Friday, October 19, 2007

I Got the Sopranos Story Wrong -- Tony Died

OK, so earlier today I excerpted a NY Post article that says the following:


..For months, Chase has said he had nothing in mind - and certainly not Tony's death, as many fans speculated - when he decided to fade the series to black without resolution after eight years and 84 episodes.

In the book, he lets on that he has indeed thought deeply about how his famous characters ended up, after all.

Chase says he wasn't surprised by the angry reaction of "Sopranos" fans who complained the show's finale didn't give them "closure."

"There was so much more to say than could have been conveyed by an image of Tony facedown in a bowl of onion rings with a bullet in his head. Or, on the other side, taking over the New York Mob," he says.

"The way I see it is that Tony Soprano had been people's alter ego. They had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie and cheat. They had cheered him on.

"And then, all of a sudden, they want to see him punished for all that.

"They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly.

Can you see why I inferred that Chase was saying that Tony lived?

A commenter in the earlier post pointed me directly to the Entertainment Weekly interview in question:

You know there were many people who thought the end was brilliant.
Sure. But I must say that even people who liked it misinterpreted it, to a certain extent. This wasn't really about ''leaving the door open.'' There was nothing definite about what happened, but there was a clean trend on view — a definite sense of what Tony and Carmela's future looks like. Whether it happened that night or some other night doesn't really matter...

Are they wasting their time? Is there a puzzle to be solved?
There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like. Remember when Jerry Toricano was killed? Silvio was not aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his way down to the floor. That's the way things happen: It's already going on by the time you even notice it.

Are you saying...?
I'm not saying anything. And I'm not trying to be coy. It's just that I think that to explain it would diminish it.

So there you have it. David Chase still wanted us to use our imagination, but at least he validates what most imagined: Tony Soprano died.

Can Chris Dodd Block a FISA Extension?

Read it at the Standard.

Senate Democrats Block Vote on Permanent Internet Tax Ban

Read it at the Standard.

Pete Stark Stands by His Vitriol

Read it at the Standard.

Larry Craig's Latest Music Video

Is this old? It's the first time I've seen it. Mild content warning (surprise):

Do I need a news angle to justify posting this? Ok -- Charlie Cook has moved Craig's Senate seat from 'likely Republican' to 'solid Republican.'

Ben Stein Has Some Explaining to Do

I have tremendous respect for Ben Stein -- the conservative actor/economist son of Herb Stein, and former columnist for the American Spectator. But whatever Norm Coleman may say, this is inexcusable:

Liberal Al Franken is good enough and smart enough to win some of conservative Ben Stein's money -- and doggone it, Stein likes him.

Stein, an actor, writer, economist and former Nixon speechwriter, has contributed $2,000 to Franken's U.S. Senate campaign. The two men have known each other for about 30 years...

"Friendship trumps ideology, by the way, as it should," said U.S. Sen Norm Coleman, whom Franken hopes to unseat in 2008. "Was he in 'Ferris Bueller'? I think it was a good movie. I don't get a lot of Ben Stein."

Then again, maybe Stein is playing the game a step ahead of everyone else:

Republican Senator Norm Coleman sports 45% job approval rating. He also has a +17 net favorable/unfavorable rating (52/35), while his possible opponent, comedian Al Franken, has a -7 net fav/unfav rating (27/34). Attorney Mike Ciresi, Franken's challenger in the DFL primary, scored a +5 net fav/unfav rating (20/15) with a majority (51%) saying they did not know enough about him to have an opinion.

There certainly is a strong body of opinion that Ciresi would be a superior candidate to Franken. Perhaps Stein is trying to set Coleman up with an easy opponent.

Yeah... that's the ticket.

Anti-War Veteran Quits Anti-War Organization

Read it at the Standard.

The Fruits of Protectionism

As a pro-free-trade Republican, I will frequently disagree with 'fair traders' -- both Republican and Democrat. Therefore it's no surprise that I disagree with representatives English (R-PA), Altmire (D-PA), Visclosky (D-IN), and Hayes (R-NC) on the use of Chinese steel in the border fence:

House members allied with the domestic steel industry blasted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday for building a fence on the Mexican border with steel products from China.

“By allowing the use of Chinese pipe, DHS is allowing the U.S. taxpayer to subsidize Chinese production at the expense of the American workers,” Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) said at a press conference. “This is completely unacceptable.”

“This is outrageous, it’s offensive and it’s unacceptable,” charged Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.).

“It is beyond outrageous that we’re using Chinese steel to build a border fence to protect us against illegal immigration,” said Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), who also joined the press conference...

DHS’s Office of Congressional Affairs indicated to English’s office that it had waived so-called Buy American rules, which normally require the use of U.S. steel in such projects, in order to use the Chinese pipe and tube, English said.

This is the funniest part of the piece:
Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) said he was concerned about the safety of Chinese steel. However, when pressed, he and other lawmakers could not cite any specific safety problems that might result from the use of foreign pipe in a fence. Visclosky did note other safety issues that have recently come up with toys from China, while English said the use of Chinese inputs in U.S. infrastructure prompts broader concerns.
The safety of the steel? Can someone describe the potential safety concerns with a steel fencepost? Are they afraid it might explode? Or is the concern that it will collapse without warning -- potentially... bruising the head of the illegal immigrant attempting to bring down that section of fence?

Does the American steel industry need the help? It's enjoyed an unprecedented run of success since 2004 -- partly because the federal government helped bail the industry out of its overly generous pensions. US steel companies enjoyed record revenues and profits in 2006. Why aren't we treating steel like oil -- and imposing windfall profit taxes on the industry, to punish it for taking advantage of a highly-regulated market to gouge domestic consumers? After all, high steel prices damage the competitiveness of American industries that depend on steel -- such as autos. Aren't we trying to help the American auto industry?

More importantly, isn't there a strong public interest in ensuring that American taxpayers get the most 'bang for the buck' when it comes to spending their hard-earned tax dollars? Don't we want to buy the most border fence we can with limited revenues? Democrats are livid about deficit spending to fund the war in Iraq; why do they want us to add to the federal deficit to purchase more expensive steel from producers enjoying record profits?

I better not see any of these Members of Congress issuing press releases complaining that federal agencies are wasting taxpayer dollars, given that they favor wasting it here.

Chase Ruins the Ending of the Sopranos

David Chase is writing a book about the Sopranos, and like any good huckster he's got a hook to make you plunk down your money. He tells you how the series ended.

I include myself among the many who were frustrated with the last episode. As all America is aware, the episode did not so much conclude as it simply stopped.

Rather than wrap everything up, Chase left viewers with an ambiguous coda, filled with hints that something terrible had happened to Tony -- and perhaps to his family. Was Tony killed by the brother of a rival? Did his family die with him?

Left to read the clues, many saw a strong suggestion that the mob life had finally come back to haunt him. Like so many others, he died a violent death.

I was frustrated with the ending for many reasons. Chase apparently wanted viewers to use their imaginations. But even with a conventional ending, we still would. Further, we watched because we liked Chase's vision of the characters. As their creator, he knew them better -- and we wanted him -- as the storyteller -- to let us know how everything ended. Lastlyr, there's the lure of movies -- which might lead Chase later to get specific about what happened. If Chase returned to the world of the Sopranos, he would reveal it anyway. Little did we expect it would come just a few months later, in a book:

'SOPRANOS" creator David Chase has a pretty good idea what happens to Tony and family after the famous black-out finale.

"People have said that the Soprano family's whole life goes in the toilet in the last episode. That the parents' whole twisted lifestyle is visited on the children," Chase says in a new, defintive book about the mob opera.

"And that's true - to a certain extent," he says in The Sopranos: The Complete Book," which is excerpted in the upcoming edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine...

For months, Chase has said he had nothing in mind - and certainly not Tony's death, as many fans speculated - when he decided to fade the series to black without resolution after eight years and 84 episodes.

In the book, he lets on that he has indeed thought deeply about how his famous characters ended up, after all.

Chase says he wasn't surprised by the angry reaction of "Sopranos" fans who complained the show's finale didn't give them "closure."

"There was so much more to say than could have been conveyed by an image of Tony facedown in a bowl of onion rings with a bullet in his head. Or, on the other side, taking over the New York Mob," he says.

"The way I see it is that Tony Soprano had been people's alter ego. They had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie and cheat. They had cheered him on.

"And then, all of a sudden, they want to see him punished for all that.

"They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly.

"The pathetic thing - to me - was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years."

Chase 'certainly' didn't have in mind Tony's death? He scripted an ending which made that a reasonable -- even likely -- outcome. He must have realized many would envision it. If it was important to him -- important enough to throw cold water on it later -- why did he leave it hanging that way? If he didn't want us to ruminate on Tony's demise, why didn't Chase write an ending?

Hasn't Chase now given us the worst of all possible worlds? He invited us to craft our own endings, then told millions that their conclusion is wrong. What's the point in that? This is especially true since he seems to want to use the 'his' ending to sell a book. That's shameless.

After inviting us to imagine the conclusion -- and implicitly telling us that our imagination was as valid as his -- I've got bad news for Chase. His ending is wrong. Tony got killed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How Can Obama Take Down Hillary

Jim Geraghty and Quin Hillyer debate what Obama can do to cut into Hillary's poll lead. This is my proposal:

I've thought for a while that Hillary is VERY vulnerable in a general election. The mood is for change and she's been in DC for 35 years (her claim). Plus, I would hammer the 28 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton in the White House. Add to that her failure to excite the base, her tone-deafness on health care reform, fundraising scandals, and other issues. Then toss in the attacks that Republicans will bring on (Bill) Clinton's inattention to AQ, and the personal peccadilloes -- including Hillary's involvement in Whitewater, the White House travel office, all of that. I think she can be beaten badly.

Of course, Obama can't run that campaign. No Democrat could run it in the primary and win. But I think Edwards could say that while he knows there's nothing to this, the party faithful need to think about how she will get opened up like a soft-shelled peanut (Kerrey), by the GOP attack machine. If I were Obama, I would make a deal with Edwards that would turn him into an attack dog on electability. Obama would be the above-the-fray, electable alternative.

I don't know if it would work, but I think it's the only shot they have at taking Hillary down.


Polling Shows Increased Support for Surge

Read it at the Standard.

Tax Fix Tests Democratic Campaign Promises

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Quietly Looking for Support for War Tax

Just proof that as far as House Democrats go, a good idea never goes away:

Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) opposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on two major issues this week, repeating a pattern of alternating agreement and disagreement between the two influential Democrats.

Murtha renewed his call for a surtax to fund the Iraq war, an idea Pelosi has shot down, and he cautioned against bringing up legislation to condemn the Armenian genocide, a measure Pelosi supports...

Despite being rebuffed by Pelosi on the war surtax earlier, Murtha and Reps. Dave Obey (Wis.) and Jim McGovern (Mass.) wrote their colleagues Tuesday to gather support for the idea.

Meanwhile, Charlie Rangel is planning to propose a tax increase of about a trillion dollars. And at the same time, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the budget will be balanced by 2012 -- if Democrats don't bust the budget with new spending.

So why do we need another new tax, exactly?

Pete Stark Resorts to Personal Attacks Again

Read it at the Standard.

Bear Grylls Doesn't Know When to Apologize

Put Bear Grylls with Larry Craig, Al Sharpton, and scads of others in modern life today: people who don't realize they've done something wrong and need to apologize. Doesn't he realize that whether it was his decision or someone else's, his show deceived viewers about the risks he was taking. That was wrong.

Yet instead of the apology, we get the next stage -- the period where he gets complimented for keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of embarrassment about what his show did wrong:

Grylls now says the fallout from the revelation has been difficult to deal with.

"It's been hard," he told Outside magazine in an interview out this week. "I'm not that bulletproof underneath it all! But I just want to say thanks for so much support and encouragement. I will keep giving 'Man vs. Wild' my absolute everything."

Grylls stood out because in "Man vs. Wild" he seemed to do anything to survive, including eating loads of creepy things and spending time in the cold.

But earlier this year, it was revealed that during some scenes where viewers were led to believe he was in the woods, he was actually sleeping inside.

There was never any indication in Grylls's show that anything was staged. There was clearly a conscious effort to mislead viewers. That was wrong -- particularly when it would have been a cool show without the deception.

Just say 'I'm sorry,' for heaven's sake.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Democrats' Corrupt Process Leads to Failure on FISA

Read it at the Standard.

NYT: Surprisingly, Voters Associate Iraq with War on Terror

Read it at the Standard.

Democrats Back Away from FISA Vote

Read it at the Standard.

Tom Davis Rethinking Senate Run

It was regarded as a given that Tom Davis would leave the House of Representatives to seek the Senate seat being vacated by John Warner. But he's now reconsidering, as it would be a major challenge for a moderate such as he to be nominated at a convention dominated by conservatives, then lead a divided party against Warner:

Since Sen. John Warner (R) announced his retirement last month and even before, Davis has been expected to enter the race to replace him.

But Davis said at a breakfast at the National Press Club on Tuesday that both recent developments factor into his decision and suggested that he might instead run for freshman Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-Va.) seat in 2012, or not run for Senate at all.

Davis is also a strong candidate on K Street and could be drawn to a lobbying job.

“There are other races; this isn’t the only shot,” Davis said. “You’ve got a very vulnerable guy sitting there in the other Senate seat right now who may or may not run in four years. And you know what? If you don’t go to the Senate, so what? I’ve been a committee chairman in the House. I’ve got my portrait hanging on a wall. I’ve been pretty productive legislatively.”

There have been rumblings of late that Davis is having second thoughts about running, but he insists his mind was never made up.

While Davis is more liberal than many Republicans both in the House and in Virginia, he's widely respected as a bright team player, with great political skills. Whenever Republicans regain the majority, Davis will have an influential role. He'll also win friends by seeking re-election, which would take away another prime takeover opportunity from House Democrats.

Jim DeMint Wins an Important Victory on Earmarks

When Republicans in the last Congress, and Democrats in the current Congress, began taking up proposals to shed light on the earmark process, appropriators began to turn to the 'phonemark.' Simply put, that's when a Congressman or Senator calls an agency official to inform him or her that even though the Appropriations Committee hasn't said it, x dollars from a particular account are intended to go to this or that project.

As long as the Appropriations Committee stands behind the claim (or makes the call), it's no more or less binding than an earmark in the committee report. To address this end-run around earmark rules, Jim DeMint has gotten the Senate to agree to prohibit the practice:

The Senate on Tuesday backed a prohibition on federal agencies covered under the Commerce, Justice and science appropriations bill from using letters, phone calls or other communications from lawmakers in determining how to spend federal funds.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and approved by voice vote, is the latest in a series of provisions DeMint and other Members have proposed to strengthen the key provisions of the ethics and earmark reform package passed by Congress earlier this year.

With increasing public scrutiny of earmarks, many Members of the House and Senate in recent years have used “phonemarks” to direct federal funding to specific recipients or regions.

Although the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum earlier this year directing federal agencies to disregard these phonemarks, lawmakers have continued to contact executive branch officials over a variety of projects, according to data collected by the Sunlight Foundation. Additionally, federal officials previously have warned that given the power many of the Members have — particularly those who serve on authorizing or appropriations committees for their agencies — there is enormous pressure on them to comply with these requests.

DeMint argued the changes were needed in large part because of changes to the ethics package eliminating much of the law’s transparency provisions. Congress “pretty much gutted the transparency provisions. We’ve made some progress” in reversing those changes, DeMint said.

While the amendment will only apply to these agencies, and will only apply if it is preserved in conference, this is a valuable step forward. If the Senate votes to apply it to one appropriations bill, there's no reason to think they won't do so across the board. And as long as OMB is willing to assist in enforcing it -- by disclosing attempts by Members of the Senate to get around it -- it should be enforceable.

Another good move by Senator DeMint.

NRCC to Turn Lemons into Lemonade?

The surge of retirements for House Republicans poses a challenge in the effort to retake the majority next year, but it also poses a surprising opportunity. Those retirees tend to be more senior, and in many cases they've built up large war chests that they won't need. Federal law allows those funds to be used for a variety of different purposes. One permissible use is a transfer to party committees.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is actively working to tap the campaign war chests of retiring GOP Members who are collectively sitting on nearly $5 million — more than double what the cash-strapped NRCC last reported having in the bank.

Nine of the Republicans who have announced they are leaving at the end of next year and not running for other office in total hold $4.67 million in their re-election accounts — money that they are legally able to transfer to the NRCC.

Sources said NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) has been aggressively reaching out to Members who are leaving to discuss options for how their campaign funds could benefit the party’s 2008 efforts...

But this cycle the NRCC has lagged far behind its Democratic counterpart when it comes to available funds for the 2008 elections, as Cole has worked to pay down a large debt leftover from the 2006 cycle. As of Aug. 31, the NRCC had less than $2 million in its coffers while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had more than $22 million.

Behind Hobson, GOP Reps. Jim Ramstad (Minn.), Terry Everett (Ala.) and Chip Pickering (Miss.) have the largest campaign war chests among the retiring Members. Their three campaign committees have a total of $2.4 million.

Pickering said he had been in close consultation with Cole about how he could use a portion of his funds to help the NRCC and GOP candidates.

“He’s recommended some good uses,” Pickering said...

Retiring Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio), a former House GOP Conference chairwoman, said she is more than happy to use her $367,000 to help out the party.

“It will go to support House Republicans and central Ohio races,” she said when asked what she planned to do with her campaign money.

Members of Congress can be extremely reluctant to part with hard-earned campaign dollars. Some retirees -- like Pickering -- will want to save cash for future campaigns for other office. It's clear however, that some of the House GOP retirees will not seek elective office again. They might help winnow down the Democratic cash advantage.

House Democrats Shut Down Debate to Preserve Terrorist Loophole

Read it at the Standard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tsongas Win Sends Warning to Democrats

So in the only special election of 2007 that figured to be anywhere near close, Niki Tsongas has defeated Republican Jim Ogonowski by a margin of around 51%-45%. In a district that went for John Kerry by 17 points, in a seat where Marty Meehan regularly won with more than 60 percent of the vote, Democrats should be concerned.

Yes, Niki Tsongas was clearly not a great campaigner, but she has great name identification, in a solid Democratic district. Furthermore, special elections are frequently decided by the party organizations, which must turn out their voters. How much of an organizational edge did the Democrats have in a district that hasn't elected a Republican in nearly 40 years?

And with all that edge, Democrats managed a 6 point win.

This is a clear sign that the 2006 Democratic wave is gone. Chris Bowers at OpenLeft typifies the response from Democrats; he argues not to read too much into this:

As with the OH-02, much of the problem rests in the ossified local machine of the favored party nominating a weak candidate. Tsongas isn't as bad on the trial as Jean Schimdt, but she is close.
But in November 2006, Democrats would have ridden an ossified machine and a bad candidate to a 20 or 30 point margin of victory. Today it yielded them only a 6 point win, even with appearances by Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy and other national Democratic leaders, against a candidate they heavily outspent.

Why is this so significant? Because Ogonowski ran a race against Congress, against illegal immigration, and against corruption. According to Democrats in Washington, he should have been defeated badly. After all, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid argue that Congress' low ratings are due to dissatisfaction with President Bush's war, and the American people are with them on the issues. Pelosi and Reid say that when people come out to vote, they'll vote with the Democrats -- whom they allegedly agree with on the issues.

That's not what happened today in the bluest state in the union. Why would anyone expect it to happen next November? Today's outcome shows that Congress' low approval ratings aren't just collateral damage from those of President Bush; Reid & Pelosi own those terrible ratings. Even in Masschusetts, the voters are telling them they're doing a terrible job. Are they likely to be more forgiving in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, New Mexico, or any of a host of other states with targeted races?

Judging by today's results, voters are likely to turn out ineffective incumbents in both parties to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the inability of Congress to move forward on health care reform, tax reform, national security priorities, and other matters. And it is the Democrats who will be fielding far more incumbents in GOP-leaning districts.

They'd better study this race.

Update: We can only hope that Rahm Emanuel is as nonplussed about this as Oliver Willis. Our job gets much easier if Democrats don't notice that something went seriously awry.

Armenian Genocide Resolution Splits House Democrats

Read it at the Standard.

Earmarks Buy Melting T-Shirts

Representative John Campbell points to another wasteful pork-barrel project recently approved by Congress:

According to the Oregonian, Rep. David Wu (D-OR) directed more than $ 2 million dollars in T-shirt contracts to InSport International, a clothing manufacturer in Mr. Wu’s district. Unfortunately, these shirts are prone to melting and burning in high heat, thus rendering them dangerous and useless to soldiers in combat.

According to Captain Lynn Welling, the head surgeon of the 1st Marine Logistic Group, the polyester in these “melting shirts” adheres to the skin in intense heat, essentially creating a second skin which leads to horrific disfiguring burns.

Rep. Wu earmarked the contract into the 2006 Defense Appropriations Bill. Due to the design flaw, the Marines shortly thereafter banned the use of polyester shirts for use in combat, or anywhere outside the protected “Green Zone” bases. However, because of Mr. Wu’s earmark the Marines were forced to buy 87,000 of the banned shirts.

While the idea of a more comfortable shirt for our troops is commendable, the flaws of the shirts’ design were left uninvestigated. This is the purpose for process of competitively bidding contracts… to get the best product possible.

By the way, shortly after his earmarks passed in the Defense Appropriations Bill, Rep. Wu received nearly $15,000 in campaign contributions from InSport executives.

To show I'm an equal opportunity basher, I'll point out that the earmark was approved during a Republican Congress. Perhaps both parties can learn a lesson.

SCHIP Polling Should Worry Democrats

Go read the story over at Rob Bluey's site:

  • 52% agree with Bush that most benefits should go to children in families earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level — about $41,000 for a family of four. Only 40% say benefits should go to such families earning up to $62,000, as the bill written by Democrats and some Republicans would allow.
  • 55% are very or somewhat concerned that the program would create an incentive for families to drop private insurance. Bush and Republican opponents have called that a step toward government-run health care.

As the House and Senate prepare to vote on a veto override -- one that's certain to fail -- it's worth noting that Americans are closer to the president's position on this. It's enough to make you wish he was not so weak as a spokesman; he might otherwise be able to challenge the expansion more effectively.

More broadly, the lack of support for an expansion of health care that would help needy children -- the Democratic line -- should worry the Democrats. The Democratic campaigns are operating that the era when big government was over has concluded. They saw themselves as free to advocate bigger spending and higher taxes. But if even this program can't get a majority in support -- before the question of how to pay for it is even broached -- what does that suggest about the proposals of Democratic candidates for president? Maybe America isn't ready for a return to the Carter era.

Pelosi Shreds Campaign Promises; Blocks Tax Cut Favored by Majority of House

Read it at the Standard.

Why is Harry Reid So Unpopular?

John Feehery -- a former spokesperson for Speaker Hastert -- has some ideas:

Perhaps it was the senator’s refusal to negotiate with the White House on the children’s healthcare bill. The system as envisioned by the Founders requires negotiation when the branches of government deadlock, which they have with the SCHIP bill. But Reid says that his door is not open to the White House, whatever the kids may think.

Perhaps it was when the senator said that the war in Iraq was lost and that the surge was a waste of time, well before there was time to give the surge a chance. Premature surrender is a bad trait for a political leader.

Perhaps it was when the senator turned his back on the United Mine Workers when he said that he opposed the building of any coal-fired power plants. Picking green activists over hardworking union workers is a sign that the senator has gone native in Washington.


Handwriting on the Wall for Congressman Doolittle?

Roll Call reports that House Republican leaders are pushing California's John Doolittle to decide not to seek re-election:

With polls showing his presumed Democratic opponent beating him in 2008, embattled Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) is under pressure from House Republican leaders to retire at the end of this term.

House GOP leadership held its fire until some time after Labor Day, hoping Doolittle would see the political writing on the wall over the summer and voluntarily choose retirement. But with the Congressman digging in and promising to run for re-election, the leadership of his Conference — urged on by some rank-and-file Members — has held private discussions with Doolittle in an effort to convince him to retire.

Leadership “is telling him that the financial resources are not going to be there, at least from Members, and that he should step aside,” said one Republican House Member. “Everybody likes John. He’s a very likable guy, and there’s no animosity toward him whatsoever. But he’s not — rightly or wrongly — going to be able to win...”

A survey conducted over the summer by Republican pollster Chris Wilson found Brown with a 20-point lead over Doolittle, 51 percent to 31 percent. Doolittle’s favorable-to-unfavorable was 28 percent to 56 percent, with 50 percent of respondents saying the Congressman should either retire or resign. Only 33 percent of those polled thought Doolittle should run for re-election...

Some Republican Members believe Doolittle might do more than jeopardize what should be a safe GOP seat. They worry that the ongoing federal investigation into his dealings as a Congressman could drag down the party by reminding voters of the unethical behavior that helped defeat several of their colleagues last year.

“I went to leadership and said you have to send message, and they said they did,” a second Republican House Member said.

This individual added that Doolittle’s appeals for donations to his legal defense fund have gone largely unanswered while GOP Members wait to see if the Congressman will follow through with his pledge to run for re-election.

The Republicans interviewed for this story say the grumbling over Doolittle, both on Capitol Hill and in California, is likely to remain private until sometime in January.

Not only is there pressure from Capitol Hill for Mr. Doolittle to step aside, but one of his primary opponents has outraised him so far -- a very rare thing for a challenger:

Doolittle raised only $50,308.00 with more than half of that coming from PACs. He now has cash on hand of $37,995.10.

Compare that to Eric Egland.

With our help, Eric raised $79,000.00 and he now has cash on hand of $70,000.00!

Without help from DC Republicans, that's not likely to get a lot better for Doolittle.

Harry Reid Ponders Retirement in 2010

Congressional leaders can never forecast their retirement too far ahead of time. As soon as they confirm their departure, they lose some of their authority -- and they kick off the succession race, which can lead to dissension and division.

Therefore, you should take it with a grain of salt when Reid's spokesman denies that he's thinking of hanging it up:

Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is sending all the right signals that he will run for re-election in 2010, the possibility that he might choose to retire has fueled speculation that a three-way race to succeed him atop the party could ensue among his top two lieutenants — Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) — and Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.).

Sources both on and off Capitol Hill say while neither Durbin, Schumer nor Dodd openly is discussing a future leadership bid, they are emerging as the most obvious Majority Leader candidates among powerful lobbyists, donors and Democratic lawmakers. Talk of a rivalry among the prominent trio is growing even as Reid appears poised to run for another six-year term, a move that, if successful, would give the Nevada Democrat a chance to hold the party’s top leadership slot for more than a decade.

“Get in line and get used to waiting because Sen. Reid isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” said the Majority Leader’s spokesman, Jim Manley, dismissing any chatter to the contrary as “inside the Beltway parlor games.”

Roll Call then goes on to say that at least one lobbyist close to the situation says the succession race is 'active.' Are you as surprised as I am that Chris Dodd is hedging his bets in case he doesn't get elected President?

A three-way race among Dodd, Durbin, and Schumer would be interesting. First off, any one of those leaders would give the Senate Democrats a leader who was unlikely to face re-election trouble at home (in contrast to Tom Dasche and Senator Reid). It would also ensure that the next Democratic leader would be from a 'big' state. Traditionally leaders come from smaller states (Nevada, South Dakota, Maine...), partly out of concern of giving undue influence to a populous Democratic state.

Further, the political climate in 2009 will factor in as well. Will Democrats gain a large number of seats in 2008? Will there be an unpopular Democratic president to defend in 2010? Will Reid's re-election prospects remain poor, or improve?

All worth watching down the road.

JibJab: Night of the Living Dead Democrats

Hat Tip: Glenn

Barone: Is the Tax Issue Back?

A very interesting piece from Michael Barone. He points out the parallels between politics in the US and the UK, and notes that unexpectedly, taxes have re-emerged as an issue in Great Britain:

Now, his call for tax cuts seems to have boosted the Conservative total. Four polls taken since the party conferences showed Labor with a statistically insignificant 39 percent to 38 percent lead. Even worse news for Labor: A News of the World poll of 83 marginal seats showed the Conservatives ahead by 44 percent to 38 percent. That suggested Labor might win less than an absolute majority, which would force it to govern with the support of the Lib. Dems.

It's unusual to see such a sudden shift of opinion in British politics. (You seldom see it in America, either, except sometimes during the parties' national conventions.)

Does this augur well for the plan of some House Republicans to simplify and reduce taxes -- a plan which has attracted some positive attention already?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hillary: I'll Trade Blood for Oil

No one likes the idea that the US should surrender blood for oil. Liberal protesters loathe the idea, and conservatives go to great lengths to avoid characterizing their policies that way. Put more elegantly, US foreign policy ought to recognize that at some level, energy means life. We need energy for heat in winter and cool in summer. We need it for hospitals, movement of food, and a host of other things. In extreme circumstances, the United States must be willing to use force to protect our energy supply, and that of our allies.

Congratulations to Hillary
for recognizing that:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton advocated talks to settle differences with Iran but said Saturday that Tehran would invite U.S. action if it were to disrupt oil supplies.

"I will make it very clear to the Iranians that there are very serious consequences attached to their actions," Clinton said. The presidential candidate spoke at a town hall meeting with 300 people at a high school in a Democratic stronghold in early voting South Carolina.

The New York senator, responding to a question, said blocking oil shipments "would be devastating to the world economy."

If a Republican explicitly considered the use of force to protect our supply of oil, he or she would be savaged by the Left. So far, Hillary seems to have skated past -- taking a position worthy of Dick Cheney, but still enjoying the support of the anti-war fever swamp.

Who said the Left wouldn't sell its collective soul for the White House?

Influence Peddler on XM

I'll be appearing again tomorrow morning at 7:30AM on XM Radio's POTUS 08 channel -- talking about the presidential race. I'm betting the topic of the day will be the fight among the Republican candidates about who's the real conservative.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to talk about the surprising report from Bob Novak that churchgoing protestants and Catholics like Rudy Giuliani -- more than any other candidate:

But the situation is not a simple confrontation between the Christian right and Giuliani. The Gallup data suggest that Dobson and the Salt Lake City group may be out of touch with rank-and-file churchgoers. A well-known social conservative, who asked that his name not be used, is disturbed by Dobson's statement he could not vote for Giuliani under any circumstances. Instead of being considered the lesser of two evils in a possible race against Sen. Hillary Clinton, Giuliani seems to be the positive choice of millions of religious Americans.

In an aggregation of 1,690 interviews with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in four Gallup surveys during August and September, Giuliani led with 27 percent (to Fred Thompson's 24 percent) among those who said they attended church at least once a week. Even more startling was the result of interviews with voters without regard to party preference. Among churchgoing Catholics, Giuliani led with a plus-38 favorable rating (trailed by Sen. John McCain at plus-29, with Clinton bringing up the rear at minus-9).
Just as a point of reference, Georgetown University has found that 63 percent of all Catholics voted in 2004, with 52 percent of those supporting Bush and 47 percent backing Kerry. One has to imagine that the bulk of the 'churchgoing Catholics' voted for Bush.

If Giuliani really has a 38 point net favorable rating among a cohort of Catholics that would tend to be more conservative -- far more conservative than he is -- that would be stunning. Is it because these Catholics tend to be more receptive to Giuliani's message of security and effective government, or is it because they share a cultural touchstone with Rudy? Recall that in 2000, George W. Bush went to great lengths to speak the same language as Roman Catholics; he recognized the importance of embracing the Catholic culture by adopting its language. Is it possible that Rudy already has that -- even as he supports abortion rights, and has favored other liberal positions?

It also suggests a real challenge for Giuliani's primary challengers. How will Romney, Thompson, and McCain break Giuliani's strong lead in this important primary voting bloc?

Larry Craig Channels Bill Clinton

You have got to be kidding:

During the NBC interview, Craig slammed Romney.

"I was very proud of my association with Mitt Romney,” Craig said. “I'd worked hard for him here in the state. I was a co-chair of his campaign on Capitol Hill. And he not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again."

Does Craig not understand that when a person in a position of trust -- such as US Senator or campaign co-chair -- engages in embarrassing and self-destructive behavior, it's that person who betrays a trust? It was not Romney who created a difficult and embarrassing situation for Craig; it's Craig who did that to Romney. Romney was the one who should have been angry -- that someone he trusted put him in an embarrassing situation.

Craig reminds me of Bill Clinton, promising not to hold a grudge against those in Congress who had voted to impeach him. I wonder if he realizes how off-putting it is to see someone demand respect, who would be better off asking forgiveness.

Vote on Armenian Genocide Suggests Intent to Undercut Iraq Mission

Read it at the Standard.

Ron Paul's Supporters -- Not Republican

Ron Paul ran for president as a libertarian in 1988. Soren Dayton notes that he's appealing to non-Republicans in this presidential race, as well:

There's more over at Soren's site; go check it out.

Man vs. Wild Comes Clean

I loved the Bear Grylls show 'Man vs. Wild,' until I learned that Grylls was receiving help without acknowledging it. When that fact became known a few months ago, Discover Channel announced that they would review the show to ensure that viewers are not misled. Although I missed it, they apparently came to a resolution a few weeks ago:

Discovery Channel has finally begun airing re-edited versions of "Man vs. Wild," that acknowledge parts of the unscripted series were faked.

A disclaimer was added last week to at least four episodes from the first season along with other clarifications that came in the form of new voiceovers from "Wild" star Bear Grylls.

"Bear Grylls is trained in extreme survival techniques. He and the crew receive support when they are in potentially life-threatening situations, as required by health and safety regulations," the disclaimer reads. "Professional advice should be always be sought before entering any dangerous environment."

In some cases, footage has been cut from the show, including scenes from an episode showing Grylls going to sleep in a forest when he actually slept indoors that night.

Other episodes will feature Grylls admitting he was helped by producers in some situations, including finding food and building rafts and bridges that he originally appeared to have crafted on his own.

Well, honesty is the best policy.

A New Way to Commit Suicide

Some BASE jumpers have apparently grown bored with just leaping off of buildings and spans, and have decided to make it more challenging by skimming as close to the objects as they can.

Flying Human - Wingsuite - video powered by Metacafe

It won't be long before you read the first obituary of a BASE jumper who got just a little bit too daring.