Saturday, June 30, 2007


A few exhaustively fact-checked assertions from the traditional media -- in this case, Michiko Kakutani's review of The Cult of the Amateur by Weekly Standardwriter Andrew Keen, in yesterday's New York Times:

Mr. Keen ... points out that Google search results -- which answer "search queries not with what is most true or most reliable, but merely what is most popular" -- can be manipulated by "Google bombing" (which "involves simply linking a large number of sites to a certain page" to "raise the ranking of any given site in Google’s search results").

Er, except that Google has tweaked its algorithms to thwart Googlebombing (the famous Googlebomb that led readers to the White House Web site when they searched for "miserable failure" no longer shows up on page one of the search results for that phrase, although pages about the Googlebomb show up instead -- which makes sense, given the fact that the Googlebomb is now the item most associated with that phrase.)

Because Web 2.0 celebrates the "noble amateur" over the expert, and because many search engines and Web sites tout popularity rather than reliability, Mr. Keen notes, it's easy for misinformation and rumors to proliferate in cyberspace. For instance, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (which relies upon volunteer editors and contributors) gets way more traffic than the Web site run by Encyclopedia Britannica (which relies upon experts and scholars), even though the interactive format employed by Wikipedia opens it to postings that are inaccurate, unverified, even downright fraudulent.

Er, perhaps that's because all of Wikipedia's content is fully accessible to everyone who's online, while the bulk of's content is subscriber-only?

I haven't read Mr. Keen's book; he may actually address these points. But readers of the review of his book in the sober, professional, old-media Times don't know them, while readers of this amateurish, anarchic blog do. Well?

Oh, one more from the review: Mr. Keen points out, the idea of objectivity is becoming increasingly passe in the relativistic realm of the Web, where bloggers cherry-pick information and promote speculation and spin as fact. Whereas historians and journalists traditionally strived to deliver the best available truth possible, many bloggers revel in their own subjectivity, and many Web 2.0 users simply use the Net, in Mr. Keen’s words, to confirm their "own partisan views and link to others with the same ideologies."

Hmmm ... a medium where people seek to confirm their own views and link to others who share those ideologies. Where have I encountered such a thing before? Could it be ... on my AM radio dial? For roughly the past twenty years?

Once again -- as is so often the case in the mainstream press -- the history of modern right-wing talk radio completely disappears from sight. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have never been on the mainstream press's radar; if you lived on the moon and got all your earth news from the traditional media, you might have no idea talk radio exists. The point is that a culture of snarly advocacy predated the Web and would exist without it. Keen doesn't seem to know that -- and Kakutani certainly doesn't.

(Oh, and as for "promot[ing] speculation and spin as fact," what was Unfit to Command? Why, a book. What could be more old-media than books? And yet there it was, helping to bring down John Kerry's presidential campaign, largely with the assistance of cable TV "news" channels -- which allegedly also live up to professional standards. And what was The Clinton Chronicles? A video, promoted on radio and TV, that charged Bill Clinton with responsibility for multiple deaths. Sorry, Michiko, "promot[ing] speculation and spin as fact" didn't begin with the web.)

Friday, June 29, 2007


Matt Drudge's friend Breitbart posted this video and gave it the caption EDWARDS' FANS MOB PRO-COULTER DEMONSTRATOR. That's accurate -- if by "mob pro-Coulter demonstrator" you mean "harmlessly surround pro-Coulter demonstrator while standing still and, in one case, not even making an effort to put down a water bottle."

Oh, yes -- a couple of people yell "You suck!" Which is almost like tearing someone limb from limb, right?

Jesus, these people will do anything to regain the moral high ground, except actually do something to earn it.

Well, this is why I get gloomy about '08: a new Mason-Dixon poll says 52% of voters wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton, and the most recent Fox poll says Hillary is absolutely blowing away her primary rivals (with Gore: Clinton 42%, Obama 19%, Gore 14%, Edwards 10%; without Gore: Clinton 47%, Obama 21%, Edwards 13%). Oy -- it's the perfect storm.

But that Mason-Dixon poll has one amusing bit of data: As a McClatchy story notes,

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, was second in the can't-stand-'em category, with 46 percent saying they wouldn't consider voting for him....

Romney struggled most with women: 50.9 percent said they wouldn't consider voting for him, while 49.1 said they would.

Really? Mr. Handsome Hunky Manly Man is having trouble with female voters?

Maybe Romney isn't really attractive to women -- maybe it's just that men think he's attractive to women, because he's trying so hard. Maybe women actually see him for what he is -- a posturing phony (appearance-wise and politically).

The biggest ray of hope I see for '08 is that Romney's win-the-early-states strategy just might work. I hope so, because Giuliani and Thompson have very high "might vote" numbers and low "would never vote" numbers (though Giuliani's negatives are going up in the Fox poll -- more, more!), whereas Romney seems wonderfully beatable.

(Via Democratic Underground -- where there's a lot of negative feeling about Hillary -- and Taegan Goddard's Political Wire.)

I said this about Bush a couple of weeks ago when I thought the immigration bill had already been finished off:

His poll numbers are going to go up -- slightly -- if this fight is really over.

The uptick will consist exclusively of right-wingers returning to the fold -- but the David Broders of the world are going to grasp at anything that's going on at the same time and ascribe the uptick to that. Two days without the death of any U.S. troops? Another Al-Qaeda #3 dead or captured? Must be the reason.

Don't fall for it.

I don't know if this can really happen now; the conventional wisdom, more and more, is that the problems with the Bush presidency are irreversible (gee, ya think?). See, for instance, the front page of today's New York Daily News ("DEAD DUCK WALKING -- Bush now worse than lame duck after immigration bill's defeat").

But you should still watch for stories with headlines like "Saving the Bush Legacy." They won't come from acknowledged conservatives, who are fed up -- they'll come from, say, The Washington Post. There'll be talk about AIDS initiatives and Darfur. Tiny positive signs, on any subject, even if they don't pan out, will be overpraised. Utterly imaginary scenarios -- Condi trumps Cheney! The Baker commission is taken seriously again! -- will be written about as if they could actually happen. And meanwhile, the numbers will go up a tiny bit, because some right-wingers will come back to the fold as Bush fights those evil Democrats in Congress.

Ignore all this, and mock anyone who talks as if any real change is possible.

The New York Times has the conventional wisdom:

The outcome ... underscored the challenge that Mr. Bush faces in exerting authority and enacting an agenda at a time when members of his own party increasingly break with him and the Democrats no longer fear him.

I don't know about that. I think he would have had a tough time a year ago, or two years ago, or three. He might have even had a tough time back when he had sky-high approval ratings. This is an issue that turns a certain large minority of the population into one issue-voters, and that chunk has been angry for a while. Note that the numbers weren't much better for this kind of change in, say, 2005:

In this [October '05] CBS News Poll, three in four Americans say the U.S. is not doing enough along its borders to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. Just 15 percent say the U.S. is doing enough....

Even many members of the President's political base do not approve of the job he is doing on immigration. 44 percent of Republicans disapprove of his handling of the issue, while just 30 percent approve. Among conservatives, nearly half disapprove of Bush's handling of immigration; only a quarter approve. In addition, 47 percent of white evangelicals disapprove.

(And as Ruy Teixeira noted at the time, poll numbers on immigration had been like that for years.)

That was when the base still loved Bush on just about everything. But, of course, the base still loved him and he still had a GOP Senate when he nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court; the base was still solid and Congress was still in the GOP's hands when the Dubai Ports World deal was imminent. It didn't matter -- the base revolted, Republican members of Congress ran scared, and no one else in the electorate was happy, so Miers had to withdraw and the Dubai Ports deal didn't happen.

I'm not sure Bush ever had the political capital to defy his biggest fans this way. As I said just after Miers withdrew,

The mistake Bush made here was thinking that he's the president of the United States. That's not what the base thinks. The base didn't vote for Bush -- the base voted for the conservative movement. To the base, Bush is president only insofar as he embodies the conservative movement.

He defied the base on a red-flag issue and no one else wanted to back him up. I don't know if he ever could have gotten away with that.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Jake Tapper, ABC:

On MSNBC Tuesday, Coulter said that Edwards should stop using her as an excuse to raise money. But a few hours after she called in to the show, Elizabeth Edwards sent supporters a new plea -- via e-mail and text messaging -- for more "Coulter cash," featuring a recording of their latest confrontation.

Just as Coulter has a book to promote this week, John Edwards has a fundraising deadline. The Coulter-/Edwards clash is starting to prove that when it comes to publicity, enemies can have their uses.

David Gregory, NBC (to Elizabeth Edwards):

If you strip away some of the inflammatory rhetoric against your husband and other Democrats, the point she's trying to make about your husband, Senator Edwards, running for the White House is, in effect, that he's disingenuous, especially on his signature issue of poverty, whether it's a $400 haircut or taking big money to speak in front of a poverty group. Again, strip away the inflammatory rhetoric. Is that a real point of vulnerability that you have to deal with in this campaign?

Alexander Mooney, CNN:

Elizabeth Edwards brushed off suggestions Thursday that it is a “double standard” to criticize conservative commentator Ann Coulter while using her controversial comments in fundraising solicitations.

John Edwards’ presidential campaign has featured conservative commentator Ann Coulter on its Web site to raise campaign cash, just as the important June 30 deadline to collect second quarter campaign contributions quickly approaches.

I'm starting to think that Coulter isn't the uncensored id of the far right. I'm starting to think she's the uncensored id of the mainstream media, particularly those in the TV branch. They're her most loyal supporters. They never abandon her.


By the way, in the reader comments for that ABC story, there's this:

AS A DEMOCRAT, I think Obama's wife has more character in her jar of jerry-curl than Edwards has in her whole family. HILL-BILL FOR 08...HILLARY WOULD NEVER PULL THIS VICTIMIZATION GARBAGE! Please consider the factor of character...of fresh socialist ideas that will redirect this country on a path of a new and wonderful glorious revolution. Hillary would put a stop to a lot of things.A lot of bad things...and put the democrat back in to Democrat.Obama would make an excellent house porter for the White House.

Posted by:
SkullRuler 11:40 AM

Why do hate-filled idiots like this so often insist on pretending to be Democrats? It's a bizarre tic.

(And by the way, moron, this is not a Jheri curl. These are Jheri curls.)

Here's Jim Zeleny in the Times, writing about the constituent messages some members of the Senate are receiving on immigration (emphasis added):

...Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who is undecided on the final immigration bill, said his office received a telephone call recently that "made a threat about knowing where I lived." Mr. Burr passed it along to the authorities. "There were enough specifics to raise some alarm bells," he said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is one of the architects of the immigration overhaul, said he also had received threats in telephone calls and letters to his office. Mr. Graham said several other senators had told him privately that they also received similar messages....

At the heart of the opposition rests conservative hosts on talk radio and cable television, which often are a muscular if untamed piece of the Republican message machine....

Oooh! Almost as hunky as Fred or Mitt!

To the press, the language of man-musk inevitably springs to mind when the discussion turns to right-wingers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Think Progress is currently pointing out that a David Brody, a reporter and blogger for Pat Robertson's CBN, has gone mainstream and will appear on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

I understand why the folks at TP are concerned: This is validation for the crazy bigot Robertson, and the guest list on Sunday morning talk had far too many conservatives already before Brody got the invitation. But I think Brody's being invited for a very specific reason: to talk about Rudy Giuliani.

Specifically, to talk about Rudy Giuliani at the exact moment when a candidate who meets more Christian-right litmus tests, Fred Thompson, is about to enter the race. You see, Brody interviewed Giuliani when he was in town to give that speech at Robertson's Regent University. You can see Brody's story and excerpts from his interview here. (Scroll down for the interview excerpts.)

Actually, Brody's story is a reasonably professional effort at explaining Giuliani to an evangelical audience, though a pro-Giuliani bias peeks through, especially at the end. But what comes afterward doesn't even remotely resemble objective journalism -- namely Pat Robertson's take on the story.

Robertson clearly thinks Giuliani is the bee's knees. You can see it in the big hug he gives Rudy at the Regent University event (about three quarters of the way through the clip), and you can hear it in Robertson's response to anchorman Lee Webb's lead-in question:

WEBB: Pat, what was your impression of the reception that Giuliani received yesterday at Regent?

ROBERTSON: Lee, it was overwhelmingly warm. People came out of there saying, "We want to support him, we want to give him money, we want to vote for him." I mean, it was just amazing. We had, I would say -- the cream of the political and business community in this area had come to hear him, and they paid for tickets to come to hear him, and this was part of the leadership series that Regent has been putting on with various business and political leaders, but, in my opinion, it was a smash appearance, and people were very high on Rudy and what he had to say. He did a great job.

And now comes the truly astonishing part:

ROBERTSON: It's -- I think the thing that he has said that conservatives should listen to is that he is going to appoint judges after the stripe of John Roberts and Alito and Scalia and those people, and the thing is, abortion should not be something that the president has anything to do with. This should not be a national issue. It never should have been. And Roe versus Wade was a mistake. They shouldn't have brought that up into the federal level. It should have been kept at the state level. And then, if somebody says, "OK, you're from New York, you want to have pro-choice, that's --" get out there and fight for pro-life. The same thing in California, these other states. The states that are clearly pro-life, people will vote that way. And I think that's the way the Constitution set up our country....

Is he saying what I think he's saying? Is he saying he finds it acceptable that some states will be pro-choice if Roe is overturned? Does Pat Robertson believe that? And has he always believed it -- or only since Rudy came along and persuaded him that he's going to be the next president or Hillary is?

It seems to me that, in order to blunt the impact of Thompson's entry into the race, Rudy Giuliani and his pal Pat Robertson want someone on TV on Sunday to talk about the fact that Rudy really does have a lot of appeal to red-state Christian conservatives.

And Meet the Press, by inviting Brody on, is only too happy to do what Giuliani and Robertson want.

A delicate flower at Free Republic needs some smelling salts:

Warren Buffet and Hillary: Hillary Cackles At Mean-Spirited Joke

On FoxNews a little while ago, they showed a video clip of Warren Buffet speaking at what looked like a Hillary campaign fundraiser.

I can't find the video on Fox's site, YouTube, or Google video, so it seems like it isn't up yet.

From memory it went like this:

Buffet: My idea is that you make a company so good that even an idiot can run it, because you know that one day an idiot will end up running it!

(Audience laughter)

Buffet: Kind of like this country, where even an idiot can run it, and is...

(LOUD cackling from Hillary, so loud it drowns out most of the audience's laughter.)

If anyone finds this video, could you please post it here?


Merciful heavens, what dreadful mean-spiritedness! How it coarsens our political culture!

Here's the first comment in response to this:

That bitch needs a muzzle over her piehole and a shock collar around her neck.

But that's meant in the most non-mean-spirited way possible, of course!


UPDATE: Actual quote, per Reuters:

[Buffett] recalled a saying, "buy stock in a company that's so good that an idiot can run it, because sooner or later one will." When he added, "now I think that sort of applies to the country too, actually," the audience burst out laughing.

I assume there was "LOUD cackling from Hillary" because, er, she was standing in front of a microphone and the audience wasn't.

The Carpetbagger Report and The Plank have the same question: Why does the press consider it unremarkable that presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani just made a pilgrimage to Regent University, which is run by bigoted raving lunatic Pat Robertson?

But this isn't just outreach on Rudy's part. He and Robertson seem to have been pals for years. If you go to the page on the Regent U Web site that reports on the Giuliani speech, you see this:

With his trademark good humor, Dr. Robertson related the story of their shared prior cancer diagnoses, and his hospital-room call from the Mayor to offer words of encouragement.

That was in 2003. (Giuliani's cancer diagnosis came in 2000.) Clearly Giuliani knew four years ago that he was probably going to be running for president, and he was reaching out to a guy he assumed could help him a lot.

And apparently they hit it off. In 2005, Robertson appeared on ABC News and said of Giuliani, "He did a super job running the city of New York and I think he'd make a good president." He added, "Rudy's a very good friend of mine. He's a great guy."

So this was no pilgrimage. It was two old buddies getting back together.

Nice work, Elizabeth Edwards.

As a lot of you know, Ann Coulter was on Hardball with Chris Matthews and Elizabeth Edwards called in and lambasted Coulter for ugly remarks about John Edwards and his family over the years. Think Progress has a transcript and the video.

I have to confess that I didn't enjoy this as much as I would have if Mrs. Edwards had been nasty and sarcastic and vicious -- you know, a taste of Coulter's own medicine. But that's not what was called for. Dignity was surely the right approach for Mrs. Edwards -- "I'm making the call as a mother. I'm the mother of that boy who died," for instance, in response to an assertion in a 2003 Coulter column that John Edwards has a bumper sticker that reads, "Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident." Mrs. Edwards came off well -- and she clearly got under Coulter's skin, which was quite satisfying. I suspect most of the junkyard dogs of the right would be similarly unsettled if they were challenged. Democrats and liberals, take note.

At one point -- it doesn't show up in the transcript, but it's audible on the video -- someone in the audience asks a question that Coulter echoes:

Yeah, why isn't John Edwards making this call?

I have to say I think there's something to this. It would be nice if candidates personally confronted the right-wing pit bulls. I think it would have been a good idea for John Kerry to challenge one of his Swift boat nemeses to a one-on-one televised debate. And yes, a call from John Edwards might have been a good idea in this case.

The conventional wisdom is that you don't want a candidate to do anything like that because it raises the attack dog to the candidate's level (or lowers the candidate to the attack dog's level). But that way of thinking just makes the work of the attack dogs a lot easier -- they never have to fear attacks, and their own attacks seem all the more audacious for their apparent David-fells-Goliath quality.

It's asymmetric guerrilla war. It's insurgency. Coulter's columns and the Swift boat book are IEDs; Coulter's TV appearances are terrorist propaganda videos. The message is: "You're the great power and we're small and subterranean, but we can hurt you and you can't even retaliate."

Direct face-to-face attacks by candidates (or other high-profile politicians) on Ann Coulter or the Swift boat liars or Rush Limbaugh would be a way of forcing them out of hiding and making them fight a conventional war. If counterattacks came from candidates themselves, they'd be page-one news and network news; the attack dogs wouldn't be able to hide themselves on radio and cable, where they get free publicity and little scrutiny. People who've paid no attention to these sleazebags would learn the ugly things they now say exclusively to fans.

That's a key point: The attack dogs spend their days launching ugly attacks, but they're rarely exposed to criticism -- no one challenges them on the radio or at their public appearances, and on cable they usually get love taps at worst. As a result, I think they have glass jaws -- and Elizabeth Edwards made that clear when she shook Ann Coulter up. A few candidates should follow suit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Rudy, speaking tonight at Pat Robertson's Regent University:

"Don't expect to agree with me on everything because that would be unrealistic. I don't even agree with me on everything," he said.

If video of that speech can be obtained and Democrats don't go out and get it, they're nuts. "I don't even agree with me on everything"? If he's the nominee, that's the perfect capper to an ad about Rudy the flip-flopper. That's his "I voted for the $87 million before I voted against it."

Democrats: Get it. Save it. And if the opportunity arises, use it.

Thanks, Tom, for the link. He didn't direct you to any specific posts, but try this or this or this or this or this. Some of these are old posts and the specifics haven't panned out the way I expected, but I'm sticking with the basic premise: that the Beltway media hates the Democratic Party (especially Hillary) and will work hand in glove with the GOP spin machine to elect a Republican president in '08, primarily by portraying the Democrat (who'll have mainstream ideas) as an extremist freak and the Republican (who'll be very, very far to the right on most issues) as a mainstream guy (and, for good measure, as a swell fellow and a real hunk).

... when a page on Pat Robertson's Web site announces that a Christian rap CD "drops" July 10.


Oh, and elsewhere on the site's music blog (yes, there's a whole music blog), there's this:

BarlowGirl Speaks Out

The wait is almost over as the three-sister band, BarlowGirl, is scheduled to release their highly-anticipated third project on Fervent Records,
How Can We Be Silent, on July 24.

...The album ... sports a song entitled "One More Round," which is one of Rebecca’s favorites.

"It was inspired by a teaching on a Focus on the Family radio broadcast," she recalls. "The guest was an ex-football player and he talked about boxing and how our spiritual life is like being in a boxing ring. It doesn't matter how many times we are knocked down, we need to get right back up and keep following what God has for us."

Wow ... being knocked down and getting back up. What an interesting, original idea for a song lyric. I wonder if anyone's ever thought of it before....

Whoops! Never mind!

You begin to understand why Sally Quinn might imagine that Fred Thompson could replace Dick Cheney when you look back and read what she was saying immediately following the '06 elections.

Just after it was announced that Robert Gates would succeed Donald Rumsfeld, Quinn appeared on CNN's American Morning and said this:

... it just seems as though the president has not wanted to take his father's advice. And this has gotten more and more difficult over the last few years.

... But I think that once Bush, the president, lost the House and the Senate, I think he realized that he couldn't do without his father's help....

I felt the other day watching Bush that he was almost relieved in a way about losing the House and the Senate. I know that sounds weird, but it was as though, OK, now I really have permission. I can take my father's advice.

Yes, she actually said that -- she imagined George W. Bush thinking, Phew! The pressure's off. I don't have to act like a big macho cowboy anymore. I can listen to my Daddy. According to Quinn, W had been a wayward child for six years, but now he actually wanted to do what one of his parents was forcing him to do. (Kids want structure, you know. They want you to set limits.)

Even she has to know how wrong she was then -- but she's still waiting for W to run to Daddy.

And meanwhile, his real political Daddy still has the #2 job.

If you want to know what the media wing of the D.C. Permanent Government is thinking about 2008, ignore David Broder's flirtation with the idea of a third-party presidential run and read Sally Quinn's current Washington Post column -- she's desperate to preserve GOP control of Washington, i.e., to save the Daddy who's been there since the 1980 elections.

Her jumping-off point is this not-quite-believable premise:

The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Even before this week's blockbuster series in The Post, discontent in Republican ranks was rising.

With just Cheney? Oh, please. Yes, the removal of Cheney would help a lot, but this administration is a disaster from tip to toe, and any Republicans who are beginning to get a clue know that.

...Removing a sitting vice president is not easy, but this may be the moment. I remember Barry Goldwater sitting in my parents' living room in 1973, in the last days of Watergate, debating whether to lead a group of senior Republicans to the White House to tell President Nixon he had to go.

...Today, another group of party elders, led by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, could well do the same.

Oh, good grief -- Warner again. Warner's going to turn against the war! Warner's going to boot Dick! Warner wears tights and a cape! He's Superman!

But he's not the hero of Quinn's piece, because he doesn't save the GOP for the future. That role falls to Quinn's proposed replacement for Cheney -- Fred Thompson:

... Everybody loves Fred. He has the healing qualities of Gerald Ford and the movie-star appeal of Ronald Reagan. He is relatively moderate on social issues. He has a reputation as a peacemaker and a compromiser. And he has a good sense of humor.

He could be just the partner to bring out Bush's better nature -- or at least be a sensible voice of reason. I could easily imagine him telling the president, "For God's sake, do not push that button!" -- a command I have a hard time hearing Cheney give.

Oh, that's just swell -- "Everybody loves Fred." Hey, let's skip the '08 election and just let Sally Quinn and her pals pick the next president! After all, they know what "everybody" thinks. Who needs democracy?

And Thompson might urge caution in counseling Bush? Is that the same Fred Thompson who recently implied that Israel might need to nuke Iran?

Ah, but here's my favorite paragraph:

Not only that, Thompson would give the Republicans a platform for running for the presidency -- and the president a way out of Iraq without looking like he's backing down. Bush would be left in better shape on the war and be able to concentrate on AIDS and the environment in hopes of salvaging his legacy.

Er, how does he give Bush "a way out of Iraq without looking like he's backing down"? Just by dint of his manly manliness? Ooooh, Fred Thompson, he's so dreamy! All the girls say so. Now that Bush has Fred as vice president, I won't think he's a wimp if he withdraws from Iraq!

And AIDS and the environment -- yeah, I'm sure that's what Bush really wants to be working on, not this pesky war that he clearly doesn't enjoy at all.

It's been obvious that the Broder-Quinn crowd (the folks who brought you "He came in here and he trashed the place, and it's not his place" during the Clinton years) will embrace whoever the Republicans nominate in '08 -- but now we know that Fred Thompson, if he's the nominee, will be embraced extremely enthusiastically, as "our kind," as a moderate (even though his recent pronouncements have consisted almost exclusively of wingnut talking points), and, well, as a dreamboat. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Back in April, an article in The New York Times speculated on the possibility that the Virginia Tech massacre would dampen the appetite for "torture porn" movies like Hostel II, which was scheduled for release in early June. As I pointed out at the time, the torture porn fad began with Saw -- which was released the same year Abu Ghraib came to light and a number of hostages were brutally killed on video. It didn't seem to me that real-life brutality would dampen the appetite for cinematic brutality -- if anything, the opposite seemed to be true. As it turned out, by the time Hostel II came out, we'd all pretty much forgotten about the Virginia Tech shootings. The movie tanked, but that seems to be because the torture porn market has been saturated since Saw, and the fad is coming to an end.

Well, this week a more old-fashioned horror movie triumphed at the box office:

... 1408 had the weekend's most impressive start. The Stephen King-based hotel horror checked in with a solid $20.6 million at 2,678 sites. It was the highest-grossing debut yet for a King adaptation....

And what's the plot of 1408?

[John] Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a jaded author ... who hears about the blood-curdling events at the Dolphin Hotel, where Room 1408 is always unavailable.... No one has ever lasted one hour in 1408, but Enslin plans on staying all night. The hair starts to rise on the back of your neck the moment he turns the key in the lock. The thermostat sticks on 80 degrees, turning the room into a sauna. Then it drops to below zero, covering everything in ice. The window slams on his hand. The sink spouts boiling water. When he tries to escape, the door is locked and the key breaks in half.... There's only one way to get out of 1408 -- to destroy it.

It was obvious that this was a terrible idea, and that horrible violence would result, but Cusack/Enslin persisted in doing it? Well, no wonder the movie's a hit -- it's like watching Bush pursue his Iraq policy, except the Bush character suffers for his foolishness, rather than ordinary schmucks. Or it's like being stuck in Bush's America and wondering if we can possibly stand it any longer.

If I were an Iranian who didn't like my country's government -- y'know, one of the disgruntled pro-Western types the neocons think might someday overthrow Ahmedinejad and the mullahs? -- and I saw this cartoon from Investor's Business Daily (which is not for the insect-phobic), I wouldn't think, "Gee, isn't that nice -- some Americans truly understand the danger posed by the evil men who run my country." I'd think, "This American thinks my whole country is a sewer, occupied exclusively by cockroaches."

Then again, one big chunk of the cartoon's target market likes that interpretation just fine.

UPDATE: Cartoon link fixed.
David Broder expresses some enthusiasm for a Mike Bloomberg presidential candidacy in today's Washington Post, but I'm sticking with my theory that that's all going to end the minute Bloomberg makes any statement about the Iraq War that Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman would disagree with. I don't care what Broder says, for him this isn't about electing people "who will attack the problems facing the country -- the war in Iraq, immigration, energy, health care -- and not worry about the politics," it's forming a Lieberman Party to replace the icky Democratic Party as America's other major political organization. If Bloomberg's not heading in that direction, Broder's going to drop him like a hot potato.

I'm looking at The Washington Post's series on Cheney (the existence of which suggests that disgruntled colleagues and former colleagues no longer fear his wrath if they leak unpleasant stories about him), and I'm looking at "Bush Aides Consider Iraq Truce at Capitol" in the L.A. Times, and if I didn't know better, I'd be half-ready to believe that we're seeing the beginning of the end of High Bushism -- the administration seems to be lifting its dug-in heels and turning away from naked power grabs and delusional thinking.

Except I don't quite believe that it will be over so quickly. Here's a bit of that L.A. Times story (which you can also read free here):

The Bush administration has begun exploring ways of offering Congress a compromise deal on Iraq policy to avert bruising battles in coming months, U.S. officials said.

With public support of the war dropping, President Bush has authorized an internal policy review to find a plan that could satisfy opponents without sacrificing his top goals, the officials said.

...In recent weeks, some administration officials have begun considering a partial drawdown that could start as early as the first quarter of next year....

The key phrase, surely, is "a plan that could satisfy opponents without sacrificing [Bush's] top goals." I think what they're really looking for is a way to get Congress to sign off on giving Bush everything he wants -- or on a bill that seems to be a compromise while leaving a huge opening for Bush to get everything he wants, like the so-called Bush-McCain "torture ban."

But what if these guys really do want a way out? What if Condi and Cheney really aren't on the same page and Condi's got more influence these days -- and what if (and this would seem to be key) Rove is bailing on the war because he thinks the war threatens his lifelong dream of GOP dominance of America for a generation?

The Times story alludes to the possible electoral effect of all this:

Democrats are feeling growing pressure from their antiwar base for troop withdrawals, and could sacrifice a crucial 2008 campaign issue if they agreed to a deal with the White House.

But is that how it would work? Remember, it's a presidential election year. If Bush actually does start withdrawing, even though it's what the country wants, his party's presidential candidates will start to lose the ability to run as Daddy. And running as Daddy is pretty much all the two front-runners, Thompson and Giuliani, have going for them.

I know this is counterintuitive and self-contradictory -- but I think this is how a lot of voters' minds work. I think they want to get shed of the war, but they'd really rather have Daddy kicking ass. I don't know if Thompson or Giuliani can keep arguing that the GOP is the "stay on the offense" party if troops are coming home. And if this really happens, what would Giuliani, in particular, have left to run on? Opposition to the Clinton economy of the '90s?

So my hunch is that a troop withdrawal could actually help put a Democrat in the White House. Win-win -- wouldn't that be weird?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

So, is Dick Cheney still claiming he's not a member of the executive branch? It appears that various pages on the White House Web site don't back him up.

Like this one:

... Sec. 2. Membership. (a) The Task Force shall be composed of the heads of the following executive branch entities, who may designate representatives from within their respective entities to assist them in their duties in connection with the Task Force: the Office of the Vice President...

Or this one:

... (b) Membership. In addition to the Chair, the members of the Council shall be the heads of the executive branch departments, agencies, and offices listed below, or their designees...

(i) Vice President...

Or this one:

... Sec. 6. Membership. (a) Members of the Board shall be drawn from the executive branch departments, agencies, and offices listed below....

...(xv) Chief of Staff to the Vice President...

Or this one:

...Sec. 5. Duties of the Director of the Center. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and ensuring that the Center effectively performs the functions set forth in section 3 of this order, the Director of the Center shall:

...(c) disseminate transnational terrorism information, including current terrorism threat analysis, to the President, the Vice President in the performance of Executive functions, the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Director of Central Intelligence, and other officials of the executive branch as appropriate...

Or this one:

CEQ Internship Program

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is responsible for advising the President and Vice President on national and international environmental policy matters and ensuring that federal agencies operate efficiently in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

... Applicants must be highly motivated, willing to contribute where needed, and able to handle the pressures that come with working in an Executive Branch office....

(Emphasis added throughout.)

Clearly, of course, everyone else in America is wrong, including the authors of these official White House documents, and Dick Cheney is right.


UPDATE: Julia beat me to this.

I like today's Frank Rich column on the Iraq War, but I'm not sure I agree with this:

As [retired Army General William] General Odom says, the endgame will start "when a senior senator from the president's party says no," much as William Fulbright did to L.B.J. during Vietnam. That's why in Washington this fall, eyes will turn once again to John Warner, the senior Republican with the clout to give political cover to other members of his party who want to leave Iraq before they're forced to evacuate Congress. In September, it will be nearly a year since Mr. Warner said that Iraq was "drifting sideways" and that action would have to be taken "if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function."

...Without him, the Democrats don't have the votes to force the president's hand. With him, it's a slam dunk.

Is it? I seem to recall that it was a "slam dunk" that Alberto Gonzales would have to resign, given how many people in Washington, Republicans as well as Democrats, had turned against him. I seem to recall that it was a "slam dunk" that Bush would follow the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton group.

That's how things used to work, when we had presidents who gave a damn what other people thought.

If Warner flips, Limbaugh and Fox News and the rest of the end-timers will attack him as a senile old coot who used to be married to that wacko child molester's pal Liz Taylor. It's going to get very, very ugly.

And Republicans members of Congress who are waiting for Warner's imprimatur before they'll switch sides are clearly too weak-willed to resist the inevitable intense White House pressure to persuade them not to follow in Warner's footsteps. This is going to be a goal-line stand for the White House -- they can't win the war, but I'm sure they really think they can win the war to keep the war going until Bush is back in Texas. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I'm afraid they're right.

In The Nation this week, Rick Perlstein quotes recent poll data that shows a leftward tilt in the electorate on virtually every major issue, as well as on party identification; Perlstein notes, however, that Democrats haven't been inclined to take advantage of this:

Democrats … rarely ask the public to vote for them as Democrats. The trend was obvious by the 2006 season, for those who cared to see: The same Pew [poll] numbers that now show a 50-35 Democratic/Democratic-leaners advantage over Republicans had the advantage at 47-38 in 2006. Candidates would have earned a premium just slapping the label "Democrat" on their TV ads, but most didn't do it.

...that's just not how the Democratic consultancy class thinks.

Good point -- and I'd add that Democrats also ought to be making an extra effort to identify their opponents as Republicans, and to express open contempt for the Republican Party.

Yeah, yeah, I know -- voters are sick of partisanship. That's what we hear, but I suspect it's like all negative campaigning -- voters say they don't like it, but they respond to it. Certainly they've responded to Democrat-bashing for the past twenty-seven years -- why wouldn't they respond now to bashing of the prolong-the-war-endlessly/ overrule-Terri-Schiavo's-husband/ let-'em-drown-in-New-Orleans party?

The country really dislikes the Republican Party right now, and wants a more Democratic government, yet Republicans still bash Democrats more than Democrats bash Republicans. This makes Democrats look weak and reinforces the notion that Democrat-bashing conforms to objective reality and to the thinking of the public. Democrats have to turn this state of affairs around. I say bash away.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The editorials in Investor's Business Daily are possibly even more right-wing than the ones in The Wall Street Journal. If I'm not mistaken, the point of this IBD editorial is that the U.S. might actually win the war and the press won't tell you about it.

No, really, am I misreading this?

... Arrowhead Ripper [is] the code name for a massive U.S.-led assault under way in Iraq's Diyala province -- an undertaking that has garnered token media coverage since it began Tuesday.

After getting some initial front-page treatment in major U.S. newspapers, the story was pushed back to page 18 in the Washington Post Thursday and Page 10 in The New York Times on Friday. The Los Angeles Times ran a front pager Thursday, then nothing....

What needs to be said is this is one of the war's largest operations to date, and perhaps the most significant. If successful, it could push al-Qaida out of Iraq....

This operation ... stands out because the U.S.-led assault force has explicitly made it a goal to "eliminate" the enemy -- not to let it slip away, then watch as it returns to bring more chaos and terror to Diyala province....

We can be sure ... that if Arrowhead Ripper is less successful than hoped, we'll be treated to an endless number of "Diyala: What Went Wrong?" retrospectives.

... so far, it's working, with dozens of terrorists killed. It bears watching. But sadly, if the successes pile up, it won't be long until the story's pushed even further back in the nation's newspapers.

Isn't that what IBDis saying -- that Arrowhead Ripper might literally "'eliminate' the enemy," and that the press wouldn't cover that?

That's tinfoil hat stuff.

Friday, June 22, 2007


This past week, both Kos and Robin Toner of The New York Times argued that it's too soon to crown any front-runners in the '08 party contests. Both Kos and Toner pointed out that at this time four years ago Howard Dean was far back in the pack (as Kos noted, Joe Lieberman was the front-runner) -- and after Dean took the lead, John Kerry didn't pass him until the very last minute. Moral: These things are volatile.

Well,that's true -- but I think it's going to take a bit more to shake up the Democratic race this year than it did four years ago, for several reasons.

First, obviously, is the fact that serious campaigning has begun a lot earlier this time around. Average voters, not just political junkies, are paying attention earlier. June '07 isn't like June '03.

But there are two more reasons. One is that '03-'04 was a volatile time, at least for Democrats -- we just became more and more upset about the war. That explains why Lieberman lost the lead and Dean gained it. This time around, everything the Bush White House touches sucks right now, and everything it touches will suck almost exactly as much six and seven and eight months from now, i.e., as much as humanly possible. What we'll be looking for then is exactly what we're looking for now -- someone to get us the hell out of this nightmare. We can't get much angrier than we are now.

And as for Kerry's ability to pass Dean in the stretch, remember that Dean was a risky choice. A lot of people, including me, liked what he was saying, but were thinking, "Him? Are we really sure he could beat Bush?" He'd never, as the cliche goes, closed the sale -- if only because a lot of us thought our candidate needed to be somewhat more rooted in the mainstream to actually win.

It's not the same this year. I'm afraid Hillary really has closed the sale with a lot of people -- mostly people (a lot of them women) who think she's a mainstream choice with solid Democratic values. She doesn't seem like a long shot to them. In the Times article, Joe Biden is quoted as saying, "nobody has made up their minds in the Democratic primary," but I know people who absolutely have -- and they think it's time for Hillary.

Does that mean she's unbeatable? No -- but it means that '03 and '04 aren't the model. Something really big has to be a game-changer.

...barring unforeseen circumstances.

When the people who make ketchup named after you won't even support your top legislative priority, I think you've lost pretty much everybody.

Of course, you can't blame the folks at W Ketchup for denouncing the immigration bill -- just about everybody in their potential market is a member of the seal-the-borders crowd, so sales must be in the toilet right now. (Though it beats me why anyone ever bought the stuff after the '04 election was over. Or ever, for that matter.)

(And yeah, I know -- the company claims that the "W" stands for Washington. Right -- pay no attention to all the Teresa Heinz Kerry references on the promo material.)

Peggy Noonan today:

Mrs. Clinton seems to have been studying 1988, which was the last time anyone won the presidency in a landslide.

1988 popular vote percentages (major-party candidates):

George Bush: 53.37%
Michael Dukakis: 45.65%

Difference: 7.72%

1996 popular vote percentages (major-party candidates):

Bill Clinton: 49.23%
Bob Dole: 40.72%

Difference: 8.51%

Bush won 79.18% of the electoral vote in '88 -- but Clinton won 70.45% in '96.

I guess Noonan's "landslide" threshold is "whatever excludes those icky Clintons."

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Pass the popcorn:

Former Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency Christine Todd Whitman said Thursday that the Giuliani administration appeared to be more concerned with its image than the safety and speedy response of EPA employees in the wake of the 2001 anthrax scare....

Her criticism of the Giuliani administration centered on the EPA's inspection of 30 Rockefeller Center after a letter containing anthrax arrived at the NBC building nearly six years ago.

While Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then-New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik were taking command of the scene, Whitman said the city would not allow the EPA inspectors to be seen entering 30 Rock in their hazmat suits. Instead, the city wanted a tent to be set up where they first could change into the gear hidden from public view.

"There was concern by the city that EPA workers not be seen in their hazmat suits going in because [the city was] still recovering from 9/11. They didn't want this image of a city falling apart. I said, 'Well, that's not acceptable, and this is the way we're going to have to do it.'" ...

If that's true, then Giuliani thinks image is paramount, because of the deep emotional reactions uniforms are supposed to trigger in the primitive parts of people's brains. It's Bush-like flightsuit propaganda in reverse.

I actually walked by Rockefeller Center that evening around 7:30 and was shocked at the utter lack of any sign that something potential hazardous had been discovered there. I guess we're lucky no one there was hurt.

(And yeah, I know -- Christie Whitman has her own credibility problems.)

Why is this story taking up twenty column inches in the A section of my New York Times today?

Letters Show Deep Value Giuliani Puts on Loyalty

"Loyalty" is a word that has long defined Rudolph W. Giuliani's leadership style. But rarely has there been as documented an outpouring of that support as the 92 letters Mr. Giuliani wrote for Dennis E. Szybala during four months in 1981.

The letters of recommendation fill a folder in the National Archives, where 62 boxes of Mr. Giuliani's files from his days in the Justice Department were released last month.

Mr. Giuliani was associate attorney general in 1981, the third-highest-ranking position in the department, and Mr. Szybala was the husband of his special assistant at the time, Renee L. Szybala.

Mr. Giuliani had hired Ms. Szybala from his former New York law firm and then wrote dozens of letters to help her husband, also a lawyer, find a job in the Washington area.

The letters, all written on Mr. Giuliani’s Justice Department stationery, went to 76 law firms and 15 federal offices, one of which received two letters. Twenty letters went out on a single day of September....

We need twenty-two paragraphs about the fact that Rudy Giuliani wrote a bunch of recommendation letters for a guy? Nearly thirty years ago? This is real news?

Maybe a writer and editor at the Times thought this was just a nifty story that needed to be written up in depth. Or maybe this was spoon-fed to the Times.

If it was the latter, why? Just general image-burnishing of the candidate? Or is something about to happen that gives Rudy a reason to want to show, well in advance, that he's just a loyal guy?

Is Bernard Kerik going to be indicted soon? (The Washington Post told us a few months ago that an indictment was likely.) Or is there legal trouble on the horizon, for Monsignor Alan Placa, the disgraced priest who's Rudy's pal and employee, even though he's been accused of sexual abuse and of aiding other abusive priests? (Earlier this month, the pastor of a Long Island parish was placed on leave after being accused of molestation in the mid-1990s; Placa oversaw the diocese's response to abuse at the time the incident allegedly took place.)

I don't know, but whatever's going on (if anything is), this is a story that belongs in the campaign video they'll play at the convention if Rudy gets the nomination. It doesn't belong in a full column of New York Times A-section newsprint.

Hang on to your hats -- Fred Thompson just got the all-important Ted Nugent endorsement:

...I am not an endorser of Rudy Giuliani. On a number of issues, primarily the gun control issue, he has really turned his back on the Second Amendment over the years. I really like Mike Hukabee and Tommy Thompson. I admire Mitt Romney. I admire John McCain. But to whittle it down right now I really have the Nugent spotlight, and I've been scrutinizing Mr. Fred Thompson. I think he glows a little bit more than those other great gentlemen.

Y'know, Ross Perot said a lot of kooky things, but one thing he said that was unquestionably admirable was "If you hate people, I don't want your vote." As I've pointed out many times, Ted Nugent hates people -- Asian people, Muslim people, and lots and lots of others. In a rational world, the political press would point this out. Ah, but Ted's "colorful," and right-wing, so it's OK.


*(Er, the post title is meant to be a joke.)

Peter King, a GOP congressman from New York, says Bloomberg won't run for president if Giuliani gets the Republican nomination.

Michael Goodwin, a veteran reporter with the New York Daily News, says Bloomberg is likely to run precisely because he doesn't like Giuliani.

Hey, this is why we blog: We figure the experts and insiders know more than we do, then we realize they frequently don't know what the hell they're talking about.


Oh, and while Bloomie may run because he doesn't like Giuliani, Nader wants to be sure we know (as if it hasn't been obvious for a long time) that he really doesn't like Hillary. Hey, good thing nothing really terrible is going on these days, otherwise it might be, y'know, bad for the country to have so many guys running for president out of a sense of personal pique, right?

Regular readers know how gloomy I am about the Democrats' chances of winning the presidency in '08, but I have to admit that this challenges my assumptions:

SurveyUSA pits New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg against the top three Republicans (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) and top two Democrats (Clinton, Obama) in 16 key states and makes these observations:

* Bloomberg is not yet running, and has not yet spent any of his fortune, but at this hour, a Bloomberg 3rd-Party candidacy hurts Republicans.

* Bloomberg siphons enough Republican votes to flip red states Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and New Mexico blue.

* There are two instances in which a Bloomberg 3rd-Party run flips a blue state to red, compared to 27 instances where a red state flips to blue....

The SurveyUSA results are here (PDF).

Look, in a political environment in which information about candidates was presented more or less impartially, Mike Bloomberg really might pull more votes from the GOP than from the Democrats, or pull from both parties equally. But we don't have that kind of political environment. We have an environment dominated -- still -- by the GOP's message machine.

Republicans continue to be much, much better than anyone else at framing issues and candidates, and doing it early. (Democrats don't know how to do it back, and I don't think Bloomberg does, either.) And, of course, the Stockholm-syndrome Beltway press still loves the GOP and happily transmits its messages, in order to avoid being called "liberal" (which doesn't work) and in order to get those all-important Drudge hits.

I'm predicting that, if he runs, the GOP will very quickly start painting Bloomberg as a dirty hippie liberal Democrat disguised as an independent -- and that the press will play along. I suppose I could I be wrong about that. And, gosh, it would be nice if some of what I've said, and what other lefties have said, about the tendency of the press to play stenographer to the GOP would have an effect, but so far it doesn't seem to be working that way.

At the end of thisa post I listed a few items that the GOP will use to paint Bloomberg as a nanny state" liberal; a sidebar to this New York Times story lists a couple more Bloomberg positions for which he'll be called a liberal ("Reproductive choice is a fundamental human right"; "A strong America needs a constant source of new immigrants").

I'm picking and choosing from his statements, of course. But that's what the GOP will do. And I think the press will play along. You may disagree.

Carl Bernstein's book on Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, drops from #7 to #13 on the new New York Times bestseller list. Meanwhile, Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta's Hillary book, Her Way, stumbles onto the list ... at #32.

The books are flops. Nobody cares.

Alas, The Reagan Diaries is still #1. The Diana Chronicles is #2, bumping Al Gore's The Assault on Reason to #3.

Oh, and coming onto the list at #5 is the new book by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, which seems to be a real mishmash -- Outrage: How Illegal Immigration, the United Nations, Congressional Ripoffs, Student Loan Overcharges, Tobacco Companies, Trade Protection, and Drug Companies Are Ripping Us Off ... and What to Do About It. Tobacco companies? Drug companies? Does he hate capitalism? Does he hate freedom? I guess as long as he attacks the UN and (not squeezed into the subtitle, but apparently in the book) teachers' unions, he can say whatever the hell he wants about big business.


(This list has gone out via e-mail. It will appear on the Times Web site over the weekend.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


... our conscience calls us to pursue the possibilities of science in a manner that respects human dignity and upholds our moral values.

I appreciate the fact that we're joined by a lot of folks who share the deep desire to advance science, and at the same time, uphold our moral values....

Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical....

--"President Bush Discusses Stem Cell Veto and Executive Order," June 20, 2007

A majority of couples with stored embryos from fertility treatments say they would be willing to donate unused embryos for stem cell research, says a doctor who surveyed patients.

... Dr. Anne Drapkin Lyerly of Duke University ... and Ruth R. Faden of Johns Hopkins University decided to ask the opinions of couples who had undergone fertility treatments and who had frozen embryos in storage at treatment centers.

...Of 1,020 people who responded by saying they still had embryos in storage, 49 percent said they were likely to donate some or all of them for research. When asked specifically about stem cell research, the portion willing to donate embryos rose to 62 percent....

--AP, June 20, 2007

Here's a really interesting detail of that survey:

[Lyerly] added that research was preferred over donating the embryos to other infertile couples, "which brings into question the idea that the more you care about an embryo, the more you want it to become a child."

So, for the majority of these couples, fertility treatments aren't about LIFE!!! -- they're about reproducing their own genes. People want babies with their own genetic material, and they want them for themselves. Beyond that, they'd rather donate the embryos to science than have other people raising kids made of their genes.
Catholic news:

Sources tell TIME that the Vatican has reversed the annulment of Joseph P. Kennedy II's marriage to Sheila Rauch....

The annulment was the subject of Rauch's 1997 book
Shattered Faith, which lambasted her ex-husband and was severely critical of the Catholic Church's proceedings, which made the marriage (which had produced twin boys) null and void in the eyes of the church. Rauch argued that Kennedy was able to unilaterally "cancel" nearly 12 years of marriage because of his clan's influence in the church....

Oh, if only certain other politicians' annulments could be embarrassingly reversed:

In 1982, after almost 14 years of childless marriage, then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani obtained a legal separation from Regina Peruggi. Giuliani was already living in Washington D.C., sharing living quarters with Donna Hanover....

At the time, Giuliani was just preparing to enter the political arena and believed that the Catholic vote would be essential to his future success. His divorce, as well as that of Hanover, might prove to be political stumbling blocks in the future... he turned to his old friend, Monsignor Alan Placa....

Although the Catholic Church forbids divorce, it has long granted annulments of marriages ruled contrary to canon law; an annulled marriage is understood by the Church never to have existed in the first place. Placa interceded on behalf of Giuliani, and his 14- year marriage to Regina Peruggi was declared null and void by the bishop on the grounds that Giuliani and Peruggi were had not obtained a special dispensation for their second-cousin marriage in 1968. The process was highly irregular....

And you may recognize the name Alan Placa:

It had been a few years since Richard Tollner last publicly accused his former teacher Msgr. Alan Placa of groping him in high school, but Tollner recently repeated the charges -- raising an awkward issue for Rudolph Giuliani's run for president.

...After the accusations first surfaced in 2002, the Diocese of Rockville Centre placed Placa on administrative leave, barring him from priestly duties and from wearing the collar. Placa, who insists he is innocent, has not been charged with a crime.

Yet despite the controversy, Giuliani gave his old friend Placa a job at Giuliani Partners, and Michael Hess, a partner at the firm and the ex-mayor's corporation counsel, handled Placa's legal matters....

Wonder when the elite press will decide the Giuliani-Placa relationship is worth covering....

Well, if you want to see how the Republicans do it, check out "I've Got a Crush on Fred Thompson's Politics."

OK, I won't say a word. What do you think?

(I'm holding my tongue for reasons that will be clear to anyone who's read the comments to the previous post.)

Yes, we're all having a good laugh at phony-centrist righty blogger Ann Althouse's absurd Freudian reading of the "onion rings" line in the new Sopranos-themed Hillary Clinton campaign video, but I have to say I think the video is kind of awful -- Hillary's not much of an actress, the pacing is awkward, and it all just reminds you that while life got scarier all over the world, an utterly absurd vote on her campaign song went on for days.

...and resulted in the selection of a Celine Dion song. The Boomer candidate doesn't get that it's not the '60s anymore: popular music no longer creates common ground -- in fact, it often does just the opposite. Dion sells out Vegas, but she's hated -- hated -- by a segment of the population that's probably as large as her fan base. A lot of men, in particular, hate Dion -- and Hillary's having trouble winning men over, no? Polarization along such lines is just in the nature of popular music today. Why pick a song if it might be a big turnoff to some voters?

In fact, why pick a song at all? We're electing a president in 2008, not an alderman in 1956. Play music at campaign stops if you want, but this just seems old-fashioned and small-time, while the world burns.


In general, I don't know why people on our side have done such awful work -- at least this year -- in the video medium. Beyond this, there are the jaw-dropping near-Warholian Mike Gravel ads -- and if you think "Rock" was preposterous, you haven't seen the endless "Fire" yet. For the video-challenged, here's a summary:

In one, Gravel simply stares at the camera for a full minute and 12 seconds, then turns and walks a few steps before picking up a rock and throwing it into a lake. He then just walks away. In the second, Gravel is briefly seen gathering sticks and branches in the woods. He carries them to a fire and then viewers get a full seven minutes of watching the campfire.


When the video work of people on our side isn't inept or bafflingly art-damaged, it's harmful to Democrats' chances in '08. Remember "proud Democrat" Phil de Vellis giving us GOP talking points in the "Vote Different" (aka "Hillary 1984") ad? And "I Got a Crush on Obama" -- made by people who say they "like him" and "think he's really attractive and honest" -- was essentially a three-minute version of the "bimbo" attack on Harold Ford.

Why are we shooting ourselves in the foot this way? Why need videos that are made with skill and are able to appeal to a wide range of voters and are good for Democrats and bad for Republicans. It that too much to ask?


Oh, by the way, this is from Lucianne Goldberg today:

Not exactly calling Hillary a Nazi, but damn close, wouldn't you say?

One thing that occurred to me after I wrote the Joe Lieberman update to my last post is that sooner or later Joe is going to have to stop being an overt cheerleader for the war -- because all Republicans (including phony-Democrat Republicans) will have to make that shift, in anticipation of the next election cycle, when the war will be at least as unpopular as it is now. The GOP's '08 presidential candidates are already halfway there -- Giuliani left Iraq off his "twelve commitments" list, for instance.

So sometime before he endorses the GOP candidate, and sometime before he speaks in prime time at the Republican convention, expect Joe to start talking more in generalities about the importance of "going on offense against terrorists" and less about the necessity of the war; expect him to say that Democrats don't understand the threat, but not to talk about their opposition to an unpopular conflict. He'll be saying exactly the same thing, just in code -- don't worry, the base will get that. Even though Iraq will be the reason he's at the GOP convention, the word "Iraq" probably won't be in his speech once.

Although the word "Iran" might be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Breaking news here:

Reporter Rich Lamb just getting word that Mayor Bloomberg has filed papers to change his voter status to unaffiliated. Bloomberg is currently in California where he is talking with Governor Schwarzenegger and making an appearance at Google. Stay with us for the latest on this development.

There's no reason for him to do that unless he's running for president. So he's running.

He's pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and (very much) pro-gun control, yet he lacks the shiny jackboots with which Giuliani has dazzled the GOP base, so I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I predict that he'll pull a far greater percentage of votes from the Democrats than from the Republicans, though opinions vary. Ah, but maybe if there's an all-New York race (Rudy/Hillary/Bloomie), the GOP-base crazies really will stay home. Or maybe secede.


ALSO: Bloomberg is in for a rude surprise next year -- he not only endorsed Joe Lieberman but sent his own supporters to Connecticut to help Joe out, leading to press speculation that Bloomberg was looking for Lieberman's backing in an '08 race.

Well, guess what? He's not going to get it. Silly Bloomie -- Joe is going to issue his endorsement based on who can do the most damage to the Democratic Party, and that ain't gonna be Bloomberg. Besides, the GOP will almost certainly offer Joe the Zell Miller slot in prime time at the '08 convention, and Joe's not going to pass up that chance to stab his former party in the back.


UPDATE: Er, Bloomberg-Schwarzenegger* '08? Well, maybe the Constitution doesn't specifically say that the vice president has to be a natural-born citizen, like the president -- but do we really want a running mate who, constitutionally, can't possibly be president? Well, both Bushes have given us vice presidents that most of America couldn't bear the thought of as president, so I guess this is a short step....

*Yeah, I originally had "Giuliani-Schwarzenegger" here. Posting first thing in the morning -- not a good idea.


UPDATE: MyDD has a chart of poll results from 15 states showing that Bloomberg's impact on those states seems to be mixed, and, if anything, aids a Democrat slightly. Yeah, but that's now -- that's before the GOP paints Bloomberg not as a CEO but as a "nanny state" type (see, e.g., his restaurant trans fat ban, his ban on smoking in restaurants, and the plan to charge drivers $8 for driving in Midtown Manhattan, as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions). Watch his numbers plummet among suburban dads who buy bestselling books written by CEOs.

Bernard Kerik is heartbroken, though I'm not sure why:

Disgraced ex-NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik can't stop crying over his fizzled friendship with former BFF Rudy Giuliani.

"I accept the distance created by Giuliani. I understand it, but inside, it's killing me," Kerik said.

"It's like dying a slow death, watching him have to answer for my mistakes," the former top cop said of the ex-New York mayor-turned-presidential-candidate....

Hunh? Rudy has to answer For Kerik's mistakes? Do you see anyone asking him to do that right now? For the most part, it looks as if everyone's decided to look the other way -- about this and everything else in his past. Yeah, I know Fred Thompson is coming on like gangbusters, but even in that new Rasmussen poll they're basically neck and neck, and Gallup still has Giuliani way out in front. If Giuliani had had the sense (and the shamelessness) to do complete 180's on abortion, gay rights and gun control, he'd be writing his nomination acceptance speech right now and Fred would still be on Law and Order.

More from Bernie:

"There are times I'm so f- - -ing depressed, I don't want to work. I don't want to get out of bed. You go to sleep, you wake up in a f- - -ing sweat."

Kerik copped last year to accepting $165,000 in free renovations on his Riverdale, Bronx, apartment by a mobbed-up contractor....

Of his guilty pleas involving the contractor, Kerik said, "I just f- - -ing wanted [the case] to be over.

"I didn't take the pleas because I really thought I hadn't done anything wrong," Kerik said. "It was just, pay the f- - -in' fine, give 'em their pound of flesh, whatever the f- - - they want. There's a point where you just lose the ability to fight."

I do like the way he retains his dignity, don't you?


But there's one curious thing: Kerik, the seemingly less worldly one, says he's now working for the Jordanian government (on "an underground, seismic-shock proof, oxygen-stowing compound that could withstand a nuclear attack"). He also says that a year or so ago he was "asked by Syria to act as a go-between in seeking a peace-talk powwow with President Bush." We know he recently tried to line up jobs in Guyana and Trinidad. And we know he was (briefly) in Iraq. And he worked in Saudi Arabia years ago.

You know who's still never been to Iraq? His seemingly more worldly-wise pal Rudy. That's one of the things we learn in Newsday's article about Rudy's failure to show up for meetings of the 9/11 Commission (of which he was originally a member) because he was too busy making speeches for big bucks.

By quitting the panel, Giuliani also passed up a chance to fill another big gap in his commander-in-chief credentials -- Giuliani said recently he's never been to Iraq, unlike his top declared GOP rivals and several in the Democratic field. Baker and Democratic co-chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, led a four-day Iraq trip last summer.

Giuliani has faced questions of why he hasn't been to Iraq despite being an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq war. He has said a planned trip was scuttled for reasons he didn't specify but that he hopes to go by year's end.

Pentagon officials said they are not aware of a request by Giuliani to travel to Iraq and that it could be somewhat difficult to achieve at this late date.

But Rudy had to keep his priorities straight:

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

Wants to be leader of the free world, but doesn't want to travel because it interferes with his lifestyle. Remind you of anyone?


UPDATE: Josh Marshall says this after learning that Giuliani played hooking hooky from 9/11 Commission meetings:

That's the kind of story that ends a campaign, especially one like Rudy's based on standing up to terrorism and hanging tough in Iraq.

Oh, please -- that's really naive. Giuliani's fans don't care what he does -- they care how he acts. It doesn't matter if he knows how to deal with America's enemies -- all that matters is that he makes voters feel that he knows how to deal with those enemies. It's all about packaging and myth-making -- cf. Bush in a flight suit.

...once somebody says, "Bush is Hitler," that isn't the beginning of a conversation, that ends the conversation. (There's a) chapter in the book, which is kind of funny, (where) Alec Baldwin is... (compared by his wife) to Saddam Hussein. And Alec Baldwin said, “I'm not Saddam Hussein, I don't kill people, I don't do what Saddam Hussein does", and I make the point in the book that Alec Baldwin is right. He has every right to say, "I'm not Saddam Hussein." Then I said, "Alec, now go out and show that same outrage with your Hollywood friends who call George Bush Adolph Hitler."

--Bernard Goldberg, author of Bias, discussing his new book Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right at Right Wing News today

In fact, instead of seeming like a modern Hitler, ... Mr. Ahmadinejad came across as, well, a fairly typical, run-of-the-mill liberal. I listened carefully as he laid out his position on the war in Lebanon and on the Bush policy in Iraq, and I could not detect any significant difference between his views and those held by a lot of blue-state liberals, especially the liberal intellectuals on our college campuses. "Killing innocents is reprehensible," he told Mike Wallace. "Why are Americans killing Iraqis?" he asked. Hey, I just heard the same thing on Air America.

--Bernard Goldberg discussing a 60 Minutes interview of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2006

At first, there's nothing unusual (or particularly original) in Fred Thompson's latest bit of radio commentary -- he lashes out at Harry Reid for criticizing General Peter Pace using nothing more than GOP boilerplate ("First, Harry Reid voted for the war, like a majority of our legislators. America decided as a nation to free Iraq and the region from Saddam Hussein's tyranny...").

But soon Thompson's radio piece turns ugly:

Harry Reid, though, has taken a different route. He made his statement about General Pace on a conference call with fringe elements of the blogosphere who think we're the bad guys. This is a place where even those who think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job find a home.

And why shouldn't they think that? Reid has led the attack on the administration, with Nancy Pelosi, charging it lied and tricked America into supporting the war. Ignoring multiple hearings and investigations into pre-war intelligence findings that have debunked this paranoid myth, they accuse an entire administration of conspiracy to trick us into a war.

That's right -- according to Thompson, crazies believe 9/11 was an inside job because of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

(Oh, and of course Reid and Pelosi's criticism of lies leading up to the Iraq War is responsible for the belief that there are lies about the origin of 9/11 -- because 9/11 and the Iraq War are really the same thing, right?)

If Thompson's the nominee, we'll hear endlessly what a genial, easygoing guy he as (in contrast to that shrill ideologue bitch Hillary). We won't hear about little items like this.


UPDATE: Steve Benen has more at the Carpetbagger Report. (Yes, Steve, why is ABC still paying this guy to do commentary? He may not be an announced candidate, but he's a candidate by any reasonable person's definition of the term.)

Monday, June 18, 2007


I think the Republicans will win the election because the Democrats are now so positioned left and I think it will be very hard for them to overcome that.

--Sean Hannity, June 11

I said last week that this was becoming a meme and I repeated it last night, and now ABC News makes it official:

Democratic Candidates Moving Left

As the Democratic presidential candidates gather in Washington to make their pitch to party activists this week, "liberal" is suddenly no longer a dirty word.

In recent months, virtually the entire Democratic field has tacked left -- not just on the Iraq War, but on health care, taxes, energy issues and gay rights....

Appeal to Liberal Base Could Cost Them Independent Votes

...some observers say that the candidates' zeal to appeal to the party's liberal base could cost them in the general election with the independent-minded voters they'll need to win.

That is a particular concern for Democrats if Republicans nominate a candidate who could claim the vast middle of the electorate -- a social moderate such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, or a candidate with a long history of reaching out to independents such as Arizona Sen. John McCain....

Oh, good grief. I hate these people.

Let's review:

Mitt Romney has moved to the right on abortion, stem cells, gay rights, immigration, and campaign finance reform.

Rudy Giuliani has moved to the right on abortion, the flat tax, and gun control.

Fred Thompson has moved to the right on abortion.

John McCain has moved to the right on (partial list) gay marriage, overturning Roe v. Wade, the Bush tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and the religious right.

And that's just off the top of my head.

And every single one of the major GOP candidates is far to the right of the American people (but not the crazy-base crowd in the GOP) on the war.

But as usual, according to your "liberal media," it's Democrats who have gone too far to one side, and Democrats who are pandering to the base.

And as usual, wherever Republicans are is declared to be the center.

Bookmark this story. This story carries the DNA of everything the press corps will do between now and November '08. That's why I guarantee the next president will be a Republican.