You are currently viewing archive for January 2007
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
"Of course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
~~Noah Cross (John Huston) to Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), Chinatown

Former-President Jimmy Carter is now eighty-two years-old. He has survived Southern birth, a failed presidency, and a two-decade exile from any public role within his party. Notwithstanding, in his dotage, rather miraculously, he has ascended to the top of the "greasy pole" of public esteem. Give him credit. No previous or subsequent president worked harder during his post-presidential years to redeem his calamitous turn in office.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Friday morning on C-SPAN's Washington Journal:

Steve Scully moderated a discussion between Marcy Wheeler and Byron York in studio, both of whom are covering the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby perjury trial related to the Valerie Plame-Joe Wilson controversy.

York is a correspondent for National Review covering the courtroom action, not surprisingly, in a way overtly friendly to the administration in general and Scooter Libby in particular.

Wheeler is a prolific and increasingly popular personality on the left-wing blogosphere. She sometimes blogs as "emptywheel" (you may read a sample of her reportage here via Daily Kos).

She is author of Anatomy of a Deceit, the product of her investigation of the Plame affair, which is due to be released during the next few days. You may buy it here from Common Language, "a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Feminist bookstore," and the self-described "sole remaining GLBT/Feminist store in the State of Michigan." The site urges "support of us... [which] will help us survive and ensure that the NEXT book by Marcy Wheeler will have a place to be sold."

Wheeler earned her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1995 (although I was unable to discern in which discipline she attained her degree). On the net, she is often described as a consultant in Ann Arbor. According to her extremely sketchy unofficial bios, she has been a Democratic Party official in Michigan and was a staffer for Howard Dean in 2004.

Two moments in the conversation struck me:

1. Identifying himself as a citizen of "fly-over country," a caller wondered if Wheeler, in the event that Libby won acquittal, would then spend as much time and effort helping him to clear his name as she had asserting his perfidy.

She refused to admit any possibility of Libby's innocence, but, perhaps more telling, she took offense at the assumption that she was not from "fly-over country." The caller had mentioned "Katie Couric and the Washington establishment." Wheeler insisted she was from Michigan--not Washington.

Evidently, she did not understand that an academic from Ann Arbor was as foreign to this Heartlander as Katie Couric. In the mind of Red-State America, Wheeler is part of the Washington establishment.

2. At the conclusion of the segment, Scully asked the two guests to identify their favorite president. York, an Alabama native who doesn't seem quick to advertise that fact, picked Abraham Lincoln.

Wheeler seemed nonplussed by the question. "My favorite president?" she twice repeated. "I don't have a favorite American president," she finally said in a dismissive and disgusted tone. "My favorite president is the first woman president. My favorite president is the first African American president."

Evidently, all those white guys had been the agents of patriarchy and racial oppression and unworthy of her admiration. I can only infer that she impatiently awaits the revolution. Power to the people.

For background: What's Wrong With the Democratic Party: Part I.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some thoughts on what I know about playing poker...

1. One of my favorite axioms: “if you can’t figure out who the sucker is in the game—get out; it is probably you” (famously quoted in Rounders).

2. In essence, the law of averages says that everyone at the table with a modest amount of ability will win the same amount of hands over the course of the night; therefore, the key to winning at poker is to maximize the hands you win and minimize your losses on the ones you lose. Sounds simple—but there is great art to this.

3. A corollary to this is the Kenny Rogers advice: “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Don’t chase good money after bad. Get out early on bad hands. Drive up the pot on good hands.

4. A poker face is essential—but the whole art of “bluffing” is much overrated; it is very Hollywood—but unlikely to make you a consistent winner.

Now you know everything I know about playing poker.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Some quick not-necessarily-connected thoughts on the State of the Union:

1. Great drama: a President at war in the midst of historic low public approval numbers facing a newly crowned majority in Congress opposed to almost everything for which he stands.

2. The President's domestic agenda is nearly irrelevant. He has lost the initiative. He may get some of the things he wants, but they will be mostly on Democratic terms.

3. American institutions are so very powerful. I loved the civility and the respect for the offices and the history. The President's tribute to Nancy Pelosi was first class. He seemed sincere, and she appeared genuinely moved.

4. The expectation was that the speech would have no impact. I think that is basically correct, although the President gave his partisans a moment to be proud of and something to stick in their gas tank. The speech was the best and most articluate I had seen from this President in a long time, but does it matter at this point?

5. Kudos to the new speech-writing team. I like Michael Gerson--but, perhaps, it was time for a change. Although the punditry proclaimed it subdued, that stale analysis gives the wrong impression. The call to arms was a low roar that played powerfully eloquent on TV.

Instantly classic lines:

"The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together."

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory."

"We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way."
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Let's give credit where credit is due.

The Democrats in the House are off to a good start. Nancy Pelosi is taking advantage of friendly media to soft-sell herself as a sensitive and efficient Speaker of the House.

The 100 Hours Agenda is being implemented:

Tuesday, January 9: Implement the 9/11 Commission Recommendations

Wednesday, January 10: Increase the Minimum Wage

Thursday, January 11: Expand Stem Cell Research

Friday, January 12: Allow Negotiation for Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Wednesday, January 17: Cut Interest Rates on Student Loans

Thursday, January 18: End Subsidies for Big Oil and Invest in Renewable Energy

Here is the "Countdown Clock." If you are interested in checking the progress of the program, they are right on schedule.

These bills are passing, by the way, with large Republican votes in support. They are generally innocuous but ring with common sense and populist appeal.

Defying many of the predictions of wild-eyed Jacobins tearing down the fabric of the republic, the new majority has not moved to impeach the President, initiate a draft, defund the war, dismantle domestic surveillance of suspected terrorist supporters or even push through an agenda of San Francisco-style social revolution. Perhaps those things are in the offing, but, for now, the Democrats appear mild-mannered, competent stewards of the people's interest.

Despite some harsh rhetoric, they have opted for caution in dealing with the war and the President's plan to add troops in Iraq. They are allowing the Senate to take the lead in opposing the President, where some high-profile Republican Senators are set to abandon the President and give cover to the expected collapse of support among House Republicans. Instead of dusting off the War Powers Act, or moving to cut off money to troops in the field, the Democratic leadership is quietly setting the stage for a grassroots revolt against the President's authority to conduct the war.

The bad news for the GOP is that this leadership team is likely here for an extended period of time. It is unlikely that the electorate will eject this newly elected majority in 2008. Why would they?

An aside: In the Senate the prognosis is even worse in the near term. Eighteen incumbent Republicans senators are up for re-election in 2008. Those will be tough races. Why are conservative Republicans running for cover? George Allen, Jim Talent and Rick Santorum. Why are moderately conservative Republicans in swing states running for cover? Mike DeWine. This explains why the Republicans in the Senate are in full retreat.

The good news is that the Senate, in the long view, looks good for the Republicans. Since 1980, control of the Senate has changed hands repeatedly; that trend will likely continue. Barring complete disaster, we can expect the GOP to contest for the Senate as early as 2010.

When can we expect a GOP majority to return in the lower house? Perhaps if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, the traditional difficulties for the majority party affiliated with the sitting president will help the Republicans to fight their way back in 2010. But don't count on it. We may be talking about Speaker Pelosi in 2012 and 2014 and 2016.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Powerline has this list of questions for those of you who still may think that the mainstream media is unbiased. The questions are rational in tone and content, and concern coverage of the UN scandals.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Elizabeth Williamson has this article in the Washington Post on religious affiliation in the new Congress.

The article has its most extended discussion on Jewish membership and Jews in politics.

A few bits: more Jews in this Congress than ever before; first Muslim in Congress; Harry Reid highest ranking Mormon ever in Congress.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Powerline guys have done good coverage on Keith Ellison since before election day. Their reaction to his appointment on the House Judiciary Committee is a must read.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gaypatriot shows Edwards for a hypocrite simply and devastatingly. Here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few months ago I threw out a few quickly composed thoughts about Republican "common sense." Thinking Out Loud through the question of why college-educated, white, religiously oriented Americans, in general, more often than not, vote Republican, I suggested:

"[T]he rhetoric of the Republican Party acknowledges the God that the majority worships and honors expressions of love for the nation, which a majority still believe to be the "last best hope for mankind." During the generation following the Civil War, the Republican Party chastised the Democrats: "Not every Democrat was a traitor, but every traitor was a Democrat." Today, it seems as if not all Democrats are America-haters, but all America-haters are Democrats. It is easy to make the case in the heartland that the Republican Party is for God and country (and the other guys are not so sure)."

You may review the full post here.

Important Disclaimer: Let the record show that I believe wholeheartedly that the party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Paul Tsongas, Paul Wellstone, Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold does not hate America. The Democratic Party has played a vital and positive role in shaping American history and political culture. I sincerely hope that tradition continues in perpetuity.

Having said that, the Democratic Party has some exigent problems in terms of public perception and, more importantly, policy making, which are rooted in real structural and systemic weaknesses in basic Democratic Party DNA.

What is wrong with the Democratic Party?

A related sub-question: Why do so many regular Americans see the Democrats as oddly out of step with their values?

Mostly, it is the result of the complicated make-up of the Democratic Party coalition.

Take Michael Moore (please). Moore is a radical thinker (talker) on the outskirts of the Democratic Party mainstream. As you may remember, Moore supported Ralph Nader and the Green Party in 2000. He felt guilty for contributing to the Bush presidency, so he came back into the fold in 2004. Democrats were very happy to have him (intent on making him feel at home), famously seating him next to former-President Jimmy Carter in a privileged box for dignitaries at the Democratic National Convention.

Does Moore hate America? He is definitely cynical about our history and our system. Granted, he is more anti-Bush, anti-Republican and anti-wealth than "anti-American." On the other hand, if you follow his line of reasoning, you find it pretty difficult to see the United States as anything less than a malevolent power, insensitive to its own citizens and a danger to the world (too many evil Republicans in power for too long). Is this an America-hating position? Reasonable people will disagree, but we can safely say that his views are certainly not an America-loving perspective. Many Americans find that fine distinction difficult to maintain.

Am I picking on an extremist who is unrepresentative of his party? I don't think so. I know literally scores of rational Democrats who went to Fahrenheit 911, laughing and applauding and praising Moore for his high art and insightful contemporary history. I have friends who quote Moore (often unknowingly) and build points on his interpretation of history (once again, often unknowingly). My point: Moore is not an isolated case.

Why do Democrats put themselves in such a vulnerable position? As I say above, many agree with him in principle. More importantly, politics makes for strange bedfellows; the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Bush and the Republicans are the enemy. The Democratic Party cannot afford to lose Michael Moore (and his ilk) to radical third parties; that is, the Democrats cannot win national elections without the Michael Moore fringe in America. Therefore, they are stuck with Michael Moore as a valued ally and celebrated spokesman.

The Democratic Party has several other problem constituencies within its coalition, including but not limited to American academia, old guard feminists and the so-called civil rights organizations. I intend to discuss these other factors in the days to come.