America's Least Wanted

America's Least Wanted

America's Least Wanted

Notes from the political sidelines.
Nov. 18 2005 2:09 PM

America's Least Wanted

Another Bush earns his place on a Rushmore for the rejected.

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Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

Sinker:Back in August, when George W. Bush crossed the Mendoza Line with a disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll of 56 percent, he still had four men left to pass for the title of most unpopular president in modern history: Jimmy Carter (59 percent), George H. W. Bush (60 percent) Richard Nixon (66 percent), and Harry Truman (67 percent). I predicted that the way things were going, he could speed past Carter and Bush 41 "within the next month."

I was wrong—it took the president two months. This week's Gallup puts his disapproval at 60 percent, which means father and son share third place on the all-time list. Bush 43 always said he learned an important political lesson from Bush 41, and now we know what it was: Don't hit bottom too early. If you're going to be the third-most unpopular president, do it in your second term, so you have some time to stop and smell the Rose Garden.

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It's an awesome achievement for one family to produce two of the four most unpopular presidents in modern times. If there were a Mount Rushmore for rejection, the Bushes would have half the place to themselves.

With the holidays coming, you can bet there will be a lot of good-natured joshing in the highly competitive Bush household about which man deserves full bragging rights. Bush the father, whose favorite sport was speed golf, can boast of his prowess in speed failure. Truman needed seven years to hit bottom, Nixon six, and Bush the son five. The elder Bush tanked in three and a half.

On the other hand, Bush the son may not have to wait long before he has the crown to himself. His unpopularity has been rising two points a month all year, which gives him an outside shot of catching Nixon by January.

The Bush White House is certainly doing everything in its power to fail on all fronts. Soaring heating oil prices, Republican chaos in Congress, and more trouble from the special prosecutor will help. But with Iraqi elections and the State of the Union coming up, it could take Bush as much as six months to pass Nixon and Truman. The president needs to remember the patience that got him this far: Rome wasn't lost in a day.

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Comeback Kid: Here's one Gallup finding that won't come up over Thanksgiving dinner at the first family's: Americans now say by a 48-to-36 percent margin that they trusted Bill Clinton more than they trust George Bush.

Even Mickey Kaus is caught up in the wave of Clinton nostalgia. While the rest of the blogosphere is off chasing Bush, Cheney, and Woodward conspiracies, Mickey is reviving that once-common trope, the Clinton conspiracy.

Mickey's theory is that when President Clinton lambasted the Bush administration this week for making a mess of the war in Iraq, he was trying to win liberal support for Sen. Clinton, who voted to authorize it. Mickey attempts to compare this to our mutual obsession, welfare reform, which President Clinton supported but some on the left hoped First Lady Clinton would oppose.

But as Mickey remembers, President Clinton kept his promise to end welfare as we know it, and Hillary Clinton supported it. On Iraq, both Clintons have been consistently tough- and fair-minded—supporting the troops at every step and praising the removal of Saddam and the approval of an Iraqi Constitution, while harshly criticizing the administration for the way it has prosecuted the war and its failure to present a strategy that's working.

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In his speech this week, President Clinton didn't call for withdrawal from Iraq; he once again gave a commander in chief's critique of what the administration has done wrong there: "We never sent enough troops and didn't have enough troops to control or seal the borders. And as the borders were unsealed, the terrorists came in. That was the central mistake, and we're still living with that."

Sen. Clinton returned from the Middle East with a similar message, reminding her colleagues that in Israel and Jordan she "saw first-hand the true devastation that terrorism can inflict on a nation," but repeating her impatience with the administration's failure to present a strategy that's working.

Counterinsurgents: While I don't buy Mickey's latest theory on Iraq, I have long agreed with another one he championed this week in Kausfiles: that good news in Iraq would help Democrats more than Republicans.

If you look back over the last three decades of modern politics, Republicans have usually prospered by failing to fix the problems they rail against: crime, welfare, big government, security. By contrast, whenever Democrats have fixed those problems, we've made the wedge issues go away and left conservatives sputtering for relevance. The same is true with Iraq, and with the broader war on terrorism: The sooner we can show America how to start winning again, the sooner Democrats will start winning again.

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Some argue that conservatives' consistent failure is the political equivalent of planned obsolescence: They always propose solutions that fall apart so that voters will have to keep coming back to buy a new version. In this view, Republicans are like the Black Sox, losing on purpose.

But I'm not much on conspiracy theories. I prefer to give conservatives the benefit of the doubt: They don't set out to fail, they just happen to be good at it.

So, don't be so hard on President Bush. He wasn't born with a 60 percent disapproval rating in his mouth. He earned it. ... 2:04 P.M. (link)

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Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005

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Back When: For the last five years, I've kept a close eye on the job market for Has-Beens. When Clinton left office, I told my good friend Gene Sperling to forget about the 22 million good jobs he created in the 1990s and create two good jobs for us.

Alas, except for college presidents, most of us are still waiting for the Has-Been Bubble to materialize. But Gene just published a smart book called The Pro-Growth Progressive, which you should buy now and give to all your friends and family this holiday season. (Full disclosure: Gene mentioned me in the book so I would do just that.)

As David Greenberg wrote on Monday, Hofstra University held a conference last week on "William Jefferson Clinton: The 'New Democrat' from Hope." It was like a Star Trek convention for Has-Beens.

One man asked all of us to autograph baseballs for his collection, which now numbers in the thousands. Another activist came to the retrospective to complain that we spend too much time talking about the past. Lady, if you had to spend a whole decade listening to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," you'd think about the past, too.

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Professor Greenberg makes the self-interested argument that a disinterested observer can make best sense of history and that not being present at the creation works to historians' advantage. I can't pretend to be disinterested, but I think he's wrong.

As a general rule, historians are more likely to be honest than hacks. But for something as complex as a presidency, an honest eyewitness—if you can find one—has a much richer perspective than an academic who has to sift through a host of self-serving accounts and can't see the forest for the dead-trees.

Take Me, I'm Yours: Consider the most intriguing historical document of the moment: Sam Alito's conservative confession. Any honest eyewitness would know firsthand that Alito was either a shameless true believer or, just as bad, a shameless willing-to-pretender.

By contrast, the historian has to judge that document against the unreliable, self-serving spin of Alito's colleagues, most of whom will cover for him, and the even less reliable and still more self-serving spin of Alito himself.

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On Tuesday, Alito apparently told senators that in 1985 he was "an advocate seeking a job" and should be forgiven for being willing to say anything to get it. Now he's an advocate seeking a place in the history books, which makes him even more willing to say anything to get it.

These days, it's hard for members of the Bush administration to stop thinking about tomorrow and what they'll do as Has-Beens. Some, like Karl Rove, just want to leave on their own terms. Others, like Condi Rice, have their eye on bigger prizes.

Rice claims her dream is to be commissioner of the National Football League. With each new poll, Bush must long for the day when he can pursue the job he has always wanted, as commissioner of Major League Baseball. (Full disclosure: I wanted it first. Then again, so does everyone else. Even Associate Nerd wannabe Sam Alito claims he used to want that job, back when he wasn't sure he could land a Supreme Court seat here or in Italy.)

When Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed to tougher steroid penalties yesterday, the current commissioner, Bud Selig, took credit. But in truth, the league and the players only agreed to stiffen penalties because Sen. John McCain threatened legislation that would force them to do it, anyway.

In other words, much as Bush wants to leave the presidency to become baseball commissioner, the job isn't open: McCain's already got it.

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"Greenie, You're Doing a Heckuva Job": In addition to steroids, the new agreement cracks down on amphetamines—or "greenies"—which some players say losing teams use to spike the clubhouse coffee. Players will have to get their giddy-up the old-fashioned way—with illegal booster shots of B-12.

The only baseball man to complain about the new steroids-testing policy is the biggest name ever caught using them, Rafael Palmeiro. "It's unfair to get a 50-game suspension when it's not an intentional act," Palmeiro said. "This was not intentionally done by myself."

Palmiero's baseball days may be numbered. But with quotes like that, he has a new career waiting for him as Bush's speechwriter. ... 4:49 P.M. (link)

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Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005

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Elephant Man: Since Halloween, Sam Alito has been dressing up as a mild-mannered civil servant who followed his father into the family business. Unlike the nakedly careerist John Roberts, who bounded from one Reaganite political post to the next, Alito was supposed to have spent his youth as a career bureaucrat in short sleeves and a pocket protector.

Newly released papers from the Reagan library show that Alito was as much of a right-wing suck-up as Roberts. In a 1985 job application to become a deputy assistant attorney general under Ed Meese, Alito boasted of his long-standing conservative credentials: "The greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign"—when Alito was all of 14.

"I am and always have been a conservative," Alito promised. He gave a definition of conservatism that began with "limited government" and ended with "the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values."

Alito strained to touch every Meese button, claiming he became interested in constitutional law because of judicial overreach by the Warren Court, went to Yale to study judicial restraint, became a prosecutor "because of my strong views regarding law enforcement," helped the solicitor general's office fight quotas and abortion, and applauded the conservative remaking of the bench under "Attorney General Meese's leadership."

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Alito went on to brag about his modest but heartfelt campaign contributions to Republicans, New Jersey pols, and the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which helped Republicans take the Senate in 1980. He mentioned articles he had recently submitted to the National Review and American Spectator, which would be worth reviewing now.

Looking Backward: In perhaps his most pathetic prostration, Alito stressed his involvement with Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a reactionary group formed in 1972, the year he graduated, primarily to whine about how much the place had gone downhill since co-education. The group paid for a 1972 presidential preference poll of Princeton faculty, which showed McGovern running ahead of Nixon by a margin of 7-1. A spokesman for the group called those results a "heartening" improvement from 1968, when a Daily Princetonian poll had shown Humphrey leading by 9-1 over Nixon, who was tied with Dick Gregory.

As best I can tell, CAP became defunct in 1986, a year after Alito got the job with Meese. In the good old days, the Princeton band regularly lampooned the group as CRAP. At the Harvard game in 1974, the band used that same motif to prophetically suggest that concerned alumni in Cambridge had formed their own reactionary organization, "the Harvard Johns." Roberts was a junior at the time and must have thought they were serious.

Like Roberts, Alito will try to maintain that youthful statements like "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" were taken out of context. He was just telling his conservative bosses everything they wanted to hear so they'd give him a promotion. Judge Alito hasn't done that in at least two weeks. ... 12:41 a.m. (link)

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Update: Some enterprising reporter should wander over to the Library of Congress and check out the papers  of National Review publisher William Rusher. Boxes 142-46 of Rusher's papers contain the minutes, publications, and financial records of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, as well as a "list of supporters." If Alito was telling Meese the truth about his steadfast support for the group, this could be a treasure trove of early Alitism.

Another CAP ringleader was Alito's classmate, Thomas Harding Jones '72, who interned in the Nixon White House and wrote his senior thesis on "The Decision Making of Richard M. Nixon." It's not clear whether Jones's grade on the subject was any better than Nixon's. Jones interned in the Nixon White House in 1971 and even shows up in transcripts of the Nixon tapes for an eight-minute meeting in the Oval Office with Nixon and future Watergate co-conspirator Jeb Stuart Magruder, who was then deputy director of the Commitee to Re-Elect the President. According to notes of the meeting, Jones and the others used their visit to praise Nixon's decision-making on the war in Southeast Asia.

Jones's thesis topic suggests what he wanted to be when he grew up: Richard Nixon. He's now a show business talent manager in Manhattan. ... 11:06 A.M.

The Princeton band nicknamed Jones the "Great Right Hope." They had the right class; they just got the wrong guy. ... 11:21 A.M.

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Monday, Nov. 14, 2005

Wedgies: After weeks of spinning their wheels on abortion, opponents of Judge Alito's nomination have a new strategy: the kitchen sink. "Raising all aspects of his record are important," Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice tells the New York Times. The stop-Alito coalition plans to run ads highlighting Alito's views in favor of strip searches for 10-year-old girls and firing workers with AIDS and against the Family and Medical Leave Act. In the words of Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, they want America to "look at the whole man."

Alito supporters, meanwhile, fired back that the left doesn't know a whole man when they see him. One spokesman attacked the ads as "wildly inaccurate" and "character assassination" even though they haven't even been cut yet. Another spokesman welcomed the opportunity to attack the liberal groups over gay rights.

Less than a week after voters rejected them in Virginia, wedge issues are back. One side says Sam Alito wants to strip search 10-year-old girls. The other side says at least he's not a gay rights group.

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Ironically, Bush's failures as president may be helping him get away with moving the court to the right. It's hard enough to get the electorate to notice a Supreme Court battle in good times. With so many other worries, many Americans are more exercised about their next mortgage payment than about the next opening on the court. If nothing else, the ad wars will help settle one debate: hard-pressed families who had to cancel cable TV to pay their heating bill can feel better about their decision.

The Big Picture: Nevertheless, opponents are right to try to make Alito's fate turn on more than Roe. However much Judge Alito wants government to meddle in Americans' private lives, the broader threat is how much he might seek to limit the national government's role in helping Americans solve their problems. The real impact of the Roberts Court won't be that justices have trouble legislating from the bench; it will be that anyone who supports an affirmative role for government could have a much harder time legislating from Congress.

Sadly, it's almost impossible to have a real debate about a nominee's philosophy unless he or she is willing to play along. Bork did, and lost; Roberts didn't, and won. The Roberts precedent is one Alito is sure to honor: that discussing narrow-minded views on past or present issues might prejudice his ability to be narrow-minded in cases that will come before the court later.

When a nominee will neither confirm nor deny that his judicial philosophy is outside the mainstream, opponents' only hope besides scandal is that like Bork and Thomas, his personality and temperament come across as outside the mainstream. So far, Alito has come off as a nice man with a few disturbingly nerdy tendencies, like suiting up in full baseball uniform to coach Little League games.

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Garden State: If I could spare a few million for advertising, I'd spend less time trying to convince Americans that Sam Alito is a strip-searcher and more time hinting that he's the next Ed Grimley.

My first ad would show those yearbook photos  of Alito, along with the New York Daily Newsheadline: "Old-School Family Man: Calls Mother Every Day." Every day? Perhaps we shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss his mother's admission that Alito is very conservative and opposed to abortion.

The Daily News story says it all: "A shy and scholarly homebody, Alito is a gourmet cook and avid gardener who has a stone in his West Caldwell garden carved with the words 'L'Amour Grandit Ici' - love grows here."

Whether you think "Love Grows Here" is a secret, coded message to fundamentalist churches or a tripped-out hippie excuse for the horticulture of the 1960s, liberals and conservatives should be able to agree: not in our backyards.

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Even John Roberts, who wrote an entire White House memo in French, wasn't weird enough to expose his family to precious, vapid, kitschy sentiments—and then put on faux-Gallic airs about it.

Presumably, conservatives haven't forgotten the last shy and scholarly homebody they put on the Court: David Souter. "En garde! Le Souter Grandit Ici." ... 5:07 P.M. (link)

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005

Stickball: At first, Scooter Libby's defense against perjury charges was "I forgot." His new lawyers gave him a new defense: "The First Amendment made me do it." Now, Republican soulmate and would-be cellmate Rafael Palmeiro offers yet another route: "Take my wife, please."

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Today, while the New York Times was chasing trivial government abuses like a lobbyist selling foreign leaders meetings with the President for $9 million, the House Government Reform Committee released a 44-page report  on its investigation into whether Palmeiro lied about taking steroids. At first, the Times' online headline was "Congressional Panel Clears Palmeiro." Perhaps someone looked at the report, because by midday, the headline read, "Congressional Panel Doesn't Charge Palmeiro."

The committee decided not to seek perjury charges against Palmeiro because it couldn't prove that the steroid he tested positive for on May 4 was in his system on March 17, when he told the committee he had "never used steroids, period." Ironically, the subject of that hearing was "Restoring Faith In America's Pastime." The committee report provides plenty of proof that along with steroids, the slogan "You Gotta Believe" should be banned from baseball.

Palmeiro claims that he tested positive because a syringe of B-12 he obtained from fellow Oriole Miguel Tejada must have been contaminated with steroids. Tejada provided other B-12 samples that were clean, and the Players Association lawyer who represented Palmeiro in his appeal admitted that all the evidence ran against his client's allegation. Another baseball official called Palmeiro's defense "far-fetched and odd."

Giddy-Up, Little Doggies: The report reveals just how much Maggie Thatcher's precious B-12 is now the shot heard 'round the world. Palmeiro said he started getting B-12 injections with the Texas Rangers. "When the doctor gave it to me I always had that little giddy-up," Palmeiro told the Washington Post yesterday.

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Tejada said he has taken B-12 shots since he was 5 or 6 years old in the Dominican Republic. A teammate said he gave Tejada 40-45 B-12 injections in 2004, and 30-35 more this season.

When Jose Canseco alleged in his book Juiced that he and other home run kings like Palmeiro and Mark McGwire hung around the locker room injecting each other in the butt with steroids, most fans had two reactions: 1) Can't players with $20 million salaries pay someone else to do that for them?; and 2) Do they get a bonus for leading the league in being stupid?

But according to the House report, the hardest thing in baseball isn't getting the bat around on a 100 mph fastball – it's finding someone to stick a needle in your backside. With the Rangers, Palmeiro got the shots from the team physician. The Orioles team doctor won't give players B-12 shots – perhaps for the novel reason that injecting B-12 is against the law.

Spousal Consent: When no one else stepped up to the plate, Palmeiro asked his wife to do it. The report explains that Lynn Palmeiro knew how to inject her husband because their veterinarian had taught her to give allergy shots to their dogs. Oh, and one other reason: the Texas Rangers physician used to give Lynn Palmeiro her own illegal injections of B-12.

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But let's not blame the victim: If you were married to a B-12 addict who's the national spokesman for Viagra, you might need a little giddy-up, too.

The committee declined to go after Palmeiro for throwing sand in the umpire's eyes, but Patrick Fitzgerald's influence is evident. The report refers to another Oriole, who took B-12 from Tejada but passed his steroids test, as "Player A." During his drug test, "Player A" was just like "Official A": "unsupervised." According to the report, major league players are given several hours to roam freely before turning in a urine sample.

In a report that might best be titled, "The Dog Took My Steroids," the most forthcoming person is a former Bush staffer (with the Rangers) named Dan Wheat, who was the team's head trainer. Wheat says he believes some players used steroids, but that the use of amphetamines – or "greenies" – was even more prevalent. Wheat once asked a player how many of the starting nine had taken greenies that day. The player said, "Eight."

Another unnamed player told the committee that he stays away from coffee in the clubhouse because it's often laced with amphetamines: "When a team is struggling or is going through a bad streak, they will spike the coffee."

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Scooter Libby may have a hard time convincing a jury that his wife injected him with perjury serum. But with the White House on such a losing streak, it's only a matter of time before they start spiking the coffee. ... 3:47 P.M. (link)

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Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005

Party On, Wayne: Democrats aren't in the habit of enjoying Election Night. Most of us haven't really recovered from the heartbreak of 2000 and 2004; some still have nightmares from 1994 and 2002. So even though not all that much was at stake in yesterday's off-year races, our clinical history helps explain why last night felt like Democrats' best election in nearly a decade.

Only two races really mattered yesterday, and Democrats won both handily. Jon Corzine's victory shores up the party's claim on New Jersey, where Bush had made some of his biggest gains in 2004. Democrats have now managed to hold onto the governorship and both Senate seats, despite two resignations over scandal (McGreevey and Torricelli) and one angry ex-wife (Corzine).

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Tim Kaine's victory in Virginia is even more important, because it shows that the party's most successful electoral and governing formula—ambitious centrism—is alive and well. Kaine and outgoing Gov. Mark Warner proved that voters aren't interested in ideological debates; they just want leaders who solve problems. The with-us-or-against-us Bush administration has tried hard to extinguish centrism in Washington, but it's thriving 90 miles down the road in Richmond.

Fifteen years ago, another centrist Democratic governor in Virginia, Doug Wilder, said that the real two-party distinction wasn't between D's and R's, but between those inside the Beltway who get mired in daily partisan firefights, and those outside Washington whose job depends on getting the job done.

One reason governors often do well in presidential races is that given the choice, Americans will choose the get-the-job-done-party over the pick-a-fight party every time. That's why Bill Clinton and Ross Perot got 61 percent of the vote in 1992, and why Clinton was the first Democrat to win re-election since FDR. That's also what Americans thought they were getting from George W. Bush, who promised to change the tone in Washington, only to become the most destructively partisan president in our lifetime.

Teachable Moment: What does 2005 mean for 2006 and 2008? That depends on what electoral lessons, if any, both parties learn from this one.

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As bellwethers, off-year elections are notoriously unreliable. A year is a lifetime in politics, and New Jersey and Virginia aren't a very big sample size.

But as object lessons, off-year elections can be quite important. Wilder's 1989 victory helped shift the center of gravity in a party that had been battered by three electoral landslides in the '80s. All but one of the Democrats who sought the 1992 presidential nomination ran as New Democrats. If Democrats had learned more from Warner's 2001 victory, the 2004 primary debate might have played out differently.

Right now, the potential 2008 field looks more like 1992 than like 2004: Most of the senators and governors eyeing the race come from the get-the-job-done party, so last night is good news for them, too.

The implications for next year's House and Senate contests are less clear. At the moment, Bush is a cross to bear, even for candidates in red states. But if Democratic challengers want to copy Kaine's success in beating back Republican attacks on wedge issues, a positive, problem-solving agenda will be their best defense.

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Meanwhile, the unfortunate defeat of Ohio's redistricting initiative is a long-term setback to Democratic hopes for the House. Competitive congressional districts force the debate toward the center, where Democrats have prospered and Republicans no longer roam.

But the real question is which party will take yesterday's lessons to heart. The GOP should see that moderate Republicans can win overwhelmingly in the bluest of blue places like New York City, while Republicans who fail to deliver the moderation they promised—like Arnold Schwarzenegger—get pounded outside the safe confines of red states.

Yet the spin from conservative circles draws just the opposite lesson: that Republicans lost Virginia and New Jersey because the base is demoralized and hasn't been pandered to enough. When Mark Warner's approval is at 80 percent and Bush's is under 40 percent, the party isn't letting down the base—it's letting down the whole country. John Dickerson and George Bush may not be willing to fire Karl Rove, but the American people are.

Democrats are already hearing plenty of bad advice, too. ABC's usually reliable The Note offers misinformation that could have come from Bob Shrum—or Karl Rove: "Democrats can now (again) plausibly argue that they can win by advocating bigger government programs for things such as health care and education." Virginia teaches a different lesson, which Democrats learned well in the 1990s: If we start by balancing the books, not by advocating bigger government, voters will trust us to solve problems like health care and education.

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Most Democrats learned the wrong lesson from elections in 2000 (hate Bush), 2002 (hate Bush), and 2004 (hate Bush). If we learn the right lessons this time, we might get used to enjoying Election Night again. ... 12:21 P.M. (link)

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Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005

Ivies: Sam Alito's runaway thesis  surrendered to authorities in Princeton yesterday. According to the Daily Princetonian, Alito's adviser—Professor Emeritus Walter Murphy—has kept a copy of the thesis for the past 33 years and turned it over to the university on Monday. The senior thesis of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, '74, remains at large.

The full 134-page text of Alito's thesis will be released today, but the Prince excerpts the preface. In a prescient dig at careerist, middle-aged jurists who cloak their activism under the veil of judicial restraint, Alito refers to "the myth of the judge as automaton, a disinterested finder of law."

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True to form, the preface hints at what Sam Alito '72 wanted to be when he grew up: "Writing a senior thesis about the Italian Constitutional Court is not as absurdly ambitious as writing one all about the United States Supreme Court." Obviously, Alito didn't want to reveal his secret desire to serve on the Supreme Court, so he channeled his absurd ambitions elsewhere.

Last year's White House spin: Foreign courts don't matter. Today's White House spin: Writing about an obscure foreign court is another sign of Alito's judicial modesty.

The day of his nomination, Judge Alito had to silence his own mother, who was showing reporters his childhood scrapbooks and describing her son as "very conservative" and anti-abortion. He may have a tougher time getting his thesis adviser to shut up.

Last week, Murphy praised Alito's nomination by expressing shock that such an intellectually challenged president could nominate such an intellectually gifted student. Yesterday, he told the Prince that "it's a gross insult" to lump Alito in with Clarence Thomas. "Their IQs are so radically different," Murphy said. "We're not talking about someone in Sam's intellectual league."

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Murphy says he has remained close to Alito over the years and offered a detailed account of his student's judicial philosophy. "He is much more an Anti-federalist where state and national authority clash," Murphy told the Prince. "We, however, agree on other important issues, such as finding no constitutional barrier to bans on late term abortions and requiring spousal and parental notification of impending abortions." The professor also said that he and Alito agree that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Move over, James Dobson. It was bad enough when nominees gave a wink and a nod to fundamentalist pro-lifers. Now a Supreme Court nominee is quietly signaling he's a solid vote against abortion to elitist, liberal university professors.

The Senate Judiciary Committee should summon Prof. Murphy to testify—if only because, in contrast to Alito, they'll have no idea what he might say. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney can try to hide behind thesis adviser-advisee privilege, but they're not in Sam's intellectual league. ... 10:42 A.M. (link)

Update: Last month, Harriet Miers' friend of 30 years, Nathan Hecht, told a conference call of conservative activists  that she would overturn Roe. After the story broke, Hecht insisted that he and Miers had never discussed it. Late this morning, the Daily Princetonian added a "correction" to today's story, retracting the assertion by Alito's friend of 30 years, Prof. Walter Murphy, that the judge believes Roe was wrongly decided. The Prince says "the error was a result of a misinterpretation of an earlier quote." Wrongly decided or wrongly quoted—you make the call.

Prof. Murphy now says, "Sam and I have never talked about Roe v. Wade, that I recall." Sam's new nickname: The Silencer. ... 1:33 P.M.

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