What was Teddy thinking?

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 31 2005 6:39 AM

What Was Teddy Thinking?

Explaining the Dems' bizarre behavior.

It seems insane for Senator Ted Kennedy to give a high profile speech, three days before the Iraq election, publicly declaring the administration's Iraq policy a "catastrophic failure" and a "disaster."  Even if that's what Kennedy thought, why would he put himself in the position where a successful election could make him look at least temporarily like a fool (as, apparently, it has)? ...It's not as if Kennedy differed all that much from Bush in the way of actual recommendations for the future. (Even his much-publicized "timetable" for withdrawing U.S. troops would be something we'd "negotiate;" his 2006 deadline is only a "goal.") ... And why would John Kerry go on Meet the Press even after the election's success was obvious and offer only the most grudging, complaint-drenched words of praise. ("It is significant that there is a vote in Iraq. But ...) Kerry's pathetic, but is he that pathetic? ...  Fred Barnes offers an explanation for this seemingly bizarre behavior: Democrats think the lesson of Newt Gingrich and Clinton is that you have to ruthlessly criticize an incumbent if you want to win back Congress. Yet, as Barnes notes, this monotonic Democratic opposition is only further alienating the middle-class suburban voters whose support the party needs. Kennedy and (especially) Kerry must know this. It's January 2005, after all. Democrats can afford to jump on the "Yay--Iraqi Elections!" bandwagon now--they'd still have plenty of time to ruthlessly attack Bush in the 22 months before the next U.S. election ... Here's an alternative theory: Money. It used to be that at this stage, opposition party leaders would be making conciliatory noises in an attempt to please voters, and conservative or centrist noises in an attempt to please business lobbyists and PACs. But maybe the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet from Democratic true believers is now more important than PAC money. And if you want to draw a Dean-like share of this Web loot, you have to be ruthless in bashing Bush. Not all the consequences of Internet politics are benign. ...  P.S.: Note that this theory explains Barbara Boxer's behavior too. ... 1:57 A.M.

Marc Cooper thinks newspapers like the LAT should free reporters to say "what they're thinking"  without the need to mechanically balance their pieces with opposing views. I agree. Cooper says, accurately:

[The] Times' reporting ... often reads as if written by acrobats in pain — skilled professionals twisting themselves and their copy into knots as they strain to "balance" what they are actually seeing with the sometimes fantasy-based spin of both Iraqi and U.S. officialdom.

Sunday morning's pre-election report by Alissa Rubin is a classic acrobat-in-pain production. ... But the piece also points up the limits of Cooper's solution: It's not too hard to figure out from Rubin's piece what she's thinking! She agrees with the "skeptics" who think the insurgency's strength will prompt Iraqis to readily trade the rule of law and human rights--"the language of democracy"--for security. She's not alone in this (she has Fareed Zakaria, Lawrence Kaplan and, on alternate Thursdays, Andrew Sullivan on her side). But the deeper problem for the Times may not be unleashing such reporters to say what they think; it's the possibility that what Times reporters think may be wrong.  (Cooper suspects, for example, that they would have told us the election was likely to be a "disappointing farce," the phrase used in a Times editorial last week. He's probably right.) ... The answer isn't to balance each story with quotes from the other side; it's to balance the Times staff with reporters of differing political instincts. ... Caveat: On the other hand, I know very few reporters, Mark Steyn excepted, who've been to Iraq and are privately optimistic about the long-term outcome. It can't just be that they exaggerate the nation's lack of security because they, as Western reporters, find it impossible to get out and about to do their jobs. Yet none--including Rubin and Kaplan-- are especially convincing doomsayers. ... 1:07 A.M.

Sunday January 30, 2005

Non-excitable BoiFromTroy notes the bad news from Iraq:

As voting ended, turnout was estimated at 72%. ... [I]t reflects a 28% decline from voting in Iraq'a last election. Furthermore, the unity that marked Iraq's 2002 election has been dissolved by the Bush Administration's divisive policies. The consensus which marked the last election has fallen apart to the point that one party may not even gain a majority.

4:59 P.M.

The Wounded, Bleeding Rat on WaPo's Kitchen Floor! As argued in Scrutineer:Washington Post'sFred Hiatt says that Maggie Gallagher would have been "fired" for doing remunerative work for the government while writing about the Administration's marriage policy for the Post editorial page. But it's OK for Howie Kurtz to do work for CNN while writing about CNN? Is Time-Warner's corporate money somehow cleaner and less corrupting than the U.S. government's? ... 4:17 P.M.

MinuteMan answers Sullivan's quiz for me--accurately, for which I thank him. ... P.S.: Meanwhile, kf appears to have succeeded in its secret plan to sow discord in the gay conservative blogger bloc. ... 4:01 P.M.