Saturday, November 04, 2006

 

Open Thread

Predictions? House? Senate? Upset specials? Let me know what YOU think!

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Liberals Really Think They Know War?

Especially a YouTube war? Ha! Atrios and this Brad guy? BOTH pikers!



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Neo-Con Drive-by

The intellectual architects of the Iraq War throw their administration allies under the bus:

Here's Richard Perle: "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

And there's more:

To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"—starting with President Bush.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."
...

Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute freedom scholar: "Ask yourself who
the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in
love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen
Hughes."
Ah, that's a novel one (but something Hillary Clinton should keep in mind): When the manly business of war runs aground, cherchez la femme!

And on and on it continues.

As the saying goes, victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. A corollary to this, perhaps -- sometimes war-planners are just arrogant, blame-shifting bastards.

That said, I will agree with Ken Adelman on this point:

The most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and [Coalition Provisional Authority chief] Jerry [Paul] Bremer—three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration. It was then I thought, There's no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq.
UPDATE: Oh, and Ahmed Chalabi, the neo-conservative's one-time Iraqi Exile knight-in shining-armor points the finger at Paul Wolfowitz.

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"Time For Rumsfeld To Go"

The Military Times group of papers -- comprised of Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times -- calls for the end of the Rummy era:

Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake. It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail.
They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers’ deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.


UPDATE: Real Clear Politics runs some e-mails from active-duty military folks who disagree with the Military Times editorials -- and their level of impact upon the military community. Comments regular Madscribe echoes those sentiments.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

 

RNC Hearts Porn $$

Before everyone starts calling the RNC hypocrites after running that Harold Ford ad asserting the congressman took "money from porn movie producers," it should be recalled that the ad did say, "Who hasn't?"

So, it's not like they were trying to play hide the dirty-money salami or anything.


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If I Were Living In...

1) Maryland: Michael Steele would get my vote for U.S. Senate. He's a smart man of integrity -- and far more independent and visionary than his critics or opponent would admit.

2) Virginia:
Jim Webb would get my vote for U.S. Senate. He's a war hero, a patriot, an author and not afraid to say what he believes -- regardless of which side of the political spectrum it might offend.

UPDATE: Reason editors give their picks. Interestingly, the two who live in Virginia share my leanings toward Webb.

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Black Like Who?

In Thursday's New York Daily News (America's 7th most-read daily), Stanley Crouch, who I count as a major influence in my career, devotes a column to how "really" black is Barack Obama:

So when black Americans refer to Obama as "one of us," I do not know what they are talking about. In his new book, "The Audacity of Hope," Obama makes it clear that, while he has experienced some light versions of typical racial stereotypes, he cannot claim those problems as his own - nor has he lived the life of a black American.

Will this matter in the end? Probably not. Obama is being greeted with the same kind of public affection that Colin Powell had when he seemed ready to knock Bill Clinton out of the Oval Office. For many reasons, most of them personal, Powell did not become the first black American to be a serious presidential contender.

I doubt Obama will share Powell's fate, but if he throws his hat in the ring, he will have to run as the son of a white woman and an African immigrant. If we then end up with him as our first black President, he will have come into the White House through a side door - which might, at this point, be the only one that's open.
It is odd that Stanley would say that Obama has not "lived the life of a black American," even though the man is obviously perceived as a black person. Strange too that he would contrast Obama with Powell who is as "not-American black" as the Illinois senator. Though both of Powell's parents are racially black, both were born in Jamaica. Powell talks about the mixtures of cultures that formed is background as much as Obama does his.

And how would winning the White House as the black American son of a white mother and an African considered getting in through the "side door"? If you win, you go through the front door just like anyone else.

As a Trinidadian, I will happily cop to the fact that Obama is "like me" -- and not only because he's only a few years older than I am.

My parents and I were both born in Trinidad. After a few years in the UK, I came to the United States when I was eight. However, I still had to deal with being called a "nigger", being viewed and treated suspiciously while browsing in a department store or generally being perceived as being in the "wrong place at the wrong time." In that sense, I have had to adjust to the American racial dynamic: I've "lived the life of a black American" -- and more.

But what actually makes Obama different is less a racial apect as it is a generational one. It's why Harold Ford and Michael Steele have managed to run the two best campaigns for Senate races this time around.

They both might lose, but they have managed to make broad-based cultural appeals that neither calls attention to their race nor tries to hide it. They are (as is, arguably, Deval Patrick running away in the gubernatorial contest in Massachusetts) examples of the "Generation Next" black politician.

They are smooth (in the good sense of the word) politicians who have enjoyed many of the same benefits as their white counterparts -- law school, corporate boards, working various aspects of the political and business fields. The "protest"/social redress model which infused the ambitions of the civil rights and immediate post-civil rights black politicians aren't part of the DNA of the new breed.

It's not surprising that Michael Steele would get the endorsement of an entrepreneur like Russell Simmons -- easily the most successful non-performer in three decade history of hip-hop. Simmons is to rap what Berry Gordy was to Motown. They are of a generation that sees the opportunites of American capitalism and believe in going out to grab them.

In short, while their may be wide disparities gaps in economic and social achievement between blacks and whites as groups, the differences between individual white and black politicians aren't nearly so great in terms of education, access and financial resources. Obviously, these guys can't play the victimization game -- because no one would believe it. Nor should they.

The new black politicians -- Republican or Democrat -- is looking much like America. They are -- hard-working, ambitious and optimistic.

Again, if and when one of these guys gets to the White House, they will be going through the front door -- and carrying the promise of white and black America.


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Thursday, November 02, 2006

 

The Grim Assessment

UVA Professor Larry Sabato foretells Election Day horror show for the GOP:

[L]ook at our 2006 predictions: at this moment, the Crystal Ball cannot identify a single election for Senate, House or Governor in which a Republican is likely to succeed a Democrat in office. Just imagine how devastating an absolute shutout would be in the eyes of history if this proves to be true!

Sure, we could easily be fooled by more than a few outcomes in this regard on Election Night, and we would probably place the odds of this historical unlikelihood's occurrence at no better than 50/50. But the very notion such a scenario is within the realm of possibilities is a testament to the lopsidedness of this year's theaters of battle.

If little changes between now and Tuesday, there remains little question that the GOP is headed towards devastating losses. And though candidates continue to stress various issues, only one has truly come to define our politics this year: war. Future historians may well look back on this wave election as "The Iraq Midterm," much we look back on the 1966 and 1974 elections as "The Vietnam Midterm" and "The Watergate Midterm" respectively.
Oh, this is going to be fun.

Friday: RAGGED THOTS out-of-state endorsements!

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Pick the NFL Winners - Week 9

Sorry I missed posting last week's "pick the winners", but real life kept me too busy. (I know, lame excuse)

Feel free to post your own picks in the comments, and I will post the winner next week. What do you win? Hmmm...where is that moldy fruitcake I got for Christmas last year...

Anyway, here are my picks for this week (my pick in red):

Atlanta at Detroit: Think this is a trap game? I don't think the Lions are good enough to trap anyone. At best, the Lions make it close and lose at the end.

Cincinnati at Baltimore: This should be the second best game of the week (see Indy-New England for the best). In a game that could go either way, take the Ravens. Better defense playing at home.

Dallas at Washington: Meredith vs. Jurgenson. Staubach vs. Theismann. Romo vs. Brunell. Not quite the same ring to it, aye? Regardless, it should still be good. This will also be a good test for Romo.

Green Bay at Buffalo: In this matchup of great college teams, I will go with the ACC school.

Houston at N.Y. Giants: Do you even need to ask?

Kansas City at St. Louis: The Chiefs are 3-0 against NFC West teams this year. Can you say 4-0?

Miami at Chicago: Hey Dolphin fans! Remember 1985, when the Dolphins played the greatest Bear team of all time on a Monday night, giving the Bears their only loss that year? Sometimes, history does NOT repeat itself.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay: Can the Saints win without Reggie Bush? Even though they should, I cannot say I feel confident in this pick.

Tennessee at Jacksonville: Only because the Jags are at home.

Minnesota at San Francisco: The Patriots just showed the rest of the NFL how to put a butt-whoopin' on the Vikings.

Cleveland at San Diego: A lot closer than it looks on paper. I pick the Bolts to pull out a squeaker.

Denver at Pittsburgh: Those "terrible towels" could be crying towels before this one is over.

Indianapolis at New England: The game of the week. The Patriots have looked good lately, while the Colts have holes. It is never a good thing to go up against a Belichick team with holes for him to exploit.

Oakland at Seattle: Most weeks, I would not take the Raiders to beat the Hawks. But here is the equation: (No Hasselbeck) + (No Alexander) = (No win). Just make it three wins in a row baby!

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

"Call Me"

Here are a couple of parodies of the now-notorious Harold Ford "call me" ad.

This one's just focused on a generic "congressman":




This one is directed at the chairman of the RNC:



I prefer the first one. It's much wittier ("If the Constitution can't protect us against terrorists, why should we protect it?"), but does depend a bit too much on page jokes (though the spin on the Playboy club line from the original was quite good)

The Mehlman video is too "inside baseball" for the average viewer to get the whole thing. The "He's just not straight...with Americans" tagline is a very nasty, cheap shot -- but pretty funny.

Of course, our RAGGED THOTS friend, Mark English, prefers to be on the
"DON'T call me, Ken" list!

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Kerry On, My Wayward Son

So, has Rahm Emmanuel put a contract out on John Kerry yet? Just asking.

The joke that I HAD BEEN working on for my stand-up act goes like this (delivered to a liberal audience): "Well, it looks like you Democrats are finally going to do it. You've figured out a pretty full-proof method to win an election: 1) Let 'Bush be Bush'. Given the track record, it's only a matter of time before there's some screw-up that will get people mad. Hello? Iraq? Harriet Miers? Dubai Ports? 2) Campaign only on being not-Bush -- as opposed to being Democrats. 3) Take advantange of a technicality in elections and exult in the fact that you don't have to run a lame-ass presidential candidate this year! Thank God there's no Al Gore or John Kerry to f**k up the campaign this year!"

Oops.

So, having been offered lemonade, Democrats seem
prepared to turn it, um, lemons!

Much like his predecessor, George W. Bush has been blessed by the caliber of his opponents. If the election is just focused on Bush, he and the Republicans are, by definition, in a defensive mode. But when it becomes a comparison election, even Bush and company improve in the lights of many.

Democrats have been very successful about making this election a referendum on GWB. Now, John Kerry's big fat mouth has brought back all those wonderful "memories" of 2004 and why many Americans don't like Democrats -- especially when the discussion is military and defense issues. Instead of the uber-discussion just being "Bush vs. Bush", it now risks becoming "Bush vs. Kerry Democrats."


Can John Kerry snatch defeat from the mouth of victory.

The Democrats should be happy that the political environment has remained remarkably static for more than six months (Don't believe me? Check out
the intro paragraph in this Michael Tomasky essay published in
April --
The Democrats are feeling upbeat these days, and why not? The Republican president and vice president have lost the country’s confidence. The Republican-controlled Congress is a sump of corruption, sycophancy, and broken principle. Races in the midterm election that Democratic leaders wouldn’t have dreamed of a few months ago are in play (the Senate seat in Tennessee!). A recent poll showed Democrats with a gaping 16-point lead over Republicans this fall. Seizing on the issues of corruption and incompetence, the party might even take back the House or the Senate -- or both.

-- and the results of the latest NBC/Wall St. Journal poll). The public seems more favorably disposed toward Democrats than Republicans. Whether Kerry's Halloween re-emergence will notably change that is unlikely -- but can't be dismissed. One thing it has done, however, is make Democrats a bit more nervous than they were 72 hours ago.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

 

Novel Gazing

Josh Marshall points to a new polls that suggest movement in Jim Webb's direction. Furthermore, the GOP-leaning Rasmussen Reports has Webb up by five with "leaners" included.

After all the "Macaca"-spewing, Jewish-identity-denying, pseudo-feminist-acting on George Allen's part, his "only-the-good-parts" excerpting of Webb's novel's last week may have been the final straw for Virginia voters.

This isn't the first time that the people of the Commonwealth decided to usher out an incumbent senator.

We'll see.

Oh, and there's a
great profile of Jim Webb by Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard.

UPDATE: Webb's final week ad:





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Monday, October 30, 2006

 

Taking The Fifth

My West Indian homeboy Alexander Hamilton's creation, the New York Post is now the fifth best-selling newspaper in the country -- passing arch-rival tabloid, the Daily News -- and Beltway namesake, The Washington Post, in the process!

Congratulations to Mr. Murdoch and all concerned!

UPDATE: Oh yeah, the paper endorsed somebody for some office today, too!

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Ranking the NFL - Week 8

Steeler fans, you may officially hang your heads in shame.

How about them Raiders? Two wins in a row! If we win the rest of the games, we will be 11-5. And Jessica Alba will be waiting for me under the Christmas tree too...

Anyway, I may tweak the rankings after tonight's Patriots-Vikings game, but for now, here they are:

THE ELITE
BEARS: Love those orange uniforms. But, I also used to like the old Buccaneers' uniforms too, so take that compliment for what it is worth.

COLTS: A HUGE win over Denver. It is now time to give the Colts credit. they are elite. They have just enough defense to keep them in close games, and more than enough Peyton Manning to win.

THE "ALMOST" ELITE
BRONCOS: It is hard to watch the Broncos and not wonder: If Jay Cutler were starting...

SAINTS: The Saints are hanging here by a thread. Losing to the Ravens is not the end of the world.

THE GOOD
CHARGERS: Just taking care of business by beating the Rams. When they lose Shawne Merriman to suspension, that will hurt.

PATRIOTS: Tonight vs. Minnesota.

SEAHAWKS: Since they were playing without Matt Hasselbeck, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. For now.

RAVENS: It is easy to see the Ravens are good, but hard to tell just how good. They beat the Saints and Chargers, but also lost to the Panthers and Broncos.

GIANTS: Spanking the Bucs is a good sign. Their game against Chicago in two weeks looms large. But the game coming up against Houston this week yells "trap game".

FALCONS: I saw "The Prestige" a week ago. Mike Vick reminds me of it. Like a magician, he tells us he will do something, and we watch sceptically as he goes out and does it. But I have to wonder what the trick is...

BENGALS: Which Bengal team will show up next week? Stay tuned...

PANTHERS: Ouch! Dominated by Dallas. This shows those losses earlier this season without Steve Smith in the lineup were not flukes.

CHIEFS: Beating the Hawks minus Matt Hasselbeck proves nothing. Also, their loss to the Steelers a couple of weeks ago hangs over them like a cloud.

THE AVERAGE
EAGLES: A three game losing streak? Considering the best team they have beaten was Dallas, the Eagles are wearing the label "overrated" quite proudly.

COWBOYS: The Tony Romo era has begun. The true test comes in three weeks against Indy.

BUCCANEERS: Don't feel bad Buc fans. Better teams than yours have lost to the Giants. Like Atlanta...

VIKINGS: Tonight vs. New England.

JAGUARS: Don't read too much into their victory over Philly. The Jags could easily turn around and lose to Tennessee next week.

STEELERS: Open trap, insert Steelers. If they cannot beat the Raiders, they can only be average, at best.

RAMS: The Rams should lose to San Diego, and they did. 'Nuff said.

REDSKINS: Oh merciful bye week.

BROWNS: Poor Cleveland. When they get a weak team on their schedule, they beat them, as evidenced by their victory over the Jets. With their upcoming game in San Diego, they remind me of Kevin Bacon in "Animal House": "Please sir, may I have another?"

JETS: Losing to the Brownies proves the Jets may be the worst 4-4 team in the NFL.

THE BAD
BILLS: Bye week.

TITANS: Now if Vince Young could just look this good against a REAL team (not the Texans).

TEXANS: Smart move putting Sage Rosenfels in yesterday. But don't think for a second that this is the start of the Rosenfels era in Houston.

49ERS: Remember that scene from "Monty Python" where the big foot comes out of the sky and stomps somebody? That was the Bears-49ers game, with the 49ers under the foot.

RAIDERS: The Raiders rule! Hey, they beat the Super Bowl champs. Ok, so maybe the Raiders are not great, but we can at least say they are not the worst of the worst.

PACKERS: Favre got to do his first "Lambeau leap". Enjoy it Brett. You won't be playing against Arizona every week.

DOLPHINS: Bye week.

LIONS: There were a lot of bad teams with bye weeks this week. Detroit was just one of them.

CARDINALS: You smell something burning? That is just the hot seat under Dennis Green. On a side note, Matt Leinart is starting to look like what he is: a rookie quarterback. 14 completions in 35 attempts against Green Bay is NOT impressive.

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The Economy-Iraq Connection

In the Sunday Washington Post, Jacob Hacker tries to explain why the basic good state of the economy isn't redounding in the GOP's favor

He points to the idea of a society-wide psychological angst that has to do with broader economic insecurity -- that the possiblity of having a job loss that might permanently affect one's upward mobility and ability to retire comfortably.

The theory is somewhat intricate -- and the full article should be read.

However, one passage caught my eye which might link the economic concerns with Iraq in a way that hasn't been mentioned:


In a recent nationwide survey by the polling firm Lake Research Partners, respondents were asked whether they preferred "the stability of knowing your present sources of income are protected" or "opportunity to make money in the future." By a two-to-one margin, Americans chose stability over opportunity.

This helps explain why Americans are so dissatisfied with the current economy. They see the overall gains, but they don't think that those gains have translated into greater security for their families, and they're worried about the risk -- whether it be the loss of a job, unexpected medical costs or some other setback. A majority of registered voters say the economy is getting better, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week. But more than three-quarters still say they are either falling behind or just holding steady. The actual or possible erosion of safety nets (such as Social Security, guaranteed pensions and workplace health insurance) only heightens such concerns.

Loss aversion may also help explain the muted public reception to Bush's "Ownership Society" agenda, which was shelved after his proposal for private Social Security accounts crashed and burned (though, much to the dismay of Republican candidates, Bush recently said he wants to tackle the issue again). According to polls, many voters thought they would do better with private accounts. Yet they intensely feared the risks, such as a stock-market downturn or outliving their savings.
So, the choice that Americans are being asked (forced?) to be made in a variety of ways is "stability or...or opportunity?" On the economic side, Hacker is suggesting that Americans are opting to choose stability (which would make the public, as it has been, for many years temperamentally "conservative").

But, if that is the case, can't that partly explain the apparent rejection of the president's Iraq policy? The administration has been saying in many ways that the "old" consensus on dealing with the Middle East -- keeping things "stable" hadn't worked. Thus, one of the secondary reasons for Operation Iraqi Freedom was to toss aside the "stability" approach and "shake up" the Middle East in a way that a beachhead of Western-style democracy could be established.

However, with Iraq seeming to devolve into chaos -- and President Bush and the Republican Party seemingly about to pay a political price for their policy -- it would seem that the public's demand for "stability" is being exercised in both the foreign policy AND domestic economic arenas. Obvious no stability in international affairs -- and fear of economic instability domestically.


And that combination may be enough to turn the electorate toward the party that is promising "stability in our time."

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

 

Armey of One

In Sunday's Washington Post, the former House majority leader follows up on his recent comments to Ryan Sager and further discusses where the GOP lost its way:

As soon as politics superseded policy and principle, the avalanche of earmarks that is crushing the party began.

Now spending is out of control. Rather than rolling back government, we have a new $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit, and non-defense discretionary spending is growing twice as fast as it had in the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, Social Security is collapsing while rogue nations are going nuclear and the Middle East is more combustible than ever. Yet Republican lawmakers have taken up such issues as flag burning, Terri Schiavo and same-sex marriage.

They're fooling only themselves.

One interesting point: Armey clearly identifies the Medicare prescription drug bill as one of the deviations from conservative policy. Yet, his erstwhile "Republican revolution" ally, Newt Gingrich, supported that bill.

It's become quite evident that that legislation will become for conservatives and Republicans what welfare reform was for liberals and Democrats in the '90s -- a continual source of disagreement and tension between purists and pragmatists.

Whether the general public will accept the drug program the way it has welfare reform is another question.

It's also intersting to note that, while Armey obviously feels that the GOP deserves to lose this time around, he doesn't feel that the Democrats have exactly offered any sort of alternative (aside from being "not Republican" -- which may be enough):

If Democrats take control of Congress on Nov. 7, they will form an accidental majority. They are not succeeding because of their principles or policy proposals, but simply because they have kept their heads down. Republicans, fearful of taking on big tasks and challenges, may be defeated next month by a party that offers nothing on the key issues of our day.

[Nancy] Pelosi says she would preside over a moderate Democratic majority, and has committed to raising taxes only as a last resort. But Democratic policy goals such as nationalized health care and low-interest student loans are expensive, and dozens of new spending "priorities" will crop up as soon as the election results are tallied. Democrats have promised that all new spending will be offset by tax increases, so will they raise taxes in the run-up to the 2008
race?

In essence, Pelosi will be forced to choose between a vocal base -- expecting immediate satisfaction on issues such as withdrawing from Iraq, legalizing same-sex marriage and the impeachment of President Bush -- or policies that are tolerable to a majority of Americans. That's quite a dilemma: appeasing a base that has been hungry for political revenge since 2000 and 2004, or alienating moderate and swing voters.

One may disagree with the Republicans of 1994, but it was pretty clear where they stood. The Contract With America afforded them an ideal jumping off point with which to govern. The Democrats "100 hours" document may be popular, but it hardly seems a bold enough agenda to .

By the way, Armey may be guilty of his own spin if he seriously believes that the Democratic Congress is going to push "legalizing same-sex marriage" as one of their main initiatives over the next couple of years. Not even I believe the Democrats are that stupid. Indeed, I don't even think the Democratic base is looking for that. There are still quite a few people who remember what the gays-in-the-military issue did to Bill Clinton's early days in office. Withdrawing from Iraq? Impeaching Bush? Now that's a different story.


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HAPPY BIRTHDAY

...to me! (Yeah, I've always loved having a birthday on the anniversary of the Great Stock Market Crash!)

Once again, the "present" for which I am most thankful is the continued "presence" of my RAGGED THOTS readers -- particularly the offbeat cast of characters that gives the Comments section a special character of its own!

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