The inside skinny on welfare reform? Not in My Life.

The inside skinny on welfare reform? Not in My Life.

The inside skinny on welfare reform? Not in My Life.

A mostly political Weblog.
June 29 2004 3:34 AM

I'm So Sorry, Sister Souljah

Plus--kf braces for pain!

Zinni, Winni! Where was the kf longshot veep fave  last Thursday night, anyway? 1:16 P.M.

I'm So Sorry, Sister Souljah: Kerry's televised opposition to driver's licenses for illegal immigrants--declared "the Sister Souljah moment  of the 2004 presidential campaign" by Michelle Malkin--was only hours old before Kerry aide David Wade started backtracking:

Kerry spokesman David Wade said Wednesday that Kerry thinks it is a state responsibility to decide who gets a driver's license. Wade said Kerry would not support any federal efforts to stop states from giving them to illegal immigrants.


That's not a complete, groveling panderflop of course--it leaves Kerry still expressing his consequence-free opinion against granting licenses. But the night is young. ...P.S.: Several e-mailers note that if Kerry is sufficienty generous in granting legal status to previously illegal resident immigrants, the license-for-illegals issue becomes moot. But a) it appears to have become a matter of principle for some Hispanic activists, and b) Kerry's speech before the Council of La Raza seemed extremely vague  on exactly how broad and permissive his proposed "path to equal citizenship" will be. ... 1:23 A.M.

More evidence contradicting the easy, goo-goo win-win argument about the Abu Ghraib abuses--that they were both wrong and inexplicably stupid, because harsh interrogation doesn't yield reliable information--can be found buried in Saturday's NYT piece:

In some instances, the team used harsh interrogation tactics like feeding prisoners only one meal a day, allowing them only four hours of sleep a day, placing them in isolation cells for 30 days and using military dogs during interrogations, several soldiers said in interviews.

"Just having the dog in the room worked pretty effectively," said one intelligence analyst.


The new prisoners produced good leads, which resulted in more raids and arrests of other high-level prisoners, including former Iraqi generals, senior Baath Party officials and tribal leaders who were aligned with Mr. Hussein, a military officer said.


This might be spin by the "military officer," of course. But it might not be. ... P.S.: Please hold the e-mails. I'm not saying torture or intimidation or humiliation is justified, in principle or in this case. I'm not saying the practices at Abu Ghraib weren't stupid and damaging. I'm not saying that the techniques applied to high-value detainees should be routinely applied, assembly-line style, to run-of-the-mill detainees. I'm saying you can't understand why it happened while pretending that it never worked, any more than you can understand why people get addicted to drugs while pretending that drugs are never fun. ... [Hold the e-mails? It's Saturday night on a holiday weekend. There will be no e-mails--ed You've never met alert reader J.] ... 12:55 A.M.

Friday, July 2, 2004

New "Gearbox  "... 3:39 P.M.

Nothing budges Rasmussen's robots. ... 12:50 P.M.


John Kerry has gotten to Bush's right on immigration--opposing drivers licenses for illegals, an issue Bush would leave to the states.  Michelle Malkin (temporarily) swoons! ... Backtrack Watch: Kerry's campaign says he'd leave it to the states also. ...12:17 P.M.

Cheatin' Again! Bill Clinton, seen "scarfing down Gino's pizza in a side room." Isn't Clinton supposed to be on the South Beach Diet? I don't think Gino's pizza is on the list. ... 12:07 P.M.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Kf Braces for Pain! One day Steve Rattner will publish a NYT op-ed piece with an original or quirky insight, a piece that doesn't look like it was published and given prominent play in the nation's most important paper simply because Rattner is a buddy of publisher Pinch Sulzberger. Today is not that day (though Rattner's piece is perfectly sensible--he's against the budget deficit and high interest rates and argues in a workmanlike way that they're connected) . ... In general, do you think the Democratic/media attempt to suddenly make a big deal of the dangers of rising interest rates--when the Fed's new target rate is at 1.25 percent (down from over 6 percent in 2000)--will fly? Louis Uchitelle's attempt on Monday's NYT front page--" Families, Deep in Debt, Bracing For Pain of Interest Rate Rise"--focused on the heart-rending example of a Pennsylvania couple who have lots of variable-rate debt. Their agonized cry of braced-for pain?

"Unless there is a sizable jump in rates, let's say two percentage points within a year, I'm not going to think much about it," said Mrs. Diffenderfer, 47 ...


The Diffenderfers' credit card bills have gone up $35 a month. This was the best horror story Uchitelle could come up with. The Gloomster is losing his touch. ... P.S.: It seems like only yesterday the press was obsessively focused on the jobless benefits number. Now that number started to look good and the press has shifted to an obsessive focus on the tragedy of 1.25% interest rates. .Maybe they shifted too fast--while nobody's looking, the old jobless benefits number has started to misbehave. ... Update: P. Babcock gives Uchitelle's make-the-recovery-seem-like-bad-news story a more thorough going over. Best point: Where are the nice little old retired ladies who live on fixed CD interest rates whom Uchitelle would surely be interviewing if rates were going down? 1:31 P.M.

Faster Faster Iraq: Taheri  and Gerecht. ... P.S.: Gerecht only really has a paragraph at the end arguing for faster elections. But the NYT's op-ed editors chose to make that the headline ("Vote First, Ask Questions Later")--which may give an indication of where they stand. ... 12:52 P.M.

Ex-Anonymous: That didn't take long (though it took longer than I expected) ... P.S.: To recover from his urge to publish books without his name on them, does he join Anonymouses Anonymous? 12:44 A.M.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Beyond 'Stealth'--Kerry's Affirmative Amnesia Strategy: Mark Shields spent a day talking to undecided seniors recently. He concluded, "These people have no idea who John Kerry is." And it's Bob Shrum's job to make sure they never find out! At least that's his job if you buy the Dick Morris "stealth candidacy" theory--which I wouldn't be surprised to discover being embraced at the highest levels of the Kerry campaign. (See today's ABC Note, which says that "Kerry's staff evinces less respect for him and less fondness for him than Gore's people did about the 2000 standard bearer.") ... Actually, the Kerry team appears to have gone beyond a mere passive hide-the-candidate strategy and taken it to the next level, pursuing a pro-active make-the-voters-forget-the-candidate strategy. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, "just 57 percent of the respondents say they know a lot or a fair amount about Kerry," reports NBC's Mark Murray. That's "a real drop from 68 percent in the NBC/Journal March survey." The voters actually know less about Kerry the more the campaign progresses. It's working! At this impressive rate of memory loss, most of the electorate won't even recognize Kerry's name on the Nov. 2 ballot. ... 11:38 P.M.

Spiderman? [You called the NYT's Adam Nagourney "Spider" because he "spins the Dem cocoon." But spiders don't spin cocoons. They spin webs--ed. Hah! That shows how little you know. Spiders often make cocoons for their eggs, according to this random page that just popped up on Google. But they're victimized by parasitic wasps. Skull & Bonesmen?-ed. Bloggers!] 10:41 P.M.

Attention Ron Brownstein! Rumor is that Senator Kennedy is about to introduce a bill to "correct" the No Child Left Behind Act that will in fact gut the law--but Rep. George Miller, the corresponding Democrat in the House, isn't going along with the NEA-backed evisceration project. What position will Sen. Kerry take? [He'll straddle-ed. Of course. Sorry. It was a silly question.] 12:15 P.M.

ABC's The Note is exceptionally generous with true insider dope today  (6/30). But it will disappear from the Web tomorrow, so use it or lose it/save it or crave it/read it or need it! [Correction: Alert reader G.D. points out that the Note archives are now actually almost up to date.. But given their spotty record when it comes to archiving , do you want to trust them?] ... P.S.: WaPo's Harold Meyerson is praised for the following paragraph--

All of labor is grateful for Gephardt's more-than-decade-long leadership of the fight against the kind of globalization that pays no heed to labor or environmental standards. But many union leaders are quick to point out that when Gephardt ran fourth in January's Iowa caucuses and was compelled to withdraw from the race, he lost even the factory towns to Kerry and Edwards. Great guy, good message, bad messenger, these presidents say. Edwards's "two Americas" talk, by contrast, has electrified Democrats -- and, if the primary results are any indication, many independents as well -- in search of a resonant explanation of what has gone wrong in an increasingly plutocratic America. [Emph. added.]


Isn't it mighty convenient for organized labor to blame Gephardt? Did the unions do so badly in the Democratic primaries because they were hobbled by Gephardt as the messenger or was Gephardt hobbled in the primaries because he was obediently spouting labor's message? Conversely, was Edwards successful, in part, because he wasn't perceived as that close to Big Labor? It seems possible that the 2004 primaries will come to be recognized as the year in which organized labor's declining clout (reflecting its declining share of the private labor force) became apparent even within the Democratic party. Blaming the messenger, and casting about for a charismatic salesman-savior, is just a symptom of this decline. But don't expect Meyerson to say that. ... P.S.: It's like the Democrats blaming the candidate for their '84 loss when what they really need was a neoliberal reformation. [And if Kerry loses in 2004?-ed. Blame the candidate!] ... P.P.S.--Veepstakes--The Excitement Builds! In the riveting Kerry vice presidential selection process--aren't you on the edge of your seat?--kf hears the flavor-of-the-week recentlywas William Cohen. ... Before that, Joe Biden ... A.B.E.! ... Update: Several e-mailers not that Edwards did his best to appeal to Big Labor and labor voters in the primaries, even embracing an anti-globalization message. But there's a difference between 1) appealing to labor and 2) being a tool of labor, which Edwards clearly wasn't--the unions backed his rivals, after all.  It was the appearance of 2) that arguably hurt Walter Mondale in 1984 and Gephardt twenty years later. 12:08 P.M.

When do teachers' unions support Republicans over veteran Democrats? When the Democrats support charter schools. ... Eduwonk notes lockstep opposition to charter schools may do for Democrats what support for unionized Homeland Security workers did for Sen. Max Cleland--put them on the wrong side of a wedge issue. ... 12:47 A.M.

Tuesday,  June 29, 2004

Spinning the Cocoon--The 13th Graf:  Soxblognotes that a month ago, the CBS poll had Kerry up by 8 in a head to head with Bush (and up 6 with Nader in the race). This month, the NYT/CBS poll showed Kerry's lead had dropped to a single point in the head-to-head, and Bush was actually winning by a point with Nader included. Kerry dropped seven points in a month. So what do the Times' Nagourney and Elder lead their story with?

Bush's Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point, New Survey Finds

You don't find out until paragraph 11 that the candidates are essentially tied, and only in the 13th graf do Nagourney and Elder slip in the previous months poll results--without pointing out to readers the decline in Kerry's lead. ...

But the Times coverage isn't really that bad. It's worse! Soxblog also busts Nagourney and Elder for what appears to be dissembling. They report, in the very first sentence of their piece, that

President Bush's job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

But if you look at the previous poll results listed in the Times web site, you learn that a month ago Bush's approval rating was a point lower and his disapproval rating was a point higher. Bush has actually gained in the past month. It doesn't appear to be, you know, true that his "approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency." It was worse last month. The same goes for Bush's favorability ratings, which were lower last month (36 favorable/47 unfavorable) than this month (39 favorable/45 unfavorable).

Nagourney and Elder seem to be relying on a technicality--that last month's poll was a "CBS poll" and not a "Times/CBS" poll.  Note the Clintonian clause they work into this sentence:

he 42 percent of Americans who say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job is the lowest such figure in a Times/CBS News survey since the beginning of Mr. Bush's presidency in January 2001; 51 percent say they disapprove. [Emphasis added]

But does the presence of the Times name on this month's CBS survey reflect any difference other than who funds it? Doesn't CBS' Kathy Frankovic do the poll either way? Does she conduct the "Times/CBS poll" differently from the plain old "CBS" poll? If so, why does the Times itself list both polls in the charts of the "New York TImes/CBS News poll" on its own site? (Click on "Poll Results" here.) Readers are supposed to read those charts for trends, but somehow Nagouney and Elder are allowed to ignore them in order to  pluck out their bogus anti-Bush story line. ...

P.S.: Note that even the technicality doesn't really save Nagourney and Elder's first sentence, which fails to deploy the "Times/CBS" disclaimer in a legalistically-airtight way. ...

P.P.S.: Andrew Sullivan once defended Nagourney by blaming the faults in his reporting on editor Howell Raines' meddling. Well, Raines is gone, and Nagourney is still spinning the Democrats' cocoon. He's become a national embarrassment.  ...

P.P.P.S.: Bush and Kerry are tied now. Won't Kerry fall behind if Bush's favorables have in fact bottomed out? Kerry's favorables have gone downhill since last month's poll--he's now viewed unfavorably by more people (35 percent) than view him favorably (29 percent). Dem Panic anyone? ... Update: Here's a taker! [via Instapundit

More: Once again, conservative bogeyman CBS fails to spin or bury the lede  in its straightforward coverage of the same poll. Throws the Times's tendentious treatment into stark relief! It doesn't seem to be a Liberal Media problem. It's a Nagourney/Elder problem!... 11:17 A.M.

Forget Carter? Mark Shields, on PBS's NewsHour last Friday:

I think that President Bush is probably in worse shape right now than any incumbent I can remember at this stage of reelection year, any incumbent president including those who lost, Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush, the first President Bush.

Carter? At this point in 1980, Carter was in the middle of a poll swoon that, by mid-July had him behind Reagan by 16 points. ... [Update: Several e-mailers note that the big 16 point mid-July gap appears to coincide with the 1980 GOP convention. Good point! That muddies the waters (though Reagan also led more modestly in the two prior polls).  But Carter's job approval in late June (according to Gallup) was 31 percent, versus 48 percent last week for Bush.  I still think Shields is in delusional territory.] P.S.--Defining Urgency Down: Shields also said, of Bush's credibility problem, "It's more than a crisis." ...I thought that in Washington there was nothing "more than a crisis" (or less than a "crisis," for that matter). ... 12:20 A.M.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Okay, okay. I know the question you're asking. "What does Bill Clinton say in his memoirs about welfare reform?" Your interest is understandable! It's a rich subject--welfare reform was one of the major achievements of the Clinton years, and provided one of its moments of high drama and mystery.

After he lost the Congress in 1994, if you remember, Clinton had to somehow get the Republicans to send him a bill that wasn't so draconian he'd have to veto it. Finally, after two vetoes and as the 1996 election approached, Congress sent him a bill that had some of the roughest edges taken off--but that still ended the federal welfare "entitlement" and cut benefits to legal immigrants. Would Clinton dare veto it too? Liberal FOBs like Marian Wright Edelman, and many Democrats (including some who voted for the bill) were desperate for a veto. Clinton's New Democrat aides like Bruce Reed and Rahm Emanuel wanted Clinton to sign. It all seemed to come down to a big, multi-hour White House session on July 31, 1996 at which Reed and HHS secretary Donna Shalala duked it out, with Al Gore (for signing) Leon Panetta (against) then retreating with Clinton into the Oval Office.

Why did Clinton sign? Did he think, as Time reported he said at the time, that it was a "decent welfare bill wrapped in a sack of s---"? Did he trust states to take over welfare because he'd been a governor? How much politics was involved? A veto would have given Bob Dole a major issue in the 1996 race. Liberals--and Clinton-bashing conservatives, for that matter-- have long maintained Clinton signed because Dick Morris told him it would win him the election. What did Hillary think? To this day, nobody really knows for sure--some liberals persist in thinking she must have been for a veto.  Hillary was mysteriously out of town for the climactic meeting. Was that meeting just for show--a bit of elaborate "Kabuki theater" with pre-ordained outcome? Or was Clinton really potentially undecided, as at least some of the participants thought? Does Clinton now feel the ultimate outcome was better or worse than what he would have gotten if (as Senator Moynihan wanted) he'd pushed his own welfare bill in his first two years instead of Hillary's health care bill?

Historians will want to know these things. What does Clinton have to tell them? I've read all the pages listed in the index* under "welfare reform," and must admit I was shocked by the answer. Clinton says virtually nothing--at least nothing that even uninterested readers of headlines wouldn't know. In 957 pages he brings up welfare reform about twenty times, usually to note that, oh yes, then he vetoed the GOP bill and then he signed the bill, then he did this, then he did that. There's nothing about the big meeting, nothing about Hillary, only the most cursory treatment of the considerations that went into deciding to sign the bill. ("Though we had pursued welfare reforms through granting waivers from the existing system to most states, America needed legislation that changed the emphasis of assistance to the poor from dependence on welfare checks to independence through work.")

Clinton's one interesting admission comes in a paragraph on page 631, where he says (correctly, I think) that he might not have lost either house of Congress if in 1994 he'd put off his stalled health care reform and "taken up and passed welfare reform instead." That "would have been popular with alienated middle-class Americans," he notes. Yep!  But Clinton doesn't go into why he failed to make this obvious move--was it, say, because Hillary didn't want to and he didn't stand up to her? Because the Democratic Congressional leadership was bitterly opposed? Nor does he even bring up the larger issue of why he'd given health care reform priority over welfare reform in the first place.

I've always thought Clinton knew quite a bit about welfare--when he talks about it, he seems familiar with the territory. He chaired a gubernatorial task force on the subject. When I opened My Life, I didn't expect a discussion of the (often crucial) legislative details--"caseload reduction credits," "participation rates," and the like. I did expect some textured, insiderish discussion of the general considerations:

Republicans who are loath to credit Clinton with reforming welfare have tended to portray him as a poser who signed the bill for superficial political reasons (even if aides like Reed had a deeper understanding). I've resisted this conclusion, and still don't buy it, but Clinton's book is the first thing I've seen that suggests the Republicans might be right.

*Note: I'm relying on Clinton's index to steer me to all the book's discussions of welfare. I'm told the index is lousy--but regarding welfare, I'm pretty confident that it lists all the major relevant passages. 2:01 P.M.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Zarqawi Aides Increasingly Confident, says LAT: The Iraq war has already been lost, to read today's L.A. Times. ("Iraq Insurgency Showing Signs of Momentum") There are five reporters credited with contributing to this front-page lead story, and nothing in it backs up the subhead's claim* that "some U.S. commanders say it could be too late to reverse the wave of violence."  You would expect, after this build-up, to see, say, quotes from some U.S. commanders saying it could be too late to reverse the wave of violence! No such luck. The best the LAT comes up with is Maj. Gen. Petraeus saying "I think we're going to continue to see sensational attacks." But Petraeus is obviously dispelling any expectation that the attacks will stop soon--he's not saying its too late to defeat the insurgency and reduce the violence in the months ahead. ... Is this story the Times' alternative-universe equivalent, for Iraq, of its famous hed in the final stages of the successful campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis race:

"Aides Grow More Confident in Davis' Chances."

P.S.: As Slate's Hudson Morgan points out, the Times missed the auspicious development reported in today's WaPo--that anti-American Iraqi clerics have started to denounce the recent anti-government violence. [Correction: The LAT did have one relatively minor bit  of the anti-insurgency story (Shiite condemnation of the Korean's beheading) buried in a companion piece.] ... P.P.S.: Nor is there anything in the Times front-page story to back up the first paragraph's claim that "some commanders fear it may be too late to turn back the militant tide"--though once the LAT deploys the nuclear fudge-word "fear," it can't possibly be wrong. If there's a U.S. commander who doesn't fear it may be too late to turn back the militant tide he should probably be sacked immediately. Worrying about dire possibilities is their job, no? ... [*--: That's the subhead in the Times' print edition, not just the Web hed.]  2:05 P.M.

Friday, June 25, 2004

It seems Clinton may still be dissembling! Tuesday's USA Today interviewed Bill Clinton on whether "he would have ever told his wife and daughter about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky if Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr hadn't uncovered it." The answer:

"I think that whether I would have ever said anything to my family or not, I don't know," Clinton said Monday in his first newspaper interview about his memoir, My Life, which is out today. "I know that I would have done my best to make it up to my family because I stopped having any kind of contact with her months and months before it ever came out. ... [Emph. added]

Let's see. The Lewinsky affair came out in the Washington Post of January 21, 1998.  About three weeks earlier, on December 28, Lewinsky visited Clinton in the Oval Office for about 45 minutes to pick up gifts the President had gotten her. They spent some time "goofing off," in Lewinsky's words, as reported in Michael Isikoff's Uncovering Clinton (page. 262).

They also kissed. The kiss was "passionate," she later testified. ...

It depends on what your definition of "any kind of contact" is, I suppose. ... P.S.: Lewinsky also met Clinton in the White House on December 6. (That was the day she threw a fit upon discovering that Eleanor Mondale was already there visiting Clinton.) ... P.P.S.: WaPo's timeline  confirms these events. ... P.P.P.S.: Alert reader E.L.  suggests it actually "depends on the meaning of 'her'" .... 1:19 A.M.

If the New York Times "was provided ... several weeks ago" with that interesting document describing Saddam's Iraq seeking contact with bin Laden--and Iraq subsequently agreeing with Al Qaeda to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda--shouldn't the paper have a) told us about it last week when it was hyping the 9-11 Commission  as having reported "No Qaeda-Iraq Tie;" and b) somehow gotten the word to Gail Collins' editorialists before they wrote their self-righteous bit proclaiming "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda"? ... 12:35 A.M.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Special All-Carb Edition: "It's the most colossal waste of money in American political history," says Kerry strategist Bob Shrum of Bush's early negative ad buy. Hmmm. Is that the sort of thing Shrum should be saying while Al Checchi's alive? ... P.S.: Robert Novak is the latest to make the case for the Bush ads. But however effective they were or weren't, Shrum was clearly smart not to respond to them, Lehane-War-Room style, which would have made them a bigger deal. ... P.P.S.: And, thankfully, Kerry's Shrumian populism seems to have vanished as quickly as it came. ... Some of the ghosts of the Gore campaign--which featured both Lehane and those familiar "forces standing in your way"--are being exorcised. ... P.P.P.S.: But read today's Robin Toner article  ("Kerry's Campaign Theme is Leaning Toward Center") and decide for yourself if Kerry has made much progress carving out a centrist pitch since WaPo's Jim VandeHei wrote the same article better  ("Old School Team to Sell Kerry as Modern Centrist") two months ago. ... I say not much. Many of the Kerry quotes Toner treats as newly revealing--e.g. "We should only go to war because we have to""--are old, low-content Kerry chestnuts. The issue of whether Kerry's centrism will just be one Big Straddle is still unresolved. ... But see:  Greg Abbott, who argues that, at least on one issue, voters may prefer Kerry precisely because they don't think he's being straight with them:

Perversely the GOP attack on Kerry as a flip-flopper may be helping him with Iraq. People don't *want* to stay the course in Iraq, the want a president flexible enough (and smart enough) to change course when necessary.

So, despite the fact that Kerry's stated policies on Iraq don't differ too much from Bush, no one really believes him, and, politically speaking, that could be helping him and hurting Bush.  

[Emphasis added] 10:26 P.M.

More Mr. Nice Guy: Forget the issue of who was playing fair and who was playing dirty  when John Kerry was unable to cast his planned show vote on a veteran's healthcare measure. Imagine what would have happened if President Bush, in an equally showy display of magnanimous leadership and fair play, had called on the Republican leadership to "Let the man vote." Wouldn't Bush have completely won the day, leaving Kerry sputtering and looking small? ('Thank you, Mr. President.') It wouldn't have changed the outcome. ... You'd think the wave of adulatory press that followed Bush's gracious remarks at the Clinton portrait-unveiling would cause his aides to try this classy "gentleman's" strategy again. ... P.S.: I suppose Bush could only play this "nice" act off against those meanies in the Republican congressional leadership so many times before the meanies got mightily annoyed. But Bush wouldn't always have to triangulate against his own party. He could just be gentlemanly. ... P.P.S.: It would erase a bit of the bad blood over Florida--and of course Bush could always play nasty again if he needed to. ... P.P.P.S.: Did Kerry really return to D.C. for the veteran's vote--or was it the photo? ... 3:45 P.M.

Faster Iraq Watch: Transitional Iraqi prime minister Allawi is now talking about elections as early as November, which puts it near our election. If he pulls this off, won't it be not just a good thing for Iraq but a huge boost to Bush? ... Sometimes you want Karl Rove in the room! ... [Link via Sullivan ] 1:39 A.M.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Makeup Call: Ex-President Clinton, perhaps concerned that his I-did-it-"because-I-could" explanation solipsistically focused on his own power while it treated Monica Lewinsky as an available, serviceable non-entity without any actual individual, human, attractive attributes, now gives an interview in which he says she's "a really intelligent person and a fundamentally good person" and he hopes she "won't be trapped in what Andy Warhol called everybody's 15 minutes of fame." ... Do you think someone reminded him that it's women who buy books? ... P.S.: See also Sullivan on the euphemistic moral blandness of "because I could." ... 1:05 P.M.

A typically cynical Web theory that I discounted at the time is true, according to WaPo's David Ignatius:

In choosing an interim president, the three "B's" in Baghdad [Bremer, Brahimi and Blackwill] forwarded to Washington the names of two Sunnis on the Governing Council: Adnan Pachachi and Ghazi Yawar. The White House responded that either was acceptable. Hoping to boost Yawar's popularity with Iraqis by distancing him from Washington, his supporters leaked to American journalists a false report that Bush had decided on Pachachi. In fact, it was Brahimi who wanted Pachachi. When the 80-year-old Pachachi turned the job down, it went to Yawar by default. [Emphasis added]

Of course, the U.S. government could be trying to boost the perception of its competence by leaking to Ignatius the false report that it had really wanted Yawar all along and that previous reports to the contrary were false reports designed to enhance Yawar's street cred as anti-Washington. ... 10:24 A.M.

Greg Packer is Back! Good to see he still has a life after being unmasked by Ann Coulter  as the "entire media's designated 'man on the street' for all articles ever written." Now he's the lovable, post-modern former designated man-for-all-articles who used to get irresponsibly overquoted so (ironically!) we're quoting him againperson! Sort of like Curtis Sliwa or Felix Rohatyn! ... Just don't make us go out and talk to too many real people, OK? ... 1:24 P.M.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dick Morris' cutting-edge, self-serving explanation for Kerry's failure to be losing is that people don't know much about him--he skated through the primaries, and more recently his campaign has been overshadowed by events (Iraq, Reagan, and Clinton). Do you buy this facile argument? I do! And what's more, I suspect the Kerry campaign mostly buys it too--it sure doesn't seem as if they're trying terribly hard to maximize their time on the evening news. Which leads to the logical question: Will Kerry ever become the center of attention, or can he coast all the way through October and into the White House as a "stealth candidate"? Morris notes that Kerry might succeed in getting through his own convention without leaving much of an impression, but he argues that at some point, presumably in the fall, voters will get a close look "at the man who might be their president. And when they do, they won't like what they see."

I'm not so sure. ... What if something happened that prevented voters from focusing on Kerry in the fall, overshadowing him even in that crucial period of maximum potential exposure and enabling him to sneak into the White House as a relative unknown? What event could be big enough to overshadow the campign's last two months? There's one obvious answer--which is why I'm starting to believe we need to rethink the CW assumption that a terror strike after Labor Day will inevitably help Bush (by provoking a rally-'round-the-President reaction).  A late terror hit might allow Kerry to remain an acceptable-seeming unknown while voters think, quietly to themselves, 'this Bush war on terror isn't working.' In the voting booth, where they don't have to answer charges that they've been intimidated, they may choose to take their chances on someone new. Upshot: A "Spanish scenario,"  in which a terror strike produces a change in government and brings the more left party into power, is a real possibility here. ... P.S.: Of course, if bin Laden really wants to reelect Bush, then this Morrisesque consideration might cause him to refrain from mounting an attack, producing the same result, terror-wise, as if he wanted to elect Kerry but worried about stirring up a patriotic backlash. For Zarqawi, the reverse applies! ... 4:23 P.M.

In cyberspace, no one can hear you Scream! Here's a discussion of the Internet and politics  with me, Instapundit, Robert Wright and Joe Trippi (late of the Howard Dean campaign, who has a book coming out on this very subject). Broadcast today on L.A.'s KCRW (89.9 FM). Everyone was civil, unfortunately--within about two minutes we all more or less seemed to agree that the Internet would lead to the liquefaction of all existing social structures, which didn't leave that much to debate for the next 26 minutes. But Wright is a lot less certain than Trippi that this Internet-conditioned future is a desirable place. .... And I was surprised Instapundit agreed with Wright's argument that the blog world has become more balkanized and "cocooned," with people reading blogs with which they already agree and bloggers persuading the persuaded. ...  Espirit d'blog: I've always been partial to the argument that blogs are less balkanized (than, say, talk radio and cable news) because bloggers argue with each other and hence read each other and occasionally even change their minds. If you go to right now, you'll be exposed to one or two big anti-Bush stories--more than you'd be exposed to on, say, Sean Hannity's radio show and at least as many as the pro-Bush stories you'd read in the New York Times. (Simplified argument: If you read Lucianne you're led to read the New York Times, but if you read the NYT you aren't led to anyone as pro-Bush as Lucianne. QED. Or at least Advantage: Blogosphere!) [These are the points you made on the show?-ed Of course not. I couldn't fit them in. Then I realized: On the Web, there is no escalier.]

Update: Instapundit responds here  (he thinks blogs are more balkanized than before but still less balkanized than other media). See also this post  on techonology undermining large organizations. ...  3:53 P.M.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Full Gelb:  Q.: In a wedding announcement, should the bride's father's resume be detailed at greater length than the bride's or bridegroom's? Just asking. ... A.: Yes, when the father is

a former foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, and also a former deputy editorial page editor, editor of the Op-Ed page and national security and diplomatic correspondent for the paper.

And when

Before joining The Times, he served in the Defense Department and the State Department.

And of course when:

The bride's father is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

I was wondering just the other day--was Les Gelb ever deputy editorial page editor? Now I know! ... 2:51 A.M.

Faster Iraq Watch: The U.N. and its electoral-assistance director, Carina Perelli, have become an obstacle to Faster Elections, worries WaPo's Jim Hoagland. Perelli has even suggested postponing elections beyond January, which seems like a really bad idea. P.S.: There is a Shiite (faster) vs. Sunni (slower) undercurrent to all this, Hoagland says. ... 1:44 A.M.

One day this item will be right: Rumors about Fidel Castro's illness are back, fueled by what appears to be a consolidation of power in the hands of brother Raul. ... Meanwhile, even staunchly Democratic Cuba-watchers are outraged by Senator Kerry's dissing of the Solidarity-like Varela Project--they're shocked to learn Kerry actually said what David Brooks said he said. Brooks' column failed to note that President Bush's right-wing Cuban exile advisers also scorn Varela (and its leader, Oswaldo Paya, who might be the exiles' competitor in post-Castro Cuba). But that doesn't excuse Kerry. ... 1:36 A.M.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

It turns out sprinter Marion Jones, being investigated by the U.S. anti-doping agency, is really a victim of ... the Republicans! How long before she hires Chris Lehane? ... 11:07 P.M.

Dem Panic Revival Attempt--The "Generic Gap": I know the Rasmussen robo-poll is considered something less than the gold standard. I've tried to stop paying obsessive attention to its daily ups and downs--not that there've been any. The robots have been splitting the electorate 46-46 between Bush and Kerry for the past three weeks  with near-mechanical consistency. Yet I couldn't help noticing that in this period, the poll for generic Congressional party preference has shown a Democratic advantage  of anywhere from two to (most recently) eight percent. Forget about whether these numbers accurately reflect the state of the electorate and just compare them with each other. These are the same people being polled on both questions (as I understand it). They're asked which party they want in Congress and by a non-trivial margin they say Democratic. They're asked whom they want to win the Presidency, Kerry or Bush, and they can't make up their minds! Doesn't this at least suggest that Kerry is a weak Democratic candidate, failing to capitalize on support for his party that's out there, ready to be tapped? ... [But he's a good closer-ed. So was Hubert Humphrey.] ...   10:39 P.M.

The Fourth Campaign 2004 Debate: Zarqawi vs. Bin Laden? Amir Taheri argues that terrorists in Iraq will ramp up the violence before our November election in order to demoralize Americans and drain support for Bush's Iraq project. "In other words, they are dreaming of a 'Spanish scenario'" that would involve "preventing the reelection of President Bush." Sounds plausible.

Meanwhile, the alleged senior U.S. intelligence official who writes as "Anonymous" argues that Bush "is taking the U.S. in exactly the direction Bin Laden wants, towards all-out confrontation with Islam under the banner of spreading democracy," according to The Guardian. "Anonymous"

thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

That sounds plausible too!

Can the terrorists both want Bush defeated and want Bush reelected? Sure, if they're different groups of terrorists. The Zarqawi terrorist faction in Iraq presumably would like Bush replaced, since Bush is less likely than Kerry to withdraw from Iraq--or, more precisely, if U.S. voters are sick of Iraqi violence and want to withdraw they're more likely to vote for Kerry than Bush, so Bush's defeat would be entailed in Zarqawi's plan. Meanwhile, the Al Qaeda organization might place less emphasis on Iraq and more emphasis on a wider war against the West, in which Bush's tendency to lump all terrorists together as enemies in a titanic struggle over values could be just what Bin Laden thinks he wants. ... Implications: a) If, as has been speculated, Zarqawi is split from Osama Bin Laden--"because he disagrees with him on something," as Donald Rumsfeld put it last week--maybe this is the something they disagree on. They can't decide whom to support in the 2004 campaign! b) The prospect ahead of us might not be just competing ad campaigns for the U.S. presidency but competing terror campaigns for the U.S. presidency, with anti-Bush bombs going off in Baghdad and pro-Bush bombs going off in New York.. ... P.S.: Could terrorists be undecided swing voters? In theory, I don't see why not. True, it takes a long time to plan a terror attack--at least that's what the 9/11 Commission report suggests. But presumably terrorists could set an attack in motion and leave an opening that allowed it to be called off at the last minute. In practice, of course, terrorists are ultimately likely to "vote" one way or another--they will want to screw around with our elections for the same reason Bill Clinton says he preyed on Monica Lewinsky. ... 1:35 A.M.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Uh-oh. Eric Umansky (of Slate's "Today's Papers") now has a blog--and Josh Marshall  has a formidable competitor for his natural ecological niche. According to kf's Vulgar Darwinist Laws of Journalism, they will soon get into a big fight. ... 5:18 P.M.

Not Anonymous Long: Joe Klein managed to maintain his cover as "Anonymous" for six months after the publication of his novel, Primary Colors. The "senior U.S. intelligence official" who wrote "Imperial Hubris" and goes under the same uninventive cover name can't possibly expect to remain anonymous for more than 6 hours. The name must be mainly a marketing ploy. ... P.S.: I'm very sympathetic to the book's thesis--that Bush has played into Osama's hands, at least in crucial respects. But any author who says, "For my money, the game was over at Tora Bora," is highly suspect. a) Tora Bora was a screw-up, a missed opportunity-- but why was the "game over"? b) Who talks like that except someone trying to pose as a CIA tough guy? And would you trust such a person, even if he "has been centrally involved in the hunt for Bin Laden," according to the Guardian. ... Caution--Brit Alert: I'm assuming "Anonymous" actually said those precise words, and actually was "centrally involved." I note that the Guardian is a British publication, if you know what I mean. ... Update: "Anonymous" also has a long, worthwhile interview with guest-blogger Spencer Ackerman at Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo. Anonymous doesn't sound like a CIA tough-guy poseur there. On the other hand, he uses the (hack) phrase "walk a very fine line"--a phrase also quoted by The Guardian. This suggests the Guardian was quoting him accurately. ... 4:35 P.M.

Today's 'Oh My God, We've Nominated a Turkey' Moment: Taranto notes  that the Washington Times  reports a ham-handed and offensive attempted Kerry pander to an African-American audience. Bill Clinton (along with more or less every other politician in America) is way too smart to say anything like this:

   Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.
    "That's unacceptable," he said. "But it's not their fault."
    Rather than the inmates, the former Boston prosecutor blamed poverty, poor schools, a dearth of after-school programs and "all of us as adults not doing what we need to do."

I think Kerry's tired and needs another vacation, don't you? [ Yep-ed. Longer!] ... [Thanks to The MinuteMan2:18 A.M.

"Israel Isn't the Issue":

Nor did Bush evince the slightest indication of agreeing with the idea that we had been attacked by Osama bin Laden because we were too friendly to Israel. To those who held on to this idea for dear life, it made no difference that bin Laden himself had given it the lie by treating the issue of the Palestinians as relatively unimportant (which did not prevent those same Palestinians from dancing in the streets on September 11, along with millions of other Arabs in other countries who regarded him as a great hero). [Emph. added.]

--Norman Podhoretz, "In Praise of the Bush Doctrine," Commentary, Sept 1, 2002. See also " Israel Isn't the Issue," Wall Street Journal, Sept. 20, 2001.

Bin Ladin had been pressuring KSM for months to advance the attack date. According to KSM, Bin Ladin had even asked that the attacks occur as early as mid-2000, after Israeli opposition party leader Ariel Sharon caused an outcry in the Middle East by visiting a sensitive and contested holy site in Jerusalem that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.  Although Bin Ladin recognized that Atta and the other pilots had only just arrived in the United States to begin their flight training, the al Qaeda leader wanted to punish the United States for supporting Israel. ...[snip]

Bin Ladin, on the other hand, reportedly argued that attacks against the United States needed to be carried out immediately to support the insurgency in the Israeli occupied territories and to protest the presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia. ...

--9/11 Commission. Staff Statement No. 16.

1:51 A.M.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Rather's Heir: Vice-President Cheney is angry with the New York Times for its treatment of the 9/11 Commission report, but CBS' John Roberts beat them to it with what seemed to me a textbook-quality tendentious anti-Bush interpretation the night before. Especially these passages:

ROBERTS: It is one of President Bush's last surviving justifications for war in Iraq, and today, it took a devastating hit when the 9-11 Commission declared there was no collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. ... [snip]

ROBERTS: Those repeated associations left the majority of Americans believing Saddam was involved in 9/11, but the commission today put the nail in that connection, or for that matter, any other al-Qaida acts of terror against America, declaring, 'There is no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States.'** The report is yet another blow to the president's credibility as he struggles to find the exit door in Iraq and opens him up to new criticism on the wisdom of taking on Saddam with al-Qaida's leadership still at large. [Emph. added]

Roberts' first sentence alone is fairly egregious. Whatever you think of the Iraq War, there are several justifications that survive even an extreme interpretation of the 9/11 Commission report on Saddam and Al Qaeda. For one, the human rights justification; For another, the idea that the status quo in the Middle East wasn't working in our favor, and we needed to set up a new, more democratic dynamic. For a third, the idea that Saddam may not have had stockpiles of WMDs, but he acted as if he did, in violation of U.N. demands, and we had to call his bluff and find out. I'm not sure these arguments added up to a prudential case for war, but haven't they long since surpassed the disputed Saddam/Osama connection as the Bush administration's surviving justifications? Over to you, Brent Bozell. ... **P.S.: I listened to a lot of press coverage and didn't hear much about that key qualifying phrase--"on attacks against the United States."  Update: Several e-mailers note that the Commission report, two sentences earlier, says any Bin Laden/Iraq contacts "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship"--without any qualifier regarding the object of the collaboration. That would explain the press coverage, although if there is a distinction between "collaboration" and "cooperation," the qualifier remains vaguely troubling. For example, if al Qaeda agreed to refrain from subverting Saddam's regime--as Richard Miniter claims--that might be deemed a form of "cooperation" but not "collaboration." More: Note that Lee Hamilton, in his now-famous statement professing "trouble understanding the flak,"  denies a "cooperative or a corroborative" relationship but remembers to add the qualifier "with regard to the attacks on the United Sates." Smells like a pre-planned talking point to me. ... 1:17 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--Busting the education "blob." Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk