Archive

  • THE STEM WEDGE.

    THE STEM WEDGE. Apropos of my earlier post , Jim Talent can probably consider himself lucky that Claire McCaskill 's only throwing Michael J. Fox at him. If you want to see some real chin music, take a look at this ad on a similar theme, which is being run against Josh Marshall 's old pal, Count (Chris) Chocola , and in a number of other races across the country. (Thanks to the redoubtable Mr. TBogg for the original tip ). The beauty of stem-cell research as a wedge issue is that it not only forces the Republicans to defend the most radical of their Christianist allies -- note that the star-studded extravaganza from Missouri doesn't even mention religion, but has Jesus Caviezel mumbling Aramaic in front of some graven image -- but it also subtly positions the party as grotesquely anti-science. There are still enough people alive who remember that scientific achievement was one of the ways we were going to defeat the godless Russian Commies. Hell, we put a man on the moon and invented...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PAST IMPERFECT.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PAST IMPERFECT. Historian Jason Sokol assesses Deval Patrick 's historic gubernatorial bid in Massachusetts (a race that gets more brutal by the week) in the context of the Bay State's checkered racial past. --The Editors
  • KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE, HOLD ON.

    KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE, HOLD ON. My buddy Lawrence Kaplan tries to salvage the Bush Doctrine from the Iraq war. His argument is that critics of the war risk learning too much from the failure in Iraq: the antidote to tyranny is democracy, even if it didn't turn out so well in Baghdad, and dangerous dudes will still need to be preempted. One really, really important -- and revealing -- aspect of this argument is shown by its very absence. A word that doesn't appear in Lawrence's piece is al-Qaeda. You remember them: they killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, and they're into killing many, many more. The Bush Doctrine started as a way to stop them. In his January 2002 State of the Union, Bush opted to conflate the threat from al-Qaeda into a threat from Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il and Ayatollah Khameini . It wasn't just cynicism, it reflected a misdguided but deep belief, as Doug Feith later put it, that "Terrorist organizations cannot be effective in sustaining themselves over long...
  • EVERYBODY'S A MCCAINIAC.

    EVERYBODY'S A MCCAINIAC. Yglesias relates this little gem: He has a long time proclivity for suggesting that someone like James Baker or Brent Scowcroft might make a good envoy to try to re-start negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Later, McCain qualifies that to say he "would appoint someone to go to the region who was well regarded: Scowcroft, Baker, Kissinger, George Mitchell, Tony Zinni, Bill Kristol, Randy Scheunemann . Uh... right. This statement is about as McCain as McCain can get. By suggesting envoys as far apart as George Mitchell and Bill Kristol (!!!?!), he's letting everyone who has an interest in this question know that he's on their side. To liberal hawks he's a careful, reasonable liberal hawk. To conservorealists he's a staunch "Poppy" Bush realist. To sociopathic neocons, he's a raving fellow traveller. Moreover, every reader can dismiss everyone else's favorite choice as electoral posturing. Heck, he might as well toss James Dobson and Noam Chomsky on...
  • ANSWER RECORD.

    ANSWER RECORD. The moving -- and, it must be said, very tough -- commercial on behalf of Missouri Democratic senatorial candidate Claire McCaskill featuring Michael J. Fox has sent the usual suspects into orbit. But it's done more than give Rush Limbaugh another apparent excuse for a couple hundred more milligrams of high dudgeon. It's required the GOP to muster all of its celebrity star power to put together this ad , which, while not aimed at the senatorial race per se, is pretty clearly a response to the Fox spot. So, if you're keeping score at home, it is now Alex P. Keaton vs: a) the star of Mel Gibson 's Galilean snuff film; b) a guy who was lucky to escape the New England Patriots alive; c) the best player on a worthless baseball franchise; d) Mrs. Raymond , and e) the pitcher who singlehandedly turned the 2004 World Series toward the Boston Red Sox. (Thanks again, Jeff .) The ad raises a number of serious questions. First, what language is Bloody Gobs o'Meat Jesus speaking...
  • HONESTY.

    HONESTY. Almost all of the state reporting on the Maryland Senate contest has focused on race. Given that Republican Michael Steele is black and Democrat Ben Cardin is white in a state with one of the largest and some of the most affluent African-American populations, a certain degree of focus on the subject is surely warranted. And finally, one of the candidates has uttered something noteworthy on the issue. Steele was asked earlier this week by The Washington Times if he thought race was a factor in the election. After talking about his chances with black voters, the Republican nominee turned the focus onto his own partisans (which is to say, mostly whites), and said : Will [race] be a factor in this race? Absolutely it will. You have to go into this race with your eyes wide open. You can't sit back and pretend that everybody is going to love you just because you are a member of their party or you hold their values. There's no other way to read it: Steele is saying there are certain...
  • THE GOODS ON BROOKS.

    THE GOODS ON BROOKS. JPod is, it must be said, genuinely and intentionally amusing here , mocking Andrew Sullivan 's verbose blog responses to David Brooks 's review of his new book. But amidst those posts on Sullivan's site is this email from a reader that seems to have the goods on Brooks's ultra-condescending schtick: Reading David Brooks' review of your new book yesterday, I found myself focusing on the same passage that you highlighted in your response: "When a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn't know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith." Something about the passage struck a chord in the memory. It only took about ten minutes of googling to find the following passage from a column he wrote for The Atlantic in December of 2001: "We in the coastal metro Blue areas read...
  • WOMEN IN JOURNALISM....

    WOMEN IN JOURNALISM. I certainly suggest folks read my friend Dana Goldstein 's article on why Gail Collins , the retiring editor of The New York Times op-ed page, didn't do more for women in punditry. Dana takes the moment to meditate on the sorry state of women in political journalism. As she knows all too well from hanging out with the DC punditry set, to suggest our profession lacks gender equity is sort of akin to noting the vegetarian entrees at a steakhouse. Dana's argument is, in effect, to push the spotlight away from magazine staffs and towards elections: Journalism is essentially an observational profession, and it makes sense that many women writers feel detached from a political world that not only showcases very few women, but also relegates �women�s issues� (these days, anything domestic in both senses of the word, whether public education, health care, issues of work-life balance, or student debt) to second-class status. Indeed, we remind ourselves far too infrequently...
  • A LIGHT IS FLICKERING.

    A LIGHT IS FLICKERING. Twelve to eighteen months now, and they can stand up and we can stand down. Maybe. General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad promised that within that timeframe, the Iraqi government will a) disarm the militias, b) quell the insurgency, and c) reach political compromise on the sectarian divisions that have torn the country apart. No word yet, of course, on whether it will also give every Iraqi a pony. The Bush administration has proven itself very good at meeting its deadlines in Iraq. The June 30, 2004 handover of "sovereignty" took place ahead of schedule; the January 2005 election went off as planned; so too did the October 15, 2005 constitutional referendum and the December 15, 2005 election of a permanent government. What got lost in the mix was the meaning of these dates -- that is, in order to meet every benchmark, and thereby demonstrate "success" in Iraq for a news cycle or two, the administration joyfully overlooked the fact that each of these...
  • CENTER OF GRAVITY.

    CENTER OF GRAVITY. The consensus is that Baghdad is the center of gravity for the conflict in Iraq. The military has tried to spin this in a positive way; the battle of Baghdad is where the insurgency can be defeated. But this isn't really what's going on. Baghdad is a center of gravity, but not for the insurgency. Carl Von Clausewitz introduced the "center of gravity" concept in On War . More or less, it refers to the source of a combatants' strength, which, if captured or destroyed, would deprive an enemy of the means to continue. It can represent anything from a battlefleet to a province to more nebulous concepts like morale and legitimacy. Were the battle of Baghdad successful, the insurgency would be deprived of Baghdad as a base of operations and presumably as a target, but it wouldn't be destroyed. Most insurgencies don't expect to slug it out on the streets of the national capital, preferring to operate in areas where central authority is weak. Baghdad can't be the center of...

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