The real reason Texas Dems are down.

The real reason Texas Dems are down.

The real reason Texas Dems are down.

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 23 2002 11:46 PM

Road Trip Report

Plus: Britney's exegesis, exposed!.

Road Trip Report: The editor of kf has been taking the pulse of the American people while traveling across the heartland as fast as he possibly can. He files this report:

Route: I-10

Best radio station: KBON 101.1, Eunice, Louisiana

Best sign: "Diesel Fried Chicken" (somewhere in West Texas)

Possibly bogus trends: Cops … legalized gambling …  the fast-growing Anglo influence on Hispanic music …cops … skull caps …marijuana smoke … lots of cops ….

Number of times conned by an interesting-sounding song into listening to a Christian rock station: Five

Idea that seemed brilliant after seven hours of driving: Fast food with a vegetable in it that (unlike a Big Mac or Subway sub) you can messlessly eat with one hand while driving. (Spinach McNuggets?) …

Idea that seemed brilliant after eleven hours of driving: A factory-installed, government-mandated system that takes over your car radio – even if you have it turned off or are listening to a CD -- and warns you to get the hell off the road if a tornado is coming or if you're heading into an area where, say, there's just been a terrorist attack with a biological weapon.

Can you get Starbucks iced mocha coffee in a roadside mom-and-pop gas station/convenience store in tiny Sierra Blanca, Texas, in the middle of frigging nowhere? Yes.

Friendliest people: New Haven, Connecticut. I can't explain it either.

Bonus roadside political gossip: The real reason Texas Democrats are devastated by the 2002 results isn't their big loss in the governor's race, or even their bigger-than-anticipated loss in the Senate race, but their  loss of the famously-powerful Texas lieutenant governorship  by fewer than six percentage points. .... Now, not only is Republican Rick Perry the governor, but he may actually control the state government. ... 11:37 P.M.


A sign of how un-seriously Jack Anderson is taken these days: He writes a column (co-bylined with Douglas Cohn) saying that John McCain is "poised to switch parties" and that "[t]here is a 50-50 chance" both McCain and Sen. Lincoln Chafee will become Democrats -- and nobody pays any attention! ...Imagine what would have happened if David Broder had written the same thing. ...Of course, if Dem incumbent Sen. Landrieu loses her upcoming Louisiana runoff, even a McCain-Chafee double flip wouldn't give Democrats control of the Senate, as Anderson notes. ... I doubt there'll be such a switch even if Landrieu wins. But I do think it will take only the flimsiest pretext -- like failure in the war on terror, or success -- for McCain to run against Bush for president, either as a Democrat or an independent. [Doesn't he have to become a Democrat soon if he's going to run as one?-ed. The Feiler Faster principle -- and the Wendell Willkie Principle, for that matter -- suggest he has plenty of time.] 10:41 P.M Eastern

 Wednesday, November 20, 2002

And here I thought it was just an article about Britney Spears:

"Our readers are interested in reading a sophisticated exegesis of a sociological phenomenon like that."    -- New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines describing his paper's recent coverage of pop singer Britney Spears' "makeover" efforts.


3:46 A.M. Central

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

The great Bob Woodward-Roger Ailes dispute  seems like one of those win-win situations. Woodward's report-- that Fox news chief Ailes gave President Bush confidential advice on public opinion about 9/11 -- isn't much, scandal-wise. But it's a story that benefits everyone. Ailes' outraged reactionmakes it look as if Woodward had a genuine scoop. Woodward gets publicity for his book. Ailes gets to have Woodward broadcast that Ailes is a Bush White House insider. Ailes also gets points with the right wing -- for being an insider, but also for being a hawk and an enemy of Woodward. Reporters get something to write about and readers get something to read about. ...Alas, Ailes and Woodward may have given the game away by getting all chummy and making uptoo quickly. ... P.S.: The real story is the substance of Ailes advice -- that Bush should take the "harshest measures possible," in Woodward's words. Depending on what that means, it could have been very bad advice. In the NYT, Ailes disputesWoodward's characterization of his advice, unconvincingly -- but then the NYT seems so intent on skewering Ailes (with Alessandra Stanley piling onin a second piece) that it's hard to trust the paper to present his version clearly.  ... P.P.S.: If Ailes keeps sending Bush confidential memos, that's as likely to drive a wedge between the two men as to form a bond between them. One day, after all, Bush will reject Ailes's counsel -- he may have already, by not taking the "harshest measures." Whenever this rejection occurs, Ailes ego, to the extent that it's wounded, would push him to turn against Bush, no? But for the ego-build-up provided by being attacked by Woodward, that might already have happened, to some extent. ... 1:58 A.M. Central

Monday, November 18, 2002

Instapundit actually thought about buying  a new Nissan 350Z, so how bad could the blogging/law professing/music producing biz be? … I tend to think the new "Z" is forced and overly architectonic, lacking the grace and fluidity of, say, the 1991 300ZX, which happens to be the used "Z" I could afford, and which is also the car I'm currently driving across the country. (Why? To get to the other side!)  … One thing I've noticed on this trip so far is that heavy (and welcome) police presence on the highways that was evident after 9/11 hasn't dissipated. In Arizona, for example, all the traffic on Interstate 10 was diverted by construction onto a single lane exit ramp – with a squad car at the bottom looking over the queue and another cop at the top eyeballing every single driver. In El Paso, there was a flashing-cruiser roughly every 100 yards. …But you can't help but wonder: Where did all these cops come from?  Are they new recruits? The states haven't had time to train that many. So what were they doing before? Were they all lounging around at desk jobs?  Are they all working overtime and racking up huge paychecks? Are non-terrorist crimes going unsolved and undeterred? All of the above, probably …. 4:50 A.M Central


Friday, November 15, 2002

Ann Coulter has  five suggestions  for reviving the Democrats in a sarcastic swipe that is clarifyingly vicious (e.g. "[T]here is still plenty of room to curry more favor with the teachers' unions"). The Democrats may actually take her up on point  #4. ... While I can almost never agree completely with a Coulter column -- she's not really trying to convince anyone -- there is also some truth in the following:

Of the three Democrats arguably responsible for the election fiasco – Terry McAuliffe, Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt – surely the least culpable was Gephardt, the original phony "NASCAR Democrat." But picking up on the Clinton strategy of blame the innocent and promote the guilty, only Gephardt resigned.

Necessary disclaimer: I don't think she should have made that joke about Timothy McVeigh and the New York Times. [Still, canny of you to wait until Media Whores Online had closed down before posting this item-ed] 10:57 P.M.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Faster Football! ... 10:09 P.M.


In an earlier post, I noted Eric Black's point that Minnesota GOP candidate Norm Coleman was able to communicate publicly what it might have been illegal (under campaign finance laws) for him to communicate privately -- namely that he really didn't want the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to run negative TV ads against Mondale... But, as alert kf reader B.B. points out, this public/private distinction is a little more subtle now than it used to be, no? What if Coleman had just had a blog, where he routinely hinted at the kinds of new ads, media buys and other free speech activities he hoped other concerned citizens might undertake against Mondale? ... And what if the URL for this "public" blog wasn't all that widely known? ... Maybe most candidates would decide that the safer course is to be as public as possible, as Coleman in fact was. But the blog route might allow pols to "publicly" communicate more detailed instructions to those "independent" campaigners they aren't allowed to "coordinate" with. ...(e.g.:"Our campaign is doing really well in the St. Paul area. Duluth is coming around and we certainly hope and expect to be where we want to be in that area by election day. They are really worried about high taxes up there, aren't they?")  1:32 P.M.

The Note gets some actual  news  that nobody else has: Al Gore has flip-flopped and now supports a single-payer national health care system like Canada's. ... Not only does the Note get the news, it astutely analyzes it. It's the first-day and second-day stories rolled into one. Talk about Faster Journalism! There's nothing left for the Washington Post and NYT to write. ... Actually, there is. Here's a ramification The Note missed: Gore's endorsement of single-payer opens up a huge opportunity for Hillary Clinton to stake out a position on the centrist (i.e. right) side of the Democratic spectrum by opposing the single-payer solution. Presumably, Hillary! -- who can get much of the left vote just because she's Hillary! -- is looking for such opportunities. She rejected single-payer when she was in charge of her husband's health proposals, of course, a long time ago in a galaxy far away (1993). ...

More Faster Journalism: Howie Kurtz is already naming and mocking the just-emerged rebaked CW about the Democratic presidential candidates being "seven dwarves." ... This means that any journalist who doesn't want to look like a CW hack will now have to come up with something different, which means a new CW will emerge all the more rapidly. ...We could be ready for the 2004 election by Thanksgiving! ...11:01 A.M.

I've finally read Eric Black's justly-celebrated "tick-tock" account of the Coleman-Mondale campaign. No throat clearing, no billboard paragraphs. Just the key details.. ...  It's also a textbook study of the Feiler Faster Thesisin action (as alert reader T.M. points out). The 13 days from Wellstone's death to the election packed in most of the ups and downs of a full-length old-style campaign. Black offers some clues as to why things nowadays have speeded up:

1) Cell phones: People hear the awful news of Wellstone's crash immediately. Instantly, GOP strategist Vin Weber tracks down old Ashcroft aides to find out how they handled the similar Missouri situation;

2) Feedback: Ashcroft had longer to recover after his opponent's death produced a wave of sympathy -- but Ashcroft never recovered completely. Coleman is able to quickly learn the lesson of Ashcroft's campaign -- Don't Drop Out of Sight -- and mount an effective comeback.

3) NEXIS: Mondale meets with aides for the first time to consider entering the race, but "National Republicans have already generated a book of 'opposition research'" on him.

4) E-mail: Weber is able to stoke outrage after the Wellstone memorial service by "sending an e-mail to a Star Tribune political reporter. The subject line says: "I've never been angrier in my whole political life . . ." Weber's quote gets used. ... Why wait for them to phone you?


Bonus -- Black also points out one delicious perversity of campaign finance laws: It was illegal for Coleman to "coordinate" the National Republican Senatorial Committee's ads with his campaign. But this only meant he couldn't privately tell them what to do, according to Black. Coleman's solution? He publicly told them what to do - urging them, and everyone else, not to go negative (in their case, by running an anti-Mondale ad they'd already shipped to TV stations). ...  Faster Journalism for Faster Politics: Q: What to call this sort of rapidly-produced "tick tock"account? ... A: Quick-tock! 12:45 A.M.

The Smith-Free Group is not Smith-free at all. ... And Nancy Pelosi's Democratic lobbyist friends just happen to get a subtly-timed item in the Washington Post advertising their friendship ... More evidence for Timothy Noah's point that Washington's culture isn't the delicate, nuanced birdsong that Ward Just depicts in his novels. It's a crude grabbing for power and money. ... 12:44 A.M.

Calling John Lee Malvo a "child" seems a bit much. ...12:43 A.M.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

In an NYT op-ed, Alex Kotlowitz says, "There's a shift in the winds in our inner cities. On the heels of a fatherhood movement ... more and more young couples are considering marriage." Kotlowitz thus confirms a positive trend predictedand reportedhere and  by Blaine Harden  in the Times itself.  Academic experts will probably wake up and acknowledge this trend any decade now! (Kotlowitz notes the resistance in academia to the good news.) ... But Kotlowitz's piece then takes a bizarre turn, despairing of the ability of government to do anything to promote marriage, not even considering the obvious possibility, beaten to death in this space, that the government is already doing something that successfully promotes marriage, namely requiring welfare recipients to work under the 1996 welfare reform. (When single mothers have to work instead of collecting automatic checks, the advantages of having a reliable second earner in the family become clearer -- having a working husband then means a mother can work less and mother more.) Why didn't Kotlowitz's NYT editors (Shipley? Newman? Hello?) force him to confront this obvious possibility? Instead, they let him get away with a tired quote from the should-be-discredited Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who despairs of the ability of government to do anything that affects the family. It's as if Moynihan were cited as a great military authority, denying the ability of the government to win World War II four months after the Battle of Midway. ... P.S.: Like Kotlowitz, I'm not optimistic about the Bush administration's proposed PR-like "marriage promotion" initiative. My point is that the government already has a much more powerful marriage-promotion initiative, namely the concrete economic imperatives created by work requirements. ... Not so fast: But don't put too much stock in  last weekend's A.P. story (which the NYT used and I linked) describing a mini-boom in teenage marriages. Kf hears the Census says A.P.'s story was based on comparing two different surveys, and the increase over time "may reflect Census procedural changes" rather than a real marriage increase. Then again, it may not! OTWT.[?-ed. "Only time ..."]  Update: For example, the second survey may simply have captured more young immigrants, who tend more to be married. ...2:45 A.M.


Kf imitates National Journal: Legislation to "reauthorize" the 1996 welfare reform law will now almost certainly not get enacted in the current lame duck session of Congress.  Before the election, the two parties had been working on a stripped-down three-year reauthorization bill. Republicans now think they can do better trying to pass a full five-year bill in the new Congress next year. ... But can they keep moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe from creating new loopholes in the work requirement (by allowing states to substitute often-useless education and "training" for actual work)? The GOP majority is slim enough to make Lott and Bush want to keep potential defectors like Snowe happy -- one reason the upcoming Louisiana runoff, which could let Lott pad his Senate margin, matters. ...1:47 A.M.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

It's come to this for the Democrats. ...12:29 P.M.

So it wasn't a rout: Charlie Cook's e-mailed newsletter says the 2002 election is being "over-interpreted" as a huge GOP victory.

Not one House seat in the country that had been rated leaning, likely or solidly Democratic in the Oct. 20, final post-election issue of the Cook Political Report went Republican. (For that matter, no leaning, likely or solidly Republican seat went Democratic, either.) Republicans simply won seven out of 11 of the toss-up races.

Is Cook right that the election is being hailed as a rout? Isn't the point, rather, that after the relentless hype in the respectable media building up Democratic chances (the economy will do it for them, Enron will do it for them, 401(ks)s will do it for them, Social Security will do it for them, doubts about the war will do it for them, Hispanics will do it for them, etc.) even a close Democratic defeat has a crushing psychological effect? ... Live in the cocoon, die in the cocoon. ... Plus, isn't the real story here that there were only 11 toss-up races (out of 435),  thanks mainly to gerrymandering? Had there been more, and had Republicans had won 7 out of every 11, the GOP seat gain might approach that in earlier "wave" years. ... 11:12 A.M.

What Bold Bush Agenda? Part 3: In the course of hyping the coming "philosophical revolution in the courts," conservative court-watcher Bruce Fein admits ( WaPo reports) that "the courts will let stand the landmark Roe v. Wade decision because undoing it would be 'too wrenching.'" So how big a 'revolution' could it be? ... Update: Instapundit gives the Court's likely refusal to overturn Roe what is to me a semi-ominous gloss, arguing that even conservatives don't want to set the precedent that Court-declared rights can be overturned by political and popular "pressure." Upholding Roe, in this theory, emphasizes the Court's ratchet-like infallibility -- so if conservative judges now declare some new "property" rights, don't try to get them to change their minds! ... The result could be a sinister form of constitutional log-rolling -- you get to create your far-fetched rights if we get to create our far-fetched rights. (Rose Bird, Jerry Brown's Chief Justice in California, was heading in this direction before she was voted out of office.) Rights pile up like silt, everything becomes a clash of rights, and as a result everything gets decided by the courts. ... That's why democrats (and Democrats) should be for overturning Roe. ...  12:47 A.M.

Monday, November 11, 2002

What Bold Bush Agenda? Part 2: Social Security private investment accounts, another part of Bush's allegedly ambitious agenda, are still dead!... Caveat: It's true that, from the looks of today's WaPo, the White House is on a full-fledged "We're not overreachers" PR campaign. Some skepticism is in order. But when controversial intiatives like this get moved to the "back burner" they tend to stay there -- if they don't fall off the stove entirely. ... And what's left on the stove once the Homeland Security bill passes?  Maybe it's the Republicans who've become little more than the prescription drug party. ...  12:11 P.M.

What Bold Bush Agenda? Part 1:

After talking expansively about an aggressive new round of tax cuts, Republican leaders are ratcheting back expectations and hoping to press forward next year with a modest tax agenda that is probably more symbolic than substantive, GOP congressional sources say. -- Jonathan Weisman and Dana Milbank, Washington Post [emphasis added]

The truth remains, I think, that Bush doesn't have a scary, right-wing domestic agenda (all the pre-election stories to this effect, including one by these same two authors, notwithstanding). He has closer to no domestic agenda, the major parts of his 2000 platform --education reform, tax cuts -- having already been enacted. That's why he's beatable in 2004. ... More on this later. ... 1:56 A.M.

Pelosi Fails kf Litmus Test: Wondering why people say Rep. Nancy Pelosi's instincts may take her too far to the left? Here's what she said about the welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed in 1996 -- a law that cut welfare rolls in half while black child poverty fell to a record low:

"If this bill passes today it will be a victory for the political spin artists and it will be a defeat for the children of America. ... The cuts in this bill will diminish the quality of life for children and poor families in America. ... How can a country as great as America ignore the needs of America's infants and children who were born into poverty?"

Ed Koch agrees (with kf, not Pelosi) ... 2:27 A.M.

Suddenly, it's 1983! Wait, I've lived through this already.  Defeated Democrats need "ideas,"  says Michael Waldman. And make it snappy! (Get Gary Hart! Didn't he have "new ideas"?) .. I respect Waldman -- his politics are close to mine, and he wrote a good, entertaining book about the Clinton Presidency. But 1) "ideas" aren't like a crop of wheat you can reliably grow if you just put enough think-tank farmers on the case. It's fair to say that if Democrats can't say immediately, off the top of their heads, what they believe in that's different from Bush, the Brookings Institution isn't going to tell them; 2) Nor is it just a question of new neoliberal, market-oriented "means" to traditional liberal "ends." The Democrats' problem may be that some of the old "ends" -- the ones they would give you off the tops of their heads -- have been grokked and rejected. Like what? Like the relentless pursuit of "more" economic equality. 3) So what's a new, more acceptable Democratic end? Off the top of my head: Affirmative government to insure social, not economic, equality -- in part by guaranteeing health care to all (not a new "idea"!); 4) Waldman says Democrats should "look squarely at welfare reform and crime, and instead of kvetching about Republican plans, offer some of their own, proposals that do not undo the social progress made under a Democratic administration." Right. But what if Bush's proposals are the ones that don't undo the social progress made under Clinton? On some level, Waldman seems to want the Dems to come up with an alternative just for the sake of having an alternative.

The possibility he (and Peter Beinart) don't seem to want to face is that of ideological convergence -- on many big issues, Democrats and Republicans actually agree, and attempts to create strategic contrasts are artificial. The remaining differences (like Beinart's sensible criticisms of Bush's failure to rebuild Afghanistan or "secure loose nuclear materials") are often arguments you'd normally expect to have within a party. Or else they're personal (Bush is dumb, Bush stole Florida, Bush is helping his oil buddies, etc. -- but Powell's OK!). They're not what we've come to think of as the defining ideological differences between the parties. ... (Caveat for Robert Wright: In time, we may need a party that favors international structures that police WMD disarmament, and the environment, and trade, and there may be a deep, ideological gap between that "international" party and the pro-sovereignty Republicans. But for the moment, promoting world government doesn't seem like the basis for building a Democratic majority. It's the basis for building a party that's out of power for 20 years and then finally triumphs, Reagan-like. Not that there's anything wrong with that!) ... 1:49 A.M.

At least the NYT -- or the Associated Press story it runs, anyway -- now mentions welfare reform as a possible cause of the sharp rise in teen marriages that left "researchers ... surprised." ...This good news may surprise "researchers," but it doesn't surprise many of welfare reform's supporters. ... [Link via Sullivan ] 1:01 A.M.

Instapundit has already commented on Cass Sunstein's spectacularly weak op-ed on the dangers of conservative judicial activism -- noting that Sunstein writes as if any court decision that overturns an act of Congress is dangerous activism, at least if it's an act of Congress that has bipartisan support. But surely there are some bipartisan acts of Congress we might want the courts to overturn -- "the flag-burning bill had bipartisan support," Instapundit notes. The constitution isn't a wet noodle, and some of its provisions actually protect valuable rights! Surely whether it's dangerous for a court to overturn a particular piece of legislation depends at least in part on what the Constitution actually says about the subject.  ... Yes, Sunstein's piece is that dumb! Or he thinks his readers are that dumb.... There's another sense in which Sunstein writes as if his audience is easily conned. He's trying (he says) to convince "Republicans who now control Congress" that they should be worried about the substantive impact of conservative judicial activism. What laws should they worry the courts might overturn? Well, "campaign finance legislation. ... affirmative action programs  ... gun control" ... consumer protection laws .. the "1994 Violence Against Women Act."  Huh? These are all laws that most of the "Republicans who now control Congress," and certainly most conservative Republicans, would be happy to have the courts make disappear. Does Sunstein really believe he can fool right-wing readers into thinking they liked John McCain's campaign finance bill?  Or is Sunstein really speaking to the left -- trying to reassure the NYT's readers that by opposing Bush's judicial nominees they are really taking a "bipartisan" stand? ... .P.S.: I'm worried about conservative judicial activism too, but not that worried, for the reasons given here. ...12:51 A.M.




Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.