For kf readers understandably dissatisfied with the previous item, here's another state ballot initiative with the potential to affect the presidential race, and a lot more. An ambitious and apparently wealthy educator, Jorge Klor de Alva, is sponsoring an initiative to change the method for awarding electors in Colorado from winner-take-all to a proportional system. If Bush won 55 percent of the vote, for example, he'd get 55 percent of the electors, not 100 percent. Proponents of the measure claim it would take effect in time for the 2004 election, which might allow Kerry to break off a few electors even if he loses the state. ... If this proportional system spread, it would radically alter the peculiar mechanism of the Electoral College. But it might--depending on how it was written--make it too easy for third parties to gain a balance of power by grabbing a few electors, producing three- or four-way bargaining in the Electoral College. (If you could start a minor party that might get, say, 15 percent of the national vote, or 30 percent of the vote in a few states, you'd be almost crazy not to start that party under this scheme.) This would not be the same system, then, as simple direct national election of a president by majority vote. It would create a unique, bigger third-party problem. ...
You go first: As The Denver Post report suggests, there is arguably little incentive for a small battleground state like Colorado to be the first to switch away from winner-take all--candidates would stop paying attention to Colorado and focus on the remaining winner-take-all prizes. ...
P.S.: Isn't The Note supposed to pick up on all these presidentially significant state ballot drives? Or has the ABC crew become locked in its cocoon of glamorous Michael Moore movie premieres and symposia, reliant on self-promoting emails from reporters to cover the rest of the country? This would never happen at kausfiles. ...
ME/NE Mo? The other alternative elector-appointing system is the Maine/Nebraska plan, which gives electors to the winner of each Congressional and Senate district. (See this old George Will column.) Republicans would presumably benefit in the short run from the ME/NE rule--they control the majority of House districts, after all. ... ME/NE advantages: Candidates would be encouraged to campaign in both urban and rural areas--something that probably wouldn't happen with direct popular election. And the third party problem would be kept under control, since a minor party would have to actually win a congressional district to get an elector. The problem with ME/NE: Congressional districts are now so gerrymandered that there won't be many toss-up battlegrounds. ... The Maine/Nebraska system would at least create huge pressure to do something about the nation's scandalous gerrymandering problem. ... [Thanks to very alert kf reader E.C. for pointing out the hideous error in an earlier version of this item.] 12:59 P.M.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Ward of the States: The Ward Connerly petition drive to end racial preferences in Michigan is back on again, at least temporarily. A state appeals court has reversed a lower court's ruling that petitions to get an anti-preference measure on the ballot were improperly worded. At the time of the earlier decision in March, the NYT's Greg Winter credulously quoted affirmative action supporters hyping its effect:
The several plaintiffs in the case, including the Michigan Black Legislative Caucus, called the decision a near death blow to their opponents, because it essentially renders all the petitions, and the signatures they carry, invalid.
[Emphasis on absurd legal braggadocio added.] ... I'm not sure if this earlier Times report was biased or simply part of a long tradition of journalists overestimating the importance of lower court decisions. Yesterday's decision is a lower court decision too. The real decision will presumably be made by the Michigan Supreme Court. ... If the issue does get on the ballot, it will almost certainly have an effect on the presidential race in this swing state, though I'm not sure what effect that would be. (In 2000, the Bush forces tried successfully to keep Connerly off the ballot in Florida. They wanted to avoid having to take a position on his proposal--a position that threatened to lose them the soft swing "compassion" vote while mobilizing opponents.)
[If the issue doesn't get on the ballot this year, doesn't it mean that this was the rare case when a lower court ruling actually was important, because it delayed the signature-gathering until it was too late, just as the Michigan Black Legislative Caucus might have predicted?--ed You know everything, don't you.] 6:14 P.M.
When Kerry Took the Philippines ... for Reagan! I'm deeply suspicious of the following U.S. News "Washington Whispers" item, which seems to almost comically grab at anything that might inflate Kerry's affinity with Ronald Reagan:
Kerry, Reagan: not what you think. On the big story of Ronald Reagan, President Bush has nothing on John Kerry. That's because Kerry actually worked with Reagan when he was a rookie senator, even getting tagged by the Gipper to do elections monitoring in the Philippines. Then there's Teresa Heinz Kerry, previously married to a Senate Republican. She recalls Reagan helping Senate wives on the issue of Soviet Jewry and thinks Nancy Reagan was the model for first ladies. Insiders say that's why Kerry--who's read every Reagan bio--took charge after Reagan's death, stopping all presidential campaign events. "Reagan fascinated Kerry," says a pal. Kerry thinks there are Reagan traits Democrats should adopt. "Kerry sees in Reagan," says his friend, "the qualities too many Democrats have been foolishly embarrassed by: a toughness, confidence, and discipline Kerry would like to see emulated." And get this--Kerry can still quote Reagan's 1964 speech for Barry Goldwater and fondly recalls his meetings with Reagan because they were among the last, says his friend, where opposing sides could "reach across the aisle."
An elections-monitoring delegation to the Philippines! Clearly Kerry and Reagan worked very closely together. It's amazing this relationship took so long to come to light... Update: It turns out P.J. O'Rourke has written an account of Kerry 'working with Reagan' in the Philippines. O'Rourke is a Republican, of course, but a) he was there and b) he wrote about it at the time (1986), which was long before Kerry was close to higher office. The delegation was in fact headed by GOP Sen. Richard Lugar. But Kerry did play a role: O'Rourke reports that in the crunch Kerry--try not to be shocked by this--straddled gutlessly! Specifically, when Filipino vote-tallyers protested the fraudulent count and needed senatorial protection against Marcos goons,
"all Kerry did was walk around like a male model in a concerned and thoughtful pose."
He didn't even talk to the terrified women vote-tallyers. ... If someone in the Kerry camp really did try to turn this embarrassing episode into an actual selling point, it seems pathetic. Isn't the point of being a decorated Swift boat captain that you're supposed to be able to size up a situation and take bold, decisive action? The best you can say is that Kerry was practicing Kissingerian realpolitik then (Marcos = stability) and hasn't flip-flopped on that position when it comes to Iraq. ... P.S.: O'Rourke says Democrat Joe ("Kurt Andersen made me do it") Conason was there too! Maybe Conason can mount a credible Kerry defense. Maybe not. ... Meanwhile, the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller works overtime to come up with three trivial differences between Reagan and Bush--1) Reagan liked cameras 2) Bush likes the details of politics 3) Reagan made a show of socializing with Washingtonians while the Bushes have "kept largely to themselves." Clearly, Reagan and Bush have nothing in common. ... Meanwhile, the high comedy of NPR announcers trying to pretend they didn't despise Reagan--or trying to pretend they had to pretend they didn't despise Reagan to please their audience, as if their audience didn't despise Reagan too--reached its logical end when All Things Considered covered the Reagan ceremonies from the sanctuary of the FDR memorial. ... 6:00 P.M.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
"many facets of Mr. Kerry's style and personality that [are] all but invisible to most voters in this era of stage-managed politics, where authentic insights into the people who would be president are precious few." [Emph. added]
There's a self-puffing, expectations-raising billboard graf! And what does Wilgoren come up with after her "observations on the campaign trail over several months, combined with interviews with politicians and aides who spend time by his side"? Kerry polishes his speeches. He talks a lot on the phone. He went to an aide's wedding! Wow! That's journalistic gold. ... P.S.: If these are "authentic insights," I'll take the "one dimensional portraits of Mr. Kerry as war hero or waffler proffered by the two sides' television advertisements" any day. One dimension is better than, you know, zero dimensions! Knowing whether Kerry waffles is a lot more illuminating than knowing he talks on the phone. The question Wilgoren's piece raises: Is Kerry really this flat and charmless or is Wilgoren just this weak a profiler? My guess: Even Kerry isn't as deadly as Wilgoren unintentionally makes him out to be. ... P.P.S.: I forgot--Kerry also bowled an orange down the aisle of his campaign plane! Gee, no candidate's ever done that before. When a reporter resorts to describing the "orange bowling" ritual that's been going on since at least the Hart campaign of 1984, it's a sure sign of desperation. ...P.P.P.S.: Wilgoren quotes Kerry's ex-speechwriter Andrei Cherny to the effect that Kerry's "read all these books by people whose names I can't pronounce." I don't believe it. Name one. [You don't think he's read them or you think Cherny can pronounce them?--ed Either way! Cherny's statement reeks of boss-hyping B.S. and false-prole modesty. For that matter, Wilgoren doesn't tell us any of the "multisyllabic uppercrust" phrasings she says Kerry uses, or any of the "pop culture" he's "up on," or any of the "unfamiliar words" a campaign intern had to look up (as his "main responsibility"--another "authentic" detail that reeks of B.S.). Doesn't the NYT have an editor with the power to write "Example, pls"?]
Update: Several e-mailers have noted that Wilgoren's report of Kerry's obsessive speech-polishing ("deeply involved in tiny details on policy ... spends hours fiddling with spech drafts ... 'He's not satisfied until he's achieved a level of perfection he's willing to call his own'") is rather at odds with the candidate's explanation that "overzealous speechwriters" were responsible for his now-inconvenient "Benedict Arnold CEO" rhetoric, or that aides had erroneously included the names of James Baker and Jimmy Carter as possible Middle East envoys in a major speech last December. You'd think Wilgoren herself might point this out. [She has to get back on a plane with the guy--ed. So she can get all those colorful insider details!] 11:51 P.M.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
"After all, let's face it. Is anyone excited about electing John Kerry or do you really want to defeat George Bush?" [Emph. added]
Boi is some sort of local Republican committeeperson, but he's also, in my experience, an honest man. As is Villaraigosa!... 5:49 P.M.
Friday, June 11, 2004
It's a Jo Moore Weekand it's a Friday! What better time to let AP's Ron Fournier learn the news that John McCain has "personally rejected John Kerry overtures to join the Democratic presidential ticket"? ... Sorry, Iggy! ... P.S.: Oh well. Didn't Adam Nagourney helpfully explain to us that the Kerry people didn't really want McCain anyway? ... P.P.S.: This story looks mighty Jo Moorish too. ...2:03 P.M.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Bush is leading independents by three, ahead among Republicans by a larger margin than Kerry is ahead among Dems, and we are down by seven. Outrageous. And it gets worse. They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. this means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points.
Who's right? Ask Governor Gray Davis! O.K, thats a cheap shot. But LAT-watchers have been skeptical of the Times Poll ever since it alone showed Davis closing to a virtual dead heat in the recent California gubernatorial recall--a report that virtually everyone else (including rival campaigns and the rival Field Poll) scoffed at. I've been told, however, that Times polling director Susan Pinkus is a straight shooter, so I did the irresponsible thing and postponed sniping while I called her up. [Don't let this happen again--ed] Here's what I learned:
--The party breakdown in the LAT poll was 38 % Democratic, 25% Republican, 24% Independent. That's about the same as the 38/19/26 breakdown of a year ago, but it's a big increase in Democrats since March of this year, when they were only 33 percent of the sample. Pinkus argues her latest numbers are not that different from a recent ABC poll that she said showed Democrats with a 37/27 percent edge. And she says her overall horse-race result isn't much different from the latest Gallup poll, which had Kerry up 6 in a three-way race. (That was among "likely" voters. The Times surveyed "registered" voters--and Gallup only had Kerry up by 3 in that broader group.)
--On the gigantic Democratic generic Congressional-preference lead in her survey, Pinkus said, "I don't know what's happening with that. If that's true, it's huge. ... I've seen it 5 or 6 points, but never 19, it's true." She said she stood by her poll, however. (Earlier she had noted that one out of 20 polls will be wrong, given the accepted margins of error.)
--Other commentators (such as RCP's T. Bevan) have hung their critique on Bush's much better showing in the Times' separate, more intense look at three battleground states. Can Bush really be losing nationally by 6 points and still be winning Missouri by 11 points? Seems unlikely. One possible explanation: The Times apparently used a different telephoning outfit to conduct the state-by-state polls than it used for the national poll. Might not something in the different survey techniques of the two firms have skewed the results in two directions? "I don't know. I can't answer that. That's a legitimate question," said Pinkus. If there is a difference in the results of the two survey techniques--even using the exact same questions--then which technique is more accurate? Maybe the Times' technique really does skew results to the left, no? (That would explain a lot!) Or its subcontractor's technique might skew results to the right. It could be something very simple. If--speaking hypothetically--all the Times' phone surveyors were Latinas with exacting NPR-style Spanish accents, those surveyed might try to please them by appealing to their assumed Democratic leanings. They might get a different result than would a survey conducted by men with thick Southern accents and gruff manners. One group would get it wrong.
P.S.: Note that the generic Congressional result was also much more "normal"-- and much less pro-Democratic (6-8 points instead of 19)--in the three "battleground" states surveyed by the subcontractor. Why would Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio all happen to be almost equally less pro-Democratic than the nation as a whole? Or is the difference really a difference in the techniques of the subcontractor that did the "battleground" state surveys?
Does Pinkus plan to post the LAT's methodological numbers, as requested by ABC's Note? "Not at this time ... I guess I could but I haven't thought about it." She points out that she has given ABC a response to Dowd's charges. (Check The Note tomorrow.)
People who know more about polling than I do should feel free to pick apart these numbers and email me with any especially juicy points. ...
Bonus Buried Lede: Matthew Dowd argues that the LAT's 19 point Dem advantage in "generic" Congressional preference is "10 to 12 points" off. Doesn't this mean that the Democrats are winning by 7 to 9 points? There's your hed! "KEY BUSH STRATEGIST SAYS DEMS HAVE BIG CONGRESSIONAL LEAD." [Thanks to an alert kf reader who happens to be a national pollster.] 7:53 P.M. link
John McLoughlin, the Port Authority cop who was one of the last three people pulled out alive from the World Trade Center, retired yesterday. He and a fellow officer were saved after their cries for help were heard, not by a uniformed rescuer, but by an ex-Marine accountant, Dave Karnes, who drove to the site from Connecticut in his convertible Porsche and walked out onto the steaming pile when it had been deemed too unsafe for the official rescuers. It's still the best true 9/11 story I've heard. ... P.S.: Does Clint Eastwood have a better role to play? Send the finder's fee to Graydon Carter! ... 1:44 A.M.
Wednesday, June 9, 2004
The Fauxhawk Faster Principle of Politics:Gawker has been lamenting the death of the fauxhawk hairstyle, which appears to have been the victim of something like the Feiler Faster Thesis coming to the world of fashion and grooming. A bitter fashionista is quoted:
"I am tired of any kind of trend getting bashed to a premature death on the internet. First you did it to electroclash. Then it was vintage clothes. Now you're doing it to faux hawks. Do you wonder why this decade doesn't yet have any kind of recognizable look or style? Because fashions which in the 90s might have had a 4 year life cycle are now reduced to 18 months at best ...their deaths abetted by the derisive cackling of so many bloggers." [Emph. added]
A couple of thoughts:
a) It's nice if the Feiler Faster Thesis now applies to fashion, since it doesn't seem to apply to presidential nominating politics anymore. After Kerry won Iowa, essentially nothing happened in the Dem primary race.
b) The essence of the FFT isn't just that wax-and-wane cycles of popularity happen more quickly, but that voters (or consumers, in the fauxhawk case) are comfortable with them happening more quickly. The CW can go from "Joe Biden is presidential" to "Joe Biden is still a wacky motormouth" in a week instead of in a month, but--according to the FFT theory--it's just as valid and well-considered a shift despite the shorter time frame. Applied to the world of style, this would mean that the fashion life cycle that now takes 18 months instead of 4 years would be a completely satisfying fashion cycle, with the same initial excitement and ultimate disgust as before. But Gawker's bitter fauxhawk-lover is anything but comfortable or satisfied with the new regime. He wants to savor the rise and fall of fashion trends in a way that is not now possible;
c) This suggests he's proposing something more radical than the original FFT--not that the cycles of fashion move faster but that they are stillborn or incomplete as each new style trend gets bashed and vilified before it ever catches on (the Trucker Hat phenomenon). Ultimately there will be no fashion trends at all because they will all be nipped in the bud. Not faster fashion, but the End of Fashion.
d) Could the same thing be happening in politcs--that reaction and counterreaction now happen so fast that the end result is stasis? That might explain the eerily steady Rasmussen tracking poll, for example. ABC's The Note has floated a similar explanation for why expensive ad campaign no longer have much effect at moving the needle. (An analogy might be made with the Rational Expectations school in economics--which as I understand it says nothing changes because every move is perfectly anticipated by perfect markets with perfect information.)
e) I tend not to believe that explanation, at least when it comes to politics (as opposed to headgear). I suspect the Rasmussen poll is static because the race is close, opinions are intensely held and Bush's deteriorating job approval has been matched by Kerry's weakness as a candidate. I suspect Kerry sailed through the primaries without the expected reversal of fortune because everybody stopped running the negative campaigns that drive the up-down cycles of politcs. Now that negative ads and negative campaigns have started again--in the Kerrry vs. Bush race they'll pick up as soon as the Reagan memorializing ends--we'll have up-down cycles again.
f) But even if the traditional cycles have been short-circuited, that doesn't mean there will be no ups and downs in politics. There might still be longer-wavelength trends. This possibility was driven home to me when my friend E. and I went to a rock concert and happened to see a wackily intense speed metal band strumming its guitars and pounding its drums so quickly that the only rhythm you actually felt was the stately pattern of the chord changes. "This music is so fast it's slow," noted E. Applied to the 2004 campaign, this Speed Metal Theory would suggest that the flurry of gaffes, thrusts, charges and countercharges has become a self-cancelling blur--but that Bush or Kerry may rise or fall slowly, over a matter of months, as the economy or the situtation in Iraq improves or deteriorates, or as impressions of Kerry gel.
g) In fashion there is another institutional factor: commerce. Arguably, if there's a faster fashion cycle the clothing and hair salon industry will make more money. More incoming trends will have to be purchased and then discarded when they become outdated. But if there is no fashion cycle, Seventh Avenue goes broke, right? Someone, at least, has an interest in preventing this Faster business from getting out of hand. I don't know if any fashion industry player--Anna Wintour, or Armani, or Barney's--actually has the power to slow things down or speed them up when it comes to style. I'm pretty sure nobody has that kind of power over the speed of politics.
[You're faking it. You didn't even know what a "faux-hawk" was until you read the Gawker item.--ed. Don't be silly. It's that Jake Gyllenhaal thing. Right? Or is it John Kerry on Iraq! Ha, ha, ha! ... Sorry. One track mind.] 1:14 A.M.
Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Jo Moore Week? Half of the mainstream press is covering Reagan's death and most of the other half is pretending to pay attention but quietly taking the week off because, well, what's the point of busting yourself to produce something that won't get much play, if it gets used at all? Does that make this a sneaky Jo Moore Week--a good time to release bad news, secure in the knowledge that it won't get much coverage? I think it does! ... What unpleasant stories are being intentionally buried? Nominations accepted here. ... P.S.: I would have voted for Jess Bravin's Monday WSJ piece ($) on the Bush Administration and torture, but given the Administration's subsequent denials it doesn't appear to have been an intentional let's-bury-this leak. The week, however, is young. ... [Thanks to alert reader P.] 4:31 P.M.
"And Now I Will Project a Cheery Optimism:" LAT's Gold and La Ganga outline Kerry's somewhat formulaic efforts to "cast his candidacy in sunny sheen." Here, for example, is what they call the "upbeat" ending to his recent speech on bioterrorism:
"But leadership is about telling the truth, and it is about talking about the real choices we face as Americans in order to be stronger. I know we can be stronger here at home."
Whoa there! Don't use up all the soaring rhetoric at once! ... How silly is the Kerry camp's attempt to fake it for 6 months by pretending that Kerry's an upbeat figure? Kerry's not even convincingly sunny for 10 seconds in his new "positive" 30 second spot, "Optimists." Any warm, upbeat human incidents Kerry aide Tad Devine can gather will be overwhelmed in a war with the daily drone of Kerry's pompous default speaking voice. Face it--he's The Man from Mope! Isn't it better to lower expectations in the Cheering Optimism department and focus on a nuts-and-bolts, no-BS jockish competence? ... P.S. "Anybody who knows him says he can be very comfortable, charming, nice to be with," Devine tells the Times. "And if anyone questions his charm and niceness, then everything is on the table. Everything!" ... OK, maybe he didn't say that last bit. ... P.P.S.: So far, Kerry's best "charm" witness is ... intern Alexandra Polier! She says Kerry was "flirtatious and funny"! ... 3:41 A.M.
Monday, June 7, 2004
Transit of Meanness: Various valued kf readers agree that Ronald Reagan was a lot more genial in the 80s than the '60s, though there is some debate about the timing and a lot of debate about the causes. Some possible explanations: 1) The Sixties--you'd be feisty and defensive too if you were a conservative running in the Summer of Love, with the left visibly ascendant and hippies running amok, etc. 2) You almost have to maximize your likability* if you are running a national political campaign, as Reagan was from the mid-1970s on; 3)Everybody seems nastier and more Jack Webb-like in old TV and radio clips, including the reporters. Edward R. Murrow, what an a-----e! And that grumpy old Mr. Cronkite. People just presented themselves differently in public then. More Humphrey Bogartish and Gary Cooperesque. Today everyone you see on TV is coached to be "happy to be here" and nobody laughs at Washington Week'sJeff Birnbaum forcing himself to grin like a raver on Ecstasy. The median has shifted dramatically niceward--but Reagan was genial back then, by the standards of the day. ... P.S.: The one theory I don't think will fly is the liberals' favorite, that Reagan got nicer after he was shot. (Why is it the liberals' favorite? Because it can be implicitly spun as "he finally suffered and learned compassion.") The problem is that Reagan was plenty genial in the 1980 campaign, months before the assassination attempt. ...
*--What about Kerry? The scary possibility is he may already be doing this!. ... 10:59 P.M.
Kerry Suspends Campaigning: Shrewd move. Alert kf reader A.L. emails that Kerry'd be doing better in the polls if he'd also taken a week off when Tony Randall died. ... 3:02 P.M.
While federal law prohibits a person from seeking a third presidential term, the Constitution does not specify whether or not a former commander in chief can become vice president.
Drudge then effectively took it back by citing citing the text of the Twelfth Amendment, which says, in part, that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."
Am I crazy, or did Drudge give up too soon? The text of the Constitution's two-term limit, the 22d Amendment, only says that
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice ... [Emph. added]
But if Clinton were Kerry's running mate, and the Dem ticket won, Clinton wouldn't be elected to the office of the President for the third time. He'd be elected to the office of the Vice-President for the first time! Nothing in the 22d Amendment says he'd be ineligible to serve as President should Kerry be unable to fill the office--in other words, Clinton wouldn't be "constitutionally ineligible" to be President. Hence the Twelfth Amendment wouldn't knock him out either.
Constitutional experts, tell me where I'm wrong on this! (I remember that last time I looked at the 22d Amendment, I reached the opposite conclusion, but now I can't for the life of me see why.) ... If the drafters of the 22d amendment had wanted to prevent someone from serving more than two terms, after all--in effect banning them from the presidency for life--they could easily have said so. They knew the English language. And they said "elected." ... P.S.: I doubt very much that this issue has ever been adjudicated--no former ex-president has been nominated for vice-president since the 22d Amendment passed. .... P.P.S.: Not that Kerry would ever actually pick Clinton. ...P.P.P.S.: But just speculating about the possibility could drive Hillary bats! ...
Update and Backfill: NYU law prof Stephen Gillers argued Clinton could run in a March NYT op-ed, but didn't address the alleged 12th Amendment bar. He effectively swats it away in a colloquy with UCLA's Eugene Volokh--who thinks Clinton is barred because "eligible" in the 12th Amendment means "electable" as defined in the later 22d Amendment. I'm with Gillers. ... A 2000 Slate "Explainer" by David Newman reached the same conclusion as Gillers, as did Jack Shafer after consulting with a few profs. ... David Tenner reports that the issue cropped up in 1964 with talk of a Goldwater/Eisenhower ticket. Apparently the Congress considered language for the 22d Amendment that would have clearly banned VP candidates like Clinton, but rejected it. ... Extra Credit: Volokh's entry also cites a 1999 Minnesota Law Review article that backs the Clinton-can-run thesis. ... Note: I apologize if the Volokh link takes you to the bottom of his page. If that happens, search upwards for "Clinton." 1:45 A.M.
NYT to Kerry Camp: Spin Us! We're Dumb for You! If Kerry's wise, all-powerful inner circle was dead set against his delayed nomination idea, then why (as is widely believed) was he actually planning to do it, until it leaked? Or is the New York Times once again playing the gullible spinnee, suspending normal journalistic skepticism to retell a story in a way highly convenient to the Kerry campaign? Last week it was prestigious National Spinnee Adam Nagourney swallowing the line that the Kerryites didn't really want John McCain as VP candidate. This week, it's David Halbfinger spreading the notion that the unpopular delayed nomination idea really wasn't the idea of anybody in Kerry's circle after all. ...
Update: An informed e-mailer suggested that Halbfinger was also ludicrously hyping the limited influence of a few Kerry cronies who might be useful sources (e.g. Martilla, Rosenblith). Could be! But I'm used to craven or uninformed source-greasers that make people seem more powerful than they really are. The innovation at the NYT this year seems to be that it is so desperate for stories--getting beaten so badly by Brownstein, for one--that it now in effect offers itself up to the Kerry campaign as an easy mark waiting to be spun in a way that will get out whatever fake news the Kerryites want to get out (in this case the probable-B.S. story that the delayed nomination idea would have been rejected if it hadn't leaked). 1:03 A.M.
Reagan Catch-up: Some scattered points about Ronald Reagan that maybe haven't been made yet (though that's hard to believe):
1. Were you as startled as I was by the old Meet the Press clip of Reagan they played Sunday? He was much tougher and less genial in the mid-1960s. It wasn't just that the perception of him (by chastened Democrats, especially) changed. He changed. Even his smile was harder back then.
2. In the late 1970s-early1980s, when the liberal enterprise had become a comic-book version of interest-group politics, I went back and read for the first time Reagan's famous speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater in 1964--the speech that put Reagan on the map. I was more of a loyal Democrat then than I am now, but I remember that there wasn't a single sentence of Reagan's rabble-rousing right-wing address that I really disagreed with. In part that's because Reagan was right about the liberalism of the '70s. In part it's because he had an FDR-like way of avoiding words or examples that would trigger a gag-reflex in his opponents.
3. Reagan tends to get too little credit for welfare reform. a) In California his "workfare" program, while not as extensive as it was cracked up to be, embodied a clear attempt to substitute work (in the public sector if necessary) for no-strings cash assistance. Reagan brought to Washington a group of well-informed aides determined to extend that idea; b) In his first term, he insisted on allowing the state experiments that started the reform ball rolling; c) Even before he took office, Reagan had already laid much of the modern rhetorical basis for later changes in the system. When Richard Nixon proposed a guaranteed income--in effect extending the idea of welfare-without-work to everyone, not just single parents--Reagan opposed it as a "super-dole." Reagan's anti-welfare speeches didn't just rail against welfare mothers who drove Cadillacs. (That's the liberal version of Reagan's anti-welfare speeches). He also attacked more concrete welfare state reductio-ad-absurdums like Taino Towers--a housing project that attempted, on the island of Manhattan, to enable able-bodied people who didn't work to live as well as the rich (in high-ceiling luxury buildings complete with "an indoor swimming pool, a theatre, a greenhouse, rooftop play areas and an underground garage with 24-hour parking attendants," according to contemporary Economist account). The welfare Cadillac business may have been a myth, but Taino Towers was something you could see every day from the Triboro Bridge. If you were a low-wage, taxpaying breadwinner heading to your job from a cramped, unsubsidized flat in Queens, it might understandably tick you off.
4. At the much-maligned 1992 Republican convention, Reagan also uttered what to my knowledge is the clearest presidential expression of the American form of equality--not the "equality of opportunity" championed (in America) by conservatives and in England by Labor Party leader Tony Blair, but something more substantial:
Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans that is not enough - we must be equal in the eyes of each other.
5. I don't defend Reagan's tax cuts, but his 1986 tax reform--cutting rates while closing loopholes--probably played an underestimated role in enabling the prosperity of the '90s by ending the waste of talent and money in unproductive tax shelters that was common in the '70s and early '80s. Too bad Bill Clinton had no feel for the virtues of loophole-closing, preferring to create loopholes (by calling them "targeted" tax cuts).
6. Reagan's 1981 breaking of the air traffic controllers' strike also seems a crucial part of the late-twentieth century boom. Union power was the mainspring of the 1970s wage-price spiral, as unions leapfrogged each other trying to stay a step ahead of the rising prices their hefty wage hikes then helped ensure. The air controllers provided the cautionary example of a labor organization that went on an ill-advised strike, was defeated, and ceased to exist. With the public's support! Big Labor hasn't been the same since--and, not coincidentally, neither has inflation.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides! Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty. Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left. Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--Busting the education "blob." Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk