Late polls show the Dem "wave" getting smaller.

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 6 2006 1:10 AM

Surf's Down?

Late polls show the Dem "wave" shrinking.

Professor Franklin now seems under-impressed with the three polls showing a Dem downturn. 10:40 P.M.

Andrew Sullivan  says

The Democrats, in a divided government, will also have to take responsibility for the hard choices involved in wartime.

Does he really believe this? Are the House and Senate Democrats going to sign on to a new post-election strategy in Iraq after having just succeeded by sitting on the sidelines and opposing? I don't think so. ... P.S.: Sullivan also declares

One party hegemony produces corruption and unaccountability.

Isn't it unified government that tends to produce accountability by lodging responsibility with one party. Thanks to unified government, we know which party is responsible for the Iraq war. If the voters don't like the war, which appears to be the case, they can effectively punish the Republicans.. ...   Divided governments--to the extent that they actually result in shared responsibility--also diffuse accountability. You don't know which party to blame. ... P.P.S.: Even if the Democrats take Congress, I don't think voters in 2008 will have much trouble figuring out whom to blame for Iraq, but that's only because I don't think the Democrats will really share responsibility. ... P.P.P.S.: And if the Democrats really do gain a solid hold on Congress, and the Republicans nominate, say, Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft for president, don't you think Sullivan may suddenly rediscover the virtues of unified government?

Extra credit: Sullivan is a) displaying the wishful-thinking tendency that led him to become a bullying proponent of the war in the first place; b) demonstrating the any-weapon-to-hand argument style that so endeared him to his subordinates at The New Republic;c) riven by doubt, as usual. ... 10:05 P.M.

Good News for John Kerry!  Pollster.com's Charles Franklin says

 the wave boosting the Democrats crested about 10 days ago.

Franklin said this before today's trio of polls showing the race tightening, notes Influence Peddler. ... Is it all John Kerry's fault? Ten days ago was Thursday, Oct. 26.--but Kerry's comments didn't come until four days later. That means the Dems had started downhill before Kerry even opened his mouth. ... P.S.--Musil and Maguire, Getting Higher:Man Without Qualities, who also saw a Dem slide before it became official, surfs the anti-wave further than I would.  ...  See also Maguire. ... P.P.S.: Maguire unsuccessfully  tries to come up with an anti-Pelosi bumper sticker. How about "Alcee, Amnesty, and Abortion"? ...  7:04 P.M.

It's official! The new Gallup/USAT poll shows the same pro-GOP trend among "likely voters."

A Democratic advantage of 23 percentage points a month ago and 13 points two weeks ago is now down to 7.

Gallup is the third poll to come up with this finding. It's a Trend. You'd have to be Adam Nagourney to ignore it now!6:52 P.M.

Tight Like That? A good tip from RCP's John McIntyre:

Keep an eye on the Gallup generic ballot number coming out tonight, if it shows movement similar to the ABC/WP poll there could be a big surprise brewing for many people cocooned in Washington.

In 2002, remember, it was a generic ballot shift at the last minute--downplayed by the NYT's Adam Nagourney--that signaled a disappointing day for Democrats. I don't expect that to happen this time, but ...

Update: A Pew poll also shows a dramatic tightening-- from an 11 point Dem advantage a couple of weeks ago to a 4 point Dem advantage this weekend. One more example and it will be a Trend. ... P.S.: Generic polls may be lousy indicators of what's going to happen in 435 House races, and any individual generic poll could be right or wrong. But when several such polls point in the same direction, it would seem to have some weight at least on the question of who has momentum. I actually expected a last-minute shift to the Dems. ... Of course, the last minute has not arrived yet. ...

More: A knowledgeable emailer notes that in both polls the GOP comeback occurs mainly among "likely voters." The generic Dem lead among the larger group of "registered voters" remains impressive, though it's shrunk a bit. ... That doesn't make the GOP surge phony--assuming the methods the polls use to select "likely voters" are reliable. ... 11:49 A.M.

All Hands on Deck! The Big Finish. ... 11:49 A.M.

Saturd ay, November 4, 2006

Another polling triumph for Zogby. ... 8:18 P.M.

Update: Does Pelosi = Semi-Amnesty? Michael Barone says yes  (though as a "comprehensive" man, he doesn't seem upset by the prospect, and indeed may prone to  Barnesian wishful thinking).

MICHAEL BARONE: If John Conyers will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee which handles immigration . . . I expect that they would be pushing for something like the bill that passed the Senate this year with guest worker legalization provisions to come before the House. And it would have — it would tend to have a majority of votes in the Democratic House, I think. [On Special Report with Brit Hume]

8:11 P.M.

Patterico 1, Keller 0: The New York Times has corrected the amazing Kate Zernike piece that managed--as Patterico's Pontifications pointed out--to give a false, heavily spun account of a two-sentence John Kerry utterance.

A Political Memo article yesterday about the fallout for Senator John Kerry over what he called a "botched joke" referred incompletely to the differences between prepared remarks and what he actually said about the Iraq war to students at Pasadena City College in California on Monday. Mr. Kerry not only dropped the word "us," but he also rephrased his opening sentence extensively and omitted a reference to President Bush. Mr. Kerry's aides said that the prepared text read: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." What he said: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

That's OK as far as it goes. But they left out the rest of the correction:

A reference that wasn't 'incomplete' would have vitiated the central premise of the article, which was that Kerry had gotten into trouble "with a single word — or a single word left out of what was supposed to be a laugh line directed at the president ." The Times would have been left with a large blank space on Page A-24 or might have had to confront the possibility that Senator Kerry had badly misread the prepared joke in line with preexisting beliefs about the academic achievements of American military personnel. Several layers of skilled editors instead let the reporter's deceptive ... excuse us, incomplete reference go through rather than confront that issue a few days before an election. The editors in question have been transferred to the TimesSelect-in-the-Schools marketing division. The reporter has been assigned to cover Senator Kerry for the rest of the decade.

5:44 P.M.

Lou Dobbs just said on CNN that "falling home prices" were a threat to "the American Middle Class." I must be behind. Wasn't it only a month or two ago that rising home prices were a threat to the American Middle Class? The American Middle Class loses either way! It's in worse trouble than I thought. ... A wake-up call! 5:20 P.M.

Frid ay, November 3, 2006

Is "TimesSelect Free Access Week" the sign of desperation I think it is? 4:37 P.M.

Tomorrow's Dick Morris Column Today: The so-called "Incumbent Rule" holds that undecided voters break almost uniformly against an incumbent--meaning that if in the final pre-election polls an incumbent isn't over 50%,** he or she is toast. The 2004 presidential election defied the rule--Bush got his share of the undecideds. But just in case the Rule still has some juice, it's worth applying it to the current hot Senate races. Here's the result:

Missouri: Talent's in much bigger trouble that it seems. The poll's are close, but he's the incumbent, and he only has 46.5% in the RCP average.

Montana: Burns is in less good shape than recent reports would indicate. Sure, he's surging. But he's still around 45%.

Virginia: Allen is a goner. The polls are neck and neck, but they're neck and neck at 46%

Michigan:Stabenow's at over 52%--she'll win.

Rhode Island:Chafee at 40%? See ya!

The Incumbent Rule, in short, gives the three closest Senate races in which there's an incumbent, plus Michigan and Rhode Island, to the Dems. Looks like a Democratic Senate. ... But wait--what's this:

New Jersey:Menendez is leading by 7, but he's still at 48.5%. Not so fast!

Again, this isn't what I think will happen. It's what the Incumbent Rule thinks will happen. It could be right.  ... One reason it might be wrong, in addition to those cited by Mystery Pollster, is, yes, the Feiler Faster Thesis. Given the increased speed of information processing by the voters, even challengers seem old and familiar--like incumbents--by the end of a typical, interminable statewide election campaign. The basic principle of the Incumbent Rule--that voters will take a fresh pig-in-a-poke over an incumbent they don't like--no longer applies. By next Tuesday voters in, say, Montana might have heard so much about John Tester that he seems like an incumbent, not a fresh unknown. ...

**--For an example of Morris invoking the incumbent rule in the unlikeliest of circumstances, see this summary of a Hannity & Colmes appearance11:47 A.M. link

Thursd ay, November 2, 2006

Kaus Silent as CNN's Zahn Fails to Crucify Coulter! Media Matters  sleazily quotes the anti-Kerry things I said on CNN Wednesday while excising the anti-Bush things. (Here, via Atrios, is an uncut transcript.) ... 9:20 P.M. 

All Hands on Deck: With a week to go before a close election, the New York Times continues to move beyond Democratic cocooning (though it does some of  that  too) in the direction of flat-out misrepresenation. Kate Zernike's Kerry story not only doesn't ever get around to telling Times readers what Kerry actually said--it leaves the clear impression that what Kerry said was something different (and more benign) than it was.** Patterico prosecutes. ... P.S.: Kerry's comments aren't a scandal, let alone a three-day scandal. ("KERRY SAYS SOMETHING STUPID"--is that news? It's Kerry!  He's our national doofus. Dog bites man.) But the startling deterioration of the NYT is a scandal, maybe. [Via Insta]

Update: Maguire says Zernike's a repeat offender. ...

**--If Kerry had just dropped "a single word" from his prepared text--what Zernike identifies as the problem--he wouldn't have generated any controversy. The problem is he dropped that word plus the whole next sentence, leaving the distinct impression that he'd misread the passage to fit with an Early Vietnam-era view that those who don't do well in college wind up serving in the military. 11:27 P.M.

This anti-Burkle item in the L.A. Weekly doesn't add much, but does serve as a reminder: Are the feds ever going to actually bring charges against Jared Paul Stern, the now-ex-Page Six writer secretly taped by Burkle allegedly shaking Burkle down with a cash-for-coverage offer? It's been 7 months since the incident, Alan Mittelstaedt notes. ... P.S.: At this point, does Burkle even want an indictment, which could have the side effect of putting his name back in the headlines about the time his non-bachelor buddy Bill Clinton's wife is running for President? [Thx to alert reader Jared Paul Stern] 7:21 A.M.

Wednesd ay, November 1, 2006

Beyond Cocooning: The Feiler Faster  principle will probably take care of John Kerry's Iraq gaffe  long before it has any significant effect on the midterm vote--but the NYT's Adam Nagourney wasn't about to rely on that. Instead, Nagourney comes close to arguing that Kerry affirmatively helped the Dems because his remarks provoked an attack from President Bush, and "in the process, Mr. Bush brought renewed attention to the war in Iraq ..." Hey, that's the sort of wacky contrarian take a blogger might have! In applying such impressive ingenuity to the pro-Dem shaping of the news, Nagourney has triumphantly gone beyond cocooning--loosely defined as looking in a crowd of news stories for the most comforting friends--and into the realm of active spinning. A breakthrough, of sorts. ... Compare:WaPo's unimaginatively straightforward coverage of the same incident, quoting an unnamed strategist who merely "said the Kerry comments are an unnecessary distraction but would soon be forgotten." 9:50 P.M.

Tuesd ay, October 31, 2006

Pelosi = Amnesty? Rich Lowry thinks so:

On immigration, it was only the House Republicans who stood athwart the Senate and a Bush-Democratic accord on what is effectively amnesty for illegal immigrants and insisted instead on tougher border enforcement. And there might be substantially fewer of these Republicans after Nov. 7. A Pelosi speakership could represent the final breakthrough for Bush's lax immigration policy, which was first forestalled by the 9/11 terror attacks and then by the opposition of conservatives in the House.

This election, therefore, is about amnesty as much as it is about Iraq or taxes. There are limits to how much a Democratic congressional majority could directly affect Iraq policy, and Bush would veto any tax increases. It is immigration where there could be real action. [E.A.]

So does Influence Peddler, who offers some fresh reasons why. 1:43 P.M.

kf opens up comfortable 11 day lead on Orin:

Pelosi is Hillary's fatal fem: SEN. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she wants Democrats to win the House and make San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi the first woman speaker, but that might ruin Clinton's 2008 dreams.

The problem? Pelosi comes across as a shrill anti-military, anti-prayer, sharply partisan super-liberal who angrily insults Republican foes as "immoral" and refuses to work with them on anything. [snip]

"The one good thing that would come from a Speaker Pelosi is the first taste of a feminist in a nationally visible executive role," says GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway.

     --Deborah Orin-Eilbeck, New York Post, October 31, 2006

Nancy vs. Hillary: [snip] ... Isn't it possible that--if Pelosi assumes the speakership and flops as badly as some Dems fear--she'll perform an opposite function, namely souring the voters on the idea of a female executive.

     --kausfiles, October  20. 2006

Faster Party-Switching? Maybe the polls showing an unprecedently rapid Dem gain in party I.D. are wrong, as Michael Barone suggests. Or maybe party I.D. is just one more thing that's moving faster  these days. 12:09 A.M.

Mond ay, October 30, 2006

Hot New House Polls: A new wave of 41 Majority Watch robo-polls ** shows Dems leading outside the margin of error in 222 seats, leading by less in 18 more--for a likely Democratic gain of 19-39 seats. ... P.S.: See also Mystery Pollster's seemingly scientific "mashup" of the two most recent Majority Watch polls, revealing a continued, if small, Democratic gain for the month of October. ... P.P.S.: How does MP's calculation, which adds up voters in 30 contested House districts, differ from that Greenberg/Roper/NPR pollkf sniped at a couple of weeks ago That's easy. The mashup effectively samples 30,000 voters; Greenberg/Roper only sampled 1,000. ...

**--This is also the last wave of Majority Watch polls scheduled before the election. ...  2:29 P.M.

Sund ay, October 29, 2006

I've been trying to figure out if a Democrat-led House would actually pass some version of the Bush-McCain semi-amnesty immigration bill. Everyone I talk to in Washington pooh-poohs the idea, arguing that Pelosi-led Democrats will never give Bush something he wants. I'd like to agree, but I'm skeptical. The only thing standing in the way of the Bush legislation was the Republican House, and if that's gone ... . Plus, there will be intense pressure from Latino groups for Democrats to take advantage of the rare welfare-reform-like opening in which a President is willing to defy his own party's Congressional caucus. Not to mention all those new citizens for Dems to register. ... V-DARE immigration-restrictionist Steve Sailer is skeptical too, though he notes the possibility of a split among the Dems, with a significant Lou-Dobbsy "preserve unskilled wages" faction finally emerging. But Sailer leaves out the possibility of a McCain presidency--which would presumably mean at least four more years of White House pressure for "comprehensive" reform. ... P.S.: Anyone who can help me think through this somewhat crucial question, please e-mail. ... 9:55 P.M.

If that anti-Harold Ford ad-- the one with the white bimbette saying "Harold, call me"--was "playing to racial fears" about interracial dating, was it intended to stir up whites who might fear miscegenation--or black women who might resent it if they thought Ford habitually went out with white women? ... [Both?-ed Sure--a twofer. But the MSM only brings up the "appeal to racist white voters." ] ... P.S.: Does anybody still buy the idea that the reaction against this ad is going to save Ford? [Corker, apparently--ed What does he know?] ... 8:17 P.M. link

Why I don't believe any of the 'Karl Rove is optimistic' stories: Ambinder's Reason #7..... 8:04 P.M.

Peggy Noonan makes a point so true one forgets to think it: Thanks to the genius of our Constitutional system, the wrong name will be printed on millions of ballots.

This is two weeks ago, from a Bush appointee: "I hope they lose the House." And one week ago, from a veteran of two GOP White Houses: "I hope they lose Congress." Republicans this year don't say "we" so much.

What is behind this? A lot of things, but here's a central one: They want to fire Congress because they can't fire President Bush. [E.A.]

For their part, many Democrats are acting, emotionally, as if they can 'stop the madness' by electing Speaker Pelosi. But they can't. That's one reason the Catharsis Theory of the election--that Republicans will benefit if voters vent their pent-up frustrations in 2006 rather than in 2008--may be wrong. Won't there will be plenty of ongoing frustration if even a solid Dem victory doesn't change much? ... P.S.--Just a Reminder: In a parliamentary, or even quasi-parliamentary, system, Noonan's restive Republicans could replace their leader now, when it's in the national interest to do so. ... Yes, yes, I know that if our system allowed a "no confidence" vote, Lincoln might not have survived the dark days of the Civil War. But for every Lincoln, it seems like there are three George W. Bushes or Richard Nixons or Jimmy Carters--presidents granted constitutional tenure that extends well past their terminal loss of effectiveness. .. 3:17 P.M.

Saturd ay, October 28, 2006

The battle for Robert Reich's soul between his natural instincts--he's a theater guy--and the desire for academic respectablity has been won by ... well, watch this video in which Reich stands on his head and proclaims, "The economy has gone to shit." ... There hasn't been a more poignant cry for attention since Kim Jong-il exploded a nuclear device. ... [ via NewsAlert] 4:05 P.M.

RCP's new "Battle for the House" scorecard page is highly clarifying, and much more useful than their old page, which simply ranks seats in order of vulnerability. ... 3:59 P.M.

Frid ay, October 27, 2006

105,000: That's the number of Latinos in four states that Democracia USA claims to have registered. It's also the only actual number I could find in Nicole Gaouette's familiar rah-rah piece about how anti-immigrant rhetoric and fence-talk "galvanizes Latino voters," which "could tip elections not only in Colorado, but in Arizona and Illinois as well."  She could be right! But she's not convincing. ... 4:30 P.M.

I try to roll my eyes like Bob Wright. ... 3:53 P.M.

Here's an NBC Nightly News segment ** containing a clip of President Bush signing the Secure Fence Act. Am I crazy, or does he seem not very happy doing it? He slaps down his pen in I-hope-that-keeps-you-happy fashion and gets out of there fast. ...

**--All Hands On Deck: As predicted, NBC buried the fence-bill story and Brian Williams gave it a pissy lead-in ("As NBC's George Lewis tells us tonight, though the fence has a lot of fans, others say it won't fix anything. ...") No fence proponents are shown. An activist, Juan Jose Gutierrez, says "our Latino community" will view the fence as a "frontal attack" for which proponents will "pay a high political price."  Gov. Schwarzenegger is presented as if he were a surprise critic though nothing he says is especially critical (he calls it an "incomplete reform"). ...This may be an instance where the Halperin Jujitsu Effect  actually applies--the segment is so annoyingly slanted it has the effect of angering conservative, anti-MSM fence supporters and mobilizing them far more efficiently than a balanced or pro-fence presentation would. Yet the people who put together the NBC report undoubtedly thought they were striking a midterm blow against the base-appeasing House GOP. ...

P.S.--People Power!  The National Review makes a point  that, I think it's fair to say, will never be made on the NBC Nightly News:

On the issue of immigration, majorities of Republicans in both the Senate and House have sided with their conservative base against not just left-wing civil-rights groups and elite opinion, but also a business lobby accustomed to plenty of cheap labor, Republican-party poobahs, and President Bush. They have withstood withering press criticism and pressure from their deep-pocketed donors.

True, they were also doing it to save their political asses, given the views of the people who actually vote for them. Still! It's worth noting that the supposedly all-powerful GOP fatcat business lobbyist contributors were in fact powerless to stop the fence. ... 12:46 P.M. link

Thursd ay, October 26, 2006

Quote of the Day:

The court, by the way, is not being activist. It had no logical option but to apply its equal protection clause to everybody.-- Andrew Sullivan on the N.J. Supreme Court's gay marriage decision.

Huh? a) The creation of a new protected class is pretty close to the paradigm of judicial activism; b) The final step taken by the New Jersey court may have seemed the "only logical option" only because of all the earlier activist steps the N.J. courts had taken to help bring the law to the point of giving some-but-not-full marriage rights  to gays; c) As Amy Sullivan might argue, the breathtaking speed with which this sort of radical cultural change has gone from being unmentioned to being a litmus test for all rational people is one of the things that worries ordinary voters and turns them into cultural conservatives even though, were activists like Sullivan a little less self-righteous and condescending ("no logical option") these voters might be persuaded to try worthy experiments like gay unions and gay marriage. [But Sullivan's a doubting, Burkean proponent of conservative limited government, not an "activist"--ed. Right. Sorry. I forgot.]

Update--Quote Andrew, follow Amy: Reader A C-W emails:

But what about the Feiler Faster thesis, of which you are the chief proponent?  Wouldn't that predict less backlash for the NJ ruling than the Massachusetts ruling?  After all, people have had two years--eons in Feiler time--to process gay marriage.  I'd say that a majority of the country believes (believes, not desires) that gay marriage will be legalized within their lifetimes, something which seemed impossible only 5 years ago.

Excellent point. The Feiler Faster Thesis, remember, holds that voters now process information comfortably at what used to seem like "breathtaking speed." Why doesn't this apply to the gay marriage movement? Here are some possible answers: a) It does. Gay marriage, as A C-W (along with Andrew Sullivan) notes, is being accepted relatively rapidly. b) Just because you process information about new social trends rapidly doesn't mean you approve of them. Specifically, it doesn't mean you approve of judge-made social transformations. You can "process" that development by disapproving of it. Undemocratic judicial imposition of gay unions arguably retards their acceptance; c) One of the things voters might be scared of is precisely that some sort of Faster principle will be applied to speed up social change, with disastrous unanticipated consequences (the same way, Amy Sullivan claims, voters are scared of letting scientific research proceed willy nilly with cloning, etc. "without ever having a conversation as a society about the moral issues involved." Given that concern, framing the gay marriage debate as "law" and "logic" against prejudice is analogous to framing the stem cell debate as "science" and "progress" against faith-based Luddism. The framing itself is what's most alarming. ... 

P.S.: See also Drum, and his commenters. ... Drum writes, in part:

Sullivan wrote "Here Comes the Groom," an article for the New Republic that defended gay marriage, in 1989. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the state needed to show a "compelling state interest" in order to continue denying gay people the right to marry. Vermont passed a civil union law in 2000 ...

Four years from a provocative Andrew Sullivan TNR cover story to the law of Hawaii? Yes, that's alarmingly fast. Especially for constitutional law, which can't be repealed by simply electing new leaders. Especially for a change in family structure. (How many years did it take monogamy to displace polygamy? You mean how many millenia.) ... 

P.P.S.:Slate's Dahlia Lithwick joins Andrew Sullivan in declaring (and not just once!) that "there is nothing 'activist' about [the N.J.] decision." It's just as cracked when she says it. 11:37 A.M. link

The Suspect Halperin Jujitsu Effect: If I read it correctly, Wednesday's ABC Note came close to arguing that when the MSM chooses to emphasize and anti-GOP story line--a classic example is the NYT's clucking front-page placement of the GOP Ford/Playboy ad controversy--it actually helps the Republicans, because such stories

produce an Old Media reaction (pro-stem cell research, pro-Fox, pro-Hollywood, pro-Ford) that Republicans can use to go to the base and say, "Don't let the Old Media steal this election!"

Under this perverse-yet-plausible theory, if the MSM really wanted to destroy the Republicans they would produce nothing but anodyne, pro-GOP stories from now until Election Day. Then the Republican base would stay home and the Republicans would lose. It's an idea that goes against all the fight-back instincts of the Democrats' Kossack netroots, but that doesn't automatically make it right. I'm skeptical. ... 11:15 A.M. link

Wednesd ay, October 25, 2006

Dems Dodge Big Gay Bullet? It seems to me the New Jersey Supreme Court has--perhaps non-accidentally--denied Republicans the powerful base-mobilizing weapon that a ruling mandating gay marriage would have given them. Sure, New Jersey proponents of gay marriage have been more or less invited to return to court if the legislature doesn't call the equal package of rights it grants gay couples "marriage." But by kicking the nomenclature question to the legislature, and giving them 180 days to resolve it, the New Jersey justices avoided having the state instantly become, as the AP's pre-decision build-up put it, "the nation's gay wedding chapel." Unlike Massachusetts, AP's Mulvihill notes, New Jersey doesn't have a "law barring out-of- state couples from wedding there if their marriages would not be recognized in their home states."In other words, had the New Jersey Court gone all the way and required gay marriage, the next two weeks might have been filled with stories of happy gay couples from across the nation buying plane tickets to Atlantic City for their expected weddings. Only a Liberal Media Conspiracy of unprecedented self-repressive power could have kept the hype from driving cultural conservatives to the polls. But now court's decision will slide from national consciousness almost immediately, no? Unless Ken Mehlman wants to spring for the plane tickets. ... 11:03 P.M. link

Faster Foley: Foley? That rings a bell. I remember there was something about a guy named Foley a while back. ... 10:05 P.M.

Tuesd ay, October 24, 2006

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter-- writing on the magazine's new group blog--explains why Barack Obama is a mortal threat to Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes, even if he doesn't win. ... 11:07 P.M.

Momentum- c hanger? Looks like that big N.J. Supreme Court gay marriage decision will be handed down before the election-i.e. tomorrow--after all. ... See earlier blog posts here, here, and  here for why this might make the Republicans' day. ...[Thanks to alert readers E.V. and R.H. and P.A. and P.R. and S.S. and A.D.S. Via Volokh Conspiracy.]10:15 P.M. link

Writes Itself: You had to go to page A18 of today's NYT  and dig for a few paragraphs to find out that Speaker-Expect Pelosi--a woman who apparently needs a Cray XT3 to update her enemies list--will pass over Jane Harman and select either Alcee Hastings or Silvestre Reyes for chairmanship of the intelligence committee. Hastings, as the next-most-senior Democrat, has to be considered the frontrunner. He has at least  one little problem, though.

DEMOCRATS SAY THEY MIGHT NAME FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE IMPEACHED* FOR BRIBERY TO HEAD INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

How hard is that ad for the GOPs to whip up? Make Pelosi deny it! Why does the RNC have those millions to spend anyway? Hastings is to Democrats as Foley is to Republicans. ... 2:54 P.M.

Mond ay, October 23, 2006

Modified Limited Hangout: According to the Chicago Tribune,

House Republicans especially saw the border-fence measure as excellent proof to voters that Republicans are serious about cracking down on illegal immigration. So they wanted some pomp and circumstance surrounding the bill-signing.

But Bush, who is holding out for "comprehensive immigration reform'' that acknowledges the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, plans to sign the fence bill in a relatively low-key ceremony in the Roosevelt Room on Thursday morning. [E.A.]

It seems to me that, by downplaying the fence, he's sacrificing a big 2006 GOP selling in the vague, slightly fearful pursuit of the Latino vote in the long term. It still makes no sense to me. Does Bush think the GOP is in such a strong position that he can win the midterms without every advantage he can bring to bear? Why not have a big, spotlighted ceremony at which Bush declares this the first, necessary and relatively non-punitive step toward larger reform? It's not as if Latinos aren't going to find out the bill was signed. ... Bush's action reinforces my earlier paranoid thought: He doesn't really care that much about winning the midterms. Or, at any rate, he cares less about them than about what he imagines as his "legacy"--a semi-amnesty that somehow turns Hispanics into permanent Republicans. ...11:59 P.M.

All-Hands-On-Deck MSM Drive for Victory! ABC's The Note has a thorough and knowing outline  of "How the (liberal) Old Media plans to cover the last two weeks of the election" to try to ensure the GOPs do not regain any initiative. ...All ABC's Halperin & Co. left out, as far as I can see, is Point #13: Bury the news about the Secure Fence Act (if Bush doesn't bury it first!),Point #14: Do not mention the name "Alcee Hastings,"  and #15: 'Keep Foley Alive!' (though that may no longer be possible, even on NPR). ... 2:58 P.M.

Sund ay, October 22, 2006

Dead Again? Incoming e-mail: "word from Havana has it there are quite a lot of troops on street since yesterday and other cities...and rumors that Castro may have died...." 11:59 P.M. link

Blog-Proof Fence: Bush will no doubt sign the Secure Fence Act any day now. ... Update: Congress has sent the bill to Bush. (Here's the  record on Thomas.) Presumably this means he'll sign it--maybe even in public! The signing statement could be a piece of work, though ('Nothing in this legislation shall be construed by the executive branch to mean I actually have to build the thing'). ... 7:52 P.M.

Is this why Rove is smiling? Influence Peddler  speculates that a pro-gay-marriage ruling in New Jersey, expected any day now, might "energize Republicans to come to the polls to register their displeasure by voting against [Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Robert] Menendez." But why do we think a New Jersey pro-gay-marriage ruling will only have an impact in New Jersey? It might signal to voters nationwide that a judge-made gay marriage trend threatens to sweep large chunks of the nation--it won't just be bottled up in Massachusetts anymore. If you oppose gay marriage that might bother you, and motivate you to vote, even if you live in Missouri. Or, say, Tennessee. Or even Virginia. ... [Story started on Hotline

Update: Never mind! The New Jersey court doesn't have to issue its ruling before its Chief Justice retires on 10/26, according to the Star Ledger. [Thanks to alert reader P.R.]

Update Update: Never mind "Never mind"! ...7:41 P.M. link

Frid ay, October 20, 2006

"The gavel of the speaker of the House is in the hands of special interests, and now it will be in the hands of America's children." [E.A.]

Hmm. In Newsweek, a Dem "senior House aide" lauds Pelosi for reining in her party's impeachment talk, which Republicans were using to alarm voters. "We were writing their campaign ads for them," the aide notes.  Looks like they still are. ...

P.S.--Nancy vs. Hillary: Remember when the temporary success of Geena Davis' Commander in Chief was  said to pave the way for a Hillary Clinton presidency by getting voters accustomed to a competent female chief executive? Isn't it possible that--if Pelosi assumes the speakership and flops as badly as some Dems fear--she'll perform an opposite function, namely souring the voters on the idea of a female executive? Two-years woth of saccharine robotic liberal pollster phrases about "America's children" can do that.  ... P.P.S.: The other possibility, of course, is that two years of mommish-yet-robotic rhetoric from Pelosi will make Hillary look muscular-yet-relaxed by comparison. .. [Thanks to alert kausfiles reader S.A.K.] 2:49 P.M. link

Tom Bevan of RCP writes:

It looks like the dastardly Karl Rove has done it once again. Somehow he's conned the MSM into promoting the one thing that might actually have enough juice left to get Republicans to the polls en masse in 17 days ...

Bevan's talking about all the Speaker Pelosi stories. But he might also have been talking about all the press buzz about the Baker commission and the possibility of 'changing the course' in Iraq--which could convince at least some troubled Republican and independent voters that Bush will react effectively after the election. ... Maybe these are the sorts of stories that give Republicans their best shot at changing the election's momentum in the final weeks: Not stories that fly in the face of the MSM's all-hands-on-deck last-quarter Beat Bush tendency (e.g., not a Secure Fence Act signing, which the MSM will just bury) but stories that take the media's own obsessions and turn them to the GOPs' advantage, jujitsu style. In this case, the press' intense interest in a Democratic Congress led by a woman leads them to counterproductively play up Pelosi Fever, while the press interest in anything that shows Iraq going sour gives Bush an opening to suggest that he's on top of the situation.**

**--He might have to suggest a bit harder, though.  (See also Lowry) 11:52 P.M.

Thursd ay, October 19, 2006

Pack and the Hacks: Greg Packer, "theentire media's designated 'man on the street' for all articles ever written,"** is still in business and still fooling the MSM--this time the St. Louis Dispatch-- Patterico reports. ...

**-- Ann Coulter quote. 1:33 P.M.

Loy vs. Kos: I drive Bob Wright crazy here, during a discussion of Brendan Loy's jibe at the "feeble amount of traffic"DailyKos sent him. (Sorry, twenty-three hits just ain't a lot of hits, no matter how you cut it.) ... It's all part of the dramatic unveiling of the new Bloggingheads 1.9 design, featuring a richer homepage interactive user interface experience, and ... comments. ... P.S.: The comments are already proving useful. For example, "dougwamble" gives a plausible explanation for what Bob points out  is Tim Russert's characteristic failing (a failing that drives my brother up the wall  as well). 1:23 P.M.

McIntyre scrounges for Republican bounce-back tidbits, and finds a few. But some of it comes in the form of Zogby Interactive polling, which means its evidentiary weight approaches zero. (See this graph).  1:10 P.M.

Wednesd ay, October 18, 2006

Updated Majority Watch scoreboard: Dems lead outside the margin of error in 222 House races.  They only need 218 for a majority. ... The bad news for Dems: Dick Morris says they'll win! I'd only start worrying if Lawrence O'Donnell says it too. ...   6:18 P.M.

Bush Picks Secret Signing Over Winning Midterm Election: According to the Washington Times, Bush wants to sign the Secure Fence Act--but in private, without the public ceremony Republican Congressmen say they need to help with their reelection campaigns. The Times spoke with a White House official:

The official rejected a signing ceremony, and said the White House doesn't want voters to expect too much out of the wall. 

Bush would seem to be sacrificing his party's chances of holding the House to ... to what? To avoid alienating the Latino vote in the long-term, presumably. Or to avoid undermining his larger semi-amnesty plan (by giving the impression of accomplishment). But even those standard political explanations don't quite wash: Clinton signed the welfare reform bill in public, and was able to do so without alienating liberal lobbies by putting it in the context of larger efforts to help the working poor. Bush could sign the bill and say "this is just the first step," etc., no?  Why not milk it for whatever electoral value it might have? A secret signing plan might make sense if the Republicans were confident of midterm success. But they're not. ... Other, simpler explanations suggest themselves, as indicated by that anonymous White House official--i.e., Bush hates the fence; he's ashamed of it and doesn't want to build it.  And more paranoid explanations--he knows he has a better chance of passing his semi-amnesty plan in a Democratic Congress, and he's doing his best to get one! ...P.S.: He also may be trying to avoid offending the Mexican government. ...  P.P.S.: I feel a bit better about not having pinned down the bill's precise status--i.e. when it is due to be sent to the White House--because the WashTimes can't either:

The bill's actual status is somewhat murky. Calls to the House clerk's office were referred to the House Administration Committee, and a spokeswoman was not able to say where the bill was. [Congressman Steve] King said he has assigned his staff to track down the bill because he, too, wants to know where it stands.

Maybe Captain Ed's Hill source--the one who assured him that the White House wanted to "get as much coverage as possible"--can straighten everybody out. ... 9:26 A.M.

He'll Have a Fit: Seth Stevenson, like the car mag pros, loves the Honda Fit. He must be right--but I've now seen a lot of them and still have trouble getting over its gruesome '80s styling. Of course, when you're in it ... what was it Frank Lloyd Wright said about the Harkness Tower? 12:38 A.M.

Against the Liberal Media: Amid the ecstatic media frenzy of stories about looming Republican disaster, one contrarian dares speak up. The most persuasive Republicans-aren't-doomed analysis I've seen--more or less the only Republicans-aren't-doomed analysis I've seen--comes from ... Eric Alterman. ... Alterman even lashes out at the Congressional Black Caucus. ("Seventy-percent victories are not enough for them ...") He has more in common with Marty Peretz than he realizes! ... P.S.: But has he looked here. Or here? [ via HuffPo] 12:30 A.M.

Tuesd ay, October 17, 2006

The Fence and the Kitchen Sink: John Pomfret's Oct. 10 WaPo article, "Fence Meets Wall of Skepticism," has gotten a good deal of Web attention. Pomfret makes no attempt at balance--it's a straight "let's let fence critics piss all over the idea" piece. That's fine--advocacy journalism is finding a home in the MSM as newspapers try to woo a generation of younger readers! I must have missed the equally provocative story in which WaPo let one of its conservative reporters make the case for the fence--but never mind. Pomfret cites several arguments:

1. The fence "does not take into account the extraordinarily varied geography of the 2,000-mile-long border." Have you ever driven through the Southwest near the Mexican border? "Varied" is not the word that comes to mind regarding the geography.

2. "This is the feel-good approach to immigration control. ... The only pain is experienced by the migrants themselves. It doesn't hurt U.S. consumers; it doesn't hurt U.S. businesses." (Wayne Cornelius, an "expert on immigration issues at the University of California at San Diego.)We're the U.S., right? If the solution doesn't hurt our consumers and businesses, isn't that a good thing? Of course the fence will hurt businesses and consumers, if it works, by blocking a supply of inexpensive labor. But it will probably help low-skilled American workers, whose wages would rise. And it will avoid pain to "migrants themselves" by deterring them from attempting to cross the desert, where many have been dying. I hope for Cornelius' sake he was misquoted. **

3. When they built a short stretch of fence in San Diego, it "forced illegal traffic into the deserts to the East." Somehow this is supposed to be an argument that a fence doesn't work.

4. "T.J. Bonner, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, the main union for Border Patrol agents" opposes it. Isn't that a little like the president of the tolltakers' union opposing E-Z-Pass? Of course the border patrol agents oppose a fence, because a fence is an inanimate object that will do the job it would otherwise take hundreds and hundreds of dues-paying human union members to do! Duh.

5. Litigation might delay construction: This is a more or less circular argument--you can't build the fence, say anti-fence groups, because those nasty anti-fence groups will sue and delay construction! Under this argument few public projects would ever be built if they were opposed by interest groups with enough money to hire lawyers. (In fact, according to WaPo, the Department of Homeland Security can defeat some lawsuits by invoking a law that exempts border fence projects "from federal and state regulations in the interest of national security."

6. The fence will cost too much. The San Diego fence wound up costing "more than $5 million a mile." At that rate, the 700 miles of proposed fence would cost $3.5 billion, rather than the $2 billion estimated. A cost overrun! But still cheap. Other estimates run as high as $9 billion. That's also relatively cheap--the Alaska pipeline, for comparison, cost $26 billion in today's dollars. Keep in mind that fence opponents claim they are going to use other, alternative means that are allegedly equally effective at deterring illegal immigration. And compared to all the cameras, vehicles, and "ground based radar"--and of course, all the additional well-paid camera-watchers, vehicle drivers, radar operators and border guards--a fence has some virtues. A fence doesn't need annual raises. It doesn't need a pension. It doesn't unionize or sue for back pay. It also doesn't take bribes or accidentally shoot poor immigrants in the night (or get shot by narcotics traffickers). It just sits there. Compared with more labor-intensive alternatives, fences tend to be cheap, which is why most people build fences around their back yards rather than employing "ground based radar" and guards.

7. "[E]fforts to protect pronghorn sheep and encourage the jaguar to return to the United States could be seriously affected." We can patrol the whole border with high-tech cameras and "ground-based radar," yet we can't cut some holes for pronghorn sheep and patrol just them with cameras and "ground-based radar"? That would be something for the unionized border guards to do! But I guess we might have to give up the jaguar.... Oh wait, we don't have jaguars. We might have to give up re-acquiring the jaguar. OK. Which will it be: No new jaguars or no new illegal immigrants. Let's vote!

Another argument against the fence, not made by Pomfret, is that it will offend Mexico. It might! But of course, Mexico isn't worried the fence won't work. Mexico is worried the fence will work. Which is the same thing many Americans who say the fence won't work are worried about.

P.S.: None of these arguments matter, of course, because President Bush has already said he'll build the fence.

Question: "Are you committed to building the 700 miles of fence, actual fencing?"

President Bush: "Yes ..."

He's committed! And he's as good as his word. Right?

**--The Chinese government, apparently unaware of Prof. Cornelius' expertise, is building a "large barbed wire and concrete fence" along parts of its border with North Korea. The Saudi government--almost as susceptible as the Chinese to "feel good" solutions--is planning a 900-kilometer fence  on its border with Iraq. 10:50 P.M. link

Majority Leader Boehner boasts to fellow House Republicans  that the Secure Fence Act is "set to be signed by President Bush." [Is there a paranoid, Clintonian reading of that one?--ed.  Yes, but I'll spare you.] 5:24 P.M.

Is this why Rove is smiling? Do the Dems have to gain 15 House seats--or 18 seats? Or 20 seats? Influence Peddler identifies at least two possible Dem-to-GOP party-switchers should Pelosi's team fail to win "by a margin of more than a seat or two." ... Update: Reader C.S. points out another possibility--that some potential party-switchers might be anti-Pelosi rather than anti-Dem, forcing the Dems (in a close race for control) to substitute a more conservative candidate for Speaker. 5:14 P.M.

21  Works in Blackjack: That Stan Greenberg/Glen Bolger poll trumpeted on NPR--the one showing that the Dems "hold a growing margin in the battle for control of the U.S. House"--claims to have

surveyed 1,000 likely voters in 48 of the most competitive congressional districts ...

According to my calculator, that works out to fewer than 21 voters per district. Not impressive! ... It's certainly no Majority Watch, which polls 1,000 voters in each contested district, and which shows  ... that the Dems hold a growing margin in the battle for control of the U.S. House. ...

Update--63 Hot Races 63: Even better, go to Slate's renovated House "Election Scorecard," which has overcome its drab generic origins and become a one-stop source of poll results on individual House races. It includes Majority Watch's polls of 49 contested districts, plus other polls of those districts, plus other polls of a dozen contested districts Majority Watch doesn't cover. What it lacks is a handy overall scoreboard. For that you still have to go to the  Majority Watch page. ...  3:30 P.M. link

kf continues to leave a  swath of destruction. 3:22 P.M.

Mond ay, October 16, 2006

When having it one way just isn't enough: Hillary Clinton takes Charles Peters' advice--that to win a Democrat has to make clear the he or she supports torture if necessary in the "rare" case of an "imminent threat to millions of Americans"--and gets hammered by McCain aide John Weaver for trying "to have it both ways." But of course McCain wants to have it both ways too. He also approves torture in the "ticking time bomb" situation--he just doesn't want to write the exception into the law, arguing instead for a clear standard that "might be violated in extraordinary circumstances." Tediously fastidious legalism or forthright hypocrisy? I'd say it's a close question! ... P.S.: What is it with McCain and "extraordinary circumstances"? ....10:42 P.M.

Rove Coalition Crumbles! From HuffPo:

Wow. When New York City magazine editors start tilting Democratic, you know the GOPs are in trouble. ... 4:07 P.M.

New Hope for the Middle East: Thomas Friedman has complained about being cut off from his vast overseas audience after his column got shoved behind the ill-conceived TimesSelect subscription wall. Penniless, pundit-hungry third world students can click here, however, to get Friedman for Free--at least until the NYT's lawyers get back from lunch. ... [Thanks to reader J.S.]11:44 A.M.

Sell No DeWine Before Its Time! Jay Cost doubts "Republican leaders" have really decided "to effectively write off" the Ohio Senate race between Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown--as reported by the NYT's Nagourney. It's hard to believe that even World Cocooning Champion Nagourney would get such a big thing wrong, but Cost raises suspicions. For one, there is a jarring difference in tone between Nagourney's sensational lede and the more measured paragraphs buried in the piece, such as:

Republicans noted that Mr. DeWine, in addition to having a sizable financial advantage, was a well-liked figure in Ohio who handily won his first two terms in the Senate and still had enough time to recover, even though recent internal party polls showed him lagging badly.

As Cost notes, reallocating money away from a candidate who already has "a sizable financial advantage" isn't the same as 'writing him off.' But maybe Nagourney knows something. [Or maybe he's the victim of cunning Rovian disinformation-ed. I'm suspicious of Rove-as-Machiavellian-Genius arguments, though when dealing with Nagourney the temptation to con him with bogus pro-Dem info must be nearly overwhelming.] ... Update--Today's Pravda-like reading of The NoteABC's The Note covers for its buddy Nagourney  by artfully leaving out the most questionable overstatement in his piece, the words "effectively write off." ... "Reduce financial support" is one thing. But Nagourney (or a lede-goosing editor) said "write off." ...  More: Stuart Rothenberg sees no 'write-off', but agrees:

The GOP's best chances for holding onto a Senate majority probably rest with Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, Virginia Sen. George Allen and Republican open seat hopeful Bob Corker in Tennessee.

But if Nagourney had written that, it wouldn't have had the same sensational, anti-GOP** impact, would it? 

**--Nagourney's anti-GOP?-ed It just works out that way! Find me a story where he's hyped a lede in a way that gratuitously damaged the Dems. ... 1:21 A.M.

Sund ay, October 15, 2006

Mort's Word: Writing in the LAT, Lloyd Grove writes--diplomatically--that New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman was "as good as his word" when it came to not interfering with Grove's Daily News gossip column. But it doesn't sound like it!

Mort was as good as his word, even though I would occasionally hear that he was peeved about this or that item concerning this or that pal. In July 2005, then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a close Zuckerman friend, phoned him from jail in Virginia to complain bitterly about a mocking item reporting that her husband, Jason Epstein, was taking a luxury Mediterranean cruise during her incarceration. Mort insisted — via a top editor — that I write a sympathetic follow-up item expressing my delight that Epstein was able to get away from the stress of Plamegate. [E.A.]

Forcing Grove to write a "sympathetic" item about the owner's close friend--I'd call that interference. .... If that's what it's like when Zuckerman's "as good as his word," what's his word worth?  12:22 P.M. link

On This Week, former Secretary of State James Baker said his Iraq Study Group would present options in between "stay the course" and "cut and run." So what's in between? "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," according to the New York Sun'sreporting. The Sun argues that both options leave out "the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections." But the Sun doesn't make clear the extent to which "Stability First"--the apparently preferred choice--would give up on the current, elected Maliki government. Nor is it clear from the Sun's scoop what anti-democratic concessions might be made in the negotiations Baker envisions with Iran and Syria. More leaks needed.  [via JustOneMinute] ... Update: LAT's Doyle McManus confirms the Sun but doesn't 'move the ball.'  ... But see Dennis Ross' more fleshed-out non-Baker plan--which still doesn't make clear exactly how Iraqi democracy is to be sacrificed for "stability." ...11:50 A.M.

Saturd ay, October 14, 2006

MediaNews' Sacramento bureau on California's 2006 contrarianism:

Across the country, Republicans are taking a beating: ...[snip] ...  Yet, oddly enough, in California it may be Democrats who have the most reason to fear Election Day. Not only does their gubernatorial candidate, Phil Angelides, trail Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger heavily in the polls, but there is growing concern that if Angelides does not inspire Democrats to vote, low party turnout could seal the fate of other vulnerable Democrats — and even left-leaning ballot propositions. [E.A.]

As blogger Steve Smith has noted, this may require a reevaluation of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's decision to support an incumbent-protection gerrymander of California's House districts--as opposed to a less-safe line-drawing that would have let Democrats capitalize on a "wave" of support. It turns out that California's Democrats are so weak there probably won't be a wave!  Pelosi brilliantly anticipated this pathetic failure.

Old CW on Pelosi: Weak, short-sighted hack.

New CW on Pelosi: Clairvoyant and cunning!

4:16 P.M.

Next on Oprah: Andrew Sullivan and Mark Halperin, "When Blogs Become Flogs" ... 4:15 P.M.

Just a reminder: With Mel Gibson, there may be more going on than just alcohol ... or alcohol + anti-Semitism ... or even  alcohol + anti-Semitism + "rage."  ... I again refer readers to the last paragraph of this pro-Mel puffer. ... ... 3:19 P.M.

"Food Stamps in Four Hours": You think Ronald Reagan could have gotten some campaign mileage out of this LAT story lauding a program that gets "immigrants who are reluctant to get help from the government" to sign up for food stamps?  ... Wake up, Republicans! You've got to make your meal out of the ingredients at hand.... And don't worry that any criticism of food stamps-for-immigrants will alienate Latinos--the vast majority of whom almost certainly share mainstream attitudes about welfare. Indeed, the point of the LAT's story is that the Latino work ethic is so strong that they disproportionately resist welfare:


"The Mexican man is macho. He doesn't want to come to this country and beg," said Alfonso Chavez, the Community Action Partnership's outreach coordinator. [E.A.]

Luckily, an innovative Department of Agriculture program enables Community Action Partnership to break down these archaic anti-begging prejudices! ...

P.S.: What's most amazing about the LAT story is writer Jennifer Delson's insistence on portraying this as a great thing ("Food Stamp Program Finally Speaks Their Language"). I can't tell if she's clueless or consciously propagandizing. ...

P.P.S.: Food stamps were the one welfare program to survive the 1996 welfare reform. That was the deal struck, and it's not unreasonable. The food aid is there for those who need it. But doesn't mean the government should go around encouraging people to come get their dole on. If low-income Americans are too committed to self-sufficiency to sign up for food stamps, as many are, that's a pride to be valued and respected, no? ...It's doubly problematic to affirmatively recruit new welfare recipients when many of the beneficiaries will be recent immigrants, including illegal immigrants (whose American-born children are eligible for food stamps, according to the LAT). You don't have to be a Minuteman to worry about the incentive structure this creates: 'Cross the border, have an 'anchor baby,' get free food.' ... [via Drudge] 12:50 A.M. link

Fri day, October 13, 2006

Tom Edsall vs. Bob Woodward. ... 11:11 A.M.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A new round  of Majority Watch robopolls in 48 hot Congressional races produces a new scoreboard. ... First impression: Grim for the GOPs, but if it were a ballgame you wouldn't head for your car. Counting both "weak" and "strong" D leads, Dems are up 224-205, (6 tied) with 218 needed for a majority. ... P.S.: The Majority Watch effort isn't perfect--coverage of potentially close races isn't complete. But it's still the best scoreboard I've seen on the contest for House control--seemingly much more useful than another national generic preference poll. ... 2:44 P.M.

"Impact his lobbying career": Did Karl Rove threaten to hurt Mark Foley's future access-peddling business if he didn't run one more time? That's the impression left by the DNC press release on the subject.  I'd have no problem believing Rove was that thuggish. But all Ryan Lizza's scoop says, in the end, is.

Foley told him that the White House promised that if Foley served for two more years it would "enhance his success" as a lobbyist. "I said, 'I thought you wanted out of this?' And he said, 'I do, but they're scared of losing the House and the thought of two years of Congressional hearings, so I have two more years of duty.' [E.A.]

Logically, promising "enhanced success" if you do X might be little different than promising diminished success if you don't do X. But on the thuggishness scale, there's a big difference. It was Rove's job, after all, to convince popular incumbents to run for reelection.  ... P.S.: At least this is powerful evidence that Rove, unlike Ramesh Ponnuru, actually wants to win!. ... P.P.S.:If Rove did know that Foley was hitting on the pages, something Lizza doesn't charge, then asking him to stay on was reckless. It was crazier from a political point of view (why risk a huge PR blowup it's not as if Foley's the only Republican who could win in his district) than from a child protection point of view (I haven't been convinced that any of the pages were at great risk from Foley's lechery, but then I'm not a parent). It wouldn't be the first time the Bush team has gone for a modest short-term benefit by crossing their fingers and hoping a big, damaging scandal would stay hidden. That was the management flaw highlighted in 2000 by the decision not to come clean early regarding Bush's DUI incident, no? ... 1:50 P.M.

Ambiguity Elminated: "He'll sign": I agree with Instapundit that this e-mail from Tony Snow  to Powerline would seem to settle the question of whether Bush will sign the Secure Fence Act.

Guys,

A belated note on the fence. The president hasn't signed the bill because it hasn't arrived from Capitol Hill. When it arrives, he'll sign.

Finally, no weaseling. [Are you saying you're satisfied when Snow says it but not when Ruffini says it?--ed Yes] ... 11:48 A.M. link

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bubble or Paranoia? President Bush was asked about the 700-mile border fence at his press conference today (see last question). [via Influence Peddler ].

Once again, Bush doesn't quite say he'll sign the Secure Fence Act--although the questioner (foolishly!) assumes in his question that Bush has said he'd sign and Bush fails to correct him. Bush also, technically, says he's committed to building 700 miles of fencing--which again is not quite the same as signing the bill. The sincerity of even the 700-mile promise can be questioned--at one point Bush ominously seems to tie it all to the earlier appropriations bill that he did sign, saying, "I look forward to ... implementing that which Congress has funded."

He sure doesn't seem excited about HR 6061, but I don't see any way he can veto it, given that he clearly implicates he's going to sign it. But it sure is funny that he doesn't say something like 'I'm looking forward to signing this bill!'

Either a) Bush has a lot on his plate and is completely unaware that there are worries he won't sign the bill (as opposed to worries he won't build the fence**); or b) he doesn't care about placating the largely conservative worriers; or c) he cares but is too verbally and mentally clumsy to get the job done; or d) he's still trying to play a game that preserves the option of building a bit of fence but not signing the actual bill. ...

Call a) the Bubble Scenario, b) the Suicidal Scenario,  c) the Inarticulate Scenario, and d) Paranoid Scenario. ... You make the call! ... I'd say it's either a) or d) ....

Update: Tony Snow's email to Powerline makes clear what Bush failed to make clear--he'll sign the bill. The email was actually posted before Bush gave his press conference. This does not, of course, mean that Bush intended to sign all along. That's one scenario!

**: CNN's Lou Dobbs, for example, has stressed the worry that the fence won't be funded or built, not that Bush won't sign the bill. On Larry King  recently, Dobbs in fact appeared to be under the erroneous impression that Bush had already signed the bill. ...  4:45 P.M. link

I know how Ottawa County feels.  A press release for my 1992 book highlighted its call for the creation of a "vast pubic sphere." .... P.S.: I should have just gone with it. It's one abstract-sounding policy proposal that's been rigorously implemented. ... [ via HuffPo ]1:44 P.M.

Comes at a time of mounting concern! From a report on right-wing WorldNetDaily.com:

A leading senator on immigration-reform says he has serious doubts the 700-mile fence on the country's nearly 2,000 mile-long border with Mexico will ever be built despite a bipartisan Senate vote of 80-19 last week. ...[snip]

[Texas Sen. John] Cornyn's comments come amid efforts by Republican officials to turn back concerns that President Bush will not sign the Secure Fence Act, which allocates the money approve for the fencing. [E.A..]

Good to see the old 'comes-at-a-time' trick being used by the right as well as the left. ... Of course, if Bush wanted to "turn back concerns" that he won't sign the bill, there's an easy way to do it! He could say he'll sign the bill. Or he could ... sign the bill! Not send out RNC Internet campaigner  Patrick Ruffini  armed with an ambiguous CNN clip. ... 12:55 P.M.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Closet Did It: Andrew Sullivan has sketched out  a three-point PC take on the Foley scandal. It's surprisingly coherent. I'm not buying it, for reasons I try to articulate here. ... 3:30 A.M.  link

Monday, October 9, 2006 [ Banks closed.]

"We expect ... " I telephoned the White House press office to ask if the President was going to sign the Secure Fence Act. Here's the response I got back from White House spokesman David Almacy:

"We expect the President to sign the bill but the last information we had was that we have not received the bill from Congress." 

Does that sound definitive to you? I didn't think so. It doesn't to me either. "Expect" is a word that traditionally leaves a lot of wiggle room. Expectations change.  ... Why can't they say: "The President will sign the Secure Fence Act"? There's a trick to talking to a paranoid they don't seem to have mastered! ... It's not as if Bush needs to build suspense for a cliffhanger signing ceremony. This isn't Sweeps Week. He needs to reassure the conservative pro-fence base. Which makes the White House failure to close the door on a veto all the more suspicious. ... P.S.: I'd say the weak response from the White House itself outweighs the earlier response from Patrick Ruffini of the RNC, which contains the magic sentence but appears to be relying on the ambiguous, weasely Bush CNN interview. But you make the call. ... P.P.S.: It seems clear, though, that the 10-day pocket veto clock hasn't started ticking yet. ... P.P.P.S.: See Captain Ed, who's convinced Bush is going to sign. ...    

Update: I realize I'm using the same methodology--'Why don't they just come out and say it clearly?'--that many experts used to conclude that Saddam had nuclear weapons. But Saddam had reasons for maintaining strategic ambiguity! Bush doesn't. ...  5:28 P.M. link

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Is Bush going to sign the 700-mile border fence bill (the Secure Fence Act), passed with great fanfare  by Congress a little over a week ago? According to an AP story from Friday:

President Bush has not yet signed the Secure Fence Act

That signing ceremony he held last Wednesday in Arizona, it turns out, was only for a Homeland Security appropriations bill that included "$1.2 billion for border fencing." It wasn't the Secure Fence Act.

We're approaching pocket veto territory here, aren't we? Under the Constitution Bush has 10 days to sign the bill into law--a deadline that would seem to be rapidly approaching.** ... [Thanks to reader M.M.]

P.S.: If I were paranoid, I would notice that even though WaPo and other MSM outlets have reported that Bush "has indicated that he will sign" the bill, he hasn't really. His alleged promise to sign took place on CNN, and he obsessively restricted his answer to the appropriations bill (which he's signed) not the Secure Fence Act. Here's the full answer:

BLITZER: The House has passed legislation that would support building a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. Senator Frist told me yesterday that he's going to put that now before the Senate. Even though it's not part of what you want, comprehensive immigration reform.If the Senate passes what the House has passed, will you sign it into law?

BUSH: It's a part of strengthening the border. And we're in the process now of spending the money that they appropriated last session to modernize the border. And one reason -- the guy's question -- Ray's question was, "Why is it taking so long." It's a long border. It takes -- it takes a lot of manpower and new equipment to enforce that border. And Ray needs to know things are changing quite dramatically.

BLITZER: So, will you sign it into law?

BUSH: One thing that has changed is catch and release. Prior to the expenditure of the money that these guys -- the Senate and the House have appropriated, we would catch somebody trying to sneak in and just release them back into society. That's been ended.And so a lot of reform has taken place.You know, yes, I'll sign it into law. They're appropriating money -- I believe that's what you're talking about -- and it's part of the appropriations process, if I'm not mistaken.

BLITZER: Put another way, is it just a narrow focus on border security? Without the --without the guest worker program or the other issues, you'll just take that for now?

BUSH: Well I just -- that's what I did last time when I signed the appropriations process. [E.A.]

A pro-fence paranoid might also note that Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a major fence advocate, on his "victory tour", suggested that the appropriations bill--not the actual fence bill--was enough:

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and primary author of the House's immigration-enforcement bill, said that by getting the president to sign a funding bill that included a down payment on the border fence and other enforcement measures, the House position on enforcement first has prevailed.

P.P.S.: Yes, I find it hard to believe that Bush would double-cross the pro-fence Republican base like that, a month before an election. I hope somebody sends me an e-mail soon to say I'm wrong. But you can't read the above passages without thinking the White House was at least trying to create the option of a pocket veto, hidden under the diversion of an appropriations-bill signing ...

Update--Mo' 'Noia: Here's Speaker Hastert, in the middle of his Thursday Foley press conference:

And, you know, a lot of people wanted us to address the issue about the border, and we did exactly that. And, you know, last Friday, we culminated in appropriations, it did fix the border. So, you know, we have a good story to tell. [E.A.]

So Hastert, too, is telling us that Congress' border effort "culminated" in the "appropriations" bill Bush signed. Why didn't it culminate in the Secure Fence Act that's awaiting his signature? This is getting creepy! Why is nearly every top Republican (Bush, Hastert, Sensenbrenner) suddenly babbling about "appropriations," using the same weasely, Clintonian syntax? It would be crazy not to be paranoid. ... 

**--Update: Not Ticking? Influence Peddler and several emailers suggest the bill hasn't been formally "presented" to the White House, meaning the 10-day veto clock hasn't started ticking yet. That doesn't resolve the issue of whether Bush will sign it, of course, given the evidence of coordinated weasling and misdirection above. ... 1:13 A.M. link

Friday, October 6, 2006

Immigration is big! It's the fence  that got smaller!  WaPo has some details of the backroom loophole-deals designed to let the Bush Administration weasel out of building the full 700 mile border fence. So was the fence bill all Kabuki? Did Frist flake after all? I'll stick with the prediction in the presciently paranoid post  from last Friday:

P.P.S.: After the GOPs make a fuss about the fence during the midterm campaigns, voters may reasonably expect that it will actually be built--despite whatever hidden hopes or promises lurk beneath the surface of yesterday's vote.

There was a last-minute backroom deal that potentially watered down the 1996 welfare reform bill too--but in the end it didn't have that much effect. (See Haskins, Work over Welfare, 317-324) ... P.S.: If I were a Democrat, I'd publicize these loopholes, though, to demoralize the GOP base--in case they're not demoralized enough at the moment. ... 3:45 P.M. link

MyDD's Chris Bowersis skeptical of the theory that there is a Secret Dem ("Afraid to say I'm Voting Blue") Block, revealed in the difference between what voters are willing to tell human polltakers vs. what they tell automated robo-pollers. The suggestive difference in the two polling methods only shows up in Missouri, MyDD argues... And in Montana ... And in Ohio ... And in Tennessee. It doesn't hold in Virginia or Arizona. ... As Hotline's Blogometer puts it, "Four Out of Six Ain't Bad." ... P.S.: There's also a perfectly good reason--that is, a reason consistent with the theory--for why the differential would have disappeared in the most recent Tennessee polls: It's now less embarrassing to say you're for Ford! ... Similarly, in Virginia, where there used to be a differential, it became less embarrassing to say you were for Webb, causing the differential to disappear--and then it became positively embarrassing to say you were for Allen, causing the differential in the robo-poll to flip and show a secret Allen (GOP) vote. ... P.P.S.: Rasmussen's robo-poll in Connecticut has also repeatedly showed a more pro-Dem result, or more precisely a more pro-Lamont result, suggesting that voters may be embarrassed to tell actual humans they're voting against Lieberman. This effect, too, has dissipated, Mystery Pollster notes. .... But the Secret Dem theory doesn't pretend to apply to blue-on-blue Connecticut--it only applies to Red States, or states with large Red areas, places where it could be socially awkward to publicly declare that you're a Democrat. ... [No cheap MyDD astrology shots?-ed That would be so small.] 3:21 A.M.

Excitable CW Calming Down? Wall Street Journal on Tim Mahoney, the Democratic candidate for Foley's House seat:

Mr. Mahoney has gone from long shot to strong contender because of Mr. Foley's resignation after news reports that he sent sexually explicit communications to teenagers who were House pages. ... [snip]

Still, strategists from both parties say Mr. Mahoney stands a better than even chance of winning the race, a sharp shift in electoral fortunes that is contributing to Democrats' optimism about taking the House next month. [E.A.]

Wait. Weren't we told  a Dem victory in Foley's district was a sure thing--"no question" (McIntyre). "Democrats are 1/15th of the way there. I can't see how they could lose," (Halperin, at 28.10). Now Mahoney's only a "strong contender" with a "better than even chance"? At this rate, by November he'll be "favored to run a strong second." ... 1:04 A.M. link

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Iraq the Morose: One of my tacit mental rubrics for thinking about Iraq has been, "When Iraq the Model gives up, I'll give up." I heard two of the ITM bloggers when they came through L.A. and was impressed with their sincerity, bravery, and sense. I figure they won't throw in the towel until all hope is gone. And they haven't thrown in the towel! But Mohammed of ITM has entered recrimination mode, ultimately producing a recommendation for action that does not encourage hope. (He outlines what his fellow Iraqis did wrong here and what the Americans did wrong here.)

According to Mohammed, the American mistake was--to be blunt--buying into the Flypaper strategy.

[I]nstead of chasing terrorists, America stopped at Iraq and sat waiting for terrorists to come in.

He doesn't argue for more troops:

Keeping a large number of troops in Iraq and hoping they could root out terrorists can only be described as a bad plan. It really wouldn't matter much if we had 50 thousand in stead of 150 thousand troops in Iraq ... [snip] If we look back at the record of the war since April 2003 we'll see that adding more troops on the ground resulted only in making the enemy call for more reinforcements and the war kept getting more violent.

Instead of leaving America's "warplanes, tanks and big organized units" in Iraq, he says, those troops should fulfill their near-Aristotelian function of going after the foreign governments who are providing "money, training, technology and in some cases men" to Iraq's "insurgents, terrorists and militias." Meanwhile, the task of actually defending against the latter forces should fall to

"smaller, more agile units backed by strong intelligence-gathering capabilities."

In short

[T]his war will not see an end unless America revives the preemptive war strategy and start chasing the enemies and striking their bases in the region, especially in Syria and Iran.

Yikes. Responding to Mohammed doesn't require any specialized knowledge of the region: a) He could be right! But if he is that means the war will not see an end, because it seems obvious the U.S. doesn't have the stomach, troop strength, or international standing to pursue his offensive strategy, quite apart from the question of whether that breathtaking campaign would be justified. ... b) Nor is it clear the Iraqi insurgents, terrorists and militias couldn't sustain themselves without international help even if all such aid were ended today. ... c) Mohammed thinks the Ahmadinejad government in Iran will "fall apart and surrender in the same manner that we saw in Iraq, and few will volunteer to stop" it from falling. Huh? Ahmadinejad was elected. That implies at least some significant level of popular support. ... d) Finally, do we have the "smaller, more agile units" Mohammed recommends? I don't think so. ... Aside from that it all makes sense. [Emphasis added throughout] 9:32 P.M. link

If Harold Ford is elected to the Senate from Tennessee, will he get the same adulation Barack Obama--and now Deval Patrick--are receiving from "starry-eyed Democrats" and MSM types? ... kf prediction: No. Why? Ford is too ostentatiously centrist and idiosyncratic.  He doesn't activate The Dream. ... P.S.: But no doubt Ford and Obama will revel unselfishly in each other's success! ... 12:08 P.M.

Dean's Revenge: What does DNC chair Howard Dean think of the Iowa cacuses?

[In 2004 ] Kerry basically won in Iowa and was done. And poor John Edwards lost by 3 points and he won one primary, and Wes Clark won one, and I won one, and that was it. That was it. He won everything else; he just swept the table in the face of one 3-point victory. That won't happen again.

He's fighting the last war, but it's a good war to fight. ... P.S.: At least he's not bitter about it! ... 11:28 A.M.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Not-So-Secretly Blue:The Majority Watch robo-poll of contested House races now shows a likely Dem House majority. ... They've added a scorecard at the top, which gives a better idea of why I think this project is so useful. Even if the GOPs win all the "weak R" seats and the tie seats, they'd still lose their majority. They have to win some "weak D" seats, according to Majority Watch ... P.S.: But MP cautions

Majority Watch surveys use an automated methodology so new that even its creators describe it as a "work in progress."

OK. But even if it doesn't work perfectly this election, isn't this the wave of the future? In a 50-50 nation, we demand a poll that measures all the hot House races and comes up with a total. Even if all House races were contested, it should be possible to keep track of all 435. We have computers now! ... P.P.S.: One advantage of a robo-poll, of course, is that it counts more of any Secretly Blue vote--red state voters who may be embarrassed to tell a live human polltaker they're voting Democratic. ... 3:10 P.M.

Secretly Blue: Michael Barone has noticed that Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate  Harold Ford does better in robopolls, which use a recorded voice to ask questions, than in regular polls where respondents talk to an actual person. This,  Instapundit speculates, gives the lie to the idea that voters 

are telling pollsters they'll support Ford over [his GOP opponent Bob] Corker in order not to sound racist but [will] vote for Corker in the privacy of the ballot box. [E.A.]

A robopoll, Instap. notes, is supposed to minimize this Political Correctness Error because fewer people will embarrassed in front of a machine. A machine isn't going to call them "racist."

But then why the difference in the polls? Maybe a new and different kind of PC error is at work--call it Red State Solidarity Error. Voters in Tennessee don't want to admit in front of their conservative, patriotic fellow citizens that they've lost confidence in Bush and the GOPs in the middle of a war on terror and that they're going to vote for the black Democrat. They're embarrassed to tell it to a human pollster. But talking to a robot--or voting by secret ballot--is a different story. A machine isn't going to call them "weak." ...

If Red State Solidarity Error exists, it means Dems might do a bit better than the non-robo polls indicate--not just in Tennessee, but in other states where the dominant culture is proudly conservative. ... 

Update:Mystery Pollster has been all over the Tennessee polls. He cautions that the differences in the surveys aren't large and my be the product of other methodological differences between the two main polls involved, Rasmussen (robo) and Mason-Dixon (regular). MP also notes, though, that in Virginia's Senate race:

[t]he pattern of automated surveys showing a slightly more favorable result for the Democrats was similar from July to early September, but the pattern has disappeared over the last few weeks as the surveys have converged. [E.A.]

One of MP's commenters names the pattern the "afraid to say I'm voting blue" effect. ... 1:42 P.M. link

82_horizontal_rule

Bloggingheads--Bob Wright's videoblog project. Gearbox--Searching for the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-in. 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. 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. Keller's 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. 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--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. TomPaine.com--Web-lib 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--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]

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Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

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