TAPPED

HOW A PRINCIPLE...

HOW A PRINCIPLE BECOMES INCONVENIENT. Interesting : Supporters of a guest worker program that would let illegal immigrants stay in the United States said Tuesday they don't have enough Senate votes to overcome objections from conservatives who oppose the measure on grounds it amounts to amnesty. As negotiators worked on a compromise to let those who have been here longest remain, Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said a majority in the 100-member Senate support his and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record)'s proposal to provide green cards to illegal immigrants after they've worked in the U.S. for six years. But it takes 60 senators to overcome opponents' parliamentary tactics, and McCain said he doesn't have that many. So you think Bill Frist will stick to his guns and demand that his caucus give McCain's bill an up-or-down vote? Yeah, me neither. But I do think all you good progressives out there will stick to your guns, reach...

TO MARS? Another...

TO MARS? Another possible casualty of Tom DeLay 's fall: The Bush administration's baroque moon-then-Mars space exploration program. The mission to Mars, of course, became a fast joke after George W. Bush first unveiled it weeks prior to the 2004 State of the Union address and then failed to mention it in the actual speech, but contrary to most people's assumptions the program has been proceeding full speed ahead , cannibalizing the rest of NASA's budget in the process. Nobody was a bigger champion for the initiative than DeLay, who fended off threats to NASA's budget against all comers and restructured the entire House Appropriations Committee to protect it. After stepping down as leader, DeLay landed a plum Approps seat with jurisdiction over NASA, and just last week, he published an op-ed in The Hill touting Bush's human space exploration initiative. ("Though some have criticized this robust series of flights as an impossible goal," he wrote, "the 'impossible,' after all, is NASA�s...

WHAT'S THE MATTER...

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH CALABRIA? Strange to see that some things are the same , even in Italian politics: "It's because they hate private property," Mr. Berlusconi, 69, said, "because they see savings as something that should be taxed." The prime minister also warned that the center-left alliance, which includes Communists, would reintroduce inheritance taxes, which had been cut by his government. Looking irritated, Mr. Prodi, 66, a former prime minister and until 2004 president of the European Commission, countered that he was tired of having words and programs put in his mouth. "This is the mystification of truth," he said, pointing out that he had specified that inheritance taxes would be applied only to estates worth "many millions" of euros. "I think people can trust my word." This poses roughly the same question as does the comparable debate in America: Why is the debate on this issue so skewed? Why does the party of the left think it wouldn't be viable to tax estates worth "...

INCOMPETENCE ATOP INCOMPETENCE....

INCOMPETENCE ATOP INCOMPETENCE. Kate Steadman has a good catch today, finding that even when the Bush administration tries to fix Medicare Part D's problems, they still misdiagnose the ailment and prescribe a useless cure. The occasion is the first official fix to one of Part D's structural issues: the overabundance of "choice" in drug plans, which has led to scores of confused seniors unwilling or unable to sift through dozens of complex drug formularies to find the one that may work for them. It's been widely understood, on the left and the right, that the market required some pruning; choice was fine, but offering so much was crippling the program. So the Bush administration heroically swept in and mucked it up further. Fine, no flowers and chocolates for them. The issue at hand is the concentration of participating insurers in certain regions. With so many offering plans, specific areas were a mess. The administration's fix? Reduce the number of plans each insurer could provide...

TRIANGULATION 2.0. ...

TRIANGULATION 2.0. Chris Smith aptly sums up the problem with Hillary : Millions of hardworking immigrants, thousands of small businesses, and the country�s economic prospects are going to be affected by the outcome of the nasty debate taking place in Congress. Which is what makes the substance of what Clinton has been saying, and the circumstances of today�s press conference, all the more puzzling. She fires off one truly excellent line, about how the Sensenbrenner bill would criminalize Jesus, ensuring headlines the next day and deftly summarizing her staunch opposition to the most reactionary proposal. She�s in favor of �a path to earned citizenship.� But then she goes back to playing the role she�s had for most of this debate: cautious bystander. �I support several of the bills,� she says. �I�m trying to create a compromise for a bipartisan bill . . . We need comprehensive reform . . . A harsh position doesn�t end the problems.� She's a national leader who refuses to lead (unlike...

ABRAMOFF AND SUDAN. And...

ABRAMOFF AND SUDAN. And the hits just keep on coming. In the L.A. Times today, Tom Hamburger and Ken Silverstein reveal that Jack Abramoff approached the government of Sudan to offer his, er, services. While the rest of the world worried about al Qaeda, Abramoff took the ambassador of a country that once harbored bin Laden to a Redskins game in 2001 to make his pitch. According to the lobbyist's former associate, Abramoff sat with the ambassador in the skybox and described an elaborate and costly plan to blunt the effect of pressure from Christian groups with money and travel, two of the methods Abramoff frequently deployed in his Washington lobbying campaigns. He said some of the money would be sent to the Christian Coalition and some would be spent encouraging Christian leaders to visit Sudan and talk with the government. Other money would be spent on a grass-roots campaign to promote a better image of the country in the United States. The former associate said Abramoff repeatedly...

DELAY'S PALS. It's...

DELAY'S PALS. It's worth reading through Mike Allen 's extended interview with Tom DeLay . The Hammer's explicit plea, "I'm not whining," is especially amusing, coming as it does amidst thousands of words worth of burning resentments, bathetic self-pity, and paranoia. This passage, describing the process that led to his decision, caught my eye: I made a speech last week, and that pretty much cinched it for me. A good friend of mine, Dr. Rick Scarborough, who started -- and I urged him, and we've worked together over the years -- an organization called Vision America, which is out recruiting pastors to get involved in the political arena. He asked me to come speak. He was having a conference on the war on Christianity. So I made a speech on Wednesday. It was covered by C-Span and, frankly, a bunch of cameras. I felt very good, very free about giving that speech. The reaction was incredible -- just an outpouring of love and support from the audience. It was probably the one single event...

AND KEEP ALL...

AND KEEP ALL HANDS IN THE HUMVEE. Fred Kaplan on the Democrats' clich�-filled, but nevertheless sound, "Real Security" strategy : The list may seem obvious, like those "Do not use in water" tags that come with electrical appliances�except that Bush & Co. have been spinning fan blades in bathtubs around the world the past four years. This is the advantage that the Democrats hold at the starting gate: The Republican administration has violated so many precepts of International Relations 101 that clich�s take on the air of wisdom. It may be that the Dems don't need to put forth their own agenda; promising to pull the plug out of the socket might be sufficient. Here, at The American Prospect , we don't even take baths; quick showers at the gym are about all we can afford. You can change all that by subscribing , though! --Ezra Klein

THE LIBERTARIAN WEST....

THE LIBERTARIAN WEST. I see I've earned a mention in this David Sirota blog item /blast e-mail and want to respond because he actually makes a very good point about the politics of the Patriot Act. When I said that Chuck Schumer "knows what he's doing," I meant that listening to his "marginals" and following their lead at their pace on certain controversial issues is the right way to go, because it respects that senators from red states know their own local environment better than he does. It would be totally inappropriate for a senator from New York to act as if there were not significant differences in the political environment around the country, or to take them lightly. That said, Sirota is quite right that there is an opportunity in the western and western mountain states which have a strong tradition of rugged individualism and libertarian suspiciousness -- as I noted in this February item about reactions to the NSA wiretapping -- to take a more aggressive stance against the...

DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH....

DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH. Say what you will about Tom DeLay , I don't think you can get around the fact that there's something honorable about the way -- contrary to almost every relevant aspect of the American tradition and the basic structure of our political institutions -- he built an effective, disciplined legislative caucus. Of course, at the end of the day the effective caucus he built was twisted and evil, but that's another matter. Future progressive legislative leaders still have some lessons to learn from his successes. Besides future progressive legislative leaders, progressive magazine bloggers could learn a lesson or two as well -- everyone seems to have forgotten about this week's TAPPED subscription drive . On a DeLay-led blog, those failing to mention the urgent need to subscribe to The American Prospect would no doubt be facing dire consequences as we speak. Writers would groan under this oppressive yoke, but at the end of the day we'd all be stronger for hanging...

THE HAMMER DROPS....

THE HAMMER DROPS. Today's big news , besides my winning the Prospect NCAA office pool, is, of course, Tom DeLay 's withdrawal from his re-election race and announced plan to step down from office in a matter of weeks. Former aide Tony Rudy 's guilty plea last week -- with Ed Buckham almost sure to be next on the roster -- clearly provoked DeLay's decision. As The Washington Post reports today, DeLay will be able to convert his remaining campaign funds -- hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to his legal expenses, which are likely to shoot up over the remainder of the year. For a round-up of links and some interesting initial reactions, including helpful speculation on the coming special election to replace DeLay, see Charles Kuffner 's post here . ( Midterm Madness also will no doubt be gaming out the electoral situation in the 22nd District today.) As for Time magazine's exclusive scoop on this story last night, as a major Mike Allen fan it pains me a bit to point out this error from...

THAT'S A FIRST....

THAT'S A FIRST. Not to pick on Matt Stoller , but as TNR 's Michael Crowley notes in response to Stoller's MyDD denunciation of Chuck Schumer as "the most extreme version of a Reagan Democrat" and a "center-right Beltway" type: "Man, tough crowd!" That's gotta be the first time anyone's ever referred to the former Brooklyn congressman as a Reagan Democrat. I know there's a movement afoot in some parts of the blogosphere to try to change the rhetorical and interpretive frames governing our politics, but doing so credibly means more than just shifting the goal-posts willy-nilly and acting as if liberal Democratic New Yorkers were secretly from Macomb County. The exchange was kicked off by Ryan Lizza 's typically excellent story (can I get a macro for that?) on Schumer in New York magazine. I just want to highlight the bit about Schumer trying to take care of his "marginals": Part of the reason Schumer took the job is that he was able to join Minority Leader Harry Reid�s Senate...

SAME OLD, SAME...

SAME OLD, SAME OLD. At the end of last week, former American Prospect intern Rob Anderson pointed to an item by Matt Stoller on MyDD and asked whether it meant that "Obama's honeymoon with the liberal blogosphere is over." It's a fair question, as Barack Obama has come in for occasional criticism on various liberal blogs, most recently for his opposition to Russ Feingold 's censure resolution and his support of Joe Lieberman . Indeed, one of the greatest risks for Obama, as for Bill Clinton before him, lies with the quality that has made him so appealing a political personality thus far -- the sense that he contains multitudes, if you will, allowing all kinds of disparate groups to look at him and feel themselves represented. When multitudes consider a politician one of their own, multitudes can just as easily feel betrayed when that politicians stubbornly persists in being an individual or hews to a course other than the one a particular faction would like him to take. Clinton, as...

I CAN SEE...

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW. For months, I�ve been assuming that The West Wing would conclude with Arnold Vinick , the moderate GOP California senator played by Alan Alda , taking the presidency over Jimmy Smits � Matt Santos , a Democratic Congressman from Houston. It has seemed to me all season (and, out of step with my fellow countrypersons, I didn�t even watch the show regularly until this season) as if the writers, a couple of whom I know a bit -- both had high-level Democratic jobs in Washington -- had filled the Vinick character with more elan and a more appealing story line: A pro-choice Republican from California wins the presidency and reels his party back in from winguttia and into the land of reasonable, Howard Baker conservatism. Just the kind of Republican to whom Democratic writers would be willing to hand the presidency! But now, with last night�s plot twist (SPOILER: John Spencer �s Leo McGarry , Santos� veep choice, died in last night�s episode, which took place on...

HIATT TARS DEMS....

HIATT TARS DEMS. Fred Hiatt 's Washington Post column today slams the Democratic Party's "Real Security" plan . His chief objection appears to be that it's way too short on platitudes for his liking. Hiatt writes: The first thing you might notice is that the Democrats implicitly reject almost everything the Bush administration says about how Sept. 11 changed the world, or our perception of it. President Bush believes that the United States "is in the early years of a long struggle," according to his own national security strategy released last month, against "a new totalitarian ideology." (Emphasis added.) Castigating the Dem plan for failing to match such grandiloquence, Hiatt continues: ...they also reveal a different world view, one that is far more cramped and inward-looking...what is the vision? What does bring security? (Emphasis added again.) To Hiatt, the Democrats' woeful tendency to focus on the practical and the attainable shows a lack of "vision." It's worth pondering what...

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