The Tough Democrat
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Moving I am in the process of moving this blog over to www.thetoughdemocrat.com. When the transition is complete, I'll get back to some regular, serious, and -- of course -- tough blogging.
Scorching Americorps The media is starting to understand the devastating cuts to Americorps that came to light this week. David Broder, so often asleep at the switch, quotes corps members and officials saying that Bush has been verbally supportive of the program, but hasn't put his money where his mouth is. The Boston Globe has a new editorial entitled "National Disservice," making the same point. The best writing on the subject so far is a feature in the ordinarily mediocre Seattle Post-Intelligencer here. Keep this ball rolling.
I Shouldn't Write About Iraq Because Other People Do it Better Unlearned Hand has a superb post reconciling support for the war and outrage over the Bush Administration's pursuit and defense of it. Matt Madden writes, in part: I sleep well at night knowing Saddam Hussein has been rendered impotent by American and British forces, but I refuse to ignore the Administration's callous disregard for the truth in their campaign to build popular support for this action. Telling the American people the truth about our designs in Iraq would have been a better way to advance U.S. interests and the cause of liberty in the world. If President Bush had really intended to "restore honor and dignity to the White House", he could have started by making the honorable and dignified case for the removal of Saddam Hussein and avoiding the temptation to take the easier path of half-truths and scare-tactics. President Bush and his Administration used the wrong reasons to build support for the right war. And for this scandal, he should be held accountable. Amen.
Get outraged This week it became clear that, more due to negligence than malice, funding for the acclaimed national service program Americorps (in all its incarnations -- Bush's USA Freedom Corps, the former Vista, and recipient programs like City Year) has suffered a hit in the federal budget that will require a 75% reduction in the number of Americorps volunteers serving in our communities. We are not talking big money here, in federal terms -- $200 million, tops -- but the impact on the volunteers and the people they serve will be devastating. Can the blogosphere get excited about something that isn't about Raines, Lott, or Streisand? Can progressives raise some hell about this and get some of that money put back in a supplemental appropriation? I'll be watching, and reporting on it through the coming days. This is an outrage, and we shouldn't take it anymore.
Anti-Sweatshop Activists versus the First Amendment There's a fair amount of misunderstanding concerning the Nike v. Kasky case, currently before the Supreme Court. This is the case in which anti-sweat shop groups claim a right to sue Nike under commercial fraud laws for incorrect statements about its manufacturing plants in Asia. Nike counters that the first amendment protects its right to contribute to the public debate on this issue without risking a lawsuit every time it says something an activist doesn't agree with. Hmm -- maybe my bias is shown in the way I've framed the question. Activists have done a good job arguing that all they oppose is the creation of a "corporate right to lie." But, although that slogan is catchy, it's constitutionally dumb. And just as importantly for progressives, it's politically dumb. Jonathan Rauch's new article on the Atlantic website explains why liberals should actually take Nike's side on this one. It's important.
John Kerry's Al Gore problem Today, ABC News's The Note has a good campaign roundup that touches on the biggest hurdle for Senator Kerry: the press can't stand him. Starting even before his surgery, Senator Kerry was subjected to the slow grinding of the press corps' sneers, subtle digs, and implications that he (and more recently his wife) is a wierdo. I'm a big fan of Senator Kerry, but this sort of story takes root in the biases of the press, and doesn't leave until it drags down the candidate, and with it our entire political discourse. And in the end I think it probably makes him unelectable. Why does the press hate Kerry, just like Gore? I think it has something to do with the fact that both are earnest, honestly ambitious, and serious. For whatever reason, that's a big turnoff for the press (and -- it's not just the media's fault -- its listening/reading public), who prefers someone who doesn't seem to take government too seriously, who doesn't seem to want to be President too badly, who could take it or leave it. And once the landscape is clear -- once the clique knows who is cool and who isn't -- it's fair game to go all Ceci/Seelye on the designated loser. Anyway, it's worth scrolling down through The Note's hard-to-read unformatted text to read the latest example.
Wait for the movie Steve Earle is one of the greatest musicians working today. He has the power to make music that changes you; listen to Billy Austin or Harlan Man or Johnny Come Lately, masterpieces all. However -- like Michael Moore -- without a little self discipline he turns boorish and boring. What's up with his taunting of Del McCoury's dislike of cursing (between tracks on Transcendental Blues)? (discussed here and here) Why the utter lack of developed character and subtlety on Jerusalem? Well, hopefully this movie will help me reconcile the heroic and the annoying Steve Earles.
Matthew Yglesias admirably refuses to take the bait from Paul Muller, who challenges Democrats to -- what, exactly? prove their open-mindedness? -- by citing to something good that President Bush or another Republican has done. Fugetaboutit. As Amy Sullivan explained last month, liberals already try too hard to soften their attacks by giving GOP'ers credit for something they like. As I sit here, I struggle to come up with anything I admire that was done recently by a Republican of national stature. Oh, wait, I can think of one...
GOP fiscal mismanagement, continued Norbizness has an excellent retrospective on the President's fuzzy math.
Who are these people? The whole argument about whether the media is liberal or conservative has always struck me as beside the point. Sure, Fox News is rabidly right-wing. Of course NPR is liberal. Duh. Stop arguing. Eric Alterman and Ann Coulter (I cannot bring myself to link) ought to be able to agree that the media is simply biased. But it's not biased for or against Bush or Clinton, or Republicans or Democrats, or conservative or liberal values. Its biases are more engrained and structural than that. The media is biased toward stories that are easy to tell -- and so they shoehorn every subject into the package most pleasing to the reporter. The media is biased toward telling any story as a two-sided clash of opinion, rather than an explanation of facts -- and so plain misstatements of policy are repeated with all credulity. The media is biased toward pretty pictures -- and will craft a story around them in a conscious effort to create lasting images. So what do you do with a puffy profile like today's New York Times piece on Gail Norton, George Bush's Secretary of Interior? The article, prominently displayed in the A section and accompanied by a snazzy photo, carried the headline "Trying for Balance at Interior Department." The author, John Tierney, used heaps of positive words to describe Sec. Norton, starting with the word "balance" in the headline: there was a "grand new initiative," "soothing talk and velvet tactics," "cheery," "peaceful capitalist transactions," a "kinder, gentler conservation," "cooperation in conservation." He repeats her claim to a "new environmentalism" -- but the quotation marks are mine. I have never heard of John Tierney, and certainly had never seen his byline on a news story about the Interior Department. But ten seconds with Google can work wonders. Turns out Mr. Tierney was a longtime Metro section columnist, writing with wry humor about NYC. No big deal there, aside from the fact that the Interior Department's biggest presence in the City is Grant's Tomb. But check this out -- the libertarian Ayn Rand acolytes at the Objectivist Center cheer him as a "libertarian columnist," pointing out that he consistently argues for the elimination of government protections or programs (like rent control, or public schools). He wrote a 1996 cover story for the NYT Magazine entitled "Recycling is Garbage," leading with the Cato Institute-driven theory that recycling is a waste of time, money, and attention. Sure enough, Ayn Rand pops up in his profile of Secretary Norton, and the most-often-quoted person in the story is the recent head of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank. So that might explain some of it -- if this was labeled an opinion piece, rather than a news article. But still, it's certainly possible for a biased person to write an unbiased story. Say, a story that mentioned that one part of Secretary Norton's balance includes actions that overruled the biologists to allow snowmobiles in Yellowstone, or pushed to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge, or open up our National Monuments to private drilling and grazing, or underfunded the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, or promised tax money to religious enterprises, or cut back on offshore oil leases near Jeb Bush's Florida, or held in contempt of court for violating orders regarding Indian trust accounts. [pause for breath]. This wasn't that story. This was an opinion column, just not labeled as such. So have I found a case of bias that doesn't fit in my little explanation of structural media problems, above? Well, people more intellectually rigorous and honest than me, like the Dagger, make an effort to come up with objective tests for bias or epistemic authority. I'm not good at that, but I'll give it a try: When the news article you are reading sounds like a piece written for hire by the subject's press lackeys -- when Ari Fleisher or Karl Rove would read this piece and change not one word -- it's biased.
Bush's new line: The WMD reports were right! I'm not sure what to make of today's talk show blitz by Colin Powell and Condi Rice. The new line from the Adminstration is that the intelligence reports touted by the Administration before the invasion of (oops, I'm sorry, "Battle of") Iraq were completely accurate, and that there was incontrovertable evidence that Iraq had chemical weapons before we whupped Saddam's butt. The evidence? Well, the reports themselves. Let Rice explain: "There is a bit of revisionist history going on here," she said. "The truth of the matter is that repeated directors of central intelligence, repeated reports by intelligence agencies around the world, repeated reports by U.N. inspectors asking hard questions of Saddam Hussein, and tremendous efforts by this regime to conceal and hide what it was doing clearly give a picture of a regime that had weapons of mass destruction and was determined to conceal them." This sort of reasoning pretty much refutes itself -- did we invade Iraq because of a composite of inconclusive reports that, to the President, Secretary and National Security Advisor, started to look like WMDs, or did we actually have direct evidence of them? And is this really the Bush Administration's working burden of proof for this sort of thing? A variety of not-very-reliable evidence that, if you want it to, "give[s] a picture"? If that is not a giant intelligence failure, then it is a Vietnam-like leadership failure, in which decisionmakers bent on a course of action see only what they want to see. Sidestepping the very valid point that there were other reasons to invade, like massive human rights violations, this raises serious questions about how we let ourselves get led. On a side note: Today's blitz is another example of the Administration's very successful media strategy on this sort of thing. If you claim evidence of something often enough -- or better yet, if you say you have it and it will come out soon -- the listening public begins to accept what you've promised, and the evidence promised becomes background knowledge (Iraq's involvement with Al Qaida, WMDs, tax cuts, environmental programs, etc.). When the promised evidence never arrives, the political capital has already been established, so there's no political cost to the failure to deliver. This is generally called "lying." I'll be posting something on the remarkable success of this sort of media strategy later this week.
Important stuff v. Not important stuff Oxblog does its best to pep-talk the blogosphere into paying attention to something substantial (the most recent SLORC assault on Aung San Suu Kyi). They scored a quick "harumph" from Instapundit (nice link if you can get it), who was distracted by that shiny object for approximately one hour and twenty-two minutes before returning to another, shinier object, Raines-bashing.
Nonpolitical, Partly Musical Interlude Three cheers for the Incompetent Attorney, who is back blogging at Patent Pending. We missed you. Also making June the best month of the year are the upcoming album and tour from Mountain Con, the new CD by Gillian Welch, another from Scott Miller. Oh, plus that guy who forced us to read about Whitewater for eight years on the NYT editorial page quit his job, finally. UPDATE: Hey, another good thing about this month: I got to read some really great stuff from my fellow shameless self-promoters in the Truth Laid Bear new blog promenade. Want some good, disciplined, political passion? Enjoy it at Give it Back.
Gephardt is toast Why o why does Daily Kos (and, I guess, his readers?) rank Dick Gephardt so highly? This is a mystery. I can certainly understand why some people admire the Congressman, support him, and wish him well. I sure do. But it’s beyond me that anyone would imagine that he’s the best candidate against Bush in 2004, or that he is leading the pack by any measure, in any category. Maybe it’s because I haven’t lived in D.C. for seven years now, so I only really see his name when there’s a story about the Dems getting rolled by Tom Delay. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really gotten over the deceptive $48,000 Hyundai ad from 1988. Or his inability to lead the Democrats in any coherent way at any point during his tenure as House Democratic Leader. Or maybe it’s because his chief of staff, Steve Elmendorf, couldn’t help taking gratuitous shots at Al Gore all last year (suggesting to me that he’s not interested in party loyalty or unity). But, I remind myself, Kos isn’t ranking candidates by love, but by likelihood of winning the nomination, and here I think Kos has misread how these things work. Kos says: “Gephardt faces a very favorable primary calendar, giving him a substantial advantage before the first attack has even aired. Of the first ten primaries or caucuses, all within a three week span, Gephardt has real chances of winning in Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and should be competitive in at least three or four of the others.” I think this misreads how these states will play in the media. Iowa never means a damn thing. The press pays a ton of attention to it, but mostly as seasonal “local color” curiosity, like Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The record: Gephardt won Iowa in 1988, walking away. Paul Simon came in second, Dukakis third. In ’92, Tom Harkin (of course) won. Nobody remembers where Clinton finished. In ’88, Dole won huge, and Robertson – Pat Robertson! – came in second, GHW Bush third. So my prediction is that the press (and voters) will play down the importance of Iowa because Gephardt is from a neighboring state, and everyone will expect him to win. Same thing with Missouri. Michigan and Washington will be more interesting, but by then we’ll have a whole new storyline stemming from New Hampshire. And do not forget that MI and WA are holding caucuses, where Howard Dean’s informal organization will serve him very, very well.
How to be tough Mac Diva has a short and thoughtful post , stemming from Calpundit, about how candidates -- specifically Howard Dean -- can project toughness. I try not to write about topics I know nothing about (er, usually), but as the self-appointed Tough Democrat, I'll take a stab at this one. First, it's important to realize that toughness, alone, isn't what Dean or Edwards or others should be looking for. It's an image of command that is valuable, not toughness. Take a look at some examples of how this works: When Bill Frist goes on and on about his doctorly prowess, the take-home feeling for the reader is that this is a guy who you would want working on your heart, because he's confident and in control. When, in 1984, Gary Hart famously threw the axe in the tree, it projected vigor and audaciousness -- damn, if a candidate was willing to do that (and, of course, if the axe stuck), you know he's ready to lead. Sometimes, of course, toughness alone will do the trick; consider George H.W. Bush's blowup at Dan Rather in a 1987 interview, which effectively buried the "wimp factor." Contrast that with Mike Dukakis's inability to convey anger in response to Bernard Shaw's would-you-support-the-death-penalty-if-Kitty-were-raped-and-murdered question (not tough, not in command). Remember, also, that the public appreciates political command, as well -- Bill Clinton's speech in 1992, now known as the "Sister Souljah moment," told (white) voters that he was in control of his own campaign. So, if I were Director of Scheduling and Advance for one of these folks, what would I recommend? The first thing to keep in mind is that, if the picture is good enough, the press will swallow it whole. The Bush advance operation has been shameless in its use of fake backdrops, "Message: I Care" banners, and military personnel and equipment. They even repeat it when Bush says "I am very gracious and humbled." So don't think that any idea is too craven, any message too obvious, so long as the picture is good. With that in mind: The suggestion that Dean go to Iraq is a solid idea. He should sign up for a short stint with Nobel Peace Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, and spend two weeks in field clinics (although, hmm, he hasn't practiced medicine in 10 years ...). But here's a better (and easier) idea: Why not hang a lantern on his DLC roots problem -- why not give a speech to the NRA? Or better yet, announce that he's supporting the creation of an alternative group to the NRA, supporting gun rights but a bit less, shall we say, pro-Columbine. He's the most pro-gun candidate in the field, and there's no danger of the left turning en masse to Kucinich, Sharpton, or Mosely-Braun. It would lead to a string of stories about how he's more complicated than you think and help him both in hunting-friendly New England and the moderate South. And it would show that he is not only outspoken, he's daring. Audacious. In command.
Correction To amend the Weekly Presidential Candidate Rundown, below: It turns out that Dennis Kucinich, not Howard Dean, is likely to be the next Jerry Brown, but not for same reasons.
Almost an answer Although Timothy Noah of Slate is most likely not (yet) one of my many loyal readers, he has contributed this fine piece to the puzzle of what happened in the tax cut disaster. Unfortunately, he answers the least interesting of questions: why did the GOP do this. Tim, tell me why the Democrats let 'em get away with it!
Weekly Presidential Candidate Rundown, II Howard Dean: Still strident, still arrogant. My guess? He's more likely to be Jerry Brown than George McGovern. John Edwards: Looking better and better, but mostly relative to the other candidates. Needs gravitas. Who's got some for him? Dick Gephardt: I cannot imagine that anyone outside of the DC media establishment gives him a second thought. John Kerry: Nothing new since last week. Dennis Kucinich: In my corner of the country, the "no iraq war" signs have over the last week or two begun morphing into "Kucinich for President" signs. This means little electorally, except that maybe the greens haven't actually learned the lessons of the 2000 election after all, as I hoped they might. It also suggests that these people either don't know or don't care about his scary history on abortion rights, race, or the bankruptcy of the City of Cleveland (which led to Mayor/Governor/Senator Voinovich, and the Republicanification of the formerly very Democratic state of Ohio). Joe Lieberman: Nothing new.
Cunning or Stupid, part II Query why it took advocacy groups, not Democrats, to point out the gaps in the tax cut bill last week, and why we didn't hear about them earlier. I want to throw out a few possibilities, based on no research at all. If one of my *many* loyal readers is aware that any of these possiblities have more factual basis than the others, please let me know. 1. Democrats didn't know. We know that the gaps weren't in the version of the bill passed by the Senate, and that they were added in conference. Were they in the version passed by the House? If so, why weren't the Senate conferees watching this crucial difference? Did the Democrats not have enough time to analyze the bill sufficiently? Why not? Were those advocacy groups given the bill to analyze ahead of time (as industry groups frequently are)? 2. The Democrats knew, but let the advocates report it to enhance credibility of the reports. I like this explanation, because it suggests that Dems have the slightest clue about how to play the media (and I long for any evidence of that capacity). But it goes back to no. 1 -- surely the Dems wouldn't have kept quiet about this until, ahem, after the bill was signed into law. Right? 3. The Democrats knew, and tried to tell the press, but couldn't get their attention. This one is the most likely, and the most sad. Okay, readers, which is right?
Why Liberals Eat Their Own Earlier this week, I mused a bit about why liberals tend to state their issue positions in extreme terms, to such a degree as to alienate the persuadable middle, thus frustrating the possibility of progress. My theory is tied up in the psychology of expressive versus effective speech – the idea that liberals place a very high value on taking a stand, sending a message, making your voice heard, speaking truth to power, or protesting – and the idea that liberals sometimes focus on those goals to the detriment of actually getting results on the issue itself. There’s a separate issue about the psychology of ideology, as well, related to a person’s desire to prove his or her fealty to the cause by defining the issue in black and white – something frequently accomplished by deciding that there is no middle ground (“No compromise in defense of Mother Earth,” as the old Earth First! slogan said). This issue brings to mind the odd habit liberals have of attacking their friends far more viciously than they do their enemies. For example, how often do you think that President Bush or Vice President Cheney have been interrupted by AIDS activists? My guess? A handful or less. Compare: Clinton and Gore could hardly hold a public event (on any topic) in Washington, D.C., New York, or almost anywhere during the ‘90s without someone from ACT-UP disrupting the event. But guess which administration was more sympathetic to AIDS issues. Or: How long did it take environmental organizations to file a Federal Advisory Committee Act lawsuit against Cheney and DOE over the development of the 2001 energy plan? Nearly two years. Even now, environmental organizations remain shy about getting aggressive with the Bush Administration, preferring to proceed apace, filing bland challenges to FERC relicensings and HCPs. But, in contrast, enviros were all over the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan like wet moss immediately, tying agency resources up in lawsuits when they should have been implementing the plan. Of course, now when the Plan is threatened, enviros belatedly realize that it is the best hope for old-growth forests in the Northwest. Or, just as Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was pushing for major progress on grazing and mining reform, the leaders of major environmentalists attacked the Clinton Administration in the harshest terms for the slightest delay or compromise, sowing distrust and anger precisely when the left flank needed to hold firm. What’s going on here? First, let’s take liberals’ habit of attacking their friends. In part, it is tied up with the way that liberals projected their fondest dreams on Clinton, only to remember after Inauguration Day that he campaigned as a moderate. In part, it comes from liberal groups’ longstanding “opposition” status, which makes them unable to make the shift from protest to governance. And in part, it comes from the interest in expression described above. But why do liberals fail to raise the same fuss about Bush? Partly, of course, it is rage fatigue. Who has the energy to get upset at everything that deserves it these days? Even if we could, would people listen? This second part has a backstory too, related to the way that liberals try to get public attention – which almost always involves a “sky-is-falling” theme. This drains credibility, and allows conservatives to dismiss anything by saying, “well, there they go again.” Progressives need to begin to think strategically and boldly about creating a new message – an inclusive message – that demonstrates just how far out of the mainstream the White House has become. It won’t come from attacking other liberal groups, and it won’t come from declaring, yet again that the sky is falling or the wolf is at the door. Maybe it’s even time for some new leadership.
Instapundit, spinning like always, headlines that "ethical considerations" force a paper to drop Maureen Dowd's column. Now, I'm no fan of Dowd's -- her columns invariably are about herself, and read like 15 column inches of brainstorm attempting to come up with a clever pop culture reference -- but it's laughable for these conservative types, who fell all over themselves to spread intentional misquotes and misreadings of true statements by Al Gore, complain about this sort of thing. Puh-lease.
Worth reading Check out Balasubramania's thoughts on judicial filibusters here. Amy Sullivan hits the mark (again!) with a fantastic cover story on how Democrats have to get over their weird aversion to discussing religion here.
Proving the Cliche Was it Will Rogers, Mark Twain, or Shakespeare who said that "Republicans claim that government doesn't work, and then get elected to prove it"? Stories like this -- saying that the Bush Administration claims that the Endangered Species Act is "broken," as evidenced by the fact that the agency has already spent all the money (a paltry $6 million) Congress appropriated for critical habitat designation -- are only one step from the Onion. Here's what happens: on instructions from the White House, the Fish & Wildlife Service fails to implement the Endangered Species Act; a court orders the FWS to comply with the act by designating critical habitat for threatened or endangered species; FWS won't comply because it already spent the money, and won't ask for more; species lose habitat en route to extinction. Tell me again what's not working?
Are We Allowing Lawlessness in Iraq Because We're Stupid, or Clever? The always-sharp Dagger has brought to my attention this post by Oxblog. The money quote is near the bottom -- that "To those conspiracy buffs obsessed with the Straussian domination of American foreign policy, it must seem that the Bush administration wanted there to be just enough chaos in Iraq to ensure that everyone would demand a stronger American hand in Baghdad rather than an immediate withdrawal. While no one in their right mind should believe that, it is important to recognize that the initial confusion in Iraq entirely defused potential criticism of the occupation as just another manifestation of this administration's supposedly mindless unilateralism. If Donald Rumsfeld actually considered promoting democracy in Iraq a priority, he would now be in a perfect position to pursue that objective with the full support of both the reading public and the journalists who inform it." Good point, but the odd thing is that nobody would have ever raised an eyebrow about Rumsfeld "promoting democracy" in Iraq -- I think what people worry about is the opposite, that a lawless quagmire could develop that would require years of US-led autocratic rule before stable home-grown institutions could develop and democracy take root. I think that to the extent that preventable lawlessness and destruction of infrastructure have happened on our watch, allowing it has been a tremendous mistake that will harm our ultimate goal of establishing some sort of democratic republic -- hopefully a pro-US democratic republic -- in Iraq.
More on Republican Fiscal Mismanagement, etc. People sometimes express grudging respect for President Bush, saying "well, at least he's a straight shooter." Although that's the spin the press cheerfully repeats, the evidence continues to mount that he is a ">shameless liar. Today's examples are this report on the deficit, suppressed by the Bush Administration, this report showing that Bush never intended to follow through on his one environmental campaign promise -- to clear out the vast maintenance backlog in our national parks, and this cover story from the NYT explaining how the Republicans used their power to strip a tax break from those who need it most, in order to benefit the very, very rich.
Framing the Question Amy Sullivan has a superb post grumping about bad politics in the pro-choice movement, and linking to this solid piece by Ellen Goodman. Sullivan's point -- that the pro-choice community hurts its issue by radicalizing its position -- is spot-on, and a great case study in self-destructive progressive politics. You'll see the same pattern on any number of other issues (trade, education, and foreign affairs): Liberals will frame an issue in the extreme, alienating the middle. Why is this the case? I think there are a couple of reasons. First, liberals tend to value personal expression very highly, to such a degree that it sometimes blinds them to the desirability of on-the-ground political results. In short, some liberals would rather be right than be President. Political purity is very important to liberals, and their way of framing issues or voting sometimes leads them to express that purity rather than accomplish political goals. For example, Nader voters justify their vote by saying they wanted to send a message, to express their frustration with the Democratic Party, or with both mainstream parties -- even if their vote would contribute to the election of a Republican much more hostile to Nader policies than the Democratic candidate. This refines (I want to say "reduces") the vote to an act of personal expression, rather than an act of governance. It may feel good, but the self-empowerment the Nader voter feels is entirely illusory when his or her vote contributes to the election of a Republican. Some liberals seem to be getting this, slowly. Second, liberals sometimes justify it using strategic terms -- the familiar reasoning that the extreme argument makes the more mainstream liberal position seem more reasonable. This is particularly the case on environmental issues -- you demand a whole loaf, and somebody more moderate will cut the deal for the half-loaf, or even a slice. Of course, this assumes some sort of coordination that doesn't exist on the left, ever. In addition, it is given the lie by the odd habit liberals have of attacking their friends more viciously than their enemies. I'm very interested in this habit, and I'll write a longer post on it later this week.
A Brief Weekly Presidential Candidate Status Rundown Dick Gephardt: Nothing to offer. Remind me why he's running? Anyone read Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes? Howard Dean: Looks good if he can avoid seeming like a jerk. Great grassroots support, enthusiastic but poorly organized. John Edwards: Looks good if he can avoid seeming like he's 27 years old. Great nationwide paid organizational infrastructure, surprising for a newcomer. He'll burn through his money very fast at this rate. John Kerry: I love him, the press hates him, therefore he will lose (see, e.g., Al Gore). Why go through that again? Joe Lieberman: The very definition of a me-too democrat. If you need to be reminded how badly he would lose, pour yourself a drink and watch a tape of his 2000 debate with Dick Cheney.
GOP, the party of fiscal irresponsibility Great discussion of President Bush's irresponsible, deficit-spending ways at Daily Kos.
Instapundit: Recycling the Anti-Jacobin View of Democratic Debate With regard to the Chris Hedges incident in Rockford, Instapundit briefly pretends to weigh the value of free and fair debate. But then Mr. Reynolds reverts to form, and concludes that: "At the same time, it's not fair to expect students to exercise self-restraint and show proper behavior if administrators and speakers are unwilling to do the same. It was a colossal mistake to book Hedges, and the speech he gave was insulting -- not to mention self-indulgent, pompous, ignorant, and lame. We should expect the students to behave, but we should also expect the universities not to presume too much on their good behavior." What's interesting about this is that it recycles the old conservative trope about the rules of free debate: that it is impolite -- not "proper behavior" -- to dissent, even using measured tones from behind a podium. Under this view of speech, the dissent, itself, is so out of bounds (god forbid people hear something they disagree with!) that shouting it down, unplugging the mike, or rushing the stage is entirely appropriate, or at least equivalent. And to think our forebears went to all the trouble to found a democracy to be rid of the tired loyalist political philosophy of Old Europe?
P stands for Protection Christie Whitman is dead, long live Christie Whitman. The prevailing headlines announcing the resignation of the former New Jersey governor recite, in lockstep, that she was often at odds with the hardcore anti-environment leadership in the White House and Republican congress. This is the press’s way of not blaming her for what went on in her tenure at EPA: wholesale rollbacks on safety, health, and environmental protections, failure to implement the rules already in place the sacking or constructive sacking of principled staff who believed in the legislative mission of the agency, and in the legitimacy of the laws they were bound to follow. Whitman is sometimes seen as the successor to William Reilly, the enviro who took the job as EPA chief under George H.W. Bush. But at least Reilly could look to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 as achievements to weigh against the rest. Whitman has zilch. Enjoy your future suite at WMX or Brown & Root, Administrator.
Vox Democrat The purpose of this blog is to amplify the voices that are the heart of the modern progressive movement: Fiercely supportive of civil liberties, concerned with the economic health and success of everyone, proud of the United States' role in seeking peace and protecting freedom in the world.