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Monday, October 30, 2006
It's A Little Too Little, It's A Little Too Late
Okay, let's see if I've got this right.

It's eight days before the election -- and now the DSCC is demanding George Allen disclose documents related to his application to the Virginia bar?

The DSCC's J.B. Poersch has sent a letter to the Virginia State Bar, asking it to release the records and noting that Allen's name has made two appearances in court records which he has refused to account for. Poersch points out that Allen may have been required to address the court-records appearances on his application, and notes that release of the record "may be the only way Virginians can learn the truth" about this.

You kidding me? If George Allen was a Democrat, the GOP would have had copies of his application to the state bar six months ago. They would have had copies of every document the guy ever filed.

This is absolutely not the time to start asking for documents. It's obvious you won't get them before the election. While there might be some small benefit in speculating publicly about what might or might not be on the documents, it would have made sense for the Dems to have done some serious opposition research months or years ago -- to find the landmines early, so that you can set them off when you need them.

The Republicans spend a lot of money doing this sort of stuff. And the Democrats have to get serious about hitting them back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006
Babble On, Babbington
I have often criticized the format of the Washington Post's online chats, but at the very least they serve as a portal through which readers can toss the occasional brickbat. So yesterday, sufficiently nettled by David Montgomery's witless article about Rush Limbaugh and his brainless Michael J Fox commentary, I gave in. I sent a question to Charles Babington's Politics "live chat".

Saint Paul, Minn.: Why does The Post regard Rush Limbaugh's accusations against actor Michael J. Fox to be newsworthy?

Limbaugh has never met Fox, nor is he an expert in Parkinson's disease. Neither fact was mentioned in David Montgomery's article.

washingtonpost.com: Rush Limbaugh On the Offensive Against Ad With Michael J. Fox ( Post, Oct. 25 )

Charles Babington: Limbaugh reaches about 10 million listeners a week, as the article noted. Do you really think it was necessary for the article to say: By the way, folks, Rush Limbaugh is not an expert on Parkinson's disease?

Well, yes I do -- especially if you're going to publish his opinions on Parkinson's disease symptoms as news, and not celebrity gossip. Perhaps the -- ahem -- journalist who wrote the article might have asked Limbaugh about his qualifications to diagnose Fox's medical condition based on watching a campaign ad. The point I was trying to make was that Limbaugh speaks complete nonsense with a very authoritative voice. It allows him to fool those "10 million people a week" into thinking that he knows what he's talking about.

But of course, he doesn't. Listening to Limbaugh's commentary, it was clear that I know more about Parkinson's than he does, and I know next to nothing (for example, one word that never came up in his idiotic rant was dopamine, the drug used to treat Parkinson's symptoms, and which has side effects including the kind of constant, restless motion Fox exhibited in the ad). Evidently Limbaugh had never heard of it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Wissen was die Welt bewegt
An odd sort of fatalism seems to be creeping into Republican rhetoric as we approach election day. As the rank-and-file sink into a funk, the movers and shakers make increasingly confident assurances. Apparently the strategy is to convince the base that Rove has everything under control, that those who fight courageously will be rewarded with a triumphant victory. At this point it's a bit like German soldiers being told that Hitler's flying saucers will be coming out from their hidden bases in the Antarctic any time now:
Rove predicts a congressional keeper. And he's not the only one. Here's Lisa Schiffren in a 20 Days symposium we have up today: "The candidates who lose will, for the most part, be personally flawed, or really out of step with their (blue) constituencies. There will be a GOP Senate, and, by a hair, House."

I'm just as wary of Democratic overconfidence as anyone, but these comments made me laugh. What do you think these guys are going to say to the Republican faithful, anyway? "Assume crash positions"?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A Chilling Omen
The Arizona Cardinals blew a 23-3 third-quarter lead in last night's game against the Chicago Bears. In one of the most astonishing finishes in football history, after a series of completely improbable scores, undefeated Chicago ended up defeating winless Arizona by a score of 24-23. Dennis Green flipped out in the press conference after the game; he simply couldn't believe what had happened.

But it did happen. Once again Arizona snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a scenario eerily like that played out by the Democrats in election after election.

Was that game an omen, a portent of electoral disaster?

Maybe, maybe not. Certainly the Republicans seem despondent. Even the brainless Bush cheerleader Fred Barnes is being a gloomy gus about the mid-term elections, now exactly three weeks away. Barnes certainly seems to believe that the Republicans are going to get walloped on November 7. I have to agree with Fred that the Dems are swinging wildly between overconfidence and paranoia about a Karl Rove trap:

Despite their commanding position with the election only weeks away, Democrats are fearful of a last-minute Republican gambit. What if White House aide Karl Rove has arranged for the capture of Osama bin Laden so it can be announced a few days prior to November 7? Rove is clever, but not that clever. Which is why Republicans and conservatives need to prepare themselves for bad news on Election Night.

Karl Rove has become the Democratic bogeyman; Dems ascribe ridiculous abilities to him, abilities far beyond those of mortal men. But aside from being particularly cynical and ruthless, Rove's not much different from any other half-smart political operative.

What worries me more is that Fred Barnes believes the Democrats will make big gains on election day. Barnes' powers of precognition are notoriously bad. Whatever Barnes predicts, expect the opposite to happen.

I'm nervous enough that the conventional wisdom is unanimous. Conventional wisdom is usually wrong. Fred Barnes is usually wrong too. And the political landscape can change drastically in three weeks. The Dems ought to fight hard, keep their eyes on the ball, and take nothing for granted.

Monday, October 16, 2006
Imperfect Contrition At The Johnson County Sun
I was born in Johnson County, Kansas, just a stone's throw from Overland Park -- the exurban heliopause of Kansas City, as rock-ribbed a Republican enclave as you can imagine. And for half a century, the Johnson County Sun proudly carried water for the party of Lincoln. Kansas Republicans have had no better friend in the media than the Sun.

But times have changed. For the first time in the newspaper's history, it's endorsing Democrats.

Here Steve Rose, the newspaper's publisher, explains why:

I am opposed to big government. I have little use for unions. I never liked the welfare plans. I am opposed to weak-kneed defense policies. I have always been for fiscal prudence. I think back to the policies of most Democrats, and I cringe.

So, what in the world has happened?

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

What does to-the-right mean?

It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.

It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.

It means anti-stem cell research.

It means ridiculing global warming.

It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.

It means immigrant bashing. I'm talking about the viciousness.

It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.

It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.

It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.

Note, I did not say it means "anti-abortion," because I do not find that position repugnant, at all. I respect that position.

But everything else adds up to priorities that have nothing to do with the Republican Party I once knew.

It's an interesting editorial, and I'm sure many will claim that this proves that the Republican party has moved to the right of the rank-and-file.

But I don't believe it.

Look at Rose's litany of complaints against his party. Nothing here -- nothing -- is new. They're positions Republicans have proudly held for decades. If you had sat down with Bob Dole when he ran in 1996, he would have agreed with each and every one of them. When the Republican star was in its ascendance, guys like Rose went along for the ride. They knew how morally fucked-up their party's agenda was, but they looked the other way. Because they were winning elections.

It was a pact with the devil they made, those mealy-mouthed moderates and chamber-of-commerce conservatives. They knew that there was a price to be paid, sooner or later. And it's starting to look as if payment comes due November 7.

Now, of course, they want out of the pact.

This isn't about gay-bashing or embryonic stem cells or public school funding. This is about the four-letter word Rose never mentions in his editiorial. It starts with an I and it ends with a Q.

If we were winning the war, you'd hear no complaints about Republican positions on any of these issues. But we're not winning the war, and it's poisoning Republican chances everywhere. Fearing an electoral bloodbath, old-school conservatives are now denying their past, wriggling to get free of the lunatics who brought them to this pass.

In the Catholic church, perfect contrition is when you're truly sorry for what you've done. But imperfect contrition is when you're sorry because you fear the punishment that you've earned.

I don't blame Rose for being afraid. If I were him, I'd be afraid too.

But the devil will have his due, and dear Mr. Rose is going down into the pit with the rest of them. And good riddance.

Thursday, October 12, 2006
The Gang That Couldn't Blog Straight
At a Senate debate the other day, Mark Kennedy attacked Amy Klobuchar on some issue or other, and Klobuchar responded by saying Kennedy had been in Washington so long he'd lost his "Minnesota Nice".

In response, GOP apparatchik and KvM blogger Andy Apilowski stated that Max Cleland, who was in town to stump for Klobuchar, had been in Washington so long he'd lost his "Minnesota Nice".

Just for the record, Cleland's from Georgia.

Apilowski also posted the address of Amy Klobuchar's campaign office so that readers could deluge her with angry letters.

Unfortunately for Andy, he posted the wrong address.

I'm glad he's on their side, and not ours.

Hey Patty Wetterling! When Does Your Campaign Start?
I don't live in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, so I really don't have a dog in this fight. But I'm still baffled by Patty Wetterling's oddly lackadaisical campaign. Patty is running against the biggest nutcase in the Minnesota legislature, a right-wing goofball named Michelle Bachmann. Yet in spite of the fact that she's a crackpot, Bachmann is holding a small but very steady lead in the polls.

The 6th District is somewhat right-leaning, but it's baffling to me that Bachmann is still ahead. I'm guessing that most folks in the MN 6 don't know how extreme, and how deeply weird, Bachmann is (City Pages did a cover story on that last week, and Wonkette put up a post on Bachmann this morning). To quote the City Pages article:

Bachmann's track record in the legislature reads like a parody of right-wing talk radio. She has introduced or signed onto bills that would make English the official state language, halt grants to clinics that perform abortions, make proof of citizenship a requirement at voting booths, and allow stillbirths to be officially designated as births by the state. Bachmann is also the legislator behind the Reagan fetish at the Capitol this time around, proposing that Interstates 494 and 694 be renamed Ronald Reagan Beltway, and declaring February 6, the dead president's birthday, officially recognized.

You'd think that Wetterling's campaign would point out the fact that her opponent is batshit-crazy, but it hasn't happened yet.

Feel free to start your campaign whenever you're ready, Patty. Take your time.

UPDATE: About a minute after posting this, I saw the results of the Oct 8-10 Constituent Dynamics poll. It shows Wetterling over Bachmann, 50 - 45. I wish the Democrats would take that as a sign to fight harder, not to take a break. But they don't listen to me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
It's The Judgement, Stupid
That Rose Garden press conference this morning was really weird. These days, in order for Bush to defend his policies, he must retreat to the alternate universe he has going inside his head. In that universe, the Iraqi people are grateful to Bush for throwing off the yoke of Saddam's tyranny. Only about 3,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the course of the war. The six-party talks have yielded great results. North Korea does not possess nuclear weapons. Dennis Hastert is a competent, forthright leader. And, of course, so is Bush himself.

QUESTION: On May 23rd, 2003, sir, you said -- you effectively drew a line in the sand. You said, "We will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea." And, yet, now it appears that they have crossed that line. And I'm wondering what now, sir, do you say to both the American people and the international community vis-a-vis what has happened over the last 48 hours?

BUSH: No, I appreciate that. And I think it's very important for the American people and North Korea to understand that that statement still stands. And one way to make sure that we're able to achieve our objective is to have other people join us in making it clear to North Korea that they share that objective.

And that's what's changed. That's what changed over a relatively quick period of time.

It used to be that the United States would say that, and that would be kind of a stand-alone statement. Now, when that statement is said, there are other nations in the neighborhood saying it.

And so we'll give diplomacy a chance to work. It is very important for us to solve these problems diplomatically. And I thank the leaders of -- listen, when I call them on the phone, we're strategizing.

This isn't, you know: Oh, please stand up and say something. This is: How can we continue to work together to solve this problem? And that is a substantial change from the previous times.

I kind of admire the way Bush can sort of shrug off reality. Small children and lunatics do the same thing all the time.

The Bush policy on North Korea -- such as it is -- has been a complete catastrophe. It's really quite breathtaking, the extent to which it's been an unmitigated disaster. Yet Bush seems convinced that the six-party talks are going just dandy, and that his policies are right on track, yielding just the results he wants.

Now let's back up the tape a bit and look at a couple of his sentences closely.

And so we'll give diplomacy a chance to work. It is very important for us to solve these problems diplomatically. And I thank the leaders of -- listen, when I call them on the phone, we're strategizing.

This isn't, you know: Oh, please stand up and say something. This is: How can we continue to work together to solve this problem? And that is a substantial change from the previous times.

Now I think we're getting to the nub of it -- we're getting into what makes Bush not only a bad president, but the worst president in the history of the Republic.

It comes down to one word: judgement.

That may seem kind of obvious, but really, it's easy to miss -- what with the lies, the secrecy, the cronyism, the lawbreaking, the arrogance, all the things that have gotten most of the public's attention over the past six years.

Bush, to put it in the simplest terms, just has piss-poor judgement. He constantly draws the wrong lessons from history. If one approach didn't work in one set of circumstances, then he will do the exact opposite in a completely different set of circumstances. He simply doesn't know when a situation calls for action and when it doesn't; he doesn't know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick. And that's not something you can learn. It's instinctive.

Once he gets set on a policy, he's set. No more thought required. If it isn't working, don't worry. It'll work. Because in his mind, a change in his policy would signal weakness.

Andrew Sullivan once lamented that if the Bush administration demanded the same level of competence in its policymakers that it does in its political operatives, the administration would be doing great.

But really, Bush's political operatives had to be the best in the business. Otherwise, how do you think they could have gotten this gibbering shithead elected?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
America! I'm Beggin' Ya!
It's a shame that Bill Bennett won't be on the National Review's "Post-Election Death Cruise" (see you off the coast of Puerta Vallerta, lads). Maybe he wasn't invited because of his unfortunate tendency to blubber and plead, which is unattractive regardless of your political orientation:
Look, if you want John Paul Stevens replaced on the Supreme Court with a carbon copy, pro-choice, pro-racial preferences Justice, stay home.

If you want Donald Rumsfeld hauled before Congress every week justifying the war rather than fighting it, stay home.

If you want spending to increase even above the levels you are unhappy with now, stay home.

If you want Henry Waxman holding hearings on every aspect of the administration's actions, stay home.

If you want to see the war in Iraq defunded to the point of withdrawal so that the worst elements in Iraq take over and a repeat of the helicopters-fleeing-Saigon-type-images come back all over again, signaling a decade-long disrespect and doubt of American power, stay home.

....If you want a change in your Congressional leadership, fine, wait until you have the election, then demand it, with a new GOP speaker and majority leader if you want...but let me tell you, a new minority leader and a new minority whip will not get you much, it won't get you anything.

Two years ago we sent a message by reelecting the President, have things fallen so hard since then that we can't muster those numbers again and see that the good should not be traded in for the bad? You want to rue a day? You will rue a day with John Conyers as head of the House Judiciary and Pat Leahy as head of the Senate Judiciary. Don't do it. Please don't do it.

Yeah, he's right! Don't do it, America! 'Cause if you do do it, you know what'll happen? This: Bennett will cry, knock back a few stiff drinks, and then lose another hundred grand at the blackjack table.

But don't worry. He'll soon be back at work, writing a new book extolling rock-ribbed conservative virtues.

Monday, October 09, 2006
A Laugh And A Half
Gary Miller at KvM hopes that this morning's nuclear test in North Korea will make voters forget about the Mark Foley scandal, and scare them into backing the Republicans once again:

Kim Jong Il and his nuclear test serve as a potent reminder that the Democrats are not ready to govern in a dangerous world. I think it’s fair to say the Foley matter just took a back seat.
As my childhood friend David Gunther used to say, "That's a laugh and a half".

Let's be blunt about this: the neocons have been dictating North Korean policy since the beginning of the Bush administration. It's been as much a fiasco as everything else these clowns have touched.

The policy has been simple. Don't talk to North Korea. Just rattle the saber.

You tell me how well it's working out.

Miller seems to view Bush as a brawny savior, standing between America and the barbarian hordes. But I don't think most Americans see him that way. The public seems to have made up its mind that Bush is a failed president. And I see little that can happen at this point to change that perception.

Friday, October 06, 2006
Whom The Gods Would Destroy, They First Make Mad
Holy cow.

The Republican party fell off the edge of the Earth today. It appears to have happened while I was tuned into game three of the American League Division Series -- Minnesota at Oakland, before the 7th inning stretch, but after Oakland had scored the game-winning run.

After a week of bungled and half-hearted responses to the House page scandal, this, this, brethren, is the strategy the Republicans have come up with:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Faced with fending off the backlash from the Mark Foley scandal, House Republicans took the offensive Friday, asking Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to testify about whether they engaged in partisan trickery by releasing Foley's messages weeks before the midterm elections.

Top GOP leaders -- including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, of Illinois, and Majority Leader John Boehner, of Ohio -- have accused the Democrats of knowing about Foley's correspondences with teen pages, and waiting to release them until it was politically advantageous.

Are they serious? I thought Rep. Cannon of Utah was desperate when he suggested the pages were "egging Foley on". But this is even zanier.

If Republicans think this is going to save their bacon, they are in deeper trouble than I thought.

It is an approach that is simultaneously so naive and so cynical that I am baffled that they would ever consider it.

This is beyond the usual Republican "blg lie". This is all-out political suicide, a leap into madness.

If the Democrats have any sense at all (no guarantees there) they won't try to engage in the he-said-she-said exchange that the Republicans clearly crave. They should hit the GOP back -- hard. They should remind these jokers that "accountability" and "personal responsibility" are more than just phrases you mouth in election season. It's moments like these that test whether you're speaking truth or mouthing platitudes. And right now, the Republicans aren't passing the test.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Who's To Blame?
Who's to blame for the Mark Foley email / IM imbroglio? The Corner has plenty of suggestions, and I've been keeping a running tally.

1. Bill Clinton

2. The New Republic

3.Gay liberals

4. Cynthia McKinney

5.Unspecified "radical gay rights groups"

6. Vanity Fair

7. Calvin Klein advertisements

8.The Democrats

9.Unspecified "left-wing groups".

10. Nancy Pelosi

11. The North American Man-Boy Love Association

12. The Ancient Greeks.

Yet to be blamed: Dennis Hastert, Dennis Miller, Dennis the Menace, Hillary Clinton, Saddam Hussein, Shaddam IV, Vidal Sassoon, the Rosicrucians, the Rastafarians, the Martians, the Exartians, the United Nations, and the Screen Actors' Guild. But I'll keep you posted if that changes.

Under Pressure
The pressure is building on Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. It was only Friday that Rep. Mark Foley abruptly resigned his seat in a sex scandal involving teenage pages, but Hastert's apparent attempts to sweep it all under the rug have staggered the Republicans.

One way or another, there's gonna be hell to pay. Bashing Foley isn't soothing public anger at the House leadership. Now the Washington Times, the GOP's Pravda, is calling to Hastert's head:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.
Interestingly, the Times nominates Rep. Henry Hyde for the Speaker post. Hyde is clearly a more reliable conservative than Hastert, and he gets winger bonus points for leading the impeachment effort against Bill Clinton in 1998. Perhaps the Times believes that elevating Hyde to the Speakership will remind voters of the Clinton sex scandal; he seems an improbable choice in any case.

The Democrats are sharpening their knives, knowing that Republican House candidates will squirm when asked if they support a change in the leadership. It might be popular with voters to say they do; but if Hastert survives and the GOP retains its majority, such disloyal Republicans might be subject to any number of punishments, slights and humiliations. At the moment most House candidates are on the fence, waiting to see if the story will play itself out.

But if I were a House Republican -- and if I were a betting man -- I'd publicly call for Hastert to step down. Something's gotta give in the next five weeks, and I'd prefer risking Hastert's wrath to risking the wrath of the voters.

Monday, October 02, 2006
Yes, Virginia, George Allen Is An Idiot. And So Are You.
On MSNBC today, a gaggle of talking heads were shouting at each other about the Virginia senate race. What a political minefield Senator George Allen finds himself in, they agreed!

First the "macaca" thing, then the not-so-new revelations about the Confederate flags and the pin and the noose, then the whole ham sandwich deal. Now it's deer heads in mailboxes and the N-word.

How astonishing, one of the pundits said, that Allen's poll numbers haven't been hurt by all this.

Actually, I'm astonished that Allen's poll numbers haven't gone up.

Listen, people. This is Virginia we're talking about. I've been there; I've seen it. The entire state is made up of sweaty, thick-necked, mouth-breathing, pig-hollerin' hillbillies. These are people who think Hillary Clinton is the Antichrist, the Moon landings were faked, and that Hee Haw was a documentary series.

So George Allen kept a Confederate flag on his wall and a noose hanging in his office? Who the hell doesn't in Virginia? Shucks, old George was just respecting southern heritage by showin' the stars n' bars. And the noose? Well, that's a nod to the South's dazzling heritage too -- plus you never know when some negro might look at a white woman the wrong way. Lynching is such a popular spectator sport in Virginia, they named a town after it. But they never passed a law banning it.

So Virginia, the bad news is that your Senator is brainless, racist, thin-skinned slimebag. But at least you picked one of your own to represent you.

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