Friday, November 24, 2006

A Time to Celebrate & A Time to Mourn

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and continues to enjoy the holiday weekend. As it was our newest addition's first Thanksgiving, we had a lot of fun with our 3 kids spending a relatively quiet day with lots of good food at my dad's house.

But I can't help but bring the mood down with my post today because I was bummed after hearing the latest from Iraq. I just don't see the long-promised light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. Here's hoping President Bush takes the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission seriously.

Anyway, in reading this account of the latest horrific events in Iraq's unfolding civil war, note the following statments: "as Iraqi soldiers stood by" and until "American forces arrived." As Colin Powell once warned the president, "If you break it, you own it." We do indeed.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and seven Sunni mosques came under attack as Shiites took revenge for the slaughter of 215 people in the Sadr City slum.

With the government trying to avert a civil war, two simultaneous bombings in Tal Afar, in northern Iraq, killed at least 23 people. On Thursday, Sunni-Arab insurgents unleashed bombings and mortar attacks in Sadr City, the deadliest assault since the U.S.-led invasion.

Members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques and several homes while killing 12 other Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood until American forces arrived, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Two Things For Which I Am Grateful

Rather than launch into a "what Thanksgiving means" speech, I thought I would just quickly state two things for which I am grateful:

One is that there are still at least some common-sense people in the world, such as the ones that work at U.S. Airways. Their vigilance is welcome, despite the fact that it sometimes results in "false positives."

The other is that I don't have the Bush daughters' Secret Service detail. (Read this story and you will see what I mean.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Calling All Candidates: My 12 Issues

I voted Republican in 2004 and Democrat in 2006. It's safe to say, my vote for 2008 is officially up for grabs. I'm sure the Democrats will disappoint me in many ways over the next 2 years. But are the Republicans actually capable of producing a candidate who will speak to the independent voice of millions of frustrated Americans? I don't know.

Since my pals here at TPS no longer consider me a conservative, I've been working to find a new label for my ideology. Without the grounding of a political party, it's not a simple matter. But after some reflection I think I'm best described as a Social Conservative, a Fiscal Moderate, and an America Firster on issues of foreign policy. No wonder I voted for Pat Buchanan for president back in 2000!

However, I hope not to "throw away" my vote again in 2008. Naturally, Iraq was the primary issue for me during the 2006 election. But beyond that, I've made a list of the 12 broad issues that currently matter most to me. And I'm looking for someone who echoes my beliefs in as many of these 12 areas as possible. So here they are, in alphabetical order, all you potential candidates!

Budget Deficit -- A balanced budget is an important indication to me that the government is playing by the same rules I'm forced to deal with. If our budget is not balanced, we better be fighting another full-blown world war or tackling a great depression. Fortunately, neither has been the case during the Bush administration. And yet the GOP Congress has produced years of record setting budget deficits. This issue gets me so fired up that I would accept tax increases I'd otherwise oppose if we cannot control spending and pork.

Capital Punishment -- I believe some crimes are so heinous that society much protect itself by swiftly and harshly taking the life of the perpetrator. Not only do I believe it is a deterrent, but it's also simple justice. And victims have a right to that. Prison is frankly not a punishment for people like Charles Manson or Eric Rudolph. It's actually a twisted form of nirvana to them in many ways. For those who ground their opposition in the New Testament, I would ask for the instances where Jesus himself protested his own death penalty. Jesus came to save our souls, not reform our penal system, even when it wrongfully took his own life. I personally would include murder, rape, and child molestation on the list of crimes to be eligible for the death penalty. I strongly believe that if we carried out swift justice in large numbers, violent crime would fall. Since this has never before been truly tested (in modern, 1st world times), I don't want to hear how it doesn't work.

Energy Policy -- I thought by electing two oil men to the highest offices in the land, the United States would at least benefit through the formation of a comprehensive national energy policy. Once again, such hope for our 43rd president proved foolish. Though Bush rails against our "addiction to oil," his administration has seen the price of a gallon of gas go from near $1 per gallon back in 2001 to near $3 per gallon by 2006. Does the open market have a say? Sure. But since when does the biggest and strongest federal government in history have no say on the market? Actually, Iraq proves that we do by having greatly increased tension in the oil rich Middle East. If only it truly had been a war for oil! Simple question: in a period where the GOP controlled the Presidency, the Congress, and a majority of Governorships and State Houses, why were no new power plants (nuclear or otherwise) green lighted?

Fair Trade -- Sure, I love those cheap prices on junk from China at Wal-Mart. And I drive a Toyota too and find the reliability second to none. But I also realize the great costs our new economy has produced. The shift to a service based economy isn't an entirely bad thing. But the abandonment of our ability to produce products is. Because in time services can be outsourcing too. Think about that the next time you call your airline and you can't understand the representative's thick Pakistani accent. A healthy economy strikes a balance between services and products. The United States no longer can do this. And sadly it will be nations like China and India who benefit at our expense. There's your new superpowers for the 22nd century and unfair trade in the 21st century will have been the root cause.

Gun Rights -- I believe the 2nd amendment guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to keep, bear, and use firearms. I think the world would be a safer place if criminals weren't the only ones armed. And I'm pleased to see how many states now issue carry permits so that people may take the protection of their families seriously. I know I took a risk here by putting my lot with the Democrats in 2006. But I'm hoping the conservative "blue dog" Democrats have been strengthened enough that they will block any possible encroachment on the rights of gun owners.

Health Care -- I have come full circle on this issue. Back in 1993, I opposed the Clinton administration's plan for universal health care, as did most Americans. But after seeing our health care system hemorrhage for a decade, I think the time has come for reform. And I think the only way to do it is to create a system of shared responsibility between the public and private sector. Give people a choice, but guarantee the right to stay healthy. Thankfully, we already do this for children and the elderly. But if we don't find a way to do it for all, the government will pay more in the end anyway though Medicare, Medicaid, and prescription drugs.

Illegal Immigration -- Stop it now and send those here illegally back home. I would build a militarized wall on our southern border and would even consider one on our northern border too. Sure, fences are never the ideal solution. But ask any homeowner -- sometimes they prove to be necessary. And they usually do make for better neighbors in the end. I also think the unquestioned notion that America has a need for low-paid, seasonal workers is bull. Let the market bear what it will for such jobs. And if they prove to be jobs Americans won't do indeed, than the rate of compensation will have to rise. People will then be lining up to fill out applications and the problem is solved. Why should fruit companies and the like not play by the same rules as every other American business does?

Minimum Wage -- In theory, I oppose a national minimum wage. I'd much prefer each state setting its own minimum wage as it sees fit. And 24 states have currently chosen to do this and set their minimum wages above the federal mandate of $5.15 per hour. But if we are going to have a federal minimum wage, why is it so out of touch with reality? Nobody can live on that kind of money. So either get rid of it and let the states handle the issue or make it based in the reality of 2006. I'd say $7 or so per hour is realistic, especially if this economy is as strong as I'm told.

Prayer in Schools -- If Congress can open each day with a prayer, why do we not show the same care to our young school children? I believe public schools should be allowed to foster time for prayer each day, whether it is done through silent individual prayer or by public shared faith. No child should be punished because they rely on the public school system. At the same time, I freely admit that no one should be forced to participate, just as no Congressmen is forced to pay attention when the chaplain reads a prayer to a nearly empty chamber. We're a nation of faith, and that is a very different notion than being a nation of an established religion. Only the latter is forbidden by the Constitution, and prayer in schools deals only with the former idea.

Pro Life -- I'm against abortion. I'm fine with exceptions for the legitimate health of the mother. I'm also ok with "morning after" type pills. But after 3 kids of my own and viewing countless ultrasounds at nearly every stage of pregnancy, any procedure to destroy a fertilized egg beyond a few days after conception is infanticide to me. At the very least, I wish the court-created federal right to privacy that allows for guaranteed access to abortion coast-to-coast was abolished. Return the controversial issue to the states and let them enforce the will of their citizens.

Strengthened Military -- The legacy of Donald Rumsfeld's time at the Pentagon is to ask more of the military by giving them less. What crap! I was really stunned when a Republican president (in the wake of 9/11 no less) supported another harsh round of base closures after Bill Clinton already subjected our military to two of them. I'd like the see both the size of our military and the compensation given to them increased. I'd re-open the bases that have been closed all around America and send the clear message to foreign terrorists and rogue states alike that we're stronger than ever in our Fortress America.

Term Limits -- Perhaps the simplest, and yet the most critical issue on my list. Because if Congressional term limits were a reality, I think we'd have more politicians who might have the balls and the accountability to advocate such hot-button issues as these. And if our branches of government are truly to be equal, then what's good for the president should be good for Congress too. I'd set limits of 6 consecutive terms in the House and 2 consecutive terms in the Senate. I think 12 years in Washington is more than enough to require a permanent trip home to clean the stink out of the politician. And if voters really want to send them back in 2 years after a good trip to the dry cleaners, then so be it.

In summation, I'd score it: 5 issues lean Republican, 4 issues lean Democrat, and 3 issues are currently party neutral (budget deficit, strengthened military, term limits). Whaddya think?

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Smack Down

This is more of a quick hit than a full-fledged post, but I just wanted to express a little shock (and a little joy) that Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) has suffered such an abrupt end to the honeymoon by having her handpicked moonbat, Rep. John Murtha (D-Okinawa), rejected for the House Majority Speaker spot in favor of the man who ostensibly deserves it, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

I am not quite sure how to read this yet. I am tempted to say it is a first assertion of independence by the slightly more conservative Democrats who were elected last week, in conjunction with other, more liberal, incumbent Democrats who saw the writing on the wall. I cannot see such independence being a long-term trend, particularly given how autocratically the Democrat Party is run. Only time will tell.

Now all we need is a conservative leader in the House to stoke the flames. Mike Pence, where are you?

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Last Tuesday Meant

I have been so close over the past week to writing this post, but a range of things, from moving to being swamped at work, have kept me from doing so. I truly hope none of you have read anything into the silence.

At the risk of being a little late in the analysis, I will keep this as brief as possible, for your sake and for mine.

Credit Where Credit is Due. While I disagree vehemently with most of what the liberal Democrat Party has to offer in the way of solutions for America’s problems (both real and perceived), I would nonetheless like to congratulate it for its decisive victory during these midterm elections.

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) did a very effective job of both staying on-message and making sure that party rank and file remained disciplined during the stretch run, neither of which are easy tasks. Rahm Emmanuel (D-Ill.), as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, brilliantly recruited an incoming class of representatives who appealed to frequently neglected conservative Democrats and pre-empted moderate and conservative Republicans on some of the issues that historically have belonged solely to the latter. (This may not be a long-term positive for Democrats – I’ll get to that in a minute – but for now, it means majority status.)

Republican Loss, Conservative Victory. More than a few commentators have cast this election as proof positive that conservatism is not a viable political force in American politics. If anything, I think what last Tuesday showed us is that conservatism is not only a viable political force, but that it is preferred by the majority of Americans, and feckless politicians abandon conservative principles at their electoral peril. To put it in even starker terms, this week was a victory for conservatism because it kicked out non-conservatives.

What do I mean? One need only scan the list of incumbent Republicans who fell at the hands of Democrats to know that the losers were those who had long since abandoned any pretense at being conservative when it came to governing. Those moderates came crashing down when challenged by Democrats who were even vaguely conservative on even a few issues, and many of those congressional Republicans who lectured conservatives about the need for compromise are looking for employment.

While some Republicans have decried last Tuesday’s results, it actually seems like a positive for the forces of conservatism. The mushy among us have been boiled off, and true conservatives are in a better position to run the show next time around – if we ever have a “next time.”

Democrats, Show Thyselves! Our very own G-Veg is representative of a significant portion of conservative Democrat and moderate Republican voters who think that the new conservative incoming class of Democrat representatives (this does not really apply to the Senate – Casey is an anomaly) will push the Democrat Party to the right and force it to lead from the center. I urge those of you who feel that way to not hold your breath.

The Democrat Party will remain a liberal vehicle for pseudo-socialist policies, notwithstanding the new crop of conservative-leaning members. One need only look at the people who have been tapped for leadership positions. The ultra-liberal Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) will be running the House Ways and Means Committee. Fellow lib John Conyers (D-Mich.) – the very same one who called for President Bush’s impeachment, and, to my knowledge, still has an active, pending piece of legislation with his name on it that calls for the same – will be running the House Judiciary Committee. And not two days ago, Speaker-to-be Pelosi gave her blessing to the anti-war John “ABSCAM” Murtha (D-Okinawa) in the race for House Majority Leader, bypassing Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). (Check out this story, which already shows an early fault line amidst the newly minted Democrat House leadership.)

The new kids will have no voice now, if ever. They will be told to sit in the corner, smile, and tow the party line when told to do so. Assuming that their campaign conservatism was a true and legitimate expression of their innate political beliefs and not just a campaign tactic, they will be frustrated by their inability to get things done. Ironically, the Democrats’ victory at the polls may make it easier for conservatives to push for their ideas and possibly bring legislation to the floor, since an alliance between the remaining conservative Republicans and the new conservative Democrats could force the Democrat leadership to bend in order to retain power. Only time will tell.

The Difference Between Them and Us. While the Republican Party has been on my hit list of late for being so weak and refusing to back conservative principles, I commend those Republicans who lost and lost with grace and decency, which is to say I commend all Republicans who lost. To my knowledge, there has not been a single Republican who has claimed his or her loss was the result of widespread voter fraud or broken machines. They simply heard the results, called their opponents to congratulate them, and conceded their races. This is how the Founding Father envisioned it – a peaceful transfer of power by inherently decent people.

Contrast the above civilized reaction with what happens when Democrats lose: they whine, they bitch, they allege civil rights violations (that are never supported by any factual evidence), they file law suits. In other words, Democrats take their blocks and go home when the results don’t turn out the way they would like. Democrats tend to be (if I may bring back a phrase from the 2000 election) Sore Losermen. I chalk this up to their arrogant assumption that they have a birthright to power, and that anything that interferes with that birthright somehow represents a disruption of the natural order of the universe. There are many reasons I am glad to be a Republican, and this is one more on the pile.

A Weak Bush. Who would have thought that it would be our very own President Bush who would cut and run?

I will admit: I am furious with the president for his weakness of late. After listening to him speak about the importance of this war, and how we need to persist in our mission, and how the war’s execution is independent of domestic political forces, President Bush made a 180-degree turn the day after an election that did not go his way, throwing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld under the bus (as if that somehow accomplishes anything) and embracing defeatist calls for rapid “redeployment” (an Orwellian word that actually means abandoning the Iraqi people). As if that was not bad enough, President Bush is now salivating at the possibility of further frittering away American sovereignty by pursuing an illegal alien amnesty program, as well as caving to Democrats on some of their pet socialist issues in the hopes of staying popular. I feel like I have been experiencing Clinton-era deja vu this past week.

I thought I voted for someone with firm convictions, who didn’t waver, who didn’t let the political winds of the day alter his innermost beliefs. I am sad to say that I was wrong, at least in light of what I have seen of late. I am now looking forward to the next presidential race, not so much because I will enjoy it (although I will), but rather because it will give conservatives a chance to vote for an actual leader.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

A Closely Divided Senate and the Supreme Court

In the comments to a previous post G-Veg asked me to pontificate and predict what effects, if any, a closely divided Senate, with the Democrats in the majority, will have should there be one or more vacancies on the Supreme Court before the end of President Bush’s term. Specifically, he framed the question in terms of what he called the “Scalia Revolution,” by which I assume he means the increased focus and reliance on methods of statutory and constitutional interpretation such as “textualism” and “originalism” (to be fair, the term “Scalia Revolution” isn’t G-Veg’s, as I’ve seen it before).

While I can do a lot with the pontification part; as for predictions I’m afraid I only have but one. My fear is that the current make-up of the Senate, combined with what we know about the President’s proclivity towards nominating people he’s comfortable with, makes “stealth” nominations the likely result. The last “stealth” nomination, Justice Souter, has, lets just say, not worked out well at all from a conservative jurisprudential point of view. Of course “stealth” nominations cut both ways by definition, so another Souter, while likely, isn’t guaranteed by any means. A “stealth” nomination could result in a fairly conservative justice, though the person is unlikely to be one in the mold of a Scalia or Thomas. Nominees with little to no judicial record, paper trail (judicial or otherwise), or hint of ideology (e.g., Harriet Miers) are likely because they stand a chance of being confirmed, politically. Remember a nominee has to go through three stages, Judiciary Committee, Cloture (the Seante term for ending floor debate, which requires a supermajority of 60 votes), and then vote to confirm by the full Senate. A conservative like a Scalia or Thomas likely will not make it past stages one or two, so the fact that they might survive three is of little relevance. A “stealth” nominee, however, likely makes it through the first two stages, which almost guarantees confirmation as there are “red state” democrats up for re-election in 2008 who would likely vote to confirm such a supposedly moderate nominee. Note, I’m not endorsing any of this either substantively or procedurally; I’m merely laying out the likely possibilities and offering a rather bleak prediction as to the outcome. I’m on the record numerous times of objecting to numerous parts of the modern confirmation process, but it is what it is and, to be honest, it has become a mess. As a result, it is, in my opinion not going to be fixed in the 110th Congress and, therefore, the result will be something less that desirable from a jurisprudential stand point (regardless of whether you are a legal conservative or a legal progressive), but something/someone that everyone (meaning at least 51 Senators) can live with politically.

At the risk of opening a can of worms that will further endanger me among my conservative friends, I have to say something about the so-called “Scalia Revolution.” I don’t deny its existence per se; rather I think its effect is more often than not overstated. Put another way, I actually think that Justice Thomas has had a far greater impact (in my opinion a negative impact, but that’s another post altogether) on modern Supreme Court jurisprudence than Justice Scalia has. Scalia gets the credit for two reasons: First, he’s been a judge/Justice for longer than Thomas has and; second, he’s far more publicly available and accessible about his jurisprudence than Thomas. For example, Scalia is known for his acerbic wit during oral argument (the only chance the general public really has to hear/see anything about the Justices), while Thomas is known for saying nothing and appearing to sleep during arguments (for the record, I’ve attended at least 15 SCOTUS oral arguments and have never once heard Thomas ask a question, at the same time, however, I’ve never observed him to be sleeping either). Moreover, Scalia is well-known for his strong dissents with respect to legislative history and his overall flamboyant writing style. Thomas, on the other hand, writes short, often technical opinions, that exhibit little of the flare that Scalia’s tend to. Once one gets past the veneer, however, Thomas’s opinions are more often far more doctrinal and true to “originalist” thinking than Scalia’s. The biggest impact that I think often goes unnoticed (except by Feddie at Southern Appeal) is Thomas’s disdain for stare decisis, which, as many of you know, is the principle that says that prior decisions or precedents should be adhered to and followed unless there is an overwhelming reason to reverse them and move in a new direction. As a long-standing supporter of stare decisis, I find Thomas’s opinions on the issue disturbing, short-sighted, and wrongheaded. In short, while I don’t dispute the impact Justice Scalia has had in the last 18 years since his appointment to the Supreme Court, I think in the end it will be Thomas who will be looked upon as having led a conservative legal revolution, albeit quietly, that has a far greater impact on future SCOTUS jurisprudence. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made the point I wanted to.

That having been said, I see little to no chance of another Thomas-like figure making it through a closely divided Senate. This is true even if the President’s political popularity were to rebound into the 50s or 60s. Simply put, I don’t think this President will expend the political capital when he can have a “stealth nomination” at a far lower cost to his legacy.

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Don't be coy, Joe

Some conservatives (including your truly) have been holding out hope that Joe Lieberman will change parties, and this exchange with Tim Russert certainly fuels the flames.

MR. RUSSERT: Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed over and joined the Democrats.


MR. RUSSERT: And they gave—they gave him his committee chairmanship.


MR. RUSSERT: You’re, you’re not ruling that out at some future time?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I’m not ruling it out, but I hope I don’t get to that point

It's gotten to the point where the Democratic party, at least in the Senate, is Joe Lieberman's bitch. And while many among us will have no shortage of glee at this situation, I'm not sure that this is a good thing.

Joe Lieberman, one Senator, now holds an inordinate amount of power. He says jump, and Harry Reid has to say "How high?" He's pretty much assured of any chairmanship he desires, and to an extent he can even manipulate the Senate's agenda to his liking. "Oh, so you want to pass that bit of legislation? Let me just get on the phone with Mitch here and . . ."

Any man in Lieberman's shoes can be forgiven for acting like a bit of a power hog, especially after getting thrown overboard. Unlike Lincoln Chafee, an ungrateful sniveling jerk who has cast aside the party that tried to help him, Lieberman owes nothing to the Democratic party, and in fact owes his re-election to Republicans.

That said, Lieberman should not become a one man sword of Damacles hanging over the Democratic party. Pick a party and go with it, Joe. I respect him for his principles, but he's starting to sound a little bit like a spoiled child upset because his mommy spanked him. Republicans were rightfully pissed when Jumping Jim Jeffords switched parties, and Democrats can be excused for casting a wary eye on Joe Lieberman's act.

The institutional design of the Senate encourages this sort of thing, so we do have to live with the fruits of our Framers' design. But no one man should become the locus of this much power. And if Lieberman jumps, will he just jump back once he's upset with the GOP leadership? Is he going to continue playing games for the entire length of the 110th Congress?

Again, while I have much respect for Joe Lieberman, he's starting to behave in ways that make it seem he feels he is entitled to power. Get over it Joe, and just pick a side already.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

An open letter to the Centre for Constitutional Rights

The Centre for Constitutional Rights has requested indictments against US Officials for supposed "war crimes" committed by the United States in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. I have expressed my concerns about this action to my representatives and the Administration. I have also sent the following inquiry to the Centre for Constitutional Rights. I will post any response that I receive.

"With Respect,

I am curious as to whether your organization has considered
the possible consequences of seeking an indictment of US leaders.

In particular, I wonder whether attaching such dire
consequences as "war crimes" to public service will have a
chilling effect on the nominee search for future Administrations.

The European view of what constitutes War Crimes and Torture
is different than that which Americans have articulated.
While there are core definitions that are generally accepted,
it is not so clear that practices such as isolation, sleep
deprivation, threats of violence, or deception constitute
mistreatment of prisoners. Certainly there is considerable
dispute as to whether they constitute "war crimes."

By availing yourselves of a German court that claims
"universal jurisdiction," a claim to breadth of jurisdiction
that is breathtaking in scope, don't you run the risk of
opening the perverbial "Pandora's box?" Do you believe that
the acknowledgment of such authority can be confined to what
you view as a particular set of incidents?

I am also concerned that future nominees for high office in
subsequent administrations will be of a low caliber precisely
because those with sense will recognize the tremendous
liability that they take on by stepping up to a leadership role.

I do not intend to be disputive, but I am curious about the
process by which your organization has reached the conclusion
that these steps are prudent, reasonable, and necessary.


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Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Winds of Political Change

I've been digesting the nation's winds of political change for 24 hours now and feel it's time to put some thoughts down since I had been so vocal in my opposition to the President and the GOP Congress prior to the election.

I'm sure I'm one of a select few who celebrated the election returns in both 1994 and in 2006. The former was a magical moment of optimism that I'll always remember sharing with a friend and fellow political junkie over a 4 hour long-distance phone call as we both watched Comrade Bernie Shaw sorrowfully deliver election results late into the night. The latter was a moment I embraced even though it didn't provide nearly the same fulfillment. Rather, for me, it brought more of a satisfaction with seeing justice served.

One of my political heroes, G. Gordon Liddy, wrote shortly before the election, "When your child is naughty you spank him, but you don't kill him." As much as I will always admire the G-Man, I've disagreed with that sentiment very strongly for these past two years. You see, in my opinion, there was no way to "spank" President Bush or the Republican Congress. As all the pundits said prior to the votes, a Republican hold of Congress (no matter how small) would have been a victory for the President.

And this President did not deserve a victory last night. Iraq alone dictates that much. But uncontrolled spending and failed promises to the conservatives who elected him certainly didn't help.

This Congress composed past and present of the likes of Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Randy Cunningham, Tom Reynolds, Mark Foley, Arlen Specter, George Allen, and Lincoln Chaffee did not deserve such a victory.

So I say, yes, even Nancy Pelosi herself deserved victory on Tuesday more than that sorry group. Why? Because I and millions like me just couldn't adopt the attitude of, "They're still better than the Democrats." To me, it's only natural that as a conservative I hold the Republican Party to a higher standard of success. And when they painfully betray that trust, I have to find a way to punish them for it much more severely than a mere spanking. Afterall, that's the very purpose of an effective republic -- accountability.

So let me pat myself on the back since I already enjoy a reputation for doing so. Might as well live up to it tonight, especially when my track record on this election gives me the right. A couple of Big Daddy's predictions that surprisingly came true:

12/31/05 -- Big Daddy Jeff at Geek Soap Box, "2006 prediction: Democrats take at least one house of Congress."

11/05/06 -- Big Daddy Jeff at Political Spectrum, "I wouldn't be surprised if Rummy's was the first head from the White House to roll following Tuesday's elections, despite Bush's recent proclamation."

Bingo. And bingo. And I feel we're better for both happening. Time will tell. And either the Democrats will pleasantly surprise us with domestic change, greater accountability, and much-needed oversight on Iraq, or the GOP will hopefully have no choice but finally to realize the necessity of rising to fill the vacuum of the moment and renew both their values and leadership.

Finally, I want to bring back some contrary New Year's predictions from a few co-bloggers concerning Tuesday's election. I preface this by saying how I have always and will continue to value the opinions and insights of these friends of mine above almost all others in my life. That said, here goes.

"No way in hell will the Dems retake Congress. I see nothing from them to indicate that they will ever offer any sort of honest and optimistic plan that can resonate with the nation."

"Gotta disagree on the jackasses retaking one chamber of Congress - Senate impossible and House highly unlikely unless they grow brains and figure out how to nationalize an off-year election - and they're much more likely to put a contract ON America rather than with America".

"Jeff, as always, is Mr. Optimist. The Dems will lose seats in both Houses this year. And Dean will be gone by December."

I have understandably earned the political scorn of my friends by drifting to the center, at least in terms of party affiliation. This post may or may not help. But this is why I did it: I truly believed we reached the point sometime after the 2004 election where this Tuesday's outcome became inevitable. And I revisit these predictions not so much as to boast, but rather to impress just how seminal I believe the election of 2006 was. As we look back on the disappointments of our Republican leaders, let us recall that at one time this did not have to happen. In fact, these words reveal that to the near end, many did not even think it could happen.

But it did. And for real reasons. So let's digest those reasons and maybe both parties will emerge better for doing so. If not, 2008 may prove the most important (and the harshest) election in our nation's history.

On a personal note, I can't help but feel a sense of needing to pull back. For better or for worse, I've been caught up in this election, in Iraq, and certainly on old Rummy himself, as I was often reminded. I'm ready to ease up on the passion and accept that life will go on as usual. Maybe I can even work on really being Mr. Optimist? But, I admit, that will take considerable effort!

Now if only I could get one of my annual "Braves win the World Series" predictions to come true?!? Maybe not.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld out

Well the orgy of good news for Jeff continues.

I'm probably a decided minority on this - not because I support or oppose Rummy, but because I simply have no strong opinion either way. I think that there is much to criticize about the war planning, and I think conservative critiques of Rumsfeld's decision to emphasize rapid change in the military while at the same time fighting a massive have some merit. But if we're all agreed that changes need to be made in the Pentagon's structure, is it wise to cast aside the guy who might be most fit to oversee said changes?

Anyway, Rumseld has finally been made to fall on the sword. I guess the motto now is "the buck stops there."

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Election Reax

I put up a couple of posts at the CC. For a look at what direction Congress may be headed in, go here. And for a look at the current state of the 2008 presidential race, go here.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The election

So I hear there's an election today.

I'm not going to offer sweeping predictions, because I honestly don't know. I haven't been pouring over poll numbers like other political junkies. My gut instict tells me this is going to be a narrow one in the House - a 20-Democratic seat pickup, give or take. But I also think that the election will go deep into the night, and possibly beyond. Not only will there be many close contests, but we'll also be waiting on the overly large number of absentee ballots. Further complicating things, scenarios that have several House Democrats swithcing parties if this is real close do not seem implausible.

As for the Senate, I think there will be a three seat gain for the Dems.

Now, as to what I want to happen, obviously I am hoping for Republican rentention in both Houses. But, to tell the truth, the only race that truly matters to me is the one that affects me in Marlyand, and that is the Senate race between Steele and Cardin. Though I also would very much like to see Santorum pull out an upset in Pennsylvania, I don't see it as a likely outcome, nor does it matter as much to me as this one.

Ideologically this election is a clear choice. Steele is a true blue, Catholic conservative. I was impressed by him the first time I saw him speak at a Knight of Columbus gathering last winter. He's an engaging speaker who has full command of the political scene, and he's on the same page as me on the issues that truly matter. So, there was never any doubt as to whether or not I would vote for him.

But as the campaign has progressed, it's become much more important to me to see him win. This morning I saw a picture of Ben Cardin, and I think it was the first time I had seen his face during the campaign. That should give you an indication of the absolutely atrocious campaign that the invisible man has run. On the other hand, Steele has run one of the most magnificent campaigns I have ever observed. Sure, the puppy add might have been a bit of fluff, but it was also a smart ad that showed that Steele was a little different from the rest. His campaign has accentuated the positive, a stark contrast to Cardin, and especially the pathetic Webb-Allen fiasco (more on that in a second).

Cardin's basic line of attack is basically to accuse Steele of actually liking George Bush. While that sort of campaign makes copious amounts of sense in a heavily Democratic state, and I can't really blame Cardin for taking advantage of Bush's unpopularity, the lack of substance truly aggravates me. On every level I want Steele to pull this out.

Will he? Polls that have Steele getting merely 12% of the African-American vote are, simply put, not to be believed. He has garnered many important endorsements, including an essentially loud "no comment" from Cardin's primary opponent, Kwasi Mfume. Of course, this is a state where voter registration runs something like 2-1 Democratic to Republican, and this isn't exactly a good year to have an R next your name as it is. But the momentum is heavily on Steele's side. I think he can do it.

I also have promoted Jeff Stein for Congress. It would take a miracle of the first order for him to defeat Van Hollen, but at least I can vote for him without holding my nose.

I can't say the same for Bob Ehrlich in his bid for re-election as governor, though Bill Clinton's last second appeal on behalf of Martin O'Malley may have been enough to spur me to vote for the moderate. But that will be a last second decision, to be sure.

As for Webb-Allen. Ugh. That's all I can say. Though Allen can't be blamed entirely for the disaster that has been his campaign - the Washington Post has been on a mission to defeat him since September - he can be blamed for a good chunk of it. I mean, citing Webb's novels? Come on. Of course, Webb has been a joke in his own right. I wish both men could somehow lose this race, because they have been equally awful. Whatever the outcome, it's safe to say that Allen's presidential hopes have been completely obliterated.

A quick note on this evening - I will be posting, though I won't be "live-blogging" per se. The television and computer are in seperate rooms, so I will post as I see fit on the Cranky Con.

All right, political junkies of all partisan stripes - have fun tonight, and drink plenty of cofee.

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Why I Voted For Democrats Today (and Why You Should, Too)

First a disclaimer; my sole purpose in writing this post is not to let GipperClone go unchallenged. I harbor no illusions that anything I may say (or that he has said) will change anyone’s mind who is a regular reader. I know that my fellow co-bloggers are all very set in their political positions and from the comments I assume (know in some cases) that our readers are too. So call this effort merely good fun on Election Day. That said, however, I sincerely encourage all of you out there who are eligible to vote to get to the polls or be sure to mail your absentee ballots on time. GC and I agree on the fact that elections, all elections, are important and participation is a must for all eligible citizens. As usual, click the button to read the rest.

GC starts with the classic conservative but Republican distinction, which I’m not going challenge because I know he’s serious about maintaining this illusion. Besides, he has a valid claim, to a point. Many politically affiliated Republicans are Conservatives, and in fact I do believe that for many this is a meaningful distinction. The problem is that they don’t usually give the same curtsey to Democrats as reflected by the continued use of the terms “socialists,” “Stalinists,” “Communists,” “Marxists,” or what have you. Are their members of the Democratic Party that hold these views; yes, there are, I’m not going to deny it. While we may have our share of demons, there are “nationalists,” “constitutionalists,” “theocrats,” “libertarians,” and arguably other groups of "extremists" in the Republican Party as well. So what, I don’t think that any of the above mentioned groups are “in the mainstream” in any way, nor to they represent the leadership positions of either major political party. Like GC, I’m a Democrat not because they are perfect, they’re not, but rather because they are the political party that most closely represents the majority of my beliefs and interests. I don’t agree with them 100% of the time, nor to I adhere and hang on every word of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, or any other so-called leader of the party. Okay, so now that we’ve gotten the grouping and name-throwing out of the way…on to substance.

Taxes: Contrary to what GC would have you believe, I don’t think that Democrats have run on, or intend to raise taxes across the board. As with most things, taxation issues and tax policy is far more complicated than it seems, or than we hear at election time, but let me try to set a few things straight. As I’ve argued before, tax policy is NOT responsible for strong economic growth. President Clinton convinced Congress to raise taxes and the economy exploded with record growth. President George Bush convinced Congress to lower taxes and the economy has maintained steady growth (with some recent sparks of high growth). What does this tell you? Well it should confirm what most of us with functioning neurons (okay, so I wasn’t totally done with the name calling) know, which is that taxes don’t dictate economic outcomes, at least not alone; there are always other factors. Second, not all instances of taxes are borne by everyone equally. Or, phrased another way, not all taxes are created equal. Often the tax most usually recognized by the population, and the one frequently inferred by politicians and pundits when they use the phrase “raise taxes” is the income tax. Other taxes, like the so-called “death tax” and the “capital (cap) gains” tax have become popular as well, at least rhetorically. But it is important to note that the burdens of these taxes are not evenly distributed. In fact, very small percentages of the population pay either one of these taxes. Example, currently (if my memory serves) the “death tax” only impacts estates valued at over $1 million dollars, anything less and the recipient of the estate pays ZERO in taxes. So raising them or maintaining them at current levels affects whom exactly? Will tax rates go up if the Democrats gain control of Congress, doubtful as it looks like the GOP may retain the Senate and well the President always has the veto pen. Besides, if past is prologue, some taxes will go up while others may yet decrease. Democrats (and some Republicans) have long been proponents of so-called “targeted tax cuts,” which many people, myself included, actually think are more effective than major shifts in the overall tax burdens of Americans.

War on Terror Funding: First off, Charlie Rangel doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party or the potential House Leadership, so any reliance on statements he’s made about things is dubious at best. Yes, he’ll likely be the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee should the House shift parties, but that committee doesn’t control either Homeland Security or Department of Defense funding, so I’m pretty much willing to chalk this one up to a “red herring” and call it a day. That said, I think that you will see activity with respect to GWOT funding, but I doubt it will be a decrease of any appreciable measure. Rather, what I think you’ll see, and I actually hope to see, is better, more aggressive oversight and management of how the funds are actually being used. Some of the government’s largest unsung heroes are Inspector’s General and Auditors from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and if you read their work and reports over the last 6 years I think you’ll be astounded at the amount of waste, fraud, and abuse, which has taken place with respect to GWOT and Homeland Security funding. I don’t think that more oversight and questioning of government officials, contractors and other spending agents amounts to a reduced or diminished military and/or homeland security effort. Maybe people do, but I think that it’s a bit inflammatory to suggest that just because Democrats want to keep better track of the books means that they are somehow weak or not serious about fighting and winning the GWOT. We may disagree on methods and strategy, but I doubt funding will be effected much, if at all.

Immigration: Once again, I’m not sure that this deserves much of a response considering that the real blame for much of the immigration problem can be traced to President’s since Reagan (who granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1983). Besides, President Bush, the current leader of the Republican Party actively supports and has advocated for the very Senate Bill that GC blames on the Democrats. Yes, Democrats were involved in its drafting, but so were many Republicans, including the White House. A Democratic Congress is merely going to give the President what he’s always wanted. Besides, as many people have pointed out immigration is kind of like gun control, if we merely enforced the laws already in place everyone would be happier. Instead, however, we get distracted by the need to pass new laws that further muddle and confuse the issue. It is true that Democrats and House Republicans represent differing immigration policy views. But the House has proven ineffective in convincing either the Senate or the White House of the correctness of its positions. That should tell one something.

“Benchocracy:” A creative phrase, for that I commend GC. To be honest, however, I think that on this issue regardless of what happens we’re looking at more of the status quo. I’ve never supported, strongly or otherwise, the Democrats stall, delay, and filibuster tactics in the Senate, and I’m not going to start now. At the same time, the White House has been slow and ineffective in making nominations to fill vacancies because there are regional disputes and apparently a lack of candidates that they feel are worth expending the political capital on to get through the Senate. I don’t really have much of a problem with the status quo as the courts are, for the most part, pretty balanced, if not tilting ever so slightly to the right. Control of the House changes nothing about this issue as they play no role in the process. Since I don’t expect the GOP to lose the Senate, I’m not convinced this is an issue that should sway swing voters minds in any manner.

Impeachment: Four words: NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Period. End of Story. Impeachment talk is a nice rhetorical tool for election season, but simply not a political reality. Are there those that would like to see this happen, sure, but they don’t control the levers of power and don’t represent a significant portion of the leadership to matter. Are there going to be investigations and aggressive oversight, yes, I sure hope so. Do those things mean that there will be impeachment hearings; no, not in my opinion.

In sum, I think that we’ve seen what single party rule has done for the past six years. I don’t think that there are very many people out there who are happy with the results. Republicans and Conservatives may have many things they want to do better, or differently, but they’ve had 6 years to do so and have failed to make any changes. If anything they’ve done things to erode the institution of Congress and strengthen the Presidency to a point where they are going to have a hard time should they ever lose control of that institution. Precedents have been set, and once they are there and engrained they are difficult, if not impossible, to change. There is, however, still some limited time to counter these problems, but the solution is not more of the status quo, it’s change, political party change. Divided government often in our history has produced better, more effective results than single party rule, regardless of which party is the ruler. Neither party is perfect, but a little of both might just produce some favorable results. If you’re looking for ideological purity than by all means vote third party and send the message. If you’re looking for a government that might actually work to the benefit of all Americans, I think a divided one is the solution and that means vote for Democrats today.

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Why I'm Voting Republican Tomorrow (and Why You Should, Too)

It will come as no surprise to those of you who read TPS and know me know where I stand ideologically. I am a conservative, which means I favor a minimum of government involvement in our everyday lives. I want low taxes, low government spending, a strong military that encourages peace through strength, enforcement of immigration laws, a robust criminal justice system that fights for the law-abiding among us, and judicial respect for the text of our Constitution. Give me that and a strong cup of coffee every morning, and life would be perfect.

I am a Republican, too, but I am a conservative first, and I registered as a Republican when I turned 18 because the Republican Party is the best political vehicle for my views. Sure, I could have registered as a Conservative Party member, but while I am an ideologue, I am also a pragmatist who likes to be involved – better to light a candle than curse the darkness, if you catch my drift.

Tomorrow morning, I am voting for Republicans. I will do this despite the fact that I live in a state where it will mean absolutely nothing. (Gotta love the Empire State. Nowhere other than New York could a man who was recently found to have robbed the state for which he works of tens of thousands of dollars for personal use have a lead in the polls against his Republican opponent in another statewide race. Well . . . okay, maybe New Jersey.) I do it because I recognize the best chance I have of seeing my goals realized is Republican victory here and elsewhere.

For those of you contemplating voting for Democrats tomorrow, for whatever reason, I encourage you not to. Notwithstanding Dean’s and Pelosi’s election-eve protestations, here is what you can expect from an across-the-board Democrat victory tomorrow, in fairly blunt terms and in no particular order.

Higher Taxes, Guaranteed. This should not be shocking. Combine Democrats’ penchant for indiscriminately raising spending with Republicans’ (unwise, in my opinion) failure to make Bush’s waves of tax cuts permanent, and you get a prescription for hikes in all federal tax brackets. The ignorati out there will no doubt reflexively vomit their DNC talking points and claim that only the wealthiest 1% will feel these hikes, but anyone with at least a handful of neurons bouncing around in his or her skull knows that when it comes to taxes, we are all wealthy enough to pay in the eyes of a Democrat Congress, and we are all vulnerable to the sunset provisions.

War on Terror? Out of Funding. A few months ago, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) stated during a television interview that, were Democrats able to gain control of the House of Representatives, he would use his (all-but-guaranteed) chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee to essentially de-fund the U.S. military’s efforts against global terrorism, including from the active theaters of operation in Afghanistan and Iraq. This news set Vietnam-era hippies alight with borderline-orgasmic glee, which should say it all.

I have no doubt that Rangel was serious when he uttered these comments, even though he and the DNC’s heavy hitters have spent considerable political capital trying to sweep Rangel’s words (and sentiments) under the rug. A Democrat victory tomorrow means a weakened U.S. military effort (if not a permanently crippled one), a chance for a relentless enemy to catch its breath, and a great deal of uncertainty for the future (read: those of you living in high-rise buildings might want to consider moving).

Say Adios to Effective Immigration Reform. Any of you who actually think that Democrats will take on serious immigration reform that does not involve (a) adopting an amnesty program, (b) making Spanish the official language, and/or (b) selling parts of Texas back to Mexico are seriously loco.

Bring On the Benchocracy. Senate Republicans have completely failed us this past term with respect to fighting for the president’s originalist and texualist nominees to the federal bench (which is why I am not completely upset about the possibility of Gang of Fourteen members’ losses this election), but it goes without saying that Democrats will make this sorry bunch look like breakneck-speed reformers. Democrats will completely shut down the judicial confirmation process until 2009 if they win control of the Senate. The only people who will get close to an up-or-down vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee will be those who kept a copy of The Communist Manifesto by their nightstand in college.

Bush Impeachment, Just Because. Calls for President Bush’s impeachment will grow louder, and the last two years of Bush’s administration will be squandered. I have no doubt that this will be one of the first objectives of the Democrat agenda – partly because some seek revenge for Clinton’s impeachment, partly because some think it will serve as a fitting bookend for their belief that Bush stole the election from Al Gore, but mostly because others confuse their side's loss of the foreign policy debate with grounds for removal from office. If you find yourself unhappy with the pace of policy reform these days, a Democrat victory will essentially shut things down until our next president is elected – which is, I’m sure, their goal.

There always exists the temptation to bill the current election as the most important election that ever was. To my knowledge, such claims have been made by candidates and their supporters in almost every recent election, right on up through the last one. I will not fall into that trap. I will only go so far as to say that this election is important, perhaps even pivotal, and might very well play a role in the shaping of American history for the next half century or more.

Are Republicans perfect? No. Have they dropped the ball on some serious issues, like fiscal restraint, immigration, and judicial confirmations? Undeniably. But for those of you who align yourselves with conservative ideals or principles, and ultimately want to see them prevail, you are basically fantasizing if you think the Democrat Party is going to carry your ideological torch.

Choose wisely when you pull those levers. Vote Republican (except for DeWine, Chafee, and Kean). Our future literally depends on it.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

How can the Democratic Party attract Socially Conservative/Economically Liberal members?

Mouldy asked me “in your opinion[,] how should the Democratic party shape its message to accommodate more people who may share your views?”

He also summed up my previous assertions with the label- “Socially Conservative and Economically Liberal.”- I think it a fair assessment of my views.

By way of philosophical background, I believe that there are two forces that impose order on the universe: Divine Will and Man’s will. Where Man’s will is in accord with the Mind of God, there is communal health, individual liberty, and generalized happiness. These three are the proper goals of all human endeavors. We refine our behavior and institutions to move closer to His Will through prayer, observation, analysis, and systemic modification. In the final analysis, the value of human action is defined by its affect on the larger movement of Man towards or away from the Divine Plan.

This is the context within which I am “socially conservative and economically liberal.”

I am a “Democrat” for two reasons: because 3rd parties and Independents cannot compete in the present legal and political environment and because I believe that the obligation to care for those less fortunate trumps most other human obligations. (While the modern Democratic Party (Dems) is no great champion for the less fortunate, the present GOP economic and tax policies are actually harmful to them. Again, I do not believe that the Dems represent my interests well, only less badly than the GOP does.)

The question posed was how the Dems could shape the message to sway “socially conservative and economically liberal” persons to vote Democrat. I suppose the answer depends on whether one is seeking to renovate the party platform and structure or dress it up to make it more attractive.

I think that Howard Dean articulated the “window dressing” option well when he sought to invite religious groups into the fold. He correctly analyzed the great discomfort that “biblical Christians” have with the GOP. He noted that what keeps them in the GOP are the keynote social issues (abortion, euthanasia, prayer in schools, same-sex marriage, sex education, etc.). Dr. Dean pointed out that many of these issues are resolvable only through the courts and many others are state, rather than Federal, issues. As such, religious persons can be plucked away from the GOP precisely because the GOP’s hawk-like approach to foreign policy and economic policy, that favors those with resources, is at odds with the beliefs of many Christians.

One of the reasons that I am skeptical of the ability of the Dems to capitalize on this loose, issue-based allegiance to the GOP, is that Dean’s analysis received such vehement opposition. In my opinion, the claim that softening the Democratic stand on keynote social issues, thereby allowing for party debate of those topics, was tantamount to capitulating to the GOP, was incredibly short-sighted. The strong reaction affirms the remarkable level of control that the elite have over the Democratic Party. So long as that generation of Dems controls the dialogue, we cannot break the hold that the GOP has over “persons of faith.”

In my opinion, the Democratic Party is like a run-down structure with beautiful, but neglected, architectural features. A can of paint may make it look better, but it will not restore it. What is required is the careful removal of the features worth saving and the gutting and replacing of the rest.

So… What is worth saving?

Well, I think we should go back to the beginning with Michael Harrington’s 1962 classic, “The Other America: Poverty in the United States,” as are starting point.

The United States is the preeminent power. Our resources are immense. However, successive administrations, have squandered reoccurring opportunities that could have been turned to alleviating the effects of poverty and want. By the wholesale adoption of the GOP plan to trim social welfare programs, the Dems betrayed their legacy.

There is no doubt that the GOP was onto something… There is an insidious rot that sets in when lethargic acceptance of “handouts” from the state takes the place of personal ambition. However, the Dems abandoned the legitimate interests of the trampled and abandoned and allowed the GOP dialectic to frame the debate. The Dems can, even now, formulate a better way to provide a “safety net” and to break the “cycle of poverty” while encouraging personal achievement.

At the risk of ending up in a policy discussion, I would like to offer a single example of the kind of alternative that the GOP will not embrace but that the Dems are uniquely positioned to champion.

School Desegregation has gone about as far as it can. The courts have been narrowing the scope of remedies for thirty years and any improvement in minority-dominated schools will come from the legislatures, not the courts. This is a good thing. The Dems ought to champion a policy that rewards the top ten percent of every graduating class, that can win a spot at college, with full tuition at any state school. Such a policy is achievement based, affects the poor without minority specification, bolsters the state university systems without being a direct subsidy, and acts as a clear break with the Civil Rights Era approach that has run its course.

In one sense, I am rejecting Mouldy’s characterization of social conservativism and economic liberalism as separable. One necessarily feeds the other.

If you believe, as I do, that the greater, communal good, can only be furthered by individual achievement of potential and that that greater good is paramount interest of the state, then some amount of redistribution of resources is necessary. If the Dems are going to attract social conservatives and retain economic liberals, they need to stop running from the mature argument that measured taxation should fall more heavily on those of with resources. The “key” is that the social programs that come out of that approach must be efficient, have demonstrable benefits to the broader society, and be intimately tied to personal responsibility.

To illustrate: I consider a critical part of “breaking the cycle of poverty” to be reducing the number of single-parent households in the United States. While there are many examples of extraordinary single-parents who raise children of benefit to society, the majority do not. If the policy is merely to support single-parent households, as a way of breaking the “cycle of poverty,” the paying of benefits without any personal accountability must fail. It is simply easier to stay at home with children then it is to shuffle them back and forth to caregivers, while maintaining a minimum-wage job. Thus, any state outlays that seeks to serve this need and do not address this basic problem will be inefficient and have little demonstrable benefit to society precisely because it requires nothing of those who benefit.

My point is only this… The Democratic Party has a unique history of caring for the downtrodden and disadvantaged that we have betrayed in our quest to speak the language of Washington’s “big donors.” (This was particularly evident in the Clinton Administration, which, in six of the most prosperous years of US history, made no appreciable investment in America, alleviated no great harm to the disadvantaged, and took no political or economic risks that would distinguish the party as other than another tool of the wealthy.)

To turn this around, we need to do more than invite “people of faith” into the fold… though that is a good start. We need to invite dispute about social issues, allow candidates that are “right” about broader issues (like Casey), and champion policy that makes a “preferential option for the poor.”

Until we do these kinds of things, we will be a party that can only ascend when the GOP trips over its shoelaces.

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More on Saddam and the Death Penalty

Honestly, I don't want to pick a fight here, that's not my intent.  Both Paul and GC, however, have raised an issue that I've personally agonized over and struggled with for some time, so I'm unusually interested and engaged.  And, since I have some time, I figured I’d move this out of the comments and into a longer post.

Back to the point, I think Paul, GC, and I are all struggling with the same basic issue; namely, how does one square a general aversion to the death penalty (be that the aversion stem from moral/religious grounds, as I'm assuming, on good faith, that Paul's and GC's do, or on procedural/implementation grounds as mine does) with the notion that there are some people so evil and depraved and some crimes so heinous and disgusting that death seems to be the only fitting "punishment?"  

My gut answer is that the two positions can't be reconciled.  That, however, is not only discomforting, but also glibly discounts what is, by both Paul and GC, a very well thought out and rationally argued position.  They are correct, in my opinion, in their attempts to distinguish Saddam from other more "routine" civil criminals.  Even rapists and murders are a far cry from what Saddam and others like him are, and their actions, as terrible as they may be, pale in comparison to what they have done to other human beings.  That said, there is also some validity to the "slippery-slope" argument that says once one exception has been granted there will be another, and then another, and pretty soon we've moved the line back far enough that we're all pro-death penalty.  

The solution, it seems to me, is to settle on a single, universal criteria by which capital punishment is justified.  My concern here is that this is largely an impossible task.  Paul’s last comment from the post below seems a useful example.  He argues (or my interpretation of his argument is) that Saddam’s case is different because Iraq is an unstable, unsafe place and because his incarceration cannot be adequately guaranteed his execution is justified.  All of those things are true, Iraq is unstable and its justice system still very much a work in progress, but even granting those things, I’m not sure it justifies the conclusion.  In this case, the problem would have easily been solved by simple delay until those issues were resolved, however long it takes.  There is no statue of limitations on “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity,” so Saddam could have been justly been tried and convicted after a stable regime was established without any prejudice or procedural issues.  In addition, another solution would have been to try Saddam in another jurisdiction, one that for security and stability reasons would have met with Paul’s stated criteria for avoiding the death penalty.  Both of these arguments are ones that could be made against Paul’s position and may in fact be raised by anti-death penalty advocates.  Before GC appropriately reminds me, I fully understand that these arguments don’t take into account the need and political reality of trying Saddam in Iraq when they did.  I take no issue with the numerous positive benefits that Saddam’s trial has had on the political and social situation in a very volatile place.  Do those benefits outweigh the costs?  I don’t know; it seems to me that there are rationale arguments on both sides.  A further compromise might have been to bifurcate segments of the trial.  In other words, complete the guilt phase now, and hopefully reap the above-stated benefits, while delaying the sentencing phase until a more stable country can be established.   (I’m not going to take issue with the Church’s position regarding non-lethal means (see here) as I’m woefully ill-equipped to address them; except to say that they do not at first glance appear all that different from Paul’s arguments).   It seems to me that there were consequences to choosing to try Saddam when he was and the implications of that cannot be avoided by citing the civil unrest that currently exists.  Again, I’m not arguing against Saddam’s execution, but rather am merely trying to grapple with the issues that support of it raise, especially for those of us that seem to lean against the imposition of death by the State.

Paul’s argument raises the possibility of bringing in external factors into the deliberation of punishment (namely the state of civil society that will carry out the execution).  There is nothing inherently wrong with consideration of those factors, but it begs the question, where does it stop?  If the state of the civil society is a relevant factor, somehow independent of the traditional ones (i.e., seriousness of the crime, chance for rehabilitation, cost of life incarceration, etc.) than what other factors are relevant in determining which criminals are to be put to death and which are not?  Should we consider the fact that the death penalty is generally, at least in the United States, politically popular?  Should juries consider the political and social ramifications that an execution will have on the community harmed?  This assumes of course that “communities” are harmed by death justifying offenses.  Certainly this argument has merit in cases of serial killers or rapists, but what of the mere single victim crime?  Surely there is a “societal” impact for every crime committed, but should it be a factor in establishing criteria for the administration of death?  

Saddam’s situation may be unique in many ways, but I’m not yet convinced that it should be an automatic exception to an anti-death penalty position.  Maybe it qualifies under the rubric of “once in a lifetime” circumstances where the intangible benefits so manifestly outweigh the costs that we are all willing to overlook the bigger, deeper, more complicated questions?  Maybe Saddam is simply that offensive to many people, even those who ordinarily reject the state’s role in executions?  Maybe Saddam or others similarly situated (Milosevic, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, brutal dictators all) are the only exception that anti-death penalty advocates are willing to make?  As I said at the outset, I concur with Saddam’s execution, but don’t see how that is consistent with being opposed to the death penalty.  Hence, I can’t/won’t personally say that I am opposed to the death penalty.  The case for Saddam’s death at the hands of the people he oppressed is a very strong one, however, so is the case for life in prison without parole, especially on “moral” grounds.  For many people, myself included, the two positions seem irreconcilable, but it is an interesting issue worthy of our strong consideration, even if we all end up in agreement.

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The Saddam Exception

Anyone within earshot of a radio or television yesterday or today now knows that former Iraqi dictator (and terrorist collaborator, for those of you still in denial) Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging at the hands of the people he formerly abused. While his trial, with its periodic ups and downs, made the O.J. Simpson farce look like Inherit the Wind by comparison, the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion. The Iraqis that sat on his jury cited overwhelming evidence of his crimes against humanity as the basis for their verdict, and Saddam, unlike the countless people he tortured, maimed, and slaughtered over the years, will have the benefit of a civilized appeals process before he is put out on the yardarm.

Those of you who know me (or read TPS) know that I am opposed to capital punishment. I am a convert to this position, having been an ardent supporter of it during my younger years. The justifications that I previously used in support of capital punishment -- namely, that families deserve justice, that it serves as a deterrent against crime, and others -- are no less true than they were a decade ago for me, but the difference is I have come around to the idea that they should be irrelevant in the calculus because the state simply should not be in the business of taking human life. (I could discuss this topic for days, so I will spare you. Please note, however, that my personal conversion does not mean I miraculously find it unconstitutional. The death penalty, by any honest reading of the Constitution, is permissible, and it will remain permissible until the Constitution is amended, "evolving standards of decency" be damned.)

I am willing to make an exception to my opposition of capital punishment in Saddam's case. Why? It is precisely because Saddam is so much more than a criminal.

Saddam Hussein is not your typical defendant. He is the former dictator of a Middle Eastern country with a population in the neighborhood of 25 million. He still has a broad swath of Baathist followers -- some in Iraq, some in Syria -- who spend the portions of their days when they are not killing Americans and Iraqis fantasizing about springing Saddam from his prison cell and restoring his regime to power. In our dangerous world, where other dangerous individuals have escaped from prison with the help of terrorist allies, we cannot allow for the possibility, however remote, that Saddam might somehow slip his bonds and live to terrorize another day.

We may have just witnessed a trial, but make no mistake: this was not within the confines of ordinary criminal justice. Many capital punishment opponents (or at least those who are intellectually honest) will acknowledge that there is a huge difference between someone who is executed after committing a civilian crime and someone who is tried and executed after his role in international war crimes or crimes against humanity. The honest assessor of the situation will have no choice but to see that Saddam falls into the latter camp. As such, his continued existence is a serious liability, since he not only clearly could pose a threat were he to somehow escape confinement and join his followers, but also because of how he inspires Sunni opponents to positive change in Iraq. His death is not only essential to assuring reformers that his way of life will never again threaten their own, but also for deflating the expectations of his followers with an eye toward conquering them.

Saddam's death at the hands of the state needs to be welcomed. Call it follow through on a promise.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Your Time Is Coming, Rummy!

President Bush recently announced just days before the election that Donald Rumsfeld would remain his Secretary of Defense throughout the remainder of his administration. Talk about putting your head in the sand! Did he clear that with Karl Rove? Or was he just smoking whatever stuff his buddy Rev. Ted Haggard was when he said it? Regardless, what a gift for the Democrats.

I've been railing against this clown Rumsfeld for a long time. Perhaps the idea of asking a lot more from a smaller, less equipped military wasn't a good idea afterall. Perhaps Colin Powell, the man this administration turned their backs on, had it right afterall with his "You break it, you own it" thoughts on Iraq, while Rummy was saying, "I don't know how long we'll be in Iraq, it could be 6 weeks, it could be 6 months."

I still can't believe how Republicans rightfully demanded the resignation of President Clinton's Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1993 for failures in Somalia that led to the death of a dozen or so US troops, yet many of the same GOPers unwaveringly support Rumsfeld whose flawed strategies in Iraq have resulted in the death of thousands of US troops. And people wonder why conservatives like me will vote for Democrats on Tuesday?

On Monday, the rather conservative newspaper The Army Times with a readership largely comprised of members of the military will publish a ground-breaking editorial calling for Rumsfeld's firing. I wouldn't be surprised if Rummy's was the first head from the White House to roll following Tuesday's elections, despite Bush's recent proclamation. Here's part of the piece:

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Electoral Politics: Reflections and Predictions

Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with electoral politics. I love elections and politics in general, but I hate election season. Hence this split personality on my part leads to relative silence and general ambilivance about the upcoming midterm elections next week. Okay, so someone who can rattle off the names and poll statistics of almost all the major races next week isn’t really ambivalent, but I’m not as excited as I once was or should be.

My pet phrase for the next 5 days is “cautious optimism.” By this I mean that while I can read the polls, listen to the pundits, and devour the commentators like everyone else, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. I hope that the Democrats make big gains and can regain control of Congress, but I’m not yet sold that’s actually going to happen, as you’ll see in the predictions below.

As I’ve noted before my hatred comes mostly from the disgustingly low level of political discourse that occurs during election cycles. Both parties are equally guilty in my book, so I’m not buying any of this “they started it crap;” a pox on all your houses I say. It was interesting, however, to note that such disgusting discourse is not universal. In fact, out on the west coast, where I spent much of the last 10 days, things are much, much different. In California there appear to be no hotly contested races. Governor Arnold is cruising to reelection with almost no formidable opponent. Phil Angelides (sp?) is his name, but you’d have been hard pressed to know that had you not looked at the ballot or the “election book” that is sent to all registered voters (note, I don’t use the term book lightly; this thing is not a guide or even a pamphlet, it’s almost 150 pages long and, therefore, it’s a book, I’m not kidding). The same can be said for Senator Dianne Feinstein and just about all of the states 52 congressional office holders. As Paul’s previous post notes, things are so easy going out in the land of the liberals that Duncan Hunter decided to announce his candidacy for President of the United States. For what it’s worth I concur with Paul about Mr. Hunter’s chances, but I have to say I think the best line came from his opponent for Congress, who was quoted in the LA Times as saying that Mr. Hunter has a much chance of being elected President has he did of being elected Miss America.

Anyway, it had been some time since I was outside the beltway at any time close to a major election, so it was nice to see what others think and do in the weeks and days leading up to a contest (present outside the beltway residents of this blog excluded of course). Let me say that whoever coined the phrase “inside the Beltway mentality” has it absolutely right. I literally thought I had stepped into the political twilight zone while I was away. Not only were there no ads on TV or on the radio, there was little coverage in the LA Times or other more locally oriented papers. In fact, politics, whether local or national, was the furthest thing from almost anyone’s mind. The big news stories were a fire destroying some nearby homes, USC losing to Oregon State (GO BEAVERS!!), and the start of the Lakers basketball season. Politics, it seems takes a back seat in California to other more leisurely pursuits. This is not to say that the subject never came up, but generally I was the one to initiate the discussion. What a change of pace, so relaxed and non-controversial I almost missed DC. Ironically, the one issue that did come up most often was the Mark Foley scandal. I found this surprising as I’ve never really attributed much importance to the issue, but almost everyone seemed to want to know what I thought about it. I chalk much of this up to curiosity about my job and day-to-day life (I spent a lot of time with people I hadn’t seen in several years, since graduating from law school), and to the fact that since the scandal had to do with sex (or attempted sexual conduct) it was merely more interesting than most political stories. Other than that I can’t really say that the left coast is that involved in the midterm fervor. I hope and believe that other “outside the beltway” areas are different, especially those areas with hotly contested elections for House and Senate seats. Make no mistake, this election is important, they all are. I fear, however, that the absence of a Presidential race means low turnout and suppressed interest. I don’t think I can put into words how disturbing and depressing this reality is. The fact remains that mid-term congressional elections are far more important than Presidential elections. Always have been, always will be (even if we amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and directly elect the President). What it will take for more people to recognize this simple fact of American government I do not know, but I hope they do someday or else we're really going to be in trouble.

Enough reflection let’s get to predictions. In short, I probably concur with the vast number of pundits and handicappers. I believe (“cautiously optimistic” remember) that the Democrats will win enough seats to take control of the House of Representatives. Will they win 16 seats (1 more than required) or 40 seats, I don’t know. I tend to think the final number will be somewhere around 22 or 25, depending on just how big of a “wave” there actually winds up being. I think there are several individual house races worth watching that may give us a chance to judge the size of the wave early in the evening. In my opinion, watch the Northeast very carefully. Races like New York’s 26th (Tom Reynolds), Connecticut’s 4th (Chris Shays) and 1st (Nancy Johnson) and Pennsylvania’s 7th (Curt Weldon) may all be harbingers of things to come later in the evening. If the Democrats win some or even all of these races than I think we may see a 30-40 seat swing. Another “early” race to watch is Ohio’s Deborah Pryce who is the 4th ranking member of the GOP leadership. Should she lose, which is possible, at least according to some polls, it could be another sign of a long night for the GOP. Of course, splits in these races will mean a smaller Democratic majority, but nevertheless may be an important signal to voters in the mid-west and west about the strength of the GOP. A Democratic landslide will mean big gains in the Northeast and Ohio and strong showing in the southwest, northwest, and far west (Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, New Mexico). As for the South, I don’t expect much in the way of major Democratic gains, they might win in open races like the Texas 22nd (Tom Delay’s former district), but those seats will be tough if not impossible to retain in 2008. Big gains in the other parts of the country will mean a better chance for a Dem majority for at least a few election cycles.

As for the Senate, it’s much, much too close to call. Right now I’d have to say the Democrats pick up 4-5 seats leaving them one short of a majority. Things look good in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania (though I’m not counting Santorum out), Ohio, Maryland (I’m not buying the polls showing a tight race. Steele’s a good candidate, but the demographics are against him), and New Jersey (I’m not a huge Menendez fan, but he’s not going to be my Senator). The tight races are going to be the ones like Tennessee, Missouri, and Montana. Like Maryland, I’m not really buying the Allen-Webb Virginia polling. Allen will win VA, he’s supposed to. He’s done as a 2008 presidential candidate, but he’ll hold his Senate seat. Dems may take 2 of the 3 tight races with the loss I think coming in Tennessee, which is really too bad because I think Harold Ford Jr. ran the far better campaign and deserves to win. That said; TN is a GOP state at heart and Bob Corker, for better or worse, is the GOP candidate and might yet eek out a victory. MO and MT may swing for the Dems, but that won’t be enough. Of course, 51-49 in the Senate is recipe for stalemate so if there are such things as “moral” victories in Congress I guess this can count. Of course, I could be wrong about all of this and the Dems could sweep to victory and carry the Senate as well. I personally give this less than a 15% chance of happening, but it is certainly statistically possible.

All in all it should be an interesting and exciting night. Thankfully after Tuesday it will be over and then the “governing” begins again. I’m anxious to get comments and other predictions. I don’t put too much into my own thoughts, as I’ve been wrong before, but I thought I should at least get them all out there to stimulate discussion.

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On hopeless causes and presidential campaign finance

Duncan Hunter, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has announced he is running for Preident. Umm, yeah. Hunter's campaign promises to deliver as much coverage and support as Joe Biden's.

Listen, Hunter's one of the good guys in Congress, but this just ain't gonna happen. If he makes it to Iowa that in and of itself will be an accomplishment. No doubt John McCain wouldn't mind another authentic conservative in the race to divide the vote up further, but the .0001% Hunter should draw is probably not going to do the trick.

The thing is, having worked for awhile at the Campaign Finance Institute, and primarily covering the 2000 and 2004 presidential races, Hunter will raise money. The checks will be rolling in from all over the country, and he may raise a cool million or more, as did Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch, John Kasich, Liddy Dole, Dan Quayle and Bob Graham, and as will Biden, Brownback and others who will also have about the same amount of success in their respective presidential bids.

Far be it from me to tell people how to spend their money, but it does make one ponder the different ways those millions could be spent.

Of course, some might say that any money given to an election campaign is a waste of money. And we do spend billions per election cycle, be they presidential, Congressional, or local races.

I don't want to delve to much into campaign finance and the effects of "special interests" on our elected officials (I will merely say that John McCain and I differ in our opinions to a great extent). I merely wanted to bring up some questions about the future of presidential campaign finance since this was an issue I was involved with for a couple of years. (read on after the click)

For anyone interested, CFI's The Election After Reform covers election finance in the aftermath of McCain-Feingold (aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, aka BCRA). Many of the assumptions made beforehand were proven to be either false or exaggerated. Money still flowed into campaigns, just not in the traditional ways. George Soros and other financiers found new ways to funnel money into the system.

That said, the presidential campaign finance system is in trouble. You're all vaguely aware of it simnply because of that $3 checkoff you all see on your tax forms. No doubt, if you're like 88% of Americans, you either ignore it or check no. And it's because of that propensity to decline participation that the system is in crisis - or at least it's one of the reasons.

Here's a brief recap of how the system works. In the primary, presidential candidates that opt into the system are able to receive matching funds from the federal government based on the money they raise. Each candidate is eligible to receive a dollar-for-dollar match of all money they raise from individual contributions that aggregate to less than $250. In other words, if Joe Smith donates $1,000 to a candidate, only that first $250 is matched. If a person donates $200, all of it is matched. If a person donates $25 per week (and believe me, lots of people do this), those first 10 contributions will be matched. In the general election, each major party nominee receives $75 million flat, and they are not allowed to raise money on their own.

This chart will show you how much each candidate in 2000 and 2004 raised, and how much in matching funds they received. Conspicuous by the absence of any matching funds in either cycle is George Bush. That's because he opted out of the system. For, you see, if you accept matching funds you also must abide by spending limits. Bush realized in 2000 that he could raise far more money on his own than anyone else, and he didn't want to be tied down to spending limits. Bush gambled, and he won big.

In 2004, two Democratic candidates decided to do the same thing. Howard Dean and John Kerry both opted out. Kerry's decision came in December when he was stuck in the middle of the pack with the rest of the field behind Dean. As you can see, Dean had a huge fundraising edge by the end of calendar 2003. (As someone keeping track of the individual contributions back then, the candidate data entry went something like Dean, Dean, Kerry, Dean, Dean, Edwards, Dean, Dean, Lieberman, Dean, Dean, LaRouche, Dean.)

Dean's fundraising capabilities were stunning the political world. As you can see from the first chart above, most candidates receive a bulk of their money from large (i.e. $1,000 and up) contributions. Practically all of John Edwards' money was coming from attorneys giving a couple of hours worth of wages. But not Dean. Dean was tapping into the online community and drawing money in small clumps from around the country. In fact, 60% of his money came from people who donated cumulatively $200 or less. (Kucinich had an even higher proportion of such donations, but by a far smaller overall amount.)

It was this fundraising that had most people assuming that Dean would get the nod. And then came Iowa, and everything changed. Suddenly my data entry went like this: Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Dean, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Dean, Kerry, Edwards, Kerry, Kerry. And John Kerry's own gamble paid off. In fact, he did so well that he almost opted out of the general election system because he potentially could have raised more than the $75 million allotted, but he chose to stay in.

So what does this all tell us about the future of presidential campaign fundraising? Well, I'm sure my former boss Michael Malbin would entertain any guesses. I'd be shocked if Hillary Clinton were to opt into the system. No doubt she could raise several hundred million, even with the $2,000 individual contribution limit. And even with the spread out field for the GOP, it's unlikely that McCain or even Romney couldn't do better on their own than with the matching funds.

On the one hand, this seems fair. Money acts like a vote. Candidates with popular appeal are going to be able to raise a lot of money. Longshots won't. In effect, we're narrowing the field and removing the "unworthies" before a single vote is cast. So be it. We'll be able to focus our attention on those that actually can win.

What does the Dean collapse and the Kerry comeback tell us about that? In a way, it acts an affirmation. People funnelled their money to the new leader almost instantaneously. Again, people voted with their pocketbook. The money flowing into the coffers reflected the polls - in fact, it can be treated as a poll of some kind.

But what of self-financed candidates? Their financial advantage would not be a true reflection of popular appeal. And what of candidates who lack the initial resources and need time to develop a following, but who might be able to draw money once their message was heard by a wider audience? Again, they'd be eliminated from contention before things got started. And who knows how candidate Ronald Reagan would have done were it not for this very system.

Of course, it could then be countered that the matching fund amounts are so paltry that it doesn't matter. The only candidates who would have received a significant amount of money were the ones who opted out anyway. Wesley Cark received the most public money, and his total was just over $7.5 million. That's hardly a great deal of money in today's political climate.

We could raise either the matching limit or simply go to a 3-for-1 or even 5-to-1 matching system. But at that point, shouldn't we go to a completely publicly financed system?

I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm inclined to say that anyone who truly has broad enough appeal will be able to raise enough money to remain competetive. And you can have millionaires like Steve Forbes in the race, and they still won't do well if people just aren't interested in actually voting for them. Money isn't everything - just ask Howard Dean. But it sure does help.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rick James, Bitch!

Too bad John Kerry's bonehead statement distracted voters' attention from this latest discouraging story out of Iraq. I remember how upset I was during various conflicts in the 1990s such as Bosnia with how comfortable President Clinton appeared to be in allowing our troops to take orders from foreign commanders. However, now in the context of a 3 1/2 year old war that I'm not sure if we can win, this story is about a million times worse:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops lifted roadblocks around a Baghdad militia stronghold on Tuesday when Iraq's prime minister ordered them out, flexing his political muscle after a week of public friction with Washington ahead of U.S. elections.

Supporters of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr celebrated in the streets of Sadr City, bastion of his Mehdi Army. An aide hailed the end of a "barbaric siege" begun to help find a kidnapped U.S. soldier possibly being held by militiamen.

But Iraq's Sunni vice president said the move could spell an end to a lull in sectarian death squad violence. The once dominant Sunni minority blames much of the killing on the Mehdi Army and Washington is pressing Maliki to disband the movement.

An aide to Maliki said it had been "discussed" with the U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and commander General George Casey. But military spokesmen were caught unaware by the lunchtime announcement, which set a 5 p.m. deadline for opening roads.

Residents of Sadr City immediately took to the streets to celebrate this victory over the United States. So now President Bush has let us officially become Prime Minister Maliki's bitch? And I suppose that would also make us the bitch for the bitch of terrorist Moqtada al-Sadr. But yet it is "disloyal" tv stations like CNN or "unpatriotic" Congressman like John Murtha that are responsible for inflaming the Sunni insurgency in Iraq? Right.

I suggest that sad is the day when the headlines read, "U.S. troops do (fill in the blank) at the orders of the Prime Minister of (fill in the blank) country." Thanks once again, Rummy!

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