The (temporary) home of practical progressives

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I never thought I'd say this...

but watch Fox News Sunday tomorrow. Fox bamboozled Clinton into thinking they would do an interview with him about the $7 billion he has raised for his charitable foundation. Instead, they ambushed him with a "Path to 9/11"-style question asking him why he didn't do more to get Bin Laden. Fortunately, Clinton was sharp enough to turn the question back around - not only on Fox, but also on his hypocritical GOP critics.

This looks like one of those interviews that people from all over the political spectrum will be talking about for weeks, so catch it on YouTube if you can't catch it on Fox.

Here's a link to a transcript of the interview from ThinkProgress:

And a brief preview clip of the interview. Ignore the tabloid-esque title of the YouTube page (if I were Clinton, I'd have freaked out too):

Have a good weekend, folks.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

In tort law, the concept of res ipsa loquitur plays a prominently role in the theory of negligence. It's a Latin phrase which literally translates to "the thing speaks for itself." It embodies the idea that under some circumstances, the mere fact of an accident occuring strongly infers that the defendant was negligent.

For instance, if someone is just walking down the street and is suddenly struck in the head by a bag of flour, and there is a flour-bagging factory on the second floor of the building he was walking past at the time, one can easily infer that the bag of flour came from that factory. And since the bag could not have fallen on him without some negligence on the part of the factory workers, one can assume that the victim's injuries were due to the factory's ignorance. Res ipsa loquitur.

By the same "it's so obvious that you have to be blind not to see it" reasoning, Republicans are obviously responsible for the problems the nation is facing today. There is no doubt that they should be held liable at the ballot box for their handling of key issues.

Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. They control 28 of the nation's 50 governorships. On the Supreme Court, 7 of the 9 current justices were appointed by GOP presidents (although it must be granted that 3 of those appointees have proved to be far more progressive than the individuals who nominated them).

This helps explain the GOP's main strategy during this election cycle: Don't acknowledge the problems the nation is facing. I've gotten the impression that this seemingly blind optimism is not actually much the result of stupidity or stubbornness, as many progressives have suggested. Rather, I think it's because GOP leaders have realized that the nation is facing problems, and that there is no way they can honestly argue that they aren't responsible.

You're worried about health care? Look at the great Medicare bill we passed. Iraq? Things are going great. Education? Just look at all the smiling children at White House photo ops.

It also explains their occassional strategy of bringing up futile and divisive measures (read: Flag burning and gay marriage) every once in awhile. Whenever they realize that the public is becoming too focused on the real problems facing this country, they bring up measures that only a small number of people really care to focus on.

The end result of all this is that they never actually confront the problems that America is facing today. Their only hope of victory is to forestall the debate on real issues long enough that the American people won't truly notice them until after the election is over. After that, they'd have two years to think of new ways to avoid taking responsibility for the nation's problems (as in 2004) or blame Democrats for them (as in 2002). In essense, they hope to run out the clock one more time.

Fortunately for this country, I don't think it will ultimately work. Polls show that more than 60% of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. And for all the attention that gay marriage and flag burning got this summer, the debate over those issues seems a distant memory to the vast majority of Americans today.

As long as Democrats succeed in pointing out who has all the power - and refuse to let the GOP change the subject - common sense should carry the Democrats over the electoral finish line in November.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Iraq and the War on Terror: What the Dems' Message Should Be

Yesterday, Ned Lamont suggested what was, without his realizing it, the most practical and politically astute solution that has yet been proposed for the Dems' continuing inability to overtake the GOP in earning Americans' trust on national security.

An NBC poll released today showed some seemingly head-scratching numbers. 57% of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's handling of Iraq, compared to just 38% saying they approved. But when asked which party they think would do a better job dealing with Iraq, the GOP still led Democrats, 34%-29%. The GOP had an even wider lead in dealing with the global war on terror (GWOT), leading Dems in that category 38%-28%.

Perhaps the most striking statistic is the high proportion of voters who are undecided or think that neither party would be good at dealing with these vital issues. 37% of respondents to today's NBC poll were in the undecided/neither category on Iraq, and 34% were in the same category on GWOT. The GOP's continuing lead is not because the public has faith in the GOP's policies; it's because they have even less faith in Democrats.

Another fascinating part of this poll was the inclusion of two generic ballot tests, with each test given to half the poll's respondents. The wording of the generic GOP candidate's position was identical in both tests. The Democratic position was divided thusly:

Position A
The Democratic candidate says the United States should reduce the current troop level now that Iraq has adopted a Constitution. The Democratic candidate believes that our military has done all that it can and now is the time to set out a timetable for phased troop withdrawal over the next year or two. The Democratic candidate says that the Republicans favor a stand-still policy.

Position B
The Democratic candidate says that the United States should have an immediate and orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The Democratic candidate believes that our military has done all that it can. Our continued presence is causing the never-ending insurgent attacks and we have created a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists. The Democratic candidate says that the Republicans favor a stand-still policy.
Using Position A, the generic Democrat led his GOP opponent 53-40. Using Position B, the GOP candidate led 48-41. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, it's not enough to slam Bush and call for an end to the war in Iraq. We have to propose a solution that is not simply bringing all the troops home.

Polls clearly show that the public has lost faith in the War in Iraq - a recent Gallup poll showed that 54% of Americans thought the US military actions in the Middle East is creating more terrorists than it was eliminating. But they still feel GWOT must be fought somewhere, and simply don't trust Democrats on that yet - even a Democratic polling firm found that the GOP maintains double digit leads over Democrats on dealing with both terrorism (47-33) and national security (47-34).

And that's where Ned Lamont's statement comes in.

Lamont proposed that troops in Iraq be shifted to Afghanistan to fight the terrorists there. This could be the silver bullet for Democrats if other candidates pick up on it. It's the perfect middle ground between the "cut and run" and "stay and pray" mantras that both sides are hurling at each other, and are all too unwilling to disavow as equally unworkable.

From a practical standpoint, it would get our troops in Iraq out of the continuing quagmire that is unfolding there, where there is little hope of eradicating the major terrorist networks, but much risk of creating more terrorists. From an electoral standpoint, it would severely undercut the GOP's "cut and run" message, since the suggestion could not be viewed as a retreat, but only as a refocusing of our troops to where they should be - hunting down Bin Laden and eradicating the people who harbored him.

That's the message the Democrats can win on, and finally end Americans' GOP-created fears that the Democratic party is either unwilling or unable to keep the country's safe. Now, the Democratic candidates need to find the brains and the guts to make Lamont's suggestion a party-wide platform for the home stretch of these elections.

No Shame at All

I find I don't engage righties any more simply because of the overwhelming need to take a shower afterwards.

Unfortunately, the same has become true of Lieberman supporters. I don't even read the comments here any more for that reason. I don't need the aggravation.

Democrats have shown they can go just as disgustingly negative as Republicans. Honestly; a man devotes time to teaching inner-city kids and Dan Gerstein thinks that's somehow a liability.

What the hell is wrong with Dan Gerstein, or anyone who buys into these repulsive attacks? Very simple. They're Republicans.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Proof Found: Lieberman Campaign Lied about David Sirota

David Sirota found the emails that prove beyond a ghost of a shadow of a doubt that the Lieberman campaign simply and deliberately lied about Sirota asking them for a job. Game, set, match.

This is not a misunderstanding; these are not good people. I will not support them, and neither should you.

Keep the Pressure on ABC

The most important thing any Democrat can do today is put every ounce of pressure possible on anyone connected with the despicable "Path to 9-11" debacle.

Call your local ABC affiliate and ask to speak with the program director. Tell them how many TVs you have in your house and then politely but firmly swear a mighty oath that the ABC network will not appear on any of them for a solid year if they air this show. Tell them you intend to target the advertisers that support their local news, and then do so, politely but doggedly.

If they say they are forced to air it because they are owned by ABC, tell them that's fine, you understand, but it changes nothing, and a responsible program director should probably communicate this sort of drastic direct public action upstairs to their corporate owners.

Contact Scholastic and tell them that their rethink about their complicity in putting this despicable program out to our children in their very schools is a good try, but not good enough. They must completely drop their association with this project. Atrios and Kos both totally wimped out on this one, declaring victory when it's nothing even close. Keep the pressure on.

Senate Democrats today wrote a thinly-veiled threat to ABC that they had better make this thing right, or come November, ABC and the Mouse are due for some very unwelcome attention.

This really is one of those litmus-test issues. If you call yourself a Democrat and aren't outraged by this blatant attempt by Disney, ABC and Scholastic to rewrite history in the minds of millions of low-information voters and schoolchildren, two months before an election, change your registration; you aren't a Democrat.

Excuse me if I don't blog much for a while, real life intervenes sometimes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Florida races

Next Tuesday is primary day for two of the most fascinating Senate races in the country, with Sen. Linc Chafee trying to stave off Steve Laffey in Rhode Island's GOP primary, and Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume (along with a few others) facing off against each other in Maryland's Dem primary. I'll hopefully be posting my thoughts on those races, particularly the Maryland race, this weekend.

But there was another important primary day this week, with Florida's primaries for both Senate and Governor taking place on Tuesday. None of the contests yielded any surprises. Congressman Jim Davis (no, not the same guy who does Garfield) defeating big sugar-backed State Sen. Rod Smith in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Davis will face off against FL Attorney General Charlie Crist, who routed State CFO Tom Gallagher in the GOP primary.

Crist is one of the few GOPers from the South (inasmuch as Florida can be called "the South") who progressives can at least respect. My personal favorite blogger, progressive Ron Gunzberger of Politics1, has expressed some admiration for Crist, who supports civil unions, favors a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, and opposes overturning Roe v. Wade. Jim Davis also seems a good person and a good candidate, and the race between the two of them seems likely to be a healthy exchange of ideas from both sides.

Over on the Senate side, the situation could hardly be more different. Katherine Harris is no Charlie Crist. Not even close. She's probably the least palatable Republican in the entire country who has run for statewide office in the past decade. Mitchell Wade, the same defense contractor who bribed Duke Cunningham (R-Federal Prison), also wooed Harris with a $2800 dinner and then funneled more than $30,000 in illegal contributions to Harris's campaign (Harris says all the money has since been given to charity). She also has made many statements expressing her opposition to separation of church and state, which she calls "a lie," and advocates open theocracy as fervently as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And oh yeah - she did everything in her power to disenfranchise Democratic and independent voters in 2000.

Harris's candidacy has devolved into a bad, almost sick joke. The chances of an enlightened exchange of ideas between Harris and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson are less than zero. Both the state and national divisions of the GOP have long distanced themselves from Harris's candidacy, and her victory in the GOP primary does not appear to have made any impression on them. Nelson could beat Harris by 25 points without running a single ad. He could probably win by 50 if he really tried.

The presence of Harris's name at the top of the ballot is also sure to have some drag on downballot GOPers, including Crist, although I highly doubt that many people will condemn the moderate Crist merely because of he shares his party label with the reactionary Harris. The biggest casualty of Harris's candidacy will be the opportunity for Floridians to hear a reasoned exchange of ideas on issues of national importance. And while I am happy that the Dems don't have to worry about defending this seat, that's never a good thing for democracy.