TAPPED

THE TRUTH ABOUT...

THE TRUTH ABOUT IRAN MIGHT WORK -- BUT WILL DEMS TELL IT? Matt , Ezra , and Garance all give very thoughtful answers to my question below about Iran -- no question, arguments about cost and effectiveness should certainly prove more effective this time around. My concern, however, is that some Dems -- primarily the presidential contenders and their advisers, and we all know who I'm talking about here -- won't see it our way. It's hard to imagine Dems supporting a full-scale military adventure, but if Bush talks up limited strikes, some ambitious Dems might conclude that backing Bush's plan is the safest way to go -- that their presidential hopes will go up in flames if they don't appear prepared to use limited force against a regime with nuclear ambitions. I don't at all agree with that argument, but it isn't hard to imagine certain Dems thinking it. They might calculate that if anything goes wrong with the Iran adventure -- if it proves more costly or less effective than advertised...

MITT ROMNEY CHANNELS...

MITT ROMNEY CHANNELS JOHN EDWARDS. This is a bit of an old story already, but I think it's still worth noting for the historical record, since I haven't seen it noted elsewhere, that John Edwards , not Mitt Romney , was the first presidential candidate to propose making health insurance mandatory . Romney's just the first to get that approach to health care policy enacted into law -- an outcome attributable to the difference between being a senator from a conservative state and the governor of a liberal one. --Garance Franke-Ruta

WHITE REPUBLICANS' BLACK REPUBLICAN PROBLEM.

WHITE REPUBLICANS' BLACK REPUBLICAN PROBLEM. Here's an interesting preview of a forthcoming article by a Yale economist demonstrating that "white Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is black," and that there is no noticeable boost in black voter turnout when the Republican candidate is black. Similar findings also apply to House and gubernatorial races. The sample size for black GOP senatorial candidates is, needless to say, limited -- the economist, Ebonya Washington , identified and analyzed five such races between 1982 and 2000. I know Alan Keyes 's senatorial bids in Maryland account for two of them; anyone know what the other three races were? The study is obviously relevant to both Michael Steele 's Senate bid in Maryland and Ken Blackwell 's gubernatorial race in Ohio this year. But of course, as Alec showed in our last print issue, Steele's campaign currently has plenty of...

BUT WHY? ...

BUT WHY? The Urban Institute's C. Eugene Stuerle writes : a postwar boom in the U.S. labor force is just now ending. Since around 1950, the percentage of adults who worked rose almost every year except in recessions. But now the great swell of working boomers is starting to retire, and most of the gain in female labor force participation is over. If Americans keep retiring at the same ages they do today, the share of adults who are working will fall markedly. The effect on the economy will be roughly equivalent to increasing the unemployment rate by 3/10 of 1 percent every year for 20 years straight starting in 2008. He goes on to argue for older folks to remain in the workforce longer. I think, for a variety of reasons, that's a good outcome. The longer you work, the healthier, happier, richer and more mentally alert you tend to remain (though there are questions of correlation v. causation there). Nevertheless, a decrease in the number of workers, particularly as the boomers, who...

PLAYING POLITICS ISN'T...

PLAYING POLITICS ISN'T A POLICY. I'm going to dissent, with Ezra , from the emerging TAPPED line on Iran here and say that any Democrat who comes out and argues that we can't deal with Iran until Bush is out of office will do nothing more than reaffirm to the nth degree the perception that Democrats cannot handle national security matters. Iran is not just an American problem and is not going to go away as an issue if Democrats choose to punt on it. The U.S. did not precipitate this conflict. The entire world, through the United Nations National Security Council, is concerned about Iran becoming the ninth state to acquire nuclear weapons. The Europeans were taking the lead on exerting pressure on Iran until quite recently, and Russia attempted to broker a deal that would prevent the present intensification of tensions. A nuclear Iran governed by a madman is of far graver concern to Europe and Israel than it would be to the more distant U.S. The issue for us right now is that the U.S...

THE RETURN OF...

THE RETURN OF POTTERY BARN . I'll second Matt 's comments below; so much as George Bush 's staggering incompetence should have a prime part in the Democratic production of "No Sequel: Why We Shouldn't Fight Iran," to build the whole argument around Bush himself would be a profoundly unstable edifice for the anti-war camp. Indeed, it would take little more than Bush replacing Don Rumsfeld with some media-recognized vessel of establishment gravitas and hardheaded competence to short-circuit the argument. Imagine if noted warmonger John McCain were ushered into the cabinet, or if some retired general were brought in to replace Dick Cheney . No, the aura of competence is something the Bush administration can reclaim, what Democrats need to do is discredit this war as a concept. Luckily, I don't reckon that'll be so tough. The great gift of the Iraq War, for Republicans, was its apparent ease. During the selling period, word on the street was we were going to invade, occupy, and rebuild...

AS LONG AS...

AS LONG AS YOU LIKE. David Ignatius , aiming to make me love Don Rumsfeld by arguing that he should resign in order to increase public support for the indefinite continuation of the Iraq War, observes that "As bad as things are in Baghdad, America won't be defeated there militarily. But it may be forced into a hasty and chaotic retreat by mounting domestic opposition to its policy." This is one of the truthiest of all elements of the elite conventional wisdom on Iraq. Yes, it's true, insurgents aren't going to inflict some kind of decisive battlefield loss on the US Army. Insofar as the American government wants to continue the occupation of Iraq, we will be able to do so forever. But it's worth recalling that forever is a long time. For example , in Chechnya, "the current resistance to Russian rule began during the late 18th century (1785-1791) as a result of Russian expansion into territories formerly under the dominion of Turkey and Persia." For comparison's sake, note that the...

FIRST THINGS FIRST....

FIRST THINGS FIRST. Greg asks a good question below about the politics of Iran, and I don't have a super-good answer. I would say that the beginning of political wisdom on this topic, however, is a little dose of the old moral clarity. There are two different questions Democratic officeholders can be asking themselves, their staffers, and their consultants. One question is "How should I handle the Iran issue?" The other is "How should I handle the Iran issue given that supporting a war with Iran is a non-starter?" If you think of the Social Security campaign as the model of effective opposition, the crucial first step there was when Democrats decided that privatizing Social Security was a bad idea and that they were committed to opposing it. Once you reach the conclusion that backing the needless deaths of tens of thousands of people isn't going to be on the table as a tactical option for 2006, you can start working on the question of how to be against the needless deaths of tens of...

MORE ON DEMS...

MORE ON DEMS AND IRAN. I see that in last night's post on Iran I inadvertently wrote that Dems should be figuring out how to respond after strikes come. Since the post was meant to make the opposite point -- that Dems should be thinking through how politically to approach Iran now -- a quick clarification is in order. A lot will of course happen between now and any move on Iran. The point is, the more specific war plans start surfacing, and the more Bush officials leak the lie that Iran can build a nuke faster than you can say "Kenneth Pollack," the greater the pressure will be on Dems to stake out positions. There are many ways the politics of this could unfold, of course, but Dems -- and the rest of us -- need to start thinking through how to deal with the various scenarios now, rather than after this reaches full boil. In addition to the long-term heavy lifting of attacking the ideas that brought us Iraq and possibly Iran, the key will be figuring out some core messages on Iran...

HOW SHOULD DEMS...

HOW SHOULD DEMS HANDLE IRAN? As depressing as this is, it's never too early for liberals and Dem thinkers to start figuring out how to prevent Dems from dividing if Bush orders, say, limited strikes on Iran. Al Gore and Howard Dean might oppose them, as perhaps will the new and improved John Edwards . But what about other presidential contenders -- Mark Warner , Evan Bayh and Hillary Clinton ? (Then there's always Joe Lieberman , who will probably volunteer to sit astride the first falling bomb, Dr. Strangelove style.) Seriously, this is a real question: What are the prospects (assuming they exist at all) for anything approaching Democratic unity on Iran? And how might it be achieved? On Social Security, Dems stayed in line -- partly because defeat would have been catastrophic, and partly because they were persuaded that they could win. And it worked. Can Dems be persuaded that a debate over Iran can be won, too? Matt smartly suggests a broad, longer-term approach to winning this and...

MR. DONKEY SIR....

MR. DONKEY SIR. Commenting on Noam Scheiber 's story on Howard Dean , MyDD's Matt Stoller writes : While Reid and Pelosi and Rahm and Chuck might bitch about Dean 'not playing the traditional party chairman's role', where were they in February of 2005 when the elections were held? Why did they let uber-local pol Donnie Fowler become a near kingmaker? Why didn't they endorse or get involved in a serious way? There was an election for this position, a position that was clearly going to control hundreds of millions of dollars and party resources in the next few years. Was this election below them? Apparently. Well Dean was elected and he is doing what he promised. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't Pelosi, Reid, et al backing Indiana's Tim Roemer ? I mention it only because I remember learning it from, well, MyDD (and here ). Can't win for losing, I guess. As for Scheiber's article on Dean, the piece's thesis, once you cut through the weird overuse of messianic language, is that Dean...

OFF INTO THE...

OFF INTO THE SUNSET. Budget negotiations within the House GOP conference stalled last week over disputes between moderates, who wanted some boosts in spending, and the Republican Study Committee (RSC) folks, who were pushing for some of their usual litany of draconian caps and budget process changes. John Boehner and Dennis Hastert have pledged to keep working on the budget following the end of the recess, and there is indication that the RSC might win from the House leadership (as well as the White House) a provision setting up a so-called " sunset commission ." That's an appointed body to which every single discretionary program would need to appeal for renewed funding every ten years; Congress would then have to vote affirmatively to keep the program, or it would be eliminated. (The president proposed such a commission in his budget this year, as he had last year.) Given the collapse of the GOP's unity and legislative capabilities this year, as the midterms approach and the party's...

DRAWING KNIVES? The...

DRAWING KNIVES? The Washington Post surveys veteran congressional handicappers and concludes that the Democrats' chances of taking back the House in November remain very slim. I'll let the Midterm Madness folks judge whether the piece is trustworthy or persuasive on the merits; needless to say, it remains the case that structural barriers still do render a takeover a long-shot proposition, even with Democrats enjoying such a politically favorable climate nationwide. One thing I've been hearing more recently from Hill people is the prospect of the following dynamic happening: momentum and expectations for a Democratic takeover build up so much that, when, as is still likely, in November the Democrats fall short of the 15-seat gain they need, the disappointment will serve as a pretext for caucus members to attempt to push Nancy Pelosi from her leadership position. This I hear from Democrats who, like many bloggers and activists , are dissatisfied with Pelosi for various reasons that,...

DEMS ARE EITHER...

DEMS ARE EITHER PHONIES OR THEY'RE RADICALS. One of the more devious verbal tricks commentators use on Democrats is to rhetorically box them in: Either Dems are too cautious and scripted, or they're too radical and hate America. Atrios is right when he says of Joe Klein 's new book: I've got nothing against insiders dishing on the Kerry campaign, but the idea that they would dish to Klein to support whatever pernicious and destructive narrative he'll be concocting about how we all hate America demonstrates a tremendous lack of judgment. We've glimpsed the narrative Klein has created. In the Time magazine excerpt of his book, Klein says Kerry was "smothered" by his consultants. Whatever one thinks of the Kerry campaign, or of consultants in general, I think it's clear that Klein's assault is really a back-door way of launching a familiar attack on Dems: That Democrats will say or do anything to get elected -- including abandon their core moral principles. That is the tale that the...

THE IDEOLOGY'S THE...

THE IDEOLOGY'S THE THING. I'm not so high on this " Bush wants to bomb Iran to secure his legacy" concept. As we enter into the twighlight years of Bushism, it's important to avoid ascribing problematic elements of the past five years of American governance to Bush's personal idiosyncrasies when, in fact, the real source of the problems are deeper and wider ideological movements. Mark Steyn didn't publish this crazy article on Iran because Bush is looking for a legacy. Nor did Mark Helprin write this crazy op-ed on Iran because Bush is looking for a legacy. Nor did Fred Hiatt publish Helprin's op-ed because he's looking for a legacy. Nor are Frank Gaffney and Jon Kyl pushing crazy Iran policy ideas because Bush is looking for a legacy. Rather, there's a widespread view on the American right that it's always a mistake to reach diplomatic agreements with "evil" regimes. There's also a widespread view on the American right that, contra the examples of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong ,...

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