January 31, 2005
A SUPERB column on social security by FDR's grandson
If you haven't yet, you really should read this op-ed from today's Boston Globe by FDR's grandson, James Roosevelt Jr. It's accurate, powerful, and should be required reading for every Democrat. If the Dems can just stick to the facts and the message in this column, we will win this battle.
Snobbish Romney Disses Cheese Steak
Romney has turned his back on America and announced that the classic American delicacy a cheese steak sandwich is not good enough for him. "He said the cheese steak had no nutritional value," Pennsylvania Governor Rendell told the Philadelphia NBC affiliate after Romney declined his offer of a cheese steak versus lobsters wager on the Super Bowl. The governors agreed on a bet in which the loser would travel to the winner's city and sing the national anthem wearing a jersey of the winning team. The last politician to publicly criticize the cheese steak, Pittsburgh-area Pa. attorney general Mike Fisher, was trounced by Rendell in the 2002 gubernatorial race, NBC reported. "A Fisher TV spot during that election, which made fun of the rib-eye steak sandwich, became a campaign issue after the ad appeared on the Internet and in TV news broadcasts. The ad ended with Fisher holding a sandwich from Pittsburgh, proclaiming that he would take it "over a Philly cheesesteak, any day of the week." The ad drew an angry response in the cheesesteak's home town in 2002," the station said.
January 29, 2005
Missing the boat on the CJ derby
An op-ed in today's Globe by Joan Lukey, a lawyer and former president of the Boston Bar Association, shows how people who should know better really don't understand the considerations that will likely determine who is nominated to replace ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Lukey's basic argument is this: no one wants a repeat of 1986 -- Bush doesn't want the controversy surrounding Reagan's elevation of Rehnquist to Chief, and the Democrats don't want to give another Scalia a free pass. Yet Bush wants to name a "staunch conservative" to the Court. His best option, Lukey concludes, is to "propose a moderate-conservative from the ranks of the existing associate justices"; this is said to be the only way that he could "achieve confirmation of a more socially conservative replacement justice than would otherwise be the case." Lukey says that Bush should therefore nominate Kennedy or O'Connor to be Chief, which would earn Bush a lot of political capital with the Dems, which he could then burn on sliding in a real conservative into the vacant seat.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. More below.
Lukey's theory just doesn't work. First, consider a basic fact about Bush's Republican "base." It's no secret that religious conservatives are a big part of Bush's political success. They understand that they can't get everything they'd like from someone like Bush who pretends to be a moderate conservative, but the one thing they care about more than almost anything else is the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court. There, they expect Bush to listen to them (and by invoking Scalia and Thomas as his "ideal" judges, he has effectively told them that he will).
In light of that, let's consider how the "base" would feel about Kennedy or O'Connor being elevated to Chief. Kennedy authored the recent opinion declaring anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. O'Connor authored the opinion upholding the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program, and she (along with Kennedy) has declined numerous invitations to overrule Roe v. Wade. Both of them are therefore viewed by the hard right as "betrayers" of President Reagan (who named them to the Court) and of the conservative cause, and as "catastrophic" appointments. Bush needs his political "base" to advance his very ambitious second-term agenda, yet the religious right is already grumbling loudly about Bush's perceived backing-off of his commitment to an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. Nominating either Kennedy or O'Connor as Chief would almost surely lead to an explosion from the right that would leave Bush's and Karl Rove's ears ringing in a most unpleasant way. (In addition, at age 74, O'Connor can't promise Bush the long reign that he undoubtedly wants his Chief Justice to have.) It ain't gonna happen.
Second, I doubt that the Dems would be so stupid as to be lulled into complacence by elevating a "moderate" associate justice to the Chief's chair. They understand (I hope) that the Chief has only one vote, and that the bigger issue is not who's in which seat, but rather who are the new judges appointed to the Court. So I just don't see that naming someone like Kennedy or O'Connor as Chief makes it any easier (or harder, for that matter) to fill the vacant seat with a conservative. Moreover, Lukey seems to think that any conservative appointment to replace Rehnquist will generate a filibuster, but she ignores the fact that Rehnquist is so conservative that regardless of who replaces him, the balance on the Court won't change much. If the Dems are clever about spending their capital, they'll ask some tough questions of a conservative replacement for Rehnquist but not take any serious steps (like a filibuster) to block the nomination. The real battle that could change the balance of the Court comes if someone from the center of the Court decides to step down. That is the time for the heavy artillery.
Lukey is right about one thing -- the next Chief probably won't be Scalia or Thomas -- but for the wrong reasons. I've already argued here that it wouldn't be worth it for Bush to try to elevate Thomas or Scalia because both of them would provoke a nasty confirmation battle, yet neither of them would be an effective Chief. But the way for Bush to avoid that problem isn't to nominate a "moderate conservative" to be Chief, thereby alienating your base. It's to nominate a staunch conservative from the outside, preferably one who can nonetheless get some lefties to back the nomination. One such person is Tenth Circuit Judge Michael McConnell, as I've discussed here; undoubtedly there are others.
In the post-Bork era, every confirmation battle costs the President some political capital. So why burn capital on two battles if you can accomplish everything you want in one? If and when Rehnquist retires, look for a single nomination of a staunch conservative from outside the Court to be Chief Justice.
January 28, 2005
Overwhelming Support for Dean on MassDems.org Discussion Board
The Massachusetts State Democratic Party's discussion board about the race for DNC Chair is filled with overwhelming support for Howard Dean. Poster Jana118 writes, " I just got a call today from Johnston's office [Democratic State Party Chairman Phil Johnston] saying that he is supporting Dean for chair. Cool." Poster Miles Fidelman, a member of the Newton Ward 2 Democratic Committee, reports that "Last week, the Newton Ward 2 committee voted to endorse Gov. Dean for the DNC chair - a formal letter should be on it's way to MA voting members of the DNC. Let's see if we can follow Florida's example and come out with a State endorsement." Poster WhyBaby writes, "Gov. Dean should not only get the DNC chair, but the whole dining room set!"
Step AWAY from the consultants! Part Deux
Must-read profile on Deval Patrick in the current Phoenix. The article has a lot of really intriguing biographical info, but the main gist is the establishment's perception of Patrick as a idealistic, naive political unknown who doesn't know the rough-and-tumble of MA politics, who doesn't know how to play the game:
Then there was the strange letter Patrick sent to prospective supporters, in which eloquent tributes to Massachusetts and to the role of government were coupled with oddly plaintive requests for help. ("Tell me your thoughts not just about the political calculations, but about how I should be thinking about and learning about what people need and how an enlightened, engaged governor could help," Patrick wrote. "... Especially ask your kids what they need in a governor and pass that thinking on.") To some political veterans, it all seemed ridiculously half-baked. "To send out letters asking five-year-old kids what they think about you running for governor? It’s stupid!" complains one Democrat. "You don’t know why you’re going to run? Don’t run." "If you want to run for governor," adds Scott Ferson, a political consultant with the Liberty Square Group, "it’s nice to know why you want to run, instead of saying you’re going to figure it out."
Let's think about this. A political neophyte sent out a letter asking people what they cared about. He could have prepared some canned BS -- "I want to help working families blah blah health care wah wah I believe the children are the future argle bargle" -- and even those much-maligned kids would have smelled the Hormel. Instead, he decided to act like a responsive public servant. You know, like they have in democracies.
As I mentioned in the comments of another thread, this is similar to the "listening tour" strategy adopted by Hillary Clinton when she was "thinking" of running for Senator in NY. I'm not Hillary's biggest fan, but give her credit: it was a smart move, she did it well and gracefully, and she won.
Furthermore, the way to beat Romney is simply to be more ambitious, to expect more from our civic culture than low, low taxes. This state has a history of producing folks who appealed to the common good ... and oh yeah, it's a Commonwealth.
For now, Patrick seems content to do it his way:
"You can trivialize any gesture that people make to try to offer a way for people to be heard, and there are a lot of examples of that in public life. I think it’s time to turn that around."
I, for one, am all ears.
January 27, 2005
No grilz allouwd
Boy, those cats at the Klub for Growth have a way with words, don't they? Remember the anti-Dean nyah-nyah in Iowa? "latte-drinking, sushi-eating, freak show" etc.
Well, when they eat (and they do eat well at the Klub, don't you know), they eat their own. (Thanks again to Josh Marshall, upon whose every word I apparently hang.) Their blog describes an NPR interview with Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) thusly:
"[a] nauseating exchange between a boot-licking radio jockey and the pork-loving, misinformed Boehlert,"
Where does this Klub for Growths meet? In a treehouse?
Too bad Governor Thongney doesn't bring the Klub here. Republicans would be rarer than Shakers when they got done with their act. "Freak show" indeed.
MA Democratic Party Caucuses
The Massachusetts Democratic Party caucuses are coming this weekend and next week. To find the date and location of the caucus nearest you click here to visit massdems.org. All Progressives MUST attend their local caucus if we are ever to grow this Party a new set of balls so it can beat the Republicans. If you have questions, you can contact David Howard, Massachusetts Democratic party Volunteer Coordinator at 617-472-0637 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PBS/WGBH gets SpongeBobbed
Ugh. In lieu of pushing the anti-marriage constitutional amendment (a certain loser in the Senate), the Bush administration is pandering to its homophobe base with micro-initiatives, like this (hat tip to Josh Marshall):
This week, the new US secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, denounced PBS for spending public funds to tape an episode of a children's program that features [Karen] Pike, a lesbian, her partner, Gillian Pieper, and their 11-year-old daughter, Emma. The installment of ''Postcards From Buster," which is produced locally at WGBH-TV (Channel 2) and which had been scheduled to air March 23, was promptly dropped by PBS, which is refusing to distribute the footage to its 349 member stations.
You know what? Let's have this discussion. Let's rise to the bait: Gay people are real. Their relationships are real. Their love is real. They have real families. It's not shocking to show that to kids, and I'll bet it didn't even occur to the WGBH folks that it was a big deal. It's not. (Maybe we should be grateful to Mrs. Spellings for the opportunity to talk about this in a post-election context.)
These people are bullying our friends, neighbors, and relatives. There's decent pushback from Terry McAuliffe in the article -- who else will stand up?
Here's a great nugget -- the northeastern chauvinist in me can't resist:
At least one member station said that it would not air the episode, even though WGBH will make it available. Jeanette Thornbrue, a manager in the programming department at OETA-TV (Channel 11) in Oklahoma City, said her station will download whatever is on the PBS satellite feed that day instead.
''Oklahoma is very conservative," she said. ''We've had off-the-wall phone calls when nothing was happening." She added that one viewer complained about an episode of ''Teletubbies" in which the characters were dancing. ''They thought that was too much," she said.
And they think we're weird.
Our trusty media outlets, II
Wow, that liberal cheese-eating surrender monkey Teddy Kennedy called for withdrawal of troops from Iraq:
Kennedy calls for troop withdrawal in Iraq
By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer | January 27, 2005
WASHINGTON -- The American military's continued presence in Iraq is fanning the flames of conflict, and signals the need for a new detailed timeline to bring the troops home, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Thursday...
While not the first member of Congress to call for a withdrawal of the troops, Kennedy is the first senator to do so.
Well, actually he called for a definite timeline. Does anybody think they should just be there forever?
January 26, 2005
Our trusty media outlets
It's so very interesting to compare how different media outlets cover the same news story. As you probably know by now, Deval Patrick has announced that he may seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of Massachusetts. This story first appeared prominently in the Boston Globe, and was immediately picked up by WBUR, Channel 5, "Greater Boston" on Channel 2, and the Boston Phoenix (and maybe others that I haven't found). And that seems appropriate -- Patrick's work in the Clinton administration gave him a genuinely national profile; he would be the first major African-American candidate for Governor in Massachusetts history; and the other likely Democratic candidates (Tom Reilly and Bill Galvin) have significant shortcomings (see related posts here and here).
Despite all of that, there have been no news reports about Patrick's potential candidacy in the Boston Herald. Until today, that is, when, in an article provocatively entitled "Ex-fed prosecutor's bid for gov race funds violates law," reporter David Guarino writes that Patrick may have committed a technical violation of state campaign finance law by soliciting funds in a e-mail sent to supporters before his political committee was actually registered with the state campaign finance office.
I haven't seen Patrick's e-mail so I don't know whether or not it is an actual solicitation, nor am I an expert on state campaign finance law. But if this was indeed a violation, it certainly seems to have been of the hypertechnical variety -- the integrity of our democracy seems safe. Curious, though, that the Herald thought that this was newsworthy, when the Herald evidently thought that Patrick's possible entry into the race was not. Even curiouser, in light of the Herald's apparent view that Michael Capuano's decision not to run was newsworthy. You don't think there would be any sort of agenda driving the Herald's decisions of what to cover and what not to cover, do you?