Archive

  • PRIMARIES: HELPFUL. The...

    PRIMARIES: HELPFUL. The lad is correct here. (Good on you, lad!) And Exhibit A for the plaintiff comes from Massachusetts this year in which rookie Deval Patrick was forced to run against an establishment Democratic candidate (Attorney General Tom Reilly ) who'd already won several statewide races, and Chris Gabrieli , a progressive sort with more money than God. On the other hand, Republican incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey got her party's nomination unopposed and proceeded to embark on what will go down in history as the worst political campaign ever run that wasn't directed by Bob Shrum or Susan Estrich . Her public profile in the state not significantly higher than Patrick's was, Healey proceeded to define herself as Margaret Hamilton crossed with Mary Matalin -- but I repeat myself. If she'd been challenged in a primary, particularly if she'd been challenged from her right and had been forced to rely on her (apparently authentic) credentials as something of a moderate,...
  • MURTHA PUSHBACK.

    MURTHA PUSHBACK. I have some real ambivalence about this leadership race, but I do take issue with Rob and Blake . On Blake's point about John Murtha 's personal history of pork-barrelling and helping out family members, I have to confess that I rank such petty corruption issues way, way, way down on my list of things worth caring about. If one were to determine that the outcomes of a Murtha-led caucus would be seriously preferable to a Hoyer -led one to even a small degree, I find such issues vanishingly insignificant. (And I don't buy into the notion that his history is too toxic for Democrats to be able to afford handing him the leadership -- any leader's going to be pilloried by the GOP regardless, and Murtha's offenses aren't that remarkable.) Rob's point about the limited ability of House party leaders to actually affect Iraq policy is well-taken up to a point (and there's actually little indication that Murtha would be very great shakes on non-Iraq foreign policy issues );...
  • LEFT AND CENTER

    LEFT AND CENTER . Adding to what Matt and Blake have already written, I've long been curious as to precisely how a centrist Vermont governor became the voice of the Left in the United States. Although Dean's non-Iraq policy preferences don't place him as far right in the Democratic spectrum as Jack Murtha, they did leave him comfortably to the right of the establishment candidate of the Democratic Party in 2004. The war's dominance over the distinction between left and center found its way into the blogosphere, where self-identification as a " centrist " almost invariably seemed shorthand for support of the war. A similar dynamic is happening now. Because Murtha is outspoken in opposition to the war, he's become popular with the left wing of the party in spite of a predominantly conservative record. That's fine, as the Iraq War is the most important single policy question facing us today. However, it's also one of the issues on which the new Congress will have the least control over...
  • THE "WRONG" CANDIDATES....

    THE "WRONG" CANDIDATES. Michael Tomasky yesterday delivered an eloquent version of the challenge to the conventional wisdom that Democrats won the House by running conservative candidates. He's right, of course, although as I argued , the perception that the Democratic Party has moved a bit toward the center is not harmful, even if it just reaffirms the reality that this is and has long been a center-left party. My answer to this argument had been simply to point out that there were two kinds of districts Democrats won: moderate-liberal districts formerly represented by so-called moderate Republicans, and won by moderate-to-liberal Democrats, and a smaller number of conservative districts, such as North Carolina-11, where a moderate-conservative Democrat unseated a very conservative Republican. It's true, of course, that few of the newly elected Democrats are quite as far left as, say, John Conyers , but that's simply because the districts that are going to elect a Conyers already do...
  • NO TO MURTHA.

    NO TO MURTHA. Let me add to Matt Yglesias' doubts about the wisdom of choosing Jack Murtha as House Majority Leader. Forget about left/right: just like Pelosi, the guy is representing his district, where he is wildly popular. He's got two major problems, from my perspective. One: pork. The guy believes his job is to get as much bacon for his district as possible, whether it makes sense or not. That's why Indiana University of Pennsylvania hosts the John P. Murtha Institute for Homeland Security . Two: the Abscam scandal, where he was caught on tape in an FBI sting involving a fake Arab sheikh who offered $50,000 in cash to eight members of Congress. To his credit, Murtha said he was "not interested" in the money, but he did invite the man to invest legally in Johnstown, the largest town in his district and a casualty of the collapse of the steel industry in western Pennsylvania. The taint of the scandal has never left him, and I think Republicans would have a field day with it if he...
  • THE TROUBLE WITH THE SENATE.

    THE TROUBLE WITH THE SENATE. A few days back, Brad Plumer highlighted this excerpt from a New York Times piece on Iraq oversight; he was focusing on something else in the excerpt, but my attention turned to the mention of Jay Rockefeller : It is unclear how far chairmen like Mr. Rockefeller may push the administration to obtain more information about secret programs. The committee, like many others, has often degenerated into partisan rancor over the past two years, and Mr. Rockefeller, like other incoming chairmen, has told colleagues that one of his priorities is to restore the committee�s historic bipartisanship. Needless to say, everyone's making happy talk like that right now for public consumption and one should avoid taking it all at face value. That said, Rockefeller's political fecklessness as the leading Democrat on the Intelligence committee is by now a matter of established empirical fact. (He's "a wimp � not confident of his own judgments,� was how one source put it to...
  • THE KRAUTHAMMER FALLACY.

    THE KRAUTHAMMER FALLACY. I've been pushing back here quite a bit on the "Democrats won, but as conservatives" meme already, but a few reporters and other people have asked me to explain the riddle of how it can be that both congressional parties, as a result of last week's election, could actually have moved to the right. Here is Charles Krauthammer , for example, from Friday's Washington Post : Democratic gains included the addition of many conservative Democrats, brilliantly recruited by Rep. Rahm Emanuel with classic Clintonian triangulation. Hence Heath Shuler of North Carolina, antiabortion, pro-gun, anti-tax -- and now a Democratic House member. The result is that both parties have moved to the Republican X = 55right. Is that possible? Actually, yes. The simplest way to see that is to imagine a basket of watermelons with one cantaloupe in it, and a second basket full of peaches. Move the cantaloupe from the first basket to the second and, voila, the average per-fruit weight...
  • BUCKLE UP FOR...

    BUCKLE UP FOR BI-PARTISAN SAFETY. Recognizing fully that internet polls are non-scientific and highly skewed toward (younger, more cynical?) online readers, I thought this question posed by Newsweek was quite interesting in its results. If the public is right, time to buckle-up for the bumpy ride these next two years. --Tom Schaller
  • THE EXECUTIVE QUESTION.

    THE EXECUTIVE QUESTION. I understand completely the political reasons why we won'd have a chance to vote for the guy who helped lead Overseas Democrats For Udall 30 years ago when I was pitching Mo to people on Milwaukee's South Side. However, Russ Feingold 's departure pretty much guarantees that the issue of lunatic Executive caesarism is not going to play a big role among the people seeking to be the next ones to run the Executive branch. ( Pat Leahy , it should be said, is making very intriguing mouth-noises on the subject, as regards the new Democratic congressional majorities.) I still believe that one reason Michael Dukakis didn't hit Iran-Contra harder in 1988 -- other than the obvious one that his campaign was run by half-bright stoats -- is that he could envision needing to develop an "off the books" capacity himself to respond to some future crisis. Nobody runs for president without feeling deeply in their ambitious little souls that they're going to need a dollop of...
  • NYT Attacks Wall Street Protectionism

    For those who think that I hate the NYT, I have a big surprise; some gushing praise. An editorial in today's paper hits a real home run, trashing efforts to water down the corporate accountability rules in Sarbanes-Oxley. The editorial gets it exactly right, putting Wall Street's quest for weaker rules in the context of global competition for business. As the editorial notes, Wall Street is losing market share, not because of accountability rules, but because it charges too much. (Ever wonder where those $100 million paychecks come from?) Corporate management decides where to list shares, arrange mergers and buyouts, and carry through other financial business. Wall Street hopes that by weakening rules that protect investors against management abuses, it can make itself a relatively more attractive market to corporate management. This is a protectionist move in the same vein as the steel industry's efforts to get higher tariffs back in 2001. [I previously had said in this post that...

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