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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The center does not try to read anybody out of the party

From The Washington Post by E.J. Dionne, Jr.:

"The center does not try to read anybody out of the party," the experienced Republican politician declared. "But the farther you go in either direction, the greater the inclination to read others out." He deplored party purges as "political cannibalism" and insisted: "The center must lead."

That was Richard M. Nixon, about a week after Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat at the hands of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Nixon was to succeed in reconstituting a Republican center that propelled him to the presidency four years later. But that center could not hold. As J. William Middendorf II recounts in "A Glorious Disaster," his book on the Goldwater campaign with the pitch-perfect title, the movement led by the conservative Arizona senator, not Nixon, shaped the Republican future.

This fall's election defeat was inglorious for Republicans because it ratified Nixon's original worries about the cost of chasing away the GOP's moderates and revealed that the Barry Goldwater-Ronald Reagan political settlement has expired.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A G.O.P. Breed Loses Its Place in New England

From The New York Times:

It was a species as endemic to New England as craggy seascapes and creamy clam chowder: the moderate Yankee Republican.

Dignified in demeanor, independent in ideology and frequently blue in blood, they were politicians in the mold of Roosevelt and Rockefeller: socially tolerant, environmentally enthusiastic, people who liked government to keep its wallet close to its vest and its hands out of social issues like abortion and, in recent years, same-sex marriage.

But this election dealt the already-fading New England Republican an especially strong blow, one that some fear will increase the divide between the two parties nationally by removing a longstanding bridge between them.

Of 22 members of the newly elected House of Representatives from New England, only one is a Republican . . . .

In Rhode Island, exit polls gave Senator Lincoln Chafee, a popular moderate Republican from a long-admired political family, a 62 percent approval rating. But before they exited the polls, most voters rejected him, many feeling it was more important to give the Democrats a chance at controlling the Senate.

At their height, New England Republicans wielded powerful political influence, “dominating the Northeast at the turn of the 20th century, just as Democrats used to dominate the South,” . . . .

For a great column by Senator Lincoln Chafee, see my 12-12-06 post entitled "'Holding to the Center, Losing My Seat,' by Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln D. Chafee."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New residents could divide Georgia even more -- Immigrants, retirees and young workers might pull the state in many directions.

From The Georgia Times-Union by Walter C. Jones:

Talk about two Georgias, the groups that policymakers are wooing to the state could intentionally divide the population as fundamentally as Atlanta's growth did accidentally.

For decades residents of the Peach State have viewed metro Atlanta as an anomaly. Some jealously wished their capital city would share some of its wealth, while others couldn't fail to notice emerging political differences.

The nearly complete takeover of state government by the Republican Party is making the partisan differences more stark as legislators, district attorneys and county commissioners in the suburbs switch to the new majority party, leaving the Democrats' membership to be mostly inner-city blacks.

Those trends happened largely because many of the suburbanites immigrated from Republican states and brought their voting habits with them. No one planned that type of demographic trend. If anything, civic leaders recruited companies with the idea of providing jobs for the folks already here, not for out-of-staters.

Now though, communities are indeed recruiting people, and their success in drawing them here could exacerbate the cleft.

So who's inviting these new residents?

First, every employer who hires low-skilled workers has an invitation of sorts for international immigrants, most of whom are here without the troublesome detail of waiting for a visa and work permit. These are predominately young men, but also plenty of women, all in their peak working and child-bearing period of life.

Second, coastal and mountain communities have the welcome mat out for retirees, especially those called "half backs" because they've fled their Northern homes for Florida only to find they miss discernible seasons and affordable land. So, they come halfway back home and park in Georgia.

It's not that rural Georgians have suddenly developed an appreciation for a Bronx accent. It's these people's money they want. They shop at local stores - especially drug stores - and they inflate property values without putting new demands on local schools.

Third are the early-career workers nicknamed "the young and restless" by head hunters. These college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds have no children or roots preventing them from moving. That's exactly what they do, convincing job recruiters that for them living in a fun location is more important than who they work for.

A decline in their age group, just as the baby boomers are beginning to retire, makes these youngsters sought after by corporate employers to have their pick of jobs.

Chambers of commerce in Atlanta, Athens and Savannah are specifically targeting the "Y&R" crowd by capitalizing on night life, restaurants and other quality-of-life benefits. There's little chance of these Yuppies venturing out to other parts of the state, though, because they're turned off by the conservative attitudes and boring lifestyles outside of cities.

These three groups could create a train wreck for policymakers in coming years.

Each has very different demands from government.

Immigrants are going to be concerned about services like policing and schools for their children.

Retirees have no interest in schools, but health care is at the top of their list. At the same time, a fixed income makes them reluctant to agree to tax increases, new roads or amenities they don't plan to use. They also aren't looking to spawn growth in the little havens they've found. Critics call them CAVE People - Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

Even the jobs they create by their presence tend to be in the low-paying service sector.

Of course, the young and restless are, by nature, not long-term oriented because they know they could always move to another state at a moment's notice.

What they want from government is lots of amenities like parks, public transportation, museums, universities and a very liberal attitude about personal behavior. At least their high incomes make them fairly agreeable to paying taxes to fund the goodies they want.

The beauty of local government is it affords each group the chance to dictate what they get in their own communities.

But what do state policymakers do?

Legislators from various parts of the state fight enough already over their share of road funding and economic development. Imagine the fuss when these new groups reach a critical mass and exert their political power in a three-way tug-of-war.

Then, residents might look back fondly to when there were only two Georgias.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) on leaving Iraq: "America cannot impose a democracy on any nation . . . ."

From The Washington Post by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.):

There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.

It may take many years before there is a cohesive political center in Iraq. America's options on this point have always been limited. There will be a new center of gravity in the Middle East that will include Iraq. That process began over the past few days with the Syrians and Iraqis restoring diplomatic relations after 20 years of having no formal communication.

What does this tell us? It tells us that regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States. This is the most encouraging set of actions for the Middle East in years. The Middle East is more combustible today than ever before, and until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.

We are a long way from a sustained peaceful resolution to the anarchy in Iraq. But this latest set of events is moving the Middle East in the only direction it can go with any hope of lasting progress and peace. The movement will be imperfect, stuttering and difficult.

America finds itself in a dangerous and isolated position in the world. We are perceived as a nation at war with Muslims. Unfortunately, that perception is gaining credibility in the Muslim world and for many years will complicate America's global credibility, purpose and leadership. This debilitating and dangerous perception must be reversed as the world seeks a new geopolitical, trade and economic center that will accommodate the interests of billions of people over the next 25 years. The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership -- not an American divine mission.

The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month. The United States has spent more than $500 billion on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq.

We are destroying our force structure, which took 30 years to build. We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years.

It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.

To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Some Observations on Being a Democrat -- Part III

Yesterday I made some comments on a post entitled "Being a Democrat" on the blog Blog for Democracy. This morning I got an email suggesting that I should post my comments on this blog. I made 3 comments, and will do 3 edited posts, the third being:

The following reflects my feelings about how our party should try to emphasize what we have in common rather than things with which all members do not agree. I wrote it on my blog shortly after the November 2, 2004 election:

Although I wish I could say that everyone in our party heard the same message on Nov. 2 as I did, I know this is not the case.

Many remain in denial. Others seem to think being "right" is all that matters, with of course those doing the thinking also determining what they deem to be right.

I know that the leadership of the state party, official or otherwise, recognizes that the Democratic Party of Georgia has lost some its luster and former glory as evidenced by the results of the November results in 2004 for a reason.

And this leadership also recognizes that perception is important, sometimes more so than the actual facts themselves. And such leadership recognizes that our party suffers from perceptual problems, serious perceptual problems.

This leadership also knows that the political pendulum is always swinging, and that if we awaken from our pre-Nov. 2, 2004 slumber, we are a long way from becoming a dead-end organization and joining the ranks of the Federalists and the Whigs.

This leadership knows that remembering from whence we came will not interfere with our being flexible, innovative, and above all, inclusive of all, including new and accomodating ideas and platforms.

It seems that in the past anytime Democrats met, the first order of business was to divide us into our party's various caucuses as we identified ourselves. There was the black caucus, the Hispanic caucus, the lesbian and gay caucus, etc.

But what happens in the future when I try to bring one of my high school buddies back into our party's fold? He will not be accustomed to going to Democratic meetings and having to be identified as being in one of several of our party's constituencies?

In such a situation you know what this white male voter is going to immediately wonder -- where do I fit in? Where's the white guys' caucus?

For these and other reasons, we are into a very different mode now. We are now in the process of rebuilding, and as such we are far less interested in black caucuses and white caucuses and Hispanic caucuses. We want Democratic caucuses.

And in this process of rebuilding, we are far less interested in liberal caucuses and conservative caucuses. Again, we want Democratic caucuses.

And along the same line, I will tell you that my buddy shares something in common with millions of farmers, factory workers, waitresses and just plain ole regular good people in Georgia and across our country. He ended up voting -- utterly against his own interest -- for Republican candidates. We are going to address and take care of this between now and 2006.

And since ours is the party of hope and dreams, the party of the people, the party of inclusion, we think there is room in our party for beliefs that we share with most Americans, those who hold middle-of-the-road positions on abortion, guns, taxes and other issues.

We are beyond letting the forces of evil continue to outmaneuver us. We are reflecting back on how we operated when we were the big tent party, and how we can tolerate opinions and positions divergent from perhaps a majority of the party.

It is not our intent in our post Nov. 2 mode to be put on the defensive. We recognize that Karl Rove, Inc. wants to force us to defend taxes and lawyers, gay rights and unfettered access to abortion.

We're not going there. We're going to the Governor's mansion and the White House, and will remember and look after those who help get us there, just as President Clinton did when he was elected in 1992.

And we do appreciate the majority of our party, the party faithful. It is our base, and we know that in order to win future elections, we must we expand our base and appeal to other voters without alienating our base, the party faithful.

If we are to remain a relevant party, we must come together and stay together. As I stated in my 12-13-04 post:

"'A house divided against itself cannot stand,' said Abraham Lincoln, paraphrasing the Master's words found in Matthew 12:25. 'And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.'

"Words of wisdom for all ages, and especially appropriate for us to remember in the challenging days as we recognize and accept that we no longer are a majority party; that our base is now only 42% or less; and that we must expand on the base while being sure to keep our base."

Some Observations on Being a Democrat -- Part II

Yesterday I made some comments on a post entitled "Being a Democrat" on the blog Blog for Democracy. This morning I got an email suggesting that I should post my comments on this blog. I made 3 comments, and will do 3 edited posts, the second being:

I approve of the way in which our party this year reached out to voters who oppose abortion rights and promoted candidates who share that view, and in the process began to change our party's approach in the debate over abortion.

Last year the Blog for Democracy's hero -- and I did not say my own -- said:

"I think we need to talk about this issue differently. The Republicans have painted us as a pro-abortion party. I don't know anybody in America who is pro-abortion.

"We do have to have a big tent. I do think we need to welcome pro-life Democrats into this party," said Howard Dean.

I for one am pleased that we followed Gov. Dean's advice, and if we will stay the course, it will allow us to return to our former status as the big tent party.

I used to find it inappropriate -- given all of the issues out there -- that being pro-life was a litmus test for the GOP. But without question -- prior to this election -- we were close to pro-choice being a litmus test for our party.

And just as we extended our welcome in this important area, I am also pleased we reached out to fellow religious voters, and in effect said without making it an issue, we need to quit arguing the legality of abortion, and rather shift the theme to what President Clinton said, that is, that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare."

And just as we all want to see fewer abortions, we want our children to learn good values -- at home, in school, at Sunday school and at church with their parents.

Good values, health care, jobs and sex education can reduce the number of abortion procedures, and who can be opposed to that.

Some Observations on Being a Democrat -- Part I

Yesterday I made some comments on a post entitled "Being a Democrat" on the blog Blog for Democracy. This morning I got an email suggesting that I should post my comments on this blog. I made 3 comments, and will do 3 edited posts, the first being:

To those who might consider one's views about various issues as being litmus tests to being a good Democrat:

I am pro-choice, not because I am a Democrat, but because I think it should be a woman's choice, and definitely not mine unless it happened to be my wife or daughter.

But what if someone has religious convictions and moral beliefs that are different from mine; do we not have room in the party for such person?

Former President Bill Clinton recently cautioned after the midterm elections: "The people didn't give Democrats a mandate. They gave us a chance."

Let's not blow the chance the voters have given us. To the extent we have to suck it up a little, let's do it. Ours is -- or historically has been -- the big tent party.

Will Pelosi stumble again by choosing a member with a checkered past to lead the House Intelligence Committee?

From TIME:

Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, who stumbled badly last week when she publicly backed the failed candidacy of Rep. John Murtha for majority leader, could be headed for another political tumble if she presses ahead with long-standing plans to elevate Rep. Alcee Hastings, a senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, to the panel's chairmanship.

A Democratic aide says Pelosi has not decided who she will name as chairman of the intelligence panel, but that she was leaning against the current top Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman. Her preferred nominee has long been Hastings, but like Murtha he has his own ethically challenged history. And while the broad outlines of that past are well known, the grimy specifics are only now emerging.

Pelosi may has few good options in the current dilemma. If she decides to replace Harman with someone other than Hastings, she could easily offend the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which has insisted that Hastings' seniority entitles him to the position. But some aides have also rumored that there might be another solution: installing a former panel member, Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop, who is also African-American, in place of either Harman or Hastings. Whatever happens, one thing is clear; after her Murtha debacle, Pelosi — and the Democrats for that matter — cannot afford another misstep so early in her tenure.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fiscal battle lines drawn

From The Hill:

As partisan wrangling over spending priorities dominates the Senate’s lame-duck session, the battle lines are forming for next year’s Democratic effort to reinstate pay-as-you-go budget rules that Republicans decry as a back-door tax increase.

Democratic leaders vowed even before their decisive Election Day victories to demonstrate their commitment to fiscal responsibility by restoring the pay-as-you-go statute, also known as pay-go, should they win back the majority. Pay-go under law, which expired in 2002, required any new mandatory spending or tax breaks to be offset or risk automatic across-the-board spending cuts.

The Lingo Of Vietnam

By Richard Cohen in The Washington Post:

The way President Bush whisked through Vietnam -- oh, if only we had done the same 40 years ago -- it seemed as if he was feeling an obvious parallel with the war in Iraq. His aides, who somehow lose IQ points by mere proximity to the commander in chief -- national security adviser Stephen Hadley argued that Bush had "gotten a real sense of the warmth of the Vietnamese people" as he sped by in his motorcade -- insisted that no parallel existed. But these aides are dead wrong. There is this: I would have fought neither war.

Before you protest "of course, Cohen," let me explain that the "I" in the foregoing sentence is really four people. There is the "I" who originally thought the Vietnam War was morally correct, that the communists were awful people and that the loss of South Vietnam (the North was already gone) would result in a debacle for its people. That's, in fact, what happened. It was only later, when I myself was in the Army, that I deemed the war not worth killing or dying for. By then I -- the second "I" -- no longer felt it was winnable, and I did not want to lose my life so that somehow defeat could be managed more elegantly.

Things are precisely the same with Iraq, and here, too, I -- No. 3 -- originally had no moral qualms about the war. Saddam Hussein was a beast who had twice invaded his neighbors, had killed his own people with abandon and posed a threat -- and not just a theoretical one -- to Israel. If anything, I was encouraged in my belief by the offensive opposition to the war -- silly arguments about oil or empire or, at bottom, the ineradicable and perpetual rottenness of America.

On the contrary, I thought. We are a good country, attempting to do a good thing. In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic. The United States had the power to change things for the better, and those who would do the changing -- the fighting -- were, after all, volunteers. This mattered to me.

But these volunteers are now fighting a war few envisaged and no one wanted -- not I (No. 4), for sure. If at one time my latter-day minutemen marched off thinking they were bringing democracy to Iraq and the greater Middle East, they now must know better. If they thought they were going to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction and sever the link between al-Qaeda and Hussein, they now are entitled to feel duped by Bush, Vice President Cheney and others. The exaggerations are particularly repellent. To fool someone into sacrificing his life to battle a chimera is a hideous abuse of the public trust.

Daily I read the casualty list from Iraq -- and I invent reasons to make the deaths less tragic. This is a hopeless, maybe tasteless, task, but it matters to me if someone is a career soldier who knew what he was getting into as opposed to some naive kid digitally juiced on a computerized version of war -- or, even sadder, some guardsman who enlisted for God, country or spare cash, but not by any means for Baghdad. He's a volunteer, all right, but not for a war that didn't exist when he raised his right hand and took the oath.

My dauntingly knowledgeable Post colleague Thomas E. Ricks reports from the Pentagon that the military is now considering three options for Iraq: more troops, fewer troops (but for a longer time) and no troops at all -- the ol' cut and run. The missing option here is victory. Don't worry, it will be invented. "You have to define win," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who is about to return to Iraq, told the New York Times. Ah, just in the nick of time.

Where have we heard this sort of language before? It is the lingo of Vietnam. As with Vietnam, we are fighting now merely not to lose -- to avoid a full-fledged civil war (it's coming anyway) or to keep the country together, something like that. But not for victory. Not for democracy. All this talk of the Iraqis doing more on their own behalf is Vietnamization in the desert rather than the jungle. What remains the same is asking soldiers to die for a reason that the politicians in Washington can no longer explain. This, above all, is how Iraq is like Vietnam: older men asking younger men to die while they try to figure something out.

That's why Bush kept moving. He knows Vietnam is not just about the past. It's also about the future.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Gubernatorial Candidate Sonny Perdue on Gerrymandering: "When you predetermine outcomes in districts, that’s wrong. The people are the losers . . . ."

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia by Dick Pettys:

The governor hasn’t told us yet what he thinks of the recommendation from his task force to put redistricting power in the hands of a special, seven-member commission instead of the Legislature. But Republicans already have weighed-in, saying there’s no way to take politics out of politics and that the proposal won’t accomplish its stated goal of doing that. Democrats, of course, think it’s worth a shot. They’ve got nothing to lose. They’re in the minority now.

The smart money would be on this one going nowhere. But we haven’t heard from the governor yet.

Here’s what he said at his home in Bonaire four years ago when I interviewed him for a profile of him that I was preparing. I asked him when he knew that he wanted to run for governor, and what had pushed him into the race:

“It was only as I sat there during reapportionment ... and saw a governor driving a General Assembly to divide Georgia into districts that I thought were harmful to representative government that I concluded something had to be done ... I thought what was happening was a real travesty against representative government. That offended me. I became convinced that Georgia, under that kind of leadership, would not be the state that I wanted it to be if it continued.”

The transcript shows I followed up with this: “I can see a ‘Gov.' Sonny Perdue doing the same thing. You said you’re a competitor...Why would you tell people you wouldn’t?”

He responded:

“Because I have an innate sense of right and wrong, and it was wrong. I am a competitor. That’s why you have rules in sports. What happened in the General Assembly, led by Roy Barnes this last special session, was no different than stealing an election at a ballot box ... When you predetermine outcomes in districts, that’s wrong. The people are the losers ...”

The point that’s sometimes forgotten here is that redistricting is an issue that’s important to Perdue on a very personal level. Don’t be surprised if he puts some gubernatorial muscle behind this proposal if he can.

Although I have always been and remain a big fan of former Gov. Roy Barnes, I felt the exact same way about his reapportionment legislation, and was very vocal in my opposition to it at the time.

Harman vs. Hastings: The Blue Dog Democrats are mounting a campaign to save Harman's post at the Intelligence Committee

From TIME:

There's only one thing dumber in politics than picking a fight when you don't have to; it's picking one when you can't win.

Pelosi may now have to reconsider how she plans to deal with another rival, fellow California Congresswoman Jane Harman. Pelosi has already made it clear that she does not want to give Harman the top job on the Intelligence Committee when the party formally takes over in January. Harman, whose qualifications no one doubts, says she was promised it by earlier Democratic leaders; Pelosi says her term is up. But by shutting out Harman, Pelosi would be setting another trap for herself. The next in line after Harman is Florida's Alcee Hastings, who in 1989 was impeached and removed from his federal judgeship by Congress over allegations that he had conspired to take a $150,000 bribe (charges of which he was acquitted in court). If Pelosi passes him over, she is certain to infuriate the Congressional Black Caucus, with whom her relations are already strained.

[T]he Blue Dog Coalition, a group of the most conservative House Democrats, [is] mounting a rear-guard campaign to save Harman's post at the Intelligence Committee.

Republicans Lost Ground With Latinos In Midterms

From The Washington Post:

Two years ago, Latino voters gravitated in larger-than-ever numbers toward President Bush, the former governor of Texas, a Mexican border state, and his brother Jeb, the loquacious Florida governor who speaks fluent Spanish.

How times have changed.

Pollsters generally agree that the same voters abandoned the president's party in droves during last week's elections, with Latinos giving the GOP only 30 percent of their vote as strident House immigration legislation inspired by Republicans and tough-talking campaign ads by conservative candidates roiled the community.

Depending on who did the counting, pollsters said in 2004 that Latinos handed GOP candidates between 40 percent and 44 percent of their vote -- a historic Republican windfall -- as the Bush brothers appealed to their socially conservative views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

[T]here are recent signs that Republicans are working to bring them back to the party.

Republicans worked hard this week to get the word out that they had appointed Cuban American Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) to lead the Republican National Committee. On Wednesday, the RNC dispatched an e-mail message in which about 20 conservatives praised the appointment.

Latinos are the nation's largest ethnic minority at more than 14 million. Their voting pool is smaller than the African American community's, but it is growing and is eagerly courted by both major parties for its potential to turn future elections.

New Phase, New Test For Bush

By David S. Broder from The Washington Post:

In trying to gauge where things stand in our government after the political upheaval that has taken place, it helps to think back through the events that have shaped the Bush presidency. This is really the beginning of the fourth phase of his tenure.

Bush I was defined by the equivocal election of 2000, the race between George Bush and Al Gore that lasted an extra 36 days until the Supreme Court finally put a stop to the Florida vote-counting.

Bush I was as spotty as the election that created it. The president enjoyed some early successes in forming his administration, pushing through his tax cuts and launching the No Child Left Behind education reform. But in the summer of 2001, some people inside the White House -- and many outside -- were realizing that the new president lacked a clear sense of direction and was beginning to lose traction.

That changed dramatically -- and Bush II began -- on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, with the savage attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bush said he realized at that moment that he had been summoned to answer the challenge of terrorism -- and that defeating it was his overriding purpose as president.

For a time, the country felt the same way, and we experienced a sense of national unity and purpose not seen since World War II.

Bush III began not with an external event but with what historians are likely to regard as the most fateful decision of his presidency, the decision to send American forces into Iraq. That war has dominated American policymaking and politics since. And as time has gone on, more and more Americans have come to believe that Bush's decision was a mistake.

Bush IV, I would argue, began just this month, when voters stripped the president and his party of control of the House and Senate and installed Democratic majorities in the Capitol.

I acknowledge that it sounds exaggerated to assert that a midterm election has the same weight on the historical scales as a presidential election, or an attack on the homeland, or a war. But I would argue that it belongs there.

The consequences of this power shift clearly are going to be large. Already, Donald Rumsfeld, who, with Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, formed the core of Bush's war cabinet, has been forced out of office. Come January, with the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group in hand, the new Congress will begin putting pressure on Bush to change policy on the war.

At home, the fundamental governing strategy of the Bush administration will also have to change. The president has relied on automatic party-line majorities in the House to induce enough Senate Democrats to join their Republican colleagues and send bills to the White House for signature.

Now, if Bush wants to achieve any legislative successes, he will have to negotiate deals with the Democrats and meet at least some of their demands. The next fateful decision he has to make -- after Iraq -- is whether to become that kind of bargainer or accept a barren record in his final two years.

The weakness in the president's position revealed by the midterm election extends beyond Capitol Hill to the electorate itself. The "firewalls" that Republicans thought they had built to protect their congressional majorities did not hold. Republicans had the advantage in money and in campaign organization, and they had all those districts that had been gerrymandered to "guarantee" Republican wins. But in Arizona, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and many other states, it did not spare them from multiple defeats.

Exit polls on Nov. 7 showed that "the base" developed serious splinters. One in five self-described conservatives said they voted for the Democratic congressional candidate.

Meanwhile, in the center of the voting population, where elections are decided, Democrats led by 18 points among independents and by 22 points among moderates.

None of these shifts is necessarily permanent, but each one of them is significant. And, taken together, they explain why this midterm election ranks right up there with the 2000 presidential race, the Sept. 11 attacks and the decision to go to war in Iraq as signal events defining the four phases of the Bush presidency.

How it will all play out we do not know, but the chances of a happy ending don't look great.

Some House Republicans may try to outflank the Democratic leadership by joining with moderate-to-conservative Dems to form a center-right coalition

From The Washington Post:

Some House Republicans may try to outflank the Democratic leadership by joining with moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the "Blue Dog" caucus to form a center-right coalition, according to Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).

"The Blue Dog Democrats are going to have to defend the platform they ran on -- pro-life, small government, the like," Kingston said. "And we will have free agents within our own ranks. We're not going to have [minority whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)] coming up, saying, 'We really need you. We're within three votes of passing this bill.' We can do whatever we want."

Embittered Insiders Turn Against Bush

From The Washington Post:

The weekend after the statue of Saddam Hussein fell, Kenneth Adelman and a couple of other promoters of the Iraq war gathered at Vice President Cheney's residence to celebrate. The invasion had been the "cakewalk" Adelman predicted. Cheney and his guests raised their glasses, toasting President Bush and victory. "It was a euphoric moment," Adelman recalled.

Forty-three months later, the cakewalk looks more like a death march, and Adelman has broken with the Bush team. He had an angry falling-out with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this fall. He and Cheney are no longer on speaking terms. And he believes that "the president is ultimately responsible" for what Adelman now calls "the debacle that was Iraq."

Adelman, a former Reagan administration official and onetime member of the Iraq war brain trust, is only the latest voice from inside the Bush circle to speak out against the president or his policies. Heading into the final chapter of his presidency, fresh from the sting of a midterm election defeat, Bush finds himself with fewer and fewer friends. Some of the strongest supporters of the war have grown disenchanted, former insiders are registering public dissent and Republicans on Capitol Hill blame him for losing Congress.

A certain weary crankiness sets in with any administration after six years. By this point in Bill Clinton's tenure, bitter Democrats were competing to denounce his behavior with an intern even as they were trying to fight off his impeachment. Ronald Reagan was deep in the throes of the Iran-contra scandal. But Bush's strained relations with erstwhile friends and allies take on an extra edge of bitterness amid the dashed hopes of the Iraq venture.

"There are a lot of lives that are lost," Adelman said in an interview last week. "A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful."

The sense of Bush abandonment accelerated during the final weeks of the campaign with the publication of a former aide's book accusing the White House of moral hypocrisy and with Vanity Fair quoting Adelman, Richard N. Perle and other neoconservatives assailing White House leadership of the war.

Since the Nov. 7 elections, Republicans have pinned their woes on the president.

"People expect a level of performance they are not getting," former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said in a speech. Many were livid that Bush waited until after the elections to oust Rumsfeld.

"If Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made a difference," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said on television. "I'd still be chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

And so, in what some saw as a rebuke, Senate Republicans restored Trent Lott (Miss.) to their leadership four years after the White House helped orchestrate his ouster, with some saying they could no longer place their faith entirely in Bush.

Some insiders said the White House invited the backlash. "Anytime anyone holds themselves up as holy, they're judged by a different standard," said David Kuo, a former deputy director of the Bush White House's faith-based initiatives who wrote "Tempting Faith," a book that accused the White House of pandering to Christian conservatives. "And at the end of the day, this was a White House that held itself up as holy."

Richard N. Haass, a former top Bush State Department official and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said a radically different approach to world affairs naturally generates criticism. "The emphasis on promotion of democracy, the emphasis on regime change, the war of choice in Iraq -- all of these are departures from the traditional approach," he said, "so it's not surprising to me that it generates more reaction."

The willingness to break with Bush also underscores the fact that the president spent little time courting many natural allies in Washington, according to some Republicans. GOP leaders in Congress often bristled at what they perceived to be a do-what-we-say approach by the White House. Some of those who did have more personal relationships with Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld came to feel the sense of disappointment more acutely because they believed so strongly in the goals the president laid out for his administration.

The arc of Bush's second term has shown that the most powerful criticism originates from the inside. The pragmatist crowd around Colin L. Powell began speaking out nearly two years ago after he was eased out as secretary of state. Powell lieutenants such as Haass, Richard L. Armitage, Carl W. Ford Jr. and Lawrence B. Wilkerson took public the policy debates they lost on the inside. Many who worked in Iraq returned deeply upset and wrote books such as "Squandered Victory" (Larry Diamond) and "Losing Iraq" (David L. Phillips). Military and CIA officials unloaded after leaving government, culminating in the "generals' revolt" last spring when retired flag officers called for Rumsfeld's dismissal.

On the domestic side, Bush allies in Congress, interest groups and the conservative media broke their solidarity with the White House out of irritation over a number of issues, including federal spending, illegal immigration, the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the Dubai Ports World deal.

Most striking lately, though, has been the criticism from neoconservatives who provided the intellectual framework for Bush's presidency. Perle, Adelman and others advocated a robust use of U.S. power to advance the ideals of democracy and freedom, targeting Hussein's Iraq as a threat that could be turned into an opportunity.

In an interview last week, Perle said the administration's big mistake was occupying the country rather than creating an interim Iraqi government led by a coalition of exile groups to take over after Hussein was toppled. "If I had known that the U.S. was going to essentially establish an occupation, then I'd say, 'Let's not do it,' " and instead find another way to target Hussein, Perle said. "It was a foolish thing to do."

Perle, head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board at the time of the 2003 invasion, said he still believes the invasion was justified. But he resents being called "the architect of the Iraq war," because "my view was different from the administration's view from the very beginning" about how to conduct it. "I am not critical now of anything about which I was not critical before," he said. "I've said it more publicly."

White House officials tend to brush off each criticism by claiming it was over-interpreted or misguided. "I just fundamentally disagree," Cheney said of the comments by Perle, Adelman and other neoconservatives before the midterm elections. Others close to the White House said the neoconservatives are dealing with their own sense of guilt over how events have turned out and are eager to blame Bush to avoid their own culpability.

Joshua Muravchik, a neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute, said he is distressed "to see neocons turning on Bush" but said he believes they should admit mistakes and openly discuss what went wrong. "All of us who supported the war have to share some of the blame for that," he said. "There's a question to be sorted out: whether the war was a sound idea but very badly executed. And if that's the case, it appears to me the person most responsible for the bad execution was Rumsfeld, and it means neocons should not get too angry at Bush about that."

It may also be, he said, that the mistake was the idea itself -- that Iraq could serve as a democratic beacon for the Middle East. "That part of our plan is down the drain," Muravchik said, "and we have to think about what we can do about keeping alive the idea of democracy."

Few of the original promoters of the war have grown as disenchanted as Adelman. The chief of Reagan's arms control agency, Adelman has been close to Cheney and Rumsfeld for decades and even worked for Rumsfeld at one point. As a member of the Defense Policy Board, he wrote in The Washington Post before the Iraq war that it would be "a cakewalk."

But in interviews with Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and The Post, Adelman said he became unhappy about the conduct of the war soon after his ebullient night at Cheney's residence in 2003. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction disturbed him. He said he was disgusted by the failure to stop the looting that followed Hussein's fall and by Rumsfeld's casual dismissal of it with the phrase "stuff happens." The breaking point, he said, was Bush's decision to award Medals of Freedom to occupation chief L. Paul Bremer, Gen. Tommy R. Franks and then-CIA Director George J. Tenet.

"The three individuals who got the highest civilian medals the president can give were responsible for a lot of the debacle that was Iraq," Adelman said. All told, he said, the Bush national security team has proved to be "the most incompetent" of the past half-century. But, he added, "Obviously, the president is ultimately responsible."

Adelman said he remained silent for so long out of loyalty. "I didn't want to bad-mouth the administration," he said. In private, though, he spoke out, resulting in a furious confrontation with Rumsfeld, who summoned him to the Pentagon in September and demanded his resignation from the defense board.

"It seemed like nobody was getting it," Adelman said. "It seemed like everything was locked in. It seemed like everything was stuck." He agrees he bears blame as well. "I think that's fair. When you advocate a policy that turns bad, you do have some responsibility."

Most troubling, he said, are his shattered ideals: "The whole philosophy of using American strength for good in the world, for a foreign policy that is really value-based instead of balanced-power-based, I don't think is disproven by Iraq. But it's certainly discredited."

Party Shift May Make Warming a Hill Priority

From The Washington Post:

Dramatic changes in congressional oversight of environmental issues may pump new life into efforts to fight global warming, activist groups and lawmakers said [Friday].

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) announced his intention to become the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, now headed by Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has said that global warming is a hoax. Warner has called for action against climate change, and his ascension to a leadership post would accelerate significant changes already underway.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) -- a liberal who has called global warming a dire threat -- is in line to chair the committee in the next Congress as a result of last week's elections, which will give Democrats the Senate majority. Environmentalists have been hailing her impending replacement of Inhofe as chairman. Warner's takeover of the ranking minority member's slot, they said yesterday, would raise even greater hopes for advancing their agenda.

Boxer acknowledged that even with a Democratic-controlled Congress, President Bush has veto power, and legislative achievements will be limited.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I have a lot of respect for former Secretary of State James Baker

From The New York Times:

James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state who is now Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan group examining strategic options in Iraq, has met several times with Syrian officials to discuss how they might cooperate with the United States, the Syrian ambassador here said Friday.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Calibrating Power -- Pelosi’s mistake on Hoyer has tarnished her luster as a leader. But there are still signs that the Dems can work on a team.

From Newsweek by Eleanor Clift:

With Nancy Pelosi, it’s all about loyalty. What should have been her day--the unanimous election by Democrats of the first woman Speaker of the House--became instead the story of her first big political blunder. She invested her prestige in Rep. John Murtha, the gruff, antiwar Pennsylvania Democrat, in his bid to become her elected deputy, and he lost--149 to 86. It wasn’t even close.

The fact that Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer, an inside-the-Beltway player, will be majority leader means little to the general public. But it means everything to those who calibrate power minute by minute in Washington. By injecting herself into the race and backing the wrong candidate, Pelosi lost some of her luster as a leader even before she is sworn in.

For those watching to see how the first woman Speaker will wield power, this was a missed opportunity. Pelosi initially encouraged Murtha to run against Hoyer, with whom she has a longstanding rivalry. After the election sweep and all the emphasis on solidarity, she had second thoughts, but Murtha, bull-headed and dogmatic, pressed ahead. Pelosi felt powerless to stop him. He was her campaign manager when she ran for leader four years ago, providing the credibility she needed to win among the old bulls in Congress. She credits Murtha with transforming the debate on Iraq and making the Democratic majority possible. She owed him the letter of endorsement that was released last weekend, and that’s where it should have ended.

That gesture of loyalty would have been understood. In 1994, when Newt Gingrich became Speaker and supported his longtime sidekick, Bob Walker, for majority leader, he didn’t lobby against Tom DeLay, who won the race. Pelosi and her California allies, by contrast, really worked the Democratic caucus, reminding colleagues that Hoyer had voted for the Iraq war and questioning his loyalty to Pelosi, who he had twice run against for leadership positions and lost. Pelosi invited freshmen Democrats into her office, and her opening line, delivered with a steely smile, was, “Before we talk about your committee assignments, let’s talk about the leader’s race.” A Pelosi aide said if the leadership race had been an open ballot instead of conducted in secret, Murtha would have won because nobody would want to cross Pelosi. But it’s hard to see how pushing the confrontation and losing does anything but raise doubts about Pelosi’s judgment and the skill of her political operation.

Pelosi allies put a brave face on the loss, saying it puts Hoyer on notice that she’s watching him for signs of disloyalty. The two have known each other for 50 years, since they were interns together on Capitol Hill. Their relationship resembles a sibling rivalry. “This is not a political issue; it’s a psychological one,” says a former Democratic House leader who knows both of them well. Hoyer, who at 67 is one year older than Pelosi and a great-grandfather, suffers from the just-another-middle-aged-white-man syndrome. A talented legislator, he is a savvy inside operator whom nobody has ever accused of having charisma. He lost to Pelosi in a bitter race four years ago for the leader’s position, and it seems that he never quite got over it. A key Democrat in the leadership at the time told Hoyer that he thought he was the more deserving candidate, but that the Democrats needed a woman in the leadership. No question the feisty lady from San Francisco was a better face for the party, but the reality stung. Pelosi won the election fair and square. Still, Hoyer and his allies nursed a grudge that he had been unfairly passed over. It wasn’t long before word got back to Pelosi that Hoyer was undermining her with the powerful K Street lobbyist crowd, telling them he was the real power and that they should deal with him because she was the token woman.

Those are fighting words for any woman, but especially a woman of Pelosi’s age, who has navigated the minefields of gender discrimination and earned the right to be taken seriously. There’s also some paranoia at work. Hoyer is the Democrats’ principal link to K Street. Pelosi would be wise to back off, forget the gender bias and leave that grubby work to her deputy.

We know Pelosi is tough. She wouldn’t have gotten this far if she didn’t know how to stand her ground. She’s also where she is because she’s a woman, and her visibility is a key to Democrats holding their advantage among women. Loyalty is a good thing, but an overdeveloped sense of loyalty is a bad thing. We don’t have to look any farther than the White House to see the limits of staying true. After the vote Thursday, Pelosi smoothed things over with Murtha, formalizing his role as the Democrats’ main voice on Iraq, a hopeful sign that team play is still possible.

1st District Rep. Jack Kingston comes in second in his bid for House Republican Conference chairman, the No. 3 position in the GOP House leadership

From The Hill:

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) won the race for House GOP conference chairman, edging Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), 100-91 on the third ballot.

More on a battle that many Dems felt Pelosi made unnecessarily bitter -- "She got taken to the woodshed."

From The Washington Post:

If the Hoyer camp's head count was correct going into yesterday's secret balloting, Pelosi and her allies may not have swayed a single vote for Murtha . . . .

Pelosi's aggressive, last-minute campaign for Murtha in the face of overwhelming support for Hoyer left many Democrats worried that she has become too reliant on a tight inner circle, too reluctant to listen to the broader Democratic caucus and mistakenly convinced that she can dictate the direction the caucus must take.

"Basically, she got spanked," said a House Democrat close to both Pelosi and Hoyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions. "She got taken to the woodshed. If she doesn't get it, this is going to be a big problem over the long run."

"Maybe it will help Nancy understand the use of power, the time and place for it," said a senior Democrat with close ties to Capitol Hill.

Murtha allies conceded that he managed to undermine his own campaign, particularly when he told a gathering of conservative Democrats on Tuesday night that Pelosi's ethics package was "total crap."

The "Blue Dog" Democrats at that gathering said Murtha also made a critical mistake that night when he put himself forward as Pelosi's loyal lieutenant, ready to do whatever she asked of him even if he personally disagreed. Many of them had been savaged in their campaigns by Republicans who predicted that they would be rubber stamps for Pelosi, a "San Francisco liberal," and they had vowed to be independent voices in conservative-leaning districts.

Also from The Washington Post:

Steny H. Hoyer is a practical moderate and Nancy Pelosi is a liberal idealist, and for more than 40 years they have competed like siblings, all the way to the pinnacle of politics.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dems Tell Pelosi She Needs to Follow, Not Just Lead

From TIME:

Nancy Pelosi showed us something important about herself this week. If Tip O'Neill thought that all politics was local, Pelosi's view is that it's personal. But what may have more significance in the long run is what her caucus showed her — that, unlike the Republicans they are replacing, they will not march in lockstep at every dictate from their leaders. And if there is any good news for the Democrats from the entire episode, that is it.

Congressman Steny Hoyer, the man what had waited in line for the job, gave Pelosi's candidate John Murtha a thumpin', as the President might have put it. That there was even a fight at all, however, is because of Pelosi. Against all precedent and good sense, she stepped into the election with not only an endorsement of her longtime ally, but a shocking strong-arm campaign to win the job for him. She all but told incoming freshmen: "That's a nice little committee assignment you're asking for. It would be a shame if anything happened to it."

The moderate Hoyer won in part because he had the support of the committee chairmen, who are the liberal old guard. They put practicality over ideology, which is just what voters asked them to do on November 7. And Hoyer also held the support of those freshmen. They appreciated the time and money that Hoyer had put into getting them elected in 2006, and understand that unless they are independent, they won't get reelected in 2008. As the Brookings Institution's Tom Mann, one of the smartest scholars of Congress, put it: "The Democrats today saved Pelosi from a disastrous start to her leadership."

Modern politics have been hard on House Speakers. O'Neill was the last one to give up the office under circumstances of his choosing; all four since him have been ousted from it, under one set of circumstances or another. If Pelosi is to avoid that fate, she must learn how to control the impulses and instincts that those around her say define her character. She will have to broaden her circle, trust her colleagues and take to heart the words of the man who managed to hold the job longer than anyone else in history. "You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you," Sam Rayburn once said, "unless you know how to follow, too."

From Newsweek:

If Speaker-to-be Pelosi is going to succeed as Speaker of the House, she had better learn—fast—from the fiasco known as the Hoyer-Murtha Race. She violated every conceivable rule of Boss-like behavior: she lost, she lost publicly, she lost after issuing useless and unenforceable threats to people she barely had met, knowing (or having reason to know) that they would tell the world about her unsuccessful arm-twisting. And she lost big: by 149 to 86 votes.

One of the first rules of politics is that power is the appearance of power. Especially early in the game, you don’t risk that aura on a fight you are not sure you can win. The contest for 10018 was a secret ballot, which lessened the power of arm-twisting. Also, Rep. Steny Hoyer (another Maryland product) had worked hard for many months to secure verbal commitments from across the Democratic membership. Such commitments are hard to undo, even if the person trying to undo them is about to become the Speaker.

Pelosi changed course, never a good idea for a wannabe Boss. Her original plan was to stay neutral in the race between Hoyer and Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania. Then she quietly started making calls for Murtha, whom she felt she owed a debt of gratitude for his willingness to oppose the war in Iraq. Then she accepted his request to make a public endorsement (in the form of a letter) and she set about to seriously pressure members to back her man. By then it was already too late. In the last week the Hill and the city were abuzz with stories about Pelosi’s hard-line tactics. But rather than engender fear—and remember, it is better to be feared than loved—the moves engendered derision. The last thing you want them to be doing is laughing at you.

Does any of this mean that Pelosi’s speakership is defunct before it begins? Of course not. Democrats have an interest in seeing her succeed. They don’t want to play into the Republicans’ hands by turning the Democratic-controlled Congress into a soap opera. They don’t want the first female speaker to be a failure. Most Democrats agree with her on many agenda items.

Much is up to Pelosi. She has a reputation for never forgetting a slight or forgiving an enemy. But she has to realize that, this time at least, she was her own worst enemy.

Good news for Democrats: Hoyer tapped for party's No. 2 House spot

From CNN:

Hoyer was elected on a vote of 149-86.

Making a list and checking it twice -- Mike Berlon's supporters for his candidacy as Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia

As we are all aware, as of the moment, the only announced candidate for succeeding Bobby Kahn as Chair of the DPG is Gwinnett County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon.

Is your county's State Committee Member or Members supporting Mike's candidacy? You can find out by going to this web site.

Rep. Barrow's victory means Democrats successfully defended every seat they held in the House and Senate

From The Washington Post:

Rep. John Barrow (D) defeated Republican Max Burns by 864 votes out of more than 140,000 cast.

Pelosi Splits Democrats With Push For Murtha -- Speaker-to-Be Accused Of Strong-Arm Tactics

Pelosi has hurt herself and the party's public face in her unprecedented push for Murtha. I predict she will lose this battle. And she should; many on the Hill like and respect Rep. Steny Hoyer more than they do Pelosi.

From The Washington Post:

A showdown over the House majority leader's post today has Democrats bitterly divided only a week after their party took control of Congress and has prompted numerous complaints that Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her allies are using strong-arm tactics and threats to try to elect Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.) to the job.

Pelosi's aggressive intervention on behalf of Murtha has baffled and angered many Democrats, who think she has unnecessarily put her reputation on the line out of misplaced loyalty to a friend and because of a long-standing feud with Hoyer, the minority whip. Pelosi has pushed Murtha's candidacy at social events, in private meetings and with incoming freshman Democrats; they have been called to her office to discuss committee assignments, only to hear first that she needs Murtha in order to be an effective leader.

Hoyer, 67, was heavily favored to win the race until Sunday, when Pelosi -- in a move that shocked even her staff -- openly threw her support to Murtha, despite a vow to stay neutral.

One conservative Democrat said that a Murtha-Pelosi ally approached him on the House floor and said pointedly: "I hope you like your committee assignment, because it's the only one you're going to get."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Election - Old Saws, New Rust

An op-ed from The New York Times by Mike Murphy, a Republican political consultant and screenwriter:

WATCHING the televised punditry about the elections, I felt pummeled by commentators repeatedly using the same clichés — most of which happen to be dead wrong. The three worst offenders:

Tip O’Neill’s observation is no longer true. Safe one-party Congressional seats in Boston 50 years ago were local, but only because a few thousand Democratic primary voters chose the winner.

In this election, all politics was global. The voters of Mishawaka and La Porte, Ind., were more influenced by the sectarian politics of Baghdad than by the election-eve announcement by their Republican congressman, Chris Chocola, that he’d gotten $1.4 million in federal money for a local mental health center. He lost.

Negative campaigning has been around since the beginning of our democracy, and voters reward it. If people voted against negative ads, you’d never see any.

The most criticized ad of this election poked fun at Representative Harold Ford of Tennessee. The political speech police labeled it racist because it featured a flirty blonde teasing Mr. Ford, who is black, about a Bacchanalian Super Bowl party that he allegedly attended and I’m sad to say I did not. Sure, the spot was inane, but the worst ever? In 1964, the president of the United States ran an ad implying his opponent would start a nuclear war. It’s hard to get more negative than that.

Nonsense. We Republicans took a beating on Election Day, but it had nothing to do with turnout. The problem wasn’t that our voters didn’t turn out, it was that our voters alone are not enough. Turnout is important: it is essential to winning primaries (since so few people bother to vote) and very close contests.

Most general elections, however, are decided by the independent and ticket-splitting voters in the middle who swing between parties. When the swing voters stampede toward your opponent, you are usually toast.

Examine exit-polling estimates from the Senate race in Virginia. George Allen won 94 percent of the Republican vote and Jim Webb won 93 percent of the Democratic. Since more Republicans than Democrats vote in Virginia, Senator Allen should have won. Instead of splitting the swing vote, however, Mr. Webb thumped Mr. Allen among independents by 12 points. It was the same in Montana and Ohio and, well, just about everywhere. It is the real reason we lost the House and Senate.

Successful campaign management means using message to be far enough ahead in most races — especially in districts and states where you start with the advantage — that you are never in such deep trouble that you wind up needing an improbably high turnout of only your base vote to win.

Swing voters respond to policy and persuasion, not process spin. The cocky Republican talk about magical 72-hour plans in the last weeks before the election was unfortunate proof that the party’s high command had forgotten this most basic fact of politics, at least until the rough news of last Tuesday. Of all the clichés this year, this one was the most damaging for Republicans to believe in.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yes! Yes! Marshall appears definitely to be the winner.

I just checked the Secretary of State's web site, and for the first time since last Thursday, it has been updated to show 100% of the precincts reporting, and Rep. Jim Marshall winning with a 49.5% to 50.5% spread. I know this one has been called for Jim, but it sure looks good to see all of the precincts have now reported.

The web site shows that in Rep. John Barrow's race 99% of the precincts have now reported, and the percentage spread is 49.7% to 50.3%, but the vote spread of 929 seems to be holding up. I don't know when the pundits will call this one, but it is looking good.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Make Room for Daddy - Can Bush Sr. and His Team Save Son's Presidency?

From Newsweek:

Ask thy father, and he will show thee: advice that, at long last, George W. Bush seems to be taking.

Rumsfeld['s replacement]: Robert M. Gates, Bush Senior's CIA director and the president of Texas A&M University, the home of Bush 41's presidential library.

The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week—and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston. The re-emergence of Iraq Study Group voices such as Baker, Gates and Alan Simpson—all longtime friends of Bush Senior—is not unlike the entrance of Fortinbras at the conclusion of "Hamlet." These are 41's men, and the removal of Rumsfeld—an ancient rival of Bush Senior's from the Ford days—is a move toward the broad middle. The apparent triumph of pragmatism over ideology on Iraq was welcome news, at least to the public. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 67 percent favor Bush Senior's internationalist approach to foreign policy over his son's more unilateral course.

As the war has gone badly and the years have ticked by—2003, 2004, 2005 and now much of 2006—the senior President Bush, the man who managed to capture just 37 percent of the vote in 1992, has grown in stature. Raising taxes and capping domestic spending in 1990, refusing to exceed the United Nations mandate after expelling Saddam from Kuwait, and deftly managing the end of the cold war and the reunification of Germany loom ever larger. Given the midterm reaction to the son's inattention to alliances and to the details of postwar Iraq, it is clear that many Americans are nostalgic for the skills and sensibility the first President Bush brought to the Oval Office—a reversal of historical fortune that has come, sadly for the father, at the expense of his son.

Georgia polling numbers

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

As they did four years ago, the four big counties in metro Atlanta – Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett – accounted for a fraction over 34 percent of the vote.

Perdue carried 61 percent of the male vote (white and black) and 57 percent of the female vote. . . . [M]ale voters accounted for 47 percent of the electorate and female voters for 53 percent.

Here’s how Georgia voters pegged themselves ideologically for the pollsters: 13 percent identified themselves as liberal, 45 percent called themselves moderates and 42 percent described themselves as conservatives.

(Nationally, 20 percent of voters identified themselves as liberal, 47 percent as moderate and 32 percent as conservative.)

Theologically, 52 percent of voters said they were born-again or evangelical Christians and 48 percent said they were not.

(Nationally, only 34 percent identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians; 66 percent said they were not.)

Election whupping marked the end of Bush's radical experiment in partisan government & a plea for politicians to get serious about solving problems

From TIME:

This was a big deal. Certainly, it was the end of George W. Bush's radical experiment in partisan governance. It might have been even bigger than that: the end of the conservative pendulum swing that began with Ronald Reagan's revolution. Not only did the Democrats lay a robust whupping on the Republicans in the midterm elections, but--far worse--the President was forced into a tacit acknowledgment that the defining policy of his Administration, the war in Iraq, was failing. In 1994, when Bill Clinton lost both houses of Congress, he merely replaced his consultants and, liberated from the liberal wing of his party, sailed into the enforced moderation of divided government. Last week George W. Bush replaced Donald Rumsfeld, the blustery symbol of American arrogance overseas--and, after six years of near total control at home, had to adjust to a situation in which his vision had been rejected by the voters and his power seriously truncated.

Bush's decision to delay the sacking of Rumsfeld until after the election will undoubtedly stand as one of the greatest mistakes of his presidency. It was a purely political decision, straight from the Karl Rove playbook: show no sign of weakness or indecision in the midst of a campaign--or, as Bill Clinton neatly summarized it, Strong and wrong beats weak and right. Not this time. "Strong and wrong" may have cost Bush the election. It may also have cost him whatever chance he had for a dignified exit from Iraq. His refusal to change his team and his strategy prevented an effective response to the centrifugal disintegration of Iraq over the past few months. The exit polls indicate that the war was not the main issue in the 2006 election: the general odor of corruption and incompetence emanating from Washington seemed to be the real motivator. But the Administration's stubbornness on Iraq, neatly symbolized by Rumsfeld's detachment from reality, certainly didn't help the G.O.P. cause.

Youth Movement at the Polls

From The Washington Post:

Two million more people under the age of 30 voted in the midterm elections than in 2002 . . . .

Twenty-four percent of those 18 to 29 who were eligible voted, the center concluded, up from 20 percent in 2002. The increase is the largest ever among young voters for midterm elections, and it dwarfed the 1 percent rise among the electorate overall from 2002 to 2006.

Exit poll data from the elections suggested that the increase in youth turnout aided Democrats in capturing control of Congress. In House races, young people formed the most supportive age group, with 61 percent voting Democratic.

Democrats Find Lessons In GOP Reign - New Majority Is Mindful Of Rivals' Mistakes, Successes

From The Washington Post:

Democrats preparing to take control of Congress for the first time in over a decade are looking to the Republican takeover in 1995 as an object lesson of what to emulate and what to avoid. They hope to match the legislative energy of the Newt Gingrich era while avoiding at all costs the partisan pitfalls that eventually soured voters on the GOP.

The majority party that takes control of the House and Senate in January will look significantly different from the party that was swept from power in the 1994 elections. The old-guard liberals and staunch union supporters in control then are giving way to a new generation of moderates with more temperate legislative ambitions.

[T]he long-banished Democrats hope to prove their bona fides as lawmakers and challenge a president from the other party to accept their agenda, a game plan taken straight from the Gingrich era's "Contract With America."

But Democrats say they will avoid the overreaching, arrogance and rancorous partisanship that left them virtually powerless on Capitol Hill and spawned an era of political corruption and influence-peddling. Democratic leaders vowed last week to pass major ethics reforms early in the new 110th Congress, and to offer Republicans seats at the negotiating table and ample opportunities to amend bills on the floor -- opportunities that were denied their party.

House Democratic leaders have put forward an ambitious opening salvo for January, a 100-hour legislative blitz that includes raising the minimum wage, boosting alternative-energy research and repealing tax breaks for oil companies. They also want to beef up seaport screening, expand college tuition assistance, boost stem cell research and allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices under Medicare.

House Democrats also hope to approve rules changes to limit the influence of lobbyists, offer the minority party more input on legislation, curb home-state pet projects in spending bills and, possibly, give the District of Columbia voting rights on the House floor.

But once the 100 hours or so pass, pressure will mount on Democrats to confront what many liberals see as the misdeeds of Bush and the Republican Party. The party's base is clamoring for Democrats to repeal tax cuts skewed to the affluent, to revisit the new law authorizing military tribunals for terrorism suspects and to investigate the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

To some Democrats, such calls raise memories of the aggressive -- and ultimately self-destructive -- stance that House Republicans took when they stormed to power in the 1994 election and later voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, only to see Clinton acquitted in the Senate.

"We increased our market share by going where the market was, to moderate, even Republican districts," said Rep. John S. Tanner (Tenn.), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, which has grown to become one of the largest House Democratic factions. "If we're going to hold and consolidate that, we have to understand the reality that the face of the Democratic Caucus has changed from where it was in late '80s and early '90s."

MacKinnon, an aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) during the 1990s, said Democrats must learn from Republican mistakes.

Number one, you don't have a mandate," he said, addressing Democrats. "The American people were just sick of the other side, so don't turn things upside down, because they won't put up with it. . . . And guess what, the American people do want you to work with the other side. Republicans didn't. They let arrogance rule the day, and it hurt them in the end."

"Holding to the Center, Losing My Seat," by Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln D. Chafee

From The New York Times:

LAST Tuesday, I was one of the many moderate Republican casualties of the anti-Bush virulence that swept the country. Despite my having voted against the Iraq war resolution, my reputation for independence, the editorial endorsement of virtually every newspaper in my state, and a job approval rating of 63 percent, I did not win. Why?

Back in December 2000, after one of the closest elections in our nation’s history, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney was the guest at a weekly lunch meeting of a small group of centrist Republicans. Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and I were honored to have the opportunity to visit with him on the eve of a session of Congress in which, because of Republican defeats, the Senate would be evenly divided at 50-50.

As we sat in Senator Specter’s cozy hideaway office and discussed the coming session, I was startled to hear the vice president dismiss suggestions of compromise and instead emphasize an aggressively partisan agenda that included significant tax cuts, the abandonment of international agreements and a muscular, unilateral foreign policy.

I was incredulous. Instead of a new atmosphere of cooperation and civility which, after all, had been the promise of the Bush-Cheney campaign, we seemed ready to return to the poisonous partisanship that marked the Republican-Congress — Clinton White House years.

In response to the vice president’s comments I quickly sent him a letter to reinforce the views I expressed at the lunch. Excerpts follow:

As a follow-up to our meeting, I would like to pose a few thoughts.

In my view, one of the most popular refrains expressed by Governor Bush during the presidential campaign was, “I am a uniter, not a divider.” I believe moderate Republicans can help the new administration develop a unifying agenda in the next session of Congress.

We are on an encouraging course toward reducing the national debt, and I believe we must maintain discipline both in discretionary spending and in proposals for significant tax cuts. This time of continued relative prosperity and peace is an extremely important opportunity for our country to stay on a firm pathway toward elimination of the debt.

Majorities from both parties in Congress expressed support in the past year for reform of the estate tax and repeal of the so-called marriage tax penalty. This appears to be an area of great promise for early bipartisan cooperation.

Progress on environmental issues could do much to enhance the new administration’s program. I hope the new administration will be open to proposals to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil through energy conservation and greater investments in mass transit.

I hope we can work together to resolve some of the controversial subjects that Democrats exploited during the campaign. If we could take such issues off the table in the early part of the new administration, I believe it would strengthen public support for the work ahead.

Obviously, my suggestions were not heeded. Our country faces daunting challenges. I believe my letter of six years ago is worth reviewing as the administration prepares for its last two years in office and as Republicans contemplate the direction our party will head in the future.

Do I have any regrets about Tuesday’s outcome? Yes. I regret that I will not be able to participate in the difficult, but critical, healing process that must take place in our government if Democrats and Republicans are going to solve the serious problems facing this great nation.

I hope the new Congress and the administration that received, in the president’s words, “a thumping,” can find common ground for the common good.

Leon Panetta: Govern, Don’t Gloat

From The New York Times, by Leon E. Panetta, a former Democratic representative, director of the office of management and budget, and White House chief of staff:

WE govern our democracy either by leadership or by crisis. Last Tuesday, the American people sent a clear message that they are sick and tired of government by crisis. They elected Democrats to the House and Senate not to prolong gridlock, but to govern.

There are those who believe that the best political strategy for 2008 is for the Democrats to continue to confront President Bush and seal his fate as a failed president. The danger, however, is that if the Democrats become nothing more than a party of obstruction, it will be only a matter of time before they too will lose the trust of the American people. The lesson of this election is that the public will no longer tolerate incompetence and gridlock, whether it comes from the Republicans or the Democrats.

Twelve years ago, President Clinton suffered a similar defeat when Republicans captured both houses of Congress. As chief of staff to the president at the time, I was asked to comment on the implications of that midterm election for the president and the future of the nation. My response was that the real question was whether a party that had been a minority in Congress was now prepared to work with the president to govern the nation.

Today it is fair to ask the same question of the Democrats.

In 1994, the Republicans decided they would directly challenge the president with their Contract With America. The result was the shutdown of the federal government. Badly damaged by the public outrage over such antics, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich decided that Republicans had to work with the president if they were to survive. This led to a period of cooperation that produced, among other achievements, a balanced federal budget and welfare reform. The Republicans held their majority in 1996.

In the wake of this election, the Democrats and the president face the same choice: gridlock or cooperation?

While both sides are speaking the words of reconciliation, nothing will really change until they can trust each other. After six years of partisan trench warfare, that will not be easy. It begins with a cease-fire on the rhetoric of cheap shots and ultimatums. Karl Rove and other political consultants need to take a long vacation. Both sides need to speak honestly with each other and be willing to compromise.

The legislative work can begin on areas where there is likely consensus: immigration reform, lobbying and ethics reform, and education with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.

If that works, Congress and the administration can move on to negotiate tougher issues like establishing long-term budget discipline, expanding energy alternatives, fixing the prescription drug benefit and increasing the minimum wage.

And, finally, on the war in Iraq, despite the bitter differences, both the Democrats and the president face the same brutal reality. We need a new strategy to stabilize Iraq so that our troops can begin to come home without leaving a disaster behind. The president took an important step by replacing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates. The Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, of which I am a member, will soon make its recommendations, which we hope will provide the beginning of a unified strategy.

Democracy needs the trust of the people. But that can only occur if our elected leaders can trust one another. That is not only good politics, it just happens to be good for the country.

In Gates Selection, White House Hopes to Close Rift Between State and Defense

From The New York Times:

President Bush selected Robert M. Gates as his new defense secretary in part to close a long-running rift between the Defense Department and the State Department that has hobbled progress on Iraq, keeping the two agencies at odds on issues ranging from reconstruction to detaining terrorism suspects, according to White House officials and members of Mr. Gates’s inner circle.

While Mr. Gates, a former director of central intelligence, had long been considered for a variety of roles, over the past two months Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quietly steered the White House toward replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld with Mr. Gates, who had worked closely with Ms. Rice under the first President Bush. One senior participant in those discussions, who declined to be identified by name while talking about internal deliberations, said, “everyone realizes that we don’t have much time to get this right” and the first step is to get “everyone driving on the same track.”

The question now is whether it is simply too late to achieve President Bush’s goal of a stable and democratic Iraq, even if Mr. Gates and Ms. Rice are able to work together as smoothly in altering policy as they did 15 years ago on a very different kind of problem, managing the American response to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

A few members of the Iraq Study Group — the commission created in March at the urging of members of Congress and led by James A. Baker III, from which Mr. Gates stepped down on Friday — have wondered aloud in recent days whether the insurgency and sectarian conflict in Iraq may be too far advanced to reverse.

[It is not] clear how Mr. Gates will deal with Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney worked for years to protect Mr. Rumsfeld, who had hired him for his first government job, and the top echelons of the Defense Department have been peppered with Cheney protégés. Many of them have told associates they expect to be leaving, as Mr. Gates takes over with a mandate, in Mr. Bush’s words, to approach the job with “fresh eyes.”

[T]ogether with Ms. Rice, Mr. Gates is expected to have to put into action recommendations by the study group that are likely to call for initiatives involving European allies and Iraq’s neighbors in the Middle East. The new plans are expected to mix diplomacy, the training of Iraqi troops and the use of American force to quell the violence in Baghdad, and to require close coordination between the Departments of State and Defense.

Incoming Democrats to put populism before ideology - say voters, many of them independents & Republicans, were tired of the partisanship & gridlock

From The New York Times:

The newly elected Democratic class of 2006, which is set to descend on the Capitol next week, will hardly be the first freshmen to arrive in Washington promising to make a difference.

The last time Congress changed hands, the Republican freshman class of 1994 roared into town under the leadership of Newt Gingrich as speaker and quickly advanced a conservative agenda of exceptional ambition.

Many in the class of 2006, especially those who delivered the new Democratic majorities by winning Republican seats, show little appetite for that kind of ideological crusade. But in interviews with nearly half of them this week, the freshmen — 41 in the House and 9 in the Senate, including one independent — conveyed a keen sense of their own moment in history, and a distinct world view: they say they were given a rare opportunity by voters, many of them independents and Republicans, who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington.

Now, they say, they have to produce — to deal with long-festering problems like access to affordable health care and the loss of manufacturing jobs, and to find a bipartisan consensus for an exit strategy in Iraq, a source of continuing division not only between but also within the parties.

Many of them say they must also, somehow, find a way to address the growing anxiety among voters about a global economy that no longer seems to work for them. There is a strong populist tinge to this class.

In general, they set themselves an extraordinary (political veterans might say impossible) task: to avoid the ideological wars that have so dominated Congress in recent years, to be pragmatists, and to change the tone in Washington after a sharply partisan campaign.

These attitudes could lead to tensions with the party’s liberal base in Congress — many of the party’s expected committee chairmen are traditional liberals — and thus occasional headaches over the next two years for the Democratic leaders, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid.

But Democratic strategists say both leaders recognize that the new Democratic majority was elected, in large part, from Republican-leaning districts and states. If those new members vote in a purely partisan way, they — and the majority — will quickly be put at risk.

Representative Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat who recruited many of these candidates as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, described the group as “moderate in temperament and reformers in spirit.” Conservatives tend to highlight the conservatism in the new class as a sign that Democrats are essentially ceding ground to the right on issues like gun control and abortion.

But many of these freshmen Democrats are hard to pigeonhole ideologically. Even among the most socially conservative, there is a strong streak of economic populism that is a unifying force.

That economic populism extends, for many candidates, to a new emphasis on expanding health coverage. Congressional Democrats who lived through the Clinton administration’s failed effort to create a national health insurance plan, which many believe was a crucial factor in the Democrats’ losses in 1994, have been wary of broad health legislation for years. (And being in the minority, they were unable to do much about it, regardless.) But the class of ’06 is adamant that something major can, and will, be done.

Most of these new Democrats said they were also committed to changes in the new Medicare prescription drug program; in fact, giving the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies is one of the first items of business in the Democrats’ “Six for ’06 Agenda.” The agenda also includes an increase in the minimum wage and expansion of embryonic stem cell research.

The flip side to this, Democratic strategists say, is that Republicans could peel off a critical mass of conservative Democrats on certain issues. Some veterans on Capitol Hill remember the Democratic Congress of the early Reagan years, when conservative Democrats regularly broke ranks on tax cuts.

The true challenge to any new climate of bipartisanship will most likely come over Iraq. Many of the freshmen said they looked to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group — led by James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, and former Representative Lee H. Hamilton — as an invaluable vehicle for consensus building.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

How the Georgia Legislature fared in the 2006 election

From The Macon Telegraph:

The makeup of the state Senate remains 34 Republicans and 22 Democrats. The GOP picked up six seats in the state House of Representatives, but four of those were Democrats who defected. The other two were open seats.

Friday, November 10, 2006

GOP Moderates' Ouster Widens House Divide

From The Washington Post:

Tuesday's electoral upheaval wiped out many of the few remaining Republican moderates in Congress, further cementing the geographic partitioning of the House and potentially widening the ideological divisions that have contributed to partisanship and gridlock on Capitol Hill.

At a time when President Bush and congressional leaders in both parties are preaching the importance of bipartisanship, the structural realities of where the two parties now get most of their House votes may create enormous obstacles to greater harmony and cooperation.

Prospects for legislative action may hinge on whether Bush decides to seek accommodation with Democrats and to build any victories with a truly bipartisan coalition or whether House Republicans, now a smaller and more ideologically homogenous caucus, press vigorously for a reassertion of conservative policies and initiatives.

Tuesday's election results accelerated the geographical realignment of the House that began with the 1994 landslide, which was fueled by the transformation of congressional districts in the South from Democratic to Republican. Republicans picked up 20 seats in the South that year, shifting the geographic center of the GOP to a region where the party was dominated by religious and social conservatives.

What happened this week was, in the eyes of many political analysts, an almost inevitable backlash after a decade of Republican rule in Congress, during which many of the leaders came from Southern states, and GOP policies designed to appeal to the party's most conservative elements.

This year, Democrats made big gains in the Northeast and Midwest, helped by opposition to the war in Iraq. Exit polls showed the president and the Republican brand more unpopular in the Northeast than anywhere else in the country. The party lost roughly a third of its 36 House seats in that region -- and came close to losing several more.

The results produced a historic shift in the balance of regional power in Congress. The majority party in the House is now the minority party among Southern states for the first time since the 83rd Congress in 1953-1954. The same holds for the new Democratic-controlled Senate, except for a brief period in the 1980s.