Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wormwood, We've Been Discovered!

I've said nice things about Chris Cannon, who's been a forceful advocate of legal immigration, even as he's supported efforts to secure the border. I'm unaware of anything he's done to warrant his Republican constituents denying him renomination. There are some who seek to crucify him for not being enough against illegal immigration, even though he voted in support of the House border-enforcement-only immigration bill (HR 4437). I take pride that the Republican party has unifying principles, but does not demand the adherence to dogma that the Democrats do.

Anyway, it looks like his opponent has made a rookie mistake:

Jacob's bad luck: Is it . . . Satan?
Bedeviled: His business deals have been delayed, keeping him from fully funding his campaign
By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

As if beating a five-term congressman wasn't hard enough, John Jacob said he has another foe working against him: the devil.

"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."

Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.

Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he was counting on to finance his race.

"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.

Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."

Jacob initially said the devil was working against him during a Wednesday immigration event, then reiterated his belief Thursday in a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board.

"There's a lot of adversity. There's no question I've had experiences that I think there's an outside force," he said.

The Salt Lake Tribune quotes a political science professor who presumably knows the constituency better than I, (it's largely LDS, and I am... not). He says this is unlikely to have a big negative impact. I accept that judgment. But it is amusing.

And lest you think that Jacob feels victimized, he believes that the Devil is out to get Chris Cannon as well:

Jacob, who like Cannon is LDS, said he is not the only one who is being opposed by Beelzebub. He said both Cannon and Sen. Bob Bennett have lost millions of dollars since going to Congress, and he believes their adversity is rooted in the same dark origins.

Cannon's campaign would not address whether Lucifer is opposing either candidate.

"Chris would not attribute any adversities to any outside influence," Cannon's chief of staff, Joe Hunter, said regarding Cannon's diminished personal wealth since going to Congress. "I'm not sure that Chris would even call them adversities. It's a conscious decision on Chris' part to do what's important to him. There's been far more important events in Chris' life than his business."

Jacob explained that, when people try to do something good, there are frequently forces that align to stop them.

"We have a country that was created by our Heavenly Father and it was a country that had a Constitution and everyone who came to America had strong faith. If that can be destroyed that would be the adversity. . . . Whether you want to call that Satan or whoever you want to call it, I believe in the last eight months I've experienced that."

Well, I can't imagine that this will HELP Jacob's campaign, particularly coming so close before the election. And Cannon's folks handled this the right way, politically, by not making a big deal out of it.

The primary is next Tuesday, the 27th.

Hat tip Captain's Quarters.

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Democratic Sweep in Utah?

Bob Novak offers a little insight into Howard Dean's defense of his '50-state strategy.' He excerpts an E-mail that Dean has sent, bragging about the party's investment in Utah this year. Sadly, Novak does not disclose the figure. I think it's a demonstration of a clear conflict of interest for Novak, because if people knew how much Dean was spending on Utah, Novak would probably lose a DNC Chair who's always entertaining:


Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, unbowed by criticism of his 50-state strategy, sent supporters a June 20 e-mail boasting of how much money he has spent in Utah to build the party in a state with no competitive race for either house of Congress this year.

Dean has come under fire for spending all but $4.25 million of the $84.5 million the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has raised for this election cycle. Intraparty critics complain Dean is paying off promises to DNC members from Republican-majority states made in his campaign for chairman.

While admitting that Republican Utah is "not a place many would expect the national party to be focusing its resources," Dean's e-mail declared: "This is about getting the word out: The 50-state strategy is right for our party, and the people who support it will stand up and be counted. Make your donation to support the 50-state strategy now."

I am willing to predict that any money spent in Utah will be a colossal waste of money. If you're a Democrat who backs Dean, ask yourself whether you'd prefer to see that money spent in Utah, or on a Senate race in Ohio or Missouri. And ask yourself where Ken Mehlman would rather see it spent.

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Bad Conservative Ideas

Bob Novak is always an interesting read, and he has excellent insights into what's going on in Republican and conservative circles. Today he writes about an effort by some conservatives, including Chuck Donovan of the Family Research Council, to convene a new constitutional convention for the purpose of approving an amendment to protect traditional marriage:

Constitutional convention?
By Robert Novak
Jun 24, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Supporters of a constitutional amendment to keep the courts from legalizing homosexual marriage, stunned by poor support in the recent Senate vote, are beginning a campaign for a constitutional convention.

The provision of the Constitution's Article V requiring such a convention if called by two-thirds of the state legislatures has never been used. Fear of throwing the Constitution open to general amendment has overridden support for specific issues. However, key advocates of barring gay marriages believe the constitutional convention strategy will keep the issue alive.

A recent memo circulated within the anti-gay marriage coalition lists Princeton Professor Robby George, Tony Perkins and Chuck Donovan of the Family Research Council, and conservative financial consultant Frank Cannon as favoring the strategy.

However well-intentioned, this is at best unwise, and at worst downright dangerous. Conservatives have discussed the potential for a constitutional convention in the past - for everything from abortion to a balanced budget amendment. The idea has always foundered before touching upon the question of practicality. The fear has been that once a constitutional convention is convened, it's unclear whether one can limit what amendments emerge from it. (Relevant constitutional text is here.)

The Heritage Foundation argued for a constitutional convention for the balanced budget amendment in 1988, and contended that this fear was unfounded:

Because no convention under Article V has ever been held, the prospect of a constitutional convention is prompting understandable but unfounded fears. Critics have argued that the convention method of amendment is an untried and dangerous process and that a convention could run away beyond its mandate and rewrite the entire Constitution perhaps even repealing the Bill of Rights. These worries, however, are based on a misperception of the nature of an Article V convention and of the safeguards built into the amendment process.

A wide variety of authorities, including a special study committee of the American Bar Association, point out that a convention legally can be limited to a particular subject. These limitations can be enforced by Congress or the courts. A convention also would be constrained by a range of political factors, including the election of its delegates.

This argument notwithstanding, I think conservatives ought to be concerned about the possible ramifications of starting this process. What other proposed amendments might some states try to make part of the convention, or might other activists pursue? There are lots of ideas that sound good and would give conservatives fits. Some on the Left are calling for a privacy amendment. It could protect an absolute right to an abortion, and sanction drug use, as well as undercut efforts in the War on Terror. And what if only a few states directed their delegates to the convention to pursue such an amendment?

No, I think that this is an idea that will not get very far.

Update: I note via Real Clear Politics that Brian Wilson has already written a post in support of this effort. While I agree with his goal, I think that the method is unlikey to succeed - for the reasons I lay out above.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

RFID Tracks Vegas Liquor Usage

I know there's a really great joke in here, but I'm just not thinking of it.

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Bush Gets a Scare

Isn't this the sort of thing that the Secret Service is supposed to prevent?

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NY Times Secretly Sifting CIA Data

Or not so secretly. Apart from that, Scrappleface has it right.

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Rove & Satan: Together Again

It seems that some wiseass newspaper staffer will have some explaining to do.

According to the Hotline, if you had gone to the St. Petersburg Times early enough today, you would have read that Karl Rove and Satan are again working together on the GOP's midterm election strategy. The error has been corrected (the link is now dead), but the Hotline saved the image for posterity.

Do you think anyone needs to tell Kos, MoveOn and the rest on the Left that this is a joke?

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MSM Blows Our National Security, Again

The New York Times (among others) reveals details of administration surveillance of financial transactions among suspected terrorists. Ed Morrissey has an excellent analysis, as always.

I'll pick one small part of the article:

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

When the New York Times and other revealed that the United States was rendering terrorist captives to a number of EU members, there was huge pressure within the European Community to publicize as much about the program as possible, and to stop it. I know nothing about 'the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions,' but I bet that institution - SWIFT - has already started calling European governments and EU officials to let them know that as of this morning, they are no longer cooperating in the US program.

Another hit to our national security, thanks to the New York Times.

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In Mexico, AMLO With a Narrow Lead, Late

Two polls show Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador with a lead of two points, and another shows him with a lead of three points, over PAN candidate Felipe Calderon.

Newsday provides a profile of AMLO that makes him look like a rock star, and emphasizes his promises of lavish government spending. The Washington Post compares and contrasts him with Bill Clinton.

Michael Barone has had pithy commentary on the race, and he recently noted that in the polls which show lower support for Roberto Madrazo - the third major candidate - Calderon fares better. He suggests that as we get closer to election day (July 2), voters may decide that Madrazo can't win and shift their support to Calderon.

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Something Light-Hearted

I couldn't find the whole cartoon in one file, but even broken into 4 shorts, it holds up extremely well. It's "Rabbit Hood" featuring Errol Flynn, Bugs Bunny, and a nice couple from Kansas City.

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Because We'd Gone too Long Without Mollohan News

While it has not attracted as much attention as the Bill Jefferson investigation, the investigation of Alan Mollohan's finances continues to perk along. Bloomberg news reports that Mollohan secured at least $179 million in earmars for 21 companies and nonprofits, which donated about half of the overall revenue of the charitable foundation created by Mollohan:

Mollohan Helped Steer U.S. Contracts to Family-Charity Donors
June 22 (Bloomberg) -- Representative Alan Mollohan helped funnel at least $179 million in U.S. government contracts over the last six years to companies that gave to the West Virginia Democrat's family-run charity, tax records and other documents show.

The money went to 21 companies and nonprofit groups that contributed $225,427 to the Robert H. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation in 2004 -- almost half of the charity's revenue, according to the documents. The congressman, an Appropriations Committee member whose finances are under federal investigation, is the secretary of the foundation, which is named for his father.

The charity, which distributes scholarships to West Virginia students, raises most of its money from corporate sponsors of an annual golf tournament attended by Mollohan, 63. The event gives company executives an opportunity to meet with him in a casual setting without having to report the donations as lobbying expenses.

``They are buying time, they are buying access, they are buying goodwill for their particular corporate needs,'' said Rick Cohen, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a Washington-based group that advocates strict ethical standards for charities.

Ron Hudok, a spokesman for Mollohan, didn't respond to an e-mail or phone calls seeking comment on the congressman's ties to the foundation.

...IRS Disclosure

While nonprofit groups are required to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service, they don't have to make the list public. The Mollohan Foundation's list was made public by the office of West Virginia's secretary of state.

One of the beneficiaries is D.N. American Inc., an information technology company with headquarters in the Alan B. Mollohan Innovation Center, a federally funded office building in Mollohan's home town of Fairmont. Mollohan announced in a press release in January 2004 that the company would get part of $3 million set aside for an electronics recycling project. D.N. American gave $20,000 to the Mollohan Foundation in 2004, the charity's tax records show.

Chirag Patel, president of IMTS Services LLC, which bought D.N. American in 2005, didn't return two phone calls seeking comment.

NOAA's Computers

TMC Technologies Inc., also based in Fairmont, won a $5 million federal contract in May 2004 to overhaul the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's computer storage system, according to a press release by one of the company's subcontractors.

That year TMC gave $5,000 to the foundation. The company supports the charity because of its success in keeping West Virginia students from leaving the state to pursue their careers, said TMC President Wade Linger. TMC was bought by Greenbelt, Maryland-based Global Science and Technology Inc. in 2005.

``Generally these kind of contributions are made by successful businesspeople,'' Linger said. ``An awful lot of successful businesspeople in this state know Congressman Mollohan.''

Since 2001, Linger and his wife gave at least $54,450 to Mollohan's political committees and his company and employees gave another $20,950, according to Federal Election Commission records.

In all, the donor list includes 43 companies that gave to the Mollohan Foundation. They include nine of the top 10 contributors to Mollohan's reelection campaign in 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington- based group that tracks political fund-raising.

Biggest Donors

Among the biggest donors to the charitable foundation were three nonprofit groups set up under Mollohan's leadership that gave $48,427 in 2004, the records show.

One of them, the Institute for Scientific Research Inc., gave $30,000. It received at least $100 million in Mollohan- sponsored projects, the lawmaker told the New York Times in April.

``I have been very pleased to support the Mollohan Foundation and intend to continue to support it in the future,'' said Jim Estep, who heads the institute and the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by Mollohan that has donated to the foundation.

Other donors include the National Housing Development Corp., a Rancho Cucamonga, California-based nonprofit company that is working with a Mollohan-backed organization, the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, to refurbish houses in Wheeling, West Virginia. The housing corporation donated $20,000 to the Mollohan Foundation and Vandalia gave $10,000.

So all this illustrates why we've adopted a new anti-earmark slogan: "Earmarks! Look what they're doing for Alan Mollohan!" Feel free to substitute any other appropriate name, as needed.

Mollohan faces a real challenger this year in Delegate Chris Wakim. He is up to his neck in questions about earmarks and personal finances. And his Congressional district gave 57% of its vote to Bush in 2004. I have to think that his name will soon be high on the list of potential takeovers this fall.

Also, you have to wonder - if this Mollohan controversy continues to grow, what effect will it have on the re-election bid of Robert Byrd? Byrd is the king of the earmark, and has always been proud of it. Will West Virginia voters start to wonder whether this is a good thing?

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

RI Democrats: Chafee's Only Hope?

In the last few weeks I've blogged quite a bit about Joe Lieberman, but gone whistling past the graveyard on Lincoln Chafee. I have no love for Chafee, but as long as he'll vote for a Republican Majority Leader, he's worth something. If you guaranteed me that Steve Laffey would win the Rhode Island general election, I'm sure I'd prefer him to Chafee, but if the choice is Chafee or a Democrat, I'll swallow hard and take Chafee.

That said, the Hotline has identified a great nugget about the upcoming Rhode Island primary: if the primary voters are more than 50 percent GOP, Chafee is a likely loser. With half Republican and half Democrat voters, Chafee barely ekes by:

The Big Number: 50
A new survey by the Bureau of Gov't Research Services at RI College shows that, should more than 50% of the primary electorate be made up of GOPers, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) is in danger of losing his seat to Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey (R). When a sample of GOPers is weighted at 60% GOP to 40% Independent, Laffey leads, 39% to 36%. But when the sample is made up of an even split between GOPers and indies, Chafee pulls it out by the skin of his teeth, 39% to 38%.

As we noted earlier this week, the Chafee camp's effort to convince Dems to switch their party affiliation to independent -- and thus be eligible to vote in the GOP primary -- may have paid off, as 14,500 Dems did, in fact, switch and become indies. In a state in which turnout for a GOP primary will likely be less than 45,000, those Dems -- more likely to vote for Chafee -- could save the race for him. In the same survey, 25% of RIers said they planned to vote in the GOP primary.

We'd sure like to see the cross-tabs on that question. Just how many of those were Dems? [REID WILSON]

If you want to read coverage of Chafee and Laffey like I've been writing about Lieberman and Lamont, check out the Corner and Sixers. I think it's safe to say that the National Review folks are less enthused with Chafee than I am.

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Immigration CW Dead; Border Bill a Go

Just a few days ago folks were saying that it looked like an immigration bill was dead for the year, because Speaker Hastert wanted to stay away from an issue that divided Republicans. Well, as of this afternoon, it appears that Hastert has completed a 180.

National Journal (subscription required) reports that Speaker Hastert is committed to passing 'a strong border security bill:'

GOP Leaders To Outline Immigration Principles, Hearings

House Republican leaders this afternoon planned to unveil a set of principles on border security and a preliminary schedule for field hearings they plan to hold on the immigration issue this summer. In a move intended to allay criticism that their hearings are an effort to delay or derail an immigration bill, House Speaker Hastert was expected to commit to passing "a strong border-security bill," according to a GOP leadership aide. The principles included boosting resources for border control, toughening enforcement and raising penalties for violations of immigration laws, and cracking down on employers that hire illegal workers. The principles also include opposing "efforts to reward the behavior of illegal immigrants who have made the choice to break our laws," an apparent dig at the Senate-passed immigration bill, which would give most of the illegal immigrants now in the United States a shot at becoming citizens. Hearings will be conducted by Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner, Armed Services Chairman Hunter, Homeland Security Chairman King, and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the International Relations Terrorism Subcommittee.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Specter held out hope that the House and Senate might yet pass immigration legislation this year despite major differences between the House and Senate bills. Specter told reporters that he had had "a good discussion" with Sensenbrenner about the bills and cited "some progress" between Senate and House staff members to resolve differences. Although he said he did not want to overstate that progress, he said discussions will continue. Specter also will hold hearings, and he said today that the first one, scheduled for July 5 in Philadelphia, will focus on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The Senate bill would clear a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants if they meet strict conditions, but that feature is absent from the House bill, which focuses almost entirely on enforcing borders. Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee ranking member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he was "still very hopeful we can get an immigration bill." But Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., took a dimmer view, saying that the plan for extended House hearings "pretty well kills the bill." Leahy said of House leaders, "They are going to walk the bill to death."
-- by Emily Heil and Mike Posner

The Corner provides the principles released by Boehner's office, referenced in the article.

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Handy Poll Tracker

The Wall Street Journal provides this handy guide to this year's gubernatorial and Senate races. Things have improved for the GOP, but still don't look that great.

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Cantwell Moves up the List

RedState reports that the latest polling from Washington State moves Maria Cantwell up the list of endangered Democratic Senators. And it may be counter-intuitive, but a closely-contested race in Washington is the sort of thing that makes it tougher for people like Harold Ford to win. A proliferation of close races tends to soak up the money that might otherwise go to longer-shots - like Harold Ford.

And while we're on the topic of Senate races this year, I have to believe that Robert Byrd is going to wind up in a closer race than is now expected. People vote more and more based on cultural cues and social identification, rather than income. In a conservative state like West Virginia - which has clearly become a more level playing field for Republicans - a Republican Senate candidate ought to do well. Further, if the Alan Mollohan earmark scandal continues to grow, it can only hurt Byrd - the king of the earmark.

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Lieberman's Bad Week

The Fix notes that Joe Lieberman has had a bad week. He continues to not rule out a run as an Independent, and his disagreement with the Democratic primary electorate on Iraq was highlighted by the debate on a timetable for withdrawal. The Fix also notes that Lieberman received compliments from Republicans during the debate, while Democrats were absent.

CT Senate: Lieberman, Iraq and the Price of Principle
It's not been a good week for Sen. Joe Lieberman.

On Monday the Connecticut Democrat told reporters that "under no circumstances" would he run as anything other than a Democrat in the state's Aug. 8 primary. But he again refused to rule out running as an independent in the general election should he lose the party's nod to businessman Ned Lamont.

Sen. Lieberman, standing, stumps for votes earlier this month at Carmine's Italian Grill in Bristol, Conn. (AP Photo/The Bristol Press)"If the unexpected happens, do I want to keep open the option of taking my case as an independent Democrat to all the voters of Connecticut so that they can have the last word in November," said Lieberman. "That's a question I haven't decided."

The Fix continues to be baffled by Lieberman's willingness to speak openly about his contemplation of an independent bid at a time when still can make a case to Democratic voters to stick with him. After all, Lamont's entire campaign is based on the idea that Lieberman is not a real Democrat; the more Lieberman waffles, the more rhetorical ammunition he provides to Lamont's insurgent campaign.

Speaking of rhetorical ammunition, the Hartford Courant notes that Lieberman became the first Democrat to announce his plans to oppose both Iraq war amendments being offered in the Senate today. (Sens. John Kerry and Russ Feingold have put forward a binding proposal to withdraw all American troops by July 31, 2007; Sens. Carl Levin and Jack Reed are offering a non-binding resolution that urges America "begin the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq this year.")

As the Courant's David Lightman writes, not one Democratic colleague was in the chamber for Lieberman's speech. He was introduced by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) -- perhaps the top target of Democrats in this year's elections -- praised Lieberman's remarks as "incredibly articulate."

It's telling that not a single Democrat stood by Lieberman, especially since his colleagues have largely lined up behind him in recent weeks. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) recently predicted that Lieberman would win the Senate primary in Connecticut, saying that a competitive gubernatorial primary in the state would turn out "a lot of mainstream Democrats" who would also vote for Lieberman

Even Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), one of the most outspoken critics of the war in Iraq, told reporters at the Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas that she backs Lieberman. "This is an election on whether the war is the only issue," Boxer said, adding: "I disagree with [Lieberman] on the war and he knows it."

The Connecticut political establishment has been less willing to unite behind Lieberman. Former state party chairman George Jepsen endorsed Lamont, and two teachers unions -- the Connecticut branch of the American Federation of Teachers and the Connecticut Education Association -- are also with Lamont. (Neither group has endorsed Lieberman in his three past Senate campaigns.)

Former Sen. Lowell Weicker -- a Republican-turned-independent -- has also put his support behind Lamont, a move that the Lieberman camp immediately sought to exploit with a Web ad that hearkens back to the Lieberman vs. Weicker campaign in 1988, in which Lieberman depicted his opponent as a sleeping bear.

"Remember Lowell Weicker?" asks the ad's narrator. "Well, bears never forget. He's never gotten over losing his Senate race to Joe Lieberman. But instead of coming out of hibernation, he's sent his bear cub instead. Ned Lamont."

Lieberman's attempt to link Lamont to Weicker is a sound strategy. Since leaving the governor's office in 1994, Weicker's public image has fallen significantly. Independent polling has repeatedly shown Weicker is viewed unfavorably by most of the state's voters. He flirted with challenging Lieberman earlier this year but backed off.

The events of this week point to the fundamental challenge before Lieberman. He has made his political name on being a principled leader who follows his beliefs and isn't swayed by the political winds. Typically, voters have swallowed their doubts about any one of Lieberman's positions, believing that on most issues he was with them. The war in Iraq has severely damaged that trust, and now that Lieberman has cast himself as a man of principle he cannot switch positions on the war without severe political consequences.

Lieberman's plans to vote against both of the Iraq war resolutions today seem to be a recognition that he has chosen his course and must stick to it whatever the fallout. It's a choice that has the potential to cost him his party's nomination this year, if not his political career overall.

I think Cillizza is a little off here; if Lieberman wants to preserve the option to run as an Independent - and he will have to announce it before the Democratic primary takes place - what else can he do, but leave it on the table? Nevertheless, this again serves to highlight how difficult it will be for Lieberman to remain a Democrat.

If Lieberman ultimately runs as an Independent, defeats Lamont, and tries to return to DC as an Independent who supports the Democrats, will he ever be able to go into a local Democratic club again? It sure looks like the Kos/MoveOn crowd intends to make it unbearable for him. They are livid that Lieberman won't rule out an Independent bid, and the level of bile is rising every day. Will Lieberman want to bury the hatchet with that group, when he runs into them on a daily basis in Connecticut?

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Freedom: The Anti-Gov

Almost makes you want to vote libertarian.

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Earmarks, Check-Kiting... and John Murtha

The Washington Times notes that John Murtha may have helped secure earmarks that benefitted his brother and a former staffer:

Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported how the ranking member on the defense appropriations subcommittee has a brother, Robert Murtha, whose lobbying firm represents 10 companies that received more than $20 million from last year's defense spending bill. "Clients of the lobbying firm KSA Consulting -- whose top officials also include former congressional aide Carmen V. Scialabba, who worked for Rep. Murtha as a congressional aide for 27 years -- received a total of $20.8 million from the bill," the L.A. Times reported.

In early 2004, according to Roll Call, Mr. Murtha "reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the city of San Francisco." Laurence Pelosi, nephew of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at the time was an executive of the company which owned the rights to the land. The same article also reported how Mr. Murtha has been behind millions of dollars worth of earmarks in defense appropriations bills that went to companies owned by the children of fellow Pennsylvania Democrat, Rep. Paul Kanjorski. Meanwhile, the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign-finance watchdog group, lists Mr. Murtha as the top recipient of defense industry dollars in the current 2006 election cycle.

The emerging earmark scandal is beginning to remind me of the House check-kiting scandal. Members of Congress were permitted to write checks and have them cashed regardless of their account balances; the checks were covered by the deposits of other account holders. Members of Congress in general did not see this as a big deal, and there were some very large abusers of the privilege. The key thing was that the culture suddenly changed, and a practice that no one thought twice about came to be regarded as scandalous overnight.

In the same way, most appropriations lobbyists are people who have either worked on the Appropriations Committees, or worked for Congressmen who sit on the Committees. Many knew the people who are now their employers when they worked in government; many in the private sector now lobby their former employers or coworkers. Personal ties, geographic ties, and political ties all tend to encourage lasting relationships between congressmen, staffers, and earmark-seekers. This is standard operating procedure.

In a system such as this, you will be able to find many instances where an earmark secured by a member benefits a former staffer, or where a government employee goes to work for a client whose earmark requests he/she handled while in Congress. But like the check-kiting scandal, it seems that the culture may be changing overnight. There may soon be a lot of staffers and congressmen answering questions about practices that they never gave a second thought, just a few days ago.

Hat tip, Powerline.

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WMD in Iraq

Many of the leading right-leaning bloggers are covering the story on declassified material regarding the discovery of chemical weapons in Iraq. You can read Glenn, Captain's Quarters, or Michelle for the details.

Rather than duplicate links that they have already provided, I'll offer my 2 cents on the politics. Simply put, this is probably too little, too late, for the Bush administration to be helped by this in the near to medium term. People have already formed the clear opinion that we were wrong, wrong, wrong about WMD. They will be suspicious that the information must be bad, since it took so long to release it to the public. Unless there is MUCH more, there's not likely to be much effect. As to the question of how much more there is, Captain's Quarters offers this:

The next question will be why the White House did not release this information at the time of their discovery. Santorum's statement says, “The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq[.] It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.” That implies that a broader analysis of WMD in Iraq exists -- and that it differs significantly from the common understanding shown thus far.

With regard to Rick Santorum, he is in a very difficult re-election race - so difficult that some are already writing him off. He too, will need much more to turn the tide.

In the 'fullness of time,' history I think, is likely to judge Bush better. It's already clear that Saddam remained a problem and intended to reconstitute his program of WMD. That is likely to count for more in the eyes of history than it does today.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Slate Profile of Lieberman's Challenge

Not a lot new here, but a useful summary nonetheless. In particular, Lieberman's decision to file as an Independent - if it happens - would probably have to come in July. That will probably not happen until Lieberman determines that he's going to lose the primary. Then the real trouble starts for the Democrats.

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Dems Block Minimum Wage; AP Blames GOP

What else is new?

The AP's David Espo covers the debate over a proposed mimimum wage increase. The thrust of the entire article is clear: Republicans oppose an increase in the minimum wage.

GOP-run Senate kills minimum wage increase
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
Wed Jun 21, 6:19 PM ET

The Republican-controlled Senate smothered a proposed election-year increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, rejecting Democratic claims that it was past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade.

The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval under budget rules and came one day after House Republican leaders made clear they do not intend to allow a vote on the issue, fearing it might pass.

The Senate vote marked the ninth time since 1997 that Democrats there have proposed — and Republicans have blocked — a stand-alone increase in the minimum wage. The debate fell along predictable lines.

"Americans believe that no one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty. A job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass. He said a worker paid $5.15 an hour would earn $10,700 a year, "almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three."

Kennedy also said lawmakers' annual pay has risen by roughly $30,000 since the last increase in the minimum wage.

Gee... Democrats keep proposing a stand-alone increase in the mimimum wage, and Republicans keep opposing it. But why does Espo think it's important that we talk exclusively about 'stand-alone' increases in the minimum wage? What if there was an acceptable minimum wage increase that was not a 'stand-alone?' Wouldn't you think there might be some way to you know... compromise - in a bipartisan way? Mightn't there be some things you could combine with the minimum wage increase that would satisfy both sides.

...The measure drew the support of 43 Democrats, eight Republicans and one independent. Four of those eight Republicans are seeking re-election in the fall.

Democrats had conceded in advance that this attempt to raise the minimum wage would fare no better than their previous attempts. At the same time, they have made clear in recent days they hope to gain support in the coming midterm elections by stressing the issue. Organized labor supports the legislation, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said that contrary to some impressions, most minimum wage workers are adults, not teenagers, and many of them are women.

"When the Democrats control the Senate, one of the first pieces of legislation we'll see is an increase in the minimum wage," said Kennedy.

His proposal would have increased the minimum wage to $5.85 beginning 60 days after the legislation was enacted; to $6.55 one year later; and to $7.25 a year after that. He said inflation has eroded the value of the current $5.15 minimum wage by 20 percent.

Well this just sounds terrible of the Republicans! They seem to be so obstructionist on this that the Democrats have to make it the top priority when they take over the Senate. The poor Democrats are tilting at windmills! Doing everything they can, even knowing they're headed for defeat! Well, I guess that must be what it takes to increase the minimum wage then: a Democratic Senate.

Well, you might think so, until you get to paragraph 18 of Espo's story:

...Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, offered an alternative that proposed a minimum wage increase of $1.10 over 18 months, in two steps.

The increase was coupled with a variety of provisions offering regulatory or tax relief to small businesses, including one to exempt enterprises with less than $1 million in annual receipts from the federal wage and hour law entirely. The current exemption level is $500,000, and a Republican document noted the amount had "lagged behind inflation."

Additionally, Republicans proposed a system of optional "flextime" for workers, a step that Enzi said would allow employees, at their discretion, to work more than 40 hours one week in exchange for more time off the next. Unions generally oppose such initiatives, and the Republican plan drew 45 votes, with 53 in opposition.

Well, wait a minute David. Are you telling us that these passionate, committed Democrats want to do everything they can for the struggling minimum-wage worker... unless it means tax and regulatory relief for businesses? Surely not! The Democrats are heroes! Do you mean to tell me that the alternate headline for this story might have been "Democrats Block Minimum Wage Increase; Oppose Tax Relief for Small Business." Are the Democrats really REJECTING minimum wage increases, themselves?

Oh, say it isn't so!

But it is so! If you do a little reading, you can see that the Senate had this same debate just about a year ago. Good old Ted Kennedy blocked Rick Santorum's package - which would have raised the minimum wage by $1.10 per hour, and provided 'modest tax breaks for small businesses and opportunities for workers to opt for more flexible schedules that opponents say allows employers to avoid overtime.' If Kennedy had gone for that deal, the minimum wage would be $6.25 per hour in a few months - but that wasn't good enough for old Teddy.

So if you actually pay attention to what's happening, you see that while Senate Republicans have stubbornly refused to go along with a stand-alone minimum wage increase, Democrats have refused to settle for less. In fact, the deal is on the table. They continue to reject it because... well, because a minimum wage increase really isn't as important as politics and political issues for the election.

Only the Associated Press won't tell you that.

Update: The Washington Post coverage of this story is no better than Espo's, although they don't use quite the level of rhetoric that Espo does to criticize the GOP.

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Calderon's 'Uncomfortable' Brother-in-Law

Ten days from now, Mexico will elect a new President. Given the strong influences that Mexico and the US mutually have on each other, it will affect us a great deal. The US would probably fare best with Felipe Calderon of Vicente Fox's National Action Party (PAN), but that's not clear. The PAN tends to be a more pro-American, free market party than Mexico's 2 other major parties, but that's not saying a lot. Further, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) is former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), and while his party is of the extreme left, he was a pragmatist as Mayor. The third major candidate is Roberto Madrazo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Even though the PRI ran Mexico from 1929 to 2000, Madrazo is clearly the underdog in this race.

The election polls show a very close race. For a long time, AMLO had a healthy lead, but as Calderon began to attack him, and link him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (who reportedly has put money into AMLO's campaign), AMLO fell back into second place. But AMLO responded with an attack of his own at Mexico's June 6 Presidential debate, and it's turned the tide. Polls in the last week show him with a lead of either 2 or 4 points, a change from polls as recently as two weeks ago, which had shown Calderon with a slight edge. So while most now agree that AMLO leads, there's not much confidence that it's a big lead, or that it will hold up.

The most notable moment in the June 6 debate was AMLO's charge that Calderon had steered more than $200 million in government contracts to his 'uncomfortable' brother-in-law. The charge was unexpected, and Calderon responded badly. He's counter-attacked with corruption charges of his own, but he's clearly taken the worst of it:

But Mexico now is full of talk of Calderon’s “uncomfortable brother-in-law” after Lopez Obrador accused Calderon in a live television debate of awarding his wife’s brother contracts while he was energy minister. Lopez Obrador also charged the businessman did not pay the proper taxes.

Calderon has repeatedly denied any misconduct.

The scandal gathered pace on Friday as Calderon’s brother-in-law, Diego Zavala, filed a legal complaint against Lopez Obrador for defamation, and Lopez Obrador sent three cardboard boxes of alleged evidence to his rival’s campaign headquarters in a media stunt to high the affair.

“The charge is for defamation given the gentleman has not apologised. He needs to prove what he alleges,” Zavala told reporters.

Calderon called his archrival a liar, telling Reuters on Thursday, “What Lopez Obrador said about me giving contracts is a lie, a big lie and someone who lies is a liar.”

Calderon’s energy adviser, Ernesto Cordero, said the charge appeared to relate to two software licences bought by state-run oil monopoly Pemex in the mid-1990s that were renewed during Calderon’s time in government. “They are contracts that don’t go through him,” he said.

A separate Calderon aide said the boxes delivered by Lopez Obrador’s team were “a farce” and proved nothing, because they did not contain a single document signed by Calderon.

Bogus or not, it seems to be these charges, along with AMLO's renewed effort to reassure voters that he's not Chavez, that account for AMLO's surge. The Washington Post has blogged the race pretty well, and they note that with lots still to spend, and dedicated supporters, Calderon has a good chance to pull out a win despite the current polls.

The lingering concern is that the election may end up being decided by 'who counts the votes best.' I served as an election observer in Mexico just a few years ago, and while the process has gotten a lot better since the 1980s, there are still opportunities for shenanigans. In fact, although I was a US citizen and a credentialed observer, one of the election officers I dealt with offered me and my companion ballots. Further, most Mexicans believe that Cuauhtemoc Cardenas won Mexico's 1988 Presidential election, only to lose the vote count because of election fraud. And while Vicente Fox finally broke the PRI stranglehold on the Presidency in 2000, PRI supporters are still angry that President Ernesto Zedillo didn't give the OK to rig the election for the PRI candidate at the time. Things like this prompt concerns that in an election expected to be as close as this one is, there are likely to be lots of attempts to tamper with ballots and counting. The Federal Election Institute is charged with ensuring the integrity of the vote, and the head of the Institute recently reassured CNN that everything will be on the up-and-up.

It will be interesting to watch the next few weeks.

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House on Immigration: Let's Play Hardball!

The Hill covers the plan of House Republicans to hold a series of hearings on the Senate immigration bill, and they paint a distinctly different picture from what you'll read in other places. They note that no one in the House leadership is now saying that immigration is dead for the year. They also characterize the series of hearings as an effort to 'feed dissatisfaction with the bill, which would, in turn, give them more leverage heading into negotiations with the Senate.'

I think the Hill has it right here. It's also important to note that Senate Majority Leader Frist's spokesperson said that Frist 'welcomed further inspection of the Senate measure.' First clearly speaks for a majority of Senate Republicans on this issue. Heck, a majority of Senate Republicans opposed the Senate bill.

I think this makes it pretty clear that the hope of House Republicans is to force the Senate and the White House to take a bill that is essentially enforcement only. The question will be if it includes anything else. Will it feature a guestworker program that goes into force if targets are met for stopping illegal immigration? Will it feature something like the Pence bill? Or will it be nothing more than a re-hash of the House's original enforcement only bill?

The House Republicans have been very skillful on this issue, waiting out the White House and the Senate by sticking to their approach. The only question is whether the Senate and the White House will ultimately take what they can get, or wait for next year. I believe they will do the former.

House GOP to hold hearings on Senate immigration bill
By Patrick O’Connor

Republican leaders in the House are organizing a series of committee hearings to examine Senate-passed legislation to restructure the country’s immigration laws.

The leaders clearly intend these hearings to increase their leverage on the brink of a tense bargaining session with the Senate. A procedural measure has stalled the bill indefinitely, preventing leaders from naming conferees.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) convened a meeting in his conference room yesterday morning with most of his elected leadership and nine committee chairmen. None of the leaders or chairmen made an official announcement upon leaving the meeting but confirmed that committee hearings were in the works.

“We want to have hearings on this bill,” Hastert told reporters yesterday. “I’ve asked the various chairmen to go out and have hearings so we understand what the American people are saying.”

The immigration issue pits a majority of GOP lawmakers in the House against President Bush and a handful of Republicans in the Senate. Despite an uproar of opposition to the president’s guest-worker plan, the administration continues to pressure Republican lawmakers in both chambers to support comprehensive reform.

Bush has toured the border in recent weeks with congressional Republicans, and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is touring parts of New Mexico and Texas this week to push the president’s comprehensive reform plan.

“We need to have comprehensive reform,” Gutierrez said in a phone interview from Odessa, Texas. “In order to secure our borders, we need to secure our interior and enforce employers.”

Gutierrez echoed Bush’s contention that border enforcement is the primary goal of any reform measure but that it is impossible to address enforcement realistically without accounting for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The commerce secretary said it is imperative for Congress to work together in resolving this complicated issue and find a workable solution on which all sides could agree.

“The fact that it is complicated is not a reason to delay,” Gutierrez said. “It needs to be resolved as soon as possible.”

The House hearings would begin in July and run through August, members said yesterday. The special sessions would be held both in Washington and throughout the country. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said one goal of the hearings would be to address specific components of the Senate bill.

“We want to have a very clear idea of what is in the Senate bill and what some people think of some of the provisions in the Senate bill,” Boehner told reporters during one of his regular weekly press briefings.

He pointed to language in the Senate bill granting illegal immigrants the benefits of in-state tuition as one example of a Senate provision he objects to. A senior GOP leadership aide in the House said members also oppose provisions in the bill written by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would allow illegal immigrants to collect some Social Security benefits, as well as a provision that would require the undocumented workers to pay back taxes for just three of the five years leading up to their application for citizenship.

While a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) welcomed further inspection of the Senate measure by various House panels, Kennedy was less than enthused that House lawmakers want to inspect the Senate bill any more.

...In addition to Hastert and Boehner, other GOP leaders attending the hour-long meeting included Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.); his chief deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.); Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio); National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.); and Policy Committee Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.).

Chairmen included the Judiciary Committee’s James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who is expected to take the lead in the negotiations for Republicans in the House; Homeland Security’s Peter King (R-N.Y.); Ways and Means’ Bill Thomas (R-Calif.); Government Reform’s Tom Davis (R-Va.); Resources’ Richard Pombo (R-Calif.); Intelligence’s Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.); and Administration’s Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.).

Given the breadth of the committees involved in the discussions, neither the chairmen nor the leaders could give any details about which committees would handle the particular details.

“There are policy issues in the Senate bill that stretch across a wide array of committees,” Boehner said.

By holding a series of hearings in Washington and elsewhere during the August recess, Republican leaders in the House are hoping to feed dissatisfaction with the bill, which would, in turn, give them more leverage heading into negotiations with the Senate.

Republican leaders would like to pass a bill increasing enforcement along the border and in the workplace before addressing an expansion of the current guest-worker plan, and most GOP lawmakers in the House are adamantly opposed to any provision that would grant eventual citizenship to workers who came to the United States illegally.

“We’re feeling pressure from the Senate and the administration, but we don’t feel we should pass something that Americans are upset about,” Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said. “Our chairmen need to put this under a microscope.”

Although the hearings could prevent Congress from moving any bill, Hastert said he remains committed to passing something soon.

“I’m not putting any timeline on this thing, but I think we need to get this thing done right,” Hastert said yesterday. “I told that to the president the other day that we need to have that discussion.”

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Dick Morris: All Wrong

I've noted before that Dick Morris is a very creative thinker, who has some fantastic ideas and some terrible ideas. Today he features more of the latter, suggesting that Harold Ford may be the candidate the Democrats need to take control of the Senate. Morris suggests that if the Democrats can win their 5 primary Senate targets, without losing any of their marginal seats to the GOP, they only need to find one more seat to take over - and that could be Tennessee and Harold Ford.

I think it's unlikely that the Democrats can win 5 while losing none, so I reject the whole concept. Plus, the latest polling for Ford in Tennessee is very discouraging. And lastly, Morris feels the President must do something about gas prices - which I continue to believe are largely irrelevant to the outcome of the midterms:

Tenn. may give Dems sixth senator they need
For months I have wondered which would be the sixth seat the Democrats could win to capture the Senate.

Because Vice President Dick Cheney would, of course, break any 50-50 tie in favor of the GOP, the Democrats, down 55-45 now, have to gain six seats in the 2006 election to get control.

Five prime Democratic targets have been obvious for some time. According to the latest Rasmussen polls, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) belongs on the endangered-species list, trailing Bob Casey Jr., his Democratic challenger, by 56-33. Also behind, although by lesser margins, are Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), who trails Rep. Sherrod Brown by 44-41, and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), losing to Jon Tester by 48-44.

Burns, handicapped by his association with Jack Abramoff, may be headed to defeat. DeWine, a former client of mine, has manifest campaign skills and could come back, but it doesn’t look good.

Ahead of their Democratic challengers but well below 50 percent are Sens. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who holds a narrow 43-40 lead over Claire McCaskill, and Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who leads Sheldon Whitehouse by 44-42. Talent is a great candidate and could come back but would probably be defeated in a Democratic trend. Chafee, a prime RINO (Republican in name only), never really has captured the hearts of his state after succeeding his father and could also be a casualty of a GOP landslide in one of the country’s most Democratic states.

If all five lose, a fair bet right now, who would be the sixth seat without which the Republicans would remain in charge of the Senate?

Now the Zogby poll indicates that Harold Ford, the Democratic candidate to succeed Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) in Tennessee, is running a surprisingly strong race against his three possible Republican opponents. That could be the sixth seat.

Zogby has Ford tied with former Rep. Ed Bryant, with each winning 42 percent of the vote, and trailing by a small margin, 43-41, against former Rep. Van Hilleary. A third possible candidate, Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, leads Ford by 46-42.

Ford, one of a new generation of African-American politicians with considerable appeal across party lines, has two defects as he runs for the open seat: He is black in a state with the lowest African-American population in the old Confederacy, and his uncle is facing serious corruption charges. But both of these drawbacks are quite obvious to the voters of Tennessee. If they are insufficient to doom his candidacy, this man may be a winner.

...There are other possible problems on the Democratic horizon. The most serious is in New Jersey, where the open seat of former Sen. Jon Corzine (D), now the governor, is contested by Corzine’s anointed heir, Democrat Bob Menendez, and Republican Tom Kean Jr., the son of the former governor.

Rasmussen’s polling has Kean holding a narrow 40-37 lead. Since Kean is obviously a statewide name and Menendez has been little-known outside of his district, the congressman would seem to have the edge. New Jersey, once a toss-up state, has become a true blue enclave largely because of Hispanic in-migration, a vote that will turn out in droves for Menendez.

Rasmussen also reports that Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has been falling of late in his polling, so that might be another Republican target. But neither Washington state nor New Jersey can be counted on for the Republican Party.

All of this is to show that President Bush had better shake himself up and address the gas-price and energy issues that he has so far failed to speak out about, except for one mention in his long-ago State of the Union address. It is only by an ongoing relevance to this nation’s key problem that Bush can hope to avert the disaster looming on the horizon.

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Emanuel to Leave DCCC; Disdain for Dean

The Hill reports that Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will give up that position after the midterm elections. He is widely thought to have done a great job for the Democrats, and the obvious question will be what he does next. Will he make a bid for a leadership position among House Democrats, or will he look to a statewide race in Illinois?

Not to beat a dead horse, but I've highlighted a mention of Emanuel 'storming out of a meeting' with Howard Dean, due to frustration that the DNC has so much less cash on hand than does the DNC:

Rahm nixes second term
By Josephine Hearn

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) will step down from the House Democrats’ campaign operation after the November elections to spend more time with his family, he told The Hill yesterday.

Emanuel has been a leading strategist, fundraiser, cheerleader and recruiter for House Democrats as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) since the beginning of last year. His uncommon pairing of cunning efficiency and profanity-laced outbursts has won him both plaudits and opprobrium, but nearly all Democrats concede that he deserves substantial credit for their rosy election prospects this year.

“I served one term, and my kids are all at a certain point. They’ve had it,” Emanuel told The Hill. “I’ll do whatever the caucus wants in the sense of helping the next chairperson in any capacity, but I will not serve as chairman another cycle.” He and his wife, Amy, have three children under 10.

Although most DCCC chairmen serve only a single term, many Democrats welcomed Emanuel’s presence and held out hope he would serve a second term.

Emanuel’s comments came just as the DCCC was releasing its latest fundraising total. The DCCC raised $5.5 million in May, slightly behind its rival, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which raised $5.6 million. The Democrats finished the month with $24.5 million on hand, compared with $21.9 million for the Republicans.

Across the Capitol, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also beat its counterpart (see related story, Page 6).

Several of Emanuel’s colleagues were hopeful that he could be convinced to stay, noting that he had been reluctant to take the position when first offered it by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

...Emanuel has spent much time on the road in the past year, raising money and recruiting candidates. Pelosi joked in a recent interview that she sees more of his children than he does. He typically carries a leather portfolio filled with his children’s letters, photos and drawings, an aide said.

While traversing the country, he has been concerned about fundraising decisions in Washington at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Emanuel reportedly stormed out of a meeting with DNC Chairman Howard Dean several weeks ago, exasperated that the Republican National Committee (RNC) had banked far greater reserves than its Democratic counterpart.

Asked whether Dean is doing a good job, Emanuel did not directly answer the question.

“We have the resources to do what we need to do to help our candidates,” he said. “The DCCC will stay competitive. ... This will be first cycle since 1994 that DCCC will be at dollar parity with the NRCC.”

At the end of May, the RNC had $43.1 million on hand while the DNC had $10.3 million.

Dean sent an e-mail to supporters yesterday defending his strategy of spending money on party operations in all 50 states rather than hoarding it for congressional races.

“We’re in the middle of our campaign to explain the 50-state strategy and answer questions about its purpose,” Dean told backers. He referred to a letter from Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland Jr. calling the approach the “future of our party here in Utah.”

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Roll Call: Lieberman Indie Bid Splits Dems

Roll Call (subscription required) looks at the challenges posed for Democrats by a potential Lieberman Independent bid for re-election. No real mention of the Dean angle, which I hit upon more directly when I looked at this recently.

Lieberman Could Put Leaders in Bind
June 21, 2006
By John Stanton and Nicole Duran,
Roll Call Staff

Should Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) opt to run as an Independent for re-election if he is defeated in Connecticut’s August Democratic primary by political upstart Ned Lamont, Senate Democratic leaders could find themselves in uncharted political waters in deciding which candidate to back against Republican Alan Schlesinger and whether sanctions would be imposed on Lieberman for leaving the party even temporarily.

Although the Senate has twice before seen incumbents launch Independent re-election bids following a primary defeat — including, ironically, an unsuccessful 1970 run by the late Sen. Thomas Dodd (D-Conn.), the father of Connecticut’s other Democratic Senator, Chris Dodd — neither of those instances seems likely to provide a precedent for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), according to Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie.

Publicly, both Lieberman and Senate Democrats insist they are making no plans for a potential bid as an Independent and insist they are confident he will prevail in his party’s primary contest.

“He said ‘I’m a Democrat, period,’” Lieberman spokeswoman Marion Steinfels said. “Sen. Lieberman has said he always will be a Democrat. This is all speculation. Our campaign is completely 100 percent focused on winning Aug. 8. No one is sitting around strategizing” about an Independent bid.

DSCC spokesman Phil Singer called speculation about a possible Independent run “much ado about nothing: Joe Lieberman is and will remain a candidate in the Democratic primary.” Schumer, however, refused to rule out backing Lieberman should he run without the party label when asked about it at a news conference last week.

When pressed on the matter by a reporter, Schumer said: “There are a lot of choices” if Lieberman loses the primary. “You can run as an Independent, you can run as an independent Democrat ... we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

With Lamont mounting a serious challenge, Senate Democrats are making a point of rallying around Lieberman, with many lawmakers expected to travel to the Nutmeg State in the coming weeks. His Senate Democratic colleagues already have donated more than $49,000 since 2004 to his re-election campaign.

“I disagree with Joe on the war, but there are a lot of things we agree on,” one Democratic Senator close to Lieberman said. The lawmaker, who has clashed with Lieberman in the past, nevertheless said that he will travel to Connecticut in the run-up to the primary to campaign for his colleague.

The Senator also argued that Lieberman is the stronger candidate and that a Lamont win could seriously damage the party’s ability to take control of the Senate. “Joe Lieberman represents our best chance of taking back the majority. I think that if Ned Lamont wins that primary we’re in real danger of losing that seat” in November, the Senator said.

Privately, however, Democrats acknowledge that Lieberman — whose positions on the Iraq war and often close relationship with the Bush administration have rankled many in the party — could force his fellow Senators to choose between backing one of their own and abiding by the wishes of the state’s Democratic voters. Lieberman’s decision to leave the door open to an Independent run has angered many rank-and-file Democratic activists and has added an unwanted wrinkle to Democrats’ long-shot efforts to gain control of the Senate in November.

“Lieberman running as an Independent will do major damage to our party, undoing all the work we have been doing building relationships between Democrats in Washington and the [liberal] base back home,” a senior Democratic aide said, warning that “If the DSCC and the establishment support a Lieberman Independent bid, it would send a message to state parties that they don’t matter anymore. That would be devastating. Lieberman needs to run in the primary, follow the rules, and work hard for a win. Any other option should be off the table.”

...Leadership aides said neither Reid nor Schumer is preparing for fallout from a possible Independent run and insisted no discussions have occurred on whether to back an Independent campaign by Lieberman or whether the Caucus would force him to step down as ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

State party leaders in Connecticut are also hopeful that a three-way race is a dilemma they will not have to face.

“I will be endorsing the Democratic Party candidate, who I anticipate will be Joe Lieberman,” said Nancy DiNardo, the state party chairman.

According to Ritchie, an Independent campaign by Lieberman would represent only the third time that an incumbent would have taken such a step in modern Senate history. In the case of Dodd, following his loss to Joseph Duffey in the Democratic primary, he mounted an Independent bid, garnering 24 percent of the popular vote to Duffy’s 33 percent, essentially splitting the Democratic vote and allowing GOP challenger Lowell Weicker to win the election. (Lieberman unseated Weicker in 1988, and Weicker would later win election as Connecticut governor running as an Independent.)

However, the Dodd case was significantly different than this year’s election. In 1967, Dodd was censured by the Senate for inappropriate personal use of campaign funds, according to Ritchie. Dodd was also neither the chairman nor ranking member of a committee, unlike Lieberman. Lieberman has also not been the subject of any ethics scandals or censure.

Similarly, Lieberman’s circumstances are only partially similar to those surrounding the Senate’s other example in which former Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) ran on the Liberal Party ticket after being defeated in the GOP primary by Alfonse D’Amato. Although Javits was ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee — and was sworn in as the committee chairman for his last day in the Senate — his 1980 Liberal Party challenge to D’Amato was, according Ritchie, prompted largely out of anger at D’Amato for basing much of his primary challenge on Javits’ poor health rather than his record in office.

Clearly, the fight between Lieberman and the Netroots may cause huge troubles for the Democratic party.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dem Fundraising Better... but DNC Lags Badly

Well, we keep coming back to this same point. Howard Dean is spending the DNC into bankruptcy. So even though the DSCC and the DCCC are doing better than ever in fundraising - reaching rough parity with the GOP - the Republicans will still be able to pour resources into competitive races in October, which the Democrats may not be able to match. Dean will look like a true genius if his '50-state strategy' bears fruit. If it fails of course, the Democrats will have blown their best chance to win majorities in years.

Of course, if a 1994-style wave develops, this won't matter much. All the money in the world wouldn't have saved Dan Rostenkowski from Mike Flanagan. But few think that's all that likely right now.

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Cheyenne Mountain Shutting Down?

The Associated Press provides more detail on the reported plans of the North American Aerospace Defense Command to shut down Cheyenne Mountain:

Military may scale back operations at secretive base

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- The military is studying whether to dramatically scale back work done at the secretive Cheyenne Mountain complex, the heavily fortified underground installation that has been a Cold War-era icon for 40 years.

Details of the study were reported Friday by The Gazette newspaper, which said it was provided anonymously.

The Cheyenne Mountain center helps monitor North American skies, oceans and space for threats. [Influence Peddler Note: It is best known for tracking Santa.] It was built at a time the United States feared a Soviet nuclear attack.

The study was commissioned in February by Adm. Timothy Keating, chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

It outlines plans to move Cheyenne Mountain's missile defense and air defense missions to the Peterson base, missile warning to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, home of Strategic Command, and the space mission to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Air Force Space Command confirmed that "plans are currently being developed to move the 1st Space Control Squadron to Vandenberg AFB."

"At this time, however, it is uncertain when that move will take place or what the costs will be," Space Command said.

The $100,000 study, originally slated for June release, has been delayed by at least a month, military spokesman Michael Perini told the newspaper. He said the study would not result in closing Cheyenne Mountain.

"There is no talk at this point of dismantling any portion of the command center at Cheyenne Mountain," Perini's statement said. But it said the center could be placed on "warm standby" status, a term that will be defined by the study.

A former senior government official familiar with the study told the Gazette it suggests moving 150 people, about a third of the Cheyenne Mountain work force, to Peterson to achieve "substantial savings." The official asked not to be named for fear of damaging his continuing relations with the military.

Over the past several years, a building at Peterson AFB was expanded to accommodate a NORAD operations center that has since become a joint facility shared with Northern Command, the new homeland defense arm created in 2002. U.S. Space Command became part of Strategic Command.

This truly marks the end of an era, folks: the Cold War isn't coming back. All my friends who studied guns and bombs in undergrad will have to find new lines of work.

Here's a little bit of nostalgia for all of you. More here.

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Wegmans' Success Makes it a Target

We in the Northeast are blessed with one of the best supermarkets in the US: Wegmans. They're rated highly for great products, great prices, great choices, uniformly friendly staff, and really tasty prepared foods. They also rank very high on Fortune Magazine's list of the 100 best companies to work for. (Disclaimer: Neither I, nor anyone I know is receiving Kosbucks).

Well, the Left can't stand such success, so naturally they have to start attacking Wegmans for not treating food sources nicely. This is from a site called Wegmans Cruelty; I'm not going to link it, but you can find it if you want to:

Wegmans still uses battery cages at its egg facility
Wegmans crowds up to nine hens into tiny, barren cages at its company-run egg facility, allowing each hen less than half a square foot of space. These animals are forced to live in their own waste and on top of the corpses of their cage-mates. A team of investigators from Compassionate Consumers found hens at Wegmans Egg Farm with severe infections and suffering from extreme dehydration. Some hens were trapped in the mesh of their cages, and others were drowning in liquid manure.

The cruel battery cage system used by Wegmans has been banned in the European Union, and many food service companies, universities, and national grocery chains such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats have pledged to no longer sell or use battery cage eggs. Please seek out alternatives to battery cage eggs, and ask Wegmans to work with The Humane Society of the United States to improve these inhumane conditions.

How inhumane is Wegmans? I have learned that they actually KILL animals (or pay others to do so), and lay the carcasses out in their stores!

Wegmans has responded here, with a superb reminder of why the free market is so wonderful:

Why choice is important…
The activists are asking that we operate a farm without cages. Eggs produced by cage-free hens are available at Wegmans. These eggs cost more to produce, so the retail price is much higher than Wegmans eggs. Three nationally-known specialty food stores are often lauded for switching to cage-free eggs only. Wegmans is a full-service supermarket, not a specialty food store. Price is important to our customers, who expect to find eggs at an affordable price and value them as an inexpensive source of high quality protein. Some simply can't afford to pay more. We don’t believe we should force all of our customers to pay more than double the price for a dozen eggs just because a few people think we should.

If you have shopped at our stores and know us well, we hope you trust us to be honest and forthcoming. If you don't know us at all, we realize that's a lot to ask, but we appreciate the chance to tell you about our egg farm.

We are proud of our eggs

Read the whole thing. Wegmans has been investigated by the County and State, and state that there was no evidence of animal cruelty. They question the honesty of their leading critics.

There is a map and list of all Wegmans locations here. If you live near one, you owe it to yourself to try it. And now that they are under unfair attack, you can feel good about supporting them with your commerce.

And for a crude, but highly amusing analysis of the animal rights movement and the code of conduct it seeks to impose, check out Penn and Teller.

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Abortion Now Banned in Two States

Odd that this seems to have gotten almost NO attention in the MSM. The Democratic Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, has signed an abortion ban into law. The law reportedly includes exceptions for "substantial risk of death" or to deter "serious permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ." The article notes that the measure is similar to one enacted in South Dakota earlier this year, which is expected to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

With the speculation that Roberts and Alito could both vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and the possibity that Bush will get another Supreme Court appointment, abortion may move back into prominence in the public debate soon.

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The Fairness Doctrine of Immigration

Far be it from me to be completely one-sided in writing about DC politics; I can save about 15-20% of my time for bad GOP news as well. Today's is a story about Republican divisions on immigration. Or more accurately, about two House Republicans divide over immigration. Roll Call (as always, subscription required) reports:

Tancredo vs. Cannon?
June 20, 2006
By Ben Pershing,
Roll Call Staff

House Republican leaders don’t need another reminder that their Conference is divided on the issue of immigration. But they’re getting one anyway, courtesy of Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.).

The political action committee founded by Tancredo, Team America PAC, has been garnering national press for its forceful assault on Rep. Chris Cannon (R), who faces a tough GOP primary challenge in Utah’s 3rd district. Team America is running radio ads lambasting Cannon’s immigration position and aggressively has encouraged readers of its Web site to oppose Cannon’s re-election.

The moves have caught the attention of Republican leaders, who always try — with mixed success — to remind GOP lawmakers not to target their fellow incumbent Republicans.

“It’s bad enough fighting off [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman] Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.),” said a senior House GOP leadership aide. “We really don’t need to be fighting off one of our own Members.”

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has complained in recent years to Tancredo about the activities of Team America, which also hounded Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) before he announced he would retire this cycle. Then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) made similar pleas, apparently to no avail.

“Hastert talked to [Tancredo] about it during the Kolbe race,” said the leadership aide. “He was saying, ‘It’s not really me, I’m not really behind it, blah blah blah,’ but it’s not true.”

For the record, Tancredo is the “founding chairman” of the Team America PAC, while Bay Buchanan is the group’s chairwoman and chief spokeswoman.

“He’s really stayed apart from it since the founding,” said Tancredo spokesman Will Adams. “He has no formal influence over what the PAC does. Obviously he and Bay are friends, but in terms of strategically where the PAC is going, he doesn’t make the decisions.”

Asked what role Tancredo had in Team America’s decisions, Buchanan said, “None.”

“He stepped down from his position as chairman 18 months ago, and while he and I continue to be close ... I don’t know if he’s heard the ad [against Cannon] and he was not consulted,” Buchanan said, though she added that “we both agree that it’s time to hold the Congressmen and Senators accountable for their votes.”

Of course, Team America’s Web site does prominently feature a picture of Tancredo and several quotes from the lawmaker, and the Web site of Tancredo’s re-election campaign links to that of Team America. And while Tancredo says he doesn’t control the PAC, he does endorse its actions and has pledged to travel on behalf of the candidates the group backs.

...Cannon himself has expressed his displeasure at Team America’s actions, which focus on criticizing Cannon’s support of President Bush’s immigration reform plan. Team America calls Cannon the “King of Amnesty” and has featured his face with a bull’s-eye on it on the group’s Web site (though that image is no longer viewable on the site).

Unlike in the case of Kolbe, who represents a swing district, Republicans are in little danger of losing Cannon’s seat even if the incumbent falls in the primary, as the 3rd district gave Bush 77 percent of the vote in 2004.

...“It’s unfortunate whenever members of the Republican Conference decide to engage in activity against fellow Members,” said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “The NRCC fully supports Mr. Cannon.”

As unhappy as Republican leaders are about Tancredo’s agitation, it isn’t clear whether they can exact any retribution against the Coloradoan.

...But Tancredo doesn’t have a chairmanship or a spot on an exclusive panel; he has seats on the International Relations and Resources committees. And Tancredo spends more of his time traveling the country, including visits to presidential primary states, and making media appearance on the immigration issue than he does working the legislative process on Capitol Hill.

“How would they pressure us?” asked Tancredo spokesman Adams. “We don’t have a choice committee assignment that they could really take from us. ... It’s freeing not to have any sort of points of leverage against us.”

Republicans have diverse views on immigration, and Chris Cannon has earned a lot of support for his courage to stand up to guys like Tancredo. Tancredo and Buchanan ought to back off.

Update: The Hotline reports that Cannon's primary opponent, John Jacob, is involved in an immigration controversy of his own. He allegedly hired an immigrant who lacked work authorization, but did so through a company he helped set up. Jacob contends he did nothing illegal.

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Fort Sumter Shelled

Democrats are demonstrating an extraordinary passion for converting victory into defeat. In a year when they have the potential to win at least one - if not both - Houses of Congress, and to expand their share of the nation's governorships, they are doing everything possible to throw it away. Democratic divisions are evident on immigration, Iraq, social policy, and a range of other issues, but the fissure expands every day in Joe Lieberman's Senate race.

I've written about this a lot, because I find it fascinating that a long-time incumbent, loyal Democrat, vice-Presidential candidate, would face such an aggressive challenge over essentially one issue. The fact that Ned Lamont's campaign is strongly backed by the brother of the DNC Chair is even more shocking. Has a party chairman EVER tacitly approved a challenge to someone as prominent as Joe Lieberman?

In the last few days, Charlie Schumer - Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee - has refused to rule out supporting Lieberman if he runs for Senate as an Independent. This is an extraordinary statement, but these are extraordinary circumstances. Lieberman has earned some loyalty - no matter what the DailyKos crowd thinks - and Schumer would be foolish to drive Lieberman - a likely winner as an Independent - to the GOP.

Today, according to Roll Call (subscription required), Howard Dean's brother is calling Schumer out - and putting pressure on him to disavow support for Lieberman should he lose the primary to Lamont:

Dean’s Brother Raps DSCC Over Stance on Lieberman
June 20, 2006
By Nicole Duran,
Roll Call Staff

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) refusal to rule out seeking re-election as an Independent should he lose the Aug. 8 Democratic primary has led to a verbal assault by the brother of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean on Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Democracy for America, the group that grew out of Dean’s unsuccessful presidential bid and is now led by his brother, Jim Dean, is circulating a petition to Schumer calling on him to stand by the winner of the Democratic primary.

Democracy for America is backing Lieberman’s challenger, millionaire cable-executive Ned Lamont.

Schumer “has said that the DSCC will not rule out supporting Lieberman if he runs as an Independent,” a Democracy for America e-mail sent to supporters last week reads. “The DSCC’s mission is to elect Democrats to the Senate. Yet in this case, they would prefer to back an incumbent who leaves the party instead of a principled progressive who’s proud to be a Democrat.”

Schumer has not said what the DSCC would do should Lamont best Lieberman and Lieberman decided to press on as an Independent.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Schumer told reporters last week.

And that is what has Democracy for America — and Howard Dean’s brother — pressing Lieberman and Schumer.

“My reaction to all of this is that there’s a lot of mumbling going on here,” Jim Dean said in an interview. “We would really like Sen. Lieberman just to get clear about this.”

...Dean said national Democrats should call upon Lieberman to rule out an Independent bid.

“I wish the Democratic leadership of this party would take this seriously,” Dean said. “This is the kind of thing that got us in trouble 15 years ago. The question for the DSCC is: ‘do you support Democratic candidates or not?”

DSCC spokesman Phil Singer would not answer the question directly.

“This is much ado about nothing: Joe Lieberman is and will remain a candidate in the Democratic primary,” Singer said.

Should Lieberman lose — the latest polls show him comfortably leading Lamont — and should he continue on as an Independent with the DSCC’s backing, the DSCC would lose credibility with many Democratic activists, Dean said.

“The battle in this party is not an ideological debate right now it’s between the activist community and the culture of supporting incumbents” at all costs, Dean said.

...Schumer and other Democratic leaders are undoubtedly in a tough position as they figure out to handle a potential Lieberman Independent candidacy.

It is not unprecedented for the DSCC to support a like-minded Independent. The committee has made no secret that it is backing Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as he attempts to win the open Senate seat in the Green Mountain State.

In that case, however, Democrats were able to clear the field for Sanders so that no strong Democrat sought the seat.

Sanders caucuses with Democrats in the House and said he would continue to do so if elected to the Senate.

In light of that, Dean said the DSCC should clarify its position on supporting Independents. Dean said he understands that his actions “will ruffle a few feathers” but that it is necessary to ensure that the party has clear policies in such matters.

If Dean’s petition drive puts Schumer in a bind, it probably puts the DNC chairman in an even more awkward position.

“I don’t really think of that very often because he’s kind of on a different mission,” Jim Dean said of his brother. “He’s not as involved in federal races. He is building the 50-state strategy.”

Dean was also careful to reiterate that he and his brother do not discuss business.

DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton would only say: “the DNC doesn’t get involved in Democratic primaries.”

Right now, all the principals are talking in a sane, civilized manner. But what must be going on behind the scenes? If you were Schumer, what would you be thinking of the Dean brothers? Particularly that Howard Dean is running the party into bankruptcy in pursuit of a dubious strategy to win in places like Utah and Mississippi? And what happens to the DSCC's donor base if Lieberman runs as an Independent, and the Dean brothers encourage the committed MoveOn and Kos Left to stop supporting Schumer's candidates?

This may be the biggest threat to Democratic success this year: an incipient Civil War between the crusading Left and the party institutions. Schumer will be hard-pressed to back Lieberman, if the Deans can cut off the money the DSCC gets from small donors.

And Dean's comment that "this is the kind of thing that got us in trouble 15 years ago" is fascinating. What does he mean? That Bill Clinton and the moderates of the Democratic Leadership Council were (and are) the source of the trouble? It's clear that whatever else Clinton may have done, he set a blueprint for Democrats to win majority support in a center-right era. Does Dean have a better plan to do that?

This is FANTASTIC stuff if you are a Republican. And if you're a Democrat, you have a lot to think about.

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