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!
Thursday, December 28, 2006
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!).
by Joe Justice at 11:17 AM
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
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.
Monday, December 18, 2006
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".
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
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.
by Joe Justice at 4:14 PM
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:
“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.
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.
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
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?"
Friday, December 08, 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.
by Joe Justice at 3:09 PM
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.
by Joe Justice at 2:28 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
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:
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
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:
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
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
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.
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."