A Downhill race so far. ...

A Downhill race so far. ...

A Downhill race so far. ...

A mostly political Weblog.
Feb. 25 2007 1:56 AM

All DownHill So Far!

Plus--Another mysterious Dem dropout.

Attention, Thomas O. Barnett: I went to Staples to buy a replacement cartridge for my HP printer. Usually I buy a "Staples" brand replacement--they're a little cheaper. But they were no longer on display. Only the pricier HP cartridges were for sale. I asked the store manager if this was because HP had sued Staples. No, she said--HP "paid us more" to carry only their brand. ... If true, isn't this a pretty clear antitrust violation? HP would seem to be trying to enforce a (presumably lucrative) semi-monopoly position in HP replacement cartridges. I don't think semi-monopolists can do that. Or am I misremembering antitrust law? ... Backfill:Business Week has covered this, and finds a prof who says there's no antitrust violation because "there are alternatives being sold at other office superstores, and other printer brands are being sold at Staples." Second opinion, please. ... 10:46 P.M.

Keep your clothes on: Anyone want to bet that the mysterious new BMW sports car with black "camouflage" cladding--designed to fool spy photographers--is better looking with the cladding attached than the actual sports car we'll see when the cladding comes off? ... [via Autoblog]10:36 P.M.

Friday, February 23, 2007

What would Deborah Orin say? Here's a useful analysis from kf "Emailer X" arguing that the recent pro-Hillary, Nagourneyesque (and Dickersonian) spin is wrong:

The truth is Hillary's campaign has been a series of ill-considered moves.  Obama panicked her into a way-too-early-announcement.  The cause of the panic was fund-raising (poaching of presumed supporters), which is the least vulnerable aspect of her campaign.  Basically, if she wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, she wins the nomination.  The most she can spend in Iowa and New Hampshire is $20 million, every last dollar counted, including the surrounding states primary television advertising that will be seen in Iowa.  So money is not her problem.  Imagining that it was and therefore entering the race six-to-eight months before she needed to was a MAJOR mistake.  Had she entered in August or September, the surge would have run its course successfully or not.  The Iran issue would be that much further along.  Pandemic flu would have hit or not hit.  Etc.  By announcing early, she brought into play a hundred unnecessary variables.

In a nutshell, her challenge is (a) herself, (b) her vote on the War (and her bizarre accounting for same), (c) her husband (never very popular with the party's left wing and a wild card every day), (d) the whole Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton can-we-ever-get-out-of-this-movie thing, (e) Hillaryland (consultants turning everything to hectoring mush), (f) deep-seated fear among Democrats that she is, in truth, the least electable candidate they have.

Geffen, a long-time ally, addressed a, b, c, d, e and f.  The Clinton campaign, by responding the way it did, amplified his remarks at least twofold.  If that's a win, I'm for the Breck Girl.

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11:26 P.M. link

Do we really have to go through another presidential campaign watching the NYT's Adam Nagourney get spun? And without Deborah Orin around to bring everyone back to reality? Grim! Nagourney's Friday piece--"reporting" that "even Mr. Obama ... seemed to acknowledge that he may have been outmaneuvered" by Hillary in the Geffen flap is a case in point.

1) Nagourney didn't reportanything to back up the claim that Obama acknowledged being outmaneuvered. He quoted Obama saying he wanted to avoid such "distractions." But Obama could have regretted it for sincere, highminded reasons, even if the controversy helped him. Why be cynical and assume that if a pol regrets something it can only be because it cost him votes? Or Obama could have been more deeply cynical than Nagourney--seeming to admit error as a tactical ploy (to placate the famously wussy Iowa caucusers, who hate Dem fratricide) while quietly pocketing his winnings.

2) Nagourney's conclusion, and that of most other MSM pundits, assumes you can analyze which campaign won and which lost without assessing the truth value or appeal of what Geffen said about Hillary. In this "neutral," strategic analysis, Obama lost because he was the positive candidate lured into going "negative." Doesn't it matter whether Geffen's charges were true--or at least rang true--or were baloney? "Objective" reporters are uncomfortable making such judgments, but those are the judgments voters will be making. If Geffen was giving voice to what lots of Democrats were actually thinking about Hillary, and if by doing so he in effect gave Dems permission to stop suppressing these objections, and if those objections are powerful, he could have done Hillary damage even if her brilliant staff lured an Obama press aide into putting out a snarky press release.

3) No Nagourney "I've Been Spun" piece would be complete without a quote from notorious Dem counterproductive overspinner Chris Lehane, whose tendentious 24-7 BS sniping as Al Gore's 2000 press secretary helped elect Bush in the first place (and constitutes the very "game as it customarily is played" that Obama condemns). The Obama camp's response "fundamentally undermined their long-term message," Lehane concluded. To ward off charges of bias, Nagourney claims Lehane "has not endorsed a candidate," but it's inconceivable that Lehane is without an agenda or agendas here--at the very least, the agenda of sucking up to Nagourney by telling him what he wants to hear.  Also, Lehane is almost always wrong. I remember, after the California recall debate, he declared that Schwarzenegger had lost ground because he was mean to Arianna Huffington, thereby offending women voters. In fact, Schwarzenegger's put-downs almost certainly helped elect him. Lehane's spin is most useful as a Lawrence O'Donnellish contrary indicator. Maybe he isn't allied with a candidate because nobody wants him.

Update: Melinda Henneberger reports that Geffen's criticism  "Is Nothing I Haven't Heard from Women Voters Across America."   She didn't hear it from men voters? There's your lede! ... Oh, I see. She only talked to women. ... So we have a First Woman who doesn't appeal that much to women running against a First Black who doesn't appeal that much to blacks. Cool. Maybe Identity Politics is dead. ... 11:13 P.M   link

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First Warner, Now Vilsack: Another seemingly  inexplicable drop-out from the Democratic presidential race. Just when the two national frontrunners are busy destroying each other, why would a credible fallback choice like Iowa ex-Gov.Tom Vilsack bail? The fundraising troubles that are allegedly the "only" reason he quit a) don't seem that bad and b) were all quite foreseeable when he declared his candidacy in November. ... Baseless speculation (but why not): Did someone (e.g. Hillary) realize she desperately needed Vilsack's Iowa supporters and make him an offer he couldn't refuse? ... 1:36 P.M. link

And here I thought Scientology was on the defensive: I didn't know there was a whole new batch of possible celeb recruits/hangers-around--Lachlan Murdoch (that from Radar), Will and Jada, J-Lo, Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, even maybe Forest Whitaker.  But the religion might be too expensive for David Beckham's fashionable wife. ("Victoria is too cheap to convert.")  Elizabeth Snead says: "Maybe she can get Scientology wholesale." ... 1:06 P.M. link

Matthew Yglesias displays thestrenuous casuistry loyal Democrats will employ to avoid the need for any confrontation with teachers' unions on the question Steve Jobs recently raised--firing lousy teachers. According to Yglesias the issue isn't firing bad teacher but attracting good ones:

... the reason politicians rarely push for it is that the actual payoff is very, very low. The issue is that there isn't this vast pool of highly effective potential hires out there. The schools with serious teacher-quality problems tend to have them because the better teachers, by and large, don't want to work there and schools have problems filling all the slots with minimally qualified people. The real action (also disliked by teacher unions, if pissing off unions is your goal) is in the certification process, who counts as a qualified teacher, and what counts as an effective teacher (here's where the accountability comes in). If in the future that created a situation where there were tons of people looking to break into the teaching field then it might make sense to expend political capital on making it easier to fire people.  [E.A.]

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Response:

a) It's easier to hire good teachers if you can fire bad ones.  Competent people want to work for competent organizations. Which offer would you be more likely to take: "Come work for our school district. We weed out the deadwood and we're doing a great job preparing our kids," Or "Come work for our district and spend your life beating your head against a bureaucratic wall." Yes, teachers should be paid more--but it's weird that an idealistic liberal would think good candidates are only motivated by money. (And if you could fire bad and mediocre teachers then school districts wouldn't have to spend a big chunk of any pay raise boosting the salaries of ... bad and mediocre teachers).

b) You obviously want to do both-- weed out bad old teachers and expand the pool of potential good new teachers by allowing certification of people who haven't met the mindless credential requirements fiercely defended by the unions.** Yglesias conveniently pretends you can only do the former after the latter--"if" in the "future," after a couple of more generations have sloughed through mediocre or criminally lousy schools, we've managed to amass a huge pool of "tons" of people trying to break into teaching, then it "might" make sense to take on the union protection of incompetents. "Might." That's good of him!

c) Of course, if Yglesias shies from a confrontation now--by kicking the can off to some distant "future," and then only maybe--he'll shy from the confrontation ten years from now. Paul Glastris, in a recent bloggingheads debate on Yglesias' post, unexpectedly blurted out the real reason Dems like him don't want to confront the unions, no matter how sound and obvious the policy reasons for doing so.

**--as a means of protecting their members from uncredentialed hires who would do a better job! 1:53 A.M. link

Thursday, February 22, 2007

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DownHill Racing: My impression is that David Geffen isn't furious at Bill Clinton for not pardoning   Leonard Peltier. He's furious at Bill Clinton for lying about whether he was going to pardon Leonard Peltier--at least that's what I think Geffen would say. ... P.S.: The pros think   Hillary won the Geffen fight. I'm not so sure. By striking back so quickly when a non-candidate makes an obvious anti-Clinton point, does she discourage further attacks or encourage them? I'd say the latter. Everyone loves a target who cries in pain every time it's hit. Anyway, the clear winner in the incident was TimesSelect. [Update: Or not! ] ... P.P.S.: Larry Johnson has a good question for Obama, though--just to see how he'd handle it. ...3:57 P.M. link

Don't look now: The much-derided right-wing comedy show 1/2 Hour News Hour was a ratings hit for FOX. ... 1:21 A.M.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's dangerous to spot trends in Rasmussen robo-polls that Rasmussen himself doesn't even highlight--but hasn't Obama cut Hillary's lead from 16 points to 4 points in about two weeks? The Hillary Announcement Bump would seem to have dissipated. ... P.S.: I forgot. She's inevitable. Sorry. ... 2:08 A.M.

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Didn't Mike Kinsley get in big trouble at the L.A. Times for trying this? ... Seems kind of innocuous now. ...[via Corner] 1:43 A.M.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Explainer Please! Rudy Giuliani  "is happy to participate in a receiving-line style photo opportunity as compared to a snake line." [E.A.] What's the difference? What if the receiving line starts, you know, snaking a bit? ... P.S.: Maybe I'm a jaded Hollywood type, but Giuliani's demands don't seem that diva-ish. He only requires one (1) SUV. He apparently allows eye contact! He doesn't even ask for a fruit basket. ... 2:21 P.M.

Monday, February 19, 2007

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Hillary-- Batting .001: Mohammed at Iraq the Model--writing after the recent Baghdad car bombings-- reports that:

Although attacks happen here and there, the general feeling is still closer to hope and appreciation of the plan than pessimism. More families are returning to the homes they were once forced to leave, and we're talking about some of the most dangerous districts such as Ghazaliya and Haifa Street.

I'm not saying things won't change, I'm not saying long term prospects look positive. I'm saying they are positive enough to warrant giving the plan a chance to do some good instead of blocking it or strangling it Murtha style. Or Hillary style--now that she's called for starting a pullout in 90 days. How do you surge and "redeploy" at the same time?...

P.S.: It's not too early to say that Hillary's performance in the opening weeks has been impressively unimpressive. It's pretty clear in retrospect, that the war with Iraq, however it comes out, was a bad gamble. A mistake, in other words. But now that we've made the mistaken gamble, it also seems clear--to Mohammed at least--that the surge might do some good. The correct position, by these lights, was War No, Surge Yes. It would be selfishly callous, in a stereotypically American way, for us to invade Iraq, make a mess, and then not be willing to pay any extra price to help fix the mess we've made. (Murtha's demand that the troops be given "a year at home"--and the heck with what happens to Iraqis like Mohammed--only emphasizes this self-interested perspective.)

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Yet through a conscientiously applied mixture of high-minded comity, Machiavellian calculation, stubbornness and bad expert advice, Hillary has managed to arrive at a position that's precisely wrong on both counts: War Yes, Surge No.

Didn't most political observers sour on Hillary in 1994, when she stubbornly clung to her grand, high-minded health care plan long after it was clear to everyone that it was a lost cause? Wasn't she supposed to have learned her lesson from that episode? Isn't she making exactly the same error again--stubbornly clinging to her refusal to say her Iraq vote was the mistake it was? ("She wants to maintain a firmness," an unnamed advisor told the NYT.)**  And then, in this case, trying to compensate for her stubbornness by indulging the left's pullout impulses?

She should maybe take a breather to watch The Queen, which is all about how a strong woman (Queen Elizabeth II) is talked by Tony Blair into climbing down from a stubborn position (refusal to ostentatiously grieve over Diana) that, even though it makes sense to her, is out of touch with reality. ...

But if Hillary's judgment is that bad ... well, we get to choose our queens and kings. Do Americans need all the drama?

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P.P.S.: Who is Hillary's Tony Blair? It was supposed to be Bill. Where is he? Off zipping around with Ron Burkle?...

Update: See also Iraqpundit, whose relatives in Baghdad have been able to move back to their home, at least temporarily. He acknowledges that the sectarian "thugs" might "eventuallly" return. [via Insta ] Note that Mohammed is hearing firefights, which suggest to him that the targets of the "surge" are not just lying low:

It looks like some militants consider that sitting back and waiting is not an option and so they are trying to break the siege.

**--Backfill: Dick Morris offers several other examples of Hillary's counterproductive stubbornness:

Counseled by most of her staff to release the Whitewater documents when The Washington Post first requested them, she said no and triggered the designation of a special prosecutor. When Whitewater co-conspirator Jim MacDougal suggested that he buy her out of the investment to avoid political embarrassment, she refused, saying that she planned to use the proceeds for Chelsea's college tuition. When Bill Clinton had the opportunity to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit, Hillary vetoed that possibility, paving the way for her husband's impeachment.

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Morris blames her dependence on "gurus." But at some point it doesn't matter. Bad judgment is bad judgment. ... 5:00 P.M. link

Coping with the Nevada cost of living: 16% of public employees in Southern Nevada make more than $100,000 a year, reports the Las Vegas Sun. ... Paying workers overtime for overtime seems only fair, but at some point it becomes a racket. (The national average for all workers is 5%, says the Sun). ... [Via NewsAlert ] 11:57 A.M.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Do all those Democratic Senators running for President really want to vote to disapprove the surge even as it seems to be showing some initial, tentative, possibly illusory positive effects? Or, as Instapundit suggests, would a "no surge" vote put them in the position where a military success would be "politically ... dangerous?" I've previously argued that the wording of an anti-surge resolution would leave the Dems some escape routes--but what if the public doesn't pay attention to the wording? What if they just pay attention to the vote? What if it comes up in a debate: "And you opposed the increase in troops which is what finally brought relative peace to Baghdad..." How much better for these Democrats if a)they can placate the left by telling primary voters they support some sort of anti-surge resolution but b) they don't have to actually vote on a resolution because it never gets enough votes for cloture, so there's no actual vote that can be hung around their necks. That's win-win! And gee, that's what actually seems to have happened in the Senate. Funny thing. I smell Kabuki. If there's one thing United States Senators are good at it's engineering a stalemate that lets everyone posture in whatever way they think will help them. ... 6:55 P.M. link

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AUSTIN — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions today, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers. ...

If Jobs is a Democrat,** he's a New Democrat! ...P.S.: In response, Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell--who sells mainly non-Apple Windows-based machines-- defended the unions. ... Windows, kludgy Old Dem! Apple, New Dem! Just what you would have thought. ... P.P.S.: Jobs might have added "no amount of well-meaning educational donations from the Gates Foundation would improve public schools nearly as much as allowing principals to fire bad teachers." ...

**--which he seems to be. On the other hand Dell, who took the Old Dem position, is a Republican. ...

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Update: Joe Klein (not swooning yet!) says Barack Obama, at an Iowa town meeting, "told a teachers' union member that he supported higher pay for teachers but also--the union's anathema--greater accountability." I'd be interested in the transcript: Praising "accountability" is one thing--a good thing, but vague. It could mean a lot of things. Talking about getting "rid of people," as Jobs did, puts the issue more clearly, no? ...

More: David Yepsen has an exact quote of what Obama actually said:

"If teachers are underperforming, we're going to get them the help they need. But we're not going to pretend they are not underperforming, and that is something we're going to have to make happen ..." [E.A.]

Hmmm. Maybe you get candor points for saying even that much in teacher-dominated Iowa, which only shows how pathetically pander-centric Democratic politics has become. (I think Eduwonk agrees.) Why couldn't Obama say something like this:

"If teachers are underperforming,we're going to get them the help they need. But in the meantime we will replace them with someone who can do the job. Our children's education has to come first. Yes, in order to attract good teachers, we must be fair to teachers. But the schools are there to teach our kids. They're not a jobs program. The best teachers are honored--and the best citizens will be attracted to the profession--when the public schools regain their reputation as institutions where good things happen to kids."

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In the 1984 Democratic primary, Gary Hart and Walter Mondale actually got into a national debate over whether Mondale would dare to admit that bad teachers should actually be dismissed. Mondale finally said the words, if I remember, only after being backed into a highly-embarrasing special-interest corner by the press. Now the press gives out bravery awards for daring to say that teachers should "get the help they need." In this, and many other respects--read his announcement speech  and try to find even a little bit of Souljah--Obama's campaign as less than a half Hart. ...I'd estimate about 23%. ...1:57 P.M. link

Friday, February 16, 2007

Low Hanging Fruit--The Gaia Hypothesis (as noted in Eat the Press):  Hollywood fundraiser Daphne Ziman unveils Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn's carefully-crafted new campaign message in the Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge:

"The nation is in deep need for a mother figure who will lead the people out of a violent world and back into caring for the poor and the disabled, mostly caring for our children, our future." [E.A.]

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Someone needs to be disciplined! ... Note to D.C.: You see what we have to deal with out here? ... 3:02 P.M. link

What's gotten into David Broder? He's written a piece that isn't CW. [Is it persuasive?--ed No. He says Bush is "poised for a political comeback," without offering much evidence.  A bit of bipartisan comity is all it takes and he starts getting giddy. ... Blogger  Don Surber  actually does a bit more with the thesis.] ..[via Lucianne and Insta ] 11:58 A.M.

N.Z. Bear: "Sorry kids: multi-hour response time just doesn't cut it here in the big leagues." 1:43 A.M.

America's Leading Contrary Indicator: If I were Lewis "Scooter" Libby, this is what I'd want to read  right about now. ..

"Libby is guilty. And he's going to be found guilty. .."

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from the Man Who Is Always Wrong, Lawrence O'Donnell. ... P.S.: O'Donnell's own commenters actually do a pretty good job of busting him for his earlier erroneous predictions. Excerpts: 

Unfortunately you were wrong when you predicted, six or seven indictments-including Rove... [snip] 

I hope you're right, Lawrence. But I must say your batting average is pretty dismal. Two examples: 1) You told Al Franken's audience that John Kerry had nothing to worry about (or words to that effect) in the 2004 election 2) You predicted that Joe Lieberman, after losing the primary, would be persuaded to drop out of the Senate race by September 2006. ... [snip]

I really like reading Lawrence O'Donnell, but isn't he the guy who also said that Rove was, beyond a doubt, going to be indicted? [E.A.]

They forgot O'Donnell's famous Labor Day, 2000 "It's Over" column in New York, giving the election to Gore. ...  [Didn't you just make the same Libby prediction?--ed I did! But even I don't have O'Donnell's authoritative track record.] ... [Thanks to alert reader R.P.12:04 A.M.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

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DI on MyDD wonders  why Democrats aren't jumping on Rove for Ditchdiggergate:

This is what he said, folks: "I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."    [snip]

This insults work. Period. It also insults the people who do work. It is the worst kind of class warfare.

Normally Democrats attack Rove if he has a pimple. Why go easy on him now? The answer is pretty obvious: Dem elites are tacitly allied with Rove in pushing "comprehensive immigration reform." They see him as the unwitting architect of Democratic realignment. [But that doesn't explain why non-elite bloggers would lay off him--ed. Good point. Beats me. a) It could just be that the PC/Wall Street Journal multiculturalist spin--that "comprehensive" opponents must be evil racist Nativists--at least initially wins out over the Dobbsian populist spin that too much immigration lowers working wages.  Bloggers tend to be meritocratic successes, remember. They're typically "symbolic analysts"--globalization's winners! They are not typically unskilled workers. They don't want to pick tomatoes either. And Dem bloggers don't want to get into bed with The Corner. Or b) it could be that (especially with connected bloggers becoming employees of campaigns) the elites have more control over bloggers than it would seem. Remember Townhouse!].... 5:06 P.M.

Bloggingheads discuss the current #1 on my list of Contrarian Pieces Crying Out to be Written. ... 4:00 A.M.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lyndon Johnson losing Cronkite is like Tim Russert losing ... Imus!  [Actually, isn't it more like Johnson losing Jack Valenti?--ed Or Lady Bird.] ... P.S.: Whatever you think of Russert, Seth Stevenson pithily puts the basic perjury case against Libby:

But even if Russert is forgetting, the jury still has this to contend with: Libby claimed he was "taken aback" when Russert mentioned that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Libby said this information was "something he was telling me that I was first learning."

To believe that, you'd have to believe that 1) Libby forgot that Cheney had already told him about Plame (Libby says he did forget their conversation, and only remembered it when he saw it in his notes), and 2) that Ari Fleischer, Cathie Martin, and multiple other prosecution witnesses were all lying or misremembering when they described conversations with Libby (about Plame) that happened before the Russert phone call.

For the same reason that it's plausible that lots of reporters learned about Joe Wilson's wife's CIA job, and silly to expect that it would stay secret once Wilson started his dramatic public dissent, it's implausible that Libby would ever forget it. The reason: It was great gossip! ... 1:51 A.M.

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More on Ditchdiggergate: A Krikorian emailer reports people in the room were shocked when Karl Rove said "I don't want my kid digging ditches"  at a conference in June, 2006:

The small business folks were to polite to boo, but you could hear the disappointment and snickers of dissatisfaction rumble through audience immediately after those remarks.

John Podhoretz asks if I--or, rather, those who object to Rove's remarks--would be willing "to receive poorer service at still-high prices" when "restaurants and hotels" actually have to pay enough to attract legal, non-"temporary" workers. The answer is yes. ... P.S.: I always thought the GOP, pro-market position was that the rising tide of the economy was going to lift all boats. I didn't realize it had to lift all the boats in Latin America before it started lifting the boats of unskilled Americans. ... 1:07 A.M.

How Obama May Have Saved Hillary: An obvious point about Hillary: She's in trouble now because of her pro-war vote, and her unimpressive attempts  to explain it without repudiating it. But the 2008 campaign has started so early that there's plenty of time for her to reverse field and recover. She should thank Barack Obama for forcing her to move up the start of her campaign.  If it were December or even October, things might be different and she'd be in real trouble. ...  12:40 A.M.

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David Sirota has been denied a U.S. Capitol press pass because he's an "activist," reports Mary Ann Akers. That seems foolish--isn't an "activist" just a "citizen" exercising his or her rights? But then, it's become hard to think of a principled (and constitutional) basis on which "press" access to the limited real estate in the Capitol can be doled out. If everyone has a blog (as Sirota does) then everyone's at least a part-time journalist and everyone who passes the security check and can give a plausible reason for being there--Sirota's writing a book--should have access. If that would make the galleries too crowded, then maybe the House and Senate themselves should explicitly vote on who gets access instead of pawning the job off onto a committee of journalists. Congressmen are elected, journalists aren't.  And if Congressmen decide that at the margin that they want WaPo hanging around but not HuffPo--well, that's what their constituents voted for, indirectly. They should take the heat for it. ... That seems less unconstitutional than letting self-proclaimed private sector reporters exclude their citizen-competitors. ... Got a better idea? 12:11 A.M.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Edginess Begone: According to Autoblog, a "Bulgarian economist" has designed a futuristic Audi, and it's not only fresher and better looking than any Audi Audi itself is designing these days, it's better looking than everything everybody else is designing too. See if you agree. ... Caution: It has curves, not edges! ...  12:14 A.M.

Yesterday's bloggingheads today: Al Gore makes a symbolic appearance to tout the carbon tax--something he advocated as far back as 1993 and the subject of a highly persuasive Anne Applebaum op-ed piece  last week. Bob Wright argues that free-rider problems remain--why would any one nation take painful measures (like imposing a carbon tax) unless other nations have to do that too? But isn't Applebaum's point that some self-imposed burdens are easier to bear than others. Nations have to tax something--taxing carbon instead of wages and income seems like less of a sacrifice than actually capping emissions. And, like wearing your underwear on the outside, it's easy to check! 12:04 A.M.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

New Model Edsall: The authoritative Tom Edsall's immigration piece in the unaffordable, subscriber-only National Journal--

a) notes that, while the 2006 elections weren't a victory for anti-comprehensive forces, some swing-district Democrats like Tammy Duckworth were badly hurt by (Edsall says false) charges that they were soft on illegals. That's why Dem caucus chair Rahm Emanuel is insisting on 85 or 90 Republican votes in the House--to give Dems bipartisan cover;

b) "If Democrats saw this as a political winner, why aren't they talking more about it?"--anti-comprehensive Steven Camarota;

c) "Analysts in both parties" are trying to reassure paranoid swing-district Dems that

[m]ost voters who adamantly oppose illegal immigrants are Republicans. ... Faced with a choice between a pro-immigration Republican and a similar Democrat, these voters might well sit out the election.

That means, Edsall theorizes, that "newly elected House Democrats from Republican-leaning districts have less to fear from a pro-immigration vote than do most House and Senate Republicans." But doesn't this logic require the Republicans to cooperate, suicidally, by nominating "pro-immigration" (i.e. pro-comprehensive) candidates in these swing districts? ...

d) Edsall nut graf:

To get a citizenship bill through Congress, President Bush and the Democrats probably need to convert a large bloc of anti-immigration Republican members, perhaps 40 in the House and 20 in the Senate ...

.. even though Democrats are themselves counting on the legislation to create a Democratic electorate, not a grateful pro-GOP Hispanic bloc.

Unless Republicans are easily conned, that sounds encouragingly hard to do. ... [Emphasis added] 11:25 P.M.

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Desperate Measures: The host of NBC'S Meet the Press must really be worried about his image this week. He's hauling out "Big Russ:"

Tuesday on "NBC Nightly News": Tim Russert's efforts to make sure his Dad, 'Big Russ,' has everything he needs.

10:30 P.M.

To See What Is In Front of One's Nose ... Andrew Sullivan: "He seems to believe that merely taking a stand in warfare, even if it is a wrong one, is some kind of virtue in itself." Amazingly, Sullivan is not writing about himself--although maybe he really is, on a, you know, deeper level! ... It seems like only yesterday that Sullivan was preeningly defending those "who ever had the balls to take a stand"-- and thus avoided "irrelevance"--even though they were wrong. But it was really last Tuesday. ...[Tks to reader M.G.] 10:09 P.M.

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Is Hillary Clinton's campaign really trying to pretend, through vigorous Webbery, that she didn't support the war? That's what Matt Yglesias claims.** If true, that's a bit different than simply stubbornly  refusing to apologize for your support; it's trying to deny that you have anything to refuse to apologize for! And it's kind of pathetic. Hillary's had a long time to think about what she'd say in this situation. Not even her husband could get away with that much slickness. He managed to position himself for-and-against Iraq War I, but only because he didn't have to vote on it (and because the war was over and old news by the time he had to stand before the voters). ... P.S.: Yglesias regards Clinton's stance as "an insult to the intelligence of liberals everywhere." Note to Matt: True. But what if her target audience isn't "liberals everywhere" but  ... Iowa caucusers? Those people bought the "Kerry, electable" pitch, remember. Who knows what else they'll buy! It's about time someone insulted their intelligence.

**--What makes him so sure? He's got proof! 8:32 P.M.

Gaffe of the year? Karl Rove defends "comprehensive immigration reform":

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Has Rove accidentally ripped the mask off the vicious social inegalitarianism of Bush's immigration plan, as Mark Krikorian argues, or does a more benign interpretation  of his comments save him?  It's not like he hasn't said this sort of thing before, apparently. Indeed, his June, 2006 version makes the probable context of last week's remark quite clear--and Rove's not simply "saying that every parent wants their child to have a high-skilled, high-wage job," as the White House's damage control suggests. Here's the 2006 pitch:

"Now frankly," Rove said during a riff on the temporary worker part of President Bush's immigration reform plan, "I don't want my kid digging ditches. I don't want my kid slinging tar. But I know somebody's got to do it. And we ought to have a system that allows people who want to come here to work to do jobs for which Americans are not lining up."

OK, let's concede there are some unpleasant, unskilled jobs that need doing. How to get them done? 1) One solution is to raise the pay until enough Americans--including teens and college-age kids--and legal immigrants are willing to take the jobs.If the wage gets so high that machines can do the job more efficiently, then unskilled workers will gradually be replaced by robots. (Maybe Rove could tolerate having his son run a computerized robotic tomato picker.) 2)  We could in effect draft Americans to do these lousy jobs. It would be a duty of citizenship, like serving on juries. I have a vague memory of Michael Walzer suggesting something along these lines in Spheres of Justice; 3) A third solution would be to import foreigners to work the lousy jobs, but offer them a deal in which, if they work for x number of years, they could gain equal citizenship. This would be a sort of modern, socialized version of indentured servitude.

The most socially inegalitarian solution, of course, is Bush's Solution #4) Import foreign workers who do these second-class jobs as second-class non-citizens. ...

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Ah, but wouldn't Bush be happy to settle for #3--a temporary worker program with a path to citizenship? He might. And that's the proposed solution of many Democrats. If I was sure a McCain-Kennedy-Bush program could actually achieve #3, I might support it too. What I fear, of course--what I expect--is that what seems to be #3 will instead become #5: A huge new wave of illegal immigration, drawn by the reward of Bush's semi-amnesty, that overwhelms the fancy new employer and border enforcement mechanisms and temporary-guest-worker safety valves Bush talks about. Lousy jobs will continue to be done by foreigners who have no "path to citizenship" and no legal authorization--it's just that there will be many, many more of them and they will be more poorly paid.

Would Rove care if a 'guest worker program with a path to citizenship' (#3) breaks down, Iraq-style,  into a 'new wave of illegals' (#5)--as the 1986 reform did? We now have a clue! That's the significance of Rove's gaffe, I think: Whether or not Bush's guest worker plan is amended to include eventual citizenship, Rove's already revealed himself as a social inegalitarian at heart who doesn't much care. He's fine with #4.  Likewise, Rove's unlikely to object much--at least on egalitarian grounds--if we wind up with 20 or 40 million more illegal immigrants slinging tar and making beds. Hey, at least no American's children will have to do the work.

This is not the man you want comprehensively reforming immigration. Dividing work into skilled jobs fit for Americans and unskilled jobs unfit for Americans is certainly one logical reaction to the increasing returns to smarts and skills in our economy. But, as Krikorian notes, it's a reaction that would alter America's essential self-conception. Democrats complain about the inegalitarian effect of various Republican tax cuts, but that's a minor and superficial inequality compared to formalizing the snobbery of the skilled. ... [via Sullivan and Rising Hegemon] 1:43 A.M. link

Why Lie? The estimable Tom Maguire suggests that if Cheney aide Scooter Libby lied about Tim Russert telling him about Valerie Plame, it wasn't a lie that Libby "needed" to tell "in order to paint a useful deception."

Libby's story was that Russert reminded him on July 10; he then talked to Rove, who told him that Novak had the story of Wilson's wife armed with these two reminders, Libby then leaked to Miller and Cooper, sourcing it as reporter gossip.

That "reporter gossip" story works just as well if Libby simply sources it to Novak; the Russert detail added nothing to the legal fog bank he was allegedly trying to create.

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I hesitate to venture into Plameland at this late date, but it seems to me that Libby's interests are indeed served by the Russert story: it takes the onus (and the spotlight) off of Rove. That's useful! Rove is more important to Bush than Libby is, Rove was a bigger potential campaign liability, and I don't think too many Bush administration aides like Libby win points with the boss by pissing Rove off. But I defer to more experienced Plamers on this issue. ... 1:37 A.M. link

Now here's a real conflict of interest:WaPo/CNN reporter Howie Kurtz defends Tim Russert on Kurtz's show, "Reliable Sources."WaPo/CNN reporter Howie Kurtz gets invited on Meet the Press  by Tim Russert.** ... Howie Kurtz could make something out of that! ... P.S.: As far as I can see Kurtz hadn't been on Russert's show since May*** of 2002. ...

**--For conflict of interest purposes, it doesn't matter much which came first, the defense or the payoff--sorry, I mean the invitation. ...

***--Corrected. Originally said "March." 12:06 A.M. link

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Surge Report: It's undoubtedly not the last word, but for the moment Omar of Iraq the Model is filing positive reports  on the surge. Sample:

Baghdad is still enjoying some days of relative calm interrupted only with minor sporadic incidents. In general there's a feeling that these days are better than almost any other time in months. This is more evident in the eastern side of Baghdad than the western part, because the former part has received more US and Iraqi military reinforcements than the latter. [E.A.]

Also, there seems to be an effort to return some Sunni mosques in Shiite areas to the Sunnis, including at least one in Sadr City**:

The mosque was reopened with a celebration where Sunnis and Shia prayed together behind a Sunni cleric. Before the ceremony Shia volunteers cleaned up the area around the mosque from garbage and fixed the sign that carried the name of the mosque.

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I tend to trust Omar more than noted Iraq expert Robert Reich, who was confidently assuring everyone on Stephanopoulos's show today that the surge would fail.  ... I'm not saying Reich won't turn out to be right. But I'll believe it when Omar sees it. He's not seeing it yet. ... [via Insta]

**--This was unfortunately an operation led by Ahmed Chalabi, of whom Omar is appropriately skeptical. ..10:49 P.M. link

Hillary is so not inevitable! Jon Chait and Jim Geraghty make the point. Chait's argument is especially relentless. Sample:

The question is: Which candidate is more likely to benefit from endless hours of speechifying, hand-shaking, and town hall meetings? There's no reason to think the answer will be Clinton. While she may be just as smart as--and more experienced than--Edwards and Obama, she is an average orator, while Edwards is a very good one and Obama is a brilliant one. Having seen all three give speeches, it's hard for me to imagine how a prolonged side-by-side comparison will move voters into Clinton's camp. And, as the best-known of the leading candidates, she'll have the hardest time making a strong new impression anyway.

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Post-Chait data point: In Iowa, "among those saying they have attended at least one caucus," Hillary leads Edwards by only 29-25%. A year out. ... Evitable! ...

Update: Reader K.S.Z. emails:

The obvious counter-example to your post on Hillary and Iowa: John Kerry. "Endless hours of speechifying, hand-shaking, and town hall meetings" should have sunk him, if they sank anyone. They didn't.

Good point. True, the tryout period promises to be much longer this time--but Chait does seem to have forgotten one crucial factor: the Iowa Dem caucusers are fools! Who knows whom they'll decide is "electable" this time?  Still, that only makes their choice seem more random and less inevitable, no? ... P.S.: The larger issue is that we--the Dems, the press--are on the verge of making Iowa seem all-important again, even though the kind, earnest, liberal Iowans have not picked a winning non-incumbent Democratic candidate in the thirty years since Jimmy Carter and David Broder put the caucuses on the map. ... 1:57 A.M. link

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Radar Magazine comes out on Tuesday, with "Toxic Bachelors" advertised on the cover. A Ron Burkle story in the very first issue! That should put to rest those persistent, unproven  rumors that Burkle is funding Radar. I apologize for even worrying that editor Maer Roshan would pull his punches for someone who's at least a "good friend" of Yusef Jackson, chairman of Radar's parent company.. ...P.S.: What's that? Really? Must be some sort of printer's error.  ...

P.P.S.--Free advice to Roshan:  You boast in the Daily News that Radar plans to rely on 

"actual reporters and photographers to cover stories ... not pajama-clad post-collegiates snarkily blogging on content produced by others." [E.A.]

a) Snarky! b) Cliched; c) Strategically foolish: Why begin your second relaunch by pissing off bloggers? Everyone admires your touchingly quaint attachment to actual, you know, journalism--but bloggers could be your friends. For one thing, as you note, they need your content to snark off of. For another, they may need real jobs one day (and if you're still around, you will hire them--don't pretend you won't). In the meantime they can give you publicity for your forthcoming investigative achievements. And it's not as if you're debuting your magazine without an obvious, Faustian-bargainish, gaping journalistic sore spot--i.e., conflicts of interest created by your mysterious ownership structure that bloggers could harp on obsessively if sufficiently goaded, conflicts of interest that are just the sort of thing the plodders of the mainstream press might pick up on to tar your name. You only get one chance to make a third impression! ...

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P.P.P.S.--I'd say zero. How does zero sound? What are the chances that Radar will cover the most enjoyable likely scandal on the horizon--the gripping story of how Bill Clinton somehow avoided temptation to remain faithful to Hillary over the past 8 years--with Jackson & Co. funding the venture? Burkle is Bill Clinton's business partner, remember. 

P.P.P.P.S.: When Mike Kinsley started Slate under Microsoft's ownership he (misguidedly, in my opinion) conceded, "There will be no major investigations of Microsoft in Slate." But Kinsley argued that by creating a new journalistic institution--even one with a blind spot--Slate was still "adding to the total amount of skeptical scrutiny going on." Couldn't Roshan make a similar argument for Radar? Sure. The differences are 1) We knew who owned Slate. We don't really know who's bankrolling Radar--i.e. where the blind spots are; 2) Melinda Gates wasn't running for president. ...12:49 A.M. link

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Dog-Catcher Meme: Tom Bevan debunks what has always seemed an Upper West Side/NYT myth about Giuliani--that "on September 10 Rudy couldn't have been elected dog catcher in New York City." True, he wasn't as popular as he had been, and the anti-Giuliani elites smelled victory (just as they smelled victory over Bush in 2004). But that's a distorted view--and not only for the usual liberal-cocooning reasons. There's also an idiosyncratic factor: cab drivers. Cab drivers hated Giuliani, for various reasons, including tough safety and cleanliness clampdowns. Most pre-9/11 visitors to New York--and native New Yorkers--who had money to take cabs were routinely entertained by anti-Rudy rants. But the cabdrivers in this case were not the voice of the people. They were the voice of an aggrieved interest group.  ... 1:02 P.M.  link

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If ever there was a car I'd expect to be a piece of junk, it's the Jeep Compass. But USA Today's seemingly reliable James Healey likes it. 12:51 P.M.

RCP's John McIntyre thinks that, given Giuliani's likely entry, John McCain "would be well advised to position himself as the pro-growth, supply-side conservative in the Republican field." And sure enough Robert Novak just happens to have written a column touting McCain's supply-side credentials, claiming he "sounds more like Jack Kemp as a 2008 candidate." Novak says, of McCain:

He supports radically scaling down the estate tax and does not now favor upper income increases in the Social Security tax.

Wow. He does not now favor upper income Social Security tax increases! That'll reassure the anti-tax crowd. And McCain supports radically scaling down the estate tax! Isn't that the, um, Democrats' estate tax plan? I think it is! Anti-tax Republicans want to repeal the estate tax, as Novak knows. ... Oh, yes: McCain also talks to Arthur Laffer! ... It's hard to believe Republican economic conservatives are such cheap dates that they'll fall for McCain based on the thin evidence offered by Novak of his "transformation." .... P.S.:  Bob Wright and I discuss some serious Giuliani weaknesses McCain might play on, including a  big 9/11 mistake. ... 1:27 A.M. link

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Only a decade or so too late (and more than three years after Chrysler) General Motors finally coming out with what should be an affordable rear-drive sedan. ... 1:09 A.M.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I should be on Greg Gutfeld's Red Eye show, on Fox News, which starts in about ...oh ... 10 minutes. The show's not as amateurish as bloggingheads.tv--but it's close! Which is the point, I guess. On today's episode: Gutfeld's mom disses Bill O'Reilly. ... Update: ETP's Red Eye review. ... 10:47 P.M.

Surging to Bosnia? Is it possible that the "surge" is actually a fairly logical political precursor to a U.S.-aided Bosnia-like partition along the lines suggested by Michael O'Hanlon and Edward Joseph? If you listen to Anne Garrels' report from Baghdad, you'll hear U.S. soldiers attempting to reassure Sunnis threatened by Shiite militias (and by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Army units with which we are supposedly cooperating in the surge).  The Sunnis appear to regard the Americans as legitimate protectors. Today, the Americans tell them they will try to keep them from being chased out of the neighborhood. ("I will talk to the Iraqi Army tonight,"the American captain promises.) Tomorrow, if the surge fails, will the Americans tell the Sunnis "We're sorry. We tried. We made things a bit safer, but we can't really protect you. It's best if you moved"? It might be better than the alternatives. ... Possible problems with the O'Hanlon-Joseph plan are discussed here on bloggingheads. ... 1:29 P.M. link

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Tom Maguire makes the case against Tim Russert, suggesting why yesterday's testimony may not have been the triumph Slate says it was. [Rated ANPF**]...

**--Accessible to Non-Plame Fanatics. ...11:41 A.M.

Another  Man in the Arena: Andrew Sullivan, discussing Joe Klein, argues that "having it both ways on the Iraq war [is] better than having no coherent position on the war at all, except fathomless bitchiness toward anyone who ever had the balls to take a stand."  Hmm. I'd say it's at least a close question! ...Is it also better than taking a firm position you later admit  was an "error" that caused "tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis and several thousand killed and injured American soldiers" and then boasting about how it showed you had "balls"? ... Klein and Sullivan are both prone to dragging out that T.R. chestnut about the "man in the arena". It always comes in handy when you've made a hideous misjudgment. A few less Men in the Arena might be a good thing. ...  1:52 A.M. link

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

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The Surge: Anne Garrels' excellent NPR report seems to give a pretty good idea what is going on in one Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad where the U.S. has set up an outpost. Something is being accomplished, and the American commander inspires confidence, maybe awe.  But ...  9:37 P.M.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Joe Klein's "Last Words": Joe Klein has issued a seven-point response to Arianna Huffington's post noting that he wasn't exactly the Iraq War opponent he now claims to be--his having gone on national TV and, er, supported the war and all. Klein says it was "a moment of stupid weakness." But in that same TV interview Klein said, "I go back and forth on this war from day to day," which seems to reflect more ongoing ambivalence than just a weak "moment" (or, as Klein puts it, "a position I had never taken before and never would again"). ... As Huffington points out in her counter-response, the issue isn't Klein's wisdom four years ago but his truthfulness today, when he poses (and not just this once) as a sturdy pre-invasion critic of the war. If he just said "I went back and forth on the war but quickly** came to see it was a mistake," there'd be no controversy. Having gone back and forth on the war doesn't remove you from the company of reasonable pundits--even exceptionally self-righteous, moralistic, pugnacious pundits!  But instead Klein touched up his own history--and when he gets called on it he blames nothing less than "a  structural problem the left has had ever since before the days when Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz were socialists." No, Joe, they're just calling you on it! ... 

P.S.: Huffington also makes the point that if Klein expressed his strongest opposition to the war in private, but not in public--as he seems to claim--that makes him look rather less honest and courageous. Why not tell your readers what you actually think? ...

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**--Klein did turn against the war quickly. I remember running into him at a party in 2004 and being shocked at the (again, private) vehemence with which he declared Bush's Iraq project to be a huge blunder. At the time, things didn't seem to me to be going that badly. Now it's looking like Klein was right. And, as I say, the run-up to the war wasn't my finest hour either. ... 2:11 P.M. link

Remember, We're Not All In This Together! I hadn't noticed this particularly grating example of the divisive quality of the Democrats' new populism, from Sen. Webb's State of the Union response:

We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons. [E.A.]

The "right people"--isn't that the phrase white-glove snobs use? 11:51 A.M. 

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The Charge is Gone: Toyota has started offering incentives on the hybrid Prius. 11:50 A.M.

Monday, February 5, 2007

"Mark Foley Scandal Brings MORE Pages to the Program"-- Drudge ... Similarly, will Joe Biden's Obama gaffe make him go up in the polls? I suspect so. He was at 1% before. Now everyone knows that he's that loudmouthed guy. ...11:47 P.M. 

Swampland! Joe Klein, having it both ways on the Iraq War? That's Arianna Huffington's claim, and she seems to have the goods, in the form of a pre-war February 22, 2003 interview with Tim Russert in which Klein declares:

This is a really tough decision. War may well be the right decision at this point. In fact, I think it--it's--it--it probably is."

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I've read the entire interview, and in context the quote means what it seems to mean. ... But these days, Klein writes on Time magazine's blog  that he "disagreed with [John McCain] about the war in 2003." ... P.S.: In the same 2003 interview, Klein admits, "I go back and forth on this war from day to day." That's probably the real truth. But then he shouldn't pretend now that he cleanly "disagreed" with the war. [You admit you "waffled"--ed I did! I had trouble making up my mind. Klein made up his mind, then made it up a different way, and now writes as if only one of those events occurred.] 

Update: See above on Klein's response and Huffington's counter. ... 11:38 P.M. link

Winning the Nina Bernstein Primary: Here's one way to put the difference between John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani when it comes to getting the GOP nomination--McCain has the wrong friends (the press), while Giuliani has the "right enemies," as Amy Holmes just said on Anderson Cooper. She cites Al Sharpton as a good foe for a Republican primary candidate to have. I'd add the New York Times. Anyone who inspired such enmity from the Times, conservatives may conclude, can't be all that liberal. ... Backfill: JPod made the "enemies" point rather forcefully last November. He starts his list with the ACLU. ...11:05 P.M.

How "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" Is Like the Iraq War, Part II: In the disingenuous spin used to sell it! ...  Here's Greg Anrig, Jr. at TPM Cafe, commenting on my earlier effort to draw parallels between Bush's grandiose, risky, Iraq idee fixe and his grandiose, risky immigration idee fixe:

9. Mickey notes that in both cases there are less grand, and less risky, alternatives. On immigration, he would prefer to put in place only new enforcement mechanisms, and make sure they work, before "rewarding those illegals who already made it across the border." The problem with that approach, which may seem logical, is that an important part of the new enforcement regime will relate to the system employers are required to use to verify the status of workers. If the undocumented workers now in the country would be more likely to get nailed under that new system, which ought to be the case if it actually works, then presumably millions will quickly become subject to deportation. Only the Tom Tancredos of the world want that. [E.A.]

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This is like Bush saying we have to invade Iraq because the U.N. sanctions are eroding--the point being to rhetorically eliminate the notion that there might be a middle course falling short of the "comprehensive" solution. Here we're told that we can't try employer i.d. checks, etc., without also granting amnesty because otherwise millions of illegals who are already here will be fingered by their employers and "quickly become subject to deportation." This seems almost certainly bogus. Has Anrig never heard of "grandfathering"? Surely it's possible to apply the employer i.d. checks only to new hires and tacitly exempt ("grandfather") existing legal and illegal workers by not checking them. Most of the "undocumented workers now in the country" could keep working at their jobs, as they're doing now, "in the shadows," without amnesty or a "path" to legalization, while we discover whether the i.d. check mechanism would actually work to prevent employers from luring new immigrants (including the millions of new immigrants who'd be encouraged to come here by amnesty or legalization). 

No doubt a middle, non-comprehensive, semi-grandfathering approach faces complications,** but they're the sort of complications politicians usually tackle effectively unless they're intentionally trying to exclude the middle in order to promote the extreme. (The Iraq analogue would be Bush trying to make sure the UN's WMD inspections weren't too successful.)

P.S.: Note how those who disagree with Anrig's plan quickly become "Tom Tancredos," just as those who disagreed with Bush's plan became Neville Chamberlains.

P.P.S.: In this vein, Anrig also sneers that "only right-wing ideologues like him supported the idea of invading Iraq." He must be thinking of John "Comprehensive" McCain. I waffled but ultimately opposed the invasion on proceduralist grounds--the lack of sufficient U.N. authorization (see, e.g. this page  and this one). ...

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**One obvious complication: If existing illegals tried to switch to a new employer they might get caught (though Congress could give them, say, a year to find a decent employer before an enforcement system took effect).  Actually, if the new enforcement system worked, they would get caught. Which means they wouldn't try, no? They'd either stay with their existing employer, or try to work in the underground economy, or give up and "self-deport." I don't know how many would fall into thie latter group, but if it were tens of thousands or even "millions," it seems to me a) millions of people gradually and unofficially deporting themselves  over a number of years is not the same thing as millions of people being forcibly deported by the U.S. government, which is the specter Anrig invokes; b) those most likely to leave would tend to be those for whom it is the easier course--e.g., they haven't put down "roots" here or they have family and the prospect of work in another country. And they could always come back if they could qualify for any guest-worker or other legal programs that became available. ...  And of course some deportations--either official or unofficial--are necessary if any enforcement system, including Bush's or Anrig's, is going to have a deterrent effect on potential future illegals. ... 5:28 A.M. link

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Peretz on Gore: "He's got enough hair and enough hair in the right places not to use blow-dryer. Honest." 7:44 P.M.

Friday, February 2, 2007

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Do "hate crime" laws lower racial tensions or raise them? I'm not sure it isn't the latter. In Long Beach, some black teenagers were convicted of beating three white women on Halloween "with a hate crime enhancement," according to the LAT.  This would be an inflammatory case anyway (despite the initial let's-not-cover-the-news efforts of the Times) even if it were prosecuted as a simple assault.  But adding the hate-crime inquiry makes the race issue central to the trial, and makes it more likely to degenerate into a divisive festival of competitive racial victimization, no? ... 1:19 P.M.

More on Sen. Hagel and the "surge" from an erstwhile antiwar fan of his:

I am a little disappointed in the way he's opposed it.  Not just the level of emotionalism ... [snip] ... but what really disappoints me is, what I've hear, his failure to kind of articulate really solid logic for being sure this is going to fail ... [E.A.]

Don't look at me!   I didn't say it. 2:50 A.M.

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Hon. Loretta Sanchez has quit the House Hispanic Caucus, claiming its chairman called her a "whore." A shocking affront to Congressional dignity! ... Wait. ... Loretta Sanchez ... Loretta Sanchez ... wasn't she the distinguished lawmaker who sent out a Christmas card showing her ... er, cat on fire? I think she was!  ... P.S.:Wonkette is on the case, sort of. But instead of the scandalous flaming "cat" card they chose one with a modest surfing theme! ... 2:32 A.M.

Cynic's Scorecard: 7 Outs and Counting: Are Senators who vote for the Warner anti-surge resolution taking any political risk, or are they just protecting themselves against anti-war sentiment? Inother words, on the off chance that the surge works, would they be embarrassed? Bob Wright says yes. But Senators in this situation have been known to leave themselves escape hatches.

The fewer escape hatches, of course, the greater the political consequences of getting it wrong, and the more support for the anti-surge resolution should actually reflect a senator's judgment that the chances of an embarrassing surge success are small. The more escape hatches, the more the Warner resolution seems simply a convenient way for pols to hedge their bets against any outcome:

After reading Senator Warner's resolution, I'm reinforced in my suspicion that the bet-hedging scenario is a plausible description of what's really going on.

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The resolution says, in the first of 12 clauses::

(1) the Senate disagrees with the "plan" to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges the President instead to consider all options and alternatives for achieving the strategic goals set forth below;

Now, I'm not very imaginative, but I can think of at least seven "outs" a Senator who votes for Warner's resolution could try to use if the surge is ultimately judged beneficial: 1) 'I wanted more troops than the 21,500!' I strongly believe we shouldn't risk troops unless we have an overwhelming force advantage;' 2)  'We were trying to get the attention of this president, to change course. I didn't agree with all the provisions in the resolution.' Oh wait. Hillary's already said that3) I just wanted the president to consider all options and alternatives;' 4) Under my alternative plan, we could have acheived the same result without putting that many extra American soldiers at risk (e.g., 'We could have done the job with 20,500 troops!');  5) Gen. Petraeus is a genius; he took a flawed policy and somehow made it work;  6) 'The plan they actually implemented wasn't the plan we condemned--in the wake of the resolution, I think you'll see they modified the plan, which made it work much better; 7) 'The resolution itself was what scared the Iraqi government and made the plan work, so I actually take some credit for its success.' ...

I'm sure more experiences politicos can come up with other, better, 'outs,' ** The most important "out," of course, is this: Should Bush's surge happen to succeed, angry voters aren't very likely to run around punishing politicians who voiced doubts (especially since most voters harbored those same doubts). Voters just won't be riled up the way they'll be if the surge fails. They'll base their vote on other issues (e.g., health care, taxes). Isn't the rational course for a self-protective Senator, then, to err on the side of pessimism and vote as if the surge had a lower chance of success than you actually think it does (or than you would think it does if you actually analyzed it fully)? ...

**--Update: Anti-surgers could  always "huff, snort, nit-pick" about the inevitable "messy details," suggests Victor Davis Hanson--though I imagine that would be easier for previously antiwar Dems than previously prowar GOPs. [Via Insta]...  2:12 A.M.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

You were supposed to clear the decks for me, dammit! Hillary Clinton hasn't gotten nearly enough grief for declaring, of the Iraq War:

"The President has said this is going to be left to his successor. I think it's the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it. ... This was his decision to go to war; he went with an ill-conceived plan, an incompetently executed strategy, and we should expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office." [E.A.]

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Imagine if Eisenhower had said that about Korea. This is the presidency, not a dream date! Presidents are supposed to deal with the problems the face.  JPod riffs, Lee Harris ruminates ... P.S.: Hillary's "evil men" joke  was funny, though. ... 11:21 A.M.

It's true. This cat is looking into the abyss, man. ... 11:08 A.M.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sloppy Joe: Everybody's piling on Joe Biden's loose-cannon Observer interview. Biden is a loose cannon, and the praise lavished on Sen. Hagel for "letting it rip" in front of Biden at the recent Foreign Relations committee hearing might not have been the best influence on him. But Biden's sharp critiques of his Democratic rivals' Iraq plans--especially Hillary Clinton's--are not so easily dismissed.

"From the part of Hillary's proposal, the part that really baffles me is, 'We're going to teach the Iraqis a lesson.' We're not going to equip them? O.K. Cap our troops and withdraw support from the Iraqis? That's a real good idea."

The result of Mrs. Clinton's position on Iraq, Mr. Biden says, would be "nothing but disaster."

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It would be highly informative to see her try to answer. Let's hope Biden makes it to the debates (and not only the ones in front of the proven fools in Iowa). ... 11:03 A.M.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hagel Bravery Update: A political reporter emails:

It seems to me, at least, that he didn't start making quite so much noise about the war until after Sam Brownback came out against the surge, putting Hagel's position as the only 2008 antiwar GOP candidate in jeopardy.  I've been wondering, since the end of the November election, when Hagel would choose his moment to become the Antiwar Republican Presidential Candidate, because I thought he was risking the possibility that someone else would come out first if he kept waiting.  And hey, somebody did (sort of).

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Hesaid it, not me! ... 9:09 P.M.

Here's CW foghorn Tim Russert--I was going to say he's the new Johnny Apple but that would be an insult to Apple's reporting skills--talking to Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News last week:

WILLIAMS: Now on the domestic side, Tim, was there a topic in that speech tonight that garnered more talk in Washington today than, say, some of the others?

RUSSERT: There was, Brian. Health care and energy are very complicated and difficult to do in one legislative session. However, immigration was debated thoroughly last year. People know where they stand on that issue, and the Democrats are much closer to President Bush. They have told him if he can deliver half of the Republicans in his party in both houses of Congress, they can put forward a comprehensive immigration bill, but they want to put--the Democrats want to put some pressure on the Bush White House to bring some Republicans along so it's simply not a Democratic immigration bill. [E.A.]

Hmm. ... First, do we really think immigration "garnered more talk in Washington" the day after the state of the union than Bush's new health care and energy proposals--or is it just the issue Russert wanted to bring up? Why the BS artifice? ... More important, why would the Democrats want to make sure the bill is "not a Democratic bill"? The obvious answer is that the bill is potentially unpopular--maybe even among Democratic voters--and Democratic legislators are scared of taking responsibility for it themselves. They want Republicans to share the blame. ... Doesn't this suggest that a "comprehensive immigration bill" might not be so easy to pass? ... Can you imgaine Dems being similarly skittish about passing, say, a minimum wage hike with only Democratic votes? No. Because voters actually want a minimum wage increase. ...

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P.S.: If passing a "comprehensive" (i.e. semi-amnesty) immigration bill is the key to winning the burgeoning Latino vote of the future, as pro-"comprehensive" advocates in both parties claim, why wouldn't the Dems want sole credit? One answer: They are thinking short term, not long term. Another answer: They can think short term because they know millions of new Latino immigrant voters will tend to be Democrats no matter who gets credit for passing an immigration bill in 2007. ... 8:10 P.M. link

Half-defense: I don't quite understand why it's offensive to call Sen. Obama a "halfrican." It's a useful word! It efficiently describes a real phenomenon. It isn't, on its face, pejorative--and even if it were, it wouldn't be pejorative for long if it were simply used descriptively to mean people with one parent from Africa. ... Update: A reader emails to point out the word is distressingly close to "half-breed." That does seem like a hard connotation to shake. ...5:38 P.M. link

Calame: From Laughingstock to Menace! It's bad enough that NYT ombudsman Byron Calame is so embarrassingly, life-sappingly pedanticthat he may have convinced the paper to abolish his position. Now he's doing actual damage to the public dialogue, preventing knowledgeable Times reporters from expressing their views on issues within their areas of expertise.   It seems Michael Gordon, author of the highly critical Iraq War history Cobra II, was asked on Charlie Rose his opinion of the "surge." Gordon responded:

"So I think, you know, as a purely personal view, I think it's worth it [sic] one last effort for sure to try to get this right, because my personal view is we've never really tried to win. We've simply been managing our way to defeat. And I think that if it's done right, I think that there is the chance to accomplish something."

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Too hot for Charlie Rose! Calame "raised reader concerns about Mr. Gordon's voicing of personal opinions with top editors" of the Times, with the result that Gordon was dressed down by his bureau chief and forced into a ritual self-criticism, admitting "his comments on the show went too far." ... Three obvious points:

1) Would Gordon have been smacked down if he hadn't heretically supported the surge? Is the Times now like a leftish web site where Kos-like readers take down any discordant comments?

2) Does anyone think that just because Gordon is forbidden from voicing his views that he won't have those views? Isn't it better if they're out in the open, where readers can see and judge them? Calame and the Times censors are enforcing appearance over substance; and

3) Isn't it good for democracy if citizens hear the moral conclusions of highly experienced reporters like Gordon? It's one thing to report on what's happening in the surge. It's another to try to figure out its chances of success and whether the likely consequences are worth the likely cost. They're both important calculations. If Gordon's done both, don't you, as a citizen, want to hear both results of both before Congress votes on the issue? "Should we do the surge" is certainly about the first question you'd ask Gordon if you ran into him on the street. Do Times editors really think their readers can't handle an answer?

[Thanks to reader D.S.]4:57 P.M. link

Don't Cook Tonight ... : In 1969, as a senior in high school, I worked briefly as a delivery boy at the Beverly Hills franchise of Chicken Delight. We wore white dress shirts and bow ties with the word "Chicken" down one tassel and "Delight" down the other. Most famous client: Burt Bacharach! The boss was a grouchy/lovable character who--according to possibly apocryphal legend--would occasionally pick up the phone and, instead of answering "Chicken Delight, may I help you," say "Chicken Delight, fuck you!"... Anyway, one of my coworkers was a high school classmate, Paul Diamond, who (this being Beverly Hills) made a movie of the experience--The Chicken Chronicles. This "lost classic" receives a rare screening on Showtime in the coveted time slot of 6:30 A.M. Eastern Time, Thursday morning, Feb. 1.  Phil Silvers plays the boss. I remember brilliant social commentary during a chase scene through pretentious Beverly Hills back yards. The film also launched the career of Steve Guttenberg. ... 4:16 P.M.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

How Is Chuck Hagel Brave? Why, exactly, is Sen. Chuck Hagel showing "courage" in conspicuously denouncing the Iraq War now that virtually the entire American establishment has reached that same conclusion--now that Hagel is virtually assured of getting hero treatment from Brian Williams and Tim Russert  and long favorable profiles in the newsweeklies? .

OK, maybe Hagel's not so courageous. Maybe he's just right. Except that he chose, as the moment to make his flamboyant speech, not the vote on the imprudent war itself--he voted for it--but a vote to withdraw support for a last-ditch surge strategy that even the NYT's estimable, on-the-scene pessimist Sabrina Tavernese thinks "may have a chance to work."   Was this the right time--it certainly wasn't the courageous time--for a speech like Hagel's? Was he serving the nation or himself?

Saying "the war was wrong but the surge is worth a try"--that would be courageous. There's no ready-made constituency eager to cheer a pol who says that.

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Bucking your party to actively fight against the war when it would have made a difference--that would have been courageous.**

Hagel hasn't done either of those things. Instead, he let loose at the precise moment when letting loose was least brave and least timely. Lest the MSM miss the point, his eruption took the form, not of arguing that his Republican colleagues were wrong, but of denouncing them for, in effect, being cowards, unlike you-know-who:

If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. ... Don't hide anymore; none of us.

Never mind that the anti-surge resolution Hagel has cosponsored is all abouthiding. It has no binding effect. But it does provide Senators who supported the war a convenient bit of late-inning skepticism they can point to when trying to save their skins.

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Hagel also deployed the hoary I've-been-in combat-so-I-know-these-are-real-men-and-women-"fighting and dying" pitch--as if his fellow senators didn't realize they were real men and women. The I've-Been-There meme is to Hagel (and John Kerry) what the "mommy" meme is to Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer--a guilt-tripping, self-glorifying unique selling proposition that attempts to confer on the speaker a special capacity for insight that renders actual persuasive argument unnecessary.

And gee, after getting huge MSM play for lecturing the Senate on how courageous he is, and how he has special understanding as a combat veteran, Hagel is considering a run for the White House! Funny how that happens.

**--There's a tension here between two favorite MSM angles: 1) That Hagel is courageous, and 2) that Hagel's defection is a dramatic new blow to Bush's war effort. It wouldn't have been very courageous for Hagel to have supported the war in public while expressing grave doubts safely in private, of course--and pro-Hagel profiles  tend to emphasize his early public skepticism (except, of course, when it came to actually voting for the thing). But if Hagel has been publicly criticizing the war since 2003, it's not much of a surprise that he's still against the war in 2007. ...

I'd say both MSM memes are wrong. Before the war, Hagel was already widely disdained within his party as a pol who reveled in the "strange new respect" the liberal press typically lavishes on GOP apostates. It's not like he threw away massive Republican backing. And if Hagel really thought the war was a disaster, sending those real men and women into a pointless "meat grinder," there were many things he could have done, aside from giving snippy quotes on Meet the Press, to oppose it. He could have given speeches like the one he gave last week, for example. He could have challenged Bush in 2004. But that might have ended his career! Instead, it looks to me as if he sniped and quipped up to the point where it could do him fatal damage if the war went well. At the same time, given the sniping and quipping, the MSM's surprise that 'even Republican Senator Hagel' opposes Bush is entirely inauthentic. ...

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Update: Even a liberal HuffPo blogger thinks the MSM is overdoing the Hagel hype! ...

Backfill: At The Corner, Kate O'Beirne  suggests a more ... courageous (and effective) way Hagel could register his opposition to Bush's war strategy--by campaigning against Gen. Petraeus' confirmation. ... 6:46 P.M. link

Deborah Orin-Eilbeck: I'm stunned by Deborah Orin-Eilbeck's death. I didn't know she was fighting cancer. She sent me an email only a couple of months ago cheerfully and sensibly disputing something I'd written arguing that Gov. Vilsack's candidacy would let Hillary skip the Iowa caucuses. (She wrote: "If Vilsack is running at the bottom of the Iowa Poll, as he was, he isn't a replay of Tom Harkin and doesn't give anyone a pass out of Iowa, methinks. ... And besides, Hillary being Hillary won't get a pass anywhere.") Orin was almost certainly right, as usual--where did Hillary spend last weekend, again? ...

I only met Orin-Eilbeck a few times--mainly through the hospitality of her friend Mary Louise Oates, in whose house she was surrounded by Democratic friends. I'd heard she had a rep as a driven, badger-her-sources reporter, but everytime I met her she was funny and warm and sharp. Also: beautiful dark eyes!  Her New York Post writing was almost hygienically unaffected by whatever wishful, respectable (and typically liberal) CW was blowing around Washington. Her pieces were also typically short, pointed and (therefore) fun. Like most good political reporters, she pursued the latest political intelligence with a relentlessness hidden to the outside world, including to most bloggers. I was just thinking Orin would be the perfect person to ask a prickly question I've been avoiding--did the immigration issue really hurt the GOP in 2006? If she'd have said yes, the answer is yes.

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None of us will know her thinking on that or any other issue in the coming two-year presidential fight. That's a narrow concern, I know. But it will be hard to make sense of it all without her.

Lucianne has a tribute thread. 1:34 A.M. link

Unionism Is Too the Problem: Labor costs--and specifically work rules--are part of what's killing all the unionized auto manufacturers while their non-unionized competitors thrive building cars in the U.S., according to CNN Money. The famous $1,400/car health care burden is only a piece of it:

Other labor costs add to the bill. Contract issues like work rules, line relief and holiday pay amount to $630 per vehicle - costs that the Japanese don't have. And paying UAW members for not working when plants are shut costs another $350 per vehicle.

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Sorry, Comrade Kuttner! [via Autoblog ] ... P.S.: I guess we need to abolish secret ballots--requiring only a card check--in order to help bring Detroit-style productivity and business success to America's other industries. It can't be that workers look at how the UAW--a relatively clean, democratic union--has poisoned its industry and decide they don't want to organize. It must be "employer coercion." ... 2:17 A.M.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I didn't realize that Andrew Sullivan also broadcast his misinformation about that British video--i.e. that it showed Iraqi troops beating "civilians"--on the Chris Matthews Show,on national television. ... P.S.: The Matthews producers seem to think that gathering five journalists who all agree about Bush, the "surge," and pretty much every other topic makes for a lively dialogue. ... 7:05 P.M.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

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U.S soldiers watching as their Iraqi Army colleagues - Shia - brutally beat Sunni civilians to near-death, as U.S. soldiers hoop and holler in support.

The video shows Iraqi troops beating three men who'd been caught with a bag full of mortars in their car. I don't defend the beatings, which at least one American tries fecklessly to stop, but calling people captured with mortars "civilians" is a bit of a distortion, no? Nor do they appear to be beaten "to near death"--that's just a Sullivanian embellishment.** Does he even watch the videos he hosts? ...

**--Nor can the Iraqi soldiers hear the Americans hooping and hollering in their vehicle many yards away--a non-trivial distinction, when you think about it. When I first read Sullivan's description I thought the American's were actually spurring the Iraqis on (as opposed to keeping their distance, doing nothing, and hooping amongst themselves, which may be bad enough). The one American who we're told actually has contact with the Iraqis appears to be the one who tries to get them to stop.

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Update 1/27: Sullivan's response--Civilians, insurgents. Unarmed, mortars. Minor details! ("The insurgents are civilians inasumuch as they are not in the Iraqi Army ..." Huh?) I've missed the point:

The whole point of the video and the posting, however, was that it illustrated how almost exclusively Shiite forces are ... clearing Sunni neighborhoods, with tacit U.S. support."

Except the video doesn't show that. It shows Shiite forces capturing and roughing up armed Sunnis, of the sort who are terrorizing civilians in other parts of town. It doesn't show soldiers chasing Sunni residents from their homes. ...

P.S.: Sullivan declares, of the beating victims, "they are residents of the neighborhood." But of course he doesn't know that. They were in a car, after all (with mortars!)--that's all the video shows. Sullivan also writes that one of them was thrown "into an airless car trunk." The "airless" is another little Sullivan enhancement.  I don't know how much air gets into a HumVee trunk--but neither does Sullivan. The man can't help himself. ...

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P.P.S.: Sullivan says that I'm not "much concerned with Iraq." This is not a charge that can be levelled at him, unfortunately. To see Sullivan abjectly apologize for his thoughtless, bullying cheerleading for the Iraq war, see this video. ...

P.P.P.S.: Actually, he doesn't apologize for the "bullying." I added that! ...

More: Is there a structural problem with the use of YouTube clips or rather a problem when you have an "excitable embedder." Leigh Hunt sees both. I see only one. ... 1:51 A.M. link

Friday, January 26, 2007

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What Liberal Alterman? Neo-neoliberal Eric Alterman takes on a pro-teachers'-union blogger  who accused him of opposing New York teachers' unions on a "lefter than thou" basis (i.e., because they sometimes endorse Republicans):

[M]y displeasure with the teachers union has nothing whatever to do with political policies. Rather, it is as the parent of a New York City public school child who finds the union's frequent inflexibility and resistance toward what looks to my admittedly non-expert eyes to be common-sense reforms self-defeating in the extreme, as well as a significant barrier to badly needed improvements. This explains why the author is so confused about the citation of my views by the DLC fellow.** I do agree more with the DLC than with the union. [E.A.]

Alterman opposes teachers' unions. ... He's agreeing with the DLC. .. He's  turned against race-based affirmative action. ... Next he'll be for means-testing Social Security! ... Make him a contributing editor of The New Republic. ...

P.S.: Why does the pro-teachers' union blog read like something a General Motors executive might have written in, say, 1985? Our cars are as good as any in the world! The critics all have evil motives! ...

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**--The "DLC fellow" would be Eduwonk, who mischievously provoked the dispute. ... 5:11 P.M. link

Will Blacks Vote for Obama, Part II: Bob Wright makes a good point about Obama and blacks  in our most recent bloggingheads session: Black voters who are lukewarm on Obama may not be responding to his unconventional biography--Kenyan father, no slavery or Jim Crow or civil-rights fights in his background--but rather that he seems "culturally kind of white." After all, Wright argues, you wouldn't expect ordinary voters to be all that familiar with the details of Obama's life. ... To the extent Wright is right, Obama's black problem might be harder to overcome (when it's learned that his cultural affect is reinforced by his life story). Or it might be easier to overcome (if black voters only care about the affect, which can be modified, and not the life story, which can't).  But I'm not sure Wright's right: Black voters who know about Obama might well know the basics of his story by now, and they also know if their local opinion leaders--who almost certainly know the details--are talking him up. ... And aren't there plenty of black leaders whose cultural affect is mainstream--Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Harold Ford--who have no problems obtaining black support? ...

Update: kausfiles  Tuesday, WaPo Thursday!** The Post's Michael Fletcher suggests a) black voters get to issues of both heritage and cultural authenticity very quickly, and b) that Obama nevertheless succeeded in establishing a base of African-American support in his "mostly" black South Side Chicago constituency. ...

**-- OK, Salon Monday. ... 1:34 P.M. link

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bold , Decisive Disasters: The conventional view of Tuesday's State of the Union speech  is this: Bush's invasion of Iraq has turned nightmarish. He got beat in the midterms. He's reacted by changing his approach on the domestic front--reaching across the aisle to make bipartisan, centrist compromises on domestic issues like "comprehensive immigration reform."

But it seems to me the invasion of Iraq and "comprehensive immigration reform" actually have more in common than you might think. Far from being a sensible centrist departure from the sort of grandiose, wishful, rigid thinking that led Bush into Iraq, "comprehensive immigration reform" is of a piece with that thinking. And it's likely to lead to a similar outcome. Here are ten similarities:

1. They're both ideas Bush had when he came into office. Bush speechwriter David Frum has written of his first Oval Office meeting with Bush, a few weeks into his presidency, at which the president explained his "determination to dig Saddam Hussein out of power in Iraq." At about the same time, Bush was meeting with Mexican president Vicente Fox to try to hammer out an immigration deal that would combine a guest worker program with some legalization of existing illegal Mexican immigrants. (Plans for such a broad deal were put on hold only after 9/11 made immigration a national security issue--but Bush diligently resumed pursuit of the deal, just as he diligently resumed pursuit of his pre-election plans for Social Security.)

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2. They both have an idealistic basis. Bush was sympathetic to the way Middle East democrats had been frustrated by "realist" foreign policies, and he's clearly sympathetic to the problems of poor immigrants who come to the U.S. to work and feed their families only to be forced to live "in the shadows."

3. They both seek, in one swoop, to achieve a grand solution to a persistent, difficult problem. No "smallball"! The Iraq Project would begin the transformation of the Middle East, an area that had frustrated president after president. "Comprehensive" immigration reform would, as the name suggests, resolve in one bold bill the centuries-old immigration issue--including a) devising a way to keep out illegal workers while b) providing business with legal immigrant workers, plus c) deciding what to do with illegals who are already here. It would, as Bush said Tuesday, be "conclusive."

4. In both cases, they envision a complicated, triple-bank shot chain of events happening just as Bush wishes it to happen. Iraqis were going to be grateful to their American liberators, come together in peace and give us a stable "ally in the war on terror." Hispanics, in the happy Rovian scenario behind Bush's immigration plan, would be grateful to Republicans for bringing them out of the shadows, etc., ensuring a large and growing GOP Latino vote for decades to come.

5. Both have an obvious weak spot, depending crucially on pulling off a very difficult administrative feat. In Iraq, we had to build a nation in the chaotic vacuum of sectarian post-Saddam Iraq--which came to mean training a national army and police force from scratch with recruits who were often sectarian loyalists or insurgent infiltrators. "Comprehensive" immigration reform requires the government to set up an enforcement mechanism that can prevent millions of impoverished foreigners from sneaking across thousands of miles of unprotected borders--and prevent America's millions of self-interested employers from hiring them.

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6. In both cases, the solution has failed before. We had failed to "stand up" a democracy in Vietnam. We failed to establish a stable, trans-factional governing structures in Lebanon and Somalia. Similarly, the grand, bipartisan Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform of 1986 had promised, and failed, to establish an effective immigration enforcement mechanism.

7. Both were promoted by Bill Kristol!  

8. In both cases, some Bush plan enthusiasts may not really mind a chaotic end result.  Iraq war foes argue that some important neocon supporters of the Iraq war weren't really bothered by the prospect of Sunni-vs.-Shiite warfare--even seeing divide-and-conquer advantages. (That might help explain the lack of attention paid to planning the post-war occupation.) Similarly, Kristol has said he isn't really bothered that the enforcement parts of the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli law failed:

I'm not cavalier about illegal immigrants. ...[snip]... What damage have they done that's so great in 20 years? The anti-immigration forces said 20 years ago, there was an amnesty, which there sort of was, the Simpson- Mazzoli bill, which was pushed by the anti-immigration people, that Ronald Reagan signed. What's happened that's so terrible in the last 20 years? Is the crime rate up in the United States in the last 20 years? Is unemployment up in the United States in the last 20 years?...[snip] ... I am pro-immigration, and I am even soft on illegal immigration.

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9. In both cases, less grand--and less risky--alternatives are available. Bush could have kept "Saddam" boxed up while he planned regime change through other means, built alliances and pursued the more manageable war in Afghanistan. ("Smallball" in 2002. Sounds good now!) Similarly, Bush could put "enforcement" mechanisms in place, and make sure they work, before he potentially stimulates a huge new wave of illegal immigrants by rewarding those illegals who already made it across the border. As a stopgap measure, he could establish modest "guest worker" program and even enlarge the quota of legal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

10. In both cases the consequences of losing Bush's big bet are severe. On Tuesday, Bush described the "nightmare scenario" his Iraq plan's failure (on point #5) has made plausible: The Iraqi government "overrun by extremists on all sides. ... an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaida. ... A contagion of violence could spill out across the country. And in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict." Plus Al Qaida would have a "safe haven" in Iraq that it hadn't had before. 

The equivalent disaster scenario in immigration would go something like this: "Comprehensive" reform passes. The "earned legalization" provisions work as planned--millions of previously undocumented workers become legal Americans. But the untested "enforcement" provisions (point #5) prove no more effective than they've been in the past--or else they are crippled by ACLU-style lawsuits and lobbying (as in the past). Legal guest workers enter the country to work, but so do millions of new illegal workers, drawn by the prospect that they too, may some day be considered too numerous to deport and therefore candidates for the next amnesty.  Hey, "stuff happens!" The current 12 million illegal immigrants become legal--and soon we have another 12 million illegals. Or 20 million. As a result, wages for unskilled, low-income legal American and immigrant workers are depressed. Visible contrasts of wealth and poverty reach near-Latin American proportions in parts of Los Angeles. And the majority of these illegal (and legal) immigrants, like the majority in many parts of the country, are from one nation: Mexico. America for the first time has a potential Quebec problem,** in which a neighboring country has a continuing claim on the loyalties of millions of residents and citizens.

In one sense, this second grand Bush plan failure wouldn't be nearly as disastrous as the first--tens of thousands of people wouldn't die. In another sense, it would be worse. We can retreat from Iraq. We won't be able to retreat from the failure of immigration reform--no "surge" will save us--because it will change who "we" are.

**--Worse than a Quebec problem, maybe. At least France isn't on Canada's border. 12:06 A.M. link

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Bloggingheads--Bob Wright's videoblog project. Gearbox--Searching for the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-in. 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. Keller's 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's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. 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--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]