Saturday, December 01, 2007
Right Of The Dial
Anyway, it's an interesting snapshot of the GOP electorate -- one which depresses me to see growing.
(Thanks, AIP, for the tip.)
Friday, November 30, 2007
Ray of Light
"I don't recall anybody, any statements about delay," Kelly told reporters.Meanwhile, Team Rudy has decided the best way to handle this story -- is to stop responding to questions:
He said all bills for the police details for Dinkins and now for Mayor Mike Bloomberg are handled directly "through the police department."
In South Carolina today, Giuliani declined to offer any further explanation, saying, "We've already explained it."Geez, talk about taking a page from the Clinton book of scandal damage-control.
Giuliani's staff made "a concerted effort" to keep reporters from coming near to the candidate, according to ABC News reporter Jan Simmonds.
"At least three Giuliani press staffers loudly instructed the press to stay within their cordoned-off area and were warned not to approach the candidate," Simmonds reports.
ABC's Blotter also revealed this week that Giuliani's security contract with the Gulf state of Qatar was overseen by the government minister who once harbored Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind behind 9/11. With those connections, you'd wonder why Qatar would feel it would even need security "advice" from the former mayor.
Well, this might just turn out to be one of those less-than-six-degrees-of-separation issues. However, it sure does make one wonder what other Giuliani clients might cause embarrassment if their names are revealed. Guess that's why Giuliani is trying to keep that info on the hush-hush.
UPDATE: Dick Polman effectively summarizes why some people -- including this and other Republicans -- believe that the driving-to-Miss-Judy story is important as a spotlight into Rudy Giuliani's character. I will only disagree with part of this statement: "On the other hand, if the guy has been spending the taxpayer's money and squirreling it away in obscure public agencies in order to lead that checkered private life...well, that makes it the public's business."
This is half-right: Polman is wrong to imply that the transgression here is that the mayor was "spending the taxpayer's money" with his trips to Long Island. Giuliani is correct when he says that as mayor, he had 24/7 security. Where he goes, his security goes. It's going to be paid for by the taxpayers regardless.
The issue is the hiding of the money trail. There's a reason why the phrase "follow the money" came out of Watergate: When public figures try to keep the source or destination of a certain amount of money hidden, it is for some specific reason -- either to influence someone or something or to keep under wraps the reason for the expenditue. That's what was going on here. If that wasn't the reason, what was?
Polman is absolutely right in noting that Rudy's five "explanations/ alibis/excuses" in 48 hours speaks volumes as to heart of this matter. And yes, that does make it the public's business.
Best Laid Plans
But it's a sign of what may well be coming with the Giuliani candidacy: so many skeletons from so many New York City closets that he begins to become a liability. People talk of how Huckabee could weaken Romney and allow Rudy to win. But what if Rudy and Romney so destroy one another that Huckabee comes up between them. He's been rising in South Carolina all year as well. And Giuliani has been sliding there constantly in the past nine months.Josh Marshall's Muckraker task force also points out that Giuliani defenders are already in "changing story" mode.
UPDATE: Rudy's creative "accounting" gets mega NYC tabloid love here, here and here.
Sports Media Bias: Brett Favre
If you took Cal Ripken's durability and work ethic and combined it with John Kruk's wit and love of the game, and put it into a football player, you would have Brett Favre, who is without question one of the great quarterbacks playing, as well as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
But the media treatment of Favre would lead you to think he transcends the game itself. Last night's Cowboys-Packers game was a disgusting example of Favre bias on full display.
Favre got injured in the second quarter. Mind you, the game was still being played, but you might not know it from the coverage. While Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth were droning on about Favre's injury, we got to see repeated replays of the play where Favre got hurt. While Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter (something Favre had not accomplished while he was in there, and I don't count Ryan Grant's 62 yard touchdown run as Favre's accomplishment), you would think Islamic terrorists had flown an airplane into Brett Favre's arm based on the amount of coverage it was getting.
But it was clear from the replay that Favre hit his arm on a defender's helmet as he was trying to throw. Worst case scenario was that Favre broke his arm, but it didn't even look that serious from the replay. Considering Favre is hoping to play next week, it is safe to say it is a minor injury.
The halftime show was even worse. At one point, Rich Eisen nailed the bias when he called the score of the game "secondary" to Favre's injury. I might buy that if Favre had broken his neck, or sustained some other life-threatening injury. But was it really necessary to have the camera on the locker room door when the Packers came out for the second half, with the constant "we don't see Favre coming out with the team" comments?
Just when you think the "Favre love-in" cannot get any worse, the third quarter started. Or did it? Forget the game! Forget replays of the action on the field! Favre is leaving the locker room! Favre is returning to the field!
Thank God the Packers announced Favre would not be returning to the game. Otherwise, Gumbel and Collinsworth might have spent the entire second half wondering if Favre would be returning. As it was, we got treated to plenty of camera shots of Favre standing on the sidelines in the second half, as if just the mere presence of Favre on the sidelines added to the game somehow.
While the announcers were busy gushing over Brett Favre, his replacement was actually having a better game than Favre. The final stat line for both:
Brett Favre: 5/14, 56 passing yards, 2 interceptions
Aaron Rodgers: 18/26, 201 passing yards, 1 td, 5 rush attempts, 30 rushing yards
During the second half, Bryant Gumbel noted how there would be "no quarterback controversy in Green Bay". Probably because the Media would skewer Green Bay's management if they even hinted at benching Favre.
Don't get me wrong. I am NOT saying the Packers should bench Favre. But the Media will not even consider the possibility, which is a dereliction of the Media's duty. When a public figure is not performing as well as they should, the Media has a responsibility to question whether that public figure is worthy of their position. For the Media to place a public figure above scrutiny is the definition of bias.
Any politician would kill to get the kind of Media bias that Brett Favre enjoys. The drinking problems from early in his career? Forgotten. The fact he has thrown more interceptions than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL? No biggie.
If it wasn't for the Media genuflecting before Favre at every oppurtunity, I might enjoy watching the end of Favre's career. As it is, I will be glad when he retires.
Labels: Brett Favre
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 13 Picks
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers: Hard to pick against the 49ers with a healthy Frank Gore.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: If you can't see the Cowboys-Packers, then try to catch this one. It might be better. With Peyton playing more like Eli lately, expect the Jags to exact some revenge for their last loss to the Colts.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are a mess.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins: Speaking of good games...well, you know I wasn't talking about this one. This may be the only time I pick the Fish all year.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: My first upset special for this week.
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles: Coin toss game.
Atlanta Falcons at St. Louis Rams: These two teams are still playing? I thought they were both mailing it in this year.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans: My second upset special this week.
Buffalo Bills at Washington Redskins: How do you pick this game, considering the Skins are in mourning over Sean Taylor? My gut feeling is because the Skins are at home, they will stomp the Bills. Or they'll be flat and get rolled by the Bills.
Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals: I never thought I'd hear the words "offensive shootout" associated with a Browns-Cards game, but it's true.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders: If ever there was a game where I want to pick the Raiders to win, this is it. Forgive me Al, for I have sinned...
New York Giants at Chicago Bears: Take "Da Bears" at home.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: Just a feeling...or was it that po'boy I ate?
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: The only chance the Bengals have is if the Steelers are looking past them to...
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens: "Brady...to Moss...TOUCHDOWN!!!" Now say that four more times, inserting different receivers each time. And that's just the first quarter.
Pigskin Pick'em Rules:
1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites: Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday (otherwise known as "The Barker Rule"), or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)
Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 12 Results
Audio Dave - 9
Robert A. George - 8
EdMcGon - 7
Bill Barker - 7
SoloD - 7
David Stefanini - 5
Moose - 1
In the YTD standings, a bad week for Stefanini and a good week for Robert George means we have a real bottleneck at the top of the standings (with weekly wins in parentheses):
David Stefanini(2) - 99
EdMcGon(2) - 98
Robert A. George(2) - 97
J. Mark English(1) - 82
Bill Barker - 76
BL(2) - 74
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 56
SoloD(1) - 53
Audio Dave(1.5) - 37
Dave O'Leary - 21
Rigel - 17
Snave - 8
Mike - 8
Moose - 2
Per the Pigskin Pick'em rules, tonights Packers-Cowboys game will NOT count towards the weekly or YTD results, although you are welcome to pick it. Personally, I like the Cowboys tonight.
The Secret Life of Plants
But thank goodness for Ed Morrissey, who chides CNN but correctly asks, "So what?"
For that matter, one shouldn't even have to identify from what party one belongs just to ask a candidate a question. Even though several of the YouTube clips were painful to watch, the fact is that this debate was one of the more memorable because the candidates truly mixed it
Abject incompetence, yes. If these bloggers could discover this information -- mostly from their YouTube profiles, not exactly heavy lifting -- then CNN should have vetted the questioners better. With the possible exception of General Kerr, it doesn't appear that the questioners made any attempt to hide their affiliation; they simply posted their questions, and CNN blithely selected them at face value.
Bad journalistic practices? Definitely yes. But does that negate the questions themselves? I don't think so. The CNN/YouTube format closely parallels that of the traditional town-hall forum. For the most part, attendees do not get vetted at these events either, nor should they. After all, while a primary usually involves voters of one party, the entire nation has a stake in the selection of the nominees. If Hillary Clinton held a town hall in my community, I should have an opportunity to question her about her positions on issues without pledging a loyalty oath to do so.
up (Romney vs. Giuliani, McCain vs. Paul, McCain vs. Romney vs. Huckabee) in a way that they hadn't in previous ones. That may not have been a result of the format, but it's true nonetheless.
While it is good that conservatives have successfully provided a "check" on mainstream media errors and arrogant behavior, at times it appears that we get far too caught up in process issues rather than actual substance. No Republican candidate was "harmed" by the YouTube debate. To the extent that anyone was embarassed, it ended up being CNN for not doing its homework (or for allowing General Kerr to ramble on after the candidates had responded to his initial question).
Time to move on.
Actually Driving Miss Judy
General memo to all candidates for political office: There will undoubtedly be a fair bit of negative information about you that will come to light during the campaign. Some of it may come from industrious reporters. A great deal -- maybe even the majority -- of the negative information will be coming from your opponent(s). Either directly or indirectly.
In other words, where the information came from is completely irrelevant. Politicians have enemies who are more than happy to embarrass or fatally wound their opponent. Whining about it -- particularly if you don't know who the source was -- makes one sound like a rank amateur (or worse, like a certain First Lady decrying the machinations of a vast right-wing conspiracy).
In Giuliani's case, so what if the accounting story may have originated from a political foe (be shocked, completely shocked!!)? What must be resolved is whether or not the questions raised -- was the misdirecting of funds appropriate? Was it done to hide evidence of the mayor's affair? Did the mayor know that this was going on? Who authorized it? -- are reasonable to be asked of a man running for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party.
Devils In the Detailed Billings?
The Politico bombshell of Rudy Giuliani's disguised security costs will undoubtedly be an interesting topic -- particularly in New York -- for a while.
However, one thing jumped out that may be nothing. It could also be just an odd coincidence -- or evidence that someone has a deliciously evil sense of humor.
Consider what is at the heart of this story -- the suggestion that the costs of Giuliani's security detail were buried in the budgets of various city agencies to hide the fact that the mayor was visiting his mistress in the Hamptons. So, of all the possible city agencies where these billings could be hidden, which ones were selected?
The billing practices, however, drew formal attention on Jan. 24, 2002, when Thompson, the city comptroller, wrote the newly elected mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a confidential letter.
One of his auditors, he wrote, had stumbled upon the unexplained travel expenses during a routine audit of the Loft Board, a tiny branch of city government that regulates certain apartments.
Broadening the inquiry, the comptroller wrote, auditors found similar expenses at a range of other unlikely agencies: $10,054 billed to the Office for People With Disabilities and $29,757 to the Procurement Policy Board.
The next year, yet another obscure department, the Assigned Counsel Administrative Office, was billed around $400,000 for travel.
One security billing is hidden in the budget of "The Loft Board...that regulates certain apartments" (like -- a hideaway apartment?)
Another security billing is buried in the budget of "the Procurement Policy Board." Now, the word "procurement" has a specific meaning in the context of government -- related to purchasing and contracting. However, there is also another earthier meaning -- as in procurer is another word for pimp.
And another billing is charged to the budget of "the Assigned Counsel Administrative Office." That is pretty straightforward. Though "assigned" isn't too far from the word "assignation" -- meaning a surreptious romantic liaison.
Now, I candidly admit that I can have a dirty mind -- and all readers of this blog know of my love for puns and word play. But this doesn't seem like that much of a stretch. (And, yeah, the disabilities office doesn't quite fit the theory.)
Of course, it will be interesting to see where the other billings were buried. It will also be interesting to learn exactly who was responsible for deciding which account a given billing would be charged to -- and what the criteria was. Was it random -- or was someone sending a subtle message with some "creative" accounting?
Be Like Mike
My views on the various winners and losers pretty much parallel Ryan Sager. I'm not a Giuliani fan, but I thought he did quite well for himself. As Morrissey said, the "sanctuary mansion" line was a personal cheap-shot at Mitt Romney -- but it was damn effective. Rudy's greatest skill is knowing his audience and how to play/demagogue to it. Romney's explanation on why illegal immigrants were working on his house (they were subcontractors hired by the company Romney hired) makes perfect sense.
However, there is an adage in politics -- "If you're explaining, you're losing." Rudy trapped Romney into "explaining" the issue and thus pushed him into a defensive situation. Good move by CNN of putting Romney and Giuliani side-by-side. You kinda got the feeling that they would have started whaling on each other if the cameras weren't on. Anyway, that opening exchange kind of set the tone: Romney was unable to truly help himself in any major way. He had a good line at the end gibing Giuliani for his Red Sox moment in the World Series, but that was about it.
Giuliani, on the other hand, of course, did quite well while discussing his New York crime reduction record. He also did well in reminding the audience of his record in reducing welfare as well. However, tellingly, one of his few stumbles of the night came in an area where conservatives don't trust him -- guns. He stumbled over the name of a judge who made a decision on the regulation of guns. Notably, his answer on guns was the only time Giuliani received clearly-heard boos. Giuliani, by the way, does deserve credit for candidly saying that he wouldn't sign a federal law banning abortion. He correctly said that, were Roe v. Wade overturned, the states would make their own decisions on the practice.
As if to demonstrate that that certain political adages don't always hold, Mike Huckabee -- the real winner, in my view, "explained" his policy of allowing the children of illegal immigrants to go to college in Arkansas. But, as much as Romney tried to pin him, Huckabee didn't seem defensive in stating his case. His describing those immigrant offspring as "God's children" struck the perfect note; it must have gone over well with his social conservative base, regardless of how they thought about illegal immigration.
His best moment came while responding to the question of what government agencies would he cut. He was into the answer when Cooper told him he had just thirty seconds left. Huckabee didn't hear it at first, so Cooper repeated it. Huckabee just smiled, said "Oh, OK" -- reiterated a comment about shutting down the IRS and just stopped. Huckabee also had a good moment after a YouTube question on whether the candidates believed "every word" in the Bible was true. The question went first to Giuliani who paused before responding. Huckabee piped up and asked Rudy if he needed help answering the question. Rudy chuckled along and invited Huckabee to "help."
[I can't be the only person, however, who cringed a little bit when Rudy said of the Holy Book, "The reality is, I believe it, but I don't believe it's necessarily literally true in every single respect." Given Rudy's interesting marital history, that statement makes an awkward moment. Related to that, given how he responded to Anderson Cooper when the Politico story came up, it looks like Giuliani will deal with it by saying that he had no say in how security costs were billed in his administration. This was the one moment where one wished this was a normal, reporter-driven debate, because Cooper was clearly either unprepared or uncomfortable going to the logical follow-up, "Mr. Mayor, so you are saying that these costs weren't hidden to hide the fact that you were making visits to your now-wife while you were still married to your previous wife?"
Without that context, the issue loses much of its salience -- as Ryan Sager admitted in his take. However, it will be interesting to see what happens as the New York media explores the scandal in days ahead.]
Anyway, not surprisingly, Huckabee hit Bible question out of the park -- but not in just the obvious way. Yes, he spoke of it as the "word of revelation" from God. But he didn't come across as a scary religious freak. He said that certain things can't be taken literally -- such as plucking out one's eye. He then added that "there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small." He immediately came across simultaneously as devout (good for the religious conservatives), reasonable (good for the secular types) and humble (good for just about anyone wary of politicians). This man is damn good.
Political analysts need to head to Arkansas sometime soon. The water there must be tested -- to find out how one state could produce two natural master politicians like Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee in one generation. Over the course of several months of campaigning, Huckabee has transformed himself from just being the guy who "gives good debate" -- into the a real force to be reckoned withr. He didn't get the most questions or get the most time, but every time the camera and the microphone were on him, he was on. Flawless. He came across as relaxed, human and engaging. To my fellow economic and libertarian conservatives, I can only say, beware. If he is as good as the previous Man from Hope, he will confound and frustrate you -- even as he bounds past you, keeping his eye fixed on the finish line.
In the miscellaneous category: McCain had an "OK" night. He was at his best defending his support of the Iraq War -- and taking down Romney on the is-waterboarding-torture issue. However, there was no breakout moment for him.
Similarly, Fred Thompson showed that he knew his policy positions; he got in some good digs at both Giuliani and Romney. Ultimately, however, he often sounded like the cranky grandfather. I just don't see him gaining any traction from his debate tonight.
Ron Paul should have learned by now that there is no way to "win" in answering a question about the Council on Foreign Relations or the Trilateral Commission. You'll end up sounding nutty. Paul is far more cerebral than the other candidates and he obviously doesn't have Huckabee's political gifts. Thus, it was obvious that he was frustrated in not getting enough time as the top four/five candidates. As a result, he would tend to rush and stammer through many points -- even if his view was technically right. He was fortunate though that CNN gave him a gift at the end of the night with a clip from a supporter who was encouraging him to run as a third party candidate in the general election. That gave Paul the opportunity to share with the audience his Republican bona fides, including that he had been elected 10 times as a Republican. That may not have won back any fans turned off by his demand to "bring the troops home" (though that statement did get some scattered applause and cheers).
If there is one question I would have liked asked, it's this one: "Name three good decisions George W. Bush has made that you agree with -- and two that you don't." It is amazing that seven years into a Republican administration, the name of the incumbent president was not uttered once. Indeed, only John McCain even mentioned a Bush appointee, albeit disparagingly -- former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Final comment: I watched the debate in a room of politically-active liberals in Tribeca. They "voted" at the end on "If Fred Thompson's shotgun was pointed at your head, which Republican would you 'vote' for based on this debate?" Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain and Paul made it on the first round (measured by applause). The liberal audience then judged Huckabee the "winner."
I asked the room which Republican "scared" them the most. I was surprised to find that Romney was the runaway "winner" in that category.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Driving (To) Miss Judy
It's especially costly when you're heading out to the Hamptons for trysts with your lover.
If you can't keep costs down, what do you do? Well, if you were Rudy Giuliani, you would bury the financial trail in the budgets of various city agencies.
Politico has the fun details.
Huckabee Rising on Debate Day
Rasmussen Reports has Huckabee taking the lead in Iowa -- devastating news for Mitt Romney. Rasmussen also shows Huckabee coming on strong in third nationally among Republicans. The GOP-leaning Insider Advantage poll in Florida has Huckabee surging into second place behind Rudy. Fred Thompson is collapsing in the Sunshine State -- as he is in many places (except South Carolina -- see below). Stephen Bainbridge is convinced that he's toast, though, like me he notes the irony that Thompson, ironically, is the candidate putting forward the most comprehensive policy statements. Too much, too late?
Romney might take real heart that a Clemson University poll has Rudy dropping like a rock in South Carolina. It will be interesting to see if Romney's recent comments on whether he would appoint a Muslim to serve in his Cabinet becomes a topic on tonight's CNN/You Tube debate.
However, given Huckabee's surge, the spotlight is likely to be on him tonight. Already, the economic conservatives have the knives out for the other "Boy From Hope." (Your not-so-humble host noticed this phenomenon beginning last month.) Jonah Goldberg recently called him an example of "compassionate conservatism on steroids." But after waiting all these months, if social conservatives have decided that Huckabee is "the one", will they tolerate a gang-bang on their golden boy? If he is seen as being "taken out" by the Mormon governor and the liberal New York mayor, will the social cons keep their allegiance to the GOP.
In any event, these latest developments force all the leaders to reassess their strategies.
Romney has to take Huckabee seriously, because a defeat in Iowa could be fatal for the former Massachusetts governor. But things have changed for the former New York governor as well. Previously, it was in Giuliani's best interest to ignore Huckabee and allow him to take the wind out of Romney's sails in Iowa (which Rudy wasn't seriously contesting anyway). That strategy was good if Huckabee was only doing well in Iowa.
If, as it appears, he has become the social conservative's breakout candidate -- and a charismatic Southerner to boot -- Huckabee suddenly becomes a major threat to Rudy's "Florida Firewall." Giuliani's plan all along was to ignore Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and then pick up the big states on February 5th and beyond. That might still work for California, New York and other Northeast states, but if Huckabee (conceptually) upsets Romney in Iowa, either wins or comes in second in South Carolina, he may have the momentum to upset Rudy in Florida.
At that point, everything is up for grabs. The question may end up being will the likely GOP ticket be Giuliani-Huckabee -- or Huckabee-Giuliani.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
In much the same way that a Huckabee surge in Iowa potentially hurts Romney, a McCain surge in NH can do the same to Rudy Giuliani. Remember that a second-place win in New Hampshire was spun by Bill Clinton as a "comeback kid" win. Speaking of surges, McCain's steadfast support for the war -- and the fact that the Iraq surge has quote-worked-unquote -- may actually redound to his favor. The few remaining "Bush Republicans" that are strong supporters of the Iraq effort can still "reward" the mission's most prominent public backer.
Meanwhile, if Obama and Hillary continue to tear each other apart, the independents in New Hampshire may decide that they don't want to vote in the Democratic primary after all.
None of this means that McCain has anything close to a clear shot at the nomination: His money problems still remain -- particularly in comparison to Giuliani and Romney's bank accounts. However, it's not out of the question that a well-spun "win" in New Hampshire could allow McCain to hang around a bit longer than people think.
Monday, November 26, 2007
No Lott-a Love
Obviously, the Senate minority whip sees little hope of becoming part of the majority following the '08 elections.
Specultation on the timing of the abrupt departure centers around the need to get out of Congress before a new tough lobbying law goes into effect.
UPDATE: Republicans reportedly "stunned" at Lott's sudden decision.