Obama abandoning affirmative action?

A mostly political Weblog.
May 14 2007 7:37 PM

First Alterman, Then Obama!

The end of affirmative action, continued.

Dispute Resolution: It's left vs. right on Barack Obama's alleged "45 m.p.g." mistake. ... Winner: It looks like the left is right. Obama was pretty clearly referring to m.p.g. averages in Japan, not average m.p.g. of Japanese cars sold in the U.S.. ... Emotion: Relief that Obama's not as not ready for prime time as initial accounts had it. .. [via RCP's handy new blogfight page ] 4:19 P.M.

Hagel Incoherence Watch: From Face the Nation ...

I am not happy with the Republican Party today," Hagel said. "It's been hijacked by a group of single-minded almost isolationists, insulationists, power-projectors."

Isolationists? Bush? Iraq? If the isolationists had hijacked the Republican Party we wouldn't be in this mess. ... Is Hagel just instinctively, mindlessly hitting the Sunday-morning MSM's erogenous zones (i.e., it's not respectable to be an "isolationist"). That's what he seems to do for a living. ... Update: Rich Lowry and his readers try to make sense of Hagel. It may be beyond the massively networked power of the Web. ... 12:11 P.M.

Matt Yglesias suspects"the whippersnapper window is closing." After Ezra Klein they pull up the drawbridge. Yikes. ...  Can't they wait until the new generation of post-Bush, anti-Kos neolibroots rebels comes online? These people are, like, only 12 at the moment. ... 11:43 A.M.

The End of Affirmative Action--First Alterman, Now Obama? Even Barack Obama, under pressure from George Stephanopoulos, seemed to be abandoning the affirmative action idea and shifting toward embracing a class-based preference system, notes Roger Clegg. ... This is more than a potential 'Sister Souljah moment' for Obama. Obama would not be showing that he can reject the more extreme, wacky positions of his party's component interest groups. He'd be showing he's rejecting what has been a central and widely accepted demand of an interest group with which he is inevitably identified.  He's not quite there yet--and maybe he'll have to backtrack after his ABC This Week comments--but he's at least on the verge of giving voters not merely a reason to not oppose him, but a big reason to support him--the prospect that President Obama will end race preferences and the long, divisive debate they generate. Hillary cannot make that promise. Her husband famously balked at making exactly the shift--from race to class--that Obama seemed to endorse. And even if Hillary made that leap, she couldn't shift African-American opinion away from race preferences the way a black president could shift African-American opinion. She can't put the issue to rest. Obama can. ... P.S.: I blame Jennifer Gratz. Michigan's  stunning 2006 anti-preference vote  is still resonating. Pols paid attention even if the press didn't. ...

Update: Jonathan Chait  suggests Obama's shift towards class-based preferences is itself a class-based appeal. ... See also Yglesias. 10:32 A.M. link

"Any Weapon to Hand": Some readers have asked for a definition of that phrase when I've applied it to my excitable former boss. It means using any rhetorical trick, including trumped up outrage, to bash your opponent even if you are going to take a contradictory position when it helps bash whoever is your opponent a couple of months later. Example!

March 9, 2007:Andrew Sullivan condemns my use of the word "wussy," featuring a quote from a reader who argues

"The misogyny behind it - as behind so much homophobia - is pretty clear."

May 9, 2007: Sullivan questions  why gun owners might not want their names published.

"Glenn Reynolds argues that the important thing is keeping people guessing about who has a gun or not. Fair enough. But I'm not that impressed by wusses who don't want to be ostracized by liberal elites at their neighborhood barbecues." [E.A.]

(Thanks to alert reader R.W., who argues the two month lag "before assuming the opposite position" actually represents a slowing of Sullivan's cycle of righteous self-contradiction.)

Update--The Whole Wuss and Nothing But the Wuss: Sullivan responds by re-dragging out his charge that I have a "long record of homophobia" because I wrote a piece 24 years ago defending a famous/infamous sign at an L.A. bar called Barney's Beanery--a piece I almost immediately rethought and regretted, and that Sullivan surely knows I publicly repudiated years ago, the issue having surfaced in a recent blog back-and-forth.  Like I said, "any weapon to hand." Also, intellectual dishonesty.** ...

P.P.S.: The whole point of the email Sullivan reprinted is that the word "wussy" itself is misogynistic and homophobic, not that it's OK if it's used as an epithet in the "context" of attacking someone Sullivan deems worthy of attacking (in this case, gun owners). ...  

**--The part about how "Mickey loved that bar" Sullivan just made up. He also again quotes me using "wussy" without mentioning I was trying to characterize the p.o.v. of Ann Coulter and her conservative audience, not my own p.o.v.. (Here's the dingalink--you decide.) I don't think Edwards is "wussy on foreign policy." He is a bit elfin in appearance. So sue me. 1:44 A.M.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mr. Loaf: In case you had any doubt where Gov. Bill Richardson stands on immigration reform, here he is last year, overheard talking to an aide about the "Hagel-Martinez" immigration plan--the basis for the "comprehensive" reform bill that passed the Senate. It basically would have offered legalization to illegal immigrants who'd been here for two years  or more--but this compromise was too restrictive for Richardson:

Rewind 10 hours. It's 8:15 a.m. and Richardson is running late.

As a state patrolman pushes the governor's Ford hybrid sport utility vehicle toward 90 mph, coaxing it to an unnatural whine, Richardson punches buttons on one of his three cellphones.

He calls an aide and discusses potential fundraising events in April and May with Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Then he dials U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., leaving a message on the Senate minority leader's cellphone about an immigration-reform bill being debated that day: "I don't like this Hagel-Martinez initiative. It's sort of half a loaf. Let's hold fast." [E.A.]

If you want the whole loaf, it looks like Richardson is your guy. ... 7:07 P.M.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Modern elections are largely governed by the principle of minimum differentiation which (according to the mean voter theorem) will generally produce a 50-50 split in most polls and elections.

However: every so often an individual candidate will abandon minimum differentiation strategies only to uncover major constituencies "hidden" by 50-50 polling. This generates a poorly-predicted landslide in one direction or the other. (This differs from "wedge issue" thinking in one important respect. A "wedge" creates only the smallest of openings, not a landslide, and I hope you'll pardon this very mixed metaphor.) [E.A.]

2008? Iraq? Health care?** ... Actually, you could you argue that there are almost always hidden constituencies ready to be uncovered--with new ones constantly forming like magma. That would be one reason why the national election industry is less stable than, say, the soft drink industry--and why presidential races won't always be grinding near-ties like the past two. What does seems unlikely is that any lopsided victory margin will persist for more than a cycle or two (e.g., Karl Rove's permanent Republican majority fantasy, the Judis-Teixeira emerging Dem majority fantasy). The losing party will adjust and get back in the game--faster than ever before, thanks in part to, yes, the Feiler Faster Thesis. ...

**--Note that most, maybe all, of these issues could conceivably produce a landslide either way. For example, you'd think a Democrat could steal the hidden pro-universal constituency in the GOP. But if a Republican with a plausible health care plan--say, Romney--somehow managed to get the GOP nomination, he might steal the "constituency" of Democrats who want to go left only on health care. ... 12:20 P.M.

J. Goldberg, so naive: Does this headline seem like an accidental blooper to you? ... 1:39 A.M.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mickey's Assignment Desk: Fogeyism! Specifically, "Fogeyism" defined as the reaction of older reporters and pundits --print and online--against young bloggy commentators who have been empowered by new technology (and the politics it spawned), which gives them a voice and a following they would have enjoyed at their age in no other era. ... I have three examples, so it is a trend: 1) After New Republic's Spencer Ackerman "in a blog post ... referred to someone as a 'fool,' TNR ex-owner Marty Peretz wondering "'Where does a 15-year-old come off saying stuff like that?'" Ackerman was soon to be a TNR ex-writer; 2)Newsweek's Jon Alter bristling at the treatment he received from a "young reporter" posting on Radar (see below);" 3) Me ill-advisedly  saying what I thought (at the time) about the youthful Ezra Klein. ...

Just because Fogeyish outbursts almost always look bad, damaging the Fogey more than the scorned young'un, doesn't mean they don't actually have some substantive basis. ... It did used to be that young journos went through a long apprenticeship before they reached a position from which they could address the masses on the great issues of the day. Now they have blogs in elementary school! That must have some consequences. Those consequences aren't all necessarily good! ... Were we better off in the 1960s, when the antiwar movement had to have leaders instead of bloggers? ...  Where does Spencer Ackerman get off calling someone a "fool" anyway? ... Discuss! ... Assigned to: Someone of an age in between Fogey and Whippersnapper--say, Frank Foer! Or a Whippersnapper who's kind of Fogeyish (say, Matthew Yglesias). ... 12:46 P.M. link

I didn't think Thomas Edsall would without any irony declare that "David Broder is the voice of the people,"  as described in Radar. Comes now Jonathan Alter to say that it didn't happen and that Radar's Jebediah Reed is a "bad reporter." ... Moral: Don't slime the Kool Kidz! We will f--k you up! And I say that in a pleasantly arch tone. ...

Update:Radar management emails a link to Reed's response, under the subject line "Advantage: Whippersnappers." Reed stoutly maintains Edsall's Broder comment "was not said archly." Not so fast, punks! Mark Kleiman, a Fogey of the Left who knows Edsall and Edsall's sense of humor, is almost certainly right when he blogs:

I've known Edsall for close to 40 years. (I was still in high school when he covered a campaign I worked on: Parren Mitchell's first run for Congress.) He has the best dead-pan I've ever encountered. It's a normal conversational gambit (for him) to say something transparently absurd with a completely flat affect.

I bet Reed just missed Edsall's deadpan. Kleiman's interpretation jibes with dry-joke emails I've gotten from Edsall. Including some recent ones! ... P.S.: But wait. Reed claims to have a recording of the incident. "[I]f you doubt my account, you're welcome to pop by Radar HQ and listen to the exchange on tape." Why make anyone pop by? Reed could podcast it, and let the world judge. He could also contact Edsall on the record. Then, I suspect, he will discover he got his interpretation wrong in exactly the way a Whippersnapper who has no history with his subjects might easily get the intepretation wrong. Then he'll stop digging and go find a state where he's old enough to drink off the whole incident! (Hahaha. Is little joke I make. Arch, yes!) ... 12:29 P.M. link

It's not the famed "personal conduct" problem--Holy Grail of Bill Richardson watchers--but it turns out that Gov. Richardson, no less than New Jersey Gov. John Corzine, has a significant speed addiction, according to Radley Balko:

In 2003, The Washington Post reported that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson routinely ordered his driver to whip down public roads at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Even after those reports, when a police officer attempted to pull over Richardson's car for speeding in 2005, the governor's driver refused to stop. ...[snip]

For his part, Richardson refused to apologize for his law-breaking. He said he'd instruct his drivers to slow down, but cited his busy schedule as governor and said he wouldn't promise not to speed again. By April 2006, his car was seen pushing 90 again.. ...

Isn't this a pretty basic violation of social equality? You'd think liberal egalitarians would be as offended as anyone at the sense "among many elected officials that their job is so important, their time so much more precious than ours and their position in public life so privileged, that they can zip by us on the road, pushing everyday folk aside so they can get to their far more important destinations."  ...

P.S.: "Zip"--there's that word again! [Also 'whip'-ed Wow.] ...

P.P.S.: Most of Balko's piece is devoted to excoriating injured N.J. Gov. Corzine for his recent nauseatingly solipsistic performance, in which (as Balko notes) he was "contrite for putting his own life at risk, but not for jeopardizing the lives of everyone else on the road" while speeding to a photo-op at more than 90 m.p.h. ... [via Instapundit2:08 A.M.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Not Only Will the Revolution Not Be Televised--It Won't Even Make the Front Page:

"The more you fail, the more money they throw at you," he said. "We're filthy rich; I don't want any more of your money. Send me quality teachers."

That's Frank Wells, principal of Locke High, a key "troubled" high school near Watts in South Central L.A.. Or maybe I should say former principal. There have been wild and significant doings at Locke. A majority of the school's teachers have signed petitions supporting the school's conversion of into a group of smaller charter schools (under the aegis of charter entrepreneur Steve Barr's Green Dot organization). The central school district bureaucracy apparently then struck back at Wells, who was "escorted off campus and relieved of his duties late Tuesday afternoon pending the outcome of a district investigation into allegations that Wells allowed teachers to leave their classrooms to collect and sign petitions." [E.A.] ... The teachers' union, Eduwonk reports, has not surprisingly reacted angrily to the subersive challenge from its own members--asking for time to present it's own "reform" ideas.** ...

I don't know exactly what to make of this story (though I'm obviously rooting for Barr). If the problem with Locke is lack of "quality teachers," then who are the teachers who are signing the petition to become part of a charter school?  Are they the good Locke teachers or the bad Locke teachers?

As usual, it's especially hard to discern exactly what's going on reading the LAT's account because the paper's tediously dull, formal, "neutral" style gets in the way of actually comprehending the forces at work. Here's the Times:

Underscoring the anxiety and anger the plan is unleashing within the district, Locke Principal Frank Wells was escorted off campus and relieved of his duties late Tuesday afternoon ... [snip]

Wells called the charges "a total fabrication," saying no classes were disrupted as teachers signed and collected signatures during non-class time. Teachers who helped collect signatures supported Wells' version of events. [E.A.]

I think the vague boldfaced words are journalistic code for something like this:

Terrified by the threat that if a big ghetto high school like Locke secedes the entire union-supported city schools bureaucracy might collapse like the East German government at the end of Lives of Others--and angered that Wells would even talk to the Green Dot charter people (in front of U.S. Education Secretary Spellings, no less)-- the school district's bureaucratic blob immediately and crudely retaliated against him by trumping up charges ...

But I'm not sure!  ... At least the Times is on the case--though its account didn't make the front page.***  And the paper is decidedly not taking the union side.  ... L.A.. Observed, which I usually rely on tell me the real story,  is uncharacteristically asleep at the switch. ...

Update: Here's Warren Olney's Which Way L.A.?  on the Locke developments. ... The L.A.T.'sreporter was subsequently blocked from entering the Locke campus, and the paper's education blog isn't happy about it. Good to see passion of any sort at the Times, even if it's in defense of special press rights--sorry, I mean "the public's right to know." [via L.A. Observed] ... Now that the Times blog is riled up, we learn that Wells' firing was a "ham-handed dumping," that the school district's press office is badly overstaffed, and that it's no

wonder ... that many of Locke's teachers have essentially issued a vote of no confidence in the status quo, saying that they'd rather be working for Steve Barr's Green Dot Charter Schools ... .

It's also no wonder readers might prefer to get their info from opinionated blogs than from the LAT print edition. You learn more on the blog! ... P.S.--Inevitable analogy: Who will be the Steve Barr/Green Dot for the Times' own stultifying, school-district-like print bureaucracy?

**--See Eduwonk for added "card check" irony! ...

***--"[W]ho do you have to decapitate to make Page 1 around here?"-- Michael Kinsley. 12:56 P.M. link

David Frum says something to his fellow Republicans that, once it's said, obviously needed saying:

I wish somebody at the Reagan Library had said: "Ronald Reagan was a great leader and a great president because he addressed the problems of his time. But we have very different problems — and we need very different answers. Here are mine."

But if one of the candidates had said that, would we have hearkened? Or would we say: The path to the nomination will be crossed by the candidate who does the best job of ticking the boxes of a coalition that probably now spans no more than 30 percent of the electorate?

Barring some calamitous mistake by the Democrats (and true, that can never be ruled out from the "war is lost" party), the GOP enters the 2008 election cycle at a serious disadvantage. If we want to win, we have to offer the American voter something fresh and compelling. I think most of us understand that. And yet at the same time we are demanding that our candidates repeat formulas and phrases from two and three decades ago.

Attention, Robert "Red Meat" Novak. ... 12:08 A.M.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"Is [Harry] Reid Trying to Kill Immigration Reform?" RealClearPolitics seems excessively distressed by this possibility. ... Alternative theory: Pro "comprehensive" Senators, unable to actually come up with the "grand bargain" they have promised, would like it to look like Harry Reid killed immigration reform--hence their claim that he isn't giving them enough time. ... I Smell Kabuki! Except that it seems a bit early for everyone to merely be trying to stage-manage the bill's death so as to avoid blame for the killing. It's also possible that under the spur of Reid's deadline the Senate will actually pass a bill, no? Opponents should be alert for last-minute miracle "compromise" scams, like the "trigger" gimmick debunked by Mark Krikorian  here. ... The name of a recent  Feist album comes to mind! ... 4:26 P.M. link

Possibly bad idea of the day: I got a ticket a couple of years ago for failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. I was so guilty. Ever since then--and after I was admonished by a cop I met at a party--I've tried to come to a total, 100% stop, with the weight of the car falling back on its haunches, before stepping on the accelerator to get moving again. When I do this I can hear and actually feel the engine sucking in vast quantities of precious refined petroleum to overcome the inertia of 3400 pounds of metal at a dead rest. Which leads to the thought: Wouldn't we save a lot of gasoline quickly and cheaply if we replaced most of our "STOP" signs with "YIELD" signs? I'm sure there is a safety argument against this, but I'd like to hear it, along with up-to-date comparisons with countries that rely on "yield" more than "stop." ... N.B.: a) You could still require that everyone slow down to under, say, 10 miles per hour. It's the first 10 miles per hour starting back up that seem so gratuitously wasteful. (Maybe "YIELD" is the wrong sign. Maybe it should say "SLOW to 10.") b) Traditionalist drivers--e.g. geezers--could still come to a complete stop and retain the right of way. c) Policemen could still raise revenue for their employers by giving lots of tickets--they would just be tickets for "failure to slow" or "failure to yield." ... 3:51 P.M. link

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bloggingheads' Baghdad Bureau files a video report on the surge that's compelling in its immediacy! ... It's relatively upbeat--embedded blogginghead Eli Lake is obviously impressed with the efforts of American soldiers--but if you listen carefully you get a more complicated picture:

a) Lake makes it clear it ain't going to be over by September. "This is going to be a mission that will take several years, if not decades."

b) Our troops must always be on the alert for possible betrayal by the Iraqi Army soldiers they work with--not because the Iraqis are secretly terrorists but because they are susceptible to bribery, threats, or sectarian or religious appeals;

c) Some neighborhoods are vastly improved (Haifa Street) while others deteriorate and will need more attention;

d) opinion among our troops as to whether the war is winnable is "mixed," according to Lake ... If we left now, he says, the Iraqi Army couldn't possibly withstand the onslaught of corrupting bribes and threats from the insurgents and terrorists. ...

Lake tells a revealing absurdist story about how difficult it was to release 79 innocent people captured in a truck once the Iraqi political and media machinery had broadcast the anti-terrorist "win." ... He casts doubt on the common view that the majority of Iraqis want us to leave. He also gives the not uncommon impression that for all its flaws the Iraqi Army is further along than the Iraqi political structure--which of course leads me to worry whether in the end security may be achieved by an Army-run government. ... Lake also puts a very impressive U.S. major on camera, forcing egghead Bob Wright to bridge the civilian-military divide. Luckily, Wright is an ex-Army brat. ... At the close, Lake promises to report from a sector where the Americans have decided to cooperate with "Al Qaeda." Either he misspoke or we are in for an interesting future report. ... 11:20 P.M.

Blogging Against Type: An argument that the rise in wealth inequality has been accompanied by

a drop in consumptive inequality, and a significant convergence in the experiences of the rich and, if not the poor, the middle

from, yes, Ezra Klein. Apologist for Bush's New Gilded Age! The cocktail party invite is in the mail. ... My anecdotal sense parallel's Klein's--with the exception that all the good $45/person once-a-week restaurants on my side of L.A. seem overnight to have become $65/person restaurants, and I can't really afford them anymore. It's as if they suddenly realized they could survive on the business of the rich, and don't need the middle. ... Worst possibility: The rich will pay extra precisely to have the middle excluded. I don't think that's what is going on at, say, Chaya Venice. But I may have to go back to do some now-tax-deductible field research. ... 6:11 P.M. link

Monday, May 7, 2007

Slow news day? Don't take it out on kf! Brian Williams just opened the Nightly News with this teaser:

Paper or plastic? What is the answer to that agonizing question in the checkout line?

6:35 P.M.

Matthew Yglesias is trying to sucker me into blogging about a "variety of education-related topics." Nice try. That's why we have Eduwonk. ... P.S.: Am I crazy or does Yglesias' post make no sense? He seems to be saying you can't care about the schools if you aren't an education blogger. ... P.P.S.: Replacing an argument about substance (teachers' unions) with an accusation about motives. All too typical of his generation! ... 5:09 P.M.

The only sexy picture ever taken ** of Maggie Gyllenhaal and they complain!

**--Yes, I'm counting Secretary. ... Especially Secretary. 4:45 P.M.

While GM dawdles and fumfaws  when it comes to producing rear-drive sedans for the U.S., Hyundai is bringing one to market. ... 10:46 P.M.

Calling All Thompsons: RCP's Tom Bevan has some poll numbers from Nevada  suggesting that, yes, there is a big opening for the candidate (from either party) who effectively takes up the 'enforcement first' position on immigration. ... P.S.: It looks like that candidate won't be Barack Obama, who celebrated Cinco de Mayo by calling it a

day for all of us to commit to comprehensive immigration reform, so we can secure our borders while offering the twelve million who are here illegally the chance to step out of the shadows ... [E.A.]

10:02 A.M.

Old CW: Not Black Enough; New CW: What's All This Black Business? Tom Maguire wonders why Jodi Kantor's front-page NYT piece on Barack Obama's pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, hasn't generated more controversy. Having now read it, I tend to agree. I'd certainly be more comfortable with a presidential nominee whose main spiritual man 1) hadn't visited Col. Qaddafi (even back in '84); 2) talked less about "oppression" and "this racist United States of America;"  3) when discussing the solution to poverty, talked more about individual achievement and less about the role of "community"--including maybe even celebrating "middleclassness" instead of using it as shorthand for selfishness; 4) in general wasn't so obsessed with race--as evidenced most negatively in talk of "white arrogance" and derogatory reference to the "Great White West." ... I suspect Rev. Wright is going to be a bigger problem for Obama's campaign than has been conventionally perceived. When Obama declared "we worship an awesome God in the blue states,"  were voters expecting this?...

P.S.: The attack on "the pursuit of 'middleclassness'" referred to by the NYT and in this Freeper post doesn't seem to appear on the church's web site. At least doesn't appear to be where bloggers once said it was. Has it been expunged? I don't know. ... Update: Several emailers point to this Web Archive site. ...

P.P.S.: Obama's views aren't necessarily his pastor's, as he points out. But Obama himself seems to have embraced the idea that poverty is "rooted in societal indifference and individual callousness"--reflecting Wright's Disturbing Tendencies #2 and #3. Do you think poverty is rooted in "individual callousness"? I don't. ...

[How does Wright's "Black Value System"  talk differ from the parallel semi-tribal sentiments you might hear, say, in a synagogue?--ed Relevant question. Further discussion required. I don't think many synagogues rail against "gentile arrogance," for one thing. But I haven't spent a lot of time in synagogues.] 2:15 A.M. link

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Elefante in the Room:On WaPo's front page, Perry Bacon Jr.  wonders why Republicans are gravitating toward Fred Thompson even though Thompson's "often sounded like" John McCain, whom "many of them seem ready to dismiss." Why, Thompson's taken "maverick" stands too! ... Hmmm. Is there one signature McCain crusade that Thompson has conspicuously not joined? Can't think of it! ... [The 'patients bill of rights'?--ed That's the issue Bacon cites. That's not it. ...] P.S.: Why have editors if they're not going to make a reporter confront the obvious bit of evidence that undermines his thesis? ... It's so much easier, I guess, just to cut any mention of i---------n from the story. ... 1:06 A.M.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Fred Thompson on the GOP Debate: "I didn't watch it. I was on a plane ..."** Thompson could have given a post-debate interview to any news organization in the country. He picked Breitbart.tv. ... Thompson teases at moving into the gaping, bi-partisan anti-amnesty void--"our unprotected borders are out of hand"--but leaves himself plenty of room. ... He also uses the word "midget" in describing the GOP field. ...

** Memo to Thompson: "I didn't watch it. I was on a plane" doesn't work as an excuse anymore! You can watch it any time. (For those who might be a bit ... um, lazy there are highlights on YouTube.) ... If you're going to be the rule-breaking, late-entering Internet candidate you should probably stop saying fogeyish things! Although I admit I find a little bit of fogeyism reassuring. ... 12:59 P.M.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Curve Has Spoken: Mark Halperin calls Mitt Romney the winner. Say no more! ... More: The AMC dissents. ("I'm sort of flabbergasted by the love Mitt's getting from the media.") I'm with her. ... 12:06 P.M.

Critic-proof? Most commentators I've seen or heard thought Rudy Giuliani did badly in Thursday night's debate (except my mother, who said he "makes a very good impression.") I didn't think Giuliani did well either. So how did he decisively win that Survey USA poll cited on The Corner? Part of the answer is that Survey USA polled only California debate watchers. A mere 45% of whom were Republican. 53% of whom were pro-choice. That's not the national Republican primary electorate. ... Still ...

Update:Mystery Pollster compares the percent who thought Giuliani "won" with his support in four previous California polls and concludes that he may have indeed lost ground, along with McCain. But note that those four previous California polls were weeks ago--weeks in which Giuliani was falling in national rankings. If you could have taken a California poll right before the debate it might not have looked very different from a poll after the debate. ... The "real winners" ... well, go to MP to learn the real winners! (Search for "lower tier.") ...

See also: Bill Bradley, who's usually an accurate debate judge and who agrees with Noonan that Rudy washed out in the crowd. ... John McIntyre, who suggests why Giuliani might still have done well enough with Republican voters (though he doesn't explain my mother). ... 2:20 A.M.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

How can Bill Clinton hope to stop the tabloids from damaging his wife's campaign with gossip about his zippy socializing with bachelor buddy Ron Burkle? Well, he can't. I mean, it's not like the tabs are under some sort of centralized control, a single management that could be bought off by a truckload of cash. Get with it! Clinton's business partner can't just waltz in and buy up all the tabloids. ...  What's that you're saying? ... [ What would Arnold do?--ed. Good point. The aptly-named tab king David Pecker may finally have hit on a solid moneymaking strategy.] 11:29 P.M.

Republican Debate: I guess I'm really not a Republican--or else Chris Matthews is an effective Dem saboteur--because the whole GOP field seemed weaker after the debate (just as the Dem field seemed stronger after its MSNBC debut).  Judging just on affect, Blink-like, I thought McCain, Ron Paul, and Hunter did well. Giuliani a bit less well. Romney appears stiff and phony compared to the other front-runners. He made me want to go re-read Catcher in the Rye. Tancredo and Huckabee failed to make much of an impact at all. Brownback seemed to be talking about 50% of the time, but I can't remember a thing he said. ... P.S.: If anybody took advantage of the opening for an anti-amnesty immigration candidate, it was Hunter (though he talked mainly about his border fence, not about the pending semi-amnesty bill). Hunter looks to be a far more effective spokesperson for that side of the debate than the genially bumbling (but not kooky!) Tancredo. ... P.P.S.: Is Sarkozy unavailable? ... 6:35 P.M. link

Whippersnappers: Why do youthful netrootsy wonks always think older Dems-who-criticize-Dems are movitated by unprincipled careerist self interest? Here, for example is Matt Yglesias, distinguishing himself from "other professional journalists":

I don't go out of my way to harp on points of disagreement with the liberal orthodoxy purely in order to bolster my credentials as an independent-minded blogger.

But what has happened, at least to some younger folks like me, is that at times this appears to have become not an honest critique, but a positioning device. The idea that it's not about the quality of the argument, but the display: you show honesty by attacking Democrats, you show independence by attacking liberals.

As someone who goes out of his way to harp on points of disagreement with the liberal orthodoxy, I don't think it's for show. (For example, Democrats aren't going to fix the schools unless they in effect bust the teachers' unions. If you make that point, is it because you want to bolster your credentials as an independent-minded blogger or because you want to fix the schools?)

I've been trying to figure out why liberal bloggers are always attack the motives of neoliberals, and I think I've made some progress. It's not that the bloggers are lazy punks who attack motives as a substitute for argument and need to constantly reassure each other of their own comparative righteousness because they feel guilty about their lockstep acquiesence in an agenda they themselves may have nagging qualms about. Not that at all! Rather, a) they are thinking of Joe Klein on a bad day, and b) there is a generation gap at work--not that they don't remember the '70s, when many of the problems of liberal orthodoxy became glaringly obvious, but that they don't remember the decade before that.

Specifically, the young'uns seem to assume that in harping on the flaws of liberal orthodoxy aging boomer journalists are betraying their original, authentic liberal impulses. So there must be a reason for this disloyalty (careerism, desire to bolster credentials on the Washington party circuit,  cash payments from Karl Rove, etc.)  But many of us aging boomers aren't betraying our original liberal principles. We are being faithful to our original New Left principles. What was the first critique of liberal orthodoxy to which I was exposed? The Port Huron Statement. Who was the original archenemy of '60s radicals? Lyndon Johnson. Where can you find a thoroughly self-loathing indictment of the entire edifice of Johnson's Great Society liberalism? In the Democratic Platform of 1972 (as Thomas Geoghegan pointed out in a famous New Republic essay, "Miami and the Seeds of Port Huron"). What constellation of doctrines are radical legal scholars--the "Crits"--trying to reveal as a fraud? "Liberal legalism."

In short, orthodox liberals were the enemy of many who grew up in the '60s. Still are! We aren't selling out in attacking traditional Democrats and their interest group supporters. We loyally pursue the ideals of our youth! Though I'm happy to take Karl Rove's money.

The  video version of this rant is here. ... 12:34 P.M. link

There's a big opening for a top-tier "anti-comprehensive" immigration candidate in the Republican presidential field as well as in the Democratic field, Ramesh Ponnuru notes. ... P.S.: Of the Big Six candidates, zero oppose semi-amnesty, apparently. That seems out of kilter. ... [But Ryan Sager says "immigration is an absolute non-issue in presidential elections ...  If there were a significant constituency prepared to vote just on immigration, Tom Tancredo would actually register in the polls.-ed. The night is young. Sager adds "Tancredo will probably be the Republicans' Mike Gravel" in tomorow's debate, "so it should at least be fun to watch"-ed. The MSM is certainly primed to portray Tancredo as a kook.  But Gravel had to act wild in the Dem debate because he was trying to out-antiwar eight other candidates who were also antiwar. Tancredo doesn't have to out-anti-comprehensive the leading GOP candidates, because they are all pro-comprehensive. He** can draw attention to himself by simply disagreeing.]

**--Update: I should say that Duncan Hunter, among others, could do this too. ... 1:16 A.M.

Excitable and Gullible: Our self-proclaimed Conservative-of-Doubt appears to have once again taken a satire seriously. [Not 100% clear--ed. It's either very serious or very subtle. Sullivan's blogging isn't usually subtle.] ... 12:03 A.M.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Sweeps Week Special: While I wasn't paying attention, Bob Wright staged a bloggingheads discussion with the New York Sun's Eli Lake, who vlogged from the Green Zone in Baghdad. It makes Lake's analysis of the "surge" less-than-abstract when he admits he doesn't feel safe. ... P.S.: Lake's even colored green. ... And he makes a good point about Petraeus. ... 10:51 P.M.

Searching for the Greatness of Chuck Hagel, Cont.: According to Robert Novak, Sen. Hagel says we've

got to get [our troops] out of [Baghdad] at least, get them out of the middle of civil war."

Because our troops are part of the problem in Iraq? Because Petraeus' "surge" mission is futile? Why?

If not, Hagel said, "then the prospects of the Republican Party are very dim next year."

Oh, well, inthat case! ...

P.S.: Helping Republicans in 2008 also seems to be the main motive driving those conservatives who are urging passage of "comprehensive immigration" reform this year. ... One more example and it will be a trend. ...

P.P.S.:--All 'Strange New Respect,'  All the Time: Novak describes Hagel as a "faithful suporter of President Bush's non-Iraq policies." Really? It seems to me that Hagel has made a career of going on Sunday morning talk shows and sniping at his own party on all sorts of issues, including non-Iraq issues. That's his schtick! I bet I could find three examples. ... 12:03 A.M. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Does Hillary Want Gore In?--Part II: Alert reader M.E. Duckenfield emails a dissent from my suggestion that Hillary might eke out a "plurality" victory if Gore enters the race and dilutes the Obama vote:

Given the Democrats relatively proportional system of dividing delegates, a fourth major candidate pretty much ensures a brokered convention.  Edwards, Gore and Obama would need to only average just over 17% each to garner over half the delegates between them - since the party rules give out delegates by congressional district (between 3-8 per CD) and candidates have to have over 15% to get a delegate, major candidates have a huge advantage.  All of the non-Hillary candidates have some clear powerbases - Edwards will do disproportionately well in the South and perhaps the MidWest; Gore will have some strength in the South, but also California.  Obama will do well with black voters and in Illinois and other states with large urban centers.  That leaves Hillary to try and pick up 50% of the delegates where she can (presumably well-supported by the Super-Delegates).  Even coming in first everywhere but the South with 30% is not going to be good enough.  A Gore-Obama ticket supported by Edwards could well be the outcome even if Hillary is the plurality winner. [E.A.]

I don't know enough about the complicated delegate selection rules to predict if a 30% plurality showing would yield only 30% of the delegate crop. Isn't it likely that in each state at least one of the other three candidates would fall below the 15% threshhold, increasing Hillary's relative delegate strength (assuming she gets at least 15% everywhere)? In any case, while the delegate victory might be allocated proportionally, the media victory won't be. If Hillary wins Iowa with 30%, she'll get a publicity boost that will serve her well in the giant multi-state primary a few weeks later. John Kerry won Iowa with a 37.5% plurality and proved unstoppable after that. And if a plurality makes John Kerry unstoppable .... P.S.: Also, the primaries in 2004 weren't as front-loaded as they will be in 2008--meaning that the initial media boost out of Iowa three years ago counted for less than it's likely to count for next year. ... 11:18 P.M. link

Thomas Edsall, one of the subtlest and best-informed political reporters around--and a Democrat allergic to bogus Dem optimism--has signed on to run HuffPo's political coverage. This should be interesting. My guess is that Edsall's politics are one or two giant steps to the right of the politics of HuffPo's readers--who are not allergic to bogus Dem optimism. Here, for example is Edsall five weeks ago  urging the Pelosi-Reid Democrats to abandon their attempts to force an end to the Iraq war via Congressional resolution  and instead hold hearings into Bush's military mismanagement:

The resolution — more precisely, a set of deals intended to paper over intraparty factions — is the result of a process better suited to a highway bill than national security.

This patchwork proposal not only demonstrates the House leadership's inability to extract a meaningful consensus from a membership that runs the ideological gamut from the Out of Iraq Caucus on the left to the Blue Dogs on the right. It also risks setting the Democrats up for a poisonous share of responsibility for the failure of United States foreign policy, while amplifying questions regarding Democratic competence on military matters. ... [snip]

If Democrats want to consolidate their recent political gains, they cannot afford to make themselves susceptible to charges that they contributed to American defeat overseas. But one sure way for them to lay themselves open to criticism is to do what they're doing now — tinkering with wartime policy out of public view, vote-swapping and cutting deals to accommodate competing party interests. [E.A.]

Maybe a netrootsish desire to win will make Huffers receptive to Edsall's departures from the party line. If so, he's discovered a leverage point where could exert a lot of influence on the national debate. ... 4:30 P.M. link

New York Times--Yes, It's 'Amnesty': I've tried to avoid calling the various proposals to legalize illegal immigrants "amnesty,"--using the word "amnesty" often gets you accused of demagoguery by respectable "comprehensive reform" types. Nor do I think the word makes that much difference--legalizing illegals still rewards illegality, and encourages more of it, even if the legalization is hedged about with various righteous-sounding requirements (pay a fine, pay some taxes, learn English, etc.). But, to distinguish these more complicated plans from a flat out blanket grant of instant full-citizenship, I usually call them "semi-amnesty."

Comes now the New York Times  to tell me I've been wasting my time:

Americans want the immigration issue solved, and they strongly favor "amnesty," whether you call it that or not. An array of recent polls show powerful support for an earned path to citizenship.

"Call it a banana if you want to," Mr. McCain said of the amnesty debate last year, in a welcome moment of lucidity. [E.A.]

In other words, Tom Tancredo is right. It's "amnesty." Glad we got that cleared up. ... 11:47 A.M. link

'Mama, He Just Called Me the CW': Here's Time editor Rick Stengel on his new hire, Mark Halperin  (ex of The Note):

"We're a 24/7 news site now, and politics is the biggest game in town," said Mr. Stengel, who has overseen a redesign at the magazine and a major shift in resources from print to the Web site. "Everybody wants to be ahead of the curve in this area, and Mark is the curve," he said. [E.A.]

Stengel's description is accurate--almost micrometer-precise--but I'm not sure it's as big a compliment as he seems to think it is. ... P.S.: Stengel could also be describing the historic role of the newsweeklies. For years they've struggled fruitlessly to escape this fate. It's good to see Stengel embrace it! 'We are the curve.' I can see the ad campaign now. ... 11:38 A.M. 

Am I the only person who thought N.J. Gov. Corzine's weepy televised press availability, upon his discharge from the hospital, was bathetic and pathetic? Nobody died in the crash, after all, in which Corzine got badly banged up. His car was speeding and he wasn't wearing a seat belt. He won't walk without a cane for six months. He's lucky. He's also the governor, not a guest on Montel. So suck it up.If you can't manage a reassuring demeanor--and you look depressingly weak, as Corzine did--don't show it off in public. (Imagine FDR giving a public press conference from his wheelchair where he bawled about his polio. Didn't happen.) ... It's one thing to argue the culture has been "Dianified," to use John O'Sullivan's phrase, when Virginia Tech students choose to seek cover rather than rushing an armed madman. That's a lot to ask. But it's not a lot to avoid this sort of undignified, self-centered public display. ... 11:05 A.M.

Monday, Ap ril 30, 2007

Does Hillary want Al Gore in the race? That's the thought that sprang to mind when her husband gratuitously told Larry King "you have got the prospect that Vice President Gore might run."  Hillary cadre James Carville followed up by declaring that Gore would run. ... Normally you don't advertise to potential donors and operatives that they might want to save their money and time for some other candidate who's not yet in the race, right? But when you think about it, a Gore entry might be good for Hillary--it would dilute the field opposing her, allowing her to maybe squeak by with a plurality victory. ...

In previous presidential primary races, such a strategy wouldn't be such a good bet, of course. With a crowded field, you might win with 30% in Iowa--but the lagging contenders would drop out as the primary season continued, and you'd eventually have to face only one or two major opponents. A candidate with high negatives and a relatively low "ceiling" on her support--like Hillary--would eventually discover that 30% wasn't enough. But this year might be different: The primaries are so front-loaded that there may be no long slog to weed out the crowded field. A mega-primary on February 5, only a few weeks after the Iowa caucuses, could pick half the delegates to the Democratic convention. If Hillary were to win 30% in Iowa, and that translated into a 30% plurality showing on February 5, she could have a commanding lead very quickly, no? ...

P.S.: [Isn't it panicking for Hillary to start gaming a plurality-victory scenario this far out?--ed. Hillary seems prone to panic. How else to explain the ill-advised attack on Obama via David Geffen? See also "Emailer X,"  who argues she was panicked into getting into the race too early.]

P.P.S.: The flaw in the 'plurality' strategy, of course, is the Feiler Faster Thesis, which holds that even in a rushed, front-loaded primary system modern wired voters have plenty of time in the two final weeks of January to process the Iowa results and coalesce behind an anti-Hillary alternative who could then get more than a mere plurality. ...

P.P.P.S.: Doesn't the front-loaded strategy increase the chances of, yes, a brokered convention? I guess that will never happen. Until it happens. ...

P.P.P.P.S.: If the Clintons want Gore in the race, of course, that might be enough to guarantee that Gore doesn't enter the race--if, as is widely believed, Gore doesn't like the Clintons. Clinton's statement could be a reverse-briar-patch attempt to keep Gore out. ...

Update: Alert reader "Y," who seems to be a bit of an insider, has a simpler explanation--

The main reason the Clintons promote the prospect of a Gore candidacy is that Gore speculation freezes some anti-Hillary donors and activists who would otherwise go to Obama or Edwards ... [snip] ...  From Hillary's perspective, the longer those people stay on the sidelines the better. [E.A.]

That assumes the donors and activists who aren't with her already are probably going to go with one of her opponents, which seems a plausible assumption. ...

Of course, the two explanations are not incompatible: Gore freezes the uncommitted donors today, splits the anti-Hillary vote tomorrow. ... 1:22 P.M. link

I'm kind of hating Jacob Weisberg today. ... 12:56 P.M.

Nice haircut, John: Norman Lear defends John Edwards' $400 Beverly Hills haircut. He says "Little Joe" Torrenueva--Lear's barber too--charges only $175!** The rest is the cost of having him travel to Edwards instead of vice-versa. ... Hmm. Does that help Edwards? Men in the real America--not one of the Two Americas but big one in between--don't pay for barbers to come to them. Maybe if Edwards were president his time would be that precious. But he's an ex-Senator a year before the first primary. ...

P.S.: Wait a minute. "Little Joe." I think I once had my hair cut by Little Joe (decades ago--when, as Lear says, his prices were closer to $20). He had a shop on Santa Monica Blvd., no? If it's the same guy 1) Good haircut. A bit flashy;  2) Not a pretentious metrosexual 'I feel pretty' fluffer type of shop, but a more traditional Italian-type macho place--part of the real America, just fancier; 3) Nice guy. Gave me a long thought-out argument against the guaranteed annual income. He said it would sap the work ethic. (Come to think of it, this is exactly the guy we want cutting John "Ending Poverty" Edwards' hair! Pay him $500.) At the time, I supported the guaranteed income at the time and thought Little Joe was way too conservative. ... And there were bees everywhere!***...

**-- Norman Lear has hair? At $175, what's the per-follicle cost of Lear's cut? It could be a record. ...

***-- Joking! ... 11:15 A.M. link

Sunday, Ap ril 29, 2007

McCain Comes Out Against the Fence: Straight Talk, Fake Vote? Presidential candidate John McCain voted for the Secure Fence Act, which called for building 700 miles of fencing on the Mexican border. He told Vanity Fair, "I'll build the goddamned fence if they want it." Indeed, the logical move for supporters of McCain's "comprehensive immigration reform" is to buy off opponents of its semi-amnesty provisions with a border fence. And McCain has recently made loud noises about moving to please the anti-amnesty Republican base on immigration.  But in a meeting with the Texas Border Coalition in Laredo earlier this month, McCain was apparently forthright in opposing the fence he seemingly voted for:

"The Texas Border Coalition has a resolution that we are against the wall," said McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz. "Sen. McCain said he was also against the wall. He recognizes there have to be some kind of barriers to protect the border, but he favored more technology, more sensors. He felt the wall was a waste of money." [E.A.]

Possibilities:1) McCain is so confident about the prospects for passing "comprehensive" reform that he feels the fence is no longer necessary as a sop; 2) McCain has given up on passing "comprehensive" reform, so the fence is no longer necessary as a sop; 3) McCain has given up on his presidential campaign, so the fence is no longer necessary as a sop; 4) He foolishly told the border coalition what it wanted to hear; 5) He foolishly told the border coalition what he really thinks; 6) The Border Coalition inaccurately heard what it wanted to hear. ...

P.S.: Note that the Bush administration, despite Tony Snow's seemingly straightforward promises  ('[T]he fence is going to be built"), has recently indicated that it plans to rely on a "virtual fence," not an actual fence.

Congress has approved 700 miles of fence for the border and has allowed officials to decide whether to build metal fences or virtual walls.

[U.S. Border Patrol chief David] Aguilar expects most of the distance will be covered by the virtual barrier, with metal walls kept to a minimum. [E.A.]

Again, what's odd is not that the administration has come out against an actual, physical barrier. That's obviously been Bush's real position all along. What's odd is that they'd reveal this real position while "comprehensive" reform is being debated--instead of at least dangling the possibility of a real fence in front of anti-amnesty conservatives. Why end the Kabuki with the denouement still in doubt? ... Even if the McCain/Bush supporters now concede the fence issue in negotiations, why would anyone trust them? ...

Update: Ivan Kirigin, who works in robotics, has some useful comments  on the "real" vs. "virtual" fence issue:

[A] wall is much cheaper and more effective solution than an array of cameras. They aren't mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. ... [A] camera system is pretty ineffective without proper enforcement or actual barriers ...[snip] [A] wall without a camera system would work pretty well. A camera network without a wall wouldn't.

Kirigin seems to assume the Bushies want a border barrier that works. I'm not so sure. Hence, the "virtual" fence. (The Border Patrol, meanwhile, will always support a complicated "virtual" monitoriing system that requires a big increase in the budget of ...  the Border Patrol). ... 11:35 P.M.  link

Report from the field: My mother says her garden is "absolutely buzzing" with bees. So they haven't all disappeared. ... 12:48 A.M.

Saturday, Ap ril 28, 2007

Put a tail on us, go ahead: DNC Chairman Howard Dean has told CNN's Wolf Blitzer  that Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani

has a lot of character issues that he has to answer for. ... His personal life is a serious problem for him.

Dean refused to specify Giuliani's "problem." ... Questions! Is this a subject the Democrats' chairman really wants to open up? Bill ("I guess I hug people sometimes") Richardson and Mrs. Bill Clinton--to name two Democratic presidential candidates--might disagree. ... If Dean knows this, as he should, was his comment actually a malicious bank shot designed to make the campaign harder for Hillary, Richardson, or another Dem candidate--one with a "personal" problem? ... 12:03 A.M.  link

Friday, Ap ril 27, 2007

The Gravel Road: Don't the crowded Democratic debates need at least one more candidate--a conservative dark horse who can sharpen the debate from the right the way Kucinich sharpened it from the left? I would have liked someone to question, for example, Gov. Richardson's claim that he would withdraw all troops by the end of this year and "use the leverage of that withdrawal" to negotiate a regional peace with Iran and Syria. Richardson's boast may not be as crazy as it sounds--the threat of chaos produced by withdrawal is at least a possible source of leverage. But the very threat acknowledges that chaos is what would, absent a deal, follow withdrawal, no? And don't we always have the threat of withdrawal, even if we don't withdraw? But if we do withdraw we lose the threat of not withdrawing, and whatever leverage it gives. ... In any case, a critique from the right would have provoked a useful discussion, and sharpened the Dem nominee to face a similar critique from the GOP's candidate. ... P.S.: If you know any conservative Democratic pols with lots of time on their hands, encourage them to run. They can live large like Mike Gravel! ... 2:55 P.M.

'And it's a pretty nice haircut':The Politico'sRoger Simon did John Edwards a big favor when he wrote, in a passage Brian Williams read during yesterday's debate:

Many people, I think, missed the point about the haircuts. The point is not the cost. John Edwards is a very rich man and could afford even a $4,000 haircut without noticing it.

But why did he pay for his haircuts out of campaign funds?

I would say the point is not that he paid for his haircuts out of campaign funds, an accounting glitch easily forgotten. The point is that he paid $400 for a haircut! What kind of man pays $400 for a haircut. A rich, foppishly vain man! That's the charge that sticks. ... P.S.: Would Edwards' contributors begrudge him, say, a $50 haircut paid for out of campaign funds? I don't think so. ...

Update: Reader M.K. dissents--

what confuses me is that *every* candidate doesn't have a $400 haircut. How much do they pay to media consultants? They put millions into subtly shaping their image. They have to worry about what color tie to wear. To show up in a bad suit would indicate you're not ready for prime time. ... Isn't it a good investment to look good when you're photographed a million times per day?

Anyway, I would question the judgment of a candidate who skimps on that kind of thing.

Hmm. I get up to $200 with this argument. But not $400! [What if you add coloring?--ed With highlights, maybe. ... You don't think ... ] I very much doubt that the other candidates actually do spend anywhere near that much, however rational it might be. The male candidates, anyway. ... 2:20 P.M.

Several sophisticated commentators (e.g., Smith, Dickerson, YepsenVervers, Chris Matthews, Lee Bandy) thought that either Obama was off his game or that Hillary was on top of hers in yesterday's debate. Yet the SurveyUSA robo-poll seems to confirm kf's cheesy declaration of an Obama win. These are not contradictory developments. All they mean is that even Bad Obama beats Good Hillary. ...

Backfill: See also Dick Morris ("One is driven to the conclusion that Hillary is defeating herself! Voters are watching the former first lady in her first extended period of national exposure since her health care debacle and don't like what they see. She appears scripted, phony, artificial, and even boring.") ... 10:24 A.M.

Thursday, Ap ril 26, 2007

Why have a debate? AP has already written its lede: It's 3:15. The big South Carolina Democratic debate starts in 45 minutes. But you don't have to actually watch it. AP's Nedra Pickler has already filed her story, in the past tense.

Democratic presidential candidates largely stood together Thursday in support of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and then sought to separate themselves on the details in the first primary debate of the 2008 race.

Now that's reporting! ... The depressing thing is the debate is so predictable she probably got it right. ... Update: Technically she did, but there were better ledes available once the event had, you know, taken place. "Obama Soars; Hill Bores." ** Something like that (even though I didn't particularly like Obama's disingenuous Schiavo regret--as if it weren't inevitable that bureaucrats or judges decide on end-of-life questions when family members can't agree). ... Chris Matthews must have been compensating when he said Hillary did well. If that's the non-grating Hillary, I hope we don't see the grating Hillary.*** ... Kucinich chipped away at her war vote effectively, I thought. ... Edwards kind of faded into the background. Crickets didn't chirp--they completed their entire life-cycle during the pause after Edwards was asked to name his 'moral leader.' ...

More: Here's Pickler's post-debate lede:

Democratic presidential hopefuls flashed their anti-war credentials Thursday night and heaped criticism on President Bush's Iraq policy in an early first debate of the 2008 campaign.

The one she wrote before the debate was better! This one could have been written in 2005. ...

**--The Lesson of Lawrence O'Donnell: In punditry, it's more important to have strong opinions than accurate opinions. That's mine! ...

***-- NYT's Nagourney and Zeleny say Hillary was "professorial and emphatic."Translation: Grating! ... 3:17 P.M. link

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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. Gawker--It's come to this. Eat the Press--Sklarianna & Co. are like Gawker if Gawker actually believed in something. ... [More tk]