Thursday, December 28, 2006

Et tu, Snow White?

Check out this fantastically honest and charming article written by Peggy Orenstein in this past weekend's New York Times Magazine concerning the rise of the Princess nation (amongst the littlest ladies in the USA). Worth a read, on many levels. Look out, Chris!

Edwards and Upwards

Welcome, John Edwards. My admiration and support for the Senator is no secret. It's safe to say that he has come a long way in a short time in both the clarity and depth departments, from the first time I watched him wow the crowd from the center of the VFW Hall on a cold winter's night in Solon, Iowa, to his recent appearance on Hardball.

Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson turns out a great summary of Edwards' path from 2004 to his announcement today.

Unlike, say, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney (who e-mailed a defensive, Inside-the-Beltway reply to me after I complained to him about his 12-19 article) as the 2008 contest solidifies, my partiality will be out in the open. May the best candidate get the Dem nod. Obviously, this excludes Hillary (she's not a foregone conclusion, folks!).

Gerald Ford, rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back to the Future

In the "Person of the Year" Issue of Time (it's me...and you!) tiny Joe Klein hands in a short, obvious slice of journalistic homework handicapping the 2008 situation on the ground for Democrats in Iowa. Klein (with the help of the Davids Yepsen and Broder) posits that people in Iowa really like Edwards, no one really wants to actually vote for Hillary, and Obama was catching a wave of support even prior to his recent multi-media blitz (his Monday Night Football introduction was risky genius--if you missed it, here). Yepsen acknowledges that Iowans don't yet view Vilsack in a "presidential frame" (I bet it's a pretty frame...I wonder if its gilded?). Klein then insolubly suggests if Iowans deem out-of-towners too slick Vilsack could benefit (but I thought Iowans already liked Edwards?). Ah, well, who needs logic when you occupy such a small part of the magazine? Limited copy, limited deduction.

So after some "mainstream media" respect for Edwards' numbers in the first caucus state, we get this junk from Adam Nagourney in today's Times. Noting that Edwards' will most likely announce his candidacy next week in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Nagourney writes:

Democrats said his campaign was gambling that the television networks and cable news programs would find New Orleans a compelling setting in a week when they were desperate for news and when many Americans would be in front of their television sets, albeit looking for football more than politics.

Unconventional announcements are conventional for Mr. Edwards. In 2004, he made his announcement on Jan. 2. That, of course, didn’t work out so well for him.

Snarkiness aside, this last line is objectively untrue. Only in America, when a one-term Senator with a working class-to-riches life story runs for President, places a surprise second in the Iowa caucuses, becomes the Vice Presidential nominee of a major political party and then finds himself well-positioned for another run at the White House in 2008, could a "reporter" label this not "work[ing] out so well."

It's going to be a long race. Happy shopping.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me

With a terse David and Goliath metaphor as his guide, Senator Evan Bayh bowed out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination this weekend. Now, weeks ago when Governor Mark Warner gave a pass to the race this was easy to rationalize, but Evan Bayh had both the resume and cash to hit the ground running. What's with these guys? Suddenly the thick political oxygen of celebrity and donorship is thinning for white men, and they're fading into the wilderness faster than you can say, "Obama".

Most analysts suppose Bayh's Bye-Bye is good news for John Edwards, and I would agree. Hotline on Call suggests Edwards will become the only "crusader" in the field, although it seems pretty ridiculous to call a populist-tinged candidate a "crusader" while allowing religion-and-values-heavy candidates like W. in 2000 or Romney in 2008 the mantle of "reformer." Methinks the labels should be switched, and that Edwards' eventual mantra, should he run, will be much more in line with reform and realism than the stark moral "crusading" of men like Romney or Huckabee.

It's all in the labels.

It seems Hillary is making the TV talk-show rounds this week for the re-release of her book "It Takes a Village," now sporting a full-color photo of the Senator surronded by happy children. Does anyone else notice the irony in Hillary repackaging an old work rather than writing something fresh for public consumption? It takes a cynic.

Update: Political bravery delayed is good policy denied. She makes me sick.

In case you missed it like I did, here's a week-old Washington Post column from David Broder regarding Tom Vilsack, titled, "An Iowan You Should Know."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Out of Africa

If you have a spare moment amidst the holiday shopping this weekend, the article "Somalia’s Islamists and Ethiopia Gird for a War" in Thursday's Times is a riveting read. A whole world beyond the Middle East exists and needs our attention, respect and diplomatic nuance. Hopefully our next President will recognize the significance of this region.

I'm Humble, Just Ask Me

Arizona Senator and presumptive GOP Presidential candidate John McCain completed a trip to Iraq this week, and the New York Times aptly revealed what's really going on inside the Senator's head. A clue: all strategery, no genuine thoughtfulness. Tastes great, but truly less filling. Per the Times:

...Mr. McCain said personal ambition would not guide his Iraq policy.

“I take the position I’m taking with the full knowledge that only 15 to 18 percent of the American people agree with my position that we need more troops,” he said. Still, he said he supported the troop increase to stabilize the situation in Baghdad and other turbulent areas and give Iraqi leaders time to work out compromises to bring the Sunni insurgency and Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence under control.

The visit by Mr. McCain came at a time of disarray in Washington and across the United States over how to proceed in Iraq. Mr. McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is effectively doubling down his bet on the war, figuring that embracing a strong resolution in Iraq will give him an effective campaign cudgel. If the administration sends more troops, Mr. McCain can hope for a speedy resolution in Iraq that allows him to claim partial victory; if President Bush pulls back and chaos persists, he could contend that his advice was ignored.

Without a troop increase, Mr. McCain said at the news conference, “the results are going to be inevitable, in my view” — a defeat for America and for its Iraqi allies that would create a terrorist haven that could be used as a base for attacks in the United States.

He contrasted the situation with the Vietnam War, saying, “when we came home, the war was over.” But now, he said, Iraq’s Islamic militants “will follow us home” if the American effort fails.

Even Mr. McCain, a decorated Vietnam hero, acknowledged the perils of his approach. He described a troop increase as “the least bad option” and said it could cost him his shot at the presidency. “I happen to feel that I have to do what my many years of life involved in the military dictate to me,” he said. As if to emphasize his military credentials, he and other members of the delegation left Baghdad by helicopter after the news conference to fly to an embattled Marine base at Ramadi, 85 miles west of the capital, which is considered one of Iraq’s deadliest places.

Least bad option. Could cost him his shot. Must do what his many years involved in the military dictate. What a brave man! McCain is recommending an option that is completely at odds with the weary nation, next-to-impossible from a personnel standpoint, and short-sighted by failing to recognize the failures of the past 5 years--and he wants all of us to be grateful at his courage to be self-consciously disingenuous? Perfect.

This guy is so brazenly transparent, his power grabs make Hillary look like a principled leader.

Over the Hillary

Great, early news on the ground in Iowa for John Edwards, who continues to consolidate his support among caucus-goers. Most of the media has chosen to focus on Edwards' front-runner status, but the more interesting aspects of this poll are Obama's hard number (13%) and Hillary's decline since the last poll (from 26% to 16%). To focus on the Hillary issue, it seems that this new poll displays not only how weak her support is when it comes to actual voters, but also that after all this time in front of the nation, Iowans at least aren't buying what she will most likely be selling. As for Vilsack, the single digit showings don't help much.

This Alfonse D'Amato quote from a Friday New York Times article seems misdirected and more applicable to Senator Barack Obama and not D'Amato's object of affection, Ms. Clinton: "“My Republican colleagues would do well to take notice of a very focused, energetic, organized, articulate, bright senator who, if she does run for president, should be taken as a very, very serious candidate.” Change the "she" to a "he" and you've got a truism (again, someone all about that Clinton "energy"...please, stop, please). Also note that D'Amato actually believes Giuliani would run as McCain's VP on the GOP ticket. Evidence of delusions? Perhaps D'Amato has seen a submissive side to Rudy no one else has...

An obvious link from the Huffington Post, but a significant glimpse into the fact that the Obama's actually live in the real world (unlike, that "energetic" Hillary!). A quote from Obama:“Being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option... Now I will tell you, this is something, this is one of the least-attractive — not the part about being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option. But even just having a security apparatus around you; one of the things that I have been very proud over the last several years, is, for all the hoopla, I am not an entourage guy. . . I have been accessible, and Michelle and I have gone out of our way not to change our habits. Even if I am not to run for president, the crush of attention has created a different set of problems.”

Hopefully polls like this from the Wall Street Journal are reflecting America's true collective wisdom. The poll notes that "eight in 10 Americans would be 'comfortable' or 'enthusiastic' about an African-American or woman running for president," and also notes that if you want to be elected President in 2008, it's worse to be connected to the Bush Administration than to be gay.

An excellent quote from Chris Matthews this week, an aside the host made to his live Hardball audience during a break from taping a show with Senator John Edwards: "This is not hardball, this is batting practice. This guy is killing me. He couldn't do this four years ago."

Sounds like 2004 taught at least one Democratic nominee how to better communicate his message. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Edwards on the scene.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"But does he know how to sing it?"

At least UN AmbASSador John Bolton is consistent in his inability to be a diplomat. After attending a farewell dinner held at the White House for outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Bolton snidely joked that, "nobody sang 'Kumbaya.'" While a "joke," Bolton's comment is a clear window into why our nation's foreign policy is a disaster. President Bush has a knack for finding white guys with the distinct capacity for heaping scoops of hubris on top of ignorant indecency. Annan's laughing comment after being told Bolton's joke is a window into exactly how to handle these W. acolytes, and also the man's character: "But does he know how to sing it?"

Slate's John Dickerson trailed Obama in New Hampshire this weekend and filed a concise, interesting take on the visit and the choice facing the junior Senator from Illinois. In an age when our greatest sports stars enhance their performance with chemicals, when pop musicians are explicitly manufactured, and scripted television shows actually get called reality, it might be time to acknowledge charisma and clear-headed eloquence have been undervalued in American politics for too long, and that "experience" is too often a double-edged sword.

On the opposite end of this spectrum, the man with the most impressive and painfully excessive experience in American politics has not ruled out a run in 2008. I won't be the first to say this is an inconvenient truth for for Hillary and Barack, however far-fetched.

Ah, Dennis Kucinich returns to tag along. On one hand, why not, and on the other, kind of pathetic.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926-2006

One of my favorite professors my senior year at Georgetown was former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who taught a course on styles of political leadership throughout history. Ambassador Kirkpatrick was often late, but once she arrived and took her chair at the front of the classroom, the lectures began in her low, throaty voice with phrases like, "One time I was talking with King Hussein of Jordan, and he said..." I also remember she sometimes wore a bright pink raincoat, a choice that seemed so out-of-character it was a delight. Jeane was an intelligent, classy, respectful and serious woman and will be missed.

Sunday Morning Pick: Read a Book

Meet the Press: Like everyone but Stephanopoulous, Russert is stuck with James Baker and Lee Hamilton, a duo who's passive recommendations will help Iraq probably about as much as Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton's aggressive recommendations assisted the nation's fight against terrorism. Word is that Lee Hamilton will soon publish his book, "Ignored Commission Recommendations Greatest Hits" sometime next year. A group of old white guys will also stop by to discuss the Study Group findings. Next.

This Week with George Stephanopoulus: A little better, but not much. Senator Joe Biden and Senator Gordon Smith (I know...who?) will stop by to give their two cents on the Study Group recommendations. This is followed by a roundtable with the regulars, including George Will and Cokie Roberts who will both, I'm sure, find a way to say something politically tone-deaf and insulting about someone in the Democratic Party.

Face the Nation: Baker & Hamilton regurgitate further thoughts to the echo chamber. Senators Carl Levin and Trent Lott also stop by to discuss how Michigan and Mississippi do not have the same abbreviation. Or do they?

Fox News Sunday: Third tier all the way. More from Baker & Hamilton. Senators Christopher Dodd and Sam Brownback bask in the faint 2008 glow while they still can.

Enjoy this old picture of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Selling Out, in the Good Sense

Go, Obama, go.

Go, Richardson, go.

Anyone but Hillary.

Red Corner

In a stern editorial discussing the Iraq Study Group's "Report" today, The New York Times aptly notes that, "The world has watched as Mr. Bush painted himself into a corner and then insisted it was a strategic decision." Not only does this apply to Iraq, but it also describes the base-pandering Republican Party as molded by Karl Rove. Evidence of this Rovian Red Corner-painting is found in today's interesting column from Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post who writes:

Following the gospel according to Rove (fear not swing voters but pander to and mobilize thy base), George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, together or separately, had already blocked stem cell research, disparaged nonmilitary statecraft, exalted executive wartime power over constitutional niceties, campaigned repeatedly against gay rights, thrown public money at conservative churches and investigated the tax status of liberal ones. In the process, they alienated not just moderates but Western-state libertarians.

Since sneaking into the White House in 2000, the Republicans took a gamble that moderates weren't needed to win or perhaps didn't even exist--recall that recently Bill O'Reilly told an Oprah audience that "there is no center" in American politics--but the reality is that most Americans are comfortable with centrist policies, not only because compromise is the lifeblood of democracy and helps move policy forward, but because we all have to live together every day. Extremism complicates and interferes with our daily lives, not thoughtful compromise.

Have you noticed how blithely revisionist some folks are when it comes to the independent bid for the Presidency made by Ross Perot in 1992? After all that hype and free press surrounding the Texas billionaire, Perot only garnered 19% of the popular vote, respectable for certain, but hardly within the realm of victory. If anything, Perot nudged Bill Clinton closer to the White House. New York magazine sure thinks Michael Bloomberg is the cat's meow. Discontent might be high in 2008, but I don't think that a 3rd party led by Bloomberg is the answer to our nation's problems.

I have always contended that McCain is no maverick. All recent evidence suggests he'd sell his soul to be Commander-in-Chief, and now he has the perfect guy lined-up to run his campaign: Terry Nelson, the man behind those race-baiting anti-Harold Ford ads in the Tennessee Senate race.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Free Time: Party Twins, Rudy's Dictatorship Tendencies & Obama

Michael Kinsley writes an excellent and original main page article for Slate about the Bush twins and their failure to weigh in on the war created by their father. Kinsley writes:

Living your life according to your own values is a challenge for everyone, and must be a special challenge if you happen to be the president. No one thinks that the president should have to give up a child to prove that his family is as serious about freedom as these other families he praises. But it would be reassuring to see a little struggle here—some sign that the Bush family truly believes that American soldiers are dying for our freedom, and it's worth it. Who knows? Maybe they have had huge arguments about this. Maybe George and Laura wanted the girls to join the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps, or do something that would at least take them off the party circuit for a couple of years. And perhaps the girls said no. But I doubt this scenario, don't you?

Cintra Wilson of Salon offers up a true and important aspect of Rudy Giuliani often overlooked--that while Mayor of New York City he was an excessively authoritarian, egotistical leader. She notes:

On 9/11, all Americans were frightened children, and in a moment of mythic personal heroism, Mayor Giuliani filled the gaping leadership void. The president looked like a petrified chimp; Cheney was spirited to an underground bunker. Only Giuliani could pull himself together sufficiently to get on TV in the midst of the wreckage and show America that a grown-up was still breathing. On that terrible day our reptile brains looked at Rudy Giuliani and said, "We're OK now. Daddy's home."

And we forgot, some for a moment, some permanently, that Daddy was psycho.

Markos at the Daily Kos writes a provocative piece all-but endorsing Barack Obama for President. The piece pretty much proves why restraint is often best in political journalism, because Markos plays his hand a little too much and comes across as a lazy amateur in the process, i.e. assuming Vilsack will win Iowa which is plainly ridiculous. Kos writes:

Again, we don't know what the final field will look like, so things can dramatically change. But an entrance into the race would make Obama the prohibitive favorite. If politics is about seizing opportunities, it would seem a no-brainer for him to enter the race now.

What's more, Obama would then be tough to beat in the general. He would very well be the favorite in that race, even against a McCain, and would probably be a net positive for Democrats running down the ballot. So it wouldn't be a terrible thing by any means.

I agree it wouldn't be a bad thing, but Kos' piece proves pundits are feeling the pressure to stake out territory with their predictions and fast. The bottom line is that a lot can happen tomorrow, let alone one year from tomorrow. We don't even know who's running yet. Stay tuned.


A tasty morsel of hope in today's New York Times: Barack Obama is acting more and more like a candidate, giving well-attended speeches and meeting with possible donors. Some key graphs:

One of the donors who met with Mr. Obama, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend Mrs. Clinton, said that he and several others had supported Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaigns but were not committed to her as a presidential candidate.

“I like Hillary a lot, but I’m also impressed with Obama — his message, the way he connects to people,” said the donor, a prominent New York business person. “It’s a little too early for Democrats to be certain that Hillary is the strongest bet for 2008. There are a lot of good people interested in running.”

Agreed. But this passage takes the cake:

John Catsimatidis, a loyal Clinton donor, said he had recently received a phone call from Mrs. Clinton asking to have dinner before the holidays. He believes she wants to run for president and is moving to ramp up her Senate fund-raising operation for a White House campaign.

“I think they have a phenomenal political machine set up that’s far superior to any of the other candidates, or theoretical candidates,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “Now they’re getting ready to put that machine to use.”

Oh yeah, nice machine! Too bad it's a machine with no voters involved! I don't know anyone who supports Clinton. When I ask folks out here in California about her, all I get is variations of a grimace.

Speaking of variations of a grimace, it looks like the response to Senator Kerry's "botched joke" (which I sincerely believe was a simple mistake) has knocked Kerry off course when it comes to an '08 run. His previous plan to decide early in 2007 has been pushed to Spring. Even Nixon had to wait two cycles before his White House comeback. But I suspect Kerry's chance at a comeback will never come back.

Even more hope on the 2008 front: Senator John Edwards appeared on CBS Sunday Morning over the weekend, showing off his new home in North Carolina, discussing his new book, and generally reminding me why he should not be counted out this time around. His genuine focus and confidence were evident; Elizabeth looked great and back to full form as well. Here's a link from the CBS website detailing the appearance that includes some clips from the show. Within the last few days, Edwards also snatched up former Michigan Congressman David Bonior as a senior advisor--a solid move in step with Edward's consistently populist behavior since his 2004 loss.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What's In a Name

In late 1999, First Lady Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Georgetown University and I was in the audience. The topic of the speech is anyone's guess. I forgot the substance of the talk the moment my person exited Gaston Hall and returned to the sidewalks of campus. My memory of the speech consists of one blunt and simple concept: through-the-motions.

Almost seven years later, now that the First Lady is a twice-elected junior Senator from New York and is slowly assembling the framework for a run at the White House, I am revisiting that concept and hereby making it the foundation for my vigorous opposition to her candidacy for the Presidency.

Where the heck has Hillary Clinton been for the past seven years?

No, really. I'm dead serious. Where has Hillary been? I'll tell you where: going through-the-motions. Sure, sure, everyone in Hillary's inner circle will leap up to tell us what a diligent and thoughtful legislator she is, how dogged and detailed her approach to policy is, how careful and responsible she maps out her myriad positions. My response to this is: so what? Where has she been?

In the past seven years our nation has entered an incomprehensible and endless war that Hillary Clinton supported and only grew stern against once it was too late and even then only when the cameras were rolling. In the past seven years, our federal government policy has completely reversed any middle class economic gains initiated by Hillary's husband and even worse has compounded the gains for those in the tree-top upper class, those who know of wealth but little of work. In the past seven years, evangelicals and Christian conservatives have hijacked the social atmosphere of the nation, pushing their way into our bedrooms and classrooms and pocket books. As soldiers died in the name of energy dependence, as our elderly got ensnared in a Big Pharma giveaway prescription drug plan for Medicare, and as American children have remained stuck in underfunded and over-tested classrooms, these moral crusaders have used a puppet Congress to target and attack and turn the nation againt groups ranging from homosexuals to women to immigrants. And in the past seven years our President has insulted our intelligence, lied to our faces, and refused to be held accountable or hold any of his comrades accountable for deep and latent mistakes.

So where was Hillary?

I don't care about her well-written policy speeches on the Senate floor or her grandstanding questioning of Don Rumsfeld or her chidingly mild and useless words on the President's bold grabs at power. What I care about is hearing a counterbalancing force in American politics. An angry voice. A blunt voice. A non-triangulating, non-focus-group-tested, non-cynical voice.

We've heard Hillary, because yes, she's been talking. But she has said nothing to defend us, not when it counts, and not with a loud, clear shout.

This country deserves a woman President, and soon. But not Hillary. She has not stood up for any of us. She has only stood up for herself.

Sunday Talk Re-Cap: Who's on First

Due to odd L.A. programming for CBS Sunday morning, I was unable to follow my own advice, and only caught This Week (as well as the great Frank Rich column). This was the first glimpse of Evan Bayh that I've had, and I suppose two things struck me: he's calm and smart, and his voice is kind of radio-announcer-y. We'll see what happens with him. Vilsack also seemed calm and smart but his makeup was weird (red lips?) and it distracted me overall. The lame-o panel afterwards quickly wrote Vilsack off due to his lack of "passion" but I'm not sure what they expect; I doubt modern political passion requires full-throated zaniness, a la Howard Dean or Al Gore 2.0. Besides, when John McCain speaks he has the enthusiasm of a rural banker opening a savings account and no one seems to question his passion (or question him, period). And I don't think Hillary Clinton has any real passion beyond her trademark snark. Whatever though, right--at this early stage the pundits are at their weakest zenith in terms of power-- what matters most is signing up talent and raising the funds.

Here's an interesting devil's advocate take on why Vilsack's road to D.C. is a bumpy one.

One evening as a Congressional page I was leaving the Hart Senate office building and I stood in line at the ATM behind a staffer for Senator Brownback. The Senator stood waiting nearby, holding some dry-cleaning. He casually struck up a conversation with me asking where I was from, etc. He was friendly and very sincere. It's too bad his brand of theocratic conservatism has no place in American democratic governing, now matter how genuinely held his values are. However, I suspect Brownback will be able to participate in the primaries for a while, occupying the true Far Right corner once warmed by the tired persona of George Allen.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sunday Show Pick: Face the Nation

Meet the Press: Big yawn, here. I'm definitely sleeping in. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Sens. John Warner and Carl Levin, and former President Jimmy Carter. I wonder which one will wear the most colorful tie. That'll be the extent of the excitement on this one. Oh, and as an aside, I thought Tim Russert's interview last week with my Governor, Arnold the Tan, was ridiculous. As a double aside, I did not comment on Russert's interviews with Senators-elect Jon Tester and Jim Webb two weekends ago because the whole show was insulting. I don't even think Tim prepares for interviews with Democrats. His follow-ups are so passive aggressive it's sad. If I have to hear him ask one more Democrat what "redeployment" means... Anyway...

This Week with George Stephanopoulos: OK, double bookings are just lame. Surprise! George hosts Stephen Hadley. BUT George also has taped segments with Senator Evan Bayh and Governor Tom Vilsack. Maybe I'll TIVO this one. I wish the Bayh interview was live, but oh well. At least this show will try to be newsworthy.

Face the Nation: OK, triple bookings are just useless. Why even have these shows? Lord. Is everyone interesting busy? So you know the drill-- Captain Camera-Hog Stephen Hadley appears with Host Bob to spout the Party line about how Iraqis will stand up, we'll stand down, and how W. is God. Then we have much more interesting guest Senator Chuck Hagel, who may drop some hints about his 2008 plans. But, just to remind us that too much pleasure is a bad thing, we get to listen to oh-so-self-obsessed Joe Lieberman of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party talk about how pretty he is. Oy vey.

Pick: Face the Nation, with the Lieberman segment on mute. Cracker Watch: 24

December 1, 2006, 232pm PST:

Crackers: 24
African-Americans: 2 (!)
Actress Eva Mendes: 1
Yellow Blow-up Seal: 1

Outside Sources

The Washington Post's White House Briefing from Dan Froomkin is a tad heavy-handed, but a good summary of just why the evolution of our nation's Iraq policy no longer involves the President of the United States. The best quote comes from James Fallows, who contends that when it comes to where we go from here, "the choice is between a terrible decision and one that is even worse."

That's kind of how I felt about the 2004 election.

Slate's Fred Kaplan provides even more reasons why the Iraq Study Group is a bad idea in theory. He begins his piece noting:

Judging from the advance leaks and previews, the Baker-Hamilton commission's upcoming report on Iraq will do exactly what these blue-ribbon salvage jobs are meant to do: a) Stake out a position halfway between the president and his critics without fully satisfying either; b) provide "bipartisan" cover for both sides to shuffle toward middle ground; and yet c) sidestep the central question, which is too unsettling for anyone to face and which can still be kicked down the road for a bit, to everyone's relief.

I think that Kaplan's (c) is 100% correct. Bad students love to procrastinate! What did Ellen DeGeneres once say? "Procrastination is the answer to all of our problems. Procrastinate now. Don't put it off."

ABC's Note provided fair coverage to Iowa Governor Vilsack's presidential announcement today. The Note does point out why Vilsack's climb is steeper than ever, citing that, "Coverage of Vilsack's announcement by the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood seems to say more about Sen. Obama than it does about Gov. Vilsack. 'The person with the greatest chance of altering the race appears to be Sen. Barack Obama . . . whose message of hope and optimism has created a political sensation.'

Nothing like a level playing field...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Sectarian Violence Ate My Homework

Even in law school, where they are all the rage, I never cared for study groups. Generally, individuals in any group are incentivized to practice restraint, be it with their wisdom, questions, or time. In study groups this restraint is amplified by blunt competition, and I don't care how nice or genial everyone is, there is a point where the group disperses and every man and woman is left to fend for themselves on exam day. Period.

Admittedly, the high level commission appointed by the President to "study" its way to a magical, feasible path towards fixing what W. and Dick have broken in Iraq (or what the White House website euphemistically terms "renewal") surely has none of this competitive "I-need-the-best-grade" bunk that normal study groups contend with. But the subtle political posturing required to be welcomed into such a prestigious "study group" or "commission" is pretty much a competition of sorts. And once inside the group, individuals retain their ulterior motives. Sure, Lee Hamilton and James Baker and whoever else is in the group (Sandra Day O'Connor? Can you believe that?) seek a similar field of result, that ever elusive "victory," but to quote Maureen Dowd's column from Wednesday:

In Latvia, President Bush vowed [Tuesday] that "I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete." But his words about Iraq long ago lost their meaning. Especially the words "mission" and "complete."

How can this "study group" be expected to divine a solution to a problem not of its making, especially when the group is operating within a realm of Presidential semantics that make any realistic solution impossible? I look upon this commission like I would an internet term paper service college students use when they don't want to read the book--what will be delivered is result by proxy, or in this particular instance, leadership by proxy. W. is the failing student too desperate to study on his own and too incurious to dig in and earn the A+ like a person of character. The President has plenty of time to do what he loves (attend campaign parties across the nation, clear brush) but has no time to do what must be done to stop American soldiers from dying every day (create policy). Adding insult to injury, Jim Baker's commission is severely limited because the chief architects of the Iraq mess are still lurking over the process to clean it up, like lazy bullies demanding the nerd complete the assignment on time.

Perhaps this is a great example of why inherited governance never succeeds. Throughout history, individuals handed governing leadership roles on the sole basis of filial affiliation often falter repeatedly, and even more often fail entirely. Being an executive requires a whole list of sacrifices, including doing many tasks that are tough by any standard. Being a political leader in modern America requires even heavier burdens. One has to want it, and badly. But W. is the President who never really wanted to be President; so much of his Presidency is wrapped up in his father's legacy, there is no room left for naive ambition or optimism or even truth. Rove & Company have ensured cynical, selfish "strategery" from day one. It has led to disaster. Even W. admits he's waiting to graduate so the next class can fix it all.

I have little, true insight into what Baker and his "study group" will turn in to their intellectual purchaser, George W. Bush, on exam day. But reading quotes from W. like the one above, I can see it's already too late. Hopefully the inevitable end is that we bring the soldiers home as soon as possible. The best thing the rest of us can do is ensure that our next President knows what he or she wants for America, beyond victory and then winning re-election. Let's pick someone who will write their own term paper, or better yet, care about what grade the People give it.

2008: Hawkeye State

Looks like Senator Edwards will be in Des Moines tonight at the Barnes & Noble signing copies of his new book, Home. If you're in the area, it might be worth stopping by (even just to see the size of the turnout...).

Also this evening in Mount Pleasant, Governor Vilsack holds a potluck to pull the trigger on his announcement tour for the White House. I don't think Christie Vilsack's dish sounds appealing, but I guess what Tom is serving up is more important... grab a fork.

I haven't been reading much about McCain's Iowa operation...I'm looking for any evidence he will take Iowa seriously this go-round and I'm not hearing much. Maybe he's too busy taking fancy photos for that website of his.

Update: Political Wire notes rumblings that Hillary Clinton is not setting up necessary staff elements in Iowa, suggesting that she is watching Obama's moves before deciding to run herself or is skipping the caucuses entirely. If Obama runs and Hillary doesn't, I think the word "miracle" would be an appropriate response.

I noticed that CNN is re-running clips of Vilsack's presidential announcement, but I also noticed how the announcer cited both Vilsack's support for gay unions and his single digit showing in the Democratic preference polls. On one hand, it's good they're even giving Vilsack coverage, but on the other hand, must the press highlight this kind of stuff even before a candidate leaves the gate? It's going to be a long election cycle....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Post-Its: Pelosi, Hagel, and Obama-mania

Like I suspected, those ridiculous obituaries penned for Nancy Pelosi's power after her support of losing Majority Leader candidate Jack Murtha went nowhere were not only disingenuous but just plain lazy (Maureen Dowd cattily complained Pelosi's first move was to "throw like a girl." That MoDo leaves no cliche unturned...). Not so fast-- it's looking like the woman has what I believed Madeline Albright called "cajones." Pelosi will not select Jane Harman or Alcee Hastings for the Chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee... Well, done, Madame Speaker. Looks like no one will be forcing Pelosi's hands just yet (at least for now)... but you and I know the press won't see this as a gesture of strength from the Speaker-elect (which it is).

Weeks ago I doubted Senator Chuck Hagel's interest in the White House and a reader aptly pointed out Hagel was by no means out of the picture... here is some further evidence in a solid David Ignatius column... Hagel's conserative pragmatism and lack of superficial rhetoric would certainly have appeal to Iowans, I would suspect...

The other day I was waiting for the elevator inside the office building I am currently working at in Hollywood, and the lobby's flatscreen television monitor was tuned to CNN. Senator Barack Obama was on the screen giving an interview and I couldn't help but notice how everyone around the television lingered, watching the screen until the last moment when they stepped into the elevator car. There's no doubt the man turns heads... I hope his upcoming trip to New Hampshire goes well...

Speaking of 2008 hopefuls, has anyone checked out John Edward's book? Any reviews?

Finally, I really would have expected more from Brian Fellows, but alas, life goes on. For those of you who don't know, you're not missing much. But for those who do-- that goat has devil eyes.

Who Amongst Us Doesn't Like Kerry?

The Huffington Post is oddly concerned with something pretty useless today (are we surprised?). Namely, that a new poll shows John Kerry is the least liked Democrat and possibly least liked political figure (excluding W., naturally). Also, this new poll shockingly showed Americans like puppies more than little kids. Great stuff. Distractions are fun... focus, Arianna!

A noteworthy article yesterday from the Times about the dying breed of moderate GOP-ers. This ties in with my previous musings on Jim Leach and Lincoln Chafee, but sadly the article treats the moderate GOP flareout as one of cyclical, political realities and not one born of Bush and Rove tactics that put power above honor. Maine voters in particular voted for Sheldon Whitehouse because Bush and his 50% "mandate" in 2004 just became too painful to sit through. It seems that when a President and his cohorts start to decry partisanship while simultaneously calling the opposition party weak, unpatriotic and pretty much terrorist appeasers that these kinds of moderates fade. The article makes no mention of just who placed our country into these desperate times, and who forced voters' hands into taking desperate measures... but worth a read nonetheless.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Soldiers of Fortune

Back on track! Thanks for your patience (presuming you're out there...)

Behind the TimesSelect walls, Bob Herbert traveled the road most-definitely taken before in his New York Times column Monday, lamenting the reality that most of America's Malls are bustling with holiday spending while Iraq burns and American soldiers continue to die. While I'm game to go along with this semi-legitimate whining something about it is so absurd and misplaced it's just gross:

There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.

Personal responsibility, huh... while Herbert quotes some college students who bluntly acknowledge they feel no connection to W.'s moral crusade, he's left with college kids and materialistic mommies as the bad guys and no one else . This is all fine and nice, but when there is so much to be outraged about in this world (hello, poverty, genocide and disease) and when there are so many that are personally responsible for these things (uh, like the Bushes and Cheneys and such) shooting the student and shoppers is just weird. "Gleeful Americans with Fistfuls of dollars," Bob? Really? Come on. We have to question just what exactly people like Herbert mean when they say, "there is no sense of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility."

I don't know about you, but I have heard this "where's the shared sacrifice?" talk from commentators towing the line on both sides of the political spectrum, and have always wanted them to elaborate. What would they like us to do? Who's responsibility is it to rally Americans to such a collective cause? And even if the President awoke from his fraternity-style detachment, what sacrifice could he offer us to lay down, beyond a token gesture of superficiality? Herbert mentions Representative Charlie Rangel's proposal to bring back the draft--but is mandated all-male army-making the kind of burden this nation needs? I have no answers here, but this brand of weepy "why aren't we all paying attention" column-making doesn't seem to achieve much.

Rampant consumerism is arguably a modern malady but I don't see how a woman buying towels at Restoration Hardware for her Christmas guests is a bad American or has not given any thought to the chaos in Iraq. Americans have given up on this war. The direct cause of this is George W. Bush.

Much better is Nick Kristof's Tuesday column, The Cowards Turned Out to Be Right, which quietly defends the journalists that have steadily turned out factual, balanced reporting from beyond the Green Zone in Iraq. Kristof ends his piece asking this: "how about if the administration devotes itself less to managing the news and more to trying to manage Iraq?"

Wouldn't it be nice?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Something happened to me on November 8th, 2006. I woke up and everything seemed a little easier. Traffic to work was nominal, the faces of my colleagues at work seemed genial, and all of my favorite websites pulsed with positivity. During my routine lunch-break walk the air spun a sweet scent and radiated a weak heat that California calls Fall. As the stumpy palm trees and fire-friendly grasses swayed with the wind, I was reminded of a passage in an essay written by the incandescently true Anne Lamott titled, Ham of God. In the essay, Lamott wrote:

Everyone I know has been devastated by Bush's presidency and, in particular, our country's heroic military activities overseas. I can usually manage crabby hope that there is meaning in mess and pain, that more will be revealed, and that truth and beauty will somehow win out in the end. But I'd been much had been stolen from us by Bush, from the very beginning of his reign, and especially since he went to war in Iraq. I wake up some mornings pinned to the bed by centrifugal sadness and frustration. A friend called to wish me Happy Birthday, and I remembered something she'd said many years ago, while reading a Vanity Fair article about Hitler's affair with his niece. "I have had it with Hitler," Peggy said vehemently, throwing the magazine to the floor. And I'd had it with Bush.

Up until November 7, 2006 I too had had it with Bush. The dishonest politics, dismembered reasoning and disabled leadership all swirled into a quiet daily misery that clung to my leg like a playful child. There was no doubt about it: I had given up. I had learned to ignore this perpetual, nagging injury my daily life sustained, the result of the direct and aggressive insulting of my intelligence. Since 2000, I had more than lost my bearings, I had lost my national history. The past six years for me are a period of life marred by political disillusion and dispair. I have not recognized the sleepwalking country that is my own. Decency and hopefulness disappeared. When I was a sophomore in college, I headed to Washington, D.C., to attend Georgetown University, and no matter my politics (I was a safely closeted Republican) the knowledge imparted to me in my government courses was imbued with an overall tone clearly enunciated, a tone that mimicked what I had been taught growing up in Iowa: respect, collegiality and forward-looking perspective were the framework of my people and its government, and ideology was mere color on the canvas. If latent, petty hatreds existed, they were managed in the name of a greater purpose: getting along.

I distinctly recall the early morning George W. Bush was announced by cable commentators as the next President of the United States. My blunt and endearing grandfather Earl had just passed away, and my bags were packed for a return trip to Iowa to be with my family. The telephone in my dark, basement apartment on 31st street rang, and my mother said, "Can you believe this?" At first, I wasn't sure if she was referring to the grief we all felt over my grandfather's passing, or the prolonged, troubled election results. I immediately knew she had chosen the distraction, as would be natural, and meant the election results. In my family, politics was serious and significant. In fact, I recall asking my mother that evening if my now-deceased grandfather had voted. But you see, prior to that moment in 2000, American politics and family politics were very similar. They involved power and pressure and guilt and results, but all squeezed with a strong embrace of belonging and love. We were all in it together.

One of my clearest memories in life is returning from that very funeral. I was sitting in a window seat on a small Northwest Airlines plane, pulling away from a Kentucky airport gate. I was watching Katherine Harris' heavy, made-up mug certifying the votes that would make George W. Bush the next leader of the free world. My anticipation was salient, however misguided (I had voted for Bush). For me, looking back, that moment combines with the grief I felt for my mother's loss of her second parent. Knowing what I know today, that grief would shift its primary rationale and focus but would not leave me for six years. Not until this November 8th.

As a creature of routine, for once on November 8th, 2006, I welcomed with intensity the notion that everything must change, that absolute truth gets tested and unquestioningly yields to the arc of new orders. On the morning of November 8th, I felt as if the entire nation had thrown the proverbial magazine down, disgusted with being so viciously discounted for so long. W's "thumpin'" was my reason to believe. It should be a reason to believe for all of us.

Of course, I do not expect that the nation's political tonal trajectory will improve immediately. I am not stupid, but I am no longer put upon with the burden of lies being believed, no longer weighed down with the Rovian rhetoric of divide and scare.

In the late 80s, when I was nearing 11 years old, my grandmother Zita and I would conduct play-acted political interviews and tape them on an old black analog recorder. I played the role of Dan Quayle, the then current vice-president, and my grandmother played the cynical interviewer. My role consisted of playing dumb, and my grandmothers, of the inquisitive journalist. After recording these sessions, we would replay them and would laugh and laugh. I don't think I have experienced such pure laughter too often since those interviews. But together, our humor was as deeply joyful as it was harmless. At that time, making fun of political leaders was different, Despite our laughter and mockery, the powers that be governed, and our homes and churches and bedrooms were wonderfully quiet and absent of these leaders' judgment. These places sustained a spirituality and intimacy that was special and shared with only a few. The laughter about our leaders then contained no trace of nervousness. We feared our God, but never our Government.

9/11 did not shift this paradigm. Karl Rove did. And on November 8th, 2006, as I tossed my magazine down and loudly proclaimed, "I have had it with George W. Bush," something shifted again. Something righted itself.

I am reminded of two years earlier, on that clear, hot day of November 8th, 2004. I stood on the steaming concrete tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport waiting for my transit shuttle to move. I had just touched down from a month-long work project in Ahmedabad, India, and I was filled with stories of a foreign land and utterly exhausted. My tiny cell phone found its signal, and I excitedly dialed my brother in Chicago. The results. Who won? This time, I had voted for John Kerry.

"It's over, buddy," my brother said, with a sadness unmistakable between kin.

This November 8th, I thought of that moment yet again.

"It's over, buddy."

Well, yes, it almost is. And for this, for this, I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lost Highway

Yesterday I began working on a legal project that requires my complete attention for 8 hours a day. Thankfully, it is located at a Hollywood office with lovely views of the hills. Regrettably, there is very limited internet access. While I am working to remedy this for the days to come, regular posting will not resume until tomorrow, Wednesday the 22nd.

Thanks for your patience and please check back soon.

Read Frank Rich from Sunday. Fully original and marvelous.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday's Last Gasp

I had no idea Dick Cheney was that old.

Giuliani seems more serious than I suspected. Does he hurt or help McCain? Speaking of, I've been Exploring McCain, and it seems that like Stephen Colbert, the Senator doesn't see color. (More black and white than Bush, Chris?)

Newsweek's 2008 bench seems a tad narrow. Hagel? Is he even interested? Good for Vilsack, though... One man not on this roster is Senator Chris Dodd. He's the guy trying to restore habeus corpus, but the media doesn't seem to care much about stuff like that and would much prefer to highlight more unexamined topics, like, say, Joe Lieberman.

The Biggest and the Littlest Lady in the World

Let's just be honest, this is crap and we all know it. Not only did the woman make history, but she broke through a marble-reinforced ceiling that has persisted for years, even after most other nations have seen the light and moved on. Nancy Pelosi is now 3rd in the line of succession for the Presidency. But what kind of political discourse does this event generate? Nothing positive or hopeful, that's for sure. Maybe the bums that need to be kicked out are all of the reporters in this country. The fourth estate needs an Extreme Makeover, pronto.

Should we really apply male-created power rules and traditions to this situation? Objectively, women will and do make management decisions differently than men. Not much hay was made of Dennis Hastert blatantly covering-up the sexual aggressions of Mark Foley--what kind of a power decision was that? Were we supposed to applaud Hastert's turned cheek since he enabled Republicans to amass further power? Nancy Pelosi was guilty of taking sides in a minor (and healthy) power struggle. Rather than focusing on Pelosi's loyalty to Jack Murtha, her gestures of support were labeled as ones of weakness. Reports even indicated that no one in the Democratic caucus left the Majority Leader fight phased or disheartened. And yet the response in the MSM to Pelosi's choice is derision and a shake of the head. Howard Fineman and others like him have clutched their pearls in shock at the politics of it all, but their false shock is about as geniune as Bush's new bipartisanship. It seems the perfect person to address this matter is Maureen Dowd. I'll be on the lookout for her Saturday column tomorrow to see if she decides to rail against the press for furtively making Pelosi the bad Mommy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You Want It, You Got It

Toyota's new truck assembly plant in San Antonio reminds me of Howard Dean's 50 state strategy for Democrats--take the fight directly into your weakest territory, and try to win 'em over with your best ideas. Methinks that in this instance, Toyota has the easier battle on it's hands. Regardless, this New York Times article about the new San Antonio assembly line hints at how the plant's success will have ramifications not only for U.S. manufacturing but for global technology innovation. Reminds me of the 2006 Democratic inroads in the West. Whether you want someone's vote or want them to by your Tundra truck, you won't get what you want if you don't show up and ask for it.

Red Asymmetry, Blue Snobbery

Garrison Keillor's latest essay may be lighthearted but his point is not. The 2 Senators per state tradition, despite the enormous population disproportion, has bothered me for years. That'll never change though.

If you have a good chunk of time, here's precisely why.

This guy's complaint definitely captures my frustration with the recent TIME cover, as well as the awful ignorning of Democrats under-the-cover. His suggested alternative cover is above-left. Nice, huh?

Finally, if you can jump the TimesSelect fence and read David Brooks column today, it's worth it. It is whiny and passive-aggressive perfection, and will remind you why you voted for Democrats. I love it when conservatives start pointing out snobs (um, who's judging who?). Brooks is especially bothered by uber-snob filmstar Borat. He notes:

In a society as fluid as ours, snobbery is constantly changing form, and in the latest wave of condescension media, various strains come together. We Jews know all about Borat’s Jewish snobbery — based on the assumption that Middle America’s acceptance of Jews must be a mirage, and that underneath every Rotarian there must be a Cossack about to unleash a continental pogrom.

There’s also that distinct style of young person’s snobbery. Young people haven’t accomplished much yet so they can only elevate themselves by endlessly celebrating their own superior sensibilities. Finally, there’s blue America snobbery, as people on the coasts try to fathom those who would vote for George W. Bush. The only logical explanation is that they are racist, anti-Semitic idiots who can be blamelessly ridiculed.

Someone pick David first for kickball next time, please.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bring A Shovel, Friends.

Look at the new site for Senator John McCain:

Apparently he's an underground cave or something.

Here is Tom Vilsack's site.

Big Apple of Tom's Hawkeye

If I missed this nuggest, perhaps you did as well... in a November 11th article (hidden in that tricky local section) discussing Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign staff situation post-Nov. 7 and her possible 2008 shuffling, the New York Times reported that:

Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa even called her this week to give her a heads-up that he was planning to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, advisers to both of them said. Mr. Vilsack is a longtime admirer of Mrs. Clinton, his advisers said, and he is well aware that she has the standing and money to mount a formidable campaign.

This seems fishy, no? "Longtime admirer"? I wonder if Vilsack called John Edwards as well, or any other big name Democrat who may enter the race. But it gets even worse, with our friends at pointing out an article in Rolling Stone magazine that suggests Vilsack's run would enable Hillary's nomination even more (and thus give Mickey Kaus the upper hand in my mini-e-mail debate with him):

The point is that Iowa is hard to win. It requires time, and more time, and a degree of face-to-face human warmth and interaction to win. Politically interested people in Iowa expect to shake hands with the person they caucus for. Retail politics is not Hillary’s bag, to put it mildly. If she can opt out of Iowa that allows her to plow her mass market media dolars into Las Vegas and the rest of Nevada (which is the number two race on the revamped primary schedule). If she takes the Silver State, she could roll into New Hampshire, where geography is already her friend, the prohibitive frontrunner.

What's going on? Do my Iowa readers suspect Vilsack is simply throwing his favorite-son wrench into the caucus combine just to pave Hillary's way? On one hand, this is just absurd-- who runs for President as a gesture of goodwill for another's ascendancy? On the other hand, it makes sick perfect sense. Perhaps the answer to my question is: someone who wants to be Vice President or possibly even Secretary of Education.

W. Abroad

Have a great time, Mr. President!

Seal the border...

ABC's Note today makes the guess that "the President is already wishing that this trip was over and is ready to come home." Why? Because he's so beloved here? Probably because we have better brush to clear.

David Letterman recently commented something to the effect that "President Bush is headed to Vietnam because his father couldn't get him out of it this time." Love it.

Odd of the President to take a Geisha with him on his way to Asia, rather than bring one back...

No Place Like the White House

Former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards appeared on The Daily Show last evening to promote his new book, Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives. The book is a compliation of narratives from over 60 Americans, sharing stories about their homes either as children or adults. Jon Stewart asked Edwards if he was running for President and Edwards said stay tuned to his website

While I don't own a home of my own (yet), my second childhood home probably held the most impact for my life's far. The house watched me get ready for my first job at the local public library, for my second job at the local movie theatre, provided a parking spot for my first car-- Brownie the Sentra-- helped to observe countless family dinners, and even watched me head off to two different colleges (Go Hoyas). Remembering a house can assist in the recall of so many other great memories. It is an interesting book concept for a politician. I'll have to check it out.

Great Expectations

Greg convinced me to sit down and watch last night's Frontline special on PBS, "A Hidden Life," which detailed the outing of Jim West, the former Republican mayor of Spokane, Washington. West passed away in July of colon cancer, months after being outed by a local newspaper and recalled from office in a whirlwind of troubling events reminiscent of "The Crucible." The show did a remarkable job in demonstrating how American politics has become a sad spectacle, an arena where the media refuses to make genuine judgments about political leaders' personal lives, allows rumor to become headline, and in some cases actively works to create facts to then sensationalize. It is amazing to me how willingly cynical some journalists are, to throw their hands up and put things into the public sphere without discretion, as if left with no option.

West was guilty of being a closeted homosexual, and little else. When the local newspaper, the Spokesman-Review, learned of West's true sexuality it determined his Party affiliation and past support for anti-gay legislation were enough to warrant ruining the man, first by entrapping him and then by printing details of the entrapment in addition to awful allegations of sexual child abuse (that were never proven). West's quiet hypocrisy was not illegal, and in a real sense no different than the political against-interest posturing of African-American or homosexual Republicans or even wealthy Democrats across the nation. Nor was his hypocrisy immoral; West was not married and had no children. While the paper sought to prove West used the power of his office to find government work for young men, the FBI investigation that followed found nothing wrong occurred and cleared West's name. West died just months after the investigation ended.

The most striking aspect of this uncomforting, sad report from Frontline was that the newspaper's reporting on West achieved nothing. Nothing, that is, but a ruined and broken man. If there was any evidence at any stage that West had actually behaved illegally, I would understand the effort to scrutinize him. But I couldn't help but wonder how different West's life would have been if he had lived a country where personal privacy extended to every citizen, and not just those who throw the most stones. It's something to think about as we enter the 2008 presidential race--there is something cruel and unusual about expecting our political leaders to be inhuman and then being disillusioned when they prove to be the opposite.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quick Hits

For wonks, anticipated Senate committee assignments in the 110th Congress. Foreign Relations looks stocked with the most 2008 hopefuls.

For jokesters, John Edwards appears on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this evening. Edwards announced his candidacy for President on the show in 2003. Can we expect a do over?

For optimists, do you really think competence and service get rewarded by this President?

Finally, I tried to do a Cracker Watch this morning, but when I checked the site's main photo was of the freshman class for the upcoming House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, my calculator can't count that high...

Baker's Recipe for Iraq

One of my favorite political writers, Michael Kinsley, produces a piece in the Washingon Post today worthy of a read. His basic message is that policy by Commission is no way to run a Democracy. "If we had wanted our country to be run by James Baker, we had our chance," Kinsley notes. This is a solid point. The deference all parties are placing towards Baker is odd, considering his lack of elected office and distance from the People. I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures, but at least many top Democrats, including Senator Joe Biden, have dared to put their Iraq solutions into substantive form. "The chance that this group of aging white men, plus Vernon Jordan and Sandra Day O'Connor, will come up with something original is not enormous," Kinsley also notes. An ominous reality.

A New York Times mini-profile highlighting John McCain's loner Iraq position exposes the complex disingenuity of demanding more troops in the region after so many years of failure and a national consensus for some form of phased withdrawal. It should come as no surprise that McCain's position is aimed at his "base" instincts, and probably nothing more. The article quotes Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, saying, “He’s making the bet — and it’s not a crazy bet — that the country doesn’t want to lose. The public realizes we can’t afford to win and probably can’t win, but it doesn’t want to lose. And the Republicans probably won’t nominate anyone who’s prepared to accept that now.”

The State of Denial persists.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Under the Covers

Side by side, I think it's safe to see why Don Imus noted this morning that for the first time ever, Newsweek's cover was beyond better than Time's. Being superficial is fun.

But under-the-covers, the difference is even more pronounced. Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham's story is concise and fantastic as he acknowledges one major aspect of the Democratic victory's immediate impact. The new presence of 41's reality-based team within the faith-infused realm of 43's team of fools is intriguing and the analysis is welcome (even better, Meacham examines the rising influence of 41 using more than just Maureen Dowd-y "Daddy-talk" which I've decided after this Sunday's Meet the Press is getting tired. Surely Dowd has more material than "Who's your Mommy?" to describe this substantive political shift...).

Time's cover story writer, snippy Joe Klein, turns out an uninspired and tired analysis, that all-important "everybody's reaching for the center" story, which completely ignores the actual power shift, yes, say it, oh it hurts, Democrats won. Klein focuses on the obvious new "realist" Democratic players, tries to conflate them with the Elder Bush, and then throws in a Dowd-y wanna-be "Pride and Petulence" comment for good measure. Significantly, Klein only mentions aggressive, muscular sounding men that were architects (Rahm and Chuck) and winners (Sherwood and Webb) and nary a lady (We love Claire McCaskill. Go Claire.). Finally, something tells me more than just keeping Rumsfeld around doomed W. in this election, Joe. Shucks. Maybe all those other secrets & lies played a part? Who knows.

Have you also noticed the "all the new Dems are actually conservative" storyline popping up everywhere on cable television? Some of these "analysts" truly cannot see the forest for the trees. Thank goodness the New York Times ran a solid, serious piece Sunday that had the guts to call these folks what they really are: populists. (That wasn't hard, was it? Oh and let's throw in a quick New York Times' Iowa Watch, since newly-elected Congressman Dave Loebsack gets some quotes in this article, and a front page photo to boot.) Paul Krugman noted this populist-tinge in the new Congressional class as well in a superb column today; alas, I cannot share due to TimesSelect insanity. Good luck jumping that fence. I'm sure Dee and Ginny already have...

House of Murtha

Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has endorsed Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha for the position of Majority Leader in the House, over Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, who is also seeking the post. Buzz is that Hoyer will pull it off, but it's not certain. Here's an excellent and short interview Murtha did with Rolling Stone magazine back in December to remind you why you his ascendancy in the Party could be a good thing.

RNC Watch: No Steele

Looks like Michael Steele's homeless busing skills won't be put to use at the RNC after all. Florida Senator and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez will take the post.

I guess Katherine Harris was busy.

Whine and Cheese

Salon's Walter Shapiro fitfully and briefly examines the impact of today's announcement by Senator Russ Feingold that he will not seek the 2008 Democratic nomination for President, noting that the field now excludes former hopefuls Feingold, Gov. Mark Warner and Senator John Kerry (if we're honest). Who is left in the race? It seems Hillary, Gore, and Obama top the charts with John Edwards and others (including Tom Vilsack) jogging behind. After six long years of dealing with a leader who says junk like this with utter seriousness, it is insane that the Democratic roster is stocked with such lukewarm possibilities. John Edwards is an intelligent, decent American, but the 2004 primaries proved the Democratic Party can't handle such direct simplicity in both message and policy. The atmosphere of fear engendered by the cynical Bush Team sidelines the effectiveness of appeals to hope or opportunity. Is there a mystery Governor who will come to the rescue?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Meet the Press: Shooting Straight in the Dark

If President Bush campaigned during the run-up to the midterm elections like it was 2004, baiting John Kerry's bluster as a last-minute tactic for GOP victory, on today's Meet the Press Senator John McCain picked a different race to run-- McCain's gonna run like it's 1999.

On a wide array of issues, whether Iraq, energy independence or the economy, McCain responded to Tim Russert's assertive questioning as if the events of the last six years were a mere nightmare from which America could easily awake, as opposed to the horrific reality that exists on the ground just outside of that Republican State of Denial. Iraq? More troops. Ethanol? Only worth exploring if oil is more than $10 a barrel. Minimum wage? Small businesses interests' trump the workers' needs. John McCain sounded like a candidate with the full trust of the American people, and acted like a Republican that was magically distinct from all of those that lost on November 7th. There was no indication that the last six years of secrecy, dissembling and dictatorial governance by the Bush Administration have impacted McCain. "Government changed us, we didn't change government," McCain oddly noted as a reason for GOP defeat. Doesn't this "us" include John McCain? It was hard not to wonder where exactly, besides setting up the framework for a White House run (and hitting up Jerry Falwell for base-centric "reconciliation"), the Senator has been hiding out while the rest of the Republicans spent and schemed the Party into ruin.

Maybe McCain's over-confidence made sense when the Straight Talk Express was pounding the pavement, but like McCain, America has changed somewhat since the 2000 presidential election. From the moment the war began Americans have been told, by men proud of their resumes and resolve, to sit back and trust their collective judgment. The "failed policy" McCain kept mentioning was developed by a group of conservatives that the Senator has already begun to seduce in his effort to become the GOP front-runner in 2008, a group that refuses to acknowledge that steady hubris leads to steady chaos. If McCain believes that he will need to seriously approach the electorate with substantive reasoning behind his position on Iraq, this was not evident today. Referring with knowing self-satisfaction to his "experience" in war, McCain called for more troops in Iraq, and soon, noting that Joe Lieberman's Connecticut Senate victory proves "some Americans" support our continued presence in Iraq (too bad that those "some Americans" are Connecticut Republicans and no one else, but no matter) and explicitly ignoring the stance of a strong majority of the nation at-large.

The most interesting moment came when McCain explained Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki's anti-American words and behaviors both before and after the U.S. election as simple opportunistic gestures required of a leader who must cover his bases when unsure of his allies. "I can understand why he took the position that he did," McCain noted. Of course McCain understands. It's just like going down there to Liberty University--sometimes you need a Falwell, and sometimes you don't. It all depends on what's best for your personal power. Straight talk, indeed.

[Note: Russert was true to his word with Don Imus, using a line of questioning to impliedly reveal that McCain did in fact blindly exploit John Kerry's "do your homework" joke by refusing to read Kerry's entire statement in context and also refusing to consider John Kerry's character and service to his country. A sad truth.]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Barton the Interruption

Must be Don Imus day here, but I have to acknowledge this one... it's a beaut. Congressman Joe Barton, a man who kept the Combating Autism Act from going to a full House vote while acting as Chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce (and thus sparked the I-man's hilarious ire), is running for a leadership post in the newly-minoritized GOP House caucus. Today Barton had this to say:

"After prayerful consideration and literally hundreds of discussions with my colleagues, I have decided to seek the position of Republican minority leader. My guarantee is this: We will achieve a net gain of seats in each upcoming election cycle and if we do not regain the majority within three election cycles, I will not seek the position of minority leader in the succeeding session."

Say what, Joe? I love this for many reasons, but most of all because a Member of Congress has decided to quit pretending that legislation or policy even play any role in the process what-so-ever--it's all about the Power. Now we know what the "P" in GOP stands for... I sympathize with Imus' rantings on Barton even more...

May the Bluster Be With You

On Don Imus this morning, Tim Russert briefly discussed his upcoming interview this Sunday with Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. Imus asked Russert to quiz McCain about his apparent outrage over John Kerry's flubbed joke regarding war and homework and the President. From the unlimited pile of smooth pundits analyzing Kerry's gaffe, Imus was the only individual, to my mind, that called the GOP outrage what it was: disingenuous. I will be watching Meet the Press to see if Russert actually follows through and forces McCain to defend his comments against Kerry. At the time of the gaffe, McCain held the GOP line, calling Kerry's comments "an insult to every soldier serving in combat."

"Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country's call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education," McCain wrote in a released statement.

False outrage is a core element of the modern Republican Party's political recipe, and I suppose we cannot expect anything different from an aging statesman so frenzied to lead the nation that he'll say anything. Even if that "anything" is self-evident subterfuge.

Oedipus the Bland

The New York Times is offering its caged columnists' opinions for free this week, in a sort of journalistic HBO-free-weekend kind of thing (when I was a kid, I remember thinking the HBO free weekend was the coolest occurrence ever, even if they just played Ghostbusters and War Games over and over). Such a broadening of the columnists' audience makes Maureen Dowd's recent column on all things W. and Rummy even more sad--MoDo is definitely phoning it in this week (I like how Don Imus assigned Charles to read the column this week, noting that it was just too much of a commitment to deal with Dowd's writing). While not awful by any stretch, it certainly isn't thought-provoking or necessarily original. Dowd has covered this W.-vs.-Daddy slant many, many times before, and this week she writes the obvious and notes that old 41's crew is on the warpath to make W.'s War Path one towards victory as opposed to chaos.

I would be more interested in Dowd's take on Bob Gates and his past expressions of doubt over a possible conflict with Iran as well as Gates' relationship with Kinky Boots Condi. Or heck, I'd appreciate a Dowd discussion on Condi Rice that was more than a superficial cupcake of a column. But alas, we're left with Oedipal mush. Next week, perhaps. I'll discuss next week's article here, since the Times Select prison bars will shortly fall down hard once again. Elite talk is only for those who pay the price... or those who find ways to break into the thought prison.