You are currently viewing archive for September 2006
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am beginning to feel sympathy for George Allen.

1. Last month when the "macaca" scandal broke, I asserted (in this post) that the incident demonstrated poor judgment and a lack of discipline. In fact, the unfortunate exchange illustrated that he was unsuited for the enormous demands of the presidency (and the exhausting campaign to be president). In essence, I called him out on one strike.

2. Then last week, in what can only be described as a bizarre exchange, a local reporter asked him if he was Jewish. He fumbled and fumed and denied the assertion. Later we learned that his mother is Jewish, and his grandfather, for whom Allen gained his middle name (Felix), survived the holocaust. To further confuse matters, in his answer to the original question, Allen alluded to his grandfather's "incarceration by Nazis," even as he claimed ignorance of his Jewish heritage. Then he later admitted that he knew of his Jewishness on the night of the debate--but had only recently learned of his lineage (presumably still in the process of digesting the revelation).

If there can be a lighter side to this excruciating series of misadventures, the whole story reminds me of the gag line from the old Steve Martin movie, the Jerk, (referring to Martin's character): "He was the son of poor black sharecroppers who never dreamed he was adopted."

Since the disclosure, the Senator has gone on to make a few lame jokes about ham sandwiches and Hebrew National hot dogs. No harm; no foul. Odd and disquieting but not damning.

3. But enter now, the piece de resistance, an accusation of racial violence. The astonishing charge accompanies a new string of allegations that Allen employed racial epithets in earlier times, which purport to confirm a racial insensitivity that has long been rumored.

An aside: we would have called these long-running shadowy imputations a "whispering campaign," if Allen were a more media-protected public official.

The charges: Allen used racial epithets back in the 1970s, and possibly even as late as the early 1980s, claim several ex-friends and acquaintances. Among the witnesses for the prosecution is celebrity Political Science professor and TV pundit, Larry Sabato, who admits not knowing Allen very well, but says he "knows that Allen used the n-word" (Washington Post story here).

Much more extraordinary, one witness (an old teammate) alleges that Allen, back in 1974, after a successful hunting trip, stuffed a decapitated deer's head into the mailbox of a random African American family (Washington Post story here).

Allen categorically denies all the charges. Could they be true?

The deer-head story seems a bit farfetched. As some have pointed out, that is the kind of rampage story that would have made the rounds on a football team, and there is no evidence that anyone else on the team ever heard an account of that before this week.

As for the racial epithet accusations, they are much more credible but certainly not conclusive. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post asserts that these stories have power because they resonate with what people in the know really believe about Allen. Added to Allen's history of reverence for the Confederacy, playing a Confederate officer in a movie (Gods and Generals) and opposition to the MLK holiday in Virginia, these new charges weave together a story that some have been drafting in their heads for years.

Yet, there is a sense of "piling on" here. Personal foul. Unsportsmanlike conduct. How much is too much? For ten years, Allen has represented the voters of Virginia in its two highest offices. He has a voluminous public record. Chasing down racial epithets from 1974 may be important, but what of his four years as governor and his six years as senator? Those histories strike me as better indicators of his ability to represent the state of Virginia and what the next six years of his tenure might look like. What about his stand on the issues of the day? What about Iraq?

As I have said, Allen is not presidential timber. But what of Virginia and 2006?

Americans have a keen (if sometimes quirky) sense of propriety and justice. I think the people of Virginia have seen just about enough of this national media feeding frenzy. I look for Allen's fortunes to bottom out very soon and begin a slow but steady uptick through Election Day. My prediction: Allen beats Webb in November.

One caveat: if the deer-head story proves to be True (with a capital T), Allen is justifiably finished in this country.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Once again the President has managed to put the Democratic party over a barrel on national security and the war on terror; this time on the detainee legislation. Yesterday, the Washington Post carried this AP story, "Democrats Sit Out Detainee Debate," in which the news reporter offered this piece of analysis to explain Democratic ambivalence and paralysis:

"Influencing their [Democratic leadership] strategy are memories of the 2002 defeat of Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., who was ousted by Republican Saxby Chambliss following a TV ad campaign that attacked Cleland's patriotism. Cleland, a severely wounded Vietnam veteran, had voted against creating the Homeland Security Department.

""Max Cleland _ having lost three limbs in Vietnam _ thought the voters in Georgia wouldn't fall for" such charges, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Richard Durbin, said Wednesday. "They did and he lost his Senate seat. We're not going to make that same mistake.""

This is an oft-repeated line from reporters, pundits and party faithful. But what is the point? What does the loss of three limbs or Vietnam have to do with the Department of Homeland Security? It is a non sequitur.

An aside: Robert Byrd criticized Cleland for voting for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 even as Cleland, according to Byrd, knew it was the wrong thing to do. If Byrd is right, then for no other reason, we are well rid of Cleland. Moreover, the resistance to the Homeland Security came mostly from the Labor lobby, a traditionally powerful interest group for Democrats. What was so courageous about bowing to the will of labor unions?

Republicans and Democrats need to stand up and speak from the heart and vote their consciences. If Cleland voted for the war when he thought it was wrong, he was wrong and deserved defeat. If he voted against the Homeland Security bill because he thought it was the right thing to do (not because he was gaining credibility with a group that could potentially further his national ambitions), then he went down to political defeat as a hero. That brand of personal sacrifice makes the system work.

We need statesman. If Democrats believe the detainee bill is a violation of American principle, and they vote for it anyway to evade the wrath of voters, then they deserve to lose.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Does the Bush administration get serious about national security around election time as a cynical ploy to shape the vote? Or does the administration understand that the most opportune time to present serious issues to Congress is during the campaign stretch run when Congressmen are most accountable to the people?

We have seen a plethora of stories purporting to explain how Karl Rove leverages elections with hot-button issues (implying that politics drives policy). I suggest that the Bush administration uses key moments of vulnerability to leverage politicians into tackling hard issues that ordinarily they are reluctant to address.

For example, consider the vote on the Iraq war prior to the election of 2002 in which the President garnered an overwhelming authorization to use force: Was he using the war vote to win the mid-term election? More likely, he used the mid-term election to pocket a resounding affirmation for his policy (taking advantage of politics to achieve policy).
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
According to the Des Moines Register the contest for the next Iowa governor is too tight to call. (The incumbant not running (he seems to have caught presidential fever)).

Two issues have generated a lot of discussion. Abortion: the Republican candidate Jim Nussle has vowed to push to ban all abortions unless the mother's life is in danger. Immigrant assimilation: the Democrat candidate Chet Culver wants to repeal Iowa's law that English is the state's official language. Read the full article here.

It will be interesting to see if these issues are posed as questions to the many presidential candidates now visiting Iowa in the run-up to the Presidential Caucuses.

For my view on abortion see here. On assimilation and English here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
If elected president of the United States in 2008, Hillary Clinton will make the least attractive and least affable chief executive of the modern media age. From the piercing laugh (oftentimes when nothing is funny) to the menacing scowl when the TV cameras catch her in unguarded moments, Mrs. Clinton tends to come across unnervingly manufactured, even soulless at times.

A sensitive person winces at the potential for insult and imitation, if professional comedians ever draw their bead on the Senator from New York. Essentially humorless, Mrs. Clinton projects a deep cynicism that seems unbecoming as the leader of the free world. Up to this point, her most memorable public utterance remains, "the vast right-wing conspiracy," when she famously identified a mysterious cabal engaged in a plot to bring down her and her husband.

Having said all that, if she is elected (and at this moment, she is the most likely person to be the forty-fourth president of the United States), America will endure; perhaps, we will even prosper.

Why she's probably going to win: 2008 looks like a Democratic year; the election will transpire in the sixth year of the war in Iraq. Even if things get dramatically better in the Middle East, Americans will remain sour on our actions for at least a decade. While the economy is arguably quite robust presently, the public seems less than satisfied. We are not likely to see any dramatic upswings in consumer confidence during the next two years. The two candidates who most likely would run strongest against the Democratic candidate, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, are unlikely to win the Republican nomination.

So, given the likely list of GOP nominees, the war and the Bush economy (that cannot seem to "get no respect") and factoring in the traditional restlessness of the American electorate at the presidential level, it follows that almost any Democratic nominee can win the general election (even John Kerry). If Hillary wants the nomination, she is likely to get it. If she gets the nomination, she is likely to win election.

Might she decline? Most American statesman, given the opportunity to be president, jump at the chance. For reasons of pride and personal satisfaction as well as public interest (granted, these two reasons are closely related; that is, most politicians believe that it is in the public interest for them to be in charge), the presidency is the irresistible and irreplaceable capstone to a political career in our nation.

Bottom-line: The Democratic nomination is Clinton's to lose or decline. My bet is that she accepts it.

See Part II for why we will endure; Part III will offer a scenario in which we might even prosper.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
No, I am not being sarcastic with this heading. Yesterday the House approved the spending transparency bill, changing House rules so that earmarks are explicit, with sponsor names attached. Instapundit has details here:

"PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: THE EARMARK-REFORM RULES CHANGE has passed the House 245-171. This is an excellent day.

Neither this, nor the passage of S. 2590 this week, means that the problem of wasteful -- and often corrupt -- pork has been solved. But it does mean that a much greater dose of transparency has been applied, and I think that's likely to make a very significant difference.

How big a difference, of course, will depend on the extent to which people continue to pay attention.

UPDATE: Here's a list of how they voted. You might want to let your Rep. know how you feel about his/her vote.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The White House has issued a statement from President Bush on the reform:

I applaud the House of Representatives for voting again this week in support of greater transparency and accountability in government. H.R. 1000 would shine a brighter light on earmarks by requiring disclosure of the sponsors of each provision. This reform would help improve the legislative process by making sure both lawmakers and the public are better informed before Congress votes to spend the taxpayers’ money.

I'm told the White House regards this as "a good first step." Indeed."

(An okie gardener again) Interesting to me is the breakdown of Ayes and Nays by party (from the House Clerk) Dems like darkness rather than light on spending.

Republican Y 199 N 24 NV 8
Democratic Y 45 N 147 NV 9
Independent Y 1
TOTALS Y 245 N 171 NV17
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In an earlier post I had some info on the legislation that has passed Congress creating a searchable database of Federal grant, etc, spending. Here. Now, here is information from Tim Chapman on a related vote to change House Rules so as to make spending legislation explicit, obvious, and with the sponsor's name attached. The prospects for this change being approved are dicey. Link here. A portion of the info is here:

"The more controversial measure is a proposed House rules change that would change the current culture of earmarking in Congress. Under the proposed change, all committee reports for appropriations bills, authorization bills or tax bills will be required to contain a list of all the earmarks in the legislation along with the names of the member who requested the earmark. Also, conference reports will be required to contain the same list with additions from the conference. Members who find a particular earmark inappropriate or egregious will have the freedom to highlight that project.

The House Rules Committee is holding a committee markup on the rule change tomorrow and a vote has been scheduled for Thursday. The vote will be close.

Appropriators (of course) have problems with the legislation. As many as 15 appropriators could oppose the measure as it is currently written. There is hope of winning some Democratic votes though. The place to look for Democrat votes will be amongst the 35 moderates — a remnant of the blue dogs — who voted for line item veto powers for the President. But these votes will not come easy."


» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Des Moines Register has a good article summarizing the current status of this House race in which the Democrats have a good chance to pick up a Republican seat. The Republican incumbant is not seeking reelection, but is in the race for Iowa governor. Read article.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
One of the crucial Senate races this fall is in Missouri where Republican incumbant Jim Talent is under a strong challenge by Democrat Claire McCaskill. See my earlier post on the race.

This week McCaskill gave a phone interview to reporters in which she made the following plan: give first-time home-buyers a tax credit; give parents of children in college a tax credit or deduction; give parents a child-care credit. (She also expressed the party-line that Republican tax cuts only benefit the rich.) See the article from the Kansas City Star.

Her assumption, and the Democrat assumption, seems to be that our money belongs to the government. They will give some of it back, or not take as much, if we do what they think is best with the money. Why not make it simpler: let us keep more of our money! Lower government spending and lower taxes and let the citizens decide how to spend their money. Plus, as I have pointed out here, high taxes undercut the American strength of voluntary societies.

Her proposals encourage mothers to work outside the home: why not cut taxes and help traditional families make the choice they want to make. And, tax credits for tuition do not benefit families with no children, nor do they benefit families whose children are not college-bound, nor do they benefit families whose children enlist in the military ceasing to be dependents. (Actually, her proposal helps to undercut one of the important tools the military has for recruiting.)
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Judging from the debate on Meet the Press, Rick Santorum is finished. Put PA in the Democratic column. Give Bob Casey credit for the intelligence to "go with the flow" and keep his mouth shut while Tim Russert debated Santorum. Russert successfully pinned him to George Bush and Iraq, which is not difficult and completely justified; Santorum is one of the President's most loyal friends and supporters in the Senate, and he will rightly win or lose on that association.

An aside: running for office against an unpopular incumbent seems like a lot of fun. Casey refuses to take responsibility for anything silly his party ever did. He is for a "balanced federal budget" and "killing Osama." How will he accomplish any of that? That is a discussion for another day. Mainly, he will be unlike Rick Santorum.

Undoubtedly, much ink will be spilled pointing out how Tim Russert leaned on this one--but all that is beside the point. Rick Santorum knew the rules of engagement going in. This was no surprise attack; he should have prepared for battle. If he brought his best, I must conclude, with some personal sadness, that the interesting political career of Rick Santorum is all but over.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Right now, if the public opinion polls are accurate, the American electorate holds President Bush in such low esteem that anyone associated with his administration seems tainted. No one is mentioning Alberto Gonzales as a potential governor and future presidential candidate. The recent boomlet for Condi Rice for 2008 has fizzled, partly as a result of her non-interest, but more importantly because the affairs of state seem so dismal. And Jeb Bush, once "the next in line" in the Bush dynasty, seems suddenly and completely finished as a prospective president. Is he really?

Maybe not. Jeb Bush continues to be an extremely popular person (and eminently electable candidate) in a very important state. Also, the death of Jeb Bush's viability assumes the permanence of disdain for Bush-43.

The only thing certain about American politics is that nothing is certain.

George Herbert Walker Bush lost in 1992 with 39 percent of the popular vote. At that point, for most Americans, Bush-41 epitomized an inept, insensitive and detached failed leader. Almost immediately, Americans felt guilty for their poor treatment of this good American.

An aside: I always get a chuckle when Democrats profess their great admiration for George Herbert Walker Bush. I suspect some of that is just talk, and some of it is a rhetoical foundation for criticizing the son, but I think to myself: we could've used some of that kind-spiritedness in '92. One possible lesson: you don't win elections extending your hand across the aisle and impressing the opposition as a decent and competent fellow.

How did guilt over handing George-41 his walking papers help the son? As more citizens came to believe that the elder Bush received a raw deal, the younger Bush grew in stature as a candidate for governor of Texas and then for president. Many Americans felt the Bushes deserved a second chance.

Assuming that the current President Bush has bottomed out in terms of public opinion (it is hard to imagine things getting worse; even in the current polls, he seems to be slightly on the upswing); assuming Iraq continues to be very bad for the foreseeable near term--but then settles finally into a lackluster stability, George Bush and his team will rebound a bit in the minds of Americans. After four (or eight) years of Clinton-44, there will be a natural reappraisal of the second Bush presidency. At that moment, Jeb may very well emerge as a familiar fresh face.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The second half-hour of "Brian Lamb Friday" on C-SPAN today featured the Washington Post editorial, "End of an Affair: It turns out that the person who exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame was not out to punish her husband." Asking the question: "Did any of this matter?" Brian read the entire piece on air (and you should read it all as well).

An excerpt:

"Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously."

A few remarks about the Post:

I continue to disagree with the Washington Post plenty. But it is increasingly clear to me that the paper is dedicated to maintaining a unique degree of objectivity in the more and more partisan climate of American journalism today. The Post is clearly the best-written, most balanced and most centrist of the great national newspapers.

Moreover, I suspect that very soon we will begin to hear the charge that the Post has "sold out" in order to curry favor with, and tap into, the increasingly important conservative consumer economy. When that happens, Americans should rally around the Post.