Archive

  • UNCIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS.

    UNCIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS. Andrew Bacevich has a nice discussion of the dysfunctional state of civil-military relations during Donald Rumsfeld's term at Secretary of Defense. State of Denial has served to turn over a nasty log in Washington. Donald Rumsfeld's tenure as Secretary of Defense has two achievements worth remembering. After the Clinton years, someone needed to bring the military to heel. Uniformed active duty officers were, publicaly and privately, questioning the moral character and leadership ability of the president of the United States, something that ought not happen in a context of healthy civil-military relations. It was appropriate and necessary for Rumsfeld to knock some heads when he took over as SecDef. Unfortunately, Rumsfeld and his lackeys went beyond a sensible policy of re-establishing civilian supremacy and adopted an attitude that rejected not only the political pretension of the military leadership but also the practical expertise that senior officers...
  • SPOTLIGHT ON DENNY.

    SPOTLIGHT ON DENNY. The Washington Times editorial is bad enough, but the real sign that things are beginning to fall apart for the House leadership is this new John Boehner interview in which the majority leader makes it very, very explicit that this is all on Hastert. "I believe I talked to the Speaker and he told me it had been taken care of. And, and, and my position is it's in his corner, it's his responsibility." There's one superficial factor that makes this all even more treacherous for the GOP than the mere, damning facts would have in any case: As many have known for a while but we've all been seeing in painful real time over the past few days, Hastert the avuncular behind-the-scenes leader is truly dreadful on television or speaking extemporaneously. He's the absolute last person you'd want trying to delicately extricate his party from a scandal or effectively push back against attacks. And loyalties to him seem to be running thin. UPDATE: Boehner's been on a real candid-on...
  • GOTV FOR YOU...

    GOTV FOR YOU AND ME. With the GOP engaged in an implosion so total that one imagines it must be purposeful (did Bill Frist really call for rapprochement with the Taliban? I mean, he's actually right, but yikes), there are few refuges left for electoral pessimists like myself. But of those remaining, the GOP's vaunted GOTV advantage looms largest. As the story goes, their deployment of corporate marketing techniques -- merging different databases to identify Republican voters within Democratic strongholds, or microtargeting -- combined with their 72-hour program offers them a nearly unbeatable advantage on election day. Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallstein 's One Party Country -- the bible for electoral pessimists -- argues that the Republican Party's microtargeting abilities have grown so great that traditional polling is almost useless in predicting voting outcomes. The GOP can turn many, many more of their voters out to the polls, so even if both parties have 49 percent of the...
  • HUMANITARIAN.

    HUMANITARIAN. I think Yglesias goes too easy on Eric Posner's Washington Post op-ed attack on humanitarian intervention. Posner invokes Somalia, Kosovo, and Iraq as evidence that "experience shows that humanitarian war is an oxymoron." This can fairly be argued of Iraq 2003, but I'm unaware of any compelling evidence that the intervention in Somalia in 1992-3 failed to increase living standards for Somalis, at least for as long as the United Nations forces stayed. Certainly, the intervention failed to establish a state or resolve the problems of Somalia in the long term, but this is a different thing than saying it failed. The success of an intervention must be measured against the likely course of events in the absence of action, not in reference to whether it permanently solves a problem. In the case of Kosovo, Posner's argument is even weaker. Posner writes "the Kosovo intervention, although regarded as a success in some quarters, has cost billions of dollars, required a seven-year...
  • Economists on Drugs

    One of the favorite examples of economists who argue that the consumer price index (CPI) is missing quality improvments in new goods and services, and therefore understating the increase in living standards, is the great new drugs that have been developed in the last quarter century. That is why it is interesting to read an article in the Washington Post reporting on a study showing that the new generation of antipsychotics (price tag $10 billion a year) is not better than the old drugs that they replaced. It sounds like the CPI has been overstating the increase in living standards. -- Dean Baker
  • The Old "Social Security and Medicare" Trick

    In a piece ironically titled "A Party Without Principles," Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby performed the old "Social Security and Medicare Trick." BTP regulars know the routine well by now. The basic story is that all the projections show that the Social Security program is fundamentally sound. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the program can pay every penny of benefits through the year 2046, with no changes whatsoever. The changes needed to keep the program fully funded over its 75 year projection period are no larger than the changes made in each of the decades from the fifties to the eighties. While Social Security is projected to be sound long into the future, the government projections show costs for Medicare and Medicaid skyrocketing. This is due to the fact that they show health care costs in general skyrocketing. Given these projections, serious people would look to the projected health care cost explosion and try to determine if there is...
  • THE SUBSTANCE ABUSE DODGE.

    THE SUBSTANCE ABUSE DODGE. As Bob Packwood discovered a few years back, now that substance abuse is (correctly) viewed as an illness rather than a sign of moral degeneracy, one can blame one's actual moral degenaracy on substance abuse to soften a public fall from grace. Not any old substance will do, mind you: crack might turn off suburbanites, heroin might evoke the specter of AIDS, and coke might seem too rockstarrish. Plus, then you're admitting to breaking the law. Alcohol, on the other hand, has the middle-American acceptability (and legality) to strike the right balance (provided that plying your under-age pages with alcohol wasn't part of your attempts to seduce them). Thus it is no surprise that Mark Foley , after switching from denying his taste for 16-year-old underlings to admitting to them, has found the true culprit in a bottle. I guess drunk IMing is the new drunk dialing. --Ben Adler
  • WHEN IN DOUBT,...

    WHEN IN DOUBT, BLAME THE QUEERS. If you ask Newt Gingrich why the Republican House leadership kept mum on the predatory practices of Rep. Mark Foley , he'll tell you it was the fault of all those gay people who don't like to be called names. At least, that's pretty much what he told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday: WALLACE: But during all those months, they left Foley in the House Republican leadership. They left him as the head of the congressional caucus dealing with exploited children. No second thoughts about that? GINGRICH: Well, you can have second thoughts about it, but I think, had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would have also been accused of gay-bashing. I mean, the original notes had no sexual innuendo, and the parents did not want any action taken. WALLACE: Well, how would it have been gay bashing? GINGRICH: Because it was a male-male relationship... I now must interrupt your guffaw to point out that this comment, as lame as it may appear to...
  • PHOENIX SORT OF RISING, OR NOT.

    PHOENIX SORT OF RISING, OR NOT. Certainly Ari Berman 's big piece in The Nation on the Democracy Alliance -- the would-be white knight group of liberal super-donors who set out to fund the vast left-wing conspiracy -- is a must-read (and, frankly, a somewhat courageous feat on Ari's part). There's a lot going on in his account, and certain strands of argument he makes about what's gone wrong with the Alliance I find more convincing than others. But the whole piece is very informative and conveys an apt sense of frustration about the whole thing. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • EXFOLEYATING.

    EXFOLEYATING. Noam Scheiber highlights (with suitable amusement) the early signs that Republicans are going to be dogged by "concerned citizens"-style groups regarding Foleygate; meanwhile, Josh Marshall makes a big-picture case for why this scandal is going to devastate the GOP. His point about Tom Reynolds deserves elaboration. Reynolds is caught in the middle of the cover-up story, which is bad enough, and even worse given his crucially important role as NRCC chairman. But Reynolds's perch as head of the campaign committee was already becoming extremely uncomfortable, given that his moderate New York district seat is far from safe. As The Hill noted over the summer, Reynolds has been airing reelection ads in his district that take pains not to mention his party affiliation -- an awkward tactic for the guy who's in charge of boosting his party's national prospects this fall. Foleygate just adds another huge headache to an already distracted NRCC head. --Sam Rosenfeld

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