TAPPED

MORE SHAKEUP! The...

MORE SHAKEUP! The hapless Scott McClellan resigned this morning as White House press secretary. The conventional rap on McClellan has long been that, in stark contrast to the near-sociopathic unflappability with which his predecessor Ari Fleischer could lie and stonewall on behalf of the president, he always showed the flop sweat and strain when doing the same. If that reflects a bit better on McClellan's personal humanity, I suppose we can all wish him well. The rogues' gallery of rumored possible replacements is genuinely frightening, however: former Pentagon flak and current CNN contributor Victoria Clarke , former CPA flak and current Fox News contributor Dan Senor , and longtime Fox News fixture and Rush Limbaugh pinch-hitter Tony Snow top the list. Really, if they wanted to install a Fox News anchor that could make me love the president, they'd appoint Steve Doocy . It's a bit refreshing to have the ongoing "White House shakeup" story now shift focus to the inherently substance-...

TODAY'S MUST READ...

TODAY'S MUST READ ON IRAN. A great deal of ink has been spilled on Iran of late, but very little of it on proposing any kind of US action other than engagement through the United Nations or (futile and probably self-destructive) air strikes. Slate 's Fred Kaplan has started to close that gap , arguing: The military option is so manifestly impractical that the Iranians don't seem to believe it. Their top officials dismissed Hersh's article as "psychological war." Even Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani�who has criticized the current regime's harsh anti-Western stance�said in Kuwait today, "We are certain the Americans will not attack Iran because the consequences would be too dangerous." The one thing that Iran's leaders genuinely seem to fear is economic sanctions. They sprinted to the bargaining table, and opened more facilities to international inspectors, only after France, Britain, and Germany�which had always tolerated Iran's nuclear deceptions in order to protect...

THE GREAT MCCAIN...

THE GREAT MCCAIN DIVIDE. Looking at the various defenses of John McCain coming from centrist and liberal writers over the past few weeks and discussed by Matt and Ezra below, I think what we're seeing is the emergence of a new opinion fault line that McCain will have trouble crossing in 2008: the divide between people who discovered him in 2000, and those who did not. Reporters who first got to know McCain in his election 2000 iteration will continue to adore him, and defend his moves to the right as mere tactical maneuvering, while those who have entered opinion or political journalism since then will be coming to him with a blanker slate, and a desire to define the story based on the world as it is today, and not as it was. --Garance Franke-Ruta

THE POWER OF...

THE POWER OF SOCIAL CAPITAL. I suspect most readers of this site are not regular readers of The Wall Street Journal 's Weekend Edition -- I know I'm not -- so I want to highly recommend the paper's Saturday front-pager "Illegal at Princeton" if you can find a copy or subscribe online. The tale of Dan-el Padilla Peralta , a 21-year-old Princeton classics major whose parents illegally immigrated with him from the Dominican Republic in 1989 and who was discovered in a homeless shelter at the age of nine by volunteer Jeff Cowen , a descendent of the founder of the SG Cowen Wall Street brokerage, reading a biography of Napoleon in the corner, would put Horatio Alger himself to shame. Impressed by the boy's resilience and mind, Cowen eventually helped get Padilla into Collegiate, the Manhattan prep school he had himself attended; Padilla immediately became a class leader and went on to Princeton upon graduation. Having now been awarded a two-year scholarship to do graduate work at Oxford,...

THE ORIGINS OF...

THE ORIGINS OF THE ARTICLE. My first thought upon reading Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer 's article about "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" was that if they were going for maximal controversy, they'd missed the moment of greatest potential impact by several years. Their description of an expansionist Israel dominated by the Likud was completely out of date, and, overall, the article had the feeling of something written during the Netanyahu years -- or at the very latest, during those of the pre-Kadima Ariel Sharon -- which was then kicked around nervous university offices for some substantial length of time until finally being updated with a few nods to the present and published. Setting aside the rather significant way in which they took an interesting question -- How has U.S. support for Israel impacted its Middle East policy? -- and proceeded to run it right off the rails, the whole thing stunk of being past its sell-by date. Not once in an article published in March...

NO, MCCAIN REALLY...

NO, MCCAIN REALLY IS THAT CONSERVATIVE. As my colleague Matt noticed , the good folks over at The New Republic are playing some full-court press in defense of John McCain . A couple days ago, editor-at-large Peter Beinart offered his plea to see McCain stick close to his populist, contrarian roots, even offering up a unity scenario in which McCain runs as an independent with a Democrat veep. Today, Jon Chait offers a more full-throated defense of McCain on the merits, arguing that: In addition to shepherding campaign finance reform through Congress--against the administration's efforts to kill it quietly--he co-sponsored a patients' bill of rights with John Edwards and Ted Kennedy; co-sponsored with Charles Schumer a measure to allow the importation of generic prescription drugs; co-sponsored with John Kerry legislation to raise auto emissions standards; and co-sponsored legislation with Joe Lieberman to close the "gun-show loophole" and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in compliance...

HISTORY REPEATS. Can't...

HISTORY REPEATS. Can't have a war in Iran without Joe Lieberman 's involvement , so that's taken care of. Which reminds me of something I wanted to say about the whole "how should Democrats handle Iran?" question, namely that the first step is to take this seriously as a party issue. More than one donkey was inclined to favor privatizing Social Security or to make off-message remarks on the subject, but they were largely dissuaded from doing so by a coordinated campaign of fear and intimidation involving party leaders, major interest groups, bloggers and pundits, and everyone else on hand. Liberal constituency groups are overwhelmingly organized around domestic concerns, but everyone from NOW and the Sierra Club to the AFL-CIO and the NAACP needs to understand that their agendas won't be well-served by another Democratic national security meltdown or another outbreak of war fever. --Matthew Yglesias

CLINTON POLLSTER SAYS...

CLINTON POLLSTER SAYS HILLARY HAS MORE THAN A "50-50 CHANCE" OF BECOMING PRESIDENT. In an appearance that's sure to get the wheels of will-she-or-won't-she-in-2008 speculation spinning, Clinton pollster Doug Schoen told a panel discussion last night that Hillary "undeniably" has "a 50-50 chance, at least" of becoming president, according to an account posted at the Daily Politics . At the panel -- sponsored by New York magazine -- Schoen also threw a big chunk of meat to those who want a more confrontational Democratic Party. Schoen, whose firm works for Hillary, said he thinks that the "moderate" wing of the party is losing the struggle -- though that wouldn't stop Hillary from becoming the nominee. Indeed, as the Daily Politics noted, he was surprisingly forthright about her centrist positioning: "She undeniably is a 50-50 chance, at least," to be elected president, [Schoen] said. "Senator Clinton...has the luxury of being able to position erself toward the center as time goes...

FAKE DARFUR GRANDSTANDING....

FAKE DARFUR GRANDSTANDING. If you want to understand the how the Bush administration can score political points while taking a minimalist approach to the crisis in Darfur, observe how the press reacts to Ambassador John Bolton �s forthcoming disclosure of the names of four individuals slated for Security Council sanctions. The Security Council will meet in about a half an hour to discuss sanctioning four individuals for their role in the Darfur crisis. By disclosing these names and calling for an open vote on whether they should be sanctioned, Bolton is trying to force Russia and China into going public with their objection to these names. Said Bolton, "These are people who are involved in atrocities and killing people and turning people into refugees." What Bolton will likely not say is that of those four, only one is a Sudanese government official, and a mid-level official at that. Bolton will likely also not advertise that this list of four was whittled down from a list of eight...

THE PASSIONS OF...

THE PASSIONS OF THE OVERCLASS. Allow me to agree with Reihan Salam on this: Daniel Gross's crusade against the AMT is taking a new shape . Now it's not just a war on affluent Democrats -- it is a a war on "a good chunk of the national Republican base." In that case, though, isn't keeping the AMT an example of the need for revenue trumping politics? The AMT is flawed. Still, I can't help but find the obsession of the upper-middle-left, and the upper-middle-right, with the AMT more than slightly amusing. This is not unlike racial preferences. Somehow the color composition of the Ivy League becomes the central moral challenge of our time. Who says? The Ivy League!!! In an ideal world, this AMT creep business we're seeing wouldn't be going on. In the actual world, however, the government desperately needs more revenue and liberals have no business campaigning for revenue-decreasing measures. This is especially true since though the AMT is hardly the most progressive tax out there (it...

DEFINING JOHN MCCAIN....

DEFINING JOHN MCCAIN. In yesterday's LA Times , Jonathan Chait offers up a more convincing and sober-minded version of Jacob Weisberg 's recent argument that John McCain really isn't a conservative and he's just doing a little necessary pandering. My Big Correct Debate-Changing Observation about this is that the disagreements here are less about McCain than they are about liberalism. For people who were fairly satisfied with the policy outputs of the late Clinton era -- balanced budgets, strong GDP growth, reality-based environmental policies, etc. -- McCain's views on economics are going to look a lot better than standard Republicanism. If, on the other hand, you want to see dramatic health care reform, big improvements in public services, and a serious effort to curb economic inequality, then Bush's differences with McCain look relatively trivial. Again, some liberals think the problem with Bush's foreign policy has been bad management which McCain, perhaps, is well-suited to...

THE "OVERHAUL" CONTINUES....

THE "OVERHAUL" CONTINUES. The president's effort to shake up the White House staff without actually changing anything took another step forward today. When Andy Card resigned, he was replaced by Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten which, in turn, created an opening. That opening, we learn, will be filled by US Trade Representative Rob Portman . And just to make sure there's absolutely no new blood introduced to the system, Portman will be replaced by his deputy. This all serves as a reminder that even if the current campaign to shove Don Rumsfeld out of office were to somehow succeed, the actual results would be minimal. --Matthew Yglesias

PSA. TAPPED will...

PSA. TAPPED will be offline today in celebration of Patriots Day. --Alec Oveis

DINING WITH DEAN....

DINING WITH DEAN. From Tuesday�s American Prospect breakfast with Howard Dean : Walter Shapiro: Governor, from where you sit, is the fact that there will be two caucuses between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary a done deal, or is this still open for negotiation, as to whether there will be caucuses and/or whether New Hampshire will have its traditional unmolested Iowa/New Hampshire role in American history? Howard Dean: We don�t molest anybody. We leave that to the deputy press secretary of the Homeland Security agency. For this and more, listen to this recording of the event. --The Editors

JUST POSTED ON...

JUST POSTED ON TAP: THE OUTRAGE GAP. The last thing Democrats need is an electorate on the fence, says Terence Samuel. --The Editors

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