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Easy Answers To Stupid Questions

[ 15 ] May 16, 2008 |

Glenn Reynolds:

CALIFORNIA’S SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN the state’s ban on gay marriages. Did it just hand the state to McCain?


This has been easy answers to stupid questions. Although, admittedly, the massive Republican landslide in the wake of the New Jersey civil union decision in 2006 and their shocking upset victory in Massachusetts in 2004 certainly does give one pause.

…UPDATE: I see that Steve M. actually beat me to this. With data!

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Easily Dismissable Whining of the Day

[ 33 ] May 16, 2008 |

Sounds like the new HBO movie about the 2000 recount got it right, which understandably has displeased the embalmed corpse the Gore campaign chose to oversee its strategy:

Warren Christopher, the former secretary of state who served as the public face of the Gore team in the early days of the recount effort, said this week that he believed the film, “Recount,” was “pure fiction” in its portrayal of him as a weak strategist unprepared to stand up to the aggressive tactics of James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state who was the chief Republican adviser.

Baker helpfully adds that “I don’t think I was as ruthless as the movie portrays me, and I know he was not as wimpish as it makes him appear.” Well, I’m convinced!

Admittedly, perhaps Christopher absolutely getting his clock cleaned by Baker in his public actions and statements doesn’t reflect the passionate intensity he brought behind the scenes. I know how I’m betting! But, at any rate, it’s the public failures that matter, and it’s good that the film seems not to shy away from that.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 6 ] May 16, 2008 |

John Tyler, commending the soldiers who fought in the Second Seminole War, 16 May 1842:

The history of the hardships which our soldiers have endured, of the patience and perseverance which have enabled them to triumph over obstacles altogether unexampled, and of the gallantry which they have exhibited on every occasion which a subtle and skulking foe would allow them to improve is so familiar as not to require repetition at my hands. But justice to the officers and men now in Florida demands that their privations, sufferings, and dauntless exertions during a summer’s campaign in such a climate, which for the first time was witnessed during the last year, should be specially commended. The foe has not been allowed opportunity either to plant or to cultivate or to reap. The season, which to him has usually been one of repose and preparation for renewed conflict, has been vigorously occupied by incessant and harassing pursuit, by penetrating his hiding places and laying waste his rude dwellings, and by driving him from swamp to swamp and from everglade to everglade.

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Re-Raising MoDo

[ 16 ] May 16, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Camille Paglia: “I for one have renewed questions about the 1993 suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, Hillary’s former law partner and longtime friend, whose files were purged by Hillary’s staff before they could be examined for evidence.”

Heckuva job, Salon!

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Friday Cat Blogging

[ 87 ] May 16, 2008 |

Don’t judge him.

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Say What?

[ 0 ] May 16, 2008 |

Another McHistory lesson:

“I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.’’

Asked if he thought that former President Jimmy Carter, who struggled with the hostage crisis, was an appeaser, Mr. McCain replied: “I don’t know if he was an appeaser or not, but he terribly mishandled the Iranian hostage crisis.’’

The historical error in that first paragraph should speak for itself, but I’ll simply note that (a) the hostage release had been negotiated prior to Reagan’s inauguration; (b) the hostages were released literally minutes into his Presidency; and (c) if nothing else, the Reagan campaign was deeply concerned that the hostages not actually come home before the election in November. As for appeasing the religious extremists in Iran, I’ll leave it to John McCain’s memory to recall which of his favorite chief executives presided over a batch of illegal arms sales to the very people calling for “Death to America” throughout the early 1980s.

I understand that John McCain is going to continue to get away with saying flat-out-wrong shit about the contemporary Middle East, so I won’t expect the press to ask any serious questions about his understanding of America’s history in the region. But Christ….

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The Political Impact of Same-sex Marriage Rulings

[ 17 ] May 15, 2008 |

David Weigel says that “Politically, I suppose this is bad news for the Democrats, but not nearly as much as in 2004. For one, it’s not coming out of a candidate’s home state.” Tom Maguire, meanwhile, asserts that the California Supreme Court may have done the GOP a “favor.” As I’ve been through before, though, while I know I’m supposed to see 2004 results in which Bush underperformed structural models as proof of Karl Rove’s strategic super-genius the allegedly large effects of gay and lesbian marriage on the 2004 election have been greatly overstated. And needless to say, predictions about how the New Jersey court’s ruling were supposed to have a major impact on the 2006 elections will vanish down the memory hole.

I don’t really find this surprising. People overstate the extent to which people vote on social issues, and people who get outraged by decisions permitting gays and lesbians in other states to get married are overwhelmingly likely to be Republican voters anyway. I don’t think that the decision today will have any significant impact on the 2008 elections. It may increase turnout in California, but since the state isn’t in play it doesn’t really matter.

On a final point, Weigel over optimistically says that “John McCain voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment: He can’t demagogue this, and he won’t.” Yeah, just like how his alleged “federalist” opposition to Roe stops him from supporting every piece of federal abortion legislation to come down the pike. I don’t know what McCain will do but I am sure that an alleged commitment to “federalist” principles won’t stop him from doing anything.

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Sure… But Why?

[ 0 ] May 15, 2008 |

I think Bob Beckel is correct here; if Clinton wants the VP slot and displays a willingness to fight for it, she’ll get it. While I doubt that Clinton would be the best VP pick in a perfect world, the process of fighting off a vigorous effort on her part to land a spot on the ticket would probably be more destructive to Obama’s chances than any gains he’d achieve by nominating someone else.

But here’s my question; why would Clinton want to be Vice President? Wouldn’t Senate Majority Leader (and I suspect this could be arranged) be a more powerful position? Wouldn’t she have more influence over policymaking there than in the Vice President’s office? I mean this question in all seriousness; Clinton seems to be indicating that she’d like the spot, but I’m befuddled as to why she’d take it, much less fight for it. I suppose that it sets her up for another run in 2016, or perhaps more importantly precludes the emergence of a Vice Presidential rival that year, but marginal improvement on her chances in eight years would seem small recompense for the powerlessness of the VP slot. Let’s remember that Vice Presidents have exactly as much power as the President gives them, and if it’s true that Obama really doesn’t want Hillary (and I wouldn’t credit such assertions too heavily at this point), then he certainly isn’t likely to grant her much power in his administration.

Is there something I’m missing?

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California Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

[ 0 ] May 15, 2008 |

The California Supreme Court, six of whose seven members are Republicans, has ruled that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the legal benefits is unconstitutional (pdf). The opinion isn’t lucidly formatted but if I count the votes correctly it was a 4-3 decision [confirmed here.]

After finding that marriage is a fundamental right (a premise that should be uncontroversial), the majority holds that the policy cannot survive strict scrutiny: “the purpose underlying differential treatment of opposite-sex and same sex couples…cannot properly be viewed as a compelling state interest for the purposes of the equal protection clause, or as necessary to serve such an interest.” The narrow tailoring argument is I think where the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage benefits really runs into constitutional problems; it is hard to argue that there are state interests in marriage that cannot be advanced in any other way but to exclude same-sex couples. I will have more on the text later, but if I read it correctly the court seems to require, like the Massachusetts court ultimately did, that reserving the label “marriage” for different-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

I’ll have more on the decision later, but a few points should be made at the outset:

  • First, claims that the decision that the court “usurped” the legislature should be undermined by the fact that the legislature passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriage, but had the legislation vetoed by the governor, who urged the court to resolve the issue.
  • Second, you will read claims that the decision will spark a massive backlash; keep in mind that the same people made the same argument about judicial decisions in Massachusetts and New Jersey and were mostly wrong.
  • Finally, Kevin Drum notes that there will almost certainly be a vote in the issue in the November; hopefully a majority of citizens will not vote to repeal the rights of some California citizens.

another good excerpt from K-Drum. Sullivan excerpts the court’s explanation for why strict scrutiny should apply.

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Nukes in the ’58 Straits Crisis

[ 2 ] May 15, 2008 |

Hans Kristensen highlights some new information that has come to light on plans to use nuclear weapons to defend Quemoy from Chinese invasion in 1958:

Some of the veil covering U.S. nuclear war planning against China in the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis now has been lifted by a declassified military study.

It shows that on the day after the Chinese began shelling the Quemoy islands on August 23, 1958, U.S. Air Force Headquarters apparently assured Pacific Air Forces “that, assuming presidential approval, any Communist assault upon the offshore islands would trigger immediate nuclear retaliation.” Yet President Dwight D. Eisenhower fortunately rejected the use of nuclear weapons immediately, even if China invaded the islands, and emphasized that under no circumstances would these weapons be used without his approval.

Read the rest;c the longer post discusses planning for nuclear utilization against China through the 60s and again in the 1990s.

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A Gideon v. Wainwright For Forensics?

[ 0 ] May 15, 2008 |

Balko makes the case.

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Good Advice!

[ 3 ] May 15, 2008 |

I sure hope the GOP listens to Ed Morrissey:

Did the House GOP caucus take a hard line on pork-barrel spending or adopt policies to cut federal spending? No. Republican voters and conservative pundits begged the House and Senate caucuses to make dramatic breaks with the previous six years and adopt real conservative policies of fiscal responsibility and federalism. What did they do? They offered to stop earmarking only if Democrats followed suit, a deal everyone knew would never take place. Instead of appointing one single anti-pork activist to the House Appropriations Committee in Jeff Flake, they appointed Joe Bonner, a good Congressman but a well-known earmarker, and mostly because Flake’s anti-pork crusade irritates his colleagues.

I agree this is a great idea. Making clear that upper-class tax cuts and perpetual trillion-dollar war mean serious cuts to programs that people like: definitely something the GOP should campaign on, and vigorously. Don’t kid yourself, the public is just as concerned with earmarks as conservative bloggers, follows decisions about who should head the Appropriations Committee very closely and in particular you have to think that ensuring that members of Congress can’t bring back any funding to their districts will help them enormously in re-election battles. I also have to strongly recommend that the GOP structure its appeal to the phone booth where all of the principled supporters of “federalism” are currently meeting. I suggest that they start by repealing the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act,” which I’m sure will be strongly supported by the anti-choicers deeply committed to “returning abortion to the states.” This is pure gold!

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