Saturday, September 24, 2005

 

What's Going On?

I asked the question, given recent very different reactions to the two most recent presidents at respective VIP forums: "Is something going on?"

My omnipresent doppleganger/best pal/personal Jiminey Cricket, ERA, quickly answered with some rather powerful observations (keep in mind that he has been a life-long Republican and still does considerable work for the Party):
Of course there is something going on!!!!!!!! There is a void in political leadership!! Bush is in the 5th year and there is no successor in sight. Who gives a crap about what he says? His agenda is DOA at the doorstep of a REPUBLICAN Congress!! The Vice President clearly has no additional agenda he would like to push. (Any other Vice President in the last 50 years would be pushing to be leading the Gulf clean-up) We don't even get Dick. The Republican Leader in the Senate has his own agenda. About 5 to 6 Republican Senators and Governors have their own agendas for '08. Every Republican (in the House, Senate or states) up for election next year has their own agenda.

The old saying goes, "If you have more than one quarterback (agenda), you have NONE."

Nature abhors a vacuum. It will find a way to be filled. The nation needs someONE to appear Presidential. Enter Bill Clinton. Who still has the best political instincts in this nation? Bill Clinton. Who still has the best political sense of timing? Bill Clinton. The man is still the master. He laid low in Bush's first term knowing second terms are a bitch. Clinton now is reclaiming his mantle of Leader. He has done his self-imposed time in the Wilderness and now he is BACK and ready to be the Party. Hell, if Richard Nixon could rehabilitate himself back to Party Elder, Bill Clinton is going to be a quasi-President for Life. American needs a leader -- and he is just what centeral casting is asking for.
ERA obviously knows how to get my attention. He knew only too well that the "We don't even get Dick" line was obviously catnip for an evil punster like myself. Of course, his insights are even more trenchant than he may know. When he says, "The Republican Leader in the Senate has his own agenda," he's referring to Bill Frist's much-discussed presidential plans. However, it seems clear that Frist's most immediate concerns might be a bit more, ahem, parochial.

However, ERA raises an interesting point: Has Bush become a lame-duck faster than any second-term president in history (excepting Nixon, perhaps)? Eight months into the second term? Reagan didn't stumble until the '86 midterms and Iran-Contra. The Monica scandal didn't break out into January '98 (one year into Clinton's second term).

ERA responds:

Normally, a President is still useful to his Party into their 2nd mid-term. Normally, a Vice-President and his staff are trying to collect chits and eyeing awhat they can do for incumbents and candidates. Normally, there is tons of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" going on. Normally, there is still a sense of fear or at a minium respect accorded a President until the mid-term. That's not the case with this Adminstration. Nobody fears (we won't get into the word respect) this Adminstration. This Adminstration died with the Transportation Bill. Congress [committed certain unprintable scatalogical acts upon] this Adminstration...and smiled while doing it. Republicans blatantly dared Bush to veto it and HE BLINKED. They know that he needs them FAR FAR FAR more than they need him.

What can Bush or Cheney do that will win the respect or fear of Congressional Republicans back? He has got to veto something BIG or open that Rolodex for a fundraising tour for candidates the likes that has never been seen. But does he have the cojones to do either? If his boy, Tom DeLay, says they have cut all the fat there is, what can Bush cut? He has had 5years to find some fat and found NONE. Can
Bush be seen fundraising for candidates . . . being political when we are all doing this Post Katrina "we are all working together" Kumbayah crap. Did you notice [
Tuesday] that Arnold Schwarzenegger told Bush it might be a good idea to postpone a scheduled fundraiser for October? Even Arnold who could use some good press, doesn't need the President right now.

Instead Bush will probably nominate someone so unbelievably conservative to the Supreme Court in a desperate attempt to salvage his base. It will probably backfire once the nomination gets to an Arlen Specter-led Judicary Committee, but they may bethat desperate. Desperate enough to kowtow to the anti-immigrant crowd and that would be tragic.
The Washington Post has an overview on this shaky period in the Bush presidency with more than a few outside observers providing comments that have an awkward "post-mortem" feel.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

 

High Noonan For The Bush Era?

After too much time putting together columns that were two-parts sacharine and one-part New Agey philosophy (think Elian Gonzalez and the dolphins), Peggy Noonan strikes back with one of her best efforts in years.

The main focus of her column is criticizing the Bush administration's budget profligacy. However, it should surprise no one that the true aim is to provide a defense of the legacy of her one-time boss and eternal hero Ronald Reagan from what Noonan perceives is unfair slights from the team currently occupying the White House:

The administration, in answering charges of profligate spending, has taken, interestingly, to slighting old conservative hero Ronald Reagan. This week it was the e-mail of a high White House aide informing us that Ronald Reagan spent tons of money bailing out the banks in the savings-and-loan scandal. This was startling information to Reaganites who remembered it was a fellow named George H.W. Bush who did that. Last month it was the president who blandly seemed to suggest that Reagan cut and ran after the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon.

"Last month"? I don't know where Peggy has been, but the trope of "Reagan running from Lebanon and empowering Islamist fundamentalism" has been a regular part of administration talking points for months. Indeed, it was repeated Thursday:

The terrorists saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran, the bombings in the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us.

Noonan would likely note that "leaving Saddam in power in the first Gulf War" didn't make the list this time -- and who was president at that moment.

Noonan's "iron fist in a velvet glove" approach shouldn't be ignored. This administration modeled itself after Reagan early on and tried to recreate the Gipper's emotional attachment with the conservative base. Indeed, it was not unusual for Bush aides to note approvingy a New York Times Magazine article by Bill Keller that was cover-branded, "Reagan's Son." So, Noonan's comment, "This was startling information to Reaganites who remembered it was a fellow named George H.W. Bush who did that," has a particular aim: She is likely to have been talking to more than a few Reagan veterans who are none too happy to have Reagan be used as some excuse for unconservative policy.

Is Peggy talking with Nancy? Who knows? But consider this a possible shot across the Bush bow.

She concludes:

Here are some questions for conservative and Republicans. In answering them, they will be defining their future party.
If we are going to spend like the romantics and operators of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society;
If we are going to thereby change the very meaning and nature of conservatism;
If we are going to increase spending and the debt every year;
If we are going to become a movement that supports big government and a party whose unspoken motto is "Whatever it takes";
If all these things, shouldn't we perhaps at least discuss it? Shouldn't we be talking about it? Shouldn't our senators, congressmen and governors who wish to lead in the future come forward to take a stand?
And shouldn't the Bush administration seriously address these questions, share more of their thinking, assumptions and philosophy?
It is possible that political history will show, in time, that those who worried about spending in 2005 were dinosaurs. If we are, we are. But we shouldn't become extinct without a roar.

Ah, there's a familiar name to toss into the discussion: Lyndon Baines Johnson. It's not the first time in recent days that the Son of Texas synonymous with the Great Society has been mentioned in the same breath as George W. Bush. Check here. And here.

Going from being compared to RWR to LWJ in two years is unhealthy for any president. For an ostensibly conservative one, it could portend a political death-spiral.


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Two Forums...Two Presidents...


Tina Brown on Bill Clinton

Robert Novak on GOP CEOs bashing Bush


These are hardly equivalent events obviously -- Clinton hosted one and Bush wasn't even a guest at the latter. However, Ted Forstmann is not the type of person to sponsor an event that devolves into reflexive Repubican President bashing.

Is something going on?

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

 

McCain Rising...

I had a discussion with a well-connected Republican on Wednesday and our conclusion tracked almost perfectly with John Miller's analysis.

In fact, I have to wonder if John was sitting at a nearby table! I'm glad he said this considering I was a lonely voice for McCain in The Corner in 2000. I have since gotten much more jaded with the man because of his campaign-finance reform obsessions, and far more skeptical (to say the least) than he on our Iraq policy. Otherwise he can claim to be on the "right" (as in politically prescient) side of many issues. He can certainly pick up the "reform" mantra and run with it -- pointing to the cronyism issue in offices like FEMA and elsewhere.

A fair question to ask him though: Can he truly say that soft-money was the root of this particular type of corruption? If not, it seems that he expended much time and energy possibly going in the wrong direction.

Seems to me to be much more complicated than that.

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GOP Cluelessness, Black Racism & Other matters...

Since the Dallas Morning News was kind enough to pick up my "Why Am I (Still) A Republican?" post (yes, I candidly admit that I never answered the question), I decided to move what started out as a response in the Comments section into a post of its own.

Steven Kelso, the reason why I chose not to address the "racism of black people", as you put it, is because it was completely beside the point.

This is my blog, my platform and I don't feel the need to waste space by making an aside every time I criticize the GOP or conservatives by saying, "Oh, don't forget the Left does X,Y & Z" which is even WORSE!!

Furthermore, the "Why don't you decry X" game never ends. As an example, when you raised this point earlier, I referenced the things I've said in the not-too-recent past about Sharpton and Jackson. You said, no, not those blacks -- the racism found in the barber shop or on the street corner. That's ridiculous. Obviously, one could find examples of Caucasian Aunt Clara making inappropriate remarks about black people. That's a poor aspect of human nature. Thus, I am then placed in the position of denouncing every outrageous comment that every black person -- regardless of their public profile -- has said.


(As for other sorts of extremist rhetoric -- like the NAACP ads against Bush -- that is called most appropriately racial demogoguery. It's still an odious practice but it is distinct from simple "black racism."

While the impulse comes from similar dark places (no pun intended), there is a difference between saying the racial fantasies of a Farrakhan talking about the evil scientist Yacub and his creating "white devils" and "Don't vote for Republicans because they are racists."

Both actions are reprehensible and are to be condemned, but the latter is a demagogic political statement to scare voters to make their choice in a certain way, similar to "Don't vote for Republicans or because they hate the poor" -- or "Don't vote for Democrats because they will sell the country to Al Qaeda and the Chinese.")

This is ridiculous because I'm not on THAT team. I already know how I feel about black radicals and their statements.

The post was about comments -- not explicitly racial -- by prominent Republicans, that I felt were problematic given the GOP's reputation (fair or otherwise) of being intolerant. I'm not trying to play "Woe is me." I'm saying that there is a certain frustration one feels being a black Republican, and then repeatedly stumbling over these situations.

I don't think blacks vote for Democrats simply because they (blacks) are locked into racism. I think they vote that way because it is in their best interests as a group. Different subgroups vote as groups. Historically, that has been the case for Catholics, Jews and others. As I said, there was a clear break between a time when blacks split their vote and when they made a determination that the GOP would no longer court their vote.

Yes, that was 40 years ago, but once a group has locked in, it takes a long time for those attitudes to change. Why did it take the South more than a 100 years to move away from voting solidly Democratic to voting solidly Republican?

That said, for completion sake, here is an article I wrote three years ago, where I called the NAACP's Bush 2000 "harsh and blatantly unfair."

Here are
criticisms of the NAACP and Co. on their role in Florida 2000. Here is something from just a few weeks ago praising Bush and the GOP on race, while slapping NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.

Finally, from just two weeks ago,
here is one of my earliest extended Katrina pieces where I began my analysis of Bush's response. The racial insinuations had only just begun. You will notice however, that even then I pointed to Hastert's comment as being problematic and that combined with Bush's tepid response, they would prove problematic for all Republicans down the road. The only reason that hasn't happened yet is that Bush's decisions have proven difficult enough by themselves. Again, please note my critical comments of the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson and, yes, Kanye West.

Now that I've listed my historical (there's much more -- not all of it is online and, alas, much of it is written in the forms of unsigned editorials) and contemporary condemnations of various black leaders (none of whom I agree with ideologically), we can get back to the point of THIS post: My frustration with off-hand quotes by various Republicans that on issues of race and class that, ironically, end up strengthening the power of the racial demagogues that I and other black Republicans try to counter.

Some may believe that I am making too much out of these words. That's someone's right. I can't ask you to walk in my shoes. I am making an argument that is extremely subjective. However, the black Republicans that have responded me since I wrote this -- either in the comments section or by e-mail -- indicate that they know exactly where I am coming from.

It is precisely because I have been part of the Republican "team" for so long that I find it important to talk about these issues. After all, if you were a football coach, wouldn't you think it important to address your team's annoying tendency to turn the ball over at critical moments?


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

 

Congressional GOP Acting Like...

...gasp!!! Republicans?!?!??! Well, almost...

The Washington Post reports that finally GOPers on the Hill are putting their foot down and demanding to know how the Katrina spending is going to be paid for. Of course, the contradiction is transparent:

The White House is aware of the growing political problem and has moved on several fronts to pacify Republicans -- with decidedly uneven results. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, in a speech yesterday, said the White House will be forced to put several plans on the "back burner," including changes to the estate tax and permanently extending first-term tax cuts. "It's taken over the national agenda, and I think it will for a while," he said.

This prompted protests from one of the White House's closest allies, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who said waiting on taxes was unacceptable. But White House officials said Snow was accurately reflecting Bush's intentions.
Oh, right. That would be the same Tom DeLay who said last week that the federal budget had been pared to the bone and there's no more fat to be cut. This trap is what happens when a party departs from its basic first principles. DeLay's spokesman says: that his boss has "made it very clear that fiscal discipline is an ongoing process -- with an emphasis on 'ongoing.'"

But the hard fact is that the only thing that has been "ongoing" between the Republican president and the Republican Congress has been spending. This has been the nature of things before Katrina, and it has handcuffed their options now. It has become almost impossible -- even among Republicans -- to get a consensus as to where to start.

The reason why Republicans used to be such spending hawks is that they realized that once a program or project gets passed and funded, it immediately creates a constituency that will fight like hell to keep it. It's far easier to authorize something in the budget than it is to delete -- or even reduce -- it. Trim the transportation bill? Delay the Medicare drug benefit? Both D.O.A., says DeLay.

Of course, there are some who look on the bright side of things:

Amid this friction, top White House officials told Republicans the relief and recovery package could come in much lower than widely quoted projections of $200 billion. Some House GOP leaders also are urging their colleagues to cool off, reminding them that the true cost of the relief effort is not yet known.

Whew! That's good news! We're fortunate that this White House has a record of unerring accounting accuracy on major projects. Numbers of troops in Iraq? Right. Cost of war in Iraq? Check. Estimate of the Medicare prescription drug bill? Yup.

Of course, the relief and recovery package will come in much lower than the quoted projections!!! How could there be any doubt?


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SBM New Yorker Sks. Billionaire Mayor's Attention

Dear Mr. Mayor,

I’m somewhat disappointed. I’m an African-American and a Republican. I live in Brooklyn — as you probably know, given the amount of campaign literature that has been filling my mail box. So, I’m a little upset that I didn’t get an invitation to that “African Americans for Bloomberg”
press conference Monday.

(Yeah, I know I’m a “journalist,” but it would have been nice to have at least been invited.)

I even voted for you in the last election. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to reveal these things, but I want to be totally honest here.

Honesty, after all, is the best policy.

I imagine that I’m not that rare — a black person registered to vote in New Yorker who is somewhat favorably disposed toward voting for a Republican mayor.

Thus, your press conference — with at least three attendees who aren’t “real” New Yorkers able to vote in the five boroughs — was a rare mistake in an almost-flawless re-election campaign.

Now, you’ve paid close attention to the campaign and saw how some of the Democrats stumbled over racial issues. There was Ferrer’s “
Diallo shooting wasn’t a crime” gaffe. Considering Freddy won the primary, that wasn’t a fatal mistake.

It was still costly: Rev. Al Sharpton held back his endorsement for weeks. In the meantime, he endorsed both the
West Side Stadium and the Brooklyn Yards projects — bringing some black community street-cred to your major development priorities.

C. Virginia Fields stumbled in a way in which her campaign was never able to recover. You remember the Photoshop
diversity flap: Rather than have an actual press conference showing ethnic variety, Fields’ consultants used digital enhancement. Eventually, her main campaign advisor departed and subsequently denounced her. She plunged from a reasonably close second place to a distant third by Primary Day.

A lesson to be learned: Strive for authenticity — even in campaign promotions. That’s why your press conference was disappointing.

Was it really necessary to include quasi-New Yorkers — former Knick guard Rod Strickland, Harlem real estate titan Eugene Webb and ( God help us!) ex-MLB player Mo Vaughn — among your black celebrity endorsers? The latter in particular?

Yes, he's a businessman and is refurbishing buildings for
affordable housing. But -- politically -- what on earth does Mo Vaughn bring — except bad memories that you don’t want dredged up?

His best years were with the Boston Red Sox. That’s certainly going to go over so well with the millions of Yankee fans in the city (of which, by the way, I am one). Besides, it’s taken the city four years to ignore the fact that you used to be a Sawx fan.

When Vaughn came to New York, he supposedly “played” for the Mets, but was so injury-prone that he is recognized as one of the biggest free-agent busts in recent memory. He is, thus, the one former New York baseball player that can turn off equal amounts of Yankee and Mets fans. Not something you want to remind people of during re-election time.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good that black people are showing some political flexibility (hey, given how you’ve done the same in running from George W. Bush and the national GOP, it is only fair).

Besides, your record on
education and job creation and the Ray Kellly-run NYPD’s improved relationship with the black community should pay off on election day.

But don’t needlessly go over the top.

Fields’ multi-cultural Photoshop was an embarrassment that revealed her as inauthentic. She couldn’t shake that label. You already have significant black support — from Inner City broadcasting’s Percy Sutton who endorsed you last year to Rev. Floyd Flake who came on board this time around.

Why resort to a photo-op with non-resident black ringers? Was this a relatively minor mistake — not doing a background check to find out if these were “real” New Yorkers? Perhaps.

But little things can create big impressions.

This stunt could remind more than a few people — not just black — that you’re a billionaire who can get anything and anyone he wants. Whether it is necessary or otherwise. Something to keep in mind as the campaign develops.

On behalf of real New Yorkers of all (pin) stripes,

Robert A. George


P.S. Just give me a heads up for that next press conference, k?

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Such Is Their Lott?

Anne Applebaum dispenses some valuable truths to prospective homebuilders in dangerous, flood-prone areas.

And, yes, there is a difference between her saying this and Dennis Hastert's (in my view,
obnoxious) comments about "bulldozing" New Orleans and not rebuilding. It's to be found in her opening sentence, "Now that a suitable interval has passed..."

Applebaum waited until the major rescue and recovery efforts were done AND she focused on an individual who had a direct legislative role in the continued (over) development of land in potentially hazardous areas (hint: He used to be the Senate Majority Leader). That's the sign of someone making a reasonable argument and demonstrating a sense of class and propriety.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

 

Join The Club, Brendan!

Throwing one's hands up in the air out of frustration with the Republican Party -- it's no longer just a black thing!

In ripping through the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina has peeled back the lid on Republican rule and many Americans aren't happy with what they see....

[W]hat we're seeing is that Katrina is swamping every goal conservatives have, from limiting government to cutting taxes to reforming entitlement programs. Katrina spending has already imperiled plans to repeal the death tax, and Congress is already $60 billion into a spending binge. Handing out $2,000 debit cards was just the beginning. The conservative Congress has brought back the welfare state.
Brought back? You mean it once left? It had been eliminated? Must have missed that announcement.
Well, a few of us kind of thought we saw this coming some time ago.

Regardless, I must differ with Brendan in his belief that this situation helps Condoleezza Rice. The obstacles Ms. Rice faces are many, as we've discussed before. In addition though, if anything, the Katrina situation juggles the mix of skills that the electorate will be looking for next time around. It won't be just a "war president" (a situation that could work to Rice's favor). They will look for someone who can keep them safe, yes, but also someone who will be able to read, react and administrate without blinking in any crisis -- foreign or domestic. That does play into Rudy Giuliani's playing field, but again, Giuliani has to navigate the same other "domestic" minefield that endangers Rice.

Others? George Allen of Virginia, perhaps? It's tough for a sitting senator, but he has been a governor before. As has Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) -- and is Mark Warner (Va.) -- on the Democratic side. Certainly more variety of skills than possessed by a certain senator from New York -- but she may be able to compensate by having the best campaign manager in the business.

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The Real Clinton Scandal -- Today's Deficit?

OK, so "growth in governtment scandals" in the '90s brings about growth in the deficit in the '00s? That wisdom courtesy of almost-House Speaker Bob Livingston.

Oh, right. So, who did he try to push that BS on back when he was in office -- fellow members? His wife? His
girlfriends?

Did any of them fall for it?

If anything, unified government is behind the deficit. As Andrew
says (by way of my colleague, Ryan Sager), the great historical irony is that the Clinton-Gingrich government standoff produced conservative fiscal policies.

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Sprechen Sie "Deadlock"?

It looks like the German people get their own shot at what the United States went through back in 2000. Both the Christian Democrats Angela Merkel and the Social Democrats Gerhard Schroeder are claiming victory -- or at least, refusing to concede.

National Review's Jim Geraghty has a very good
overview.

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund has his take
here.

And a UK paper's blog view is
here.

For fans of the earlier election, we will stipulate that Merkel has more votes -- though not enough to form a majority with the libertarian FDP (aka Free Democrats). Meanwhile, Schroeder can't get a majority with just his seven-year partners, the Greens -- unless he wants to add on the even further-left, um, Left Party. What is disturbing is that there seems to be a true majority of left-of-center parties. Though that coalition could be disastrous for Germany (including Schroeder's limited market and fiscal reforms).

In any event, I reached out to a few German friends to get their thoughts.

Asked about his thoughts on either a "grand coalition" (between CDU and SDU) or a three-way coalition of various parties, my banker buddy Matthias (no fan of the SPD) said despairingly, "We should leave Germany as fast as possible - any ideas?"

My entrepreneurial consultant buddy Jan -- a proud member of the Free Democrats was more optimistic (as he should be given that FDP did quite well for itself):

I [went to the FDP election party] and had a good time, though feelings were mixed. Same situation as last time, you go to a party expecting an outcome where Merkel and [FDP Chair Guido] Westerwelle would head the new government and then, they let us down.

My country deserves better than what we are getting now. A fight over who may form a new government. In the end [Merkel] will be chancellor I am quite sure, but it will be messy and an CDU SPD government will not be stable.

Schröder is totally out of his mind when he proclaims, that he is still needed. He is not. It’s time for him to go. Fast.
Goodness knows, every country -- particularly a German one -- needs to have a man named Guido in their government. Guido Westerwelle? That's a name out of central casting!!

Anyway, Gudrun, a journalist with one of the larger German magazines, gave me the most comprehensive take:

I am not a Berlin correspondent so take this as my personal opinion. Besides - the so-called experts were all wrong in predicting the results. The problem is, there is definitely a mood for political change, but the Christian Democrats made it quite difficult to identify them as a driving factor for change. I personally couldn't believe that they would be more dynamic than during the chancelorr Kohl-period, a period of real stagnation, although the problems - demography, globalisation, external debts etc. - were exactly the same.
Especially in the last days Angela Merkel gave again the impression of a reluctant person, deciding something and drawing back moments later.

Besides she is standing for nothing - she missed to impart a real vision to the Germans. Just to say "life should be better" isn't enough - my [cleaning]woman would have expressed this better ... This is why the voters said "no" to red/green but at the same time didn't say "yes" to black/yellow.
[A major problem is that one can see from] the polls the Geman population is also divided in those who want social [entitlements] and those who prefer a performance-oriented society.

Grand coalition - well, difficult question which could only be answered in different scenarios. Grand coalition will -- in my opinion -- only be the last option. It's highly unpopular although it would have an advantage this time: Such a government could govern with vast majorities in the
Bundestag/parliament and in the Bundesrat/federal chamber.

If the Greens stay loyal to the Social Democrats and insist on keeping their foreign minister Fischer (hard to imagine that they will give up this poste), the Christian Democrats (according to the rules, I think they should lead the coalition talks) will negotiate with the Social Democrats. But a coalition with Merkel as chancelor and Schröder as vice-chancelor is not imaginable and also not a constellation without him at all -- only thanks to him the party had less losses than expected.

So the door could be open for the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals [AKA FDP/Free Democrats]... The Liberals still have to be convinced to cooperate with Schröder (at the moment they insist in saying that in this case they would prefer the oppositional role). But as you know: When they get the right offers - some nice little jobs, for example the ministry of economics, the ministry of finance, the foreign ministry - things might be different.

Okay, I hope I got you confused enough...

Us, confused? Hah! We had to deal with this for thirty-four days five years ago. I'm sure the Germans can figure it out in half the time.

Or twice, or whatever.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

 

Bush Agenda? "Sunk"

Private talks with GOP members of Congress confirm the gist of this American Spectator piece.

Only disagreement that I would have is in the phrase: "the political and policy debacle that the White House created with its Clintonian response to Hurricane Katrina."


Sorry, but a Clintonian response would arguably have actually avoided this debacle. First, Clinton would have done a public national address much faster (as too, so previously noted, would Reagan). The quicker response would have a) prevented the racial inferences from rising to the surface and, b) obviated the need to "overcompen$$sate" two weeks later. Secondly, the Republican Congress would not have felt obligated to give the White House a blank check without any oversight.

The debacle created by this White House is first and foremost a communications one. The fear of being perceived as acting like Clinton has, in fact, allowed the administration to ignore its key resources until it's too late.

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Why Am I (Still) A Republican?

That's a good question.

The president finally spoke to the country Thursday to
outline his plans for rebuilding the Gulf region -- at a cost of well over $200 billion: "As emergency expenditures soar -- with new commitments as high as $2 billion a day -- some budget analysts and conservative groups are warning that the Katrina spending has combined with earlier fiscal decisions in ways that will wreak havoc on the government's finances for years to come."

Not surprisingly, there are
many GOPers gasping at the divergence between Republican principles and the nation's actual spending record under several years of Republican majority status.

But, my concern goes beyond simple philosophical discussion over budget priorities: Yes, I have a certain set of beliefs related to the size of government, the appropriateness of certain social welfare programs and the proper level of taxation. But, it's also more than that. My Republican sensibility extends beyond just basic values and personal preference. I happen to be a black person who's invested a fair bit of time actively involved in this "party of Lincoln."

That time (approximately 18 years and counting right now) has been spent as something of a translator -- official or otherwise -- between the party and the black community. In many ways, this is just an extension of the position many professional African Americans find themselves in the context of American society -- "explaining" some black sentiment or reaction that their white colleagues might not understand.

Similarly, working in a Republican leadership office AND for the co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, one becomes a "spokesman" for the party whether that happens to be in the job description or not.

I don't exactly like talking about this in public. I mean, why give
Steve Gillard the satisfaction? (Hey, Steve, if you're going to do an all-out slam on black conservatives, at least spell the names correctly: It's Deroy Murdock. The fact is that, with respect to those on the right, Steve has as good/evil Manichean worldview -- "you're either with us or your against us"-- as the president he so despises.)

We've been down this road
before. But, it's seen as an isolated incident -- except, how isolated can it be when it occurs over and over again. How long can all this same BS go on? How long before the Republican Party gets it? What if it never does?

The newest buppie kid on the block, the National Black Republican Association, managed to
implode less than a month after it's much ballyhooed launch, primarily because of a difference of vision -- though the Katrina political aftermath is said to have something to do with it:


[T]here also were questions surrounding approval of the latest news release issued by the NBRA, praising President Bush's leadership after Hurricane Katrina. "President Bush is to be commended for deploying all of the resources of the federal government to help the refugees," [Chair Frances] Rice stated in the release.
Christopher Arps, the group's former communications director, disputes that characterization:


This is not the case! The disagreement was a question of style and content of the press release more than the substance. I felt it was reprehensible for the Congressional Black Caucus and similar groups to use the disaster for partisan advantage to foster more racial divide. In a time of such a momentous disaster, I felt the NBRA should take the high road and encourage our citizens to give their time, money, and other resources to help the victims of this tragedy.
I take Christopher at his word, but even in the context of his own personal post, it's clear that Katrina created some tremors that were uniquely problematic for black Republicans.

The truth is that I had two fairly lengthy conversations with two African American men last week (before Bush's speech). They are both in their 50s and have been Republican their entire lives. They both currently live in the Washington, DC area but have never met.

From each, there was a sense of sad resignation, a feeling of, "How can we going through this one more time -- after we've had to so many times before?"

To use the tortured metaphor of the moment, one could say that if the initial Katrina response could be considered, "the hurricane" -- something that caused a fair bit of damage -- well then, what can we call the continued outpouring of rhetorical stupidty pouring from the mouths of prominent Republicans?

The breaking of the verbal levees?

First came House Speaker Dennis Hastert openly
considering "bulldozing" parts of New Orleans -- at a point when the city was still 80 percent under water, bodies were still being fished out and people were still stranded in the convention center. As we've discussed, his spokesman's attempt at damage control were hardly successful.

Then, former First Lady Barbara Bush uttered
words in a radio interview which will unfortunately haunt her remaining years: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Those that heard the contents state that she notably "chuckled" during the last phrase.

Now, for some, Katrina may
present new opportunity. But if poor children lost their parents and were adopted by a wealthy couple, would one chuckle that things were "working well for them"?

And then, to complete the hat trick, an actual Louisiana congressman
pops up telling lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Baker claimed that he was misquoted or misheard or something...

Honestly, I might be inclined to give Baker the benefit of the doubt, if it didn't seem like this disaster has given Republicans the opportunity to "share" how they really feel. Similarly, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't include Barbara Bush's comments. But, not this time. It just happens to often to ignore them anymore.

Ironically, the concern uttered here is not that the statements are necessarily racist or suggest some animus toward minorities. That's not the point. It is that the speakers seem unable to see those suffering as as actual people.

Bush's spending spree may help him recover some of his numbers in the general public. But, Rich Lowry is
right: The opportunity for more converts in the black community is lost to this president (Democrat and New Orleans native Donna Brazile may be the notable unique exception).

As for those of us already stuck in this rickety boat, well, after being sandbagged so many times, don't be surprised at our reticence to continue bailing the party out.


UPDATE: So, there were quite a few comments left today -- far more than usual. Thus, I realized that my response was going way too long for Haloscan to keep up with. So, they are included here.

Well, thanks for the responses, everyone. Thanks to Messrs. Sullivan and Clemons for linking over to this humble site.

Quick comments: I can't really "come home" to the Democratic Party since I've never been a Democrat. While I certainly had sympathies that way during my formative years, I wasn't a citizen at the time. From the time I became a citizen after college and then registered to vote, I've been a Republican.

Clem, uh, oops! Guess that one falls into the category of irony -- or poetic justice, huh! Guess Steve and I have to go back to spelling class, eh!

Snob, while I don't necessarily disagree with your condemnations on the lifestyle totalitarianism that Democrats push, it should be kept in mind that it was the Nixon administration that gave America the 55-mile speed limit and the Reagan administration (via Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole) that pushed forward the age-21 drinking age. Oh, and RINO Michael Bloomberg pushed the smoking ban in New York City -- which was followed up statewide at the urging of the Republican state senate majority leader and a Republican governor.

Christopher Arps, thanks for the support. Keep me posted on your next ventures.

Steven, with all due respect, the "both sides do this thing" just doesn't hold. There's a reason why the "racial" angle stings Republicans a certain way and why the "soft-on-defense" angle stings Democrats a certain way. There's a glimmer of some truth in various political stereotypes.
I'm not making excuses for Democrats. I think that the Sharptons and Jacksons often act reprehensibly. But, my influence in them is limited because I don't agree with their big government philosophy.

But -- and Karol, this is my main frustration (memer, leave my girl Karol alone! She's a pal!): I get damn tired of having to "explain" the latest Republican racial/poor malapropism. I don't care if a Democrat says something as stupid. I'm not asked to defend a stupid Democrat statement.

Fairly or not, Democrats are already considered by many as having been the racial "good guys" going back to the '60s. (Please, don't read back to me all the "greater percentage of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts" talking points. I already know them. Alas, the GOP's '64 presidential nominee rejected them -- and that's been held around the party's neck ever since. Look at the facts. The party's share of the black vote dropped from 33 percent in 1960 (with Richard Nixon) to 6 percent in 1964. Why? Because Goldwater said that he was never going to compete for the black vote and would go "hunting where the ducks are." MLK, Jr., reversed the neutrality that he demonstrated with the parties in '60, endorsed the Democrats in '64 and the rest was history.

I had some hopes for Bush in 2000, but I think he shot himself in the foot with the visit to Bob Jones. He may have been getting some movement his way after after '04 and working with various black religious groups, but his fumbling response with Katrina has, ahem, washed that opportunity away.

Snob, to repeat what I've said several times on this site: Bush's failure was in not recognizing that he was dealing with a national emergency and treating it as such in the first couple of days of Katrina. I'm not calling for Clinton emoting -- Reagan-style leadership would have been fine, thank you very much.

I'm amazed that simple basic common sense (forget about political common sense) about trying to see human beings as human beings is now somehow considered "Clintonian." It's remarkable that Bill Clinton still seems to have so much power: Bush had to construct "compassionate conservative" to distance himself from the harshness of what "conservative" came to be portrayed in the '90s. Meanwhile, too many Republicans are so reflexively afraid to demonstrate emotion in the public square for fear that they will look "Clintonian." Yet, Ronald Reagan managed to show compassion AND strength as a president -- and thus communicated quite successfully.

UPDATE II: For a broader response to other comments and criticisms of this post, go here.

UPDATE III: Welcome visitors from War and Piece, Crooks and Liars and, yes, Steve GILLIARD's News Blog. Expect a response to Steve GILLIARD's endearing mash note sometime over the weekend (I spelled Steve's name correctly this time; I would have gone back and fixed it up above, but he had to go and start calling me "Bob." After that, all bets are off.). (Belated welcome and thanks also to the readers of my friends Steve Clemons and Andrew Sullivan. I appreciate the boost those men gave to this particular post which has quickly become the most read in this humble blog's seven-month or so existence.) To all, you might find much to disagree with here, but have fun looking around anyway!!!

UPDATE IV: My response to Steve Gilliard.

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