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Huh? Introduction to blogs
Glenn Reynolds' InstaPundit
Jeffrey Cooper's Cooped Up
Scott Koenig's Indepundit
Randy Paul's Beautiful Horizons
Samizdata, libertarians inspired by Soviet dissidents
Virginia Postrel's Dynamist
Gary Farber's amygdalagf
David Weinberger's Hyperorg
Eric Raymond's Armed and Dangerous
Steven Den Beste
Bill Whittle's Eject Eject Eject!
Will Vehrs' Pundit Watch
John Hawkins' Right Wing News
"Salam Pax"'s Where's Raed
Diane's Letter From Gotham
Kevin Drum's calpundit
B. Preston's Junkyard Blog
Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo
Martin Devon's Patio Pundit
Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping
South Dakota Politics
Other political Web sites:
Judicial Selection.org, associated with the Free Congress Foundation.
International Republican Institute
Democrats for National Security
Project for a New American Century
The Drudge Report
Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball
Republican National Committee
Republican Party of Virginia
Democratic National Committee
American Civil Liberties Union
Staunton- Waynesboro- Augusta County Republican Party
John Muir's Day by Day
Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury
Dan Perkins' Tom Tomorrow
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And I quote:
"The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered."
Edmund Burke, 2nd speech on conciliation with America, Mar. 22, 1775 (Bartlett's 16th ed., p. 331)
Mrs. Powel: "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
Benjamin Franklin: "A republic, if you can keep it."
After Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Sept. 18, 1787. (Bartlett's 16th ed.)
"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other, and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves."
James Madison ("Publius"), The Federalist Papers No. 10 (1787)
"Of the three forms of sovereignty [autocracy, aristocracy, and democracy], democracy, in the truest sense of the word, is necessarily a despotism because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the individual without his consent..."
Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)
"To act successfully, that is, according to the rules of the political art, is political wisdom. To know with despair that the political act is inevitably evil, and to act nevertheless, is moral courage. To choose among several expedient actions the least evil one is moral judgment. In the combination of political wisdom, moral courage, and moral judgment, man reconciles his political nature with his moral destiny."
Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (1946), p. 203
"Thus, whenever a concrete threat to peace develops, war is opposed not by a world public opinion but by the public opinions of those nations whose interests are threatened by that war."
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations 6th ed., rev. by Kenneth Thompson (1985), p. 288
"The texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselves endlessly."
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979), p. 66
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
H. A. L. Fisher, History of Europe (1935), p. vii [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 80]
"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favour."
Robert Frost, 'Black Cottage' North of Boston (1914), [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 86]
"My thoughts encompass divinity, therefore divinity is. The divinity that my thoughts encompass is associated with the order that arises out of chaos... As we expand our knowledge of this realm, we ... see it in terms of one sublime order that awaits full realization."
Louis J. Halle, Out of Chaos (1977), p. 646
"Here, then, is the complexity, the fascination, and the tragedy of all political life. Politics are made up of two elements -- utopia and reality -- belonging to two different planes which can never meet."
E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939 2nd ed. (1946), p. 93.
"My biggest blunder in life was attempt to seek common ground with Keynesians, based on the naive thought that by putting my ideas in Keynesian language that I would make any dent on the Keynesians."
Milton Friedman, New York Times, July 4, 1999
"War made the state and the state made war."
Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe (1975), p. 42
"Americans like to mock Kuwaitis as rich and pampered and lazy and decadent, which is exactly what the rest of the world says about Americans. Actually, we shouldn't mock Kuwait at all. It represents the hopes and dreams of Americans of all political persuasions. For liberals, it's a generous welfare state with guaranteed employment and a huge government bureaucracy. For conservatives, it's a country with no taxes and plenty of cheap maids who aren't allowed to vote."
Peter Carlson, "Castles in the Sand," Washington Post Magazine Jan. 14, 1996, p. 32-33
"[Bill Clinton's] greatest strength is his insincerity... I've decided Bill Clinton is at his most genuine when he's the most phony... We know he doesn't mean what he says."
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, in a speech in Indiana quoted by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Apr. 27, 1996
"Whatever one thinks of Bill Clinton, his opponents [*] must be thwarted. They are enemies and of the Constitution that insures its possibility. We long ago lost the luxury of choosing our allies. This is war."
* (referred to elsewhere in this piece as "mad dogs bent on political annihilation")
Eric Alterman, "Democracy Disappears" The Nation, Jan. 11-18, 1998
"There are no enemies in science, professor. Only phenomena to study."
From the movie The Thing, 1951 (a Cold War sci-fi allegory)
Julia Roberts: "Can you prove any of this?"
Mel Gibson: "No... A good conspiracy is unprovable. If you can prove it, someone must have screwed up somewhere along the way."
From the movie Conspiracy Theory
"the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Pres. George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Jan. 2003
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December 9, 2004 [LINK]
Krugman on Social Security
Donald Luskin (www.poorandstupid.com) and "justoneminute" are among the bloggers who have ripped into Paul Krugman for flip-flopping on Social Security in his Tuesday New York Times column. He downplays a Congressional Budget Office report that the "trust fund" (a misleading accounting contrivance) will run out in 2052. He says,
But it's a problem of modest size. The report finds that extending the life of the trust fund into the 22nd century, with no change in benefits, would require additional revenues equal to only 0.54 percent of G.D.P. That's less than 3 percent of federal spending.
He goes on to sing the praises of the creaky old system as though it were a success story, and concludes, "And that's why the right wants to destroy it." No, they want to trim back the unsustainable giveaways and direct benefits toward those who need it the most. Krugman, who had supported President Clinton's initiatives to Krugman was among those on the Left who had to take a long rest after the traumatic defeat they suffered on November 2. Perhaps he needs more time.
I have long been skeptical of "privatizing" Social Security, if that means handing off responsibility for providing entitlements to some private financial entity. Those who argue that individuals could get a better rate or return from private investments than from Federal retirement benefits are missing the point. Social Security is NOT an "investment," it is an ongoing transfer of resources from the younger generation to the older generation. It will work as long as there exists a solid Likewise, there is no real "Social Security Trust Fund," either, just an accounting contrivance that would get a life insurance company thrown out of business if it used such a thing. It would be much better, I think, to simply scale current benefits back to the pre-1960s era, when Social Security was still understood as being a supplementary fund aimed primarily at widows, the disabled, and other people unable to provide for themselves. Unfortunately, the benefits were inflated by Democrat Congresses over the decades, to the point that middle class people began counting on Social Security to provide for a comfortable retirement. Big mistake, that. The cyncical doubts of the younger generations about ever getting back a fair share of their contriubtions is entirely appropriate, which is another reason why Krugman's newfound complacency about the solvency of the Social Security system is so utterly misplaced. The Concord Coalition drew attention to the looming catstrophe in the early 1990s, and even though the Bush administration has shaky credentials on fiscal responsibility, it is on the right overall track where this is concerned.
There remains, nevertheless, a sadly-neglected Big Picture, which is the way that Social Security, health care, tax reform, immigration, and the war on terrorism all fit together. President Bush has taken tentative steps by creating "medical savings accounts," but there really should be no distinction between savings accounts intended for health, education, or any purpose, including gambling at the casino. It's the individual's own business! A truly conservative economic policy would be aimed at forthrightly "smashing the bonds of statism" and freeing individuals to pursue happiness as they see fit. That is why I have consistently urged that the hideously complex maze of regulations on 401K plans, etc., etc. be abolished, in favor of simply exempting up to $5,000 of personal savings from Federal income taxes each year. What could be more fair or simple to understand? Such an approach is utterly alien to the mainstream of opinion in the United States, especially the left-liberals who look to the ultra-cushy European social democratic system as a model for our future. They fail to recognize, of course, that the European socio-economic system could not be sustained without many millions of exploited cheap immigrant workers who are not covered by the system. Hence the resentment of these "outsiders" toward the entitled Western citizens, which paves the way for terrorist subversion. Making the connection between entitlements affordability, immigration, and the terrorist threat could be the basis for a radical restoration of economic freedom that would make this a second "American century." Otherwise, China will steadily gain on us, as demonstrated by IBM's sale of its personal computer division to the Lenovo Corporation, headquartered in "Red" China...
December 7, 2004 [LINK]
U.N. scandals widen
Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman called on Kofi Annan to resign as U.N. Secretary General, but that doesn't appear to be likely any time soon. The State Department has disavowed such a position but leaves no doubt about the deep dissatisfaction with Mr. Annan. The fact that his son has been implicated in the U.N. "oil for food" scandal is further indication that his credibility is in tatters, probably beyond repair. As a further reminder that the opposition to U.S. foreign policy by both foreign and domestic political forces is based on corrupt self-interest, it was reported by ABC News that one of the key figures involved with the U.N. "oil for food" program was former American fugitive billionaire Marc Rich. Just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, he served as a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February 2001. Ver-r-ry interesting... (via badhairblog)
December 3, 2004 [LINK]
Sweet home Alabama
Alabama voters narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have stricken provisions for racially-separate schools and an explicit non-guarantee of a right to a public education, which was enacted in an effort to neutralize the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in the 1950s. Opponents such as Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles claimed they were focusing on the second part, on the grounds that it was needed to prevent activist judges from decreeing tax hikes to provide funding. See washingtonpost.com for more. I'm no fan of activist judges, but I can't see any legitimate grounds for such fears, certainly nothing that would justify making common cause with recalcitrant racists. How many of the opponents of the amendment fit that description? I would like to think they are but a small minority, but that may not be the case. I would hope the Republican Party can take a principled stand on this issue, even though it might cost a few votes in the short run.
December 1, 2004 [LINK]
Tom Brokaw bid farewell as NBC News anchorman this evening, and thankfully refrained from any attempt to be profound. He also managed to avoid any tear-shedding, as happened on his appearance on the Today show, where he got his start. In all the historic vignettes that were replayed in his honor, I was surprised that nothing was said of his coverage of the 1972 McGovern campaign, when he first drew national attention. That assignment was natural, since Brokaw is from South Dakota. Of the three current network anchormen, he stands alone in terms of journalistic integrity and just plain decency. Rush Limbaugh ran several clips of past moments he shared on the air with Mr. Brokaw today, and had some surprisingly warm words for him.
By sheer coincidence, as I was cleaning up Princess and George's room this evening, I noticed how they paid selective "respects" to the other two news anchors, the shamefully partisan Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. This was from the November 24 Washington Post article about Dan Rather's departure next March, and the photo was of a panel forum held by the three anchors in October. I swear, this photograph was NOT doctored (!), and the bird "events" were not contrived or staged in any way.
November 26, 2004 [LINK]
"Reddest" county in a "red" state
Of all the counties in Virginia, Augusta and Rockingham scored the highest percentage vote for President Bush in the recent elections, with 74.4 percent. This is definitely part of the "Bible Belt," part of the vast U.S.A. Heartland, or as some leftists are now calling it, "Jesusland." I once shared such fears about the Religious Right, but virtually none of the conservative folks I've met who prioritize faith and values would qualify as "wackos" or zealots. By and large, they are simply sincere people who are deeply worried -- as am I -- about the direction our country has been heading. On the east side of the Blue Ridge, in contrast, is Democrat territory, including the "People's Republic of Charlottesville," home of the University of Virginia. (Click on the adjacent map I drew to see a full-size version in a pop-up window.)
What do these deep divisions in our nation portend? Will the secular "Brainland" (as Randy Paul calls it) secede and join Canada? (See politicalhumor for a hypothetical future map of North America.) Somehow I doubt it will come to that. In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer notes that it took several years of pacification before all of the rebellious states resume participation in national elections.
Speaking of Red vs. Blue, I took a photo of Earth's nearest neighbor as it was rising above the horizon earlier this evening, and noticed the very same polarizing effect!!! Just as in the United States, the blue fringe is is the north and the red fringe is in the south. (You may have to squint.) Perhaps what our country needs to overcome this high degree of polarity is a higher quality "lens."
Dems lose control of media
At the end of CNN's "Late Edition" program hosted by Wolf Blitzer, there was a roundtable featuring three Democratic Congresspersons -- Martin Frost (TX), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL), and Loretta Sanchez (CA) -- plus Air America talk-show host Al Franken. Ms. Sanchez let the cat out of the bag when she mentioned one of the reasons her party fared so poorly:
SANCHEZ: I agree with Jesse. I agree with my colleague. I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition's hands, and they use it effectively against us.
BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media -- when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?
SANCHEZ: No, that's not what I said. I'm saying that -- if you would let me finish -- that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn't in the hands of the Democrats anymore.
Which brings me to Dan Rather's exit: CBS denies it has anything to do with Rathergate, of course, but no one believes that. I'm a bit surprised, since I had expected him to take a brief vacation and then resume full-time duties as anchorman. What a lesson his life provides about the huge costs to be paid when personal vanity rages out of control. And what a contrast between him and the dignified professional Tom Brokaw, who has just retired as NBC anchor. I was in a small group chatting with him after he spoke at our mutual alma mater, the University of South Dakota, back in the late 1970s. He would be the last to claim that he was a role model, but he was quite an inspiration nonetheless.
Recount in Ohio?
It sounded like a joke at first, but Democrats in Ohio are now seriously calling for a recount. See the Washington Post. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is under bitter criticism in the Buckeye State, the same fate as Katherine Harris suffered for her role in overseeing the Florida 2000 recount. The folks behind this movement even launched their own Web site, ohiorecount.org, but for some reason it now shows nothing but an article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on voting machines. For leftist views on this, see washingtondispatch.com. John Kerry's gracious concession on the day after the election has apparently not earned him any credit or respect from the left wing of his party. Too bad... Meanwhile, the Republican candidate Dino Rossi is ahead by 42 votes in the Washington state governor's race won by after a recount, and there will probably be a second recount.
Speaking of close races, I was looking at a Washington Post article from October 25, focusing on "ten House races to watch." The Republicans won seven of those ten races, receiving from 54 to 61 percent of the votes. In contrast, none of three the Democrats who won got more than 52 percent of the votes. These were all supposed to be close races, and provides yet another indication of how broad and deep the Republican victory really was.
Recount in Ukraine?
President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have both declared that the recent elections in Ukraine were not legitimate, an unusually strong statement about the political system in another country. Vladimir Putin seems to have decided that Russian security interests necessitate an iron-fisted leadership, using force or fraud to regain influence and even control over the former Soviet republics. Moscow has also resorted blunt threats during the recent flareup in the intermittent civil war in Georgia. Interestingly, a group of Democratic former congressmen who were observing the first round of the election declared that it was basically free and fair, but as reported in the Washington Post:
What the congressional group did not say was that its members were recruited and paid $500 a day by a Washington-based lobbyist who is a registered representative of the pro-Russian candidate in the race, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. ... The delegation of former lawmakers was led by Robert M. Carr, an 18-year Democratic House veteran from Michigan who is returning with another delegation to observe the runoff.
In the first round, Carr brought former Wisconsin congressmen Peter Barca, Jay Johnson and Jim Moody, as well as Norman D'Amours of New Hampshire, Ronald Coleman of Texas and Mike Ward of Kentucky.
No word yet on what these Democrats said about the second round. Even the vigorously pro-democracy Carter Center has not issued any statement on this Ukrainian travesty, more than a week after the event. What does all this say about Democrats' commitment to democracy?
November 22, 2004 [LINK]
CIA upheaval update
Robert Novak wrote about Senator John McCain's role in the CIA controversy in the Chicago Sun Times last week:
McCain told Goss the CIA is "a dysfunctional organization. It has to be cleaned out." That is, the CIA does not perform its missions. McCain told Goss that as director, he must get rid of the old boys and bring in a new team at Langley. Moreover, McCain told me this week, "with CIA leaks intended to harm the re-election campaign of the president of the United States, it is not only dysfunctional but a rogue organization."
Senator McCain appeared on "Meet the Press" yesterday, giving strong support to new CIA Director Porter Goss. McCain's contention that there are "rogue elements" in the CIA is a very disturbing thought. It's quite ironic that the CIA careerist seem to be favoring the Democratic side. What's next: Will Michael Moore come out defending the CIA against Bush's attempted reforms? One of my professors at U.Va. once posed the problem in very stark terms: Can an agency with responsibility for extremely sensitive and secret matters of national security be considered truly accountable in a wide-open democracy such as ours? If not, are they above the law?
Ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, the formerly anonymous author of Imperial Hubris, followed McCain on "Meet the Press," and frankly I was not very impressed. I've always been very attentive to serious arguments about U.S. foreign policy rooted in the idea that our ambitions must not exceed our resources, and I have therefore been planning on reading his book. To my surprise, however, his comments to Tim Russert were mostly formulaic criticisms of Bush, not particularly thougtful. It also struck me as a bit odd how many times he used the word sir, and from checking the transcript at MSNBC, I counted 21 times. He takes the grievances of Osama bin Laden at face value, apparently believing the threat will go away if we just pull our military forces and commercial interests out of the Middle East. He denies being an appeaser, however, and says he thinks operations like the one in Fallujah are necessary. Well! Perhaps the Sunday interview show format is not well suited for expositing his thesis.
November 19, 2004 [LINK]
Diplomacy: fantasy and reality
The Washington Post Magazine had an article on the classic board game Diplomacy, its zealous devotees, and its designer Allan Calhamer. (He eventually sold out to Avalon Hill, which now publishes it.) I learned from the article that Gideon Rose, managing editor at Foreign Affairs, is among those who have played it. The game is premised on a brutally Hobbesian view of the world, where lying and back-stabbing your allies are the keys to success. It's always been a favorite holiday pastime in the Clem household!
Speaking of diplomacy, here are some strong suggestions addressed "To the Next Secretary of State" at The Diplomad, a new blog by (mostly Republican) career U.S. Foreign Service officers. (via Daniel Drezner):
The single greatest step you could take to ensuring that merit is the basis for advancement is to do away with the Department's Affirmative Action program, i.e., quota system. It is a total fraud. It is just another white upper- and middle-class entitlement. The overwhelming beneficiaries of the program are white women from elite schools. ...
Put an end to the little ... empires established by bureaucrats who "homestead" themselves in the HR system. ...
Drastically reduce the layers of bureaucracy. ...
Finally, ignore the New York Times and CNN.
November 15, 2004 [LINK]
Even more post-election fallout
The resignation of Colin Powell as Secretary of State today was expected, so it probably doesn't mean too much for policy. When he writes his memoirs it will surely provide intense fascination. Condoleeza Rice has excellent credentials from the academic world, but is yet unproven in terms of administration and policy planning. The heads of the Agriculture, Education, and Energy Departments also tendered their resignations today, but the Pentagon is "staying the course." NBC reported that President Bush doesn't want to let Donald Rumsfeld go, because that would be seen as an admission of failure. On the contrary, the biggest sign of failure is when leaders make decisions aimed at avoiding the appearance of failure. Rumsfeld is old and his determined efforts at reforming the Pentagon have largely run out of steam, so I'm not there is any concrete reason to keep him into the second term.
Speaking of recalcitrant bureaucracies, the CIA seems to be on the verge of chaos as top-level spymasters have resigned in protest against the managerial style of newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss. Some view him as a political hack, since he had served for several years as a congressman from Florida, but before that he worked in the CIA and has professional experience. It's hard for outsiders to know what's really going on, but Senator John McCain, who is at least an independent voice, opined on Meet the Press yesterday that the main problem is the Agency is bogged down in bureaucratic inertia, and its managers refuse to make needed reforms called for by the 9/11 Commission.
In the Washington Post, David Broder emphatically refutes the leftist notion that Election 2004 signifies a step backward into reactionary, hate-mongering darkness. He mentions the hysterical piece cited below by Maureen Dowd, who sees the Republicans as hell-bent on exploiting the poor and punishing he weak. This is utter nonsense, Broder writes, as is all the commotion over the gay marriage issue. In fact, he notes, the decisive edge was moderate voters who decided that Bush was the safer choice, given the supreme importance of the terrorism issue and security matters in general. Whether the paranoid Secular Left or the zealous Religious Right like it or not, the Republican Party remains in the hands of sensible, non-extreme conservatives. Relax, folks: The nation is in good hands.
For an off-the-wall satirical take on the collective nervous breakdown suffered by millions on the Left, see "Blue State Blues as Coastal Parents Battle Invasion of Dollywood Values" at the Iowa Hawk blog.
The Democrats and Michael Moore
Matt Welch tries to belittle the significance of the "Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party," specifically the assertion that John Kerry could have won the election by criticizing Moore just as Bill Clinton criticized "Sister Souljah" in 1992, thereby establishing his credentials as a "moderate." Welch notes that Moore endorsed Wesley Clark, while his biggest and zaniest fans gravitated toward Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich.
I can look you in the eye and say these people do not have a significant voice within the modern Democratic Party.
Well! I beg to differ with Welch's conclusion, with which Randy Paul heartily concurs. Here in Staunton, the local Democratic Party sponsored a series of political films in October, two per night for one week, with Farenheit 9/11 being shown every night! Furthermore, the Democrats' Sixth District Web site continues (as of November 12) to highlight that film near the top of their home page, and this is rock-solid conservative territory where radical ideas are not exactly "kosher." Welch's after-the-fact attempt to disassociate the Democratic Party from guerrilla film maker simply does not square with the facts. Any politically conscious person was well aware that throughout the campaign John Kerry and the Democrats were recycling the same venomous rhetoric and the same lies about President Bush that Michael Moore was purveying. The revulsion of the moderate mainstream in this country toward such bile may have been just enough to tip the balance in Bush's favor. Welch tries to downplay Moore-ish fringe elements on the Democratic side by "point[ing] out that the Republicans' extremist fringe includes powerful senior elected politicians from their own party," such as Rick Santorum and Tom Coburn. If he considers these social conservatives "extremists," perhaps it is because he is further from the center of the political spectrum than he thinks.
November 12, 2004 [LINK]
Window of opportunity for reform?
George W. Bush is the first President since 1936 to be re-elected in a year when his party gained seats in the House and the Senate, and he is the first Republican President to be re-elected with House and Senate majorities since 1924. How weird is that? (Answer: almost as weird as the Red Sox winning the World Series.) Perhaps the mere fact that this situation is so unusual accounts for the bitter grumbling still heard from the Democratic side, which had been accustomed to holding at least some governmental power for the last several decades. Though his margin was too slim to be considered a clear mandate, he is finally in a position to get some real action. On the down side, the Republicans will now be held accountable for policy successes and errors for the next four years. (The GOP will hold onto Congress in 2006, barring some catastrophe; see below.) Most second-term "lame-duck" presidencies end up in frustration and/or scandal; indeed all of them since World War II have: Truman, Eisenhowever, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton. That may not apply this time, however, since this is the first term in which Bush can claim a majority of the popular vote.
So what now? At the top of my dream reform agenda is abolition of gerrymandering, of which both parties are guilty. Tom DeLay's intervention on behalf of redistricting in Texas is but the most recent and notorious example; Republicans in Virginia and Democrats in Maryland have done likewise on a lesser scale. In the Washington Post, David Broder fears that this pernicious habit is "... creating a U.S. House of Lords," a privileged body that is virtually immune from popular will.
Thanks to rigged boundaries and the incumbents' immense fundraising advantage, nearly 96 percent of the "races" were won by a margin of at least 10 percent.
For example, in the Sixth District of Virginia where I live, incumbent Bob Goodlatte received almost 97 percent of the vote, mainly because the Democrats didn't even bother to nominate a challenger. He is a fine representative and recently was named to the powerful position of chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and thus would have every reason to expect to be reelected. Yet even in a heavily Republican area such as the Shenandoah Valley there should be some degree of meaningful political competition. There was certainly a lot of organizing on behalf of the Kerry-Edwards ticket around here... Elsewhere in Virginia, in only one of the eleven congressional races did the winner have less than a 20-percent margin in the vote totals. BOR-ing! Such landslides are typical nationwide, reinforcing the alienation voters feel from their elected representatives in Washington. Remember, the House of Representatives is supposed to be the most direct expression of the popular will. Nowadays, incumbents have such a huge advantage that it calls in question the very democratic nature of our political system itself. What does this sad situation say about our fitness to preach democratic government in other countries?
The idea of Republicans as a reform party strikes many people as strange, but Newt Gingrich gave some good arguments for that in the Washington Post on Tuesday. For a perfect example of the hopelessly outmoded conventional thinking on such matters, read what George Silver wrote in yesterday's Post:
Today's dysfunctional health care system is a palpable example of the lessons that come from our national obsession with markets at all costs.
WRONG! Our health care "system" is the furthest thing from a pure market-driven system. It is, rather, a nightmarish publicly-subsidized monopoly in which the lack of accountability (thanks to non-market-based insurance policies) fuels an uncontrollable upward spiral of costs. I only wish enough Republicans were brave enough to actually say such a thing in public, but then they might not get reelected. (Such timidity is another sign of deep flaws in our democratic system.) Here are some other matters that I hope Bush will tackle:
- Radically simplifying the U.S. tax code, perhaps replacing the corporate income tax with a luxury consumption tax.
- Exempting virtually all personal savings from income tax, as part of new approach to Social Security, health insurance and loans for higher education.
- Slashing U.S. contributions to the World Bank and IMF, which do more harm than good these days.
- Getting serious about immigration, with more efficient processing of visa applicants, and huge fines on companies that employ undocumented workers.
- Raising taxes on energy across the board, to discourage profligate waste and pollution. (I know, I'm dreaming about that.)
Peterson is guilty!
After two jurors were dismissed for misconduct, which almost caused a mistrial, Scott Peterson was just found guilty of murder in the first degree. After some of the other outrageous aquittals of recent years, it's nice to know our legal system works. In the television age, it's easy for average citizens to think they can render judgments in these high-profile cases, but we never get to see or hear all the evidence. That's why I usually refrain from weighing in. The lack of direct incriminating evidence was more than offset by the overwhelming circumstantial evidence that made it obvious he was guilty as sin. (And that's an understatement.) The jurors clearly needed plenty of time to seriously consider whether there was any other plausible scenario consistent with the known facts of the case. Clearly, no. Now, does Mr. Peterson deserve to get free room and board for the rest of his life and gloat over how close he came to getting away with his nauseatingly horrible, heinous crime, or does he deserve the Ultimate Punishment? Will European countries portray us Americans as savages if he is executed?
November 11, 2004 [LINK]
Few peace-loving people will mourn the death of Yasser Arafat, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with martyred Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Another Peace Prize recipient, Jimmy Carter, had this to say today:
While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years.
Huh? It must be pointed out that Arafat's "exclusion" was self-inflicted. Rather than accept the nearly ideal peace terms offered by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he resumed the Intifada in 1999, stoking the hateful fires of the fascist movement of which Osama bin Laden was a part. When his moment of truth came, he just could not rise above his terrorist past and live up to the vain hopes of the Nobel Committee by transforming himself into an elder statesman. Instead, Arafat reverted to his comfortable old ways, thereby showing himself to be a complete coward -- much like all terrorists! I'm afraid that Jimmy Carter's judgment in recent years has deteriorated from questionable to simply abysmal. Americans and Westerners in general need to remember that the broad popularity of men like Arafat and bin Laden in the Arab-Muslim world is the heart of the problem! There is simply no point in trying to accommodate the nationalist sensibilities of people who revere such loathesome figures. Whether or not they mature and leave barbaric ways behind is up to them, not us.
November 10, 2004 [LINK]
More Post-Election Fallout
Reactions from Democrats to Bush's triumph are mixed, ranging from die-hard deniers to sober reflectors. Fringe investigative reporter Greg Palast, who gained fame by writing stories alleging systematic vote fraud in Florida in 2000, wrote "Kerry Won," claiming that "The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called 'spoilage.'" I just learned from Rush Limbaugh that Peter Jennings devoted time to this story on ABC News last night, so I guess we can't put it down as just another one of those wacko conspiracy theories. Among the sane but bitter Democrats, Josh Marshall and Maureen Dowd dismiss outright any thought of reconciliation with President Bush. Kevin Drum chastises Frank Pastore for an L.A. Times article with some sharp words about the cultural elite that I thought were pretty close to the mark. A few days after challenging those who were planning to vote for Bush by couching the issues in grotesquely slanted ways, Randy Paul presented a relatively restrained take on the election on his Beautiful Horizons blog. He suggests that states that voted for Kerry should be considered the "Brainland," as opposed to the Red "Heartland" states that backed Bush. So I replied,
Regarding Randy's thoughts: The exit of McAuliffe (and the rest of the duplicitous Clinton gang) is indeed long overdue. It would be nice to see a Democratic Party with its soul restored. "Brainland" is clever, but it would only reinforce the sense of resentment felt toward coastal elites in much of the Heartland. I count myself as only one of many of your opponents who does NOT want Democrats to become "morose," but rather that they get their bearings and pick fights on a rational basis, not rejecting everything that Republicans propose. I also take exception to the portrayal of us on the Right as being intolerant of dissent. I respect principled pacifism and criticism of the war based on strategic reasoning, but too much dissent these days is of the blind, knee-jerk variety, which is just not appropriate in these dangerous times.
(Thanks to a comment on that blog by Miguel Centellas, I came across a good piece by a Democrat who voted for Bush.) It also had a link to a New York Times article filled with laments of Gotham citizens who can't understand why the Heartland votes in a way that they see as quite hostile. Some of the comments are predictably condescending, unwittingly answering their own question. At a forum televised by C-SPAN, veteran ABC reporter Carole Simpson could barely contain her disgust with the election, equating the winning conservative "red states" coalition with a resurgence of the slave-owning Confederacy. The more sober Ron Brownstein, of the L.A. Times, emphasized how much broader President Bush's support was compared to Kerry: In only five of the 21 states he lost did he receive less than 43 percent of the vote, whereas Kerry failed to get that proportion in 21 of the 29 states he lost. Democratic Leadership Council co-founder David Frum touted the New Democrats Online Web site, which laid out a useful list of ten kinds of bipartisanship. Being center-oriented, their critical analysis of what Bush will be doing in his second term is thoughtful and worth reading.
And finally: You won't have John Ashcroft to kick around anymore! So the Attorney General has resigned, along with Secretary of Commerce Don Evans. I never had particularly strong feelings about Ashcroft one way or another, but the way the Left ripped him to shreds over the PATRIOT Act, etc. really mystified me. Is Ashcroft the "sacrificial lamb" on the altar of bipartisanship? Michael Moore ridiculed his musical aspirations in Farenheit 9/11. (I've been meaning to put in my two cents about that mockumentary flick, which I finally saw a few weeks ago at a local Democratic Party event; stay tuned.) Alberto Gonzalez, from Texas, was just named by President Bush to succeed Ashcroft.
Senator Arlen Specter, in line to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was obliged to retract his November 3 warning to President Bush not to nominate anyone in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court. I would agree with his general point that there should be no specific "litmus test" on judicial appointees, and President Bush said exactly that in the third debate. The point is that judges should interpret the Constitution in the narrow terms intended by the original Framers and not stretch it to advance some reformist agenda. Specter is on very shaky ground when he declares that Roe v. Wade is as inviolable as Brown v. Board of Education. There is a vast difference between the two cases in terms of how many people accept the Court's rulings as legitimate. His original statement can be found at: American Family Association, a social conservative group. Since Chief Justice Rehnquist is being treated for thyroid cancer, which is one of the most dangerous forms, this question takes on great urgency.
November 5, 2004 [LINK]
Let the Honeymoon Begin! (Please?)
In keeping with the "New Era" occasioned by the historic Republican victory on Tuesday, I've begun some long-deferred format and organizational revisions of this Web site. Real permalinks and interactive comments should be largely finished by the end of the month.
Early indications are that the olive branch extended by President Bush to his opponents on Wednesday has not been widely accepted. Indeed, quite the contrary. So much for reconciliation! For example, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Reynolds (Mr. InstaPundit) called attention to what novelist Jane Smiley wrote yesterday in Slate:
The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. ...
The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey -- workers and consumers.
Italics added to highlight inanity. Overgeneralizing, are we? That is the same basic line of presumptuous, bigoted thinking expressed by Thomas Frank in What's Wrong With Kansas?, reviewed below. E. J. Dionne is another of the Democrats who is terribly bitter about the election results, as you can hear for yourself on the NPR All Things Considered archives. (via InstaPundit) In today's Washington Post he writes in conclusion,
the burden for achieving national unity is on a president who could manage a narrow victory only by savagely trashing his opponent.
In other words, "It's all their fault! It's all their fault!" And this from an intellectual? It would help in the task of narrowing partisan differences if Dionne would either acknowledge that many of the criticisms of Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans, et al. were well grounded, or that past criticisms of the president have been terribly unfair and destructive. As I have made clear many times, I am not thrilled with some of the hardball tactics devised by Karl Rove, and being on the winning side I have the duty to go the extra mile in de-escalating the "tit for tat" warfare. Therefore, I will continue to do my best to meet his challenge to moderate Republicans of holding to account the less temperate partisans on my side, even though Dionne doesn't give me much reason to hope it will do much good. Believe it or not, the reactions on the Left to Bush's reelection get worse. From the Daily Kos blog:
The big silver lining, and it's significant, is that Kerry won't be tarred for cleaning up Bush's mess. Had Kerry gotten us out of Iraq, he would've been blamed for "losing the war". Now Bush will ineptly lose it for himself. Kerry would've been forced to make sense of a mess of a budget. Now Bush will be responsible for his own half-trillion dollar deficits.
Losing a war and national insolvency are "silver linings"? If he's trying to raise suspicions that Leftists want to drag this country down, they are succeeding. Many of the comments on that page are even creepier, worthy of a Halloween horror flick. By comparison, Richard Nixon's famous 1962 retort "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" sounds mature. And then there's the indisputably wacko far left: The photos posted on zombietime.com of a rally in San Francisco on the day after Bush's reelection will make you sit up and take notice.
Given the traumatic magnitude of their defeat, perhaps such "sour grapes" attitudes are to be expected. Nevertheless, those of us plaintive dialogue-seekers should not despair over the apparent communication breakdown among the main factions of the U.S. body politic. The only cure for such pain-induced vitriol is time. In the coming months and years, wiser folks on the Left will get over their bitterness, reflect on their side's crippling flaws, and come up with a more constructive alternative to Bushism. They'd sure better, since would be extremely unhealthy if the opposition party did not play such an active role in shaping national policy. Others will probably remain stuck in the mud of the past for the rest of their miserable lives. However things shake out in the end, the 2004 election is almost certain to signify the definitive end of New Deal political paradigm, which has been on its death bed for at least two decades already. What's next from the Left? If they're smart, they will abandon the pursuit of socialism on a nationwide scale and instead coopt the conservative agenda of decentralized government, and start from scratch building utopian communes in places like Berkeley, Boulder, Greenwich Village, and Charlottesville. Heck, some of them might even work!
Enough of bitter, hyper-opinionated polemics, already! Here's an interesting fact-based observation from Coyote Blog: (via InstaPundit)
Assuming Cheney does not want to run for president, which I think is a given, something will happen in 2008 for the first time since 1952: Neither of the two major-party presidential candidates will be incumbents of the President or Vice-President jobs.
I heartily agree with his subsequently-posted conclusion that that the wide-open primary election campaign will be chaotic and even more distorted than usual by the absurdly early Iowa caucuses. Can we reform the nomination process by then?
Election update: As the last of the vote tallies slowly trickle in, President Bush's lead in the nationwide popular vote has actually climbed. He now has 52.1 percent of the vote, nearly matching the 53 percent share of the electoral vote he won (286 to Kerry's 252). So my prediction wasn't quite right after all! I'm tempted to say that the 4.6 million vote margin (nearly 5 percent) is big enough to count as a mandate, E. J. Dionne notwithstanding.
November 3, 2004 [LINK]
The past 48 hours have left me utterly exhausted, but the final results made it all worth it. Just as I predicted three days ago, Bush won 51 percent to Kerry's 48 percent, just enough of a margin to put aside all those asinine gripes we've been hearing for the last four years. It's hard to imagine a more decisive election, and we will all have vivid memories of it for the rest of our lives. It may be less than a full endorsement of Bush's agenda, but it will definitely give the President a huge psychological boost as he confronts foreign adversaries. (Imagine how distraught the French and Germans must be right now!) The "icing on the cake" was the increase in GOP strength in both houses of Congress, especially the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle -- "Mr. Obstructionist" -- by John Thune in South Dakota. Any chance Tom the Consummate Washington Insider is going back to retire in his "home state"? Zip, zero, nada. Senator Kerry deserves great praise for deciding not to contest the results in Ohio, where he was at least 130,000 votes behind, not including the "provisional" ballots. (What a risk-prone mechanism those are!) His concession speech was a bit late perhaps, but the tone was gracious and sincere, which will hopefully go a long way toward restoring public trust and repairing the damage to our body politic caused by the Florida 2000 fiasco. John Edwards came across as more defiant, in contrast, perhaps indicating that he'll run for the Number One spot in 2008 -- against Hillary??? President Bush made a fine victory speech, graciously reciprocating the peace offering from Kerry. Let us hope and pray that enough of Kerry's supporters take Bush's words to heart.
For more on what I've been up to with the local Republicans for the last few days, take a look at swacgop.org. It includes a video I took of the rally last October 28, the first time I've dabbled in Web video. Good old Apple iMovie and QuickTime come through reliably as ever, once again.
November 1, 2004 [LINK]
The Moment of Truth
O.K., here's what this pivotal moment in our nation's history really means: Do we have enough confidence in the values that bind us together as a nation to recognize the barbarian challenge for what it is, or will we simply shrug and shuffle away with our figurative tails between our legs? Because I am an unabashed believer in all the good that America stands for (though acknowledging our blemishes), I am sticking to my hunch that Bush will end up with a slight majority in the nationwide popular vote. Voting for Bush is an expression of resolve and solidarity, the vital psychological underpinning upon which our national security depends. I liken this moment to the early 1980s when there were huge protests against the deployment of U.S. cruise missiles and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe. Nevertheless, elections in several NATO countries in effect ratified President Reagan's buildup, which nullified the Soviet nuclear advantage and ultimately played a huge part in ending the Cold War. Senator Kerry, in case you don't recall, was a staunch opponent of the Reagan foreign policy, wrong as usual when it comes to security matters. He talks tough about "hunting down" Al Qaeda, but he acts as though he had a spine of rubber. Mortal danger has the healthy effect of focusing one's mind on how to survive, and I think enough American people are aware that we are close to that point. I will give Kerry my (conditional) support if he is elected, since we simply must stand together in this time of peril, but I will tremble for the fate of this great nation if and when his hands are on the wheel of the Ship of State.
Larry Sabato's last Crystal Ball before the election hints at a slight edge for Kerry, depending on the turnout, since no incumbent has ever won an election without a clear lead in the polls. He foresees a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, in which case the GOP-controlled House would choose the president. How will the Democrats react in that case? Armies of lawyers are standing by.
Good news for Bush: Reds' Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench endorsed him at a huge rally last night at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, where I saw a game back in August. The estimated attendance was 40,000. (I would have guessed more like 30,000, given that most of the upper deck was empty.) Bush appeared calm and confident, and that kind of event might be enough to tip the Ohio vote into his column. Kerry, however, has seemed strained and nervous, and positively silly when he wears that Red Sox cap. By the way, where is Mrs. Heinz Kerry these days? Locked up in a luxury suite in BelAir, or Bermuda, perhaps?
Rush Limbaugh raised a good point today: the Redskins don't play in Washington any more (FedEx Field is actually in Landover, Maryland), so that old superstition about incumbent presidents losing elections no longer applies.
Given all the nice things I've said about him, this is probably a good moment to review Bush's major failures and shortcomings.
- Not telling the American people how arduous the war would be, or asking them to make material sacrifices.
- Not asking Congress for a formal declaration of war against Iraq, in lieu of U.N. authorization.
- Not making enough gestures of respect for the Iraqi people, and Arabs in general.
- Not listening to advisers who urged a more robust occupation force, thus losing the strategic initiative, temporarily.
- Not articulating a clear enough vision of what freedom would mean for the Middle East and the Third World. (MTV?)
- Not upholding true conservative principles in health and education policy, or in the budget in general.
George Will makes some of these points in his tepid endorsement of Bush in yesterday's Washington Post. In the end, he writes, the most important thing is pursuing a firm, steady course in defeating the Arab-Islamic terrorists -- and Bush knows it. I'm willing to bet that the Democrats would have been in a much better position to win this election if such fringe elements as MoveOn.org and ACT had been more restrained and reasonable in their criticisms of Bush.
Just what I was thinking: Osama bin Laden's surprise address to the American people sounded like it was written by Michael Moore or the Democratic National Committee. Guess what? A Democrat has frankly admitted as much. Will the implications of this striking rhetorical convergence sink in to enough heads by tomorrow? See Jeff Jarvis's buzzmachine. (via InstaPundit and Belmont Club)
The eerie thing about the bin Laden tape is how he remixes Michael Moore -- remixes as if in a Cuisinart. I swear the guy saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and picked up the themes for his latest wacky show -- even the fixation with that goat book. It's so nutty that if he weren't such an evil murdering slime, it would almost be funny. Or it would sound like another 527 ad.
What's also strange is that it's hard to see exactly how he wants to influence the election. Though it may seem he's trying to defeat the President, taunting Bush and America may only serve Bush. And that may be his goal: These cult nuts feed on having enemies and Bush is his ideal enemy.
I sharply dispute his last part, of course, since I think bin Laden is more sophisticated than that. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, all that made me think, what if Bush has been consciously downplaying the importance of Osama bin Laden in order to undermine his prestige among his supporters? Did Bush deliberatedly "take his eye off the ball" (as Kerry keeps whining) in order to rob bin Laden of the attention he needs to survive?? If so, it would a "psychological operation" of the highest order. Reactions from the Looney Left to the bin Laden videotape (see erictheunred, via InstaPundit) make you wonder if some of that stuff is coming from right-wing plants out to discredit them. Nah, that's too conspiratorial.