Monday, November 20, 2006

And I'm Back . . . I'm sorry for taking so long to update, but things have been extremely hectic lately. Like almost every other Democrat, I was thrilled with the election results on November 7th. We got more than most of us would have dared to hope for and now our party has a chance to remind the American people what competent leadership looks like. Time magazine just came out with a short article debunking the top five myths from the midterm that was. I found them surprisingly honest.

A great hope I have for the Democratic majority in the 110th Congress is that they will will find away to improve the tone in Washington. This phrase is becoming hackneyed I know, but I will try to be honest and fair in evaluating how the Democrats do in accomplishing this objective. I will be very disappointed if they fail. I can't say that things have gotten off to a good start, since there has been plenty of infighting. So far there has been "Murtha vs. Hoyer," "Pelosi vs. Harman," "Hastings vs. common sense," "Carville vs. netroots," and "Rangel vs. smart politics." All that and they aren't even an official majority yet. The Democrats have plenty of work needs to be done, and they won't get anywhere with all these internal squabbles.

Meanwhile, why isn't the media more aggressive with the GOP? They elected Trent Lott to be their whip in the Senate by a razor thin margin and had a very contentious race for Minority Leader in the House. In addition to not reporting this as a sign of a GOP collapse, the media also glossed over Trent Lott's history with racism. Anyway, it hasn't been a particularly good few weeks for either side.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I expected better . . . I was reading about the upcoming midterm elections in The Economist this morning and almost fell out of my chair when I read this paragraph:

Much of the bile heaped on Mr Bush over Katrina was unfair. First, the disaster was not as ghastly as the media painted it. The stories of chaos, murder, rape and even cannibalism among the storm's victims turned out to be false. Second, much of the blame for the wretched response to the hurricane belonged to Democrats: Louisiana's dithering governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, who let school buses that could have been used to evacuate people sit idle until they were half-submerged.

Let's deconstruct this sentence by sentence. The "bile" heaped on President Bush over Katrina was not only justified, but light compared to what he could have received. President Bush was warned on August 28 that the possibility of levees being breached was a "very, very grave concern." During that briefing the President asked no questions, but assured state officials that "[w]e are fully prepared." Four days later, with the magnitude of the disaster clear to everyone, President Bush appeared on Good Morning America and falsely claimed, "I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." This alone is enough to accuse President Bush of incompetence and dishonesty, and it doesn't even scratch the surface of all the mistakes he made both before and after Katrina, in terms of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that agency's head Michael Brown, and the numerous problems with the reconstruction of the city.

Next, The Economist claims that "the disaster was not as ghastly as the media painted it." Oh, really? Thousands dead. Billions of dollars lost. A great American city destroyed. Not "ghastly" enough for you?

To back up its ridiculous claim, the magazine states that "[t]he stories of chaos, murder, rape and even cannibalism among the storm's victims turned out to be false." No true stories of chaos? Are you sure about that? As for the murder, rape, and cannibalism charges, they were mostly peddled by conservatives who sought to blame the victims. Columnists such as Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, and Peggy Noonan, seized upon reports of looting and horrific events in the Superdome as an excuse to attack those who were left behind. This was capped off with right-wing television and radio talk show host Glenn Beck referring to the victims of Katrina as "scumbags." Amanda Marcotte summarized these attacks on the helpless in a piece for Alternet back 2005.

Finally, The Economist blames the Democratic governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, and the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. The characterization of Blanco as "dithering" most likely stems from the myth that Blanco did not delcare a state of emergency in New Orleans. This was originally reported in the Washington Post on September 4, citing an unnamed "senior Bush official." This was later proven to be entirely untrue -- Blanco had declared a state of emergency on the 26th of August -- and the paper later had to print a retraction. The criticism of Nagin is far harsher than that of President Bush, especially considering that had Bush and Michael Brown done their jobs, Nagin's failures would have been averted.

Yes, I know I'm complaining a lot about one paragraph, but I really think that history shouldn't be re-written about an event as tragic as Katrina, especially by a magazine supposedly as reputable as The Economist. Most of this issue's articles were about how the Republicans were about to get walloped next Tuesday and why that was a good thing (though the magazine's number one reason for being happy was that spending tends to dwindle under a divided government). Still, though The Economist may not have much use for the Republicans, I can't say I have any more use for The Economist.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why Can't The Polls Agree In Tennessee? . . . The polls have been all over the map for the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee. Just today we saw three polls with very different results. Zogby has Republican Bob Corker up by ten points, but a Democratic poll has Harold Ford Jr. leading by six percent. Also today, a Rasmussen survey found the race within a point. So what's going on? Tennessee is considered one of the most critical races in deciding control of the Senate in next Tuesday's election, but unlike the other states with close races -- Virginia, Missouri, Montana -- the polling has been all over the map. Instead of considering Tennessee competitive because polls show the race neck and neck, it's considered close because on any given day we can see totally contradictory data flying around. But it will take someone much smarter and better versed in the world of polling to explain to me why that is.
About Those Conservative Democrats . . . Joe Conason has a new column in which he discusses the batch of moderate to conservative Democratic candidates who are running for seats in Congress this election cycle. Conason observes that many on the right, such as Laura Ingraham, have used this as an excuse for the impending GOP losses on Tuesday. This doesn't come as much a surprise from the a Republican party that is becoming increasingly desperate. If it gives members of the GOP comfort to think that they are only losing this election because the Democrats have embraced their ideas then they are living in a state of denial. Not only are nominees such as Bob Casey and Jim Webb true Democrats, but even other candidates running on truly moderate platforms are still certainly not Republicans. Many of those candidates, as Conason notes, are running in very conservative states and so their varnishing of moderate credentials is not much of a surprise. Mike DeWine is doing all he can to position himself as a moderate, and Lincoln Chafee is staking his entire campaign on it. Republicans everywhere are running from President Bush. Republicans are frustrated that the Democrats have the big tent and the chance for the big win.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Who's Extreme? Part Two . . . Several bloggers have made points similar to those I made yesterday regarding John Kerry and George Bush's recent remarks about Iraq. In addition to President Bush's commenting that "the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses," GOP Majority Leader John Boehner appears to have criticized the commanders and troops on the ground in an effort to defend Donald Rumsfeld. Here's what he said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

House Majority Leader John Boehner: Wolf, I understand that, but let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld.

Wolf Blitzer: But he's in charge of the military.

House Majority Leader John Boehner: But the fact is the generals on the ground are in charge and he works closely with them and the president.

Democratic leaders Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel have all issued statements slamming Boehner, but I think they've got to do more. This should be on the front page of all Democratic web sites. The blogs should be relentless in attacking Boehner for his rampant hypocrisy -- just earlier today he threatened to "beat John Kerry to death" if he didn't apologize for his remarks. The fact that Boehner values the job of the most incompetent Secretary of Defense in recent history more than that of the troops should be on the lips of every single Democratic talking head whenever he or she is asked about the Kerry controversy. That's the most effective way to end this news cycle and keep the Democrats on offense.

The Battle For The News Cycle . . . Immediately following the Republican attack on his remarks, Senator John Kerry responded with a strong reproach in which he accused the White House of lies, both about his comments and the war in Iraq. This type of offense from Kerry has been seen by many, such as Newsweek's Jonathon Alter, as a refusal to get swift-boated again. Kerry will no longer take attacks lying down, some argue, but instead will respond immediately and forcefully. The response from Kerry today was a little more subdued, with the senator saying on the Imus in the Morning program that he was "sorry for the botched joke." He also told host Don Imus that he was not planning to campaign any more in the next week before the midterm elections. The Republicans, of course, are still claiming that the senator never apologized and are trying to extend this story as long as they possibly can. This is unsurprising, with the GOP in desperation mode as their control of congress is on the verge of collapsing.

Some liberal bloggers, however, are arguing that the Kerry news cycle was actually won by the Democrats. MyDD's Chris Bowers argues that the Democratic base will be more fired up from this whole incident than the Republican one will. I'm not sure if I agree with that. This election will be decided in places like Tennessee, not Massachusetts, and I think that this cycle could not possibly play well to those more conservative voters.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Who's Extreme? . . . Senator John Kerry has come under fire from an increasingly desperate Republican party, which is trying to accuse the veteran of belittling the intelligence of the troops serving in Iraq. Kerry argued that students must "study hard" and "make an effort and be smart" to avoid getting "stuck in Iraq." His remarks, however, when examined in context were clearly an attack on President Bush. Kerry was pointing out that Bush's ignorance of and lack of curiosity about Iraq has led to America's being bogged down in a civil war there. Remember, it has been widely reported that President Bush didn't know the differences between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam just months before the war commenced. The senator's remark about intelligence came in the middle of a series of one-liners about the President, and a dig at the not-so-smart handling of the mission in Iraq makes much more sense in that context than an attack on the troops. Sadly, it appears the Republicans pushing the "Kerry hates the troops" line aren't really interested in the context or the truth, but instead are trying to fire up the Kerry-hating base of the party in time for next Tuesday's election.

It's worth noting that while the Kerry remark is receiving wall-to-wall coverage on the cable networks, the GOP talking point that the Democrats' agenda is that of the terrorists' is becoming excepted into the mainstream of political discourse. The Republicans who opposed President Clinton's intervention into Kosovo were not accused of advancing Milosevic's agenda. Certainly those proposed alternative strategies for success weren't demonized as 'sending the wrong message to our troops.' Yet just yesterday, President Bush said "[t]he Democrat approach on Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses." I think President Bush -- not John Kerry -- owes the American people an apology for lowering the political discourse in this country.