Sunday, September 30, 2007


Don't even let yourself hope for this -- it's not worth the inevitable disappointment:

Alarmed at the chance that the Republican party might pick Rudolph Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate in an attempt to stop him.

The group making the threat, which came together Saturday in Salt Lake City during a break-away gathering during a meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy, includes Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps the most influential of the group, as well as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and dozens of other politically-oriented conservative Christians, participants said. Almost everyone present expressed support for a written resolution that "if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third party candidate."

Oh, wow, that's forceful -- they're going to "consider" doing this. They couldn't even work themselves up to "seriously consider." And even at "consider," not everyone was on board.

And if this does happen -- if these guys get all huffy and persuade, say, Alan Keyes and Judge Roy Moore to run -- no one will vote for them. The reason can be summed in two words: Hillary Clinton. Righties would crawl through ground glass to beat her. Voting for a pro-choice guy in a dress would be nothing.

Republicans have plenty of litmus-test religious conservatives to pick from. Sam Brownback. Duncan Hunter. Mike Huckabee. Now Alan Keyes. All of these people, however, are losing badly. Why? Because Republicans -- you know, the voters whose party will have controlled the White House for 20 of 28 years once Bush's term ends -- are more desperate to win this one than Democrats are. They're always desperate. Even when they control all three branches of government, as they did for six years (and as, arguably, they still do, thanks to the filibuster), they feel besieged. They always think we run everything.

So forget it. This isn't a real plan. It's just an attempt to derail Rudy, and I doubt it'll even accomplish that.

Oh, and by the way, this is just silly:

Richard Land, the top public policy official of the Southern Baptist Convention, has said that nominating a Republican candidate who supports abortion rights would make white evangelical votes "a jump ball" between the Republicans and Democrats, with other issues taking the fore.

Uh, Richard? She's Hillary Clinton. The vast majority of your followers hate her more than they hate Satan. Much more.


UPDATE: Steve Benen does have a point, however:

...there's some self-preservation at play here. Dobson & Co., not to mention their loyal followers, believe they have enormous influence in Republican circles, and can dictate the party's direction. If the Republicans nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, thrice-married serial adulterer who wants to invest in stem-cell research, the religious right's masquerade will be over.

...So, what happens next? Watch for two things to happen: one, the religious right may have no choice but to coalesce around a single, credible candidate, if only to block Giuliani. And two, watch for Dobson & Co. to take the gloves off and go after Giuliani relentlessly. These guys don't want to bolt for a third party; they'd much prefer to stay where they are with a nominee they can live with.

But all the other A-listers -- Mormon ex-moderate Mitt Romney, former fundie-basher John McCain, non-churchgoer Fred Thompson -- are also seen by the religious right as flawed. And Thompson supported McCain's campaign finance reform plan, which the religious right loathes. And backing a B-lister who goes on to lose badly would make them look like big losers, too. So I have my doubts about the coalescing -- though I think they'll try to keep the pressure on. And that may mean we'll learn what paper tigers they really are.

On Election Night 2008, when Democrats are watching Hillary Clinton's concession speech and wondering how we blew another one, we should look back to this day. It's the day when the tide began to turn and the "liberal media" began rooting for a Democratic defeat -- as many of us knew it inevitably would.

Today, in The New York Times, there are not one, not two, but three articles focusing on the Absolute #1 Burning Issue of Our Time -- Hillary Clinton's laugh. How weird is it? How forced is it? What does it say about whether we can possibly endure four years with her in the White House?

(All of this, of course, was inspired by a Daily Show segment on the laugh that ran earlier this week. When Giuliani wins, I hope he thanks Jon Stewart in his speech.)

First, in the news section of the Times, there's Patrick Healy, with an entire article about the laugh, which runs nearly 1,000 words:

The Clinton Conundrum: What's Behind the Laugh?

It was January 2005, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had just finished a solemn speech about abortion rights -- urging all sides to find "common ground" on the issue and referring to abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

Stepping offstage, she took questions from reporters, and found herself being grilled about whether she was moderating her own pro-choice position. And suddenly it happened: Mrs. Clinton let loose a hearty belly laugh that lasted a few seconds. Reporters glanced at one another as if they had missed the joke.

But nothing particularly funny had occurred; it was, instead, a deployment of the Clinton Cackle....

Look out! The laugh! It's escaped from the lab! And it has capital letters!

Next there's Maureen Dowd, who, in the course of reminding us yet again that electing Hillary will give us four consecutive presidents from two families (gosh, Mo, I never noticed that before...), invokes the laugh, after quoting -- with no apparent disapproval -- a rebuke of Hillary Clinton so sexist and antediluvian it could have come from an Alan King comedy routine on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965:

Others do not underestimate her relentlessness. As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won’t stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."

That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.

(I'll ignore the fact that Wieseltier signed the PNAC call for an attack on Iraq dated September 20, 2001, and remind you instead of something a bit more germane with regard to Wieseltier and women: his rhapsodic words of praise a couple of years ago for a memoir by a woman who's obsessed with anal sex -- the title of which was The Surrender.)

Finally, there's Frank Rich, who's now apparently decided that (a) Al Gore was 100% responsible for losing in 2000 (never the mind the fact that he didn't really lose, that Nader screwed him, and that the press really screwed him) and (b) that Hillary Clinton is repeating Gore's mistakes (never mind the fact that Rich's column is just the sort of Hillary-bashing by the press that can bring about her defeat, which means Rich is part of the problem he's blaming Hillary for). Rich blames Hillary for being too wooden and for laughing too much. I'll quote this at length so you see just how much time he spends on her affect, rather than on what she's saying:

...almost every answer she gave last Sunday was a rambling and often tedious Gore-like filibuster. Like the former vice president, she often came across as a pontificator and an automaton — in contrast to the personable and humorous person she is known to be off-camera. And she seemed especially evasive when dealing with questions requiring human reflection instead of wonkery.

Reiterating that Mrs. Clinton had more firsthand White House experience than any other candidate, George Stephanopoulous asked her to name "something that you don't know that only a president can know." That's hardly a tough or trick question, but rather than concede she isn't all-knowing or depart from her script, the senator deflected it with another mini-speech.

Then there was that laugh. The Clinton campaign's method for heeding the perennial complaints that its candidate comes across as too calculating and controlled is to periodically toss in a smidgen of what it deems personality. But these touches of intimacy seem even more calculating: the "Let's chat" campaign rollout, the ostensibly freewheeling but tightly controlled Web "conversations," the supposed vox populi referendum to choose a campaign song (which yielded a plain-vanilla Celine Dion clunker).

Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. Mocking this tic last week, "The Daily Show" imagined a robotic voice inside the candidate's head saying, "Humorous remark detected — prepare for laughter display." However sincere, this humanizing touch seems as clumsily stage-managed as the Gores' dramatic convention kiss.

This is how she's going to lose -- every bit of trivia the press can fixate on will move to center stage, rather than Iraq or health care or income equality or any other legitimate issue. We probably could have guessed that the Times campaign-beat reporters would do it, and Dowd obviously would do it, but I'm sorry about Frank Rich.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


I loathe Rush Limbaugh, but I'll give him credit for one thing: Now that he's under attack, he's defending himself. When he was criticized for his "phony soldiers" comment, he posted a transcript of the segment on his Web site, and yesterday, on the air, he tried to defend himself again (new transcript here.)

Bill O'Reilly is doing things a bit differently.

He's under attack for saying he "couldn't get over" the fact that black people at a Harlem restaurant were behaving in a civilized manner -- and what is he doing? He's letting Juan Williams defend him.

First he brought Williams on his show to fight his battle for him. Now Williams has an article in Time defending him.

To those of us who are familiar with the rhetorical tricks of the right, it's obvious what's going on: O'Reilly and Williams know that if Williams does the talking and we refuse to back down, we can be accused of racism -- i.e., of not wanting to allow blacks such as Williams to leave "the liberal plantation." It's an utter crock, but it's clever -- if you haven't heard it a thousand times.

But it still doesn't answer the question: If Bill O'Reilly is the tough guy he pretends to be, why does he have to hide behind Juan Williams? Why can't he fight his own damn battles?

I see that Clarence Thomas, who's plugging his new autobiography, will appear on Rush Limbaugh's show on Monday.

And I also see that clandestinely paid Bush TV flack Armstrong Williams, for whom Thomas once served as a mentor, is hosting a D.C. party on Wednesday for the launch of the Thomas book.

Shouldn't Thomas also go on Bill O'Reilly's show? And couldn't he also do a podcast with Don Imus? You know -- make it a disgraced-broadcaster grand slam.


That second link above is to a story in The Hill, which, after telling us about the upcoming Thomas book party (it's very exclusive), gets into the subject of D.C. parties in general and the people who throw and attend them.

I don't think I like these people very much:

...Juleanna Glover Weiss, senior adviser at the Ashcroft Group, is known for throwing large, upscale parties in her Northwest home. Her parties, she said, don't often require high security. They do, however, require thoughtful preparation.

"A good formula is one-third reporters, one-third political operatives and/or elected officials and one-third from the think tank community," Glover said....

Jason Roe, former chief of staff to Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), is a lobbyist for the Federal Strategy Group who attends a lot of parties around town. He's picky when it comes to his taste in soirees.

"I definitely think that the air of exclusivity is a huge motivator on what makes a good party in Washington," he said....

"You want to keep the third-tier people out of there," Roe said....

Well, la-di-da. If that doesn't make you want to grab a pitchfork and storm the capital with a mob of the unwashed, I don't know what will.

(Via the Carpetbagger Report and Taegan Goddard.)

Friday, September 28, 2007


Rush Limbaugh's being criticized by Democrats for referring to "phony soldiers" in a radio discussion of people who are against the war. In response he's posted a transcript of the segment. It offers an interesting insight into life in Limbaugh Land.

In the transcript, we first read a dialogue between Limbaugh and a caller identified as Mike in Chicago. Mike says repeatedly that he's a Republican, but he's had it with the war:

CALLER: Well, I am a Republican, and I listened to you for a long time, and you're right on a lot of things, but I do believe that we should pull out of Iraq. I don't think it's winnable. I'm not a Democrat, but sometimes you gotta cut the losses. I mean, sometimes you really got to admit you're wrong.

Limbaugh can't stand it. He's beside himself. And as the call goes on, there's this exchange:

CALLER: I used to be military, okay, and I am a Republican.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: And I do listen to you, but --

RUSH: Right, I know. And I, by the way, used to walk on the moon.

So he's calling Mike in Chicago a liar. Apparently, it's not possible to be a Republican and against the war (tell that to these people), or ex-military and against the war.

The next caller is another Mike -- this one from Olympia, Washington. He's a Dittohead, and he and Limbaugh are in a mutual admiration society. It's with this Mike that we get the exchange we've all read about:

CALLER: I'm one of the few that joined the Army to serve my country, I'm proud to say, not for the money or anything like that. What I would like to retort to is that, what these people don't understand, is if we pull out of Iraq right now, which is not possible because of all the stuff that's over there, it would take us at least a year to pull everything back out of Iraq, then Iraq itself would collapse and we'd have to go right back over there within a year or so.

RUSH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. The next guy that calls here I'm going to ask them, "What is the imperative of pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out?" I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "When's he going to bring the troops home? Keep the troops safe," whatever.


RUSH: It's not possible intellectually to follow these people.

CALLER: No, it's not. And what's really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media.

RUSH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER: Phony soldiers. If you talk to any real soldier and they're proud to serve, they want to be over in Iraq, they understand their sacrifice and they're willing to sacrifice for the country.

RUSH: They joined to be in Iraq.

The two of them are thinking about Jesse Macbeth, who claimed to have participated in war crimes and who truly was a phony soldier -- he said he'd been an Army Ranger, but he was discharged from the military before completing basic training. A case can be made (in fact, it's being made right now) that Limbaugh and the caller meant only that we lefties never talk to real veterans, only phonies like Macbeth. This is stupid (and who exactly are the other phonies?), but perhaps it's not exactly the same as calling all war critics who've fought "phony." It's certainly not as direct as what Limbaugh said to the previous Mike -- he called him a phony flat out.

Later in the transcript, Limbaugh will talk at some length about Macbeth -- but we're not done with Mike #2, who's just getting wound up. You want a cockamamie story? He's got one:

CALLER: ... My other comment, my original comment, was a retort to Jill about the fact we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction. Actually, we have found weapons of mass destruction in chemical agents that terrorists have been using against us for a while now. I've done two tours in Iraq, I just got back in June, and there are many instances of insurgents not knowing what they're using in their IEDs. They're using mustard artillery rounds, VX artillery rounds in their IEDs. Because they didn't know what they were using, they didn't do it right, and so it didn't really hurt anybody. But those munitions are over there. It's a huge desert. If they bury it somewhere, we're never going to find it.

You follow that? The insurgents have found the WMDs! They're using them! Many insurgent attacks are WMD attacks! And our soldiers know it! But -- even though this would be an incredible propaganda coup for the Bush administration -- nobody is reporting it!

That's utterly nuts.

So what does Rush say? Does he tell the caller he's nuts?

Nope. Here's what he says:

RUSH: Well, that's a moot point for me right now.

That's it. Then he continues:

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: The weapons of mass destruction. We gotta get beyond that. We're there. We all know they were there, and Mahmoud [Ahmadinejad] even admitted it in one of his speeches here talking about Saddam using the poison mustard gas or whatever it is on his own people. But that's moot.

Catch that last part? We said Saddam didn't have WMDs in 2003, and the rebuttal to that is ... the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). As Tom Hilton recently said in response to a lesser light of the wingnuttosphere who made a similar argument, Limbaugh

is still having trouble with that whole 'linear time' concept, believing (apparently) that all events are simultaneous.

And this is just another day at the office for Rush Limbaugh. This is the kind of swamp gas he's pumping into the atmosphere.

Mychal Bell is released on bail in the Jena Six case and all he gets in The New York Times is an unbylined six-paragraph story on page A21.


I never got involved in the big blog discussion yesterday about Ed Morrissey's contention that General Petraeus "moved the debate, literally" and is thus responsible for the fact that Democrats are now hedging on removal all troops from Iraq by 2013, an argument now taken up by Lorie Byrd at TownHall -- but it's a crock.

Petraeus's testimony changed nothing. The massive edifice built around Petraeus's testimony by the White House propaganda machine had a major impact, because that made the continuation of the status quo in Iraq inevitable before Petraeus ever said a word in D.C.

Petraeus was just a marionette, moving his lips while the White House spoke and pulled the strings, first in Iraq in August, then, once the battle was already won, in Washington. I'm not even sure I'd say Petraeus's constant availability to journalists and members of Congress in August turned the tide, because I'm sure he wasn't the one who crafted the dog-and-pony shows that that caused swooning on the part of even-the-liberals such as Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack.

But right-wingers love manly, martial heroes, creating phony ones (Reagan the saluter, Flight Suit Bush, Rudy the terrorist avenger) when they can't find a real one. So of course they're going to say the general made all the difference.

And, of course, if anything has changed the Democratic front-runners' war pronouncements, it's the fact that they now realize that if one of them is elected, he or she will have to clean up all of the mess in Iraq starting in January '09 -- They'd thought that withdrawal might be set in motion starting this month, the fools.

From Strategic Vision's latest Iowa poll:

Do you favor a withdrawal of all United States military from Iraq within the next six months? (Republicans Only)
Yes 53%
No 37%
Undecided 10%

To give you an idea of the political leanings of the poll respondents, 67% also said it was either "very important" or "somewhat important" "for the Republican presidential candidate to be a conservative Republican in the mode of Ronald Reagan," so perhaps real Republicans in Iowa no longer think fighting the Great Glorious War in Iraq is a minimal requirement of conservatism. (On the other hand, some would argue that if they were real Republicans, 100% of them would have said "very important" in response to that Reagan question....)

Thursday, September 27, 2007


President Bush on September 13:

Diyala province is the site of a growing popular uprising against the extremists. And some local tribes are working alongside coalition and Iraqi forces to clear out the enemy and reclaim their communities.

Or, er, maybe not:

Sunnis May Stop Work With U.S. in Diyala

A U.S. effort to recruit former Sunni insurgents north of Baghdad -- considered crucial to expanding the fight against extremists -- is in danger of collapse because the government has been unable or unwilling to accept the volunteers into Iraqi security forces.

...The Interior Ministry says it's about numbers. It has capped Diyala's force at 13,000 -- which is already over the limit -- meaning there is no room for the "concerned local nationals," known as CLNs.

But there are accusations that Iraq's sectarian rifts are playing a role.

...Some CLN members claim the Shiite-led government is worried about handing Sunnis too much influence and power in the province.

...U.S. and Iraqi officials say 5,000 more Iraqi police are needed in Diyala, one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq for U.S. and government forces. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also endorsed the idea of incorporating the volunteers into Diyala's security forces when he visited Baqouba in July.

"If I could, I'd hire 1,000 more CLNs in Baqouba alone, but my hands are tied," said Gen. Ghanim al-Qureyshi, director general of Diyala police. "The central government will not give me the budget," he added with a shrug....

"I worry this (tension) is going to explode, and we'll revert back to these individuals supporting al-Qaida," said Col. David Sutherland, the U.S. military commander in Diyala province. "It weighs heavily on my mind." ...

Well, Colonel, your commander in chief won the only battle that matters to him -- the battle of Washington, earlier this month -- so I bet it doesn't weight heavily on his. Not anymore.

(Via LeftLink.)

Well, we're all having a lovely chuckle over this debate postmortem by William Kristol:

Last night, for the first time this election cycle, I watched a Democratic presidential debate. It was appalling. But it was also, in a way, encouraging. Before last night, I thought it was 50-50 that the Republican nominee would win in November 2008.

Now I think it's 2 to 1. And if the Democrat is anyone but Hillary, it's 4 to 1.

You're thinking, Is he nuts? -- except for the regular readers of this blog, who know that I agree with him that it's going to be an uphill struggle for the Democrats in the presidential race.

But it's not going to be because of anything he heard last night -- the GOP message framing/character assassination machine will kick in no matter what the nominee is saying. Also, the Democrats are utterly failing to impress upon the public that the Republican candidates are, in fact, Republicans, i.e., members of the exact same party as that guy they really can't stand, George W. Bush, with many of the exact same policies.

Kristol's summary of the Democrats' message sounds like pillow talk on a National Review cruise, but he gets off one zinger at the end:

Here, judging from the debate, is what the 2008 Democratic nominee is likely to be for. Abroad: ensuring defeat in Iraq and permitting a nuclear Iran. At home: more illegal immigration, higher taxes, more government control of health care, and more aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror.

"More aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror" -- that's such a brilliant idiot-baiting soundbite that I expect it to be woven into Rudy Giuliani's stump speeches by the weekend. (How the hell did that smoking question get into the debate, anyway? Did some GOP strategist whisper it in Russert's ear in anticipation of using it afterward in just this way?)

The dumbest thing Kristol says is this, about Hillary Clinton:

She's out of sync with her party. That means if she stumbles once, and the magic cloak of inevitability is torn, she could be finished. Obama and Edwards will pour everything they have into winning Iowa. The Iowa Democrats are dovish. What Obama and Edwards will say, over and over--when they go up with serious paid advertising--is that Hillary voted with Bush in October 2002 on Iraq (and has never apologized) and that on September 26, 2007, Hillary voted for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment that (allegedly) lays the predicate for military action against Iran. Hillary could well lose in Iowa. Then Hillary could well lose the nomination.

Er, Bill? Obama and Edwards have been saying just what you said about the Iraq vote all year. What's it gotten them? They're no closer to catching her than they were eight or nine months ago. Hillary's been quite adroit at seeming to voters like both a "sensible" centrist and a fervent war opponent. Why is she suddenly going to lose her mojo? She'll probably find a way to rhetorically finesse that Iran vote, too. And regarding that "serious paid advertising," er, what does Kristol think Hillary is going to be doing at the same time? Using sound trucks?

Kristol anticipates Hillary's defeat because he desperately needs to believe she can't win. Democrats can't nominate someone who's saying the things Hillary is saying -- if we do, his entire belief system will collapse, specifically the part about our intransigent wild-eyed radicalism and desperate craving for unilateral disarmament and forced mass conversions to Wahhabist Islam. I'm sure he's baffled that Dennis Kucinich isn't on a glide path to the nomination. Or Ward Churchill.

I'm sorry Hillary's strategy is working, but I'm not surprised. Maybe if Kristol had ever actually spoken to a Democrat, he'd understand what's going on.


UPDATE: Kevin Drum says more or less the same thing:

...the major Dems aren't promising to get out of Iraq because they don't think it's a winning position. Even in the Democratic primaries, they don't think it's a winning position.

...they've all apparently decided that taking a fuzzy withdrawal position isn't going to hurt them too badly. They don't think advocates of total withdrawal are going to punish them enough at the polls to make a bolder position necessary. Time will tell if they're right.

Nice blog post by Paul Krugman:

I'm coming late to the story of Bill O'Reilly, who was amazed at the civility in a Harlem restaurant...

...what it reminded me of was an often retold family story: my great-grandmother visited Coney Island and was surprised to see black families enjoying themselves at the beach. "Pinkt vi menschen", she said -- just like people.

But she was an uneducated immigrant from Ukraine, and this was circa 1930.


Incidentally, I went back to the transcript of O'Reilly's remarks to see if maybe I'd misinterpreted what he was saying; in his pushback, he's arguing that his words were "a criticism of racism on the part of white Americans who are ignorant of the fact that there is no difference between white and black anymore." And, well, yeah, sure, he was talking about society. But he can't escape a few key phrases he uttered:

And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship.

Sorry, that's the smoking gun -- he couldn't get over the fact. Not "white Americans" -- a specific white American named Bill O'Reilly. People don't use that phrase when events live up to their preconceptions. And "even though" seals it -- he's saying this wasn't what was expected. That is, he's saying it wasn't what he expected.

I don't know why the war is still going on -- the number of insurgents who are dead or captured is now, according to the U.S. military, greater than the number who were fighting:

More than 19,000 militants have been killed in fighting with coalition forces since the insurgency began more than four years ago, according to military statistics released for the first time....

Last year, Gen. John Abizaid, then commander of military forces in the region, estimated the Sunni insurgency to be 10,000 to 20,000 fighters. He said the Shiite militia members were in the "low thousands." The U.S. military hasn't publicly provided any recent estimates.

There are 25,000 detainees in U.S. military custody in Iraq, according to the military. The numbers of enemy killed and detained would exceed the estimate given last year of the size of the insurgency....

According to U.S. sources, the insurgency has never been all that big. As of October 2006 it was "20,000-30,000 (including militias)," as reported by the Brookings Institution. A 2006 U.S. military estimate "ranged from 8,000 to 20,000," according to the BBC. A "senior military official" told CNN in 2005 that there were "between 13,000 and 17,000 insurgents in Iraq." Unnamed "American military officials" told the AP in 2004 that "the guerrillas can call on loyalists to boost their forces to as high as 20,000."

And now 44,000 insurgents are out of commission. So we've wiped them out and we can go home, right?

Oh, yeah, I left out this estmate:

Earlier this month [January 2005], Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, the director of the Iraqi intelligence service, said there are 200,000 insurgents, including at least 40,000 hard-core fighters.

Well, there's an interesting alternate theory: that the U.S. is actually lowballing the insurgent numbers, and the size of the insurgency was (and is?) actually larger than the size of the U.S. force in Iraq. Could that possibly be the problem?

Naaah. I'm sure the insurgents are managing to fight on despite the fact that their numbers are less than zero because they're so darn evil.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Every time I hear that people are finally starting to have their doubts about Rudy Giuliani and his campaign is finally starting to tank, the next thing that happens is something like this:

...Mitt Romney's lead in the battle for the GOP presidential nomination in the all important Granite State has evaporated, according to the results of a CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.

The survey, released Wednesday, shows the former Massachusetts Governor drawing support from 25 percent of Republican primary voters to 24 percent for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

That statistically-insignificant, 1 percentage point margin is a major change from CNN/WMUR's last New Hampshire poll, taken in July, when Romney held a comfortable 14 point lead over Giuliani....

If that holds, that's it. Romney's entire strategy is to win Iowa and New Hampshire and then be declared inevitable. If he can't win a neighboring state (and if Thompson continues to campaign as poorly as he's been doing), then Giuliani's got it.

Oh, and in a general-election matchup, Giuliani is still neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in the supposedly solid-blue state of New Jersey, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. (It's 45%-44% Giuliani, down slightly from 47%-44% in July.)

I'm worried. Giuliani can beat Hillary in every red state and be competitive in some blue states. Which ones besides Jersey? I'm not sure any state is off limits when I read that a Republican is within 10 points of a Democrat for an open House seat in Massachusetts -- and the Democrat is Paul Tsongas's widow. (Right-wingers are claiming that the race is within 5 points, according to an internal Democratic poll.)

Damn Northeasterners -- we don't agree with the Republicans, but we're willing to vote for far too many of them.

If you're wondering how desperate right-wingers are to rebuff any challenge to their contention that MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD IS THE SCARIEST EVIL DICTATOR EVER!!!!!, consider Mark Steyn's response at National Review Online to Rick Perlstein's blog post about the warm reception Nikita Khrushchev received in America in 1959. Steyn writes:

...before we all get carried away with these Krushchev/Ahmadinejad comparisons, it's worth remembering what the Commies didn't do.... Even at the height of the Cold War, the USSR maintained the minimal courtesies between sovereign states.

Pictured above are tanks in the streets of Budapest in 1956 maintaining the minimal courtesies between the USSR and the sovereign state of Hungary, which wanted to break away from the Soviet bloc.

Edward Klein, last seen hitting #2 on the New York Times bestseller list with a book about Hillary Clinton in which he alleged, among other things, that Chelsea was conceived when Bill raped his wife, has a new non-bestselling book about Katie Couric. He turns today to the Christian-right site One News Now to plug it. Problem is, what he says is somewhat confusing:

Author cites Couric's liberalism as major factor in low ratings

New York Times best-selling author of an explosive new expose on CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric says there's no question that her liberalism has hurt her ratings on the once dominant news program....

"Katie's ... has been out of touch with the mainstream of the American public because of her left-wing views -- and I think that does contribute to the fact that she has not been more successful," the author states.

Klein says executives at CBS News should have understood the problem after dealing with Dan Rather's left-wing bias for so many years. He contends that "lots of people had been complaining for years about his transparent liberalism and the fact that he boosted the Democratic Party and criticized and tried to tear down the Republican Party." In that light, Klein describes Couric as "simply one substitution of a transparent liberal for another."...

But wait -- how come her ratings are much lower than Dan Rather's? Isn't he the biggest liberal ever? Surely she can't be more liberal than he is -- he's Dan Rather!

Besides, aren't all the networks liberal? Isn't every single person in the mainstream media a card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool, sandal-wearing, America-hating liberal? Certainly that's true at the three major networks -- every right-winger says so. So if liberalism is so bad for ratings, and all the people at all three networks are liberal, why is Katie Couric in third place?

Shouldn't they all be in third place?

I'm so confused....

A Howard Kurtz story in today's Washington Post:

NPR Rebuffs White House On Bush Talk
Radio Network Wanted To Choose Its Interviewer

The White House reached out to National Public Radio over the weekend, offering analyst Juan Williams a presidential interview to mark yesterday's 50th anniversary of school desegregation in Little Rock.

But NPR turned down the interview, and Williams's talk with Bush wound up in a very different media venue: Fox News.

Ellen Weiss, NPR's vice president for news, said she "felt strongly" that "the White House shouldn't be selecting the person." She said NPR told Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, that "we're grateful for the opportunity to talk to the president but we wanted to determine who did the interview." When the White House said the offer could not be transferred to one of NPR's program hosts, Weiss took a pass....

Juan Williams? You mean this Juan Williams?

...Tuesday evening, [Bill] O'Reilly invited liberal [sic] NPR correspondent Juan Williams on "The Factor" ....

Williams came strongly to O'Reilly's defense...:

It's rank dishonesty, and the troubling thing is that if I hadn't participated in the discussion, if I was just tuning into CNN, or listening to MSNBC, and heard that, oh, Bill O'Reilly said he went to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem and they weren't using M-F and all this kind of stuff, I'd say, "Oh my god. What is he thinking? Where's that coming from? Why did he say something like that?" Not understanding that that discussion, Bill O'Reilly, I'm telling you, it's so frustrating. They want to shut you up. They want to shut up anybody that has an honest discussion about race. [...]

This is in response, of course, to the remarks O'Reilly recently made on his radio show about going to dinner at Sylvia's in Harlem:

...And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that's really what this society's all about now here in the U.S.A. There's no difference. There's no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment -- people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you're gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin.

... There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea." ...

Juan Williams was also O'Reilly's, er, interlocutor for the Sylvia's remarks, and he responded approvingly to them.

This is the guy who should be interviewing Bush for NPR about race? And NPR shouldn't have a say in the matter?

And I love the fact that Howard Kurtz says the White House "reached out" to NPR. This is "reaching out" in typical Bush fashion: I'm making you a generous offer, but you have to do things 100% my way. As Kurtz notes well into the article,

While it is not unusual for the White House to offer a presidential sitdown to a particular anchor or correspondent, Weiss noted that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox have all had their anchors interview Bush and that NPR has been requesting such a session for seven years.

Rick Perlstein is getting a lot of blog attention right now for "Bed-wetter Nation," in which he points out that an evil world leader visited our shores in 1959 and was treated with respect and courtesy:

Nikita Khrushchev disembarked from his plane at Andrews Air Force Base to a 21-gun salute and a receiving line of 63 officials and bureaucrats, ending with President Eisenhower. He rode 13 miles with Ike in an open limousine to his guest quarters across from the White House. Then he met for two hours with Ike and his foreign policy team. Then came a white-tie state dinner. (The Soviets then put one on at the embassy for Ike.) He joshed with the CIA chief about pooling their intelligence data....

Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great. We had our neuroses, to be sure -- plenty of them.

But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.

True, but that's not the whole story. Here's Lee Edwards at a recent National Review Online symposium, also looking back to 1959:

...And then President Eisenhower invited Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the Butcher of Ukraine, to the United States. For many, it was as though FDR had asked Hitler to lunch at Hyde Park.

Young conservatives like myself were in despair. Would no one object to this grossly immoral invitation? Would no one speak out against this diplomatic travesty? One person would and did. William F. Buckley Jr. not only filled New York City's Carnegie Hall with a rousing anti-Communist, anti-Khrushchev speech but so aroused those present they would have marched on the White House if so directed.

...[Buckley] told a rapt audience that Khrushchev was not aware "that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. Even out of the depths despair, we take heart in the knowledge that it cannot matter how deep we fall, for there is always hope. In the end, we will bury him."

Buckley knew what feelings were abroad in the land. Consider the woman depicted on the cover of this book. Who is she?

The time is 1959 during Nikita Khrushchev's visit to the United States. The photo shows an elderly woman pointing to an upside down flag attached to the side of her house. In her hand and on her house are two bumper stickers stating "Khrushchev Not Welcome Here."

A year later, when Khrushchev visited the U.S. again, we saw the likes of this:

Organized opposition to the coming visit of Khrushchev is resulting from the increasing evidence of Communist activity against the United States and freedom all over the world. A Long Island group declared today, " We do not want one cent of our money to be spent to provide a forum for the 'butcher of the Ukraine and Budapest,' if he attends the session of the United Nations on September 20, 1960."

Clifford C. Edwards, East Hampton, President of Freedom in Education; Lucille Cardin Crain, Wainscott, Director of Aware, Inc., former editor of the Educational Reviewer; Cathryn Kelly Dorney, Sag Harbor, Director of American Education Association, Editor , Educational Signpost and member of the National Committee for Captive Nations Week observance and Carlos Videla, Bridgehampton, Executive Vice President of the South Fork Civic Conference, comprise the Long Island Committee to join with Dr. Bela Fabian of the Conference of American Citizens of Eastern European Descent (CACEED) who is spearheading the movement to prevent the visit of Nikita Khrushchev, the great perpetrator of crimes against humanity. These crimes have been fully documented by the Internal Security Committee of the United States and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Americans who wish to preserve the blessings of liberty are asked by the committee to send wires, letters and post cards to their Representatives, Senators, Secretary of State Christian Herter and President Eisenhower to urge that this man not to be allowed to step on American soil....

So what has happened to America? Perlstein wonders. Here's what's happened: The people Perlstein calls "bedwetters" were always there. They just moved from the fringes and were brought into the mainstream.

In effect, William F. Buckley walked out of Carnegie Hall and led his mob on a long March. By 1980, they'd seized the White House. They've controlled the Oval Office, Congress, or both virtually without interruption since then. When they speak, the media thinks it's hearing not the voice of bedwetters and nutjobs, but the voice of "the people."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


The New York Times on Bush's UN speech:

In contrast to previous addresses here, he barely mentioned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan except to say that the international community should do more to support those countries. Nor did he make a reference to one of his administration's biggest foreign-policy concerns: Iran's nuclear program.

What would be the point? He'd have brought up the wars (and Iran's nukes) if he actually had the slightest interest in engaging the international community on those subjects. In fact, he's never had the slightest interest. Any time he's mentioned Iraq or Afghanistan at the UN in the past was simply for domestic consumption: He was just using the setting of the UN to lend his war-lust a sense of seriousness and urgency (which was sure to be magnified by the media).

Now he knows he's going to get exactly what he wants until the end of his term (almost certainly in Iran as well as Iraq and Afghanistan); the Democrats aren't ever going to stop him. So for him there's no point in talking to the international community about the wars. It's never been about the UN -- it's always been about looking more important than his political opponents in America. Now that he doesn't have to worry about that anymore, the UN has served its purpose.

Just found myself back in the vaults looking at Condi Rice's 2000 GOP convention speech. She actually said this about George W. Bush:

But most importantly, George W. Bush, the George W. Bush that I know, is a man of uncommonly good judgment. He is focused and consistent. He believes that we Americans are at our best when we exercise power without fanfare and arrogance. He speaks plainly and with a positive spirit.

Well, I suppose the "consistent" part is accurate.

Some people on the left actually think George W. Bush will find an excuse to suspend the 2008 elections so he won't have to give up the presidency when his term ends. I think that's really far-fetched -- but, judging from this story, I'd say he has a desperate need to be the de facto president after his term ends:

Examiner Exclusive: Bush quietly advising Hillary Clinton, top Democrats

President Bush is quietly providing back-channel advice to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to modulate her rhetoric so she can effectively prosecute the war in Iraq if elected president.

... White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten ... said Bush wants enough continuity in his Iraq policy that "even a Democratic president would be in a position to sustain a legitimate presence there."

"Especially if it’s a Democrat," the chief of staff told The Examiner in his West Wing office. "He wants to create the conditions where a Democrat not only will have the leeway, but the obligation to see it out."

...To that end, Bush is institutionalizing controversial anti-terror programs so they can be used by the next president.

"Look, I'd like to make as many hard decisions as I can make, and do a lot of the heavy lifting prior to whoever my successor is," Bush said. "And then that person is going to have to come and look at the same data I've been looking at, and come to their own conclusion."

As an example, Bush cited his detainee program, which allows him to keep enemy combatants imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay while they await adjudication....

I'm not sure I understand that -- we know Bush isn't going to close Gitmo, but what is he doing to "institutionalize" this and other controversial programs, beyond what he's already done? Is he gumming up the works in some way so an incoming president who's a Democrat will find it harder than expected to undo his legacy?

This article, and the book it's based on, The Evangelical President, are both written by Bill Sammon, a right-wing apparatchik journalist best known, perhaps, for the bestseller At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election. Besides reporting on Bush's desperate need to still have it all be about him even after he leaves office, I think Sammon is doing another service for the president.

Consider this passage:

A senior White House official said the administration did not put much stock in pledges by Democratic presidential candidates to swiftly end the Iraq war if elected....

"... there is a recognition by most of them that there has to be a long-term presence by the United States if we hope to avoid America being brought back into the region in a very precarious way, at a point where all-out resources are required."

...So far, Bush has been encouraged by the fact that Democratic candidates are preserving enough wiggle room in their anti-war rhetoric to enable them to keep at least some troops in Iraq.

"If you listen carefully, there are Democrats that say, 'Well, there needs to be some kind of presence,'" Bush said....

The Republicans are trying to inject a message into the discussion: that voters who are desperate for an end to the war shouldn't count on the Democratic nominee to actually bring it to a conclusion. The hope is that if enough pundits pick up on this and if it becomes conventional wisdom, the Democratic vote will be suppressed -- liberal war opponents will vote for a lefty third party or just stay home, while non-liberal war opponents, operating on the assumption that neither candidate will end the war soon, will reconsider the Republican, who by then will probably be floating hints of, in effect, a "secret plan" for "peace with honor."

Watch for this meme in the next year. It will be a real problem for the Democratic nominee.
Shorter Christopher Hitchens:

If Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, he really might run for president, because his feelings about the Clintons are remarkably similar to my own.

Hitchypoo's exact words:

I am only guessing here, but I think that when Gore wakes up early and upset, he isn't whimpering about the time that the Supreme Court finally ruled against him in 2000. He is whimpering about the time in 1992 when he left the field open to Bill Clinton, a man he secretly despised. Can he really stand to watch yet another Clinton walk away with a nomination that could have been, or could still be, his?

Yes, that's right: Gore is now one of the most respected people in the world, his books and movie have been hugely successful, he's changed the way the entire country approaches the issue of climate change -- yet he's still seething with resentment and can't get past a turn of events from fifteen years ago involving that scumbag Bill Clinton, just as Hitchens can't get past whatever the hell transpired when he and Clinton were at Oxford together. And winning a Nobel would make Gore stew over disappointments from the distant past even more, because, I guess, his life will suck so much. Yeah, that makes sense.

Bonus fun quote from Hitch:

George Bush at his worst is preferable to Gerhard Schroder or Jacques Chirac -- politicians who put their own countries in pawn to Putin and the Chinese and the Saudis.

As Robert Farley says at Lawyers, Guns & Money:

Right; because this administration is notable primarily for standing up to the Saudis and Chinese on.... well, I'm not sure, but maybe it makes sense in Hitch's world.

You thought you understand words like "freedom" and "liberty," but Wesley Pruden, writing about the Ahmadinejad visit in The Washington Times, explains that you had it all wrong:

... if Mr. Bollinger actually thinks inviting the "petty and cruel dictator" to lecture his students had anything to do with academic freedom, as he says it did, someone should keep the Columbia president in after school to explain the First Amendment and the concept of academic freedom. Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky, maybe.

"There's a world of difference between not preventing Ahmadinejad from speaking and handing a megalomaniac a megaphone and a stage to use it," he said.

Get it? Freedom isn't freedom. Freedom of speech is the right to speak as you choose, and encourage the speech you choose, and academic freedom is the same thing, so long as someone angry and conservative and important -- Mitch McConnell, say, doesn't think it's a bad idea. If someone like Mitch McConnell does think it's a bad idea, it's the exact opposite of freedom.

Glad that got cleared up.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Rudy Giuliani talking about Ahmadinejad at Columbia, in an interview with Sean Hannity:

...Doing this, giving him this kind of status -- even though the President of Columbia introduced him with an insult, he just responded with an insult -- I believe this may underscore some of their fantasies that they really do have a world stage and that they really should be taken seriously and maybe they can fool us and maybe they can fool a certain number of us....

Uh, Rudy?

Ahmadinejad and the Iranians do have a world stage. They should be taken seriously. Ahmadinejad is a freaking head of state, and the state in question is right next to Iraq and has lots and lots of oil. We don't have to like him or the regime he represents, we can be very much at odds with them, but we absolutely have to take them seriously.

I genuinely don't understand what Giuliani's getting at here, but I think it derives from his belief that elimination of all people he doesn't agree with would result in a platonically ideal state of human existence.

And the fear of the possibility that Ahmadinejad will "fool a certain number of us" is the most profoundly anti-American notion imaginable. The point of free speech is that we can withstand bad speech from bad people -- the free flow of ideas will prevent bad ideas from taking root. Giuliani doesn't believe this. Giuliani fears speech (as does Hannity):

HANNITY: "... I'll tell you what was more frightening to me, immediately thereafter, here was Ahmadinejad basically saying he found the introduction insulting but more importantly I want you to listen to the students' reactions and clapping for Ahmadinejad in the background.... Does that student reaction frighten you as much as it does me?"

GIULIANI: "Well here's -- this is really to my point, Sean. It frightens me because I don’t know what kind of reaction Ahmadinejad has to that, which means he comes away from this thinking, hey there's a strong level of support for me in the United States of America, maybe I can push these people a little further, maybe I can take advantage of them a little bit more...."

But Ahmadinejad can't take advantage of us. He has virtually no support in this country. Any idiot knows that.

But Giuliani doesn't. He think a few dozen college students clapping could have world-historic consequences. He thinks it's a contagion that must be eliminated.

You'll be allowed to denounce this to your heart's content, and William Donohue won't say a word:

Pope to make climate action a moral obligation

The Pope is expected to use his first address to the United Nations to deliver a powerful warning over climate change in a move to adopt protection of the environment as a "moral" cause for the Catholic Church and its billion-strong following.

The New York speech is likely to contain an appeal for sustainable development, and it will follow an unprecedented Encyclical (a message to the wider church) on the subject, senior diplomatic sources have told The Independent.

It will act as the centrepiece of a US visit scheduled for next April -- the first by Benedict XVI, and the first Papal visit since 1999 -- and round off an environmental blitz at the Vatican, in which the Pope has personally led moves to emphasise green issues based on the belief that climate change is affecting the poorest people on the planet, and the principle that believers have a duty to "protect creation"....

The blog of the Family Research Council has already responded with some literate snark. So far, not a peep from the Catholic League....

Obsessed? I'll say the Internet right is obsessed. A post at Power Line today is titled "Columbia's Disgrace, Part 7." Hugh Hewitt titled a post "Columbia's Complete Disgrace" (presumably to save himself the trouble of having to break the disgrace into multiple parts, which might require him to take off his shoes to count past five).

Meanwhile, at the event that the entire Internet right has loudly condemned before it ever took place, here's what the president of Columbia actually said to Ahmadinejad:

"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.

"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," Bollinger said. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."

Wow -- what a coddler of dictators that Lee Bollinger is.

And after that, Bollinger coddled him even more:

[Ahmadinejad] did not address Bollinger's accusations directly, instead launching into a long religious discursion laced with quotes with the Quran before turning to criticism of the Bush administration and past American governments, from warrantless wiretapping to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," Bollinger told Ahmadinejad about the leader's Holocaust denial. "Will you cease this outrage?"

Kissing up -- it's nothing but kissing up. I'm just disgusted.


UPDATE: Are you really surprised at what Bollinger said, righties? Well, maybe you should have paid attention to Lee Bollinger's actual words last week:

In order to have such a University-wide forum, we have insisted that a number of conditions be met, first and foremost that President Ahmadinejad agree to divide his time evenly between delivering remarks and responding to audience questions. I also wanted to be sure the Iranians understood that I would myself introduce the event with a series of sharp challenges to the President on issues including:

· the Iranian President's denial of the Holocaust;
· his public call for the destruction of the state of Israel;
· his reported support for international terrorism that targets innocent civilians and American troops;
· Iran's pursuit of nuclear ambitions in opposition to international sanction;
· his government's widely documented suppression of civil society and particularly of women's rights; and
· his government's imprisoning of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia's own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh.

Bollinger told us he was going to be critical of Ahmadinejad. That statement was widely disseminated in a Power Line post -- but the post, bizarrely, was titled "Columbia's Disgrace." There's right-wing logic for you: The righties decided Bollinger was an evil appeaser, and when the supporting evidence flatly contradicted their thesis, it was just reproduced, then ignored as if it wasn't even there. It was in plain sight, but to right-wing crazies, it was invisible. Power Line's bloggers and Power Line's readers saw Bollinger's plain words promising a challenge to Ahmadinejad -- and they just ignored them, because their desperate need to hate a fellow (presumably liberal) American was too great.

Has Rupert Murdoch fallen asleep at his post in the Great Generational Struggle Against Swarthy Pure Evil?

Yes, the Web site of the New York Post has a big Ahmedinejad headline as I type this, but check out the front page of the print edition of the Post today:

Hey! Where's Satan?

In fact, he wasn't on the Post's front page yesterday or the day before, either. He made the front page Thursday and Friday, but only in split screen.

Could it be that Murdoch -- who's run big-city tabloids on three continents -- has figured something out that other people haven't? Could it be that he knows that while Internet junkies seem utterly obsessed with this story, people who, er, actually leave the house once in a while don't give a crap?

He might have grasped that that's especially true here in New York, where we're told practically every September that some Embodiment Of All That Is Vile And Unholy is speaking at the U.N., and all we can think is: Oh, Christ, traffic is going to be horrible! (Or, alternately: Thank God I don't have to drive to work.)

Murdoch seems to be ceding the booga-booga-Ahmedinejad market to the Daily News, which put with the Iranian leader on the front page today, yesterday, Friday, and Thursday; in all but one case, he filled the page. Rupert apparently thinks the market is saturated. He's a smart tabloid publisher -- he may be right.

You know what's pathetic? The fact that Mitt Romney said this in Michigan a couple of days ago:

...he says he's going to move "In God We Trust" to the front of the new dollar coins instead of the side.

And this:

"I'll make sure that our future is defined not by the letters ACLU, but by the letters USA."

Somewhere in hell, Lee Atwater is smiling.

Because you know what's even more pathetic? After saying this, Romney went on to win a GOP straw poll in Michigan:

Ex-Gov. Mitt Romney won the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference straw poll, receiving 39 % of the 979 votes cast....

Lots of people are chuckling over Romney's rhetoric. (That's true even on the right: On that second point, an American Spectator blogger wrote, "If 'ACLU' and 'USA' share two letters should we rename our country 'S' to avoid confusion?").

But I would be utterly un-amazed if Romney hones this line (perhaps by melodramatically holding up the coin in question and explaining the horrific defilement of God that's taken place) and actually starts getting a good response to it.

And I would be further un-amazed if the GOP played six degrees of separation and found some tenuous connection between Hillary Clinton and whoever decided to put "In God We Trust" on the edges of the new dollar coins -- maybe he/she was hired when Bill was president -- and then actually managed to get Richard Cohen and David Broder and David Brooks and Sally "On Faith" Quinn to use this as a launching pad for days of pundit finger-wagging about how George McGovern and George Soros and the netroots and MoveOn members in Birkenstock jackboots have brought about the forced secularization of the Democratic Party. Or something like that.

Of course, maybe Romney won the straw poll not because of this stirring rhetoric, but because of his fat bankroll:

...he paid for many volunteers to attend, perhaps as many as 200....

(Am I reading that right? There were 979 voters and he paid expenses for 200? Did he pay one out of every five voters to show up?)

But the big story here might really be the order of finish of the also-rans:

McCain was second with 27%; and Paul and Giuliani finishing a distant 3rd and 4th (they barely broke 10%).

Wow -- maybe McCain really is making a comeback, and maybe Giuliani's deviations from Correct GOP Thinking really are starting to hurt him. Or maybe Michigan is a gun-lovin' state and this was a vote that took place precisely when voters had just had Giuliani's history of difficulties with the NRA pointed out to them. (That phone call from Judi surely didn't help either.) It could all be temporary for Rudy: McCain sank in the polls when immigration was in the headlines, and now he's apparently bouncing back. When this week is forgotten, Rudy might do better.

Or maybe not. And Ron Paul -- third? Ahead of Giuliani? Is that a sign of things to come, or did an unusually large number of Buchananites show up?

And Fred Thompson was at 7%? Yikes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Thank you, Phil, Kathy, and dnA for guest-blogging this weekend. For anyone who missed what they wrote, keep scrolling -- there's good stuff there.

A paragraph near the end of Matt Bai's article about MoveOn in today's New York Times:

In a sense, MoveOn is shrewdly gaming liberal politics in the way the National Rifle Association has long gamed conservative politics; the more controversy, the more members it attracts, and the more power it has to leverage on their behalf.

Now here's the paragraph that begins the article:

WHEN attacked Gen. David H. Petraeus, resorting to the schoolyard tactic of rhyming his name with something mean, leading Republicans must have felt like a band of desert-wanderers who had just stumbled onto an Olympic-size swimming pool. One by one, top Republicans lashed out at the now infamous advertisement, shifting the attention away from General Petraeus's depressing testimony and branding the administration's opponents as a bunch of radical, pierced-nose pacifist thugs.

See, here's the problem: If MoveOn is like the NRA, why doesn't generating controversy work for MoveOn and the candidates it supports the way it works for the NRA? No one ever says that an NRA attack is a huge unexpected blessing for Democrats.

And why does Bai spend the bulk of his article telling us who the members of MoveOn are? (Short version: They're not young hippie throwbacks, as you may have assumed -- they're actually old hippie throwbacks!) When was the last time you read an article that tried to explain to you who the NRA's members are?

If the elite press gave you a thumbnail sketch of the typical NRA member, it would make the NRA seem less fearful, because the typical NRA member is almost certainly a non-coastal non-elitist, someone powerful people don't fear. But that's not how we talk about the NRA. We talk the NRA as a fearful group of political power players; we talk about the leadership, not the members.

That's not how Bai talks about MoveOn. He dwells on the members -- "baby boomer liberals" with "uncompromising impulses." The accompanying illustration depicts the pathetic loser you're supposed to imagine when you think of MoveOn:

The leadership, when it is described, is engaged in a purely cynical effort to generate money via controversy. If you only knew about MoveOn from Bai's article, you'd barely know that it wants to raise money to influence American politics -- just like the NRA. What Bai says is that MoveOn's "main preoccupation, beyond ending the Iraq war, is to keep growing." Oh yeah -- with that minor exception, MoveOn is all about raising money.

(Actually, MoveOn has a lot of other concerns -- heath care, climate change, suspicious voting machines, and so on.)

MoveOn will be like the NRA when it gets treated by elite Beltway journalists with the respect accorded to the NRA. MoveOn's certainly not getting that kind of respect from Matt Bai.


MoveOn, by the way is doing exactly what I hoped it would do in response to the assertion by the ombudsman of The New York Times that the group wasn't entitled to its price break -- it's paying the balance and asking a certain campaign to do the same:

...while we believe that the $142,083 figure is above the market rate paid by most organizations, out of an abundance of caution we have decided to pay that rate for this ad. We will therefore wire the $77,083 difference to the Times tomorrow (Monday, September 24, 2007).

We call on Mayor Giuliani, who received exactly the same ad deal for the same price, to pay the corrected fee also.

This might be a game-changer for one reason: It seems quite possible that Giuliani's campaign won't pony up. And maybe -- maybe -- his failure to do so will be the story. We'll see. It's also entirely possible that the press will suddenly declare the story silly and due for retirement -- at precisely the moment when MoveOn has seized the moral high ground.

Tina Fey, quoted in today's New York Times:

In another episode, in which [Fey's 30 Rock character] Liz reflects on things about herself that others wouldn't know, she says, "There is an 80 percent chance" that she will "tell all my friends I'm voting for Barack Obama, but I will secretly vote for John McCain."

Ms. Fey, who wrote that line, said it was semi-autobiographical, a way of "admitting I have a lot of liberal feelings, but I also live in New York, and I want to feel safe, and I secretly kind of want Giuliani."

Jeff Ren, a National Rifle Association member, interviewed by Jake Tapper of ABC News on Friday at the NRA conference (quote from ABC's World News; not available online):

"He's frankly respected, even by people who oppose him on this issue [guns], and I count myself as one of these people. He showed great fortitude as mayor after September 11th."

This is what scares me about the possibility that he'll win the nomination -- that far too many people you'd never imagine would vote for him, from all sides, actually will.

Jerry Markon has a long piece in the Washington Post examining the Bush administration's efforts to combat human trafficking in the United States. "As part of the fight, President Bush has blanketed the nation with 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million -- all to find and help the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of forced prostitution or labor in the United States. But the government couldn't find them...The administration has identified 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 a year the government had estimated." The U.S. government's anti-human trafficking campaign began under the Clinton administration but it's been pumped up and spread out under Bush because it's a favorite issue of evangelicals and Christian activists, a group that might be said to include the president himself. One Christian activist, Gary Haugen, refers to it "a clear-cut, uncontroversial, terrible thing going on in the world," and that points up its appeal as a cause celebre to the kind of "religious" people who are more interested in upper-income tax cuts and passing laws against gays than in extending help or even sympathy to a bunch of dirty poor people who, they figure, must have pissed off God pretty badly to wind up in the cancer ward without health insurance. Once you get into the religious-Republican mindset that tells you that God identifies the righteous by giving them money, it isn't easy to find something to find something that gives you the chance to defend and embrace the powerless in a way that's "clear-cut" and "uncontroversial." Being anti-slavery is, as someone in the article puts it, a no-brainer.

One way that evangelicals have custom-fit the human trafficking issue to suit their needs is to turn it into sex slavery. I have a friend who's worked in combating human trafficking overseas during the last several years, and one thing that she's had to complain about as the evangelicals have taken over the issue is the way they've forcibly shifted the focus on women and children forced into prostitution. This is an awful thing, all right, but it's not the only kind of human trafficking and may not be the dominant kind. Yet the evangelicals, who seem to find it much, much more horrifying than, say, kids being stolen from their families and put to work in a mine or a field until they drop, have seen to it that the funding for projects specifically aimed at combating forced prostitution outweigh anything else. (And meanwhile, programs aimed at fighting less tabloid-friendly forms of modern slavery are going hungry by comparison.) The other wasteful miscalculation in the Bushies' approach is simply their decision to throw away millions looking for sex-slave operations inside the United States. Human trafficking has just been growing worse and worse in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, but there's no real reason to think that the relatively few cases that the Justice Department have been able to unearth are the tip of any iceberg. But American chauvinism being what it is, the Bushies would probably find the international scourge of human trafficking a lot easier to live with if they hadn't been able to convince themselves that any slave traders eking out a living in Bosnia or Vietnam must be trying to crack the U.S. market and make the big time.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

In a review of Jeffrey Toobin's new book on the Supreme Court, David Margolick throws on his Columbo raincoat and deduces that one of the key sources for the book must have been Sandra Day O'Connor. Which is interesting, in part because O'Connor famously supplied one of the votes that shut down the Florida recount and appointed little Georgie Bush president, restoring the line of succession to the family business, whereas Toobin wrote Too Close to Call, probably the definitive (and deeply angry) book on the butterfly ballot wars. (Unfortunately for him, his book, like the newspaper-funded recount that decided in Gore's favor, was released just in time to be overshadowed by 9/11, just when nobody wanted to hear that Little Lord Fauntleroy hadn't been rightly elected.) Margolick. who sums up O'Connor's role in the case as "ignoble", writes:

"A lifelong Republican — in her memos to Rehnquist, she routinely referred to her party as “we” and “us” — O’Connor played tennis with Barbara Bush, watched approvingly while George W. Bush rose as a “compassionate conservative,” looked “stricken” to fellow partygoers on election night 2000 when Al Gore appeared to have won. She determined early on in the litigation to stop the Florida recount, and in the five-to-four decision that followed, her vote was decisive. But her reasoning, as Toobin notes, was more visceral than legal — she hated untidiness, blamed Florida voters for being too stupid to follow instructions and thought Americans wanted the matter settled. She was wrong on both the facts and the law. It was an egregious performance, one that historians will skewer. Or maybe not, given who usually writes these histories... "

Unfortunately, life is not a Rocky movie, and sometimes going with your gut (or even listening to your heart) can result in greater "untidiness" than simply maintaining intellectual honesty, something that hardly anybody seemed interested in doing in 2000. After Junior was properly installed, O'Connor became notorious for holding forth to anyone who would listen about her reasons (i.e., her rationalizations) for what she had done, and those little lectures began to take on a slightly hysterical caste as it became clearer and clearer just what she had done.

"She was appalled... by former Attorney General John Ashcroft whom she considered extreme, polarizing, moralistic and — to use her favorite word — “unattractive.” She was appalled by how the Bush administration pandered to the religious right in the Terri Schiavo case. She was appalled by the nomination of Harriet Miers. And she’s been appalled, too, by Bush’s stances on affirmative action, the war on terror and the war in Iraq. And how did she feel when Bush brushed off the report of the Iraq Study Group, to which she belonged? She was appalled. And she was really, really appalled that the lower-court judge whose dissent in one crucial case she deemed “repugnant” — he’d have upheld a Pennsylvania law requiring wives to notify husbands before getting abortions — was the very man Bush picked to replace her: Samuel Alito."

"A person is welcome to her opinions," writes Margolick, "but given O’Connor’s crucial role in putting Bush in office, such constant off-the-record carping is really a bit much...All this spinning makes one appreciate Thomas and Scalia; whatever one thinks of them or their jurisprudence, they speak their pieces in public — for attribution." True, true. But it's still at least mildly heart-warming to hear that someone who had a key role in the anti-democratic debacle of the new millennium is capable of self-knowledge and regret. Even if O'Connor's forked tongue makes Thomas and Scalia look like straight shooters, she's enough of a fully diagnosed human being that she need not join Ralph Nader in fleeing desperately across the rooftops when the blade runners appear.

Weekend Reading

Michael Kinsley on faux Petraeus outrage:
Goodness gracious. oh, my paws and whiskers. Some of the meanest, most ornery hombres around are suddenly feeling faint. Notorious tough guys are swooning with the vapors. The biggest beasts in the barnyard are all aflutter over something they read in the New York Times. It's that ad from — the one that calls General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, general betray us. All across the radio spectrum, right-wing shock jocks are themselves shocked. How could anybody say such a thing? It's horrifying. It's outrageous. It's disgraceful. It's just beyond the pale ... It's ... oh, my heavens ... say, is it a bit stuffy in here? ... I think I'm going to ... Could I have a glass of ... oh, dear [thud]...

Salon's Sidney Blumenthal: Bush's Stairway to Paradise
...In his semiretirement, Bush engaged in appeals to history, which he now says on nearly every occasion will absolve him. Early on and riding high, he expressed contempt for history. "History, we'll all be dead," he sneered to Bob Woodward in an interview for "Bush at War," a panegyric to Bush the triumphant after the Afghanistan invasion and before Iraq. Now Bush cites history as justification for everything he does. "You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency -- until I'm dead," he told Robert Draper, his authorized biographer, in an interview for "Dead Certain." The use of the words "history" and "dead" between the Woodward and Draper interviews makes for a world of difference -- the difference between a president who couldn't care less and one who cares desperately but can't admit it...

It never ceases to amaze me how some people who talk about race have absolutely no experience or knowledge of the people they refer to other than what they see on television. Yet, they remain undeterred, rattling off nonsense as though they had any idea what they were talking about.

During the September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, discussing his recent trip to have dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's, a famous restaurant in Harlem, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful," adding: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." Later, during a discussion with National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams about the effect of rap on culture, O'Reilly asserted: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all." O'Reilly also stated: "I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the [Rev. Jesse] Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out. 'Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it."

Until now, Bill O'Reilly has probably never been in a room full of black people in his entire life. Yet black culture is a subject on which he comments endlessly, as though he actually had any frame of reference beyond what he has seen in popular entertainment. The man has even admitted that he's "scared of having black friends," but he is not apparently, scared of pontificating forever about people he's never spent five minutes around outside of a newsroom. It's clear he didn't ask anyone in Sylvia's a single question besides "Can I have Another Coke?". And the media has another million people just like him.

To a normal person, this experience would have raised questions about their previous judgments and stereotypes held about black people. But O'Reilly, who is a pathological liar and in a state of perpetual denial, cannot actually let go of a previously held bias, no matter how wrong. So it's not that black people were never what he believed them to be, it's that "we're getting away from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton."

This is a man expressing literal shock at the realization, no, the mere possibility that black people are human beings.

Xposted at Too Sense

Friday, September 21, 2007

Referring to Steve's Giuliani post upthread, I'd just like to expand a little on something he wrote about the suggestion that was made in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 to extend Giuliani's term as Mayor until the spring of 2002, so that he could continue to serve as a shining beacon and guide the shattered citizens home. This may not be a big deal--it probably comes down to either semantics or dueling memories--but as I recall it, the "suggestion" originated not with "Giuliani's supporters [who] were spreading it through the media" but with Giuliani himself, and though Rudy's Raiders did try to please the big man by getting out there and waving the flag for the media, I don't remember that it seemed reasonable to hardly anybody. In fact, I think the most important and revealing thing about the whole affair is that, in raising the issue, Giuliani single-handedly reversed the course of the mayoral election and torpedoed the chances of the Democratic front-runner, Mark Green. Green had been coasting to easy victory before 9/11; he was widely considered a shoe-in to roll over Fernando Ferrer in the primary and then take the mayor's crown in a walk. But when Giuliani began making rumblings about how he might deign to stick around if enough people wanted him to, Green cravenly rushed to say that it was a dandy idea--and Ferrer, seeing his chance, ridiculed the notion, thus clearly setting himself apart from those truckling to Giuliani in his moment of ego-tripping glory. That single move was enough to bring Ferrer back from the dead; he didn't beat Green in the primary, but he did force him to fight back, and the resulting tussle grew so ugly, and left Green looking so diminished, that things turned inside out and suddenly the election was Mike Bloomberg's to lose. Which he didn't.

I think that in the years since, Bloomberg has done about as good a job as anybody could have of demonstrating that it is possible to run the city at least as smoothly as it was run under Giuliani, without the hysterical drama, the self-promotion, the ratcheting up of racial hostility, the defensive circling of the wagons against any cop charged with crookedness or brutality, or the kneejerk baiting of civil libertarians, the economically disenfranchised, the sick, the homeless, and the ferret-owning. It's generally recognized that the city was good and sick of Giuliani before the 9/11 attacks reminded everyone that he had his uses. What isn't so often mentioned, because it screws up the redemption-narrative angle, is how much Giuliani's attempt to extend his term--or,more accurately, his attempt to get everyone to march in the streets begging him to extend his term--got the city to remember why it had been so frigging sick of him. So why did Mark Green put a cannonball through his own hull by rushing to embrace an idea that, it was perfectly obvious even at the time, made him want to puke? Why, after a long career of sometimes distinguished public service, at a time when he seemed to have the goal of a lifetime well in hand, did he make a decision, supporting something of which he did not approve, thus guaranteeing that he will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, as only a small, foul-smelling, cheese-eating thing?

The simple answer is that he thought the public was lame enough that we would embrace it ourselves. And where did he get that idea? Simple contempt for the electorate, I guess. As for the media's reaction to this particular brainstorm, it wasn't exactly an unqualified endorsement and it sure wasn't a fiery denunciation; the best way I can describe it would be to invite you to imagine how you might respond if a very, very rich relative whose final will and testament is still in the drafting stages and who you are sure will die within the week asks you to walk down Main Street dressed as Baby New Year. Knowing what the old boy is capable of, and given his own assurances that you'd only have to put up with him for so much longer, you might just opt to humor him. It seems relevant now, not just with relation to Giuliani but to the election year ahead, because so much of the mess we're in now can be traced back to both politicians and the media guessing that the American public is made up of infantile dumbasses and then trying to give them what they want. I'm convinced that the media hyped both the Clinton sex scandal and the buildup to the Iraq war largely because they believed that "the public" would thoroughly enjoy both and wouldn't stand for having its fun spoiled, and there's a case to be made that in 2000, the press presided over the cartooning of Al Gore because it believed that "the public" desperately wanted to be given reasons to justify its decision, which the media regarded as a foregone conclusion, to vote for "the candidate you'd most want to have a beer with." In every one of these instances, a considerable percentage of the public resisted to the end or initially protested only to finally break down under repeated hammering. Right now, a Democratic Congress that was elected to office by people pleading for change is in the process of Mark Greening itself to an early grave. One can only hope that in 2008, the election results will turn out to be more about the democratic process and less about self-fulfilling prophecy.