Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Monday, October 31, 2005
Will Cheney stick around?
There seems to be increasing chatter, with which I somewhat agree, that Cheney will not finish out this term as VP. A switch has been possible for awhile because of health reasons, and the indictment of Cheney's chief of staff, who prosecutor Fitzgerald will probably try to get to implicate Cheney in a larger indiscretion, hastens matters. After next year's midterm elections is probably the most likely time, though if things continue to heat up around Cheney it's possible that it would happen sooner.
If Bush were to reshuffle, to whom would he turn ? The most likely candidate is Bill Frist, senate majority leader. Other possibilities include conservative senator Sam Brownback, Mass governor Mitt Romney, and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Whoever it is, it would be a slight increase in their profile in advance of the 2008 election, so Bush will likely factor that in when selecting (leading me further to suspect it would be Frist).
The wingers hated Harriet Miers. It wasn't that she was a walking question mark, but that they were being muzzled. They didn't want any more stealth candidates that masked the conservative agenda. After winning the presidency and expanding their leads in both the Senate and the House, they were convinced of an ascendant conservative dogma. It was time for a coming out party, and both Roberts and Miers denied them that celebration.
Rove knew that the myth of conservative ascendancy was just that -- a myth. An America that voted for Republicans out of fear of terrorists has little appetite for domestic conservative dogma. Bush's numbers didn't start coming down because of Iraq or Miers or Katrina. They came down during Bush's "Let's Destroy Social Security" road show. Fact is, conservatives are most effective when they mask their true intentions ("healthy forrest initiative", not the "let's cut down trees initiative").
But the Right refused to accept Bush's winks and nods on Miers. They didn't just want a conservative jurist. They wanted a showcase of conservatism they could shove down the throats of the likes of us liberals and the rest of America. They wanted one of those obnoxious touchdown dances.
Now we have a true-blood conservative on tap, and this now sets up the showdown of ideas that I think we've all craved. Thanks to Miers, ideology is now absolutely open to debate, and it's now time for America to see what conservatism really looks like.
But this is the best possible scenario for Democrats as well. We now have a vehicle upon which to showcase the differences between us and Republicans, between liberalism and conservatism. This is a golden opportunity, and one wisely denied by Bush and Rove with the Robers and Miers nominations.
This is a gift to Democrats. Katrina, massive budget deficits, and continued economic hardship have proven that Republicans can't govern. Iraq, Plame, and Osama Bin Laden have proven that Republicans can't run an effective foreign policy or protect our nation. Now Scalito, along with Bush's social security debacle, will prove to the American people that conservative ideology doesn't have their best interests at heart.
Thank you to Bill & Melinda Gates, who are once again giving enormous amounts of money to non-governmental and corporate organizations tackling the most serious probelms facing the world - this time malaria. These two should get so much more credit than they do.
This is what philanthropy should be, and what many (including all of Bono's campaigns) are pushing: don't just blindly give aid to governments, but to the trustworthy people/groups who are independently working to solve problems.
As do I (as much as I can a Republican). Hagel is who I'll be rooting for on the GOP side for 2008, because I think he's a sensible Republican, as opposed to people like Bush, Allen, Brownback, Romney, etc.
I'll still do everything I can to ensure Hillary/Gore/Bayh/Edwards/Warner kicks his ass though.
It's amazing how quickly the rumors fly around. First Michael McConnell was the leading candidate. Now Alito is rapidly moving up. If Bush announces today or Monday, it's likely to skew towards the conservatives' shortlist - Alito & Luttig.
Well, it appears that we're not going to get everything we wanted for Fitzmas, but we should have known that. The good thing is that Rove will still be under investigation. Ann Coulter this morning on CNN said that this is the 'worst' result for Republicans, because the story and uncertainty lingers on, but I disagree. I want this officially in the history books. I want it to be a talking point for generations - when the White House senior adviser, VP chief of staff, and House majority leader were all under indictment at the same time. So here's hoping that we get a belated Fitzmas present of Rove's indictment in a few months.
- The 2,000th U.S. soldier died in a war against a country that did not attack us, but that a significant percentage of American citizens and soldiers think did - The President's most senior adviser and the VP's chief of staff are likely to be indicted - The President's consenus-unqualified nominee to the Supreme Court withdraws - The new President of Iran vows to "destroy" Israel
- The incompetent director of FEMA is still on the payroll as a 3rd major hurricane hits
- An aide to the former Secretary of State warns of the Bush-Cheney 'cabal'
- The House Majority Leader awaits trial on money laundering charges - The Senate Majority Leader is being investigated for insider trading
Stay tuned for next week's episode. Maybe the Republicans can manage to piss off North Korea as well!
Following up on yesterday's surprisingly timely post, now that Miers has withdrawn, let's see what the landscape looks like for the new pick.
I think it's likely that Bush has learned a lesson and will go with a known quantity, so I'd be very surprised if he picks someone not on this list. If my friend Bryce is right, this was one of Bush's potential plans all along... now he can get Luttig on there. That may be true. Since he 'tried' to nominate a woman, he may now feel authorized to throw up a white man. Or potentially he'll get to nominate the first Hispanic SC justice.
One interesting wrinkle here is that there were rumors that people took themselves out of the running because the confirmation process is so tough. In fact, his nomination of Miers leads me to believe that it's likely that a number of the top women (Jones, Clement) asked not to be nominated. It's possible that even MORE people will take that path after what happened to Miers. So the big question is, who on this list will ask not to be considered? If it's 3 or 4 or 5 of them, things could get interesting.
Post Miers Odds: Emilio Garza 6:1. If he sticks to women and minorities, I think this is most likely. J. Michael Luttig 7:1. If Bush bows to the right wing, this is the guy. They love his deferral to executive power in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Edith Clement 15:2. Slightly more moderate than Jones. Was confirmed 99-0. Sam Alito 8:1. Dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (right wing likes that). Edith Jones 8:1. Some abortion rulings that will satisfy the right wing. Michael McConnell 11:1. Similar to Luttig. Conservatives would like this. Sonia Sotomayor 12:1. A consensus pick. Princeton & Yale. Bush I & Clinton both nominated. Karen Williams 14:1. Too unknown? Reena Raggi 15:1. If he's looking for a woman with a resume, this would be a solid pick. J. Harvie Wilkinson 15:1. Confirmation would have some hair from both sides. Alice Batchelder 15:1. Only if some of the others have said no. Edward Prado 18:1. Potentially too moderate, but the Senate approved 97-0. If Bush picks him, then Bush doesn't want Roe v. Wade overturned. Consuelo Callahan 20:1. Too inexperienced. Only 2 years as a judge. Sen. John Cornyn 22:1. Perhaps more likely than this because would be confirmed easily. Priscilla Owen 24:1. Is GWB willing to go up against a filibuster? Janice Rogers Brown 25:1. Same as above. Larry Thompson 25:1. Too unknown? Sen. Jon Kyl 28:1. Long shot. Maureen Mahoney 30:1. Long shot. SC litigator. Never been a judge.
ps. Harry Reid is already out trying to capitalize on this. Saying that Bush is beholden to the right wing.
Update 3pm: I'm swapping my top two above. I now think Garza is the frontrunner. And I strongly think it will be either Garza, Luttig, Clement, Alito, or Jones.
Thinking ahead a little, if Miers is withdrawn, removes her name, or doesn't get through committee, to whom might the Bush administration turn next?
There are two schools of thought. One is that they need to appease the conservative right wing that was so opposed to Miers. To do this they need to choose someone who has a track record - in writings, speeches, etc. - of being opposed to Roe v. Wade, and hopefully of being a strict constitutional constructionist. This list includes Luttig, Alito, Garza, Jones, .
Another thought is that he needs to duplicate the Roberts nomination as much as possible... pick someone very smart. There doesn't seem to be anyone out there as qualified as Roberts, but Alito (Yale Law) fits the bill, as does Harvie Wilkinson (Yale, UVA Law), and Reena Raggi (Wellesley, Harvard Law), who might get a more serious look this time. Raggi also has the advantage of being an original Reagan pick, which might make the right wing happy.
I think it very much reduces the probablity that Gonzalez (controversial AG) or Olsen (solicitor general but never a judge) will be picked. Larry Thompson, former assistant AG, remains in the running I think.
2,000 American soldiers dead. ... I highly recommend watching or Tivo'ing "Off to War", a real-life documentary series on an Arkansas national guard unit as they prepare for, deploy to, and then come back from Iraq. It airs frequently on the Discovery Times channel.
Among the things I've learned from it: - Most soldiers think Iraq attacked us on 9/11. - Most don't understand what the mission is or what their goal is.
Let me try to catch up on some developments over the weekend and yesterday:
Ben Bernanke, new Fed Chair: A good pick. But we need to stop fawning over Alan Greenspan, who has allowed and even sometimes cheered as Bush has taken the economy to an extremely precarious place, where China holds the strings. A more responsible chair would have been speaking more, publicly and privately, about increasing savings rates, balancing the budget, reducing the trading deficit.
White House asking people how they should withdraw Miers: Glad to hear it. Though some liberals argue that Miers, for all her faults, might be the best we can get, I just can't bear to think of the world's strongest country putting someone so egregiously unqualified on its highest court for life. I'd honestly sleep better if there was a whip-smart conservative stalwart on there than Miers. Not a Scalia type, but someone more like Roberts, who clearly has an intellectual not an idealogical basis behind his judgments.
Allegations to come out this week on Rove/Libby/Cheney: Just watched the most recent West Wing (best drama ever on TV, imho) in which Pres. Bartlett has to fire Toby Ziegler for a national security leak. Hope we get to see the real thing in a few days. Frankly I've been worried lately that Bush will leave his Presidency without the disastrous legacy that he deserves. Bush should be remembered for the joke he is and was. 2005 will help.
Republicans: - Rice says she won't run. And she's pretty adamant. I believe her. Taking her down. - Chuck Hagel, a Republican I don't totally hate, and who I believe has a very good chance to be the Republican nominee if McCain and Giuliani prove too liberal, is going to Iowa for the first time. I'll keep him at 7:1.
"In fact, the beauty for Gore is that, unlike a little-known governor or senator who needs to feed the idea that he may run for president, Gore has no interest in looking ambitious. 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."
I think this is right. Moving him back up to 10:1.
- Bill Richardson is negotiating with North Korea, with Bush's permission. That definitely gives him an angle to play in the primary. I'll flip flop him with Kerry. - I'm bumping Hill up a little from 5:2 to 2:1. She's firing on all cylinders right now, including raising way more money than anyone else (and she won't really need to spend too much of it in '06).
Here's something that I find confusing. Start with Bush's standard line yesterday on Miers and the SC:
President Bush said yesterday it is an asset that Miers has never been a judge. "I thought it made a lot of sense to bring a fresh outlook of somebody who's actually been a very successful attorney and . . . a pioneer for women lawyers in Texas," Bush told reporters at the White House. He said Miers will answer all the senators' questions, and "out of this will come a clear picture of a competent, strong, capable woman" who "is not going to legislate from the bench."
What I don't get is why someone's "fresh outlook" is valuable on a court that doesn't legislate. Presumably if Bush wants them not to legislate, what he does want them to do is adjudicate the constitutionality / unconstitutionality of laws and practices. How does being pioneering or "fresh" help when that's basically an academic exercise?
In other words, real-world experience is clearly valuable for creating and fine-tuning laws, but not nearly as valuable for deciding if they fit in with the Constitution, especially if you believe in enforcing the Constitution strictly as it was written.
The Bush administration is working on 2 proposals to reform the tax code, to fix the problem of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) hitting more and more middle class taxpayers each year.
The problem is, they're addressing the problem in a roundabout way, rather than fixing the actual problem. The AMT was created to stop millionaires and billionaires from finding tax loopholes... this is a worthwhile idea. So let's keep that.
But the problem is that the formula was poorly devised, and not indexed to inflation, so each year more regular people get hit with it.
Bush's solution? Abolish it altogether (with a wink to his billionaire buddies), and replace the lost money with a hit to blue states like New York, by getting rid of the state income tax deduction.
We may be gearing up for another Social Security type battle here. Only this time, there really does have to be a solution soon, because the AMT as currently constituted is a bad deal.
Fitzgerald indictments tomorrow? Cheney to resign? Condi to be new VP?
Rumors are flying.
Not incredibly likely though. This could be classic Bush administration media-managing... pretend something HUGE is going to happen so when something merely BIG happens (like Rove or Libby being indicted) the media treats it as less of a problem for Bush.
Update: NYTimes says no action will be taken this week, but that indictments are likely since Fitzgerald has said he will not issue a final report (meaning that he either will indict or disclose nothing, which is unlikely)
Beginning this week, the House GOP lawmakers will take steps to cut as much as $50 billion from the fiscal 2006 budget for health care for the poor, food stamps and farm supports, as well as considering across-the-board cuts in other programs
- I am (happily but cautiously) moving Gore back up the rankings a bit. He debued in the #1 spot, but has dropped significantly as he's downplayed his future in politics. Rumors are picking up, and he's clearly a popular figure. We never did get to see whether the sympathy vote would turn out - people who feel he was wronged the first time around. But once again this week, he said he's not interested. So who knows. - I'm also upping Russ Feingold somewhat. He's getting some good press, and he seems to be positioning himself to satisfy the majority - voted for Roberts, maintains that he wants to gradually withdraw troops from Iraq. I knocked him down a little bit earlier because he separated from his wife, which people don't like. But perhaps that will be enough in the past come election time. - As I noted before, Tom Daschle is preparing for a run. To me, this is welcome. I like Tom. So he moves up. - I'm going to keep my eye out for any news from Wes Clark and Mark Warner. Haven't heard much about either lately... if they don't start raising more money (Warner's done a little) and giving more speeches (Clark's done a few) soon, then they might find themselves behind from the start. - And I'm removing Kathleen Sebelius, Barbara Boxer, and Rod Blagojevich from the list. They've got no shot.
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration proposed new regulations Thursday that could allow the nation's dirtiest power plants to release more air pollutants each year — and possibly undercut lawsuits aimed at forcing companies to comply with the Clean Air Act.
I just got around to reading Nick Kristof's October 2nd column, discussing the problems with healthcare in the US. I know I've talked about this issue many times before, but it is imperative that we impress these points on the public as a whole, and make this issue one of the cornerstones of the Democratic Party platform going forward.
Healthcare in this country is a giant mess: - There are 45 million uninsured people, who get medicare only by ambulance. - It's by far the most expensive in the world, with poor results (life expectancy lower than Costa Rica). Next time Bush says we have the "world's best healthcare system", throw your arms in the air and shout your head off. It's a ridiculous statement. - It hurts businesses (like GM) that have to provide healthcare and face spiraling costs. - We spend way too much on administration ($1059 per person per year vs $307 in Canada, a single payer system).
Most hypocritical of all, Kristof points out, is that we spend billions and billions on care for the dying elderly, who are automatically insured, while millions of young children go around uninsured.
It would make so much sense to switch to a national system. Practically, we would preserve the ability to pay a premium for premium private service... this is the only feasible way to get the wealthy to go along with it. But at least everyone would have a baseline of insurance coverage and access to basic services.
It's good to hear Democrats talking about something like a Contract for America as part of their 2006 mid-term election platform, which I've read will focus on Energy Independence (so important), Healthcare access, and Terrorism Prevention. To me that's the ideal combination. Now let's start getting it done.
David Yespen points out the case for John Kerry in 2008. Let me tackle point by point (my comments in italics)
• He came close, oh so close, in 2004. Bush got 51 percent. Kerry got 48 percent. Only 120,000 more votes in Ohio, and you wouldn't be reading this column.
Is that how you'd like to win? George Bush 2000 style? We cannot be happy about a candidate who ran against someone as incapable as Bush but still lost. Kerry did not convince the swing voters that he was worthy of a change
• Kerry's been vetted. He's been through the crucible once, and the lessons he learned would be useful again.
There was nothing he learned that could be improved upon. His main selling point, the military thing, didn't sell. He will always be the target of accusations of flip flops, and subject to his senate record. There are plenty of other candidates who have been publicly vetted also: Gore, Clinton, Edwards come to mind.
• He was a classy loser. Unlike Al Gore, who skulked off to grow a beard, Kerry withdrew quickly and honorably.
This, to me, is a negative. He had no chance to change his image or offer someone anything new. If he runs in 2008 he will be the exact same package as in 2004. Gore now has distance from his Senate record, further distance from Clinton, and outside of Washington perspective to bring to bear.
• Kerry understands why he lost. Strategists in his camp say if he does run again, the campaign will be more nimble in responding to attacks than it was in 2004. He won't be isolated from key Democrats seeking to offer advice.
Kerry has also given his opponents a clear read on his weaknesses. It will be easy for people to tap into the public's previous understanding of him. Kerry cannot remake himself entirely.
In short, I think Kerry should take his loss and accept it. He's a smart guy, and he was somewhat unlucky, but he's not the best guy for us going forward.
Sometimes you wish you could roll back the time machine to 2000 for a different outcome...
- President Al Gore's "Brooklyn Project" to achieve American energy independence bears fruit as the first solar/hydrogen hybrid car, the Ford Sunburst, rolled off the assembly line. The car runs primarily on power generated by its super efficient-solar panels with supplemental power from light-weight hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cells run on hydrogen produced at the Pacific Solar Farm, which extracts storable hydrogen fuel from seawater using power generated by a mammoth array of solar panels floating off the coast of California.
I'll be out of town tomorrow, so here's the update for this week:
Republicans: - Newt Gingrich has pretty clearly articulated his thinking. He has issues that he wasnt in the discussion. And he's said that he'll run if his issues get momentum but no other candidate embraces them. Healthcare, his main issue, should be a primary talking point for Democrats too, so should be (even more than last time) a big point of discussion in 2007 and 2008. - Seems like Giuliani is in.
Just a quick FYI, in case Bono (and/or Bob Geldof) wins the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow. I've heard a lot of people say how shocked they are that he's in consideration. They may have heard about his efforts with the G8, or Make Poverty History, or some other recent campaign, and assume it's the usual rockstar getting involved in a cause temporarily for personal benefit and worldwide praise.
Not the case with Bono. He's been deeply dedicated to the cause of revitalizing Africa for over 2 decades now, to the extent that world leaders currently recognize him as one of the foremost authorities on the plight of that continent. Bono can keep up academically with the best of them - O'Neil, Wolfowitz, Sachs, Clinton - but he has an inate ability to frame issues in the most sensible and appealing-to-the-masses way that none of the other "experts" have.
The award might be preliminary, as I think Bono has the potential to do so much more if he can continue to slowly attract the attention of the world. If he doesn't win it tomorrow, it will be next year, or the year after, or some year soon.
I'm sympathetic to the need of getting a constitution written and passed in Iraq as soon as possible. But this latest change they've implemented - switching the requirement to defeat it from 2/3 "no" votes in any 3 of the 18 provinces, to "no" votes amounting to 2/3 of the total registered voters - is ridiculous. So even if you get 100% of the voters voting a certain way, it's not valid unless the turnout is over 2/3.
Unfair and wrong. If you're that worried about it getting passed, then it's time to go back to the drawing board and rethink whether you can really have one federal rule of law governing these three different ethnic groups.
As of September 1st, everyone nationwide is now entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the three major agencies once a year. This has been in the works for a few years, and now it's finally here. I just did it. Easy and very helpful.
Question for other Democrats. After the John Kerry debacle of 2004, does anyone else find themselves, like me, looking back fondly at Candidate Gore? I definitely do. Perhaps not so much the careful politician of the campaign (though he was, I think, a better campaigner than Kerry), but the guy that has seemed to emerge since then... who gives fiery speeches about the Iraq war, the environment, and other issues where Bush seems to lack common sense and decency?
This is partially what motivated me to put Gore on the top of my Presidential Odds when I first conjured them up about 9 months ago. He's slipped down the rankings since then, calling himself a "recovering politician", and suggesting he'll never run for office again, but I maintain that if he announced plans to run in2008, there are few candidates (Obama is one, Bill Bradley another) that I would support over him.
Harriet Miers was supposed to help select the nominee, not to be it, just as Cheney was supposed to help select the VP, not be it. Bush once again has proven that he values loyalty above everything else, including qualifications.
Miers has never been a judge. In my opinion, that's not ideal. Sure there have been plenty of justices who also had never been a judge until they get to the Supreme Court. I'd argue those people were under-qualified too... don't get me started on whether I think Rehnquist was a good judge.
I'm sorry, but some of the thing Bush touted as "qualifications" for Miers made me laugh. Dallas City Council? President of city and state bar associations? Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission? Those are administrative positions. The Supreme Court should be comprised of judicial scholars, brilliant academic people who dazzle you with intellect, and whose minds seem to work faster than the rest of us. Elected positions do not in any way qualify someone for the academic challenge that is interpreting the Constitution.
This all comes back to our moron of a President, who believes in his own judgment so much that he believes in filling important positions with people he knows and trusts, rather than people who are objectively qualified. Which gets us Michael Brown at FEMA, John Bolton at the UN, and now his personal attorney potentially with a lifetime appointment to the highest academic position in the country.