Saturday, October 22, 2005

Miers Withdrawal Watch -- Part 1

It's going to happen.

According to The Washington Times, "[t]he White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court"., which despite its concerns has generally thought that Miers would be confirmed, says this: "I no longer think she can be confirmed. Miers [sic] competency has now become an issue and that will bleed enough blood in the water to cause a political feeding frenzy forcing a withdrawal."

AMERICAblog asks the key question: "
A strategic trial balloon or just wishful thinking by the right wingers?" Let's hope it's the former.


Armando at Daily Kos thinks that a Miers withdrawal and the nomination of a hardened conservative would be good -- yes, good -- for Democrats: "I think it would be great politically for Democrats if Bush caved in to the Wingnuts, withdrew Miers and then sent up Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen. That is a battle of ideas Dems should relish and Dems should win. Why? Because, that would prove, once and for all, that the Republican Party is beholden to the Extremist Wingnuts. It would force the Democrats to stand up for their values.

I absolutely agree.


Meanwhile, the Post is reporting that Miers once embraced race and gender set-asides (i.e., proportional representation, of a sort): "As president of the State Bar of Texas, Harriet Miers wrote that "our legal community must reflect our population as a whole," and under her leadership the organization embraced racial and gender set-asides and set numerical targets to achieve that goal."

And what do conservatives have to say about this?

Confirm Them: "[T]his is another disturbing development."

Captain's Quarters has a very good post on Miers and affirmative action: "It's yet another red flag on a nomination that seems to have sprouted a number of them recently." (Still, Miers "pursued a worthy goal but through methods which conservatives largely find objectionable". "[P]rograms like mentoring, private scholarships, school vouchers, and the encouragement of small-business startups through enterprise zones do so much better at building business diversity rather than quotas." I tend to agree, though I do not support school vouchers. Instead, I think we need to focus on rebuilding the public school system.)

The NRO's Jonah Goldberg, one of the more thoughtful of them, has finally had enough: "
It's not just that Miers was in favor of racial quotas -- we'd pretty much known that for a while. It's the fundamental confirmation that she's a go-along-with-the-crowd establishmentarian."

And he concludes: "
I just don't want her. Start over."

Which is what I -- and many others -- been saying from the start. Whatever her political views, religious affiliations, and career accomplishments, there's no way she belongs on the Supreme Court.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Powerball: More power to the powerful

And the rich get richer: Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire won $853,492 (before taxes) in Wednesday's Powerball lottery. He'll end up with about $500,000. "Gregg said he does not frequently play the lottery and has no intention of doing so again soon. He spent $20 on Powerball tickets, allowing the machine to select all of his numbers randomly." Some of the money, he says, will go to charity.

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The weird and the wacky (car stories)

Odd stories at CNN, both car-related:

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The smartest rat in the world

I love this:

A rat released on a deserted island off New Zealand outsmarted scientists and evaded traps, baits and sniffer dogs before being captured four months later on a neighboring island, researchers said on Wednesday.

Scientists from the University of Auckland in New Zealand released the Norway rat on the 23.5-acre island of Motuhoropapa to find out why rats are so difficult to eradicate.

They got more than they bargained for.

I post this in memory of my pet rat Eddie, who died a few years ago. A wonderful little creature. Sometimes it's nice to see humans get what they deserve. (For more, see Karel Capek's wonderful novel War With the Newts.)

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DeLay in court -- justice vs. partisanship

Is he praying or urinating? Or it is just his corrupt little life flashing before his eyes?

The Times has the latest here: "The judge in the case, Bob Perkins, said he was holding the case up temporarily in light of a defense motion demanding he recuse himself because he was a Democrat who had made recent donations to the Democratic Party and to Democratic candidates."

But Think Progress is reporting that DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, has lied about, one of the groups to which Perkins has donated.

The Carpetbagger Report: "DeLay's team seems intent on finding as Republican a setting as humanly possible. In addition to wanting a new judge, DeLay's lawyers are asking to have the case moved out of Austin, because they believe the city is home to too many liberals. I guess the poor guy isn't very confident in the merit of his defense." Obviously not. Perhaps only mindless partisans would exonerate him. Maybe Saddam should only be tried by a jury of fellow Baathists.

The Stakeholder: "Obviously, only a Republican judge -- of the party where blind loyalty is the only remaining principle -- can hear the case fairly and objectively."

Fellow Tufts grad Majikthise is leading the way with her "perp walk" watch (including some great photos). Scroll down for all her recent posts.

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Hurricane Wilma restrengthens

For all the latest, see here: "Hurricane Wilma looks to have begun a new restrengthening trend... [M]aximum sustained winds are back up to 150 mph and her central pressure is 925 mb. Wilma is still technically a very strong Category 4 hurricane. However, in terms of pressure, which is a better judge of strength than winds, Wilma remains comparable to Hurricane Andrew."

(It's been a busy evening/night here at The Reaction. Scroll down, or click on these links, for Thursday/Friday posts on Harriet Miers, Howard Stern, Tom DeLay, Tim Russert, Michael Brown, and Rachael Ray -- not to mention my 500th post.)

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Demoralizing Harriet

At National Review Online, Byron York reports that "[s]trategists working with the White House in support of the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers are becoming increasingly demoralized and pessimistic about the nomination's prospects on Capitol Hill in the wake of Miers's meetings with several Republican and Democratic senators. On a conference call held this morning, they even discussed whether Miers should simply stop visiting with lawmakers, lest any further damage be done — and so that time spent in such get-acquainted sessions will not cut into Miers's intensive preparation for her confirmation hearing."

Miers has been meeting with senators. How have those meetings been going? Says one source: "The meetings with the senators are going terribly. On a scale of one to 100, they are in negative territory. The thought now is that they have to end... Obviously the smart thing to do would be to withdraw the nomination and have a do-over as soon as possible. But the White House is so irrational that who knows? As of this morning, there is a sort of pig-headed resolve to press forward, cancel the meetings with senators if necessary, and bone up for the hearings."

Be still my beating Schadenfreude.

Kevin Drum: "Goodness. A 'pig-headed resolve to press forward'? From George Bush? Who would have guessed?"

New Donkey: "Now I realize that the magazine Byron York works for is one of the major sources of the conservative revolt against Miers. But he's a solid, old-school reporter, and moreover, the fact that people involved in the Miers lobbying operation are talking to him, even on 'deep background,' is significant in itself. Like John Fund's leak-fed revelations about the incompetent vetting of Miers in the White House, it shows that Republican discipline has completely broken down."


I'll have more on Miers later today and over the weekend, including another round-up in the wake of the SJC's return of her questionnaire -- and those "inadequate," "insufficient," and "insulting" responses.

See The Moderate Voice for a great update.

Outside the Beltway: "I have serious misgivings about this nomination and, unless something happens in the hearings to massively raise my impression of her as a legal mind, I believe she should be rejected and the president asked to try again with someone from the upper tier of the conservative legal team (and preferably, a younger one to boot). Nonetheless, this business about incomplete questionnaires is silly." I agree with the former sentiment, but her questionnaire responses seem to be, on the whole, embarrassingly bad.

Ah, but I see that Outside the Beltway reverses course on the questionnaire in a follow-up post: "Of course, the fact that she only spent 3-1/2 pages answering the substantive questions is, to put it mildly, less than impressive. Indeed, her answers amount to a regurgitation of the first few days of an undergraduate ConLaw course." Fantastic. (This post contains links to other right-wing blogs. Check them out should you be so inclined to dig deeper into the conservative crack-up.)

PoliBlog: "Certainly we should expect a nominee to the Court to have at least something to go on, in terms of assessing legal reasoning and qualifications, than this questionnaire -- a document that would normally be largely ignored if Miers had some other obvious qualifications." Ah, but she doesn't. THAT'S THE PROBLEM!

Hugh Hewitt continues to defend Miers, but who cares?

Not I. Not I. Not I.

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The "new" Howard Stern

I used to be a fan (sort of), but I grew weary of his repetitive, dumbed-down routine. Still, he's a compelling public figure. Check out this piece in the Times on his upcoming transition to satellite radio.

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Sign of the Renaissance #3: The end of Tom DeLay

(DeLay's mugshot)

Smile, Tom DeLay, you've been charged with conspiracy and money laundering. And -- to quote someone who recently spent some time behind bars -- it's a good thing.

(I've previously written about this dirty rotten scoundrel here and here.)

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Was Russert involved in The Plame Game?

I'll withhold comment. Read this provocative post at Hullaballoo.

Great passage (an attack on the MSM and its submission to the Republican machine):

[This story] is also about a toxic political culture in the nation's capital that has abdicated its responsibility to behave within certain norms of decent behavior. After eight long years of being fed the juiciest tabloid lies from a masterful Republican disinformation campaign and a group of friendly GOP special prosecutors, the media became joined with the republican establishment and took on its cheap ethics and ruthless attitudes. They began to identify with them. They helped them destroy Bill Clinton's reputation and piled on to keep Al Gore from the presidency with a puerile smear campaign which they admitted to waging just because they found it amusing. And when George W. Bush became president, their condescending refrain to the majority of the country who didn't vote for him was "get over it."

That cozy relationship among the purveyors of Republican cant led directly into an unquestioning acceptance of administration lies after 9/11. The country would have rallied temporarily regardless of the media's complicity in GOP messaging during that time, but the previous 10 years of confederacy between the hungry media and the Republican noise machine established a system in which it was possible to perpetrate one of the most outrageous frauds in history --- the Iraq war. The culture that marginalized dissent, that mocked anything other than manufactured beltway conventional wisdom and that normalized character assassination as "fair game" created a jingoistic circus that can be best illustrated with the allegedly liberal icon Dan Rather, saying: "I would willingly die for my country at a moment's notice and on the command of my president..."

The media then created a hagiography of George W. Bush that was hallucinogenic...

I don't necessarily buy this quasi-conspiracy theory in its entirety (although I know some who, like Digby, articulate it persuasively and are never hesitant to do so), but I do think that the MSM, or at least certain parts of it, deserve much of the blame for destroying Gore and Kerry, letting Bush off in 2000 without challenging him, and playing along with the Bush Administration's spin leading up to the Iraq War and through the so-called war on terror.

And I like Russert, though an answer or two might be in order here.

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How Michael Brown fiddled while Rome burned

That is, how Michael Brown ate dinner while New Orleans flooded and people died.

Uh, yeah, nice job, Brownie:

In the midst of the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official in New Orleans sent a dire e-mail to Director Michael Brown saying victims had no food and were dying. No response came from Brown.

Instead, less than three hours later, an aide to Brown sent an e-mail saying her boss wanted to go on a television program that night — after needing at least an hour to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge, La., restaurant.

Seriously. No joke. Check this out:

On Aug. 31, [FEMA official Marty] Bahamonde e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."

"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote. "The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out."

A short time later, Brown's press secretary, Sharon Worthy, wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," Worthy wrote.

"Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had failed, Bahamonde said he asked for guidance but did not get a response.

"He just said, 'Thank you,' and that he was going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.

I (and many others in the blogosphere) have long thought that Brown deserved much of the blame for the federal government's disastrously slow response to Katrina, but I also thought that he was being unfairly scapegoated by those above him who should have taken responsibility for what went wrong -- namely, President Bush and, to a lesser degree, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff.

In the end, as I wrote back on September 9, "there's really no one more deserving of blame than Bush himself". But one of my readers was quite right to add this: "But isn't the problem really that [Bush] allowed FEMA to be staffed by incompetents?" Yes, quite so -- and this evidence of complete disregard for what was going on in New Orleans further destroys Brown's credibility (such as he has any left) and Bush's leadership (uh, ditto).

Brown did a lousy job in response to Katrina, to say the least, but who put him in charge of FEMA?

There's the problem.


Elsewhere, according to the L.A. Times, "[FEMA's] lack of planning, not the failures of state and local officials, was to blame for much of what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told member of Congress today." Read the whole piece. Chertoff rips Brown to pieces -- although I wonder if Chertoff isn't himself abdicating responsibility by heaping all the blame on his disgraced former subordinate.


For more, see The Left Coaster, The Huffington Post, Think Progress, AMERICAblog, and Preemptive Karma.

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Pass me some E.V.O.O., please!

Rachael Ray has built an empire and is perhaps America's #1 TV cook: "She has nearly 4.5 million books in print, a $6 million book contract with the Random House imprint Clarkson Potter, and four shows in regular rotation on the Food Network." Plus, "[t]his week, her food and lifestyle magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray, will go on sale. Already, more than 800,000 copies have been ordered for stores and newsstands." Oh, and then there's the new afternoon talk show on the horizon. And I almost forgot the line of knives, cookware, and kitchen gadgets. And, soon, her very own E.V.O.O.

I'm not sure if this is a Sign of the Apocalypse or a Sign of the Renaissance. The foodie in me dislikes her common touch and the vulgarity that occasionally overwhelms good taste, but I admire her tenacity and... yes, her common touch -- the excitement and friendliness (and goofiness) that she brings into the kitchen is rather contagious (and highly watchable). Isn't America (and Canada, where many of us watch her) better off with Rachael Ray than without her? She may not be an Iron Chef, but how does an Iron Chef help with the evening meal?

I used to make the same case for Emeril. There's something to be said for culinary passion with a common touch, for bringing an appreciation of good food a dash of experimentation to Fast Food Nation.

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Post #500

This is the 500th post at The Reaction.

The first was way back on March 29 of this year. The Reaction has come a long way since that first post, and I'd like to thank all of my readers for supporting my efforts and all of the great bloggers out there who have linked to me and welcomed me into the blogging community. It's been a great experience so far, and I hope you all keep coming back as I continue to grow and improve and offer what I hope is interesting, intelligent commentary on a wide range of issues.

I'd also like to welcome a new co-blogger to The Reaction: my brother James. He lives in England, is one of the smartest people I know, and will be writing occasional posts on British politics and other such topics. I'll still do the bulk of the writing, but he'll provide another voice and a different perspective. I'm sure you'll like his stuff.

And now... let us go on...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hurricane Wilma tears through the Caribbean

Wilma is "the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean basin". The Times reports here.

See also StormTrack, a truly excellent site on all things weather-related.

Once again, Michelle Malkin is all over the story.

And so, of course, is The Moderate Voice.

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Miers redux -- more from the right

More on the debacle from the right: Professor Bainbridge, one of the more interesting conservatives out in the blogosphere, addresses Miers's "views" on abortion -- whatever they are, whatever they happen to be at the moment. I don't agree that a judge should always "adhere to the triad of originalism, textualism, and traditionalism that should properly constrain judicial decision making," but he's right that Miers "could easily still turn out to be a disaster for conservatives" even if she voted to overturn Roe. Not that I'd mind a "disaster for conservatives," but, as I've argued over and over again, there's no way she belongs on the Supreme Court whatever her views on abortion. Anyway, it's an intelligent post.

I wrote about Miers and abortion earlier today -- see

Ann Althouse: "The point should be that a judge who would rule from religious belief is not a proper judge. It's not a matter of whether we would like the outcomes or not. It's a matter of the illegitimacy of accepting the role of judge and then operating from religious tenets rather than the law. In fact, I would think a genuinely religious person would perceive it as a sin to assume power in such a fraudulent way." Another good post (though more from the center-right).

Bainbridge and Althouse are responding, in part, to
a prominent piece by Robert Bork in today's Wall Street Journal: "With a single stroke -- the nomination of Harriet Miers -- the president has damaged the prospects for reform of a left-leaning and imperialistic Supreme Court, taken the heart out of a rising generation of constitutional scholars, and widened the fissures within the conservative movement. That's not a bad day's work -- for liberals." It's worth a read even if, like me, you can't stand him.

The Claremont Institute (a think-tank populated by Straussians far, far to the right of me), Ken Masugi offers a scathing critique of Bork's originalism: "
[I]t is based on nothing more than a faithful adherence to the constitutional intentions of the founders with no regard for the political philosophy which informed those intentions. Like the old 'public policy process' liberals, Bork is dedicated to the Constitution's means but indifferent, if not hostile, to its ends."

The Straussians at Claremont tend to be natural law cultists who follow Harry Jaffa's obsession with the Declaration of Independence. Their understanding of the "political philosophy" that informed the Founders differs from the understanding held by the Straussians who taught me -- and the understanding I myself have developed. I would thus question Masugi's emphasis on "the 'original' ringing affirmation of equality and liberty" that was the Declaration, but his critique of Bork is, in my view, right on the mark.

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Tom DeLay, you have the right to remain silent...

This is sweet:

A Texas court on Wednesday issued a warrant for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's arrest, and set an initial $10,000 bail as a routine step before his first court appearance on conspiracy and state money laundering charges. Travis County court officials said DeLay was ordered to appear at the Fort Bend County, Texas, jail for booking, where he'd likely be fingerprinted and photographed. DeLay's lawyers had hoped to avoid such a spectacle.

So, so sweet.

(My previous post on DeLay is here. My previous post on conservatives feeling sorry for themselves is here.)

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Saddam on trial

From the Times:

Saddam Hussein defiantly faced a panel of Iraqi judges today in a heavily guarded courthouse in central Baghdad, as he was asked to answer charges for a 1982 massacre and begin the long process of public reckoning for the decades of brutal repression that Mr. Hussein brought to Iraq...

The first case being brought against the former Iraqi leader centers around the execution of more than 140 men and teenage boys from the mostly Shiite market town of Dujail, 35 miles north of Baghdad. The victims were seized by secret police after a failed assassination attempt on Mr. Hussein there in 1982.

It's about time. (May justice prevail.)


Update: Dennis Sanders at The Moderate Republican (the kind of Republican I like) has a good post on Saddam's trial: "
If this trial is nothing more than a show trial or a way of getting back at Saddam or the Sunni minority, then there will be resentment among Sunnis and no chance for reconcilation and healing. Saddam may not deserve a fair trial, but if we want Iraq to a nation established under the rule of law, it has to be fair and impartial. If it follows the rule of established international law, then it will rob Sunnis of any chance to claim victimhood and hopefully move forward. Do it wrong, and it will only exacerbate ethnic tensions."

Well put. And I agree.

Otherwise, I'm surprised this story isn't getting a bit more attention today, especially in the blogosphere. Yes, I realize that most of us are glued to Plamegate, Miers, and other such sexy, partisanship-enhancing issues, but we're talking about a recently liberated country preparing to deal with its brutal past, facing its oppressor in a court of law, even as it continues its own struggle to establish viable self-governance and a sustainable sense of self-identity.

Shouldn't we be paying attention?

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Narrowing the focus of The Plame Game investigation

The latest from Murray Waas at National Journal:

As federal prosecutors in the CIA leak investigation reach the critical stage of deciding whether to bring criminal charges, they are zeroing in on contradictions between the testimony of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, and that of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, according to sources close to the investigation and attorneys for individuals enmeshed in the probe.

The prosecutors and the federal grand jury are also scrutinizing whether Libby, or his attorney, tried to discourage Miller from giving testimony to the grand jury, or tried to improperly influence what Miller would say if she testified, according to the same sources.

Waas is one of the go-to reporters on this story. If you're at all interested in it, make sure to read the entire piece and to check back for updates.

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Will Cheney resign?

The rumors are flying.

See Joe's take at The Moderate Voice.

I'll have more on this later in the day.

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The extremism of Harriet Miers

As if it's not enough that she lacks the qualifications one would deem necessary of a nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers may actually be something of an extremist on one of the key wedge issues of our time: abortion. The Post is reporting that "Miers once pledged that she would 'actively support' a constitutional amendment banning abortions except to save a mother's life, participate in antiabortion rallies, and try to block the flow of public money to clinics and organizations that help women obtain the procedure".

That was back in 1989, when she was running for a seat on the Dallas City Council. But those written promises provide one of the few glimpses we have into the mind of Harriet Miers, who generally seems completely unprepared to be a Supreme Court justice. Consider, for example, what we know of her from her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire:

In her response to the questionnaire, Miers divulged little about the precise experience -- and legal expertise -- she has acquired in three high-level jobs during the past five years in the Bush White House...

In contrast to Roberts, who said in his questionnaire response that he had argued orally before the Supreme Court 39 times, Miers has made no such appearances. With a corporate practice that rarely involved trial work, Miers, 60, said that she had identified eight cases that went through complete trials, of which she was the lead counsel for four.

Miers's nomination, which I've described as a debacle and an embarrassment, is looking worse and worse.


Around the blogosphere:

New Donkey notes that Miers once supported the "Human Life Amendment," that is, that she held "the most extreme position imaginable on abortion". Armando at Daily Kos responds.

Wonkette suggests that she might be "shrewd, cynical and self-serving".

Think Progress reports that Miers may not consider Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case that extended marital privacy to contraception, to be "settled law".

Andrew Sullivan: "For me, at least, a willingness to tamper with the Constitution itself to implement social policy is the opposite of any meaningful conservative philosophy."

Is Miers a conservative? She's certainly no John Roberts.

Brad DeLong: "The most important thing a Supreme Court Justice needs to know is that the United States is a free country. This doesn't seem to be something that Harriet Miers knows."

I'm not sure she knows much about anything when it comes to the Supreme Court.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Coming in 2008: Gore v. Clinton

That would be Al Gore vs. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. A lot of names are out there -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner, Russ Feingold, and Wesley Clark, among others -- but at The New Republic Ryan Lizza argues that "Gore may be the only Democrat who can beat Hillary Clinton".

(Lizza's piece is available by subscription only. I'll quote it extensively here.)

Here's the problem: Hillary is a national figure who has recently staked out territory in the center, but "[i]n Democratic circles the conventional wisdom is that Hillary can't lose the nomination but can't win the general election". More, "every move Hillary makes to stamp out the electability meme -- tough talk on Iraq, moderate noise on abortion -- opens her up further to a challenge from the left in the primaries."

And that's where Gore comes in:

Gore is the only anti-Hillary candidate who can credibly attack her on both fronts. His early, vocal, and unwavering opposition to the war in Iraq has made him a hero to many Democrats. The Hollywood liberals over at Huffington Post as well as the university-town activists at Daily Kos and love Gore. If he ran, he would instantly become the favored candidate of the "netroots," the antiwar, anti-Bush crowd that championed Howard Dean and that will be a significant source of money and buzz in the run-up to 2008. The activists in the liberal blogosphere, more than any other opinion-making constituency in Democratic politics, revere Gore. They still wave the bloody flag of the 2000 recount. They still pump out bitter posts about how the mainstream media trashed Gore in 2000 yet gave Bush a free pass. They remember that Gore endorsed Dean in 2004 and they burst with pride at the fact that he chose as the forum for his most important speeches.

Of course, any antiwar candidate could criticize Hillary's vote for the war in Iraq. But the logic of the Gore candidacy is that, unlike other Democrats, he could attack Hillary as both out of step on the war and unelectable come November. If he runs for president he would be the only candidate in either party who instantly passes the post-9/11 threshold on national security issues. Hillary's credible case that as first lady she engaged in diplomacy and was treated abroad like a world leader would be dwarfed by Gore's eight-year record as vice president sitting on the National Security Council.

And Gore might be the only Democrat who can solve a vexing issue facing the party: How does a candidate establish a reputation for toughness on national security while simultaneously criticizing the war? Gore supported the Gulf War and, in most Clinton administration battles over the use of force, he took the more hawkish position. He is the party's only credible antiwar hawk.

Gore has other advantages as well. Having run for president or vice president four times, he has a strong national network of $2,000 check-writers. That network, added to the online donors he could tap, would make him the only candidate who could compete financially with Hillary.

Finally, Hillary may not be the ideal nominee to take advantage of the anti-Washington mood building in America. In presidential politics, candidates who run as credible outsiders have a remarkable record. One thing that the campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all have in common is that they successfully ran against Washington. If the current mood of disgust persists into 2008, running as an outsider may be essential. Gore can credibly run such a campaign. Hillary can't.

So what does Gore do?

The ideal situation may be for him to hang back for the next year and a half, let the field sort itself out and wait for Democrats to become bored with the pack of candidates trying to dethrone Hillary. That would allow him to enter the race with the moral and political authority of a reluctant draftee. Every primary season goes through such a period of boredom, a time when voters and pundits scour the country for fresh blood. That could be Gore's moment.

It's an intriguing scenario, but I'm not sure I buy it. I (enthusiastically) supported Gore in 2000 and I've generally always liked him. The right-leaning Supreme Court robbed him of the presidency, or at least of a recount for the presidency, and I think that he would have been a very good president these past 4+ years, but I suspect that his time in electoral politics has come and gone. I'm not sold on Hillary, and I'm eager for viable anti-(or at least non-)Hillary candidates to emerge, but would the Democrats really go back to 2000 in order to try to win in 2008?

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Sign of the Apocalypse #22: Rocky VI

No, not Rocky IV, truly a piece of crap, but Rocky VI. Otherwise known as Rocky Balboa.

There is no Rocky VI, you say? Ah, but there soon will be. According to CNN, "Sylvester Stallone is signing on to reprise his role as boxer Rocky Balboa in the sixth installment of the long-running film series, which he wrote and will direct."

The original movie, released in 1976, was a surprise Oscar winner for Best Picture and Best Director -- truly one of the most obvious Signs of the Apocalypse, since it beat out Network and All the President's Men, two of the greatest films of the 1970s (with Network one of the greatest films of all time), not to mention Taxi Driver (highly overrated, in my view, but considered great by some). But it was at least a pretty good movie, and it still holds up quite well. As for the other four? II, III, and IV were quite popular and V was a welcome (if pointless) return to the grittiness of I, but wasn't it time for the whole thing to come to a merciful end?

So why VI? It couldn't have anything to do with Stallone's moribund career, could it?

Not that I much care, but a SOTA it is.

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A fixed term for Supreme Court justices?

Ronald Brownstein, one of my favourite political reporters, has a good piece in today's L.A. Times on the lifetime tenure of Supreme Court justices:

Justices today, on average, remain on the high court longer and retire at a more advanced age than ever before. Supreme Court justices now routinely serve a quarter-century or more...

The Soviet Politburo probably turned over faster.

Which is why an informal band of prominent legal thinkers from left and right is challenging the Constitution's grant of lifetime tenure to Supreme Court justices. With life spans lengthening, and the court's members clinging so tenaciously to their robes, these critics want to limit justices to a single fixed term, usually set at 18 years.

So far, no prominent politician has joined them. But the idea seems destined to generate more discussion as frustration in both parties mounts over the process of selecting and confirming Supreme Court nominees.

There are persuasive arguments both for and against the status quo (i.e., lifetime tenure), but the intense politicization of the nomination process and the fact that justices may sit on the Supreme Court for decades (Roberts could be there for 30 years or more) suggest to me that a fixed term might not be such a bad idea.

(At Political Animal, Kevin Drum would seem to agree.)

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Monday, October 17, 2005

A turd without a turd blossom is still a turd

What will Bush do if Rove is indicted for his involvement in the Plame Game and compelled to resign?

After all, Rove has been with Bush through two gubernatorial elections and two presidential elections, and it's tough to imagine Bush's political career without his long-time #1.

At Slate, John Dickerson offers "the five ways a Rove departure would hurt the Bush White House most". All valid, but I would add this: Rove might depart the Bush White House, but I doubt Bush would ever allow him to depart altogether. Bush is known for his loyalty to his friends, not to mention his cronyism (Brown, Miers, etc.), and I suspect that Rove would continue to be one of Bush's most trusted advisors going forward even from an indictment.

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The latest news at The Moderate Voice

I've written several posts for The Moderate Voice tonight (including two cross-posted from The Reaction), but I wanted to mention that Joe Gandelman has all the latest on two big stories:

1) The Plame Game (Plamegate):

2) Bush's staged teleconference

I've written quite a bit on The Plame Game (see here and here for my latest posts), but I left the teleconference scandal, which broke late last week, to others. And Joe, who welcomed me to The Moderate Voice as a co-blogger and who has long been a supporter of The Reaction, is one of the best around.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Al Qaeda in the UK

The Sunday Times is reporting that al Qaeda is setting up shop in the U.K.:

THE head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq has established a new terror network in Britain which is recruiting young Muslim fanatics to fight coalition troops.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has recently set up the group to recruit and train would-be suicide bombers and gunmen, counter-terrorism officials have said.

The new group, Ansar al-Fath — Partisans of Victory — is an offshoot of Ansar al-Islam, an organisation that is to be banned under new anti-terror rules announced by Charles Clarke, the home secretary, last week.

Ansar al-Fath provides logistical support to foreign fighters in Iraq and uses the internet to find new recruits for Zarqawi.

So would the Bushies contend that the Iraq War hasn't produced a surge of jihadism even beyond Iraq's borders? If this story is true -- and there's no reason to doubt it -- the threat continues to spread even as Iraq remains a question mark and the war on terrorism, now a war against Islamofascism, proceeds in fits and starts against a nebulous enemy.

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The new Harriet Miers (is the same as the old one)

Time is reporting that the White House will re-spin the Miers nomination by re-marketing Harriet Miers herself:

Get ready for a whole new Harriet. After a disastrous two weeks, White House officials say they hope to relaunch the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court by moving from what they call a "biographical phase" to an "accomplishment phase." In other words, stop debating her religion and personality and start focusing on her résumé as a pioneering female lawyer of the Southwest...

So, as the White House counsel begins her formal prep sessions this week for a confirmation hearing that's likely to start in early November, President Bush will hold a photo op with former chief justices of the Texas Supreme Court who will testify to Miers' qualifications and legal mind. The White House's 20-person "confirmation team" will line up news conferences, opinion pieces and letters to the editor by professors and former colleagues who can talk about Miers' experience dealing with such real-world issues as the Voting Rights Act when she was a Dallas city council member and Native American tribal sovereignty when she was chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission.

The Miers nomination has been nothing short of a debacle, as I've been calling it -- not to mention nothing short of an embarrassment to everything the Supreme Court is supposed to represent in American democracy. I'd never deny that she's had a relatively accomplished career, but much of that career has involved being appointed to various positions by her mover and shaker, George W. Bush, "the most brilliant man she [has] ever met".

I've linked to it before, but here, once again, is Eriposte's excellent overview of Miers at The Left Coaster. The White House wants to tout her accomplishments? Consider this (from the overview): "In fact, Miers has proven herself to be a GOP hack and both a personal and political crony of President George Bush." (Make sure to read the whole thing.)

I'm sure the White House spin machine will do its utmost to re-invent both the woman and the nomination, and I'm sure we'll hear the same talking points repeated over and over again by Bush loyalists, but I wonder if general perception of the Miers nomination isn't now immune to further spin. There are simply too many critics on the right, after all, and they're not about to shut up just because the White House tried to go back to square one out of desperation -- they, far more than Bush's critics on the left, have applied the stench of failure to this long-anticipated nomination. As well, the mainstream news media seem to be a bit more skeptical when it comes to anything coming out of this White House. Misled on Iraq and manipulated on terrorism (not to mention all the other lies, damned or otherwise), they're not about to buy the new Miers angle -- indeed, I would argue that it's been much easier to spin a disastrous foreign war than a pathetic judicial nomination. And then there's the not-so-little problem of Bush's justifiably low approval ratings across the board.

In the end, should her nomination not be withdrawn or should she not bow to pressure and common sense and withdraw herself, Miers may still be confirmed. Enough Republicans may support Bush, conservative criticism notwithstanding, and enough Democrats may come to the conclusion that an unqualified justice would be better than some right-wing ideologue (or whomever else Bush would nominate -- potentially some right-wing activist to woo back his base). But I doubt that this latest spin will do much to support the cause of her nomination.

It's just the latest desperate measure from an increasingly desperate White House.


See here -- my post on "How Harriet Miers is the right's Yoko Ono" -- for a list of (and links to) my previous posts on the Miers nomination.


Newsweek covers the story, too. It's a "hail mary" (but Bush is no Doug Flutie): "The idea—the hope—is to generate some positive buzz with testimonials. Strategists have lined up endorsements and op-eds to be doled out day by day, one of them an Oval Office pageant of praise featuring former members of the Texas Supreme Court. Miers will work her way through a series of office visits with senators, with a fairly heavy emphasis on Republicans who have kept their distance so far."

At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall puts it well: "So things will look better when interest moves from her not being a qualified candidate for the Court to her being an unqualified candidate."

The debacle continues...

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Liberal conservatism in the blogosphere

I'd like to welcome a new blog to my blogroll -- All Things Beautiful by the Baroness Alexandra von Maltzan, one of my new friends out here in the blogosphere. In a recent e-mail, she described herself to me as a "liberal conservative," given that her views "cannot be all immediately slotted into the common agenda for either political side." And she went on: "That in my mind is the true spirit of an educated conservative, whose views become more liberal by the sheer virtue of having gained a broader knowledge, resulting in much less extreme positions."

Fair enough. I'm quite conservative about my liberalism (i.e., I believe that liberalism ought to be conserved), and I agree that the true or at least original spirit of (modern) conservatism -- that is, Burkean conservatism (as also found in the conservative liberalism espoused by Matthew Arnold, the great 19th-century liberal critic of liberalism) -- is very much akin to the sort of non-ideological, educated liberalism that I profess to be at the core of my political philosophy. Socrates's liberalism, I would say, filtered through various streams of modern political liberalism.

Alexandra and I are on opposite (and opposing) sides of the current American political divide (though not too far apart for comfort), but our philosophical approach to politics is very much the same. I'm expanding my blogroll to include some of the better voices on the right (those of us on the left and in the middle need to pay attention to what's going on over on the right -- I've been linking to right-wing blogs and other conservative sites quite a bit recently for precisely this purpose (scroll down)). Alexandra is a welcome addition to the blogosphere, and I'm sure you'll be seeing more of her here at The Reaction (which, whatever its political leanings, refuses to participate in echo-chamber blogospherics).

To begin, though, see her excellent post on "St. Judith The Martyr" -- self-styled martyr Judith Miller, that is. (See my recent posts on Miller and The Plame Game here, here, and here.) She's also written extensively on the Harriet Miers debacle. Click to her blog main page and scroll down.

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