Saturday, August 20, 2005

Democracy, America, and the World: Part I, The Eve of Independence (1763-1776)

The mercantilist system imposed by Great Britain upon its North American colonies was nothing short of brilliant. America would send its raw goods to Britain, where these goods would be manufactured and then sent back the colonies. Of course, that the colonies were only allowed to trade with the mother country ensured that Britain could buy the raws cheaply and sell the manufactureds at a handsome profit. And there was nothing the American colonies could do about it, because the king of Britain was also the king of America. In many ways, it was simply a bigger child picking on a smaller one.

Yet this system, which had existed since the 17th century, wasn’t good enough for the bigger child. In 1763, fresh off the Seven Years War with most of the rest of Europe, Britain extracted great territorial secessions from France in the New World. War increases prestige, but it rarely helps a government’s budget. London needed money and the easiest way was simply to tax their colonies. They justified the matter by saying that Britain was protecting the colonies during the war. However, the American people weren’t quite as spineless as King George might have hoped.

Series of tax laws, though all benign until those of 1774, infuriated many colonists. It seems that they were sick of being taken advantage of. The commencement of fighting didn’t come quite that easily, but from a broader perspective, trade and taxes aside, a conflict was inevitable. America simply was not Britain. Even if the Americans were granted representation in Parliament, the New World was still an ocean away the Old World. And in the 18th century, an ocean was a considerably further length than it is now. That’s not to mention that only around sixty percent of the people living in the colonies were from Britain, meaning that a considerable minority had no connection to London at all.

Taxes were just the icing on the cake. America was not Britain, even if a war was needed to prove it. Big brothers don’t always stay bigger forever. Seeds of revolution were in the air, and America was ready for a change.

Corzine Holds Lead

According to the most recent poll, Sen. Jon Corzine leads Doug Forrester by ten percentage points, 50% to 40%.

Roberto, of DynamoBuzz, points out that although the campaign season hasn't officially started, Republicans cannot rest too much faith in Forrester, as the recent allegations against Corzine and the state Democratic Party have not seemed to damage his substantial lead. Moreover, Dynamo goes on to say, Corzine not only currently has more money that he's waiting to unleash on the public come September, but could have considerably more if the polls don't improve for Forrester, and the Republican National Committee therefore decides to invest funds in closer campaigns, such as the Virgina gubernatorial race.

What's The Matter With Thomas Frank?

Bad Hair Blog has a good post about an interview with Camille Paglia, who is commenting on Thomas Frank's theories in his recent book "What's the Matter with Kansas?". For those of you who aren't familiar with Frank's work, he often describes the midwestern working class, which is his background, as unaware of their economic interests and, more specifically, the political party that represents them.

Paglia, a Democrat who later voiced support for Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, described Frank's notions that Midwesterners are voting against their "interests" condescending. Her point is valid, as voters shouldn't be branded as ignorant because they prioritize other interests above economic prosperity. Seriously. Many voters in Kansas are employed, happy with their economic situation, and want their kids praying in school. Or they hate abortion, or gay marriage, or they want a bigger military. In these cases, the GOP is representing their interests.

The other issues, such as the war in Iraq, terrorism, social security, health care, and education, are issues that are up to debate on which party has the best policy.

Presidents Need Vacation Too

According to the Daily Pick, President Bush broke the record for presidential vacation days on Friday August 19th, when he enjoyed his 335th day of holiday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The record was previously held by former Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who accomplished the feat over two complete terms. However, President Bush impressively overcame the gipper in almost half the time: four and a half years.

Although it's easy to criticize the president for taking so much time off, most of the critics are those who contend that the president doesn't do much on the job either, which, from what I've read about the president, is largely true.

President Bush has had an impressive agenda from the time he set foot in office in January of 2001; he's waged two wars, he's repealed executive orders, and he's implemented huge tax cuts. However, this is mostly the work of his administration, not the boss man himself. He does not dominate cabinet meetings the way his two predecessors did, (although, ironically, very similar to the previous vacationer: Ronald Reagan). and he is often reluctant to spend time examining different solutions to problems or issues. According to Paul O'Neill, the former treasury secretary, Bush during cabinet meetings is "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people".

Has Bush surrounded himself with enough smart people to do the dirty work? Have they been effective? If they have been, than he's a genius. If they haven't, then go to any liberal blogger and they'll be happy to tell you that he's a failure.

Edwards on the Move

John Edwards - former junior North Carolina Senator, former Presidential hopeful, anf former Vice Presidential nominee - has his eyes set on '08 as he jetsets around the country and the world. With stops in Oklahoma, Washington State, and Iowa in recent weeks, and a meeting in London with Tony Blair and members of Parliament under his belt, Edwards has tried his best to keep his name in the news now that he is no longer in the Senate.

Edwards was, if nothing else, a hopeful and exciting possibility for the Democrats last year. The issue that he made his focus - poverty - is a tremendous problem and one that needs attention. Edwards has started a think tank at UNC to seek policy remedies to the widespread poverty in America. But does he believe that the idealistic and well-intentioned platform of bringing America's poor into the middle class is going to win him significant votes? Few people wouldn't support his goals, but few Democrats in 2008 would give that issue priority over foreign policy and the War on Terror, improving America's energy policy, and rolling back the Bush tax cuts, for example.

The Blogging of the President likens Edwards to FDR (yikes!) in a post that names him and Wes Clark the likeliest challengers to Hillary Clinton. Besides the fact that FDR was far more experienced than Edwards is (Roosevelt had been a State Senator, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and the Governor of New York before he ran for and won the presidency in 1932), the times are far different. In 1932, poverty - brought upon by the Crash in 1929 and the culmination of a decade of laissez-faire economic policy - was far more widespread. FDR's policies to lift up the nation's poor then weren't directed at a minority of the population as Edwards' would be today. Perhaps the comparison holds water in the men's common idealism. But FDR's idealism seemed much more realistic 73 years ago than Edwards' does now.

For the one-term North Carolina Senator, 2008 is looking an awful lot like 2004.

Carpetbagger Turned Native Son

Former Massachusetts governor, William Weld, has formally announced intentions to run for governor of New York. Weld, according to NPR, currently works at an investment firm in Midtown Manhattan and wishes to govern the state he grew up in. The rest of the story here.

In conclusion, the Northeast loves carpetbaggers. Although New York is Weld's homestate, the idea that he, a Republican, was elected governor in Massachusetts, a state that had not only suffered from what The Party's Over might characterize as "liberal tendencies" but an eight decade world series drought, is mind boggling. He must be a Mets fan.

However, this race should be healthier in atmoshere than the Hillary-Piro battle. Weld is a moderate who won in Massachusetts with a traditional Republican platform: lower taxes, lower crime, reform welfare. He is not weighted down by tough social issues (despite suffering an awkward moment in 1996 when he challenged Sen. John Kerry on his anti-death penalty stance) or the most recent Republican policies of Bush Jr., the Republican Congress, George Pataki, and Mitt Romney, all of which are viewed unfavorably in New York.

Friday, August 19, 2005

New Jersey Carnival


Hosted by Sloppydawg, a North Jersey newspaper editor.

How Menendez Helps DeLay

According to Tammany on the Hudson, Bob Menendez is helping Republican Majority Leader DeLay out more than is becoming of the third ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Xpatriated Texan, the blogger at Tammany, argues that Menendez's ethics violations could potentially serve as a weapon for the Republican Congress in response to the DeLay investigation.

If New Jersey Representative Bob Menendez isn't the cause of the House Democrats' problems, he's certainly a glaring symptom. According to a recent New York Times report, Menendez, the House's third-ranking Democrat, has steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in lucrative consulting contracts to a former aide. Not surprisingly, the relationship has piqued the interest of Republicans. As Bob Novak reported this week, Republicans see an ethically compromised Menendez as a deterrent to future attacks on ethically challenged and embattled Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

One would think the risk of losing Menendez in an ethics fight would be a small price to pay for toppling DeLay. But, if recent history is any indication, Democrats will beg off.

How important is Menendez to the Democrats in Congress? Is the institution that he controls more important to his party than the political opportunity that comes with the prosecution of a high level Republican for corruption?

Pataki Just Doesn't Get It

According to The Party's Over, a New York Republican blog with a tongue-in-cheek name, Governor George Pataki will be stopping in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on his way to a number of East Asian destinations next month. The story is corrorborated by Newsday. As far as we know, he doesn't have friends or family there or at least, if he does, they aren't the ones he's stopping in the Hawkeye State to see. Pataki is touching down there to address the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce's 87th annual pow-wow. Is this guy serious?

Look, I understand that he wants to run for President, which is his right. But why does he think he can get the support of the far-right voters who traditionally dominate primary elections? From the outset, his home state doesn't help him. Iowans who see his recent veto of the morning-after pill and think he's a strong conservative will have to wonder how this guy got elected by the same people who voted for Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, two of the most historically liberal Senators in Washington. The answer is that he is no strong conservative.

He favors gay rights, abortion rights, and gun control. Disowning years and years of his record with vetoes, newspaper editorials, and speeches in Iowa will be nearly impossible. In fact, his latest pandering should make voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and other early-primary states he is targeting, feel offended that this governor thinks they are foolish enough to ignore his 12-year gubernatorial record and be swayed by his well-timed turn to the right. Early polls seem to show that Pataki's candidacy is, as Bluegrass Report says, "DOA." While he has great name recognition (70.1%), his support is barely noticeable (2.8%)

Here's betting that those voters aren't swayed and that Pataki's bid for the nation's highest office doesn't even make it past New Hampshire.

Montana Democrats and Rhode Island Republicans

Interesting perspective on the Montana governor from a pragmatic supporter.

Here is another Democratic website that discusses the Rhode Island Governor's role in national politics.

Right now, the United States Congress is said to be an increasingly partisan institution. However, this is largely due to the sectional divisions that are beginning to virtually extinguish southern and Western Democrats as well as Northeastern Republicans. This is especially true in the Senate.

However, when it comes to governor's races, both Republicans and Democrats seem to break through the regional blockades that prevent their parties from winning federal legislative positions. The Democratic Party has broken through the Republican stranglehold on the West by getting Democrats elected governor in Montana, Wyoming (wyoming!), Arizona, and Oklahoma. They have also retained vital power in the South by keeping the governor's office in Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. Virginia governor Mark Warner is considered a likely, and popular, presidential candidate.

Likewise, the GOP has successfully made governors out of moderates in Massachussets, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. Although the governor's of these states are not necessarily popular within the Republican Party, and I mention that none of them are considered likely nominees in 2008, they have been important components in balancing the political atmosphere of the states, as seen by the recent vetoes of morning after pills in Massachussets and New York.

Our Achievement Gap

We learned from the Montclair Times in the last week that along with the the three middle schools in Montclair and two of the town's elementary schools, Montclair High School, the fine beacon of learning that the Jersey Perspective bloggers attend, is a "failing" school under No Child Left Behind standards. (Baristanet has the story, as well.) State testing, which the NCLB standards are based on, has been a tremendous deal in Montclair schools. As you Jerseyans will know, Montclair is among the most diverse school districts, if not municipalities, in the country. The racial achievement gap between black students and white students is embarrassingly wide, and the schools regularly take heat when these test scores come out each year.

The gap hovers around a 30 percentage-point difference between proficiency levels for whites and blacks at MHS. Maplewood's high school has a similar demographic composition, but a significantly smaller achievement gap. Why the discrepancy? It was a question I asked of district and school officials in our town this past year, but to which they had little answer.

The existence of a racial achievement gap is obviously unfortunate and school districts have an obligation to narrow that gap as best they can. But given that American schools were fully integrated barely a half century ago, and blacks - on average - still live in poorer, larger households where the adults are less likely to be college graduates, it isn't a huge surprise that the gap is there. The school district here won't deny that there's a problem and won't lie and say that they know how to fix it. They don't. But the test scores don't lie. The statistics of the makeup of special education classes don't lie. Montclair High School - a place that prides itself on its diversity and will openly flaunt it - is letting down its student body.

Democracy, America, and the World: An Introduction

The United States of America has become the most powerful country in the history of the world. Only history can tell us why, however. For history is not only the study of the past, but the present and future as well. History can never end, and therefore we are living it right now. The decisions of our policymakers and the events that shake the world today will become yet another chapter in the evolution of mankind.

That is my task. I am going to write a series of posts looking back in history with an American perspective and analyzing domestic and international events to understand why things are the way they are. My ultimate goal is to explain the past with an eye on the present so when I finish my brief history of America (brief not meaning I won’t write a lot, but brief meaning not all-inclusive), you, the reader, will have a better idea of my views so that you can understand my view of the present, which history shows isn’t quite as rosy as the first sentence of this post may lead you to believe.

If we can’t understand the past, we can’t understand the present. And if we can’t understand the present, the future looks ever more troubling. It is hard to understand 2005 without understanding 1776, and that is where I will begin.

Five Least Popular Senators

  1. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
  2. Mike DeWine (R-OH)
  3. Conrad Burns (R-MT)
  4. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  5. Jim Talent (R-MO)

Four Republicans and a Democrat. That's the kind of symbolism that Democrats grasp to and Republicans try to dismiss. However, nobody should over react. These numbers target senators with high disapproval ratings, not necessarily low approval ratings.

For instance, Conrad Burns, despite having a relatively high disapproval rating of 42%, has an approval rating of 48%. Therefore, he probably will win the election, especially since he is a relatively senior incumbent in a red state. However, it'd be ignorant to ignore the uncanny shows of strength from the Montana Democratic Party, which has kept the governor's office as well as the state legislature. More importantly on a national scale, Sr. Democratic U.S Senator Max Baucus sits on an approval rating of 61%, with a measly disapproval rating of 30%. Not bad for a state that gave President Bush a 14% margin over Senator John Kerry last November.

Rick Santorum is a whole other story.

Congratulations to Eagle

I'd like to formally welcome all of our readers to the Eagle, our newest contributer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bushonomics (A Semi-Sequel to "Why Sweden Works," below)

The year 2001 presented many ingredients for economic disaster. The tech bubble of the late ‘90s burst, terrorists attacked on September 11th, and the unemployment rate rose to over six percent. However, while they threw the country into a recession, none of these ominous factors affected the level of consumer expenditures, which remained strong throughout. This was facilitated by appropriate responses in both monetary and fiscal policy. The response of the Federal Reserve (monetary policy) was to lower interest rates, which fueled low borrowing costs that have continued unabated to date. The Bush Administration (fiscal policy) lowered taxes, putting additional cash into people’s pockets. These responses quickly encouraged consumers and eventually businesses to spend, resulting in a very benign recession.

Therefore, Bush certainly deserves some of the credit. But to say he cured the recession would be to ignore not only the reactive monetary policy that followed its onset but also natural market forces, which have more effect on the economy than any conceivable fiscal measures. For the most part, the business cycle is going to take its turns no matter what the government does, and the historically high labor productivity levels that continued throughout the recession further indicate that the recession caused by Wall Street was largely solved by Wall Street.

In fact, the tax cuts have now become a burden for two main reasons. The first is that while federal revenues have decreased the past few years, expenditures have grown robustly. That you can spend more than you earn only to a certain level is an important rule of thumb that any government must heed, especially during a solid expansion like the one America is currently experiencing. The role of the government in the economy is to be a stabilizer, for it is impossible for it to be a permanent stimulizer.

Making the tax cuts permanent would also be a step back toward laissez-faire policies that would take away the ability of the government to boost the economy in the future. Federal expenditures have increased, but certainly not on the social programs that have defined the progress of the country since the Great Depression. The role of the government is to harness the powerful forces of capitalism while helping its victims, but the Bush Administration has disregarded the latter.

Overall, the tax cuts were useful when they were issued, but measures that help to end recessions aren’t always the same measures that help to fuel expansions, as the Administration must realize. Even for the government, money doesn’t grow on trees, and therefore Bushonomics must be adjusted to fit the economic situation of the country.

Sheehan Under Fire

Matt Drudge thinks he's breaking news by reporting, in size 48 font, that Cindy Sheehan declared President Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world." Countless bloggers have tried to cast her as an uninformed nut by calling on her demand that Israel pull out of "Palestine." Let's be real, folks. Discrediting a single woman is easy. But Cindy Sheehan is not the story here. Her personal escapades are not important - certainly not to me. Her views on other geopolitical issues have little relevance. The real story is the movement that, in the last 12 days, she has come to represent.

That movement, by the way, is not made up of just tree-huggers, granola-munchers, or any other quote-unquote demographic that people think of as typical protester-types. According to the latest Gallup poll on the topic, 54-percent of Americans now believe that sending troops to Iraq was a mistake. More Americans believe that sending troops to Iraq was a mistake than believe the contrary, that it was the right move. Enlighten-NJ seems to wonder why, as an anti-war protester, Sheehan is getting such coverage. The blogger asks, "How much coverage would the press have given a World War II-era Cindy Sheehan who camped outside Hyde Park or Warm Springs demanding to meet with President Roosevelt?" Enlighten then answers, "None." My search for World War II-era poll numbers was futile, but I'd venture to guess that far fewer than 54-percent of Americans thought, at any point during that war 60-plus years ago, that the fight was unjustified or "the wrong fight."

Pro-war politicians, columnists, radio hosts, hacks, and bloggers can undress Cindy Sheehan as much as they'd like. They can continue to get quotes from her estranged husband who thinks she's kooky, or search news records to find scandalous statements she's made in the past if it makes them happy and content. One grieving woman might be a crazy, and the hundreds of people camped out in Crawford may be crazy, too. But there are millions of Americans not named Cindy Sheehan and not sleeping in tents outside President Bush's ranch who want answers to the questions she's asking. Try to discredit them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ohio Governor's Ratings Could Get Lower

According to the Hedgehog Report, Governor Bob Taft is now being charged with four misdemeanors, mainly pertaining to his failure to disclose numerous gifts such as golf games, dinners, and hockey tickets. Especially when the NHL could use some money.

Few thought it was possible for Taft to become less popular than he already was. The last poll indicated that he had a 19% approval rating that earned him the title of "Least Popular Governor in America", by far, we might emphasize. However, now that the governor has been officially charged with crimes, his numbers can only go down. A large portion of the supporting 19% were people who were unaware of the criminal allegations against the governor, as well as his dubious decisions involving the state workers' pensions. However, anybody who, after the governor has been charged with crimes, still isn't tuned into the dirty politics probably doesn't vote.

The Democrats are licking their lips for Ohio. It will not be hard for Democratic office seekers to portray the Republican majority as out of touch with the Ohio working class, especially in light of the governor's decision to gamble state employees pensions in an investment run by a friend, and Ohio moral values. Clinging to the religious right cannot guarantee Republican leadership in Ohio immunity forever. Every politician claims to defend moral values but convicted criminals are unique, and voters understand that.

Cornhuskers For Condi

Iowa Republicans voiced support for any presidential ambitions that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice might have in a poll done by the Quad City Times. The poll indicated that 30.3% of "likely caucus attendees" favor Rice's nomination. Senator John McCain came in second with 16% and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani received 15.3%.

It's suprising that Giuliani is recognized enough in Iowa to get even 15%. Has Bill Frist not made his presidential candidacy clear enough for voters? Especially in the heartland, whose support he will depend on. Iowa, although a politically moderate state that has traditionally leaned Democratic, does not boast a moderate Republican Party, as our friends at the Political Forecast would probably affirm. The idea that two especially unusual Republicans sit atop the polls in Iowa does not bode well for the GOP base.

McCain is a maverick that the religious right despises. Giuliani's record as the mayor of New York is simply too liberal to ignore for Bible-Belt voters. Condoleeza Rice's political allegiances are dubious, especially concerning domestic policy, and opponents of hers might make that clear in the primary.

Hillary Update - Pirro's in the Race

Now that Jeanine Pirro has declared herself a candidate in the 2006 New York Senate race against Hillary Clinton, the campaign is officially underway. Just a week after her announcement, it may not be too early to pronounce Pirro DOA.

Her kick-off event went terribly. (She paused for a full half-minute after realizing that the tenth page of her speech was missing.) But that's no big deal. Her husband was called in to stand by her side at an event on Day Two of the campaign after it was widely noted that he was absent on Day One. Still, not necessarily a big deal. She hasn't stated a substantive reason why Hillary Clinton doesn't deserve re-election. Very, very big deal.

The reason she has stated for running and for being the best choice?

“I am running for the Senate because New York deserves a Senator who will
give her all to the people of New York for a full term—full time—and not
miss votes to campaign in the 2008 Presidential primaries. New York deserves
a Senator who has New York’s interests at heart—not the divided loyalties of
one seeking to satisfy the needs of the people in Iowa, New Hampshire or
The simple truth is that her ambitions are no reason for voting against Hillary Clinton in 2006, just as then-Governor George W. Bush's ambitions were no reason to vote against him in 1998, for example. Pirro can try to make it a reason, or the reason that she's "the one." But she won't succeed if she does. In 1998, reporters tried to press Governor Bush into promising that he'd serve out his full term. In response Bush said, "The truth is, I don’t know whether or not I’m going to run for the Presidency, and won’t know for quite a while. That’s just something Texas voters will have to factor into their decision.” His answer sufficed; he mauled Democrat Garry Mauro that Fall by 37 percentage points and took Texas in November 2000 by 21 percentage points. Voters in Arizona who overwhelmingly put John McCain back into the Senate last November weren't concerned by talk of a Presidential campaign in his future. Kansas voters clearly weren't bothered by Bob Dole's Presidential hopes when they returned him to Washington in 1986.

This is not to say that there aren't reasons for voting against Hillary. There are, and her opponent will likely raise them. Of course, if she thinks it will bring voters to her side, Jeanine Pirro could run with this psuedo-issue as her platform. History just shows that she'd be foolish to do so.

What It Takes To Be Governor

According to the AP, both contenders in the New Jersey Gubernatorial race, Doug Forrester and Jon Corzine, made big contributions to Uncle Sam last year.

Interestingly, both candidates have roughly the same income. Forrester edged out Corzine last year by $200,000 when he paid $3.7 million on an adjusted gross income of $12 million. Corzine recorded a measly income of $11.8 million and paid $1.3 million in taxes.

Another Kean Looking to Go Places in NJ

Two decades ago, Republican Tom Kean was New Jersey's governor, and the state's most popular politician. Today, State Sen. Tom Kean has the US Senate in his crosshairs. The latter Kean is, of course, the son of his gubernatorial father. Kean Jr. has already announced his candidacy for Jon Corzine's United States Senate seat which could very well be in play, pending the results of this fall's gubernatorial election. (If Corzine wins, he will be able to appoint his successor in the Senate, who will serve out the remaining year of his term and then presumably be at least the Democratic front-runner in the November 2006 election for that seat.)

Kean's father won re-election in 1985 by the largest margin in any New Jersey gubernatorial race ever. The elder Kean has since served as President of Drew University in Madison, NJ, and was the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission. The lasting popularity and positive image of Kean's father, who intends to play a significant role in his son's campaign, gives him a leg up on any other contender. In addition, the image he has created for himself in Trenton and the banner he has operated under as a legislator will make him an interesting candidate to track.

He has carried the torch lit by his father who endorsed far-reaching campaign finance reform initiatives in his final State of the State address. Kean Jr. has been at the front of reform efforts, including his role as the leader of the movement to reform New Jersey's "Pay to Play" contracting setup, which is a hotbed for corruption. Kean is strong on environmental protection and, consequently, has made sprawl control a major issue. But it's his strong stance against corruption enforced through his work in Trenton and his family history of clean politics that could be hugely appealing to voters of many stripes in these dirty, corrupt times here.

Like his father, Kean Jr. is a moderate, and one whom Save the GOP refers to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He certainly has a fighting chance in this state, which has a 7-6 (Democrats-Republicans) delegation in the House and which at some points last fall was polling as a swing state in the Presidential race. Acting Governor Codey is probably the only other potential candidate with real statewide name recognition (other than Corzine himself), and Kean seems to be a qualified, dedicated individual with youth and charisma. Still, his last name will be his biggest asset, and because of the light in which former Governor Kean is remembered, his boy can't be counted out next fall.

Montclair Responds To Cindy Sheehan

According to Baristanet, our hometown blog, is sponsering a candlelight vigil for Cindy Sheehan, the mother who has taken her grief and protests against the war that killed her son to the front of the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The idea of a vigil for one person who has suffered the same grief that thousands of others have felt during this war is slightly absurd. However, what is more ludicrous is the response from the conservative media (FOX, WSJ), which has branded Sheehan as a phony camera seeker with little sincerity for her cause.

Of course she's seeking publicity, it's the most effective way to advance her dream of ending the war. You may believe that the war is justified, or even going well, but it's tough to question the sincerity of a woman who has lost a son and is trying to save more mothers from experiencing the same tragedy.

If politicians use publicity stunts to gain support, why can't the people?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who Doesn't Love This Guy?

Judge John Roberts with Oregon Democratic Senator, Ron Wyden.

Apparently, Patrick Leahy, the ranking member of the senate judiciary committee, isn't a fan. Unfortunately for him, he's in the minority, even within his party.

According to the Hedgehog Report Post, senate Democrats have indicated that the chances of a Roberts confirmation battle is unlikely.

This comes in light of all the support that Roberts has been getting from traditionally liberal commentators and politicians, who have been quick to denounce the efforts of NARAL, who launched a controversial advertisement that depicted the judge as a terrorist sympathiser.

Although many editorial pages, such as the New York Times and the Starledger, have specifically denounced the misleading nature of the Naral commercials, rather than the opposition to Roberts for the Supreme Court, the current atmosphere is very pro-Roberts and senators know it.

In the end, Naral did not accomplish anything. They drove Democrats away from opposition to Robert's confirmation and they lost a lot of credibility, which will prevent them from successfully campaigning against judges or politicians that are more conservative than Roberts, because they have now become associated with the out-of-touch left wing of the Democratic Party.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bets on Lincoln Chaffee

If Lincoln Chaffee switched parties, would the Democrats continue to characterize him as a flip-flopping, power abusing, Bush lackey?

I put this post up not out of disgust but out of appreciation for the contradictions that make politics beautiful.

Senate Profiles: Lincoln Chaffee

If Rhode Island is not the most liberal state in the Union, it has certainly elected the most liberal Republican to the United States Senate. Lincoln Chafee, the lone Republican to vote against the Iraq war, and a member of an increasingly small minority of the GOP that is liberal on issues such as abortion, civil rights, and the environment, is a remnant of the long gone days when "Republican" was not synonymous with "Right Wing".
Chafee's father, the late John Chafee, became a Rhode Island icon during his tenure in the Senate; he probably has a great deal to do with his son's insistence to remain Republican, despite his tendency to vote with Senate Democrats.
However, Chafee is not liberal on everything. In 2001, he voted in favor of the $1.35 trillion tax cuts over 11 years, despite voting against another $350 billion tax cuts proposed in 2003. In many ways, he is similar to other moderate to liberal Republicans such as Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, who generally support tax relief, but are more concerned about the large budget deficit that is being carried by the current administration.
Chafee is definitely the most outspoken of the liberal Republicans. Although he openly endorsed Bush in 2004, it was not President Bush, but rather, former President George H.W Bush. Chafee told reporters that he wrote in Bush Sr. rather than choose between Bush Jr. or John Kerry.
What irks liberals about Chafee is his reluctance to challenge the President on judicial nominations and especially, John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations. Many believe that Chafee, who sits on the foreign relations committee, was capable of blocking Bolton's nomination in committee. However, Chafee responded to the criticism by saying that he was "inclined to support the President's nominations".
Chafee could be facing a tough primary in 2006 when he asks for the votes of Republicans who could feel betrayed by his liberal positions.

Who Wants Democrats?

As usual in American legislative politics, most incumbents don't have too much too worry about...yet.

According to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committeee, the Democrats have identified about 7 currently Republican seats as vulnerable to Democratic challengers in 2006. These include the seats now held by Senate GOP Leader Bill Frist (TN), Rick Santorum (PA), Lincoln Chafee (RI), George Allen (VA), Mike DeWine (OH), James Talent (MO), and John Ensign (NV).

Only several of the above seats are definitely going to provide heated races. Rick Santorum who, according to all nine polls displayed at the Hedgehog Report, is losing considerably to Pennsylvania prodigy, Bob Casey Jr., is likely to get the boot from the predominantly blue state.

Other Republicans may be weakened by their own party. Ohio moderate, Mike DeWine, who lost valuable support from the right wing of his party when he joined the "gang of 14" during the filibuster battle, is also in an unfortunate position due to the unpopularity of the Ohio Republican Party, which has suffered under the leadership of Governor Bob Taft, who currently enjoys an approval rating of 19%. Lincoln Chafee, who toyed with the idea of switching parties in 2004, has similarly angered both parties in his state and will face tough primary opposition as well as a fair fight in the general election. I might note that he would be a considerably safer incumbent if he had joined the Democratic Party.

The most exciting race could very well be the fight for the open seat in Tennessee. Assuming that Frist does indeed go ahead with his presidential ambitions, a promising Democrat in Congressman Harold Ford could emerge as the first Black Senator from the South ever. Ford is young, charismatic, and fiercely ambitious. He challenged Nancy Pelosi for the Democratic Leader position in the House (he was defeated miserably) at the age of 32 and has proudly taken conservative stances that are at odds with the party. However, Ford has a troubling family.

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