Politicians aren’t always especially thoughtful about, or even familiar with, information technology. George W. Bush used the term “Internets” during not one but two presidential debates. The late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens famously referred to the World Wide Web as a “series of tubes.” And John McCain drew ridicule in 2008 when he conceded that he was still “learning to get online myself.” Much worse than these gaffes, however, are some of the policies that have been promoted by lawmakers and candidates who seem to fundamentally misunderstand the importance of a free and open Internet.
I know Tea Party Republicans don’t care for infrastructure spending. But I presume they still care for infrastructure. That is, I presume they like well-maintained roads, affordable electricity, and clean drinking water as much as I do. And when those things aren’t available – when antiquated air traffic control systems delay their flights, for example, or broken down street sewers flood their neighborhoods – I presume they are just as frustrated as I am. The problem, for the Tea Partiers and their allies, is the government part.
So how's that Republican war on pork holding up? All week, conservatives like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn have been pushing their fellow senators to put a two-year moratorium on earmarks. They've managed to persuade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and even Mississippi's prime porker, Thad Cochran, has just grudgingly acceded ("I remain unconvinced that fiscal prudence is effectively advanced by ceding to the Obama administration our constitutional authority to determine federal expenditures, but an earmark moratorium is the will of the Republican Conference.").
When Sarah Palin abruptly announced that she was planning to leave office, it was clear whom she blamed for her early exit. “I wish you'd hear MORE from the media of your state’s progress and how we tackle Outside interests--daily--SPECIAL interests that would stymie our state,” she said in her July 3 resignation speech, which she later posted on her website.
Former Sarah Palin booster (and TNR alum) Reihan Salam has had enough: Palin’s campaign antics can be forgiven. What can’t be forgiven is the ham-handed way she’s tried to build her national profile since she returned to Alaska. She’s abandoned the bold right-left populism that won over Alaska voters—and me—in the first place in favor of an increasingly defensive and harsh partisanship. After making her name as a determined enemy of Alaska’s corrupt Republican establishment, she recently called for Democratic Sen.
Although Ted Stevens holds a small lead in Alaska and is the favorite to retain his seat, the outcome is not as inevitable as it might appear to be. Stevens currently holds a lead of 3,353 votes, or about 1.5 percent of the votes tallied so far. But, there are quite a large number of ballots yet to count. According to Roll Call, these include "at least 40,000 absentee ballot, 9,000 early voting ballots, and an undetermined number of questionable ballots".Indeed, it seems possible that the number of "questionable" ballots could be quite high.
-- In my (seemingly premature) goodbye to Ted Stevens last week, I did note that strategic Republicans who wanted to keep the seat in GOP hands might vote for Stevens anyway, figuring that if his conviction is upheld on appeal and he's forced out of the Senate, the seat will at least fall to a generic (or not-so-generic) Republican.
Who says DC doesn't get a vote in Congress? Twelve residents of the District of Columbia, to state the obvious, effectively elected Mark Begich to the U.S. Senate today. You don't have to feel sorry for Ted Stevens, whose career is ending in a richly deserved fashion, to be at least somewhat troubled by that prospect. Alaskans deserved to have a say on whether the Democratic Party merits a majority large enough to be able to get its agenda through the Senate intact.
What if adding an anti-old-boys-network, corruption-decrying, new-politics woman to the GOP ticket turns out not only to have been a strategic mistake for McCain -- but actually helps keep Washington's quintessential corrupt, old-politics sleazeball in office? Right after Palin was tapped, some tittered that her selection as McCain's veep could help Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and now it looks like that's indeed happening.
I don't follow Alaskan politics nearly as closely as my smart Alaskan friend (obviously), but I'd add one caveat to his sharp enumeration of Palin's political gifts. Apart from infancy and college, Palin has spent essentially her entire life in Alaska, which really is like another country in many ways. (I've visited a few times and even co-owned some land there.) She's been an elected official for well over a decade and has clearly been preparing herself for higher office in the state for some time--running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002, for instance.