Friday, August 04, 2006

A Change Comes to Men's Basketball

The US men's basketball team has undergone a dramatic change in philosophy, and is now fighting for the opportunity to play in the 2008 Olympics. It's a topic I cover over at Tim Chapman's Blog.

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It's Official: If Fidel Isn't Already Dead...

He's terminal without serious hope of recovery. Note the artful phrasing describing Raul's accession to power: "The word transition does not exist in the vocabulary of Cubans here..."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Immigration Debate Growing More Complex

I have been predicting for some time that the Congress would enact an immigration reform bill this year. However, events of the last few weeks have made me think that maybe I put my first-born at risk too hastily.

In the last few weeks, Republicans have received more bad news regarding their Congressional majorities. Where the June-July period seemed to show signs of the President and GOP candidates surging, that seems to have hit a plateau. Now candidates are hearing more about the potential for a Democratic takeover of one or both Houses.

Further, Members of Congress are (by and large) spending August in their home districts. Congressmen always hear a lot from constituents this month, and return to Washington with a strong inclination that the must do... something. After the Easter recess, they returned to DC shocked at how pervasive was the sentiment that illegal immigration is a problem. What will they hear in August? My sense is that so far, they are hearing that they ought not give in to a legalization compromise on immigration.

So come September, Republicans might well return to Washington with a few big ideas: they may not be in control of Congress in a few months, and they must not compromise on immigration.

But Congress is clearly more likely to deliver a strong enforcement bill under Republican leadership. If no bill is enacted this year and Democrats take over one or both Houses of Congress, a compromise more like McCain-Kennedy becomes very likely. Republicans who want a strong enforcement bill - particularly those in the House - should therefore try to get a deal done before the elections.

But if Senate Democrats see Republicans on the run, and trying to forge a quick enforcement-only deal, they ought to be more emboldened to block it - either by filibuster or more likely, simple foot-dragging. This strategy should give them the chance to pass a 'better deal' from their point of view, after the election.

But then again, if Democrats do this, they may be handing Republicans a huge political opportunity. Congressional leaders could call a special Congressional session in late October to deal solely with immigration. The House would once again pass an enforcement-only bill, and send it to the Senate. Democrats would be forced either to swallow hard and give the Republicans a big victory right before the election, or to filibuster border enforcement.

Who would 'win' politically in such a scenario? Democrats might well motivate their base, but wouldn't they suffer a significant blow among critical independent voters, just a week or so before the election? And would Republicans suffer any more among hispanic voters than (some argue) they already have? Wouldn't the Republican base be strongly motivated with a such a demonstration of backbone?

Update: And by the way, Congressmen from Florida look like they might come back and push harder for a deal that gurantees a steady supply of migrant workers. Although I don't have a cite for an article, that's likely true of California's central valley as well, where there has always been support for guestworker programs.

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DeLay Stays on the Ballot

As I noted the other day, Texas Republicans will not be allowed to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot.

This should make the campaigns interesting. Democrats outside Texas will doubtless try to tie Congressional candidates to DeLay. But DeLay will probably play - to some extent - the role of aggrieved victim of Democrats playing politics, who refused to allow him to walk away.

He will have to choose whether to run for the seat itself - promising to serve the full term - or whether he will promise to resign after being elected, thereby creating a new election to replace him, in which Texas Republicans could select their nominee in a primary. The latter course would probably be easier - since more people will probably vote for a new election than will vote for DeLay. But now that he's been forced back in, I bet DeLay will not go halfway, and will instead run for the seat for real.

Expect it to be a very expensive race - in the $10 million range for both candidates.

Update: I have DeLay's response below

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Altruistic Harry Reid

Is Harry Reid afraid of defeat? I address it over at Tim Chapman's blog.

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Lieberman Looking Like Toast

The latest poll shows him trailing by double digits in Tuesday's primary against Ned Lamont, and the Hartford Courant's Kevin Rennie reports that he is preparing for a major campaign shuffle, in anticipation of a loss.

That second link also discusses the flagging campaign of Republican Alan Schlesinger. Put these ingredients together, and 2+2 can only equal 4. If Lieberman loses his primary, he and Republicans will find some way to work together. I don't know whether that means Schlesinger drops out and Lieberman gets the nod, or merely something simple such as no serious Republican campaign and no attacks on Lieberman, in exchange for Lieberman working more closely with Republicans in the new Senate.

I have been saying for months that I don't see how Lieberman can return to the Senate as a Democrat if he loses the primary. The increasing amount of bile between him and the Democratic base makes me more confident of that each day.

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Israel Driving Lebanon Toward Syria

So says Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt.

Hat tip: Michael Totten.

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Ahmadinejad Has Another Helpful Proposal

Iranian President: Solution to Middle East crisis is to destroy Israel.

Appropos of Nothing...

Today is Tisha b'Av:

" Judah has fled into exile from oppression and cruel slavery; Yet where she lives among the nations she finds no place to rest: All her persecutors come upon her where she is narrowly confined. "

Lamentations 1:3

The First Casualty When War Comes Is Truth

Evidence Mounts that Kana "Massacre" Was a Fake

But we know that Hezbollah wouldn't manipulate the media, right?

Israel and its enemies operate in an environment in which media relations and spin control are more important strategically than the tactical facts on the ground.
Will the "9/11 was an inside job" media skeptics devote half the conspiracy-theorising time they've devoted to that to the deconstruction of the messages which Hezbollah permits the western media to beam back into our living rooms?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Why We Fight

I cross-posted a terrific column by Mort Kondracke over at the Tim Chapman blog. It is a great summary of the stakes in the Global War on Terror, and explains why we must win in Iraq - regardless of the premise of the war, or the conduct to date.

Check it out.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Random Castro Thought

Fidel Castro celebrates his 80th birthday on August 13. I'd wager a month's salary that regardless of when Castro actually dies, it is not announced until after his 80th.

It'll be kind of like that MASH episode where they move the clock hands forward...

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Morris: GOP Must Raise Minimum Wage

I don't think that the minimum wage issue moves many votes, especially given the pervasiveness of Iraq (and Lebanon, and North Korea). However, Morris is always interesting - and often right. And he is right that Democrats will surely run commercials contrasting estate-tax relief with the status quo on the minimum wage. In a close election in a swing district, I suppose such an attack might move some votes.

Morris' column is here.

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I Heart Keith Olbermann

Who else regularly and frequently does battle with the likes of Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler?

The man is a hero - a HERO I tell you! And no one appreciates his nightly service.

In fact, it seems like no one is even watching.

Wait a minute - he's not on ESPN anymore?

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Wakim Defends Resume

One of the chief Republican takeover targets this year is the seat of incumbent Democrat Alan Mollohan in West Virginia. I have written extensively about the ethics charges against Mollohan.

Now it looks like the tables have been turned, and it is Mollohan's opponent Delegate Chris Wakim, who is answering questions about puffing up his resume:

Wakim Defends Record

Delegate Chris Wakim, R-Ohio, defended his military and academic records Tuesday, claiming that he has reported them accurately on his resume and campaign literature.

Wakim, a current Congressional candidate in West Virginia’s 1st District, is being questioned about his reported master’s degree in “public policy” from Harvard University, and whether he is truly “a veteran” of the Gulf War.

On his Web site, Wakim indicates that he is a graduate of both the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard University, and that he is disabled Gulf War veteran who was “honorably discharged for injuries sustained in the line of duty.”

The information also states that Wakim “earned his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University in 1991 graduating in the top 15 percent of his class.”

During a teleconference Tuesday, Wakim was challenged by reporters who pointed out that one only receives an actual master’s degree in public policy from Harvard after graduating from the university’s prestigious Kennedy School.

Wakim admitted that he did not graduate from the Kennedy School.

“It’s an odd thing,” Wakim said. “We always called it a public policy program, but I didn’t go to K-school. I would have loved to have done so.”

His diploma from Harvard — when translated from Latin — states that he holds a‘‘master of liberal arts degree in extension studies with an emphasis on government’’ from the institution.

He said he actually obtained his master’s degree from Harvard over a three-year period in the early 1990s while serving in the military at nearby Fort Devens, Mass.

Wakim said he worked days at the military base, holding the rank of captain and training national guard troops who were being mobilized and sent to fight in the Gulf War. He then would travel the 30 miles to Cambridge, Mass., to take night classes at Harvard.

‘‘While I was at Harvard, war was proclaimed,’’ Wakim said. ‘‘My capacity was to evaluate units and deploy them using my expertise as a company commander with the 4th Infantry.

“I earned my master’s degree at night while serving my country during the day. Any attempt to discredit that is disgraceful.”

Wakim was questioned as to whether he himself saw battle during the Gulf War. He admitted that he did not, and that he was not stationed overseas during the Gulf War.

Wakim did say that he is in fact a veteran of the war under definitions stipulated by federal law. U.S. Code defines a ’’veteran of any warî as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who served in the active military, naval, or air service during a period of war.

The Gulf War is listed as having begun Aug. 2, 1990.

Wakim was commissioned in the military after his graduation from West Point on May 18, 1980, and he served until Oct. 18, 1991.

Wakim said he is a member of both the American Legion Post 1 in Wheeling and of the Disabled American Veterans organization.

He added that he is considered ‘‘70 percent disabled’’ by the U.S. Veterans Administration.

While with the 4th Infantry, Wakim said he sustained a broken back, a broken elbow and sustained injuries that led to his knee having to be reconstructed. He attributed the injuries to the training of the 4th Infantry.

‘‘As a leader, I knew those things happen,’’ Wakim said. ‘‘I was medically discharged...

Frankly, this looks like a sloppy campaign mistake. Wakim may be accurate in his defenses to both of these charges, but he knew - or ought to have known - how they would be read. It would have been easy (and impressive) to claim a Master's in Government (if that is in fact, what it would be called) from Harvard, and to call himself a disabled Army Veteran. That phrasing would likely have saved him from this controversy. In a tough race against a longtime incumbent, the last thing Wakim needs is to become a distraction from the serious charges against Mollohan.

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DeLay Running for Re-election

At least, that's the way it seems, according to the Houston Chronicle account of a hearing before the three-judge panel that is considering DeLay's appeal:

July 31, 2006, 1:26PM
Appeals court hears from lawyers in DeLay ballot battle
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals panel indicated today that the ability of Republicans to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Delay on the ballot rests on whether there was "conclusive" evidence that he had moved to Virginia.

The three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not indicate when it would rule. But questions from the panel seemed to favor the Democrats' position that Republican officials could not declare DeLay ineligible for office based on residency prior to election day.

Republican lawyer James Bopp Jr. told the panel that DeLay had given Texas Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser enough evidence that she could make a "reasonable prediction" that DeLay would not be a resident of Texas on election day. That evidence included a change of driver's license and voter registration, plus a letter stating he had moved to Virginia.

Bopp said that gave her the power to declare DeLay ineligible to serve if elected and opened the door for replacing him on the ballot.

But Judges Pete Benavides and Edith Clement noted that a candidate like DeLay could move back to Texas by election day and be eligible for office. They said the U.S. Constitution would prohibit a state party official from throwing a candidate off the ballot in such circumstances.

"How can it be conclusive if you can always change your voter registration," Clement asked.

Bopp said a candidate who wanted to be on the ballot could win such a case. "He has to say, No, I am going to come back." DeLay, however, has said he plans to remain a resident of Virginia indefinitely, Bopp said.

Benavides said the evidence proves where DeLay lives now but not necessarily on election day.

"I can see how it informs a decision that Mr. DeLay will not be in Texas on election day, but how is it conclusive?" Benavides said.

The U.S. Constitution says to be eligible to serve in the U.S. House a candidate must be an "inhabitant" of the state from which he is elected on election day.

At one point, Benavides also quipped: "I lost a campaign for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals when my opponent was in Europe, but he was still a resident of Texas."

Attorneys for the Texas Democratic Party said the evidence showed that DeLay and Benkiser "manufactured" his move to Virginia so they would replace him on the ballot in violation of Texas election law.

"This is a case where the district court found manufactured evidence, a manipulation of the system, and therefore a fraud against the voters," said Democratic attorney Chad Dunn.

Under state election law, political parties are not allowed to replace nominees once opposing political parties have chosen their nominees for office.

In this case, the Democrats already have chosen former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson as their nominee, and the Libertarian Party has Bob Smither running for the seat.

Because of that, Dunn said the Republicans tried to make DeLay ineligible by changing his residence from his home in Sugar Land to his long-time condominium in Virginia.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks last month agreed with the Democrats and enjoined Benkiser from replacing DeLay on the ballot for the general election.

Benavides and Judge James L. Dennis are Democratic judicial appointees, and Clement is a Republican appointee.

If DeLay does end up running for re-election, expect it to be a $10 million race. And expect it to increase pressure on Bob Ney to step aside in favor or a more competitive candidate, so Republicans don't wind up endangering two 'gimme' seats.

If DeLay is forced to seek re-election, he has several options for how to go about it. He can say that he intends to serve his full term, or he can say that he intends to step down and create a special election to fill the seat. He might draw more votes by campaigning for a new election - effectively - than he would for campaigning for himself.

If the ruling comes down against DeLay's team, it will be interesting to see what he decides to do. Either way, it will be fun to see DeLay campaigning as a victim of Democratic vindictiveness - refusing to let him walk off into the sunset, but insisting that he run again.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Check Out Tim Chapman Blog

By the way, I am cross-posting this week at the blog of Tim Chapman, of the Heritage Foundation. Tim is taking a well-deserved rest while I enjoy the balmy temperatures here in DC.

Definitely take a look at Tim's blog daily, especially if you're interested in good reporting of what is going on in the Congress.

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Democratic Party Falling Apart

According to the Washington Post, DNC Chair Howard Dean and DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel don't speak anymore. Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and the Congressional wing of the Democratic party seem to think that Dean is an idiot, and that he's wasting money on the 'Fifty State Strategy.' They're increasingly frustrated that Dean is redirecting money that has traditionally gone to Get Out the Vote efforts - money which they need to make up.

It's clear that the Democrats are suffering across the board from their disorganization and lack of unity. They do not agree on Iraq, on election themes and messaging, on impeaching the President, on Murtha vs. Hoyer for 'Majority Leader,' on fiscal policy, on the role of the Netroots and the direction of the party, or on how to win elections. You would think that with the greatest opportunity in 14 years to enhance their position in Washington, they could bury their differences and work together to win. But you would be wrong.

If Democrats fail to win at least a House majority this year, the bloodletting after Election Day will be fierce. There are so many lingering brushfires that even victory can only help contain them. If Democrats head down to defeat again, Dean, Emanuel, Pelosi, Murtha, Schumer, Reid, and many others will all be called to account. The only question is whether they will wait until election day, or whether some heads will start to roll before.

Democrats Scrambling To Organize Voter Turnout
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 2, 2006; A01

Top Democrats are increasingly concerned that they lack an effective plan to turn out voters this fall, creating tension among party leaders and prompting House Democrats to launch a fundraising campaign aimed exclusively at mobilizing Democratic partisans.

At a meeting last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races, according to congressional aides who were briefed on the exchange. Pelosi -- echoing a complaint common among Democratic lawmakers and operatives -- has warned privately that Democrats are at risk of going into the November midterm elections with a voter-mobilization plan that is underfunded and inferior to the proven turnout machine run by national Republicans.

The Senate and House campaign committees are creating their own get-out-the-vote operations instead, using money that otherwise would fund television advertising and other election-year efforts. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) -- who no longer speaks to Dean because of their strategic differences -- is planning to ask lawmakers and donors to help fund a new turnout program run by House Democrats. He has recruited Michael Whouley, a specialist in Democratic turnout, to help oversee it.

"I am not waiting for anyone anymore who said they were going to" build a turnout operation, Emanuel said. "It has got to be done."

Many Democrats said that despite a favorable political climate and record-setting fundraising, the campaign to recapture the House and Senate could fall short if the organizational problems persist. "What the party really needs is to get serious about local, volunteer-based" operations, said Jack Corrigan, a longtime Democratic operative. "The last-minute, throw-money-at-it approach . . . does not really solve the fundamental failure to organize that is there. The DNC is moving in the right direction, but needs to do more, fast," he said.

Democrats consider the 2006 elections their best chance in a decade to recapture the House, with widespread unease over Iraq and with Republicans lagging in polls. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), who would become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee if Democrats picked up the 15 seats needed to regain the majority, said in an interview yesterday that he will quit Congress if the party does not capitalize on an unparalleled opportunity.

Democrats' organizing has been slowed by a philosophical dispute between Dean, who argues that the party needs to rebuild its long-term infrastructure nationwide while trying to win back the House and Senate, and congressional Democrats, who want to use party resources for an all-out push this fall.

Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is less concerned about the Dean approach than House leaders are. "We are obviously concerned," a senior Senate Democratic strategist said, but Schumer moved ahead two months ago with a plan to fortify get-out-the-vote operations in 15 states, including targeting disgruntled Republicans. Democrats sympathetic to Dean said that Emanuel and Pelosi are trying to blame the DNC chairman in case they do not win back the House.

Republicans are far more united in their approach, building on what both sides said worked well in 2002 and 2004. They are routing all turnout efforts through the Republican National Committee, which had $45 million in the bank -- four times as much as the DNC -- as of June 30.

The RNC runs a strategy known in political circles as the 72-hour program. It focuses on using phone calls, polling data and personal visits to identify would-be GOP voters and their top issues early in the cycle. The information is then fed into a database, allowing party leaders to flood them with pro-Republican messages through e-mail, regular mail and local volunteers. On Election Day, they receive a phone call or a visit to remind them to vote.

A GOP strategist involved in the effort said the RNC did a post-election review of every person it contacted, looking at how many times they were reached, which issues were discussed and whether they voted. This information was supplied to about 30 targeted states earlier this year, and RNC officials track the states to see whether they are reaching goals for adding new names and contacting old ones.

Both parties credit this program with putting Bush over the top in Ohio in 2004 by exceeding GOP turnout projections in key parts of the state. "I think the best 21st-century turnout operation was Bush-Cheney '04," said Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. But the political landscape has changed dramatically. Conservatives are less enthused about GOP lawmakers, polls show, and therefore may be less likely to vote in high numbers.

...Compounding concerns, liberal donors such as financier George Soros, who helped fund a $100 million for a get-out-vote program in 2004, have soured on what they regard as short-term fixes offered by party leaders, several major donors said. They refused to fund efforts similar to one by Americans Coming Together, which spent more than $100 million to identify and turn out voters in 2004. ACT helped increase turnout significantly in key states, including Ohio, but donors thought most of their money was wasted because the Bush-Cheney operation did better...

It's really amazing to think that they have let things get this bad.

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Can the GOP Lose in November

All the polls say it's possible - even likely - but when you're running against a party whose leaders won't condemn Hezbollah, is there any chance that the American people will put them in power?

Powerline posts a longer transcript, with this as the key exchange:

DINGELL: Well, we don’t, first of all, I don’t take sides for or against Hezbollah or for or against Israel.

ANCHOR: You’re not against Hezbollah?

DINGELL: No, I happen to be—I happen to be against violence, I think the United States has to bring resolution to this matter. Now, I condemn Hezbollah as does everybody else, for the violence, but I think if we’ve got to talk to them and if we don’t — if we don’t get ourselves in a position where we can talk to both sides and bring both sides together, the killing and the blood let is going to continue.

The interview is with Representative John Dingell, who will chair one of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives (Energy and Commerce), if Democrats retake the majority.

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Castro Dodging the Reaper

It appears that the news of Fidel Castro's surgery last night led to unfouded hopes. It seems that Castro's trip to Hades is delayed just a little longer, and that I'm not the only one who got ahead of the news cycle.

Ever since the first reports arrived suggesting that Castro's end might be near, I've been thinking of Monty Python's dead parrot. I've decided not to wait for the news that Castro is dead to post it.

I guess Castro didn't have the salmon mousse...

And for what it's worth, Castro's padwan Hugo Chavez is worried about him as well.

And lastly, Scrappleface picks up on the dark horse candidate to succeed Castro.

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Snakes on a Plane!

I believe I'm about the only blogger who has failed to comment on 'Snakes on a Plane,' the upcoming Samuel Jackson movie. A google search yields almost 9 million hits for the phrase. If you read blogs with any regularity, you've undoubtedly seen comments on it. The plot sounds completely silly: a mafia figure releases hundreds of snakes on the plane carrying a witness to testify against him. Samuel Jackson is the FBI agent assigned to protect the witness.

The high camp factor made this a huge hit on the internet, long before the movie finished filming. As such, the moviemakers incorporated into it some of the material suggested (often jokingly) by bloggers. The result: a movie with a built-in core of enthusiastic fans. It may be a new model of moviemaking - one where fans 'buy in' to a film during production by contributing to the end product. But is it a recipe for success? Daniel Drezner explains why it isn't.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Does Immigration Hurt Republicans?

Charles Taylor doesn't seem to think so.

I don't know many who challenge the idea that immigration can be a winning issue for Republicans this year - as long as they produce an enforcement bill. The debate seems to be whether it will cause more damage down the road with latino voters.

It will be interesting to see how widely it is used by Republican candidates. Immigration seems to 'cut' more away from the borders. It will be used by some of the Ohio and Pennsylvania candidates mentioned below by Tom Reynolds - those on the 'watch list' - in the same way that Taylor is using it in North Carolina.

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Put the Champagne on Ice

Looks like they may be getting ready to put Fidel on ice, as well.

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Sounding the Alarm

Doug McKinnon has the honor of being considered a threat by Hugo Chavez. He wrote this weekend on why Chavez should concern us:

Many I have spoken with in our government, including career diplomats, consider Chavez to be ultimately a greater threat to the national security of the United States than Osama bin Laden or any terrorist group operating out of the Middle East. Having been in Venezuela many times and having met with the opposition leaders in that country, I strongly agree with that assessment.

...Again, as I write this, Chavez has just finalized a $3 billion deal with Moscow to buy 24 fighter jets and 53 attack helicopters, Russian submarines and 100,000 AK-103 Kalashnikov machine guns, and to have the Russians build him a Kalashnikov factory in Venezuela so he can manufacture his own weapons.

...Just as I’m assuming Delahunt had no problem with Chavez hosting the president of Iran in Caracas last year, where, on the agenda, was the topic of “introducing nuclear elements” into Venezuela. While Chavez says he only wants nuclear reactors from Iran, many experts fear he is trying to import Iranian missile technology and, potentially, weapons grade uranium. All of this, a mere two-and-a-half-hours south of Miami by jet.

By the way, Chavez and Iran's Ahmedinejad see each other as 'trenchmates.' Doesn't that give you the warm and fuzzies?

I hope that we do not fail to 'connect the dots' on Chavez.

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Well, Things Were Getting Too Quiet

When was the last time you read about North Korea? Probably not since Israel retaliated against Hamas, right? Well, looks like some was feeling neglected. Let us hope that this is no more than a traditional North-South dustup:

Two Koreas exchange gunfire along fortified border
54 minutes ago

North and South Korean troops along their heavily fortified border exchanged gunfire for the first time in about a year, a military official said on Tuesday, with the incident coming as ties between the two have soured.

North Korean troops fired two shots at a South Korean guard post near the Demilitarised Zone on Monday night and South Korean troops returned six shots, an official said by telephone.

"No one was injured in the incident," the Joint Chiefs of Staff official said.

One of the shots hit the guard post, causing South Korean troops to immediately return fire, the official said.

Ties between the two Koreas had been warming in recent years as the two reached a number of agreements on economic cooperation and military confidence building.

The last time there was an exchange of gun fire along the DMZ was in October 2005, the official said, when North Korea fired a bullet toward at a South Korean guard post and the South returned fire.

The navies of the two had a major clash along a disputed maritime border in 2002, resulting in deaths and casualties on both sides.

North Korea defied international warnings and test-fired seven missiles about a month ago.

At an inter-Korean ministerial meeting in July, Seoul pressed Pyongyang to explain why it had launched the missiles. Seoul said it would suspend humanitarian aid until Pyongyang returned to stalled six-country talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

North Korean delegates stormed out of the meeting and said the South would "pay a price" for spoiling inter-Korean ties.

Since then, North Korea has halted several projects with the South, including the reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The two Koreas are technically still at war because the Korean War ended in a truce and not with a peace treaty.

North Korea has stationed most of its 1.2 million-man army near the DMZ. South Korea has more than 650,000 troops, who are supported by about 30,000 U.S. troops.

By the way, I did not write about Hugo Chavez's planned trip to North Korea last week because it was cancelled. I have not seen much coverage of that, nor an indication of what it means. But I'll post on it when I see anything.

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Reynolds Paints Hopeful GOP Picture

Roll Call reports that Tom Reynolds talked about the districts where Republicans face the toughest challenge this year, as well as those Democratic districts that are targeted. There are not really any surprises on these lists, but the overall picture seems encouraging for Republicans:

Reynolds Concedes Colleagues Vulnerable
July 31, 2006
By David M. Drucker,
Roll Call Staff

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) named names Friday, indicating where he believes the committee will be most active this fall.
Questioned at a news conference held 102 days before Election Day, Reynolds identified the 14 Republican Members he believes could face the toughest time getting re-elected, and an additional three he is monitoring just in case. The New York Republican also telegraphed where the NRCC is likely to be the most active on offense, citing nine Democratic seats that present his party with its best opportunity for gains.

...In Connecticut, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Reynolds sees difficult political environments statewide and a total of nine seats in play — as well as two competitive Indiana races, but emphasized he is pleased with the campaign performance of the incumbents thus far. He practically ridiculed many of the Democrats gunning for Republicans in those districts.

On the flip side, Reynolds expressed confidence that nine Democratic seats are ripe for the taking, including two in Georgia.

“We’re going to go the distance down there,” Reynolds said.

...Adding to his confidence is the NRCC’s decision to cede control of the committee’s get-out-the-vote efforts to the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Ken Mehlman.

Mehlman’s success running the Bush-Cheney ’04 ground game and Rep. Brian Bilbray’s (R-Calif.) special election victory in June has Reynolds convinced Republicans have a key edge on the ground.

“If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then GOTV — get out the vote —is the survival kit of politics,” Reynolds said.

Republican Incumbents Reynolds Deemed Vulnerable

• Connecticut Reps. Nancy Johnson, Christopher Shays and Rob Simmons. Reynolds said all three are running excellent campaigns, despite the “tough” environment.

“Chris Shays has been a candidate, and an active candidate, for well over a year. Sometimes he [begins] much later after he works very hard as a Member of Congress, and then starts a campaign, maybe [around] now. That’s not the case with him” this year.

• Ohio Reps. Steve Chabot, Bob Ney and Deborah Pryce. “Ohio’s got a lot of action in it,” Reynolds said. “We will just make sure that because the Democrats have targeted [it], that our candidates are out and moving forward.”

• Pennsylvania Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach and Curt Weldon. “The Philadelphia suburbs are tough turf,” Reynolds said. “How well [GOP Sen.] Rick Santorum does in the Philadelphia suburbs means whether he comes back. Three seats are in there.”

Gerlach, he said, is “in one of the tougher seats in the country.” And Weldon “has a serious opponent running against him; the retired rear vice admiral of the Navy in his race.”

• Rep. Clay Shaw (Fla.). “Clay Shaw has a tough race in Florida almost every time” Reynolds said. “[His opponent] is a skilled state Senator coming at ’em. I think that Shaw is clearly down there working. He’s raising money; this isn’t new for him.”

• Rep. Heather Wilson (N.M.). “Heather Wilson has one of the toughest seats in the country. The race starts almost the day after election. I think Heather, as an Air Force Academy grad, Rhodes scholar, is like a combat veteran of politics. She is totally focused.”

• Rep. Jon Porter (Nev.). Senate Minority Leader “Harry Reid [D-Nev.] handpicked his opponent and is coming at him,” Reynolds said. “Five thousand new people a month are showing up in that Las Vegas-based seat. I think Porter is doing everything right. ... Jim Gibbons (R), our colleague from Reno, is running for governor, I think that bodes well.”

• Indiana Reps. John Hostettler and Mike Sodrel. “When you look at Mike Sodrel, he’s going to have a tough re-elect, he knows that,” Reynolds said. “He’s taken two trips to my knowledge, one to Afghanistan and then one to Iraq. The rest of the time he is home working in his district, grinding out the race, town by town.”

Republican Incumbents on Reynolds’ “Watch” List

• Bilbray and Rep. Richard Pombo (Calif.). “I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been too much attention on Richard from Democratic circles,” Reynolds said.

• Rep. Dave Reichert (Wash.). “We’ll watch Reichert in the area of the state of Washington,” Reynolds said. “I’ll say to you that, one of the things I’ve had for a hunch that we’ll see if it plays out: I think Washington Republicans felt ripped off when they lost their governor’s race. I think there’s an intensity of voter interest both in the U.S. Senate seat as well as some of the House seats.”

Reynolds’ Democratic Targets

• Rep. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), who is facing state Del. Chris Wakim (R). “Mollohan is [in] a Republican seat,” Reynolds said. “He’s been banged up in media accounts. We have a very good candidate in Wakim, who is a West Point grad, Harvard educated; came home, started his family business with his wife. ...We’re going to continue helping him — we like everything we see there.”

• Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), who faces state Rep. Ralph Norman (R). This is “John Spratt’s toughest race since, probably, ’94,” Reynolds said.

• Rep. Melissa Bean (Ill.), who faces investment banker David McSweeney. “That is a good Republican seat,” Reynolds said. “We have a very good candidate there in McSweeney. He is continuing to do the things he needs to do.”

• Georgia Reps. John Barrow and Jim Marshall, who face former Republican Reps. Max Burns and Mac Collins, respectively. “I’ve seen good results in Max’s effort there, both in shoe-leather retail politics, and in fundraising,” Reynolds said. “He’s a pretty interesting guy.”

• Rep. Leonard Boswell (Iowa), who faces state Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti (R). Boswell “has never been a great performer in this seat,” Reynolds said. “We’re very impressed with where we are.”

• Rep. Charlie Melancon (La.), who faces state Sen. Craig Romero (R). “This guy’s filing was $1.2 million in the second quarter,” Reynolds said. “I promise you he got my attention. I think there’s an interesting opportunity there.”

• Rep. Chet Edwards (Texas), who is facing Iraq war veteran Van Taylor (R). “I’ve always been impressed when I’ve been down there helping [Taylor] raise money with the type of people he brings to events,” Reynolds said.

• Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.), who faces retired Navy officer Doug Roulstone (R). Roulstone “is, every day, moving forward in the types of things he needs to do as a candidate and a fundraiser,” Reynolds said.

To the extent that this represents a complete list, things sound OK for Republicans. Even if they were to lose the dozen targeted seats and not make any gains in Democratic seats, they would retain the majority. That's not a very likely outcome of course.

The worry remains whether there will be a larger wave, which sweeps out all these incumbents and more.

Reynolds also makes an important point: that the person in charge of the GOTV effort is Ken Mehlman, who devised the strategy that turned out a record number of Republican voters in 2004. That operation was so succesful that even though the Kerry campaign hit the total number of voters it targeted, it was still swamped by Republican turnout. If Ken Mehlman can do anything like that this year, Democrats will be aiming for a takeover in 2008 - for the 7th straight election.

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NYT Lectures Lieberman on Bipartisanship

This is as funny as I had hoped! Count on the glass-house dwellers at the New York Times to be the first to throw stones:

July 30, 2006
A Senate Race in Connecticut

Earlier this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat seemed so secure that — legend has it — some people at the Republican nominating convention in Connecticut started making bleating noises when the party picked a presumed sacrificial lamb to run against the three-term senator, who has been a fixture in Connecticut politics for more than 35 years.

But Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Lieberman’s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers — most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents — say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.

This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. It’s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation’s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification [if pomposity were a disqualification, the New York Times could not have an op-ed page. And how can Joe Lieberman think himself the nation's moral compass, when the Times Editors have appointed themselves to that role! - the Editor], the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose. He has been one of the Senate’s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.

But this race is not about résumés. ['Not about resumes' What does that mean? Surely if these Lieberman positions you have complimented are worth citing, then they have some importance; are you saying that just because Lieberman has held certain positions in the past, it means nothing for the future? If so, one can't make judgments based on any portion of his 'resume.' Is the Times telling us that abortion and the environement are unimportant, or that Lieberman's track record is? - the Editor] The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.

As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party — his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. “What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?” he asked in an interview with New York magazine. “You’ve got to agree 100 percent, or you’re not a good Democrat?”

That’s far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target [I would argue that the reason he is the only target is that he is the only Democrat who still supports the war; all others now claim that the administration fooled them into supporting it - a dubious qualification for re-election, by the way - the Editor]. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.

Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress [unforgiveable! Because what's more important: what we do from here forward, or assessing blame for where we are! - the Editor].

At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism [but apparently it requires unanimity - the Editor]. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender.

On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib. [So not only is the US to be held to a higher standard than Al Qaeda - with which I totally agree - but we cannot point out the difference? We must pretend that our adversary respects life as much as we do? - the Editor]

Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.

[Isn't this turning into a rather lengthy criticism of Mr. Lieberman's 'resume?' I thought that this election 'isn't about resumes - the Editor]

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition [really? Can the Times offer a quote - when Lieberman 'suggested' that there can be no principled opposition to the President in a time of war? No fair if you're going to point out that much of the Democratic opposition is in fact, unprincipled - the Editor], he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record [or at least, the parts of the record of which the Times approves - the Editor]. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

As far as I can tell, this is all a long way of saying that Lieberman's views on Iraq and the War on Terror disqualify him from public office. I guess the Times is entitled to its/their opinion, but clearly a great majority of Americans disagree. This simply shows how out-of-touch the editorial page of the New York Times is.

I guess if you trust the New York Times to have a good understanding of 'bipartisanship,' then you're probably pretty likely to agree with them on Joe Lieberman. Fortunately, that only covers a few dozen people.

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House GOP Pursues Fiscal Reform

Roll Call (subscription required) covers the 'victory' of moderate House Republicans in delaying House consideration of legislation by Rep. Todd Tiahrt to establish a commission to streamline the federal government:

‘Sunset’ Bill Pulled From Floor Schedule
July 31, 2006
By Jennifer Yachnin,
Roll Call Staff

Objections from moderate Republicans put passage of a key budget reform sought by conservative GOP lawmakers in limbo last week, prompting House leaders to shelve debate on the measure until after the August recess.

The Government Efficiency Act, authored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), had been slated to go to the floor late last week but was scrubbed from the schedule Thursday afternoon. The bill would establish a federal commission to evaluate government-funded agencies or specific programs and issue recommendations to Congress on whether those bodies should be consolidated, abolished, expanded or otherwise altered.

...Among his proposed changes, Boehlert targeted the commission’s composition, which under the current legislation would include seven members appointed by the White House with four of those individuals selected in consultation with the majority and minority leadership of both the House and Senate.

The amendments would require all appointments to be made by Congress and would add two House Members and two Senators to the panel.

In addition, Boehlert, who chairs the Science Committee, called for the commission to hold public hearings.

Another amendment would extend the period for Congress to review recommendations from the commission to 45 legislative days from the 30 days proposed by Tiahrt.

Boehlert has also called for language that would allow Members to offer amendments to the commission’s proposals, something that would be permitted only in committee under the current bill.

...While the Rules Committee reviewed the measures Wednesday, it has yet to vote on parameters of debate for the measure, including what amendments Members would be allowed to consider on the floor.

Without a decision on whether those amendments will be included in the bill, one Republican aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “Opposition has stayed quite strong from moderates and Democrats.”

...Despite the apparent setback, House conservatives expect the measure, as well as a broader proposal by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to establish a sunset commission that would impose automatic expiration dates for federally funded programs, will return to the chamber’s calendar in the fall.

“We look forward to working with leadership to enact real budget process reform after the August district work period,” said one Republican aide to House conservatives.

The review commissions are among four budget reform measures — which also include earmark reforms, emergency spending guidelines and line-item veto legislation — that conservative Republicans demanded from House leadership during negotiations over the fiscal 2007 budget blueprint earlier this year...

I've argued for some time that it was not too late for House Republicans to focus more aggressively on controlling spending. I think that it might be too late now, because I fear voters are likely to view these as political opportunism. Had these procedural moves been paired with substantive victotries - substantive reductions in spending, or an actual line-item veto exercised by the President - voters might see them as more than politics.

Congressional leadership clearly disagrees; they probably feel it's more important that these measures be 'fresh in voters' minds' on election day. We'll see how they are received in the fall.

As for Boehlert's objections to the Tiahrt bill, I think that several of them are not worth fighting over. Public hearings, a 45-day waiting period... I don't think that either of those is likely to change significantly the way the commission would operate. Denying the administration the right to appoint members... that just strikes me as silly. Is Mr. Boehlert arguing that only the Congress has the expertise to take part in this process?

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