Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Someone keep Fleet Street away from Bill Clinton
So by now everyone knows that Bill Clinton thinks the American press corps is in the bag for Barack Obama. Indeed, I suspect that in their heart of hearts, more pundits and reporters like Obama than Clinton (though, as Chris Matthews pointed out a few weeks ago, what they really like is a never-ending horse race).
Still, despite the possible bias on these shores, I can't imagine any major American newspaper having the following lede for their story:
Seventeen months after she sat regally in her New York living room and calmly declared: “I’m in and I’m in to win,” Hillary Clinton stands on a stage in a stifling hot shed in South Dakota, coughing and spluttering, as her daughter, Chelsea, grabs the microphone from her hand to take over the show.So,for those of you interested in Bill Clinton's continued good health, I'd recommend not showing him any of the Fleet Street covers tomorrow AM.
Monday, June 2, 2008
So.... are the Clintons morons?
James Fallows writes the following about Hillary Clinton's mindset in running against Barack Obama:
The Clinton team doesn't worry about hurting Obama's prospects of winning in the fall, because they assess those prospects at zero. Always have. Obama might not win if he leads a bitterly divided party, but (in this view) he was never going to win. Not a chance. He would be smashed like an armadillo in the road by the Republican campaign machine, and he would be just about as ready as the armadillo for what was coming.Others have made similar assessments of the Clinton mindset.
Here's my question: how objectively stupid does someone have to be to come to this conclusion? Forgetting about the candidates for a second, the current political and economic environment suggests a clear Democrat victory this November.
The economy is... let's call it uncertain. Inflation is rising. Things seem to be improving in Iraq, but the U.S. still has a large number of troops in theater five years after the start of the war, and it's still pretty damn unpopular.
Now, if Barack Obama were to scream "F*** America!" during his acceptance speech, those figures wouldn't matter too much. But I suspect even the Clintons don't think he's that stupid. Negative attacks can drag a candidate down, but there are limits on their effectiveness. The preliminary evidence that some right-leaning media figures are relatively sympathetic to Obama. Why, therefore, would the Clintons believe that Obama has no chance of victory?
I suspect this goes back to their experiences in the nineties, when they viewed themselves as the only ones who could vanquish the GOP in political battle. They've seen every other national Democrat in the past twenty years -- Michael Dukakis, Tom Foley, Al Gore, Tom Daschle, Richard Gephardt, John Kerry -- felled by the GOP, and I suspect they think of themselves as endowed with special Republican-smiting powers.
Still, if they are thinking as Fallows and others describe, then they are even more narcissistic than I (or Todd Purdum) had previously believed.
Which is saying something.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
The New York Times didn't ask me, but then again, that's why I have this blog
The New York Times Book Review asked a bunch of writers which books they would recommend to the presidential candidates. Most of the submissions said more about the writer's politics than anything else, though I liked Gore Vidal's response best:
I can only answer in the negative: I want them not to read The New York Times, while subscribing to The Financial Times.Well, I'd like the candidates to read this blog during their oodles of spare time, so here are five books worth perusing:
1) David Stockman, The Triumph of Politics. This is the classic parable of a bright young man who went to Washington brimming with ideas -- only to run into the brick wall of politics.And for Hillary Clinton, I also have a book recommendation -- and not Macbeth, which popped up more than once on the NYTBR's list. No, Senator Clinton should read Jeff Shesol's Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade. A story about two ambitious politicians with similar policy objectives and radcally different styles. Plus, t would allow Clinton to refresh her memory about those historical references to the sixties that she keeps making.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Where should Hillary go?
The New York Times' Carl Hulse and the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane file similar reports: the notion that Hillary Clinton will downshift from presidential candidate to Senate Majority Leader or a similarly high-ranking position is complete fiction.
To sum up: Clinton does not have a ton of seniority. All the high-ranking Dems show no signs of budging. Based on endorsements, it's not clear how many members of her caucus really like Clinton all that much. If the best post she can get is the chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, we're not talking about a lot of plum advancement possibilities for Hillary Clinton.
Whither Hillary? There's been a lot of careless chatter about other career possibilities for Hillary Clinton -- vice president, governor of New York, Supreme Court Justice, etc. -- so as part of this blog's continuing dedication to careless chatter, the following are the top five jobs she should consider after losing the nomination:
1) Secretary of Defense. Following up on my bloggingheads debate with Megan McArdle, if Hillary Clinton truly wants to continue her trailblazing path, Obama shouldn't make her VP, he should give her this job. Given the current military state of play, it's not going to be a fun assignment. This has the added benefit of (relatively) sidelining Bill Clinton -- a cabinet spouse has a lower profile.
Monday, May 26, 2008
There are crazy people everywhere
Lots of people are fretting about the persistent and mistaken belief of some Americans that Barack Obama is a Muslim. [Not that there's anything wrong with that!--ed.]
Over at his Politico blog, Ben Smith puts this 10% of mistaken Americans in perspective:
[L]arge minorities of Americans consistently say they hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly alienated from one party or the other.Smith makes an excellent point here -- but I think he's actually being too modest. It's not just minorities of Americans who hold out-of-mainsteam views -- minorities (or majorities) of every nationality hold strange beliefs. In Africa, the Congo has been gripped by outsized fears of penis theft; a few years ago, there was the great vampire frenzy in Malawi. Lots of Brazilians believe the United States is hell-bent on taking over the Amazon. And let's not get into Arab public opinion on who was behind 9/11.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
A powerful incentive to fix the comments feature on this blog
Longtime readers are likely aware that I've been relatively slow to fix the comments feature on the blog. Partly this was due to being distracted by the day job, partly because I enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with an end to comment spam.
It appears that John McCain has provided me with an incentive to fix the comments. According to Politico's Jonathan Martin:
John McCain's campaign is using their campaign website to encourage supporters to post supportive comments on political blogs, including the most well-known liberal site in the blogosphere. And to make things easier, they're including talking points with which sympathizers can use to get out the McCain message.[Um... according to McCain's campaign site, the blogs of attention are Red State, DailyKos, and Jeff Emmanuel. Plus, it's the commenters getting paid, not you--ed. Ah, but I can delete their comments unless they hand over the McCain swag! Mmmmmmm..... swag!--ed.]
Hillary Clinton's remaining political argument for staying in
Over at The Plank, Josh Patashnik makes an argument about the limited appeal of both Obama and Clinton:
[W]hat's become clear at the end of this primary season is that neither Democratic candidate's appeal is as wide as Democrats would prefer. It's difficult to project what will happen in November from primary results or even general-election polling at this stage, so any such speculation should be taken with a major grain of salt. I think it's fair to say, though, that in general Obama appears to have a problem with working-class whites east of Illinois, and Clinton appears to have a problem with Westerners and more upscale independent-minded voters. This pattern has been remarkably consistent since the beginning of the primary season. My suspicion is that these weaknesses basically cancel each other out, which is why you see both candidates sporting approximately equal-sized small leads over John McCain in national polls.There's one asymmetry that Patshnik doesn't discuss, however: every exit poll I've seen confirms that a larger fraction of Obama voters at this point are willing to vote for Clinton in November than vice versa.
Those numbers will fade somewhat once the heat of the primary season fades, but I suspect that they'll be more resistant to change among Clinton supporters. Despite McCain's presence as a reasonably attractive GOP candidate, I seriously doubt Obama's coalition of voters would vote for him. On the other hand, Clinton's "hard-working, white Americans" have voted for the GOP in the past and could easily do so in November.
There's been a lot of speculation in the press about why Hillary's staying, in, but this is the only politically viable argument I think she has left. Oddly enough, Saturday Night Live pretty much drove this point home in this sketch:
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Your political quote of the day
Today, if you’re not rich or Southern or born again, the chances of your being a Republican are not great.From George Packer's New Yorker essay.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
A nice word for Mike Huckabee
During my speech at the NRA a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive, as that was never my intention.None of this, "I'm sorry if someone else thought my comments were offensive." He knew he'd screwed up, and he owned up to it.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Please tell me this is a very late April Fool's joke
I've een cautiously optimistic that John McCain would choouse a Ron Paul -type Republican (minus the conspiratorial bigotry) since the Huckabee wing of the party is much less likely to vote for Obama.
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain's short list for a running mate. At least that's the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain's inner circle. The fundraiser is less than thrilled with the idea of Huckabee as the vice presidential nominee, and many economic conservatives—turned off by the populist tone of Huckabee's campaign and his tax record as governor—are likely to share that marked lack of enthusiasm.Based on what I know of Huckabee's policy views, my reaction to this piece of information:
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Hillary Clinton's inexcusable bigotry
"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."Naturally, the debate is over whether Clinton's linkage of "hard-working Americans" to "white Americans" carries just the teensiest tinge of racism.
That's not my concern. My concern is that she links "hard-working Americans" to those "who had not completed college." The notion that college-educated workers do not work hard is, I'm sorry, complete and utter horses**t.
[So, have you finished your grading for the semester?--ed. Er, yes. Are you teaching this summer?--ed. Not really, no. Do you see where I'm going with this?--ed. Sure -- if you don't count editing one book, writing part of another book, prepping two grant proposals, drafting two additional articles I've committed to writing, and refereeing a few articles and book manuscripts, I have no real work to do. I think I've made my point about your "job," Mr. Hey-Look-At-Me-I'm-A-Full-Professor!--ed.]
For some reason, whenever I'm told that I don't work that hard, my mind drifts to end of this scene:
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Some final thoughts on Hillary Clinton
In the wake of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign being declared effectively dead by one and all, it is worth reflecting on what she gained by staying in the race for the past two months and change.
Primarily, she managed to graft Bill Clinton's reputation as the indefatigable fighter who can always come back from the dead onto herself. There's also the working class hero thing, though I suspect that will fade. Finally, she's managed the rare reverse Greenhouse Effect, earning Strange New Respect from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Patrick Buchanan.
These are not insignificant gifts. When her political fortunes are discussed from here on out, they will frame the media's perception of her. She will always be painted as someone who should not be ruled out in a political fight, and it will surprise no one if she mounts another presidential candidacy.
There's a more important reason why these past six weeks have helped her immeasurably. Had she dropped out of the race back in early March, the narrative frame would have been how Hillary Clinton blew the nomination in spectacular fashion.
Stepping back, it's hard to overstate the advantages she brought to the primary race. She possessed unbelievable name recognition, a well-oiled fund-raising machine, a strong association with the most successful Democratic president of the past 50 years, an, er, Clintonian grasp of policy detail, strong ties to the women's vote and (until very late in this electoral cycle) the African-American vote, and tight connections with the Democratic party establishment. In the aftermath of New Hampshire, she could claim, plausibly and simultaneously, to be the most experienced candidate and a candidate that would represent a real change from the staus quo. With no appreciable domestic policy differences among the Democratic candidates, there was every reason to believe that Hillary Clinton was going to win.
Despite all this, Hillary Clinton did not win the nomination. Her failure to win says less about her defects than Barack Obama's strengths. But if nothing else, her performance over the past few months has managed to shift perceptions about her in ways that salvage her reputation as a politician of national standing.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Hillary Clinton's contribution to the all-purpose excuse genre
To date, this blog has observed the political innovation of the All-Purpose Excuse -- the signature line that can be used to justify anything. Two examples:
1) "If we don't do it, the terrorists will win."Hillary Clinton came up with a new one yesterday on This Week:
"I’m not going to put my lot in with economists."Try it around the house -- it's easy and fun!:
Honey, you should really brush your teeth before you go to sleep.Or:
Will we have enough money to pay our bills this month?Or:
That cop has his sirens on... maybe you should pull over.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
A real policy difference. Yippee!!
The New York Times' John Broder reports on a genuine, honest-to-goodness policy disagreement among the Democratic presidential candidates:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lined up with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in endorsing a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. But Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, spoke out firmly against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports.You have to love an issue that puts George W. Bush and Barack Obama on the same page. As an added bonus, in this case they happen to be right.
This will be an interesting test -- if I were Obama, I'd hit the thirty dollar line very, very hard. This would seem to be a classic example of "politics as usual" and why it won't really solve long-term problems of energy and the environment.
Of course,I'm a lousy politician, so the fact that I would recommend this course of action suggests that it's doomed to failure.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The most comforting thing I've read about Obama today
Michael Crowley has an essay in The New Republic on whether a President Obama would actually withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. The key paragraph:
The truth is Obama has no secret plan for Iraq. Interviews with nearly two dozen foreign policy and military experts, as well as Obama's campaign advisers, and a close review of Obama's own statements on Iraq, suggest something more nuanced. What he is offering is a basic vision of withdrawal with muddy particulars, one his advisers are still formulating and one that, if he is elected, is destined to meet an even muddier reality on the ground. Obama has set a clear direction for U.S. policy in Iraq: He wants us out of Iraq; but he's not willing to do it at any cost--even if it means dashing the hopes of some of his more fervent and naïve supporters. And, when it comes to Iraq, whatever the merits of Obama's withdrawal plan may be, "Yes, We Can" might ultimately yield to "No, we can't."Why does this cheer me up? Because the article suggests that Obama and his advisors might actually let, you know, facts on the ground influence their decision-making. Which is how it should be.
Anyone who tells you they have a foolproof Iraq plan to put in place nine month from now is lying to you.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Looking for a non-pander
Today, both Democratic candidates decided, "Hey, you know what would be a good idea? Complete and total pandering on the non-existent relationship between vaccines and autism!" Of course, in doing this, they were merely following John McCain's lead.
Still, it's days like this when the major party candidates for president look the smallest. So it is nice to see that there is at least one issue in which one candidate will not pander:
Republican John McCain made a risky argument in a hard-hit Ohio steel town Tuesday, telling residents that free trade can help solve their problems.Bonus points to McCain for the use of the word "cling."
Hat tiip: TNR's Michael Crowley, who observes, "On the one hand you have to admire McCain's refusal to pander. On the other you have to wonder if he's commiting electoral suicide."
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
A random elitist question
Given the media firestorm over Obama's "bitter" statement, and given the overwhelming commetariat consensus that this episode would hurt Obama in the polls, and given the polling results clearly indicating this not to be the case in either Pennsylvania or across the country, what can be inferred?
A) Gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers are so bitter that they don't watch cable news outlets;
Monday, April 7, 2008
Trade destroys jobs....inside the betway
Freer trade doesn't lead to much job loss in the real economy -- but the effects of trade in the world of presidential campaigns can be devastating:
Mr. [Mark] Penn, who has kept his job atop the global PR giant Burson-Marsteller to the chagrin of other officials in the Clinton camp, met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. a week ago to discuss the firm's contracted effort to sell the U.S.-Colombian trade pact -- which Sen. Clinton opposes, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week. After that came to light, Mr. Penn apologized and called the meeting an "error in judgment" -- which in turn upset the Colombians, who on Saturday terminated Burson-Marsteller's contract. Late yesterday, the campaign said Mr. Penn asked to "give up his role as chief strategist" but that he and his political-consulting firm "will continue to provide polling and advice."....A bitter irony of this latest kerfuffle is that this will likely be the most prominent mention of Colombia during the presidential campaign -- just as the NAFTA imbroglio will have been the most prominent mention of Canada.
I've said it before and I will say it again: Democrats cannot simultaneously talk about improving America's standing abroad while acting like a belligerent unilateralist when it comes to trade policy.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Dumbest poll ever
I certainly think public opinion matters in the formulation of policy -- and that, over the long term, foreign policy leaders ignore the public at their peril.
That said, this Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll/press release might be the dumbest f@#$ing thing I've ever seen:
In sharp contrast to views recently expressed by Vice President Cheney, a new poll finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe government leaders should pay attention to public opinion polls and that the public should generally have more influence over government leaders than it does.Wow, so let me get this straight -- when asked by pollsters whether polls are important, the American people agreed?
Seriously, the question, as phrased, is only slightly less biased than the following possible substitutes:
A) "Do you think the people's voice should be heard by politicians -- or are all y'all really just a bunch of morons?"If you look at the actual results, it's clear that PIPA simply cherry-picked responses to an old (January) poll and released them to embarrass Cheney (and say that, "hey, polls matter!!").
I'd find the exercise much more persuasive if the questions weren't so loaded. For example, did PIPA ask whether either the Supreme Court or the Federal Reserve should respond to public sentiment when they make their decisions? When that 3 AM phone call comes in, should the president immediately put a poll out to calculate a response? I'd actually be interested in serious polling on the tradeoffs between expertise and democracy. This PIPA exercise is pretty much completely unserious.
In the 5 1/2 years of this blog, I don't think I've ever defended Dick Cheney, but in this case he's right and PIPA is, well, stupid. Of course leaders should not respond to every poll fluctuation on an issue. That's called leadership.
Now let me stress here that Cheney's response is still disingenuous, because polls on Iraq have not "fluctuated" so much as "sunk like a crater after recognizing that victory ain't gonna happen."
Still, PIPA's press release doesn't rebut Cheney -- it only shows how it's possible to frame poll questions to get any kind of response you want.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Drezner predicts the political future!
I should add that, based on what I've heard while here [with Bill Richardson], it's pretty damn obvious that Richardson would like to endorse Obama.The New York Times, today:
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who sought to become the nation’s first Hispanic president this year, plans to endorse Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination on Friday at a campaign event in Oregon, according to an Obama adviser.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Your quote of the day
For anyone with libertarian instincts, Virginia Postrel's post about John McCain makes for disturbing reading. The key sentence:
McCain is an instinctive regulator who considers business a base pursuit.I was fortunate enough to chat with Virginia yesterday, and during the chat, an interesting question arose: if McCain is an insinctive regulator, but appoints those less inclined to regulate, which policy wins out?
Monday, March 10, 2008
In a Reuters story on Barack Obama declining Hillary Clinton's premature offer of a VP slot, we get to this priceless bit of spin by Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson:
Obama took note of Clinton's repeated attacks and said the vice president's primary role would be to take over if the president died or was incapacitated.This begs the question... what, exactly, is required to pass that test? How do the next five months on the campaign trail provide such an opportunity [Wait, Obama won Mississippi? He's definitely commander-in-chief material!--ed.]?
In one way, this is a typical bit of grade-Z spin. In another way, however, it does shed an interesting light on the Clinton campaign's mindset about politics. As the Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons reported, Hillary Clinton's fabled experience in international relations is pretty weak beer. The implicit message of her campaign, however, is that Clinton has faced greater trials and tribulations in the political arena for 15 years -- and that experience translates into preparation for foreign affairs.
Clausewitz famously said that war was politics by other means. Hillary Clinton's zero-sum tactics in the past week suggest an inversion of Clausewitz's dictum. For Clinton, politics is simply war by other means.
This might actually work. Clinton, by throwing out her steering wheel, might actually scare enough superdelegates into following her.
But it's really becoming more difficult with each passing day to distinguish Hillary's mindset from George W. Bush.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Yet another Clinton scandal
From Mark Leibovich, "No Longer in Race, Richardson Is a Man Pursued," New York Times, February 23, 2008:
Early this month, Mr. Clinton called Mr. Richardson and insisted on seeing him face to face. Mr. Richardson said he could not make it unless Mr. Clinton came down to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl on television with him, which Mr. Clinton rearranged his schedule to do....From Dan Balz, "Influential Democrats Waiting to Choose Sides," Washington Post, March 9, 2008:
"I'm thinking of changing my phone number," joked [Pennsylvannia representative Mike] Doyle, who had supported New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson but is now uncommitted. He said he got a surprise call from Bill Clinton on Super Bowl Sunday while cooking osso buco for his family. (emphasis added)Just what was Bill Clinton doing on Super Bowl Sunday? There's clear photo evidence to support Richardson's version of events -- but I have no reason to believe Doyle is lying.
This apparent paradox contained within the spce-time continuum raises a whole bunch of reasonable questions:
1) Do the laws of physics make it possible for Bill Clinton to cook osso bucco at location A and then watch the Super Bowl in location B?Your intrepid blogger will try to get answers to these vital questions when he crosses paths with Richardson over the next few days. [Good... it's clear you need a few days in the sun--ed.]
UPDATE: A concerned reader e-mail to suggest that I'm misreading Balz's account -- that it was Doyle who was cooking osso bucco for his family, not Clinton. Hmmm.... this does makes temporal and logical sense, but it's not as much fun as my interpretation of the (not artfully worded) sentence.
Friday, March 7, 2008
The Scheiber effect?
Four and a half years ago, Noam Scheiber wrote a cover story for The New Republic about Howard Dean's great new political machine and how it was going to transform politics. The piece was beautifully written, utterly convincing, and -- of course -- wound up overhyping the Dean phenomenon just a tad.
Fast forward to the present. Scheiber writes another story for The New Republic, "The Audacity of Data," about the pragmatism and savviness of Obama's economics and foreign policy advisors. Once again, the story takes a fresh angle, and is utterly convincing -- partiularly to meself.
In the week since Scheiber's piece went online:
1) Chief economic advisor Austan Goolsbee gets into trouble for saying or not saying things to a Canadian consular official about NAFTA;The Scheiber effect: correlation or causation? You be the judge. However, if I were on the Clinton or McCain campaign teams, I'd be wanting to say as far away from Noam Scheiber as humanly possible.
The curel irony, of course, is that Goolsbee, Rice, and Power did nothing to suggest they would be bad policy advisors. Indeed, all three of them appear to have proffered candid and correct (well, maybe not the "monster" line" advice. It's just that they committed Michael Kinsley-style gaffes.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Identity politics and the irony of the 2008 campaign
MoDo's column about identity politics in the Democratic Party today actually got me thinking. Particularly this part:
Dianne Feinstein onto the Fox News Sunday-morning talk show to promote the idea that Hillary should not be forced out, regardless of the results of Tuesday’s primaries, simply because she’s a woman.This leads to a central irony about this campaign. I don't doubt that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have suffered a multitude of small slights in their professional and personal lives because of their gender or race. However, if you think about this as a contest to see who has suffered the greatest because of their identity, it's not even close.
The candidate who has suffered the most in his lifetime is.... John McCain. As an individual, he has paid a much higher price for his identity as an officer in the United States military than Obama or Cinton has individually paid for their race or gender. And there's simply no way to spin it otherwise.
As a collective entity, of course, African-Americans and women have white males beat on the suffering front. It is interesting, however, that the avatars of identity get all jumbled up once we look at the candidates' individual biographies.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Open Super Tuesday II thread
Me, I'm just going to watch some episodes of House on the DVR for the next few hours, but the rest of you feel free to comment away on tonights primary results.
I can't resist one thought, however. Howard Fineman blogs "Win or lose, pressure on Clinton to exit will mount" over at Newsweek:
It's no longer a question of what Hillary herself thinks—she wants to stay for the duration, a close friend of hers tells me—but whether and when the leaders of the Democratic Party unite, publicly and privately, to tell her to get out if she wants to have a future leadership role in her own party.Here's the thing, though -- I think the mainstream media has underestimated the number of core Hillary supporters who would be unbelievably pissed by the optics of the Democratic "establishment" -- read, mostly men -- telling Hillary that her time on the stage has ended. Trust me, these people do exist, and they exist in significant numbers.
So my prediction is that any kind of stage-managed effort by the Democratic Party leadership to nudge Hillary Clinton aside will end in disaster. Either Clinton will refuse the overtures, declaring herself to be a "fighter" for the upteenth time -- or she will step aside in such a way that it costs Obama significant slices of the Democratic demographic come November.
UPDATE: Wow, CNN's numbers are screwy on Texas. As of 8:45, Obama and Clinton combined have nearly 800,000 votes, with less than one percent reporting. Unless the illegal immigration and ballot fraud problems are a lot worse than I thought, those vote counts are way too high.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Those naïve Brits
Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that the London Times' Sarah Baxter gets face time with Barack Obama. Some fascinating nuggets come out:
Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee.Now besides the virtue of poking Paul Kruigman with a sharp stick, I have to think that this is just one of those "let's have some fun with Fleet Street" moments in an otherwise exhausting campaign. To be sure, I suspect Obama actually will appoint at least one Republican to an important Cabinet department -- but there is zero chance of both Hagel and Lugar becoming cabinet secretaries in an Obama administration. There are simply too many Democrats who desire high-ranking positions at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom for this to happen.
Not to mention the fact that if Obama is smart, he wants Hagel and Lugar exactly where they are. They might be Republicans, but they are also GOP Senators willing to "do business" with an Obama administration in the Senate. Unless the fall election is a complete blowout (a possibility to be sure), these politicians are scarce commodities.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
What's the best experience to be president?
That's the topic of my latest commentary for NPR's Marketplace. Here's how it closes:
As a management question, the problem with being the president is that one cannot anticipate what important issues will arise in the future. No one thought terrorism would be the paramount foreign policy problem during the 2000 campaign. I guarantee you there are issues that will not be talked about during this election year, but will dominate the presidency in 2009 and beyond.Go check it out!
UPDATE: I do find this post from the Hotline to be particularly interrstin on this point:
Responding to the release of HRC's new TX TV ad, which asserts in no subtle terms that only she has the experience to deal with a major world crisis, and, relatedly, to keep your children safe, Slate's John Dickerson asked the obvious question:
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Ask Bill Richardson!!
Last Sunday Mark Leibovich had an amusing story in the New York Times about the wooing of New Mexico governor (and distinguished Fletcher alum) Bill Richardson's endorsement. The article focused primarily on the Clintonian wooing. It included this photo:
Glenn Kessler now reports that Richardson might be endorsing someone soon. Furthermore, Marc Ambinder reports that some of Clinton's surrogates -- like Madeleine Albright -- have ticked off Richardson with their overbearing pleas on Senator Clinton's behalf.
I bring all this up because as it turned out I'll be having dinner with the man in a few weeks -- we'll both be attending this UCLA Conference on U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Rogue States. Richardson is delivering the keynote address -- I'm waiting tables during the drink hour.
I therefore leave it to the readers -- which question should I ask Richardson if I get the chance?
A) Who was the most irritating member of Clinton's cabinet? Just nod your head if It was Albright.Readers are encouraged to post other good questions in the comments.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Ohio debate hangover
1) How, exactly, does the political leadership of Canada and Mexico feel about this whole NAFTA renegotiation business? Are they real big fans of this idea?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Live-blogging the Ohio debate
This could very well be the last presidential debate for the next six months, so it seems worth live-blogging. On the other hand, this is the 20th debate on the Democratic side of the ledger, and I've watched enough of them to feel like we're in re-runs.
Updates once the debate starts.
12:00 PM: One last thought -- my bet is that the press coverage will focus on the tonal contrasts between Clinton and Obama. It should focus on the fact that both candidates want to threaten withdrawing from a treaty as one of their first acts in office as a way to build up America's image abroad.
10:39: ACK!!! Keith Olbermann!! Run away, run away!!!
10:37 PM: Well, it's over. My take is that Obama brought it home -- his tone and demeanor were measured -- he seemed unflappble and, you know, presidential. Clinton had too many carping moments. The times where she could have proffered grace notes (the to and fro on Farrakhan) she was overly aggressive.
10:29 PM: Obama tries to end on a similar grace note to mirror Clinton's Texas valedictory. The funny thing is that Hillary's face is completely impassive during the first part of his answer.
10:28 PM: Clinton's last answer always seems to be her best.
10:20 PM: Obama gets political science props for critiquing the methodology of the National Journal rankings. He gets political props for turning the question back to his overarching campaign themes.
10:17 PM: Sullivan thinks Obama's Farrakhan response was, "A weak response - reminiscent of Dukakis." I'll just note that the Official Blog Wife concurs. Greg Sargent disagrees. What I found really disturbing was this statement by Clinton:
I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching (emphasis added).Um... as a really big fan of that whole first amendment thingmabob, let me suggest that at president, Hillary Clinton damn well should "let anyone in any way say these things."
10:13 PM: Wow. Did Hillary Clinton just say that rejecting an anti-Semitic party endorsement was going to put hurt her 2000 Senate campaign at risk.... in New York?!! That is just so politically brave of Hillary Clinton.
10:08 PM: Russert tells Obama, "You have to react to unexpected events in this campaign." I half-expect him to then leap over the table, stab Obama with a shiv, and then say, "like that!!"
10:05 PM: And at 65 minutes, my Russert allergy kicks in.
10:01 PM: Obama's response to Clinton's "fighter" point on health care is pretty sharp. His counterpunching has definitely improved over the course of the campaign.
9:57 PM: Hillary gets off a good line in response to her Obama-mocking: "It's hard to find time to have fun on the campaign tail."
9:49 PM: A sign of growing debate fatigue -- I welcome the commercial break. Hmmm.... must consult doctor about Abilify....
9:45 PM: I can't tell whether Russert is more obsteperous towards Clinton in his questions... or if Clinton is so used to Russert that she feels she has to interrupt him to make her point. Neither of them looks particularly good during these exchanges, however.
9:40 PM: I do hope that the general election debates are at this level. Clearly, these two are disagreeing, but on the whole it's been at a pretty high level. The resolution of today's McCain-Obama dust-up is encouraging here.
9:39 PM: Josh Marshall: "you've clearly got both of them right on their game tonight. These are both just incredibly accomplished sharp people and both at the top of their game."
9:34 PM: Sullivan is right: "[H]e seems like a president. She seems annoyed."
9:27 PM: I'm glad that the first thing Hillary Clinton will do to improve America's image abroad is inform Canada and Mexico that we'll withdraw from NAFTA unless we renegotiate the trade deal. That'll do wonders. UPDATE: Oh, goodie, Obama agrees. Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall. [UPDATE: Hey, shouldn't someone call Obama for flip-flopping on withdrawing from NAFTA?]
What I find so fascinating is that both Obama and Clinton are saying that NAFTA benefited some parts of the country but not others. This is undoubtedly true, but the policy response to that is not to renegotiate NAFTA -- tougher labor and environmental standards won't affect Ohio's economy. The answer is to expand trade adjustment assistance programs within the United States.
9:19 PM: Did Hillary Clinton actually complain that, "I keep getting asked the first question" and then reference Saturday Night Live?! And she says that Obama isn't tough enough for the general election?! You got to be f***ing kidding me. UPDATE: The Clinton campaign is apparently obsessed with SNL.
9:17 PM: Just 16 minutes on health care, and no applause -- yay, MSNBC!!
9:11 PM: Hillary's giving a good rebuttal on health care -- but at the beginning of her answer, she seemed to iply that it's perfectly fine to use attack mailers on other, lesser subjects -- but it's different with health care.
9:08 PM: I continue to be impressed with Obama's improvement over the arc of these debates.
9:03 PM: Health care is a passion of Hillary Clinton? Who knew? After the debate, MSNBC will be airing its 14-part series, The Passions of Hillary Clinton.
9:01 PM: Oh, MSNBC gets immediate bonus points ffrom your humble blogger for not bothering with the walking-out portion of the debate.
8:00 PM: The debate starts in an hour. In the meanwhile, to liven things up, consider the following drinking rules while watching this debate:
Take a sip if:
a) Obama holds Clinton's chair for her;Take a shot if:
a) Hillary mentions Tony Rezko;Drink everything in your house if:
a) LeBron James is in the audience;
Let's not beatify policy wonks just yet
In the context of writing about anonymous negative leaks emanating from Hillary Clinton's campaign, Brad DeLong posits a typology of staff:
There are two kinds of people who get involved in politics--those who care about the substance of policy, and those who want to get White House Mess privileges, or as a consolation prize become media celebrities. The first kind--the policy people--will be loyal to a politician as long as he or she is trying his or her best to achieve the shared policy goals. The second kind--the spinmasters--will be loyal to a politician as long as he or she is a winner who favors them. If a politician stops looking like a winner, or if a politician starts favoring others for what they hoped would be their west wing job, they will jump ship as fast as they can--and you will start seeing the "infighting" stories.I see what Brad's getting at, but in the context of a presidential campaign, methinks Brad is being a bit simplistic. Policy wonks can act strategically as well -- they just act strategically a little earlier in the process.
Let's formalize this.
Let win = p(candidate) = ex ante probability of a candidate winning an electionSo, when a wonk is choosing which campaign to join, ideology undoubtedly plays a role. So, however, does the assessment of the candidate's chances of victory. Indeed, as I've blogged before, one of the striking aspects of foreign policy wonks is that they've been surprisingly good at picking winners.
A policy wonk will
[Does this really matter? Doesn't a presidential nominee simply consolidate the cream of the crop after the primary season?--ed. Based on the last two election cycles, my answer would be no. Kerry did not do this in 2004. As for 2008, let's outsource to Michael Hirsch:
They were devotees of the cult of Clinton. Greg Craig was Bill Clinton's lawyer, defending him on TV against impeachment charges. Susan Rice was a protégée of Madeleine Albright, the 42nd president's secretary of State. Anthony Lake was Clinton's personal foreign-policy consigliere, his first-term national-security adviser. Now, however, Craig, Rice and Lake are all top advisers to Hillary Clinton's main rival, Barack Obama. In an increasingly bitter fight for the best and brightest policy advisers of Clinton's presidency, these defectors are aggressively recruiting junior- and midlevel officials from his administration.UPDATE: Over at The New Republic, Noam Scheiber suggests that Obama's strength in policy wonks comes not from ideology, but from choosing people more open to ideological diversity than the Clintons:
In some respects, the sensibility behind the behaviorist critique of economics is one shared by all the Obama wonks, whether they're domestic policy nerds or grizzled foreign policy hands. Despite Obama's reputation for grandiose rhetoric and utopian hope-mongering, the Obamanauts aren't radicals--far from it. They're pragmatists--people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale. As [Richard] Thaler puts it, "Physics with friction is not as beautiful. But you need it to get rockets off the ground." It might as well be the motto for Obama's entire policy shop.
Monday, February 25, 2008
My one and only post about Ralph Nader
Why does a man who received 0.38% of the vote in the last election merit valuable minutes on Meet The Press, not to mention hours of speculation about his candidacy and its effects on the 2008 campaign? Will Tim Russert bestow similar press time to the Libertarian Party candidate -- who received a similar number of votes?
Seriously, who gives a f***?
Which candidate will hoard executive power the least?
A common lament of the Bush administration has been it's relentless drive to accumulate more tools of power for the executive branch. One might assume that this problem would be corrected in a new administration -- particularly since the remaining candiates are based in the Senate, a body that has seen its influence over the executive branch on the wane in recent years.
It's a funny thing, however, about becoming president -- the prerogatives of power that look so monarchical from the outside don't look so bad on the inside.
So I find this Washington Post story by Michael Abramowitz to be particularly interesting:
Asked by my colleague Glenn Kessler whether he would ever consider issuing a signing statement as president, Sen. McCain was emphatic: "Never, never, never, never. If I disagree with a law that passed, I'll veto it."This is of a piece with what McCain said late last year.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Tyler Cowen thinks I'm rational
In his New York Times column, Tyler Cowen articulates my basic attitude towards evaluating presidential candidates:
[T]he public this year will probably not vote itself into a much better or even much different economic policy. To be sure, the next president — whoever he or she may be — may well extend health care coverage to more Americans. But most of the country’s economic problems won’t be solved at the voting booth. It is already too late to stop an economic downturn. Health care costs will keep rising, no matter who becomes president or which party controls Congress. China is now a bigger carbon polluter than the United States, so don’t expect a tax or cap-and-trade rules to solve global warming, even if American measures are very stringent — and they probably won’t be, because higher home heating bills are not a vote winner. A Democratic president may propose more spending on social services, but most of the federal budget is on automatic pilot. Furthermore, even if a Republican president wanted to cut back on such mandates, the bulk of them are here to stay....
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Hello, pot? It's Hillary Clinton's kettle calling!!
Hillary Clinton, February 21, 2008 debate with Barack Obama: "You know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox."
Hillary Clinton, later on in the same debate: "You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country."
Jack Stanton speech, in Primary Colors (New York: Random House, 1996), p. 162: "Y'know, I've taken some hits in this campaign. It hasn't been easy for me, or my family. It hasn't been fair, but it hasn't been anything compared to the hits a lot of you take every day."
I can't find the actual 1992 Bill Clinton speech upon which this fictional version was based, but I suspect there are some strong similarities. [UPDATE: Thank you, Josh Marshall -- "The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits the people of this state and this country have been taking for a long time."]
9:46 PM ... That was an interesting final moment to end on for Hillary. Candy Crowley is on CNN now saying how it was a good connect moment for HIllary, which I suspect it may have been. But we all do remember that those words were borrowed from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, right?Right.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
McCain vs. Obama.... oh, right, and Clinton too
John McCain went right after Barack Obama in his victory speech tonight. A few thoughts:
1) Matthew Yglesias beat me to the punch on this point -- it's a bit strange for McCain to critique Obama for saying the U.S. should unilaterally use force against terrorists in Pakistan on the same day the Washington Post reports that the U.S. is using unilateral force against terrorists in Pakistan.POSTSCRIPT: Mickey Kaus relates a possible anti-momentum theory that could help Clinton:
Hillary does best when Democratic voters sense she's about to get brutally knocked out of the race, as in New Hampshire. That prospect taps a well of residual sympathy for a woman who has devoted her life to politics, etc. But when Hillary is triumphant she seems arrogant and unbearable, and voters feel free to express those perceptions at the polls. It follows that Hillary will do better in the crucial states of Ohio and Texas if she loses in Wisconsin and has her back to the wall.The problem with this logic is that.... if it were true, she would have actually won Wisconsin. Clinton's back was already against the wall after eight straight losses, and there had been a week for these losses to sink into the electorate. The cable nets delighted in discussing her massive losses in the Potomac primaries. That combined with more favorable demographics should have pushed her to victory in the Badger state -- and yet it didn't.
ANOTHER POSTSCRIPT: Jamal Simmons observes the eerie similarities between the 2008 campaign and the fictional 2006 campaign that played out on The West Wing. My only quibble -- Hillary Clinton isn't Abby Bartlett -- she's John Hoynes.
LAST POSTSCRIPT: Worst... surrogate... ever:The most painful part is the background derisive laughter you can hear at the tail end of the clip.
Musings about the Obama backlash
It's just so three hours ago to talk about how an Obama cult member gets through the day or how Barack Obama can help sustain marriages that cross party lines or how Obama is feeling the love in Japan and Europe. Right now it's all about the backlash!!
Kevin Drum is all over this meme. Deep within the Obama cult, The New Republic's Christopher Orr implies that Republicans like David Brooks were just waiting for Obama to surge... so they could then pull the super-secret double-cross and drag him down into the mire.
As a potential Obama-can, I'm still on the fence. This is not because of Brooks' column today though he is clearly one spur for this conversation. Rather, Clive Crook got at it a bit better in his Financial Times column:
Mr Obama is a paradox, as yet unresolved. His plan and his votes in the Senate show that he is a liberal, not a centrist. And he is no wavering or accidental liberal. His ideas are of a piece. He sees – or convinces people that he sees – a bigger picture. And yet this leftist visionary is pragmatic, non-ideological and accommodating of dissent. More than that, in fact, he seems keen to listen to and learn from those who disagree with him. What a strange and beguiling combination this is.Now, on the one hand, Steve Chapman soothes my anxieties here when he compares Clinton's mortgage plan with Obama's:
Obama is not a staunch free marketeer, but he grasps the value of markets and shows some deference to economic laws. Clinton, however, tends to treat both as piddly obstacles to her grand ambitions.On the other hand, we get to what Obama is saying right now, and I start to get very worried. The Financial Times' Edward Luce explains:
Barack Obama on Monday made an aggressive pitch at Ohio’s blue-collar workers by proposing a “Patriot Employers” plan that would lower corporate taxes for companies that did not ship jobs overseas.Clive Crook, correctly, concludes that this plan is, "on its economic merits, remarkably stupid." And I haven't even gotten to Obama's NAFTA-bashing.
So what's a possible Obama cultist to think? I can offer four words of solace in considering whether to embrace a President Obama:
1) Part of this is the remaining primary schedule. Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are all fertile ground for economic populism, and this is presumably why Obama has been tacking in this direction. As John Broder and Jeff Zeleny point out in today's New York Times:[B]oth candidates appear to be looking for ways to avoid taking positions that would give them problems in the general election or expose them to a business backlash....2) Chapman is still right -- compared to Hillary, Obama remains the more market-friendly candidate. Indeed, this might even remain true if Obama is compared to McCain. The latter's first instinct on other issues (campaign finance) has been to regulate.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Your political dare of the day
Elizabeth Bumiller reports in the New York Times that John McCain has come up with an interesting way of defusing Barack Obama's financial advantage:
Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign said Thursday that it stood by a year-old pledge made with Senator Barack Obama that each would accept public financing for the general election if the nominee of the opposing party did the same. But Mr. Obama’s campaign refused to reaffirm its earlier commitment.At first blush, I think this is a double-edged sword for both candidates.
For McCain, proposing this reminds everyone of McCain-Feingold and potentially neutralizes Obama's fundraising power. On the other hand, McCain-Feingold hasn't really worked out as envisaged, and it's a major sore point with conervatives.
For Obama, accepting McCain's proposal would remind everyone that it was Obama who came up with the idea in the first place. It would also allow him to blunt McCain's attempt to woo back independents who have shown a liking for Obama. On the other hand, Obama's fundraising capabilities are quite prodigious. Furthermore, accepting now leaves him open to charges of taking the nomination for granted.
If you're Obama, do you accept the dare?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Eugene Robinson defends my ilk
It would be insane to waste time and energy worrying that somewhere, doubtless in a high-tech subterranean lair, Republican masterminds are cackling over their diabolical plot: The use of reverse psychology to lure unsuspecting Democrats into nominating Barack Obama, an innocent lamb who will be chewed up by the attack machine in the fall. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Your logical conundrum of the day
Over the past few days, the Clinton campaign has made the following two arguments:
a) Caucuses don't really count as much as primaries because, "the caucus system is undemocratic and caters mostly to party activists."In the comments, someone please logically reconcile those two statements.
[But isn't Obama equally contradictory by making the reverse of both arguments?--ed. Actually, no. I think the Obama campaign's argument is that because of turnout, the caucus states have largely reflected the will of the voters -- and therefore superdelegates should simply follow suit in making their decisions. I think that's consistent -- but I'm willing to be corrected in the comments.]
UPDATE: It's been pointed out in the comments that a lot of elected officials are also superdelegates. I was assuming that any elected Democrat is a de facto party activist (they're not mutually exclusive categories), but others might not make the same distinction. That said, looking at this list of superdelegates, I do believe a healthy majority of them consist of party activists of one stripe or another.
Clinton and Obama are fairly close among governors (10-10, respectively), senators (12-9), and congress members (71-58). It’s among DNC officials that Clinton really takes the lead, with 125 to Obama’s 57.5. In other words, Clinton’s sway appears to be much stronger among party hacks than among elected officials (emphasis added).This reinforces the logical conundrum -- is there any way Clinton can reconcile her spin on the caucus states and the superdelegates?
Hat tip: '08 Guru
Sunday, February 10, 2008
A quick thought on superdelegates
Based on turnout to date, this is not going to be a fun year for the GOP. Say this for the Republicans, however -- the path to the presidental nomination makes more sense than the Democrats (the Washington caucuses excepted). The Republicans handled Michigan and Florida's decision to move their primary dates early by punishing them -- stripping half their delegates -- but not punishing them as severely as the Democrats did.
Plus, for all the talk of the GOP being an elitist party, they don't have superdelegates in a position to decide the nominee at the end of the day.
This is now a source of agita in the op-ed pages and the liberal blogosphere. Kevin Drum mildly defends them, asking, "The very existence of superdelegates assumes that they'll vote their own consciences, not merely parrot the results of the primaries. After all, why even have them if that's all they do?"
Similarly, Matt Yglesias observes, "The Democrats have had this dumb superdelegate thing in there for a couple of decades now with people mostly not focusing on it because it never comes into play. Well, now it might come into play and it doesn't sit well with people."
On this latter point, it's worth observing that Matt's analysis is a bit superficial. The superdelegates were designed to play a pivotal role at the beginning rather than the end of the primary season. Way back before the time of the blogs, a frontrunner could become a frontrunner by making it clear that he'she had the supprt of a supermajority of superdelegates (yes, I've always wanted to write that phrase). This was how frontrunners became frontrunners -- and how they preserved that status despite inevitable insurgent challengers. The idea is that their mere existence was sufficient to affect the dynamics of the primary campaign much earlier in the process.
Lest one think that I'm defending their existence, it's worth pointing out that the superdelegate idea has hisorically had disastrous consequences for the Democratic party's presidential aspirations. With the partial exception of Bill Clinton, the superdelegates helped ensure that the frontrunner wound up winning the nomination since 1984. This process meant that the Democrats ran Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry in November. There's no way that any politico can justify a process that delivers that set of outcomes.
Irony of ironies -- if the GOP had superdelegates, does anyone still think that John McCain -- the Republican who poses the strongest general election threat to a Democrat blowout this fall -- would be the presumptive nominee?
UPDATE: Jacob Levy is entertainingly bemused by the whole contretemps.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
The vice presidential paradox
In a post on whether Mike Huckabee might be John McCain's wingman on the 2008 GOP ticket, Ramesh Ponnuru makes an interesting point regarding the ratcheting up of standards for Vice Presidents:
The job of the vice president has changed, thanks to Clinton's decision to pick Al Gore in 1992 and Bush's decision to pick Dick Cheney in 2000. These men, at the time they were picked, were extraordinarily well respected; and they went on to have greater responsibilities than previous vice presidents. I think voters now expect vice presidential nominees to pass a higher bar. They can't be picked solely to win a state or lock down a constituency. They have to be plausible presidents. I expect that consideration will be even more important given McCain's age. And I'm not sure that Huckabee can clear that bar.I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Huckabee is clearly not ready for prime time as a president, and based on his foreign policy views, I want pretty far away from the corridors of power.
On the other hand, the ratcheting of the VP bar creates a different problem -- instead of a buffoon or a lightweight, you have a talented, ambitious politician placed in an ambiguous position. This means presidents need to give them something to do in terms of policymaking. And, frankly, the results have ranged from unproductive (negotiating a global warming treaty that had zero chance of ratification; outsourcing government) to destructive (screwing with the foreign policymaking process).
The paradox is that an ideal vice president should be ready to be president from day one. At the same time, such a person -- in order to take the job -- requires major policy bailiwicks to tide him or her over.
I'm not sure what the right mix is for a VP selection, but I don't think either the "true lightweight" or "ambitious heavyweight" molds works terribly well.
Anyone have any suggestions?
UPDATE: Over at the Monkey Cage, Lee Sigelman crunches some numbers to try and divine who the actual VP picks might be for the donkey side.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
So you can see why I'm in a good mood today
As near as I can figure, the following people would have to be classified as the "losers" from Super Duper Tuesday:
Ted Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, John Kerry, and the African-American "establishment" in the Deep South: so much for the Kennedy's pull with either Massachusetts voters or the Hispanic community [UPDATE: Hmmm... Matt Yglesias makes a convincing case that the endorsements had some pull in Massachusetts.] And so much for the endorsements of the "establishment" African-Americans in the South swaying the black community.So it's a Super Wednesday for me.
[Wait, what about bad political prognosticators?--ed.] Oh, I'm always a loser in that category
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
And in the end, I voted for....
I was tempted to vote for Romney -- not because I'm really a fan of Mitt, but because I wanted to se Romney push McCain on economic issues. I've never bought the supposition that candidates who lock up the nomination early are better placed for a general election victory. Competition is what brings out the mettle in a politician.
McCain has certainly been tested, and he deserves some credit for sticking to his positions even when they cost him the frontrunner status. I liked a lot of his Foreign Affairs essay, and I really like his take on executive power.
Still, like Ross Douthat, I can't shake the impression that McCain has reclaimed that status more by default, luck, and the utter incompetence of the rest of the GOP field.
Think about this. Giuliani self-destructed. Romney's pandering was about as subtle as a 15-year old boy would be in a room with the Pussycat Dolls. Paul's a bigot -- or quite friendly with bigots, I'm not sure which. Tancredo and Hunter were non-entities. Only Huckabee has improved his standing from the campaign he's run, but that's not saying much.
It would be good to see Romney, as the last man standing, push McCain to be a better candidate. In the end, when faced with his name on the ballot, I couldn't seriously pull the trigger on someone who appears to hold no core values whatsoever.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Why Republicans feel OK about Obama
Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President Bush, writes in the Washington Post about why Republicans have positive feelings towards Barack Obama:
What is at the core of Obama's appeal?I'd say this sums it up nicely, but the last point in particular should be stressed. Every single conservative I've talked to since the South Carolina primary has mentioned the Clinton comparison between Obama and Jesse Jackson -- and it left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
Friday, February 1, 2008
Listen.... to the BBC World Service!
UPDATE: To listen to the entire discussion, click here and then click on the "listen to the debate" link.
On Saturday at 1:00 PM Eastern time I'll be participating a live debate on the BBC World Service. What's it about? I'll let the BBC explain:
Ahead of Super Tuesday - the day when 24 US states decide on their preferred candidate for the Presidency - BBC World Service and Chicago Public Radio present a major debate on the big election issues live from Chicago on Saturday 2 February.I believe you can listen to it online as well.
Since I wrote my Newsweek column on this issue, there's been some straight news coverage on this from the New York Times, as well as Roger Cohen's recent op-ed.
None of these stories cover Chinese perceptions of the campaign. Thank goodness for sexyBeijing.tv!!!:
And for those wondering where the title of this post comes from.... well, see below:
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Live-blogging the Democratic debate
Because I feel compelled to do one of these.....
7:58 PM: Yep, even two minutes of Lou Dobbs Tonight is painful.
8:02 PM: Wow, Clinton dominated the walking-out-on-stage part of the debate!!
8:06 PM: Jesus, there have been seventeen debates?!!
8:07 PM: From the opening statements, a clear advantage that Clinton has over Obama in these formats is the latter's hesitancy in his voice -- which plays into the belief that he's inexperienced. Hillary, on the other hand, does not lack in confidence. This will impress the commentariat, at least.
8:12 PM: Clinton just gave the GOP one guaranteed YouTube clip to use if Obama wins the nomination -- about how their policies are really so similar. This is not a new thought, but to have Hillary say it right next to Obama will make for a great ad.
8:17 PM: I like Obama's reply on the mortgage crisis.... and he's definitely winning the "kiss John Edwards' ass" contest.
8:24 PM: Clinton's response on the political realities of health care makes her sound like George W. Bush: neither of them will negotiate with themselves.
8:27 PM: Obama's "broadcast health care dialogue on C-SPAN" seemed like a deft comparison to Clinton's 1994 health care fiasco... until Wolf Blitzer made it overt.
8:28 PM: K-Lo on the debate: "Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney makes you feel good about America. McCain vs. Hillary makes you stressed."
8:30 PM: Andrew Sullivan: "They are not disabusing me of the notion that discussing the details of healthcare policy is really boring."
8:34 PM: GEORGE!!!!! Jason Alexander is in the house!
8:36 PM: As a former employee, it's worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton's claim that the RAND Corporation is "far from liberal" is a bit rich. If memory serves, they're actually pretty liberal on health care .
8:40 PM: I don't know if it will win him any votes, but Obama's refusal to blame immigration on inner-city unemployment was the right answer
8:48 PM: Clinton gets a point for bringing up the fact that she was co-sponsoring immigration legislation in 2004
8:50 PM: Is there any issue Clinton does not feel personally?
8:53 PM: We're almost at the halfway point... and my
9:03 PM: A Bradley Whitford sighting... our long national nightmare is over.
9:06 PM: Wow, Hillary's wants to let me use my own crieria to evaluate my choice for president?!!! That's the most libertarian thing she's ever said.
9:11 PM: Pierce Brosnan in the house... is he an American citizen?
9:13 PM: And now I see Diane Keaton and Rob Reiner... thank God this audience is truly representative of America.
9:19 PM: One of the problems with watching too many of these debates is that many of these lines have been repeated seventeen times.
9:20 PM: America Ferrara and Alfre Woodard in attendance.... it's good to see Hollywood looking more like America.
9:23 PM: Hillary is proud to have Maxine Waters endorse her? Man, that's sad....
9:27 PM: Topher Grace looks intense.
9:32 PM: Official Blog Wife on Hillary's answer on her Iraq vote: "Is this her 'I did not inhale' moment?"
9:33 PM: Hillary claims that no one could forsee that President Bush was bound and determined to go to war in Iraq? Um, really? That was pretty obvious to the entire blogosphere in the fall of 2002. UPDATE: And Obama makes exactly this point.
9:39 PM: Lou Gossett Jr. sighting. The first Oscar winner. UPDATE: And Spielberg as well... Garry Shandling did not win an Oscar.
9:46 PM: Good Lord, Hillary Clinton has the worst, most annoying laugh ever.
9:52 PM: Maybe they're good actors, but there seemed to be genuine affection between the two of them at the end of the debate.
9:53 PM: From the Blog Wife -- she gives a thumbs up to the earth-tones of Hillary's brown suit with the turquoise jewelry, but Obama's tie exuded cool.
FINAL ASSESSMENT: I thought Clinton did marginally better on the nitty-gritty of policy, but Obama did better on everything else. More importantly, given his past debate performances, Obama did much better than expected.
Thumbs up to Doyle McManus as well... and thumbs down to Wolf Blitzer.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Behold the awesome power of undorsements!!!
In December I wrote: "[M]y two undorsements of candidates that could ostensibly win are.... John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani."
BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
Many thanks to Minipundit for the shout-out.
I won't have Rudy Giuliani to kick around anymore
I know I've picked on Rudy Giuliani during his presidential campaign, and it seems a bit cruel to dogpile on him after he finished a distant third in his make-or-break state.
That said, after reading Michael Powell and Michael Cooper's dissection of the Giuliani campaign in the New York Times, I do have one final thought. Consider this passage:
Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was stumbling, even if it was not immediately evident. He leaned on friendly executives who would let him speak to employees in company cafeterias. Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, by contrast, compiled lists of undecided Republican voters and invited them — sometimes weeks in advance — to town-hall-style meetings.From the way he organized his campaign, it seems like Giuliani would have been a complete failure at any kind of governance that would have required, you know, politics or legislation or wonky stuff like that.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This year, pollsters know nothing
This has proved a tough season for statewide pollsters even by historical standards. Mrs. Clinton eked out a win in New Hampshire even though most pollsters expected her to be buried by Mr. Obama. A recent analysis of polls in that state by Survey USA found that pollsters were off by an average of 10 percentage points in the days leading up to the election. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Mr. Obama routed Mrs. Clinton on Saturday, Survey USA found that prognosticators did even worse, chalking up average error rates of 17 percentage points.What's odd about this is that the bulk of Cooper and Chozick's article is about how Hillary Clinton has a built-in advantage come Super Tuesday... because of statewide polls showing her in the lead.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Looking on the bright side of politics
Kevin Drum is grumpy about the post-South Carolina primary reaction:
I haven't been impressed with very much of the chatter about Barack Obama's primary victory last night. Hillary didn't give a concession speech? Give me a break. Who cares? Turnout was up? Yes, but it's been an exciting and money-filled campaign and turnout has been up everywhere. Obama won the black vote and lost the white vote? Nothing new there. Obama won young people and Hillary won among the elderly? Again, no surprise.I'll maintain that South Carolina is another notch in an argument I made in Newsweek ten days ago:
In a pleasant surprise, negative campaigning has not worked. Part of the explanation for Huckabee's rise in the polls has been the relentlessly upbeat quality of the campaign and the man. Mitt Romney, in contrast, has not gained much from attacking either Huckabee or McCain. Obama's optimism on the campaign trail worked well for him, until women thought Hillary was being unfairly attacked and rallied behind her. In South Carolina, however, Clinton will likely pay a price for statements made by her, her husband, and her surrogates impugning Obama in particular and, in some instances, the civil rights movement in general.I think this thesis still holds up. Romney did well n Michigan because he
If my hypothesis is correct, Romney wins Florida.
As Drum wryly observed in a previous post, "As long as negative campaigning works — and it's worked pretty effectively ever since Og defeated Ug 56-55 for the presidency of the Olduvai Gorge Mammoth Hunting Alliance — we'll keep seeing it." Drum is likely correct, but so far this year, negative campaigning has been a stinker of a campaign tactic.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Everybody hates someone
Let's see if we can briefly summarize who irrationally dislikes who:
1) According to the New York Times' Michael Luo, all the other Republicans personally dislike Romney;This was just off the top of my head.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Your political quiz of the day
Who wrote the following?
The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we?It's a multiple choice:
A) Jonah GoldbergFor the answer, cick here.
A small memo to the Center for Public Integrity
Dear CPI staffer,
So I hear you have this brand-new website that, "documents 935 false statements by top administration officials to justify Iraq War." This is a great public good, and you have reason to feel happy about it.
On the other hand:
1) Sending me approximately 935 e-mail notifications about the new website will not put you in my good graces [C'mon, it was really close to 935?--ed. OK, it was closer to five, but I can confirm that these e-mails actually existed, and they clearly have the capability to send me 931 more. I had to act preemptively.]Warm regards,
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
An assignment to the mediasphere and blogosphere
Well, that South Carolina debate sure was pleasant, wasn't it?I'm intrigued by Obama deciding to bring up the "Bill issue," as it were:
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign this week in South Carolina is essentially running Mr. Clinton against Mr. Obama. The two have been engaged in a war of words, with Mr. Clinton accusing the Obama campaign of voter coercion in the Nevada caucuses, and Mr. Obama saying on Monday that Mr. Clinton had made comments that were “not factually accurate” and that his advocacy for his wife had grown “pretty troubling.”....Pundits are also chatting up Bill Clinton's advocacy.
Which leads to my question to readers and reporters: it would seem that the obvious comparison to Bill Clinton's conduct in the 2008 campaign is George H.W. Bush's conduct during the 2000 campaign. To what extent has President Clinton's advocacy for his wife exceeded Bush's advocacy for his son?
Combing through Google news archives during the primary phase of the campaign, it's tough to find much at all on Bush pere. There are a few mentions of Bush's father campaigning for his son, but frankly, there was less than I expected. I could not find anything about Bush attacking McCain, Forbes, or other primary candidates (which does not mean anything can't be found). Even more surprisingly, I can't find a story this month that has made this comparison (again, that does not mean anything can't be found).
Question to readers: has Bill Clinton crossed the line in campaigning for his wife? Is there a line to cross?
Friday, January 18, 2008
Managing the bureaucracy....
Henry Farrell summarizes an interesting blog exchange between Timothy Burke and Brad DeLong on the proper relationship between leaders and bureaucracies.
[O]ne of the interesting bits of information to come out of the Iraq War so far has to do with why US intelligence was so off about Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. People who want to argue that intelligence was purely concocted for political purposes are too simplistic, people who want to reduce it all to the will of Dick Cheney or a few neocons are too simplistic, people who want to make it a sincere mistake are too simplistic. Some of what strikes me as actually involved includes:Now DeLong:
Tim Burke is both right and wrong. He is right: courts are the natural habitats of deceitful courtiers who tell the princes exactly what the princes want to hear, the people on the spot who control implementation matter in ways that the people around polished walnut tables in rooms with green silk walls do not, and the movement of information through bureaucracies does resemble a game of telephone with distortions amplified at every link.And now Henry:
I’m with Brad on this, but I want to go one step further. The very fact of ambiguous motivations and uncertainty about what the people at the top really want can be a crucial source of strategic power for those people. By combining ambiguous information about the motivations of those in power with implicit incentives to please them, powerful people can strategically shape the things that underlings do and do not do, without ever specifically demanding that they do anything....My take: there are cross-cutting effects in the relationship between bureaucracies and "courts" as Brad puts it. No doubt, bureaucrats will want to please their superiors, and that can affect the kinds of information that they receive.
On the other hand, there is an large and robust literature in political science on the fact that bureaucracies can also resist, evade, or sabotage the policy preferences of their political superiors. Indeed, this came up earlier this week in the Nevada debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (NOTE: if anyone can find a shorter YouTube clip that only encompasses the first 7 minutes, post it in the comments):Hillary Clinton's concern with bureaucratic evasion mirrors the Bush administration's utter and complete conviction, when they came to power in 2001, that they faced a hostile and ideologically biased bureaucracy. Being embedded in said bureaucracy at the time, I think the Bushies were about 15% correct and 85% incorrect, and this led to some horrible policymaking processes. An interesting question going forward is whether Clinton would display the same kind of organizational pathologies.
To be clear, Brad and Henry are correct to say that leaders should be wary of eager-to-please courtiers, and should be willing to pulse the system in order to get alternative sources of information. The irony of the Bush administration, however, is that in the case of intelligence gathering, Cheney and Rumsfeld did precisely this very thing. In their case, however, it was because they thought the intelligence apparatus' inherent risk aversion was preventing them from drawing the conclusions that they had already drawn about Saddam Hussein. And, as Hillary Clinton's statements suggest, this is hardly a GOP phenomenon.
One last quick thought: I don't really buy Farrell's strategic ambiguity argument -- or, at least, it was at best a minor key in this administration. George W. Bush is a lot of things, but "ambiguous" ain't one of them. And it's Bush's decisions that, in the end, set the tone for the administration. One of the biggest problems with liberal critiques of the Bush administration has been the assumption that Bush has been from the nose by Cheney, Rumsfeld, neocons, etc. Bull s**t. The president has been the decider.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Old-time prediction markets
In my latest Marketplace commentary, I pointed out that the accuracy of prediction markets would improve as they went more mainstream. Essentially, as markets widen and deepen, their informational efficiency should improve.
I had assumed that we would need to wait for the future for this to happen. However, Paul Rhode and Koleman Strumpf provide some fascinating evidence from the past in thieir paper, "Historical Presidential Betting Markets." The highlights:
This paper analyzes the large and often well organized markets for betting on presidential elections that operated between 1868 and 1940. Over $165 million (in 2002 dollars) was wagered in one election, and betting activity at times dominated transactions in the stock exchanges on Wall Street.Hat tip: The Monkey Cage's John Sides.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Reason #342 why Election is the greatest movie ever made about American politics... ever
Thank you, Slate.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
A snow day bloggingheads
My latest bloggingheads diavlog -- with Henry Farrell -- is now online at the brand-spanking new bloggingheads site. We talk a lot about the 2008 campaign in all its facets.
Go check it out!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Let's save everyone the trouble of reading Paul Krugman for the rest of 2008
We’re heading into a recession (ignore what I've said before -- this time I'm sure).Repeat twice a week until about, I'd say, mid-August.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Your dumb-ass quote of the day
"Experience is not defined by years spent in Washington but by instinct and judgment and wisdom,” Mr Kerry told a crowd of about 2,000 at a college in Charleston, South Carolina.I can sort of see judgment and wisdom emanating from experience... but instinct? Isn't that pretty much the opposite of experience?
Doesn't that almost sound like Stephen Colbert said it? I was wondering what his writers were doing during the strike.
UPDATE: Marc Ambinder has more.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Great, I should vote for the nutjob
It turns out that half the country will be voting in a primary where the outcome is not preordained. This is a good thing -- but which candidate deserves your vote?
We here at danieldrezner.com will not be endorsing anyone -- despite claims to the contrary. However, as a useful exercise, some political scientists have put together a 36-question issues survey to see where you fit on the political landscape. It's called Electoral Compass. (One obvious downside to the survey: there's no effort to weight issues to your intensity of preference).
Taking the survey, I discovered -- yet again -- that I'm a social liberal and on the economic right. The only candidate even close to my orbit is Ron Paul. Among the Democrats, the closest candidate to my ideal point is Barack Obama. Among "contending" Republicans, it's Rudy Giuliani.
This, by the way, is why things like pesonality and leadership style are relevant to voting decisions (and are tough to capture in suveys). A candidate's policy positions are not the only thing that matter. The way in which the candidate will try to implement these policies matters too. I wouldn't vote for a candidate who shared my precise policy positions but decided to implement them by constitutionally questionable methods, for example. Process matters just as much as substance.
Mostly, the survey confirms that it's lonely out there for both libertarians and populists. The Democrats are tightly bunched in the socially liberal/economic left category, the Republicans are (somewhat less) tightly bunched in the socially conservative/economically right category. This is why, by the way, efforts to forge bipartisanship can lead to wildly divergent outcomes.
Take the survey yourself and report back where you land.
UPDATE: James Joyner has further criticisms of the survey methodology.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Hey, I'm just the publisher, don't look at me!
The New Republic's Jaime Kirchick looks at the newsletters Ron Paul used to send out to subscribers back in the day. The results are not pretty:
[W]hoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.Read the whole thing -- it's pretty devastating. Ron Paul's response is here, and includes this passage:
When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.Note to self: reconsider outsourcing blog to nice man from Nigeria who promises to transfer 1 million pounds to my bank account.
UPDATE: At one point, Kirchick writes that Paul's supporters are "are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine." Does this mean there are no libertines at Catoand no urbane libertarians at Reason?
Of course, Kirchick also forgot the final clause in his sentence: "or the complete geeks at the Institute for Humane Studies."
Monday, January 7, 2008
Two snippets of video regarding Hillary Clinton have/will dominate the current news cycle. The first one happened at the weekend debate in New Hampshire, and is currently #1 at YouTube:The second one happened today -- as Newsweek put it, "Hillary Tears Up." Take a look: Here's the New York Times' coverage of the same incident
If Hillary does worse than expected, pundits will point to the first snippet of video as an example of her "heated response" turning off voters. If Hillary does better than expected, pundits will point to the second snippet of video as the moment when Hillary "humanized" herself to the voters of New Hampshire, and made the political personal.
Me, I saw the exact same Hillary in both pieces of footage. In both instances, Hillary's words and intonation made two things abundantly clear:
1) Hillary Clinton genuinely thinks the country needs change, and that she has the capacity, as president, to make the country a better place;On foreign policy matters -- and that's the primary issue area I care about in this election -- there are ways in which I trust Clinton's experience more than Obama's. That second point, however, scares the ever-living crap out of me. That kind of belief bears a strong resemblance to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvaia Avenue.
Screw the politics of fear and, frankly, screw the politics of hope. I want the politics of doubt. I want a president who, in these complex times, has the capacity to admit error before all is lost.
I get absolutely no whiff of that from Hillary Rodham Clinton.
UPDATE: I'm fascinated by the comment thread to this post. To clarify a few matters:
1) I'm fully aware that "the politics of doubt" is not a winning platform, and that all candidates must project confidence and reassurance in their campaigns. I have no illusions that my preference matches those of others (interestingly, I feel the same way about doctors visits. Doctors tend to project authority because patients feel better if they are completely sure of their diagnosis/course of action. Growing up with a doctor, I much prefer having my physician give a more probabilistic assessment of whatever is ailing me).
I'm not saying this definitively, but I'm pretty sure that in a past life, Mark Penn killed a man
Your humble blogger has returned from his overseas travels in better physical shape but still jet-lagged.
I'm not so jet-lagged, however, to not appreciate this supreme bit of karmic payback that Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn might be facing this Tueday.
I received the following in an e-mail from Clinton's press office on Saturday (likely authored by Penn) entitled "WHERE IS THE BOUNCE?":
Two polls that had the race within a few points before the Iowa caucuses have the race tied in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses.According to Reuters, the fiercely independent New Hampshire voters are beginning to make their decision:
Democrat Barack Obama rocketed to a 10-point lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire one day before their showdown in the state's presidential primary, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Monday.To be fair to Penn, not all of the tracking polls are showing this big a lead.
Still, there's something about the initial press release that suggests that karmic payback is coming.
Friday, January 4, 2008
My one thought on the Iowa caucus
The Obama who gets panned in Paul Krugman columns and sundry blog posts -- the one who just wants to make nice with Republicans and doesn't care about progressive values -- doesn't seem to be on the podium tonight.Now, I have no doubt that this is what Matt saw when he heard the speech -- but compelling political speeches are often like Rohshach tests -- you see what you want to see. The speech I heard was one where Obama certainly touched on a lot of progressive themes, but one in which he also took pains to speak in very nonpartisan terms:
You have done what America can do in this New Year, 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches; in small towns and big cities; you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.Now I'm not saying Matt is wrong and I'm right. What I'm saying is that a politician who can make different people hear what they want to hear -- or just be compelled to actively listen -- is not someone who is going to be brought low easily.
Or maybe it's me. Watch for yourself and post your reaction:
Monday, December 31, 2007
Your 2008 predictions.... today!!
Greetings from the year 2008!
You poor people who have to wait... uh... several hours before the new year have no idea what awaits you!! You'll commute to work by helicopter or jetpack and wear aluminum-colored clothing. Curiously, the communication devices will be clunkier than current cellular phones.
In the waning hours of 2007 and the beginning hours of 2008, however, it seems appropriate to provide loyal readers with a place to post predictions for 2008. So, the bold amongst you are asked to hereby predict the following:
1) The presidential nominee for the Democratic Party;My submission is below the fold....
1) Barack Obama (I'm sticking with my original prediction on this, but I'll admit that I can think of way too many land mines over the next few months)
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Question time for John McCain
It's apparently endorsement season in the blogosphere. The hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com is deep in debate about presidential endorsements. With this blog's powerful and deeply distrubed coterie of supporters, it's humbling to think that I could very well double the poll numbers of Duncan Hunter or Chris Dodd if I so chose.
The staff is nearing a consensus, but frankly, it hasn't been easy. I can reveal, however, that the blog is taking a hard look at John McCain. Even if I disagree with him about Iraq, I thought his Foreign Affairs essay was well crafted, and a few weeks back the Economist made some smart points about McCain:
His range of interests as a senator has been remarkable, extending from immigration to business regulation. He knows as much about foreign affairs and military issues as anybody in public life. Or take judgment. True, he has a reputation as a hothead. But he's a hothead who cools down. He does not nurse grudges or agonise about vast conspiracies like some of his colleagues in the Senate. He has also been right about some big issues. He was the first senior Republican to criticise George Bush for invading Iraq with too few troops, and the first to call for Donald Rumsfeld's sacking. He is one of the few Republicans to propose sensible policies on immigration and global warming.Today, the Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg writes about McCain's views on executive power -- and after eight years of the unitary theory of the executive branch, it's very refreshing:
McCain is not much of a sentimentalist, but over a series of scattered remarks in recent speeches and informal interviews he has begun to lay out a vision for a presidency that would feature the trappings of a much simpler time. Besides cutting back his Secret Service coverage so he could move around Washington in a single car instead of a full motorcade, the Republican presidential hopeful says he would like to host weekly press conferences and even subject himself to a congressional version of the rhetorical brawl that Britons know as Prime Minister's Question Time.Read the whole thing. I'm not sure how much of this will actually happen if McCain were elected -- but the fact that his instinct is to push in this direction is a major bonus for me.
I'm a foreign policy wonk, which means that my natural tendency is to sympathize with the executive branch. But even I think the imperial presidency needs to be scaled back a fair degree. So one of the things I'll be asking myself during this endorsement debate is: which candidates will cement the Bush position of executive authority, and which will not?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Your interesting political observation of the day
From Slate's John Dickerson:
In McCain's conversations with voters, I'm struck by the contrast between him and Barack Obama. I have covered Barack Obama more than John McCain this campaign. Obama tells audiences he's going to tell them uncomfortable truths, but he barely does it. McCain, on the other hand, seems to go out of his way to tell people things they don't like, on issues from immigration to global warming.Read the rest of the piece for an example.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Huh. That's weird...
In this case, there's two things that are especially odd. First, Romney's attack on Huckabee largely consists of pointing out how much Huckabee sounds like the Democrats -- which is fine, except that people in glass houses should not throw stones.
Second, everyone and their uncle is harping on the "bunker mentality" quote that Huckabee uses to characterize the Bush administration's policies. If you look at what Huckabee actually proposes -- and admittedly it's now always crystal clear -- there's not a stunning difference between a Bush and a Huckabee approach to foreign policy.
UPDATE: On the other hand, this blog post makes an excellent point. If I had to choose between a dinner at Romney's favorite restaurant in New York and Huckabee's apparent favorite restaurant in New York, I'd go with Romney hands down.
Paul Krugman says goodbye to his self-awareness
The last few paragraphs of today's Paul Krugman column:
[W]hat happens if Mr. Obama is the nominee?Let's stipulate that Krugman is not necessarily wrong in the bolded passage.
Maybe, just maybe, however, pundits who imply that what voters want is a full-throated, partisan, populist candidate are also projecting their own desires onto the public.
UPDATE: Matt Yglesias thinks that the Obama campaign is "poor[ly] handling... its relationship with the country's highest-profile liberal columnist," but I have to wonder if Obama is calculating that the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term costs.
As Krugman acknowledges at the beginning of his column, "Broadly speaking, the serious contenders for the Democratic nomination are offering similar policy proposals." Therefore, he's going to broadly support whichever Dem is nominated.
Obama, on the other hand, is not going to be hurt in the general election from a pissing match with Paul Krugman. Indeed, dust-ups like this provide Obama with the kind of perceived independence that plays well with... er... independents.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Random GOP debate thoughts
Through a clever strategy of ignoring almost all of the presidential debates to date, I have now positioned myself to be like the majority of voters who are now paying attention to the race.
So here are some idle thoughts as I listen to the GOP debate that C-SPAN is streaming live on its website:
1) A 30 second response to an answer? Gimme a f@#$ing break -- at best you can talk in vague generalities, at worst you sound like.... this person.UPDATE: Debate transcript here.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Bloggers 1, reporters 0
Over at Slate's Trailhead blog, Christopher Beam listens into two conference calls for GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, one for reporters and one for bloggers. Beam's conclusion:
[T]the bloggers’ questions were more substantive by a long shot....
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Paranoia about paranoia?
In the Boston Globe today, Drake Bennett takes a closer look at the fears of a conspiracy to create a North American Union -- and what it means about the United States:
The NAU may be the quintessential conspiracy theory for our time, according to scholars studying what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called the "paranoid style" in American politics. The theory elegantly weaves old fears and new realities into one coherent and all-encompassing plan, and gives a glimpse of where, politically, many Americans are right now: alarmed over immigration, worried about globalization, and - on both sides of the partisan divide - suspicious of the Bush administration's expansive understanding of executive power.Bennett is not the first writer to make this point with regard to the fictional NAU. And certainly, the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com is not above poking holes in conspiracy theories or relying on Hofstadter's "paranoid style" to explain a particularly absurd line of argumentation.
Before concluding that America is awash in conspiracy theories, however, there are some paragraphs in Bennett's essay that makes me wonder whether the paranoia problem is less acute now than before:
As a social anxiety, the NAU's roots run deep. Global government and elites who secretly sell out their own citizenry have long been staples of conspiracy theories, thanks in part to the Book of Revelation's warning that world government will be an early indicator of the Apocalypse. Over the centuries, the world's puppeteers have been thought to be, in turn, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Freemasons, the pope, the Jews, international bankers, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rockefellers, and the Communist International.Conspiracy theories have wreaked far more damage on past policies than present ones. One could plausibly argue that in the past, the paranoid style helped torpedo America's entry into the League of Nations and exacerbated the worst excesses of McCarthyism. The paranoias that exist today -- the NAU, the 9/11 conspiracies, Bush stole the 2004 election -- are certainly irksome to policymakers and candidates alike. That said, as political roadblocks I'm not sure they rise to the same level as previous waves of paranoia.
[But the Internets, the Internets!! Surely this shows that conspiracies are omnipresent in a way that never existed before!!--ed. No, they just make them more visible than ever before. The Internet also makes it easier to puncture conspiracy theories earlier than ever before as well.]
I'm not sure I'm right about this, so I'll put the question to readers -- are today's conspiracy theories more harmful than the conspiracy theories of the past? How could we test this assertion?
UPDATE: Hmmm... this Scripps-Howard report suggests the prevalence -- but also the limits -- of the paranoid style (hat tip: Tom Maguire):
A national survey of 811 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps and Ohio University found that more than a third believe in a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories including the attacks, international plots to rig oil prices, the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the government's knowledge of intelligent life from other worlds.The decline in the UFO response suggests two things: a) The X-Files has been off the air for some time now; and b) there is a residual belief in some conspiracy at any point in time -- but when the global political economy seem threatening, conspiracy theorists migrate towards those issues.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Good news on stem cell research
Two teams of scientists are reporting today that they turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Time to collect my Gore bets
Some colleaues at Fletcher -- who shall remain nameless -- were convinced Al Gore was going to run for President in 2008. When informed of this conviction, I quickly put down bets.
This Fortune story by Marc Gunther and Adam Lashinsky makes me think it's time to collect:
The recovering politician, environmental activist, and Nobel laureate is adding another title to his résumé: venture capitalist. After "a conversation that's gone on for a year and a half," according to Gore, he has decided to join his old pal John Doerr as an active, hands-on partner at Kleiner Perkins, Silicon Valley's preeminent venture firm.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
A post in which I defend the most insipid magazine article of the year
The nice publicists at Vanity Fair e-mailed me an alert about this Maureen Orth essay about the decline and fall of the Washington social scene (apparently, partisans killed the socialite stars).
Here's how Orth's essay opens:
Red Fay, undersecretary of the navy under John F. Kennedy, was a charming bon vivant, a great pal of the president’s, and the uncle of my roommate at Berkeley in the 60s. So it was my great good luck, on my very first trip to the capital, in May 1964, just six months after Kennedy’s assassination, to have “Uncle Red” invite me to dinner on the presidential yacht, the Sequoia. A few minutes after we arrived on board, I was amazed to see not only Jackie Kennedy but also Bobby and Ethel Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband, Steve Smith, walking up the gangplank. They were followed by George Stevens Jr., the youthful head of the U.S. Information Agency’s motion-picture division; the Peruvian ambassador and his wife; and my roommate’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGettigan, of San Francisco. This was one of Jackie’s first nights out since the tragedy, but she greeted everyone graciously. She was in ethereal white and spoke little during dinner, except to the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was seated to her right.As you can imagine, a whole lotta of bloggers have gone to town on the piece -- and I really can't blame them. Beyond her personal reflections, the piece primarily consists of older DC doyennes bemoaning that people don't know what finger bowls are anymore, or socialities that lack old money, an illustrious family, or great wealth..
At one point Orth actually complains, "Washington is far more diverse today than it was when Wasps with pedigrees who went into journalism and government service constituted the Georgetown set." Mon dieu!!
In the perverse joy of contrarianism, however, I will try to find two things that are useful in Orth's essay.....
1) Orth's essay will be a great template for the Vanity Fair arrticle I will write in 2042 about how the blogospheric social scene ain't what it used to be. Here's how my essay will open:
Tyler Cowen was a bon vivant, a gourmand, and an acquaintance of mine from my days orbiting Virginia Postrel's intellectual salon. So it was my great good luck, on my very first trip to the capital, to have “the Big Kahuna” invite me to dinner at one of the best hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants in DC. A few minutes after we arrived, I was amazed to see not only Megan McArdle but also Ana Marie Cox, Steve Clemons, Matthew Yglesias and Josh Marshall, walking up the order window to get some tacos. This was one of Megan's first nights out since leaving New York City for DC, but she greeted everyone graciously with her dewy green eyes. She was in ethereal white short shorts and spoke little during dinner, except to Jacob Levy, who was seated to her right (she asked him to pass her the hot sauce).And so on.
2) The piece suggests that there has been no real replacements for the old hostesses: "Susan Mary Alsop, Oatsie Charles, Evangeline Bruce, Kay Graham, and Pamela Harriman." What puzzles me is why. If we're drowning in a sea of the super-rich, surely there must be at least a few individuals who would choose to specialize at the task of non-partisan power-schmoozing. (One possibility is that these people, rather than creating non-partisan social environments, take the charitable cause route. Damn those AIDS victims!! Damn them to hell!!)
Monday, November 5, 2007
Political winners and losers from the Hollywood strike
Forget the troubles in Pakistan -- let's focus on something really impirtant, like the Hollywood writers and how it affects the 2008 campaign.
USA Today's Gary Leven and Bill Keveney explain the immediate effects from the strike: "Jay Leno and David Letterman will go dark tonight as last-ditch talks failed and the first strike by movie and TV writers since 1988 began at midnight." Also The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, etc.
In other words, every show that takes delight in mocking/satirizing the presidential candidates is now down indefinitely. If the politics of campaigning is a zero-sum game, who wins and who loses?
I'd have to say the big losers are Barack Obama and John McCain. As his SNL cameo suggests, and as Kevin Drum elaborates, Obama has largely been immune from press criticism, and I'd wager that this extends to the satirical shows. McCain, as everyone knows, is the Ed McMahon to Stewart's Johnny Carson. As I pointed out in The National Interest, Obama and McCain are unusual in that they are politicians that can get (and want) access to "soft news" outlets. They don't have that option for the near future, denying them free media.
The big winners are all the candidates who are vulnerable to satire.... or the favorite targets of Hollywood writers. In other words, Hillary Clinton and the entire Republican field.
The biggest winner is likely the news media itself..... they won't have Jon Stewart to kick them around for the indefinite future.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A question for the fair and balanced reader
[I]is there any subject among liberals that has the same totemic appeal as tax cutting does to conservatives? As near as I can tell, every single Republican running for president publicly says that cutting taxes always raises revenues — even though the idea is as absurd as Ron Paul's gold standard crankiness. Ditto for the Heritage Foundation, AEI, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, etc. etc. Deviate from the party line, as Bruce Bartlett has, and you're quickly excommunicated.OK, fair and balanced readers... have at it.
[Your two cents?--ed. There's an easy and a hard answer. The easy answer is what's enforced ruthlessly right now vs. what's been enforced ruthlessly over the past two decades. I think I have at least one answer to the former question (don't touch Social Security). My only answer for the latter would be abortion rights.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Brooks vs. the netroots, round XVII
Brooks' argument is that the liberal netroots are not meeting expectations in affecting the Democratic Party:
Now it’s evident that if you want to understand the future of the Democratic Party you can learn almost nothing from the bloggers, billionaires and activists on the left who make up the “netroots.” You can learn most of what you need to know by paying attention to two different groups — high school educated women in the Midwest, and the old Clinton establishment in Washington.Read the whole thing... definitely not crap. But I do have a few cavils. Are celebrities mobuls really shying away from Clinton? Wasn't Steven Spielberg's endorsement a signal to other members of the cultural elite to line up behind Hillary? Similarly, hasn't Hillary's supporters been more likely to max out their campaign contributions to date -- suggesting that Obama has done just as well in tapping support from low income households? And would the netroots really be upset by President Hillary? Wasn't there a fair amount of netroots enthusiasm about Hillary's health care plan?
Readers are requested to link to the most hyperbolic netroot response they can find to this column.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The unique legacy of George W. Bush
According to the Wall Street Journal, "lifelong libertarian Republican" Alan Greenspan does not think much of President George W. Bush:
Mr. Greenspan writes that when President Bush chose Dick Cheney as vice president and Paul O'Neill as treasury secretary -- both colleagues from the Gerald Ford administration, during which Mr. Greenspan was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers -- he "indulged in a bit of fantasy" that this would be the government that would have resulted if Mr. Ford hadn't lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. But Mr. Greenspan discovered that in the Bush White House, the "political operation was far more dominant" than in Mr. Ford's. "Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term consequences," he writes.As strange as it seems today, Greenspan's expectations about the incoming administration were not completely out of whack. There was a time when people thought Paul O'Neill would make a great Treasury Secretary. Norwas this expectation limited to fiscal policy. On foreign policy, for example, Colin Powell, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice all had good to excellent track records in previous administrations.
At this stage of the game, however, there are clearly four categories of legacies that come with working for George W. Bush:
1) Those lucky few who will emerge with their reputation intact somehow. Examples: Bob Zoellick, Rob Portman, Ben Bernanke.(1) and (4) do not interest me as much as (2) and (3). How is it possible for so many distinguished policymakers to have been brought so low by one administration?
UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out that Greenspan's endorsement of the tax cuts do not fall into the same category as what other officials did, since he certainly did not endorse the massive spending increases that followed the tax cuts. I think this is a fair point, and can be summed up in an exchange Greenspan had with Bob Rubin about his testimony regarding the tax cuts:
Bob Rubin phoned.... With a big tax cut, said Bob, "the risk is, you lose the fiscal discipline."...Let me put it this way. I think Greenspan can erase his stain with less effort than others in category (2). However, he's going to have to deal with people very eager to keep refreshing that stain.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Did I miss something to obsess about?
Today I received an e-mail from the folks at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas imploring me to check out Bernard Schwartz and Sherle Schwenninger's article, "Public Investment Works." The one-sentence summary of the argument:
BLS Chairman Bernard Schwartz and New America Foundation Senior Fellow Sherle Schwenninger posit that in an age of decaying infrastructure and failing schools, we can - and must - eschew our obsession with balanced budgets and find ways to make smart public-works investments. (emphasis added)Um.... how do I put this.... was I in a coma when this obsession gripped the country?
President Bush and most of the Republican members of Congress haven't cared much about balanced budgets for some time.
As for the Democrats, in this century,* the only griping about fiscal rectitude came during the first term of the Bush administration, mostly as a way to attack Bush's fiscal policy. During the second term, I keep reading folks like Paul Krugman articulate the exact same set of talking points as Schwartz and Schwenninger.
What does someone like Hillary Clinton -- whome one would assume to be closest in spirit to her husband's legacy -- think about this? Let's go to her economic speech from last year:
We can return to fiscal discipline. We can invest in infrastructure, research and education, jump start a smarter energy future, promote manufacturing, rein in healthcare costs. And we can do it in ways that renew the basic bargain with America's middle class.There's certainly a nod to fiscal discipline -- but she seems way more keen on those infrastructure investments to me.
Seriously, has anyone out there been obsessed about reducing the deficit in recent years?
*It's certainly true that, way, way back in the nineties, key parts of Clinton's team were fiscal hawks. Even then, however, folks like Bob Reich were hell-bent on infrastructure investments.
UPDATE: Ah, I see the problem now -- I'm "too knowledgeable". Truly an unusual problem for your humble blogger.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Your Giuliani observation of the day
Take this for what you will:
Over the past month, I've had at least two dozen conversations with various people about Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. A lot of these people are Democrats, but there were a healthy number of Republicans and independents as well. These are all smart observers of politics who generally do not make knee-jerk assessments. The one common denominator was that, at some point, all of these people had lived in the New York City area while Rudy was mayor.
What is astonishing is that, despite the fact that this collection of individuals would likely disagree about pretty much everything, there was an airtight conensus about one and only one point:
A Giuliani presidency would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States.That is all.
Let the campaign commence!
Well, it's after Labor Day, so I guess that the presidential campaign for 2008 should be gearing up right about now.
I, for one, think that Fred Thompson fellow is smart to be laying the groundwork to declare so early -- he'll have a jump on the rest of the putative field.
I wonder when the first debates will be.....
Monday, August 27, 2007
John Dickerson sums it up for me
In the wake of Alberto Gonzales' resignation, John Dickerson has a Slate column that nicely summarizes a big deficit in Bush's managerial style:
The personnel failures make it very hard for Bush fans to defend the president because they so deeply undermine the tenets of his management style as he articulates it. Bush has often talked in almost mystical terms about his ability to take the measure of people by looking them in the eye. His most infamous snap judgment, early in his first term, was peeking into the soul of Vladimir Putin and finding goodness. But even with years of presidential experience, he continues to make terrible judgments about the aptitudes of his own staffers. Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales may be very nice people, but they were never competent for the jobs Bush wanted them to have.This has undoubtedly been a key failing of Bush's managerial style. But it's hardly the only one.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I, for one, would watch this show
Alex Tabarrok proposes So You Think You Can Be President? One proposed segment:
Game Theory: Candidates compete in a game of Diplomacy. I would also include several ringers - say Robin Hanson, Bryan Caplan and Salma Hayek. Why these three? Robin is cold, calculating and merciless - make a logical mistake and he will make you pay. Bryan is crafty and experienced. And Salma? I couldn't refuse her anything but presidents should be made of stronger stuff so we need a test.Diplomacy and Salma. Oh, that's hot.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Your Giuliani quote of the day
Rudy was perfectly capable of getting crazy, stupid ideas, and then forcing them on everyone else, when there was absolutely no sex involved.Megan McArdle, over at her shiny new Atlantic digs.
Monday, August 13, 2007
The Democratic Party's awful track record, explained
Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry -- Bill Clinton excepted, the Democrats have managed to nominate for president some of the biggest stiffs in the history of modern American politics.
Nevertheless, one has to credit bad Democratic advisors as well. Consider, for example, the lead paragraphs in this USA Today story by Jill Lawrence and Judy Keen:
Karl Rove may be leaving his roles as hard-nosed strategist and bookish policy expert in the Bush White House, but that doesn't mean Democrats can rest easy.My view: Any Democrat who hands Brazile the keys to his/her campaign doesn't really want to win.
Seriously, what kind of analysis is this? Readers are requested to offer suggestions for how the GOP get "rebranded".
Karl Rove's legacy
Judging Rove's legacy is a bit different than other policy principals. With someone like a Colin Powell or a Donald Rumsfeld, the question is whether they advocated and implemented worthwhile policies. With Rove, there needs to be an additional question: did his advice provide Bush with the political capital necessary to implement the policies Bush wanted?
Paul Gigot argues in the Wall Street Journal that Rove deserves a lot of credit on this metric. Of course, Rove agrees with this:
Mr. Rove's political influence has been historic, notwithstanding the rout of 2006. His crucial insight in 2000 was recognizing that Mr. Bush had to be both an alternative to Bill Clinton's scandalous behavior and "a different kind of Republican." In 2002, the president's party gained seats in both the House and Senate in a first midterm election for the first time since 1934.I have a different take: Karl Rove did maximize Bush's short-run political influence. The long-term costs, however, will not be experienced until well after 2009. And my hunch is that those costs are far greater than Rove acknowledges.
In many ways, this boils down to just mow much power one places in the tyranny of the status quo in politics. It is far more difficult to change policy from its current equilibrium thanb most commentators realize. The question is whether Rove's actions will lead to equal counter-reactions. My hunch is yes, but Karl Rovbe does this for a living... whereas I just teach it.
[Whoa.... earth-shattering analysis here!!--ed. Hey, sometimes the mainstream analysis is correct!]
So, who's more deluded -- Rove or me? You be the judge!
UPDATE: Oliver Willis makes a fair point:
The presidency is failing because of the president. As he has said, he is "the decider", Rove is the adviser. Karl Rove has zero constitutional power or responsibility, while the president has truckloads. Bill Clinton's presidency excelled not because of folks like Begala, Carville, Dick Morris, etc. but because of Bill Clinton's decisions - and similarly Bill Clinton's catastrophic failings were not the doings of his advisers, but himself.ANOTHER UPDATE: The New York Times has a transcipt of Rove's gaggle with the press on Air Force One.
Friday, August 3, 2007
This is, I believe, the third concentric circle of hell
[T]his conference does not feel as grassroots or exciting as last year's. It feels like a cross between the annual Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet conference in Washington (which draws a who's who in political technology circles), a Bloggingheads.tv marathon viewing session, and a bunch of National Press Club press conferences by liberal interest groups.Run, Garance, run!!!
Seriously, this is simply another data point confirming that the co-optation phenomenon Henry and I predicted oh so many years ago (it's coming out in a real political science journal very soon! We swear!!) is coming to pass.
UPDATE: More confirming evidence from Matthew Yglesias:
[I]t really was striking to get the visual of yesterday's gate crashers quite literally mingling with the dread establishment at a cocktail party. The question that nobody seems to know the answer to, though, is whether the revolution ended because the revolutionaries won, or because they sold out? The boring, but probably boring-because-accurate, answer is that it's a little of both.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Dan Balz confuses me
Over at the Washington Post's blog The Trail, Dan Balz makes an observation about the Democrats shifting to the left:
The story line almost writes itself: Democratic president candidates snub centrists but plan to court liberal bloggers. Another sign of the party's leftward drift?So what's the whole story? I'm not entirely sure. Balz implies that the DLC is simply less relevant now because of, "the collective desire to put aside what differences remain and focus on winning the White House in 2008." Um, OK, but didn't that collective desire also exist in 2004? Isn't the primary difference between then and now is that the netroots are better organized?
Then Balz closes with:
The Democratic Party has moved to the left since Bill Clinton left office and many independents have moved toward the Democrats because of the Iraq war. But DLC officials predict the party's nominee almost certainly will be at next summer's gathering.Again, that's actually a sign of waning DLC influence. What matters now is whether the DLC-types can influence who the nominee will be. They have little choice but to provide a platform for whoever the Dems pick.
The fact that YearlyKos matters more than the DLC seems like pretty
UPDATE: Changed the word "damning" -- it was a bit more pejorative than I had intended.
The real difference is that the average Kossack is obsessed with Democrats having the stones to stand up to the modern Republican machine. Presidential candidates get trashed in the Kos diaries not so much when they take disfavored policy positions (though of course that happens too), but when they're viewed as backing down from a fight. The median Kossack may indeed be to the left of the median Democrat — it would be shocking if an activist group weren't — but mainly they just want their candidates to show some backbone.
Friday, July 27, 2007
A great way to referee the Obama-Clinton debate
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been a fussin' and a feudin' since their disagreement at the YouTube debate over whether they would be willing to negotiate with foreign dictators. The Washington Post's campaign blog summarizes the state of play:
Sen. Barack Obama accused Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of taking the same closed-door approach as President Bush in handling rogue states.Now campaign reporters love this sort of thing, for obvious reasons. For the rest of us, it's still too damn early.
However, this particular tiff provides a great way to divine whether there's a real difference in their foreign policy approaches. Campaign reporters, please steal the following question from this blog and pose it to both the Clinton and Obama camps:
Yesterday Cuban leader Raul Castro signaled his willingness to negotiate with the person who succeeds George W. Bush as president. This is the third time Castro has stated this desire since assuming power a year ago. If elected, would your administration be willing to negotiate directly with the communist regime in Havana? Would you be willing to meet with Castro personally? Would you attach any preconditions to such a meeting?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
A post in which I send my readers on a blog hunt
President George W. Bush and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer both seem way too fond of executive privilege.
Bush, of course, has gone so far as to order Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten ignore Congressional subpoenas. The AP story sums up the state of play:
Miers' testimony emerged as the battleground for a broader scuffle between the White House and Congress over the limits of executive privilege. Presidents since the nation's founding have sought to protect from the prying eyes of Congress the advice given them by advisers, while Congress has argued that it is charged by the U.S. Constitution with conducting oversight of the executive branch.Miers and Bolten now face possible contempt of Congress charges.
Now we turn to Eliot Spitzer. Danny Hakim summarizes the state of play in the New York Times:
Gov. Eliot Spitzer vowed on Wednesday to fight any State Senate inquiry into his administration’s internal operations, even as Republican senators were laying the groundwork for an investigation that could lead to subpoenas of top officials.Assignment to blog readers: is there anyone in the blogosphere partisan enough to defend one of these claims of executive privilege but attacked the other?
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
When should experts matter?
An underlying theme of a few recent posts is the role that experts could and should play in a democracy. There is no clear-cut answer to this question. One can extol the wisdom of crowds -- except when crowds are sometimes mobs. One can extol experts -- except that experts are frequently wrong. This issue is especially sticky with social science questions, because while expertise exists, it is more inexact and generally less respected by publics.
Of course, even "hard science" has its problems in the policy world. For a non-American example, the following New York Times story by Elisabeth Rosenthal:
Amflora potatoes, likely to become the first genetically modified crop in the last decade to be approved for growth in Europe, have become the unlikely lightning rod in the angry debate over such products on the Continent.A few questions to readers:
1) Is massive public hostility to GMOs a sufficient reason to ban their use?
Friday, July 20, 2007
Starbucks liberalism (??)
There's something about writing about Starbucks that apparently renders me incapable of determining whether the writer is being satirical or straight (click here for an earlier example).
Will someone please tell the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com whether or not Shadi Hamid is trying to be funny in these paragraphs?
There is something rather amusing (and self-indulgent) about “coffee-cup liberalism,” but at the end of the day, I kind of like it. Let’s export it. Oh yea, we’re already doing that. If you weren’t aware, Starbucks is in the process of colonizing Egypt. I can’t say that this is a bad thing, particularly as there is a new theory emerging in the political science literature called the “Starbucks peace theory" – i.e. countries with Starbucks don’t go to war with each other. So, instead of invading the Iranians, why don’t we force a Starbucks store in Tehran down their throats? That can be our stick, until we think of a carrot (or is it the other way around?).UPDATE: I'm glad too see that others are confused by Starbucks.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Clive Crook vs. economic populism
Whoever wins their party’s presidential nomination, the Democrats are preparing to fight the next election on a platform of left-leaning populism. The contrast with Bill Clinton is evident. He was a centrist, pro-trade, pro-enterprise president – an avowed “New Democrat”. The next Democratic occupant of the White House, if the candidates’ campaigns are to be believed, will be old-school.
Monday, July 16, 2007
The best sentences I read today
From the AP, "Positive Trends Recorded in U.S. Data on Teenagers," July 12th:
The teenage birth rate in 2005, the report said, was 21 per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 17 — an all-time low. The rate in 1991 was 39 births per 1,000 teenagers.Is it just me, or is that both a stunning and unambiguously positive change?
Actually, Ezra Klein manages to provide just a smidgen of ambiguity (though I suspect even he would approve of this outcome).
The libertarian center cannot hold
This month's Cato Unbound is a debate over Brink Lindsey's Age of Affluence. In the lead essay arguing that the country is more and more libertarian, Lindsey allows the following caveat to his argument:
[A]t best libertarianism exists as a diffuse, inchoate set of impulses that operate, not as an independent force, but as tendencies within the left and right and a check on how far each can stray in illiberal directions. Second, as I conceded in an earlier essay for Cato Unbound, American public opinion is noticeably unlibertarian in many important respects. In particular, economic illiteracy is rife; much of government spending – especially the budget-busting middle-class entitlement programs – remains highly popular; and the weakness for moralistic crusades, long an unfortunate feature of the American character, remains glaring (though today’s temperance movements direct their obsessive zeal toward advancing health and safety rather than virtue).At which point we flip over to Robin Toner's lead story in today's New York Times:
On Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail, Democrats are increasingly moving toward a full-throated populist critique of the current economy.Kudos to Miller for at least being honest that much of the Democrats ire is wildly misplaced.
The Democrats are right to focus on stagnant wages and health care concerns -- those are their bread-and-butter issues. Conjuring up a trade bogeyman as the primary source of all of this.... well, let's just say it fuels Dani Rodrik's barbarians quite nicely.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Meet David Petraeus, patsy or savior
William Kristol, "Why Bush Will Be A Winner," Washington Post, July 15, 2007:
Bush has the good fortune of having finally found his Ulysses S. Grant, or his Creighton Abrams, in Gen. David H. Petraeus. If the president stands with Petraeus and progress continues on the ground, Bush will be able to prevent a sellout in Washington. And then he could leave office with the nation on course to a successful (though painful and difficult) outcome in Iraq. With that, the rest of the Middle East, where so much hangs in the balance, could start to tip in the direction of our friends and away from the jihadists, the mullahs and the dictators....Thomas E. Ricks, "Bush Leans On Petraeus as War Dissent Deepens," Washington Post, July 15, 2007:
Some of Petraeus's military comrades worry that the general is being set up by the Bush administration as a scapegoat if conditions in Iraq fail to improve. "The danger is that Petraeus will now be painted as failing to live up to expectations and become the fall guy for the administration," one retired four-star officer said.This is not a "same planet, different worlds" kind of comparison. If the Iraq war ends well, then Kristol's scenario is correct; if the status quo persists or worsens, then the Ricks scenario is correct.
Unfortunately for Petraeus, I suspect most experts would give Kristol's scenario less than a 10% chance of coming true.
Monday, July 2, 2007
A post I knew I'd have to write sometime before January 2009
As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too -- including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world.This prompts the following from Yglesias:
There's just no story here. The Bush administration has almost no positive legacy, and on those areas where good things have happened (NCLB and AIDS funding are the two I can think of) Democrats show every sign of wanting to continue the positive and perhaps make some improvements around the margin.DeLong goes even further, however:
The policies that were Bush's weren't valuable. The policies that were valuable weren't Bushes--they were either implemented by others or they never got implemented, being for the Bushies at most boob bait for the bubbas who populate the Washington Post editorial board.Look, let's stipulate that on many dimensions, the Bush administration has implemented policies that border on catastrophic. On other dimensions, there's simply been either benign or malign neglect. I'm not claiming here that George W. Bush has done anything close to a great job. On foreign policy, the issue I care about, the only two president who come close to matching Bush's negatives in the past 50 years are Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson.
With all of this so stipulated, DeLong's statement is simply false. Here are ten policies that team Bush implemented that I would qualify as a) important; b) constructive; c) not simply a continuation of prior policies; and d) not guaranteed to persist in their current form or at current funding levels past 2009:
1) The Millennium Challenge CorporationNone of this outweighs the screw-ups in Iraq or New Orleans. But they are policies that suggest Hiatt has a small point. Reflexively rejecting a Bush policy only because Bush proposed it is as stupid as... as.... rejecting Bill Clinton's policies because Clinton favored them (which is pretty much what the Bushies did when they took office in 2001).
Question to readers: what other Bush policies do you want to see maintained?
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Meet Neville Bush
Lynne Olson is the author of Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. Today he has an op-ed in the Washington Post that discusses George W. Bush's admiration of Winston Chruchill. The key paragraph:
I've spent a great deal of time thinking about Churchill while working on my book "Troublesome Young Men," a history of the small group of Conservative members of Parliament who defied British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler, forced Chamberlain to resign in May 1940 and helped make Churchill his successor. I thought my audience would be largely limited to World War II buffs, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the president has been reading my book. He hasn't let me know what he thinks about it, but it's a safe bet that he's identifying with the book's portrayal of Churchill, not Chamberlain. But I think Bush's hero would be bemused, to say the least, by the president's wrapping himself in the Churchillian cloak. Indeed, the more you understand the historical record, the more the parallels leap out -- but they're between Bush and Chamberlain, not Bush and Churchill.Read the rest of Olson's essay to see the comparisons. For someone who was not terribly familiar with Chamberlain's leadership style, the parallels are quite surprising.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Slate, US Weekly editor Janice Min compares Bush to someone else entirely.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Peter Baker has a front-pager in the Washington Post today that discusses Bush's frame of mind. Olsen's book is mentioned explicitly -- Olson's analogy is implicit but shot through the piece.
Friday, June 22, 2007
My moral midgetry
It's an eight question test in which an action is described and then you are asked to award damages.
In the scenarios I was given, I awarded an average of $129 in fines. The average response of all test takers was approximately $72,000.
So, clearly, I'm a heartless bastard. [And you also like to make fun of short people!!--ed.] Or, I'm more willing to blame fortuna than people when bad but (largely) accidental things happen.
Take the test and let me know how moral you are.
UPDATE: Well, after reading the commentary, I do feel better about my moral standing. Well, except for Mike Munger's reaction, which just makes me want to grab a baseball bat, apply it to Munger, and then see whether the tort system really works.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
How should I feel about Fred Thompson in 2008?
Gideon Rachman went to hear Fred Thompson give a big foreign policy speech in Lodon and came away unimpressed:
I'm afraid that what he had to say was utterly platitudinous.Click here to read Thompson's speech and judge for yourself. After reading it, I'd say two things:
1) His sense of humor is better developed than his policy recommendations for the Middle East.What do you think?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
How should I feel about Bloomberg in 2008?
Should I be interested in him? Matt Yglesias thinks so:
From a Reason magazine perspective, it seems to me that a Bloomberg Administration is likely to be substantially more libertarian than either a Democratic or a Republican one would be. Bloomberg, however, is specifically identified with a brand of trivial nanny-stating -- indoor smoking ban, trans fat ban -- that seems to be to aggravate libertarians in a manner that's out of proportion to the actual significance of the policy issues.Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Scott Lemieux advises libertarians to be cautious: "there is a serious reason libertarians should be skeptical of Bloomberg: the appalling string of arbitrary detentions with no serious justification during the 2004 GOP convention."
What do you think?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
My soft spot for the Stassenites
Over at Slate, John Dickerson has story that crops up every four years -- the indefatigable, perennial and completely obscure presidential candidate:
While covering the Republican and Democratic debates last week, I thought I might have a shot at eating a late breakfast at the Merrimack candidate-free. John Cox, the Republican superlongshot, has an office above the restaurant, but I knew he was away, trying to wangle his way into the Republican debate. So, I knew I wouldn't run into him. I thought I was in the clear. I sprinted toward the door, then slowed down briefly to pull the handle. "Are you a reporter?" asked a man standing on the sidewalk. He was typing on a laptop he'd perched on one of the newspaper machines. Busted.I find something unbelievably charming about the Harold Stassens of the world, but I honestly don't know why. In theory, these kind of people should repel me. If you think about it, what's endearing about a guy whose ego is so out of proportion to reality that he thinks he should be president?
I think what I find endearing is that, deep down, these guys know their odds and yet they persist anyway, election cycle after election cycle. That requires a mixture of optimism, faith in one's abilities, and partial self-delusion that is quintissentially American.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Rainbow/PUSH goes off the deep end
As a recent academic study of NBA referees demonstrates, there's no question that race is something to be talked about in sports. Clearly, according to an ESPN/ABC poll, African-Americans view Barry Bonds' pursuit of the home run record in ways different than whites. Those differences are worthy of conversation, debate, and maybe even a bit of learning on both sides.
However, is it possible for sports fans of all races to agree that, according to this Atlanta-Journal Constitution story by Carroll Rogers, Rainbow/PUSH has offiially gone way, way off the reality-based reservation?:
Upset over the lack of African-Americans on the [Atlanta] Braves roster, members of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition asked for a meeting with team officials. They got one Monday.For those in the audience sympathetic to affirmative action: is there any way to interpret Beasley's statements as anything other than a demand for a quota of African-Americans to be on the Atlanta Braves' 25-man roster?
Is there any way to interpret these comments without arriving at the conclusion that Rainbow/PUSH is run by idiots?
Seriously, I want to know.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Random questions on a Sunday morning
Perusing the Sunday papers,I have two political questions for readers:
1) Maureen Dowd, covering the French presidential election, has some fun at Segolene Royal's expense, but then drops this stunner of a sentence:France is chauvinistic — women got the vote in 1944 and compose only a small percentage of the National Assembly — but the country seems less neurotic than America about the idea of a woman as president.Question: on what basis is Dowd making this assertion? I know that Hillary Clinton has many, many detractors, but has the discourse on her campaign to date really focused on her gender all that much? The dominant theme in the discussions about Clinton have been her position on Iraq and her campaign's Bush-like quality of recording friends and enemies. Where is this gender neuroses Dowd mentions?
Friday, April 27, 2007
Debatable debate headlines
I'm sure my readers will be shocked -- shocked!! -- that I did not watch any of the presidential debate last night.
However, from today's headlines, I have a clear sense of what happened:
"Hillary Clinton shines in Democratic candidates' debate," The Guardian
Monday, April 16, 2007
Tragedies, opportunities, and opportunism
I've blogged long enough to know that when an event like the Virginia Tech shootings takes place, I don't have all that much to say. This is true of many bloggers. Tragedies like this render most insta-commentary completely superfluous.
Eugene Volokh, however, raises a valid question -- is it appropriate to talk about policy immediately after such an event?:
I'm not sure what the answer is, but I thought I'd pose the question here (hoping that at least there's nothing wrong with using the tragedy as an occasion for asking this meta-question). I don't think the answer is clearly "yes, wait," the way it is as to critical obituaries of writers whose work one dislikes; responding to death using unpersonalized policy discussion is different from responding to death using personalized criticism of the dead person. On the other hand, I don't think the answer is clearly "no, go ahead," at least as a matter of first principles; perhaps we ought to have a social ritual of grief and condolences first, policy analysis (even of the most cerebral sort) later, and perhaps the very immediacy of the tragedy may lead to unsound first thoughts about the policy questions.Orin Kerr is more cautious:
[T]he problem with responding to news of tragedy with policy ideas right away is that we tend not to realize in such situations how often our "proposals" are really expressions of psychological need. It's human nature to respond to tragedy by fitting it into our preexisting worldviews; we instinctively restore order by construing the tragic event as a confirmation of our sense of the world rather than a threat to it.There's another problem, however -- events like today's shootings open up what John Kingdon labels a "policy window" -- a moment in the media glare for policy entrepreneurs to hawk their policy wares.
On the one hand there are first-mover advantages to framing an event in a way that privileges your preferred policies. The conundrum, of course, is that on the other hand, articulating such a frame before the facts are clear carries extraordinary risks of a) creating a backlash by pouring salt on a public wound; b) being labeled as opportunistic, and c) looking foolish as the facts become clearer.
I don't have any grand answers here -- but I'm sure my readers will.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
True or false?
I'm conferencing tomorrow, so blogging will likely be light.
Talk amongs yourselves. Here's an interesting question, from this Peter Suderman post at NRO's Corner:
[T]he war is a major dividing issue in our country right now. It’s going to be tough to reach even a rough national consensus on it no matter what, but that we can’t even agree on who to trust for information—and, as a result, what’s actually happening—only makes things more difficult.Question #1: Is Suderman correct in his assessment?
Question #2: if Suderman is correct, then how can any useful policy be formulated?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
News stories to make Karl Rove weep
For six years, the essence of Karl Rove's political strategy has been to have a Republican base so unified, motivated, and organized that it gives the GOP a clear leg up on Election Day.
This is why I'm thinking that Rove can't be happy with stories like Martin Stolz in the New York Times:
The invitation extended to Vice President Dick Cheney to be the commencement speaker at Brigham Young University has set off a rare, continuing protest at the Mormon university, one of the nation’s most conservative.[Well, it could be worse, right? I mean, Rove can still count on veterans?--ed.] Yeah, not so much now. Peter Baker and Thomas Ricks explain the problem at the elite level in the Washington Post:
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.[C'mon, that's just a couple of generals!!--ed.] As Bryan Bener explains in the Boston Globe, it's more than just generals:
Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers.[Well, I'm sure things will improve for the GOP in 2008!--ed.] Sure they will.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Strange things are afoot at the CRS
Last week I noted that the director of the Congressional Research Service was issuing some odd directives, limiting the flow of information coming from the CRS.
Nothing highlighted Congress's spending problem in last year's election more than earmarks, the special projects like Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" that members drop into last-minute conference reports leaving no opportunity to debate or amend them. Voters opted for change in Congress, but on earmarks it looks as if they'll only be getting more smoke and mirrors.
Monday, March 26, 2007
A few online tomes about Hillary Clinton
Ron Brownstein argues in the Los Angeles Times that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination because of her appeal to white, blue collar Democrats.
Michael Crowley argues in The New Republic that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy hawkishness is not a form of political calculation, but rather what she actually believes. This part does ring true:
[I]t's clear that the Clintonites left office deeply frustrated at the unsolved problem of Iraq and perhaps believing that some final reckoning was inevitable. "President Clinton recognized, as did I," Albright writes in her memoir, "that the mixture of sanctions, containment, Iraqi defiance, and our own uncertainty about Saddam's weapons couldn't go on indefinitely."
Thursday, March 22, 2007
While Congress gets all high and mighty about executive privilege....
The Washington Post's Elizabeth Williamson reports that the Congressional Research Service is about to get very chary with their information:
This week, Congressional Research Service chief Daniel P. Mulhollan issued a memo to all staffers in the service, known as Congress's think tank. From now on, he wrote, CRS researchers will require a supervisor's approval before giving any CRS report to a "non-congressional."Or.... you can click here.
Monday, March 19, 2007
How HDTV affects campaign 2008
The first thing you notice about HDTV is that some of the politicians look really awful. Studio makeup is not enough to cover up the sagging, cragging, and pitting of all those cruel years in Congress. Some of them look fine . . . John Kerry is positively handsome, if you like men who look kind of like a wrinkly old orange. (Can't his wife buy him a really convincing fake tan? Sigh. Yet another reason not to bother getting rich.) Others—and you know who you are, Senator Specter—not so much. Charles Schumer has a deep crease on the side of his forehead that looks like he slept on his glasses . . . on top of a lit stove. And Tim Russert seems to have a little rosacea problem....I've seen Obama and met McCain -- Megan's conjectures seem sound to me.
That said, even on HDTV there are methods to conceal flaws -- see here for one example. It is possible, however, that makeup and/or other techniques to look good on HDTV would be too subtle to have an affect on normal televisions. This leads to an interesting tradeoff -- which television audience should a candidate target? Would the targeting shift between the primary season and the general election? Would it depend on the demographic being targeted by the candidate?
You known, you just know, that some candidates are going to spent a lot of money on consultants to answer this very question. And if you ask me, Megan deserves a 10% cut on all this swag to help defray her moving expenses.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Hey, it's been two years -- let's talk about gender and op-eds again
One of the assignments for my Stafecraft class this term is that the students must draft a cogent op-ed submission on a policy issue they care about. "In this case,"cogent" not only means well-written, but written in such a way that would actually pique the interest of an op-ed page editor.
Uproars over the sparse numbers of women in newspapers, or on news programs, in magazines, and on best-seller lists regularly erupt every couple of years. A doozy occurred in 2005, after the liberal commentator Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley, then editor of The Los Angeles Times’s opinion pages, got into a nasty scuffle over the lack of female columnists. That dustup is what motivated Ms. [Catherine] Orenstein to take her op-ed show on the road, which she has done with support from the Woodhull Institute, an ethics and leadership group for women.Two thoughts. First, after describing the assignment to my Fletcher School students -- who are generally perceived as a group of idealistic, altruistic overachievers -- their immediate reaction to the prospect of publishing an op-ed was, "How much do we get paid for it?" I might add that this query transcended gender. Small sample issues aside, I'm very dubious about the notion that women don't seek out the things that Orenstein says they don't seek out.
Second, think about that "Little Red Robin Hood" line in the excerpt, as well as this paragraph:
A bunch of women joined together on one side of the table to discuss an op-ed piece by Ms. Orenstein that appeared in June 2004 in The New York Times on the remake of the movie “The Stepford Wives.”Orenstein's expertise raises a question about the ways in which women seek to get op-eds published. Is the problem that women write on topics similar to men but face a glass ceiling at the op-ed desk? Is it that women do not write about "hard news" issues that are generally discussed in op-ed pages (politics, economics, foreign policy, social policy, ec.)? Or is the problem that what is defined as appropriate for the op-ed essays overly gendered? I tend to think it's the middle one (does Orenstein seriously think that op-eds about Little Red Riding Hood or the Stepford Wives will influence any White House?), but I'm open to suggestions from the readers.
Friday, February 23, 2007
So I've decided that, contrary to my earlier Shermanesque pledges forswearing elected office, I shall run for President in 2008.
Drezner in 2008!!! Drez for Prez!! DREZ FOR PREZ!!! [DREZ FOR PREZ!!!-ed.]
No, wait, I've changed my mind, I don't think I can raise the money.
Think this post is absurd? Consider this Des Moines Register story by Thomas Beaumont:
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack withdrew as a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination today, saying he could not raise enough money to compete with his nationally known rivals....I haven't seen a presidential run this brief since Jimmy James had to withdraw in 1996.
Friday, February 16, 2007
It's just me, myself, and I
According to Pew's political typology test, I'm an... enterpriser:
Enterprisers represent 9 percent of the American public, and 10 percent of registered voters.So, in other words, I belong to a group that comprises only one percent of the ten percent of registered voters who agree with me -- roughly 0.1%.
Man, I am feeling that love right now.
In all seriousness, however, the test sucks. For example, you are asked which statement you agree with: "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength" or "Good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace." I'm pretty sure it's not an either-or distinction. Good diplomacy without military strength is largely ignored in world politics. Military strength without good diplomacy bears a strong resemblance to the Bush administration's first term. So, I voted for military strength, because it's more of a necessary condition -- but I wasn't happy about it.
Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias.
UPDATE: Headline Junky alerts me to this ABC Sunni-Shiite quiz. Readers concerned about whether I know what the hell I'm talking about whenever I blog about the Middle East may or may not be relieved that I aced it.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The Republican Hillary Clinton
Is it just me, or does Rudy Giuliani seem to inspire antagonism levels on a par with Hillary Clinton? From this Kevin Drum post alone, I find Matthew Yglesias having all kinds of fun with Rudy:
One quirk of American politics is that leading presidential candidates normally go into the campaign with little if any foreign policy experience. Most, however, at least recognize this as a problem and try to study up as part of the campaign effort. Giuliani comes to us as a rare duck -- a candidate whose signature issue is national security but who doesn't know anything about national security, and therefore won't study. Result: Nonsense, combined with temperamental authoritarianism.Then there's David Freddoso in the National Review:
If Giuliani’s stances on babies, guns, and gay marriage do not sink him in the Republican primaries, he will probably suffer in a general election campaign from the fact that there is so much evidence in the public record that he is a total jerk....Kevin concludes, "At this rate, I give him a couple of months before he implodes completely."
It seems hard to dispue any of this, but then I look at the rest of the GOP field, and I'm not sure any of it matters. Romney, McCain, the rest of the Gilligan's Island castaways.... they all have whopping flaws too.
Question to readers: is Rudy Giuliani uniquely vulnerable?
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Where is your liberaltarian God now?
That's the question I ask Brink Lindsey in my latest bloggingheads.tv duet. Other topics covered include whether Barack Obama is the next Ross Perot, the inequality debate, the globalization of populism, and why trade talks are stalled.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I'm intrigued -- does that means he's doomed?
Many moons ago, my wife and I were roped into a focus group that was viewing a proposed television pilot. At the end of the half hour, we were asked to fill out some demographic information, including education level.
At that point, my wife and I looked at each other, knowing that because we had post-graduate degrees, our reactions were not going to matter one whit -- we're not exactly the target demographic of profitable shows.
This memory came to mind when someone e-mailed me this Fortune story by Nina Easton on Newt Gingrich's quixotic run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:
[T]his year, as he throws warm-up pitches for a 2008 presidential campaign, hoping that his big ideas, combined with his grass-roots popularity, will produce a "draft Newt" movement, even his most ardent loyalists doubt he can pull it off. "He's a better Moses, leading the party out of the wilderness, than he is a King David, running the show," says Frank Lavin, a veteran of Republican administrations who now serves as commerce undersecretary.Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.
However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail. Can someone who scores well in the blogger wonk demographic really develop mainstream appeal?
Readers, help me out here.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Open SOTU -- oh, hell, I'm bored already
Comment on the content of Bush's State of the Union address if you'd like.
Me, I don't see the point. With a 28% approval rating and both houses of Congress controlled by
1) Bush's domestic policy proposals are immaterial, since they are DOA unless they provide an opportunity for Democrats to toss some lard at their favored interests (see: energy policy, ethanol subsidies).UPDATE: The Democratic response is by James Webb.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Vote early and (reasonably) often
Pajamas Media is conducting a thoroughly unscientific but nevertheless intriguing online Presidential straw poll. You are allowed to vote once a week.
Again, Rudy Giuliani is showing surprising strength (as is Barack Obama). The names that intrigue, however, are the ones in second place -- Dennis Kucinich and Newt Gingrich.
As I said, onlinew straw polls like this one don't have a lot of scientific value -- but I have to wonder if the first thing the nascent campaign staffs of all the candidates do in the morning is go to sites like this to boost their candidates' standing. Typical early morning list:
1) Make coffeeOf course, at this stage of the campaign there's another competition that matters greatly. The New York Times' Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny do a good job of covering the money race among the Dems.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
"The next year of the war could be bloody"
Comment away here on the President's speech tonight, in which, according to the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, "President Bush will announce this evening that he is sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and will warn Americans that the next year of the war could be bloody as U.S. and Iraq forces confront sectarian militias and seek to quell the Sunni Muslim insurgency."
I've filed this under "politics" rather than "foreign policy" for reasons proffered earlier today.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
What the f%$@ was Sandy Berger thinking, redux
I was dumbfounded by Sandy Berger's theft of classified documents when it was originally reported, but was "willing to believe that Berger did not have nefarious motives."
The latest round of reporting makes that second part impossible. From the Associated Press:
President Clinton's national security adviser removed classified documents from the National Archives, hid them under a construction trailer and later tried to find the trash collector to retrieve them, the agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday.For more details click here and here. This is the kind of case where the accused either pleads incompetence or malevolence. In this case, he might have to go with both.
Question to readers: will this new news cycle in any way affect Berger's current venture, Stonebridge International?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
How good is the data on Giuliani?
I received an e-mail today about the join Rudy website. This triggered a question that's been in the back of my head since I read Ryan Sager's The Elephant In The Room. Sager mentioned in the book that in a 2005 CPAC straw poll, Rudy Giuliani was the co-leader. Given CPAC is probably to the right of Guliani on every social issue known to man, this was a bit of a surprise. And somewhere in my brain I've been registering this kind of support for Giuliani in various straw polls.
So along comes this Washington Post story by Michael Powell and Chris Cillizza, saying, essentially, that Giuliani has no shot in hell of getting the GOP nomination:
His national poll numbers are a dream, he's a major box office draw on the Republican Party circuit, and he goes by the shorthand title "America's Mayor." All of which has former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani convinced he just might become America's president in 2008.Scarborough's statement is not surprising. However, Hugh Hewitt thinks Scarborough is wrong:
There is an advantage in doing scores of events for radio audiences and Republican activists over the past two years: At each of them I get to conduct my straw poll. In early 2005, I offered audiences the right to vote for one of five possible nominees --Senators Allen, Frist or McCain, Mayor Giuliani, or Governor Romney.From the rest of Hewitt's post it seems like he's a Romney booster, so the fact that he said this about Giuliani is telling.
Or is it? Is the WaPo right and online commentators like Hewitt and Sager are wrong? The National Journal's Blogometer thinks it's the latter. But Glenn Reynolds notes:
I caught a bit of Hannity's show on XM today, and there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm for Rudy Giuliani from conservative callers there. That's happened before. Maybe the larger GOP base isn't as socially conservative, at least in the context of the 2008 Presidential election, as people think.Now is normally the time when I offer my sage bits of wisdom on the matter.... and I've got nothing. I don't know how much to trust the data. It's all anecdotal, except for straw polls, which at this stage of the campaign are only a slight bump above anecdotal.
Do any readers believe that Giuliani's popularity with the GOP base is anything other than an ephemeral phenomenon? Will they continue to support a man who endorsed Mario Cuomo for governor in 1994? If so, why?
UPDATE: Yes, I misspelled Giuliani's name in my original post. So sue me.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Mendacity and stupidity are not a party-specific phenomenon
As my previous post might suggest, I'm just a wee bit fed up with the deteriorating and costly U.S. position in the world. It's annoying because, at so many points in time, the Bush administration could have avoided so many of these costs. Instead, we've received ample doses of Bush-endorsed mendacity and stupidity.
However, it should be noted that these qualities are certainly present on the Democratic side of the ledger.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
The Campaign for America's Future... and its enemies
In what I am convinced is a plot to make me reject Brink Lindsey's efforts to get libertarians and liberals to kiss on the first date, I was sent the following press release:
More than 100 leaders, speaking for dozens of progressive organizations, assembled today to organize a campaign to back major portions of the House Democrats' early legislative agenda. The attending groups represent an expansion of a regular meeting of progressive leaders known as the "Tuesday Group." Organizers said support for key elements of the agenda represents a down payment on a more ambitious agenda for change promised by the new majority in Congress.I should add that I do think the Campaign for America's future is likely correct in its assertion that "Democrats ran the most populist elections in memory." For support, click on this Stan Greenberg analysis of the midterm exit polls, as well as Public Citizen's report, "Election 2006: No to Staying the Course on Trade."
Monday, December 4, 2006
Who's going to fuse with libertarians?
Over at The New Republic, Brink Lindsey argues that Democrats should start catering liberarians more aggrssively:
Libertarian disaffection [with the GOP] should come as no surprise. Despite the GOP's rhetorical commitment to limited government, the actual record of unified Republican rule in Washington has been an unmitigated disaster from a libertarian perspective: runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq.I'm not going to excerpt Lindsey's case because it should be read in full (click here to read it if you're not a TNR subscriber).
One critique of it is that while Lindsey focuses on the possible areas of common ground (corporate welfare, immigration, tax reform) he elides the issues where Democrats want to promote economic populism (the minimum wage, trade expansion) because it gets more votes than libertarians can proffer themselves. Even here, however, Lindsey could argue that programs do exist (trade adjustment assistance) that could potentially split the difference.
My only other critique comes with what's missing in this paragraph:
Conservative fusionism, the defining ideology of the American right for a half-century, was premised on the idea that libertarian policies and traditional values are complementary goods. That idea still retains at least an intermittent plausibility--for example, in the case for school choice as providing a refuge for socially conservative families. But an honest survey of the past half-century shows a much better match between libertarian means and progressive ends. Most obviously, many of the great libertarian breakthroughs of the era--the fall of Jim Crow, the end of censorship, the legalization of abortion, the liberalization of divorce laws, the increased protection of the rights of the accused, the reopening of immigration--were championed by the political left.None of what's in this paragraph is incorrect. Again, however, Lindsey does omit the successes in microeconomic policy -- deregulation, welfare reform, declines in marginal tax rates, shifts in antitrust policy, the 1986 tax reform -- that conservative fusionism produced in the past few decades.
UPDATE: Sebastian Mallaby mulls over Lindsey's essay in the Washington Post today. Hat tip to Inactivist, who also has some thoughts on the matter. Also check out the series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at The American Spectator, John Tabin suggests that a liberal-libertarian fusionism won't take:
The problem with this idea is that classical liberalism (or libertarianism) and modern liberalism (or progressivism, or egalitarian liberalism) are fundamentally at odds philosophically. The crux of the split is the difference between negative and positive liberty, a difference that illuminates how libertarians and liberals are separated even when they seem to be allied.It's convenient for conservatives to make this argument, but Tabin shrewdly links to this Matt Yglesias post from a few months ago that makes the same point:
For one thing, a lot of the views liberals tend to think of us libertarian-ish liberal positions aren't actually especially libertarian at the end of the day. For example, liberals, like libertarians, don't think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Unlike libertarians, however, liberals generally think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. We think that landlords shouldn't be allowed to refuse to rent houses to gay men, that bartenders shouldn't be allowed to refuse to serve them, that employers shouldn't be allowed to fire them, etc. Liberals believe in a certain notion of human liberation from entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition, but this isn't the same as hostility to state action, even in the sex-and-gender sphere.To argue in favor of Lindsey now, these are good but not devastating points. Both Tabin and Yglesias assume that all libertarians are so dogmatic that they cannot compromise in the interest of pursuing larger gains. Most libertarians -- including, I suspect, the overwhelming majority of the 28 million voting-age Americans that Boaz and Kirby identify as libertarian -- will not automatically blanch at, say, anti-discrimination laws as a deal-breaker. Well, they'd blanch, but they wouldn't faint.
In other words, libertarians run the gamut from Murray Rothbard to, say, Milton Friedman. And more of them are sympatico with someone like Friedman than someone like Rothbard. [Rothbard had reasons to link with the left as well!--ed. True, which suggest a very different lib-lib fusionism than the one that interests Lindsey.]
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Democratic activists in the United States achieved some success in Google-bombing Republican candidates during the 2006 midterms. Now, Passport's Mike Boyer reports that Bahraini cyberactivists are exploiting Google tools for their legislative elections:
In the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections this Saturday, cyber-activists in Bahrain are using Google Earth to highlight the excesses of the ruling al-Khalifa family. It's always surprised me that more authoritarian regimes do not block access to Google Earth. Bahrain has tried in the past, but its efforts to do so proved mostly futile. And since Google ratcheted up the resolution of its images of Bahrain, Google Earthing the royal family's private golf courses, estates, islands, yachts, and other luxuries has become a national pastime. Most Bahrainis have long known that these things existed, but they've been hidden behind walls and fences.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
In defense of Hillary Clinton
Anne Kornblut and Jeff Zeleny have an NYT front-pager that seems designed to knock Hillary Clinton down a peg or two:
She had only token opposition, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton still spent more on her re-election — upward of $30 million — than any other candidate for Senate this year. So where did all the money go?Now this would be an interesting story -- if the context suggests that she did in fact spend in a profligate manner compared to other politicos and diminshed her ability to collect future revenues.
Alas, the meat of the story suggests precisely the opposite:
[T]he way she spent the money troubled some of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, many of whom have been called on repeatedly over the years to raise and give money for Bill Clinton’s two presidential campaigns, his legal expenses, his library, his global antipoverty and AIDS-fighting program and now his wife’s political career. One Clinton supporter said it would become harder to tap repeat donors if it appeared that the money was not being well spent.Look, any candidate that has enough money to hire a blog consultant is probably overspending just a bit. That said, anyone prepping for a 2008 run would be expected to overspend in this election cycle. Clinton needed to win convincingly and to amass a healthy donor base, and both of these activities cost money.
I'm hardly a big fan of Hillary's, but this piece seems like ovekill to me.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
David Brooks rousts me from my Sunday torpor
In the past 24 hours I had to go from presenting a paper at the inaugural meeting of the International Political Economy Society to spending the night with my son at his Cub Scout campout. In other words, I'm wiped.
So I ordinarily wouldn't bother to blog today... until I saw David Brooks' column devoted to Milton Friedman.
Brooks accomplishes a unique two-fer in this column, simultaneously infuriating me on one point and making me agree with him on another.
So, in order... the part of the column that is utter horses%&t:
[Friedman's] passing is sad for many reasons. One is that from the 1940s to the mid-1990s, American political life was shaped by a series of landmark books: "Witness," "The Vital Center," "Capitalism and Freedom,""The Death and Life of American Cities," "The Closing of the American Mind." Then in the 1990s, those big books stopped coming. Now instead of books, we have blogs.Oh, please, spare me the crap about how today's deep thoughts fail to rival those of the past. Brooks listed five books to cover five decades. Here are five books from the past decade that would meet his criteria (note I am far from endorsing the content of these books -- but they're big in the sense that their arguments cannot be ignored):
Samuel Huntingon, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.I did this without breaking a sweat. If I actually glanced over to my library or checked out my book club recommendations, I could probably come up with twenty more.
To paraphrase Gloria Swanson -- books are big, it's the politics that got small.
Oh, and it's not the blogs either -- the last three authors in that list either have blogs or have interacted with them on a regular basis.
At the same time, Brooks got me to nod with this pararaph:
His death is sad, too, because classical economics is under its greatest threat in a generation. Growing evidence suggests average workers are not seeing the benefits of their productivity gains--that the market is broken and requires heavy government correction. Friedman's heirs have been avoiding this debate. They're losing it badly and have offered no concrete remedies to address the problem, if it is one.
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Rumsfeld out, Gates in, Drezner happy
If this AP report is correct, then the midterms have claimed another big loser:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.If true, the news will provoke a triple "yee-haw!" from the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com.
[Why three yells?--ed.] First, this blog has wanted Rummy to retire for quite some time. Second, Gates is a member in good standing of the Bush 41 crowd -- i.e., he's, you know, competent.
Third, if it is Gates, this might reduce some of the paranoia about Joe Lieberman-replacing-Rumsfeld-and-then-being-replaced-by-a-Republican scenario that's been discussed in some parts of the blogosphere. This also kills the Santorum-for-DoD campaign just after it starts, by the way.
UPDATE: It's official! Yee-haw!!
Rich Lowry makes an interesting point over at The Corner:
The public probably wanted Bush to reach out to and listen more to critics. They wanted him to break-out of the "stay the course" stalemate in his Iraq policy, which had been embodied by Rumsfeld. They wanted him to acknowledge, really acknowledge in a serious way, their deep disatisfaction with the course of things in Iraq. And lo and behold, about 18 hours after the election, he is doing all of things. American democracy is a marvelous thing.ANOTHER UPDATE: In what I believe is the fifth sign of the coming apocalypse, the Rumsfeld resignation story was apparently broken by Comedy Central's Indecider blog.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Open midterms thread
Comment away on the election results here. AP reporting on the exit polls is suggestive of a big Democratic night:
In surveys at polling places, about six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way President Bush is handling his job, and roughly the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.Over at the US News and World Report blog, Kenneth Walsh notes a statement against interest:
More evidence of a big Democratic surge. Fox News's commentator panel led by Brit Hume, which is considered mostly right of center, has reason to be skeptical of this perception of Democratic gains. But the Fox panel, which includes Fred Barnes, Bill Kristol, Mort Kondracke, Juan Williams, and Hume, is now saying the exit polls and their analysis suggest what Barnes calls "a good Democratic night."I have mixed feelings on this evening. I only hope that Question 1 is approved in Massachusetts, and that there be as few disputed results as possible.
UPDATE, 10:30 PM: Question 1 goes down. Grrrr.......
UPDATE, 10:34 PM: Just when I think John Kerry can't say something dumber, he pulls it off. CNN showed him at the Deval Patrick headquarters saying the following:
We have made history tonight, because we have elected, for an unprecedented ninth time, the greatest Senator in the history of the United States Senate, Ted Kennedy!!That's how I'd interpret Kennedy's re-election as well.
UPDATE, 10:52 PM: I'm not going to stay up late, but glancing at the results so far,
We'll see how long it will be before the "blame Britney" crowd becomes a mob.
UPDATE, 12:17 AM: So I stayed up late -- so sue me. The Dems have retaken the house, and have a slim chance at the Senate since Jim Webb looks like he's barely going to beat George Allen. More impressive, but as Jeff Greenfield observed, this would be the first time in quite a while that the House flipped but the Senate did not.
Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru suggests the GOP will actually have to suck up to libertarians now:
If Sodrel loses in Indiana, as looks likely, it may be because a libertarian candidate took votes from him.... So far, losing because of libertarians hasn't caused Republicans to move toward the libertarians ideologically. But maybe things will change this time.Good night.
UPDATE, 7:10 AM: Well, it seems like there are shades of 1994 in the election. If Jim Leach went down in Iowa, and the Democrats win the Senate and they win a majority of governorships, then it's fair to describe this as a tidal wave.
In case you were wondering about the exit polls....
Howard Kurtz reports in the Washington Post that exit poll data will be more closely held this year than in the past:
The biggest behind-the-scenes change in network coverage involves what has been dubbed the Quarantine Room. Determined to avoid a rerun of recent years, when its exit polls leaked out by early afternoon to the Drudge Report, Slate and other Web sites, a media consortium is allowing two people from each of the networks and the Associated Press entree to a windowless room in New York. All cellphones, laptops and BlackBerrys will be confiscated. The designated staffers will pore over the exit polls but will not be allowed to communicate with their offices until 5 p.m.The Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold reported on Saturday that the media reps in the Quarantine Room will "even monitored when they use the bathroom."
Hat tip: Open University's David Greenberg.
UPDATE: Jim Lindgren is right: "Expect heavy hinting by the networks after 5pm ET today."
I live in a one-party state
So I went to vote this morning -- and discovered that a whopping three out of the 13 races had both a Democrat and a Republican running for office (and one of those was for Ted Kenney's seat, so it doesn't really count). A few of the minor state offices had a Green/Rainbow candidate as well as a Democrat running. Barney Frank was running unopposed.
How lopsided is this ballot? I remember there being more Republicans running in Cook County, for Pete's sake.
This leads me to wonder -- what's the most lopsided ballot in America this election day? Tell me, dear readers, how lopsided is your ballot?
Monday, November 6, 2006
My one endorsement for 2006
Unlike two years ago, the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com will not be offering any grandiose endorsements for anyone holding political office.
However, it is worth noting that the staff has finally found an issue where the blog wife and I will be voting one the same side: Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot:
This proposed law would allow local licensing authorities to issue licenses for food stores to sell wine. The proposed law defines a “food store” as a retail vendor, such as a grocery store, supermarket, shop, club, outlet, or warehouse-type seller, that sells food to consumers to be eaten elsewhere (which must include meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, fresh fruit and produce, and other specified items), and that may sell other items usually found in grocery stores. Holders of licenses to sell wine at food stores could sell wine either on its own or together with any other items they sell.This is an easy call for the missus and me -- hell yes, I'd like to see grocery stores sell wine.
The Boston Globe's endorsement provides sufficient explanation:
In 34 other states, shoppers at grocery stores can buy wine with their steaks. This has not caused an epidemic of drunken driving or teenage alcohol abuse. But the availability of wine with groceries does make life a little more convenient for the many adults who like to sip wine with their dinner.Ah, I love it when the Globe asks for more market competition. You can find more information on this ballot question by clicking here.
But let me urge all blog readers in the state of Massachusetts -- help the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com
Why is the GOP gaining strength?
Over the past 72 hours, every poll announcement I've seen has the Republicans gaining momentum. Mickey Kaus and Charles Franklin argues that this trend actually started 10 days ago -- so no one blame Kerry.
How serious is this momentum shift? It's actually forced the NYT's Adam Nagourney to perform his prognostication pirouette 24 hours before the election takes place -- contrast today's Page One story with yesterday's Page One. The contrasts with Nagourney's usual tactic of having a "Democrats Gaining Steam" headline on Monday of election week followed by a "Republicans Display Hidden Strengths" headline Thursday.
I have a very simple question -- what's driving this? Is it:
a) Positive headline numbers on the economy (Dow Jones Industrial Average + falling unemployment numbers)?UPDATE: Hmmm... maybe the GOP isn't gaining strength -- Fox News shows gains by Democrats (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
How Kerry helped the Democrats in 2008
Over at The Guardian's website, James Crabtree makes a great point about how Kerry has helped his party for 2008:
Yesterday was, in fact, a tremendous day for the Democratic Party. John Forbes Kerry, uniquely among his fellow Americans, genuinely appeared to believe that the next President of the United States could be John Forbes Kerry. Much in the same way as Nixon ran against Kennedy, was defeated, and came back, Kerry thought his phoenix could rise again. That is now not going to happen. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. John Kerry 2008. RIP....
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
John Kerry reminds us why he lost in 2004
From David Stout, "Kerry and G.O.P. Spar Over Iraq Remarks," New York Times, October 31, 2006:
Debate over the Iraq war seemed to reach a new intensity today, with President Bush and other Republicans accusing Senator John Kerry of insulting rank-and-file American troops and Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, lashing back at some of his critics as “assorted right-wing nut jobs.”[OK, on a gut level this is pretty offensive to someone in the military. But is Kerry right about a lack of education being correlated with military enrollment?--ed.]
The evidence seems mixed. Consider this Terry Neal summary in the Washington Post from last year:
David R. Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organizations at the University of Maryland, said contrary to conventional wisdom both the poorest and the wealthiest people are underrepresented at the bottom of the military ranks, for completely different reasons. This trend held for both from the conscription years of Vietnam through at least the late 1990s.Also of note: Jerald G. Bachman, Peter Freedman-Doan, Patrick M. O'Malley, "Should U.S. Military Recruiters Write Off the College-Bound?" Armed Forces & Society 27 (July 2001): 461 - 476:
This article examines trends and relationships involving high school seniors' military service plans, their college plans, and their actual entry into military service. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data from the Monitoring the Future project show that, although individuals planning to complete college are less likely than average to plan on military service, the upward trend in college plans cannot account for many of the year-to-year changes in military propensity. Moreover, it now appears that the majority of young men expecting to enter military service also expect to complete a four-year college program. Most important, planning for college does not reduce enlistment rates among high propensity males, although for some of them it may delay entry by several years. These findings suggest that educational incentives for military service are now particularly important, given the high proportions of potential recruits with college aspirations.And, finally, Meredith A. Kleykamp, "College, Jobs, or the Military? Enlistment During a Time of War," Social Science Quarterly 87 (June 2006):
This article questions what factors are associated with joining the military after high school rather than attending college, joining the civilian labor force, or doing some other activity. Three areas of influence on military enlistment are highlighted: educational goals, the institutional presence of the military in communities, and race and socioeconomic status.Tim Kane, "Who Are the Recruits? The Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Enlistment, 2003–2005" Heritage Center for Data Analysis:
[I]t is commonly claimed that the military relies on recruits from poorer neighborhoods because the wealthy will not risk death in war. This claim has been advanced without any rigorous evidence. Our review of Pentagon enlistee data shows that the only group that is lowering its participation in the military is the poor. The percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods (with one-fifth of the U.S. population) declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 2004, and 13.7 percent in 2005....Anyway, although I do like the description of Rush Limbaugh as "doughy," perhaps it would be best for the Dems if they took Kerry and locked him in a closet for the rest of the week.
UPDATE: Here's Kerry's explanation in fuller detail:
My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops. The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe.OK, so the line as Kerry says he intended it is not as offensive as the New York Times story suggests. YouTube has video of Kerry making the quote in context.
The title to this post still stands, however -- this is a classic replay of Kerry's "global test" statement during the 2004 presidential debates. As Andrew Sullivan puts it: He
may not have meant it the way it came out. That doesn't matter. It's wrong to talk about the military that way - wrong morally, empirically and ethically. And the way he said it can be construed as a patronizing snub to the men and women whose lives are on the line. It's also dumb politically not to kill this off in one news cycle. Is Kerry not content to lose just one election? Does his enormous ego have to insist on losing two?
Beware the reverse Michael Moore effect!!
Does everyone remember how the release of Fahrenheit 911 triggered a debate about whether its huge box-office success presaged Bush's downfall in the 2004 election?
I bring this up because of this Reuters report by Steve Gorman:
The provocative film "Death of a President," which imagines the assassination of George W. Bush, bombed at the North American box office with a meager $282,000 grossed from 143 theaters in its first weekend.
Congress gets body-slammed in Foreign Affairs
Neither Peter Beinart nor Matthew Yglesias will make libertarians feel all that sanguine about how a Democratic takeover would affect U.S. foreign economic policy. Beinart fears, correctly, that any Democrat taking their economicpolicymaking cues from Lou Dobbs is going to wind up having to embrace a full-throated economic nationalism that in the end won't do much but lower economic growth. Yglesias fears, correctly, that Democrats have not properly appreciated the way in which trade policy helps advance U.S. security interests.
So I'm not feeling good -- and then I stumble across Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann's "When Congress Checks Out" in Foreign Affairs:
One of Congress' key roles is oversight: making sure that the laws it writes are faithfully executed and vetting the military and diplomatic activities of the executive. Congressional oversight is meant to keep mistakes from happening or from spiraling out of control; it helps draw out lessons from catastrophes in order to prevent them, or others like them, from recurring. Good oversight cuts waste, punishes fraud or scandal, and keeps policymakers on their toes. The task is not easy. Examining a department or agency, its personnel, and its implementation policies is time-consuming. Investigating possible scandals can easily lapse into a partisan exercise that ignores broad policy issues for the sake of cheap publicity.That Ornstein and Mann wrote this in Foreign Affairs is telling for two reasons.
First, Ornstein and Mann are about as mainstream as you can get in the world of congressional analysis. We're not talking partisan hacks here. To quote Joe-Bob Briggs, "These guys are the feedlot." For Mann and Ornstein to co-author this kind of article at this point is telling.
Even more telling -- that it ran in Foreign Affairs. I say this because if there's one thread that runs through most foreign policymaker wannabes, it's a desire to have Congress butt out of foreign policy. No one who works in the executive branch on foreign policy ever wants to deal with Congress on anything -- because it's a colossal pain. The natural inclination of most foreign policymakers is to work for the executive branch. And yet, this argument gets the Foreign Affairs imprimatur.
I don't like seeing U.S. foreign economic policy shift in a more populist direction, and I look forward to bashing Pelosi and company if that happens. But if forced to choose, I'll trade that off for greater congressional oversight.
UPDATE: Bruce Bartlett offers his support for gridlock as well.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Is it just me or did the earth move for everyone?
Ever since Bush and Cheney went to the Vietnam analogy well in talking about Iraq, it strikes me that the political ground has shifted.
From a policy perspective, it's good to see that the president is starting to think about other alternatives to simply staying the course. From a political perspective, however, my hunch is that this shift in rhetoric will be a disaster.
Why? For the past five years, Democrats have been vulnerable on national security issues. Bush and the Republicans projected a clear image of taking the war to the enemy, and never yielding in their drive to defeat radical Islamists. The Democrats, in contrast, projected either an antiwar position or a "yes, but" position. The former looked out of step with the American people, the latter looked like Republican lite. No matter how you sliced it, the Republicans held the upper hand.
The recent rhetorical shift on Iraq, however, has flipped this phenomenon on its head. If Bush acknowledges that "stay the course" is no longer a statisfying status quo, he's acknowledging that the Republican position for the past few years has not worked out too well. If that's the case, then Republicans are forced to offer alternatives with benchmarks or timetables or whatever. The administration has had these plans before, but politically, it looks like the GOP is gravitating towards the Democratic position rather than vice versa.
If this is what the political optics look like, then the Republicans will find themselves in the awkward position of being labeled as "Democrat lite" in their positions on Iraq. And in elections, lite never tastes as good as the real thing.
If these midterms really function as a referendum on U.S. foreign policy, then the GOP is in big trouble.
Of course, my political prognostications should be taken for what they are worth -- which is very little.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Does losing Tom Friedman mean losing middle america?
It seems that a lot of people in the Bush administration read Tom Friedman's Tuesday column, which characteizes recent Iraqi insurgency tactics to, "the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."
ABC reports that this came up in Bush's interview with Georege Stephanopolous:
Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.Meanwhile, in a Time interview, Dick Cheney brings up the analogy on his own:
The other thing that I'd mention, too, not really in response to your question: I'm struck by the fact that what's being attempted here is to break our will. (New York Times columnist Thomas) Friedman has got an interesting piece today on it, talking about the extent to which the enemy in this stage in Iraq aim very much at the American people... (they) use the media to gain access through technical means that are available now on the Internet and everything else to create as much violence as possible, as much bloodshed as possible and get that broadcast back into the United States as a way to try to shape opinion and influence the outcome of our debate here at home. And I think some of that is going on, too.The U.S. military also seems obsessed with Tet, as Michael Luo reports in the New York Times (link via Kevin Drum):
The American military’s stepped-up campaign to staunch unrelenting bloodshed in the capital under an ambitious new security plan that was unveiled in August has failed to reduce the violence, a military spokesman said today.While it's interesting that the administration is now embracing Vietnam analogies, there's a problem with comparing Iraq now to the Tet Offensive. The two ostensibly share the efforts by insurgents to affect the domestic political landscape of their adversary. Today's New York Times front page spells that out.
However, Tet, was a military reversal of the first order for the Viet Cong and NVA. Is there any evidence, any metric out there, that shows the insurgency in Iraq to be weakening in any way? Even Cheney allows in his interview, "I expressed the sentiment some time ago that I thought we were over the hump in terms of violence, I think that was premature. I thought the elections would have created that environment. And it hasn't happened yet."
Question to readers: given current trends, is there any evidence that it will ever happen?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
What if the Dems take over the Congress?
Bruce Bartlett has an op-ed in today's New York Times that spells out what will happen should the Democrats take over one or both houses of Congress. Bartlett's answer: not much:
As a Republican, I have a message for those fearful of Democratic control: don’t worry. Nothing dreadful is going to happen. Liberals have much less to gain than they believe....Bartlett's take is correct as far as it goes, but it's a bit incomplete.
It is undoubtedly true -- as it was in 1994 -- that a political party can't really execute an ambitious governing strategy from the legislative branch. However, a Democratic Congress would alter the political and policy playing field in one certain and one uncertain way.
The certain way is that the Democrats would get some agenda-setting power. Even if Bush can veto a bill, the Democrats can send up bills that might be politically popular as a way to make Republicans look bad. This is one reason why everyone inside the Beltway believes that a Democratic takeover will lead to a hike in the minimum wage. Hearings will be an even cheaper way of doing this -- and the staffing issue that Bartlett raises seems pretty minor to me.
The uncertain way is that a Democratic takeover gives Nancy Pelosi an effective veto over anything Bush wants/needs from the Congress. What's uncertain about this is the effect it will have on actual policy. Will the Dems act as deficit-cutters beyond refusing to extend some of the Bush tax cuts?
I dunno -- I'll ask the Dems in the crowd to give their provisional answers.
UPDATE: Harold Meyerson's Washington Post column addresses this topic as well.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Boy, my tribe can be dumb sometimes
Michael Powell has a story in the Washington Post about how Tony Judt got prevented from speaking at the Polish Consulate last week:
Two major American Jewish organizations helped block a prominent New York University historian from speaking at the Polish consulate here last week, saying the academic was too critical of Israel and American Jewry.I might think Tony Judt is wrong about the Israel Lobby, and I think his one-state solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem borders on delusional, but if the ADL and AJC did what Powell implies, their behavior is absurd, counterproductive, and, frankly, un-American.
If they think Judt is wrong, say so, protest his talk, critique his arguments, the whole megillah -- but preventing him from speaking merely provides fodder for Judt's claim about the stifling of debate in this country.
UPDATE: Suzy Hansen has more background on what happened in the New York Observer. After reading the story, the extent of ADL and AJC pressure is still not clear to me.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
The most interesting spin control of the year
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) has come up with an interesting line of argumentation to protect himself from the Foley fallout: From Ray Long's story in the Chicago Tribune:
The Illinois lawmaker who oversees the Congressional page program said Wednesday that teens who participate are "safer in our program than in a lot of homes."Am i reading this incorrectly, or is Shimkus actually claiming that large numbers of parents of being so negligent that they'd be more likely to overlook a sexual predator than the United States Congress?
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
My one post about Mark Foley
It's time for this blog to stop talking about sexy topics like trade policy and move to the serious, weighty, and potentially boring question of whether former U.S. Rep Mark Foley committed the legal act of pedohpilia or was just plain creepy.
UPDATE: Oh dear, this AP story is close to Hastert's worst nightmare:
A senior congressional aide said Wednesday he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in 2004 about worrisome conduct by former Rep. Mark Foley with teenage pages -- the earliest known alert to the GOP leadership.Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.
Sunday, October 1, 2006
Does America have a social policy deficit?
I just noticed that Francis Fukuyama sorta joined the blogosphere -- he's occasionally posting over at The American Interest's blog.
In this post from last month, he issues a provocative question that remains relevant:
What is it that leaders like Iran’s Ahmedinejad, Hezbollah’s Nasrullah, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have in common that vastly increases their local appeal? Anti-Americanism and an aggressive foreign policy are of course components. But what has really allowed them to win elections and cement their support is their ability to promise, and to a certain extent deliver on, social policy—things like education, health, and other social services, particularly for the poor. Hugo Chavez has opened clinics in poor barrios throughout Venezuela staffed with Cuban doctors; Hezbollah has offered a complete line of social services for years and is now in the business of using Iranian money to rebuild homes in the devastated south of Lebanon. Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Evo Morales in Bolivia all have active social agendas. Organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas do not merely lobby the government to provide social services; they run schools and clinics directly while out of power.I do think Frank is overstating the problem here. First, it shouldn't be that shocking that local leaders have the ability to craft social policies that resonate better in the short run than the United States.
Second, all you have to do is read Bill Easterly to become immediately wary of anything that smacks of a "Wasington Consensus" on health and education in the developing world. I'm pretty confident that such an animal does not exist.
Third, and most important, the one element that would belong in anything resembling a Washington Consensus on social development would be an intensive focus on educating women and providing them with greater health choices. How many conservative societies in the developing world are going to be truly receptive to that kind of program?
Finally, one of the few Bush administration policy innovations that does get kudos across the ideological spectrum is the Millennium Challenge Corporation. No one pays attention to it, however. Why? Well, it's been a bit slow in dispensng aid, and, oh, yes, there's Iraq.
That's the thing about big foreign policy screw-ups -- unfortunately, all the soft power in the world can't erase them.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
How much meritocracy is there in American politics?
In my last bloggingheads.tv appearance, Mickey Kaus and I debated whether Paris Hilton's rise to fame was proof that there was a meritocracy within different American subcultures (Mickey and Bob Wright follow up on that question here).
This question came back to mind as I was perusing Chris Cillizza's washingtonpost.com blog on the latest primary results:
Famous Last Names: Last night's results in Rhode Island proved that the Chafee name is still a powerful brand in the state's politics. But Lincoln Chafee wasn't the only candidate who benefitted from his last name last night. Attorney John Sarbanes (D), the son of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), won the primary in the open 3rd District House seat in Maryland. The seat, which is being vacated by Senate nominee Ben Cardin, has a strong Democratic lean and Sarbanes should have little trouble winning it this November when a number of other political legacies are on the line. There are plenty of other famous last names on the ballot this fall. In Delaware, Beau Biden (D) -- son of Sen. Joe Biden (D) -- is seeking the state Attorney General's office. State Sen. Tom Kean Jr., son of the former governor, officially claimed the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Bob Menendez (D) in November. Across the Hudson in New York, another Cuomo looks likely to hold a statewide office.Now, this penomenon has existed in one form or another since the dawn of the republic (see Adams, John Quincy). And the children of politicians have often acquitted themselves well as statesmen (again, see Adams, John Quincy -- as Secretary of State, not President).
Still, a question to my colleagues in American politics -- to what extent has politics become a hereditary sport?
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Your Katherine Harris update for the week
It appears Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Katherine Harris has stepped into some more hot water, according to the Associated Press:
U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a weekly religious journal that God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws" and made other comments that have drawn criticism in recent days.Let's go to the actual Florida Baptist Witness interview to see what she said... yes, yes I believe I have found the problematic answers:
Q: What role do you think people of faith should play in politics and government?Harris' campaign has issued a "statement of clarification" in response to the brouhaha:
In the interview, Harris was speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government. Addressing this Christian publication, Harris provided a statement that explains her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values.The statement would also appear to explain her shallow grounding in American history.
[This entire post was just an excuse to link to this Ana Marie Cox post, wasn't it?--ed. Nolo contendre.]
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Can science solve the stem cell debate?
According to the Financial Times' Clive Cookson, there may be a way to end the ethical debate over stem cell research:
Scientists in the US have created human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a discovery that appears to get round a basic ethical objection to stem cell research.Here's a link to the actual article in Nature.
The FT article does go one to assert that,"hardline critics of embryo research – such as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – are unlikely to accept the manipulation even of a single embryonic cell, which they say could theoretically become a human being."
Question to readers: assuming that this is a real breakthrough, will it sway a sufficient number of stem cell opponents to render the debate moot?
Your photo sequences of the day
Then click here.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Who's going to McCain McCain?
John M. Broder has a story in today's New York Times on John McCain's efforts to monopolize GOP operatives and policy wonks in preparation for 2008:
Senator John McCain is locking up a cast of top-shelf Republican strategists, policy experts, fund-raisers and donors, in a methodical effort to build a 2008 presidential campaign machine, drawing supporters of President Bush despite the sometimes rocky history between the two men....McCain's list includes a fair number of foreign policy heavyweights -- a telling sign of front-runner status.
This leads to the obvious question -- who's going to play the role of insurgent outsider to McCain's front-runner? At some point, there has to be a media boomlet for a candidate other than McCain. [But the media loves McCain!!--ed. They love a good horse race a lot more... besides, this allows reporters to push the "McCain has changed" meme in the way that rock enthusiasts talk about how they only like early Nirvana.] This candidate will inevitably be painted as an authentic straight-shooter who is somehow more "authentic" than McCain.
According to Greg Mankiw, the only other Republican with an active Tradesports market is Giuliani. While it would be hard to picture neither the frontrunner nor the challenger coming from the Christian conservative wing of the party, it's hardly unprecedented -- look at 1996 or 1988.
Readers are encouraged to offer who they believe will be McCain's McCain. My money is on this man.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The Democratic Party vs. Wal-Mart
In the New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Michael Barbaro have a story on how the Democratic Party has arrived at a new bogeyman -- Wal-Mart:
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, delivered a 15-minute, blistering attack to warm applause from Democrats and union organizers here on Wednesday. But Mr. Biden’s main target was not Republicans in Washington, or even his prospective presidential rivals.Biden's comment here is revealing in how the Dems want to frame the debate -- they think Wal-Mart's greatest impact is as an employer. Most (thought not all) economists, I suspect, see Wal-Mart's greatest impact as lowering the costs of consumption for Americans who frequent their stores -- including the middle class.
Under Lee Scott, chief executive, the company has in the past year expanded beyond the usual realm of corporate lobbying to wage a fully-fledged campaign in the mainstream of American politics. “When a company is as large as ours, we’re certainly going to have a lot of interaction with both politics and government,” says Bob McAdam, vice-president of corporate affairs.Two questions to readers:
A) Who's going to win this battle over the next few years?UPDATE: Well, I think it's safe to describe Andy Young as a loser in this battle.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Find a hobby for Cynthia McKinney!! Please??!!
From an Associated Press story by Errin Haines on Cynthia Mckinney's primary loss:
"Cynthia McKinney is loved nationally, locally and internationally," said Brooks, who is president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. "I expect her to move to the international scene, especially as it relates to peace, justice and environmental issues. This is going to elevate her to another level."It's always nice to see Americans interested in foreign affairs -- but I'm not entirely sure that this is the best use of McKinney's .... er... talents.
Readers are encouraged to offer Rep. McKinney career advice that does not involve her entering the "international scene."
Please? Pretty please?
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Noam Scheiber confuses me
My specialty is in international relations and not American politics, so maybe that explains why I don't completely understand Noam Scheiber's op-ed in the New York Times on the implications of the end of Joementum:
[T]here was a time when the support of key Democratic interest groups would have more than made up for such heresies. That he could not depend on that traditional lifeline this time should be alarming even for those who hoped for his defeat.Formally, Scheiber's argument has some logic -- if an interest group holds a veto over the nomination process, and they care only that their rep take position A* on issue A, then Congressman Smith can adopt any position on issues B-Z. If the netroots have veto power, Scheiber is arguing that Smith can adopt A' rather than A*, so long as he compensates by modifiying his positions on issues B-Z such that they conform to the base's preferences.
There's only one problem with this argument, and it's contained within Scheiber's op-ed: "they care as much about style as about issues — they want Democrats to denounce Republicans loudly and stridently, and to block the administration’s agenda whenever possible." The netroots would not tolerate Congressman Smith adopting a free-trade position -- because that means cooperating with the Republicans. Indeed, since cooperation with the other party is more politically visible than one's ideological profile, this will matter a lot more.
The point is, I don't see the netroots generating more free-trade Democrats in the rust belt.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
My contrarian take on George Will's contrarianism
Late on Monday, Steve Clemons from the Washington Note sent around an e-mail trumpeting George Will's column blasing neoconservatives, the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, Condi Rice, et al. The piece has attracted a fair amount of blog attention.
My reaction was similar to Passport's James Forsyth: "George Will savages neocons, dog bites mailman":
I must confess that one of my pet peeves in life is how everyone treats it as news when Will criticizes the neoconservatives. Will has never been a neocon and has been being critical of them for years. Obviously, this doesn't invalidate his criticisms--it just means that it is no more surprising when he attacks them than when his fellow WaPo columnist Richard Cohen does....This is not to say that Will's criticisms don't have merit -- particularly this section:
"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria . . ." You get the drift. So, the Weekly Standard says:Will is right (see Cato's Gene Healy for an even broader attack on the neocons), but so is Forsyth -- so please spare me the "even George Will" observations.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Your interesting argument for the day
In fact, it's looking more and more likely that the eight states of the Southwest and the broader interior West -- Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming -- are on their way to becoming the next great swing region in American politics. As the Republican Party tilts on its South-West axis, increasingly favoring southern values (religion, morality, tradition) over western ones (freedom, independence, privacy), the Democrats have been presented with a tremendous opportunity. If the Republican Party doesn't want to lose its hold over all of the West, as it lost hold of once-reliable California more than a decade ago, its leaders are going to have to rethink their embrace of big-government, big-religion conservatism.Read the whole thing, and see if you're convinced. I'm only about 50% convinced -- but it's interesting.
Hat tip to Virginia Postrel for the link.
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
In honor of Independence Day....
I'll encourage my readers to engage Matthew Yglesias and/or Tyler Cowen in the ultimate contrarian argument -- was American independence a good idea?
File this one under "why do liberals hate America?" but this time of year I'm always intrigued by the view that American independence was more-or-less a giant mistake.... The issues at stake were eminently compromisable, had wiser leadership been available, and the examples of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and (to some extent) South Africa indicate that having lost the USA the British government was able to come up with a perfectly workable alternative system of imperial management. And wouldn't it have been better if the USA-British relationship had evolved along the Canadian model?For Cowen, the question comes at the individual level;
[T]hink about it, wasn't it more than a wee bit whacky? "Let's cut free of the British Empire, the most successful society the world had seen to date, and go it alone against the French, the Spanish, and the Indians." [TC: they all seemed more formidable at the time than subsequently]Go ahead, exercise that right to free speech and respond to the question at hand
I'd respond myself, but.... er.... I'm deep into the pursuit of happiness right now.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States....
Friday, June 16, 2006
Is politics really a beauty contest?
Today I received the following e-mail request from Niclas Berggren:
Several studies document that beauty plays a role in the labor market: beautiful people earn more than others. Three economists are conducting a study to see whether there is a beauty premium in politics as well, such that beautiful candidates have greater electoral success. You, humble readers of daniel drezner.com, are hereby invited to participate in the study, run by Associate Professor Niclas Berggren (The Ratio Institute), Dr. Henrik Jordahl (Uppsala University) and Professor Panu Poutvaara (University of Helsinki).
Just how much do Democrats and Republicans differ?
In a previous post on partisanship, I asserted the following:
This is where I break ranks with both [Tom] DeLay and [Marc] Schmitt -- I don't think Democrats and Republicans disagree on the first principles of governing. I'm not even sure they disagree on second principles. There are policy differences, to be sure -- but Carl Schmitt (not relation to Marc) does not travel well to these shores.Evidentiary standards in the blogosphere are pretty low, but still, I should probably back up this assertion a bit.
Now I can, thanks to Greg Mankiw, who posts