Saturday, March 31, 2007

Diary Holds Clues to Amelia Earhart's Disappearance

Interesting and sad story. It's amazing that humans retain such a strong curiosity about something as unimportant as the fate of a woman who died 70 years ago. Not to sound crass, but whose life is affected if Ms. Earhart crashed into the sea, as opposed to having landed on some atoll and survived a period of time afterwards? Yet few of us pass up the chance to read a story like this one.

Hoyas Run Ends in Atlanta

The Georgetown Hoyas were defeated by OSU's Buckeyes in Atlanta tonight, by a final score of 67-60. The game was 'herky-jerky,' with neither team seeming to find a smooth pace. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden each encountered foul trouble, and so played against each other only sparingly. The keys to the game seemed to be the great play of OSU's Mike Conley and the poor showing of Georgetown's Jeff Green.

Now Hoyas fans can only hope that both Hibbert and Green return to school next year to attempt to bring home the Hoyas first national title in almost a quarter century.

The Media Research Center's DisHonor Awards

Mary Katharine Ham covers the the Media Research Center's 20th annual DisHonor Awards:

A Suggestion for Henry Waxman

Roll Call and the Politico report that an aide to Karl Rove made a political presentation to political appointees at the General Services Administration, and Henry Waxman believes it may have violated the Hatch Act. Naturally, Karl Rove is implicated - and Mr. Waxman won't let him get off easy.

A suggestion for Mr. Waxman: to ensure broader support for the investigation, try not to make it look so obviously partisan. You could bring in a few Democrats in cases where the evidence against them is pretty clear: John Conyers and Joe Baca. Bonus for you: the Republicans went pretty easy on those guys while they were in the majority. There's no reason for you to be so nice.

Now, on to the political angle. From the Politico:

According to Jennings’ document, posted on the committee’s Web site, the key to Republican campaigns in 2006 was the party’s 72-hour program – its effort to maximize GOP turnout on Election Day. Republican strategists have cited the program as integral to their success in past elections. But in 2006, its impact was blunted by a barrage of bad news for Republicans – the war in Iraq, the Mark Foley page scandal and other ethical controversies.

The Republicans who didn’t have the full support of the program performed much worse than the pre-election polling data available to the National Republican Congressional Committee – and such support often meant the difference between winning and losing. The PowerPoint document listed five campaigns that dramatically underperformed based on NRCC polls.

The document also identifies vulnerable Republican seats to prioritize for protection in 2008, and vulnerable Democrats to target for defeat. Regular readers won't be surprised by any of the names on the Democratic side:

...Most of the names were freshmen who won in Republican-leaning districts, like Reps. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) and Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.). Left off the list were freshman Reps. Harry E. Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords, both Arizona Democrats who represent districts President Bush carried in 2004.

Two freshman Democrats who ran contested races in Iowa, Rep. Bruce Braley and Loebsack, were also excluded.

The most surprising inclusion was Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), who coasted to victory in a solidly Republican state and hasn’t drawn any serious challengers at this early stage.

Democrats are jumping on the names of Republicans who must be protected:

Those GOP seats the White House saw in need of special defense included two California congressmen enmeshed in ethical controversy.

Rep. John Doolittle, whose district takes in the northern Sacramento suburbs, won with only 49 percent of the vote in 2006. Democrats have alleged improper ties between Doolittle and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, among other complaints.

Rep. Gary G. Miller, who ran unopposed in his Southern California district in 2006, was also cited by the White House as vulnerable. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has just launched a Web ad raising questions about a local land deal.

“Rove’s ’08 playbook confirms Republican concerns and fears about many of these incumbents we have been mentioning for the last few months,” said DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell.

I need to scrub the data, but I believe it's rare for a Member who squeaks by in a 'wave' election such as 2006 to be defeated in 2008. So Democrats may talk bravely about knocking off Doolittle or Miller, but chances are better that the Republicans will win in those seats more easily than in 2006.

The presentation in question is available on Waxman's Committee site here.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Cycles of History

November 4, 1979: Around 300 selected student radicals, thereafter known as Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran. To break the chains locking the embassy's gates, a female radical was given a pair of metal cutters that she hid beneath her chador.

"Although the initial plan was to hold the embassy for only a few hours, it soon changed. Khomeini made no comment on the occupation for several days, waiting first to gauge American reaction to the hostage taking, which he feared might be violent. It was not. Some credit the soft line of American President Jimmy Carter, whose immediate response was to appeal for the release of the hostages on humanitarian grounds and his hopes of a strategic anti-communist alliance with the Islamic Republic for the Iranian decision not to release the hostages quickly. Iran's moderate prime minister Mehdi Bazargan and his cabinet resigned under pressure on November 6, just days after the event. Bazargan was attacked for meeting with American official Zbigniew Brzezinski and was unable to muster support for the release of the hostages."

"On the evening of 24 April 1980, six C-130s left Masirah Island, Oman, and eight RH-53D helicopters departed the USS Nimitz in the Arabian Sea. Both formations headed for the location code-named Desert One."

23 March 2007: 15 British sailors and marines on detached duty from the HMS Cornwall are seized in coastal waters along the Iraq-Iran border by forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

30 March 2007: "The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will sail April 2 to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Navy said.'"


No word yet out what the good fellows from the Brecon Beacons are doing with their spare time these days...

Democrats Doggedly Push for a Draft

Gee, what possible reason could there be that the Democrats didn't elect Jack 'Deathwish' Murtha their Majority Leader? Could it be that they think he's a walking train wreck?

In 2004, John Kerry warned that George Bush had a secret plan to reinstate the draft:

"With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of a draft," Mr. Kerry told reporters and editors of the Des Moines Register, which published his remarks yesterday.

Mr. Kerry told the Register that he can't imagine how the administration can continue "with the current overextension" of troops in Iraq without instituting the draft.

The San Francisco Chronicle warned that rumors of a coming draft were persistent. Kerry promised if he were elected, there would be no draft - but that it was likely if George Bush were returned to office.

Well, attention to the draft died down for a while - possibly because the Republican Congress would not approve such a measure. But after the 2006 elections, Charlie Rangel announced he would reintroduce his draft bill. And now John Murtha has again spoken up in support:



Murtha explains his idea over at the Huffington Post:

If we are to fight this war with the same sense of dedication and vigor as we did prior wars, we cannot do it without a surge in force.

It is unlikely that the President will call for a draft. A draft is politically unpopular. But we cannot continue to allow the President to pursue open-ended and vague military missions without a change in direction.

Two years ago, I was one of only two in the House of Representatives who voted for a draft, because I believe if we are a country truly at war, the burden should be shared proportionately and fairly. So Mr. President, you have two options, either change the course in Iraq and reduce the burden on our overstretched active force or reinstitute the draft. We cannot sustain the current course.

A quick comment: Murtha has no desire 'to fight this war with the same sense of dedication and vigor as we did prior wars.' He wants to withdraw from Iraq to Okinawa as soon as possible.

Leaving that aside, I'll pose a simple question. According to the CRS, the US Military had 2.1 million men and women in 1989 - at which time we had no draft. According to the same document, we now have about 1.4 million. If we did not need a draft back then in order to have a military that's 50 percent larger than it is today, why is a draft the only answer now?

By the way - have to the line from Murtha: 'everybody ought to be able to serve in this country.' Orwell would be proud of the phrasing.

Do You Want to Tell LeBron, or Should I?

I think someone has to talk to LeBron James about his carbon footprint:

According to the blueprints, LeBron's new home will encompass 35,440 square feet.

That's a tough number to wrap your mind around, because the township's next biggest house (formerly occupied by ex-Telxon boss Raymond Meyo) is a mere 13,914 square feet.

Let's put it this way: LeBron's home will be closer in size to the Montrose Best Buy, which is 45,000 square feet.

The basketball star's pad won't be finished until the summer of 2008 -- and no wonder. It will include a recording studio, a two-lane bowling alley, a casino, a 26- by 63-foot theater, a sports bar, an aquarium and a barbershop.

Yes, a barbershop. Says so right there on the prints. Lower level. Near the front. Next to the bowling alley.

A first-floor master suite, which includes a two-story walk-in closet, is about 40 feet wide and 56 feet long -- bigger than half the houses in Bath.

A place like this does not have a ``dining room.'' It has a dining hall (roughly 27 by 27). It not only has a ``great room'' (34 by 37), but a bigger, two-story ``grand room.''

The ``family foyer'' off the six-car garage -- near the elevator -- is inconsequential compared to the ``grand foyer'' inside the front entrance, complete with a sweeping, divided staircase leading up to four second-story bedrooms.

Oh, and apart from brining up the topic of climate change, perhaps we ought to discuss ego as well. From the blueprints:



If LeBron gets one of these, Al Gore will want one, too.

Now for Something Important

Georgetown Hoyas vs. Ohio State Buckeyes, Saturday at 6:07pm eastern, with a trip to the NCAA title game on the line.

I commend this assessment from the New York Post. The bottom line:

PREDICTION: G'town 83, Ohio State 81

Here's hoping.

The Presidential Horserace at the First Furlong

With the upcoming FEC filing deadline this weekend, the candidates are making their final fundraising pushes for the quarter in order to boost their numbers as much as possible for the media reports which will inevitably follow. It's useful therefore to stop a moment to take stock before the financial analyses eclipse the actual politics.

Politically, the last few weeks have been best for John Edwards, who finds himself leading the most recent Iowa caucus polls and boosting his national numbers by nearly 50%, although he lags in 4th place nationally, and it remains to be seen to what extent these leads are an artifact of the sympathy/human interest coverage of his wife's recent and unfortunate diagnosis.

On the Republican side, undeclared Fred Thompson has made impressive movement in the last two weeks, as speculation about his candidacy mounts. He now stands in third place in recent polls, despite the recent shots across his bow by leaders within the evangelical conservative community. In this case, Thompson may be fortunate in his enemies, since Dobson's awkward condemnation gives Thompson a beautiful opening for a "Sistah Souljah of the Right" moment, condemning the unpopular perceptual aspects of a portion of the party's base without actually breaking with the party base on policy.

Like Thompson, third place in the Democratic horserace is currently held by a candidate who has not declared a candidacy. Al Gore received a significant polling boost after the Academy Awards farcically endorsed both An Inconvenient Truth as best documentary, and Melissa Ethridge's banal formulary as a best soundtrack song. It seems unlikely that Gore could build on these numbers though, since he polls best as the Democrats' Bonnie Prince Charlie, who woulda, coulda, shoulda, but never quite did.

The chief reason for thinking Gore polls better as an hypothetical than an actual candidate is seen in the detail of polling for current Democratic runner-up Obama. In addition to the first articles noting that Obama doesn't actually walk on water, we see in the polling details that the major theme in support for Obama remains his appeal as an electable alternative to Hillary Clinton, not any position or achievement of Obama himself. As they did in 2004, the Democratic party is casting about for an alternative to their current frontrunner, who has jumped through all the party's hoops on all the correct hobbyhorses, but who the party now no longer believes can win in the general.

Which brings us to Hillary herself. As a long-time supporter of "three yards and a cloud of dust" management theory, I salute the grim professionalism of her campaign and the managerial efficiency she brings to her political operation. From a cash management point of view, I tend to believe her $400,000 purchase of Vilsack's endorsement was not best-value-for-the-money, but her statistically insignificant deficit in the Iowa polls behind Edwards suggests that her campaign believes that sufficient organisational muscle can steal the Iowa caucus out from under Edwards, which would all but knock Edwards out of contention and, coupled with a Clinton victory in New Hampshire, put Hillary back on the pedestal as the inevitable Democratic nominee.

The Republican frontrunner--now universally recognised as such--Giuliani, did himself no favours in his interview with ABC, airing tonight, in which he unnecessarily elevated his current wife's role and visibility, but did manage to build additional Chamber of Commerce support with his acquisition of Steve Forbes' endorsement and participation.

So what's it all about, Alfie?

In essence, the Democratic and Republican parties have opposite problems. The Democrats have a frontrunner who is broadly acceptable within her party, but the party itself is having preemptive buyer's remorse at thought of actually nominating her for fear of the difficulties of selling her in the general election. The Republicans, on the other hand, have a frontrunner who polls very well for the general election, but has a walk-in closet full of personal issues which threaten his ability to secure the nomination of his own party before reaching the downhill part of the race in the general election.

The Republican Party has lost control of its image in the public mind, as demonstrated by its helplessness to cover for the Bush Adminstration's completely incompetent response to the U.S. Attorneys affair, which now seems certain to reach its climax in the resignation of the Attorney General (this afternoon about 15:45 EDT is where I put my money), leading to the party's currently flatfooted position on the Iran-UK confrontation. The party as a political machine is jammed, no longer receiving reliable direction from the Bush machine, but not yet settled on a post-Bush way forward. This uncertainty has disrupted the modus vivendi of the various factions of the party, and it is not settled within the party how much ideological ballast must be jettisoned to keep the party both philosophically coherent and electorally viable.

On the other hand, it would seem that the Democrats' second thoughts about Hillary spring generally not from any problems the Democratic rank-and-file have with Hillary herself or her political positions and philosophy of government, but with the unresolved problems the Democrats know they and their positions have with the general voter in the contested states they need to secure in order to win the general election. It's not that Hillary's wrong; it's that the voters are wrong, but they can perhaps be gotten around with the right props, casting and production work, without having to rewrite the script.

Where is the Real War on Terror

Charles Krauthammer takes Democrats to task for trying to argue that we should be focusing on Afghanistan instead of Iraq:

Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer -- a Martian -- and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources and no industrial or technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure that, though suffering decay in the later years of Saddam Hussein's rule, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e., wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.

Al-Qaeda has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan (or some cave on the border) presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that "the most . . . serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq." Al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq "is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era."

And it's not just what al-Qaeda says, it's what al-Qaeda does. Where are they funneling the worldwide recruits for jihad? Where do all the deranged suicidists who want to die for Allah gravitate? It's no longer Afghanistan but Iraq. That's because they recognize the greater prize.

The attention on Afghanistan is a ruse, of course. If the US were fighting a more aggressive war there - and suffering the casualties that are inherent to a war - then the Democrats would want us out of Afghanistan, as well. In fact, they would argue that Afghanistan is strategically unimportant, is not a priority of Al Qaeda, and has little influence in the region.

Recall that prior to the election the Democrats endlessly droned on about how the President had allowed North Korea and Iran to advance the nuclear weapons programs, and how those posed a greater threat than Iraq. Well, where is their attention to those issues now?

On Iran, the Democrats are trying to make sure that the administration does not rush to war. On North Korea... I'm not sure. Has any Democrat spoken on North Korea lately? Are they trying to have us send troops to either region, so we can pose a credible threat? If so, I haven't noticed.

When Democrats talk like hawks, you can assume it is purely politics. And as I have said before, their lack of seriousness on national security and terror will come back to haunt them.

Update: Read also QandO.

NRCC Goes "Viral'

CQ reports that the National Republican Congressional Committee has begun targeting 11 Freshman Democrats elected in formerly Republican districts, through 'viral' marketing campaigns:

The National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) announced Thursday the launch of a campaign and accompanying Web site targeting 11 freshmen in what party officials call an effort to expose their “real records” directly to their constituents.

The first 11 members targeted are Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania’s 4th District, Nancy Boyda of Kansas’ 2nd, Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania’s 10th, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana’s 8th, Steve Kagen of Wisconsin’s 8th, Tim Mahoney of Florida’s 16th, Jerry McNerney of California’s 11th, Harry E. Mitchell of Arizona’s 5th, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire’s 1st, Heath Shuler of North Carolina’s 11th, and Zack Space of Ohio’s 18th.

All 11 of these targeted Democrats took over seats that had been held by Republicans, and President Bush carried all of these districts at the top of the Republican ticket in 2004.

“These are some of the most egregious examples of Democrats who ran moderate or conservative campaigns, but are now doing something completely different now that they are in Washington,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain told CQPolitics.com on Thursday. Spain said the committee expects to add new targets to their list before the next major recess and views the “potential playing field” as the 61 districts Bush carried in 2004 which are now represented by Democrats.

The campaign, labeled by the NRCC as “The Real Democrat Story,” will be targeted at these members’ constituents and their local media outlets in the days leading up to each congressional recess, when most lawmakers head home for extended stays in their districts.


Update: The Fix provides a list of the 10 Congressional Districts most likely to change parties next year, and 8 of them are Democrats - all of whom were newly elected in 2006. Several of them are probably less than 50-50 for re-election today as we speak: Nancy Boyda, Nick Lampson, Tim Mahoney and Jerry McNerney. Cillizza's two Republicans are Robin Hayes and Heather Wilson. I would differ on Hayes particularly, since all he does is win close elections. I expect that in what will have to be a stronger Republican year in 2008, he will fare better than in 2006.

Roundup

Live long enough and you'll see everything: Waxman Drops Inquiry.

Ace notes Rosie O'Donnell's admission that she believes it was impossible for World Trade Center building 7 to have collapsed without demolition. Interestingly, she also says that a government lied about the location of the British sailors in order to create an international incident - but she thinks it was the British government - which is apparently less trustworthy than Ahmadinejad. As a refresher course, check out the explanation that Ace references of what brought down building 7. The page immediately before addresses the question of whether fire can melt steel.

I can't believe I'm even addressing Rosie O'Donnell on this site...

Ouch! Fred Thompson is angling to be John McCain's running mate? I don't see that. Thompson would be better off angling to be Duncan Hunter's running mate. He's got about the same chance.

Why is there so much bad design?

Will Al Gore run for President on the Green Ticket and cost a Democrat the Presidency - like Ralph Nader did to... Al Gore?

Jane Galt asks: what's your permanent age? I would put mine somewhere around 30.

Will the President really veto the Iraq supplemental over pork alone? I'm skeptical - like Tom Bevan.

A poll shows that Americans oppose the 'slow-bleed' Iraq supplemental, and strongly support full funding for the Iraq effort.

What's Going on With Amnesty

Mickey has written a lot on immigration lately, and today he has a lengthy post on the politics of the issue. Go read it.

Hagel, Bloomberg, McCain (?) Take Note

Unity08 has released the criteria by which it will select its fusion ticket for 2008:

Candidates seeking the Unity08 nomination must pick a running-mate before the balloting starts, and must be “serious about public service.” Tickets must be bipartisan, formed with at least one Republican and one Democrat, or with independents running as part of a unity team.

I wonder if Democratic and Republican partisans will consider becoming Unity08 delegates in order to game the nominating process. After all, if the GOP can sign up 50,000 Unity08 delegates nationwide, we might be able to ensure that their nominee is Dennis Kucinich, or Gary Hart, or Jesse Jackson - or some other outside-the-mainstream Democrat who'll siphon votes away from the Democratic ticket.

Update: I think I found out how Unity08 will keep partisans from signing up as delegates. I went to the delegate registration page and this is what I got:



Very clever: no delegates means no partisans.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Marvel that is the Democratic Budget

House Democrats have passed a budget plan that includes a tax increase of nearly $400 billion, which they say will bring federal spending into balance by 2012. That's a neat trick, considering that if we do nothing the federal budget will see a $170 billion surplus in 2012.

According to the Democratic-run Congressional Budget Office, the President's plan will yield a $9 billion deficit in 2012 - without any tax increases.

Are you happy with the change in Washington?

Update: Since I've made a cottage industry lately of looking at Democrats taking votes that might cause problems in the 2008 election, I'll do it again here. There are the 18 Freshman Democrats in swing seats who voted for the a date certain for Iraq withdrawal last week and the Democratic budget today:

Michael Arcuri
Kirsten Gillibrand
John Hall (all 3 of NY)
Jerry McNerney (CA)
Zack Space (OH)
Gabrielle Giffords
Harry Mitchell (both of AZ)
Steve Kagen (WI)
Joe Sestak
Jason Altmire (both of PA)
Ron Klein
Tim Mahoney (both of FL)
Tim Walz (MN)
Paul Hodes
Carol Shea Porter (both NH)
Nancy Boyda (KS)
Ed Perlmutter (CO)
John Yarmouth (KY)

Let me just make clear that I'm not predicting all these candidates will lost next year. I'm just saying that they're all giving their opponents and the NRCC significant issues to use against them. The likelihood is that a few of them will lose, and when we do the post-mortem, we'll point at votes like this one.

In a Confrontation between the UK and Iran...

...can Speaker Pelosi decide whom to back?

H.Res. 267 condemns the Iranians and establishes Congressional support for the British, but Pelosi has so far shuffled it to the bottom of her list of things to do this week.

The whole world is watching; let's hope the Dems can steel themselves to take a tough vote against piracy. At the very least, they ought to be able to put a resolution together faster than the U.N., unless it's their position that the U.S. House of Representatives cannot form an opinion absent the blessing of Turtle Bay.

UPDATE: Too late. The U.N. has officially beaten Pelosi's Congress to the punch in expressing objections to Iran's action. The U.N. is now officially more hawkish on Iran than the U.S. House of Representatives.

Edwards' Emotional Reserve Evapourates

The Editor's praise of the Edwards' campaign for not trafficking in the personal tragedies of the Edwards family is officially inoperative:

John Edwards opens up about son he lost

Schmaltzy coverage of Mrs. Edwards' chemotherapy to follow...

Is the GOP Dead in 2008?

The Politico reports 'GOP Fears 2008 Meltdown:'

Republicans across the country are warning that increasing public discontent toward President Bush, the Iraq war and the GOP brand in general threatens to send the party's 2008 campaign planning into a tailspin.

Already, the problems are having tangible effects. Some of the party's top recruits in key races from Colorado to Florida are refusing to run for Congress. Business executives -- the financial backbone of the GOP -- are sending more and more money to Democrats. Overall Republican fundraising is down sharply from the same time frame during the past two presidential elections.

Then there are the voters.

Polling data released this month confirm what GOP officials are picking up anecdotally: Swing voters are swinging away from Republicans at high velocity. Most alarming to GOP strategists is a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that found 50 percent of those interviewed consider themselves a Democrat or leaning that way; only 35 percent tilt Republican.

This should not be totally dismissed, but the panicky reaction is silly. Yes, voters form opinions of parties, and those opinions are not shed willy-nilly. Further, if low poll numbers discourage strong GOP candidates from seeking office in 2008, then those polls can yield a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the GOP brand in 2008 is not George W. Bush - who will be more or less forgotten by the time of the election. Rather, the brand will be Giuliani, or Romney, or Thompson, or McCain. That candidate will - to a large degree - determine how voters view the party.

I remember prior to the 1992 election, when people debated whether the Democratic party would soon go the way of the Whigs and the Federalists. People reasoned that if the Democrats could only win one Presidential race in 20 years - and that one victory due to Watergate - that they could no longer compete. The Ross Perot phenomenon gave fuel to the discussion. Not only did the Democratic party not disband, but Bill Clinton won the Presidency.

It's silly for anyone - Republican or Democrat - to put much stock in election indicators for an election 18 months away. The GOP could win in a romp in 2008, and a Republican President could have broad coattails. To wit:

...So why, in poll after poll, including the new TIME poll, does that advantage seem to disappear whenever voters are asked to pick a president in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups among front-runners with solid name recognition. In our poll, Hillary Clinton loses to John McCain, 42-48%, and to Rudy Giuliani 41-50%. Even though Clinton maintains a 7% edge over Obama among Democratic respondents, Obama fares better in the general election match-ups. It's so close that it's a statistical dead-heat, but Obama still loses: 43-45% to McCain, 44-45% to Giuliani...

Another GOP advantage in these match-ups is the way the party's top two candidates are viewed by the public. "Giuliani and McCain are not traditional Republicans," says Schulman. "Rather they both have an independent streak that plays well in certain traditional Democratic bastions, such as the Northeast and California, the left and right coasts." As anyone following the campaign knows, the perceived "independent streak" that helps both McCain and Giuliani with the general electorate could hurt them, and possibly doom them, with GOP primary voters...

Add that to the fact that Iraq is unlikely to be the top issue in 2008, and Republican candidates should compete quite well in 2008.

And with regard to the prediction that Iraq will not be the top '08 issue, I am absolutely going to write 'I told you so' quite often if it comes to pass. Because come on, I'm the only one saying it.

Noted With Approval


Although famously opposed to violence, Kermit the Frog is doing his part with US troops in Iraq:

Kermit parachutes to the ground from atop an Iraqi Border Police fort near the Syrian border.

To get through war you need good body armor, good training and good support. You also need a good laugh.

Enter Kermit the Frog.

Actually, that’s Corporal Kermit, of Company H, 121st Infantry, Georgia Army National Guard.

When did the Muppet get a rank? About the same time as Hotel Company’s Cpl. Patrick Heffernan.

Where Heffernan goes, Kermit goes. A digital photo album captures their travels: See Kermit peer through a rifle scope. See Kermit perched on the shoulder of Hotel Company’s Iraqi translator. See him in gunner turret of Heffernan’s Humvee. See him drift through air, parachute billowing against the blue Iraqi sky.

Heffernan e-mails the photos back to his wife, Andie, at home in Gwinnett County. She supports both corporals. When Cpl. Heffernan wanted his own personal Global Positioning System, she bought it. When he asked for a satellite phone he could take on missions, Andie cruised eBay until she found one for $900.

The same is true for Corporal Kermit’s battlefield needs.

Matter of fact, Kermit’s care packages are sometimes better stocked than Heffernan’s. Since arriving in Iraq last August, Kermit has received a .50 caliber rifle, combat knives, a helmet and canteen, all G.I. Joe accessories sized to fit his 12-inch frame. In his latest gift box from home was a parachute with harness. Coming next, a pinup calendar of Miss Piggy.

I have to say: give Kermit a gun and he is quite intimidating. And put him in front of an American flag, and how can you not be reminded of Patton:



Update: Philo nails it in the comments. I had forgotten that Bert is a tool of bin Laden. As leader of the muppets, Kermit had to go to Iraq to take him down. That's what makes him a great American.

Did McCain Consider a Party Switch? Ask Frist & Lott

The Hill reports that in 2001, John McCain discussed a party switch with Tom Daschle, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, and former Democratic Congressman Tom Downey:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.

Downey, a well-connected lobbyist, said he was stunned.

“You’re really wondering?” Downey said he told Weaver. “What do you mean you’re wondering?”

“Well, if the right people asked him,” Weaver said, according to Downey, adding that he responded, “The calls will be made. Who do you want?” Weaver this week said he did have lunch with Downey that spring, pointing out that he and Downey “are very good friends.”

To be honest, I'm not sure how interested I am in knowing more about this. John McCain is who he is. On lots of issues - spending, the military, and some social issues - he clearly is more in line with Republican views than those of the Democrats. On others, he goes his own way. He is mercurial, stubborn, and he has a temper. He will win or lose the Republican nomination based on his long resume and his extensive record on the issues. That includes both good and bad, but right now I don't think he can be optimistic about his chances.

Would I be surprised if this were true? Not at all. Captain Ed is skeptical - since the Democrats would have offered him a blank check - and that's true. But it assumes that McCain would already have been dead set on a switch. That might not have been the case, or he might have had a change of heart. The Hill suggests that one motivation was that the Bush team had not hired any McCain people; perhaps that changed. Or he might have decided that he couldn't win the Democratic Presidential nomination, but he could win the GOP nod.

In any case, a good way to learn more would be to talk to Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell and Bill Frist. As their party's leaders, they would have listened very closely for any such rumors and reacted quickly. They might not answer 100% candidly, but they should be asked.

Read also Powerline and Say Anything.

USS McCain Listing Badly to Port

McCain campaign takes torpedo amidships below the waterline:

Democrats say McCain nearly abandoned GOP

What is the Beltway coming to when one can't rely even upon one's fellow conspirators to keep one's aborted plots to themselves?

Giuliani's Political Ju-Jitsu

Yesterday while I was on Capitol Hill, Rudy Giuliani announced that Steve Forbes will be a campaign co-chair. This is right on the heels of an interview Giuliani did with Larry Kudlow, in which he enthusiastically embraced the low-tax supply-side mantle.

Interestingly, Mitt Romney strongly opposed Forbes' flat tax. This will create a little bit of heartburn for Romney, since he'll need to sound friendlier to this supply-side idea if he expects to win the nomination.

This helps round out his message to primary voters: 'I'm your guy in the war on terror, and on the economy. We may disagree on abortion, but we agree on judges and reasonable limits to abortion. I'm 80 percent of the perfect candidate.'

Why does this qualify as political ju-jitsu? Timing.

And what happens today? Mitt Romney debuts his economic plan. Think he'll get any questions about why he opposed the flat tax, and what he thinks about Steve Forbes backing his supply-sider opponent?

The Democrats' Budget

Heritage Foundation offers this graphic explanation of what the Democrats' budget will do:

Pelosi Survives Tough Press

The San Francisco Chronicle isn't some lapdog that's going to cheer Nancy Pelosi no matter what she does. She had to really earn this headline:

Pelosi proud of Dems' work in first 100 days
Speaker given high marks for keeping 233 diverse members of her party in line on tough votes by leading from the center

I don't know that the quotes they provide fully justify the glowing headline:

Outside experts said her boast was only somewhat hyperbolic. Even Republicans conceded that Pelosi, whom they have derided as an out-of-touch San Francisco liberal, has done a good job of keeping the 233 House Democrats together through some tough votes -- although few of their bills have made it through the Senate and onto President Bush's desk.

"Overall, I'd give her high marks," said Julian Zelizer, a scholar of Congress at Boston University. "I think she has surprised the Republicans. And the more she succeeds, the more Democrats will be willing to follow her, and the more she succeeds, she may be able to attract moderate Republicans. Each succes makes her only stronger..."

To UC Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain, Pelosi's record is mixed.

"The first thing you look for is a leader's ability to lead your caucus," he said. Pointing to her quixotic support for Murtha, he said, "I think she started out shaky there but ended on a strong note."

The second dimension of effective leadership, Cain said, is producing results. "In the end, legislators have to produce things. Her first 100 days started out with promise and ended in stalemate," he said...

Pelosi's Republican House rivals, still trying to adjust to life in the minority after 12 years in charge, give her grudging praise.

Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., who chairs the House Republican Conference, said of Pelosi and her team, "I think they've done a pretty good job of keeping their troops in line."

I would agree with Putnam's assessment - and Dennis Hastert did as well, when I asked him yesterday. But the job will get tougher.

Roundup

The White House has set up an E-mail address for well wishes to Tony Snow. Please take a moment to send him a note of support.

Saudis edging away from the US on terror? How does Iraq play in this: do they think we failed in Iraq, or are they disappointed that we will leave 'before the job's done?' Or is it unrelated?

Crittenden offers a related comment.

Bob Novak (in his E-mail newsletter) suggests that Mitch McConnell's decision not to filibuster the Iraq supplemental is partly due to a decision not to protect the President (no link):

Iraq: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) decision not to block a vote on the Iraq supplemental bill containing an Iraq withdrawal date made sense on several levels.

  1. For one thing, McConnell is aware of public polling that shows a large and growing majority of the American public wants U.S. troops out of Iraq. A new Pew poll puts the number at 59 percent.
  2. But there is another motivation as well: a growing feeling among congressional Republicans that there is no reason for them to keep taking the hits to defend a White House they describe as "ungrateful." President Bush showed such a shocking lack of concern for congressional Republicans' political standing or re-election prospects that they don't care much for their unpopular, lame-duck President. The attitude is that it's his war, let him veto the timetable.


Seven-Elevens may become Kwik-E-Marts to promote the Simpsons movie.

And the latest from JibJab. Very funny, with a mild content/language warning:

Calling Democrats out on Budget Votes


The post below gives you stream of consciousness notes on the first 26 Members who stopped by blogger's row in the Capitol. I debated how to cover it - whether I should provide one quick summary, or try to capture all of it as best I could. I figured that I would do the latter. If you're represented by one of these Members, you might want to know in greater detail what he or she said. Or you might want to get a flavor of the presentations with as little filtering as possible.

If you go to the other bloggers who participated (Rob, Mark, Ivy, Pat and Stephen), you can get a range of presentations. Mary Katharine wins cool points for taping the speeches, even if her battery eventually petered out. Plus, she uses a MacBook. (Wait - does that make her cool, or a cultist?)

Anyway.

One of the running threads in the comments was how the budget vote would show whether Democrats were serious when they campaigned on fiscal restraint and low taxes. A vote for the Democratic alternative is a vote for more spending (at a time when domestic discretionary spending has risen dramatically) and for higher taxes. Democrats who talk one way at home and then vote for the Pelosi budget need to tell their constituents why they flip flopped.

The Hill notes that the NRCC is going to hold their feet to the fire:

Republicans say this vote will be a test for freshman Democratic members from traditionally red districts, a factor the NRCC intends to exploit.

“After masking themselves as agents of fiscal responsibility, many Democrats had their cover blown after last week’s pork-stuffed supplemental proved to protect more peanuts and tropical fish than troops in the field and veterans at home,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “Now they mistakenly think they can get away with voting for the largest tax increase in American history. This is an assault on the pocketbooks of middle-class Americans that will not be allowed to go unnoticed in their districts back home.”

Targeted Democratic members include Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Tim Mahoney (Fla.), Jason Altmire (Pa.), Zack Space (Ohio), Patrick Murphy (Pa.), Chris Carney (Pa.), Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Harry Mitchell (Ariz.), Steve Kagen (Wis.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.) and Stephanie Herseth (S.D.)

The nature of a slim majority is that Members in swing districts have to take 'brave' votes. Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky became very well-known when she bravely cast the deciding vote for President Clinton's largest tax increase in American history. She was also defeated after just one term. There are several Freshmen Democrats who might cast a fatal brave vote today. And considering that some had to vote last week for the forced surrender, and some may have to vote for immigration amnesty and specific tax increases, they'll have a lot to answer for in the next election.

Tom Reynolds mentioned for example, that Kirsten Gillibrand sits in the most Republican seat in New York currently held by a Democrat. He noted there are already strong challengers emerging to her. She's already giving them campaign issues. Several other Democrats are doing the same.

(By the way, the picture is of Congressman John Campbell - who was impressive. It was taken by Rob Bluey. I figured I'd put up that one so interested readers could see what my arm looks like.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blogging the Budget

I've arrived at the Capitol, and the first big news is that lunch will not be healthy today: no salad, or even turkey sandwiches. The GOP Conference is providing chips and soda. Still, it's a good group - with Mark from Red State, Mary Katharine Ham, Stephen Spruiell, Rob Bluey, Pat Cleary, and Ivy Sellers here.

Paul Ryan (Budget Committee Ranking Republican)
Washington does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.

The new Democratic majority is the same as the last Democratic majority. The last one passed the largest tax increase in American history; the new one is passing the largest increase in American history. This budget bill contains a $392.5 billion tax increase. 115 million taxpayers will see their average tax bill increase by nearly $2000 annually in 2011 alone. Women, families with children, single women with children, elderly Americans. Almost half of the 5 million people in Wisconsin will see their taxes go up by an average of over $2000 annually. Democrats have clearly decided to raise taxes to balance the budget.

The GOP budget blocks tax increases, reforms government, limits spending, protects Social Security and begins to pay down the debt. Democrats offer no entitlement reform with no savings on those programs. Democrats are proposing to fix entitlements sometime after 2012 - but they deliver on immense new spending right away. Control spending, keep taxes low, stop the raid of Social Security. The difference between the two parties is crystal clear.

Adam Putnam (Policy Committee Chair)
The Two Great Issues
First: giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines the tools they need. Democrats want to set a date certain, so the enemy in Iraq knows when to begin their serious attacks. It's a very dangerous plan.

Second: On the budget, Democrats are porking up spending bills, while doing nothing about the generational crisis of entitlement spending. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue; it's an American issue.

Scott Garrett (NJ)
Very pleased with the budget Paul Ryan put together. Goes back to the problems of the last election. The Democratic budget is without substance to address the issues they campaigned on - no reserve funds, no funds in the 'tax gap' from which Democrats want to recover. The Democrats plan to recover $300 billion from the tax gap; the IRS says the most you can recover is $20 billion. That is what you can recover from corporate taxes. The Democrats are planning to engage in what the IRS characterized as 'draconian tactics' to get the funds from individuals and small businesses. What do the Democrats intends to do with the funds they recover? It will pay for new spending (instead of repaying the debt).

Cliff Stearns (FL)
Three issues are immigration, war in Iraq and health care.
On the topic of the day - the budget - Democrats eliminate 10% bracket, raise rates on all taxpayers, reinstating marriage penalty, reinstating the death tax. This is even though we have 5 years of uninterrupted growth. We are enjoying record federal revenues - they increased by more than 9 percent since 2001. The deficit in comparison to GDP is among the lowest in history.

On Iraq: Americans should realize that even during the surge in Iraq, we have fewer troops in Iraq than at least three other periods during the war. HR 1062 settles many concerns: it has military, political and social benchmarks. Let's work with Petraeus. Violence is on the decline. Car bombs, deaths, assassination attempts are down dramatically. In the short period of the surge, there have been improvements.

President should veto the supplemental. There is no reason for the pork.

Brian Bilbray (CA 50)
Do What Worked in the Past
When he first left Congress in 2001(?), we had a $150 billion(ish) surplus. Republicans would have done better if they had stuck closer to their formula for success in the 1990s. He did not bring pork back to his distrct, but he bought a balanced budget. For his grandchildren, it was essential to control two things: the budget and the border. We ought to have a 2-year budget cycle. Let Members address difficult budget issues right after having gotten elected, not right before they're about to seek re-election. Shouldn't have to spend 70 percent of your time on how to redistribute the taxpayer money.

Another issue is the insertion of new pork in the conference committee. It gets little scrutiny because it did not go in before; and the conference report doesn't get as much scrutiny. We'll know the process is working properly when people no longer want to serve on conference committees.

Some fiscal conservatives are advocating an amnesty for 12-15 million people, which will cost about $30-$35 billion annually.

Roy Blunt (House Republican Whip)
Defining who we are and who the Democrats are.
We have a great opportunity to define who we are; the Democrats are helping by showing who they are. Democrats showed who they are when they voted for a deadline for withdrawal and defeat In the last Congress, House Republicans forced the Senate to strip $14 billion in pork from the Iraq supplemental; with Democratic leadership, the Iraq supplemental will have more than $24 billion in pork. With the supplemental and the budget, Democrats will be spending $50 billion in new money.

House Republicans have a site at Youtube.

What did we learn from last year's elections? Our ideas did not lose; many Democrats who got elected ran as Republicans. We need to follow our ideas and do a better job of communicating those ideas.

Discussion of No Child Left Behind... (sorry, you'll have to read Rob Bluey - he's following this much more closely).

With regard to immigration, Mr. Blunt opposes the proposal to make illegal immigrants 'touchback' in their home countries before claiming citizenship.

Pete Sessions
I comment that Mr. Sessions takes a picture of every visitor to his DC office. He comments that he learned management, leadership, and customer service in a 16 year career at SBC, and that he tries to get to know everyone who visits his office.

With regard to FTAs, he recognizes that 95 percent of the world's customers live outside the US. Free trade agreements reduce taxes on products and services. We stand for lowering taxes and enhance the economies of the world. Rather than give aid with no expectation as to what countries should do with it, Republicans have favored giving people the chance to earn (my paraphrasing).

The 25 EU countries now have a combined GDP equal to the US... circa 1985. In employment and productivity, R&D, the US has the lead. The US Dow Jones average has gone up 12 times since 1981; the Republican policies of low taxes, open markets, is what works. Europe is trying Hillarycare for health care, high taxes and regulation. How's that going?

Question from Rob: What will Rudy do on health care? (Mr. Sessions is a Giuliani backer). Mr. Sessions' family has longstanding ties to Rudy Giuliani, owing to Sessions' dad's tenure at the FBI, while Rudy was in the Reagan Justice Department. Giuliani believes in markets and wants to empower consumers. Giuliani is concerned about quality health care and access to health care. He understands the importance of tort reform, and of encouraging doctors to participate in the market - so more can afford care.

With regard to Sarbanes-Oxley, the original law was considered quickly and the Senate made the bill much more complex and cumbersome. We need to fix the words 'de minimis' and 'material,' which set the standard for audit. IPOs are being chased outside the US, because of onerous rules and standards. Those words need to be interpreted reasonably.

We need to support our men and women

Dennis Hastert (former Speaker)
Would like to talk about energy, but we need to address climate change. Concerned with the scare stories about submerging Manhattan. We need to recognize that good policy is good environmental policy. We need to do whatever we can to make our air cleaner and our environment better. We need to be more energy independent - instead of being dependent on places like Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Angola, etc. We need capital, technology and prodding to accomplish that. We ought to be more dependent on the ground under Gillette (sp?) Wyoming than we are on Saudi Arabia. We need to do ethanol, clean coal, wind power, gasification and liquification of coal, and atomic energy. The Senate leader is stopping the establishment of a nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain. One person - in a despotic manner - is blocking energy choice in America. We have challenges, but we have great opportunities.

With regard to how Ms. Pelosi is doing as Speaker, Hastert says he always thought of her as a formidable opponent. He says she's doing a good job; she's putting a steress on her conference (noting particularly the vote on the Iraq supplemental) like we did on our conference. With Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Blue Dogs, and others, it's hard to keep your players in line. They split the caucus pretty well; and they will do it a lot more over the next few years.

Tom Reynolds
The Democratic budget includes an average tax increase of $3,657 increase in taxes for the average New Yorker (sorry dad) - all as part of the largest tax increase in American history. Mr. Reynolds hits on some of the same points that Messrs. Ryan and others have. They claim that they are fixing the AMT for one year, but they haven't even done that. Their grassroots lobbying disclosure bill will put new disclosure requirements on ordinary folks. We need good reporting in the blog community and elsewhere about what the Democrats are trying to do. With a threshhold of 10,000 contacts for coverage, we can look forward to more debate and discussion.

Also, Mr. Reynolds is optimistic on taking back all 3 Congressional seats that the Republicans lost in 2006. He says that the Gillibrand seat is a good GOP seat, and those of Arcuri and Hall are winnable.

Tim Walberg (MI)
He has been 'exhilirated' in his first 3 months in Congress, and humbled. He can't believe to be in a Congress attempting to put in place the largest tax increase in American history. He has signed onto the 'A+' Act, as an alternative to No Child Left Behind. It allows local school districts to decide what is best. We must reduce the massive bureaucratic overhead of NCLB. He is a proud sponsor of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. He considers himself deeply privileged to speak for his troops. We need to make sure they are always supported - if not by Congress, then at least by the people in his district.

Mr. Walberg then talked at some length about card check legislation, but that will be better covered by Pat Cleary.

Eric Cantor
First thanks bloggers for leadership and getting out the message (yeah, I don't believe it either). Talks about wrong-headed move to try to take away the secret ballot for unionization. With regard to the budget, we're set for a good old-fashioned tax fight in the House. Will also hear more about a proposed House rule change by Steny Hoyer to stop Republicans from winning floor votes. (More here). On tax bills, it will have the effect of allowing tax increases without Republicans having much of a say. With regard to Iran - and the news today that Iran may release the female British sailor - it demonstrates that Iran will go to such lengths to taunt the US. What will they do if they have nuclear weapons?

On trade, this is a critical week. In order to renew TPA, some agreement is needed this week. We should all want to expand markets, because that's how we lead. Nevertheless, the Democratic Majority insists on inserting ILO standards into any trade agreement - a huge departure from traditional practice. But it seems Speaker Pelois and Sandy Levin want to abide by their commitments to Big Labor.

Mark Kirk (IL)
Tomorrow the House may take up a resolution to call for the release of the British sailors in Iran. Served in the Pentagon as Navy Intel officer. GPS data clearly shows the sailors were seized in Iraqi waters. The House resolution mentions a new sanction: a gasoline quarantine on Iran. Because of mismanagement, Iran is dependent on foreign sources for nearly half its gas. Most of the gas comes from one supplier: Vital (?) of Belgium.

Another priority in Congress is building a new agenda for GOP parties and candidates. People think of the US as a third rural, a third urban, and a third suburban. But this last election was the first in which half of all voters were suburban voters. The agenda includes legislation on school safety (allowing teachers to search students for weapons), online predator legislation, helping save for college, '401 Kids' savings accounts.

On trade, Mr. Kirk represents Boeing and Motorola. Trade lifts many incomes, but spreads those gains widely. Business failures and bankruptcies attract disproportionate attention.

Todd Tiahrt (KS)
Chapter 9 of the supplemental prevents the deployment of troops that are not fully 'mission capable.' That is, we must have all the troops, and they must have been trained on the equipment that they will be deployed on - which is not possible, because US policy means that that is already in theater. Plus, Congress must be notified 15 days in advance of deployment. Under the Democratic proposal, it's impossible to deploy troops.

Tax policy: look to the lesson of Ireland, which shows how important tax policy is to economic growth. Regulations raise the cost of everything by 12 percent. Health care costs are rising faster than inflation. We need more R&D funding. On energy we are stifling economic growth by not using the resources that we have, and not looking for new technologies (notably clean coal and natural gas).

John Boehner (Minority Leader)
President has made it very clear he will veto a bill with unnecessary spending. There is a $400-$800 billion hole in the Democratic budget over 5 years, which must be made up with entitlement cuts or tax increases. It will be through tax increases. Democrats have already spent $50 billion more than called for, in just the first quarter of the year.

With regard to earmark reform, the Democrats promised more clarity on how Members benefit from their own earmarks. Yesterday's decision of the Ethics Committee did nothing to fulfill that promise. Then last week, David Obey did this - and it demonstrates that there is no way to enforce the simple rules they've put in place.

On ethics and the inability of people to access gift and travel benefit information online, Mr. Boehner says it might be a good idea to put that information online so people can access it. He also says the rules are incosistent and difficult to obey. Rob mentions that Sunlight Foundation is working on this as well.

Zach Wamp (TN)
Mr. Wamp notes that Republicans were not only better at running the House when they were in the majority, they are better at being the Minority than the Democrats were. Democrats ran on security and fiscal responsibility; now is their chance to make good on their promises.

The threat of Islamic Jihadism will not go away, and it is the defining issue of our generation. Our volunteer army is facing that threat, and we must not play games (and play politics) with our troops and our way of life. You can't vote for withdrawal and then tell the voters at home that you are tough on terror. We should leave Iraq when it's in our nation's best interest.

Mr. Wamp sits on the Appropriations Committee, so I asked where earmark reform stands. He says reform was long overdue, and he is all for transparency and complete openness - but the Congress must exercise its constitutional role in determining the spending of taxpayer dollars - not just leave it to the President.

He also too advantage of a question to plug Thompson for President. He says his guess is that Thompson will run - and he says we need a tough conservative who can offer leadership.

Dr. Phil Gingrey (GA)
With regard to 'rebranding' and what happened between 1994 and 2006, we must stand for a strong national defense and a limited government. We must have the $103 billion for the military in the Iraq supplemental, but we must not have a drop dead date for withdrawal - no matter what the circumstances. Even if we have the enemy on the run in 2008, the Democrats want us to pull out. It makes no sense to have this excess spending in it. The Democrts refuse to consider S-CHIP funding as a stand-alone bill - as it should - because it would complicate matters under their new Pay-Go rules. Democrats are ramping up spending and paying for it with the largest tax increase in American history.

Mr. Gingrey also called for S-CHIP reform when it is reauthorized - to make sure it is not abused. Chairman Dingell is already talking about increasing spending from about $5 billion per year to $15 billion per year. He wants to let the federal government pay for health insurance for those who don't need it.

Tom Tancredo (CO)
First he expressed his outrage that Democrats bought votes of their Members for a forced surrender with peanut money and all sorts of other bribes.

He then turned to a topic on which he's passionate: immigration. Mr. Tancredo is being sued by a jailed illegal immigrant named Al Qaedi (sp?) who suffered mental anguish listening to Mr. Tancredo talk about immigration. This fellow can't be deported, because Iraq won't take him back. The State Department is supposed to stop issuing visas for nationals of countries who won't take back such nationals - but they won't. He has called for the resignation of Alberto Gonzales over failure to enforce immigration laws. On immigration reform, he's concerned that some Republican Senators will be willing to make a bad deal; he looks to Jeff Sessions to continue to lead the fight.

Trent Franks (AZ)
Mentions that the Democrats are getting ready to put in place the largest tax increase in the history of humanity. The only offsets for the deficit and the debt are tax increases. Democrats must want to repeal the laws of math, because its the only way their budgets can be consistent with reality. When the Baby Boomers retire, they will become the most dependent generation. The Congress lacks statesmen - people willing to consider the next generation. Taking a bill intended for the support of our troops and ladening it with pork is dishonorable.

What we face in Iraq is the most dangerous challenge we face in the history of the world. The violent ideas and philosophy of Islamic terrorism is taking hold in too many people around the world, and we must confront it. But the ignorance of the truth of this is even more dangerous.

Mr. Franks notes that he has endorsed Duncan Hunter for President (Editor's note - not John McCain). He is a former Ranger and understands what we are facing. He hopes that people take a look at what he stands for.

Catherine McMorris Rodgers (WA)
There is no greater defining issue than the budget - and taxes. So many Democrats ran on fiscal responsibility - and are now pushing to eliminate the Bush tax cuts. It will lead to a tax increase of over $3000 on the average Washington state resident. These tax increases will destroy businesses and jobs.

But why aren't the American people aware that this tax increase is coming their way; why don't they notice it? We need to do a better job communicating.

Mike Conaway and John Carter
Democrats have bragged for 12 years that they are 'fiscal conservatives;' it's easy to do so when you're not accountable. But voting on this tax increase is a chance to hold their feet to the fire. They're going to continue business as usual - throwing money at every program coming down the pike.

The average tax filer in Texas will see taxes go up $2,755 under the Democratic plan. When people ask what the Republicans did during 12 years in power, the answer comes tomorrow: they fought off this tax increase. If the Democrats had been in power, they would have enacted this tax increase - and taken away money that people could have used for TVs, trucks - and homes, in some cases.

John Campbell (CA)
The Democratic budget increases spending, does nothing for Social Security and/or entitlement reform - while including the largest tax increase in American history. The Democrats are unencumbered by facts. They claim to be for marriage penalty relief, the 10 percent tax bracket, and lower taxes generally - but that belies the facts of what's in their budget. Under their plan, they can either have the tax cuts they claim to like, or they can balance the budget. The bottom line: a tax increase of $3,000 on average for every American tax filer. Mr. Campbell notes that the House Regressive Caucus has a tax increase 2.5 times larger, and the Black Caucus has their own proposal as well. In fact, the main Democratic budget - with all of its tax increases - is the least bad budget put forth by the Democrats.

Mr. Campbell is really enjoying his posting at the Green Eyeshade Blog. He thinks it's a great way to get information out to ordinary folks. (Check this out for example).

Mr. Campbell also made a pitch for Congress to stay in session to fund the troops - pointing out that while funds are running out, Members should not go home.

Charlie Dent (PA)
He notes (in response to a question I posed to Mr. Campbell), that he has endorsed Rudy Giuliani for President. He thinks that Giuliani will run very well in his district.

Rob notes that Senator McCain has advised that the President, in explaining why he's going to veto the Iraq supplemental, would simply read the list of pork projects in the bill. Congressman Dent thinks that's a good start, but notes that the major problem is the provisions that interfere with the President's authority to command the armed forces. He also makes a pitch for doing more to inspect the people who enter country.

Marsha Blackburn (TN), Kevin Brady (TX) and Bob Goodlatte (VA)
Ms. Blackburn starts off on climate change, noting that people accept that the climate has changed. We need to know better what effect human beings have on it. How can we encourage a positive outcome? And off to Mr. Goodlatte...

who notes that the Democrats are getting ready to pass the largest tax increase in US history. He says that the GOP needs to reclaim the high ground, and the Democrats are helping them do it. It will set aside Social Security, keep taxes down and balance the budget. HJRes 1 is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution introduced by Mr. Goodlatte and cosponsored by more than 150 others. He hopes to have a vote on the measure in this Congress. He's also a proponent of eliminating the tax code by a date certain, so Congress and the President will act to replace it.

Mr. Brady steps up and says that Republicans got fired from running Congress because they forgot to balance the budget and reduce spending. The GOP budget will do that. If you listen closely (he notes), you'll hear the shattering of many Democratic campaign promises. He points out that the budget deficit will increase by $38 billion under the Democratic plan.

Brady wants to extend Trade Promotion Authority, and notes how well the US does in trade with nations with whom we have Free Trade Agreements. He says they're down to the last 48 hours on this. He says that the GOP has offered a good compromise on Trade Promotion, which would require trading partners to sign on to either ILO standards or US standards when they come to an agreement with the US. He says the US can't step off the trade stage and hope to prosper.

Ms. Blackburn also points out that the Democrat budget eliminates the exemption for states that use sales taxes instead of income taxes - raising taxes even more on residents of those states.

Roundup

Bush calls on the Congress to pass a clean Iraq supplemental.

The Democrats support our troops. They don't seem thrilled with the support.

Get ready for 'Marry Your Baby Daddy' month.

CQ looks at Fred Thompson's key Senate votes.

Carl Levin: Bush's Secret Senate Supporter

Carl Levin says that he's voting for a date-certain for withdrawal from Iraq in order to help the President:

But Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that for all the president’s objections to setting a timetable for withdrawal, Bush actually has told him personally that it is “useful” for the Iraqis to hear that support in the U.S. is waning for a continuing troop presence in Iraq.

“What we’re doing here is giving [the White House] leverage with the Iraqi leaders,” Levin said, indicating that the president is using the Democratic “bad cops” position to pressure Iraqis to improve training and readiness of their own troops and security personnel.

Levin said that, despite the president’s private acknowledgements that the Democrats’ Iraq language is serving a constructive purpose, “he’ll veto it, because he wants to be the good cop.”

I'm not in law enforcement, but when playing 'good cop/bad cop,' aren't you supposed to coordinate it ahead?

And if the President says he doesn't think it's helping, will Levin continue to do what the President asks?

How Effective is Gun Control?

Well, if you look at the British example, it's highly effective in enhancing sales of body armor:

A firm that supplies stab and bullet-proof vests to government agencies around the world said it had been flooded with orders following a series of brutal knife murders on Britain's streets.

VestGuard UK said it had received more than 100 calls from parents in London alone. It normally receives only one or two inquiries nationwide each year.

Some 60 jackets, costing between £300 and £425, have been sold - with parents saving up to buy the armour.

Shaun Ward, the sales director at VestGuard UK, said: "They are concerned by what is happening on the streets - the level of violence. A 13-year-old girl has been our youngest customer but most are about 15 or 16.

"We have a factory in Bolton and since Christmas we have been making really small vests that have a 28" chest and weigh 800 grams. The children have been mostly boys, but there are a few girls."

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: "The fact parents are having to resort to spending large amounts of money on such drastic measures betrays the Government's failure to get a grip on violent crime.

"This is a consequence of having very little police presence on our streets and in our communities to detect and deter violent crime. While our police are tied up in red tape innocent children are having to wear police equipment to protect themselves."

Having conquered the problem of guns, why don't they just ban those 'Saturday Night Special' knives? You know, those long ones whose only real purpose is to kill people.

Blogging from the Capitol

I'll be joining some other conservative bloggers in blogging from the Capitol today. The House Republican leadership has invited a group up to cover the budget debate and interact with about 30 Members of the House Republican conference. It's my understanding I'll be joined by Mark Impomeni of Red State, Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation, Pat Cleary of the NAM, Mary Katharine Ham of Townhall, Ivy Sellers of Human Events, and Stephen Spruiell of NRO.

I've not blogged about the budget yet, but it's worth paying attention to. The Democrats are proposing to terminate a range of tax cuts, and impose the largest tax increase in American history. They plan to increase the 10 percent tax bracket to 15 percent, eliminate marriage penalty relief, and halve the child tax credit. While President Bush has gotten little credit for the strong and steady economic growth that has prevailed virtually throughout his Presidency, these tax increases will undercut that growth.

Read more about it here at the Republican Budget Committee homepage. Here are a few highlights:

Elderly Couple with $40,000 in Income
  • This elderly couple’s tax bill would rise by 156% in 2011 – from $583 to $1,489.
Family of Four With $60,000 in Earnings
  • This family’s income tax bill would rise from $3,030 to $4,893 in 2011 – that’s an increase of more than $1,850, or 61%.
Single Parent with Two Children and $30,000 in Earnings
  • This single parent would see her tax benefits decline 67% in 2011. With tax relief, this single parent qualifies to get back $2,414. With the Democrats’ tax hike, this single parent would only get back $799.
EVERY Working American Would be Affected by Democrats’ Tax Hike
  • 115 million taxpayers would see their taxes increase, on average, by $1,795 in 2011.
  • 83 million women would see their taxes rise, on average, by $2,068.
  • 48 million married couples would incur average tax increases of $2,899.
  • Taxes would increase, on average, by $2,181 for 42 million families with children.
  • 12 million single women with children would see their taxes increase, on average, by $1,082.
  • 17 million elderly individuals would incur average tax increases of $2,270.
  • Taxes would rise, on average, by $3,960 for 26 million small business owners.
  • Over 5 million taxpayers who previously owed no taxes would become subject to the individual income tax as a consequence of the sunset.

As a rule of thumb, if you are reading this, your taxes will probably go up.

Democrats in no Hurry to Fund Troops

That seems to be the message from the decision of Congressional leadership to take their Easter/Passover break as scheduled - even though it means they won't send the Iraq spending bill to the President until after April 15 - the date by which the administration says it's needed:

The Senate will take a final vote before the Easter recess Thursday but is not expected to reconcile its version with the House bill until both chambers are in session April 16 -- one day after the Pentagon says it must get the emergency funding for troop operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to avoid cutbacks.

The White House doesn't intend to accept the IOU quietly, accusing the Democratic-controlled Congress of skipping town before its work is done.

"They should stick around until they send him a bill," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "You can be sure that we won't be shy about talking about that."

When they do complete the conference report, it will be the 'slow-bleed' version - the one that the President promised to veto weeks ago. According to Senate Democrats, the real deadline is May 1, and they intend to send the veto bait to the President 'well before' that date:

Senate Democrats said they are sensitive to the need but were assuming a May 1, not April 15, deadline, based on information and testimony they received from Defense Department officials.

"Secretary Gates has changed his tune publicly a little," the Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman, Tom Gavin, said Tuesday.

Gavin said a few days' difference would not impose an extraordinary burden. "The Pentagon has the authority within the law to transfer funds to support military action," he said.

Congressional staff will negotiate a compromise bill over the break, which is one week for the Senate and two weeks for the House, "with the goal to get a conference report well before the end of the month," Gavin said.

So it's clear they don't take Gates' deadline seriously. It's my impression that April 15 is in fact a 'soft' deadline. Gates asserts that it will have 'a genuinely adverse effect on the readiness of the Army and the quality of life for soldiers and their families.' In the past however, DoD has shifted funds to minimize the impact of funding delays.

I've not gotten any sense however, that the same is true of the May 1 deadline. Will the Democrats meet that deadline? And in trying to do so, what sort of brinkmanship will they engage in? After all, they're not going to turn around and simply send the President a clean bill all of a sudden. It will still have pork, and it will still have elements of the 'slow bleed' approach.

Open the Pod Bay Door, Hal.


Well, some of the particulars are not exactly right; it's on Saturn rather than one of Jupiter's moons, and it's a hexagon rather than an obelisk. But apart from that, it seems they may have found the alien device that set human evolution on its path:

One of the most bizarre weather patterns known has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole.

Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.

The honeycomb-like feature has been seen before. NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged it more than two decades ago. Now, having spotted it with the Cassini spacecraft, scientists conclude it is a long-lasting oddity.

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere, where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate, is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

I'd take this as pretty solid evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Don't believe me? Well, have you read about the eye at Saturn's south pole? (By the way, am I alone in thinking that the author of that second article got away with a title that he expected his editor would revise?)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

First Shoe Drops

The Politico reports that the Senate will vote today on whether to strip the timetable from the Senate Iraq legislation:

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday afternoon on an amendment to strike the withdrawal timetable from legislation to fund the war in Iraq, a senior Senate aide told Politico's John Bresnahan.

Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi offered an amendment to remove the withdrawal language from the emergency spending bill to fund the war.

The House approved a measure last week that would force U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the fall of 2008 as well as other benchmarks that could speed that withdrawal.

Now we all remember about I'm just a bill. If the Senate strips this provision and passes the bill without it, then the Senate version (without timetable) has to be merged with the House version (with timetable) in conference. On a huge issue like this one, the conference outcome will likely be dictated by the leadership. Thus, Pelosi, Reid, and their leadership teams will decide whether the timetable is included in the conference report or stripped.

In a penny, in a dollar: the language will likely be included. Then the question will be whether Reid can get enough votes to send the bill to the President. Watch the vote today. If he only needs to sway one Senator, he probably ought to be able to send it to the President for a veto. More than that I would not bet on. Then whether the supplemental is vetoed or dies in the Senate, Congress will go back to work on a cleaner bill (but count on it still including the pork, and some of the procedural hurdles).

Why retain the forced-surrender language when it's clear the President will veto it? Because when the anti-war left says 'jump,' the Congressional Democrats know that the proper response is 'how high?'

Joke of the Day

A secret deadline for withdrawal from Iraq:


"My strong preference would be to have a classified plan and a classified timetable that should be shared with Congress," Pryor said yesterday. A public deadline would tip off the enemy, "who might just bide their time and wait for us to leave," he said. "Then you'd have chaos and mayhem and instability."

Pryor said a classified plan would be provided by the president, shepherded by Senate committees and ultimately shared with Congress and Iraqi leaders. He is confident that the plan would remain secret, because Congress is entrusted with secrets "all the time."

What if the president's withdrawal plan didn't include a deadline? Or what if it leaked, through leaders in Iraq, to insurgents?

All worth considering, Pryor said. But in the meantime, "at least you'd have a plan."

Sure, that'd work. Who among us can think of an instance where a secret known only to the Iraqi government, the Executive Branch, or the Congress ever leaked? Except for Valerie Plame, SWIFT financing, secret prisons, our intercepts of Osama bin Laden's phone conversations, our intelligence on WMD in Iraq, our overall intelligence budget, and 15 or 20 other things I can think of...

Great plan!

Roundup

An object lesson for Al Gore and John Edwards: I wonder what this man's carbon footprint is?

Is Henry Waxman colluding with the Washington Post? Circumstances prompt Rob to ask that reasonable question.

Carl Levin wants to stop the front-loading of primaries. What's that old saying about the barn door?

Honoring Jason Dunham.

A British man has circumnavigated the globe - on foot.

McConnell Wants a Veto; Does Reid Have the Votes

Roll Call ($) reports this morning (as do some other outlets) that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell won't attempt to filibuster the 'slow bleed' Iraq supplemental:

Like ripping off a Band-Aid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that he just wants to get the inevitable over with and have President Bush veto a Democratic-crafted emergency war spending bill.

Far from being concerned about whether he has the votes this week to eliminate a Democratic provision establishing a suggested timetable for withdrawal from the Iraq War, McConnell instead indicated that — regardless of the outcome of that vote — Republicans would not attempt to filibuster any House-Senate conference report even if it includes a mandatory or optional date for troops to begin coming home.

Implying that Republicans could get a timetable-free bill by simply waiting for Democrats to concede defeat, McConnell said, “I think we need to get the bill on down to the president, get the veto out of the way, and get serious about passing a troop funding bill.”

In fact, McConnell urged haste in passing the bill this week, saying, “We need to have enough time to get through the veto process and repass this bill.”

He added that Democrats, who are unlikely to find two-thirds in either chamber willing to override a veto, would be forced to pass a war spending bill without any withdrawal language.

Roll Call also covers the anticipated effort of Thad Cochran to eliminate the forced-surrender language, and of Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn to strip earmarks.

Allah implies McConnell might be waving a white flag; that he might be concerned about giving the nutroots a weapon to use against him in his reelection run next year. I think that's off the mark.

There aren't many members in the Senate who've relished a fight more than McConnell, and his tenacity in opposition to campaign finance reform showed that he takes the anger of the Left as proof that he's doing something right. I'm sure that's the case here.

I think his plan here simply recognizes the fact that the Democrats are boxed in. Having already lost the vote on Reid's non-binding withdrawal resolution, he might have counted votes and decided that the Democrats can't pass a forced-surrender conference report. (I think that's a fair possibility - considering he's lost Lieberman, and perhaps several others). Even if they can pass it, McConnell probably believes that the President and the GOP won't be hurt when the President vetoes the bill (a reasonable conclusion). In fact, it might be the Democrats who pay the price with their base when they inevitably must pass a clean bill.

Update: Heard from a source on the Hill, who says that Senator McConnell believes a veto will move the underlying funding to the troops faster and more effectively than can a Senate filibuster.

Update: Captain Ed's conclusion is similar.