Assessing the 2008 Hopefuls: Part I

In this continuing segment, I will assess the strengths and weaknesses of some of those likely to be 2008 presidential candidates. I'll also let you know what I personally think of each candidate from my perspective as a left-leaning moderate voter.

John McCain

The rundown: Since losing the 2000 race for the Republican nomination, in what many view as a bitter and dirty campaign, Arizona Senator John McCain has risen in the ranks to become one of the most powerful members of Congress. He is known in Washington and the media for being a strong conservative who is nonetheless willing to compromise with the other party. Along with Russ Feingold, he introduced campaign finance reform legislation, angering some conservatives. He was also part of the "Gang of 14," a group of 7 Democratic and 7 Republican senators who struck a deal on the filibustering of Bush appointees. Hawkish on Iraq and the war on terror, he has been critical of the administration's handling of the invasion but believes more troops are currently needed to stabilize Baghdad. On social issues such as abortion, McCain is solidly conservative.

Chances with Republican voters: 8/10. Two years ago, McCain's chances to win over the religious base of the Republican electorate appeared slim. In 2000, McCain delivered a blistering speech in which he famously called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance" who distorted his record because he didn't "pander to them." Though this won him respect among moderates who wouldn't otherwise support him but were uncomfortable with Falwell and Robertson's brand of faith, the Senator has since reconciled with Falwell. He has also been emphasizing his pro-life, pro-family credentials. While there are undoubtedly Republicans who find McCain too much of a rogue and too critical of the GOP to support him, he appears at this point to be the frontrunner for the nomination.

Chances with the general electorate: 7/10. McCain consistantly does well in hypothetical horse race polls, especially when all voters are surveyed. In the post 9/11 world, he is viewed as serious about terrorism and strong on defense. And while many of his colleagues have been hurt by their support for the increasingly unpopular Iraq war, McCain has managed to maintain an image of both skepticism and strength. Voters appreciate his criticism of the handling of the war and it appears they are weighing this more heavily than his continued calls for more troops. It's possible, though, that the Senator's hawkishness may come back to haunt him, especially if the Baker commission's much anticipated report finds that a withdrawal is the best policy. The 2006 midterms hurt McCain's chances as a down-the-line conservative, as that election seemed to be a victory for moderation and restraint. Nonetheless, after 8 years of the Bush administration, many voters will support the man who is seen as honest and competent, traits McCain has worked hard to portray.

Would I support him?: Very Unlikely. In my mind, the most attractive thing about John McCain was his willingness to say exactly what was on his mind (remember the "straight-talk express?") despite the political unpopularity of it. As a Republican, lambasting the powerful religious right was a move of great bravery. He was right and I believe he still knows that he was. In his quest to win support for the 2008 primaries, he has run to the right, embracing all that he was once skeptical of. Furthermore, I believe the media depiction of McCain as an independent-minded conservative is lazy and misleading journalism. Saying that more troops should have been sent into Iraq from the beginning is by no means outside the establishment; it's popular opinion. If nothing else, McCain would probably run a much more competent administration than his predecessor. But he can no longer guarantee that it would be an honest one.

Iraq endgame proposals

Lawrence Kolb, a fellow at The Center for American Progress(CAP), a liberal think tank run by John Podesta revisits their plan for strategic redeployment. (PDF)

I suppose we should make a list of Iraq proposals.

Kolb's proposal for CAP.

McGovern's withdrawal proposal from Harpers.

Biden's proposal of shared power. (Washington Post op-ed; text of speech in front of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.)

Murtha's resolution.

The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) wants more troops. (One of the latest Weekly Standard articles expressing just that can be viewed by clicking here.)

John McCain supports plans to raise troop levels and prepare to stay for many years.

Feingold tried to propose a withdrawal by the end of this year--which of course was rebuked by Congress. I imagine we will be hearing more from him now that he is in the majority party.

UPDATE: Here is Tom Hayden's story about the US exploring a ceasefire by negotiating with insurgency leaders. And while it is not exactly a plan, the declassified portions of the National Intelligence Estimate are also interesting to read.

If anyone sees any other proposals let me know, and I will keep adding them.


Kuttner on the Economy

Robert Kuttner, an excellent writer, writes about economic populism in his column from today's Boston Globe. His sentiment is not unlike the arguments I have been making in the election postings.

He writes:

"On Election Day, ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed overwhelmingly in all six states where the activist group ACORN and the labor movement made them a priority. These included the bellwether states of Missouri, Montana, and Ohio, where the wage initiatives contributed to a surge in turnout and helped progressive Democrats win narrow Senate victories. Since only about 7 percent of workers are helped directly by a higher minimum wage, the vote was widely seen as a symbolic expression of distress by the broad, working middle class seeking a change in economic priorities.


The group Trade Watch reported that nearly every Democrat who picked off a Republican-held seat campaigned as a critic of trade deals like NAFTA that are less about exporting goods and more about making it easier for American business to export jobs


As for Time Magazine's umpteenth story on a new centrism, a few newly elected Democrats are indeed more centrist on divisive social issues -- but all ran as economic populists. And the cure for economic insecurity is not in a new center, but in a progressive politics far more robust than we've seen in decades -- one that challenges the bipartisan corporate dominance of key economic questions, including the rules of trade."


Election 2006: What does it mean? (Part II)

This is part 2 of a five part look at the 2006 midterm elections and what it means for the Democratic Party. Read part 1 by clicking here.

The Battle for Power
Competing wings of The Democratic Party are battling over what this election means.

(Image credits: progressivedemocrats.org, dlc.org, bluedog.org)

When the GOP fell victim to the Great Blue Wave of 2006, some liberals seemed convinced that now that the Democrats had won big, the struggle for power was decided, at least until the 08 election comes closer.


The 2006 midterm has greatly changed where American power is held in Washington. And Democrats, organizations and individuals alike, know that there prominence will largely be decided on how the spin they results of this election to show a mandate for what they believe in -- be it economic populism, centrist policies, leaving Iraq or ending corruption.

Some say this election was a clear victory for conservative Democrats, such as the Blue Dogs, and New Democrats; others say it was the a victory for the more liberal wing of the party, such as the Progressive Democrats of America, the Netroots and Moveon.org.

While it is a bit of an oversimplification, there has been two main narratives to speak of in regards to this issue.

1) This election is a victory for moderates.

Advocates of this position point to the fact that many of the new Democrats headed to Congress are not very left-wing.

This was especially notable in the Senate.

Some examples: Harold Ford a pro-life, immigration hard-liner, conservative Democrat nearly wins a seat in the South. Bob Casey, a social conservative, beats Santorum for a victory in Pennsylvania; Jim Webb, a former Republican who worked for Reagan, beat George Allen in Virginia; and the crew-cut sporting Tester, won by representing the image of a conservative populist that likes to be photographed in a tractor.

Al From*, founder of the DLC, wrote: "But give Democrats credit. Apart from a foolish summer fling with Ned Lamont and a late Laugh-In cameo from John Kerry, Democrats did just about everything right and ran their best campaign in a decade. Field marshals Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer ignored the virtual industry of self-help nonsense that has paralyzed Democrats' chattering classes and went back to a simple, proven formula: From the suburbs to the heartland, elections are won in the center."

The Bull Moose blog, also an advocate for the conservative DLC, said the victory was as much a condemnation of the left as it was the right:

"The Moose celebrates the rise of the middle.

Across the board, the election has been correctly interpreted as the revenge of the center. The immoderate moderates smote the elephants because they have displayed incompetent incompetence and acted as dividers and not uniters. After the red-state blue-state divide, this year the voters were in a furious state.

Both parties are on probation with the electorate."

*(The DLC is notoriously pro-war, which may be why he called the election a victory of the "Vital Center" and not a public vote against staying in Iraq. In fact, he didn't mention Iraq as a factor in the election, which is as curious as it is ridiculous. One of the co-founders of the DLC, Will Marshall, was one of many co-signers of the now infamous PNAC letters urging unilateral policies, using the military to further US hegemony and preemptive war.)

2) This election is a victory for progressives.

Those who argue that this is a victory for progressives aren't buying the above claims.

Nick Burt and Joel Bleifus of In These Times, counter: "Don’t buy all the crap coming from GOP talking-point memos or the blather from mainstream pundits. The midterm elections do not signal a move to the center. Yes, a few conservative Democrats were elected, but the big gainers were progressives. In particular, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is on the rise."

John Nichols of The Nation made a similar point:
"The largest ideological caucus in the new House Democratic majority will be the Congressional Progressive Caucus, with a membership that includes New York's Charles Rangel, Michigan's John Conyers, Massachusetts' Barney Frank and at least half the incoming chairs of House standing committees. "

And what may be more persuasive is the fact that conservatives are leaning on the idea that the public wants conservative Democrats to protect us from the crazy lefties. Fox News has been singing that tune since the election. And Newt Gingrich suggests in The Wall Street Journal, that conditions in Congress are such that Bush needn't even negotiate with Pelosi, Obama, and other more liberal Democrats, but instead only engage with bipartisan talks with the Blue Dogs.

He writes: "A conservative populist grassroots strategy would almost certainly make daily interactions with liberal leaders more confrontational as they found themselves nominally chairing committees but losing votes on the floor and having their initiatives rejected by a conservative grassroots coalition. With a conservative populist grassroots strategy it is the 44 Blue Dog Democrats who would find themselves cross-pressured."

A win for moderation -- but not moderates.

My humble take on this election is that this is a victory for moderation, but not for moderates. Progressives are more responsible for this victory than conservative Democrats, but a progressive Congress will not serve to make this country a left-wing government.

After six years of Bush, eight years of Clinton ( a DLC Democrat) and 12 years of Republican leadership before that, our country has radically shifted its policies to the right.

The media is deregulated heavily, big-business has more clout than ever; welfare has been cut; bankruptcy laws have been cut; social services have been cut; wages are stagnant despite economic growth; the richest Americans are getting richer while the rest of the country lags behind; the middle-class has suffered; unions have been marginalized; civil rights have been trampled on; dissenters patriotism is questioned; the world hates us more than ever' the military budget has soared; the minimum wage has been idle despite the rise in inflation; gay marriage has been used as a political tool for the far right; global warming has been ignored; science is marginalized in classrooms; the executive branch has unprecedented sweeping powers; our government has spied on our phone calls, and e-mails; peace activists have been spied on; journalists have been paid off here and overseas; and the Wolfowitz Doctrine (often called the Bush Doctrine) has become our foreign policy.

A progressive Congress could not implement radical leftist policies even if it wanted to do such a thing. What they can do, however, if they are strong and refuse to concede too much, is to fix some of these terrible problems by pursuing progressive legislation. The rights takeover of Washington was perpetuated by conservative Democrats, and if the DLC types were to have their way, they would keep progressives from bringing us back to a point of moderation by dismantling some of these horrific conservative policies. But the damage is far too bad to think we can triangulate our way back to moderation. We need a progressive Congress to bring us back to the moderation -- and then we can worry about triangulating.

My conclusion -- that this is a victory for progressives insomuch that are best suited to moderate our government from the iron grip that the far right has had on it. And that this is why the country has voted for progressive reform is based on two main points. 1) That progressives galvanized the anti-war sentiment which was the main factor in the Democratic victories on election day and 2) that many of the so-called conservative Democrats -- such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana -- are actually economic populists, far more liberal than the perception dictates

Progressives, the public and Iraq

In recent years, while so-called moderate Democrats were voting for the War in Iraq, the Patriot Act (and in some cases, even abhorrent Military Commissions Act), and constantly beating the drum for prolonging the war, many progressives of this country were pointing out the flawed evidence used by Bush and co., the impending difficulty of post-war Iraq, the failure of the media to scrutinize the situation fairly and the inherently dangerous precedent of invading countries who never attacked us.

While Washington insiders, including some Democrats, often scoffed at these types, labeling them as "fringe lefties," who "blame America first."

As reality caught up to the American people, however, (The leaked NIE, The Downing Street Memo, the increasing bloodshed, the extended tours for soldiers, the growing discontent from the military, books by Ricks, Woodward and so on) Democrats realized that the only way to win was to run on Iraq.

For some time it was only true blue progressives, such as Russ Feingold, who were not flinching in their opposition to the war.

Then came Jack Murtha. His military credentials and his relative conservative viewpoints helped him to legitimize unambiguous support for ending the war. Then came the shocking primary in early August in which Ned Lamont did something that historically never happens -- beat an incumbent Senator in a primary. These two Democrats really changed the direction of the 2006 campaign. Polls showed Iraq was the number one issues for voters, and Murtha and Lamont helped to framed the debate.

Conservative Democrats (who are often mislabeled as moderates) could not have won this election without the anti-war left. The reason is simple: They were not with the public on Iraq. The public opposes this war and regrets waging it. And their distaste for Iraq policies are not merely a condemnation of Bush and Rumsfeld, but a condemnation of the policies they implemented. Democrats who support(ed) these policies would be wise to understand that.

Progressives and populism
It is true that some of the new Democrats in congress are conservative on some issues especially on immigration and abortion.

But on economic issues the bulk of them, including Brown, Webb, Casey and Tester, are actually quite liberal on economic issues. Consider what Webb told NPR the day after Allen conceded the election: "I decided to run because of my concern...with the economic breakdown that's happened in this country along class lines."

You heard that right: class lines.

"There are huge income inequalities...that we haven't seen since the 1880s,” he said. "And wages and salaries...are at an all-time low as a percentage of wealth."

And economic issues were very important to voters in 2006, as Nichols notes: “As idiosyncratic as he is, Webb is not an anomaly. He's part of a broader trend that has been obscured by the fast-congealing conventional wisdom that the election results were driven chiefly by the ongoing disaster in Iraq. If you drill down a little into those results, it's clear that Iraq and Republican scandal can't account for all the Democratic victory. Consider the Democrats' success at the state level. The party picked up six governors, nine legislative chambers and more than 300 state legislative seats, none of which can plausibly be ascribed to discontent over Iraq."

That some candidates ran somewhat conservatively in conservative states does not underscore how the success of progressives around the country. As Tad Daley noted: “The three most progressive major U.S. Senate candidates in the country each won going away. On a day of record turnouts nationwide, Sherrod Brown garnered 56% of the vote in Ohio, Amy Klobuchar secured 58% in Minnesota, and Bernie Sanders (actually not a Democrat but a socialist!) pulled a full 65% in Vermont.
None of these three candidates apologized for their unabashedly progressive principles. None of them pandered to people who voted Republican in the last election to convince them to come over to the other side. Instead, all of them fired up the Democratic base, put forth big uncompromising liberal ideas, and inspired thousands of citizens who otherwise might not have cast a ballot to show up on Tuesday at the polls.

Coming soon
Part 3: Howard Dean v. Rahm Emanuel: The logic of the 50-state strategy


A true American artist

Film director Robert Altman dead at 81

The American film world just got a little less interesting. Robert Altman, one of the most prolific and groundbreaking filmmakers of his generation, died today. He was like the BB King of movies - he didn't need the money or notoriety, but he still went out year after year and worked, inevitably churning out a movie that, bad or good, was bound to be fascinating.

His body of work includes M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, 3 Women, Popeye, The Player, Short Cuts, Gosford Park, and A Prarie Home Companion. He defined independent filmmaking, never giving an inch in terms of full artistic creativity. He was also a rebel, an outspoken activist, and a hard-ass. Rest in peace, Robert Altman.

Palestine and private land ownership

The Times had a must read in yesterday's paper. Kudos to them for following this story and having the will to run it.

"Within prominent settlements that Israel has said it plans to keep in any final border agreement, the data show, for example, that some 86.4 percent of Maale Adumim, a large Jerusalem suburb, is private; and 35.1 percent of Ariel is."


A Way out of Iraq

In an earlier post, Pat notes how far everyone is running from Iraq, including those who have been inclined to support it with vigor.

From Pat’s post:

“So what should be done? The worst part about this is that no one knows, and there is no right answer. Every road seems to lead to US embarrassment [sic], more Iraqi and coalition deaths, and chaos in the region.”

While there are indeed no easy answers, I would urge everyone to examine this proposal in Harper’s, written by George McGovern and William R. Polk.

A snippet:

"Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic requirement. As many retired American military officers now admit, Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.

Withdrawal will not be without financial costs, which are unavoidable and will have to be paid sooner or later. But the decision to withdraw at least does not call for additional expenditures. On the contrary, it will effect massive savings."

(Photo Credit:

The Draft

Rep. Rangel wants to reinstate the draft.

"Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

'There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way,' Rangel said."

Beacon correspondent Phil Primeau wrote a piece about reinstating the draft recently.

Hey, where's everybody going?

When Henry Kissinger says, "I don't believe [military victory in Iraq] is possible," when Tony Blair agrees with an interviewer that the intervention has been a "disaster" and when the hawkish New Republic tells its readers that it goes without saying that they regret supporting the war, then it starts to become clear that the war is unwinnable.

So what should be done? The worst part about this is that no one knows, and there is no right answer. Every road seems to lead to US embarassment, more Iraqi and coalition deaths, and chaos in the region. I like Joe Biden's idea, but it's not really being taken very seriously. I guess we'll just have to wait to see what the Baker Commission says.


Election 2006: What does it mean? (Part I)

As the above Time Magazine cover indicates, some members of the media are portraying the latest election as a victory of moderates. There claim is not absurd (part II of this series will examine this election as a rejection of radicalism, and a victory for more moderate policies). But the way the election is being spun by many fails to accurately represent how big of a victory the last election was for progressives, and marginalizes their role in changing this country.

This Time cover gives the impression that Democrats and Republicans are now on equal footing. It implies that the appropriate legislative agenda would not be substantial progressive reforms but more triangulation, DLC style.

But so-called "moderate" Democrats, in many cases, enabled this war and the Bush agenda in general; in that respect this election was a condemnation of those, even Democrats, who were complicit in the failures of the last six years, especially on Iraq.

Bagnewsnotes proposes a couple of other possible covers that may have been more appropriate.

And here is Time's cover after the GOP won big in 94.

Notice a difference?

This is the first of several posts which will take a look at how politicians, the media and the public are interpreting the results of the election and the changes in leadership and policies that will follow.

Coming soon:
Part 2: Whose victory? What this election means for moderation.

Part 3:Howard Dean v. Rahm Emanuel: The logic of the 50-state strategy
Part 4: The Woman in Charge: Pelosi's role
Part 5: Crashing the Gate or stuck at the kids table? The role of the netroots in the 2006 election and beyond.


Russ Feingold

Here is an interesting interview with Russ Feingold, who recently announced he will not run for president in 2008.


Pointing fingers

Per The Onion.

Republicans Blame Election Losses On Democrats

November 7, 2006 Issue 42•45

WASHINGTON, DC—Republican officials are blaming tonight's GOP losses on Democrats, who they claim have engaged in a wide variety of "aggressive, premeditated, anti-Republican campaigns" over the past six-to-18 months. "We have evidence of a well-organized, well-funded series of operations designed specifically to undermine our message, depict our past performance in a negative light, and drive Republicans out of office," said Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who accused an organization called the Democratic National Committee of spearheading the nationwide effort. "There are reports of television spots, print ads, even volunteers going door-to-door encouraging citizens to vote against us." Acknowledging that the "damage has already been done," Mehlman is seeking a promise from Democrats to never again engage in similar practices.


Thank God Kerry didn't win?

The Democratic takeover last Tuesday was itself a good thing. It makes one wonder if it could have been possible if John Kerry had won the election in 2004. What would our country look like today if that had been the case?

At the time, there was some talk in the blogosphere that a Kerry victory would be the worst thing that could happen to the Democratic Party. Yes, the stakes were high and many voters were right to demand a change in the Executive Branch. But if Kerry had won, he would have faced an incredibly unsympathetic Congress. The Senate alone consisted of 55 Republicans and 44 Democrats. At the very least, for his first two years, he would have already been a lame duck. It's unlikely he would have been able to introduce any significant progressive legislation. The situation in Iraq would be as bad as it is now, since he had no convincing plan for change and didn't favor a withdrawl. Last summer's gas prices surely would have spiked under Kerry the same way they did under Bush.

Fast forward to the second year of the Kerry administration, last Tuesday's midterm elections. Would voters have blamed him for the deteriorating situation abroad? After all, things are way worse now than they were two years ago. They probably would, and it would be hard to blame them. It was Bush's war, but Kerry ran partially on a platform of turning things around in Iraq. It is, in my opinion, an impossible task, and Kerry would have failed the same way Bush has.

More Republican seats in 2006 along with an impotent Democratic president practically hands 2008 to McCain or Guiliani. No contest. The situation now, in addition to simply being better for the country, really makes 2008 interesting.

It seems that those Democrats in 2004 who said a Kerry victory would be devestating were right. That loss may have been the best thing for the party. It gave voters two more years to finally realize the corruption of the GOP.

Where to go, what to do

The midterm election results made one thing painfully clear: voters wanted Republicans out. Liberal Republicans like Lincoln Chafee and conservative ones like Rick Santorum were both given the boot, as were GOP incumbents all throughout the House of Representatives.

These few days after the election have been a time for Republicans to point fingers, place blame, and theorize as to why this happened. Karl Rove says it's more about a perception of corruption, as well as the Foley and Haggert scandals, that did them in. Rush Limbaugh says it was the failure of candidates to stand for what they believe with any believability. Pat Toomey of National Review says it's due to the GOP's rejection of limited government. Ann Coulter says it's because Democrats like Webb, Casey and Tester basically ran as Republicans. Charles Krauthammer says it's Iraq, stupid.

As exit polling data and future polling results come in, we may get a better explanation as to why the country abandoned the Republicans. The best indication of the answer lies in the fact that self-described moderates and Independents went overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party.

This should be the key for the losers on Tuesday. The Democrats won because the Republican Party had been hijacked by extremists: divisive, arrogant, and corrupt far-right politicians whose blunders and sins were limitless. Chaffee lost simply because of the sins of this party. Unfortunately, the party wasn't even very good at appealing to their extremist base. Evangelicals were almost evenly split between blue and red.

This should be a sign for 2008. No George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, or Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination, please. The country doesn't want 'em.


Kucinich for President in 08

I love Kucinich, but this video is hilarious.

Crown thy good, Dennis Kucinich. Crown thy good.

The House of Progressives

John Nichols writes:

"What will be the largest of the ideological caucuses in the new House Democratic majority?

Why, of course, it must be the "centrists" affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council's "New Democrat Coalition." Yes, that's got to be the case because all the commentators at the Wall Street Journal keep saying that centrists were the big winners on Tuesday.
Er, no.

Well, then, it must be the more conservative Democrats who identify themselves as "Blue Dogs." Surely, that's the answer because all the folks on Fox News keeping talking about them.


The largest ideological caucus in the new House Democratic majority will be the Congressional Progressive Caucus, with a membership that includes New York's Charles Rangel, Michigan's John Conyers, Massachusetts' Barney Frank and at least half the incoming chairs of House standing committees.

The caucus currently has 64 members -- up 14 since last year -- and its co-chairs, California Democrats Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, say they expect that as many as eight incoming House Democrats will join the CPC. The number could actually go higher, as several candidates in undecided House races ran with strong progressive support. (The CPC worked with labor and progressive groups to assist a number of candidates in targeted races around the country this year, reflecting the more aggressive approach it has taken since the caucus was reorganized under the leadership of Lee and Woolsey and hired veteran labor and political organizer Bill Goold as a full-time staffer.)

The caucus will need an infusion of new members -- not because those associated with it lost elections Tuesday but because they won. CPC members Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio will be leaving the House to become U.S. Senators. Interestingly, the two members of the "Blue Dog" caucus who ran for the Senate, Hawaii's Ed Case and Tennessee's Harold Ford, both lost. "

Lincoln Chafee to leave GOP

He is not sure. I am sure the Democrats would take him. He is much more liberal than Ben Nelson, for example.


Calling the Senate

Bob Geiger, of The Huffington Post, nailed every one of his senate predictions.

I wonder what he thinks about the Patriots laying 10 against the Jets?

"I suspect Lieberman will find himself in a position that should disgust him: An alleged Democrat who wins because he gets more votes from Republicans than Democrats.

If I'm wrong about anything when this is all over, I hope so much that it's this.

So here's the bottom line: Of the 13 hotly-contested races, Democrats win 11 of them with Cardin, Stabenow, Klobuchar, McCaskill, Tester, Menendez, Brown, Casey, Whitehouse, Webb and Cantwell. The GOP gets victories out of Kyl and Corker.

And the Democrats take the Senate 51-49."

Fred Barnes on the election

I always considered Fred Barnes the weakest link, on an otherwise impressive magazine, The Weekly Standard. (This is not to be confused with support of their neoconservative ideology, but rather an aknowledgement that their magazine brings interesting arguments into public policy discussion)

But I admire his Post Mortem on the midterm election.

The whole article is a worthy read, and he gives fair assesments on how some now-blue districts may fare in the future.

"The House seats the party lost in New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania will be hard to win back. Just as Republicans have locked in their gains in the South over the past two decades, Democrats should be able to solidify their hold on seats in the Northeast, as the nation continues to split sharply along North-South lines.


In Arizona, Republicans dropped two House seats and Republican Senator John Kyl got a mild scare. Kyl, by the way, may be finest and most able senator in Washington. He's certainly in the top five. Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano cruised to victory.

The bottom line is this: Colorado and Arizona may not be there for Republicans in the 2008 presidential race. Of course, everything depends on the actual candidates, but these two states start out as presidential swing states. This is a new development."

Barnes also, in classic Weekly Standard style, scoffs at the staunch anti-immigration positions of House Republicans.

"Already the wails of the immigration restrictionists are rising, insisting Republicans lost because they weren't tough on keeping illegal border-crossers out. Not true. The test was in Arizona, where two of the noisiest border hawks, Representatives J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, lost House seats. Graf lost in a seat along the Mexican border, where illegal immigrants flock.

What Americans want is a full-blown solution to the immigration crisis. And that will come only when Republicans come together on a "comprehensive" measure that not only secures the border but also provides a way for illegals in the United States to work their way to citizenship and establishes a temporary worker program. If Republicans don't grab this issue, Democrats will."

Interestingly, immigration reform now seems possible since Bush's tends to side with moderate Senate Republicans and The Standard on this issue. If Bush can do anything of substance on the legislative front in the next two years, immigration reform is it.

The 'phony center'

A topic I write about often is the skewed interpretations of what defines "the center."

Yesterday's Times editorial makes a very good point on this topic. (Italics for emphasis are mine)

“The Republicans created their defeat by focusing obsessively on the right-wing ‘base,’ ostracizing not only the Democrats but their own party’s more moderate legislators. The conflict between the extremist House and the conservative Senate created a phony center, far to the right of the general public’s idea of where the middle ought to be.”

Who gets credit?

While I think inter-party division is usually a good thing, the debates should be about how to proceed, not a pissing contest over who gets credit.

Nonetheless, blogs from New Democrats and The New Republic are giving the credit to the DC establishment, marginalizing the role of the netroots; likewise, the liberal blogs are making the opposite argument.

Reacting to Change

A wonderful letter in this morning’s Globe. While her praise of Patrick is a little hyperbolic (I guess it is easy to be hyperbolic around election time – lord knows I am) I identify with what she says about the flag and about the GOP’s distortion of what it means to be a good American.

IS THIS my country again? Do I dare to hope?

As I walked up the hill to vote on a glorious New England fall morning, I saw a sign for the Healey-Hillman ticket. The house was also flying an American flag. I was struck by the realization that for the past six years, I have felt that my citizenship in this country had been usurped. No flag for me. Flying it meant support of George Bush, the war in Iraq, and a hate-mongering, demeaning, and demoralizing government that is supposed to be representing me around the world.

More than a year ago, I understood that I could no longer stomach what was happening. I called Deval Patrick headquarters, and for the first time in my 60 years I got active in politics. The more I watched, talked to, and listened to Patrick, the
more convinced I became that he was truly different. And I began to feel hope --
in my body, in the air.

On election night at the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, I celebrated with thousands of others. After more than 40 years in this state, I was part of a group that was truly integrated, black and white in equal numbers singing, joyful, brought together by a man whose life is a glowing example to all of us. We were given small flags , and I smiled. It was my flag and I waved it gratefully.


And an encouraging word in a Globe editorial:

"Belated as it is, Rumsfeld's departure does have encouraging aspects . Above all, it suggests that the most imperial presidency of modern times can still be held accountable by the voters."


Change in America

I'm sure you're all swamped with election coverage and returns and analysis, so I went get too heavily into it for now. But last night was a historic moment, a rejection by the moderate majority in this country of extremist policies. It was a rejection of the Republicans' disgraceful ad campaigns all across the country. It was a reaffirmation of the concept of divided government and checks and balances. This is not just a victory for the Democrats.

But you all know that already. So just enjoy it.


Borat: Making a fool of... lefties?

Sometimes, the National Review is just plain weird.

"The genius of Borat is how the character exploits our country’s obsession with conflict-avoidance and multicultural tolerance. It’s a shiv to the guts of appeasement, and it just might be the best — and certainly the funniest — deconstruction of American pretensions ever made."

Really? What I saw was a movie that tried to expose so much of the racism and homophobia present underneath the surface of polite talk in America. When people's guards are down, when they're in the presence of perceieved friends and allies, they say some unfortunate things. Is the National Review equating those things positively with a breakdown of political correctness?

This movie is an expose of the red state mentality, if any.

New Report on Global Warming

This is terrible. Really, this is beyond terrible. Global warming is happening at a faster rate than previously predicted, and the British Government's latest report tell us that pending disasters are not a problem for future generations, but for our our generation. From the AP. (Published in the International Herald Tribune)

Raising the stakes in the global warming dispute with the United States and China, Britain issued a sweeping report Monday warning that the earth faces an economic calamity on the scale of the world wars and the Great Depression unless urgent action is taken.


The 700-page "The Economics of Climate Change" report tries to persuade the world that environmentalism and economic growth can go hand in hand in the battle against global warming. But it also says that if no action is taken, rising sea levels, heavier floods and more intense droughts could leave 200 million people displaced by the middle of the century.

Amazingly, the aforementioned Stern Report is not even the most dire prediction this year. Stephen Hawking has said he thinks rapid global warming could happen so soon that our best chance to survive is to colonize other planets.


Michael Corcoran


Joe Lieberman

Matt Stoller has a hard-hitting, last minute appeal to the anti-Lieberman senses in all of us.

Some highlights:

"Why are the polls so stable for Joe, showing him basically in the high forties and Ned in the high thirties? Why did this country elect and reelect Richard Nixon? They are pretty much the same character, both incredibly smart and incredibly narcissistic politicians who manipulate the press and make you feel good about the way they are lying to you. Rick Green at the Hartford Courant and historian Rick Perlstein both point out that Joe is using what is in effect a really, really good hustle. The war isn't a small issue in Connecticut. It's a major issue, but in a sense, the reason Joe is able to sustain his lead is because he's successfully neutralized his extremist position on the war. The Democratic Party refused to get involved, the Republican Party is backing Joe, and the press is accepting the pat narrative that Lieberman is a moderate. That means punching through the con is incredibly hard; if Bill Clinton and Harry Reid won't say that Joe is hustling people on the war, then why should anyone else?"


"In addition, the Lamont campaign volunteers are driving GOTV for Democrats all over Connecticut, and there's a general sense that the field operation for Lamont is much better than that for Lieberman. As to the polls, there's frustration that Ned went silent after the primary, and that was a mistake. A big mistake. And the party has been terrible, just awful. They haven't provided the necessary outside artillery to point out that Joe wants us to continue the war in Iraq and is basically dishonest about his entire record. At the end of the day, though, I'm not going to be silent while this country meanders towards another war, and I'm not in politics so Democrats can get better parking spots on Capitol Hill."


Evangelical leaders quits amid male escort's allegations

Though I should, I don't really know who the Rev. Ted Haggard is or how big of a figure he is within the evangelical community. Based on the news coverage so far, he seems pretty big.

There's also no way of knowing just yet whether these allegations are true, though the CNN article does play with the fact that he is admitting some aspects.

If true, this is yet another example of how those who preach hate do so out of a deep-seeted insecurity. How many pastors and conservative politicians are going to be revealed as compulsive gamblers, addicts, and prostitution solicitors before we finally realize they're all a bunch of frauds. It will be interesting to see how the religious right reacts to this. Will they throw this respected and beloved figure to the dogs because he may have been struggling with what they percieve as a vile version of sexuality? Or will they try to cure him of his "disease"?

Where is my sympathy for him? I have none until he apologizes to gay Americans everywhere.


On the Media

God Bless You, Keith Olberman

Keith Olberman has got balls.

Consider that in 2003 MSNBC cancelled Phil Donahue's show, it's only liberal show, just prior to the invasion of Iraq. This seemed like an odd move given that Donahue’s show was the network’s highest rated program.

A leaked document would later reveal that the show was cancelled out of fear that the show would offer anti-war views. Norman Solomon Reports:

"MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue’s talkshow after an internal memo (leaked to the All Your TV website, 2/25/03) argued that he would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. ...He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush, and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The report warned that the Donahue show could be “a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

Such behavior illustrates that subtle (or not-so subtle, in this case) pressure to censor political dissent is indeed alive and well, and not merely the talking points of the “loony left” as many conservative pundits who like you to think.

And you can damn well bet the Keith Olberman, host of Countdown and former ESPN anchor, understood this before he went on the air and took a bold risk with his new “Special Comments.”

I will explain his Special Comment for the uninitiated: Olberman uses the last segment of his show to make pointed, bold and unwavering criticism of the most egregious acts imposed by the radicals controlling the White House and Congress.

His prose is powerful, passionate, sad and inspiring; his logic is solid and devastating.

He offers them only occasionally. He went after Rumsfeld and Bush for questioning the patriotism of anti-war Democrats. He lamented the ABC docudrama, that portrayed a blatantly false portrayal of the events leading up to Sept.11, 2001, and recently he gave an inspiring and sometimes hilarious comment on the Military Commissions Act, and its destruction of our basic rights. Take a few minutes and watch a few on You Tube.

It would be easier and far less risky for Olberman to refrain from this public dissent. For starters, it takes incredible courage to volunteer to speak truth to power in front of millions of people, and not sound saccharine or self-absorbed. But somehow he manages to succeed without seeming like a rip-off of Edward R Murrow. What he does seems more like a tribute to Murrow – and to the open discourse that Murrow believed in engaging in with the American people – and they have become You Tube sensations.

The show has become a hit. His ratings are up 67 percent in the last year according to Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile Olberman’s arch nemesis Bill O’reilly and his Fox News Brethren are losing their audience (which has a mean age of 64). In the last quarter their ratings have dropped considerably. (I note that despite the losses, Fox News still holds a sizable ratings advantage over CNN and MSNBC.)

And despite the obvious success of Olberman’s feisty declarations, some still fear for his job. Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, (FAIR) a progressive watchdog group, said :

"But MSNBC is still owned by GE's conservative bosses, and managed by NBC's ever-timid executives. Olbermann knows this reality as well as anyone; six months ago on C-SPAN, while expressing confidence that good ratings would keep them at bay, he remarked: ‘There are people I know in the hierarchy of NBC, the company, and GE, the company, who do not like to see the current presidential administration criticized at all.’”

MSNBC: Finding its voice?

MSNBC has improved dramatically over the last few months. On June 12, MSNBC announced that Dan Abrams of The Abrams Report and Phil Griffin Senior Vice President at NBC NEWS would oversee the 24-hour news channel. They immediately revamped the nightly schedule. They dumped the horrendous Live and Direct at 9 p.m.; the moved Tucker Carlson show from 11 pm to 4 and 6 pm, ands Hardball also runs twice at 5 pm and 7 pm.

The victim of these moves seems to be Joe Scarborough, who used to cover beltway politics every night, and has since been placing a much closer focus on celebrity news. Just recently they teased his show with a story on Dustin Diamond (Screech from Saved by the Bell) going into porn)

While Tucker Carlson and Chris Matthews have their flaws, they are both smart guys and tolerable to watch. Matthews’s coverage of the Connectictut. primary was leaps and bounds better than the competition. (not saying much by today's standards) Tucker actually went to Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the coverage was decent, and less marred by the obvious pro-Israel spin that dominates most American outlets. He is principled, unafraid to attack Bush for his spending, and unmarried to a political party.

These changes have made MSNBC the best 24-hour news channel in America. (And yes, I know that isn’t saying a whole lot.)

The Senate

MyDD has a pretty good assesment of how things are are looking in the Senate for Democrats. Remember, the Dems need to pick up six seats to win the Senate. If things in the "Looking good" section hold, the Dems will pick up three seats there. So the real question is can they pick up seats in VA, MO and MT.

Tennesee does not look good right now. Studys show that in the south, polls are usually more favorable to black candidates than the actual votes. Lamont v. Lieberman, however is getting close again. Rasmussen has Lamont down by only 6 percent. Since Lieberman is basically a Republican candidate--and a slimeball to boot--any one who wants a change in Congress should hope that Lamont somehow pulls this one out.

Looking good:
PA: Casey (D) 51.4%--40.2% Santorum (R)
OH: Brown (D) 52.6%--42.0% DeWine (R)
MI: Stabenow (D) 50.4%--40.2% Bouchard (R)
WA: Cantwell (D) 52.4%--42.6% McGavick (R)
RI: Whitehouse (D) 48.2%--40.2% Chafee (R)
MD: Cardin (D) 51.0%--43.8% Steele (R)
NJ: Menendez (D) 48.2%--42.2% Kean (R)

Looking close, but good:
MT: Tester (D) 48.2%--45.0% Burns (R)
VA: Webb (D) 47.0%--45.8% Allen (R)
MO: McCaskill (D) 47.8%--46.8% Talent (R)

Not looking good:
TN: Corker (R) 49.2%--46.0% Ford (D)
AZ: Kyl (R) 49.2%--41.0% Pederson (D)
CT: Lieberman (CfL) 48.4%--38.8% Lamont (D)