Saturday, May 24, 2003

Ruy Teixeira saves face

The co-author of The Emerging Democratic Majority has a (relatively) new piece on seeking to save his predictions from GOP popularity. Rather than summarizing it, I'll just recommend that you check it out.

Teixeira and Judis should be right about the strength and popularity of the Democrats. Then again, Al Gore should be the president and Tom DeLay should be indicted for the whole Texas redistricting fiasco. It's not too late, though, and I think we may just have to wait it out a few years for Team W to do its damage. Then we can start picking up the pieces once the real truth about Karl Rove's GOP is common knowlege.

posted by Scott | 5/24/2003 | |

Friday, May 23, 2003

Gephardt wins another union endorsement

Oh yeah, politics...

Dick Gephardt's longtime support for labor causes is paying off in the race for the 2004 nomination. The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers--run by the former chair of the St. Louis County Democratic Party--has formally endorsed Gephardt's candidacy. This is Gephardt's second official union endorsement. The first came from the ironworkers union. No comment from the AFL-CIO, who had requested that individual unions withhold endorsements in favor of one big union nod.

posted by Scott | 5/23/2003 | |

Updates, updates, updates

Rather than rehashing my own work today, I'm just going to give y'all new information on old stories.

The Note likes referring to budget politics as "The Big Casino" (as they coincidentally explain today). I'm sticking with "The Cancer." I've done two pieces on The Cancer so far (one and two), so here are today's updates:

The New York Times and The Washington Post both ran editorials today on the GOP tax cuts. The verdict? Hot damn, rich people done got lucky!

My favorite pull quote from the Post? "Taxpayers who make more than $1 million a year will enjoy an average tax cut of $93,500 this year." In contrast, "the average tax cut for households in the middle of the income spectrum will be $217."

The Post and the Times offer non-editorial articles on the tax cuts as well. Choice cuts from those steaks?

Come the election campaign next year, the president can credit his tax cuts if the economy has improved. If the economy is still flagging, he can blame Democrats for opposing his initial proposal. {from the Times}

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) stood in the well of the House just before 2 a.m. this morning, predicting, "We are poised to fuel an unprecedented recovery." {from the Post}

Both papers' op-ed pages also weighed in on another topic I've been DemWatching: The GOP Attack on the Killer D's.

The Times opinion piece comes courtesy of New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright. Man, and I thought I was the only one who saw some huge problems brewing here!

The Post editorial is a bit more circumspect about the whole thing, avoiding the dire predictions Wright endulges.

Josh Marshall is the man when it comes to covering the Killer D's controversy, though. He's got all the latest news and he's wondering why no one else does. It seems that he's finally starting to stir up that feeding frenzy he was looking for.

My earlier piece was really more about the coming battles over anti-idealogue filibustering, though, so here are two bones I can throw you on that one:

Trent Lott wants to end filibustering altogether
A battle is likely over Whitman's replacement at the EPA

* * *

So what's it all got to do with the Democrats and the primary?

Well, in a perfect world, it should be pretty easy for the party to paint Team W and the GOP All-Stars as reckless, greedy, and hypocritical come 2004. However, it's far from a perfect world...

posted by Scott | 5/23/2003 | |

Thursday, May 22, 2003

"A cancer on the American economy"

Two days ago, that's how I referred to the Bush administration's economic policies. Now, thanks to my friends at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Harper's, I've got some backup.

The front page of the Times has two pertinent Team W economy stories. First, of course, is the obvious story about the passage of the latest round of tax cuts. The other, more important bit of front page news brings us the news that, to meet No Child Left Behind standards without the promised money from the Bush administration budget, some schools are lowering the bar on what's acceptable as passing. Such tactics are being used to save schools from the White House wrath in Michigan, Colorado, and--wouldn't you know it--Texas. One education expert at Harvard quoted in the Times piece referred to NCLB as "the single largest, and the single most damaging, expansion of federal power over the nation's education system in history." Ouch.

As scary as that all may sound, it gets worse. In the middle of Orange Alert, the Transportation Security Agency is getting ready to lay off 15% of its airport security screeners.

And the Post today handed John Kerry a huge piece of campaign research. Hot on the heels of Kerry's announcement of a new national service initiative, AmeriCorps has announced that they will be slicing in half the number of volunteers they will be able to accept this year. Why would they have to do such a thing? What would force such drastic action?

Budget cuts.

That's right, folks--the airports just got a little less safer, our children's educations just got a little worse, and there are now half as many AmeriCorps slots as before. And why? All so George W. Bush can have another tax cut. I guess when Bush says that it's the "people's money," he doesn't mean the people who fly on commercial airliners, the people served by public education, and the people who dedicate themselves to serving their country.

Do I seem a little angry right now? Yeah. That's because I am.

The New York Times and The Washington Post are angry too, but not exactly for the same reason. They both issued editorials decrying the GOP tax cut agenda because of deficits and debt.

I understand their respective points. The economic stability of the nation is at stake. But if we're headed for further downturn, I fail to understand why the Bush administration insists on exacerbating the problem by gutting any and every public program they can get their hands on.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is how the second- and third-class passengers felt as the Titanic was going down...

posted by Scott | 5/22/2003 | |

...but can it find a cure for a faltering campaign?

Joe Lieberman's latest big idea is The American Center for Cures, a new public-private partnership dedicated to curing disease. The idea is that curing and preventing disease is far cheaper than treatment, saving people--and governments--around the world untold billions of dollars each year in health care costs.

It's an interesting proposition. Lieberman's certainly right on one account--what's needed is "national leadership that will commit our resource and resolve to this mission."

However, it seems a bit odd coming from Lieberman. After all, isn't he the one who was railing just a few weeks ago against old-style "big-spending Democratic ideas"? This initiative may be partially funded through private money, but it will assumably require a pretty large government-run bureaucracy to administer it. Perhaps a better idea would have been to make the center a part of the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Both are already part of the Department of Health and Human Services, which I'm guessing is where Joe plans to stick his new ACC.

Ah, perhaps I'm being too hard on ol' Joe. His heart is clearly in the right place and his logic is sound. My only question is how he plans to implement the whole thing without picking up a 'big government' shadow he's been able to outrun so far.

posted by Scott | 5/22/2003 | |

Media drools over Bush's fundraising

Why is anyone surprised that Team W is raking in money for the GOP? Last night Bush collected $22 million from 7,500 donors for GOP congressional candidates.

What did everyone think all of those rich folks were going to do with their tax cuts? Stimulate the economy by shopping at Wal-Mart? Start new companies and hire unemployed workers? Give it all to charity?

Nah! They put some of it in the bank so their children won't ever have to work, they put some of it towards toys like yachts and vacation homes, and then--as a way of saying thanks--they gave a chunk right back to the people who put that money in their pockets.

Is it class warfare for me to say this? Maybe, but only so much as it's class warfare to shift the majority of the tax burden onto the middle-class! And since when should an act of war go unanswered?

I find it hard to accept that the Democratic presidential candidates aren't out on the campaign trail today calling it what it is: quid pro quo.

posted by Scott | 5/22/2003 | |

Safire issues a challenge to media monopoly

I know, I know. I'm a liberal and I shouldn't be pitching for the conservative William Safire. But I've got to give the man his due. He calls it as he sees it. More importantly, he's one of the most intellectually honest pundits anywhere on the political map.

I'm highly recommending Safire's New York Times column today not because it has much to do with the Democrats, the primary, or the 2004 election. But it may have something to do with the way elections and politics and politicians are covered and analyzed by the media for years to come. Here's a taste of Safire's problems with megamedia conglomeration:

Must broadcasters of news act only on behalf of the powerful broadcast lobby? Are they not obligated, in the long-forgotten "public interest," to call to the attention of viewers and readers the arrogance of a regulatory commission that will not hold extended public hearings on the most controversial decision in its history?

So much of our lives should not be in the hands of one swing-vote commissioner. Let's debate this out in the open, take polls, get the president on the record and turn up the heat.

The "swing-vote commissioner" he writes about is Kevin Martin, a Republican member of the FCC who has clashed with chairman Michael Powell in the past, and could side with the Democrats on a pending commission proposal that Safire lays out in his piece:

It would end the ban in most cities of cross-ownership of television stations and newspapers, allowing such companies as The New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune to gobble up ever more electronic outlets. It would permit Viacom, Disney and AOL Time Warner to control TV stations with nearly half the national audience. In the largest cities, it would allow owners of "only" two TV stations to buy a third.

Safire's absolutely right about this. It's just a shame more people are not paying attention. With media ownership at stake, I can only speculate as to why that is. One thing is certain, however. Media coverage of campaigns and elections will be increasingly covered as cable news-style entertainment with less and less unbiased reporting if these media ownership regulations are further relaxed.

posted by Scott | 5/22/2003 | |

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

An orchestrated effort to subvert democracy?

Recent events have led me to wonder if the Bush administration is not putting into play a plan to thrust their right-wing extremism permanently down the throat of American government. Some of you will shrug your shoulders, as if to ask what else I expect of Rove & Co. Others will think I'm waxing a bit paranoid, offering up conspiracy theory as legitimate political analysis. Hopefully a few of you will get my point and realize that we must be on guard to defend the systems we believe in.

This morning, Christie Whitman announced her resignation from her post as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman had long been in conflict with Bush, issuing statements contradictory to administration policy, forcing her into constant defense of her standing in the cabinet. As recently as last month, Whitman publicly defied the Bush administration when she refused to factor the weight of senior citizens' lives, in writing environmental law, as being worth less than younger lives.

A few days ago, Newsday ran a story on the speculation that Supreme Court justices O'Connor and Rehnquist may be getting ready to step down, as early as next month.

All of this comes at a time where the political atmosphere is caustic, not just in Washington, but around the country. As the Senate Democrats are filibustering the judicial appointments of Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen, Senate Republicans are going so far as to discuss changing long-standing Senate rules to scrap filibusters altogether. Some individual Senators threatening lawsuits to break the filibuster. In Texas, the Democratic minority in the legislature had to leave Texas to kill a politically motivated redistricting plan that was certainly unethical if not illegal.

This morning's Washington Post editorial describes a situation of Nuclear War on the Hill, admitting the need for reform of the filibuster system, but rejecting efforts to kill it, as the GOP like to see done. A dueling op-ed in The Washington Times calls the Democrats' tactics "surely unconstitutional in principle," but not illegal. Pundits on the right have been merciless in their slagging of Democrats on the filibuster, somehow forgetting that a few years ago, it was their Senators filibustering President Clinton's appointments.

So am I the only one who sees a storm brewing on the horizon?

With the Estrada and Owens nominations already hampered by filibusters, Bush is nowhere near recalling either in favor of more moderate judges. The idea that he might put forth moderate Supreme Court nominees would be totally out of character. True, Whitman was a moderate at the EPA, but her nomination came hot on the heels of Bush's pseudo-election. With his approval ratings high, Bush no longer needs to appear as the compassionate conservative of 2000.

So it's possible that Estrada and Owens are little more than red herrings. The GOP has had a year to get their base--and even some converts--convinced that the Democrats are obstructionists bent on subverting the Constitution. What better way to push the argument even further than to nominate more right-wing idealogues that the Democrats will refuse to consider?

One anti-environmentalist nominee for the post of EPA head would give Rove & Co. three filibusters to point to in making the case that the Democrats are bottling up Bush's appointments. If the Republicans challenge the constitutionality of these filibusters as they've said they would like to, that challenge would be heard by none other than the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court, I probably don't have to remind you, with two justices who would like to retire, but cannot until their replacements are approved by the Senate.

Does all of this sound paranoid? I admit that, to a degree, it might. However, looking at the GOP's recent tactics in Texas--calling out Homeland Security on the Democrats, destroying documents pertaining to the search--one becomes more open to the possibility that something far more sinister than simple politicking may be going on, not just in Austin, but in Washington, D.C. as well.

posted by Scott | 5/21/2003 | |

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Those tax-cut-and-spend Bush Conservatives...

From an AP report filed by Jeannine Aversa:

The government ran up a deficit of $201.6 billion in the first seven months of the 2003 budget year, more than three times the total for the corresponding period a year earlier.


(Can you tell this whole thing's got me a little riled up?)

With numbers like these, it should not be hard to explain to the American people in 2004 why Team W's fiscal policies are like a cancer on the American economy. However, Rove & Co. always seem to be able to spin these things their way. I'll be fascinated to see what kind of BS they cook up to explain away this one.

posted by Scott | 5/20/2003 | |

Edwards Lays Groundwork For Self-Defense

In the eyes of the GOP hit squad, the biggest target on John Edwards's chest is his law degree. The party talking point is that "Edwards isn't just beholden to personal injury trial lawyers, he is one himself."

Edwards, obviously eager to cut this off at the knees, issued a call in today's Washington Post for--I swear I'm not making this up--tort reform. Okay, that's not his only answer, but it is included in the overall proposal. The three parts of the Edwards plan to "keep doctors in business" are reforming insurance, tort reform, and increased policing of bad doctors. Notably, Edwards claims that caps are not the answer. Also notably, Edwards call for medical policing was borrowed from Ralph Nader.

To be sure, the plan is a serious one. However, one gets the feeling that the move is less about helping doctors and more about Edwards's ability to prove that he is not in the pocket of the trial lawyers lobby.

posted by Scott | 5/20/2003 | |

Why hasn't anyone else thought of this?

Dick Gephardt has hit upon a surefire winner of a campaign issue: banning drug ads. They infuriate me, they infuriate most people I know, they infuriate Michelle Cottle at The New Republic, and most importantly, they infuriate Dick Gephardt.

The Missouri congressman said Monday that he has heard complaints from doctors that patients pressure them to prescribe drugs that may not be appropriate simply because of a catchy, feel-good commercial on television.

"These ads are crazy," Gephardt said during a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "It makes no sense. Doctors need to prescribe drugs, not television ads."

"All you have to do is sit down and watch television for an evening," he said. "It's a big deal. People become convinced that this is the answer to their problems."

It's simple, it's easy to understand, and as such, could win over some voters who do not understand Gephardt's health plan, but know they hate those gosh darn commercials!

posted by Scott | 5/20/2003 | |

All the way with JFK

Nowadays, when politicians demand more volunteerism from the American people, voters are likely to roll their eyes and think of George H. W. Bush's "Thousand Points of Light." Unfortunately, they no longer think back to the days of Camelot and "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

A new JFK is trying to change that.

John Forbes Kerry has been--for better or worse--inviting comparisons to John Fitzgerald Kennedy for the better part of the last four decades. In a December 2002 profile of Kerry for The New Yorker, Joe Klein wrote extensively on the topic:

He had spent years working to bury the invidious J.F.K. comparisons; in recent elections, he had even excised the "F." from his bumper stickers. "That was a once-in-a-lifetime moment," he said, curtly, of Kennedy, "and I think anyone who tried to mimic it, reinvent it, reach it, or touch it would be making a mistake."

Kerry announced his new initiative with a hauntingly familiar demand of Americans: "the real question we face is not what America can offer to us, but what each of us owe to America."

Rhetoric and historical analysis aside, however, Kerry's plan is compelling. Two years of public service buys a young person a four-year college education; community service, under the plan, would be a requirement for high school graduation; new volunteer programs would be launched both for adults and children; recruitment for both the Peace Corps and the military would be expanded; and a new civilian defense force would be put into place.

It's fair to say that this, along with his healthcare plan, shows that Kerry is fighting hard to win the ideas primary. It's also clear that he's running hard to pick up converts from opponents both left and right. Now we just have to see how good he looks in a flight suit.

posted by Scott | 5/20/2003 | |

Sharpton winning the war of words

Al Sharpton may not be lighting the polls on fire, but he's certainly riling up the base. William Saletan's excellent run-down of this weekend's debate gives Sharpton the medal for "most interesting line of attack." I'll let Saletan tell it:

"There's a misnomer," he said. "We're saying that Bush is cutting taxes. He's shifting taxes. Because when you have to pay more money for mass transit, when you have to pay more money for sales tax, that's a tax on working-class people. … Taxes have gone up all over this country." Other candidates picked up this refrain and extended it to Medicaid. It's a tricky argument, since Bush's fingerprints aren't on state and local tax hikes. But if voters start to make the connection, Bush could lose his image as a tax cutter.

Sharpton is absolutely right. May I suggest that if this presidential campaign thing doesn't pan out, Reverend Al is a shoo-in for that new liberal talk radio network I used to hear so much about.

posted by Scott | 5/20/2003 | |

Monday, May 19, 2003

Democrats on the warpath... finally!

They may not agree on everything, but they all agree on at least one thing: Team W has got to go. The slate of Democratic presidential contenders this weekend turned into a (somewhat) unified slate of presidential challengers, jabbing not at each other, but at the incumbent.

Leading the charge was Bob Graham, who pounced on the al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia, saying that the attacks "could have been avoided if you had actually crushed the basic infrastructure of al Qaeda." When Team W blew this off as "proof Senator Graham is running for president," Graham did not back down. Bolstered by his lengthy record of criticizing the administration on its handling of the war on terror, Graham stepped up the rhetoric, claiming that Bush is taking America down the "fundamentally wrong track."

Howard Dean and John Kerry, for their part, have turned down the volume on their very loud public squabble and have turned up the criticism of Bush. At Sunday's Tom Harkin-sponsored Hear it from the Heartland event in Iowa, Dean blasted Bush's bizarre vision of diplomacy, saying that America ought to strive to be "respected" rather than "feared." He also took the administration to task for its continued dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The American money which pays for this oil, Dean pointed out, "is also spent to teach small children to hate Americans, Christians and Jews."

Kerry took Team W to task on their diplomatic failures as well as their trouble in controlling post-war Iraq, saying on Face the Nation that the "administration has been in complete disarray."

Joe Lieberman, in an op-ed piece written for The Boston Globe, sounded a similar note. Team W, he writes, "is failing to secure the peace." Obviously testing out campaign rhetoric, he says "shock and awe is giving way to stumble and fumble." He differentiates himself, however, by reminding voters that he was "a strong supporter of the war, not as a lingering critic," most certainly a strong dig at Dean and a slight dig at Kerry.

Al Sharpton had perhaps the best one-liner on the subject. (Doesn't he always?) Sure to be echoed by all of the Democratic candidates, Sharpton sharply questioned Team W as to why more attention is not being paid to the capture of Osama bin Laden. "We need to go after those who went after us."

Amen, Reverend Al. Amen.

posted by Scott | 5/19/2003 | |
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