Leiberwoman! Dick Morris vs. Hillary Clinton is sort of the truth-seeker's version of the Iran-Iraq war, but Morris does seem to have Hillary cornered on the Judith Leiber handbag issue. ... 1:16 A.M.
Thursday, October 10 , 2002
Memo to Carl Hulse: Welfare bill not quite dead yet, kf hears. ...5:59 P.M.
The Welfare Reform Angle to the Year of the Switcheroo: In an earlier item, I suggested that Sen. Max Baucus of Montana was vulnerable to attack as weak on welfare reform. Apparently, Baucus' GOP opponent, Mike Taylor, attempted to raise the issue earlier this year, and it didn't take. But now Taylor has pulled a Torch and quit the race (after the Democrats ran an ad with archival footage of "Taylor applying lotions to the face of a man siting in the barber chair ....wearing a tight-fitting, three piece suit, with a big-collared open shirt"). ... Perhaps former governer Marc Racicot or Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs -- the rumored Lautenbergs in this potential switcheroo -- will be able to more effectively use the historically potent welfare issue. ... Should Racicot or Ohs (or anyone of either party) want details on Baucus' welfare backsliding, kausfiles stands ready to provide guidance. The welfare bill written by Baucus as chair of the Senate Finance Committee was so riddled with anti-work loopholes it probably derailed the "reauthorization" of the 1996 welfare reform this year. ... He's to the left of Hillary Clinton on this issue. (Hillary signed on to the more centrist New Democrat Bayh-Carper bill) ... I would guess that
"BAUCUS -- GUTS WORK REQUIREMENTS FOR WELFARE RECIPIENTS"
over a nice grainy photo would work well. ... But what do I know. I thought the 1970's hairdresser look was back in. ... Hey, Montana! There's nothing hipper! (It worked for Warren Beatty in Shampoo!) ... Update: You can view the anti-Taylor ad here. It's a fabulous, highly-refined exercise in sleazy, leering innuendo, especially the final few nanoseconds in which Taylor's hand reaches down, down. .... 1:16 P.M.
ABC's "The Note" reports that Sen.Joe Lieberman will spend part of Monday at a "meet-and-greet with a local state senator." In Lieberman's home state of Connecticut? No, in New Hampshire. ... Let's see -- Lieberman sold out his principled skepticism about affirmative action in his craven "please don't end it" grovel at the Democratic convention in 2000. He's sold out the DLC's principled skepticism about un-reinvented big government by championing the ossified civil service system (on behalf of organized labor) in the current Homeland Security debate. All the while he's managed to maintain the grave, furrow-browed, ostenstatiously-anguished hauteur of someone who's just more morally serious than the rest of us. Which suggests a slogan for his 2004 presidential campaign (offered here gratis):
LIEBERMAN. HE HAS SO MANY MORE PRINCIPLES TO SELL OUT.
Be careful what you wish for: First New Jersey Republican Senate Candidate Douglas Forrester called on the doomed Robert Torricelli to quit. Now California Governor Gray Davis has called on his doomed GOP opponent, Bill Simon, to "drop out of the race." As Orrin Judd notes, that's not such a bad idea. Republicans would be crazy not to think about it. It's all the rage! ... Schwarzenegger probably wouldn't jump in as a write-in candidate. But what about popular moderate L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan? .. For any other Californian wanting to get two weeks of press attention and establish their name statewide by doing "better than expected," it's the political opportunity of a lifetime. ...You don't even have to be a Republican. You just have to not be Gray Davis. ... I might run myself if I didn't have the dry cleaning to pick up. ...Remember: Write-in candidates have until October 22 to file the necessary 100 signatures. No need to rush! ... [Link via Instapundit] 1:29 A.M.
All Your Base Are Staying Home: Just when it looked as if the election story was about to change from 'War Talk Helps GOP' to something more promising for the Democrats, WaPo's best self-hating Dem, Thomas Edsall, would point out that not only is the Iraq debate overshadowing the Democrats' pet economic issues (the ready-to-fade Conventional Wisdom) but Democratic support of Bush on the war is also alienating the activist base the party needs to get to the polls in a low-turnout mid-term election. Edsall reveals that "[d]irect-mail donations to the DNC took a nosedive in August and September." Direct-mail results are a "barometer of activist support," he notes. ...1.11 A.M.
Tuesday, October 8 , 2002
Cocooning on the Right: Dick Morrisand David Tell both come down hard on the NYT's 'Don't Give Up, Democrats' poll of last Sunday. The Times' poll report was a pretty amazing (i.e. awful) performance -- breaking new ground by giving readers very few of the actual numbers that would back up reporter Adam Nagourney's conclusions. "Trust the Times to interpret the numbers," he seemed to be saying. Not these days, buddy!
The NYT reached its conclusion ("Poll Finds Lawmakers Focusing Too Much on Iraq and Too Little on Issues at Home") in large part because of a question -- #17 if you go to the actual PDF results -- that asks
"Which would you like to hear the candidates talk more about, the possibility of war with Iraq or how to improve the U.S. economy." [Emphasis added.]
The economy won, 70-17. But, as Morris notes, this question is hopelessly rigged -- after a month of endless palaver about Iraq, who wouldn't want to hear more talk about something else? (When voters were asked which issue was a "higher priority," "terrorism" beat "economy" 50-35 -- as Tell points out but Nagourney does not). Question 17 is also biased in another way -- you could want to hear less talk about the "possibility of war with Iraq" because you wished you lived in a world where that possibility wasn't so real. That doesn't mean you necessarily oppose Bush's priorities or even think that anyone is spending too much time on the Iraq debate. A fairer (though still useless) question would pair the "possibility" of war with the possibility of a similar U.S. calamity -- as in "Which would you like to hear the candidates talk more about, the possibility of war with Iraq or the possibility of the economy sliding into another recession." Or something like that.
Nagourney, in his emailed "Campaign Countdown," goes even further than in his print story, explicitly saying that the poll "shows that voters are concerned about precisely what Democrats said they would be concerned about in predicting victory last fall" -- i.e. the economy and not terrorism. But if the voters feel that way, the poll doesn't demonstrate it.
What's most striking about the Times poll, in fact, is how little of anything it tells you. Mainly it shows the voters aren't morons. Seventy percent think the "nation's economy" is "worse" today "compared with two years ago." Duh! (What economy do the remaining 30 percent live in?) The voters are also asked the following stumper:
"Do you think big business has more influence on the Republican party or the Democratic party?"
By a 57-22 margin, they get it right!
But -- all that said --there is some mild, legitimate good news for Democrats in the poll. In the last month, Bush's approval numbers for handling the economy (Question #5) seem to have flipped, from 49-41 "approve" to 46-41 "disapprove." And the Democrats have opened up a small three point lead in the generic Congressional preference. If I were a Republican reading the poll, I wouldn't be nearly as confident of retaining the House as I would be after reading the Tell and Morris articles.
About a year ago a brilliant essay by right-winger J. Peter Mulhern argued that liberal press bias is a blessing for conservatives and Republicans, because with liberal bias comes the liberal "cocoon,"the disconnect between what NPR listeners/NYT readers think -- after being told what they want to hear -- and what's really going on. Because prominent Times articles like Nagourney's give Democrats (even sophisticated pols and media types) unfounded hope, Democrats are apt to be overconfident -- and surprised on election day when they discover what the voters really believe.
But I wonder if a reverse, second-order phenomenon isn't also at work – a conservative cocoon built on the assumption that all bad news in the NYT is the product of liberal bias. There's so much bias in the Times right now that this is a mighty tempting conclusion. But it's a dangerous one for the right. Nagourney's poll results don't come close to supporting Nagourney's conclusion. But that doesn't mean it's wrong. ... Update: But Ipsos-Reid/Cook says it's wrong, in that the election, while a tossup according to their latest poll, isn't currently driven by economic concerns. ("Democratic voters are driven by concerns about the economy itself, but Independent and Republican voters are not.") ... Link to Mulhern essay brought to you through the magic of the Internet Archive. (Thanks to reader D.M.N.) ... 1:35 P.M.
Monday, October 7 , 2002
Instapundit catches the Brit Independent in the act, meeting a deadline by reporting on Bush's Iraq speech before it's actually happened. (In truth, only about half the Independent piece pretends the speech has been given. It's a hopeless muddle of tenses) ...4:24 P.M.
If there's gloom, there's room, Part 23: I'd thought that David Leonhardt's 9/9 front page report -- "Long Term Jobless Rose by 50 Percent Over the Last Year" -- was an example of a legitimate bit of economic gloomsaying by the much-maligned New York Times. I was wrong. Gene Epstein rips the story apart in Barron's. It turns out to be another smoking gun of liberal rooting-for-a-recession bias! Leonhardt's worst sin? In a billboard sentence (of the sort that is often inserted by an editor) he wrote that:
the number of people who have been jobless for months has climbed to a level more typical of a deep downturn.
At the time, Epstein notes, "there were 1.474 million folks unemployed six months or longer." In the 90-91 recession, the number was 2.194 million at its peak. In the 81-82 recession, it was 2.885 million. And those earlier numbers were with a labor force significantly smaller than today's -- so as a percentage, the current long-term unemployed figures don't compare with previous recessions. There's your billboard graf! ... 3:14 P.M.
Let me get this straight: Two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alzhami -- known to the C.I.A. as potential trouble since at least January, 2000 -- come to the U.S.to enroll in flight schools and settle in San Diego, where they rent rooms from a man who happens to be an F.B.I. informant. What are the odds of that just happening? ... Maybe the Muslim community in San Diego is small, and there are only so many landlords -- but you can see why Congressional investigators might be suspicious. ... Newsweek, when it broke the story a few weeks ago, reported that a "senior law enforcement official" said that "the informant never provided the bureau with the names of his two houseguests from Saudi Arabia." But it also says the informant was a "'tested' undercover 'asset' who had been working closely with the FBI office in San Diego on terrorism cases related to Hamas." ... One suspects there is a layer of intrigue and incompetence here that we're not being told about -- for example, did the F.B.I. actually know the two men were up to no good and engage in some fatefully-hamhanded attempt to string them along or protect them in exchange for other information? Stranger (or as strange) things have happened. ... 1:34 A.M.
Welfare bill non-dead: A bill "reauthorizing" the expiring 1996 welfare reform law -- often included on lists of legislation that will not get finished in the end-of-session-Iraq-debate crunch -- may still pass. Active negotiations are now underway in the Senate over a three-year extension of the 1996 reform (instead of the five-year extensions previously contemplated)..The stripped-down three-year bill would presumably give Republicans and Democrats a bit of what each wants (e.g. money for day care as well as for "marriage promotion"). ... The deal could still easily fall through, which would most likely result in a simple one year extension of current law that kicks the issue over until the next Congress. But those on the left in this debate have good reasons to want a bill now:
1) Antipoverty advocates and Democrats want more money for day care (and to preserve funding levels for welfare generally) and they're worried there won't be any money left next year, when the bill for pre-election spending comes in;
2) They have to at least worry that the Republicans might regain the Senate and widen their margin in the House (even if the opposite might well happen);
3) About a half-dozen Democratic Congresspersons in close races are on the record with a potentially damaging vote against reform. They might like to have a reform bill they could go on record as voting for;
4) Daschle's Senate, where the bill has been languishing, can rightly be attacked as having been dilatory, and the up-for-reelection chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus of Montana, can fairly be charged with writing a loophole-ridden bill.
Why would the Bush White House want to cut a deal? That's harder to figure out -- Republicans may see an opportunity to fix work "participation" requirements that have dwindled to nonexistence because states get to count people who've left welfare (about half the caseload) as if they were working. They also want funding for their precious "marriage" initiative (a vague PR effort that hardly seems worth giving up ground on the work issue for). …The key, as always in welfare reform, is what happens to the nasty little fine print clauses the left tends to write into the law to weaken reform -- new "anti-displacement" restrictions on when "workfare" workers can do jobs regular workers might conceivably be hired to do, new procedural hurdles that make it difficult to end payments to recipients who refuse to work, loopholes that allow states to return to the bad old days of counting often-useless training and education as if it were actual work. Such provisions are actually in the bill passed by Baucus' Senate Finance Committee Democrats. ... 11:12 P.M.
Saturday, October 5 , 2002
Good David Carr NYT piece on Paul Krugman's latest journalistic triumph, for which he graciously (for him) accepted responsibility here.... Could Carr's article -- which is refreshingly, even eagerly, tough on Krugman -- reflect a new, harder line by the NYT in insisting on accountability from its op-ed columnists? And could this new, harder line have anything to do with ... oh, the possibility that one Steven J. Hatfill will file a whopping-great libel suit against the Times and Times columnist Nicholas Kristof? Or was NYT editorial page editor Gail Collins simply tired of being embarrassed by the columnists on the pages that are allegedly under her control? Note the somewhat tutorial-like tone of her comments:
Gail Collins, the editorial page editor of The Times, described Mr. Krugman's comments as a retraction last night and said, "One of the important things about being a good reporter or columnist is to acknowledge when you failed to connect a dot, and I think that's what Paul is saying."
And I think we've learned something today, Paul, haven't we! ... So when, in this new regime, will Krugman acknowledge in the NYT the failed dot-connecting -- which he backhandedly admits on his Web site-- in his July 16 column about George Bush and the Texas Rangers? Isn't part of being a good columnist acknowledging your mistakes in the same place where you publish them? .... [Why so hard on P.K.? The same thing could happen to you--ed. True. I'm not a good reporter -- it's a skill, which Krugman does not apparently have either. But even my pathetic B.S. detector tends to start vibrating at the words "freelancer" and "Salon."] P.S.: Here is the now- admittedly defective Krugman column. Note that the "unsubstantiated" bit of evidence Krugman didn't "press" his source on is the main attraction in his lead paragraph. ... P.P.S.: Here is the letters page from MediaNews with two letters from Jason Leopold, the writer whose now-unpostedSalon piece started this controversy, giving his version of the events. ... 12:44 A.M.
Friday, October 4 , 2002
WaPo acknowledgeswhat Krugman won't about the Bush tax cuts:
Indeed, given the twin shocks of 9/11 and the post-Enron stock market decline, the short-term stimulus created by the tax cuts has turned out to be fortuitously well timed.
Justice Greenhouse writes:
"The worst that can happen is that their guy has to run in a competitive election," Professor Hasen said of the New Jersey Republicans.
Uh, no. The worse that can happen for New Jersey Republicans is that a pro-GOP intervention into the Torricelli ballot dispute by the U.S. Supreme Court triggers a voter backlash nationwide and energizes Democrats with memories of Bush v. Gore, costing the GOP control of both the House and the Senate. (It's risky interevening before the election's been held!) ... I tend to think the MinuteMan Plan is the course of wisdom for the national GOP, and even for New Jersey GOP candidate Forrester. ... 5:31 P.M.
One question I've always had about Paul Krugman's writings on the threat of deflation is this: Assume he's right and that the U.S. is in danger of going into a Japan-like vicious circle of falling prices and falling spending and investment. Assume we should throw everything we've got at the problem now to prevent this from happening. Assume that this includes using monetary policy -- lowering interest rates as much as possible (which isn't much). Why doesn't it also include fiscal policy -- deficit spending?
Until this week, as far as I remember, Krugman hasn't really emphasized the spending side, and I daresay the reason is obvious -- if fiscal stimulus is a good thing at the moment, that means Bush's tax cuts, at least in the short term, were a good thing for the overall economy, and Krugman can't quite bring himself to admit this. ... In today's column, Krugman does acknowledge that we need a "plan for fiscal stimulus." But he still can't admit that the fiscal stimulus we've had, in the form of the Bush tax cut, was a step in the right direction, if an insufficient step, in the short run. (I'm not questioning here Krugman's argument against Bush's long-term tax cuts and the likelihood of long-term deficits, though I question it here.) Krugman's particularly slippery when he asks "why not have another rebate" without acknowledging the desirability of the rebate we already had. ...
And, if Krugman's argument for short-term fiscal stimulus is right, how can he then ridicule Bush for the sudden disappearance of the surplus -- not in the long term, but also in the short term, as in the following paragraph from his Web site:
But how did things get so bad, so quickly? This year's deficit will be around $165 billion - a non-Social-Security deficit of more than $320 billion. So we're $400 billion down from the surplus just two years ago.
Didn't Krugman want the small surpluses to quickly turn into deficits -- isn't that what fiscal stimulus is? If the deflation threat is so real, and the greater risk is not doing enough, wouldn't even a bigger deficit this year be just what the doctor ordered?
P.S.: Yes, the Bush tax cuts are "back-loaded," with the biggest impact coming in a few years. But the short term stimulative effect of the cuts was not insignificant. Krugman and Jeff Madrick, whose Thursday column Krugman cites, argue that we need $100 billion more in stimulus. But by Krugman's own estimate, the Bush tax cuts have already provided $60 billion in stimulus. Maybe that's not enough -- but it's not chopped liver.
And while most of the long-term Bush cuts go to the rich, the cuts so far have not been that skewed. Karen Kornbluh writes, in The Washington Monthly:
Little noted in discussions of the Bush tax cut were the provisions that reduce taxes for lower, and middle-income families with children--the refundable child tax credit, the expanded child and dependent care tax credit, and marriage penalty relief. These provisions will be partially phased in before the 2004 election, unlike most of the far larger cuts for wealthy Americans.
P.P.S. At least Krugman's ally Madrick is man enough to acknowledge that
War spending plus tax cuts arranged when the economy was prospering have turned out to be timely.
Of course, Madrick says the "president stumbled inadvertently" into these "stimulative policies" -- Bush can't actually have done something right intentionally! Never mind that Bush explicitly cast both long-term and short term tax relief as an anti-recession remedy, as in this March 28. 2001 New York Times report:
"We need an immediate stimulus for our economy," Mr. Bush said, referring to some of the ideas gathering force in the Senate without throwing his explicit support behind any single measure. [Emphasis added.]
Nor is it clear that the cuts were arranged "when the economy was prospering." In 2001, it's true, Democrats (myself included) were accusing Bush of overstating the problems of the U.S. economy in order to justify tax cuts as a remedy. But now Krugman and Madrick are in effect saying Bush was right about the economy's precarious state.. ... Not that they'd ever put it that way.
P.P.P.S.: I'm pretending I haven't read Andrew Sullivan's blog, which makes many of these same points today.
Backfill: Further study, which involved reading every Krugman column with the words "deficit," "Bush" and "stimulate" in it for the past year, has uncovered a column a year ago that does focus on the need for fiscal stimulus. But even there Krugman does somersaults to avoid satying that the short-term part of the Bush tax was a good thing because it helped provide such stimulus. ... 1:31 A.M..
Thursday, October 3 , 2002
Links Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.