The problem for all these candidates, however, is that once you become a front-runner, you become, by definition, somewhat conventional.
And, voters begin to turn against you. That, in fact, is what happened in 1976 where Jimmy Carter swept almost all the initial primaries, only to find in a few months that he was now considered an "old face" with the consequence that Jerry Brown and Frank Church began to beat him almost everywhere (though not in time to wrest the nomination away from him).
This year, in the internet age, that process will be greatly accelerated, so that in a matter of weeks or even days, Huckabee will appear as if he's been around for decades. How do you continue to appear unconventional and new in an age when everything is sped up beyond recognition? [E.A.]
Possible answer: Unless you have actual ideas and plans that a) upset the insiders and b) appeal to voters, you don't. Half-fake outsiders like Carter probably won't pull it off. ... 12:54 P.M.
Live by Pew, Die by Pew:LAT Chief Twit Tim Rutten calls the CNN-YouTube debate "corrupt" because it "chose to devote the first 35 minutes of this critical debate to a single issue -- immigration"--and did it allegedly to somehow expand the audience for CNN's Lou Dobbs.
How do we know immigration didn't deserve this play? Rutten cites a fresh poll from "the nonpartisan and highly reliable Pew Center" showing that "just 6% of the survey's national sample said that immigration was the most important electoral issue."
But of course this was a Republican primary debate, and presumably focused on issues of concern to Republican primary voters. Why didn't Rutten give his readers some Pew findings for Republicans, as opposed to all Americans? Could it be because they would show that immigration is indeed a big issue for these voters?
Here's what the "nonpartisan and highly reliable Pew Center" itself said after the CNN debate:
The first four questions of the night all focused on illegal immigration. In this regard, Pew polling shows that the debate was reflective of the importance of immigration as an issue in the Republican presidential primary.
In an October Pew survey,65% of Republican voters said that immigration was very important to their presidential vote, ranking it sixth out of 16 possible issues. In contrast, while half of Democrats (50%) and a majority of independents (57%) cited immigration as an issue that was very important to their vote, both ranked it near the bottom of their agendas; only three issues were ranked lower: abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage.
When asked what is the single most important issue facing the nation, 11% of Republicans cited immigration, according to the October survey. As an issue for Republican voters, immigration trails only Iraq (27%) and terrorism (14%) in importance and is viewed as more important than the economy (9%). Only 4% of both Democrats and independents say immigration is the most important problem facing the nation. [E.A.]
Does this mean Pew has been corrupted too? Scary! ...
P.S.--What you mean 'we'? Rutten also declares--discussing a CNN-YouTuber's bible question--that it's
anathema in our system -- to probe people's individual religious consciences. American journalists quite legitimately ask candidates about policy issues -- say, abortion -- that might be influenced by their religious or philosophical convictions. We do not and should not ask them about those convictions themselves. It's nobody's business whether a candidate believes in the virgin birth, whether God gave an oral Torah to Moses at Sinai, whether the Buddha escaped the round of birth and rebirth or whether an angel appeared to Joseph Smith.
I dunno. I tend to think when columnists throw around assertions that some things are "legitimately" done while others "we do not" do, they should maybe offer some actual arguments for why "we do not" do them other than Tim Rutten's vast authority on all matters. I'm quite interested in candidates' "individual religious consciences." They all say religion informs their behavior, so let's find out about it. See, generally, Jacob Weisberg's essay on the relevance of Romney's faith. ...
Backfill.: Rasmussen reports that immigration is the #1 issue in the Iowa race:
Twenty-five percent (25%) of likely caucus participants identified immigration as the most important voting issue. Twenty-one percent (21%) named national security as their top issue while 18% said the economy was most important and 14% ranked the War in Iraq as the top issue- ...
1) Does the DNC stripping Michigan and Florida of their delegates (to punish them for too-early primaries) make a brokered, or at least contested, convention more possible by creating a large overhanging pool of uncommitted delegates that might conceivably be counted later? ... Between them, Michigan and Florida would seem to have almost 15% of the delegates a candidate would need to win the nomination. ... [Thanks to alert non-reader D.J.P.]
2) Obama and Huckabee lead their respective races in Iowa. Suppose those two actually win their parties' nominations. Wouldn't an Obama vs. Huckabee race be so quirky it would have a good chance of attracting potential third-party or independent candidates? Candidates more experienced and less of a semi-revolutionary "stretch" than Obama, less "socially" conservative than Huckabee, more fiscally conservative than either of them, and maybe less filled with Broderesque compassion for illegal immigrants? Candidates who are more boring?
12:39 A.M. link
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Brendan Nyhan on the Carteresque silliness of Obama's idea of providing (in the NYT's description) "live Internet feeds of all executive branch department and agency meetings." ... For a good example of how idealistic "open meeting" laws can gum up government by forcing officials to endure hours of for-show public meetings with grandstanding interest groups before actually getting down to business, read Lynn and Whitman's terrific account of Carter's welfare-reform failure. ... P.S.: How about live internet feeds of all Obama staff meetings? The voters of Iowa deserve no less! ... 11;42 A.M.
Friday, November 30, 2007
I hesitate to bring this up, but isn't the unremarked-on wild card in the debate over Social Security's solvency ... immigration? I've always been told by defenders of the system that one of the main safety valves, should it begin to look insolvent, was the ability to let in more immigrants-- increasing the crucial worker-to-retiree ratio. But to the extent the current immigration debate unexpectedly chases FICA-paying illegal immigrants away, and discourages admitting more legal immigrants, mightn't it by the same token make Social Security less solvent than currently projected? ... kf's solutions:a) If the number of illegals actually falls dramatically, that's what will make it possible to eventually get public support for a reasonable increase in quotas for legals; b) Find other ways to make the system solvent--like reducing the benefits of the affluent. If we have to raise taxes or cut benefits a bit more to make up for controlling the borders, it's worth it. ...
Why we love Matt Welch: You raise an issue that maybe cuts against your side, and all of a sudden you're a "goalpost-shifting ... restrictionist weathervane." And I've pledged $100 for this guy's going away party? Worth every penny! ... 8: 28 P.M.
Obama's mini-surge has come awfully early, giving his opponents ample time to answer back. John Kerry and John Edwards surged later in Iowa last time - and that was ages ago technology-wise, in a year when the race was not nearly as intensely covered as now and few had Blackberries.
It's not that Obama won't win Iowa. It's that to do so, he's going to need a second and a third act. In the early days of television, Bob Hope complained "in the old days you could do one sketch for five years. But if you use that sketch on TV, in one night it's used up." The same principle applies to this year's process, which is the first real campaign of the internet age. [E.A.]
Right, Because people--I'd say voters as well as reporters--are comfortable processing information at a faster pace, there is plenty of time for Obama and Huckabee to wear out their welcome and fade. There is time for them to fade and come back. And fade again. ...
P.S.: There's also effectively more time between the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus and the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary than there was during the equivalent 5 day period in, say, 1984. ...
P.P.S.: Stark's point seems different than the argument** that by surging so soon a candidate like Huckabee has ironically raised the expectation that he will win Iowa, making a fading second place a bit of a defeat. But if Huckabee fades in the polls, why shouldn't "expectations" about him ebb and flow as quickly as his numbers? Maybe there is a ratchet for expectations--once you are in the top tier that might win you're expected to win. But how then to explain McCain, who was top tier but fell out and now has low expectations--so he'll be a big winner if he finishes third in Iowa? ... Clearly there are things you can do to "reset" expectations, like firing your campaign staff. ...
**--I think this argument was made by Weekly Standard's Richelieu. Or maybe it was consultant Mike Murphy. I get them confused sometimes! ... 7:09 P.M.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Hillary's Petards: Prediction--If they settle the writer's strike, it could be bad for Hillary because Jay Leno will make Huma jokes! (Remember: Huma = comedy gold.) It certainly seems much more likely that the Huma innuendo would make it into the mainstream via late-night monologues than via investigative reporting. [Won't it make it into the mainstream by bloggers discussing how it might make it into the mainstream?--ed Don't think that trick will work. The blog/bloodstream barrier seems too robust. The late-night-joke/bloodstream barrier isn't. And remember, that ate night rabbit-hole into voter consciousness is not a byproduct of blogging. As far as I can see, it's a byproduct of the Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky scandals, which appear to have convinced Leno, Letterman, et. al. that if they didn't joke about Clinton's rumored sex life they'd look like fools and would miss out on some good material. (And if they did, it's not like they'd be sued for libel.) This is one way Hillary is hoist on her husband's petard, Huma-wise.
But there's another petard. Let's assume what is likely to be the case--that the Huma rumor is a) unprovable if true and b) un-disprovable if untrue. Under the old rules that means it would never be proved and would probably never surface. If it did surface --say because it was the subject of vicious campaign push-polling--a simple denial by both parties and it would be semi-officially "false." In the new Webby post-Lewinsky world it's more likely to surface, which makes the subsequent denial all the more important. Contrary to popular belief, it's not impossible to issue a denial so convincing that even gossip-addicted bloggers drop a juicy rumor. (Here's an example.) The trouble for Hillary is that when it comes to sex rumors she and her husband (unlike, say, John Edwards and his wife) have no credibility. They threw that away when the philandering charges they righteously denounced in 1992 and 1998 turned out to be basically true. 11:58 P.M. link
Jim Pinkerton mocks Giuliani's "virtual fence," including a particularly vicious--but not unfair--line:
Bricks, concrete, barbed wire, all that: overrated! We don't need physical boundaries between us, only virtual boundaries. That's why we'd never put up a real fence, for instance, if we wanted to keep our children or pets from wandering away. ...[snip]
Some see weaknesses in this virtual approach. A headline in The Washington Post from Sept. 21, 2006, declared: "Plenty of Holes Seen in a 'Virtual Fence'/Border Sensors Not Enough, Experts Say." ... But President Giuliani can fix any technical challenge. After all, as mayor, he solved the problem of radio interoperability between the police and fire departments long before disaster struck on 9/11. [E.A.]
Obvious point: Dick Morris says that Hillary's attacks on Obama in Iowa give Obama "added credibility." But doesn't the Hillary vs. Obama mutual-sniping dynamic that's developed actually create an opening for Edwards to slip ahead as the acceptable, "electable" third candidate in the warped minds of Iowans--the same way ... well, John Edwards slipped ahead of Dean and Gephardt in 2004? Wouldn't it be smart for Obama to stop responding tit-for-tat to Hillary to prevent this from happening? ... P.S.: Obama was supposed to get Edwards to do his dirty work for him. That's not happening.... 5:12 P.M.
Who Says the Press Isn't Covering the Issues? We're Covering Who's "Electable"! One reason the "electability" issue has become so prominent--why "presidential primaries have become an electability bonanza," as Jason Zengerle puts it--is that the mainstream press likes it when electability is the issue. For one thing, "who's electable" is a Neutral Story Line--it seemingly doesn't require reporters and publications to take stands or sides. You can write dozens of "Is Hillary Electable?" stories without letting on what you think about, say, government-guaranteed health care. It's harder to write "Will Hillary be a Good President?" without doing that. Second, "electability" questions--like the traditional "horse race" questions--are in political reporter's analytic wheelhouses. Indeed, "electability" questions are "horse race" questions. They're the horse-race on stilts! Or, rather, they're the horse race "process" turned through some serendipitous alchemy into candidate "substance." ... P.S.: I don't think 'electability' is a bogus concern in the primaries. But I think Iowa's discredited caucusers are lousy at spotting it. Howard Dean was a more "electable" candidate than John Kerry (and, in retrospect, than John Edwards). ...
Update: Mark Blumenthal argues that ordinary voters and caucusers don't think "electability" means what political reporters think it means. ... 2:06 A.M.
Shouldn't Hillary now get Jonathan Franzen to campaign for her? ... 1:52 A.M.
Driving North on I-5 today I noticed a lot of seemingly gratuitous references to McDonald's restaurants on schlocky FM music stations--mainly by the DJs. Has McDonald's had a resurgence as a pop-culture reference point? Do they have an especially energetic PR agent? Or is some other kind of incentive being spread around? Just suspicious. ... 1:46 A.M.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I'm late to Heller, the big Second Amendment case the Supreme Court has agreed to hear. Instapundit argues the Court couldn't duck the case in large part because it doesn't involve one of the 50 states, or a city in those states:
Cases involving state gun laws raise the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to the states. But, where every other US city is legally part of a state government, the district is a direct creature of the federal government.
If that's true, then how stupid were the gun-controllers in the D.C government to persist in their cause? The result may be a ruling that after 200 years actually gives meaning to the distressingly clear language of the Amendment. Couldn't gun-controllers from the rest of the country have talked them out of it? ... 12:19 A.M.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
My candidate, at least at the moment, Is Obama. When I hear him discussing issues, I hear intelligence and reflection and almost a joy in thinking it through.
Hmm. I'm listening for the "joy in thinking it through" part. I'm even expecting it. But I'm not hearing it. I wish I was, because I'd like to find a reason to be for Obama, and a pol who enjoys "thinking it through" might enjoy rethinking through the positions with which I disagree, like "card check" unionism and drivers' licenses for illegals (not to mention "comprehensive" semi-amnesty for illegals). An ironic Obamanic joy at, say, wrestling with the problem of how to keep sneering at the Petraeus surge when the surge looks like it's doing good would help leaven the impression that Hillary's policy positions are actually more sensible-- for example, she's less committed to withdrawing troops and could therefore be more effective at making the best of a bad situation in Iraq. ...
P.S.: Maybe Obama is better answering questions on the stump than in debates. But--to pick Amy Sullivan's example--asking "if the minimum wage in Canada was $100 an hour?" in an argument over immigration doesn't sound like joy in thinking it through. It sounds like joy in coming up with a good line that lets you avoid thinking it through--i.e. avoid wrestling with the essential policy dilemma. Is Obama actually saying that we could all sneak into Canada to get rich and then legitimately expect Canada to legalize us and let us all become Canadian citizens? (Cool! There aren't that many Canadians. Taking over Canada was a common student radical fantasy in the '60s, if I remember. Alberta is our Aztlan!) ... 1:14 P.M. link
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Page B-1 Shocker: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Telemundo anchor Mirthala Salinas have apparently "ended their romantic relationship." And here we all thought it was a great love! The L.A. Times runs the story on page B-1. S.S. emails: "It's a B-3 story, for crying out loud." ... 12:26 P.M.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Page 6 Shocker:"[S]ingle singer/songwriter" tries "picking up women" when he's drunk! 5:30 P.M.
When you've got Nixon, make Nixonade: John Ellis argues Hillary can't base her campaign on being likeable (she's not) and basing her campaign on being 'inevitable,' which she's done, is highly risky-e.g., if she loses the first two primaries. Instead, Ellis advises her to emulate Nixon in 1968 and portray herself as the 'woman in the arena':
Like Nixon, Senator Clinton is widely disliked. Like Nixon, she cannot be made warm ....
But also like Nixon, she is intelligent and diligent and determined and tough and she has been through hell and back. She is experienced in a way that only her husband and President George W. Bush are experienced. She knows what it's like to get her head kicked in every day, day after day after day, for months and years on end. She endures.
That was the whole point of the 1968 Nixon campaign narrative. He wasn't perfect by any means, but he was formidable and he endured. It's a narrative that fits Senator Clinton's campaign like a glove.
Hmm. Is Ellis saying Hillary should actually stage 'man in the arena' events as Nixon famously did? And aren't her attempts to prove how "formidable" she is by cutting up Obama --belittling his "" living in a foreign country at the age of 10"-- unappealing? I asked Ellis via email and got this response:
I think every campaign is, basically, a narrative. How that narrative is distributed changes as the means of distribution change (the Internet has obviously become v important, etc). But I think her narrative is not "she's inevitable because she's experienced and the others are too light." I think her narrative is "formidable, battle-scarred, flawed, but important." I think Penn thinks he can micro-target to victory. I think they need a large macro theme that enables people to vote for Hillary, even though they don't want to.
It's obviously late now. This is work they should have done in 2006 and 2007: setting the context for "understanding" her candidacy ...
"Enduring" seems only a nuance away from "experienced," but I see Ellis' point. Campaigning as tough, battle-scarred fixture, etc. would certainly serve Hillary better, should she lose Iowa and New Hampshire, than campaigning as "inevitable." It seems entirely possible--given the way the Feiler Faster phenomenon enables quick comebacks in short periods of time--that primary voters might feel like resurrecting Ms. Durability after she's suffered a bit by way of a New Hampshire loss. (Making her suffer a bit might even be the point.**) But there's no point in resurrecting a failed Ms. Inevitability. ...
**--Voters might especially want her to suffer a bit because she's portrayed herself as inevitable. ... 3:58 P.M. link
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Pinch Works Fast: The New York Times' value has been cut in half in less than three years. It's now worth a little more than $17 a share. In 2002, it traded above $50 a share. I wouldn't worry about Rupert Murdoch buying the Times at this point. I'd worry about Rupert Murdoch's nanny buying the Times. ... [Thanks to S.B. ] 6:30 P.M.
Thanksgiving Tune-Out? Why is Obama suddenly sinking in Rasmussen's national robo-poll? His number for Monday was obviously awful. Maybe all his supporters stopped answering the phone for Thanksgiving. But you have to wonder whether the cause was this widely-reported Saturday story (which I thought would help him)... 3:15 A.M.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
How Does the Surge Hurt? I'm willing to be convinced that the instinct to keep up Petraeus' "surge" (as long as it's showing promising results) is wrong. But the recent Podesta/Korb/Katulis op-ed--"Strategic Drift: Where's the Pushback Against the Surge?"--didn't come close to doing the trick. When you write a sentence like:
the progress being made at the local level often undermines the stated goal of creating a unified, stable, democratic Iraq
you have to come up with, you know, an example. Maybe in the next sentence! Podesta et al. argue that Iraqi national reconciliation--and "constructive" intervention by regional powers--will only come when America withdraws. That may be true (though it seems tendentiously optimistic). But we can always withdraw. In the meantime, how does "progress at the local level," including "declines in the overall level of violence," actually hurt? Without that argument, the piece looks like positioning. ...
Update: Kevin Drum tries to supply the missing paragraphs here, here and here. Maybe you will find them convincing. The basic issue is whether empowering Sunni tribes outside the new Iraqi state eventually promotes a stable reconciliation or a future civil war. ... But attempting "integration" of Sunnis directly into the Maliki government wasn't working very well, was it? Likewise, withdrawing and hoping for Shiite benevolence--and benign intervention by "regional powers"--seems pie-eyed. Attempting to achieve some sort of stable balance of local power, on the other hand, has worked before in this sort of situation, no? It seems worth a shot, especially if the ongoing cost in American lives gets reduced to a tolerable level. ...
P.S.: Via Drum, here is Petraeus adviser David Kilcullen's explanation of the current strategy. ...
Update: Robert Farley of Lawyers Guns & Money does his part to fill the void here. The trouble with his argument, something he more or less admits, is that the current central government wasn't making much progress obtaining a "monopoly" on the use of force before the Bush strategy shift and it's unlikely to obtain such a monopoly if we withdraw. Even if you measure progress by the "stated goal" of "a unified, stable, democratic Iraq"--instead of, more realistically, by the goal of leaving the most favorable situation behind that we can--it's not clear that the best chance of ultimately constituting that unified government (with a monopoly on violence) isn't first to rebalance sectarian military strength on the ground, enabling Iraq's warring groups to then cut a stable deal down the road. ... 6:49 P.M. link
The other obvious hack speculation: Hillary tanks in Iowa and N.H.. Obama, Edwards too liberal and inexperienced. Electability. Late entry. Exciting convention. Gore. Take it away. ... 6:20 P.M.
Ayes of Newt: The normally sound Tom Edsall contrasts Speakers Gingrich and Pelosi and finds that Pelosi, "strangely enough, has won enactment of more legislation than her flamboyant predecessor." He notes that Pelosi's achievements include:
an increase in the minimum wage, lobbying and ethics reform, Gulf Coast reconstruction assistance, and substantial expansion of college financial aid.
I concede that the minimum wage increase is an achievement. The others are yawners. Meanwhile, by the end of Gingrich's first two years as Speaker, 1) the budget was heading toward a surplus after years of deficits; and 2) a once-in-a generation welfare reform had been signed into law--a big attempt to tackle the "underclass" problem, the first time a federal entitlement had been repealed, in a bill that also included substantial changes in child support enforcement, immigrant benefits, and social security disability for children. ... Oh, and the minimum wage got increased under Gingrich too, also before his first two years were up. ...
The situations aren't comparable, of course. President Clinton was inclined to find common ground with Gingrich. Gingrich had a united party. Pelosi is trying to block a president's foreign policy, and events on the ground haven't been going her way lately. Gingrich was (is?) an infantile megalomaniac who was easily manipulated and overplayed his hand. Still. The achievements aren't comparable either. At least not yet. ... 5:42 P.M. link
Sometimes an NPR show can upend your expectations and convince you that ordinary Americans can be brilliant observers and even entertainers. StoryCorpsis not that show, I think. Every story I've heard on it has been lame. When do the grants run out? ... 2:51 A.M.
Giuliani, the New Ideas Candidate? Sara Mosle recently reminded everyone of a key, overlooked moment in Giuliani's career: after his prostate cancer diagnosis, he decided to employ New York City's trademark Comp Stat policing technique to "aggressively recruit greater numbers of uninsured children for coverage under two existing government-run programs: Medicaid and Child Health Plus." Mosle--and later Sara Kershaw of the NYT--used this incident to paint Giuliani as a hypocritical candidate. It seems to me it shows why he's a formidable candidate.
1) It's a great idea, and great politics--combining a liberal desire to insure children with the conservative insight that the reason many kids aren't signed up isn't lack of funding but parental screwup. The benefits are there for the taking, they're just not being taken. So Giuliani will track down the parents using the same computerized maps he uses to hunt down criminals! It's compassionate. It's conservative. And it's innovative.
2) Giuliani's now in the GOP primaries. He doesn't talk about his children's insurance initiative. When it comes to health care, as Mosle notes, he's "tried to change the subject." He attacks "socialized medicine." But does that preclude him returning to the "Health Stat" idea in the general election--and winning over swing voters with it? I don't think so.. Medicaid and Child Health Plus are programs for those who can't afford regular health insurance. That's not "socialized medicine." Giuliani can say he supports signing up those who are poor enough for existing programs but he doesn't want to expand eligibility further up the income ladder.
3) Giuliani's Health Stat initiative, originating in his May 2000 news conference, gives the lie to the widely held notion that he was a politically dead before 9/11 revived him. It humanized him, and it seems likes the sort of fresh initiative that can win you a third term (if you're not term-limited).
2:19 A.M. link
Monday, November 19, 2007
About that AT&T ad (sometimes at the top of this page): If home is in Kansas, and fun takes you to California, but work leads to Kentucky, then don't you live in Kanifucky? AT&T says "Kanifky." Weak! ... 12:48 P.M.
FR: For the next 45 days, until the caucuses take place there, the Democratic presidential race will be all about Iowa. ...[snip] ... One of two things will happen in Iowa on January 3: Either Clinton wins, and she steamrolls through the primaries on the way to the nomination. Or she doesn't, and the candidate with a majority of the advantages -- in polls, in endorsements, and with the most famous last name in the Democratic Party -- looks vulnerable and it becomes a two-person fight to the finish with the candidate who wins
kf: There is an obvious third thing that could easily happen before the 45 days are up. In, say, 25 days, with Hillary behind by 10 points and not gaining ground, she starts deemphasizing the state--pulling out staff, campaigning elsewhere, effectively conceding Iowa and choosing to make her stand in other states. Humiliating, but not as humiliating as trying and losing--and Hillary is a cautious type. She also doesn't seem like a late surger. Her aides will convince her she doesn't need Iowa to win--focusing on Iowa in the first place was just an attempt to land a knockout punch. The punch having missed, she'll settle in for the full 15 rounds. ... She could even make some mischief by having some of her Iowa troops vote for the anti-Hillary candidate she wants to keep alive (who looks like Edwards at the moment but may look like Obama by January)..
FR: [A]fter Obama's less-than-stellar debate performance late last week, one can sense another one of those momentum switches. His campaign screamed to the top of its lungs after Bob Novak reported that the Clinton campaign was sitting on allegedly scandalous material on Obama. ... [snip] ... About the only good news for Obama this weekend is that the spat over the Novak story did appear to change the subject from the debate.
kf: Huh? Did the Novak story, and Obama's instant reaction, really make Obama look bad? I thought it made HIllary's campaign look bad. And it means that if any dirt on Obama does come out, it will look like Hillary was the source--hurting her as well as him in goody-goody Iowa. (Remember when Dukakis had to fire his campaign manager after the latter was outed as the source of a perfectly legitimate hit on Joe Biden?) The promise of blowback makes it much less likely that the dirt, if any, will be dropped.** Obama was daring and shrewd to draw attention to Novak, no?
**--Though if Edwards has dirt on Obama, he might be able to drop it and have Hillary take the blame--a twofer. My guess, though, is that Edwards is in no position to start a scandal war.
12:12 A.M. link
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Scandal MAD?Here's one way to look at Saturday's surprising campaign back-and-forth over undisclosed scandalous dark matter--all started by Robert Novak's column claiming that Hillary "agents"** were "spreading the word" that she had "scandalous information" about Obama.
Until the Novak column, all the leading Dem candidates had semi-public potential scandal hanging over them--except Obama. Edwards had the Enquirer cheating story. Hillary had all the stories about her marriage and "Bill Clinton’s postpresidential sex life" referred to by an Obama aide in Marc Ambinder's recent Atlantic piece. Richardson ... well, rumors about Richardson were so rampant he felt compelled to defend against them before they actually surfaced. (He said, "I believe in the physical side of campaigning.")
Now Obama is on notice that if he plays the Clinton marriage card, a scandal bomb might drop on him too--assuming there is a bomb to drop. It doesn't matter so much if Hillary actually has some goods on Obama as long as Obama thinks Hillary has some goods on him.
But here's a thought experiment: Suppose there are some goods to be had. And suppose that all the candidates know all the other candidate's scandals and have the capability to launch them in the press. Has Hillary achieved Mutually Assured Destruction, scandal-wise? I doubt it.
Remember that it's a three-way race. According to the current polls, Hillary's precarious position in Iowa requires that both Obama and Edwards remain strong opponents, splitting the anti-Clinton vote. Like an inexperienced karate initiate, she can take on all comers only if they attack in a precisely symmetrical formation.
But if Scandal Doomsday happens, and all the evil that lurks in the mud hatches out, the results will not be symmetrical. Suppose that what Jezebel.com speculated about Obama is true. Would it sink him? I doubt it. The Bill and Hillary rumors you hear are also wildly unshocking, given their history--though they would have the multiplier effect of reminding people of that history.
But the Edwards allegation, if confirmed, would be devastating. Edwards has made his good character in the face of his wife's illness a central part of his campaign pitch.
If the Enquirer story pans out, you'd think he'd sink fast. Which would be terrible news for Hillary.
But if Obama and Hillary are hit with scandals and the Edwards story doesn't come out, that makes Edwards the big winner in the exchange. Which is also terrible for Hillary.
I think Sid may have his work cut out for him!
**--not "operatives"! A little Plame joke. 9:33 A.M. link
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Viva Triangulation, II: Alert reader D.J. emails to note a major virtue of "triangulation" I omitted:
[T]riangulation has involved somewhat more than what you say. It seems to involve extracting, from each side, the most ridiculous and indefensible part of the position and saying that you are against that and a resolution ought to be achieved without it. If done well, this does not really hurt the politician doing it because the issue so rejected is so ridiculous that, exposed and standing alone, that position is not defensible in the MSM or elsewhere.
In the Democrats' stance on welfare, that was the position that welfare recipients should not have to work -- a position that, if forced to confront it, anyone with any sense rejected as nothing but a way of buying votes. The Republicans' view that no money ought to be spent was equally ridiculous, given the long history of the nation's willingness to spend for it, and purely ideological. And the unions have exactly the same kind of position within their stance on education reform, which is that incompetent teachers should not be fired ...
Even if you publicly support the unions, again if you are forced to confront this particular issue it is hard to defend it in a public forum. If a Clinton-like person were to triangulate on education he could easily say that, of course, teachers that can't hack it have to leave. Can you imagine the press protesting that oh, no, incompetent teachers can't be fired? [E.A.]
What he said. When solving a problem requires that a powerful interest group give up its most cherished demand, you won't solve the problem by finding "common ground," "bridge-building," or "compromise." If the "common ground" doesn't include the cherished demand, the interest group won't go along with the project. In order to break the impasse, it helps if a politician can subject the cherished demand to public scrutiny (i.e. ridicule). Turn it it into a liability. That's not finding "common ground." That's triangulatin'! Make the uncommon ground uninhabitable, and all of sudden a new "common" ground starts looking like home. ... When the interest group complains angrily that you are creating a "distraction," "smoke screen," or "scapegoat," you know you are making progress. ...
N.B.: In the 1984 Democratic primary, the issue that Gary Hart (triangulating) extracted and ridiculed Walter Mondale over was, in fact, the issue of firing incompetent teachers. Mondale finally got bludgeoned into admitting in so many words that yes, maybe they should be fired. ... Twenty-four years later, the Democratic candidates don't even dare bring up this core issue--sorry, I mean 'smokescreen.' Instead they half-squabble over the less central, less touchy issue of "merit pay." This is not progress. ... 8:19 P.M.
Putting the Sid Back in Inside Baseball--A Timeline:
Nov. 15--Sidney Blumenthal joins Clinton campaign.
Nov. 17--Columnist Robert Novak writes that
Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use.
It can't be that simple. Right? ...
Update: Excitable Joe Klein is outraged! I mean, more than usual! And he's outraged at Novak. ....
Is Klein's point that if agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word that she has scandalaous information about Obama, that this is not worth Novak reporting? Wouldn't it tell you something about Hillary? ... [But you can't report that without reporting the alleged scandalous information-ed Novak didn't report the alleged scandalous information. You can't report it without suggesting that there is a scandalous allegation of some sort-ed That's true. There are two models, I guess.
Model One is Klein's:
Journalists are continually bombarded with rumors, often scurrilous. They are not news. Rumors only become news when they are confirmed, cross-checked and responded to by the target of the attack.
In this bi-modal model, there is "news." And there is "not news"--a black sump of information that the public does not get to learn (though journalists eagerly talk about it amongst themselves). One problem is that when Klein's gatekeepers vigilantly protect the borders of "news", they consign a lot of relevant and verified information (e.g. who is spreading what about what) to the black hole of non-news. Some journalists are so frustrated by their inability to convey the real story under Model One that they write thinly veiled campaign novels!
Why not a tri-modal model? In this Model Two there are a) Klein's confirmed and cross-checked news; b) unconfirmed, mainly Web-borne unverified scuttlebutt that everyone also gets to learn about; and c) things the public never knows about, perhaps because they are unchecked, highly damaging, and once loosed can never be completely recalled (i.e. unverified rumors of wife-beating or child porn, etc.) or because reporters only learn of them on an "I won't report this" basis.
The main objection to Model Two is the fear the public won't be able to handle category (b)--the unverified scuttlebutt. But over the past few cycles, haven't the voters put these fears to rest? They rallied around Bill Clinton despite all sorts of public rumors. They elected Arnold Schwarzenegger despite scandalous groping stories. Most recently, they've continued to support John Edwards despite the National Enquirer'sreport of a cheating scandal (and his on-the-record denial). The electorate seems reasonably capable of i) considering the source ii) supporting a candidate while holding in their minds the possibility that a scandalous rumor might be confirmed; and iii) putting the confirmed scandalous rumors into perspective.
I'm for Model Two. Let the public know most of the things journalists like Klein talk about amongst themselves--like that (hypotheticall) Hillary agents are running around saying they have the goods on Obama.
I also think Model Two is where free public debate is going, whether Klein likes it or not.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I have seen the new nose ("front clip") for the Pontiac Solstice. It's ugly! They've styled it along the tongue-thrusting lines of the G6 GXP. If I had a cell phone camera I'd be rich. ... The Solstice, which is not an expensive car, is currently gorgeous-but-unreliable. Maybe GM will fix its "drive system" problems (according to Consumer Reports) when they are changing the nose. ... That's a common pattern: A car looks pretty much perfect when it's introduced--but by the time they have the bugs out they've tragically "refreshed" the styling. ...[True of people too!--ed A get-up-and-get-a-beer line.]
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Triangulation vs. Bridge Building: On bloggingheads, Bob Wright argues there is no contradiction between 1) Obama's claim to be truer, bluer Democrat and 2) his claim to be a bipartisan bridge-builder. I grant that if you see policies on a spectrum, a politician can say he believes in a 'pure' liberal position but promise that he'll compromise as much as necessary to pass legislation. I'm forced to distinguish between this kind of bridge-building and "triangulation"--a distinction self-proclaimed bridge-builder Obama makes too, since he attacks "triangulating."
What's the difference? A Triangulator defines himself or herself against the positions of left and right. Most obvious example: welfare reform. Clinton argued traditional Congressional Democrats were wrong not to demand that welfare recipients work. But he distanced himself from Republicans who weren't willing to spend the money to provide the work and to "make work pay." He wasn't building bridges so much as telling each side off.
Why is this useful? The Triangulator knows that bipartisan solutions don't always require each side to give up its least important demands and meet in the middle, half-a-loaf style. Bipartisan solutions sometimes require one side or the other to give up it's most important demand. There was nothing the left cared more about in the welfare debate, for example, than preventing states from being able to abolish welfare or rigorously require single mothers to work. In the bipartisan reform that ultimately passed in 1996, the left lost those demands.
Similarly, in the education debate, traditional due process protection against dismissal isn't a marginal demand for the Dem-supporting teacher's unions. It's their core demand--not the last 10%, but the first 10%. But arguably you aren't going to fix the schools unless you take away that 10% and make it easier to fire mediocre teachers (or close down whole schools if they fail to meet standards). Similarly, in the health care debate there is nothing small-government conservatives want to avoid more than a big government-controlled system. Arguably we aren't going to get universal health care unless the conservatives lose that fight. Not compromise. Lose.
On issues thave have this structure, you're not necessarily going to achieve a bipartisan solution by starting out on one side or the other--as a "pure" Dem or a "pure" Republican--and then compromising, because you're not going to be well-positioned to make your side give up the core demand that it has to give up. You're not going to start out as a flat-out supporter of teacher tenure (and opponent of NCLB-style accountability) and then "compromise" by abandoning teacher tenure. You won't have laid the basis for it, and it's not a "meet in the middle" solution. But if you start out by criticizing the teachers' union for dogmatically supporting tenure and criticizing the Republicans for stinting on funding, you have a shot.
There are issues that don't have this structure--where getting to a solution doesn't require denying a core demand of left or right. Some problems are loaf-splitting problems--funding for the arts, maybe, or roads. They're easy to solve. But I'd argue that precisely because they're easy to solve most of them have been solved already. The problems we're left with are problems where one side or the other is willing to fight to the death to protect a core demand that must be denied to acheive a solution.
Often that core demand will only be on the right--health care may well be one such problem. In that case, taking a "pure" liberal position won't hurt. But on most problems there's a core demand on the left as well as the right standing in the way: not just teacher tenure on education, but also race preferences on civil rights, opposition to means-testing on Social Security and Medicare. On those issues, Triangulators are more likely to succeed than either purists or bridge-building compromisers--or people like Obama who claim to be both. ...
Update: Brownstein touts Obama's bridge-building, and lets him get away with arguing [in Brownstein's words] that "the Clintonian version of consensus focuses too much on finding a poll-driven midpoint between the parties." That's not a fair characterization of either Clinton's welfare plan or his health care ("managed competition") plan. Both were distinct third-way approaches. ...4:30 P.M. link
Out of 177 recipients of Bill Clinton's last-minute pardons, Jake Tapper could find only 3 who've contributed to Hillary's campaign? Ingrates! Or else people smart enough to know that a $2,3000 maximum contribution isn't worth the bad publicity stories like this bring. . ... P.S.: Hillary campaign manager Howard Wolfson still manages to come off as a prick. ...[via Lucianne] 11:34 A.M.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Fred Thompson: Not that lazy. ... 11:03 P.M.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
John Edwards' new ad:
"When I'm president, I'm going to say to members of Congress, and members of my administration, including my Cabinet, I'm glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don't pass universal health care by July of 2009, in six months, I'm going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you."
What power exactly does a president have to take away the health care coverage of Congressmen and exectuive branch officials?** Isn't the health coverage provided by statute? And doesn't Congress have to go along with changing a statute? ... More important, isn't this exactly the sort of showy bluff that won't work, bringing the Edwards presidency crashing down in its first year? ... Even more important, what kind of candidate thinks the voters are going to be taken in by a disingenuous display of substanceless bravado like this? ...
** Update: ---Edwards' own bloggers don't seem to know the answer. (Sample: "He'll speak to it effectively, I'm sure.") ...
Backfill: Howie Kurtz beat me to this point, and got this explanation from the Edwards camp:
"He would introduce legislation, that's all it is," spokesman Eric Schultz said. "He would introduce legislation and ask them to set a deadline for themselves."
Pathetic. And if Congress doesn't want to pass this legislation?
It's a phony threat from a ...
Paranoid thought: Edwards must have known his fake-strongman ad would draw fire. Is it all a ploy to make himself the center of attention? ...
P.P.S.: A NYT piece portrays Edwards as desperately running against the clock, and he was eclipsed at the recent Jefferson-Jackson dinner by Obama. He's disrupting the MSM's preferred Obama vs. Hillary storyline. But he's by no means in a bad position. Data points: a) a close second in Iowa in the latest CBS/NYT poll; b) steadily rising in Rasmussen's national poll; c) This troubling quote from an Iowa county chairman in Joe Klein's Hillary piece:
They love Obama. He's very inspiring. But in the end, Iowans vote on electability. I hate to say it, but my guess is they'll vote for the white guy — Edwards — this time, just like they voted for the war hero last time."
Right, last time. Dems rely on the good sense of Iowa caucusers at their peril. ...
I bristled at Chris Matthews' breathless pumping up of Obama's Jefferson-Jackson speech on MSNBC yesterday. Then I read it. It's a very skillful speech in that Obama simultaneously does three seemingly contradictory things:
1) Portrays himself as a "real" Democrat. ("Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we're worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won't do.")
2) Portray's himself as a bipartisan bridge-builder! ("I expanded health care in Illinois by bringing Democrats and Republicans together." ... "I don't want to pit Red America against Blue America. I want to be the President of the United States of America.")
3) Portrays himself as a brave truthteller willing to tell voters "what they need to hear" as opposed to "what they want to hear"--to deliver the "bitter medicine" (as columnist Roger Simon put it on Hardball) ...
Of course, Obama gives no examples of #3--in fact, he's telling Iowa caucus Democrats more or less exactly what they want to hear, namely that they don't have to compromise (#1). He's certainly not telling them that the way to be a bipartisan bridge-builder (#2) is often precisely to violate #1 and "triangulate," as Bill Clinton did on welfare reform. ...
Obama's new wrinkle is the argument is that Bush is so unpopular he's freed up a bunch of voters at the center for Dems to capture without triangulating. That may be true on universal health care coverage (where Obama's plan arguably triangulates a bit more than Clinton's plan). But I'm not sure where else it applies. At bottom, it still seems a variation of Shrumian populism, the idea that there are obvious answers to benefit the common man and the only thing standing in the way is some elite group or "corporate lobbyists in Washington"--as opposed to the non-populist position, which is that there are answers that benefit the common man but what's standing in the way is usually a) the common man and b) poweful interest groups on the Democratic as well as Republican side. If our most difficult domestic problems (Social Security, health care cost control, poverty, civil rights, immigration) really did conform to the Populist model, they'd have been solved by now, by Democrats. ...
Monday, November 12, 2007
Instapundit effortlessly spans present, past, and future to cover the Lapham's Quarterly launch party, Laphamistiically.** ... When I worked at Harper's, after Michael Kinsley took it over from Lapham,*** one of the editors had a shorthand name for Lapham's pretentious, opaque, you-can't-quite-understand-this-so-I-must-be-smart prose style: "The Caravans of the Mind." Wagons. ho! ...
**--This is not the "worst media party ever" referred to in the headline. That would be this party.
***--When Lapham took over the magazine again after Kinsley's departure, he fired the Kinsley people, including me. A perfectly reasonable thing to do. I wouldn't have wanted to work for him anyway! The transition was accomplished seamlessly, with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of civility. He's still on my s-list for life. You should know that. ... 10:46 P.M.
Strike-bound Rob Long is blogs semi-apocalyptically about the future of Hollywood. Sample:
The truth is, the web--that thing that brings us email and MySpace and cats playing the piano on YouTube--has a kind of Wal*Mart effect on the entertainment choices offered to the audience: there's a lot more to choose from, most of it's pretty awful, and all of it is going to be a lot cheaper. When you combine the digitization of content with unlimited bandwidth, what you get is a cheaper, more efficient system. And Brentwood was not built on cheap, or efficient. This town--and all of us who work here--all of us, writers, agents, actors, lawyers, studio executives, all of us here in the second grade classroom called Hollywood--have a stake in preserving this great big slushy inefficient mess of a system, that makes pilots that never get aired, buys scripts that never get produced, makes movies that no one sees, produces series that get cancelled.
Long is such a good writer/ talker he can even be forgiven for saying that Marc Andreessen "gets it"--though if you read the strike analysis on Andreessen's blog it will save you hours and hours of unenlightening MSM coverage over the next few weeks. ... 10:25 P.M.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Atlantic Discovers the American Idea: Kudos to gravy-trainish Atlantic chairman David Bradley for giving an anniversary party so elementally, gracelessly snooty that it transcended its disastrousness to become a powerful parable of social equality! From Gawker (which has video):
In a striking display of awful judgment, the VIPs (Arianna Huffington, Moby, the Mayor) were allowed (forced) to mingle on stage. The poors sat in chairs in the auditorium and watched.
You can imagine the party planners' thought process: We want to have this exclusive witty cocktail party--but we also want to do something for everyone else. Hey, we'll let them come and watch! That's better than nothing, right? Wrong! Stark, in-your-face snobbish social inegalitarianism makes everyone unhappy--the favored few no less than the masses. At least in this country. At least Atlantic types. ...
P.S.: Celebrity-based inegalitarianism is arguably much worse than money-based inegalitarianism. If the VIPs had paid to be on stage, skybox or Vegas-club style, that would have been less offensive. ...
Most obvious public policy application of the Atlantic Party Parable: Guest-workers! Many U.S. employers, generally allied with Republicans, want to import unskilled workers and then ship them away after a few years. Atlantic moral: Everyone at the party gets to party. For legal guest workers, there should be a path to citizenship. ...
P.P.S.: Getting the wittiest, most talented people, feeding them and then letting everyone else watch them talk--isn't that also Bradley's business plan for the Atlantic, including it's blog presence? I'm not sure it works. For one thing, people want to interact, not just sit in their seats. They also have blogs of their own, and don't seem attracted to the idea that the blogs invited onto Bradley's stage are all that much more entitled to attention than the blogs not invited onstage. ...
Update: At the libertarian Reason blog, Kerry Howley demands to hear from "the people involved," imagining that those stuck in the audience enjoyed themselves despite the "social inegalitarianism." Well, here's an excellent blog account from one of the voyeurs. He seems ungrateful! Sample--
At this point it was clearly time to ratchet up the theater of cruelty. An Atlantic employee came up the aisle with a video camera, interviewing the pathetic audience members. "What do you think is going on here?" he asked me. "I think the celebrity guests are up there, and the groundlings are down here," I told him. No argument from Errol Morris. "And how does that make you feel?" he said. I thought about it. "It makes me feel special," I replied. "Well, you can still say you were at a party with the mayor and Robert De Niro," he told me, moving on up the aisle. [E.A.]
Anti 'Anti-Incumbent Wave' Wave Building: "Anti-incumbent wave" is a classic Neutral Story Line-- a bit of bold political analysis the "objective" mainstream press can deploy without seeming to pick sides between Democrats and Republicans. (It's just incumbents of both parties the voters hate!) The "anti-incumbent" idea fits the NSL bill so neatly that it's bound to be overehyped in the press. Stuart Rothenberg notes that the last predicted "anti-incumbent" wave was really an anti-Republican wave. The next one could be as well, if any wave materializes at all. ... 8:23 P.M.
Nora Ephron: "[T]he Democrats tend to break your heart and the Republicans are just the boys you'd never go out with anyway." When people ask me why I spend so much time attacking fellow Democrats, I think this is what I'm going to start telling them. It's even true--at least as far as the Republicans are concerned. My expectations of modern Democrats are so low that 'break your heart' doesn't really apply. ... 2:49 P.M.
Are Hollywood's Iraq dramas bombing because a) people don't want to hear about Iraq or b) people don't want to hear about Iraq from Hollywood liberals? ... Several hundred commenters at Breitbart.com (most, presumably, sent by Drudge) seems to think they know the answer. It's not Steven Bochco's answer. ... If there were an Iraq film not made by Hollywood liberals, we might be able to settle the argument. ... 1:22 A.M.
Prof. Volokh claims that $10.9 million verdict against an eccentric fundamentalist group that pickets military funerals ("with placards bearing shock-value messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers'") is an unconstitutional speech restriction. It's hard to believe he's not right. ... 1:10 A.M.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Ron Burkle and American Media Inc.'s David Pecker are said to be meeting with banks to finalize the financing for Source Interlink Co., controlled by Burkle-owned Yucaipa Cos., to acquire AMI [of which the tabs are part]
After all, why would "the allegedly press-shy" Burkle, who has denounced tabloids, "tabloidism," and "tabloid-style journalism," suddenly want to own them?
His interest appears mainly to be in AMI's magazine distribution company DSI, the purchase of which would make Source Interlink one of the largest magazine distributors in the country.
Hey,that could be the explanation! I don't buy it. Look at it from Burkle's point of view: Soon he'll presumably have the power to kill any scandalous story in the Enquirer or Star that might hurt his friends (the Clintons). And he'll have the power to run the stories that will hurt his enemies. And for those who might help the Clintons now (by, say, splitting the anti-Hillary vote) but hurt them later--well, he'll be able to choose the timing of any further exposes. ... Look at it from the point of view of the aptly-named David Pecker, head of AMI: If you assume Burkle wants AMI's publications in order to gain political influence, when is the time at which Burkle would pay the maximum price? Right before the campaign starts in earnest. In fact, you might pinpoint Pecker's maximum leverage as coming a couple of months before the Iowa caucuses. Just a thought. ... Oh, by the way. When the two companies are merged:
Sources close to the deal expect Pecker to become head of the new company, despite a very rough patch over the last few years that included falling rate bases and restated financials at AMI.
Eli Lake on John Edwards: "I remember him at Christopher Hitchens' house giving me the best arguments I'd heard from any Democrat on why we should invade Iraq. ... very neoconservative arguments ... humanitarian arguments." ... [ First segment in podcast ] 3:19 A.M. link
Friday, November 9, 2007
In Onawa, for instance, he mused on the world view that "says all that matters in life is our differences" — seeing it at work in everything from the dark philosophy of Al Qaeda to the U.S. immigration debate.
"The Al Qaeda people think that all that matter are our differences, and 'You do it my way or you deserve to die,'" he said.
"You see it in more benign but also troubling ways in America when something happens like that recent incident in Jena, La.," he said, referring to the prosecution of six young black men that has been criticized as racially motivated.
"You see it in very complicated ways in the context of what do to about immigration, what's the best way to get a handle on illegal immigration," he said.
I think he did! It's a banal thought, too. ... 2:53 P.M. link
From her Amazon author bio:
Susan Estrich has been called one of the most influential public intellectuals of the century
Short century. ... [But she helped elect a President--ed True!] 2:23 A.M.
Did the 2005 bankruptcy reform exacerbate the subprime mortgage crisis? Blogger (and bankruptcy lawyer) Steve Smith predicted it would a year ago.
Those people who are now threatened with the foreclosure of their homes will be visiting my office soon, as well as the offices of other bankruptcy attorneys (oops, my bad: other "debt relief agencies"), but without the protections Chapter 7 and 13 debtors had under the old law.
And as a consequence, more people will lose their homes in the end to foreclosure, which will further depreciate the value of real estate, which will suck even more money out of the economy.
Bloomberg reports that this is just what is happening. ... 2:14 A.M.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Voters 'Grow Wary' of Politicians: The poli-sci cliche has been that voters hate politicians but love their own Congressman. Comes now the NBC/WSJ poll finding that "just 39% of respondents believe their OWN member of Congress deserves re-election; 51% say it's time to give someone new a chance." First Read calls the number "staggering"--which is what I thought until I looked at the poll's own historical data, which show that it was worse (51-37) in November of 2005, even worse two months before the 1994 anti-incumbent election (53-20) and still worse months before the 1992 election (62-27). It's only been in positive territory about a fifth of the time. ... 12:24 P.M.
Breaking It To Them Slowly:
"French Crowd Grows Wary of Bastille,," "Romans Wary of Carthage," "Montagues, Capulets, Locked in Cycle of Wariness," etc. ... The news will unfold at the New York Times' orderly pace! ... Thomas Maguire mocks. ... 12:06 P.M.
A Latino Intifada? TheMiami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer says that if the country's anti-"comprehensive" attitude on illegal immigration persists, "a Hispanic intifada that may rock this nation in the not-so-distant future."
Remember the Palestinian intifada of the early 1990s, when thousands of frustrated young Palestinians took to the streets and threw stones at Israeli troops? Remember the French intifada of the summer of 2005, in which disenfranchised Muslim youths burned cars and stores in the suburbs of Paris?
If we are not careful, we may see something similar coming from the estimated 13 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, most of them Hispanic, who are increasingly vilified in the media, forced further into the underground by spineless politicians and not given any chance to legalize their status by a pusillanimous U.S. Congress.
We are creating an underclass of people who won't leave this country and, realistically, can't be deported. They and their children are living with no prospect of earning a legal status, no matter how hard they work for it. Many of them will become increasingly frustrated, angry, and some of them eventually may turn violent.
Krikorian doubts that "Oppenheimer's feared outcome is all that likely, in part because automatic citizenship at birth makes the illegal population a one-generation problem." ... I tend to think violence is a possibility, but not because Congress fails to pass a legalization bill. It's more likely to be sporadic violence of a tiny minority in support some sort of restoration of Aztlan, either as a part of Mexico or a separate entity, on the order of the Basque ETA in Spain. The chance of that sort of violence is probably increased by a comprehensive reform that ratifies an immigrant flow heavily weighted with citizens of Mexico (with its historic claims to much of the U.S. Southwest). ...
Neologism Bake-Off: Latintifada [suggested by reader D.M.], Hispanifada, Latinofada, Mexifada [used by Rod Dreher] ....3:45 A.M. link
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
"New York Democrats Say License Issue Had Little Effect," says the headline over the NYT account of yesterday's state elections. But why?
In most of those areas where Mr. Spitzer's licensing proposal moved to the forefront of the campaign, Democrats were able to cauterize the issue by publicly breaking with the governor, harshly criticizing the plan and in some cases threatening to join lawsuits challenging it. [E.A.]
So it's another victory for the Spitzer Plan then! (Is it too late for Hillary to join those lawsuits?) .... Similarly, immigration semi-amnesty didn't stop Dems from taking control of the U.S. House in 2006 partly because many Democrats distanced themselves from the proposal. ... P.S.: In Virginia, as well, a tough-on-immigration stand didn't save the Republicans. Mark Krikorian argues the issue did work (for the pro-enforcement side) where it was "highly salient," even in liberal areas. But Virginia Dems "steered clear of any clarifying stance on immigration, like, oh, supporting driver's licenses for illegals." ... P.P.S.--The Sleeping Giant Dozes Off Again: Meanwhile, a rising "tide of apathy" engulfed Boston's non-white wards! ... [via First Read and Taranto] 1:36. P.M.
Hillary Clinton's lead in New Hampshire is now only 10 points in Rasmussen's robo-poll--down from 23 points in mid-September. Ten points isn't nothing two months before a New Hampshire primary, but it's pretty close to nothing. Especially if it's ten-points-and-falling. ... P.S.: Hillary has now used two of what she must have considered the most powerful weapons in her arsenal--1) the gender victim/Rick Lazio card, and 2) her husband--and they both backfired. Doesn't that make them hard to use again? ... Hillary shouldn't panic. But judging from her performance so far, she will. ... 11:44 A.M.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Hitting A Vain: A full week after the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton is still flailing on the licenses-for-illegals issue-- justifying her position on unconvincing federalist grounds, letting her husband mount an equally specious it's-all-too-complicated defense. Maybe she can keep it going until Iowa Caucus Day! ... Yuval Levin is astounded by this performance. Wouldn't it be better for her just to take the hit for supporting Spitzer's plan and move on? The most troubling aspect of this incident, for Democrats, isn't that Hillary can't finesse an issue as well as her husband--we knew that. It's the possibility that a) she panics in adversity--a point Levin emphasizes or b) she's too vain to let herself be perceived as having given a wrong answer, so she goes back to correct it even when that only compounds the damage. ... 7:20 P.M. link
Bill Clinton wants a more extended discussion of licenses for illegals. From the A.P.:
But Bill Clinton said the issue is too complicated for sound bites.
"It's fine for Hillary and all the other Democrats to discuss Governor Spitzer's plan. But not in 30 seconds — yes, no, raise your hand," he said.
Would 30 minutes do? Have Hillary explain her extremely complicated position for 30 minutes. A conversation with the American people! That would just about do it for her. ...
Update: HuffPo's Sam Stein on John Edwards' shift to the right on immigration, which still seems pretty tentative. The genius of the driver's license issue for Edwards is that it gives him a way to be tougher on illegals than Hillary is without requiring him to do anything as heretical as opposing "comprehensive" legalization. Hillary was very foolish to give him this opening. [She should have dissed Spitzer?--ed Yes.] ... The Edwards campaign is actually highlighting his near-mumbled rejection (on This Week) of the Spitzer plan ...
More: Jim Pinkerton says the issue won't stop her in the primary, but he senses a Willie Hortonesque vulnerability in November. He should know (he was George H.W. Bush's opposition research director during the 1988 campaign).
... Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reminds me a lot of Dukakis. As he was two decades ago, she's from a big state, has a lot of money, is ahead in the polls - and she's been grievously injured.
Alert reader L.S. notes one significant Dukakis/Clinton difference: Dukakis, Pinkerton notes, had "a tin ear" on Willie Horton and the prison furlough issue that "should have been a warning sign to Democrats." In contrast, Hillary clearly knew that Spitzer's licenses-for-illegals plan was unpopular--that's why she hemmed and hawed rather than endorsing it. Her problem wasn't a tin ear so much as an unwillingness to stiff an important liberal constituency--and a failure to anticipate that it might be necessary. It's not clear that this is a huge improvement. 11:28 A.M.
... on the other hand, Hillary Clinton's never tried a defense as specious and weaselly as LAT columnist Tim Rutten's (in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing correction). ... If she did, even Huma would laugh at her! [Cheapest Huma reference I've seen yet--ed Huma=comedy gold] ... 2:47 A.M.
The yahoos' border fence is working: An update from the Houston Chronicle, which notes the impact on a once-booming smuggling haven in Palomas, Mexico:
"The fence has destroyed the economy here," said Fabiola Cuellar, a hardware-store clerk on the main street of Palomas who used to sell supplies to the throngs heading north from here. "Things are going back to the way they were before."
Where the fence has been completed, "it tends to elicit satisfied nods from Americans and resigned shrugs from Mexicans," saysreporter Dudley Althaus. Then there's this anecdote, from the principal of a Mexican elementary school that abuts the fence:
Then [the principal, Armando] Villasana told of a daydreaming young student who gazed out the window at the new wall during class last month.
Villasana asked the boy, What are you thinking about?
"They have built us a wall of shame, professor," the student answered.
'How is that?" Villasana asked.
"It's shame because people have to leave our country to find work," the boy responded.
John Edwards does not want you to think about his courageous wife ("If you're looking for heroes, don't look to me. Don't look to Elizabeth."):Reason's Dave Weigel on the increasingly smarmy John Edwards' latest exploitation of his wife's illness:
"And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room." Subtle. "After 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news." Even subtler. His wife has cancer. "We're not going to quietly go away. Instead we're going to go out there and fight for what it is we believe."
You know, Mitt Romney's wife has multiple sclerosis. Obviously that's not going to shorten her life the way Elizabeth Edwards' cancer will shorten hers. But it's the kind of thing that could stir up sympathy and handkerchief-clutching out there in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the Romneys only ever talk about it when asked. There's no TV ad pimping her illness. If Romney has no emotions, than Edwards has only the basest ones. There's not enough Lysol on the eastern seaboard to scrub his slime away.
Monday, November 5, 2007
New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal says that being top editor of the Times has made Bill Keller "crazier." ... He also describes publisher Pinch Sulzberger as more involved in editorials than I'd thought:
He might call and say, "What about this?" He makes suggestions: "I'd like this, I'd like that." I'm free to say I think that's a bad idea. But he is my boss so I have to defend it.
That explains a lot. ... 12:35 P.M.
Zell Hill Dis:L.A. Times/Tribune owner-to-be Sam Zell uses "a four-letter obscenity to describe" Mrs. Clinton, reports Connie Bruck. ... Is there another four letter obscenity, or is it that one? ... "Coot!" She's an old coot. That must be it. ... 11:43 A.M.
worry among Democrats that Republicans are ready to use impatience with illegal immigration to win back voters dissatisfied with the status quo.
What's changed? Well, President Bush--the main politician doing the GOP-splitting--is leaving the scene. The Republican electorate seems to have decisively turned against his illegal-immigrant semi-amnesty. Result: No more split! But the powerful GOP anti-legalization sentiment was obviously latent even in 2006. The MSM just chose not to notice.
Anti-legalization sentiment has also been manifestly latent among Democratic voters--including, but not limited to, unskilled workers whose wages have been suppressed by immigrant competition. What's odd, then, is that the Dems now aren't split. They're only terrified! The Dem presidential candidates who might appeal to anti-legalization opinion--and thereby split the party--all seem paralyzed by their desire not to offend Latinos.
Hmm. The last successful Democratic presidential candidate defied his party's dogma on a central issue (welfare) at the risk, it was thought, of offending key interest groups (blacks, liberals). Is there no current candidate willing to do the same on immigration? You'd think someone in the 2008 field would make the move, just for strategic reasons. ... John Edwards may be edging there: On ABC's This Week he came out against N.Y. Gov. Spitzer's illegal-immigrant driver's-license plan. But he only did it sotto voce, after prompting, and after emphasizing his support for "comprehensive" reform (i.e. legalization). ...
Update:RCP's buried Politics Nation blog says Edwards "admitted that his position on the issue is the same as Clinton's." No he didn't. Like Clinton, he's all for "comprehensive reform." But he did eventually say that absent "comprehensive reform" (i.e. semi-amnesty) he was against the Spitzer plan. He also added that even after semi-amnesty there would be immigrants "not making any effort to become an American citizen," and said he "would not give them a drivers license." This latter position is nonsensical--after "comprehensive" reform won't there still be legal immigrants who choose not to become citizens, and shouldn't they be allowed to drive?--but it's not Hillary's position. And it at least acknowledged that immigrant driver's licenses would still be an issue after "comprehensive" reform. ... Jackie Calmes of the WSJ also echoes what looks like bogus Clinton-camp spin on Edwards' answer.. ...
P.S.: Dionne eventually dismisses anti-illegal-immigration sentiment with a classic paleolib device:
Yet at a moment when the electorate is very angry, it's not surprising that some voters are channeling their discontent through the immigration issue. It's happened before in our history. [E.A.]
Of course, pre-Clinton Democrats also dismissed voter anger on the welfare issue as displaced discontent about economic stagnation (when they weren't dismissing it as plain old racism). Welfare recipients were "scapegoats," we were told. Then it turned out that the voters who were angry at welfare were angry at welfare. It's just possible, as Michael Barone suggests, that the voters who are angry at illegal immigration are angry at illegal immigration. ... 1:49 A.M. link
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Today's Google Alert Special: Mike at Geek Buffet updates the farcical caucus procedures that will enable Iowa Democrats to exercise their proven bad judgment undemocratically. Hint: Grinnell College groundskeepers loom as a pivotal demographic group. ... 9:08 P.M.
kf Helps You Through Your Day: Daylight Savings Time is over. The clock people and the sun people will converge counterproductively on the highways during tomorrow's evening rush hour. Stay away. ... 8:44 P.M.
Friday, November 2, 2007
But it can be harder for a woman -- especially a potential commander in chief -- to project toughness without being seen as harsh and shrill. And at the moment the press seems to have put the New York senator in something of a box: If she complains about rough treatment, she's acting like a whiny daughter who's had her Barbie taken away.
The way out of this "box" is to stop acting like a whiny daughter who's hade her Barbie taken away! It's never attractive for a frontrunner, male or female, to complain about "rough treatment," especially if it comes in the form of mere questioning--and Russert's illegal-license question was standard fare. Adding an implicit gender charge to the Hillary response didn't make it any better. (By attempting to get away with something--complaining--that male pols can't get away with, she arguably made it worse: a claim of special privilege.) ... In other words, Hillary's damned if she does complain. But she's not damned if she doesn't complain. Indeed, not complaining seems like an easy way to project toughness without being seen as "harsh and shrill." ... Hillary could resort to the standard damage-control techniques available to all public figures: Restating her position, changing the subject, waiting for what was a minor bad episode to blow over, etc. Instead her well-paid team of pros turned it into a semi-major bad episode (in much the same way they turned an Elizabeth McCaughey article in a small magazine into a disastrous turning point in the 1994 health care debate). That wasn't the press' doing or the consequence of any special female dilemma. ... 1:43 P.M. link
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Depth Charge: Jonah Goldberg reports that his email box is filling up with theories about stories that would fit the bill of a "potentially devastating sexual scandal involving a leading Presidential candidate" that Ron Rosenbaum hears the LAT is sitting on. Rosenbaum's post seems to be functioning as a sort of depth charge that threatens to bring all the various rumored scandals about all the candidates to the surface. It would be funny if they all turned out to be true! And then the initial rumor Rosenbaum wrote about--that the LAT is sitting on something--turned out to be not true! ... I'm not saying that's the case. I'm just saying that would be funny. ... In any case, the campaign certainly needed a depth charge. ... Let all the scandals that lurk in the mud hatch out. ... [What's to stop some blogger from doing this in every campaign?--ed Nothin'. I assume depth-charging will become a permanent feature of electoral politics. They tell me the Internet has changed things! Is there a problem? The true rumors will be confirmed and the phony rumors won't be confirmed. But it will be harder to suppress the former. Isn't the purpose of primary campaigns to find out everything about the candidates before they are nominated?] 1:42 P.M. link
Glad She Cleared That Up!
"A Day Later, Clinton Embraces Spitzer's License Effort" **
THat's the headline on Adam Nagourney's NYT account of Hillary's post-debate press release. But it turns out it all depends on what the meaning of "effort" is! Here's what Nagourney actually says about Clinton's second-day clarification of her "muddled and hesitant" (his words) illegal-immigrantdriver's-license position in Tuesday's debate:
"Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,'" her campaign said.
Mrs. Clinton's aides said her statement was intended to signal that she broadly supported Mr. Spitzer's goal of awarding driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Mr. Spitzer initially proposed a blanket program of awarding full-fledged driver's licenses to illegal immigrants; in the face of sharp opposition from the Legislature, he backed off and presented a two-tier program system of awarding licenses to illegal immigrants.
Mrs. Clinton's advisers said that she had not studied either plan, and was not specifically endorsing either of them. [E.A.]
She supports the "governors" and the "goal" but isn't endorsing the actual "plan." Nothing "muddled and hesitant" there! It's not even clear if--while she supports the governors who "believe" they need the plan--she agrees with those beliefs. ...
P.S.--Poor Hillary! Isn't Hillary playing the victim card awfully early? ... Update: See Influence Peddler's roundup of pro-Hillary Tim-Russert-is-a-sexist spin, which makes her look even worse. "You want to be leader of the free world, but can't handle criticism from Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd?" ... K-Lo has sound advice against going "diva," noting that National Review's conservative livebloggers thought Hillary's overall debate performance was good. ... You get the impression that Hillary has funded a massive crisis-counterattack bureaucracy that's itching to swing into action even when a calm non-response would be more effective. There's a word for that: Lehaneism! ... See also: Wise words from The Cardinal ...
Although it is their spastic instinct whenever attacked, I think Das Hillary Apparat is making a big mistake with this ridiculous battered-candidate defense. To win, HRC needs to be more than a gender candidate. Yet this whining is a quick retreat into that limiting corner.
P.P.S.: Remember, even were "comprehensive immigration reform" and its mass-legalization provision to pass, there would still be illegal immigrants who come later or don't meet its requirements. States would still have to decide whether to give these illegals driver's licenses. When Clinton says, in her release, that "comprehensive immigration reform ... would make this unnecessary," she's dissembling a bit. ... The bigger issue, of course, is whether an embrace of "comprehensive immigration reform" is the general election posture Clinton wants. As one of The Corner's readers succently puts it:
Illegal immigration could be the issue that manages to separate the GOP both from the Dems and from President Bush.
Dems Carville and Greenberg try to sound the warning. Note that in their survey "40 percent of Democrats and a majority of African-Americans" support, not "comprehensive reform," but a "tougher Republican alternative that provided no path to legalization." And, as Jim Geraghty notes, independent voters are more upset about illegals than Iraq! ... [E.A.]
**--Headline corrected; I had erroneously put "endorses" instead of "embraces." 1:21 A.M. link
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The Missing Mexcians, Part XVIII:Instapundit observes the changing American workforce firsthand. ... 12:44 P.M.
The conservatives at The Corner sense general election vulnerability in Hillary's it-makes-sense-but-I-don't-support-it answer on Gov. Spitzer's plan to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. (Video here.) She loses her calm and gets mildly imperious. ... Hillary does quite consistently and unflipfloppily say she supports "comprehensive immigration reform." But a) even if no Democrat will call her on that (as Dodd called her on the drivers' license issue) a Republican might. Unfortunately for Republicans, only one of their top five contenders (Thompson) is well-positioned as a clear opponent of "comprehensive" reform's mass legalization plan. And b) even after that mass legalization, there would still be illegal immigrants--those who come in after the law's cutoff date or who don't comply with its other requirements. Do they get driver's licenses or not? The license issue wouldn't be made to disappear by "comprehensive reform," despite Hillary's implicit assertion that it would. ... 3:31 A.M. link
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Rosenbaum's Political Physics: Do you ever sense there is some large mass of dark matter, an unseen Scandal Star, the gravitational pull of which is warping the coverage of what seems, on the surface, a pretty dull presidential race? I do. So does Ron Rosenbaum. I thought the Dark Star was the Edwards affair allegation. But Rosenbaum says "everyone in the elite Mainstream media" knows about another juicy scandal that the LAT is supposedly sitting on. I guess this is proof that I'm not in the elite, because I don't know what he's talking about. ... My vestigial Limbaugh gland tells me it must involve a Democrat, or else the Times would have found a reason to print it. ... P.S.: If it's just Richardson, that will be very disappointing. ... 3:16 P.M. link
"Gosh, I'm Bitchy Today" [used in Tuesday morning's headline] is a quote from a memorable Cathy Seipp post. ... 3:33 A.M.
In explaining Mike Huckabee's appeal, Fred Siegel argues:
[T]he deeply religious former Southern Democrats who have migrated into the GOP camp make for an uneasy fit with traditional Republican business interests. It's not surprising then that a new Bryan—of sorts—has arisen to represent an important if relatively recent GOP constituency.
Good theory! Except that on illegal immigration, one of the two main issues on which Huckabee is under fire from the right (which correctly views him as "soft"), Huckabee lines up with traditional Republican business interests and against the non-rich populist Southern Democrats. Objectively, as a Marxist might say. But also subjectively--I doubt "former Southern Democrats" were a center of passionate support for the Bush immigration semi-amnesty. More like the opposite. ...
P.S.: John Brummett of the Arkansas News Bureau on his state's former governor:
Now they're starting to come around asking about Mike Huckabee, also of our little town called Hope, our former Republican governor of 10 years. He's a glib Baptist preacher who, because of dissatisfaction with others in the field, is catching a bit of fire as a candidate for president himself. ...
So I tell them that this same Huckabee has a history of ethical shortcomings, taking outside money for speeches from anonymous benefactors and accepting numerous and expensive gifts while in office. I tell them that this same Huckabee was given as governor to lofty rhetoric but not the essential hard work of policy detail. I relate that this same Huckabee can be petulant, huffy and irresponsibly hyperbolic against critics. [E.A]
Monday, October 29, 2007
Mounting a possibly preemptive bid to become the First Twit Fired by Zell, L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten decries the "mob rule" of the blogosphere in an article (about the Beauchamp affair) that turns out to be a hideous festival of error, including an important fact Rutten gets wrong at the beginning of his piece and right at the end. ... Patterico prosecutes. ... 11:45 P.M.
Should children of illegal immigrants be given legal status if they complete two years of college or military service?
Red Sox Sweep: Another blow to my favorite defunct unknown lo-fi indie group, In-Flight Movie, whose pre-2004 signature song "Joseph Cotten" was premised on a continuing curse. ... P.S.: It's still good! Builds to a rhetorical climax. ... 2:18 P.M.
Based on the speech Saturday night, his campaign is already dead and someone forget to inform him and Jeri. It was as vacuous and lifeless as it could have been. Astoundingly bad. "Sound common sense conservative principles" but no call to action, no memorable lines whatsoever.
Salon's Walter Shapiro is more charitable:
While the speech was more forcefully delivered than other recent Thompson appearances, it was also a vintage example of his Hound Dog Macho. The slow-talking, 6-foot-5, late-starting candidate hulked over the lectern and began with this self-deprecating riff, "All of you men out there enjoying a full head of hair -- enjoy it while you can."
There was little memorable in the address that followed ... The Des Moines Register only quoted Thompson's attempt to ballyhoo his right-from-the-start credentials: "I was a conservative yesterday, my friends. I am a conservative today. And I will be a conservative tomorrow."
Watching Thompson Saturday night, I realized how old-fashioned his podium style and his mannerisms are as a candidate. He sounded like a long-ago Southern senator from Central Casting ...
Thompson is a work in progress, a candidate who has yet to test his theoretical appeal through sustained personal campaigning.