. Limbaugh. If you are Media Matters, if you are a man or woman of the Left, does state pressure on someone's political speech discomfort you? Or is it a welcome, even defensible, repression of harmful right-wing speech?

This controversy over talk-show hosts is usually fought around Democratic efforts of late to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. The purpose of this effort -- the reason Sen. Reid has attached himself to it -- is to suppress voter turnout on the right and lift it on the left.

Political talk-radio since its inception has energized voters on the right. In the 2000 presidential election, the left found its own voter-turnout instrument in Howard Dean's Web-based "netroots," now led by and other leftwing or "progressive" sites such as Daily Kos and Media Matters.

Some of the left-wing sites, however, also do fund raising and political organizing, as in the netroots campaigns against Democratic politicians who didn't hear that dissent is dead. Talk radio does neither. Its hosts mainly excite people. Reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, essentially a toxic cocktail of boredom, would cause a narcotized right-wing base to sit on its hands, handing an advantage in the turnout wars to the (properly) unregulated political organizers of the left-wing Web.

While Mr. Limbaugh fought off the Democratic Senate in one corner, the commentator Juan Williams also found his speech and job status under pressure from Media Matters. In the same week that Mr. Williams, a Fox commentator, appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show to speak critically of black culture, his bosses at NPR rejected a White House request to have Mr. Williams interview President Bush on race.

In a Media Matters posting on all this, Eric Boehlert wrote that "real damage is being done to NPR by having its name, via Williams, associated with Fox News' most opinionated talker." Noting that Mr. Williams supported Clarence Thomas's nomination, Mr. Boehlert said there are "better advocates for genuinely liberal positions," and suggested "now is the time for [NPR] to address the growing problem."

In a now-famous remark this summer at the Kos convention of progressive bloggers, Sen. Clinton described "a real imbalance in the political world" and praised the growth of "progressive infrastructure -- institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters."

Who threw the first stone in these media-driven bloodlettings? Good question. But to my knowledge the right has no equivalent to "repressive tolerance," the aggressive theory of scorched-earth political argument laid out in the hothouse years of the 1960s by the late left-wing political philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Just last November, in an admiring essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the left polemicist Stanley Fish aptly summed up Marcuse's assertion that "liberal" notions of tolerance for political speech should be overturned.

The rationale for this notion is that standard tolerance is rigged against the left. In practice, tolerance extends only to the ideas and beliefs of the powerful, while it shuts out ideas on behalf of the weak or "marginalized" -- the poor, minorities, women and the rest. Mr. Fish says liberals fail to see "the dark side of their favorite virtue."

Prof. Fish has an alternative to traditions of tolerance, and to anyone awash in American politics today it will sound familiar: "That is to say, and Marcuse says it, anything the right does is bad and should not be tolerated; anything the left does is good and should be welcomed." This would explain the emotional intensity and animosity in politics now: The other side no longer deserves minimal respect.

It's not enough to disagree with conservative viewpoints; one has to undermine and delegitimize them. Mock them. Put them beyond the pale. Incidentally, Marcuse, Fish and others on the left who want to "withdraw" tolerance from the speech and ideas of their opponents count centrist Democrats among them. That is what happened to Joe Lieberman.

Digital technology now fixes someone's random remark forever in the ozone amber of the Web or YouTube. It's easy to make anything anyone may say, such as "macaca," a weeks-long campaign to diminish or even destroy the sayer. Wherever the nonbeliever Marcuse is now, this tool would have put him in heaven. I find it putting us closer than I'd like to be to an American "Lives of Others," media monitors always listening for the vulnerable spoken word.

Sen. Clinton this week told the Post, "I intend to build a centrist coalition." That may depend on how one defines centrist. For her progressive bloggers at Media Matters the center on tolerating speech likely falls closer to Prof. Marcuse than John Locke. So which is it? This summer Sen. Clinton said she was a founder of Media Matters, and this week she said she was a centrist. That doesn't compute. Perhaps in a year we'll know which side she's on.
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« Reply #39 on: October 17, 2007, 05:18:32 PM »

Almost a Massachusetts Miracle

It was a special House election in a state that hasn't sent a single Republican to Congress in a decade, held at a time when support for Republicans from President Bush on down is sagging badly. Yet Republican Jim Ogonowski almost pulled off an upset in the Lowell-based 5th District of Massachusetts last night. Democrat Niki Tsongas, widow of the late U.S. Senator, won only 51% of the vote despite outspending Mr. Ogonowski by five-to-one. How could this happen?

For one thing, turnout in the special election was spotty. Though Ms. Tsongas pledged to work to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by March 2008, Democratic pollster Brad Bannon predicted that the district's liberals were "in a surly mood because of their party's inability to bring a conclusion to the war." It appeared that many of these voters stayed home.

In addition, Mr. Ogonowski, who retired from the Air Force in June after a 28-year career, was also able to effectively make the case that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq. He reminded voters that his own brother had been a pilot on the American Airlines plane flown into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Mr. Ogonowski initially had qualms about the Iraq war but now says the U.S. intervention should continue until stability is achieved there.

The GOP underdog wound up winning 45% of the vote, polling significantly better than President Bush's 41% showing in the district in 2004. While not a winner, Mr. Ogonowski says his populist approach could point the way to recovery for the GOP in the 2008 elections. He told me during a New York fundraising swing last month that he campaigned vigorously against his own party's failings by advocating limits on pork-barrel spending and calling for greater transparency in government. His approach provides lessons for other scrappy Republican challengers next year.

Democrats can be pleased they dodged a bullet with Ms Tsongas' narrow victory, but it could prove a warning that voters are in such a sour mood that they are willing to punish both parties -- a possible portent of what the 2008 election may bring.

-- John Fund
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« Reply #40 on: November 07, 2007, 10:17:05 AM »

“For today’s Democrats, resistance to unilateral presidential war-making reflects not principled constitutionalism but petulance about the current president. Democrats were supine when President Bill Clinton launched a sustained air war against Serbia without congressional authorization. Instead, he cited NATO’s authorization   as though that were an adequate substitute for the collective judgment that the Constitution mandates.” —George Will

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« Reply #41 on: November 27, 2007, 05:45:38 AM »

Success Is Not an Option--I
Whoops! "As violence declines in Baghdad, the leading Democratic presidential candidates are undertaking a new and challenging balancing act on Iraq," the New York Times reports. Having bet against American success in the hope of benefiting from failure, they are now hedging, "acknowledging that success, trying to shift the focus to the lack of political progress there, and highlighting more domestic concerns like health care and the economy."

The trouble is, many Democratic voters still want America to lose in Iraq. As the Times notes:

This is a delicate matter. By saying the effects of the troop escalation have not led to a healthier political environment, the candidates are tacitly acknowledging that the additional troops have, in fact, made a difference on the ground--a viewpoint many Democratic voters might not embrace.

"Our troops are the best in the world; if you increase their numbers they are going to make a difference," Mrs. Clinton said in a statement after her aides were asked about her views on the ebbing violence in Baghdad.

"The fundamental point here is that the purpose of the surge was to create space for political reconciliation and that has not happened, and there is no indication that it is going to happen, or that the Iraqis will meet the political benchmarks," she said. "We need to stop refereeing their civil war and start getting out of it."

Mrs. Clinton has never had any objection in principle to the Iraq war, which she voted to authorize five years ago. Yet for reasons of rank political opportunism, she now stands for the proposition that America must not win. Is this the kind of leadership America needs in a commander in chief?

Meanwhile, Reuters reports the Dems have found a military spokesman for their Iraq policy, such as it is:

The general who led U.S. forces in Iraq after the invasion . . . spoke out for Democrats on Saturday, backing legislation aimed at withdrawing American troops.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, in the Democratic weekly radio address, acknowledged that Bush's escalation strategy this year had improved security in Iraq. But he said Iraqi political leaders had failed to make "hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country." . . .

"It is well past time to adopt a new approach in Iraq that will improve chances to produce stability in the Middle East," he said. "I urge our political leaders to put aside partisan considerations and unite to lessen the burden our troops and their families have been under for nearly five years."

Apparently it didn't occur to Sanchez that the Democratic weekly radio address isn't the best venue to urge people to "put aside partisan considerations."

Reuters notes that Sanchez "commanded the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq from June 2003 until July 2004 as the anti-U.S. insurgency took hold," that he "blamed the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal for wrecking his career," and that last month (as we also noted) he "blamed the Bush administration for a 'catastrophic failure' in leadership of the war."

Whatever the merits of his arguments, Sanchez is far from a disinterested party. He is seeking to avoid blame for the failures in Iraq under his command. Which, come to think of it, makes him quite the fitting spokesman for the Democrats.

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« Reply #42 on: December 14, 2007, 11:03:47 AM »

The Gospel of Paul
He has some kooky ideas, but he also has lessons for the GOP contenders.

Friday, December 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Ron Paul is no compassionate conservative. His supporters love him for it.

If there's been a phenomenon in this Republican presidential race, it's been the strength of a fiery doctor from Texas and his message of limited government. As the GOP front-runners address crowds of dispirited primary voters, Mr. Paul has been tearing across the country, leaving a trail of passionate devotees in his wake.

Paul rallies heave with voters waving placards and shouting "Liberty! Liberty!" Money is pouring in from tens of thousands of individual donors--so much cash that the 10-term congressman recently admitted he wasn't sure he could spend it all. A fund-raising event on Guy Fawkes Day (in tribute to Mr. Paul's rebel persona) netted his campaign $4 million, the biggest one-day haul of any GOP candidate, ever. He continues to inch up in the early primary polls, and even bests Fred Thompson in New Hampshire.

Mr. Paul isn't going to be president. He trails in national polls, in no small part because his lack of a proactive foreign policy makes him an unserious candidate in today's terror world. But his success still holds lessons for the leading Republican candidates, as well as those pundits falling for the argument that the future of the GOP rests in a "heroic conservatism" that embraces big government. Mr. Paul shows that the way to many Republican voters' hearts is still through a spirited belief in lower taxes and smaller government, with more state and individual rights.

It helps, too, if voters know you mean it. In nearly 20 years in the House, Mr. Paul can boast he never voted for a tax hike. Nicknamed "Dr. No," he spent much of the time Republicans held a majority voting against his own party, on the grounds that the legislation his colleagues were trying to pass--Sarbanes-Oxley, new auto mileage standards, a ban on Internet gambling--wasn't expressly authorized by the Constitution. He returns a portion of his annual congressional budget to the U.S. Treasury--on principle.

On the stump, Mr. Paul whips up crowds with his libertarian talk of "less taxation, less regulation, a better economic system." While Mitt Romney explains his support of No Child Left Behind, Mr. Paul gets standing ovations by promising to eliminate the Department of Education. Rudy Giuliani toys with reducing marginal rates; Mr. Paul gets whoops with his dream to ax the income tax (and by extension the IRS). Mike Huckabee lectures on the need for more government-subsidized clean energy; Mr. Paul brings cheers with his motto that environmental problems are best solved with stronger property rights. His rhetoric is based on first principles--carefully connecting his policies to the goals of liberty and freedom--and it fires up the base.
Yes, the Paul campaign--with its call to bring the troops home--is also profiting as the one landing pad in the GOP race for those Republicans and independents unhappy with the Iraq war. Mr. Paul's insistence that he isn't an "isolationist" so much as a "non-interventionist" who rejects nation-building has also won him voters who might otherwise have been wary of his passive foreign policy.

Still, it's Mr. Paul's small-government message that has defined him over the years, winning him election after election in Texas--well before Iraq was a question. His appeal has only grown, too, over seven years of a Bush presidency that has moved the party away from its limited-government roots.

"Compassionate conservatism" was a smart move on George W. Bush's part, maybe even necessary to win. The GOP was dogged by a reputation as the heartless party, amplified by the 1995 government shutdown and the clunky Dole campaign. And it had learned from the success of welfare reform that message matters. Many Republican voters believed Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was just that: a way of selling conservative reforms. Tax cuts would help the working poor. Vouchers would help minority kids. Charities would fare better getting people off drugs than government bureaucrats.

Mr. Bush got his tax cuts, but voters found out too late that he was no small-government believer. School vouchers were traded away for more education dollars. A new Medicare drug entitlement has added trillions to the burden on future taxpayers. Government-directed energy policy is larded with handouts to political patrons in the corn and ethanol lobbies. A lack of budget discipline encouraged a Republican Congress to go spend-crazy, stuffing bills with porky earmarks. Much of this was simply a Republican majority that had lost its way. But at least some of it was promoted by Bush advisers who specifically argued that "compassionate conservatism" was in fact a license to embrace government--so long as government was promoting Republican ideals.

That idea has become even more vogue, with a wing of the party now arguing that the small-government libertarianism that has defined the Republican Party since Goldwater is not only immoral, but an election-loser. Former Bush speechwriter Michael's Gerson's new book, "Heroic Conservatism," calls on Republicans to give in to big government and co-opt the tools of state for their own purposes. "If Republicans run in future elections with a simplistic, anti-government message, ignoring the poor, the addicted, and children at risk, they will lose, and they will deserve to lose," he writes. Then again, Republicans have already been losing, and losing big, in no small part because they've taken Mr. Gerson's advice.

The men vying to lead the Republican Party might instead make a study of Mr. Paul. One shame of this race is that for all the enthusiasm the Texan has generated among voters, he hasn't managed to pressure the front-runners toward his positions. His more kooky views (say, his belief in a conspiracy to create a "North American Union") and his violent antiwar talk have allowed the other aspirants to dismiss him.
They shouldn't dismiss the passion he's tapped. If Mr. Paul has shown anything, it's that many conservative voters continue to doubt there's anything "heroic" or "compassionate" in a ballooning government that sucks up their dollars to aid a dysfunctional state. When Mr. Paul gracefully exits this race, his followers will be looking for an alternative to take up that cause. Any takers?

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
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« Reply #43 on: December 21, 2007, 01:27:39 PM »

Bush on the Comeback Trail

Just as Newt Gingrich was the best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton, so Nancy Pelosi has become a great political asset to George W. Bush. Mr. Bush is on a roll legislatively and even his poll numbers are inching up while Congress's have sunk into the teens. There's nothing like having a foil in Congress to rehabilitate a president. Just ask Harry Truman.

This time last year it would have been inconceivable that Mr. Bush would have a successful 2007, or that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress would have fewer than one-in-four voters approving their performance. I've made a list of Mr. Bush's policy victories over the Democrats:

1) S-CHIP -- Mr. Bush vetoed the Democrats' bill expanding middle-class health care subsidies and Democrats were unable to override that veto.

2) Alternative Minimum Tax -- Democrats passed AMT reform without the offsetting tax hikes they had threatened.

3) Energy bill -- What was a monster at the beginning of the year is now just a fairly harmless CAFE standards bill. Environmentalists are fuming.

4) Hate Crimes Legislation -- Mr. Bush blocked it. The Congressional Black Caucus is furious.

5) War funding -- Mr. Bush prevailed without any pull-out date. At the start of the year this looked impossible.

6) The Budget -- Mr. Bush mostly prevailed on domestic spending totals.

7) No new taxes -- all of the Democratic tax proposals were killed, including tobacco taxes, hedge fund taxes and energy company taxes.

It pretty much looks like the White House ran the table. Merry Christmas, Madam Speaker.

-- Stephen Moore
POTUS vs. Pork

President Bush signaled during his news conference yesterday that he just might have had it with earmarks, those special-interest pork projects that are often dropped into spending bills without proper hearings or oversight.

After expressing disappointment at the thousands of earmarks stuffed into the foot-tall Omnibus spending bill passed by Congress, Mr. Bush told reporters: "I am instructing the budget director to review options for dealing with the wasteful spending in the omnibus bill."

The president gave no details, but South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a vocal critic of earmarks, has an idea what the president may have in mind. He has long cited a Congressional Research Service opinion that 90% of earmarks are suspect because they were slipped into committee reports and not written into law. "These non-legislated earmarks are not legally binding," Mr. DeMint says. "President Bush could ignore them. He doesn't need a line-item veto." The Club for Growth reports that Mr. Bush might be planning an executive order that would tell federal agencies simply to ignore Congress' earmarks if they aren't written into law and spend the money on higher priorities.

Such a bold move would result in a dramatic boost in President Bush's credibility on the budget. The federal government is now an astounding 185 times as big in real terms as it was a century ago. A general sense that Republicans have forgotten why they were sent to Washington is a big reason why the GOP lost control of Congress last year. The road to redemption has to include a crackdown on earmarks, which Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn calls "the gateway drug to higher spending in many other areas."

-- John Fund
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« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2008, 11:49:11 AM »

In Today's Political Diary:

Vice President Voinovich?
Virtual Slur
Temper, Temper
Too Courtly for His Own Good (Quote of the Day I)
A Voice from the Big Tent (Quote of the Day II)
Fred Thompson Hit the Ground Sauntering
Dotting the 'i' in Ohio

Ohio figures again to be a pivotal battleground state in the general election and as we reported several weeks ago, Democrats are eyeing popular new Governor Ted Strickland as a potential Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama running mate.

But now Republicans are also coveting an Ohio Veep candidate. Republican National Committee insiders tell me that one name surfacing a lot is George Voinovich, the former Cleveland mayor and liberal Republican Senator. Mr. Voinovich is the only Republican who has been elected state-wide for governor or senator in Ohio for years.

But Mr. Voinovich would almost certainly infuriate grassroots conservatives as the pick -- especially if the GOP nominee were John McCain, who would likely need a staunch conservative on the ticket for ideological balance. Mr. Voinovich has voted consistently against tax cuts, and even was one of the few Republicans in the Senate to oppose death tax repeal, a bread-and-butter GOP issue. In the '80s, when he was Mayor of Cleveland, he opposed many of the Reagan tax cut policies. Mr. Voinovich calls himself a deficit hawk, as is Mr. McCain, but the Ohio Senator has a middle-of-the-road voting record with the National Taxpayers Union.

If an Ohio favorite son is a must-have on the Republican ticket, another choice might be John Kasich, the former congressman and budget committee chairman from Columbus. Mr. Kasich was on Fox News this past Sunday singing the praises of Mr. McCain, vouching that he is "conservative enough for Republican voters." Mr. Kasich is an anti-Big Government crusader who called for the elimination of some 300 federal programs as part of the GOP's Contract with America. He was also one of the first prominent Republicans to take his colleagues in Congress to task for "not being serious about cutting the budget."

Mr. Kasich is also a dangling live-wire of snap, crackle and pop energy. He is a Type A personality, bordering on ADD -- and a nonstop crusader for tax and spending reform in Washington. He recently told me: "I hate that town. I don't miss it a bit." RNC sources say Mr. Kasich would be a Veep candidate who could neutralize the attacks that liberal Democrats are already launching at John McCain for being too old and tired to serve as president and for being a candidate who can't reach the generation X and Y voters. As one GOP source tells me, Mr. Kasich is, in a lot of ways, a "Republican version of Barack Obama."

-- Stephen Moore
The Spam Campaign

Hillary Clinton held a news conference yesterday in which she explained that Barack Obama's aggressive posture in responding to attacks by Team Clinton during Monday's debate was an example of his "frustration."

Well, Mr. Obama is indeed frustrated by the attacks on his character, as he made clear to David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. What peeves him most are mysterious emails circulating among voters that claim he is actually a Muslim and has sympathy with the ideas of the radical Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Mr. Obama says the charges are preposterous.

"We have no way of tracing where these emails come from, but what I know is they come in waves, and they somehow appear magically wherever the next primary or caucus is, although they're also being distributed all across the country," he told Mr. Brody. "But the volume increases as we get closer to particular elections. That indicates to me that this is something that is being used to try to raise doubts or suspicions about my candidacy."

The Internet is a powerful political tool for disseminating information, but also a sinister transmission belt for character assassination. We will probably never know who is behind the shadowy emails attacking Mr. Obama, but it's clear from my "in" box that the slanders are having an effect. Some voters are so suspicious of the mainstream media's generally laudatory coverage of Mr. Obama that they are easy prey for specious reports that purport to tell the "hidden" story behind him.

-- John Fund
Angry White Female

What a treat for viewers who tuned into the South Carolina debate on Monday night and caught a glimpse of the real Hillary Clinton. Whether it was calculated or not, the senator cleared up any doubts that, for her, winning the presidency is about revenge. Forget about veiled threats. She's already taking names.

It's not always clear who Hillary thinks she owes a kick in the pants to. But it's very clear that, should she get into the White House, baby, it's payback time. "They've been after me for 16 years, and much to their dismay, I am still here. And I intend to be still here when that election comes around and we win in November 2008," she declaimed.

Whoever "they" are, you certainly don't want to be one of "them" come January 20, 2009. For instance, apparently men and/or employers can expect the boom to be lowered for numerous injustices they have wrought. "We obviously still have problems of gender equality. You know, equal pay is not yet equal," she warned her audience.

Also in line for punishment are those who humiliated Mrs. Clinton during her first attempt to administer a heavy dose of government-run health care whether Americans wanted it or not. "I think that the whole idea of universal health care is such a core Democratic principle that I am willing to go to the mat for it. I've been there before. I will be there again. I am not giving in; I am not giving up.... I am not running for president to put Band- Aids on our problems. I want to get to universal health care for every single American." Get in her way and you're toast.

At least she made no effort to hide her hostility, which apparently emerges from being a victim for so long. "I'm used to taking the incoming fire. I've taken it for 16 years." And now, she let us know on Monday, the tables are about to turn. Be afraid.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Quote of the Day I

"I was surprised by the sniping from our side at Fred based on his sincere and gentlemanly Southern manners. Several important conservative bloggers, including some here at Pajamas, made repeated jokes about his language and style as if they are affectations. They are not. The problem, though, is larger and there is a Northern prejudice that interprets the slower, deliberative Southern style as just dim" -- writer Patrick Cox, who was Fred Thompson's first hire during his exploratory presidential effort, commenting at on the failure of the Thompson candidacy.

Quote of the Day II

"There are people out there who want to strap bombs onto babies and blow up as many men and women as they can. For me, given those circumstances, the candidate you have to support is the candidate that is going to do the best job of protecting this country, her interests, and her people. I don't think I have the luxury of being a single-issue voter on the issue of gay rights. I have made very clear publicly my differences of opinion with certain people in the [Bush] administration on the issue of gay rights" -- Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, on being a Republican in a Q&A with the National Journal.

Thompson Bows Out

Fred Thompson spotted an opening in the field of Republicans candidates last spring: a yearning for an uncomplicated Reaganite who would unite all wings of the party and take the fight to the Democrats with brio. Until late September, Mr. Thompson actually led national polls among GOP voters. But the seeds of his downfall had already been planted.

His first mistake was not fully realizing that in entering the race so late, he would have trouble building the infrastructure necessary for a modern campaign. The best talent had already been snapped up by other candidates. Mr. Thompson ended up hiring a corporate manager to run his campaign. While a good organizer, the man had never run a political effort of any size, and the resulting confusion cost the campaign precious momentum and money. New leadership wasn't installed until just before Mr. Thompson formally entered the race after Labor Day.

The former Tennessee Senator's second mistake was making it too easy for reporters to paint him as a lazy, disinterested candidate. His campaign committed enough unnecessary gaffes to feed that story line (such as speaking for only five minutes before an enthusiastic crowd of Florida Republicans last October) and the perception set in among many supporters that they were backing a walking horse, not a warhorse.

Lastly, the candidate's theme that he was the "Consistent Conservative" in the race was developed too late and could not be sufficiently exploited because of a lack of money. When Mr. Thompson finally did hit his stride in December, he became a good candidate who performed memorably in recent debates. But, by then, his potential audience had already drifted away to other candidates who looked like they had a better chance of winning.

Mr. Thompson intends to remain active in politics and public affairs, although he has flatly ruled out any plans to serve in someone else's administration. Don't be surprised to find him returning to the airwaves he left just a few months ago -- but this time with much higher name-recognition as a political figure.

-- John Fund

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« Reply #45 on: January 24, 2008, 11:54:19 AM »

Thompson Exit Is Bad News for Giuliani

Fred Thompson is headed back to Tennessee, or Hollywood. The question is: Where will his supporters go?

In the upcoming Florida primary, Mr. Thompson was competing with Ron Paul in the bottom half of the field, at just 7.3% in the most recent RCP Average (Mr. Paul is at 5.4%). Mr. Thompson's backers may have been few in numbers, but a few is all the top contenders need: The RCP Average has John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani all within the margin of error.

To best understand where "Fredheads" might turn, look at the exit polls from South Carolina, where Mr. Thompson had his best day of the primary season. He did well among evangelicals, capturing 15% of their vote, third best behind Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee (at 27% and 43%, respectively). So it's possible Mr. Thompson's departure might bring is a slight boost to Mr. Huckabee.

But it's also possible some of Mr. Thompson's supporters, who've described themselves in exit polls from earlier states as among the most conservative members of the party, may find themselves moving into Mr. Romney's camp as he grooms himself as Reagan's heir. Others, for whom national security is a top issue, may shift toward Mr. McCain -- a shift that could be enhanced if Mr. Thompson decides to endorse Mr. McCain in the next week, as some have speculated.

So while it's unclear who will benefit most from Mr. Thompson's exit, it's abundantly clear who is hurt: Rudy Giuliani. After failing to compete in the early states and watching his poll numbers slide, Mr. Giuliani has staked his entire campaign on a victory in Florida. That task is made all the more difficult with one less candidate in the field to help split the conservative vote.

-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics

Quote of the Day I

"Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are moving so far apart that they might have to run together to save their party's chances in November. In an ominous aside on Wednesday, Obama questioned what might happen if he loses the Democratic presidential nomination to the New York senator and former First Lady. 'I have no doubt that once the nomination contest is over, I will get the people who voted for her,' the Illinois senator told the Christian Broadcast Network. 'Now the question is can she get the people who voted for me?' If Obama is even remotely suggesting that he and his supporters will not support a Clinton-led general election bid, then Clinton might be forced to consider choosing him as her running mate.... Earlier in this campaign, observers assumed that a woman and an African-American on the same ticket would be too much ground-breaking diversity for the nation to handle. But that was before things got so heated between the Clinton and Obama camps. If the feuding get much worse, binding them together might be the only way for Democrats to heal the divide" -- Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford.

Quote of the Day II

"The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we? The recent roughing-up of Barack Obama was in the trademark style of the Clinton years in the White House. High-minded and self-important on the surface, smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard to the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as a package.... Evidently, many of the mainstream party faithful want the Clinton team as their presidential nominee. It's their choice, of course. But does the rest of the country really deserve this?" -- columnist William Greider, writing in the left-wing Nation magazine.

South Carolina 'Sleeper'?

With John Edwards trailing in the polls and reeling from losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, we put a call in to one of his staunchest supporters in South Carolina -- Rep. Leon Howard, chairman of the state legislature's Black Caucus. What he had to say was a little surprising and offered a hint as to why Mr. Edwards hopes the Palmetto State can yet revive his flagging campaign.

Mr. Howard was realistic about his assessment, stating matter-of-factly that Barack Obama is a "force to be reckoned with" who will likely drive to the polls "a lot of people who haven't voted before." He also said that the recent flap about Hillary Clinton's comments on Martin Luther King's legacy "didn't resonate much" in the black community and that he doesn't "want to spend a lot of time on that... it was really a slip of the lip." And yet he still believes that Mr. Edwards' focus on poverty could be the wildcard in the race, and end up capturing sizeable support among African-American voters, a bloc that could make up as much as 60% of the electorate in Saturday's primary.

He called Mr. Edwards "the sleeper candidate," adding that he's "the first candidate who started paying attention to rural South Carolina" with a message of "ending poverty." That message has been well-received in counties that lack trauma hospitals, public water systems and other infrastructure basics. Mr. Howard mentioned, in particular, Lee County, where 62% of the population is black and one resident in five lives below the poverty line; and Allendale County, where 71% of the residents are black and 34.5% of the population lives in poverty.

Across South Carolina, the poverty rate among African Americans is nearly 30%, and the 10 counties with the highest rates of poverty are all majority black counties. The latest polls may have Mr. Edwards running nearly 30 points behind Mr. Obama -- he won't be repeating his favorite-son victory of 2004. But if Mr. Howard is right, a strong showing in rural South Carolina might yet endanger Mr. Obama's expectations of carrying the state over Hillary Clinton. On the whole, any outcome that leaves the issue undecided between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton gives Mr. Edwards an excuse to stay in the game.


-- Brendan Miniter

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« Reply #46 on: January 25, 2008, 11:22:43 AM »

Bush's Economic Surrender
January 25, 2008; Page A14
Here's one group that isn't much stimulated by the White House's economic pact: Republican presidential hopefuls. The general sentiment among most of the campaigns? Thanks for nothing.

The Bush administration unveiled its $150 billion feel-good stimulus package yesterday, with President Bush praising the "good will on all sides." The package, with its "middle-class" tax rebates and minor assortment of business benefits, isn't likely to help the economy. But it did allow the political class to provide itself some cover if things continue to go south. After all, Washington "did something."

Left holding the bag have been Republican presidential candidates as they struggle to explain why their party should again be trusted with the Oval Office. The White House provided no real outreach to let the campaigns know what was coming down the stimulus pipe, forcing them to instead cobble together plans they hoped wouldn't conflict with the president's. With the administration jumping on the Keynesian bandwagon, it was left to the candidates to make the case for conservative ideals and supply-side economics. And since nobody wants to pick a fight with Mr. Bush during a primary, the aspirants were also stuck saying nice things about this no-growth plan. Many inside the campaigns are privately miffed, and with good cause.

Talk about the ultimate missed opportunity. One of the few advantages the GOP starts with in this election is a president who can use his perch to frame the national debate. This was Mr. Bush's chance to explain to voters the stark economic choice they will face this November. They can choose another Republican who is committed to preserving the Bush tax cuts that have done so much over the past five years for economic growth -- plus more. Or they can vote for a Democrat who will raise their taxes at a time of economic uncertainty, causing untold harm.

Instead, the administration abandoned the economic high ground before even a popgun was fired. A year into nonstop investigations and confrontation, Democratic leaders decreed "bipartisanship" the order of the day, and Mr. Bush offered up his other cheek. The administration quickly deserted any principled demands for pro-growth policies, say extending the Bush tax cuts or cutting capital gains. The White House and Republican congressional leaders were left yesterday spinning conservative victory out of the fact that "most" of the non-stimulating rebates would go to people who currently pay income taxes (ooh!), and that businesses will get a depreciation break (ahh!). Imagine what we'd have got if they'd been negotiating against a Democratic Congress with something more than an 18% approval rating.

What didn't appear to factor into the administration's approach was any consideration that the GOP is in the middle of a crucial election. This is odd, given the Bush team's own experience and success in running campaigns, and given that Mr. Bush's best shot at cementing his tax legacy is to see another Republican in the White House.

The president instead seemed more anxious to avoid a repeat of accusations hurled against his father -- that he's indifferent to the struggles of working families. The White House political team also seemed to approach all this from a position of fear, with a view that Mr. Bush needed to take quick action to deflect blame for any further economic fallout. As if Democrats won't blame them whatever the outcome.

It's been left to John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani to remind voters that Republicans win economic debates when they promote smart policy. And one good piece of news to come out of these economic jitters is that it has spurred the candidates to engage in a more ambitious tax discussion. Mr. McCain rolled out a strong plan that would eliminate the hated Alternative Minimum Tax, cut corporate rates and reform the R&D tax credit. Mr. Romney wants to cut the lowest tax bracket and has offered a proposal to expand tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Giuliani proposes slashing the tax on capital gains and index it for inflation, and is also pushing a flatter tax code. This is all good stuff, and all aimed at long-term economic growth.

Yet the White House's stimulus plan has overshadowed and confused this discussion, in the process giving the candidates headaches they don't need. Case in point: For several weeks, Mr. Romney has been patiently explaining to voters why it's bad policy to provide tax rebates to people who don't currently pay income taxes. Now comes the White House's stimulus plan, which does just that. Mr. Romney will undoubtedly be asked about this discrepancy. He'll have to diss the president, or come up with some way of squaring a circle. Either way, not fun for him -- and not productive for the broader Republican debate.

The candidates have at least been getting some intellectual cover from conservative Republicans in Congress. Missouri Sen. Kit Bond and California Rep. David Dreier, both Giuliani supporters, this week introduced tax legislation that mirrors Hizzoner's economic plan. The Republican Study Group in the House has also been trying to force the debate back toward forward-looking economic policy, introducing legislation that primarily focuses on freeing up capital for businesses.

"I'm not so nervous about the [stimulus package] as I am nervous about the debate," the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Jeb Hensarling, admits. If Republicans want to reclaim their economic "brand," they have to make the case for supply-side economics. "I'm happy when the president says he is not giving up the quest to make tax relief permanent, but . . . that should be the centerpoint of this debate." He agrees that "at the moment, it is principally being left up to other folks" to make the case.

Meanwhile, this whole unstimulating exercise is still far from a sure thing. Democrats are already eyeing any legislation as a vehicle for other pet projects. If the bill gets larded up with too many offensive goodies or policies, presumably even the White House would balk.

Maybe that wouldn't be so bad. It would at least give the Bush administration time to remember there's an election going on. And that its party is, in fact, trying to win it.

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« Reply #47 on: February 06, 2008, 02:31:50 PM »

What Color Is Your Parachute?

Hillary Clinton's firewall last night was her support among Hispanic voters and, in California, support among both Hispanic and Asian voters.

Barack Obama pulled out all the stops to woo Hispanics, including the last-minute endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy, who represents a family revered in many Hispanic households. But with the exception of his home state of Illinois, Mr. Obama came up short. In New Mexico, Mr. Obama continues to lead narrowly by carrying Anglo voters but performed less well among the one-third of Democratic voters who were Hispanic.

In California, a much-larger than expected share of the voters were Hispanic or Asian -- some 29% were Hispanic and another 8% were Asian. Mrs. Clinton won a resounding 72% of the Asian vote and two-thirds of the Hispanic vote to put her over the top. Barack Obama carried white voters overall by 49% to 44%. He also won eight out of ten black voters.

The contrast in support was striking in neighborhoods that were practically adjacent to each other. In Los Angeles's 33rd Congressional district represented by black Democrat Diane Watson, Mr. Obama won 61% to 37%. In the nearby 34th district represented by Hispanic Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard, he lost 73% to 23%.

The split between black voters and brown voters that was so evident in California and other states yesterday will be important in some future contests, especially Texas, which votes on March 4.

-- John Fund
Conventional Weapons

Democratic officials are dusting off something they never thought they would have to consult: convention rule books.

That's because there is a real possibility that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will arrive in Denver in late August for the convention roughly tied in their number of delegates elected by primary and caucus voters. If so, then the party's so-called "super-delegates" move front and center -- i.e. Democratic governors, members of Congress and other notables, who make up about one-fifth of the total delegate pool and who are free under current rules to commit themselves to any candidate they choose.

Every convention has the right to change or alter its rules on the floor. If Obama and Clinton forces are close enough, look for rules fights reminiscent of the hard-fought 1976 GOP convention. That contest was won in a whisker by Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan. "Many people will rebel if the party big shots vote differently than the choice of the primary electorate," one leading Democratic parliamentarian tells me. "You could have a fight to force the superdelegates to accept the decision of their home-state voters."

And what if the convention decision comes down to the disputed delegations of Florida and Michigan, neither of whom are currently legally seated because their state parties broke rules against holding early primaries?

"We believe the delegates from Michigan and Florida ought to be seated," says Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson. That's even though Mrs. Clinton was the only name offered primary voters in Michigan and neither Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama campaigned in Florida.

A fight over whether delegations should be seated would remind convention mavens of the 1952 GOP fight at that party's Chicago convention. There, Dwight Eisenhower only clinched the Republican nomination over Robert Taft after winning a contentious floor fight over the seating of key Southern delegations.

In other words, for the first time in decades, convention historians may find their skills in demand if this year's Democratic conclave turns out to be something besides the usual exercise in media relations.

-- John Fund

Huckabee's Ace in the Hole

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee revived his campaign last night by winning five Southern states. It was also a big day for West Virginia Republicans, who deliberately sought to revive their flagging fortunes by scheduling a nominating convention for Super Tuesday. The aim was to pick a convention winner hours before the polls closed elsewhere and thereby influence the national outcome. It worked. By mid-afternoon, the buzz from his West Virginia triumph provided Mr. Huckabee with a fresh storyline that he, not Mitt Romney, was the conservative alternative candidate to John McCain.

Small states with just a handful of delegates need creative ways to draw attention. For West Virginia, a nominating convention succeeded wonderfully. Mr. Romney even dropped by personally to make his case, hoping to score a few hours in the media spotlight on Super Tuesday. His efforts initially appeared to be paying off. He won enthusiastic applause by telling conventioneers: "I'll make sure that the house that Reagan built is the house we live in." Mr. Romney led after the first convention ballots were cast, but no candidate won a majority and during an hour-long intermission, Mr. McCain called and asked his supporters to throw in behind Mr. Huckabee. That was enough to change the dynamics on the second ballot and give Mr. Huckabee his new lease on political life.

Moving forward, Mr. Huckabee will continue to take votes mainly from Mr. Romney, even if he remains largely unsuccessful outside the South. Louisiana voters head to the polls on Saturday, and next Tuesday will feature contests in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. In short, the next few news cycles will be far more friendly to the former Arkansas governor than the former Massachusetts one.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"California's decades-long isolation from national politics ended Tuesday as voters turned out heavily to vote in two close contests for presidential nominations -- and they could play a critical role again in November. Party identification is weak in California, and both parties have been losing ground in voter registration -- especially the Democrats -- and the rapidly growing ranks of independent voters hold the balance of political power.... Were McCain to win the GOP nomination, therefore, it could put California in play. The Democratic candidate, either Clinton or Obama, would still be favored but could no longer take the state for granted. Without California's 55 electoral votes, Democratic hopes for recapturing the White House are slender, so at the very least, Democrats would have to devote resources to California" -- Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

Job Losses for Bureaucrats

Friday's lousy jobs report of negative growth wasn't all that bad -- since one of the new unemployed Americans was John Edwards. But economists assure us that there's another reason not to panic just yet. The 17,000 jobs losses in January overshadowed a revision upward to 82,000 new jobs in December. Job growth has certainly slowed dramatically but private employment growth has still not turned negative.

One piece of overlooked good news in the January report is that the net decline was entirely accounted for by government. The public sector had 18,000 fewer workers on its payrolls last month. Folks, that's not an economic downer, but cause for celebration. We should be thrilled to see many more such pink slips issued in Washington, D.C. and state capitals. Fewer government bureaucrats is one of the best economic stimulants we can possibly think of.

Overall, today's 4.9% unemployment rate is hardly a measure of job scarcity for those searching for work. That number underscores the folly of the Democratic proposal to extend unemployment insurance benefits -- a policy that increases joblessness by giving people an incentive to sit on the sidelines rather than aggressively seeking the private-sector jobs that continue to be created.

-- Stephen Moore

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« Reply #48 on: February 08, 2008, 01:05:46 PM »

McCain Slays Them in the Green Room

Democrats, and even a few Republicans, have suggested that John McCain may not wear well as a candidate, with many making comparisons to Bob Dole, the former war hero and longtime senator who was the uninspired GOP nominee in 1996 against Bill Clinton.

But Mr. McCain put many of those doubts to rest yesterday with a thundering speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. He couldn't have asked for a better platform -- Mitt Romney had just used the same stage to suspend his candidacy, thus giving Mr. McCain a chance to present himself as the de facto GOP nominee to the party's most enthusiastic activists.

Mr. McCain knew he was addressing a crowd with whom he had many policy disagreements -- from campaign finance reform to global warming. He didn't pretend to paper those over, but instead asked his audience to "examine the totality of my record." He pointed out he has consistently voted for pro-life causes for a quarter century, pledged to appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution and laid into the departed GOP Congress for tarnishing the party's fiscal conservative credentials. "I will not sign a bill with any earmarks in it," he said to thunderous applause. He then roused the crowd again by pointing out that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would set an arbitrary timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.

He clearly won over a lot of skeptical conservatives. I was in the green room where many prominent CPAC speakers had gathered to watch the speech, and where Mr. McCain had mingled prior to mounting the stage. "It was a great speech, with a perfect tonal pitch," said Don Devine, a former Reagan administration official who is normally a dour pessimist when it comes to GOP electoral chances. "I think he could beat Hillary." Ken Blackwell, a former GOP candidate for governor from Ohio, called the speech "the start of a great conversation with conservatives and much better than I expected."

Even Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader who has clashed often with the Arizona senator in the past, grudgingly acknowledged that he might bring himself to vote for Mr. McCain in the fall -- a major concession from someone who has publicly stated that the party's new presumptive nominee has been "the most destructive force against [the GOP] of any elected official I know."

John McCain strode into the toughest imaginable audience of conservatives yesterday. While he didn't exactly conquer them, he left them feeling hopeful that he will run a spirited campaign based on their fundamental principles. "He said all the right things, and if he now delivers, we have a chance to unite the movement," concluded Richard Viguerie, a conservative who spent much of the last few months denouncing most of the GOP field for apostasy.

Even a week ago, I couldn't have imagined John McCain leaving such a positive impression on the hard-bitten conservatives at CPAC. But he did, and he now has a real chance to lead a united party into the fall campaign.

-- John Fund
Who Is No. 2?

At age 71, John McCain certainly needs a running mate, and picking a solid conservative could help him win over some of his skeptics within the GOP. At the top of nearly every list is South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Even Karl Rove mentioned him on Fox News as the Super Tuesday results rolled in.

Mr. Sanford is nearly universally loved by conservatives for good reason. Now serving his second term in South Carolina, he has made himself famous for his unremitting war on pork, even though his own party controls the legislature. A few years ago, he drove the point home by carrying two squealing pigs into the state capitol. Typically he vetoes about 100 bills a years (though his fellow Republican frequently override him). Last year, he vetoed the entire state budget.

Mr. Sanford understands the power of symbolism but also how to work the machinery of government. Sitting on my desk is a copy of an executive budget his office published a few years ago -- the first comprehensive budget a South Carolina governor ever compiled. Previously, governors simply reacted to spending bills as they came along. Mr. Sanford's record also bespeaks a commitment to policy ideas that conservatives hold dear -- expanding school choice, pushing through a broad-based property tax cut and proposing a phase-out the state income tax. One key achievement was enacting a voucher-based state Medicaid reform -- a model for overhauling entitlement programs for the 21st century.

As a member of Congress in the 1990s, Mr. Sanford gave every indication that he wasn't interested in becoming a permanent fixture in Washington. He never bought a house. He slept in his office and commuted home every weekend. He ran on a self-imposed term limit, and unlike some others, actually honored it by returning home to run for governor in 2002. He has consistently reached out to conservatives, making the state capitol in Columbia an important stop for party activists. After supporting Mr. McCain for president in 2000, Mr. Sanford stayed neutral in his state's important primary this year. That's another reason for conservatives to be enthusiastic about the governor of South Carolina. His agreement to sign aboard the McCain ticket would be seen as conferring real comfort about Mr. McCain's conservative bona fides.

-- Brendan Miniter
Hillary's Money

Barack Obama edged closer to one of the enduring Clinton mysteries, the exact source of their sizeable personal wealth. Asked by the New York Times yesterday about news that Hillary Clinton had written her campaign a $5 million check, he responded: "I'll just say that I've released my tax returns. That's been a policy I've maintained. I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from."

The Clinton campaign offers only hints, telling reporters that Mrs. Clinton didn't have to sell off any assets to raise the money and that she didn't need to win bank approval or put up collateral. The Times sums up the campaign's explanation: "Advisers said the loan was made on Jan. 28 from Mrs. Clinton's share of her personal funds that she has with Mr. Clinton."

And just like that, the Clintons may have rendered all campaign finance restrictions meaningless. For, if Hillary can dip into funds held jointly with her husband, and her husband is free to travel the world collecting large speaking fees without disclosing how much or from whom, it would seem to create a route for unlimited amounts of cash from anyone in the world to be funneled into the campaign without disclosure.

Meeting with the media yesterday, Mrs. Clinton stressed that "it's my money" and called it an "investment" in her campaign. Those expressions may come back to haunt her. Her campaign says she'll release her tax returns just as soon as she wins her party's nomination and that, anyway, all anyone needs to know about her finances can be found in her Senate financial disclosure statements. Stay tuned. The $5 million loan may yet trigger an avalanche of media attention on the Clinton campaign's finances. The issue, of course, would also be a natural for John McCain in the fall.

-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day

"Obamaphilia has gotten creepy.... What the Cult of Obama doesn't realize is that he's a politician. Not a brave one taking risky positions like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, but a mainstream one. He has not been firing up the Senate with stirring Cross-of-Gold-type speeches to end the war. He's a politician so soft and safe, Oprah likes him" -- Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein.

Rambo for Real

A measure of Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo" franchise is the fact that most people have forgotten the first movie wasn't called "Rambo." It was called "First Blood." Now the fourth installment is out, finally named just "Rambo," and one place the film is gaining serious critical attention is Burma (recently renamed "Myanmar").

Mr. Stallone's Burmese fans apparently are finding hope in John Rambo's latest plotline, in which he seeks to save Christian aid workers who run afoul of Myanmar's nasty military regime while trying to help members of the Karen ethnic minority. "This movie could fuel the sentiment of Myanmar people to invite American troops to help save them from the junta," one local film enthusiast told Reuters.

That seems unlikely without at least an Oscar nomination or two, but pirated DVDs of "Rambo" have indeed become an underground hit in Rangoon (also known as "Yangon"). In turn, the military regime has ordered street hawkers to discontinue stocking the film. Burma's military junta was already on the world's pariah list for its treatment of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Now that it's on Hollywood's list of approved baddies too, apparently the regime is really worried.

For his part, Mr. Stallone has embraced Rambo's newfound status as a symbol of resistance. Last week he challenged the regime to defend its human-rights record by allowing him to tour Burma. Alternatively, he invited a representative to debate him in front of a congressional hearing. "But I doubt that's going to happen," he added. Should the desired confrontation materialize, let's hope the actor and the junta both remember that John Rambo is just a character in a movie.

-- Brian M. Carney

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« Reply #49 on: February 11, 2008, 01:42:20 PM »

Who is Maggie Williams?

At first glance, Maggie Williams is a curious choice to be Hillary Clinton's new campaign manager. Though she ran the First Lady's staff during the Clinton years and served as Hillary's chief gatekeeper, she has never run a political campaign.

But what she lacks in experience, she makes up in fierce loyalty to the Clintons. During the 1993 investigation into the death of White House aide Vince Foster, a Secret Service agent swore under oath that he believed she had obstructed the investigation when he saw her carrying files from Foster's office into the family quarters of the White House on the night of his death. Ms. Williams denied the charge.

Three years later, Ms. Williams accepted a $50,000 political donation in her White House office from Johnny Chung, a fundraiser who was later found to have ties to Chinese intelligence agencies. Mr. Chung later pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, one of 23 people to do so after the 1996 Clinton fund-raising scandals.

Ms. Williams will certainly play a major role in the Clinton campaign, no doubt because she isn't afraid to "crack heads" as one Democratic strategist told the New York Daily News. She also served for a time as head of former President Clinton's personal and foundation staff. So the real news behind her appointment is that Bill Clinton is now likely to take a more active day-to-day role in campaign strategy. Just as Hillary Clinton came to his rescue during the impeachment fight of 1998, it may now be his turn to see if he can rescue his wife's struggling campaign.

-- John Fund
The Presumptive Stalking Horse

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have wasted no time trying to convince Democratic voters that each of them is best-equipped to defeat John McCain.

Mr. Obama emphasized the freshness of his message at campaign stops, noting that John McCain has "embraced the failed policies of George Bush's Washington" and defended the war in Iraq.

Mrs. Clinton countered by telling an audience in Maine over the weekend: "I can go toe-to-toe with John McCain every single day," emphasizing that she is battle-tested after nearly two decades of Republican criticism.

"Sen. Obama has never had, I don't think, a single negative ad ever run against him," Mrs. Clinton told CBS News. "He's never had to face this. I am much better prepared and ready to . . . withstand whatever comes my way." Many political observers took her comments to mean Mr. Obama should quickly prepare himself for some negative ads -- from the Clinton campaign.

But for now the two Democrats are focusing on undermining Mr. McCain. Both made veiled references to Mr. McCain's age, which is 71. Mr. Obama saluted the former POW's "half century of service" to the country. For her part, Mrs. Clinton referred to the Arizona senator's "legendary, long background" as a war hero. That's called praising someone while at the same time skillfully inserting a needle into them.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"Congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.... The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House.... [W]e might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame" -- columnist Matt Tiabbi, writing in the February edition of Rolling Stone magazine.

Quote of the Day II

"In a time when online news supposedly has all the momentum, the vintage mass medium is enjoying a little renaissance. Last week's Democratic debate on CNN was the most watched primary debate in the history of cable news, drawing more than 8 million viewers. All of the major cable-news channels recorded large ratings increases in January versus both the previous month and a year ago. The broadcast networks have experienced the same phenomenon and have responded with their own expanded campaign coverage. ABC, for instance, scrapped its original plans for one hour of Super Tuesday coverage, expanding to a multihour broadcast (the writer's strike also helped -- the networks are desperate for good content)" -- National Journal columnist William Powers.

Judge Not

Senator John McCain's biggest challenge remains proving himself to conservatives on core issues like judges. That's why at last week's CPAC speech, he was at pains to differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whom he said would appoint federal judges "intent on achieving political changes that the American people cannot be convinced to accept through the election of their representatives."

He echoed those sentiments in a recent manifesto for a Federalist Society symposium -- and none too soon. Conservative critics, led by Rush Limbaugh, have turned their attention on former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, who endorsed Mr. McCain and served as co-chair of his 2000 campaign. Senator Rudman was a chief sponsor in 1990 of David Souter, now part of the Supreme Court's reliable left flank and a "disaster" for conservatives, according to Mr. Limbaugh. "Rudman... the guy who misled us all on David Souter happens to be a top honcho on McCain's campaign," the radio host told listeners last Tuesday.

As it happens, Mr. Rudman is not a "top honcho" in the campaign this year, but as recently as the Florida debate, Mr. McCain did name him as an important adviser in the "the circle that I have developed over many years." Not helping matters is a remark Mr. McCain reportedly made questioning Bush Justice Sam Alito because he "wore his conservatism on his sleeve." Mr. McCain now says he doesn't recall making the statement.

Voters like to know what they are voting for, and Mr. McCain has gradually come around to making clear, specific promises to appoint "proven" conservative judges. His biggest credibility challenge, however, may be his authorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Whatever Candidate McCain says now, the only way a President McCain would likely be able to preserve his handwork is by appointing more liberal Justices to the Supreme Court.

-- Collin Levy

Political Diary: WSJ
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