Saturday, July 29, 2006

NYT: Lieberman Not Bipartisan

The New York Times chronicles the difficult re-election campaign of Senator Joe Lieberman, and discusses how he was slow to realize the trouble his campaign was in. They note that some worry it may be too late to organize 'a strong turnout operation.'

That seems a well-founded worry, if Kevin Rennie was correct when he wrote a little while ago that Lieberman was unable even to accurately identify his supporters.

Oddly, Republicans have developed a real interest in this race. If Lieberman wins the primary, this contest will go to the back burner and Lieberman will be re-elected in a walk. If Lamont wins however, several scenarios develop in which Republicans gain: either Alan Schlesinger or a replacement Republican candidate wins a 3-way race, Lieberman accepts the Republican nomination and wins, or Lieberman wins as an Independent, but elects not to caucus with Democrats.

Apart from these observations, this piece gives us a reason to read the Times tomorrow. It notes:

[The editorial page of The New York Times on Sunday endorsed Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a “warped version of bipartisanship” in his dealings with Mr. Bush on national security.]

Can you not wait to read how the New York Times will explain to Joe Lieberman how bipartisanship works? Perhaps Paris Hilton may write a piece about avoiding the limelight, and Donald Trump will offer something on humility.

A piece as funny as this is likely to be gives you reason to get up early on a Sunday morning.

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The USS Indianapolis

On this day in 1945, a Japanese sub sank the USS Indianapolis, which had just delivered the Hiroshima bomb to the Island of Tinian:

1945 Japanese sink the USS Indianapolis

On this day in 1945, Japanese warships sink the American cruiser Indianapolis, killing 883 seamen in the worst loss in the history of the U.S. navy.

As a prelude to a proposed invasion of the Japanese mainland, scheduled for November 1, U.S. forces bombed the Japanese home islands from sea and air, as well as blowing Japanese warships out of the water. The end was near for Imperial Japan, but it was determined to go down fighting. Just before midnight of the 29th, the Indianapolis, an American cruiser that was the flagship of the Fifth Fleet, was on its way, unescorted, to Guam, then Okinawa. It never made it. It was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Interestingly, the sub was commanded by a lieutenant who had also participated in the Pearl Harbor invasion.

There were 1,196 crewmen onboard the Indianapolis; over 350 died upon impact of the torpedo or went down with the ship. More than 800 fell into the Pacific. Of those, approximately 50 died that first night in the water from injuries suffered in the torpedo explosion; the remaining seamen were left to flounder in the Pacific, fend off sharks, drink sea water (which drove some insane), and wait to be rescued. Because there was no time for a distress signal before the Indianapolis went down, it was 84 hours before help arrived. This was despite the fact that American naval headquarters had intercepted a message on July 30 from the Japanese sub commander responsible for sinking the Indianapolis, describing the type of ship sunk and its location. (The Americans assumed it was an exaggerated boast and didn't bother to follow up.) Only 318 survived; the rest were eaten by sharks or drowned. The Indianapolis's commander, Captain Charles McVay, was the only officer ever to be court-martialed for the loss of a ship during wartime in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Had the attack happened only three days earlier, the Indianapolis would have been sunk carrying special cargo-the atom bomb, which it delivered to Tinian Island, northeast of Guam, for scientists to assemble.

Ths incident was memorably described in Jaws, although Robert Shaw got the date wrong (July 29, not June 29):

You can read more about the Indianapolis here. Be sure to check out the section dealing with the Congressional resolution in 2000, which expressed support for exonerating McVay for the loss of the ship. In 2001, Navy Secretary Gordon R. England ordered McVay's record amended to exonerate him.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

House Vote on Minimum Wage

It looks like the House may pass an increase in the minimum wage. As I have noted before, this is an extraordinary example of one-sided reporting of an issue. The only reason that there has been no increase in the minimum wage for some years is that Democrats have insisted on a 'stand-alone' increase, and have refused to support an increase tied to any business tax incentives. This may prevent a minimum wage increase this year as well.

Passing an increase will enhance the prospects for enacting an immigration bill, if only because few Republicans will want to hit the campaign trail with an increase in the minimum wage as the most noteworthy achievement of this Congressional term.

Update: The House passed the minimum wage increase by a vote of 230-180, at about 1:30 this morning. The measure was married to a cut in the death tax, and Democrats were incensed that they were forced to vote against a minimum wage increase because it was married to something they oppose so stridently. Of course, they've had the chance to 'pick their poison' because they've opposed it before when Republicans have married it to other items.

In the end, only 34 Democrats voted in favor of the measure, and most are either in Red states or otherwise face tough races this year. Here's the list of Democratic yes votes: Neil Abercrombie, John Barrow, Melissa Bean, Shelley Berkley, Marion Berry, Dan Boren, Leonard Boswell, Rick Boucher, Allen Boyd, Sherrod Brown, Ed Case, Ben Chandler, Bud Cramer, Henry Cuellar, Lincoln Davis, Chet Edwards, Harold Ford, Bart Gordon, Stephanie Herseth, William Jefferson, Jim Marshall, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Charles Melancon, Alan Mollohan, Dennis Moore, Collin Peterson, Nick Rahall, Mike Ross, Bobby Rush, Ted Strickland, John Tanner, Edolphus Towns and David Wu.

Now on the merits, one can make the case for a stand-alone increase in the minimum wage, but Democrats certainly can't be surprised that a Republican majority does not give them exactly the legislation they want. And considering that they've refused to compromise at all on a minimum wage increase, they can't complain that the majority makes the vote painful for them.

As I say, they picked their poison.

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Shootings at Jewish Federation of Seattle

Follow the news with the Blue Crab.

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Close House Race in Georgia

Right now, Tom Reynolds and his team at the NRCC are hoping that every race counts in the battle for control of the House next year. That's because most agree that the likeliest outcomes are that Republicans lose control by a significant margin, or that the outcome is very close. Given this choice, Reynolds will take 'close' every time.

That's why news like this is heartening. The latest poll in Georgia's 12th Congressional district shows a dead heat between incumbent Democrat John Barrow and former Representative Max Burns. A GOP win here will help compensate for likely losses elsewhere.

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McCain vs. Giuliani (& Others)

I'm linking to the poll currently posted at Expose the Left, a great blog that you should check out on a daily basis.

In doing so, I'm particularly interested in the views of conservatives on Giuliani vs. McCain. Obviously, we conservatives don't completely embrace either. And it is commonly and widely assumed that because McCain is closer to the conservative position on gay rights and abortion that conservatives, when forced to choose between the two, will back McCain.

I can see that point. The recent National Review cover featuring Giuliani may cost a lot of votes all by itself.

That said, I have expressed the view that conservatives are more likely to regard Giuliani as a straight talker than McCain. John McCain often presents himself as 'one of us' - on spending, abortion, defense, and many other issues. However, he then happily turns against us on issues like the Federal Marriage Amendment, campaign finance reform, immigration, and the '11th commandment,' (where no one seems happier to highlight his disagreement with other Republicans than McCain).

Giuliani on the other hand, has no real track record with conservatives. So we don't have a grudge against him. Sure we disagree with him, but we regard him as a straight shooter. So if he tells primary voters 'as the Republican nominee for President, and hopefully as President, I'll support the majority of Republicans who oppose abortion, oppose new rights for gays, and oppose rewarding those who break US law,' would you be inclined to believe him and support him?

I would, and most conservatives I know would. If we represent the majority, then Giuliani will have a clear advantage over McCain among conservatives in the primary. Feel free to append your comments, and I'll summarize the results in a later post.

And now, the Expose the Left poll.

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Democrats' Empty Promises to Israel

Many bloggers are commenting today on this piece by Peter Beinart in the Washington Post, regarding the Democrats' pandering to Jewish voters. Read Captain's Quarters or PowerLine for their usual incisive commentary.

Rather than try to improve upon their comments, I'll simply offer my typical pointless political commentary. Specifically, this raises the stakes in Joe Lieberman's race. One of the few trusted defenders of Israel in the Democratic party appears that he's about to be kicked out. There are rumors that Republicans are trying to find a way to offer him their Senate nomination. Even if this doesn't happen, he becomes a powerful symbol of the Democratic opposition to a muscular foreign policy. And should Lieberman become a Republican, or caucus with Republicans in the Senate, they'll make every effort to use him to enhance their appeal among Jewish voters both this year, and in the 2008 Presidential election.

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DePaul Professor Fired for Defending Israel's Right to Exist

ALa has the story here.

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The Palm Leaf of Axanar to Both of You...

For your heroic trivia erudition.

Pakistan Seeks Madrasa Reform

This is not something I know a lot about, but it is interesting - both because it involves Indian-Pakistani cooperation, and because it involves madrasa reform. I'll look around a few other blogs and post more if I come up with anything interesting.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pelosi's New Ideas & Nuanced Approach

The oft-quoted definition of insanity is to continue to do the same things and expect different results. By that definition, Nancy Pelosi is insane.

In a Boston Globe piece too rich to be missed, she says that Democrats this year will not repeat the mistakes they made in past campaigns - when they failed to 'stand up to' the President, and did not reach people whose 'personal interests are served by voting Democratic.'

This piece is so full of mistakes it's hard to detail them.

Pelosi complains that Democrats do not have an 'alliterative slogan' like 'God, gays and guns.' Yet 'God, gays and guns' IS the Democratic slogan! Does she think Republican candidates run commercials where they say 'God, gays and guns - vote for me?'

She says that voters are voting against their 'personal interest.' Perhaps she means 'economic interest,' since personal interest also involves cultural, religious, and other questions - a fact which Republicans at least, realize. Regardless, can she not acknowledge that some voters might judge their personal financial economic interest be with low taxes and free markets? Or is your message 'you're too stupid to look out for yourself.' That will go over well, even if it's not alliterative.

In Pelosi's defense, she seems to stumble upon something when she says 'they've not heard a Democratic economic message that addresses their needs.' This is likely to continue, because the only economic point she mentions is a need to help Americans get jobs. With a national unemployment rate under 5%, that is not going to appeal to too many people.

And her overall message? The columnist describes it 'a still-muddy, six-point theme,' dealing with healthcare, gasoline prices, college costs, the minimum wage, Social Security, and the deficit. Well! I'm convinced! Oh, don't get it yet? Let me present the Democratic message for you:

1) The Problem: healthcare, gas, college, wages, Social Security, the deficit;
2) The Democratic response: FIX IT
3) So Vote Democratic!

Who knew it was so easy!

She also says that Democrats need to address Iraq. The author notes the challenge, since polls show that a greater percentage of Americans disapprove of Democratic handling of Iraq than do that of the President.

How does Pelosi prospose to convince people that Democrats will do better than the President? What new idea has she come up with? Shes says that on Iraq, the Bush administration was ``wrong on the premise going in, wrong on the reception we would receive, wrong on the reconstruction and how soon Iraq could pay for it, and wrong on an exit strategy of mission accomplished. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong, and they say `stay the course.' "

How much has Pelosi learned from the mistakes of the last Democratic campaign on Iraq? Is her message much different from Kerry's? He called Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," and said "I would not have done just one thing differently than the president on Iraq, I would have done everything differently than the president on Iraq."

Perhaps I'm missing some subtle nuance, but it looks to me like Pelosi just added some more 'wrongs.' Kerry will be kicking himself when he learns this was the key. "If only I had said that President was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong-de-dong-flippin-dong, I'd be President today!'

As I often say, the best friend that Republican candidates have is the Democratic leadership. Pelosi has not found a single new thing to say from what Democrats have said before. If Democrats win the majority this year with thes message, it will not be through any effort of their own, but pure luck.

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The Good Side of Communism and Terrorism

According to Galley Slaves and Aintitcool, there's another movie to avoid this summer: the Ant Bully.

Looking for an antidote? Add this to the queue. Guaranteed great entertainment and message for kids.

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House to Vote on Minimum Wage - Tomorrow?

National Journal's Congress Daily (subscription required) reports that the House is likely to vote tomorrow on a mimimum wage increase:

House Leaders Could Bring Up Min. Wage Package Friday

Bowing to pressure from GOP moderates and the political realities of an election year, House Republican leaders are now moving toward bringing a minimum wage increase to the floor Friday, two senior Republican members said today. If a Friday vote is unrealistic, House leaders will commit the House to a floor vote shortly after Congress returns in September. "We've got a package that we've put together, it's not exhaustive but it's significant," according to one senior member. The cornerstone of the package would be to attach a minimum wage increase to legislation on association health plans. AHPs are favored by business groups and have passed the House several times. The package also is expected to include a handful of carve-outs for specific industries and potentially other add-ons that seek to lower small business healthcare costs. House Speaker Hastert told reporters Wednesday that a vote was not likely before the break, but an hourlong House Republican Conference meeting earlier today -- where about 30 members spoke -- appears to have prompted leaders to change course. "It's under consideration," was Majority Leader Boehner's only comment. Hastert and Boehner oppose a wage hike, but a significant portion of the Conference has been pressuring leaders to allow a vote.

One GOP source said the legislation is expected to boost the minimum wage to $7.25 over a three-year period, but that figure has not been finalized. Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., said discussions were continuing on the details, but one option was to index the minimum wage rate to inflation, which could lower the proposed $7.25 target. Negotiators also were weighing carve-outs for small businesses, particularly farms and restaurants, to make the wage rate less onerous. The National Restaurant Association has been particularly vocal in its opposition to a wage hike, and to make it more palatable, Republicans were seeking to include a provision extending a "tip credit" to employers in states where it is not allowed. In states that allow the credit, employers -- largely restaurants -- are required to pay tipped employees $2.13 an hour and apply their tipped earnings to make up the balance of the $5.15 an hour minimum wage. Employers can apply the tip credit only to the extent it covers the entire $3.02 gap between wages and tips.

Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., who is a top Democratic target this cycle, supports the wage hike and is advocating the carve-outs. "I've got a lot of restaurants in my district, so I need a carve-out for tips. I've got a lot of farmers in my district so summer-hire carve-outs are important to consider," he said. Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., said that coupling the wage hike with legislation to make it easier for small businesses to provide health insurance was the right approach and would help his constituents who do not have coverage. Not all minimum wage advocates believe a July vote is politically necessary. "My own personal view is that the only people paying attention to campaigns right now are candidates and consultants; most people are not focusing on it," said retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y. "My view is that we should put together a good package and do it in the first part of September."
-- by Susan Davis and Peter Cohn

This package will have a tough time passing. Many Republicans oppose a minimum wage increase, so Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measure. Most Democrats will oppose the bill, holding out for a 'stand-alone' minimum wage increase, and seeing a chance to deal Republicans a defeat. The House leadership will press moderate members to support the bill, to help neutralize this as a political issue.

Still, given the challenging prospects in the House and Democratic grandstanding in the Senate, a minimum wage increase is far from certain.

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Say It Ain't So, Shoeless Floyd!

A little too much vroom in the Tour winner's sample, it would seem. Floyd's gone to ground.

Turkey Won't Invade Iraq

At least, it appears that the Turkish government is satisfied that with US help and support, Kurdish separatists in Iraq and Turkey will remain under control.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Doha Failure Leads to Push for Farm Subsidies

I talked about how the apparent death of the Doha Round will lead to new pressure for protectionism. How nice of the farm community to provide a quick and ready example.

While farmers' groups previously supported the temporary extension of existing programs until a Doha Round was concluded, they will now push for full reauthorizations of federal farm programs, since ' the farm economy is in a shaky financial situation' due to high energy prices.

No word yet on whether transportation, health care, entertainment, news-gathering, animal welfare, machine tools, mining, home improvement, or other sectors are also impacted by high energy prices. If it turns out that they are, I would imagine they are deserving of federal support as well.

Update: Michael Barone comments on this as well, and notes (as I should have) that farm-state legislators had feared that a Doha agreement would commit the US to dramatically-reduced farm subsidies. 'Fortunately' it seems that there's no longer any such concern.

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House Leaders 'Get It' (Sometimes)

The House Republican leadership is announcing that if a lobbying reform bill is not agreed to and enacted into law (as will probably be the case), then they will reform earmarking independently, through House rules.

This is both good and bad. On the one hand, it makes it tougher to enact meaningful reform in the Senate, and puts more pressure on Tom Coburn, John McCain, and Bill Frist (according to the article) to force action on Senate rules. On the other, it allows the House to avoid any 'least common denominator' approach that the Senate might have pushed on them.

It's likely that the approach adopted in House rules will be the same one included for the House in the ethics and lobbying reform bill. That is, forced disclosure of earmarks, with some hurdles set to the introduction of earmarks at the last minute.

Along with the enhanced rescission bill that the Senate may consider in September, Congressional leadership clearly wants to leave fiscal conservatives with a pleasant taste in their mouths before the election. And in a major victory, there is apparently agreement that any rule change will apply to the transportation committee, limiting the enormous abuse of earmarking that has become standard in transportation authorization legislation.

Don't fool yourself that this will make a big difference in overall spending levels. Any such effect will be negligible, since overall decisions on spending levels are made separate of any considerations of earmarks. Nevertheless, anything that limits the earmarking of federal dollars is probably a good thing.

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AMLO is Losing It

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is clearly losing the public opinion battle, in his effort to convince Mexico that he won the Presidential election. Thus, he turns to desparate measures. Mexico City's Reforma reports: "I am the President of Mexico - AMLO," and "AMLO Compares Calderon to Salinas," a reference to the reviled, criminal former President of Mexico.

Associated Press carries the first of those two stories here.

Meanwhile, the legal process continues to churn slowly toward the naming of Calderon as the new President by September 6.

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Scrappleface Nails Kerry

Scott Ott figures out Bush's next move in the Middle East - send Kerry:

Bush Sends Kerry to Solve Israel-Hezbollah War

By Scott Ott, Editor-in-Chief,
News Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher.

(2006-07-24) — After learning that the battle between Israel and Hezbollah could have been prevented if Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, had been the U.S. Commander in Chief, President George Bush today dispatched Sen. Kerry to the war-torn region to “get this thing solved.”

Sen. Kerry, a career Vietnam veteran, who told a political gathering in Detroit yesterday that “we must destroy Hezbollah” and that the president “has been absent on diplomacy“, said he would bring his own brand of “diplomatic destruction” to the terrorist group.

“Senator Kerry’s presence and intellect alone should bring a swift end to hostilities,” said Mr. Bush, who admitted that he, and the State Department, had “kind of put the Middle East thing on the back burner” while following televised coverage of the Tour de France bicycle race.

In related news, as hostilities along the Lebanon border approached the two-week mark, the crisis was officially added to the list of “bad things that would not have happened during a John Kerry presidency.”

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Harris in More Trouble in Florida

How can I keep writing headlines about the problems in the Harris campaign? I'm running out of... what's the opposite of 'superlatives?'

Anyway, her poll numbers continue to drop. (Hat tip: Political Wire).

So will Republicans seek to replace her as a candidate, if she manages to win the primary?

Update: By the way, if this rumor advances further, expect a reprise of the hypocritical Democratic attack that once a primary has taken place, Republicans should not change the nominee. While some (even me) might agree with that charge, it's not one that Democrats cared about when they had to replace Bob Torricelli on the ballot. The sole reason they had to replace him was that he was a sure loser - which would represent a perfect parallel to the Harris circumstance.

Remember too, that Republicans are trying to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot, and may try to replace Bob Ney as well. It could wind up being both messy and embarrassing to replace several candidates after the primaries have taken place.

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Reuters Opines on Keira Knightley

I don't know that I disagree, but I would probably not have included my comment in the URL for the photo.

Update: A commenter ruins my fun by pointing out that I missed the obvious. The photo is associated with a story (linked below the picture) that says that Knightley is denying rumors of anorexia.

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Sabato Explains Why War May Help GOP

Or why it may hurt. Key sentence:

This unexpected and nasty little war is an unwelcome reminder of just how quickly the political sands can shift, and it is further warning--if any were needed--that predictions about an election months away are often as unreliable and unsteady as those sands.

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Poll Confirms Cantwell is in Trouble

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire reports the latest poll.

This race may really complicate Democratic efforts to make significant gains in the Senate. In fact, this seems an odd year for the DSCC. They face close races to retain seats in Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington - three states that always seemed pretty safe for Democrats in most circumstances.

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Why is the UN in Lebanon?

Blue Crab covers what the UN is doing in Lebanon. That is, he provides some guidance as to what their activities are.

But on two separate news reports this morning, I heard the UN's people in Lebanon referred to interchangeably as 'observers' and 'peacekeepers.' The two words are not even close to being synonyms. The sloppiness of the terminology is clearly due to the fact that they don't really have a clear mission.

It is obvious that the UN contingent has failed massively at being 'peacekeepers.' And the last thing that we want is 'observers' in a war zone. It is a tragedy that 4 people have been killed (reportedly) at the UN position in Lebanon. But they appear to have been put in harm's way for no good reason.

As diplomats labor over the terms of a ceasefire and decide where troops should come from to police one, they should have this tragedy in mind. The last UN team appears to have served no useful purpose. Let's make sure that the next soldiers, or observers, or peacekeepers who are put in harm's way have a clear and achieveable mission.

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Murtha Raises Profile

Although it stands to reason that John Murtha will have a tougher re-election fight this year than in the past, I've seen little to suggest that Diana Irey has really made it a competitive race yet. Most notably, analysts like Chuck Todd at the Hotline, Stu Rothenberg, and Charlie Cook - who are paid to know where the real races are - have named this as a contest to watch.

Murtha's announcement that he intends to campaign for 41 Democratic colleagues this year can be seen in two ways: it could be a sign of how confident he is that he can leave his home district for a lengthy amount of time during prime campaign time; or, it could be a foolish signal to his constituents that he has forgotten about them:

To raise profile, Murtha will stump for 41 Dems
By Alexander Bolton

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who has suspended his race to become majority leader in the event that the Democrats capture the House, plans to campaign in 41 races around the country where he said party leaders believe he can be helpful.

This is a dramatic increase in activity for Murtha, who did not campaign for House candidates in 2004, according to his spokeswoman.

Helping Democratic candidates could pay dividends in a race for majority leader against Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Murtha says he thinks such a race is likely and told The Hill that if the election were held now Democrats would be catapulted into the majority.

...Hoyer, Murtha’s potential rival, is planning to travel to 36 districts to campaign for vulnerable Democratic incumbents as well as challengers, according to a Hoyer aide.

“Mr. Hoyer has already campaigned and recruited in 51 districts this cycle, plans to travel to almost 40 more before Election Day and has spent five months on the road for House Democrats as whip,” Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards said. “He continues to work tirelessly to take back the House and make Nancy Pelosi the first woman Speaker.”

A spokeswoman for Murtha said her boss is expected to campaign for a mix of Democratic lawmakers and challengers.

Murtha may be calculating that he needs to do more to help candidates if he is to counter Hoyer’s prolific fundraising for Democrats over years. Hoyer has given $770,000 to Democratic candidates this election cycle, more than any other lawmaker, his aides say. He has also raised $2 million for candidates this cycle, they add.

If Democrats win the House in November, freshmen could determine who becomes majority leader. One Democratic candidate who said Murtha offered to come into his district said the senior Pennsylvanian is doing “spadework for his run to majority leader.”

“Why else would he be wanting to come into districts like mine?” the candidate said, noting that President Bush carried it by more than 10 points in 2000 and 2004.

...But some Democrats, particularly centrist lawmakers who support Hoyer, question whether Murtha can be helpful in many races that their party needs to win if they are to capture control of the House.

“I’m sure Mr. Murtha is going to be traveling extensively, but I bet you he won’t be going to Blue Dog districts,” one lawmaker said, referring to members of the caucus of centrist Democrats from the South. “I can’t imagine that he will be very welcome in many Blue Dog districts...”

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Writing off Rowley

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that Democrats are giving up on a race in which they once had high hopes - the challenge of Colleen Rowley to John Kline:

Democrats Writing Off Rowley Race
July 26, 2006
By Dan Rasmussen,
Roll Call Staff

National and Minnesota Democrats seem about ready to walk away from Coleen Rowley’s ill-fated campaign to unseat Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — just as her campaign manager recently did.

Many in the party had hoped that Rowley’s national fame — Time magazine named her Person of the Year in 2002 for being a whistle-blower at the FBI — would make her an exciting, appealing candidate in an otherwise Republican-leaning district. But now some state Democrats say Rowley’s first run for political office is going so badly that they’re turning their sights on damage control.

“She’s running the single worst campaign that could be run,” said one state Democratic insider. “I’m worried that if she’s running a weak race in the 2nd it’s going to hurt the statewide candidates. What’s going to get people to turn out and vote Democratic?”

Despite the criticism, Rowley’s new campaign manager, Terry Rogers, said voters are upset with the status quo and will want to unseat Kline in November.

“People will take pot shots, but so what?” he said. “Coleen is a solid candidate and she has indefatigable energy. Her opponent votes with George Bush and Tom DeLay 98 percent of the time.”

...Rowley has found herself on the defensive almost from the start. Her campaign has been damaged by a high-profile mistake and a recently published report criticizing her performance at the FBI prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

Earlier in the year, a doctored photo that showed Kline’s head on the body of Col. Wilhelm Klink, a Nazi character from the old TV show “Hogan’s Heroes,” appeared on Rowley’s Web site — an attack that attracted national donors to Kline’s campaign.

Rowley’s internal criticism of the FBI’s work on preventing terrorist attacks later earned her a front-page appearance on Time magazine. But late last month, the inspector general released a report criticizing Rowley’s handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui case.

The report dismissed Rowley’s allegations of sabotage and misconduct, and said Rowley herself made mistakes in the handling of the case.

“We believe it is important to state that we did not conclude that any FBI employee committed intentional misconduct, or that anyone attempted to deliberately ‘sabotage’ the Minneapolis FBI’s request for a ... warrant, as Rowley wrote in her letter to FBI Director Mueller,” the report stated. “Contrary to her assertions, we found no evidence, and we do not believe, that any FBI employee deliberately sabotaged the Moussaoui ... request or committed intentional misconduct.”

Rowley’s national security credentials also have to be compared to those of Kline, who spent 25 years in the Marine Corps and has a son serving in Iraq.

Rowley’s campaign hit another stumbling block recently when Kline released a blistering letter criticizing Rowley for misstating his position on the issue of border security and falsely attributing a quote.

But perhaps the biggest criticism lobbed Rowley’s way from national Democrats is that she has resisted attempts to get help from seasoned campaign professionals — particularly on the fundraising front.

Kline had more than five times as much cash on hand as of June 30, $667,000 to Rowley’s $120,000. He had raised more than $1 million this cycle to Rowley’s total of $389,000.

A national Democratic official had little hope for Rowley’s campaign.

“It’s evident the campaign hasn’t materialized as well as we’d hoped,” the official said. “But Kline is vulnerable and it’s a Democratic year and all those other platitudes...”

Every race that Republicans can eliminate from the Democratic target list helps hold the majority - the only thing that truly matters to the GOP on election day.

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DNC AWOL in State Party-Building

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), headed by Charlie Schumer, has sent $4.6 million to more than a dozen states for advertising, get-out-the-vote, and similar efforts. This compensates for funds that have traditionally come from the DNC, but are now being spent by Howard Dean on the '50-State Strategy:'

DSCC Cash Building State Infrastructures
July 26, 2006
By Lauren W. Whittington,
Roll Call Staff

With the Democratic National Committee financially hamstrung, Senate Democrats flooded key state parties with a total of $4.6 million in the past three months to help fund air and ground wars in more than a dozen competitive races.
It was the latest evidence that House and Senate campaign strategists are not relying on the national party to build the infrastructure needed to pick up seats in battleground states.

Transfers to state parties accounted for more than 40 percent of the $10.9 million that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent in the second quarter, with Nebraska, Montana and Missouri being the top recipients.

...Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee transferred just $400,000 to affiliated committees from April to June, a small part of the $8.9 million the committee spent overall.

The DSCC had almost a 2-1 cash-on-hand advantage over the NRSC at the end of June.

But the National Republican Committee had a $44.7 million to $10.8 million cash lead over the DNC on June 30. It is expected that the RNC will have to help Senate Republicans fill in the gaps when it comes to funding competitive races down the stretch.

...Party strategists privately suggested that the largess of the DSCC’s transfers to state parties was to help build the needed infrastructure to win in November — activities that have been funded by the DNC or third-party interests in the past.

“The DSCC is spending more money on grass roots, GOTV, voter protection in 15 or so states than the DNC is doing in 50,” said one strategist familiar with the dispute between the committees.

...A spokesman for the NRSC said the committee has spent directly on behalf of GOP incumbents and challengers, instead of processing the money through state parties.

The NRSC has paid to run ads in Rhode Island, West Virginia and Montana this cycle. The ads in Rhode Island were to boost Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R), who faces a tough primary. In West Virginia, the committee ran ads last year before Sen. Robert Byrd (D) had an announced opponent...

Liberals and fans of Howard Dean have complained that stories like this - which note the complaints of Democratic Congressional leaders about the lack of DNC funds for their campaigns - are an effort to undercut Dean, and frustrate the important effort to be competitive in more states. This may be true.

But if Dean is wrong, Democrats are going to be awfully disappointed in Dean's tenure once it is over. Is his 50-state strategy an important way to ensure Democratic competitiveness for years to come, or is it flushing money down a rathole?

Time will tell.

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Doha Collapse Emboldens Trade Foes

The other day I noted that trade is one of those issues where the ball is either moving one way, or the other. If barriers to trade are not being eliminated, then they are being created. Roll Call (subscription required )reports that others agree:

Trade Lobbyists: Agenda Doesn’t Stop With Doha
July 26, 2006
By Kate Ackley,
Roll Call Staff

Business lobbyists who were supportive of the now-collapsed Doha round of World Trade Organization talks are putting their disappointment aside and placing a positive spin on the outlook for other upcoming trade deals. But opponents of those measures say the Doha breakdown is a sign that the tide is starting to shift in their favor.

Ron Sorini, a former chief U.S. textile negotiator who is now a senior vice president at the firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, said the collapse of WTO talks will put greater emphasis on narrower free-trade agreements.

“U.S. trade policy is going to have to shift now from a multilateral approach to a more bilateral one,” Sorini said...

But Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, said the WTO collapse was a sign of a greater world-wide “political backlash” against the current free-trade model. That backlash, she said, will only give her side further momentum as it seeks to defeat measures like Vietnam and Peru.

The reality Congress has to face, she said, is that broader constituencies, including small businesses, farmers and the religious community — “groups that weren’t in this fight two years ago — are in it, against more of the same. ... My suspicion [is that] the political appetite is calling for a hiatus, a prudent pause on trade. I’ve never seen so many House races” in which candidates are focusing on trade.

Wallach agreed there would be a greater focus on regional trade agreements because of the WTO collapse, but she said the attention will come from both sides.

“Will it make it easier to have them put into place? No,” she said.

Bill Lane, Washington, D.C., director of governmental affairs for Caterpillar Inc., turned to a boxing analogy to sum up his thoughts of the trade fights. Boxer Floyd Patterson, he said, “was knocked down more than anyone and said it’s not about how many times you get knocked down but how many times you get up.”

The Doha round collapse, Lane said, “is a setback” but “it’s my belief that the Congress and the administration are going to be even more determined than they were before” and that they are more likely to move on the Peru and Vietnam deals before the end of the session...

Wallach makes a valid point: one of the reasons that trade opponents have had success is that they organize and activate the opponents of trade, and the minority of people hurt by expanded trade. It's an unfortunate Army of Davids effect.

The answer however, is that business must do a better job of organizing those who benefit from trade, and get them engaged in the trade debate. All consumers benefit from the improved products and prices that trade produces. Most workers benefit from the expanded sales possibilities, as well as the increased efficiency in production that imports allow. However, the small number who are seriously hurt by expanded trade have a greater interest in lobbying than the greater number who enjoy smaller benefits from it. That needs to change.

Business needs to expand the efforts of organizations like Consumers for World Trade, which seeks to educate Americans as to how they benefit from trade. If not, anti-trade forces will continue to gain strength and the gains that have been made since World War II will be lost.

Update: By the way, here is a new face of protectionism. Protectionists are not likely to win fights to increase tariffs; the WTO makes it too difficult. But if Poland and the Baltics can prevent Britain and France from selling 'vodka,' then France and England will prevent US producers from selling 'Cheddar' and 'Brie.' Such preferences are one of many thin wedges that can allow protectionism to flourish.

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Enhanced Rescission to Get September Vote

It's not a line-item veto, darn it!

Well, the scheduling is obviously due to political considerations, but then again I've been touting the political benefits of highlighting concerns about excessive spending. Plus, as long as Congress is doing the right thing, I can forgive them for taking political considerations into account when doing it.

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Earmarks: Not a Lot Has Changed

Why do earmarks remain so difficult to curb? Because politicians believe voters still like them. And there's a reason that people like Rep. Charles Taylor stay in office: they know what the voters like.

Taylor is in a very tough race for re-election in a swing district in North Carolina that rates as a 'must-have' for Democrats to take over the House. He faces Heath Shuler, who so far has looked more like the Tennessee QB than the Redskins failure on the campaign trail.

The Hill reports this AM that Taylor is 'banking on earmarks' for his re-election bid. Professor Larry Sabato explains why:

“Earmarks have helped many a congressman in a competitive district get reelected under adverse political conditions,” said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “People are grateful. It creates jobs, generates additional dollars. … All those people who benefit from earmarks are going to realize the payday may stop if Taylor gets defeated.”

In a way, this is simply another manifestation of the age-old phenomenon that voters hate Congress, but love their Congressman. In this case, voters hate pork-barrel spending, but love a Congressman who attends to district needs. I suspect that the best one can hope for is the system that porkbusters and their supporters in Congress are pushing for: full disclosure of who is responsible for an earmark, and as many procedural hurdles as possible to ensure that they're not super-easy to secure.

Polls show that Taylor trails by 4 percentage points in this race.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Capitol Hill's Most Beautiful People

In honor of blog sweeps month, this is the Hill's list of the 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill. I'll take votes in the comment section on who should be number one. I'll go with Kelli Bondy (right), aide to Rep. Bobby Jindal.

What to say, what to say...

I did not make this list when I was on the Hill... probably because I was working too hard, and not engaging in self-promotion. Presence on the list is a clear indication that you're not working hard enough.

No, no... sounds like sour grapes.

I guess my comment will be - 'check it out - Four of the top five are Republicans!'

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Lieberman to GOP Talk Grows

Political Wire has done a great job of providing the inside scoop on the Connecticut Senate race, and they continue to do so. Today's contribution is speculation regarding Bob Dole's possible role in getting Alan Schlesinger to give up the Republican nomination for the Senate, and his potential replacement by Joe Lieberman.

I have said all along I regarded it as extremely unlikely that Lieberman will wind up as the Republican nominee. I continue to do so. However, it's already been reported that Governor Rell has been working to make this happen, and others clearly are as well. Plus, it does make some sense.

Lieberman as a Republican would probably win, and having been elected as a Republican-Independent, it would be hard for him to support Harry Reid for leader. He would probably have to caucus with the GOP. So there are benefits to both sides. The only downside for Lieberman is that his credibility would take a serious hit. He has been repeating the phrase 'I am a Democrat; I have always been a Democrat; I intend to remain a Democrat' for months. To turn on a dime would not help his credibility.

I think at this point he is likely to run and win as an Independent.

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Left Profits From War Dead

ALa notes that some on the Left are marketing items with the names of those killed in Iraq. They refuse to omit those names to comply with the request of grieving family members. It has led to legislation in several states, as well as a federal law proposed by Representative Dan Boren - a conservative Democrat from Oklahoma.

She makes an excellent point: legislation should not be necessary; those who are doing this should have the common decency to respect the wishes of the grieving.

What I wonder though, is why there is a fair amount of attention given to the despicable acts of the Fred Phelps crowd - protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers - but no attention to this equally offensive act? The media should give some attention to this, as well.

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Plame Leakers Keep Security Clearance

Senator Frank Lautenberg has written to the CIA and learned that to date, no administration official has lost a security clearance in connection with the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity. Apparently Lautenberg thinks someone should lose a security clearance, but I hope he saves his ire for the Berger case where it seems that Berger did not lose his clearance, despite pleading guilty to knowingly taking highly-classified materials from the National Archives.

In fact, Berger got rewarded for his action, because he was dumped from the Kerry campaign. Can you think of anyone who would NOT have been better off by severing association with that train wreck?

There's no mention in the AP report above of Lautenberg's letters regarding security clearances lost in association with the leaks of secret European prisons, SWIFT tracking of terror financing, or any other leaks that actually affected national security. I'm sure those letters are still in process.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Doha Talks Collapse

Meanwhile, in international news that does not get the limelight, the ongoing negotiations in the World Trade Organization have been suspended. The United States felt that Europe was not giving up enough on agricultural market protections, Europe felt that the US was not surrendering enough on agricultural subsidies, and developing nations felt that the US and Europe were not giving up enough on anything.

The situation has many complicating factors. First, Europe has been negotiating by committee - with France having the loudest voice, but only in competition with England, Germany and others. Second, France has a Presidential election next year, and its leadership is unwilling to concede much before the election. Third, President Bush's authority to negotiate deals expires next year, adding to the confusion.

This outcome concerns me greatly, because trade seems to be an area where we either move forward or move backward. If we are not eliminating market barriers, the momentum shifts to those who would close markets - already a very strong constituency. All will lose, but the heavily internationalized economies of the US, Europe, and China may be among the biggest losers in the long run, of a failure to reach a deal.

On the one hand, I should not be surprised. Trade expansion has been the rule since the end of World War II, and all the easy barriers have been negotiated away. The law of diminishing marginal returns tells us that it's easy to eliminate the first 90 percent of trade barriers, but very painful to eliminate the last 10 percent.

At the same time, I can't help but wonder how it is that when the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and China (basically), demonstrates the virtues of the market system, that it is then that the pro-market side is defeated. How is it that we cannot all agree to eliminate trade barriers, reduce taxes, and reduce market interference, when we have the best lesson we could ever ask for to show us why to do these things?

Update: Daniel Drezner provides a useful look at where the talks stand and why they are important. Check it out.

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Space Hotel Launched

Down below I borrowed Blue Crab's post on a West Texas spaceport. Now I'll add to it another borrowed post. This one is for the space hotel just launched by Bigelow Aerospace, which will be ready for occupancy by 2015.

Here's an old article about the Bigelow effort.

This is all courtesy of Vodkapundit.

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John Kerry Makes a Fool of Himself

Check out Wizbang.

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Rothenberg: Too Early to Predict Big Dem Win

Stu Rothenberg says that the Democratic prospects look really good right now, but that it's too early to predict a Democratic takeover.

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West Texas Spaceport

Blue Crab covers the efforts of Jeff Bezos.

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Additional Polling Data Boosts Giuliani

I'm not persuaded that he's a done deal yet; but the paint is starting to come off the Straight Talk Express, I think.

The "McCain as frontrunner" meme has been tired for about a year, now. There just hasn't been irrefutable data to rewrite it until now.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Syria, Iran Threaten Israel

Syria says they will enter the war 'on Lebanon's behalf' if Israeli ground troops enter Lebanon and come too close to Syria. Iran says that Israel has already pushed the button of its own destruction.

I was always told that the dog that barks doesn't bite. Is this the case here?

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Landis Wins Tour

A third American has won the Tour de France.

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Israeli Ground Action in Lebanon Underway

Israelis under the impression they have 168 hours to put things in order before the U.S. demands a ceasefire.