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A Break in the Action…

[ 0 ] January 9, 2008 |

A momentary pause in the NH action, which I too am watching with baited breath.

Over at Yglesias, there’s a lively discussion going on about The Wire. I came to the show late, but I would concur that it’s some damn good tv. Anyway, what’s particularly interesting about this discussion is that The Wire’s creator himself — David Simon — has chimed in. And he has got what to say:

The Wire is dissent; it argues that our systems are no longer viable for the greater good of the most, that America is no longer operating as a utilitarian and democratic experiment. If you are not comfortable with that notion, you won’t agree with some of the tonalities of the show. I would argue that people comfortable with the economic and political trends in the United States right now — and thinking that the nation and its institutions are equipped to respond meaningfully to the problems depicted with some care and accuracy on The Wire (we reported each season fresh, we did not write solely from memory) — well, perhaps they’re playing with the tuning knobs when the back of the appliance is in flames.

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[ 0 ] January 9, 2008 |

I probably should have reverted to my prior skepticism about how much bounce Obama would get out of new Hampshire. I still expect Obama to win narrowly, but…

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New Hampshire Open Thread

[ 14 ] January 8, 2008 |

At the time, I wasn’t as convinced by Jon Chait’s declaration of Hillary Clinton’s electoral morbidity as I would have liked to have been, largely because I wasn’t sure how high is post-Iowa bounce would be in a state where Clinton had a significant lead. But especially with the high turnout portending a blowout Obama win and a similar victory likely in S.C., I think it’s pretty close to over. On the Republican side, I agree that the pending McCain win doesn’t necessarily end the race given the opposition Huckabee and McCain face within the Republican establishment, but I admit that I’m also hard-pressed to identify the states than Romney is going to win.

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The Racism Of Ron Paul

[ 17 ] January 8, 2008 |

Color me less than shocked. Nor do I find Paul’s response very convincing.

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The Coming Non-Collapse

[ 14 ] January 8, 2008 |

Jack Balkin has an interesting post about the possibility of 2008 being a watershed election, and I agree with several of his points. Certainly, there was always an obvious contradiction between the Rove/Bush strategy to create a dominant Republican coalition and their base-mobilizing, 50%+1 government strategy, and it’s now clear that the chance of long-term national GOP dominance (which, like Rove’s reputation for being a political genius, was always overblown in any case) has vanished. And, just as certainly, Bush’s failures in office have titled the balance in favor of the Democratic coalition.

But with respect to Balkin’s implication that Bush has fundamentally “destroyed” the current GOP coalition, though, I just don’t see it. The current geographical and ideological makeup of the GOP coalition hasn’t become inherently non-viable, and outside the margins the components aren’t ripe to be permanently picked off by the Democrats. And while it’s true that the Republican primary seems to have opened up major divisions between cultural reactionaries and fiscal reactionaries, I think this is largely illusory. Essentially, it’s just the product of peculiar circumstances: the plain-vanilla Southern conservative who seemed like the frontrunner lost a Senate election with a racial slur thrown in, and the plain-vanilla Southern conservative who contested the primary seems to be using Weekend at Bernie’s as a campaign manual. Hence, the primary is being seriously fought between a recent convert to Reaganism and other candidates with little crossover appeal between the party’s factions. But I seem little reason to believe — especially if there’s Democratic administration with its likely unifying effect — that a better P.-V. S.C. couldn’t unite the party and present a strong challenge in 2012. While the Democrats may make some geographic inroads — especially in the Mountain West — I think that the current general geographic and ideological structure of the party system is likely to persist for a while.

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Bill Kristol: Man of Vision

[ 5 ] January 8, 2008 |

So as many folks are probably aware, Kristol launched his Times gig by misattributing a Michael Medved quotation to “the conservative writer Michelle Malkin” — a phrase that makes, in any event, about as much sense as “the gastronome Joey Chestnut.”

So in the spirit of kicking a deserving man while he’s down, here’s another nugget of crackerjack analysis from the Personification of Why Times Select was Actually a Brilliant Idea.

Some Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination. They shouldn’t be. For one thing, Michael Bloomberg would be tempted to run in the event of an Obama-Huckabee race — and he would most likely take votes primarily from Obama.

As someone once wrote, sadly, no:

NORMAN, Okla. — He arrived here for what seemed like it could be a big moment. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, eyeing a third-party presidential bid, joined Republican and Democratic elders at a forum to denounce the extreme partisanship of Washington and plot how to influence the campaign.

But even as the mayor gathered on Monday with the seasoned Washington hands on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, the surging presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama seemed to steal energy from the event and set off worry elsewhere among Mr. Bloomberg’s supporters.

Mr. Obama has stressed that he wants to move beyond gridlocked politics and usher in an era of national unity. A key organizer of the effort to draft Mr. Bloomberg for a presidential run acknowledged in an interview on Monday that that Mr. Obama’s rise could be problematic.

“Obama is trying to reach out to independent voters, and that clearly would be the constituency that Mike Bloomberg would go after,” said Andrew MacRae, who heads the Washington chapter of Draft Mike Bloomberg for President 2008. “An Obama victory does not make it impossible, but it certainly makes it more difficult.”

Shouldn’t Kristol be spending his time advocating for an American invasion somewhere? If he’s just going to make shit up, shouldn’t he be aiming a little higher than this?

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On Killing the NPT

[ 0 ] January 8, 2008 |

So, Michael Dobbs at the Washington Post, in his capacity as debate fact-checker, made the argument that Barack Obama’s claim that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “fell apart” during the Bush administration is a stretch:

There have certainly been a lot of reverses over the last seven years, particularly on North Korea, but things weren’t great under Clinton. It was under Clinton, after all, that India and Pakistan both tested nuclear weapons, which put a huge hole in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association sent an e-mail to Dobbs noting that neither Pakistan nor India were parties to the NPT, and that, moreover, the Bush administration has enjoyed significant reverses in several other regions on the non-proliferation issue. Dobbs reply was largely unresponsive (claiming that Pakistani nukes are a threat to the US is really sidestepping the issue), but did make the following argument:

Nevertheless, the twin nuclear tests by India and then Pakistan in 1998 came as a huge shock to the Clinton administration, and did much to undermine the international non-proliferation norms established by the treaty. Once those two countries went nuclear, other countries lost the incentive to abide by the treaty.

This may seem fairly arcane, but there’s really a lot going on here. Much of the problem revolves around the question of what, specifically, a treaty like the NPT is supposed to do. The “surprise” part of Dobbs argument above is simply a non-sequiter; whether anyone was surprised by the tests (and we certainly weren’t terribly surprised by the Pakistani test) is utterly irrelevant to whether the NPT was effective or not. The incentive bit is also wrong; neither Pakistan nor India were signatories to the NPT, so if incentives were changed it was by the international reaction to the tests, rather than the tests themselves. In this there was a clear, largely, and blindingly obvious distinction between the Clinton and Bush administrations; Clinton treated both states harshly, and Bush has essentially rewarded both (especially India). The Clinton reaction reinforces the NPT incentive structure, while the Bush reaction undermines it. Another way of putting this is that while the violation of a norm does tend to undermine that norm, the reaction to the violation is often just as important, and the reaction of Bush and Clinton was quite different. As such, Dobbs essentially has no case.

And then there’s all the other stuff that the Bush administration has done to undermine the NPT, including the inadvertent facilitation of North Korea’s nuclear program, the neglect of the CTBT (a treaty that established norms complimentary to that of the NPT), the drive for RRW (reliable replacement warhead), the various loose talk of developing new bunker buster nukes, and finally the establishment of a new non-proliferation norm that runs something like this: States that the US likes get to have nukes, and states that the US doesn’t like get bombed.

All in all, I’d say that the Bush administration has done a pretty effective job of killing the NPT. Moreover, given the contempt that the administration has had for any kind of international agreement that places any restrictions on US behavior, this is hardly surprising; I think they’re actually rather proud of their effort.

Jeffrey Lewis has more.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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Disagreeing with Steinem

[ 50 ] January 8, 2008 |

It’s a somewhat delicious coincidence that the “Iron my Shirt” scandal has broken on the very same day as the Times published Gloria Steinem’s op-ed column calling on women to vote for Clinton because she is a woman.

That said, I’ve got to agree with Melinda Henneberger here (words I thought I’d never say). Voting feminist does not necessarily equate to voting for Clinton. As much as I — and many other young feminists — would love to vote for her, she doesn’t support our progressive feminist values as strongly and vehemently as some of her competitors do. Maybe she once did, but that day has been lost in the morass of her “experience.”

And I don’t think Steinem does her any favors. In a way that feeds right into feminist critics, her column feels more like a scolding than a call to arms.

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Today in Racist Pandering

[ 3 ] January 8, 2008 |

Mike Huckabee advocates a return to Dred Scott-era citizenship rules for American-born children of illegal aliens. What’s even more pathetic is that he wants to join in crank litigation to claim that the 14th Amendment doesn’t actually say what it says:

Mr. Huckabee, who won last week’s Republican Iowa caucuses, promised Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge birthright citizenship, and would push Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remove any doubt.

The last line is rich; crazily enough, I must admit to harboring “doubts” about whether the constitutional command that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” in fact permits the United States to deny citizenship to people born in the United States. What’s the argument — that illegal aliens aren’t “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States? I don’t think that a complete exemption from the laws for millions of people is a good idea, but call me crazy…

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Bad Signs for Baze

[ 0 ] January 8, 2008 |

It’s been buried by NH primary news, but it’s worth noting that the Supreme Court heard Baze v. Rees yesterday. The case challenges Kentucky’s use of a three-drug cocktail to execute the condemned.

By all accounts, it does not look good for Baze, who is challenging the procedure. As Linda Greenhouse recounts this morning, even Justice Stevens appeared during oral argument to be heading down the path of least resistance; he suggested that he would avoid the constitutional 8th Amendment (cruel & unusual) question by holding that Kentucky is properly administering the drugs and therefore not causing the condemned undue pain.

Scalia, of course, would like us to return to the dark ages. From SCOTUSblog:

Justice Antonin Scalia, among the Court’s most conservative Justices, spoke out strenuously against any move to return the case for more evidence-gathering, suggesting that would only mean a continuing nationwide moratorium on executions with a resolution of the validity of the three-drug protocol put off; Scalia said “it could take years.” Scalia also was the one Justice who focused on a constitutional standard to apply to execution methods, saying that it is not a constitutional requirement that a state use “the method of execution that causes the least pain.” Those who wrote the Eighth Amendment, he said, were only concerned with punishment that amounted to actual torture, “the intentional infliction of pain….There is no painless requirement in there.”

So for the time being, it looks like the three-drug cocktail is likely to stick around, despite its defects. And we will continue to put down dogs more humanely than we execute humans.

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That’s Some Catch

[ 19 ] January 8, 2008 |

Kerry Howley gets it right in responding to John Edwards affecting Manliness in response to Clinton briefly crying:

Add to this useful list of the worst jobs in the world: consultant to any candidate with breasts. Show emotion and you’re weak; show strength and you’re a collection of servos. Respond to attacks with emotion and you’re “angry.” Respond with equanimity and you’re cold and distant. Shy from war and you’re too feminine to lead; embrace it and you’re the establishment’s whore. And the worst thing you can do? Acknowledge, in any way, shape, or form, the existence of sexism in these United States.


This also reminds me that I forgot to link to Howley’s NYT op-ed this weekend, which was also good. Yes, sure, in ideal world it would be nice if all candidates for public office had accomplishments entirely innocent of social conditions, but this is nothing like the actual world about American politics. Leaving aside even the most obvious examples like Bush, I don’t recall anyone saying that John McCain shouldn’t be considered for public office because he owes his place in office to his military service, and hos service (and subsequent visibility of his heroism) were partially a product of the fact that his father was an admiral and his grandfather was an admiral. It’s not surprising that women have often taken advantage of dynasties to gain political power; it’s exactly the same way in that men have exploited social connections, except that many of the networks available to politicians have historically been closed to women.

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Laugh Lines

[ 12 ] January 8, 2008 |

Heading into tonight’s New Hampshire primary with McCain and Obama as the frontrunners, I have to wonder….does anyone else find it funny that McCain keeps calling for change, yet his policy proposals ensure more of the same?

I know Romney, too, is touting himself as a candidate for change. All of which makes me want to short with derision. Is this some wonk’s strategy to undermine Obama’s calls for change?

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