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.

The Mehlman Only Rings Twice

Today's Washington Times reported that Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the rejected Republican candidate for Senate, has been offered the position of Chairman of the Republican National Committee. One wonders if the Party's desperation for fresh leadership could be any deeper--Steele's campaign repeatedly worked to confuse voters about his GOP affiliation, busing in homeless individuals from Philadelphia to hand out misleading voter guides to Maryland voters claiming top Democrats endorsed Steele (which was false) and printing up bumper stickers that read, "Steele Democrat" but none that read "Steele Republican." When you ask someone embarrassed to be part of your organization to lead your organization, it's safe to say you're hard-up for talent. [Update (406pm PST): I see that Talking Points Memo also noticed this pathetic story today...]

On the Democratic side, James Carville has called for Howard Dean to be replaced at the DNC. Carville's suggested replacement? Harold Ford, Jr. While I admire Ford's aggressively classy campaign for the Senate, Carville's suggestion is patently ridiculous for many reasons, but here are the top three:

  • Dean Succeeded: Anti-Bush rage was not enough to secure solid Democratic gains; Dean's structural efforts in all 50 states assisted in big ways and helped provide the House and Senate to Democrats; Dean also raised a record amount of hard money for the party.
  • Ford not Representative: The Dems are a big tent but a strong social conservative should not lead the committee; Ford even refused to endorse the Democrat running to fill the House seat he was vacating, calling the candidate "too liberal."
  • Carville's Gross Bias: Not only does James want Dean out of the way so that his benefactor Hillary can run for President, but he would love to have Harold Ford in the post to fool the nation into believing that the Democrats are more conservative than they really are. Victory in 2008 is the goal, but not with some bland, triangulating, non-progressive like Clinton. Shame on Carville.

Finally, isn't it interesting that the non-winning African-American Senate candidates in each party get suggested for media-heavy leadership posts running their respective Party committees? Odd.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Walrus Was John, or Lincoln, or Jim

By now most online sources have thrown in their two cents about President Bush claiming a need for bipartisanship and then immediately kicking John Bolton's nomination for United Nations Ambassador back up to Capitol Hill. I suspect this is not passive-aggressive, just thoughtless. Either way the lame-duck Congress is poised to ignore the re-nomination. Lincoln Chafee, the newly-rejected Senator from Rhode Island, played a decisive role in whether Bolton would proceed through the Foreign Relations Committee. With the loss fresh in his mind, Chafee refuses to support the final push to get Bolton permanently installed in the post.

"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," Chafee said. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."

I was working as an intern for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) when Chafee's father, Senator John H. Chafee, passed away in 1999. Lincoln was appointed to serve out the remainder of his father's term--he was handily re-elected on his own right in 2000-- and was brought to Washington, D.C. to be sworn into office. Because my duties were minimal (running the mighty autopen, amongst other things) I was able to sneak into the Senate chamber and watch Lincoln take his oath with his family at his side. It was a truly American moment, backlit with the clarity and majesty that only the Capitol can offer. Out of a slight reflex of pity, I recall saying a quick prayer for the fellow. When a political death occurs, this country loves to instantaneously pass power through familial lines to place some profundity upon those who grieve. The pound of pressure instantly placed on Chafee's shoulders was highly evident to me, even way up in the vistor's gallery.

Lincoln Chafee suggested today that he was considering leaving the Republican party and becoming a Democrat. Of course, politically this is no longer of any import. But philosophically it would be an important gesture, and the Democratic Party would be better off with Chafee within its general ranks. He served as a Senator with the same independence and thoughtfulness exhibited by his father John, leading the fight to protect the environment and work for fiscal responsibility even when his party refused to follow. Like Iowa's Jim Leach, Chafee was a great man in the wrong party. Both should make the party switch and say goodbye to an out-of-control Republican Party mindlessly beholden to leaders that spend and preach without consequence.

I noticed that Jim Leach had this to say after his defeat, and find it inspiring.

“I would like a new direction... I feel quite upbeat about the circumstances. I look at it as a 30-year career I entered with very strong desire to set the model of representation that I wanted to be consistent with... I said it last night, people thought it odd, but for a number of years I said when it’s my last election, whether I’m seeking office or being defeated, I will consider it the happiest day of my life... I've been privileged to represent some of the nicest people in the world. I look at some of my colleagues and they have to deal with imperfect groupings everyday. What great fortune I've had.”

I hope and expect that Sheldon Whitehouse and Dave Loebsack will forcefully honor the careers of the rare men they are replacing this January. We will have to wait and see.

Joe Justice: Fact Checking

This puts me in the realm of Daily Kos' Markos in terms of self-promotion but oh well.

I read this post from's blogger Mickey Kaus today:

Vilsack vs. Iowa: Isn't Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's presidential run more good news for the Democrats--he'll be the favorite son in Iowa's caucuses, meaning other candidates will have a ready-made excuse to skip them and the press will have a good excuse to downplay them. The sweet, polite fools who fell for the John Kerry authorized bio won't get to do similar damage in 2008. ... P.S.: The CW is presumably that this is also good news for Hillary, who wasn't looking like the likely Iowa winner (and maybe bad news for Edwards, who was). ... 2:34 P.M.

I decided he was kinda wrong. So I actually emailed the guy.

Here's the email exchange:

Vilsack Not Iowa's Pick
From: Joe [Redacted]
Thu, Nov 9, 2006 at 2:57 PM
You're a tad off the mark on Vilsack. Recent Des Moines Register polling indicates he's far behind Iowa Democrats in their 2008 preferences, taking third place to Hillary's second and top-spot-taker Edwards. As an Iowan who likes the guy, he wouldn't be the favorite in the caucuses by any means. He's no Harkin, in the minds of caucus-goers. Dems may skip the state as a result, but they shouldn't. Thanks Kaus! Joe

From: Mickey Kaus
Thu, Nov 9, 2006 at 3:03 PM
To: Joe [redacted]
ok, but they still have an excuse to skip it--e.g. hillary--meaning the press will pay less attention.

I checked the Register poll and Vilsack actually came in 4th, behind Senator joke-botcher Kerry. Kaus may think the Iowans who caucused for Kerry were sweet, polite fools, but I should have reminded him that 49% of the sweet, polite country fell for it as well. Onward and upward.

George Gets His Nancy

Every successful President, it seems, needs to have one person in their tight inner circle that protects them from opportunistic or downright awful advice. Lincoln had his "team of rivals," a cabinet filled with highly accomplished men that brought disagreement and discussion directly to Abe's ear. Kennedy had his brother Bobby. FDR had Eleanor. Truman had Dean Acheson. Nixon had, well, no one and that's the point. We all know that Ronald Reagan had his Nancy, a strong-willed protectorate who pushed away sycophants like Don Regan and brought in sensible folks like Howard Baker to keep Ronnie on track.

Up until this point, President George W. Bush has not had his Nancy. Certainly Dick Cheney has not looked out for the President's interest, instead feeding him false evidence and tin-ear rhetoric that has led to an unsustainable war and countless pieces of buckshot in America's face. Rumsfeld just piled on with more of the same. Condi Rice may be a great jogging partner but clearly she has consistently failed to stand up to anyone in the administration on Bush's behalf or even direct Bush towards non-Cheney supplied facts that would influence more balanced decisions. Bob Woodward writes in State of Denial that Laura Bush and Andy Card pushed the President to dump Rummy, to no avail. The librarian makes her case to W. in the softest of tones, and gets drowned out by the Neocons. Even Laura, the one who reads the papers, is unable to protect easily sold W. from policies wrapped in pretty words that contain obvious, explosive results.

Now Nancy Pelosi is poised to become the first female Speaker of the House, and with her power and pragmatism she has the potential to provide Bush with a Nancy of his own. President Bush's decision to fire Rumsfeld may be reactionary, but in these desperate times the ends matter more than the means. With this first step, a foundation for more change has been cast. With Cheney sidelined and Condi empowered by her pal Gates, Pelosi might become a new voice of reason at the table, one Bush must listen to and consider. Pelosi's voice comes from a soul who hasn't sipped any of the Kool Aid, and who has governance of the entire nation at heart, not just the Red half.

The first Nancy, Ms. Reagan, wore elaborate clothes and fretted over the stars. Here's to hoping the new Nancy, in her smart suits and assertive tone, can bring President Bush back to earth where he belongs. The whole nation, Red and Blue, should wish her well.

Update (11/10 @ 444pm PST): I posted this piece on Daily Kos and the majority of responses were viscerally against the metaphor of Pelosi to Bush as Nancy to Ronnie. I'll admit the metaphor is weak and perhaps too cute by half, but some responses took the metaphor one step further and improved it--W. loves to surround himself with women... the question is, will he actually listen to the one who can feed him a dose of reality, Nancy Pelosi? I'm not sure if he's desperate enough when it comes to his legacy to cooperate. What do you think? We'll find out soon enough.

Supreme Relief

By the end of the day the nation may hear two concession speeches, one from Allen and one from Burns. If this happens, then the Supreme Court will officially be protected for two years from any future Scalitos. Free black robes for everyone.

2008: As Allen loses, will Hillary Spare Us?

Weeks ago, there were rumors on the internets that Harry Reid met with Hillary Clinton a while back and promised her that if Democrats took a majority in the Senate this election cycle, Reid would relinquish the Majority Leader spot to Clinton in 2008 in return for her decision to forgo any presidential ambitions. Perhaps the Midterm gifts will keep on giving-- we got rid of Senator Man-on-Dog, Senator Kharmacaca, Senator No-Talent and even Senator Foot-in-Mouth Burns and now we may also get rid of Hillary as a presidential candidate. If this is the case, then Virginia is definitely for lovers. Me love Virginia.

Per the AP this morning, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has now created a presidential campaign committee to explore his 2008 opportunities. As much as a common-sense Iowan would be a welcome sight in the White House, I have never viewed Vilsack as the man of the hour. I guess we will see if he can raise enough funds to keep the train moving, but I would suspect that if Tom Harkin couldn't make it happen, then Vilsack will have a hard time. Perhaps he has the VP slot in mind.

Watching McCaint make the rounds on cable news recently, it is hard not to want to reach through the television and take the man's pulse. He's 70 years old and darn he looks it. Bob Dole was 73 when he took on President Clinton in 1996, so I suppose it isn't out of the question. But would I think now that 2008 is in sight, Mitt Romney and other GOP hopefuls will begin their whisper campaigns questioning McCaint's age and health. I'll never get why everyone loves McCaint.

It still makes little sense to me how Arnold Schwarzenegger got re-elected so handily, but I guess it might bode well for someone like Barack Obama in 2008. Americans love their charismatic superstars, no matter how thin their resumes. I think Obama is the one to watch within the next few weeks. I suspect he'll run, but I also suspect Harold Ford, Jr.'s experience in the Tennessee Senate race is giving him and his family pause. That's a tough call. I hope he runs.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Scraps

Apparently watching Chris Matthews quack and shout for a prolonged period of time gives you writers block. Who knew. While I sense lengthy prose on the horizon, it ain't happening today.

Jim Leach did lose his seat in Iowa, after 30 years in Congress. The wave was high enough to carry him away. Unfortunately the wave failed to sweep away much more deserving candidates like Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado, Michelle Bachmann in Minnesota or Peter Roskam in Illinois. I'd trade any of those punks for Leach. Even Brian Williams was shocked when Chris Matthews relayed the news of his loss, "The guy with the crew cut sweaters!" Williams lamented. I guess this leaves Connecticut's Christopher Shays to uphold the crew cut sweater tradition.

Amazing that the Webb-Allen race will become the one with a prolonged results process. On many trips to Iowa, Senator Allen complained about how the Senate was boring and how he wished he had been born in Iowa (perhaps he's confused and thinks Iowa was in the Confederacy). Everyone knew Allen wanted to be President. But now he gets to spend several more days fighting for a job he didn't even really want. What did I see someone call that on Daily Kos? Oh right, Kharmacaca.

I just loved the tone and substance of Harold Ford's concession speech, and I'm not one to swoon over Jesus-dropping in campaign speeches. He's the real article and obviously a public servant above all else. He'll be back.

Angelides couldn't even scratch 40% in California. I voted in the lobby of a "Mailboxes, Etc." type store at 630pm PST. There was a line, and most of the voters ahead of me in line didn't seem to have made up their minds entirely before stepping into their plastic voting squares (which I always look like they were made by Fisher Price. I guess it puts a new spin on saying, "Let's play House.") In a state with so many complicated Propositions, I think it behooves a voter to plan ahead. Either read them and decide ahead of time or vote "No" on them. That's my stance. I voted NO for all of them except the clean water and renewable energy proposals, and I'm pretty sure those both failed. Of course they did. At least my Congressman, Henry Waxman is up for a chairmanship. And hey-- evil GOP figure McClintock lost for Lt. Gov. Phew.

CNN had an amazing results & tallying system on its website. Once able to "borrow" a wireless signal from the neighborhood, I was checking this site all evening an no others. I specifically loved the county-by-county voting info and the party color-coding for each county. One thing the networks really dropped the ball on was telling the viewers which counties and votes remained uncounted once races became too close to call. For a good hour I was crying in my wine glass about Claire McCaskill until I figured out St. Louis and surrounding urban areas were not counted yet. Perhaps if Chris Matthews and Olbermann weren't trying so hard to outdo one another with cutesy barbs and puns they could have shared some numbers. It was an alpha dogpen in that studio, and added extra drama to an already exciting night. Don't get me started on Bob Shrum. Or Nora O'Donnell, who looked dressed for the role of Miss Adelaide in Guys in Dolls. Is she a journalist? I wonder.

Despite my fears about voting machines and tabulating, by the time I hit the sack at 2am only 2 senate races were undecided. Not bad at all. What a country.

Rumsfeld Out

Wow, first Claire McCaskill, then Jon Tester and now this...

Happiest Wednesday Ever?

Someone where I work just shouted from their office, "Things are looking up!"


More thoughts soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Drudge Can't Breathe

Matt Drudge has taken the time today to note country music mega-star Faith Hill's over-the-top reaction to losing a CMA award last evening (if you haven't seen this, you must, it's pretty funny and has kept me smiling all morning). What Drudge hasn't noted, however, is the pretty obvious reality that Hill was joking. Like veteran John Kerry slamming the troops, to anyone daring to employ reason it seems self-evident that Hill wouldn't be such a diva while obviously on camera. I guess if you can't get a joke, you can't get a joke. Poor guy.

House Watch: Iowa District 2

All of the prognosticators like to get hot and bothered over the anticipated House races in Indiana, Kentucky and Connecticut as bellwethers for the height of any Democratic wave. I'd like to toss this race into the mix as well. Jim Leach was my Congressman when I was a little boy (I remember obsessing over a tiny "Jim Leach for Congress" button my sister had on her bulletin board-- to her credit she eventually gave it to me...). Later on in life, when I worked at the local country club during law school I served Leach and his family dinner on several occasions. He's a smart, good man in the wrong party. If after allowing him over 25 years in Congress this recently-redrawn district finally votes Leach out of office, we'll know "the wave" is a big one...

Sounds Like a Party

This little line from today's ABC News "The Note" made my election day so far..."Senatorial candidate Michael Steele (R-MD) holds an Election Night celebration at 9:00 pm ET at the Comfort Inn in Bowie, MD."

Enjoy your voting experience today, and don't get supressed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Identification Nation

The New York Times front page this morning featured a disturbing story on the intense jump in misleading robo-calls being made to voters across the nation, smearing Democratic candidates and in many instances outright lying about candidates' views. Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos have begun the fight to expose these operations and are attempting to get the cable news networks to recognize the problem and label it a GOP-only tactic (which it is). Stories like this make me even more sick, because active voter suppression is never good for any of us. For the self-described party of values I think it's obvious the Republicans value power above all else. This is just another reason to stand in line tomorrow to vote, not matter how long it takes and whatever the cost.

Update: I thought the story of the Indiana Congresswoman being told her congressional ID was insufficient in today's New York Times story was the extremity of insanity but apparently it can and does get even worse (and more ironic).

The CMA-Effect

Please note that the Country Music Association's annual award show is airing tonight on that network of political self-doubt, ABC (evidence: that crappy, fictional 9/11 movie they made written by Rush Limbaugh's buddy vs. Calista Flockhart's mealy-mouthed, traditional family-loving character Kitty on Brothers & Sisters vs. anything that comes out of self-obsessed, preening Mark Halperin's mouth). Is this pure coincidence? No way! Those GOP-loving country music "stars" are going to totally try to steal this election away from the Democrats (i.e., Toby Keith, anyone?). This would be like having the Academy Awards on tonight. What would the Republicans say if liberal-Hollywood had THREE HOURS of live air time on the night before an election! If even one award-winner or presenter says something nice about W. (I've got my eyes on you, Brooks & Dunn!) I swear I'm crying foul and calling the FCC.

You were warned here first, and don't worry-- I can't tell if I'm kidding, either.

Monday Morning Cracker Count: 21

We've discovered a quota? It feels so fair that it must be balanced. on November 6, 2006 at 1020am PST:

Crackers: 21 (including Claire McCaskill-- I love you Claire!)
Michael Steele: 1
Saddam: 1
Madonna's new adoptive son, David: 1

Feeling Saddam Good

Here's our Deer-in-the-Headlights Leader in Grand Island, Nebraska over the weekend:
“Today we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq: Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal. Saddam Hussein’s trial is a milestone in the Iraqi people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.”

Here's hoping this is Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday night:
“Today we witnessed a landmark event in the history of the United States: the Republican Party was soundly defeated. The Democratic victory in retaking the Congress is a milestone in the United States' people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.”

Put a Liddy on It

It would be impossible to ignore Sen. Elizabeth Dole's virtuoso perf this Sunday on Nip/Tuck, er, Meet the Press. Her mastery of stream-of-consciousness talking point regurgitation was beyond impressive, even in the face of Tim Russert's demand for her to cease her inaudible rambling (Russert said "Time out" to Ms. Dole 6 times, to no avail... I can imagine the same thing happening during her dinners with poor, emasculated Bob). But most of all, I liked Tim Russert's complete loss of control over the bunch, despite his State of Denial over his moderating prowess ("Equal time for everyone, I promise. Right after this." Riiiiiiiight.) In all fairness, the quartet of guests represented a stammering, incoherent ship of fools--Sen. Schumer actually said, "Darn tooting," in response to Dole; Rep. Emmanuel said, "Forget about it," after trying to respond to Dole's claim that Democrats were "content with losing."

Forget about it, indeed. If this is the best either side has to offer then we're all screwed.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fox News Cracker Count: 21

Headed into the weekend before Election 2006, our fair and balanced " Cracker Count" reveals the following information about the faces appearing on the FoxNews website on 11-03-06 at 430pm PST:

  • 21 pictures of white people
  • 1 picture of Harold Ford, Jr.
  • 1 picture of Borat
  • 1 picture of a bull

Rick's The One

Isn't it great how now-a-days everyone just loves Rick Santorum? Well, everyone, that is, except for his own constituents. Why can't the people he works for (and pretty much the rest of the country) see how GREAT he is? Must be frustrating to be in that elite group that just gets him... Peggy Noonan David Brooks Don Imus

You Don't Get Fooled Again

Tom Friedman has written a blockbuster column today pointing out the obvious, but doing it well. Put simply, he begins, "George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do." Sadly, that list of Stupid Club members should be much longer and include nearly every politican considering a run for the White House in 2008 on either side of the aisle. Especially John McCain.

Finish Line

If you haven't noticed yet, a smudge of self-defeating pessimism has crept into the heart of blogger kingpin Markos Zuniga , just 4 days from the general election. While I can sympathize with his weariness, it seems misplaced.

I remember the final days before the Iowa caucuses in 2004, when everyone said that Howard Dean was bumbling his way to victory. As a worker for the John Edwards' campaign I was certain Edwards would end up surpassing Kerry and possibly even Dean, despite the constant stream of nay-sayers reporting the opposite throughout the state. My optimism was naive, yes, but in elections you simply have to allow your wildest dream a little oxygen. Of course, Edwards almost ended up the victor (and no doubt his showing in Iowa secured him the VP spot on the Democratic ticket), but he came up short and without a doubt this was broadly disappointing.

But specifically, for me, coming so close to winning was a thrill. It was obvious that my candidate was surging and changing people's minds about what kind of leader they wanted. I can recall the wide-eyed optimism of the caucus-goers that wandered over to Edwards' corner in the gymnasium where we workers were gathered to persuade. Many were asking me questions about John, expressing doubt about his inexperience but wanting loftier goals than what Kerry or Dean or even Gephardt were offering. When all of the Edwards folks streamed into a tiny elementary school classroom for the official count, it was a sight, like any gathering of the faithful. I am certain those individuals went on to support the eventual "Kerry-Edwards" ticket, and I am sure that like me, they still want a bigger victory.

Victory is the goal, but victory can come in many forms. You've got to dash fully across that finish line to see what form the victory will take. Markos has decided that Harold Ford, Jr. is a lost cause. Perhaps in poll-world he is. But to be so close to achieving something remarkable and then deciding to concede the moment makes no sense. Giving up before the final lap is the greatest naiveté of all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

West Coast Blues

Like many Democrats in California, I'm struggling with my decision over who to vote for in the Governor's race. Truth be told, I'll most likely vote for Phil Angelides, but I'm not happy about the way he has run his next-to-invisible campaign and I am not entirely sure he's earned my support. During the primary I was supportive of Steve Westly not only because he was so similar to Angelides on the issues, but because I felt Westly had the greatest advantage in the image department against Arnold.

After the resounding rejection of Arnold's expensive and silly "Legislate-by-Proposition" election, the Governor essentially tossed out his previous script and wrote a new one with a page from the idealized world of "The West Wing." Sure, Arnold's no Democrat and no genius, but his turnaround has been, by all objective standards, amazing. Even though I laugh every time I see a bumper sticker that says, "Schwarzenegger: Protecting the California Dream," (from what, those baddies in 'Kindergarten Cop'?) it is hard to deny Arnold has moderated most of his colors, and fast. Whether that transformation is admirable or opportunistic is another story.

Watching the hard-fought campaigns in contested races across the country makes me a tad envious. I'd love to be able to vote for someone like Claire McCaskill or Jon Tester, or even for any of the Democrats running for office in Iowa, so long as I knew I was supporting a strong progressive against those reactionary candidates fielded by the Far Right. It is a true shame in a state as large and intellectually diverse as California, the Governor's race has been dead in the water. Hopefully next round, there will be a Democrat running that inspires rather than simply exists.

Rural World Politics

Today's New York Times contains a insight-less op-ed written by Brian Mann, who it appears is a reporter for North Country Public Radio and has written a book about conservative rural voters which I guess makes him an expert on these things. Mann's piece is interesting for the mere fact that it is so uninteresting and provides no original analysis except to hint that old Karl Rove's 2006 trick-up-his-sleeve is an easily manipulated group of "heartland" voters that will head to the polls and crown their GOP standard bearers as kings for two more years. The problem is that Mr. Mann doesn't seem to want to invest any time into discussing why these traditionally conservative voters are actually starting to turn their backs on the GOP—perhaps it is because in times like these, cultural wedge issues that simply do not impact the day-to-day governance of America seem less worrisome but issues like prolonged war, healthcare and wage levels seem intensely important—and thus Mann would rather pass along historical rhetoric (he has the gall to call all-white, rural conservatives "often-overlooked" and a "minority" group) and regurgitate demonstrably false themes.

For example, Mann notes that, "a growing number of Democrats have awakened to the fact that small town voters matter." Does this make any empirical sense? Does anyone truly believe that Democrats have been ignoring small towns throughout the past several decades of national and local elections? No way. (And if you want to talk about ignoring people, let's have the GOP justify the way George W. Bush ignores real Americans who can't get tickets to his love-me-or-leave-me public events.) This "Democrats don't recognize you folks" line of argument is a giant myth that conservatives love to throw around in order to make rural voters feel victimized by the left and more sympathetic to their Far Right suitors. Sadly, it sometimes works. But the truth is that Democrats haven't ignored rural voters at all. John Kerry's pick of John Edwards as his running mate in 2004 was a significant step in the rural direction for Democrats—Edwards nearly won the Iowa caucuses with his plain language and genuine empathy that struck a deep chord with conservative, rural Iowans.

National and local democratic candidates have been trying to speak directly to rural America about common sense issues for years. The problem is that those issues don't get much play in elections anymore. We can hope that 2006 is changing that reality, but the GOP has tried extremely hard to change the subject. Democrats have simply been inept at employing an effective way to blunt cultural wedge issues and start illuminating their own solutions to issues that government can do something about.

One way to do this would be to stop providing such thick oxygen to these wedge issues in too-clever-by-half ways (i.e., Kerry's Mary Cheney debate moment or even Kerry’s recent “get stuck in Iraq” routine) and start asking the GOP to confront the consequences of their faith-fueled desires. Any Democrat could easily stand up to a Republican and ask:

What happens when we amend the constitution to prevent gay marriage? Homosexual Americans will still exist, and will need legal protections to visit one another in the hospital or will one another property. You cannot legislate people away. They are Americans. This isn't the answer, it creates more problems, and makes homosexuals vulnerable. What happens when we ban all abortions in America? Unwanted pregnancies will still exist, and these women will need legal protections to ensure their safety and health. You cannot legislate people away. They are Americans. This isn't the answer, it creates more problems, and makes women everywhere more vulnerable. What happens when no embryonic stem cell research is allowed in this country? Individuals with diseases and insufferable injuries will still exist, and these individuals deserve the pursuit of a cure to what ails them. You cannot legislate people away. They are Americans. This isn't the answer, creates more burdens, and makes the ill even more vulnerable.

At some point in time, once the plumes of the Bush administration’s fear and untruths dry up into minor drops of deceit, then the Democrats might be able to speak to our better instincts in such a way. Until then, they must shift the debate as much as possible and fight to get words of reason in edgewise. Democrats like Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Amy Kobluchar in Minnesota, and even Harold Ford in Tennessee are doing what Democrats have always done when it comes to approaching voters in America’s small towns. They are speaking about real solutions to real problems that will bring all Americans to a higher ground. In 2006, their messages are breaking through, not because they have never been made before, as Mr. Mann claims, but because all voters are finally beginning to see the Republican party and it’s war President for what they are—diviners of a smokescreen of cultural and physical fears fully intended to hide cronyism, hypocrisy and failure.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

mccain't see the joke... please

Looking like a star wars villain about to pass on the force, john mccain has been doing his best to pretend his fellow veteran john kerry hates the troops. mccain said wednesday he did not see "how you could construe" senator kerry's recent mangled speech introduction as a joke. is mccain serious? apparently once you become a GOP presidential contender you hand in your ability to use reason and observe context. not only is mccain disingenuous, but he's a fool for setting up residence in bush's state of denial.

i have to give props to don imus this morning for standing up to ricky sanitorium's dellusional screaming about kerry's remarks. imus wasn't kind to kerry-- even before kerry called in to give his 2 cents on the matter and apologize-- but at least imus has the presence of mind to play fair.