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GOP VP II: The Supply Sidening

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

Hair Club For Growth President Pat Toomey suggests some running mates for McCain; the first few seem plausible. However, I would strongly urge McCain to go with the boundless charisma and highly popular non-crackpotery of Phil Gramm or Steve Forbes. (Maybe Gramm and Giuliani could run as a two-headed vice presidential candidate representing the most embarrassing presidential runs in living memory.)

Toomey’s editorial is also available in video format.

“Hey. I’m Pat Toomey. I’m not putting my name on the line for a fiscal policy that doesn’t work.”

The Superdelegate Question

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

I agree with Ezra that it would be unfortunate for the nomination to come down to superdelegates, and I would hope that there would be a norm among many superdelegates to support a clear winner. A couple of additional points:

  • The election getting to the superdelegates may not be quite as dire in practice as it seems. In a case where a candidate has a clear lead but not quite enough to win, incentives are likely to take care of themselves, as it’s in the interest of superdelegates to back a winner. If the result of the primaries and caucuses is a near-tie, conversely, the election being settled by the superdelegates is less problematic, since a very narrow lead could be almost entirely a product of arbitrary choices in the primary schedule anyway. I could be optimistic, but the scenario that could produce a really bad outcome — a clear winner being thwarted by superdelegates — seems relatively unlikely.
  • As Publius says, trying to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates should be — in absence of a fair election with known stakes being held in those states — considered the nuclear option, one that would tear the party apart. There’s an important distinction between maximizing your advantages within the existing rules and retroactively changing the rules when they don’t work in your favor that has to be maintained. It’s fair for candidates to fight for superdelegates; it’s completely unacceptable for candidates to try for ex post facto rule changes to turn a non-election into an election.

Gang of 14: A Huge Win For the GOP

[ 36 ] February 6, 2008 |

Jack Balkin points us to this article in the WSJ defending John McCain on the question of judicial appointments. Part of the op-ed consists of the usual vacuous buzzwords like “judicial restraint” (although they at least avoid the usual procedure of decrying “judicial activism” and then proceeding directly to a claim that judges should strike down affirmative action programs or railing against Kelo.) But — as with many conservative defenses of McCain — their overall point that McCain will nominate reliably reactionary justices is certainly correct. This point is particularly important:

Others are concerned that Mr. McCain was a member of the “Gang of 14,” opposing the attempt to end filibusters of judicial nominations. We believe that Mr. McCain’s views about the institutional dynamics of the Senate are a poor guide to his performance as president. In any event, the agreement of the Gang of 14 had its costs, but it played an important role in ensuring that Samuel Alito faced no Senate filibuster. It also led to the confirmation of Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Bill Pryor, three of President George W. Bush’s best judicial appointees to the lower federal courts.

Of all the attacks on McCain from the right, criticism for being part of the “Gang of 14″ is the most bizarre to me, given that the Democrats gained absolutely nothing from the compromise. The Democrats agreed to let several unacceptable judges on to the federal bench, and in return retained a theoretical ability to filibuster they didn’t use against either of Bush’s two very reactionary Supreme Court appointments. Moreover, if you’re willing to issue a farcical ruling to break a filibuster it’s hard to believe you wouldn’t go back on the Gang of 14 deal. And, of course, starting in 2009 maintaining the filibuster will directly help Republicans, and not creating a precedent where filibusters can be stopped by violating procedural rules is good for conservatives in the long run. What’s inexplicable about the Gang of 14 is why the Democrats agreed to it. Why a conservative would hold it against McCain is beyond me.


[ 35 ] February 6, 2008 |

Brad Plumer reports that Karl Rove (and I sort of admire the spare elegance of Rove serving as an election analyst for Fox News; I mean, why not just skip the middleman) threw cold water on the idea of a McCain/Huckabee ticket. I have no idea who McCain will pick, and I understand the logic: McCain needs to shore up support among conservatives who don’t like him, but many of these people also hate Huckabee. But it does seem to me that there’s another side to it. Are the Limbaughs who hate McCain with an irrational frenzy likely to be assuaged by any VP pick? It seems unlikely. Huckabee, conversely, is well-liked by Southern evangelical voters and hence could be a real asset to voters who aren’t crazy about McCain but are open to persuasion.

If I were McCain, I would probably try to go with a plain vanilla southern conservative — like Fred Thompson, but alive. The bench seems pretty thin, though, and I think Huckabee would bring real advantages to the ticket.


[ 0 ] February 6, 2008 |

I decided to watch the returns with the second-best commentariat in the blogosphere, which meant that I couldn’t hear the speeches, etc. I think Yglesias gets the bottom line about right. 10 days ago, an Obama supporter would certainly take a result that left him alive, and he did a little better than that. On the other hand, Clinton not only hung on to the states she needed, but won pretty substantially in the big ones (the delegate count in New York being especially important.) Ultimately, it’s tough to catch a good candidate from behind, and Clinton has to be considered a strong although not overwhelming favorite. There’s still a scenario for a Obama victory for sure, but a lot has to break right. Maybe he can use the time to take Ohio and Texas, but it’s hard to bet on it.

The GOP race, of course, remains over, with McCain once again getting just enough help from Huckabee to hasten the inevitable. Ironically, the fractured GOP field was crucial to the quick coronation — McCain would have had a much harder time against any single challenger, but got the right opposition to clean up delegates with frequently unimpressive vote totals. The Democratic race could go to the convention precisely because you can’t split the vote and win a less favorable state.

"Phoenix in August can’t be considered hot by any conventional standard."

[ 8 ] February 6, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Hugh Hewitt: “McCain can’t be considered a frontrunner by any conventional standard.”

Sure, keep telling yourself that and you’ll…oh, actually, even he couldn’t actually convince himself of that.

The Lies That Sold A Fiasco

[ 4 ] February 5, 2008 |

More on the disgrace of Colin Powell.

The Day The Credibility Died

[ 0 ] February 5, 2008 |

Attaturk provides a useful reminder for why I have less than no use for Colin Powell’s attempt to exculpate himself from the Iraq disaster. [via] Admittedly, not everyone thinks that Powell disgracing himself by going before the U.N. with reams of bullshit to sell a catastrophic war has diminished his credibility; apparently Machiavellian street fighter Hillary Clinton thinks it would be helpful to use him as means of increasing American prestige in the world. Maybe she should find an adviser who actually opposed the war to explain why this is unlikely to work very well…

Horse Race

[ 7 ] February 5, 2008 |

On the Democratic side, it’s probably not too useful to try to predict winners; it’s too inconclusive. My guess would be a narrow Clinton win in delegates, but who knows. It will be fun for political junkies; I just wish I was one of the many people without a strong preference.

Meanwhile, in the “daydream believing” category BTD argues that “[m]aybe reports of [Romney’s] political death are greatly exaggerated” based on some polls showing a close race in CA and the fact that we won the non-binding caucuses in Maine. I’d like this to be true, but please. The Maine win is marginally more relevant that Clinton’s “victory” in the uncontested Florida non-primary, but not much. As for California, 1)the rules make it unlikely that Romney will win a majority of delegates with a small majority of the popular vote, and 2)even if he does somehow win a bare majority of delegates in California, so what? All indications are that McCain is going to overwhelmingly win delegates, votes and states overall, and if you think most of the media is going to spin a blowout victory against St. Maverick McStraightTalk because Romney gets a narrow win in California I have a crate of 19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots books to sell you. The Republican race is over; I don’t like it either but it’s time to admit it.

Clinton and Iraq

[ 47 ] February 4, 2008 |

On the Clinton war counterfactual, I think it’s worth distinguishing between a weaker and a stronger version:

  • Did Clinton see desposing a secular dictatorship that posed no significant threat to the United States and (in by far the most likely outcome) replacing it with an Islamist quasi-state at a ruinious cost in lives and resources as part of a reasonable range of options for reacting to 9/11? The overwhelming bulk of the evidence suggests that she did, and given this there has to be at least some risk that she would have made a similar blunder. More importantly, seeing the war as even defensible represents a disastrous failure in judgment.
  • If Clinton were president, is it likely that she would have chosen that particular course as opposed to other options she thought reasonable? This is unknowable, but my guess is no. At the very least, I don’t think it can be inferred with any certainty from her support from the war after Bush had decided to wage it.

As Matt says, the third option is that she recognized the stupidity of the war and voted for it for cynical political reasons. Given the extent to which the case for Clinton over Obama rests on her alleged Machiavellian political skills, however, this isn’t much of a defense. Surely any Machiavellian worth her salt would have seen that while it might be politically necessary for a red-state Democrat facing a tough re-election fight in 2002 or even 2004 to back a bad war, it would not be an asset in the 2008 Democratic primary. And this is why I don’t believe that Clinton was actually against the war; the political case only makes any sense if you think the war was a reasonably good risk. And supporting the war doesn’t only hurt her in the primary, but makes her not-very-well-positioned to attack the war party in the general.

And the Honking and Fireworks Outside My Apartment Begin

[ 46 ] February 4, 2008 |

I’ve always maintained that Eli Manning was going to be a great quarterback and trading up for him was pure genius…

Seriously, that was a remarkable run, and while Manning will get (and deserves) a great deal of credit for the winning drive, the Giants’ defense was spectacular, especially the front 7. (Evidently, some of the Pats linemen were far from 100%, but they were just powned.) Given the amount of abuse he took during training camp it should be noted in particular that Strahan looked a lot younger.

I think I first thought they could lose after they didn’t cash in that 12-men-on-the-field reversal; you never expect the Pats not to take advantage of that. Speaking of the ‘86 Oilers what a lot of people forget about the Steve Smith own-goal Game 7 (call by the late Don Wittman) is that near the end of the game the Flames pulled a Don Cherry and took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in the dying minutes. And Kurri had a wide-open shot but decided instead to throw a low-percentage pass to Gretzky, and so they hung on for the historic upset. When a great team doesn’t cash in the breaks they always seem to cash in, you have to wonder…

I would also reiterate that I fully expect Clinton to wipe the floor with Obama on Tuesday.

make sure to get your copy!

Super Bowl [Insert Pompous Roman Numeral Here] Thread

[ 0 ] February 3, 2008 |

I’m hoping for a good game, but let’s be frank. In terms of matchup this one most closely resembles the Bears/Patriots blowout — historically great team against unusually weak Super Bowl team. There’s probably a greater chance of an upset because you can move the ball against this Partiots team, but still it seems pretty likely that this game won’t be close. Admittedly, Manning has not only played better but played differently in the playoffs, with no turnovers — but I still don’t think three good games fully transcends 2 and a half seasons of mediocrity. And it’s hard to see an upset of this magnitude coming against Belichick with two weeks to prepare. I’ll call it Patriots 45, Giants 17.

For those rooting for the upset, I enjoyed this compilation of great teams that didn’t win. #2 still stings, while #11 is the flipside of my favorite. team. ever. (And while Berube probably doesn’t want to be reminded, #1’s series against the Keenan/Gretzky/MacInnis/Hull Blues was great.)

…as anyone well-trained in the Straussian art of reading would understand, of course, what I meant was “this will be an extremely low-scoring game in which the underrated Giants take a fourth-quarter lead.”

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