Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Joe Biden is In; Gore leaves the door open
The Presidential Contest is getting more and more press coverage.
Joe Biden said recently in South Carolina "My intention is to run". We basically already knew this. But in light of the absolute certainty - he's really the first democrat to declare - I'm upping Biden's odds from 20:1 to 15:1
Meanwhile, Al Gore, whose last statement on the subject left the door slightly open to a run, opened the door just a bit further, in my opinion, with this statement: "I'm not planning to be a candidate again. I haven't reached a stage in my life where I'm willing to say I will never consider something like this. But I'm not saying that to be coy; I'm just saying that to be honest that I haven't reached that point."
There are also more insiders talking up a Gore run in a favorable light (I'm not an insider, but I've been doing that for a year). Check out this feature story on The American Prospect.
Kevin Drum has challenged me to detail how I'd balance budgets while keeping Bush's tax cuts. (A small clarification: I'd keep the estate tax as it once was; and I'd add a buck to the gas tax pronto.) ... But my back-of-the-envelope wish-list is that I'd repeal the Medicare drug entitlement, abolish ear-marks, institute a line-item veto, pass a balanced budget amendment, means-test social security benefits, index them to prices rather than wages, extend the retirement age to 72 (and have it regularly extended as life-spans lengthen), abolish agricultural subsidies, end corporate welfare, legalize marijuana and tax it, and eliminate all tax loopholes and deductions, including the mortgage deduction, (I'd keep the charitable deduction). For good measure, I'd get rid of the NEA and the Education Department.
My take: if legalizing gay marriage would also mean we have to allow polygamy too... fine with me... there will be much more societal benefit from getting rid of the current discrimination in marriage than any potential harm the few new polygamists may cause.
As news coverage of the 2008 Presidential contest gradually picks up, especially with the Republican candidates coming to the fore at last week's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, my thoughts have turned to that question pretty frequently lately.
A couple things:
1. He is setting up to run a very very different campaign this time than in 2000. Then it was all about change, about straight talk, and somewhat about traditional conservative values. But he was very much making himself out to be a maverick, playing up that image in public.
This time McCain is playing much more insider baseball. I absolutely believe the mumblings that he and Bush struck a deal in 2004... McCain's support for Bush in '04 (remember: the amount McCain backed Bush against his friend Kerry was surprising at the time) vs. behind-the-scenes (president can't really outwardly support someone in the primary) support for McCain in '08. So McCain has been able to hire some of Bush's campaign gurus, and is perhaps soon to lock up the support of Haley Barbour, and influential Republican governor in the South, and a Bush loyalist.
And, for those of you who didn't follow this development: at last week's straw poll in Memphis, McCain asked his supporters to write in George Bush's name rather than vote McCain. Is there anything more kiss-ass than that?
2. Traditional Republicans are going to be looking for someone of McCain's style (open, honest, hard-working, direct, fiscally conservative) in '08 after 8 years of Bush (closed, secretive, intellectually lazy, fiscally reckless).
In short, I think McCain is playing it very smart this time around. The questions remain: is he too socially moderate for the GOP primary? Is he too old? People often forget, but this guy is pretty ancient, and we've had young presidents for 16 years.
I didn't really answer my subject question. I'll get into it tomorrow in further detail, but the short answer is: Yes.
The chief of an Indian tribe represented by the lobbyist Jack Abramoff was admitted to a meeting with President Bush in 2001 days after the tribe paid a prominent conservative lobbying group $25,000 at Mr. Abramoff's direction, according to documents and interviews.
John Edwards is working hard on the minimum wage, and today he's asking for us to sign a petition in support of Senator Kennedy's bill to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 in 3 increments.
As JRE says, it is totally ridculous that the minimum wage has been steady at $5.15 an hour for the last 10 years! It's not even indexed to inflation, so our lowest wage earners are making less and less every year in real terms.
6 years ago Malcolm Gladwell argued vehemently against Canada's single-payer healthcare system. Now he's changed his mind, and fully supports it. Good for him.
The bigger reason is simply that I woke up one day and realized what much smarter people than me (Adam Gopnik) realized a long time ago, which is that the idea of employer-based health care is just plain stupid--and only our familiarity with it and sheer inertia prevent us from rising up in rebellion. I always try to think of a suitable analogy and fail. The closest I can come is to imagine if we had employer-based subways in New York. You could ride the subway if you had a job. But if you lost your job, you would either have to walk or pay a prohibitively expensive subway surcharge. Of course, if you lost your job you would need the subway more than ever, because you couldn't afford taxis and you would need to travel around looking for work.
Andrew Sullivan, in a TIME essay, joins the parade of conservatives admitting that they made huge errors of judgment 3 years ago, and that their support for the Iraq war was a mistake.
In retrospect, neoconservatives (and I fully include myself) made three huge errors. The first was to overestimate the competence of government, especially in very tricky areas like WMD intelligence. The shock of 9/11 provoked an overestimation of the risks we faced. And our fear forced errors into a deeply fallible system. When doubts were raised, they were far too swiftly dismissed. ... The second error was narcissism. America's power blinded many of us to the resentments that hegemony always provokes. Those resentments are often as deep among our global friends as among our enemies--and make alliances as hard as they are important. ... The final error was not taking culture seriously enough. There is a large discrepancy between neoconservatism's skepticism of government's ability to change culture at home and its naivete when it comes to complex, tribal, sectarian cultures abroad.
Moderate muslims marching in Bahrain, chanting the slogan: "No Shia, no Sunni. All of us denounce the exclusivists (terrorists)." This is what progress will be in the Middle East... when more people think like that.