Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay's indictment might only be the beginning...

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(UPDATE) 09/29/05: In all of the interviews that Tom Delay gave last night why did nobody ask him this question: Did you at any time, specifically discuss, plan, or co-ordinate in emails, phone conversations, or anything else... the process of the $190,000 contribution to TRMPAC being sent to the national party to be then turned around to Texas state campaigns? Isn't this obviously the basis for the conspiracy charge... and wouldn't finding out if he can publically deny any evidence that Ronnie Pearle might have to support this indictment... be the most important question to ask? But, instead Delay gets to claim the activity is not really a crime (which it is) and then ambiguously state that in these specific instances he wasn't even aware it was taking place until after the fact (which was subjected to absolutely no serious journalistic scrutiny).

09/28/05: You have to admire the Republican attack machine, even when it's on the defensive. Tom Delay was indicted twelve hours ago and already Texas Prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, has been publically reduced to a mean spirited, narcisistic political hack, puppeted by the DNC. To substantiate this smear Delay has cited a Democratic fundraiser Earle spoke at openly discussing the case with the crowd (which would indeed seem highly inappropriate)... plus Earle's conduct in a previous indictment against a Republican Senator, where, after a year of "mudslinging," he eventually refused to try the case in court, deciding instead to divulge all of the evidence to the local media in his hotel room.

And yet, I don't think that there is any question Delay was heavily involved with the "laundering" of corporate donations. Nor that he helped to send corporate money to the Republican Party in Washington, so it could then be returned to state legislative candidates. I don't think that anybody would dispute that this practise, while widely employed by both Democrats and Republicans, is an illegal practise in the state of Texas. Consequently, isn't the real pertinent issue not whether this charge is politcally motivated... as convenient as that might be for Delay and the FNC to focus on... but on exactly what grounds can it be proved that Delay conspired to facilitate this crime? I mean, from what I could discern from his interview on Brit Hume Delay's defense in court is going to be nothing more than "the Prosecutor's a Democrat", and "everybody else does it your honor."

From the Religious Freedom Coalition, Delay's opponents have an impressive list of alleged grievances:

Promised a role in drafting legislation to a corporate donor
Tried to coerce a Congressman for a vote on Medicare
Allegedly used corporate money given to his PAC to finance Texas campaigns in violation of state law
Used Homeland Security resources in a dispute with Democrats in Texas
Diverted funds from a children's charity for lavish celebrations at the Republican convention
Threatened retaliation against interest groups that don't support Republicans
Stacked the House Ethics committee with representatives who have contributed to his legal defense fund
Accepted trips from corporations and later helped kill legislation they opposed
Accepted trips from the lobbyist for a foreign government in violation of House rules
Crippled the effectiveness of the House Ethics Committee by purging members who had rebuked him
Pushed for a rules change for the House Ethics process that paralyzed the panel
Sought a rule change that would have no longer "required leaders to step aside temporarily if indicted"
Paid family members more than $500,000 out of campaign contributions

The truth is this indictment couldn't have come at a worse time for the President...

Seven days ago it emerged that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sold all of his stock in his family's hospital corporation... two weeks before the price fell 15 percent after it had issued a disappointing earnings report. From the WP: On June 13, Frist instructed the trustee managing the assets to sell his HCA shares and those of his wife and children. Both the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are now looking into the sales, + the accusations of insider trading.

And next month Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's report on his investigation into how Valerie Plame's undercover CIA identity was exposed will be published. Karl Rove has been heavily implicated, alongside other White House political aides, and George Bush is on record as saying, "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is...and if the person has violated the law, that person will be taken care of."

As implausible as it sounds, it's now entirely possible that the final months of 2005 will see indictments handed down against the House Majority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader, and also members of the Executive branch. Although, I think that this is probably just wishful thinking on my part... hee hee :). Regardless of any eventuality, difficult times are most certainly ahead for the President and the Republican Party.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lyndon Dubya Bush?

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Statistical comparisons between the 36th and 43rd President's of the United States make for interesting reading. From my post on 09/09 outlining what I think the Democrats need to do to win in 2008:

In the next 1153 days the economic theory of tax less and spend more will be perpetuated. The national debt will be paid down, if at all, by attempts to manufacture rapid economic growth, and in turn increased gov't revenue, through the short term stimulus package that comprises nothing more than dramatic, costly, and all encompassing tax cuts.

It's a risk fueled, ambitious strategy that exacerbates market instability and unpredictability (we call it boom & bust economics in the UK). Correlate this approach to your personal finances for one moment. Imagine if you were in debt that could potentially spiral out of control. Imagine that you had growing expenses and responsibilities that you were committed to like a large mortgage, and your children's education. Imagine if your outgoings, including discretionary items that while valuable, were not 100% essential, continued to exceed your outgoings. Would the remedy be to spend more money, speculate, invest, take chances, upon the purely theoretical notion that this will increase the money you make, eventually covering your expenses and allowing you to pay down your debt? Or would it be wiser to manage your expenses, spend only what you can afford, meet your essential responsibilities, and not expend money (RISKY TAX CUTS) speculatively to raise income when you knew that around the corner a disaster could strike (9/11, KATRINA) that could systematically undermine your ambitions.

What happened to the macro-economic management, "invest and grow" strategy, and fiscal discipline of the 90's, that mitigated debt, and deficits with a stable, planned, secure approach to the nation's finances. Republican's are so fast to absolve the Clinton Administration and Robert Rubin of any responsibility for the economic stewardship during this period, instead celebrating the influence of the Republican controlled Congress, but where are these values of fiscal discipline right now, when they are in complete control of all branches of government? Where is the smart, long sighted planning of the 90's that redressed the huge deficits and national debt incurred by two successive Republican Presidents who both possessed the power to keep the then Democratic Congress in check?

Now it seems that in his first term in office George W. Bush managed to exceed Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, creator of the "great society," in the growth of inflation-adjusted discretionary spending. Here are the statistics in depth on The growth in inflation-adjusted discretionary spending is currently 35.1% for GWB's first term.

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Ann Coulter is right, George W. Bush is just an old fashioned "Great Society," "New Deal" Democrat. He's socially conservative, but he believes in the power of government. He believes in government activism. There is just one principal difference between LBJ and GWB....

... instead of taxing a larger proportion of GDP to pay for his big government spending, Bush taxes less across the board on the basis that it will generate enough revenue to cover the bill incurred by his expansive government activism. Many Republican's might mention 9/11, the Iraq War, rising gasoline prices, and Katrina as contributory factors to these defecits, but in actual fact, its these very same tragic occurrences that highlight exactly why the Bush economic doctrine is so flawed. It's precisely because of an emergency, attack, or war that it is incumbent upon the President, and Congress to manage the nation's finances with the greatest amount of care and discipline. Perhaps, if things had been done differently over the past five years, meeting the government's responsibility to the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, and those displaced by the terrible flooding, wouldn't have such perilous implications for our economy. Maybe if weren't stretched so thin we'd be in a more flexible and secure position to meet the needs of the American people.

This might have something to do with it.

Peggy Noonan WSJ: Is Bush's big spending a bridge to nowhere?
Slate: Pity the poor fiscal Conservative
Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan

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Russ Feingold rises above partisanship...

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Special mention to Senator Russ Feingold, who I've previously criticized on this blog for his position on the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Today, IMO, he did the right thing and unexpectedly voted yes on the Judiciary Committee in favor of John Roberts' confirmation to the Supreme Court. It's a shame that at a time when political posturing has cost the Bush Administration so dearly, the Democratic Leadership could not also take the initiative to rise above the politics while making an objective assessment of Roberts' nomination... taking into account precedent, past nominees, and paying no mind to the implications for Bush's next nomination to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Scalia, after all, was a much stauncher ideological Conservative than Roberts, and he received 98 votes in the Senate.

The question those that disagree with me should ask themselves is if Roberts was a liberal, and a nominee by Clinton... If he had served under Carter and espoused views during that time in his twenties about Gay Marriage and perhaps vague references to a controversial subject like Reperations... would we, as Democrats, seriously think a No vote was justifiable under those parallel circumstances? The standard we would expect to be applied to nomination by a Democratic President is exactly the standard we should be applying to John Roberts.

Transcript: Senator Russ Feingold's statement on John Roberts

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reid's misjudgment to oppose Roberts...

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It appears that Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic Leader, will come out against the confirmation of John Roberts on Wednesday. The following quote is from his prepared remarks available in full on The Raw Story:

"The question is close, and the arguments against him do not warrant extraordinary procedural tactics to block the nomination. Nonetheless, I intend to cast my vote against this nominee when the Senate debates the matter next week.”

Reid cites a collection of memos from John Roberts' years in service to the Reagan Administration in which he was less than enthusiastic about the advancement of Affirmative Action and "derided" the concept of comparable worth between women and men in the workplace.

To me this is absolutely absurd. Roberts' position on equal rights wasn't compromised by these statements, and his rebuttal to Senator Feinstein in committee when she raised the subject of these memo's was comprehensive. He passionately expressed his dedication to equal rights, explained the underlying nuances of the issue as it related to his comments on comparable worth, and backed it all up with the fact that he'd married a working woman, grown up with three sisters who were working women, and would settle for nothing less than an outstanding career for his own daughter. Now maybe there is more beneath the surface, but presumptuous intimations and deductions are not the basis upon which Roberts' confirmation should be refused.

Reid states in his prepared remarks:
“Nonetheless, I was prepared to look past these memos, and chalk them up to the folly of youth. I looked forward to the confirmation hearings in the expectation that Judge Roberts would repudiate those views in some fashion."

What does he need to repudiate? The Reagan Administration policy on Affirmative action? The complex questions involving the particular case he was referencing in regards to comparable worth? The fact that he said there should be less lawyers, and not less female lawyers?

I agree with Reid that the Administration should have released the documents that Roberts had written when he served in the first Bush Administration, and I absolutely agree that Roberts has been less than forthcoming in the Judiciary Committee hearings, and that this is a cause for concern. After all, there are people on both the left and right worried as a result of how difficult it is to discern what kind of Chief Justice John Roberts will be. But, lets face it... he is following a precedent that has been set by his predecessors. Yes, some kind of mechanism should be in place to identify and scrutinize the subjective manner in which any nominee interprets the law... But, ultimately this is a criticism that relates to the process and not to the nominee, whether we like it as Democrats or not.

I have expressed many concerns about Roberts: Does Roberts have the seniority, or track record in leadership positions to fulfill the role of Chief Justice. His obfuscation in response to Feinstein's JFK quote about the "absolute" separation between Church and State. But, to be perfectly honest, if these are the grounds upon which Roberts' confirmation is refused, in addition to Reid's objections, then, from this day forth, there probably isn't ANY sound basis upon which you could expect a Presidential nominee to the Supreme Court to ever be confirmed.

This is obviously a politically calculated move on the part of Congressional Democrats to send the President a message about his next nomination to the SC. Maybe Reid has received word that Bush intends to nominate a truly staunch, ideological conservative to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, and her pivotal swing vote. For me it's just a shame that when political posturing in response to Katrina has cost this Administration so dear in the opinion polls... and when, for the first time in his Presidency, George Bush is struggling to re-gather the confidence of the American people... the Democratic Leadership are sending exactly the wrong message about the type of alternative that we are offering as a party. Where the disenchanted electorate look for sincerity and integrity we are now simply perpetuating the political cynicism they have grown to despise.

I agree with the Gang of 14: George Bush's election victory earned him the right to nominate a Conservative to the Supreme Court... and only the most extreme circumstances should necessitate this type of partisan intervention. The plain truth is that nothing Harry Reid will say on Wednesday equates to circumstances that are extreme. Today's LA Times editorial impressively presents the case for Roberts' confirmation.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Rove reveals what the White House really thinks...

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It appears that Karl Rove, the lightning rod for the antipathy that currently surrounds the Administation, has just given his political adversaries a very early Christmas present...

From The Huffington post:

Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor and deputy White House chief of staff, spoke at businessman Teddy Forstmann's annual off the record gathering in Aspen, Colorado this weekend. Here is what Rove had to say that the press wasn't allowed to report on.

On Katrina: The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government...
On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally...
On Bush's Low Poll Numbers: We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don't mean anything...
On Iraq: There has been a big difference in the region. Iraq will transform the Middle East...
On Judy Miller And Plamegate: Judy Miller is in jail for reasons I don't really understand...
On Joe Wilson: Joe Wilson and I attend the same church but Joe goes to the wacky mass...
In attendance at the conference, among others were: Harvey Weinstein, Brad Grey, Michael Eisner, Les Moonves, Tom Freston, Tom Friedman, Bob Novak, Barry Diller, Martha Stewart, Margaret Carlson, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, Norman Pearlstein and Walter Isaacson.

There is nothing here that is really incendiary... however, calling Cindy Sheehan a clown when, politics aside, she has made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the nation via the death of her son in Iraq, seems to me undignified and inappropriate behavior for the White House Senior Political Advisor (+Deputy Chief of Staff). Behaving spitefully towards Joe Wilson, while the Special Prosecutor's investigation is still ongoing is also unbecoming of the President's closest aide IMO.

The most telling comment, however, is the remark made about the White House response to Katrina. To suggest that not overriding local government was the only mistake of President Bush, while possibly true, is completely at odds with the tone Bush attempted to strike in his recent addresses to the nation, accepting full responsibility for the many different mistakes that cost so many lives and created such chaos and carnage. The explicit implication now is that Bush's words have been politically contrived, above and beyond the predictable accusations of his political opponents, and general cynicism. It makes it look like the President doesn't really think that he did anything wrong.

Of course these reports could be false, or taken out of context, and that should be taken into consideration. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, this story develops over the coming week.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush stepping up?

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With last night's address and today's speech leading the nation in a day of prayer, the Bush Administration, finally, pro-actively confronted their leadership responsibilities. In the direct aftermath of the hurricane and storm, when many were laying into Bush, I sincerely felt the criticisms were inappropriate. In my opinion the office of the Presidency was the beacon of hope, above and beyond the recriminations... from which Bush, like his predecessors Reagan and Clinton, might display the requisite compassion and humility that would reflect the nation's state of mind and bind everyone together.

I wrote this: "Bush will rise to the occasion"

My expectations were not met. The President's tone throughout this crisis has been misjudged. He has displayed frivolity at inappropriate moments... he has failed to embody a powerful sense of initiative, drive, and finding solutions at any and all costs, characteristic of real leadership... and, up until last night, he hadn't connected with the depth and breadth of this tragedy in his words.

Many might respond such things are frivolous compared to the important practical work of rescuing what is left of New Orleans, and I understand. But, at times like this we need our leaders, regardless of our political affiliations. September 11th showed us that. What has angered me more than anything is the manner in which the Administration allowed political self-preservation to cloud what should have been an absolute, uninhibited devotion those in peril and the truth, regardless of any political cost to themselves.

How can the Administration wage a political campaign of talking points to deflect criticism by discussing the "blame game" with greater frequency than the tragedy itself? How can these talking points be so effectively disseminated and publically expressed by Administration officials, the head of FEMA and the DHS... when, by comparison, two weeks ago their level of co-ordination was so poor I wouldn't have trusted them running a school girl soccer game, yet alone the response to a catastrophic national disaster? Why is there a discrepancy in their effectiveness when it comes to saving lives as opposed to their political credibility? How can those very same proclaimers of what constitutes 'a game of blame' then happily resort to blaming local and state officials every chance they get to divert negative attention away from themselves?

And even now, after everything that has transpired, there is a sense that these speeches have been mistimed. The emotional tragedy of Katrina that Bush is attempting to resonate with is no longer at the forefront of the national discourse. At this time, are people looking for the spiritual leadership of Giulliani during 9/11, or Reagan's emotive address after the Challenger exploded like they might have been when in the initial grip of this humanitarian disaster? Or are they now beginning to ask the tough questions about the failures at all levels of government concerned about the nation's preparedness for another disaster or something worse?

The truth is that we should all be glad that Administration is finally engaging Bush with his ultimate responsibility as Commander In Chief - to lead. I'm just left with one question:

"What took you so long, Mr President?"


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

John Roberts cleverly deflects scrutiny...

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I have been impressed by John Roberts via what I've been able to enjoy of the hearing via the wonders of C-Span. He's bright, amiable, and deeply thoughtful, with an apparently balanced perspective. The fundamental position he has taken... to be an open minded, objective, and independent enforcer of the Constitution... is especially appealing at a time of such deep ideological and partisan divisions.

But, a couple of things have given me pause.

The first, trivially, has been the excruciating, vomit inducing, lecherous flattery of Senator Sessions... ughhhh! What a smug, self satisfied, party goon, ironically employing none of the adept political skills that Roberts has slickly demonstrated throughout the proceedings.

The second problem I have is the sporting analogy Roberts used in his statement on Monday: "Justices are like Umpires..." he remarked, "I will remember it is my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat."

Evocatively put and certainly worthy of a News Soundbite... but the role of the Supreme Court isn't simply to enforce the constitution, independent of the other branches of government, as important as that role is. It is also its role to ultimately interpret the constitution... for justices to apply their faculties and perspective to cases, laws, and precedents, and their relevance. It's this degree of interpretation and personal perspetive, no matter how small, that is inherently subjective and deserving of serious scrutiny. I mean... doesn't it defeat the whole purpose of these hearings for Roberts to fundamentally define himself as someone who will objectively uphold the constituion... as if that precludes scrutiny of the way in which he subjectively interprets law?

What frustrates me is that nobody has been able to scythe through this political posturing and get to the heart of the matter... these hearings should provide an explicit demonstration, in the most general terms, of the type of Justice that Roberts will be... and I don't think that is taking place.

There are some other smaller niggles that I have. Does Roberts really have the seniority and experience to be Chief Justice? I am not familiar enough with the role of Chief Justice and its history to have a real sense of the required qualities, but Rehnquist struck me as someone who asserted himself in the position and led the court. By comparison it seems like Roberts' age and good health is more of a factor than his ability to lead. In fact, thus far, I haven't detected any leadership qualities in Roberts at all... is there a reason why nobody is challenging this?

And then Dianne Feinstein's probing questions about the role of Church and State, quoting JFK as regards the "absolute Separation..."

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Roberts seemed to take issue with the word "absolute" citing the complexity of recent Supreme Court rulings. But, when Feinstein expressed the history and importance of the law, the affection for its role in building the type of society that America is, and that these factors were the intended result of what the founders tried to accomplish, Roberts sharply countered. He stated that those who originally came to the US were fleeing religious persecution, and that this ultimately informed that element of the constitution. The two statements aren't really even mutually exclusive, but Roberts actively sought to disagree with Feinstein's attempts to laud "separation," which I found to be a little disconcerting.

I'm not saying that any particular point of view on Church and State might discredit him, and for sure, whatever is discussed should never compromise cases he might hear in the future... but in that brief exchange with Senator Feinstein, Roberts identified why the role of an "Umpire" is more complex than his analogy of "calling balls and strikes." I just wish we didn't have to depend upon such ambigious speculative inferences to have an idea of where John Roberts really stands on these issues. I wish, via some kind of mechanism, this process of confirmation wasn't such a blind act of faith. I mean... what is the point of having hearings at all? As things stand everyone might as well just sit around and give a speech in turn. The dialogue is redundant.

Right now, I don't see any basis upon which Roberts shouldn't be confirmed. I agree with the "Gang of 14" that President Bush has earned his nominations to the Supreme Court via election victories, and only the most extreme of circumstances should deny him this. No extreme circumstances have arisen as of yet.

Personally, I just wish we were getting to know the type of Justice Roberts will be a little better. I just wish we weren't witnessing such a polished political display more appropriate of the questioning Senators than a Supreme Court nominee. I just wish Roberts would be more forthcoming and willing to share his perpectives and subjective analysis of law with the American people.

Special mention to Roberts' son, who never fails to bring levity to this esteemed process:

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

How The Democrats Can Win in 2008

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By my estimation there are 1153 days to the 2008 US Election. Three years in which the Democratic Party has a long, difficult journey to traverse in pursuit of electability and the fruition of its dreams for change.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, there is a bullishness and self assuredness amongst Democrats that is completely unjustified. The climate of the late 80's/early 90's... of self reflection and honest analysis... of the DLC and our search to reconnect with the political mainstream.... has been completely absent from our internal discourse. There is an arrogance we exhibit looking ahead to 2008, that all we need to do as Democrats is speak louder, and with greater conviction, as if the American people could not discern for themselves our policy platform in 2004. Do we need a repeat of Dukakis and a third successive Presidential election defeat to finally wake up to ourselves?

For me at least, the memory of Election night 04 still powerfully lingers on...

Those early exit polls showing Kerry winning in Florida and Ohio by a couple of points. Bill Kristol and Mort Kondrake chastising Bush precipitously on Fox News for a lackluster campaign as the Kerry victory consensus began to form. Howard Dean giving a victory interview on MSNBC, praising his former adversary, as word emerged from the Democratic campaign that Kerry was "ahead in the third quarter," and the election was now theirs to lose.

I remember some French dude my ex-girlfriend had an affair with writing her an email saying, "French Television has just announced that Kerry has won Ohio... It's 100% official." Naturally, all was forgiven by me and my cries of "Vi va La France!" boomed loudly from my balcony to bemused passers by. My ex-girlfriend was not impressed.

That was when it all started to go horribly wrong...

Drudge prophetically wrote "Enough of the Exit Polls... let's focus upon the only poll that really counts!" And sure enough, like clockwork, early results from West Virginia and North Carolina indicated the exit polls had significantly under-estimated the Republican turnout across the board. Bill Kristol and Mort Kondrake adeptly shifted gears, and began to laud Bush's Presidential achievements, and a potentially historic second term. In vital voting districts in Ohio and Florida Kerry was doing worse than the results Al Gore recorded in 2000. The press began to speculate that Bush was preparing a very public photo call with his family and campaign staff. Karl Rove, it seemed, had received information that left him assured of George W.'s victory and re-election.

My heart sank and I begun to hate France all over again. John Edwards gave an undignified statement about a recount in Ohio, as Democrats desperately grasped for the ghosts of Florida, hanging chads and voter disenfranchisement. The truth, however, was quite plain this time around. We lost. And it hurt.

I concede that maybe it's too early for Democrats to be focusing upon 2008. Maybe there are more prescient battles to be fought like the future of the Supreme Court, Social Security, stability in the middle-east, and the welfare and future of the war torn and disease ravaged continent of Africa. But, I ask you to consider this:

What do we know for sure about the next 1153 days?

George Bush will be President. That much is certain. We will have a new Supreme Court Chief Justice, and he will be a staunch, if uncontroversial Conservative named John Roberts. John Bolton will, in all likelihood, remain as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. A man who has explicitly stated that no international initiative, anywhere, has legitimacy or purpose without the expressed involvement and approval of the United States. A man who thinks international diplomacy hinders and not helps cooperation amongst nations addressing the world's most pertinent problems like Terrorism, Palestine, Kashmir, Global Warming, and Africa, for example. A man who thinks that multilateralism, as a concept, is not the harbinger of peace and unity, but is instead an outmoded, naïve, unworkable ideal that threatens U.S. International Supremacy and in turn its domestic security.

In the next 1153 days the economic theory of tax less and spend more will be perpetuated. The national debt will be paid down, if at all, by attempts to manufacture rapid economic growth, and in turn increased gov't revenue, through the short term stimulus package that comprises nothing more than dramatic, costly, and all encompassing tax cuts.

It's a risk fueled, ambitious strategy that exacerbates market instability and unpredictability (we call it boom & bust economics in the UK). Correlate this approach to your personal finances for one moment. Imagine if you were in debt that could potentially spiral out of control. Imagine that you had growing expenses and responsibilities that you were committed to like a large mortgage, and your children's education. Imagine if your outgoings, including discretionary items that while valuable, were not 100% essential, continued to exceed your outgoings. Would the remedy be to spend more money, speculate, invest, take chances, upon the purely theoretical notion that this will increase the money you make, eventually covering your expenses and allowing you to pay down your debt? Or would it be wiser to manage your expenses, spend only what you can afford, meet your essential responsibilities, and not expend money (RISKY TAX CUTS!!!) speculatively to raise income when you knew that around the corner a disaster could strike (9/11, KATRINA) that could systematically undermine your ambitions.

What happened to the macro-economic management, "invest and grow" strategy, and fiscal discipline of the 90's, that mitigated debt, and deficits with a stable, planned, secure approach to the nation's finances. Republican's are so fast to absolve the Clinton Administration and Robert Rubin of any responsibility for the economic stewardship during this period, instead celebrating the influence of the Republican controlled Congress, but where are these values of fiscal discipline right now, when they are in complete control of all branches of government? Where is the smart, long sighted planning of the 90's that redressed the huge deficits and national debt incurred by two successive Republican Presidents who both possessed the power to keep the Democratic Congress in check?

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What Clinton said on the campaign trail in 1992 is true in 2005. We are in the grip of a failed economic theory. Trickle down economics is fine, but it doesn't account for the fact that we are in a rapidly changing world and people are being left behind. The era of big government is most certainly over, but the Clinton Administration proved that you can have a lean brand of government activism designed to offset the deficiencies of the free market, invest in struggling communities, invest in entrepreneurship, invest in young people who don't have opportunities, invest in welfare to work schemes, etc.

For Democrats, the answer to the continuing decline of the manufacturing industry, and the impact it has on unemployment can not be to withdraw from international trade agreements and assert a new form of protectionism. The answer is for our politician's to show some imagination, and economic foresight... like Clinton did. An appreciation of global trends and the way in which Western Nations need to evolve. The truth is that American manufacturers will not be able to compete with companies from countries were there is a comparatively cheap labour market. Nothing productive can rectify this. The remedies to the situation need to be long term. As a nation, collectively, we must intervene, and seek to offer retraining for individuals in need of new skills, and incentives for companies to prosper and offer alternative employment opportunities in areas where they do not already exist. This takes time, admittedly... but for once we desperately need politicians selfless enough to plan ten/fifteen years into the future, beyond a four or eight year Presidential term. The truth is that the hollowness, and ideological rigidity of this Administration's economic policy will continue on for the next three years, and the many problems that the market by itself cannot resolve, will remain unresolved... in spite of a group of unoriginal Democrats self-servingly proselytizing nationalistically in stump speeches, town hall meetings and debates about job's being shipped overseas. We have to break this cycle.

In the next 1153 days healthcare will cost more and not less for most Americans.

Child Poverty will go up and not down.

More people will own guns, and more people will own more dangerous guns.

Public school's won't experience any significant improvements, and nobody seems to really mind that they haven't already for the five years that this Administration has been in office.

The nation will remain as bitterly divided as it has been in 2000, and 2004, as this Administration continues to disregard the politics of consensus in favor of a policy tentatively titled by me, "we're right, you're wrong... do it our way, or we'll deride you as obstructionists."

In the next 1153 days very little will be done to begin the long, difficult journey towards a new way of fueling our society.... for the purposes of protecting this earth from the impact of Global Warming, and freeing us from our dependency on foreign oil, + all of the security issues this entails. If Democrats need one centerpiece issue by which they can define themselves as an enigmatic, imaginative force capable of confronting the nation's problems, there is no greater, more pertinent issue than that of "Energy for America in 21st Century." There will be no better time to have the courage to get serious with the American people about Environmental concerns than now, with gas prices spiraling out of control, and the impact of global warming being felt all over the planet. Again... an energy strategy will take time... building a new economy in renewable energies will take time to grow and flourish... yes, the changing world demands that jobs will be lost, but that shouldn't be the basis upon which we avoid confronting our problems until they can no longer be rectified. In the end, if we do nothing, the price we pay will be far dearer.

What I'm basically trying to say is that for the next 1153 days there is virtually nothing that Democrats can do about any of this. I'm sure this will make many of those with an alternative political persuasion to my own very happy indeed :). No matter our focus, objections, recriminations, or frustrations, as Democrats, it doesn't change the fact that unless there are seismic losses for the Republicans in the 2006 mid-terms, nothing we do or say really matters. The truth is that our battle to change the course of America, for at least a large portion of the next 1153 days, is an internal battle, and one we have to fight amongst ourselves.

There are many lessons we need to learn from 2004. Kerry's insincerity hampered him from the moment he won the Democratic nomination. But, we should never mistake the nation's desire for sincerity with conviction for conviction's sake. As I've written extensively in the past, our aim is to directly resonate with the electorate on the issues they are interested in. It is not to descend any further into partisan bickering, and snide slurs against Republicans, and Republican voters, as has been the hallmark of Howard Dean's stewardship as party chairman. Republican's are not all racist, as Dean has stated... and as anyone can discern from perusing my blogroll, they are certainly not all stupid: See NYGirl and Insane Hippie.

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What is the face of the Democratic Party we are projecting? We are not fighting Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Michele Malkin... we are fighting to resonate with the electorate, and address their concerns with our ideas and solutions. We have to stop indulging our bruised egos in response to Ann Coulter and Fox News. We have to stop "fighting back," with offensive, like-minded diatribes, like Mike Malloy on "Air America," saying all Republican's are abnormal people... abnormal people that he doesn't care to talk to. When Howard Dean bellowed in his Presidential stump speech that the U.S. flag wasn't the property of John Ashcroft, or Rush Limbaugh... who was he talking to? The voters across the nation? Is that what is really going to bring them hope of better opportunities, cheaper healthcare, gas prices, and a more stable economy?

And yes, we need to connect with Republican voters at a level that is above and beyond their party affiliations. We have to speak to their minds with engaging ideas substantiated by our impressive record in the 90's, and we have to speak to their hearts with real, sincere compassion and hope... in a way that Kerry failed to do.

In the 1153 days before the 2008 election, we cannot afford to indulge our idealism, or our bruised ego's. We can not simply indulge our animosity at the President, and call him names. We can not define ourselves by the likes of Howard Dean and Russ Feingold who offer solutions to problems like the unworkable, immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq... solutions that under the scrutiny of a General Election will never be taken seriously. We have to choose to be relevant to the majority of Americans. We have to speak to them about a vision for a better tomorrow. We have to speak to their heart and give them something to believe in again in this cynical... cynical age.

The biggest mistake we can make as Democrats would be to afford another Republican President, potentially as right wing and ideologically dogmatic as George Bush, another 1461 days in power after the next election three years from now.

The time for self reflection is now. What choices do we want to offer the electorate as Democrats in 2008?

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina Press Coverage: Powerful Sentiments

Here is a quick round up of some of the most interesting press coverage on Katrina over the past few days, with video clips and transcripts:

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This is a harrowing and yet brilliant piece of journalism by Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith as they document with sadness and anger their frustration at the sights they have witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina. The website is a little busy so you might have to wait about 30 seconds or so for the video to come up... (stick it out - it's worth the wait!!!).

Video: Geraldo and Shep' on Hannity and Colmes

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On Meet the Press today Tim Russert effectively clobbered Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff on the issue of accountability. Using a damning article from the Times Picayune in 2002, which essentially predicted the tragic events that have transpired, Russert demanded to know why such huge underestimations were made by the Federal Gov't... and why people were taken by surprise by the extent of the flooding. Here is the eerily spooky quote from the 2002 article Russert used:

"...A major hurricane could decimate the region, but flooding from even a moderate storm could kill thousands. It's just a matter of time. ... The scene's been played out for years in computer models or emergency operations simulations... New Orleans has hurricane levees that create a bowl with the bottom dipping lower than the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. ...the levees would trap any water that gets inside-- by breach, overtopping or torrential downpour--catastrophic storm. ... The estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter for people too sick or inform to leave the city. ...But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground. Thousands will drown while trapped in homes or cars by rising water. Other will be washed away or crushed by debris. Survivors will end up trapped on roofs, in buildings or on high ground surrounded by water, with no means of escape and little food or fresh water, perhaps for several days."

Full transcript from today's "Meet The Press"
Video: Tim Russert Interviews Michael Chertoff

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And finally, as I previously posted in the comments section of the last thread, Mary Landrieu, who I think has been outstanding throughout this entire crisis, was aggressively challenged by Anderson Cooper for complimenting her political colleagues at a time when people were continuing to suffer. Anderson, too, wanted politicians to focus on accountability for the appauling errors that have been made:

Video: Anderson Cooper Interviews Senator Mary Landrieu

As I said in my last entry I feel very strongly that criticism... especially politically motivated shots at the President, is counter productive at a time when the nation needs to be united. People are still stranded in New Orleans desperately requiring political leadership. A post on a right leaning blog called Voice Potential demonstrates the dangerous road we begin to take if we allow the current dialogue to descend into partisan bickering from either side. This is not a time for attacking each other.

The implications are stark for where we might be heading. Liberals aren't exploiting a national tragedy for political purposes as the Voice Potential article contends... at least the majority of them aren't. Liberals are donating money, and volunteering, and doing everything they can to help people still down there. As are Republicans, and people of no political persuasion. Everybody is in this together. Unity is the essential pre-requisite for the expediency and efficiency that was initially lacking in the relief effort. I don't want politicians blaming each other, like Anderson Cooper seemed to be demanding. I want them working together to save lives as swiftly as possible.

It is easy, and perhaps not entirely helpful to frame the journalistic discourse in terms of the dramatic failures that have cost thousands of lives and subjected almost a million people to misery and violence. But the more challenging journalistic responsibility will be in the weeks and months ahead, when the situation is under control, and Hurricane Katrina is no longer a ratings winner on Cable News. I hope then, when it really matters, journalists like Geraldo, Shepard Smith, and Anderson Cooper retain their compelling passion and aggression to thoroughly investigate the events that have contributed to this terrible disaster. I hope eventually then, we can begin to understand why the people of New Orleans were so dreadfully let down by all levels of their government.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Bush will rise to the occasion

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It's hard to fully appreciate the human cost of this awful tragedy. Almost a million people are stuck in soaring temperatures, struggling with the reality of what they've lost and the uncertainty of the future. As if things couldn't get any worse it seems that they are now threatened with the prospect of criminal violence and shootings from unscrupulous looters. It's in times of a national crisis like this that people look towards their political leaders for strength and inspiration.

Already criticisms have been directed at the Administration...

Despite repeated warnings that a catastrophic hurricane could hit Louisiana, the Administration and Congress denied full funding for hurricane preparation and flood control. Recently released figures show that $27 million was requested by the US Army Corps of Engineers to pay for hurricane protection projects around Lake Pontchartrain, which was countered by the Administration with a miserly offer of $3.9 million. Congress eventually provided $5.7 million. Michael Parker, a former Republican Mississippi congressman who headed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, from October 2001 to March 2002, has said of the funding shortfalls, "I'm not saying (New Orleans) wouldn't still be flooded... but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have."

In addition to the issues of underfunding there are broader implications for the manner in which the Administration has tackled Climate change. I was in Los Angeles earlier this year when California was subjected to record levels of sustained rainfall. Climate change is no longer just a scientific debate, or an abstract prospect for our children's children in the distant future. It is a manifest reality, now, that we can witness with our own eyes. And while there is no scientific proof that hurricane frequency is linked to global warming, environmental issues are clearly going to be the primary consideration as people search for a tangible explanation to such a terrible natural disaster.

But, there is a more pertinent criticism of the President being prominently expressed... his ability to stand up and give hope to those in need, leading the nation during such a tumultuous time of crisis and chaos.

Many people do not recall that in the immediate aftermath of September 11th similar questions were being asked of George Bush. Former Republican Congressman and TV Host, Joe Scarborough, has famously stated that he seriously questioned whether the President was up to such a momentous task directly after the WTC attacks. At Bush's initial press conference he struggled to hold back tears that sent a message of vulnerability when people were looking to be strengthened by his resolve. A televised phone call with NY Governor Pataki, and Mayor Giulliani depicted the President dumbfounded and incoherent as Giulliani repeatedly seemed to be covering for the Commander in Chief's shortcomings.

But, while I passionately disagree with so much of what this Administration stands for... its perpetuation of a failed economic theory, and its reckless approach to international affairs and the importance of multilateralism... that doesn't deprive me of recognizing George Bush's strengths, and hoping for them in abundance at a time when so many require their abundant display. Strengths that I believe will be there for all to see tomorrow when the President tours the damaged Gulf Coast region, traveling through some of the hardest hit areas by helicopter and then spending time with people at less hazardous locations on the ground.

Almost a million Americans are stranded without electricity... their lives shattered in the wake of this terrible disaster. Thousands, according to Senator Landrieu, might be dead. Those who are already sharpening their knives, convinced that the hurricane and floods will exacerbate the President's recent political demise should tread very carefully indeed. While there remains immense fear and insecurity, frequently descending into outbreaks of anger and resentment... it doesn't change the fact that there is a vacuum of leadership that we all need to be addressed.

George Bush, whether you love him or hate him is a very normal, sincere, emotionally accessible man, capable, on the most basic level of immeasurable compassion and empathy. He remains the man who felt and articulated people's feelings so effectively at Ground Zero with that bull horn in his hands. He remains the man that gave one of the most impressive addresses I have ever seen to the United Nations in the lead up to the Iraq War, when so many expected him to fall on his face. He remains the man that out pointed Al Gore in three successive Presidential Debates, and came back against John Kerry effectively after a disastrous first debate. Those who seek to capitalize on Hurricane Katrina for political ends are simply setting themselves up for the most consistent truism of Bush's political career: When expectations are at their lowest, George Bush often blows people's expectations away with the earnestness of his humanity and the extent of his competence. When it really matters, as a political leader, very rarely does he fail to rise to the occasion. Hence, why so many people of my political persuasion find him to be such a nightmare to wrap their heads around. As much as I have, very strongly, disagreed with his policies on this blog, and will continue to do so during the long journey to 2008, I hope that I have always been, and will remain, honestly respectful of his strengths as a politician.

As bad as Bush's approval ratings are (and they are very bad indeed) those who are precipitously making accusations should be wary of committing the same mistakes of Bush's past adversaries. They should also recognize that perhaps now is not the time to employ such a rigorous level of scrutiny in an attempt to apportion blame. The time for that will soon be here... mistakes will be highlighted, and those responsible should be held accountable. But, right now people are in serious trouble, and it looks like they're going to remain that way for quite a period of time. Somehow, at least in the short term, we need to pull together and hope that the President can convey a sense of national unity, and compassion, that will leave those who are stranded and hopeless with the indisputable sense that they are not alone... That everybody, regardless of our political affiliation and our disagreements with the President, are in this together for the long haul.

My best wishes go out to anyone who remains involved in this terrible tragedy.

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