As I’ve said before, nothing signals a Must To Avoid more than a positive book review that describes an unreadable book. Such is the case with Robert Dallek’s review of a new book about Condi Rice by official Bush administration mash note writer Elisabeth Bumiller. Apparently, we’re meant to think that the fact that the book makes no judgments and contains no interesting analysis of Rice’s tenure as Secretary of State is a feature, not a bug. The review does, however, contain this bit of high comedy:
Ms. Bumiller says that if President Bush and Ms. Rice can produce a settlement in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, it would give them claims on success that would significantly improve their historical reputations.
Uh, yeah. And if I discover a way of powering cars entirely with oxygen, emitting a vapor that would result in the immediate killing of cockroaches and paralysis in the hands of every Hollywood producer about to sign a contract with Joel Schumacher and Uwe Boll, my reputation as a world-class scientist would be greatly enhanced. I’m reminded of nothing so much as David Adesnik’s suggestion that Bush signal his commitment to a rational foreign policy by appointing Dick Lugar.
Yglesias says that “it’s a bit sad to see how much more engaged and knowledgeable the crowd at the Caps game is compared to the Wizards’ fans.” As it happens, when I was in town for Farley’s wedding since I had to go to the
MCI Verizon Center to get tickets for a game in March anyway I decided to take in the Crapitals/Sabres game. Having seen a lot of games in Calgary and Montreal I was pleasantly surprised by both the near-sellout crowd and the intensity of the fans, neither of which I expected, and were impressive even given the artificial boost given by the presence of a real hockey market in the game (up in the nosebleeds where I was “Let’s Go Buffalo!” chants were frequent.)
Given the context, I was amused that the Capitals decided to combine two lame in-game promotions. A woman was participating in one of those “find the moving puck!” things, and in turned out that the prize for the contestant was…a marriage proposal. The punchline was that although it had to be the least challenging hidden puck/ball game in history, she got the answer wrong. But she said yes anyway.
This is a very radical claim I’m about to make, but I think I might rather watch a Bloggingheads featuring Mickey Kaus and Ann Althouse discussing Bill Clinton’s sex life than listen to this.
…as most of you probably know. The most obvious puzzle to this non-expert is how someone could get in a position to fire two shots at close range; the most obvious answer is that Musharraf wanted her dead. Spencer Ackerman supports this:
After an October attack on Bhutto’s life in Karachi, the ex-prime minister warned “certain individuals in the security establishment [about the threat] and nothing was done,” says Husain Haqqani, a confidante of Bhutto’s for decades. “There is only one possibility: the security establishment and Musharraf are complicit, either by negligence or design. That is the most important thing. She’s not the first political leader killed, since Musharraf took power, by the security forces.”
Haqqani notes that Bhutto died of a gunshot wound to the neck. “It’s like a hit, not a regular suicide bombing,” he says. “It’s quite clear that someone who considers himself Pakistan’s Godfather has a very different attitude toward human life than you and I do.”
And, of course, not only is Musharraf’s chief rival dead, but this will also serve as a pretext to cancel elections.
Shorter Verbatim Ron Paul: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal. If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational.”
I know he’s right on the war, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he’s a crank reactionary.
Well, the Democratic Party certainly had some winners in the 2004 election:
Behind the scenes, they were fighting over the lucrative fees for handling Mr. Kerry’s television advertising. The campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, became so fed up over the squabbling that she told the consultants, led by Robert Shrum, one of the most prominent and highly paid figures in the business, to figure out how to split the money themselves.
Divvy it up they did. Though the final tally has never been publicly disclosed, interviews and records show that the five strategists and their firms ultimately took in nearly $9 million, the richest payday for any Democratic media consultants up to then and roughly what the Bush campaign paid its consultants for a more extensive ad campaign.
Mr. Shrum and his two partners, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon, walked away with $5 million of the total. And that was after Ms. Cahill, in the closing stages of the race that fall, diverted $1 million that would otherwise have gone to the consultants to buying more advertising time in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to defeat Mr. Bush.
Imagine what Shrum would get paid if he ever won elections! It’s good that the Dems are trying to reduce the fees, because the extent of the money that goes to consultants is ridiculous given the number of companies that could otherwise compete for the advertising and the utter lack of accountability.
Of course, it’s possible to defend Shrum narrowly in terms of the 2004 election; if anything, Kerry did a little better than structural models would predict, and certainly he wasn’t an inherently great candidate. Indeed, the only federal election Shrum lost that he should have won was 2000 (and even that one wasn’t so much lost as won by a narrow enough margin that it could be swamped by the archaic American electoral system.) But this defense makes it even more clear that the money being paid to consultants is completely irrational. Campaigns simply aren’t that important in terms of who wins elections, which not only means that consultants aren’t terribly important but also that it’s very difficult to evaluate their performance even within the narrow range in which they can matter. Anybody who acts as a consultant long enough, especially if they also do a lot of local races, is going to rack of some wins, and will also always have an excuse if they don’t win. There’s no good reason for political consultancy to be this kind of resource-eating cartel.
It is pretty amazing that Jonah Goldberg would note that the rabidly homophobic Nazi Party also contained a substantial number of homosexuals and use this to draw an analogy with…modern liberalism. In fact, of course, by Goldberg’s Hitler-was-a-vegetarian logic because he’s a modern Republican he is therefore also a fascist. Granted, Goldberg and his allies prefer making gays second-class legal citizens, vulnerable to employment and housing discrimination, and fomenting hatred for political benefits as opposed to castration, torture, and murder, but according to his underlying premises these distinctions are irrelevant to whether or not you’re a fascist…
But never has a fascist argument been made in such detail or with such care.
Obama pulls slightly ahead in New Hampshire. Hey, I’d be happy to be wrong…
Shorter Ross Douthat: The fact that a woman living in subsidized housing in New Orleans has a big T.V. means that there couldn’t have been any racism in Ronald Reagan’s invocation of apocryphal “welfare queens” with “Cadillacs,” and “strapping young bucks“* buying “T-Bone steaks” with food stamps. The logic is unassailable!
*Note: flagrantly racist term used only below the Mason-Dixon line, but I’m sure welfare recipients in New Hampshire weren’t strapping!
The Clenis (TM) — now so powerful that he can control the GOP nomination:
The reader was convinced that none other than Bill and Hill were Huckabee’s ultimate backers. Given how divisive Huckabee is, how well they know know the passions of the Evangelical community (and deep anger there, if my inbox is any guide), and the magnitude of money in Bill’s “library fund,” well, it’s as plausible an answer as any to “how the hell did this happen?” Huckabee is the candidate easiest for any Democrat to knock off, by a long shot. And there goes the GOP coaltion for a long time to come. Now that would be quite a Clinton legacy.
Aside from the high comedy (Huckabee being propelled by Bill Clinton’s money would be rather more convincing if Huackabee actually had any money), the crackdown of GOP elites against Huckabee is instructive. After being told how immensely popular reactionary cultural positions were and how the Democrats had no choice but to throw most of their constituencies under the bus and let the Angry White Men have their way, conservative pundits now claiming that running someone who actually believes this stuff rather than somebody who cynically exploits a minority faction would be electoral suicide. I think the lesson is obvious.
Via Will Bunch, apparently Circuit City was begging some of its laid off employees to come back. Awwwww. As he concludes about the companay’s strategy of firing its competent workers, “[s]ince then, I’ve pretty much done any electronics shopping at Best Buy — and so does everyone else, apparently.”
Mark Schmitt gets this exactly right:
As an observer of politics, and commenter on it, I almost entirely share Krugman’s and Edwards’ diagnoses. I appreciate the conflictual nature of politics. I don’t think there’s some cross-partisan truth; I understand that the Republican conservatives are intractable. I know those advantaged by the current structure of power are determined to preserve it, and the well-funded campaign to destroy any possibility of progressive governance will be as intantaneous and intense as anything in 1993. I’ve tried to spell this out as clearly and aggressively as possible, especially to counter the tendency among elites to imagine that the good old days when Republicans and Democrats worked together selflessly and put ideology aside to solve the nation’s problems are coming back. (Or that they were so great to start with.)
But let’s take a slightly different angle on the charge that Obama is “naïve” about power and partisanship. Suppose you were as non-naïve about it as I am — but your job wasn’t writing about politics, it was running for president? What should you do? In that case, your responsibility is not merely to describe the situation exactly, but to find a way to subvert it. In other words, perhaps we are being too literal in believing that “hope” and bipartisanship are things that Obama naively believes are present and possible, when in fact they are a tactic, a method of subverting and breaking the unified conservative power structure. Claiming the mantle of bipartisanship and national unity, and defining the problem to be solved (e.g. universal health care) puts one in a position of strength, and Republicans would defect from that position at their own risk. The public, and younger voters in particular, seem to want an end to partisanship and conflictual politics, and an administration that came in with that premise (an option not available to Senator Clinton), would have a tremendous advantage, at least for a moment.
To accept the obvious truths that politics is about conflict, that many political disputes are incommensurable, and that partisanship is therefore not inherently a bad thing does not mean that repeatedly emphasizing conflicts is an effective rhetorical strategy. To take Obama’s rhetoric on this score at face value is silly. It’s overwhelmingly likely that he understands perfectly well the nature of the GOP, but also understands that “the current GOP is horrible and we should therefore kill them and then salt the earth so it can never grow again” isn’t an effective means of appealing to swing voters.
..and as for political efficacy, the fact that Obama substantially outperforms Clinton against anybody seems definitive.