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Archive for January, 2008

No No No No No

Apparently Ralph Nader has formed an exploratory presidential committee. If the committee is going to do anything other than explore the depths of Nader’s narcissism, it might have a tough time.

While I agree with Nader that calling him a “spoiler” may be a sign of “political bigotry” (even if it’s true), I can’t help but echo Melissa McEwan’s musings:

I’d have a lot more respect for him if he made a concerted effort to make this point—and endeavored to either galvanize a vibrant third party or progressivize the Democratic party—in between elections, instead of popping up once every four years to indulge a vanity campaign. Why isn’t Ralph Nader doing for electoral reform what Al Gore is doing for the environment? He lacks focus. It’s one non-profit start-up after the other, instead of a slow and steady campaign

And honestly, Nader has *got* to know that he is not ever going to win and that by running he is drawing votes from a candidate who, while not perfect, has a real shot of winning and would be a whole helluva lot better than whomever the GOP is propping up. Certainly if he didn’t know that before 2000, he’s got to know it now.


Obvious Point of the Day

[ 184 ] January 30, 2008 |

Not to belabor the point, but there’s some nonsense going on in this comment thread regarding the Florida primary. The content of the nonsense appears to be the argument that, regardless of the delegate situation, the Florida result represents a true enough picture of the preferences of the Florida electorate. In particular, aimai:

Florida voters could and did turn out in record numbers to cast protest votes for all three candidates in the hope that their votes *would* ultimately count. I just don’t see that “campaigning” or “not campaigning” made any difference at all in such a hotly contested and noisy election. What’s your evidence that people who wanted to vote for obama didn’t turn out for this non race? What poll shows a depressed turnout because of the no campaigning rule?

This spurred me to do a bit of what the kids like to call “research” and “arithmetic”, which produced the following:

New Hampshire:
Democrats: 284104
Republicans: 233381
Reps as % of Dems: 82%

South Carolina:
Democrats: 529771
Republicans: 442918
Reps as % of Dems: 84%

Democrats: 1684390
Republicans: 1920350
Reps as % of Dems: 114%

And that excludes Iowa and Nevada, where turnout is much harder to measure, but in which literally everyone agrees that the Democratic turnout vastly exceeded the Republican. So I’d say, yes, the evidence does pretty conclusively demonstrate that either a)campaigning, or b)the presence of actual delegates has a strong effect on turnout. Strangely, a large number of campaigning politicians seem to agree with this conclusion; they seem to think that the presence of a candidate, the mobilization of his or her political organization, and the spending of tremendous amounts of money on advertising could affect whether people vote and who they vote for. Who knew?

Now, you can make the argument that the Florida Democratic result would have been the same if the candidates had been allowed to campaign, but in doing so you’re making a claim that would need to climb several rungs of plausibility to reach the level of “evidence-free assertion”. In the absence of a campaign from any of the candidates, the Florida result was almost inevitably going to reflect the greater name recognition of Hillary Clinton; indeed, she held similar leads in other states before the actual campaign began.

Edwards Postmortem

[ 14 ] January 30, 2008 |

Dana and Tom have good posts. To expand on one of Tom’s points, I think Edwards is a lesson in the perils in trying to become president from the Senate, especially from something other than an incredibly safe seat. He built up a bunch of votes that contradicted his current positions, and he had to leave early because he couldn’t risk losing.

I believed at the time — and still do — that had the Iowa caucus in 2004 been held two weeks later 1)Edwards would have won, 2)he would likely have won the nomination, and 3)this would have been the best outcome (although whether he would have beaten Bush, who knows.) As Steve says, in this year he never had a chance given the competition but had a salutary effect on the race.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. 39

[ 10 ] January 30, 2008 |

Richard Bruce (“Dick”) Cheney turns 67 today.

Words fail.

. . . Mr. Trend discovers that Cheney shares his birthday with Phil Collins. And I’ll simply note the *cough* coincidence that Gandhi was assassinated on Cheney’s 7th birthday, while the VP’s 65th birthday cache included the corpse of Coretta Scott King.

Democratic Florida Postmortem

[ 32 ] January 30, 2008 |

There was no Florida Democratic primary. Although the high turnout in a non-primary was heartening for Democratic prospects in November, the results are wholly meaningless as there was no campaign and no delegates at stake. Changing the rules ex post facto and claiming delegates for a specific candidate would be unambiguous electoral fraud. And whether the disenfranchisement of Florida Democrats for violating party rules was justified or not, it was agreed to in advance by every Democratic campaign — including the one now trying to pretend that a real election was held. Seating delegates for a particular candidate would not enfranchise Florida Democrats, since they still would not have had the opportunity to vote in a real contested election with actual stakes. The only actual remedy for the party’s decision would be to hold a real competitive primary at a later date, period.

… UPDATE BY ROB: This is the Clinton campaign manager reacting to the initial decision to exclude the Florida and Michigan delegates: “We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process, and we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role.” So no, this isn’t about the Clinton campaign fighting the DNC to empower the benighted masses in Michigan and Florida; the campaign supported the DNC’s decision up to the point it became in their interest to want to change the rules. Also see Ezra.

GOP Florida Postmortem

[ 10 ] January 30, 2008 |
  • On the wonderfully ignominious collapse of Rudy!, I think Noam Scheiber gets it right: “Was Rudy’s strategy flawed, or was it the candidate? I say the latter. Rudy spent a good chunk of time and money in New Hampshire in November and December. The net effect was to move his numbers down.” Right. Claims that Giuliani’s problem was strategy ignores not only the substantial amount of time and money he spent in New Hampshire but the fact that he effectively pulled out early for good reason; he was cratering. It’s hard to see that just doing the same thing would have suddenly started working. The Florida firewall strategy had no chance of working, but that’s because nothing can work when active campaigning actually hurts your numbers. It should also be noted that Giuliani was never a genuine frontrunner; you’d think that Lieberman 2004 would have made it clear that national polls well in advance of the primaries mean virtually nothing, but some people apparently have ot be reminded every four years.
  • John Holbo wonders how conservative pundits who have been attacking John McCain relentlessly (“perhaps not more liberal than Obama?” These people are nuts…) will deal with his impending nomination. It should be easy for conservatives to get over their McCain issues since overall he was always the most conservative of the major candidates, but of course if these pundits were rational they would already see that. I think he’s leaving out the most obvious one, though. If the Democrats give the GOP the gift of Clinton, which still seems very likely, these pundits can pretty much ignore McCain and focus entirely on Hillary Clinton’s purported Trotskyism, murder and drug running operations, “shrillness,” her husband’s penis, etc. This almost exclusively misogynist resentment plus Clinton derangement strategy may not be enough — ask Bob Dole — but it’s clearly where the conservative punditocracy is headed.

Fox News Follows The Trajectory of Their Favorite Candidate

[ 11 ] January 30, 2008 |

Hitching your wagon to Rudy! really wasn’t a great idea…

Bill Kristol: Man of Vision (Reprise)

[ 19 ] January 30, 2008 |

As djw reminded us recently, the long overdue self-destruction of the Giuliani campaign continues to be immensely pleasing, whatever else happens from here. And Fred Thompson’s quiet departure for the rendering plant was also quite satisfying — partly because a lot of people blew their allowance on him at the last minute, and partly because it gave the irrepressible Ben Domenech the chance to use the word “poontang” in a sentence and fantasize about being as virile as a 65-year-old guy with a “silly hat rule.”

I’m a bit more ambivalent about Huckabee’s meltdown, since he so clearly represented the squirrel-fried Jesus wing of the Republican Revolution that deserved more than a month’s exposure before being locked back up in the shed. Still, after his intimations of flagpole sodomy and his dreams of appending Leviticus and Deuteronomy to the Constitution, Huck’s downward spiral gives us the chance, just for shits and grins, to revisit the splendor of Bill Kristol’s inaugural column for the Times.


I was watching the debate at the home of a savvy, moderately conservative New Hampshire Republican. It was at this moment that he turned to me and said: “You know, I’ve been a huge skeptic about Huckabee. I’m still not voting for him Tuesday. But I’ve got to say — I like him. And I wonder — could he be our strongest nominee?”

He could be. . . .

His campaigning in New Hampshire has been impressive. At a Friday night event at New England College in Henniker, he played bass with a local rock band, Mama Kicks. One secular New Hampshire Republican’s reaction: “Gee, he’s not some kind of crazy Christian. He’s an ordinary American.”

Let’s congratulate the Times once again for the worst personnel move since the Mariners picked up Heathcliff Slocumb.

The Giuliani Plane to Cali?

It’s anybody’s guess how long Rudy will stay in the race after his disastrous performance in Florida tonight. All signs point to him endorsing McCain as soon as tomorrow.

My question is this: if Giuliani does indeed endorse McCain, will he and Joe Lieberman have to fight it out for biggest asshole on the McCain campaign trail? And who would win?

The Ace Of Queens

[ 24 ] January 29, 2008 |

Santana to Mets, assuming that the Wilpon who passed on Vladimir Guerrero doesn’t come back. It sure was a great idea for Minnesota taxpayers to give their multi-billionaire owner a $400 mil. subsidy. Gomez does seem like a legitimate propsect, although he’s a risky tools guy. The pitchers, eh. Excellent trade for the Metropolitans, the Twins probably did as well as they could but it will be an upset if they get full value, especially since the service time clock is already running on Gomez.

Elsewhere, I’m probably also hoping that Angelos as usual undercuts his GM and kills the Bedard trade. I’m a little ambivalent because I love Bedard and the Mariners really need an ace. But 1)Jones is a tremendous prospect, 2)Bedard is excellent but not Santana, 3)doesn’t seem open to an extension, and 4)has helath concerns.

The End of Whatever Hegemony Was?

[ 0 ] January 29, 2008 |

This last Sunday, Parag Khanna published a long excerpt of a new book in the New York Times Magazine. Dan Nexon at Duck of Minerva loved it. Dan Drezner didn’t. I’m pretty much in the camp of the latter Dan, who opined:

I will heap praise on Khanna’s agent for getting the excerpt placed into the Magazine. There’s less demand than there used to be for prose stylings that read like Benjamin Barber after a three-day coke bender in Macao.

For my part, I didn’t really see anything here that hasn’t been better expressed in a dozen other places. Khanna argues that US hegemony has essentially ended, and that the future will see a three way competition between Europe, China, and the US for influence in the “second world,” the definition of which is a trifle nebulous. That’s true as far as it goes, but of course depends a lot on how we define hegemony; Khanna wants to define it in more or less the same way as the most aggressive of neoconservatives define it, which helpfully allows him to declare that America’s hegemonic moment is decisively over. There are, however, more sophisticated conceptions of hegemony that do not carry the implication that hegemonic states can do whatever they want whenever they want. As Kenneth Waltz wrote:

To say that militarily strong states are feeble because they cannot easily bring order to minor states is like saying that a pneumatic hammer is weak because it is not suitable for drilling decayed teeth.

Another way of putting this is that yes, to some extent it’s reasonable to argue that the 21st century will see competition for influence between the United States, China, and the European Union. However, that doesn’t get us very far; each of the three players brings a different set of tools to the competition, and the tools of the United States (outsized military power along with economic competitiveness) determine the rules of the game and the structure of the competition.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

But Does It Work?

[ 25 ] January 29, 2008 |

I thought this passage from the Times story about Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama was interesting:

In a 20-minute address, Mr. Kennedy hailed Mr. Obama’s ability to transcend racial divisions. Mr. Kennedy, who associates said had become furious by the tone of the Democratic campaign, including the words and actions of former President Bill Clinton, said Mr. Obama would usher in a new era of politics.

The strongest case to be made for Clinton is that her willingness to fight hard if not dirty will make her the strongest candidate against the GOP in the fall. And I don’t think this is a frivolous argument by any means. Although Obama has shown some ability to fight back (cf. his reply to John Howard, and he did a good job of replying-to-without-naming the Clintons on Saturday) at times he can seem unnecessarily defensive in response to even mild attacks. On the other hand, while I like the idea of having a street fighter as a candidate in the abstract I think one also has to question whether the specific tough tactics being used by Clinton have actually been effective. Given the complete blowout in South Carolina and the recent rash of Obama endorsements, it’s hard to make the case that Bill Clinton going on the offensive has been particularly helpful to Clinton’s campaign. The odious Jesse Jackson invocation was additionally dismaying because it seemed to reflect a very dim view of 2008 Democratic primary voters, and it’s one that I don’t think is terribly well justified. I think Clinton does have some very real political skills, and she may well be the strongest candidate in the general election, but her primary campaign hasn’t been terribly effective given the large advantages she started the race with.

And one can say the same thing about some of her policy panders. I can maybe see it in the immediate aftermath of Texas v. Johnson when such silliness briefly became a salient issue, but at this late date does anyone think that sponsoring Constitution flag-burning legislation is going to convince anyone to vote for her? I actually am inclined to think that her vote on the war represents a sincere conviction that the war was right, but for those who think that it was political positioning her judgment has quite clearly been erroneous — her position on the war bot would deprive her of a crucial issue in the general but also could quite possibly cost her the Democratic nomination. I’m all for politics being the art of the possible, but Clinton’s political instincts don’t always seem especially sound to me.

Or, to put it another way, not only does Mark Penn make me worry a little bit about the policy direction of a Clinton administration (compared to the other major Dems), I see little reason to believe that he’s any great shakes as a political tactician either.

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