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The Mountain Might Get ’em, but the Law Never Will

There’s more to the story of the Texas Democratic Senators leaving the state than meets the eye–or, at the least, some interesting details–according to this amusing account of the Democrats’ getaway plan, Operation Town Lake:

Planning [for a getaway] picked up two weeks ago, when Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he would suspend a key Senate rule to muscle through a redistricting plan if Mr. Perry called a second special session.

Changing old rules in midstream in order to change districts midstream, Dewhurst was clearly taking a page from Orrin Hatch’s book.

[ed–if possible, you should read the remainder of this tale in the voice of the narrarator from the Dukes of Hazzard].

…Now the GOP had set a trap for the Boys, but they were on to Ole Boss Rick Perry (R-Texas) and his sheriff, David “Rosco P.” Dewhurst (R-Texas). See, the Republicans planned to capture ’em with a surprise second session, but Miss Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) was lookin’ out for the boys:

“I had a bad feeling all weekend. Call it a mother’s intuition. … On Sunday I told everyone to pack as if they were leaving for a couple of days.”

Come Monday, they had to skedaddle. They had to find a place to lay low, somewhere as they could get some help, some vittles, and a good doc for their ailin’ friend, Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville). And they knew right where to go, Boss Richardson’s. See, Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) and Boss Perry had been feudin’ since before John Whitmire (D-Houston) was born. Bill always said Boss Perry smelled like a polecat and was twice as ugly. Yep, if they could git to Richardson’s place, they’d be all right.

Thing was, Boss Richardson’s place was 800 miles away. The boys knew Boss Perry’s men would be watchin’ every stretch of open road from Austin to Abilene an’ in between. Miss Leticia and the Boys were in a mess o’ trouble.

One thing Boss Perry hadn’t reckoned on was Uncle Juan “Jesse” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) catchin’ wind o’ his plan. Juan’d been shootin’ the breeze down at The Boar’s Nest where it seems a few o’ the bosses men couldn’t take more ‘an a thimble full of whiskey ‘fore they started yappin’ about Boss Perry’s new plan. Quicker ‘an you can say fried okra, Uncle Juan rounded up two jet planes, grabbed Letecia and the Boys, and high-tailed it to Boss Richardson’s place, clear across the border (click here). But they weren’t out of the woods yet. No sir. Come to find, Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) was plum outa clean drawers(*). Worse still, round about supper time came word that Boss Perry’d put a price on their heads(**).

Stay Tuned.


(*) True detail from the Dallas Morning News story.

(**) Sadly, also true. Richardson gave the 11 Democrats protection, though: “At least three uniformed and plainclothes New Mexico state police officers are watching the lawmakers wherever they go.”

UPDATE: Who knew? Apparently the Dukes of Hazzard narrarator was none other than Waylon Jennings (via Charles Kuffner, who has more info on the latest Texas antics here).

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Bait and Switch Program Revisited

Via Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum apparently did the hard work of reading the transcript of Bush’s Press Conference today. Therein, Kevin found this:

And in order to placate the critics and the cynics about intentions of the United States, we need to produce evidence. And I fully understand that. And I’m confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program.

If you’ve forgotten the difference between a program and an imminent threat, click here. If you feel yourself starting to fall for this switcharoo, or you have a friend suffering from severe gullibility, click here for a refresher (make sure you check the dates–there are quotes about weapons programs, but those are all from May 2003 or later).


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Good News

Filibuster blocks Estrada nomination:

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans lost a seventh filibuster vote Wednesday in their fight to make Miguel Estrada the first Hispanic on the federal appeals court in the nation’s capital. Democrats appeared to be setting up more filibusters on President Bush’s judicial nominees.

But read it closely and witness your “liberal media” in action (it’s an AP story). First, were the Republicans really fighting to “make Miguel Estrada the first Hispanic on the federal appeals court?” More accurate would be this characterization: “Estrada is the first Hispanic Appellate Court Nominee Republicans have fought for”, followed by an explanation of the political views, insofar as they are publicly known, of Estrada. And the story says that Democrats are setting up more filibusters, but fails to mention the number of judges confirmed (well over 100) or compare the rate of confirmation to historical rates.

The AP story does give a consice update on the status of the various controversial (i.e., extreme-right) nominees:

Republicans, who also lost a filibuster vote Tuesday for Texas judge Priscilla Owen, will try Thursday and Friday to win confirmation for Alabama Attorney General William Pryor and California judge Carolyn Kuhl. But both nominees are expected to be filibustered, as is Mississippi judge Charles Pickering when he comes before the Senate again.

Henry Saad of Michigan is also likely to be filibustered, this time on procedural grounds: the Senate has long required both Senators from a nominee’s home state to approve a nominee (the “blue slip”); neither Michigan Senator (Levin and Stabenow) has given a Blue Slip for Saad (here’s a nice history of the blue slips; also, here). During the Clinton Years, the Blue Slip policy was strictly enforced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin “Piracy Virus Hatch. Back then, Hatch went so far as to have this printed on the blue slips: “[n]o further proceedings on this nominee will be scheduled until both blue slips have been returned by the nominee’s home state senators.” They now read “Please complete the attached blue slip form and return it as soon as possible to the Committee office”–a change made in January 2001.

I can’t find a link right now, but I recall that shortly after Bush’s inauguration, Hatch said one slip would do. Now the Saad nomination is proceeding with none (Kuhl apparently had one, but blue slips are anonymous so it’s unknown whether it was from Boxer or Feinstein). Patrick Leahy, Senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has a great statement on the blue slips and their contrasting use under Clinton (and before) vs. under Bush. There’s a lot more, but here’s an excerpt:

While it is true that various Chairmen of the Judiciary Committee have used the blue-slip in different ways, some to maintain unfairness, and others to attempt to remedy it, it is also true that each of those Chairmen was consistent in his application of his own policy — that is, until now. Today is the first time that this Chairman will ever have convened a hearing for a judicial nominee who did not have two positive blue slips returned to the Committee.

Republicans are up in arms about the Democrats using procedural measures like blue slips and filibusters to block complete and total Republican hegemony, but such measures have a long and storied tradition. While they’ve been misused (both were used by southern Senators to block Civil Rights legislation and the appointment of minority judges to the federal courts), they are part of the system of checks and balances. Before Republicans go to far, I must remind them of Grover Norquist’s Hillary Test:

“Someday Hillary Clinton’s going to be attorney general and I hope conservatives keep that in mind.”


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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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