Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Truth About Dean

Nice to see the common wisdom on Dean challenged in an accurate fashion, in the New York Times:

With his [Howard Deans’] early and intense opposition to the American-led attack on Iraq, his call for universal health insurance and his signing a bill that created civil unions for gay couples in Vermont, Dr. Dean, 54, is seen as the most liberal of the major Democratic candidates. Many of the people donning his “Give ’em hell, Howard” buttons hail from the left wing of the party and beyond.

But in Vermont, whose political center of gravity lands left of the nation’s, one of the secrets to Dr. Dean’s success was keeping the most liberal politicians in check.

Over 11 years, he restrained spending growth to turn a large budget deficit into a surplus, cut taxes, forced many on welfare to go to work, abandoned a sweeping approach to health-care reform in favor of more incremental measures, antagonized environmentalists, won the top rating from the National Rifle Association and consistently embraced business interests.

Opposing the war appears leftist because so many Democrats folded on the issue–a waffling that many now publicly regret. As far as universal healthcare goes, Dean’s plan“First, and most important, in order to extend health coverage to every uninsured child and young adult up to age 25,” which Gore advocated in 2000 (for children, but as I recall, not for the 18-24 group). So that’s not crazy-left, either. Steps 2-4 in Dean’s plan are more amitious and longer term, but they center around the free-market, not socialized medicine, nor even single-payer.

And as for Dean on gay rights, well, ok, that’s pretty liberal (“I will work to expand equal rights to same sex couples and ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, strengthen federal protections against anti-gay violence, give federal employees the right to name same-sex partners as beneficiaries, remove bias from our immigration laws, and end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy”). Fortunately, it’s also the just and moral position. It’s nice to see him take a stand rather than take the easy way out and say that it’s a matter for the states, a la McCain on the Confederate Flag.

Looking at the underlined part of the [accurate] description of Dean’s fiscal and business policies, it’s really hard to see why the DLC fears him so.


UPDATE: Joan Walsh has more in this inanely-titled but otherwise good editorial in Salon.

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Rice Watch Day 8

There’s a pun to be made that involves steamed rice, a pot, and a watched pot never boiling, or watched rice never resigning, or something like that. In any event, this makes it look like Rice is not going anywhere soon:

“I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely,” the president said at a White House news conference where he sought to quell a controversy that has dogged his administration for weeks.

[snip]…National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has also come under criticism in connection with the speech and events leading to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Bush strongly defended his aide Wednesday, saying she was an “honest fabulous person” and the United States was lucky to have her in government.


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The Perfect Candidate

If only we could find a candidate for Governor of California who is both conservative and liberal, but actually liberal. How could that be possible? One reporter and his editor at the Chicago Tribune think that Arianna Huffington fits the bill. In the same story, Recall election drive is a California classic, Tribune national correspondent Vincent J. Schodolski first says this:

Huffington, a Cambridge University-educated conservative, had a brief tussle with political life when she was married to multimillionaire Michael Huffington, who spent about $29 million in 1994 trying to win a U.S. Senate seat in California.

Then, seventeen words later, Schodolski says that,

Arianna Huffington recently started a very public campaign against sport-utility vehicles and in favor of cars with combined gasoline and electric engines.

Damn those far-Right Christian Fundamentalists and their Biblical prophecy-driven hatred of large polluting vehicles! Who hires these ignorant clowns and their editors?


P.S. While I’d prefer that the recall fail on practical and democratic principles, a part of me wonders what could possibly be better than watching the Republicans successfully fund a campaign to recall Gray Davis only to see the much, much, further left Huffington become governor of California? Here’s a sample of Huffington: “If, as [Republican challenger] Bill Simon says, Gray Davis is fiscally irresponsible, then George Bush is fiscally insane.”

UPDATE: Digby has another great scenario here.

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I actually consider myself a “New Democrat” in the Clintonian sense, and I think the Democratic Leadership Council did a lot of good for the party. Nevertheless–and I’m definitely not arguing for far-left policies–it is disturbing to see nonsense like this directed at Howard Dean:

Al From, the founder of the organization and an ally of Mr. Clinton, invoked the sweeping defeats of George McGovern in 1972 and Walter F. Mondale in 1984 as he cautioned against a return to policies — including less emphasis on foreign policy and an inclination toward expanding the size of government — that he said were a recipe for another electoral disaster.

Dean is not my first choice, but he’s definitely in the top five. And Dean is not that liberal–not nearly as liberal as McGovern or Mondale and it is stupid to allege that he is, and no good can come from attacking him.

Hey, Al From, stop acting like narrow-minded jackasses: the importance of your preferred candidate winning pales in comparison to having the strongest possible candidate emerge from the Demcratic primaries. You may think that attacking Dean is a way to achieve that, but that’s myopic because it fails to anticipate the response it will induce. You think that if Bill Bradley had not called Gore a liar, Gore might have picked up a few hundred more votes in Florida? Every drop of blood spilt in the primaries is sweet, sweet, mother’s milk to Karl Rove. So stop it. Ok, thenTM.

More generally, the time has come for the DLC to realize that everything exhibits diminishing returns. To think that “if a chunk of centrism worked in 1992 and 1996, then a gigantic wad of centrism will do the trick in 2004” is folly. By all means, don’t go left of Clinton, but that’s no compelling reason to leap right of him.


Correction: Edited due to Charles Kuffner correctly pointing out that Terry McAuliffe is not in the DLC–I suppose I tossed him in there because he does annoy me sometimes. In fairness to McCauliffe, back in April he made the same point I make above:

In an interview at a DNC fund-raiser Tuesday, Terry McAuliffe said he understood the need for the nine candidates to draw distinctions on issues, but he fears the war of words is escalating.

“We do not and I do not encourage any of our candidates to go after fellow Democrats,” McAuliffe said. “I want to discourage it early on. … We expect all of them to abide by a good code out there to make sure the focus is on George Bush and not on each other.”

So to clarify, this is the DLC leadership:

Al From is founder and CEO of the DLC; Bruce Reed is president; Pennsylvania State Representative Jennifer Mann is Chair of the DLC’s State Legislative Advisory Board (SLAB); U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh is chairman of the DLC; U.S. Sen. Tom Carper is chair for Best Practices; Detroit (MI) Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is chairman of the DLC’s Local Elected Officials Network; and U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher is vice chair of the DLC.”

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A Thought

It’s a bit beyond my expertise, but one thought comes to mind when I hear Iraq compared to Vietnam or other “quagmires”. When the Soviet Union got bogged down in Afghanistan, the Unites States was arming the mujahidin. Similarly, in the Korean War, the Soviet Union and China were arming the North Koreans. And in the Vietnam War, the same parties provided arms to the North Vietnamese. Even back in World War II, the heroics of the Warsaw partisans were backed by British ordnance.

This all raises one question: who will arm the Iraqi resistance? Ideally, stability will occur before those hostile to the U.S. occupation run out of RPGs and bullets. But failing that, and unlike in previous conflicts, it seems that there is a real chance that the opposition could run out of supplies. Despite U.S. belligerency, I don’t view it as likely that Iran or Syria will supply arms to Iraq (individuals could probably carry small arms over the border, but I doubt either government would participate). Turkey? Jordan? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? Kuwait? Those seem even less likely.


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The Hydra

Texas provides, if nothing else, outstanding theatre:

Eleven of 12 Democratic state senators abruptly left the state Capitol this afternoon and headed for Albuquerque after learning that Gov. Rick Perry was about to call a second special session on congressional redistricting.

In case you’ve forgotten the chronology, here it is:

  • The Texas legistlature was unable to agree upon U.S. Congressional districts.
  • A panel of three federal judges (2 Ds and 1 R; the R chaired the panel) drew maps.
  • A year passed.
  • With control of the Texas legislature and governor’s office, DeLay got the clever idea to gerrymander an additional 3-6 Republican seats.
  • Texas House members took off to Ardmore, Oklahoma, thereby blocking attainment of a quorum and killing the redistricting effort, in the regular session.
  • Two months pass.
  • Governor Rick Perry calls a special session of the Texas Legislature, specifically to consider redistricting.
  • Oklahoma apparently was not an option in the summer, so the measure passes the Texas House.
  • In the Texas Senate, Democrats hold the line and are joined by one Republican, leaving redistricting supporters in the Texas Sentate with less than the 2/3 majority vote they traditionally need to start debating a bill.
  • Ah, but apparently it’s “tradition”, not “law”. So while Lt. Gov Dewhurst said he wouldn’t circumvent the 2/3 convention in the first special session, he never said he would not do so in the second special session.
  • The first special session ended, and Gov. Perry immediately called another one, solely to again address redistricting (hasn’t someone been telling me to “get over it” since 12/2000? Who was that?)
  • In the 45 minutes between the expiration of the first special session and the convening of the second, 11 Democrats head for Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The nice thing about Albuquerque is that it’s quite scenic with lots of nature-related activities, so the Democrats should, barring pressing family or work (most Texas Legislators have day jobs) needs, enjoy staying there for a while if necessary. So far, neither the House nor the Senate has a quorum, and it looks like the Texas Democrats have adopted a “by any means necessary” mindset–but so have the Republicans. Republicans are at least 5 years into that mindset (dating back to Lewinsky/Impeachment, if not sooner). This is the first real sign of life from Democrats–and, as is to be expected, it’s Democrats from the “Remember the Alamo” state.


P.S. I suppose the judicial filibusters by U.S. Senate Democrats also count as a sign of life, but while extremely important, those are probably less noticed by the public.

UPDATE: Needless to say, Off the Kuff will be your best source for up to date information on this.

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Recall them All

California is not the only state with budget trouble, which is apparently now grounds for recall. Based on this story, deficits and spending cuts are widespread. California’s is by far the largest in magnitude, but I don’t know whether it is largest on either a per capita basis or as a percentage of state income.

Here’s the sequence of events: Bush becomes president; a recession hits; Bush lowers taxes once, in a way that makes taxes less progressive; many states had already cut taxes or now follow suit; there is an alleged recovery (the “jobless recovery” in which GDP growth is positive but unemployment growth is negative); Bush lowers taxes again, again moving the tax code towards regressivity; states go into a budget crisis:

The cuts in state spending are just starting to be felt, with the impact landing disproportionately on the poor. “We have been shifting a lot of spending for social services from the feds to the states,” said Robert M. Solow, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Nobel laureate. “And that means the cuts that are taking place are hurting people at the bottom of the income distribution.”

Moreover, state taxes are generally regressive (fees and consumption taxes make up a large part of states’ revenue). So the net effect of all of this is that the people who will spend any additional dollar they get are (1) getting less dollars, in the form of decreased social services spending (and rising unemployment); (2) about to pay more taxes, due to impending increases in state taxes; and (3) in the process, federal tax cuts reduce the overall tax burden on the well-to-do. As a rough guess, the top 20% are better off, tax-wise; the bottom 25% are worse off. For the middle 55%, cuts in federal taxes are likely to be roughly offset by increases in state and local taxes. Given all of this, there’s not a lot of stimulus in the Bush Tax Cuts, just large deficits. These tax cuts are unlikely to shorten the recession in a Keynesian fashion.


P.S. Just don’t recall the Republican Governor of Alabama.

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Rice Watch Day 7

Making the rounds today on the AP wire today is a story titled “9-11 Report Questions Rice’s Statements” :

The congressional report on pre-Sept. 11 intelligence calls into question answers that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave the public last year about the White House’s knowledge of terrorism threats.

It’s a fresh credibility issue for the adviser whose remarks about prewar Iraq information also have been questioned by members of Congress…

[snip]…At the same May 2002 press briefing, Rice also said that “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.”

But the congressional report states that “from at least 1994, and continuing into the summer of 2001, the Intelligence Community received information indicating that terrorists were contemplating, among other means of attack, the use of aircraft as weapons.”


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Rice Watch Day 6

Remember, you first heard it here at Angry Bear. Now you can hear it in the mainstream media, U.S. News and Word Report:

As White House officials try to control the latest fallout over President Bush’s flawed suggestion in the State of the Union address that Iraq was buying nuclear bomb materials, there’s growing talk by insiders that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice may take the blame and resign.

The same article mentions Brent Scowcroft, Paul Bremer, and some guy I don’t know anything about (Sean O’Keefe) as possible replacements. I view Scowcroft as a great replacement, and therefore the least likely (I don’t think he’s on board with the neocon agenda).

Also see today’s Washington Post for another damaging article, Iraq Flap Shakes Rice’s Image:

“If Condi didn’t know the exact state of intel on Saddam’s nuclear programs . . . she wasn’t doing her job,” said Brookings Institution foreign policy specialist Michael E. O’Hanlon. “This was foreign policy priority number one for the administration last summer, so the claim that someone else should have done her homework for her is unconvincing.

But was her true mistake intelligence-related, or political?

When the controversy intensified earlier this month with a White House admission of error, Rice was the first administration official to place responsibility on CIA Director Tenet for the inclusion in Bush’s State of the Union address of the Africa uranium charge. The White House now concedes that pinning responsibility on Tenet was a costly mistake. CIA officials have since made clear to the White House and to Congress that intelligence agencies had repeatedly tried to wave the White House off the allegation.

It’s a damning article that, in conjunction with the inexorable pressure from Angry Bear, should turn up the heat on the Rice-cooker. (I’ve knew the time would come for a rice, rice-cooker, watched pot never boils type of line–it took six days but there it is).


UPDATE: For more, see The Likely Story and Josh Marshall.


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The Blue Dress

Scarlet Pimpernel sends me this photo that she took on I-5, which runs through California and Washington:

But what does it mean? The message could be that we’re all being screwed by the president, but which president? The current one? Or is the ClenisTM to blame?

On a related note, could “wearing the blue dress” become an official part of the lexicon, joining such great phrases as “screwing the pooch,” “keeping your nose to the grindstone,” and being “wet behind the ears”? The next time I screw something up, or perhaps after landing in a difficult situation, I’ll say “boy, I was really wearing the blue dress on that one” or “damn, you’ve really got me in a blue dress on this one” and try to gauge the reaction.


UPDATE: Another suggested usage: Condi Rice is in the blue dress now.

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