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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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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 15, 2008 |

Jimmy Carter, speaking of the Equal Rights Amendment, 15 May 1980

Equal rights is more than just equality of pay; it’s an opportunity to receive an equal education, equal training, equal job opportunities, equal treatment under the law, equal access to the kind of realization of the use of talent which God has given us all, and a sense among men and women that the time for official, legally condoned discrimination has been eliminated in our country. This kind of continued discrimination is a source of embarrassment and a legitimate source of shame for those who are responsible for the Nation’s affairs. It’s almost unbelievable that the ERA has not yet been ratified.

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Moral vs. Procedural

[ 26 ] May 15, 2008 |

Chris Bowers does a fine job with the popular vote question:

The problem with this popular vote total is that it is a moral argument about the will of the participants in the Democratic nomination campaign, not a legal argument over the definition of the winner of the nomination campaign. Legally, the Democratic nominee is determined by delegates, not by popular vote totals. For a moral argument about the popular vote–a.k.a. the will of the nomination campaign electorate–to carry weight, it needs to be as inclusive as possible in its vote totals. Instead, this vote total pretends that the over 550,000 caucus goers in Washington, Nevada, Maine and Iowa, not to mention the quarter of a million uncommitted voters in Michigan, didn’t actually have candidate preferences in the nomination campaign just because those candidate preferences weren’t recorded. Excluding those 800,000 participants in the nomination campaign from a popular vote toal, especially when exit polls and turnout numbers make close estimates on those preferences quite simple, renders that popular total pointless. Since popular vote totals are statements of moral value, mass exclusions of this sort drains any popular total of all its moral force.

The popular vote total in the nomination campaign is a moral argument about fairness, intra-party democracy, and legitimacy. It isn’t even a moral argument that many people accept, given, among other issues, the variances in voter eligibility from state to state, the various “legitimacy” of the nomination events used in the totals, and the staggered primary calendar itself.

Which is pretty much a more eloquent version of what I wrote here.

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[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

Probably not ideal to refer to a professional journalist as “sweetie” on the same day that you receive an endorsement from NARAL. A “bad habit” indeed; if I ever did it in the classroom I’d be rightly sanctioned.

…I agree with Erik that some folks in comments seem to be overly apologetic for Obama. When I say that I would face sanction for calling a woman “sweetie” in class, I’m dead serious; even if the woman weren’t offended, it would still be inappropriate and reflect a poor classroom environment. This isn’t dread “political correctness”. “Sweetie” is belittling in a way that “buddy” really isn’t, and it really shouldn’t be used in any kind of professional setting, except perhaps between those who are exceptionally familiar.

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[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

NARAL and John Edwards come out for Obama. The former’s explanation here. It obviously makes sense; Obama and Clinton have indistinguishable records on reproductive rights, McCain has an extremely bad record, and Obama will be the nominee, so it’s a pretty obvious move. NARAL has made some shaky decisions (*Lieberman*, cough), but this one is good.

…More from Ann Friedman.

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A Little Respect, Please

[ 0 ] May 14, 2008 |

I would like to join Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee in scolding certain bloggers who yesterday chose to make light of President Bush’s ominous warnings of a disaster in Iraq. If we have learned nothing else from his seven years in office, we have learned that when President Bush speaks about Iraq or the greater Middle East, his insights must be treated with the respect to which only clairvoyants are entitled.

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