Friday, June 29, 2007

 

Killer Queen

My take on Hillary's big win in the Democrats' debate last night at Howard University.

You didn't know there was a debate? Well, that's what happens when the Dems agree to go on PBS.

A couple of other thoughts (AKA, things I couldn't fit into the column):

1) The debate got off to a rocky start with multiple "welcomers" — Howard University president Patrick Swygert (appropriate) and radio host Tom Joyner and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (we get it -- Democrats have a more diverse party) and moderator Tavis Smiley plus a photo-op with all the candidates. In all, it made for an even more annoying, self-important media moment than the Chris Matthews MSNBC fiasco at the fist GOP debate.

It ended up being ten minutes wasted that would have been better used at the end of the evening, instead of Smiley being forced to cut off candidates after 15 seconds.

2) Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was the only candidate who stepped out of the "more-money-for-more-problems" answers by stressing the need for personal responsibility to help tackle the AIDS crisis. He mentioned the importance of being tested for AIDS. He said, "I've been tested; I know Barack's been tested..."

3) Biden's comment gave Obama the opportunity for his best line of the night: He jumped in, out of turn, and said, "I want to be clear here: I was tested...with my wife...when we were in Kenya together...in public. I don't want to start any rumors."

4) Mike Gravel got a couple of rounds of applause in mentioning the impact that the war on drugs is having on the black community. Of course, he didn't have to mention it three different times. I was surprised also to see his call for eliminating the income tax (in favor of a "national retail sales tax") seem to get some support. Who would think that a call for dumping the income tax would come from the farthest left guy in the Democratic debate?

5) Speaking of personal responsibility, it would have been nice if one candidate -- Obama would have been the one to do this in the least risky way -- could have addressed the issue of family structure, especially when it came to education.

At one point in the debate, the candidates were talking about the need for more resources at the pre-K level and the achievement gap between black and white children. Obama inched close to the main point in saying that the problem of child development has to be addressed even before then -- but then he wandered into the need for "parenting counseling" and the putting more money into programs. Why couldn't he say that one of the major problems in the black community -- and a major reason for the achievement gap -- is the vast majority of children born and raised in one-parent homes? There are ways to make this point without sounding completely judgmental. Indeed, Bill Clinton occasionally said it when speaking to black audiences. It would be nice to hear another Democrat raise this point -- even if that person has to revert back to "We need a program to foster two-parent households." At least, they would concede the centrality of the issue.

6) Finally, given that earlier in the day, Hillary freely admitted that Obama
had likely outraised her in the second quarter, Hillary's strong performance last night was all the more notable. Money or number of financial supporters aside, she demonstrated that she's the one able to clean the clock when it comes down to focused policy and political responses. She's shown that she has the ability to crisply meld the policy response with the partisan barb -- without it necessarily sounding harsh or threatening.

It sounds bizarre to say this at this point, after all these years, but after a while you have to: Don't underestimate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Mooning Darfur

EdMcGon:
This is one of those things you have to read to believe. From an opinion piece in the Washington Post by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:
"Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.

Two decades ago, the rains in southern Sudan began to fail. According to U.N. statistics, average precipitation has declined some 40 percent since the early 1980s. Scientists at first considered this to be an unfortunate quirk of nature. But subsequent investigation found that it coincided with a rise in temperatures of the Indian Ocean, disrupting seasonal monsoons. This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming.

It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought.
"

Yes folks, GLOBAL WARMING CAUSED DARFUR!!! (I can't make this stuff up.)

Fred Thompson had the following response to Moon in Fred's radio editorial yesterday:
"Why, then, would the new UN Secretary General blame climate change? I think it’s pretty obvious.

Blaming the Islamic government and groups that have manipulated events in Sudan will get him nothing but enemies. Blaming global warming, however, is basically the same thing as blaming America. America is by no means the only major source of greenhouse gases, but we've taken the most political heat. The reason is that congress rightfully balked at ratifying the Kyoto international climate treaties during the Clinton presidency.

There is simply no downside to blaming America, because Americans don't punish their ideological foes. From the UN, we don't even require sanity sometimes. And there might even be an upside to blaming us, since there are Americans who suffer from such ingrained feelings of guilt, they’ll support increased aid to both the UN and Sudan.

There is a lesson to be learned here, though. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is arguably the most powerful man in the international community today. We know he's unwilling to blame those who actually gave the orders to commit genocide in Darfur. And apparently he's happy to shift the blame for ongoing deaths to those living peaceful, productive lives in the West.

Now hopefully we can work toward international cooperation with regard to environmental policies that make sense. It’s not very encouraging though when the head of the world’s leading international body uses climate change as an all purpose excuse in order to avoid hard realities.
"
The great irony which Fred misses is that Moon's editorial doesn't mention solving Global Warming as a means to solve Darfur. The closest Moon comes to it is:
"Ultimately, however, any real solution to Darfur's troubles involves sustained economic development. Precisely what shape that might take is unclear. But we must begin thinking about it. New technologies can help, such as genetically modified grains that thrive in arid soils or new irrigation and water storage techniques."
In other words, Moon thinks Global Warming is here to stay, and Darfur needs to learn to deal with it. I wonder if Moon would say the same thing to the rest of the world?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

 

Immigration "Reform", R.I.P.

Bill fails 46-53 on cloture.

Immigration supporters couldn't
even register a majority!

This
front-pager in today's Times actually did a good job of intimating the tough road the bill faced in the Senate. Three moderate-conservative freshman Senators -- Jim Webb of Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill voiced their opposition -- in ways that echoed conservative Republican concerns (not the liberal Democrat view that the bill was too harsh on undocumented workers); meanwhile socialist independent Democrat Bernie Sanders' had a unique take:
The three lawmakers, who find themselves in similar political situations after close election victories in states carried by Mr. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, compare notes on a variety of issues.

“I will confess I check Tester’s and Webb’s vote before I check Harry Reid’s,” said Ms. McCaskill, a former prosecutor and state auditor.
Of these three freshman Democratic senators, Mr. Webb has shown the most willingness to
entertain the idea of supporting the measure if it were revised to his liking.

“There is a lot of good in this bill,” Mr. Webb said Wednesday. But his proposal to limit the opportunity to gain legal residency to immigrants who have been in the country for at least four years was soundly rejected by the Senate, 79 to 18, making it unlikely that backers of the measure can count on his support.

“To include every single person who, with a few exceptions, was here in this country as of the end of last year I think violates the notion of fairness among a lot of people in this country,” Mr. Webb said. “And it’s one of the reasons why we have had such a strong surge of resentment toward the legislation.”

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading Republican opponent of the bill, said it was telling that some of the Democrats who had just won their seats were those pushing most strongly against the legislation.
“Some of the new members looked their voters in the eye and said they were not for amnesty and were for stricter enforcement,” Mr. Sessions said. “Now, if they don’t honor that, it is going to poison their relationship for some time.”

And that is just what the three lawmakers are determined to avoid, even though they will not be back on the ballot until 2012. “This was a big issue in Missouri,” Ms. McCaskill said. “I had a consistent and clear message during the campaign, and I feel obligated to act on that.”

Other Democratic freshmen like Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island have been supporting the bill. Senator Bernard Sanders, a newly elected independent from Vermont who usually sides with Democrats, has been opposing the measure, arguing that it could be detrimental to American workers.

Anyway, today's vote means the immigration bill is dead for this year -- and most likely for the remainder of Bush's term.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

 

Are Republicans Revolting?

Yeah, yeah, of course the headline is a joke set up!

Of course, what I mean is the break from George W. Bush on Iraq by people like Richard Lugar of Indiana.

George Voinovich (he of the crying on the Senate floor over John Bolton) wavering on Iraq isn't big news. Lugar peeling away is.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

 

Nancy Reagan Was Right...

... to have hired an astrologer.

Consider, relatively speaking, how the Reagan administration was ahead of the game in comparison to the current White House operation which repeatedly has problems with, shall we say, clairvoyancy:

*Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Hamas' electoral victory:
"I've asked why nobody saw it coming." January 29, 2006 (noted by George Will last week)

*President George W. Bush, on Katrina:
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will.", September 1, 2005

*National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, on 9/11:
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that...they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.", May 16, 2002

Can't somebody buy these guys a Magic 8-ball?

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Free Speech Wins...And Loses

The exact same 5-4 Supreme Court split managed to get only one free speech case right today.

By partially overturning McCain-Feingold restrictions on advocacy ads right before an election, the SC -- basically the five conservative justices -- got it correct. It upheld the right for anti-abortion groups to run ads urging listeners to "call their senator."

The Bush administration filed briefs in support of the restrictions (not surprising, given that Bush signed the bill into law, but sad nonetheless).

Unfortunately, the conservative majority got it wrong on the other case -- ruling against a student who unveiled a sign that said
"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" -- off school grounds (though on the other side of the street) during a rally for the Olympic torch relay. The principal of the high school saw her students with the sign, ripped it away and suspended the student who came up with the idea. The student claimed that this was a violation of his free speech.

The court basically said that students do not have a free speech right to say something that constitutes support for illegal drug use:

Roberts said that Frederick was indeed at a school sponsored event and his sign while cryptic" could reasonably be defined by Principal Morse as "promoting illegal drug use."

Roberts wrote: "School principals have a difficult job, and a vitally important one. When Frederick suddenly and unexpectedly unfurled his banner, Morse had to decide to act -- or not act -- on the spot."

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in dissent agreed that the principal should not be held liable for pulling down Frederick's banner but that the school "cannot justify" it's punishment of Frederick for an "ambiguous statement to a television audience simply because it contained an oblique reference to drugs. The First Amendment demands more, indeed, much more."

Lawyers for Morse had argued that she was responsible for "maintaining order and proper decorum" at a gathering outside of the school. In briefs her lawyers argued, "She responsibly took the appropriate action to ensure that the Olympic torch relay event was not further disrupted by Frederick's pro-drug banner."
Note the language that SC Chief Justice John Roberts uses, "when [the student] suddently and unexpectedly unfurled his banner, [the principal] had to decide to act -- or not act -- on the spot."

The principal is described almost like a law-enforcement or military officer derailing the actions of a terrorist. As if an Olympic torch relay event could somehow be "disrupted" by the appearance of a seemingly pro-drug banner.

As many have observed in the past, the war on terror is the fraternal twin to the war on drugs: Two invidious siblings happily destroying the American family's rights.


UPDATE: Ryan Sager collects a number of responses to the McCain-Feingold pushback (i.e. Wisconsin Right To Life)

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Fred's Friends?

Let it begin. Obviously, this is what happens when someone spends sometime as a lobbyist before jumping into the world of electoral politics: You end up representing some people with not-the-most-sterling reputations.

Like Jean-Paul Aristede of Haiti, as Thompson did during the early '90s.

Now Thompson's working for Aristede didn't cost him in running for the Senate in Tennessee. However, it might be seen differently competing in the GOP presidential primary.

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Rupert's Rise

The New York Times profiles the Murdoch media empire.

Noted without comment.

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Empire And Volunteer States of Mind

How weird is this? Despite the rather diverse (in all senses of the word) candidate field, the 2008 presidential contest could ultimately be dominated by two odd states -- New York and Tennessee.

Consider all the variables counting all announced and unannounced candidates:

1) It could be two New Yorkers facing each other -- Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton vs. Republican Rudy Giuliani.

2) Three New Yorkers facing each other -- Clinton vs. Giuliani vs. Independent Michael Bloomberg.

3) Two Tennesseans going at it -- Democrat Al Gore vs. Republican Fred Thompson

4) New York Democrat Clinton vs Tennessee Republican Thompson

5) Tennessee Democrat Gore vs. New York Republican Giuliani

6, 7 & 8) The last three plus Bloomberg as an independent.

Meanwhile, one-time Ross Perot adviser Ed Rollins lends his perspective on a possible Bloomberg independent run

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