Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hard to Say I'm Sorry

There's something that's bothering me about these new-found confessions by Democratic Senators that "if we knew then what we know now, we would never have voted for this war."

The most recent admittance to this club is West Virginia's Rockefeller, who also happens to be the ranking member of the Senate "Intelligence" Committee. But others such as John Kerry and Tom Daschle have also come out of the closet with post-war-debacle statements of regret.

The case these Democrats have been making, if I understand them correctly, is that they got fooled by the bad intelligence, or by the Administration's spin of that intelligence.

But I don't think the "intelligence" was really responsible for us invading Baghdad. It was conducive of the propaganda and hysteria that was circulating at the time. But it wasn't the main element.

The truth is our Senators authorized the war out of fear. Not a fear of Baghdad (after all, lots of countries have WMD and not all of them like us either) but a fear of a public that had been whipped into a frenzy by Fox News, Clear Channel, hate radio, and the neocon "cabal".

On tonight's Hardball, Chris Matthews alluded to this factor when he was challenging Tucker Carlson on the administration's "Iraq was involved in 911" claims. Tucker, I think correctly, pointed out that few officials or leading political figures made any direct connection between Iraq and 911 (links between Al Qaeda and Iraq, yes, but very few direct connections between Iraq and 911). But Matthews responded by citing as an example of the public mood and the state of public misinformation, the country music song written in the lead-up to the war that did make such a link between Iraq and 911 ("we will not forget") or words to that effect. And certainly the Administration's lumping of 911, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism together made the connection implicit, if not explicit.

So, while I'm thankful for whatever change of heart Democrats feel free to muster two and a half years after the fact, and am hopeful that the debacle in Iraq will serve to dissuade the country and its most militant members from launching any further like minded endeavors, the fact remains that the country was scared into attacking Iraq, not out of a fear of what that country could do, but out of fear from our own citizens, goaded by Fox/Clear Channel propagandists, and armed with dubious information and misapplied "patriotic" zeal, the kind of which I hope not to see again.

The Cheney Effect

I was one of the many who thought that George W. Bush's selection of Dick Cheney to be his running mate in 2000 was a bold, effective move. And by most all accounts, Cheney has been the strongest, most involved VP in history.

But therein lies the problem. He's been too involved, and too often wrong in his policy goals, and in his political prognostications (and this was even before the Iraq war was launched), as Josh Marshall documented almost three years ago.

Meanwhile, the Libby indictments have refocused attention on the Vice, and not in a flattering way.

There was this article in the Boston Globe that highlighted Cheney's proclivity to usurp authority. It also turns out that Cheney opposed detente with the Soviets, the War on Poverty programs (including the ones that worked), thought Gorbachev and his Glassnost/Perestroika a sham, and regretted the end of the Cold War. And naturally welcomed the military rejuvenation that 9-11 created.

Mahablog has a great summary and synthesis of the more recent material on Cheney that has come out in both the old and "new media". Atrios, the Washington Monthly, and Slate, among others have come forward with new interpretations of Cheney's influence and supposed competence. As Atrios wonders, what was it about Cheney that made us think he was bright and in charge?

The truth is it's not entirely clear where Dick Cheney's reputation for competence came from. I expect it came from being white, sounding serious, and talking the right talk.

But now we know.

Go read up on our Veep and all that he has wrought.

P.S. I was just thinking about the fact that at least one of the rumored candidates on Bush's VP list back in 2000 was John Danforth, the former Senator from Missouri, who has since come out a couple of times to warn about the dangers posed by the religious right in his party's and our country's politics. While I wouldn't have welcomed a Bush win under any circumstances, I can't help but think how much better off we would have been if Danforth, rather than Cheney, had had Bush's ear for the last five years.

Kaine, Corzine Win

That Corzine appears to be winning handily in NJ, my home state, isn't surprising. And it appears that Corzine will be appointing acting NJ Governor Codey as his replacement in the U.S. Senate, so basically, in NJ, the Democratic governor and Senator are switching places.

Kaine had been leading, albeit only slightly, in most if not all of the polls leading up to election day. But with most of the polls within the margin of error, I wasn't comfortable he would be able to win a close race. As it turns out, it appears Kaine will win by 5 points. However, at this posting, Republicans are poised to win both the Lt. Gov and Attorney General positions in VA, although the AG race is still within 0.5 percentage points with about 95% of precincts reporting. So although Kaine wins, and with some margin to spare, it looks like he didn't have any coattails.

And it's probably worth saying that both of the big wins for Dems tonight were offices in states that were already Democratic.

Nevertheless, these are sweet victories for Democratics as the 2006 campaign approaches and the Bush Administration continues to reel.

Monday, November 07, 2005

1974, Not 1994

Mark Schmidt argues that for Democrats aiming to recapture Congress, 1974 makes a lot more sense as a model than 1994.

Theres a mundane reason that the 1994 model wont work for Democrats in 2006, and it can be summed up in the numbers 53 and 18. Going into the 1994 election, Gingrich could identify 53 congressional districts whose voters had backed the first President Bush in 1992, even as he carried only 37 percent of the nationwide vote, while sending a Democrat to Congress. Many of these districts had been voting reliably for Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and even Barry Goldwater while never quite shedding their allegiance to a local Democratic representative. What Gingrich did in nationalizing the election was to encourage voters to look at their Democratic representative in the light of their already established presidential preferences. Even before the Contract with America or the verbal stylings of pollster Frank Luntz, once Gingrich had candidates and a tide of hostility to Bill Clinton in the South and rural districts elsewhere, he had all the ingredients he needed.

Going into 2006, however, there are only 18 districts that went for John Kerry and also sent a Republican, often a moderate, to Congress. Many of those districts are ripe targets, and perhaps enough of those Republicans will fall to make moderate Republicans eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act (assuming their party hasnt succeeded in repealing it). But thats a very small window of transitional districts compared with Gingrichs opportunity.

Thats not to say Democrats cant win, but they wont do it solely by nationalizing the election in imitation of Gingrich. They will win as individuals in local races. It is not 1994 but 1974 that Democrats should be looking to as a model. That year brought 75 new Democrats to Washington. More than just a partisan shift, it brought a change in the style and approach of Democratic candidates and representatives. It is still easy to spot the politician who got his start in 1974 or shortly after, some were liberal, some less so, but most were very serious about policy. They had a national perspective but were diligent to a fault about constituent service, parades, local mayors, local problems. They understood that with a large and complicated federal government, a members role is not just to deliver pork but also to maneuver the system for peoples good. They were ready for C-SPAN, which arrived in the House four years after they did. They put out a press release a day. And they were generally reformist, although that impulse has waned over time. Above all, they got it, got that Congress was becoming a transparent institution, that reform was a core theme, that the executive branch was out of control.


The Class of 74 Dems, by contrast (to 1994 and the Republicans), were not gate-crashers, rookies, or ideologues. Of the three Class of 74 Dems who remain in the House, George Miller of California, who last week forced the White House to back down on its plan to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act for Hurricane Katrina recovery, best exemplifies their pragmatic, intense, but liberal style, as do Tom Harkin and Chris Dodd in the Senate. Senator Chuck Schumer is the quintessential Class of 74 striver, but he won election to the New York state Senate that year, and needed to wait six more until a House seat opened. Bill Clinton, age 28, would have been in the Class of 74 had he won 6,000 more votes in his first race against a Republican who never faced a serious challenge before or since.


The national issues of Watergate, reform, and Vietnam gave a common theme to the Class of 74 Dems, but they did not have a common slogan or a contract or get their talking points on 8-track tapes from Speaker Carl Albert. The national issues put some wind in their sails, but they were mostly skilled local candidates who learned their own constituencies better than their opponents or predecessors.

How did they develop those skills? For many it was the energetic but failed campaigns of the previous years, George McGovern, Bobby Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy. For some it was experience in movements, the civil-rights movement, the consumer movement. And for some, like Representative Toby Moffett of Connecticut, their experience came from statewide grass-roots progressive organizations, the kind of organizations that are built not just to win elections but also to change the agenda.

So what are the lessons of the Class of 74 for the Class of 06? First, that good candidates, independent, straight-talking, hardworking, are more valuable in current circumstances than finding a common message or contract for them. Like the Class of 74, they need to get it, that is, understand the culture of corruption they are up against, that Democrats are an opposition party today, and that the political culture created by George W. Bush and Tom DeLay is not business as usual. They need to be willing to talk about the three big issues, which I would define as reform, economic security, and Iraq, but they dont all have to say the same thing. They have to say what they think, in a way that works with their constituents.

And second, that good candidates may not come from obvious places. Like Paul Hackett in Ohios special election last August, they may not be the names that appear first when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee looks for popular state legislators or local millionaires who can finance their own campaigns. Like Richard Morrison running against DeLay last year or like Clinton in 1974, they may appear in districts that would never be targeted by standard electoral math but where a great candidate can at the very least soften up the incumbent for the next fight. It is also a lesson to campaign contributors large and small: dont act like risk-minimizers, concentrating resources on a handful of targeted seats and discouraging challengers elsewhere, but taking the fight to as many districts as possible, an argument laid out in more detail by political scientists Jonathan Krasno and Donald Green recently.

Further, the Class of 74 offers an important lesson that candidate recruitment doesnt begin and end by creating organizations dedicated to candidate recruitment. Without movements like those of the late 60s and early 70s, and broad-based grass-roots groups in which individuals can find their way to leadership, such candidates will never appear. Building organizations that live beyond the election cycle will do far more in the long term to build back a congressional majority than even the most perfect slogan, frame, or contract.

I think Schmidt is on to something here. And read the article he links to at Ruy Teixeira's website. The only thing I'd add is that what this all points to is the need for Democrats to not only target every congressional race, but to contest every election at every level of government. What this does is help to ensure a steady supply of talent that can be recruited for higher offices, and it also serves to help show Democrats making government work. As the Democrats search for a unifying message and appeal for 2006, 1974, and our own party, seem a better fit than 1994's Contract on America.

The Case Against Gay Marriage

Somebody posted this up on Craigslist, but I ripped it off from Approximately Perfect:

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Re-post this if you believe love makes a marriage.

Is the Filibuster Good or Bad for Progressives?

I tend to agree with Scott at LGM that Scalito is filibuster-worthy, and I agree with the arguments of those who say that as long as the filibuster is available for Democrats to use, they shouldn't be intimidated by Republicans or the press from exercising their right to use it. Even if it results in Republicans unleashing the Nuclear Option to defeat it.

But I'm not so sure I agree with Big Media Matt that Democrats should feel free to invoke the filibuster in an effort to make Republicans do, what will in effect, put the end to filibustering any and all legislation or appointments.

The filibuster is bad. In the long run, the aspects of the U.S. Constitution that make it hard to enact legislation favor conservatism. On any given day, of course, either side may be helped. At the moment, the Democrats are in the minority so filibusters let them do useful things. But over the long haul, a more parliamentary system would advantage liberals.Breaking the rules is also bad. This, at the end of the day, is what the nuclear option comes down to: not changing the filibuster rule, but violating some other procedural rules in order to change the filibuster rule.

The seven Republican members of the gang are engaging in shameful acts of political blackmail. If they think the Senate rules shouldn't be violated, they should stand against efforts to violate them, not go around striking compromises.

Last, Judge Alito is bad. Since filibusters are, under the current rules, permitted, Democrats may as well use them to stop bad things from happening.

All that being said, the worst possible outcome here is one in which moderate Democrats allow Alito on to the bench in order to preserve the filibuster -- a re-run, in other words, of the original "Gang of 14" deal. If Alito winds up on the Supreme Court, the best possible way for that to happen would be a way that also eliminates the filibuster rule. If the filibuster rule is to be maintained, then the best possible way for that to happen would be one that keeps bad judges off the bench.

I'm not as comfortable as Matt is that the filibuster is a damn holding back the tide of progressive politics. Certainly it was used to obstruct civil rights for many years, a not insignificant outcome where people's lives in the south were concerned.

But consider this list of (proposed) Constitutional Amendments posted over at Washington Monthly.

Progressives are fortunate that the liberalization of the Supreme Court has ensured that the worst of these measures haven't been able to clear the normal legislative process. But a more conservative court (and obviously the Alito nomination is relevant here) might enable Congress to act outside of the Constitutional Amendment process on matters such as flag-burning, school prayer, the income tax, and gay marriage. Should that day come, and it's certainly not beyond the realm of comprehension, the filibuster would come in handy.

So while I'm not opposed to filibustering court nominees, and this nominee (Scalito) in particular, doing it as a means to end the filibuster outright I believe is short-sighted. But might it, as Matt suggests, nevertheless work for progressives in the long run to get rid of the filibuster? Perhaps. But in the short-run, if the tenor of our current political environment is any indication, the lack of the filibuster could be catastrophic for human rights and national progress.

I Love It When She's Angry

Amanda from Pandagon layeth the smacketh down on uber-conservative columnist John Leo and "spousal notification". (Leo's comments are in italics).

Can I just one more time point out that I love the way that Townhall columnists always feel the need to modify the word "feminist" and/or use the word "feminist" as a modifier? It's a tacit acceptance that most people don't have women's rights nearly as much as they do, so they have to spook up the word some.

Alito stands accused of patriarchal overreach and making it possible for outraged and abusive husbands to attack their wives. Planned Parenthood called Alito’s vote “callous disregard of battered women.” Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood, said much the same thing in a blog, and the criticism spread rapidly on the left. A woman writing in the Philadelphia Daily News said Alito’s vote in the case proved he is “dangerously radical.”

Silly feminists. Don't you know that it's not your job to determine when the patriarchy is overreaching? The patriarchy will tell you when it's overreaching and in this case, it's investigated itself and found itself innocent.

Yet this attack is all wrong on the facts. There was no callous disregard for women. Alito wrote in the 1991 decision that “the plight of any women, no matter how few, who may suffer physical abuse or other harm as a result of this provision is a matter of grave concern.”

Of course, that's not enough to satisfy those greedy bitches on the feminist left. What the hell do you women want? The man said he felt bad for women that he intends to send home to get beat by their husbands for daring to get pregnant--in the old days, they wouldn't have done abused women the favor of pretending to care but just laughed in their faces.

Oh, you want protection against male violence? Well, the patriarchy says that's just too fucking bad.

The law he was scrutinizing had an exception for the danger of abuse by the husband. The law did not require spousal notification if the abortion was a medical emergency, if the father couldn’t be located, if the spouse was not the father, if the pregnancy was caused by sexual assault, or if the woman believed bodily injury would result from telling her husband about the coming abortion.

Luckily, there's no judges sitting on benches that are unsympathetic to a woman's worries about being hurt--oh, I'm sorry. What's that you yipping hysterical feminists are saying? That women's concerns about violence are ignored all the fucking time and often with tragic results?

Well, no matter. A few dead or battered women is the price the patriarchy feels comfortable paying to make sure that men feel within their legal rights to lay claim to their wives' bodies.

The spousal notification provision passed the legislature with major support from both parties and was signed into law by a Democratic governor, Robert Casey.

And according to the rules written by Republicans for everyone else to follow, feminists are not allowed to criticize male dominance if any Democrat ever has supported it.


Yesterday was a great day for my pick selections. I got 9 out of 13. Of the 4 I missed, only the Bengals-Ravens game was way off. I picked SD to cover against the Jets (6.5), KC to cover against the Raiders (4.5), and the Bears to cover against the Saints (3).

Anyway, on the games.

Eagles 10
Skins 17

First win by the Skins over the Eagles in four years, but it shouldn't have been this close. Dallas and Denver have ripped the Phily defense. The Eagles can't run the ball, they don't run the ball, McNabb has been playing with something called a sports hernia, and oh yeah, no TO. And even at that, the Skins needed a couple of McNabb miscues to hold on.

Raiders 23
Chiefs 27

Great call by Vermeil at the end to run it in rather than kick the field goal and go for the tie. But not really a surprising one. The ball was at the one and a half inch line. Yet the CBS announcers were saying "it'll be a pass...it'll be a pass...look for a pass". Why?

Giants 24
SF 6

A closer game than anyone expected as the niner's kept it close for most of the game.

Panthers 34
Bucs 14

Carolina looking like the team to beat in the NFC.

Bengals 21
Ravens 6

I expected Baltimore to come out on fire in this game after last Monday night's performance against the Steelers, but they didn't. I thought the Bengals got a really bad officiating call on a pass from Palmer into the endzone that looked like a TD, but was overturned on review. So the outcome could have been even worse.

Steelers 20
Pack 10

The line on this game went from 6 to 3 when the news of Rothlesberger's not playing became known. But the Steelers are a running team, which they did a lot of yesterday. Duce Staley, playing for practically the first time all season, looks to be about as big as The Bus.

Chargers 31
Jets 26

Chargers had a big lead then let it slip away as the Jets put a scare into the them in the final seconds. Vinny was on the bench, Brook Bollinger played and appeared to do very well. LT had four touchdowns (after the ESPN radio crew spent the morning ripping Schottenheimer for not running him more).

Next Week: Skins at Tampa and Ravens at Jaguars. I was more confident of Washington's changes before last night. The Jaguars are probably a lot better than the Ravens, but because they don't score much, this game should be close.