Hillary's Not Newt; Powell's Not Perfect

  • December 21st, 2000 -- Souring on the Citrus Commission
    Last month when Jeb Bush recused himself from sitting on the state Elections Canvassing Commission, he tapped Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford, a Democrat, to take his place.


    At the time, I was a little surprised that this pick didn't draw a touch more critical attention. Why? Crawford had supported Jeb's gubernatorial candidacy in 1998 and he supported W. for president this year. In my neck of the woods we have a name for Southern Democrats who supported George W. Bush. We call them Republicans.


    Now comes word that Crawford is in line for a promotion. He's going to head the Department of Citrus (presumably a job that exists only in Florida.) A commission dominated by Jeb's appointees has tapped Crawford for the job, which pays $237,270 a year. That's about twice what Crawford and all the rest of the state's highest elected officials, including Jeb, currently makes.


    State Dems are saying it's payback. Frankly, to me, that charge doesn't seem like much of a stretch.


    In the none-too-subtle words of the St. Petersburg Times:

    Crawford's move toward the Citrus Department job was swift: He applied Monday, and the state's Citrus Commission voted Tuesday to offer him the position. The official salary range for the post is $90,000 to $290,000. In a statement Tuesday, Crawford said he was "honored" to be offered the job, and looked forward to discussing it further.


    Job well done, Bob!


    Why isn't this story getting picked up elsewhere?



  • December 19th, 2000 -- Hillary's Not Newt
    Let's turn now to the increasingly notorious Hillary Clinton book deal. My understanding was always that Newt Gingrich got in trouble for his book deal because he basically cut the deal with Rupert Murdoch's lobbyist. It wasn't an open bid. It was a sweetheart deal.


    Hillary's book deal was the product of an open bid. So what exactly is the problem?


    Yes, she should probably recuse herself from legislation directly affecting Viacom. But can't she write a book? Shouldn't she be able to make money from it? (Trust me: I know some folks at the Clinton Legal Expense Trust. They really need the money.) Does anyone doubt that a book in which Hillary discusses her marriage will sell about a gazillion copies? Does anyone doubt that it will sell more copies than Newt Gingrich's tome about third-wave, information age, opportunity-society claptrap and how it relates to dinosaurs?


    No, I didn't think so.


    Maybe there's something wrong with the book deal. Maybe she shouldn't have accepted an advance. But Newt's book deal just doesn't seem like an apt comparison.





  • December 19th, 2000 -- Powell: Good Guy, Bad Doctrine
    I'm ready to give George W. his due when he makes a good call. I don't expect this to happen very often. But picking Colin Powell was a very solid decision.


    But let's get something straight. Great Guy, Lousy Doctrine. The Powell Doctrine essentially says: if you only fight fights you can win easily, then you'll win every fight. That's not a doctrine, it's a tautology, a truism. It gives you no guidance for ascertaining or protecting national interests.


    Like well-designed scientific experiments, good doctrines must be capable -- in their nature -- of failing. And Powell's isn't. Because you don't know what you should have done, but didn't.


    Still with me?


    Anyway, it's a doctrine that might work for a Secretary of Defense, but not a Secretary of State. Approve Powell, not his doctrine.


  • December 18th, 2000 -- Gore in Four?


    Here are a few thoughts on the Gore in Four question.


    1. On the question of the quality of Gore's campaign. Most of my friends say Gore ran a crummy campaign. More important, the one person whose political opinions I respect more than anyone else (I'll him Mr. X) says Gore ran a crummy campaign. However, consider this question: How many losing candidates do you know who ran good campaigns? How many losing candidates do you know of, of whom it was said: "Man! He lost big. But damn did he run a great campaign!" Right. None.


    This doesn't mean Gore didn't run a crummy campaign. Just that it's very hard to evaluate a campaign through the prism of it's own defeat. (Of course, I too often thought that Gore ran a crummy campaign and said so here and here among other places. On the other hand, Gore may not be president-elect, but he did actually win the popular vote -- and most probably, the popular vote in Florida too. So who knows.)


    2. When you're reading an article about whether Dems will support Gore for another run in 2004 don't forget to use the de-knife-in-the-back-spin formula. (Formula: count number of quotations from politicians who themselves want to run in 2004. Double this number. Now divide the number of paragraphs in the article by this doubled number. If the answer is less than one throw away the article; between one and two, take it with a grain of salt; over two, take it seriously.)


    2b. Quotes by shameless, stab-in-the-back, self-promoters like Bob Torricelli who may be in denial and think they can run in 2004 count for THREE under the de-knife-in-the-back formula.


    3. It's just too early to tell. Go back to what people were saying about Dick Nixon in early 1961. No one had any idea what 1964 would be like or 1968 would be like. All speculation right now makes no sense.


    4. Michael Dukakis is not a realistic analogy for Gore. Dukakis was utterly untested politically outside the provincial environs of Massachusetts. Gore's been in national politics for a quarter century. Plus, Dukakis completely sucked as a candidate and Gore only kinda sucked. Not comparable.


    5. Pundits are ignoring the real angle for a possible Gore comeback. With deft management (okay, not that likely) Gore could turn his primary disability this year into an advantage. That disability was that he had connections with almost every wing of the party but he wasn't quite identified with or beloved by any of them. However, without the centripetal force of Clintonism, Dems may well become more polarized between their labor-left and New Dem wings. Gore could turn out to be one of the only people to run with support in both these groups, who can bridge that gap. Gore has developed quite good relations with the labor wing of the party. And the folks at the Democratic Leadership Council, once they get through shamelessly stabbing him in the back, will realize he's still at heart basically one of them. (In some respects this bridging is what Nixon was able to do in 1968. Yes, back to Nixon.)



    This Washington Memo adapted from Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points

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