December 12, 2007
The Fantástico Mr. Fox
SAN CRISTOBAL RANCH, Mexico--Vicente Fox is defying that old Mexican tradition by which presidents become nonentities once they leave office.
Time's Mark Halperin had a sharp take Monday on why the unflattering things that have come out about Mike Huckabee haven't hurt him so far: "Voters seem attracted to the man--not his issue positions, his record, or the quality (or lack thereof) of his campaign apparatus. Taking down Huckabee the Candidate means taking down Huckabee the Man, and that requires the kind of nuclear blast no one is yet inclined to launch." I’ll admit it: Watching Republican debates in the spring and summer, I developed a soft spot for the guy.
In the latest issue of Democracy, Rick Perlstein makes the case that most accounts of George McGovern's landslide loss in 1972 miss the mark: McGovern lost because he was an isolationist? If you had said that in 1972, people might have looked at you funny. Whatever his preference for deep cuts in the defense budget, Republican surrogates who hauled out the isolationist charge were labeled "silly" by no less an honest broker than the New York Times' Scotty Reston.
Obama, Clinton On Crack
A recap: The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently decided to (slightly) reduce the over-inflated prison sentences for crack-cocaine crimes, which are punished far more harshly than equivalent powder-cocaine crimes—a nonsensical disparity that's accomplished little save for prison bloat. Then, yesterday, the commission voted unanimously to apply those guidelines retroactively, affecting some 20,000 current inmates.
What Exactly Is Our "broken System"?
On October 17, 2007, John Edwards told an audience in Keene, New Hampshire the following : Here’s the truth: the system in Washington is broken. Money is corrupting our democracy. Lobbyists and the special interests they represent are pouring millions of dollars into the system, and stopping the change we need dead in its tracks. Our founding fathers intended our government to do the will of the people. But today, it’s doing the will of the special interests instead. There is, I think, much truth in former-Sen.
Okay, Fred Thompson is really serious now. Time to buckle down. No more slacking. The Washington Post reports that Thompson "has decided to campaign 'nonstop' in Iowa for the next three weeks." But wait, when you read on, it turns out that "nonstop" means something slightly different for the Thompson campaign: The campaign plans to launch a bus tour of Iowa starting on Dec.17 and will take a few days off for the Christmas holiday before returning to Iowa for another bus trip, which will continue until the beginning of the new year. Let me get this straight.
From today's NYT article about Hillary's struggles in Iowa, this is a bit of a damning admission from the candidate, isn't it? “I always thought that Iowa would be a challenge,” she said, “and I’m personally really pleased with how far I’ve come, never having done this with Bill. I’ve really been working to understand what was necessary to run a competitive campaign.” [Emphasis added.] Is this what Hillary means when she talks about experience--things she watched her husband do? And if he hasn't done them before, she's basically clueless?
December 11, 2007
Meet the Press
Peterborough, New Hampshire In the basement cafeteria of the ConVal High School, John Edwards is being stalked by a geeky teenager. The candidate’s predator is a local student with braces and black hair in a bowl cut. Most notably, he is unwaveringly holding a crude computer-printed sign that reads: ANN COULTER 08! Edwards has just finished a town hall forum here and he’s swarmed by voters. These flesh-pressing sessions are unpredictable.
The Can't-Win Kids
The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran presents an interesting paradox: Though almost certainly the product of rigorous assessment and questioning, it may actually leave us less secure over time. How can such an improved product of spycraft have such a negative effect? It can when it frames the issue mistakenly and is not combined with statecraft. I don’t question the assumptions or analysis in the NIE, or for that matter, its main conclusion. I accept that the Iranians suspended their covert nuclear weapons program in 2003. But I am afraid that misses the point.
Cuban: Tax Me!
Warren Buffett isn't the only highly successful, fabulously wealthy entrepreneur who wants a more progressive tax code. So does outspoken blogger (and Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban: It makes absolutely no sense that [Buffett], or I should pay a smaller percentage of our income than those who go to work 8 hours a day and have to save as much as they can to afford a vacation every year and stress out about whether or not they can pay their rent, mortgage or college for their kids.