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Presidential Candidates: Not Pundits

[ 27 ] December 21, 2007 |

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.

The Case Against Ron Paul

[ 26 ] December 20, 2007 |

Made more than ably by Dana Goldtstein.

It is important to remember that, although he was (like Barack Obama) right on the war and supports some other good positions (anti-War (on some classes of people who use some) Drugs), he holds many more crackpot positions, and his libertarianism and federalism seem to stop where women’s rights begin.

Why Liberals Will Never Be Trusted With National Security

[ 9 ] December 20, 2007 |

I’m appalled that a young liberal writer would be so squishy about the kind of Tough Measures needed to stop the Icelandofascist Menace. Stop them before they support Matthew Barney’s art again!

Today in Double Standards

[ 0 ] December 20, 2007 |

Via Lauren, Teresa Valdez Klein finds celebrity gossip hack Perez “Castro Is Teh Dead!!!111!!1!” Hilton calling Jamie Lynn Spears “trailer trash” and exclaiming that “Bitch is begging for her job!” Ha-ha!

My question: how many of the men attacking Spears weren’t having sex at age 16? OK, well, probably a substantial number. To be more precise, how many of the men attacking Spears wouldn’t have had sex if they actually knew someone with the misfortune to be a willing partner? Given that I suspect the answer is somewhere in the order of “none,” all of these people need to shut the hell up.

And what Lauren says:

What our celebrity subject will soon find out is that despite trying to do what is best for one’s particular family in one’s particular place in a particularly controversial situation, “taking responsibility” doesn’t actually mean what people say it means. In the end, doing what’s right for you doesn’t matter if the “correct” decision was to stay classy by quietly terminating the pregnancy and going forth in the wave of paparazzi like nothing ever happened at all.

Of course, if she had obtained an abortion she would still be a white-trash immoral slut. Hopefully this will teach her to be a teenage boy next time!

The Vote Fraud Fraud: Actual Fraud Edition

[ 3 ] December 20, 2007 |

In addition to pressuring U.S. Attorneys to pursue isolated cases of vote fraud for which there was no actual evidence, the DOJ made sure to delay the investigation of actual systematic electoral theft which may have won the GOP the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race before the slime would be spotted on GOP elites:

The Justice Department delayed prosecuting a key Republican official for jamming the phones of New Hampshire Democrats until after the 2004 election, protecting top GOP officials from the scandal until the voting was over.

An official with detailed knowledge of the investigation into the 2002 Election-Day scheme said the inquiry sputtered for months after a prosecutor sought approval to indict James Tobin, the northeast regional coordinator for the Republican National Committee.

The phone-jamming operation was aimed at preventing New Hampshire Democrats from rounding up voters in the close U.S. Senate race between Republican Rep. John Sununu and Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu’s 19,000-vote victory helped the GOP regain control of the Senate.


Paul Twomey, a lawyer for the state Democratic Party, said the delay spared Republicans embarrassment at the peak of the campaign because a pending deposition would have revealed that several state GOP officials knew about the scheme, which was hatched by their executive director, Charles McGee. The delay also stalled the case beyond its statute of limitations, depriving Democrats of full discovery, he said.

Meanwhile, Blue Girl points us to the forthcoming book How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. Alas, I suspect it may serve more as a GOP instruction manual than as a cautionary tale…

Precedents For A Farce

[ 1 ] December 20, 2007 |

Michael Berube notes the obvious predecessors of Jonah Goldberg’s major new contribution to American letters, Mussolini Was Nice To Kittens, Just Like Many…Liberals!!1!!ONE11!!111.
I note as well that most of the worthless and frequently racist books under discussion — just like Goldberg’s — were edited by Adam Bellow, whose praise for nepotism is eminently understandable. I particularly enjoyed this explanation of Bellow’s rightward turn, which apparently was bereft of any intellectual content even by neoconservative standards. Everything is there: a guy whose worldview seems to be driven entirely by seething ressentiment against something called “Zabar’s liberals” accusing others of shallow prejudice and parochialism; congratulating oneself about attacks on “identity politics” in the context of a defense of Clarence Thomas; concern trolling about how he was merely “attacking liberalism from the right to preserve it from its own dogmatic tendencies,” etc. In other words, exactly the kind of guy I would expect to proudly edit Liberal Fascism.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

[ 10 ] December 19, 2007 |

Although this is a great primary season for political junkies because of two closely contested primaries — made more interesting because it one party none of the candidates should logically be able to win — the one downside is the amount of silly discussion from the Tony Blankleys of the world about a brokered convention. Joyner is right: it’s not going to happen. You can’t keep losing and remain competitive in the modern primary process. Admittedly, nothing can top the wankery of claims that Hillary Clinton was going to win a brokered convention in ’04. But do remember how that Democratic race 1)seemed really close and interesting, and 2)was effectively over after New Hampshire. GOP ’08 won’t be settled that early but there’s not going to be a brokered convention.

What Surge?

[ 1 ] December 19, 2007 |

This phenomenon was also evident in yesterday’s NYT article about McCain. One searches the article in vain for evidence that voters — as opposed the elite editorial writers with an extensive history of swooning for the Straight Talk Express — are showing more support for McCain. The same thing goes for talk about a Fred Thompson surge in Iowa; if it starts actually reaching voters, then let me know.

Today in Right-Wing Trolling

[ 9 ] December 19, 2007 |

Everyone who reads blogs knows that no discussion of contemporary GOP racism will take place without some idiot mentioning that Robert Byrd was a member of the Klan during the Roosevelt administration. To pre-empt this response. Yglesias makes the obvious point about why the Byrd analogy fails as a defense of Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond’s white supremacy and Gordon Smith’s defense of Lott: the analogy would only hold if someone not only attended a birthday party for Robert Byrd but specifically cited his membership in the Klan and his filibusterting the Civil Rights Act as things to be proud of. In response, some trollbot dutifully intones: “And yet you ignore former KKK member Robert Byrd.” My favorite Robert Byrd tu quoque ever!

In addition, this is a crucial bottom-line point: “Meanwhile, with regard to both Lott and now to Smith, it should be said that indifference to racism is, when taken to these levels, itself a form of racism. Nobody who took the interests or attitudes of black people seriously would be saying this stuff.” Yes, Oregon can do a great deal better than a Senator who thinks it’s horribly unfair to criticize someone for praising a single-issue white supremacist campaign and saying that its victory would have been good for the country in 2002.

Shallow Misogynist of the Day

[ 4 ] December 19, 2007 |


And The Thigh-Rubbing Begins

[ 18 ] December 19, 2007 |

Good question:

If Mickey Kaus wants to use Slate — a professional, well-regarded political “magazine” — to parrot the National Enquirer’s “story” on John Edwards, shouldn’t Slate fire him if this story turns out to be wrong? I mean, if a reporter from Kaus’s hated NYT ran with something like this, he or she would certainly be risking their career on it. Seems like what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Of course, if this were the standard, Kaus’s services would have ceased to be required many years ago.

Powers Don’t Have To Be Used

[ 19 ] December 18, 2007 |

There are a couple frustrating elements to Zev Chafets’s profile of Mike Huckabee. For example, he completely botches the discussion of the DuMond pardon, disappearing the lunatic anti-conspiracy angle that is what makes the pardon so problematic. But this is also odd:

Huckabee’s answer to his opponents on the fiscal right has been his Fair Tax proposal. The idea calls for abolishing the I.R.S. and all current federal taxes, including Social Security, Medicare and corporate and personal income taxes, and replacing them with an across-the-board 23 percent consumption tax.

Governor Huckabee promises that this plan would be ‘‘like waving a magic wand, releasing us from pain and unfairness.’’ Some reputable economists think the scheme is practicable. Many others regard it as fanciful. (For starters, it would require repealing the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.) In any case, the Fair Tax proposal is based on extremely complex projections.

First of all, we have the classic “opinions on shape of earth differ” formulation; I’d very much like to get the names of some of the “reputable economists” who think that a 30%+ national sales tax plan is “practicable.” And while this isn’t terribly important, the claim about the Sixteenth Amendment is bizarre. Here’s the amendment in its entirety:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Absolutely nothing in the amendment requires the federal government to raise revenues through an income tax; it merely gave Congress the option to do, overturning a Supreme Court decision that had held otherwise. Huckabee’s plan would be an unworkable catastrophe on several levels, but it would not violate the Constitution. And while it’s trivial in itself the fact that Chafets would make such an obvious mistake doesn’t give me much confidence that he’s in a position to credibly evaluate assessments of Huckabee’s tax plan.

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