December 17, 2007

Hillary on the High Wire
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON--The Democratic contest in Iowa--and possibly the battle for the party's presidential nomination--hangs on whether Hillary Clinton can use the next two weeks to encourage second thoughts about Barack Obama, and get voters to take a second look at her. A month and a half ago, Clinton was widely seen as the inevitable victor. Now, she faces a moment of great peril. For most of 2007, Clinton benefited from a virtuous cycle. Her continuing lead in the polls slowly eased Democratic doubts about her ability to beat the Republicans next fall.

The Democrats' Fisa Reform Strategy
12:00 AM

Like Glenn Greenwald and Atrios, I'm a bit puzzled as to why Harry Reid seems determined to stack the deck against opponents of the FISA reform bill granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies that cooperated with the administration--even refusing to honor the "hold" Chris Dodd requested on the legislation, all while recognizing, for instance, Lindsey Graham's "hold" on the CIA interrogation bill.

Death Waits
12:00 AM

Today, New Jersey became the first state to ban the death penalty since it was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. In honor of the development, I wanted to link to this 1998 piece by Jonathan Rauch on uncertainty and the death penalty, which is among the most thoughtful essays I can recall ever reading on a matter of public policy: In 1868, John Stuart Mill rose in Parliament to make the case for death as eloquently as human words permit.

December 15, 2007

Misguided Mukasey Gloating
12:00 AM

The disturbing news that Attorney General Michael Mukasey is stonewalling a congressional investgation into the CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes prompts Scott Lemieux to mock Ben Wittes for having supported Mukasey's nomination: Yes, the Dems will actually if anything have more leverage over Mukasey once he's confirmed! Because, er, he won't be able to "do anything" --like, oh, just for a random example, obstructing a Congressional inquiry into the obstruction of justice surounding state-sanctioned torture -- without them.

December 14, 2007

The Unlikely Juicer
12:00 AM

When the report of George Mitchell's commission investigating steroid use in baseball was released yesterday, my immediate reaction was the same as Jonathan Cohn's: that maybe Barry Bonds, unforgivable though his sins were, will--finally--no longer be treated as a scapegoat for a problem that went far beyond him. The name on Mitchell's list of steroid users that jarred me most deeply, though, was not Bonds's. Nor was it Roger Clemens's, Miguel Tejada's, or even Chuck Knoblauch's (somewhere, Keith Olbermann's mom is smiling).

Chavismo Without Chávez?
12:00 AM

The best clue as to where Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez is headed after his country's December 2 referendum can be found by closely examining his recent erratic behavior--though it is more difficult than ever to foresee the actions of this increasingly unpredictable, though incredibly resilient, political figure. During the weeks leading up to the vote, Chávez picked fights with everyone he could find.

Look Who's Not Looking
12:00 AM

Over the past two weeks, two of the most high-profile inspectors general in government have faced public firing squads. As the Washington Post reported on its front page on Friday, Stuart Bowen, the inspector general tasked with investigating Iraq reconstruction, now faces an investigation himself. Several government agencies are examining charges that his office was involved in massive mismanagement and waste, the very sins he had been tasked with uncovering in Iraq. Most puzzlingly, over twenty-five of his employees earned more than General David Petraeus did last year.

Take a Chill Pill
12:00 AM

The first casualty of war, it is said, is truth. The first casualty of close political campaigns, it seems, is perspective. Case in point: The singularly unconstructive but increasingly intense exchange between the Clinton and Obama campaigns on health care reform, (with TV ads by Clinton in the works), which can best be summarized as dueling claims that “my plan is bigger than yours.” The general issue is whose plan will leave fewer people uninsured.

December 13, 2007

The Dither in Des Moines
12:00 AM

Okay, okay. So it was a completely lame debate: Another inexplicable decision to take meaty topics off the table. Very few questions designed to elicit confrontation.  Extremely confining time limits. And all of this humorlessly enforced by a controlling, schoolmarmish moderator. Oh, and there was also the ludicrous presence of Alan Keyes, who managed to make the cut even though Dennis Kucinich has been barred from today’s Democratic installment. Having said that, the debate did do one thing: It nicely illuminated the central divide among the GOP front-runners.