Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, November 21st, 2006.

Most Influential Americans

American History

Check it out. Ulysses S. Grant is ranked higher than Ronald Reagan. My only quibble is that Reagan is on the list at all.

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Good for Her

Bush Administration

Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press reports:

Former Attorney General Janet Reno and seven other former Justice Department officials filed court papers Monday arguing that the Bush administration is setting a dangerous precedent by trying a suspected terrorist outside the court system.

It was the first time that Reno, attorney general in the Clinton administration, has spoken out against the administration’s policies on terrorism detainees, underscoring how contentious the court fight over the nation’s new military commissions law has become. Former attorneys general rarely file court papers challenging administration policy.

So far the righties have been fairly subdued, but one commenter to a rightie site couldn’t resist a walk down memory lane. He writes:

I am always amused by those on the Left crying about the Constitution.

1. Does anybody remember Ruby Ridge and a dead child and woman there?
2. Does anybody remember Waco – Branch Davidians and women and children killed there?
3. Does anybody remember Elian Gonzales being forcibly sent back to Communist Cuba?

It appears all children are at risk whenever Janet Reno is involved with any issue and she seems the forget about the Constitution herself from time to time!

How come these meatballs never remember that Ruby Ridge occurred during the George H.W. Bush Administration (August 1992)? Or that the investigation conducted by former Republican Senator Jack Danforth concluded the Branch Davidians shot their children and then each other?

I’m not sure that Elian Gonzalez’s issue was a constitutional one, as Gonzalez was a foreign national, but he wasn’t sent back “forcibly.” He was (willingly) returned to the custody of his father, who had plenty of opportunity to request asylum from Cuba, and did not. “Forcible” would have been taking him away from his father and making him stay.

Details, details.

And does anyone remember that the new RNC chair, Sen. Mel Martinez, made his bones with the GOP by attacking Janet Reno during in the Gonzalez Saga? You can read about it at Media Matters.

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Sloppy Reporting in the New York Times?

Bush Administration

Anne Kornblut’s New York Times story on Senator Clinton’s 2006 campaign expenditures claims the Senator “blew” $30 million on her re-election campaign against a nominal opponent. Apparently the cable television bobbleheads are all over this story now, tossing out claims that the Senator’s campaign staff had predicted she’d have $50 million left over from the Senate campaign, when in fact she has $14 million. And Kornblut has been warbling about how much money the Senator’s campaign spent at Staples.

Per an email from Peter Daou:.

He says he does not believe anyone in the Clinton campaign had predicted ending the campaign with a $50 million warchest, or even a $20-30 million warchest.

As was mentioned several paragraphs into the article, part of the campaign money went toward building a massive list of small donor supporters around the country. One assumes this was in anticipation of a presidential campaign, although the Senator has not yet declared being a presidential candidate.

Kornbult’s article doesn’t mention the more than $2.5 million the Senator contributed to the DSCC and DCCC.

Expenditures Kornblut calls “consultant fees” went into advertising production, direct mail, polling, targeting, and phone calls.

On the other hand, David Sirota says some of that money could have been spent on other Senate and House races, which is a good point (although Senator Clinton did give more than $2.5 million to the DSCC and DCCC).

But my question is, why is this a story? For any reason other than, it’s Tuesday, so it’s time to smear Hillary! And will Chris Matthews obsess about it all through Hardball, which is about to start (please, no).

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Happy Day

Democratic Party

Some good news this morning — the Houston janitor strike is over, and the janitors won. And the Dem party rose up and smacked down the forces of darkness (James Carville) who wanted to oust Howard Dean as DNC chair. Chris Bowers writes that even the Clintonistas sided with Dean. Apparently they didn’t want a backlash from the activist wing of the party.

Note that just a couple of years ago, they wouldn’t have given a thought to a backlash from the activist wing of the party. This is called “progress.” Remember that word; going forward, we may be using it a lot.

Chris writes (emphasis added),

Howard Dean’s base of support in the party has come primarily from two sources: state parties and the progressive movement. Although lacking in nuance, it would not be inaccurate to characterize the current modus operandi of the DNC as follows: small donations from progressive movement activists flow to the DNC in record amounts, and most of those donations end up being spent on direct grants to state parties and in the form of state-level field organizers. This is a novel path for Democratic money to take, especially since it generally bypasses both Washington, D.C. based consultants and wealthy donors. It is also exactly why Carville’s base of supporters hate Dean so much.

It would be premature now, but someday I hope to write a post about all the people who whined that the Democrats would never change — and how they were wrong.

Although this is obviously lost on most pundits and journalists, it is interesting how this seemingly odd alliance between state parties and the progressive movement is based not upon ideology. Rather, it is based upon both a shared strategic principle, the fifty-state strategy, and a shared chip on the shoulder: the sense that both have been long ignored by the party leadership. It is a sort of Alliance of the Ignored. When this alliance runs afoul of the Carville’s and Begala’s of the world, once gain it does so primarily because of strategic differences, not because of ideology. Carville and Begala generally represent an older tactical vision for the Democratic Party. This was a vision that was dominant from 1988-2004, when Democrats heavily employed triangulation, focused almost entirely on the narrow targeting of a few “swing” districts and demographics, and when television advertisements ad repetitious talking points aimed mushy-middle, low information voters where the primary tools utilized in all national Democratic campaigns. Wealthy donors and high-level consultants liked that strategy because it kept money flowing to the latter in the form of hefty commissions, and because it kept Democratic policy where the former would like it to be. Most state parties and progressive activists hated that strategy because it basically dictated that their electoral concerns were either not important, or something that the Democratic Party needed to actively distance itself from. Whatever ideological differences there may or may not be between the two feuding camps, ultimately their dispute is grounded in a difference in tactical vision: narrow targeting versus the fifty-state strategy.

If you want to extract somebody helplessly stuck in a rut, you can either haul them out forcibly or you can change the rut. I’ve been arguing for months now that the problem with Democrats isn’t (necessarily) the individual Democrats (there are exceptions), but the political cultures of Washington DC and the nation. And I’ve been arguing that even if you could rustle up a third party of honest progressive candidates and got them elected, unless the political culture of Washington changes they’d end up being just like the Dems.

Put another way, if the fish are sick because the water in the tank is foul, the solution is not to buy different fish (which will soon be just as sick) but to change the water. You might end up replacing some fish too, of course, but with new water some of the old fish might perk up and be just fine. Or maybe not. The reality is that we’re going to have to put up with some stinky old fish (Joe Lieberman; Joe Biden) for a while yet. There is still work to be done.

William Greider writes in The Nation (emphasis added),

Republicans lost, but their ideological assumptions are deeply embedded in government, the economy and the social order. Many Democrats have internalized those assumptions, others are afraid to challenge them. It will take years, under the best circumstances, for Democrats to recover nerve and principle and imagination–if they do.

But this is a promising new landscape. Citizens said they want change. Getting out of Iraq comes first, but economic reform is close behind: the deteriorating middle class, globalization and its damaging impact on jobs and wages, corporate excesses and social abuses, the corruption of politics. Democrats ran on these issues, and voters chose them.

The killer question: Do Democrats stick with comfortable Washington routines or make a new alliance with the people who just elected them? Progressives can play an influential role as ankle-biting enforcers. They then have to get up close and personal with Democrats. Explain that evasive, empty gestures won’t cut it anymore. Remind the party that it is vulnerable to similar retribution from voters as long as most Americans don’t have a clue about what Democrats stand for.

Conventional wisdom says that the only reason Dems won in the midterms is that Republicans lost. If you look at individual elections, that assumption doesn’t always hold water. These campaigns reveal a strong current of economic populism running through much of the country. Greider continues,

Both before and after the election, major media, led by the New York Times and Washington Post, repeatedly emphasized that no leftward ideological shift would occur, because Democrats are moving rightward. This was bogus, way too simplistic. It overlooked the fact that 100 or more candidates ran aggressively on liberal or populist economic issues–against unregulated free trade and the offshoring of American jobs, against special interests, corporate excesses and social abuses. The Blue Dog and New Democrat caucuses will expand, but the Progressive Caucus will, too, and will remain the largest–at seventy-one members.

The real contest among Washington Dems is not whether they will or will not impeach President Bush or how they will frame the abortion debate. It’s between the neoliberal “free traders” and the economic populists. Christopher Hayes writes,

At the national level, cable pundits almost immediately focused on a handful of winning Democrats with conservative stances on social issues–Jon Tester’s A rating from the NRA, Bob Casey’s opposition to choice and, obsessively, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, who defeated incumbent Charles Taylor in North Carolina’s 11th District while opposing abortion, gay rights and a guest-worker program for immigrants. But what the pundits didn’t mention was the role in Shuler’s victory of the district’s opposition to “free trade” deals. The area’s textile industry has been gutted by NAFTA, so when it came time to vote on CAFTA, Taylor was caught between his district, which wanted him to vote no, and the GOP House leadership, which wanted him to vote yes. So he skipped the vote altogether and CAFTA passed by one vote.

During the campaign, Shuler hammered Taylor for “selling out American families,” and he wasn’t alone in using trade as a wedge issue. A postelection analysis by Public Citizen found that campaigns cut twenty-five ads attacking free-trade deals, and that trade played a significant role in more than a dozen House races won by Democrats. In the entire election, Public Citizen noted, “no incumbent fair trader was beaten by a ‘free trader.'”

If the Dems are going to build on this month’s victories two years from now, I think they’re going to have to show real leadership — not just rhetoric and empty gestures, but leadership that effects tangible change — in two areas. And those areas are Iraq (as in “getting out of”) and economic populism (as in taking on globalization and corporate power and promoting economic fairness). In the latter area there is only so much a party can accomplish in two years, but I think it’s important that voters see they’ve made a start.

And, yes, there’s taking on Bush. Investigations, yes. Hearings, by all means. Drag all the dirt out into the sunshine so the American people can see it. If it leads to impeachment, grand. I suspect the issues of “Iraq” and “confronting Bush” will turn out to be of a piece, anyway. But the Dems must not forget economic populism. They’d better respond to the voters, or find themselves sinking again.

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