Archive

  • WHEN "CHARACTER" WAS...

    WHEN "CHARACTER" WAS KING: As Donald Rumsfeld is finally thrown under the bus, it seems appropriate to return to Jon Chait 's recent account of the Rumsfeld-worship of the early Bush era. (The nadir was probably Midge Decter 's book , which seems to have been expanded after Seventeen rejected her initial article because it was too puerile and starry-eyed.) Here's one characteristic example: To plunge back into the conservative idealization of Rumsfeld, given what we know today, is a bizarre experience. You enter an upside-down world in which the defense secretary is a thoughtful, fair-minded, eminently reasonable man who has been vindicated by history--and his critics utterly repudiated. The pioneering specimen of the genre was a National Review cover story from December 31, 2001, by Jay Nordlinger, cover-lined "The Stud: Don Rumsfeld, America's New Pin-up," with a cartoon portraying the defense secretary as Betty Grable in her iconic World War II image. The central premise of the...
  • KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE MIDTERMS.

    KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE MIDTERMS. Here's an abridged version of an election wrap-up memo I've been sending around: The prevailing geographic trend for 2006 was a Rust-Belt realignment in which a cohort of Rockefeller-Ford GOP moderates was ousted by progressive Democrats who ran to their left. A major consequence of this mini-realignment is that both parties will be more ideologically and regionally coherent and, perhaps, more polarized as a result. The irony of this transformation is that conservatives who pushed an agenda that included the Iraq war, deficits, and social issue interference from the beginning of life (stem cell bans) to the end of life (Schiavo), have mostly survived, while their more moderate brethren suffered the casualties. This provides a potential opportunity when the newly-entrenched and embittered minority overreaches, as it did even when the moderates were still around to act, in theory, as a �check.� About 85 percent of Democratic gains at every level came...
  • LITTLE CHANGE IN...

    LITTLE CHANGE IN EVANGELICAL VOTE. I hate to go around puncturing blue balloons, but let's get this hype about a big shift in the white evangelical vote out of the way right now. When the Associated Press reported yesterday that "nearly a third" of white evangelicals voted for Democrats in Tuesday's elections, Dems got all excited, spinning this as something new. In fact, the percentage appears to be about the same as voted Democratic in the 2002 mid-terms (see the link). The spinners are getting milage out of comparing the evangelical vote in the 2004 presidential election to Tuesday's mid-terms. Apples and oranges, kids -- apples and oranges. --Adele M. Stan
  • BEYOND IRAQ.

    BEYOND IRAQ. A nice piece by Matthew Stannard in the San Francisco Chronicle lets panda-hugger Thomas Barnett raise a point hitherto overlooked in excitement at Rumsfeld's departure: his leaving heralds a positive change of direction on China policy. Says Barnett: "The fixation on China, which was strong with this administration when it came in and certainly remained strong with the China hawks under Rumsfeld and with Rumsfeld himself became the excuse for over-feeding the war force and starving the occupation force," he said. "The Air Force and the Navy probably get happier than they need to be ... and the Army and the Marines are left hanging." Shifting Pentagon thinking to a more realistic view of China -- as a potential opportunity rather than a strategic threat -- is closely related to the idea of reducing the Bush emphasis on the military as a tool of U.S. foreign policy. A lot of defense contractors with a vested interest in the outdated China-as-enemy approach might be unhappy...
  • HMM.

    HMM. Hey, Sid . You're happy. I'm happy. All God's children -- well, most of them anyway -- are happy, but what's the deal with this sentence? Reagan drew his raw material for "morning again in America" from an idealized viw of his boyhood in Dixon, Ill. where his father was the town Catholic drunk, rescued at last only by a federal government job. Does every little Illinois town have a Catholic drunk, a Methodist drunk, and a Unitarian drunk? Or is "Catholic" Sid-speak for "Irish"? Meanwhile, Josh makes a funny . --Charles P. Pierce
  • RAHMBO.

    RAHMBO. I think Ryan Lizza more or less has the goods in his rejoinder to Rick Perlstein 's piece , which had played down Rahm Emanuel and played up the netroots in assessing who should get the lion's share of credit for the Dems' House gains. Lizza points out that most of the candidates Perlstein cites as examples of netroots-backed and largely DCCC-ignored campaigns actually received plenty of financial and strategic support from the DCCC. Certainly, as in the case of John Hall in New York and many others, the DCCC attention and money came relatively late in the campaign as the races began to tighten and the DCCC expanded its roster of targets, and one can thus argue both that activists are the true source of such eventual victories and that the DCCC should have done more sooner; but each individual candidate always wants more resources from the DCCC and always thinks they're not getting enough fast enough, and weighing counterfactual claims becomes pretty difficult. At any rate, I...
  • ROVE, MANDATES, AND...

    ROVE, MANDATES, AND POWER. I agree with Matt and Garance (who has a new blog ) regarding Karl Rove -- 2006 should finally put to rest the idea that having a better record running national elections than Bob "Losing Pitcher" Shrum makes you some kind of super-genius. I would add to Matt's analysis and say that even as it turned out, the 2004 outcome was in context highly unimpressive -- a wartime incumbent in a decent economy against a candidate nobody regarded as strong should do a lot better than the small margin Bush eked out. (The justly maligned Shrum actually had a better campaign, in that context.) Matt also makes a good point , however, when he says that while Rovism was problematic as an election strategy it was more successful at achieving (admittedly appalling) policy ends. The one important insight Rove had is the fact that the "mandate" is a concept with no content and does not in and of itself produce any constraints. While the Broders and Kleins of the world were...
  • VIEW ON GATES FROM INSIDE THE CIA.

    VIEW ON GATES FROM INSIDE THE CIA. I just talked with someone we'll call a former senior intelligence official about the end of Rummy and the era of Bob Gates at the Pentagon. He's not very keen. Asked about Gates's rocky relationship with Dick Cheney, the ex-official comments, "That's for sure, with Cheney. Each time you think Bush realizes that Cheney doesn't give him the best advice, he just takes it. It's hard to see anyone defeating Cheney for Bush's mind." So what does that mean for changing course? Not going to happen. "The hope what's going to happen with Congress -- gridlock, and that's not such a bad thing. You know, when you're in a hole, stop digging." Also, what's it mean that Gates was accused of cooking intelligence in the 1980s? "Well," the source laughs, "that's what they're looking for, and so they've found the perfect guy." --Spencer Ackerman
  • GATES AND THE UNDEAD.

    GATES AND THE UNDEAD. Sometimes, I bore the youngsters with tales of the Iran-Contra scandal, and I scare them with stories of how the Undead -- Abrams , Negroponte , etc. -- from that festival of criminality still walk the earth. Because its crimes went largely unpunished, it's in Iran-Contra where we clearly see not only the embryonic stages of the rogue authoritarian Executive, but also the very worst ways of dealing with it. The investigations of Iran-Contra -- whether it was the toothless Tower Commission or the feckless congressional probe that bungled the job so badly that it provided even Ollie North a loophole to dive through -- were an abject failure of the Great Men Of The Beltway theory of dealing with serious constitutional problems, a/k/a the Lee Hamilton Is McGyver Proposition. Hamilton helped make sure that Iran-Contra didn't too badly discombobulate the status quo, and now he's working on the problem of what to do in Iraq. I am not reassured. Anyway, the scandal had...
  • WHAT NOW?

    WHAT NOW? William Arkin has some of the smartest comments I've seen on what the Democrats' victory should mean for foreign policy: There is not going to be an immediate pullout from Iraq. It will take time, and there will have to be a plan for what happens the day after. A stubborn administration will have to be convinced -- and then forced -- to accept the war's over. The Democrats will have to take responsibility for the consequences of their demand to end the war. In the ways of Washington, Democrats in the House will hold high-profile hearings to prove their point and punctuate their displeasure with the administration. It will be a tricky balancing act for them: Renewed accountability and oversight on the one hand to distinguish themselves from the rubber stamp; not appearing to be floundering and without a plan on the other. Certainly in the short term, expect Democrat warrior-than-thou action to shift defense spending to the little from the big: more direct support for the...

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