Air America Radio’s Squandered Chance

August 31, 2006

If you haven’t heard already, Air America Radio has fired Mike Malloy for what is being called “financial reasons.” Usually in radio, that means the ratings don’t justify the salary. In Air America’s case, however, it is obvious the network is losing money so you’d expect them to cut loose their weakest link.

Look, I don’t like to see anyone lose their job and I sympathize with the Malloy family. I’ve beem there. But Malloy is a prime example of what is wrong with Air America Radio.

I listen to Air America Radio. I have friends who are involved with Air America Radio. I realize that they have beaten incredible odds to achieve the success they have. But Air America Radio has thus far missed a golden opportunity to become what they originally set out to be – a Democratic answer to conservative talk radio.

Let me explain.

Air America Radio was created to be the counterpart to the Rush Limbaughs of the world. What they did instead was, with a few exceptions, hire a host of inexperienced leftwingers who often joined Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk in attacking the Democratic party.

The one thing that REALLY turned me off to the now-cancelled Unfiltered with Rachel Maddow, as well as several other Air American Radio Shows (like the Mike Malloy show) is how quick they were to criticize Democrats. Now, I don’t feel any Democrat is above criticism – but doing so with literally millions listening won’t do anything to build support for the party and get rid of the GOP. Do you ever hear Limbaugh, Hannity, or Savage trashing the Republican party? Plus, it provided fodder for the rightwingers. Maddow really crossed the line on her last day on Unfiltered when she launched into an anti-Bill Clinton diatribe. With millions listening, she explained why the man who saved the Democratic party was really a bad president.

Way to go, Rachel! That’s how you convince the fence sitters to vote for Democrats! Unfiltered was cancelled because of low ratings. Now you know why the ratings were low.

But Maddow wasn’t alone in her disdain for anything that isn’t far left simon-pure. Mike Malloy, the Left’s answer to rightwing wacko Mike Savage, believes he is a “traditional Democrat” (no, seriously, he believes that) but, as Wikipedia explains, he has basically withdrawn from the Democratic party and is now making overtures to the Green Party – those swell guys who cost Al Gore the election in 2000.

The ax fell again at Air America last year. Morning Sedition, their unpopular morning show which, coincidently, also has a knack for trashing the Democratic party, was cancelled. It was replaced by (drum roll please…) a toned down Rachel Maddow!

And now another head has rolled and it is interesting to see how both the right and the left are spinning the news. The rightwing site NewsBusters says:

In yet another sign of its rapid decline, Air America Radio has just FIRED talk show host Mike Malloy. Although Malloy frequently spouted wild tinfoil hat theories based on no facts, he did have a devout fan club among the extreme left. As a result, Air America radio is about to lose even more listeners as is evidenced by the outrage over this firing in the leftist blogosphere.

And speaking the the “leftist blogosphere,” DailyKOS chimes in with “The asshats at Air America Radio have shown their stupidity again by firing one of their most popular and progressive hosts, Mike Malloy.” And the thread at Democratic Underground is one for the ages!

At least one person at DailyKOS had the balls to break ideological ranks. Asdf says: AAR wants to win friends and influence folk … Mike Malloy really is a fire & brimstone type that only serves the already righteous well … as such, he was a perfect depiction of the “angry left” charicature that’s been an anchor chained to our waists. If AAR can manage to find talent who can “close the deal” with the not-yet convinced, then the move is for the best.

Some will tell me that you can’t argue with success. Afterall, Air America Radio is now on over 80 stations nationwide, and a few are in major markets. But other than liberal strongholds like Seattle, the Air America affiliate stations haven’t been a blazing success ratings-wise. They’re essentially preaching to the choir. To be the success they need to be, they need to hire more centrist Democratic voices instead of the Maddow/Malloys types who further propagate the myth that there is little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.

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Rahm Emanuel’s Big Mistake

August 29, 2006

Rahm Emanuel is a very passionate about his work as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Under his leadership, the committee is fundraising more successfully than ever before and nearly all Democrats concede that he deserves substantial credit for their rosy (congressional) election prospects this year.

But the far left has a big problem with Rahm Emanuel. “Did I mention tonight how much I HATE these DLC bastards?” says Air America Radio personality (and non-Democrat) Mike Malloy.

A Democrat, raising more money for Democratic congressional candidates than ever before, and widely credited for their chances in reclaiming Congress, is a “DLC bastard.” So what has the left’s panties in a wad over Emanuel? He dared to question where MoveOn and George Soros are in this election cycle.

An article in the New York Daily News has the inmates over at the Democratic Underground Asylum in a snit simply because Emanuel has implied that Soros and MoveOn have been practically missing in action this election cycle. And he’s right.

As Emanuel points out in the piece,

“MoveOn goes into four districts, advertises, does a great job in each of those districts, and they literally moved on. The election is in November, and they moved on in June,” he said. “I’m like, ‘What is going on here?’ I don’t get it. I’m bewildered. Do you think for a moment the Chamber of Commerce (who is backing Republicans) will not run another ad in one of these campaigns?”

MoveOn.org’s Washington director, Tom Matzzie, responded sharply to Emanuel’s criticism, saying the group had made an early impact in key races and plans to spend $25 million this year.

Key races? As has already been pointed out, MoveOn was in and out of four campaigns by June of this year, not to be heard from again. Sure, they SAY they plan to spend $25 million this year, but the election is two months away. If they intend to help, they’d better qet cracking.

As for Soros, his spokesman, Michael Vachon, confirmed that the billionaire is spending a tiny fraction of what he laid out in 2004. He donated heavily to such organizing efforts as America Coming Together (ACT) two years ago.

But Steve Rosenthal, who was ACT’s chief executive officer in 2004, said his organization’s financial backers were “very candid that they weren’t in it for the long haul and never said they were.” Nonetheless, Rosenthal worries about what the missing money will mean this fall.

“These guys — where are they?” a frustrated Emanuel asked in an interview. After John Kerry’s loss, Emanuel said, “they walked off the field.”

I can answer that, Congressman Emanuel. See, in 2004, it was all about defeating George W. Bush for those guys, NOT getting a Democrat elected. If a Green or socialist candidate had had a better shot to take down Bush, you can bet Soros and MoveOn would have supported that candidate.

This year, Bush is not a factor. This year, the goal is Democratic victories. That isn’t enough incentive for the MoveOn, George Soros, and other big money donors from the left to kick in. Your mistake, Rahm, was hoping they would.

But to be completely honest, I’d like to win without them. And I think we can.

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Before I leave the subject of Rahm Emanuel, I’d like to specifically address “depakid” from the Democratic Underground Asylum who made the brilliant comment there that Emanuel = Loser.

My definition of “loser” is one who doesn’t win. I’m not sure what the word means on the far left. But I have to assume it has a completely different meaning than it does in the real world.

Was he a loser when he helped put Paul Simon in the US Senate? Was he a loser when he helped Richard Daley become the mayor of Chicago in 1989? Was he a loser when he helped Bill Clinton win the white house? Was he a loser when he himself won his seat in Congress in 2003?

Just how is Rahm Emanuel a loser?

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While we’re discussing the House races for this November, did you know that most Democrats in close races disagree with the left in regards to Iraq?

Most Democratic candidates in competitive congressional races are opposed to setting a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, rejecting pressure from liberal activists to demand a quick end to the three-year-old military conflict.

Of the 59 Democrats in hotly contested House and Senate races, a majority agree with the Bush administration that it would be unwise to set a specific schedule for troop withdrawal, and only a few are calling for substantial troop reductions to begin this year, according to a Washington Post survey of the campaigns.

The large number of Democrats opposed to a strict timeline for ending the military operations runs contrary to the assertion by President Bush and top Republicans that Democrats want to “cut and run” amid mounting casualties and signs of civil war. At the same time, the decision by many Democrats to refrain from advocating a specific plan for withdrawal complicates their leaders’ efforts to convince voters that they offer a clear new direction for the increasingly unpopular war.

Among the 46 House races that nonpartisan political handicapper Charles Cook lists as the most competitive, 29 Democratic candidates oppose a date-certain to begin withdrawing troops.


The Great Pretenders

August 28, 2006

Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell

Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
I’ve played the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to grieve all alone

Yes I’m the great pretender
Just laughin’ and gay like a clown
I seem to be what I’m not, you see
I’m wearing my heart like a crown

— The Platters, 1955

David Sirota. Matt Taibbi. Arriana Huffington. The Great Pretenders. Three of the more popular pied pipers of the left, they’re more concerned with ideological purity than winning, they condemn Democrats with the same passion they do Republicans, and they’re ultimate goal is to lead the Democrats off the cliff and doom them for another generation.

Earlier this summer, the NY Times puts into words the feelings I’ve had about the far left blogosphere for sometime now. In his unflattering critique of Sirota’s “Hostile Takeover,” Tobin Harshaw wrote:

The clichéd revolutionary language, the wafer-thin allusions to popular culture, and the childish taunts quickly become oppressive.

Unlike blogs, books need editors, but there is no evidence in “Hostile Takeover” that Sirota has ever met one. Despite his creditable analysis, the end product too often reads like the work of a high school newspaper editor going through his Marxist or logical positivist phase: to the author it speaks of revolution; to the reader it resonates immaturity.

Harshaw also took issue with Sirota’s use of “facts,” something I’ve also questioned Sirota on, and his obsessive disdain with the moderate/centrists of the Democratic party:

Sirota’s facts may be accurate, but the suppositions he draws from them are often questionable…

… While Sirota urges his readers to “remember the real fight, and forget the cocktail party arguments,” his venom seems directed less at the ruling Republicans than at their main opposition, mainstream Democratic centrists… As such, the book Sirota has written is not so much a manifesto for change as a crib sheet for the Democrats’ intramural squabbling.

David Sirota, in true reactionary form, claimed the NY Times had embarassed themselves by waiting until the book became a bestseller to review it, and is now on his figurative ememies list:

The Times for months refused to review Hostile Takeover, preferring to try to ignore it. Only when the book hit the bestseller list did the paper realize it was embarrassing itself by its behavior. Not surprisingly, the review that the paper finally agreed to do is indeed a spectacle – and it highlights the fault lines of power that have taken center
stage in American politics.”

The very first point Sirota took issue with is a claim by the NY Times that Hostile Takeover is “directed less at the ruling Republicans than at their main opposition, mainstream Democratic centrists.” Sirota writes:

That’s factually inaccurate – the book is roughly 75%-25% critical of Republicans vs. Democrats, respectively.

I’ve read the book, and though I haven’t done any sort of breakdown on who is attacked the most in it – Republicans or moderate Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – everyone knows Sirota’s schtick is aiming vitriol at moderate Democrats in general and the Democratic Leadership Council specifically. He’s making a career of it. So if Sirota wants to squabble with the NY Times or anyone else over just how much he is doing it, in this book or elsewhere, there are volumes of source material to refer to.

Sirota also takes issue with Harshaw’s labeling of his style as that of a “high school newspaper editor going through his Marxist or logical positivist phase,” yet Sirota turns around and displays that style in grand fashion as he spins the review:

The Times review then goes into a barrage of cliched attacks calling me, among others, a “Marxist” and a “high school newspaper editor.”

Then, unable to hide a classic op-ed page elitism, Harshaw displays outrage that “a blogger tries to write at length” in book format… That, my friends, is the fault line that is driving everything in today’s politics: a battle between the people inside the Establishment whose careers rely on protecting the status quo and the vast majority of Americans who have been locked out of their own political and media debate.

Imagine that! A bad review of his book is equated to a battle between “the people inside the Establishment whose careers rely on protecting the status quo and the vast majority of Americans.” Can Sirota be any more narcissistic? And by referring to his movement as “small ‘d’ democratic influence, at least Sirota has finally quit pretending he’s a Democrat. Or maybe his hypocritical side is showing again by inferring his loyalties are to a cause greater than to the Democratic party – the very ideal he has condemned Joe Lieberman for.

But most of us know Sirota is merely an opportunist, hitching his wagon on the “progressive” gravy train and hoping to ride it to some future success. This isn’t the first time he’s looked for a meal ticket like this.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he sought employment with the very entities he now claims to despise. Last month, it was revealed that Sirota interviewed not once but twice for jobs with Joe Lieberman – both times AFTER Lieberman had done all those vile things Sirota accuses him off. Earlier this month, Ed Kilgore revealed Sirota once interviewed with the “nefarious” DLC (the object of his scorn) and wasn’t hired. He settled for a post with Vermont Independent and admitted socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders.

Sirota has a long history of unethical behavior and a habit of playing fast and loose with the facts. Sirota was fired in 1999 after working only three weeks on the mayoral primary campaign of Dwight Evans in Philadelphia, after it was discovered he was connected to the creator of a fake website for Evans’s opponent. Though he is known for anti-beltway rhetoric, he was heavily involved in Washington, DC politics through his employment with the Center For American Progress.

Honesty isn’t the best policy for Sirota. During the heated battle to see who would be the Democrats’ senate candidate in Ohio, Sirota told a whopper about Paul Hackett. And after he published one of several drafts of his “Debunking Centrism” piece, both Matthew Yglesias and Greg’s Opinion picked it apart.

Arianna Huffington is hard to please. She’s mad at Bill Clinton for not being a reactionary leftwinger or, rather, for being loyal to a longtime friend before becoming loyal to his party. How else do you explain her rant against the only twice elected Democratic president in over 60 years? She takes issue with Mr. Clinton for first supporting Joe Lieberman in the CT primary, then for supporting Ned Lamont when he won that primary. She’s ticked off because Clinton didn’t denounce Lieberman’s statements concerning Lamont and terrorists strongly enough, or soon enough, or something enough that isn’t quite clear. For that, she says, the Clinton doctrine must die.

Fascinating, but not surprising. See, Huffington is not a Democrat. Never has been. When she ran for California governor in 2003, she ran as an Independent. After a less than impressive debate performance on September 24, she withdrew her candidacy on the Larry King cable program, she flip-flopped and announced that she was then opposing the recall entirely.

And Huffington has never been a friend of Bill Clinton’s anyway. Before she took that massive pendulum swing from the far right to the far left, she spend her days helping her Republican husband, Michael Huffington, try to knock off California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1994. After that, she spent time in the service of House Speaker Newt Gingrich during the days of the GOP witch hunt for Bill Clinton. Afterwards, she championed the candidacy of John McCain.

But liberals say Huffington has seen the light. And I believe it. She got a good look at the light as she ran past it from right to left.

Then there is Matt Taibbi. Think David Sirota off his meds. In 2005, he wrote the utterly disgusting The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of the Pope. He was an editor of the Moscow-based eXile newspaper (think Jackass with a radical political perspective) where he once bragged about being immune to libel laws. In other words, he knows how to pull sophmoric stunts and write the revolution-ladened prose those on the far left like to read, but he’s hardly a reputable source or a responsible journalist and certainly not someone the left should desire as a spokesperson.

Don’t be fooled by the great pretenders for they’re not really Democrats. They only see the Democratic party as the easiest route to achieving their goals and they’ve mislead many well-meaning liberals along the way. They would never get a foothole in the Republican party and they’ve learned from experience (1948 and 2000) that third parties only expose how small their numbers really are.

They demonstrate a severe lack of knowledge on how the political process works and, indeed, the very definition of “politics” is a distant memory from their high school civics class. They don’t understand that Senate and congressional campaigns in red states cannot and should not be influence by activists in blue states. Their historical perspective of the Democratic party is laughable, with Harry Truman being a radical one day and a forerunner to modern neocons the next being just one example.

Should the Democratic party be a big tent? The far left doesn’t think so, unless everyone in it toes their ideological line.

Do they believe they’re the chief instigators of the modern day infamous Democratic circular firing squad? Of course not. They believe it is an old cliche designed to silence them.

Prone to factual inaccuracies and given to wild conspiracy theories, allowing these people to control the Democratic party is tantamount to parents leaving their teenagers home alone for the weekend. Upon return, the house will be in shambles.

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Cathy Young has a great piece at the Boston Globe on welfare reform:

WELFARE REFORM had long been a contentious issue in American politics. In the 1980s and early 1990s, ending “welfare as we know it” was a staple of cheap political rhetoric for Republicans and Democrats alike. It was also widely regarded as a nearly utopian goal. Then, President Clinton made the drastic overhaul of the welfare system a reality, in a bill signed into law on Aug. 22, 1996. Ten years later, the welfare reform report card disproves much scaremongering on the left and points to some important accomplishments, but it also highlights how much there still is to accomplish, both in reducing poverty and strengthening families.


Friday

August 25, 2006

Do you enjoy reading Donkey Digest? Well, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT!

Sean Connaughton. Pragmatist. Centrist. Republican. And torpedoed by the rightwing reactionaries in his own party. Connaughton was narrowly elected to be chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 2000, and did such a great job he was re-elected with 70% of the vote in 2003. However, the “conciliatory and centrist instincts” that made him an effective manager raised the ire of the zealots in the Virginia GOP. And he was targeted. Read his story here.

I don’t make a habit of watching FOX News, especially Hannity and Colmes. But the net is buzzing right now with word Ann Coulter got smacked down royally last night by Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers. What made the performance by Powers extra special is that, actually being a Fox News Political Analyst, providing on-air commentary on political issues from a Democratic perspective, Hannity didn’t want to go to break or interrupt the beating Ann Coulter was taking. Coulter, obviously expecting Hannity to intervene, grew frustrated when he fell silent. Check the video here, with special thanks to Crooks and Liars.

Kristen Powers. MY kind of Democrat!

Dodd Waters in Montgomery, Alabama asks, “Where are the well minded, educated moderates who don’t want to extinguish personal liberties so rich people can drive SUVs? Where are the moderates who don’t want to give the world away to every lazy, useless person who sticks out a hand to the government? We need brave moderates willing to take on the fanatics of our political system. Oh God, save us from ourselves.”

Moderates take aim at remaining conservatives on Kansas state education board. Read it.


Recession Looms. Uh Oh.

August 24, 2006

Is there another Bush recession looming in 2007? Yes, says Nouriel Roubini, president of Roubini Global Economics. And it will be “much nastier, deeper and more protracted” than the 2001 recession. Just great! I’ve been unemployed three times in my life. Twice during the George H.W. Bush recession in in the early 90s and once in 2002. The only consolation (if you want to call it that) was the many friends of mine who found themselves in the same boat. Misery loves company, yes? At least I had people to hang out with at the bar… but anyway…

Writing on his blog on Wednesday, Roubini repeated his call that the U.S. would be in a recession in 2007, arguing that the collapse of housing will bring down the rest of the economy. According to Marketwatch:

Roubini wrote after the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that sales of existing homes fell 4.1% in July, while inventories soared to a 13-year high and prices flattened out year-over-year.

“This is the biggest housing slump in the last four or five decades: every housing indictor is in free fall, including now housing prices,” Roubini said. The decline in investment in the housing sector will exceed the drop in investment when the Nasdaq collapsed in 2000 and 2001, he said.
And the impact of the bursting of the bubble will affect every household in America, not just the few people who owned significant shares in technology companies during the dot-com boom, he said. Prices are falling even in the Midwest, which never experienced a bubble, “a scary signal” of how much pain the drop in household wealth could cause.

Roubini, by the way, is a professor of economics at New York University and was a senior economist in the White House and the Treasury Department in the late 1990s. His firm focuses largely on global macroeconomics. So he knows his stuff. I wonder if this means people in the construction and realty business will feel the strongest crunch like those in the IT field felt back in 2001-2002?

I’d also like to point out that Ed Kilgore over at NewDonkey hinted at such a gloomy outlook on the horizon last Friday:

Not that long ago, one of the prime White House/GOP talking points was that Americans just didn’t appreciate how well they had it in terms of the national economy. With polls showing persistent unhappiness with Bush’s economic stewardship, W. and his minions fanned out across America touting growth, productivity, inflation and unemployment stats, and discounting concerns about job and pension insecurity; energy, health care and college costs; the federal borrowing binge; and general pessimism about the future of the U.S. economy.

Well, Reuters reported today that Bush was “huddling” with his economic advisers to consider “options” for dealing with higher interest rates, a cooling housing market, higher unemployment, and fresh inflation fears, aside from all those continuing problems the GOP keeps telling Americans they shouldn’t worry about.

And speaking of NewDonkey, Kilgore takes Matt Taibbi to task for his second straight Rolling Stone column about the DLC.

After reading Matt Taibbi’s second straight Rolling Stone column about the satanic conspiracy I am apparently working for here at the DLC, I’ve decided he’s a lot of fun, much like a particularly twisted roller coaster ride. You never quite know where he’s going next, but he gets there pretty fast, with all sorts of dizzying upside-down turns.

Taibbi’s Big Insight, with which I suspect he will bludgeon readers regularly, is that American politics generally, and Democratic Party politics in particular, are fundamentally rigged by “the holy trinity of the American political establishment — big business, the major political parties and the commercial media.” In Taibbi-land, moreover, this Establishment is not simply benighted or corrupt; it is fundamentally determined to destroy democracy by denying actual voters any say in the political affairs of either party.

And here’s where the roller coaster ride gains momentum. Taibbi goes off on a loop-de-loop suggesting that the Holy Trinity is the only thing standing between Hillary Clinton’s obscure primary opponent, Jonathan Tasini, and a Lamont-style upset…

… (we) know that people like Matt Taibbi who respect The People when they agree with him, and consider them disenfranchised and deluded when they don’t, are just as elitist as anybody in DC. But Matt has to take us on quite a crazy ride to square that particular circle.

Not clear on who Taibbi is? Think David Sirota off his meds. In 2005, he wrote the utterly disgusting The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of the Pope. He was an editor of the Moscow-based eXile newspaper (think Jackass with a radical political perspective) where he once bragged about being immune to libel laws. In other words, he knows how to pull sophmoric stunts and write the revolution-ladened prose those on the far left like to read, but he’s hardly a reputable source or a responsible journalist and certainly not someone the left should desire as a spokesperson.

Well, the Pennsylvania Senate Race is getting a tad more interesting. A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review poll shows Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum closing the gap against Democratic challenger Robert P. Casey Jr., in a contest many analysts see as the nation’s premier Senate race.

The Keystone Poll of 551 Pennsylvania voters shows Casey, the state treasurer from Scranton, leading Santorum, of Penn Hills, by five percentage points — 44 to 39 percent. Judas Party, I mean Spoiler Party, I mean Green Party nominee Carl Romanelli, a former Luzerne County family court officer, garnered 4 percent, and 13 percent of respondents were undecided.

Shadi Hamid believes “progressives” desperately need a foreign policy vision. So do I. This is an article well worth your time…

…as is this one. Senator (President?) Joe Biden’s plan for Iraq.

A few days ago (yesterday? hmmm…) I blogged about The Plan: Big Ideas for America by Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Bruce Reed of the DLC. Now, Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun-Times observes:

The Plan is mostly centrist Democratic stuff. However you may feel about issues he raises, there’s no doubt that Emanuel is proposing for the Democrats a comprehensive national agenda, maybe even a winning one. Just one question: Is it an agenda that will appeal to the rabid Bush-hating, anti-war, bring-back-the-’60s crowd that seems to dominate the party these days?

The answer is no, for a couple of reasons. The Left always sets the bar of acceptability just out of reach of us mere mortals. In other words, they’ll say The Plan doesn’t do enough. Then, of course, there is the obvious. They have negative knee-jerk reactions to anything the “Bill Clinton” wing of the Democratic party does, so they’ll denounce the book as “corporo-fascist-Republican lite garbage” or some other nonsensical description, without even skimming the back cover.


Notes Of Interest (or, I’m too damn tired to blog today!)

August 23, 2006

Harold Ford – This Year’s Southern Prodigy

… last Saturday… several hundred Murfreesboro Democrats, a clear majority of them white, had come out on a brutally hot morning to hear Harold Ford Jr. — the 36-year-old congressman from Memphis who is the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat that Bill Frist is vacating. To recapture the Senate this year, the Democrats need Ford to take Tennessee — no small challenge, since Tennessee hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1990, and since Ford, like just 16 percent of his fellow Tennesseans, is African American.

Yet Ford is still very much in the hunt, and after just a few minutes in his presence, it’s no mystery why: He is, in the tradition of Southern pols ranging from Huey Long to Bill Clinton, a preternaturally gifted campaigner. Young, single, handsome in a way that pols almost never are (he is the only elected official I’ve ever seen who could have a successful career as a model), blessed with a perfect ear for both political argument and the exigencies of local politics, Ford is a sight to behold.

Consider the following Ford attack on the Republicans’ national security bona fides. “When we fill up our gas tanks, we send money to the other side in the war on terrorism — Iran,” he tells the crowd. “Think of Iran as a venture capital company that invests in an unusual kind of start-up — terrorist organizations. It’s a big venture capital fund, and who’s its biggest investor? You are. Yet our government does nothing to fund alternative sources of energy,” he says, noting that his campaign car is powered by biodiesel fuels and arguing that Tennessee’s economy could profit if the federal government had the horse sense to promote hybrid cars and alternative fuels.

Bush Clings To A Lost Cause In Iraq

George W. Bush sounds increasingly like your average defiant teenager. The teenager won’t clean his room, and the president won’t leave Iraq.

The president’s latest news conference was another installment of rebel with a cause that a shrinking number of Americans believe in.

”We’re not leaving so long as I’m president,” promised – or threatened – Bush.

Acknowledging that public support for the war continues to wane, the president said, ”These are challenging times, and they’re difficult times, and they’re straining the psyche of our country.” But as Senator John Kerry correctly pointed out, ”The American psyche isn’t the problem. The problem is this administration’s disastrous Iraq policy.” In fact, the presidential psyche, not the national psyche, is a big problem.

Bush, the stubborn, won’t leave Iraq. And even worse, he won’t admit mistakes relative to getting us there in the first place, or military miscues since, when it comes to carrying out the mission, he dooms us to travel the same misguided path as long as he remains in the White House.

What’s a nation to do? Ground the commander in chief for the rest of his term and take away his car keys?

Bush – or rather Karl Rove – wants Iraq to be the defining debate in upcoming elections. They are gambling on it. They figure they can pull off the tried-and-true Republican song and dance one more time: They scare the country and marginalize those who challenge war in Iraq as left-wing moonbats who don’t understand the true nature of the terrorist threat.

Bring it on, Mr. President.

The Job Senator Hillary Clinton SHOULD Want

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM has it that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is an absolute certainty. But in Washington, many believe otherwise, fearing for her prospects and those of the Democratic Party she represents. And now there are fascinating hints that these forces are aligning to offer her a dignified way to demur from an ugly and ill-fated presidential effort, while still emerging a national leader.

Earlier this month, Steve Clemons’ blog, the Washington Note, quoted highly placed sources as saying that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had pulled Clinton aside and offered her a deal: Eschew the presidential campaign and succeed Reid as leader of the Senate Democrats in 2009. Reid’s office, of course, strenuously denies the claim. But Clemons, the director of the New America Foundation’s American Strategy program, is no fabulist, and this week, similar speculation showed up in Time magazine.

It’s obvious that someone wants word of this bargain to be fruitful and multiply. After all, it offers Clinton a way to disengage from an increasingly uphill effort, and it simultaneously floats the image of her in the minority or majority leader’s seat, a position she’s uniquely well-suited for.

Before running through her qualifications for the job, it’s worth explaining why she’d want it in the first place. After all, Clinton is the unquestioned front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president. She commands an unmatched war chest, an unrivaled collection of political talent (headed by her legendarily adroit husband) and star power that most putative candidates can only dream of.

At his blog, The Has Been.The DLC’s Bruce Reed has a sneak preview of his new book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America co-written with congressman Rahm Emanuel.

Strip away the job titles and party labels, and you will find two tribes of people in Washington: political Hacks and policy Wonks. Hacks come to Washington because anywhere else they’d be bored to death. Wonks come here because nowhere else could they bore so many to death.

After two decades in Washington, we have come to the conclusion that the gap between Republicans and Democrats is as nothing compared to the one between these two tribes. We should know. When we began working together in the Clinton White House, we came from different tribes—one of us a Hack, the other a Wonk. (We’re not telling which.) We made a deal to teach each other the secrets, quirks, and idioms of our respective sects.

Throughout history, Hacks and Wonks have been the yin and yang of politics. But in the last few years, something terrible has destroyed our political equilibrium. The political world suffered a devastating outbreak of what might be called Rove Flu—a virus that destroys any part of the brain not dedicated to partisan political manipulation. Now, Hacks are everywhere. Like woolly mammoths on the run from Neanderthals, Wonks are all but extinct.

Although Hacks have never been in short supply in our nation’s capital, the rise of one-party rule in Washington over the past four years unleashed an all-out Hack attack. Every issue, every debate, every job opening was seen as an opportunity to gain partisan advantage. Internal disagreement was stifled, independent thought discouraged, party discipline strictly enforced—and that’s just how they treated their friends.


Is Centrism “Fashionable” Now?

August 22, 2006

The administration of George W. Bush has served one good purpose. It exposed for everyone to see just how rigid and uncompromising a political party deeply entrenched in power can be. Now the same can be said for the Joe Lieberman-Ned Lamont race in Connecticut – the very concept of which has grown larger than the election itself. Rightly or wrongly, agree or disagree, this contest is being romanticised by the media as one between a sensible, thoughtful, and compromising lawmaker and a radical, narrow minded upstart. The more people hear about it, the more they’re saying, “We may want the Democrats back in power, but we don’t want one unbending and bullheaded ideology replaced by another.”

An article in the Economist suggests a disjunction between the opinions of ordinary Americans and the behaviour of the political elites. Most Americans have fairly centrist views on everything from multilateralism to abortion. They like to think of themselves as “moderate” and “non-judgmental”. More people identify themselves as independents (39%, according to the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press) than as Democrats (31%) or Republicans (30%). Yet, the article goes on to say, centrism is a sleeping giant, a force whose influence is waning in the corridors of power. Why, you may ask?

Too many powerful people want to keep it sedated. The Republicans have gone from one triumph to another by embracing sunbelt radicalism rather than preppie moderation. Today the party controls not only Washington, but the whole political agenda. Every battle is fought on Republican turf. Taxes? The debate is not over how much to raise them to close the looming deficit but how to cut them. Life? The issue isn’t how to prevent school shootings such as the one that took nine lives in Minnesota, but about Terri Schiavo… A growing proportion of Democrats come from deep-blue congressional districts where it is more important to pander to the liberal base than to reach across the isles.

Of course, all this could be changing. The Republicans have overplayed their hands on such issues as stem cell research, “activist” judges, war, and issue relating to life and death as personalized by Terri Schiavo. The American people has seen the drama of Tom Delay played out like a cheap political movie, and the far right wing of the Republicans are in the dog house.

But here comes the left wing of the Democrats, charging full steam ahead in their mission to punish Democrats who don’t meet their strict requirements of what a Democrat is supposed to be. Lieberman, by losing the Connecticut primary by a mere 3% with only 22% of the electorate voting, may have garnered the approval of the state’s moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Independents.

Now, the entertainment business appears to be getting into the “centrist/maverick” spirit. Last night, two televised occurrences stuck out. The first was a repeat of last week’s Colbert Report that featured moderate Republican and former Clinton advisor David Gergen as a guest. Colbert, fully in his Bill 0’Reilly form, sought to ridicule the self described “passionate moderate” and centrism is general by saying things like “you’re with us or against us,” “black or white,” and “chocolate or vanilla” in response to Gergen, who said, “as you get older, you realize not all wisdom is on the right and not all wisdom is on the left.” When Gergen replies that chocolate-vanilla swirl tastes the best, Colbert replies that such a combination (an analogy of centrism) is “an offense to God.” Check out the video here.

The second instance was the first episode of the new FOX drama Vanished, whose main character is a moderate and maverick senator who won’t vote with his political party on the confirmation of a judge until he has answers to all his questions. Though (for now) that is a mere back story to the show’s main premise, the point is explored at least twice during the episode.

Am I implying that a couple of TV shows and one senate race in a small state are enough to beat back the partisan extremes on both sides of the aisle? No. But continued entertainment coverage of centrist themes combined with the increasingly bright spotlight from the news media on bipartisanship in contrast to the extremes of the right and left bodes well for 2008, regardless of which party ultimately wins the Presidency.

Quote of the day:

If the radical left can wrestle their party from the Clintons and the DLC then they can run things the way they wish. Until then, they are going to have to start winning elections in November.

Jack Kramer in an Op-ed from the National Ledger, commenting on the calls from Democrats for Joe Lieberman to step aside and let Ned Lamont win in Connecticut.

Welfare Reform’s 10th Anniversary is today and Bill Clinton makes an excellent point:

Ten years ago, neither side got exactly what it had hoped for. While we compromised to reach an agreement, we never betrayed our principles and we passed a bill that worked and stood the test of time. This style of cooperative governing is anything but a sign of weakness. It is a measure of strength, deeply rooted in our Constitution and history, and essential to the better future that all Americans deserve, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Just how well has welfare reform worked? President Clinton continues:

In the past decade, welfare rolls have dropped substantially, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million today. At the same time, caseloads declined by 54 percent. Sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found work, far surpassing predictions of experts. Through the Welfare to Work Partnership, which my administration started to speed the transition to employment, more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients. Welfare reform has proved a great success, and I am grateful to the Democrats and Republicans who had the courage to work together to take bold action.

The success of welfare reform was bolstered by other anti-poverty initiatives, including the doubling of the earned-income tax credit in 1993 for lower-income workers; the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which included $3 billion to move long-term welfare recipients and low-income, noncustodial fathers into jobs; the Access to Jobs initiative, which helped communities create innovative transportation services to enable former welfare recipients and other low-income workers to get to their new jobs; and the welfare-to-work tax credit, which provided tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire long-term welfare recipients.

I also signed into law the toughest child-support enforcement in history, doubling collections; an increase in the minimum wage in 1997; a doubling of federal financing for child care, helping parents look after 1.5 million children in 1998; and a near doubling of financing for Head Start programs.

The results: child poverty dropped to 16.2 percent in 2000, the lowest rate since 1979, and in 2000, the percentage of Americans on welfare reached its lowest level in four decades. Overall, 100 times as many people moved out of poverty and into the middle class during our eight years as in the previous 12. Of course the booming economy helped, but the empowerment policies made a big difference.

Read the piece. Very good.

Great op-ed from Cokie and Steve Roberts on the war on centrism in both major parties. Here’s a taste:

Bipartisanship is seen, by the extremes in both parties, as betrayal. Compromise, the most valuable word in the political language, is used as a damning epithet. And while the attempt to purge Lieberman is the most visible reflection of this mentality, it’s hardly the only one.

The center of the U.S. Senate is close to collapse. Moderates in both parties are an endangered species. Consider the centrists who have left in recent years, often because they could no longer stand the poisonous polarization that has sparked the campaigns against Lieberman and Chafee. Republicans like John Danforth, Warren Rudman, Alan Simpson and Bill Cohen. Democrats like John Breaux, David Pryor, Sam Nunn and Bob Graham.

These are the kinds of lawmakers who lubricate the legislative process, who work across the aisle, who don’t see every issue purely in terms of maximizing partisan advantage. Joe Lieberman and Lincoln Chafee are in that tradition. They are part of the solution not part of the problem. American politics will be better off if the ideological purists fail to defeat them.

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Some people have asked me why I moderate comments to this blog, their implication being I only approve comments that agree with me. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Moderate Voice, fortunately, has taken up the issue of blog commenting and I couldn’t agree more with him.

Half the comments that come through for moderation never make it because the person mistakenly feels that leftist fist pumping revolutionary rhetoric will impress anyone outside their MoveOn meetups. And the Limbaugh/Coulter-like rants from my more conservative readers are equally unimpressive.

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