Friday, November 30, 2007


MoJoBlog quotes some of the snickering idiots ("Oh this should be good.............") posting at Free Republic in response to the hostage crisis at Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire.

If you have the stomach for more, here are threads at ("Smells fishy to me. I bet the beast will swoop in breathing fire and take control of the situation, thus proving to the sheeple that it is fearless in a crisis"), Another one at Free Republic ("One of the Code Pink marines or one of the gay generals? Plant gone bad?"), ("With so many plants being exposed in her camp, one can not help but wonder if this is just another"), and Liberty Post ("Unfortunately this guy will never get close to hillary"; "Yep. When I saw this, I was thinking of the line from the movie 'Speed.' 'SHOOT THE HOSTAGE.'").

There are multiple threads at FR and Lucianne, so this is a bottomless well of sewage -- but I guarantee that none of this will be quoted in the mainstream media, and the next time the MSM goes fishing for unsavory online comments, it'll be because one lefty said something nasty in a comment thread.


UPDATE: The hostage-taker has been identified as a local resident named Troy Stanley -- and now the appalling Michelle Malkin is using this fact to try to score points against her left-wing critics:

Update 4:51pm Eastern. The Huffington Post attempts to contact Troy Stanley by phone. Wait a minute! Isn’t that "stalking"!

...Question to MSM: If we -- or you --start Googling "Troy Stanley," does that qualify as "stalking," too?

The HuffPo phones a man who (if the ID is correct) is holding hostages with, reportedly, a bomb strapped to his body; Malkin, by contrast, staked out the house of a 12-year-old car accident victim who was once in a coma to see if he was really worthy of S-CHIP. In Malkin's world, wanting to gather information about a possible psycho killer as he's holding hostages is morally equivalent to wanting to gather information about a grievously wounded 12-year-old who dares to challenge The Emperor.


UPDATE: Standoff over; suspect arrested.


UPDATE: And, well, his name is not Troy Stanley. Stupid me for taking Arianna's side.

Peggy Noonan today:

In the first 60 seconds of her Couric interview [Hillary Clinton] used some variation on the word "attack" five times. If Mitt Romney talked like this, they'd be asking who put the Red Bull in his milkshake.


Watch Hillary and listen to Mitt. You tell me which one sounds excessively amped up.

Atrios this morning on Giuliani:

Even at the time Rudy's [extramarital] activities were downplayed everywhere but the New York press, with suggestions that his affair wasn't really an affair because his battle with prostate cancer made consummating the relationship impossible....

Is that true? I was getting the news here in New York, and we were reading stories like this:

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani had radioactive seeds implanted in his prostate gland early yesterday at Mount Sinai Medical Center....

Many doctors say that radiation seeds may affect sexual function less, but their long-term cure rates are not as well known.

''It's a very complex issue, and the mayor really took his time, and did a lot of research and probably knows more than we do at this point about prostate cancer,'' Dr. Stock said yesterday. ''My feeling is that radiation tends to offer some improvement in potency preservation.''

Mr. Giuliani extensively thanked his City Hall staff by name for their support. He also turned to look at Ms. Nathan, who was standing nearby. ''I want to thank Judith for being here,'' Mr. Giuliani said. ''Thank you.''...

Here in New York, we were certainly led to believe that the reason for Giuliani's choice of this specific treatment was the woman who was always in a tight two-shot with him on the news.

Rudy's attitude, by the way, was somewhat more enlightened than that of his father, as we were learning at roughly the same time from Wayne Barrett:

After more than a year living in Bayside, Harold suffered such severe pain from his prostate cancer that he had trouble walking. He quit Gotham Maintenance. His routine checkups at North Shore hospital became more frequent. Lina remembered Harold telling her about his doctor's warnings. "The doctor, he tell him, 'You have to be operated on,' " she recalled. But when it came to surgery, the proud man was obstinate. "Nobody is going to touch my balls!" Harold declared to Lina one afternoon in the garden.

For the second day in a row:

In fact I don't see anything about this story on the very busy main page of the Post Web site (Cf. the News and Newsday sites, where the Rudy story leads.)


I seem to have misjudged the impact of this story. I thought it wouldn't mean much to voters because they're blase about Giuliani's personal life (more so than a lot of us self-styled sophisticates are) and because they're numb to all but the worst political corruption. I still think that's true -- but I wasn't counting on how delicious the story would seem to the national and local press (which, in New York, are hard to separate). Also, new details continue to emerge.

Locally, Giuliani angered a lot of reporters as mayor -- he withheld information in a way that Bush and Cheney would admire and he openly expressed contempt for the press. What this means is that he's not the kind of guy who's going to be allowed to slide the way George W. Bush was in 2000 -- he's not a backslapping, nickname-dispensing guy-you'd-wanna-have-a-beer-with.

So they've got a juicy story and they don't like him enough not to run with it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

CORNER-CUTTING (Parts 1 and 2)

This is almost funny, but it's just dumb that the problem ever arose in the first place:

The Army is retrofitting 1 million uniforms to bolster pants that have been tearing during the rigors of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soldiers in Iraq began reporting "crotch durability problems" with their combat uniforms in July 2005, according to the Army. Jumping into Humvees, hopping from helicopters and scrambling after insurgents have popped inseams on the baggy pants.

Rougher terrain in Afghanistan prompted complaints this past August from soldiers who said their uniforms gave out quickly....

Single-stitching has caused most of the blown-out inseams, said Erin Thomas, an Army spokeswoman. The new trousers are more durable, she said....

Single-stitching? Why?

Lurch at Main and Central says that's not the way it used to be, for good reasons:

There has to be nothing worse than crawling around the rocks of Afghanistan with a ripped crotch in your ACUs. I speak from experience when I tell you that that 1/100th of an inch of fabric covering GI Joe may not be bullet-proof but when it's torn you no longer think of that one bullet with your name on it. You become convinced every bullet is engraved with the name of your best friend and his two sidekicks....

I no longer have my jungle fatigues of course, but I think the seams were double-stitched. I don't claim to having a perfect memory because, you know, white hair and all that, so I wonder whatever possessed procurement managers to not put that little item into the specifications?...

Er, yeah. The need for durability never crossed anyone's mind?


And this is just awful:

The National Labor Committee (NLC) has released a shocking report showing that Christian crosses marketed in the United States by the Association for Christian Retail (ACR, founded as the Christian Booksellers Association) are being made in a Chinese sweatshop with working conditions that are appalling even by Chinese legal standards....

The ACR supplies nearly all of the nation's Christian specialty stores.... ACR did $4.63 billion in business in 2006, at least a portion of it apparently profiting from the suffering of workers at the Junxingye factory in Dongguan, China. The facts in this report are stunning even by Chinese standards:

Crucifixes are being made at the Junxingye Factory in Dongguan, China, by mostly young women-- several just 15 and 16 years old--forced to work routine 14 to 15 ½-hour shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:30 p.m., seven days a week. There are also frequent 17 to 18 hour shifts ending at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and even monthly all-night 22 1/2 to 25-hour shifts before shipments must leave for the U.S. All overtime is mandatory, and anyone missing even a single overtime shift will be docked a full day's wages. It is common for the workers to be at the factory at least 100 hours a week.... Workers fear that they may be handling toxic chemicals, but they are not told the names of the chemicals and paints, let alone their potential health hazards.

Pat Robertson's CBN news outfit is coming to the defense of Singer, the U.S. company that had these crosses manufactured -- but the CBN story links two Singer statements, one an angry denial of wrongdoing ("We would never knowingly allow any of our products to be made in a sweatshop") and the next, well, a bit less angry and somewhat more abashed ("We have started a dialog with the owner of the factory.... since the charge has been made labeling this factory a sweatshop we will dramatically increase our monitoring efforts").

The NLC report is here (PDF).

The new New York Times bestseller list has been e-mailed out, and the #1 nonfiction hardcover book in America is by ... Glenn Beck.

It's An Inconvenient Book: Real Solutions to the World's Biggest Problems The book is also #1 at Amazon as I type this, and the #2 nonfiction hardcover (#6 overall) at USA Today.

No, it's not published by Regnery. (It's actually published by Simon & Schuster's Threshold imprint, which is run by Mary Matalin.)

A footnote at the bottom of the Times lisdt every week says, "A dagger (†) indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders." Beck's book has no dagger.

I dunno, folks -- I think the righties are just hungry to run everything again, even though they haven't stopped running everything.


(The new Times list will appear on the paper's Web site this weekend.)

This morning, Republicans are squealing in unison like stuck pigs (actually, when are they not?) because the retired brigadier general who asked a question at last night's debate about allowing gays to serve openly in the military has been identified as a Hillary Clinton supporter, and because it turns out that a couple of other questioners support Democratic candidates.

Excuse me, did I miss something? Wasn't this a debate among people who want to be president of the United States -- not president of the Republican Party? If one of these men actually does become president, will he not be president of Democrats who live in this country, too? Aren't Democrats still legally defined as American citizens?

Really, what is the problem? Regardless of who asked them, was there something wrong with the questions? Did they have Democratic cooties on them -- cooties that could cause a horrible reaction that wouldn't have taken place if the same questions had been asked (as they could have been asked) by Republicans or independents? Weren't the questions (and the candidates' answers) the whole point of the exercise?

At National Review Online, Jim Geraghty asks,

So, Can Republicans Ask Questions at the Next Democratic Debate?

Why the hell not?

In fact, it might be interesting if all the questions at the next Democratic debate came from Republicans -- and vice versa. It might be even more interesting if all the candidates debated together, or if we had one big non-partisan primary, or series of primaries, to pick the top two vote-getters for the general election. I actually think, in that case, the Democrats would be saying pretty much what they're saying now -- but maybe the Republicans wouldn't be trying to outdo one another describing how physically ill the notion of tax increases makes them or imagining how many people they'd like to waterboard.

CNN is abashed:

David Bohrman, a CNN senior vice president and executive producer of the debate, later said: "We regret this and apologize to the Republican candidates. We never would have used the general's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

But why even have that rule? Sure, screen for affiliation if you want to limit the number of questions from opposite-party partisans, and maybe it would be a good idea to try to keep the number of such questions equal in the parties' debates -- but why not overtly allow them? Democrats are citizens. So are Republicans. You don't lose your citizenship when you join a party or endorse a candidate. So let partisans ask questions. Or do we just want to make the partisan "He's not my president" bumper stickers of the Clinton and Bush eras the law of the land?

A few of today's local front pages:

Top presidential candidate, local angle -- but what do you know: Rupert Murdoch's Post doesn't even think Rudy is worth a page-one story.

Still think Murdoch really prefers Hillary?


(I say this even though I don't think the story will have legs, especially nationally, as I said last night. But it certainly seems noteworthy if a local tab doesn't think it deserves even one day of local limelight.)


[Mike Huckabee] also once again delivered the best punch lines. When asked what Jesus would do in regards to the death penalty, Huckabee said, "Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office."

Post-debate polling indicates that Huckabee was the winner, hands down, and that Jesus quip is being touted as the most delightful moment of the night.

Perfect -- a candidate is asked a question that touches on serious political and moral issues and he blatantly dodges it with a silly, Ned Flanders-esque joke.

And we love it. Welcome to politics in America.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I watched the GOP debate, and now I come back and still the top story in Blogistan is the Politico article about Giuliani's security-detail billing irregularities while he was slinking around with then-girlfriend Judi. Hunh? What am I missing? I'm not saying this doesn't stink, but why does everyone think this is such a huge deal?

In the debate, Giuliani responded to the Politico story by saying that, as mayor, he had 24-hour security wherever he went. That doesn't address the question of why the expenses were buried in various obscure agencies' budgets -- but if I were Mr. and Mrs. Sixpack, I'd think that was an adequate answer. From a money standpoint, I suspect the public won't find this any sleazier than what they figure the average pol gets away with every day, and I think the sex angle seems awfully vanilla (the "live boy or a dead girl" principle applies here) -- don't forget that, in most people's experience, Rudy's had just one wife, and the girlfriend he was sneaking off to see is now that wife. I find myself wondering if we self-styled sophisticates are more prurient about Rudy than Middle America is.

As Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report and Allahpundit at Hot Air noted today, Giuliani seems to be slipping out of contention in the GOP race -- he'll lose badly to Romney and Huckabee in Iowa and to Romney in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina, where he once was leading, he's now in fifth place. And his once-huge lead in Florida has shrunk to a single-digit lead -- with Huckabee now in second place.

I think his biggest problem is not scandal, or factually dubious answers to questions, or even litmus-test-defying positions on social issues -- I think Nasty Rudy is being beaten at his own game by Nasty With A Polyurethane Coating Of Nice Mitt. That's certainly how it looked in the opening minutes of the debate tonight, when Romney pummeled Giuliani on whether New York was a "sanctuary city" and fought back effectively when Rudy brought up the undocumented workers on Romney's house. Romney's really good at being nasty while seeming good-natured, which is what Rudy was supposed to be good at (Fred Thompson, too).

Obviously Mitt's early-state strategy was smart, and Rudy has never seemed to have a way to beat it, but it wouldn't be working if Romney wasn't connecting with at least those early-state voters, and I can see why he is -- he can appeal to their inner rage junkie while making them feel he's doing just the opposite.

And maybe Huckabee is even hurting Rudy -- the Rudy appeal was always that he was that he was a transcendent secular saint, a guy who'd survived an encounter with Death. Huck is a wimpy preacher who's encountered the Big Bad Media and is beating their ridicule while waving a Bible, which must seem even better, even more transcendent, to many GOP voters than emerging from the smoke of Ground Zero.

So, yeah, Rudy's in trouble, but not because of bookkeeping irregularities.


UPDATE: By the way, the current mayor of New York owns dwellings in Bermuda, London, Florida, and Vail, Colorado, and news reports suggest that he spends a fair amount of time at the Bermuda getaway. I don't know what Bloomberg's security arrangement are when he's out of the country getting some R&R, but I sense it wouldn't be considered scandalous for the city to pick up the tab.

Various wingnuts are dancing a victory jig because of this:

US public opinion on military progress in Iraq has improved sharply since the troops “surge” started in February but a majority of Americans still want soldiers brought home, according to a new poll.

Some 48 per cent of Americans now believe that the US military effort in Iraq is going well, compared with 30 per cent in February, according to the latest poll by the Pew Research Center.

Yeah, 48% of respondents in the Pew poll think the military effort is going "very well" or "fairly well." Know how many think it's going "not too well" or "not at all well"?


A resounding vote of confidence, that.

The wingnuts are tut-tutting about this:

However, a rosier view of the military situation in Iraq has not translated into increased support for maintaining U.S. forces in Iraq, greater optimism that the United States will achieve its goals there, or an improvement in President Bush's approval ratings.

By 54%-41%, more Americans favor bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as soon as possible rather than keeping troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized. The balance of opinion on this measure has not changed significantly all year.

The wingnut take on this subject was summed up beautifully last week in this Tom Toles cartoon:

Oh, and the public doesn't think any political progress is being made in Iraq. And Bush is even more unpopular than he was when the surge began (33% approval in February, 30% now).

Now, you may hear this from the wingnuts:

The belief that the situation in Iraq is getting better also is reflected in the single words that people use to describe the war. The word "improving" is most frequently used to characterize people's impression of the war; 29 [of the 675] respondents mentioned this word.

That is a significant sign, I guess -- when people are asked to sum up Iraq in a word, "improving" is now #1.

So, what were #2 through #19?


Or so I'm informed by an editorialist in Investor's Business Daily, where the editorial page is even further to the right than The Wall Street Journal's, so, hey, it must be true:

Winning The War: The best measure of our success in Iraq is the results of the latest election -- Iraqis voting with their feet. Some 4 million Iraqis who fled their homeland are returning in droves.

Got that? All four million are returning home! Yippeee!!!

Or, er, maybe not:

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the U.S.-Iraqi efforts to pacify Baghdad, said border crossings by returning refugees numbered 46,030 in October alone.

Hmmmm, 46,030 ... that's a lot less than four million, isn't it? By my calculations, even at the rate of 46,030 a month, it would take until 2015 for four million people to return. But that's OK -- we can still say we're "winning the war." (Or, like this guy, say that "We won." But that doesn't mean we can withdraw any troops!)

Oh, and, er, that 46,030? Apparently it comes with a couple of caveats:

...But in interviews, officials from the ministry acknowledged that the count covered all Iraqis crossing the border, not just returnees. "We didn't ask them if they were displaced and neither did the Interior Ministry," said Sattar Nowruz, a spokesman for the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

As a result, the tally included Iraqi employees of The New York Times who had visited relatives in Syria but were not among the roughly two million Iraqis who have fled the country.

The figures apparently also included three people suspected of being insurgents arrested Saturday near Baquba in Diyala Province. The police described them as local residents who had fled temporarily to Syria, then returned.

...A half-dozen owners of Iraqi travel agencies and drivers who regularly travel to Syria agreed that the numbers misrepresented reality.

They said that the flow of returnees peaked last month, with more than 50 families arriving daily from Syria at Baghdad’s main drop-off point. Since Nov. 1, they said, the numbers have declined, and on Sunday morning, during a period when several buses used to appear, only one came.

...A United Nations survey released last week, of 110 Iraqi families leaving Syria, also seemed to dispute the contentions of officials in Iraq that people are returning primarily because they feel safer.

The survey found that 46 percent were leaving because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security.

Underscoring a widely held sense of hesitation, many of those who come back to Iraq do not return to their homes....

Shut up! Shut up! We want to believe! The Iraqi government sent twenty whole buses to Damascus on Sunday! Look at that crowd! Look at that, er, significantly smaller-looking crowd!

Never mind the truth -- Bush and his propagandists are partying like it's May 1, 2003. And I mean that literally. Remember how Bush stood on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln on "Mission Accomplished" day and, rather than referring to a "war," said we'd "prevailed" in "the battle of Iraq"? Well, The New York Sun ran a story yesterday headlined "Talks Are Set on Ending Battle of Iraq." (Because, you see, the war is one big War on Terror, against one big Islamofascist enemy named Osamaddam bin Ladejad.)

Oh, but if all goes well, the wa-- er, battle in Iraq still won't end, according to the Sun, until (conveniently) "the close of Mr. Bush's presidency."

The ideal tax rate is zero! The elves and fairies will pay the salaries of all my precious GOP officeholders and funds all their precious wars!

For Republicans, no battle ever ends:

Pickering Pushed as Lott Replacement

In a longshot campaign to use Sen. Trent Lott's retirement as a slap to Democrats, Bush allies are pushing for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to choose retired federal Judge Charles Pickering, rejected by Democrats for higher office, as Lott's replacement in the Senate.

"It would be the biggest in-your-face move if it happened," said one proponent of the move. Pickering was nominated for a federal appeals court post in 2002 but was blocked, in part because of his antiabortion position as well as charges of racial insensitivity. He was renominated and given a recess appointment but eventually withdrew his name....

You remember Charles Pickering:

...two men and a juvenile had burned an eight-foot cross on the lawn of an interracial couple with a young child. The juvenile and one of the men, described as borderline mentally retarded, pleaded guilty and received reduced sentences. The third, described by the Justice Department as the leader of the conspiracy, refused to plead and was convicted after a trial. He faced a much more severe sentence, largely because of a mandatory minimum sentence for crimes involving arson that had been enacted by Congress.... Pickering took unusual and ethically questionable steps in getting the government to drop the charge with the mandatory minimum and acquiesce in a shorter sentence....

Yeah, this guy:

...When George H.W. Bush first named him to the federal bench in 1990 (two years after he chaired the Bush-Quayle campaign in Mississippi), Pickering told the Senate that he'd had no contact with the State Sovereignty Commission, his home state's notorious anti-black secret police apparatus.

"I never had any contact with that agency," he testified. Not quite true, as the since-unsealed records of the Sovereignty Commission reveal. Actually, in January 1972, Pickering apparently asked [see last page of memo] a Commission employee to keep him apprised of its surveillance of an integrated union-organizing campaign among pulpwood workers in his hometown. Later, Pickering claimed that he had been worried about "Klan" infiltration of the pulpwood workers union, but the Commission documents show clearly that it was investigating left-wing integrationists, not the KKK....

I don't know if this will really happen, but it doesn't surprise me at all that some prominent members of the Rage Junkie Party want to do it.

(Via DU.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I read Mansoor Ijaz's Christian Science Monitor piece about Mitt Romney last night. You know the one I mean -- the one in which Ijaz wrote this:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

This got a bit of blog attention last night and this morning, and I thought that would be that.

But now I see that Romney has personally responded on CNN, that the comment is the subject of a feature story at the Politico, and that Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central has a scoop:

TPM Election Central has learned that at a private fundraising lunchleon in Los Vegas three months ago, Romney said a second time he would probably not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet -- and on this occasion, he made other comments that one witness described as "racist."

The witness, Irma Aguirre, a former finance director of the Nevada Republican Party, paraphrased Romney as saying: "They're radical. There's no talking to them. There's no negotiating with them."

A second witness, a self-described local registered Republican named George Harris, confirmed her account.

Hmmm ... two Republicans are confirming this story?

(Oh, and Aguirre is also talking to the Huffington Post.)

Yesterday I noted that the Washington editor of Rupert Murdoch's Times of London was suggesting that Hillary Clinton might be spreading nasty rumors about herself and her relationship with a female aide. I think that's utterly bonkers.

But what about this story? Would Romney try to draw attention to it? Am I the only person who thinks he sees it as a huge windfall, a story he'd like every GOP primary voter to hear?

What's the common thread binding Republicans right now? Simple: hatred of "Islamofascists" -- which, given the widespread willful ignorance about Muslims, means hatred of just about anyone who owns a Koran. Romney has to deny that he said these things, but it certainly benefits him within his party to have voters believe he might have said these things.

Now, Harris and Aguirre may actually be hostile to Romney, or genuinely offended by what he said a few months ago. But I wonder. I wonder if they're doing a service for the Romney campaign. I wonder if the campaign is working hard to give this story legs.


UPDATE: In comments, dnA says that Romney is trying to win "the White Man Primary." He elaborates on that here.

Months ago, we were told that Republican presidential candidates would recognize the need to distance themselves from the foreign policy of the extremely unpopular George W. Bush. Nothing of the sort has happened, of course -- in fact, the GOP candidates often seem as if they're trying to out-Bush Bush ("double Guantanamo" and all that) -- yet even though Bush is still extremely unpopular, many GOP candidates are still quite competitive with possible Democratic opponents (and that seems to be true according to the new Gallup poll, which doesn't show Hillary trailing all the Republicans, as well as in the new Zogby poll, which does.)

We've also been told that the influence of the religious right is waning, and that soon Republicans are going to have to embrace an increasingly secular, tolerant world. Well, they may have made a secular guy their front-runner for most of this year (not because he's secular, but because they think he'll kill ragheads more efficiently than Bush), but apparently the newest addition to their party's first tier thinks America is ready for even more religion in politics than before:

The new 30-second ad that Mike Huckabee has put on the air in Iowa represents a quite remarkable step in presidential politics. Maybe my memory betrays me, but I don't recall a major presidential candidate who made such an unabashed, unambiguous appeal for support on the basis of religious faith....

The Huckabee ad, entitled "Believe," begins with Huckabee's emphasis on the importance of his faith. "Faith doesn't just influence me," he says. "It really defines me." A few seconds later, the words "Christian Leader" are emblazoned on the screen. Even TV evangelist Pat Robertson, a leader in the emergence of Christian conservatives as a major bloc in Republican politics, didn't appeal to voters with such a strong emphasis on his personal religious faith when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 - and finished second in Iowa.

What's striking is that it's not until the end of the Huckabee ad that the words "Authentic Conservative" pop up on the screen. As a result, I don't think it's a stretch to say that, at least in this ad, Huckabee has made his political views secondary to his religious beliefs. Perhaps this is what Christian conservatives in Iowa want to hear....

That rather horrified description of the ad comes from Fred Barnes, blogging for The Weekly Standard. Barnes seems to be desperately saying, "Hey, Huckabee, don't give the game away! Republicans have to look reasonable to beat Hitlery!"

But Huckabee's probably on to something. After all, "double Guantanamo" hasn't hurt Romney, nor has hanging out with Norman "Bomb Iran Immediately" Podhoretz hurt Giuliani. Who's getting attacked? Hillary, for carefully maneuvering so as not to step outside the bounds of the general consensus.

Here's the ad:

Huckabee's running this only in Iowa, which is full of religious conservatives. But he knows perfectly well that we're in a Google/YouTube era and you can't unsay what you've said to Iowans, not in secular New Hampshire and not in the rest of the country. Yet he doesn't seem to if secular voters don't like it, and he doesn't seem to care if the ad will hurt his chances to be the #2 guy on the ticket.

And why should he care? The fact that he's even being considered for the #2 spot on the ticket proves -- as does the fact that the #1 guy will probably be Mr. Double Guantanamo or Mr. Bomb Iran Immediately -- that it doesn't matter what you say in contemporary presidential politics, as long as you say it with conviction and it's not left-wing.

And maybe that "left-wing" part wouldn't be in there if the other political party exuded the slightest bit of self-respect, the way the party of Huckabee and Romney and Giuliani does.

From the gosh-aren't-we-amusingly-politically-incorrect! schmucks at T-Shirt Hell.

Via dnA, who has an interesting suggestion for a follow-up.

Here's the teaser for the lead story right now at the New York Times site, which is about the Annapolis conference:

President Bush may be repeating Bill Clinton's role in the peace process, yet he rejects what he sees as the meddlesome quality of it.

And here's a quote from the story:

..."The United States cannot impose our vision," Mr. Bush told the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Oval Office on Monday....

Yeah, being personally meddlesome in the Middle East and trying to impose his own vision on other countries -- George W. Bush would never want to do anything like that, would he?

Monday, November 26, 2007


You know the poll I mean:

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton trails five top Republican presidential contenders in general election match-ups, a drop in support from this summer, according to a poll released on Monday.

Clinton's top Democratic rivals, Barack Obama and John Edwards, still lead Republicans in hypothetical match-ups ahead of the November 4, 2008, presidential election, the survey by Zogby Interactive showed....

(Numbers available here.)

The obvious -- and wrong -- conclusion to draw is that Hillary is the least electable of the three leading Democrats. The correct conclusion to draw is that it's absurdly easy to drive the supposedly inevitable Democratic nominee, whoever that may turn out to be, into a position where he or she is trailing the Republican -- yes, even this year. All it takes is a sustained (even briefly sustained) run of bad press for the Democrat. When something like this happens, it's inevitably amplified by fellow Democrats in their usual circular-firing-squad mode (and don't think that'll stop after the nominee is chosen, because it never does), while the GOP, the right-wing media, and the supposedly neutral but really Democrat-loathing mainstream media seize on the bad press (when they're not initiating it) and sustain it until the nominee is badly tainted.

It happened to Hillary Clinton over the past few weeks -- and if she's not the nominee, it will happen to whoever beats her.

And, meanwhile, no Democrat is doing an effective job of framing any Republican, or the party as a whole, and no negative story about any Republican candidate has legs -- even Giuliani's Kerik/Regan mess.

I'll be shocked if a Democrat wins this election -- any Democrat.

Oh, I'm just so happy to have the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy back in full force, aren't you? But this time, the conspirators are going to do everything delicately. Observe:

As you may know, for the past month or so, sleazemongers have been insinuating that Hillary Clinton is having a lesbian affair with her aide Huma Abedin, who is of Indian and Pakistani descent and once lived in Saudi Arabia. Recently, Rupert Murdoch apparently decided the rumor wasn't circulating widely enough -- but it seems he didn't want to do anything blatant or tacky to help spread it around. So The Times, his "quality" paper in England, slipped the rumor into a story ostensibly about the sleaziness of South Carolina politics. That's high-minded, right? The Times isn't spreading gossip, it's merrely reporting on its existence.

Oh, er, yeah, the story was illustrated with a huge picture of Mrs. Clinton and Abedin. But that's not rumor-mongering, is it?

One might have expected the usual right-wing bank shot -- a report of a rumor about another Democrat accompanied by innuendo blaming the rumor on Hillary, the result being a smear of two candidates. But this rumor is about Hillary, so that couldn't happen -- right?

(Keep reading for the final answer to that question.)

That was Thursday. And then -- what do you know! -- Matt Drudge picked up on the Murdoch story and turned it into one of his news flashes, discarding the window-dressing about South Carolina and other campaign rumors, and homing in on Clinton and Abedin. Oh, and he helpfully waited until yesterday to do this, so that people who were busy celebrating and shopping for most of the weekend wouldn't miss the story again. All thoughtfulness, that Matt.

And now the D.C. bureau chief of The Times, Tom Baldwin, is shocked, shocked, at the way the story's been received:

My colleague, Tim Reid, travelled down to South Carolina last week where he soon found himself up to his ankles in what he described as the "foulest swamp of electoral dirty tricks in America".

Tim wrote about some of the smears and inuendendos already floating by in the Palmetto state. His second paragraph reported allegations being spread about Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama, Fred Thompson and, oh yes, Hillary Clinton.

...It was duly picked up on Thursday by the Drudge Report - which has a taste for this sort of stuff - and that, we thought, was that.

Then yesterday, Drudge decides to lead with:


Now, I said that even these guys couldn't blame a nasty rumor about Hillary on Hillary. Turns out I was wrong. Here's more from the high-minded Mr. Baldwin, who, unlike that nasty Matt Drudge, doesn't have "a taste for this sort of stuff":

...So, what's going on?

Has a "Hillary confidante" contacted Drudge to draw attention to this five-day old report? Quite possibly. The New York Times recently reported that her campaign had opened up a direct channel of communication to the mysterious Mr Drudge.

Why would a "Hillary confidante" do such a thing? It could, I suppose, be to provide cover for other alleged activities at Camp Clinton.

Last week the conservative columnist Bob Novak claimed that the Clinton campaign had scandalous information about Obama - but that Clinton had ruled out releasing it.... The Clinton campaign said it knew nothing about it. But this weekend Novak stood by his claim....

Alternatively, the Drudge story may serve the purpose of underscoring Hillary's current theme about how rivals are "throwing mud" which is backed by a new advertisement focusing on the attacks being launched on her by Republicans.

There is, indeed, a lot of this about. On November 7, Ken Silverstein, the Washington Editor for Harper's Magazine, blogged under the headline: "Not Just Republicans Spreading Rumors About Hillary’s Lesbian Affair".

But The Times of London is not "kicking off the ugliest month" - if that is what the next few weeks will be - we are merely reporting it.

Well, thank you for maintaining your standards, Tom. For a minute there, I could have sworn you were slinging mud, too. Silly me!


And then we enter the right-wing twilight zone, courtesy of Hugh Fitzgerald at Rober Spencer's Jihad Watch site, who insinuates that Abedin may be both Clinton's lesbian lover and a believer in sharia law, as presposterous as that would be. Oh, and a believer in killing infidels as well:

Now that the rumors about Hillary and her aide have hit the Times of London, Hillary will feel she cannot abandon her protege. She instead is likely to become indignant, more determined to be seen, defiantly, with Huma Abedin on every occasion and to attack those who express the slightest, perfectly justified reservations about the perfectly plausible notion that Mrs. Clinton gets her idea of Islam, or of what Islam might be, necessarily skewed, from someone apparently full of personal charm and good looks (never to be discounted, often dangerously employed)....

Of course one is perfectly justified in worrying about this kind of influence. For if the reports are to be believed, Huma Abedin remains, despite living in the West, a "deeply conservative" Muslim. We are entitled to assume, therefore, that she still regards the Qur'an as the uncreated and immutable Word of God. And we are entitled to consult that "Word of God" to find out what she believes. And that includes 9.5, and 9.29, and another hundred deeply disturbing and hate-filled verses. We are entitled to assume that she is familiar with the most "authentic" Hadith in the most authoritative collections. We are entitled to assume that she regards Muhammad as exemplary, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, and that therefore she finds all of his behavior not only beyond criticism, but to be taken as a model: little Aisha, and the murders of Asma bint Marwan and Abu Afak, the decapitation of the 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, the attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis, and so on.

Is this close aide, this aide-de-camp, who may or may not be closer and more intimate with Hillary Clinton than anyone else on earth, really a deep admirer of that Muhammad? Is she a deep believer in the Qur'an, and therefore a supporter of the Shari'a, desirous naturally of removing all barriers to the spread of the faith of which she is not only an adherent by birth (born into it through no fault of her own), but apparently by conviction? She is, furthermore, the daughter of a Muslim preacher who went to Saudi Arabia, the place where the most rigorous and unmediated Islam is put into practice, and enforced at every level.

We have a right to know. And Huma Abedin, and her great and good friend, have a duty to tell us....

And the business of lesbianism need not be brought into the discussion at all. That is not the main thing. That this "deeply conservative" Muslim is her constant companion and aide is enough for alarms to go off. That is more than enough....

So there you go -- Abedin may be having a lesbian affair with a Methodist American who voted for the resolution that led to the Iraq War (and the one that may lead to an Iran war) even though she believes in sharia law and killing infidels.

Yeah, that makes sense.

The goal of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy isn't merely to win -- it's to make the public feel that any Democrat who might attain real power is someone no decent person should associate with, someone we should cross the street to avoid, someone whose intentions and goals are dangerous -- if not unspeakable. That's the message being spread right now about Hillary Clinton in these linked communications. She is a lesbian agent of terror. Her vagina will get us all killed.


By the way, does anyone still think Rupert Murdoch cozied up to Hillary Clinton a while back because he sincerely wants her to win?

Over the holiday I finally read "Goodbye to All That," Andrew Sullivan's Atlantic article about Barack Obama, as well as Lakshmi Chaudry's Nation article " Will the Real Generation Obama Please Stand Up?" Both articles advance the premise that what's wrong with American politics is that it's infested with evil Baby Boomers who fight all the time -- a disease for which Obama is the cure. Here's how Sullivan puts it:

Unlike any of the other candidates, [Obama] could take America -- finally -- past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us....

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war -- not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade -- but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war -- and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama -- and Obama alone -- offers the possibility of a truce.

This is an idea that's simple, compelling, and a complete crock.

Yes, we fight a lot in American politics. Yes, it would be nice if we could bury the hatchet. Maybe we'll do it if Obama because president. But I doubt that he has generational power to stop the bickering, because our fights are not just Boomer battles.

Look at some recent skirmishes in our politics. When a war starts in 2003 and one of the prime targets of right-wing anger is an opponent of that war named John Murtha, a congressman who was born in 1932, how is that the result of Boomers fighting with Boomers? What about when the target is Senator Robert Byrd, who was born in 1917 and whose opposition to the war regularly inspires right-wingers to change the subject by bringing up his membership in the Klan, which ended in the 1950s? And at the other end of the age spectrum, what are we to make of the attacks on New Republic editor Franklin Foer (a 1996 college graduate) for his decision to publish articles about military life by Scott Thomas Beauchamp (born 1983) -- is that a Boomer battle?

When preachers who are mostly in their sixties and seventies stir up the rabble to oppose gay marriage and right-wingers use gay-marriage referenda to get out the Republican vote, is that a Boomer fight? Yes, the gay-rights movement that flourished after Stonewall has long been full of Boomers, but gay marriage wasn't on the agenda until long after the '60s and '70s were over. What about the Terri Schiavo controversy, or the fight over embryonic stem cell research -- Boomer battles? Is the universal health care debate a Boomer fight just because it's associated with Hillary Clinton -- even though this was never a significant part of the agenda of Boomer activists in their prime?

And what about the combatants? Sure, Rush Limbaugh's of prime Boomer age -- but Ann Coulter is four months younger than Barack Obama; Sean Hannity is a few weeks younger than Coulter; Glenn Beck is nearly three years Obama's junior; and Michelle Malkin is nearly a decade younger than Obama. If we're engaged in an all-Woodstock Generation war, there certainly seem to be a fair number of child soldiers on one side -- and I don't think they're conscripts.

The same is true on the other side, obviously; as Chaudry's Nation article notes, many of the big dogs in the left blogosphere are Generation Xers. Bizarrely, though, Chaudry implies that any partisanship these non-Boomers demonstrate is actually the Boomers' fault -- or, rather, the fault rather of one particular Boomer):

There's no better example of a "new progressive" than Jerome Armstrong. Born in 1964, he long identified as an independent, working for environmental groups or public-service organizations like the Peace Corps while remaining wary of party politics.

... then came a governor from Texas who changed everything. "In 2000, there was this realization for people my age: Hell, there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans. George Bush proved that," Armstrong says.

So I guess even when non-Boomers like Jerome and Kos are being quite literally partisan, they're still, at heart, actually non-partisans, and the nasty partisanship that's poisoning our politics is still all the Boomers' fault.

Sorry -- if you have to torture the facts this way to make them fit your conclusion, then your conclusion doesn't hold up. Obama may have observed that our political fights look like intra-generational squabbles, and two essayists may have seized on that notion and run with it, but it just doesn't bear scrutiny.


And then yesterday a Boston-based TV political analyst named Jon Keller declared in The Washington Post that Obama is evil because he actually is a Boomer. (This is demographically accurate -- Obama was born in 1961, and the Boom extended to 1964 -- but no late Boomer grew up with optimism of the early Boomers, as I know full well, having been born in 1959. The early Boomers had grooviness and hope; we had prog-rock, stagflation, and gas lines.)

Keller is monomaniacal. Barack Obama stops wearing a flag in his lapel? Blame it on Boomerism. (Go read dnA on that subject.) Boston's Big Dig has dangerous structural problems? Boomerism's fault again. (Er, Jon, do you think every construction failure in the history of Boston happened because of the Baby Boom? Did the windows fall out of the John Hancock Tower in 1973 because Timothy Leary dropped acid? The designer of that project, by the way, co-founded his firm in 1955.)

Ah, but pay no attention to Keller, who, by the way, seems to have a few problems with journalistic ethics. In fact, pact no attention to anyone who thinks our problems would all be solved if all the members of one demographic cohort all dropped dead.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I hate to interrupt the guest posters, but this morning I read Mark Halperin's New York Times op-ed, and I'm wondering if Halperin understands that the famous "Kick my ass!" scene in Spinal Tap was actually meant to be a joke.

Once upon a time, Beltway insiders and insider-wannabes were in awe of Halperin's daily online political newsletter, The Note; go read the long feature story about him in a fall '04 issue of The New Yorker if you want to see how big a star he seemed to be.

Then last year he co-authored a non-bestseller about presidential politics; this year he published another non-bestseller on the same subject. When the first book failed to take off, he made the rounds of the right-wing media, telling the wingnuts how awful he and his fellow journalists are because they don't kiss the feet of movement conservatives and evangelicals with sufficient frequency (though he insisted he was much better at that than his peers). That didn't help sales -- but in the Times today he's saying "Kick our asses!" again, this time declaring that he and other journalists have long paid far too much attention to the campaigning skills of presidential candidates:

MORE than any other book, Richard Ben Cramer's "What It Takes," about the 1988 battle for the White House, influenced the way I cover campaigns.

I'm not alone. The book's thesis -- that prospective presidents are best evaluated by their ability to survive the grueling quadrennial coast-to-coast test of endurance required to win the office -- has shaped the universe of political coverage....

For most of my time covering presidential elections, I shared the view that there was a direct correlation between the skills needed to be a great candidate and a great president. The chaotic and demanding requirements of running for president, I felt, were a perfect test for the toughest job in the world.

But now I think I was wrong. The "campaigner equals leader" formula that inspired me and so many others in the news media is flawed....

I believe the technical term for this is "a keen grasp of the obvious."

Any reasonably intelligent person figured this out years ago -- why are we supposed to give Halperin brownie points for understanding it now? What's more, why did he ever believe it in the first place, and why does Richard Ben Cramer get the blame? What It Takes was about the 1988 presidential campaign but didn't appear in print until the summer of 1992. It was certainly obvious to the voters by then that the guy who'd had "what it took" to win the '88 election hadn't been a particularly good president, which is why they resoundingly rejected him at the polls five months later. Why wasn't it obvious to Halperin?

That's why the last paragraph of Halperin's op-ed particularly rankles:

If past is prologue, the winners of the major-party nominations will be those who demonstrate they have what it takes to win. But in the short time remaining voters and journalists alike should be focused on a deeper question: Do the candidates have what it takes to fill the most difficult job in the world?

I love that "voters and journalists alike" -- it's as if Halperin, waking up in the gutter after a three-day bender, is looking up telling the people from the Salvation Army, "You know, all of us have to stop drinking so much."

At a time when the candidates (and the media) are scrambling to accommodate the news that violence has been ratcheted down in Iraq, the White House is scrambling to scale back any appearance that it might expect what The New York Times calls "some concrete signs of political progress." Steven Lee Meyers writes that "The White House has been elated by the drop in violence since the increase in American forces, now 162,000 troops. Public comments by President Bush and his aides, though, have been muted, reflecting frustration at the lack of political progress, a continuation of a pattern in which intense American efforts to promote broader reconciliation have proved largely fruitless." What's more, "There have been signs that American influence over Iraqi politics is dwindling after the recent improvements in security... While Bush officials once said they aimed to secure 'reconciliation' among Iraq’s deeply divided religious, ethnic and sectarian groups, some officials now refer to their goal as 'accommodation.'"

The building of a stable government and a functioning society in the ruins of Baghdad is the stuff that the Bushies expected to magically blossom all by itself as soon as George Jr. dropped a house on Saddam Hussein and marched in to receive the key to the city from the representatives of the lollipop guild. Now they're been reduced bleating out the most reassuring, meaningless boilerplate. The American ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker, can offer nothing better than to insist that “We are seeing encouraging signs of movement,” as if he were Bill Frist reporting in from Teri Sciavo's bedside. Of course, what's funny about the Bushies trying to appear to demand less of the Iraqi government is that in the recent past, whenever they've caved in to pressure to establish benchmarks of any kind, they've set the bar comically low and then been forced to acknowledge that demands haven't been met even by the most piddling standards. When you can't meet even the Bush administration halfway in their quest to sugar-coat the job you've been doing, you might as well have Peter Sellers as your shop steward.

Writing in Slate last week, Anne Applebaum says what needs saying, and what no sane presidential candidate is about to be caught saying out loud: it's been years since we passed the point where "success" in Iraq is going to do America much good. If Martian diplomats land tomorrow and sort the mess out over lunch, we'll still be stuck with the fact that "the collateral damage inflicted by the war on America's relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have yet realized. It isn't just that the Iraq war invigorated the anti-Americanism that has always been latent pretty much everywhere. Far worse is the fact that—however it all comes out in the end, however successful Iraqi democracy becomes a decade from now—our conduct of the war in Iraq has disillusioned our natural friends and supporters and thrown a lasting shadow over our military and political competence. However it all comes out, the price we've paid is too high." Ronald Reagan used to say that he didn't care if our "enemies" (and, by extension, the rest of the world" liked us, so long as they feared us. By living down to the most cartoonish image of Americans as xenophobic bullies while mating that to a new standard of perceived stupidity and utter incompetence, the Bush administration has made sure that most of the world neither likes nor fears us, and, in light of our perceived inability to do anything to enforce our will on the world with our military bogged down in the eternal cakewalk of Iraq, now feels about us much the way the president feels about those who disagree with him: "Who cares what you think?"

In the documentary Inside Deep Throat, Norman Mailer says that the secret to that porn movie's great commercial success is simply that "it was a giggle" and then adds, "The worst thing that can be said about us a nation is that we will sell our souls for a giggle." The Bush presidency started out as a giggle. Everything that worked to push this unelected chimp into the White House--the notion that there wasn't a world of difference between Bush and Al Gore, the coverage of the Florida recount, the decision of just enough members of the Supreme Court to throw away whatever reputations they could lay claim to for intellectual seriousness, and the whole underlying attitude that the presidency didn't really matter enough that you shouldn't just give it to the funny little guy who wasn't very smart but seemed to want it a lot and who anyway kind of saw it as the family business--comes down to a giggle. And when the smoke of 9/11 and "everything's changed" is cleared away, it's hard to say why we went into Iraq except as a giggle, unless you seriously think that demeans the "serious principles" underlying the decision to whack one bad guy because it would make people feel better about what had been done to us by another entirely unconnected bunch of bad guys. Bush was handed an historic opportunity--in the wake of 9/11, the whole planet was on our side and ready to work with us to make the world a better and safer place--and he spit on it and threw it in the toilet because working with furriners didn't make him feel like John Wayne; he preferred telling folks just how it's gonna be, and the media and his electoral base got off on that, and it probably wouldn't have been the same for any of them without the shocked, appalled stares from the people on the receiving end of all this manly telling. He set out to remake the world and establish America as the dominant, unquestioned international power; unless he's very, very, very lucky in who his successor turns out to be, and that person turns out to be very, very, very lucky in addition to having superhuman levels of intelligence, skill, and judgement, his moment will be remembered as the official starting point of American decline, the way the British remember Suez. (And we'll all have to just swallow deep and also hope that whoever succeeds Bush, regardless of which party he or she belongs in, will have the sense of sacrifice to cast off the costumed-crimefighter powers that Bush and his goon squad have claimed for the executive branch.) So he'll at least have achieved one thing he wanted to do: George Bush, Jr. will be the president who finally, for all time, made it seem to Americans that Vietnam wasn't that big a deal after all.

This in from Austrailia: President Bush's support still the kiss of death for elected foreign leaders.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Today's prize-winning bit of dumbassery comes to us courtesy of the Washington Times (of course), in an article titled Study: Democrats party of rich:
Democrats like to define themselves as the party of poor and middle-income Americans, but a new study says they now represent the majority of the nation's wealthiest congressional districts.

In a state-by-state, district-by-district comparison of wealth concentrations based on Internal Revenue Service income data, Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, found that the majority of the nation's wealthiest congressional jurisdictions were represented by Democrats....

Mr. Franc's study also showed that contrary to the Democrats' tendency to define Republicans as the party of the rich, "the vast majority of unabashed conservative House members hail from profoundly middle-income districts."
Now, last I checked, congressional districts didn't earn money, pay taxes, or vote. In other words, "the party of the rich [congressional districts]" is not the same as "the party of the rich [people]".

If you want to know which is really the party of the wealthy, you can look at the vote-by-income-level table from 2004 election results (scroll down). Or you can read Krugman here and here. A commenter on the second post explains what's going on:
There’s something in statistics called Simpson’s paradox that describes the seeming weirdness of the WITHIN state versus BETWEEN state voting effects described by Andy Gelman & co.

WITHIN each state Andy Gelman and co. found increased wealth correlated positively with increased likelihood of voting Republican (always, whatever state). However, he also showed the strength of the correlation varied BETWEEN states inversely by overall wealth of the state. So if people do not examine the within state effect, and only refer to a between state effect, they might mistakenly conclude that rich people are attracted to the Democratic party. But that would be wrong. Andy G & co show us that it is, in fact, consistently the poorer people within each state driving the Democratic vote of the state. And it is always the wealthier within each state driving the Republican vote....

What might have been controversial is if Andy G & co had found at least a few states that failed to have within them a positive slope between increased income and increased likelihood of voting Republican. I gather from reading their paper that no exceptions emerged. So yeah, looks to me a lot like Republicans are the party of the affluent and Democrats the party of the poor and working class (statistically speaking).
So yeah, the Washington Times piece is every bit as misleading as you'd expect it to be.

But it fits within a longstanding (50 years or more) Republican tradition of trying to reverse reality and paint the Democrats as the party of the wealthy elites. Do the math: there are a lot more middle- and lower-income people than wealthy people. If the Republican party were limited to its real economic constituency they'd beat out Ralph Nader but come in well behind Ross Perot. Painting the Democrats as elitists--"limousine liberals", "latte-sipping Volvo-driving" liberals, "Hollywood liberals"--is what they have to do to obscure that reality...and they've largely succeeded. (Conversely, Republicans have to portray themselves as the party of Regular Folks; hence such inane spectacles as Fred Thompson's pickup truck.)

That's the narrative that dictates the story.

At the same time, despite having the big story exactly backwards, the article does have a grain of truth, a hook on which to hang its indictment of the Democrats:
But the strongest manifestation of the influence that the Democrats' wealthiest constituencies are wielding over party policy came earlier this month as Democratic leaders were considering a proposal to offset revenue losses from AMT repeal by raising taxes on hedge-fund managers, many of whom are major contributors to the Democratic Party.

A "stopgap" bill authored by Mr. Rangel to tax hedge-fund compensation at 35 percent as regular income rather than the current 15 percent capital-gains rate, which passed the House Nov. 9, appears to be going nowhere with Senate Democrats.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has raised tens of millions of dollars from Wall Street financiers and hedge-fund managers, opposes Mr. Rangel's plan. Earlier this month, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee, said the tax increase was a bad idea and could not pass the Senate.
This is just shockingly stupid. Afraid of alienating part of their donor base, Baucus and Schumer risk alienating everyone who isn't a hedge fund manager. Afraid of giving the Republicans a tax increase to run on, they give them something far more valuable: a way to damage the Democratic brand.

Make no mistake: Democrats are still the party middle- and lower-income people vote for. Democratic policies are still, on the whole, far better for the vast majority of Americans than Republican policies. All I'm saying is that when you have that clear a difference, a difference that works overwhelmingly in your favor, doing things that muddy the distinction (bankruptcy bill, anyone?) is political malpractice.

[Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog]

I remember that when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, Republican spinsters and members of the press, looking for real issues to discuss, went after the candidate's waistline, the fluctuation of which was seen as a sort of living metaphor for the way this free-spending Democrat was sure to inflate the federal budget deficit, if he were given half a chance. One New Republic editorial that stuck in my head darkly suggested that Clinton's tummy was a sign of an all-encompassing tendency towards decadence of every kind; noting that Clinton couldn't have much time or opportunity to be bagging babes while on the campaign trail, it pointed to his apparent weight gain as proof that, when his "libido" could not be sated, he had to compensate by shifting "into chowhound mode." Fifteen years later, I'm still not sure what exactly the point of all that was, unless the writer just wanted to alert people that whenever Clinton was looking fit, it would be a good time for photographers to stake out his hotel balcony, and when he was looking heavier than usual, it might be the best time to sneer at him because he wasn't getting any.

Thinking about it did make me wonder, though: given all the horrible crap that candidates are obligated to ingest when they're on the road, trying to bond with the waddling masses, how do they all manage to avoid comparison with William Howard Taft? Have the demands of the television age resulted in our running a bunch of bulimics for president? Thank God, The New York Times is on the case! In a front-page piece illustrated with notably unappetizing photos of Hillary Clinton and the Rude boy Giuliani (who is shaping up, pound for pound, to be the least photogenic American politician at the national level since the nineteenth-century era of bad beards), Jodi Kantor writes that "Those wanting to be president must never, ever refuse or fumble the local specialties, lest they repeat the sins of John Kerry (dismissed as effete when he ordered a Philly cheese steak with Swiss in 2004) or Gerald R. Ford (on a 1976 swing through Texas, he bit into a tamale with the corn husk still on)." Former White House chef Walter Scheib explains that eating some scary-looking regional favorite that's forced on you at a campaign pit stop is a way of saying, “I’m one of you. I’m part of this area. Vote for me...There are few things more personal than eating, and if you reject someone’s food, you kind of reject them.” Consequently, Scheib says, candidates are “for all intents and purposes out of control of their diets.”

That said, some seem to work harder to maintain some measure of control than others. I for one am fascinated by the news that Mitt Romney "eats the same thing every day: his wife’s granola for breakfast, a chicken or turkey sandwich for lunch, and pasta, fish or chicken for dinner." Einstein used to wear the same outfit every day because it left his brain free to concentrate on more interesting things than mixing and matching. Does Romney find that, by permitting himself no choice in what he shovels down the hatch, it somehow makes it that much easier for him to keep his political opinions and other stated beliefs constantly shifting like go-go dancers in a strobe lit cage? If I were Maureen Dowd, I could probably milk this for a couple of weeks. Then there's the case of poor Mike Huckabee, who before losing more than a hundred pounds once killed a chair with his then-spacious butt. The thought of Huckabee as president may give you the shakes, but surely those of us who are recovering from Thanksgiving today can lend him some sympathy on this. In my own weakened condition, I almost wish I could elect him president right this minute just so he'll never have to have another kielbasa shoved in his face.

"At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY. The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327."

One might almost conclude that someone at the Pentagon thinks that brain damage is no know what, just forget it. This one's too easy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Our Friends the Saudis

Saudis Defend Punishment for Rape Victims
The Saudi judiciary on Tuesday defended a court verdict that sentenced a 19-year-old victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes because she was with an unrelated male when they were attacked.

The Shiite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia's rigid Islamic law requiring segregation of the sexes.

But in considering her appeal of the verdict, the Saudi General Court increased the punishment. It also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the woman, Saudi news media said last week.

The reports triggered an international outcry over the Saudis punishing the victim of a terrible crime.

But the Ministry of Justice stood by the verdict Tuesday, saying that "charges were proven" against the woman for having been in a car with a man who was not her relative.

The ministry implied the victim's sentence was increased because she spoke out to the press...

Not to worry, though; the US, intent on liberating oppressed people living under fundamentalist tyranny and punishing the country that produced 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, attacked Saudi Arabia and overthrew its...

Oh, never mind.

Why Social Security "Reform" Can Wait

I forgot Steve had invited me to post this week, and I went ahead and posted to my own blog this morning. So, as the next best thing, I link to it here.

The main point to take away is that the conventional wisdom (i.e., what the Very Serious Wisemen of Washington, D.C. think) says that Social Security "reform" (cuts, tax increases, etc) must start sooner rather than later, so that the magnitude of those changes will be smaller and be more evenly spread across the population, and so as to allow sufficient time for people to incorporate changes to Social Security into their retirement plans.

But whatever merits this position has in theory is more than offset by the fact that any gains from such a policy would only go towards continuing the reckless fiscal policy of most of the last two decades--using regressive payroll taxes to fund upper income tax cuts and deficit spending.


Steve M. is right: if Ron Paul does run as a third-party candidate, we will need to work to make people see beyond his opposition to the Iraq war and understand him as the wingnut he really is.

It shouldn't be that hard; the raw material is abundant. In the event of a third-party run, I would like to see someone running ads for him saying things like "he's the only candidate who will protect the rights of the unborn", or "he opposes special rights for homosexuals", or "Giuliani opened his city to illegal immigration; Ron Paul will close America to illegal immigrants".

In a series of ads, hit all the pet obsessions of the wingnuts: cutting taxes, abolishing the Department of Education, no affirmative action--the whole nine yards. There's nothing dishonest about this; that's his record. You could probably pull in a lot of righties with a slogan like "Ron Paul wants to get America out of the UN, and get the UN out of America". Pull in a lot of righties, and (more importantly) push away a lot of lefties.

Or it could be much simpler than that. There is a slogan that could do the trick all by itself--could appeal to the Republicans we want to defect while repelling the Democrats we want to keep--especially if the nominees are Clinton and Giuliani:
Vote for Ron Paul. He's from Texas.
It just might work.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Or, perhaps, encourage further shocking displays of irrational exuberance1 on his part. One or the other.

Anyway, a while back a lot of people were talking about Clinton's 'ceiling'--the percentage of people who would never vote for her--and treating it as a nearly insuperable obstacle in the general (with one wingnut blogger saying flat-out that she's unelectable). And yes, nobody who has lived through the last 15 years could fail to have noticed that there is a sizable (and very vocal) percentage of the population that hates her with a fiery passion.

And that got me wondering what the 'ceiling' was for other candidates--particularly because I had a gut feeling that the top Republican candidates had at least as much of a problem.

What I found at Polling Report were two polls taken about 6 weeks apart, with slightly different wording, showing remarkably consistent results. First the poll (scroll down) that asks the exact question I was looking for, taken September 27-30. Here are the percentages that "definitely would not" vote for the following candidates:
Hillary Clinton 41
John Edwards 43
Rudy Giuliani 44
John McCain 45
Barack Obama 39
Mitt Romney 57
Fred Thompson 54
And here's a more recent poll (scroll down), taken November 2-4, that asks which candidates respondents would be "unlikely" to vote for:
Barack Obama 47
Hillary Clinton 48
Rudy Giuliani 49
John Edwards 50
John McCain 54
Fred Thompson 61
Mitt Romney 64
And here's a graph of the two results (blue is "unlikely", red is "definitely would not"), ordered by the "definitely would not" number:
(Click on image for full size version)

Note that all three top Democrats have a lower "definitely would not" number (i.e., a higher theoretical 'ceiling') than all four top Republicans. Among the Democrats, Edwards has the highest "unlikely" number (at 50%); of the Republicans, only Giuliani is below 50% (at 49%). Two of the Republicans (Thompson and Romney) have a majority saying they "definitely would not" vote for them. In other words, as 'unpopular' as Clinton is, all of the Republicans (including Giuliani) are even more unpopular.

It's possible that the highest numbers (Thompson's and Romney's) reflect unfamiliarity with the candidates--in which case, their numbers may be more 'generic Republican' than Romney or Thompson as such. That said, I'm pretty sure Romney's actual numbers are around there; a sizable percentage of the GOP base simply will not vote for a Mormon, even if Clinton is the alternative. Giuliani is, not surprisingly, apparently the most competitive Republican--but even he has a pretty low ceiling.

Don't expect the narrative to change anytime soon, of course. The visceral hatred of Clinton is such an established part of the landscape that every poll gets fit into the frame of her 'unpopularity'--even when she consistently polls ahead of every Republican. The reality, though, is that it's the Republicans who are unpopular--within as well as outside of their own party.

1That's a joke.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]
Here we go again...

The Associated Press and Yahoo have done some polling on voters' impressions of the presidential candidates. And what gets reported in the lead paragraph? Not who you'd rather have a beer with. No, it's much more profoud. Who would you rather go bowling with, or maybe take along on a family vacation?

The poll looked at a number of factors, asking participants how well certain words described each candidate. The five most important being "decisive", "strong", "honest", "experienced", and "ethical". Yes, "likable" was on the list, but the writers were forced to report, albeit reluctantly, that the participants didn't consider it to be very important. That's a good thing, given that the Republican candidate who was most often rated likable was -- wait for it -- Rudy Giuliani. Obama won the popularity contest on the Democratic side.

Oh, btw, on the top five -- you remember, the factors that might really mean something when evaluating a leader -- Clinton outranked Giuliani across the board. But, hey, who cares? Rudy would be more fun on league night.

* sigh *

Monday, November 19, 2007


I'm off for a few days. There'll be some entertainment and enlightenment here in my absence. Happy Thanksgiving. See you Sunday.

I just ran across Christopher Hitchens's tribute to Norman Mailer, which Slate published last week. I'm struck by this:

"Culture," said Norman Mailer, pugnaciously, in 1981, "is worth a little risk." Admittedly, he was uttering these words at a rather chaotic press conference, just after a tripwire-dangerous convict for whose release he had so ardently campaigned had stabbed a harmless waiter to death. But I remember admiring Mailer's audacity even as I slightly whistled at his promiscuity...

Yes, he did value risk-taking and not just for the rest of society (which was what was faintly "off" about his recommendation of murderer Jack Henry Abbott....)

The fact that Hitchens could use the pinky-extended phrase "faintly 'off'" in reference to a sequence of events that left an innocent man stabbed to death on the street tells you quite a bit, I think, about his way of looking at the Iraq War. The fact that he "admir[ed] Mailer's audacity" as Mailer defended the sequence of events that led to this stabbing death tells you a bit more. (I don't even want to talk about the use of the word "promiscuity" in this context, which makes me queasy.)

Hitchens seems to see the war now the way he saw Mailer's deeds then. The thousands and thousands of dead and injured, and the millions of exiled, are the stabbed waiter -- pity, isn't it, but you do have to admire the audacity of the whole enterprise, don't you? Yes, Bush's choice to condemn young Americans and Iraqis to death while wiping the sweat of a jolly afternoon's mountain biking off his brow seems faintly "off." But deposing Saddam is, after all, worth a little risk.