Monday, October 30, 2006

Meet the New Plan, Same As the Old Plan

That was my proposed headline, but the editor's substitute (the regular editor was at the Freedom Newspapers libertarian re-education camp in Orange County) was more partisan. The newspaper version is here. Over the next 9 days, it's worth it to keep repeating exactly how badly these guys have blown it.

East Valley Tribune, Oct. 29, 2006

President Bush has officially cut-and-run from “stay the course.” As The Washington Post’s Peter Baker reported, “A phrase meant to connote steely resolve instead has become a symbol for being out of touch and rigid in the face of a war that seems to grow worse by the week” -- and that’s according to Republican political consultants.

Just as Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia, Republicans are now claiming that they’ve never wanted to “stay the course.” Hello, flexibility; goodbye, steely resolve and unerring gut instinct. Those latter qualities are so last month.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said all those previous “stay the course” statements are now inoperative, claiming that “What you have is not ‘stay the course’ but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration.” He wants us to believe that George W. Bush has become a dutiful student of reality, constantly tinkering with tactics and methods. And if you believe that, send me your money for Arizona Cardinals playoff tickets.

Bush isn’t changing tactics, or rethinking strategies; he’s only repeating new slogans for the same old slop. They’ve tried all this stuff already -- targets, troop reductions, into and out of and back into Baghdad -- and it’s all failed. Shouldn’t they at least put new lipstick on a different pig once in a while?

President Bush’s strategy for Iraq has had more sequels than the "Police Academy" movies -- and just like those sequels, it’s the exact same plot, with the exact same results; only the titles change, slightly.

Polls show that the American people are way ahead of the Bush administration and their GOP enablers in Congress. Republicans may hope otherwise, but a large majority has realized Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld don’t just lack a plan; they don’t have a clue.

Every step of the way -- relying on bad intelligence, rushing to war, not assembling a real coalition, not having nearly enough troops to maintain civil order, trying to convert wacko Heritage Foundation policy papers into the Iraqi legal system, disbanding the Iraqi army, failing to restore services, sending Republican hacks to staff the occupation, not adopting counterinsurgency tactics until too late, building permanent bases, not making training Iraqi military and police a priority -- well, you get the idea, every step of the way, Bush has gotten it wrong.

These are basic, fundamental, and huge mistakes, which war supporters can’t avoid with stupid Tet offensive analogies. If you “win the war but lose the peace,” you’ve lost because in both football and foreign policy, winning the first half doesn’t count; you have to win the whole game. Bush supposedly winning the war but losing the peace mirrors how the Cardinals “won” the first half but only lost the second against the Chicago Bears. Check your Clausewitz (“war is the continuation of politics by other means”) and the NFL standings if you don’t recall how that actually turned out.

Recounting the administration’s mistakes (and their insistence that this time the same formula will work, if we only trust them!) isn’t just merely rehashing what happened three years ago. First, the folks saying we should avoid “recriminations” are the same ones who spent years investigating and obsessing about sex in the Oval Office, leading to impeachment, the nuclear option of politics. Recriminations were just fine, back then.

Second, it’s Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld -- cheered on by GOP congressional incumbents -- who drove this car over a cliff (scroll down to Oct. 26). Now that even Bush has to acknowledge that things aren’t going quite swimmingly, they’re turning around to the Democrats stuck in the backseat and demanding that we come up with a better idea of what to do.

Well, the first idea is we should change drivers. You want an election to be a referendum on national security? That’s the first point of a two-point Democratic platform: We’re not the people who screwed up Iraq. The second point? Vote for us and you’ll be able to take toothpaste on airplanes again.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Because You Just Can't Have Too Many Circumcision-and-Stomach-Staping Jokes

The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix reports on the Congregation Beth Israel candidate forum here. "Temple tempest triggers tempers" -- I want that editor to write my headlines.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Let The Circumcision-And-Stomach-Stapling Jokes Begin!

In response to comments I've rethought my position on Prop. 205, Vote by Mail. It's basically a choice between two groups of voters who simply don't turn out enough: minorities, especially Native Americans, in the general election, and GOP moderates in the primaries. GOP moderates, of whom there are about 9 left in Arizona, have tried just about everything to increase turnout in GOP primaries, to little avail, so the next step is to put a ballot into everybody's mailbox in these upscale suburban districts because we just can't trust them to apply for one over the Internet, by phone, by mail, or through a campaign. (But heaven forefend we increase turnout by giving them a lottery ticket--that would diminish the democratic experiment, as opposed to giving in to their laziness.)

I would ordinarily call this one a draw, but what's sealed it for me is the constellation of groups supporting and opposing 205. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, and the Arizona Republican Party are opposed; the Arizona Democratic Party supports it. The Arizona Republic endorsed it this morning, but I'm willing to overlook that. It's increased turnout in Washington and Oregon--but by about 6 percent, which is less than what was predicted, so you may want to take predictions of doubling of turnout in primaries with a grain of salt, but it's still an increase and couldn't hurt. So change the recommendation on 205 to YES, but this is absolutely the last thing we're going to do for GOP moderates, who always look so pitiful because they never, ever stand their ground. Guess what--the "real" Republicans don't respect you in the morning, either.

Now for the column; the editor came up with a very good headline when I was stumped (the best I could do was "Hayworth Next Plans To Run For Pope") but to my great regret, he cut the last line of the first paragraph, which I've put back in (yes, that means replacing a circumcision joke). I think Milton Berle (scroll down to third item) would approve.

East Valley Tribune, Oct. 22, 2006

I really wasn’t planning on slamming J.D. Hayworth yet again, but once his campaign spokesman insisted last Tuesday that Hayworth is a “more observant Jew” than anyone supporting Harry Mitchell, it’s time to unleash the hounds. Let the circumcision-and-stomach-stapling jokes begin!

Apparently as part of nationwide celebrations tied to President Bush’s declaration of “Character Counts Week,” Hayworth decided to back out at the last minute from a candidate forum at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale. Hayworth and challenger Harry Mitchell would have been the undercard to the Senate headliners Jon Kyl and Jim Pederson. Instead, Hayworth sent two surrogates, Jonathan and Irit Tratt, who helped show that while politics may look easy, you shouldn’t leave it to total amateurs.


Rather than lauding Hayworth’s record, campaign spokesman Jonathan Tratt accused Mitchell of sympathizing with “Islamo-fascists.” The sole evidence for this charge is Tratt’s support of Hayworth, but as a Republican, he feels entitled to make stuff up. And not only was Mitchell in bed with terrorists, said Tratt, but anybody in the audience supporting him was “disloyal” to Israel. The audience didn’t take kindly to this kind of nonsense, so Tratt pointed his finger and said Hayworth is a better Jew than the audience. That went over really, really well, leading Irit Tratt to exclaim, “No wonder there are anti-Semites.”

Yep, that’s the way you assure the Jewish community that when you quoted copiously from Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic writings, you were doing so from absolutely pure motives. Not only can’t you be anti-Semitic if you’re pro-Israel, but apparently if you’re not a Republican, you’re not really a Jew. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee condemned the Tratts' remarks, calling them "repugnant" and "in no way representative of AIPAC."

As Tratt wrote in a letter to the editor earlier this year, Jews shouldn’t complain about Hayworth quoting Ford, because Hayworth not only voted in favor of a House resolution (one of those substance-free “post cards” to the rest of the world of which Congress is enamored) supporting Israel’s right of self-defense -- as did every other member of the Arizona delegation -- but Hayworth “made a floor statement supporting it.” Yes, Hayworth spoke in favor of Israel, and therefore not supporting Hayworth makes you a disloyal anti-Semite.

Apart from proving that so-called “leaders” in the American Jewish community now value rhetoric more than reality, I’m not sure why Hayworth’s campaign felt it necessary to get into an argument over who’s the better Jew, the Baptist incumbent or members of Congregation Beth Israel. It’s especially odd because Hayworth found it necessary to revoke his endorsement of state Rep. Russell Pearce over Pearce’s emailing to his supporters of an article from a neo-Nazi website.

Pearce claimed he never read the entire article, but the first part made a lot of sense to him, so he forwarded it to his supporters. After he learned it came from a white supremacist group, he apologized -- but that wasn’t enough for Hayworth, who withdrew his endorsement because Hayworth refuses “to be associated with any communication that contains anti-Semitic remarks.”


Blogger Ted Prezelski had two interesting takes on that particular statement. First, Hayworth is fine being associated with anti-Semitic remarks, so long as they were written by Henry Ford. Pearce just quoted the wrong anti-Semite. Second, the neo-Nazi site and article also goes after blacks and Hispanics in despicable terms -- but Hayworth was upset only by the anti-Semitism. Either Hayworth’s moral outrage only goes so far, or else he sees a real political opportunity for a Judeo-Christian white supremacist group. Whatever it takes, indeed.

But the prize for xenophobia beyond the call of duty goes to GOP candidate Randy Graf, running to replace Rep. Jim Kolbe in District 8. Graf didn’t cut and run like Hayworth; instead at a candidate debate, Graf defended Pearce: “We are of like mind of how government should be run. [It’s] been blown out of proportion. He’s a good person. He’s a good American patriot. He’s been a great legislator in Phoenix, and I’m proud to have him as an endorser of my campaign.”

And anybody who believes otherwise isn’t a good Jew.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sam & Andy's How To Vote 2006: A Guide For The Perplexed

Andy and I have been asked for recommendations on the 4-page 2006 Arizona general election ballot, so here are our recommendations on candidates, propositions, and judicial retentions:

Candidates: If you read these emails, it should be no surprise to that we’re voting for, and telling you to vote for, Janet Napolitano for Governor, Jim Pederson for U.S. Senate, and (where we can) for Harry Mitchell in District 5, Gabrielle Giffords in District 8, and Herb Paine in District 3, all red-to-blue congressional races. Basically, our default advice in Arizona is, vote for the Democrat, except for these extra-special decent Republicans:

Corporation Commission: You get to vote for two; vote for Kris Mayes (incumbent), then of the two D’s running, vote for Mark Manoil.

State Senate, District 8: If you need to show nonpartisan cred, that “vote for the person and not the party” crap (like the Arizona Legislature ever evaluates ideas based on their value and not on their party provenance -- NOT) vote to re-elect Carolyn Allen.

In LD 11, the only Democrat running is Mark DeSimone; if you don’t want just to single-shot him, between the two Republicans, vote for Adam Driggs.

Special shout-outs to people especially doing the Lord’s work and running against truly annoying Republicans (this is for people in a hurry who can’t be bothered voting for every office, but if you can’t fill out an entire ballot what are you doing reading this email?):

Governor: Janet Napolitano
Secretary of State: Israel Torres
Attorney General: Terry Goddard
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jason Williams
U.S. Senate: Jim Pederson
U.S. Congress, District 3: Herb Paine
U.S. Congress, District 5: Harry Mitchell
U.S. Congress, District 8: Gabrielle Giffords
State Senate, District 11: Ann Wallack

Special obscure Central Arizona Water Conservation District recommendations bonus! You get to vote for five; we recommend, in this order:

George Brooks, Jr.
Lisa Atkins
Frank Barrios
George Renner
Richard Morrison

All are incumbents. Under no circumstances whatsoever should any reasonable person vote for Burns, McGrath, or Pickard. If you have a problem with any of our 5 recommendations, you could cast a sympathy vote for Ed King. He’s not the brightest candle in the chandelier, but as a county supervisor in 1994 he really got screwed by voting for the baseball stadium tax, then lost the next primary to Jan Brewer who ran on an anti-tax platform -- but who then had no problem attending the opening of the stadium and has her name on a plaque at the entrance. She’s such a hypocrite that I’ve always harbored better feelings for King than he actually deserves.

Propositions: Amaze your friends by being able to tell these apart!

Prop. 100, No bail for illegal aliens: NO. If you’re a flight risk, you’re not supposed to get bail. So this proposition would make judges deny bail to people they determine aren’t a flight risk, but we’d have to keep them locked up anyway. This wacko idea is supported by people who rail against unnecessary government spending, like this proposition. Go figure.

Prop. 101, Local property tax limitations: NO. This proposition punishes districts and municipalities that don’t use all of their taxing authority in a particular year; the 2% limit now in the state constitution would be based on actual taxes assessed, rather than full authority if less was assessed. It hamstrings municipalities and punishes them for doing well in good years.

Prop. 102, No punitive damages for illegal aliens: NO. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer, not to reward the victim. This proposition tells tortfeasors, choose your victims wisely and save money! Vote no.

Prop. 103, English as official language: NO. It’s not needed and counterproductive. You could even call it “estúpido.”

Prop. 104, Municipal debt limits: YES. This proposition would allow public safety and streets to have the higher debt limit currently allowed for water, sewer, and land acquisitions. Public safety should be in the higher category. Basically corrects a typo in the state constitution.

Prop. 105, State trust lands: NO.
Prop. 106, State trust lands: YES.
Short explanation: The people supporting 105 are the cattle ranchers and the Central Arizona homebuilders; everybody else supports 106. If you think the ranchers and the homebuilders actually care about education or conservation, you need a brain transplant.

Longer explanation (Disclosure: Andy is on the Prop. 106 committee and our firm has represented organizations supporting 106), courtesy of Grady Gammage:

Vote yes on 106 and no on 105. 105 is largely meaningless, put on the ballot to confuse the voters. It's not harmful, but if we're going to open up the state constitution, it isn't worth the trouble. All the negatives you hear on 106 are false: it helps, not hurts education funding (so the AZ Education Association is for it); it preserves way more land (so Nature Conservancy, Sonoran Institute, and other conservation groups support it); makes the process for developing state land more rational (thus Valley Partnership and Greater Phoenix Leadership support it); and it works better for cities and towns (so the AZ Planning Association supports it). The opposition is really only three sources: cattlemen, who want cheap grazing leases forever; the Central AZ Homebuilders (who've lost their minds and broke with the rest of the real estate community for reasons no one can figure out--even the Southern AZ Homebuilders support it); and Grady’s former partner Becky Burnham, who has a convoluted rationale for not liking it that basically amounts to she didn't write every word of it, so it can't be any good.

Prop. 107, Gay Marriage and Domestic Partner Benefits Ban: NO. (Also a client of CGSON.) Sure, take away health insurance and employment benefits from all sorts of people, gay and straight, because it might help turn out right-wing voters. Vote no and give money to the Vote No campaign, too. If your marriage is threatened by other people's domestic arrangements, the problem is with you and not other people.

Prop. 200, Voter Reward Act: PICK ‘EM. We’re split on this one. Andy says no, it’s a cheap and tawdry gimmick. Sam says that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. It’s an annoying Mark Osterloh idea -- not the idea, Mark is annoying -- that would give a free lottery ticket to every voter. Might drive up turnout, and people who write editorials for the Arizona Republic shouldn’t get too huffy about the supposed lack of intellectual content in Osterloh’s ideas.

Prop. 201, Smoking Ban: YES. (A client.) This is the real ban, not that fake 206 one, and it’s supported by the Arizona Restaurant Association, which sees the exemption for bars in 206 as a way for bigger businesses to crush the mom-and-pops. Just as you shouldn’t listen to the cattlemen on conservation, we’re not sure the tobacco companies are the best source of wisdom on smoking bans.

Prop. 202, State Minimum Wage: YES. (Again, a client.) When stupid right-wing editorials are outsourced to Bangalore, then you can start listening to them about what kind of wages those at the very bottom of the ladder are entitled to. Until then, vote yes.

Prop. 203, Early Childhood Tobacco Tax: YES. We’re not sure about the funding source’s long-term viability, and it would be nicer if these programs were funded directly by the state general fund, but Arizona has about the same chance of spending too much money on early childhood programs as I do of pitching in the MLB All-Star Game, so vote yes.

Prop. 204, Factory Farming Ban: YES. Is hogwash a good thing, or a bad thing? I prefer my hogs washed. Vote yes.

Prop. 205, Mail Balloting: UPDATE: Old recommendation: NO. It could depress turnout in minority and reservation communities where vote-by-mail has always been a very tough sell and low-percentage option, so vote no. NEW RECOMMENDATION:

YES. I've rethought my position on this one. It's basically a choice between two groups of voters who simply don't turn out enough: minorities, especially Native Americans, in the general election, and GOP moderates in the primaries. GOP moderates, of whom there are about 9 left in Arizona, have tried just about everything to increase turnout in GOP primaries, to little avail, so the next step is to put a ballot into everybody's mailbox in these upscale suburban districts because we just can't trust them to apply for one over the Internet, by phone, by mail, or through a campaign. (But heaven forefend we increase turnout by giving them a lottery ticket--that would diminish the democratic experiment, as opposed to giving in to their laziness.) I would ordinarily call this one a draw, but what's sealed it for me is the constellation of groups supporting and opposing 205. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, and the Arizona Republican Party are opposed; the Arizona Democratic Party supports. The Arizona Republic endorsed it Monday, but I'm willing to overlook that. It's increased turnout in Washington and Oregon--but by about 6 percent, which is less than what was predicted, so you may want to take predictions of doubling of turnout in primaries with a grain of salt, but it's still an increase and couldn't hurt. So I voted yes, but this is absolutely the last thing we're going to do for GOP moderates, who always look so pitiful because they never, ever stand their ground. Guess what, GOP moderates--the "real" Republicans don't respect you in the morning, either.

Prop. 206, Smoking Ban: NO. (As noted, we’re representing the competing initiative, 201.) This is a smoking ban supported by RJR Reynolds to compete with the real ban, Prop. 201. Like the tobacco companies would have the right idea about a smoking ban. If you buy that, second-hand smoke is the least of your issues.

Prop. 207, Municipal Condemnation: NO. An extreme, expensive, and dangerous solution to a non-existent problem. More commentary from Grady:

207 isn't about cities condemning your house to sell to developers -- that's already largely prohibited in AZ. It's about a libertarian New York real estate developer who doesn't believe in zoning and thinks there should be compensation for all land use regulation. If it passes, land use lawyers make tons of money under it, because it's so badly designed. But it stinks as public policy. Regulation of development is necessary in a place that grows as much as Arizona, and we don't have a history of overregulation. And on this one, even Ms. Burnham agrees.

Prop. 300, Education Benefits for Illegal Aliens: NO. Haven’t these people ever heard of “human capital”? Hugely counterproductive for Arizona as a state, but it might be in the political interests of certain incumbents at the Legislature to keep as many people as possible as uneducated as possible. After all, they need to make sure the base is replenished.

Prop. 301, Methamphetamine Penalties: NO. This may be a good idea but drug penalties are so over-the-top generally that having one too low is a novelty.

Prop. 302, Legislative Salaries: YES. On the merits, we get what we pay for. This proposition has less chance of passing than my All-Star Game appearance.

Scottsdale Unified School District Override: YES. I still have one kid left in the SUSD, and even if he’d graduated, I owe it to future kids to support the schools that educated our kids.

Judicial Retention: Go ahead and vote YES to retain everybody. If you’re running out of time to fill out your ballot, make sure you vote to retain both Supreme Court judges (Andrew Hurwitz and Ruth McGregor) and all three Court of Appeals judges (Donn Kessler, Patricia Norris, and Maurice Portley), and Superior Court judges Sally Schneider Duncan and Peter Reinstein (both Temple Solel members deserve judicial retention automatically). If you’re really, really determined to find one judge to vote against just to show you're paying attention or something (like anybody will know), we have a recommendation about the least-qualified "yes" vote that we can send you in an email off-list.

Hope this helps. Arguments welcome.

UPDATE: Don't bother reading the comments, it's nothing but pro-207 spam so far.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Is It Good For The Jews?

I'm a guest lecturer this week in an ASU online class, American Jews in US Politics, POL/REL 394, and only had time to prepare one set of original thoughts, so my column is also my opening online "lecture" for the course. The newspaper version of the column is available, for two weeks, here.

I ran out of room for the column, but my fear is that leadership of Jewish communal organizations will fall into the Cuban-American community's model, where there's a definite hierarchy to the organizations, where rhetoric matters much more than results, and where the "right" position is the one which is most right-wing and conservative -- and where debate on the merits and practicality is seen as disloyalty to the cause. The Cuban-Americans certainly have a wonderful record of results; they've done so much for actually bringing freedom and democracy to Cuba over the past 40 years, we really should adopt that model for what American Jews want to do for Israel. At least I'll find out if there really is an AIPAC list of "Jews We Abuse."

As part of my preparation for the ASU class, I've learned since filing the column that the correct quote is "Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans" and it's from Milton Himmelfarb, who edited the first major exit-poll-based survey of Jewish voting attitudes in the 1960's. My father-in-law and I had a bet on who first said it and we both lost.

I debated whether the editor would let me keep the George Allen (R-Macaca) reference, but he did. Must have been sufficiently obscure so it could survive.

East Valley Tribune, Oct. 15, 2006

In 1994, I probably got 75 percent of the Jewish vote. Unfortunately, of the 25 percent voting for the other guy, it felt like I knew each one personally.

Not much has changed since; Jews are still overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic, still living like Episcopalians and voting like Puerto Ricans. There are 26 Jewish members of the U.S. House, and (including Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.) all but one are Democrats; in the Senate, it’s 11 total and 9 Democrats, unless you include Sen. George Allen (R-Macaca), which changes those numbers -- and his, too.

But the leadership of Jewish organizations -- particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- has become steadily more conservative and Republican, and there’s a rising internal debate over which party better “deserves” Jewish support. Republicans like David Gelernter of The Weekly Standard argue that Jews owe President Bush because of his unwavering support for Israel, even if disagreeing with him on every other issue -- and even if Democrats also support Israel, because if Democrats win, jobs and influence may go to their insufficiently pro-Israel supporters. As Jonathan Chait put it, Jews must “keep anti-Zionists from securing a foothold within the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Rabbi Marc Gellman couldn’t understand why Jewish voters who strongly disagreed with Sen. Joe Lieberman on Bush and Iraq didn’t vote for him anyway, because he’s “one of us.” But should an outsider imply that Jewish voters have divided loyalties, or make support of Israel or religion the sole basis of their vote, that’s anti-Semitism.

There are two arguments for Jews to vote Republican: First, some non-office-holding Democrats don’t support current American or Israeli policy. Second, the GOP notes that depending on the poll, rank-and-file Democrats question U.S. policy toward Israel more than Republicans, while Bush’s support for Israel has been strong and uncomplicated. The Middle East may be incredibly complex, but U.S. policy should be really, really simple.

There are two problems with these arguments. First, it’s easy to “nutpick” and find Democrats saying outlandish things. The difference is that our nuts are writing letters to the editor or posting comments on weblogs; Republican nuts are in Congress or chair the state House Appropriations Committee.

The other problem is that Republican support has been all words, no results. They’ve banished all nuance and qualification from their rhetoric, but neither the U.S. nor Israel is better off. Bush has been so wrong about so much that if he says the sun rises in the east, astronomers get very nervous. As Daniel Davies wrote, try to name one example of a Bush administration policy significant enough that you’ve heard of it whose execution wasn’t bollixed big time. Republicans’ feelings are fine; it’s the “Bush-league execution” that’s problematic.

The GOP argument basically boils down to “Jimmy Carter bad, George Bush good.” Carter is loathed in “pro-Israel” circles despite his work on the Camp David Accords, which even the most virulent Republicans don’t wish to abandon, as Matthew Yglesias notes: “Bush has been much more ‘supportive’ of Israel, but what’s actually been accomplished?”

Moreover, Judaism has never been about feelings, but rather actions. Jews don’t much value “feeling Jewish” or “looking into somebody’s heart.” As Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal of San Diego wrote, in Judaism feelings without actions contribute neither towards the future nor to tikun olam, the obligation to help “repair the world.”

Rosenthal told the story of the Rabbi of Leesa, who visited a wealthy, but miserly, congregant to ask for a major gift. The man welcomed the Rabbi with a lavish dinner, but the Rabbi touched nothing and asked immediately for the contribution. The man quoted the sages about the importance of polite conversation, but the Rabbi noted that polite words are worthy of blessing only when accompanied by concrete help: “Kind words without kind deeds are meaningless.”

So welcome the new AIPAC alternative which George Soros, Edgar and Charles Bronfman, and Mel Levine plan to launch later this month. For both political and religious reasons, to all Americans, not just Jews, results should matter.

Monday, October 09, 2006

GOPers Blame Cunning, Ruthless, and Incredibly Competent Democrats

The jokes that didn't fit into yesterday's column:

Speaker Hastert and Cardinal Law: Separated at Birth?

According to yesterday's LA Times, it's no longer true that the difference between a Republican sex scandal and a Democratic sex scandal is that the Democratic scandal has actual sex. (It was a good joke while it lasted, though.)

As for the column, you need to know that the editor cut out the reference in the third-from-the-last paragraph about the NRCC using Foley cash in J.D. Hayworth's race (which they are, they just dumped another ~$200K into shoring up Hayworth). I'd say that's interesting, but it really isn't, it's what I've learned to expect from The Tribune.

But if we Democrats really did orchestrate the Foley scandal, shouldn't we have waited a week or two closer to the election? At least the paranoid Republicans can't claim we're both cunning and devious on one hand and totally incompetent on the other, simultaneously. You need two different Republicans to do that.

Also, don't listen to anybody who says that if the Democrats win Congress, it's more a statement about the failings of the Republicans than a mandate. Mandates are just so last century. It's not like Bush bothered getting one before acting like he had one, when he didn't even get as many votes as the other guy.

East Valley Tribune, Oct. 8, 2006

Still an undecided voter? Here’s all you need to know about our current rulers.

Remember Vice President Cheney shooting that guy in the face? After getting out of the hospital, the victim apologized to Cheney. Hunter safety rules make the shooter responsible for his shot, but the guy with hundreds of pellets in his face and torso told Cheney he was sorry -- and GOP pundits said that Cheney shooting a guy would be a net positive for Republicans, because -- well, who the heck cares, it’s just that they actually said it.

So when the sordid electronic messages sent by former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., to underage House pages surfaced, how did the House Republican leadership react? By calling for a criminal investigation of other people who may have seen those messages. Yes, let’s treat those kids like the guy Cheney shot -- who needs accountability, let’s blame the victims!

Then there’s the other GOP spin, that it’s all the Democrats’ fault. The House Republican leadership couldn’t be expected to know just based on the emails that Foley was doing something absolutely wrong and improper. Except that the group that first obtained copies of the emails this summer first turned them over to the FBI; they only released the emails publicly after the story broke. Those outsiders realized immediately that the emails were seriously creepy and potentially criminal, something beyond the capabilities of the House Republican leadership when it actually mattered.

Blaming the Democrats is amazingly hypocritical, because the House Republican leadership treated Foley as merely a GOP political problem, not one involving the institutional integrity of the House. House GOP leadership cut out the Democrats entirely. Staffers warned pages placed by GOP members about Foley, but nobody thought it necessary to talk with the lone Democrat on the committee overseeing the page program. House Republican leaders saw their responsibility as stopping at Republican pages; any Democratic pages would be left to their own devices.

The absolutely funniest excuse is The Wall Street Journal-Newt Gingrich claim that House Republican leaders couldn’t take action against Foley sooner because if they did so, why, they might have been accused of -- wait for it -- anti-gay bias. Yes, Republicans worry ceaselessly about anything that might possibly be construed as homophobic, because respect for gay Americans plays such a key role in their campaigns. But wait -- now fabulous (in the fantasy, not well-dressed, sense) stories being are fed to reporters that a secret cabal of gay senior GOP members and staffers “that protect each other” stabbed House Republican leaders in the back.

Oh, isn’t that just delightful. Hey, former state Rep. Steve May and retiring Rep. (and former House page) Jim Kolbe, R-Tucson: The House Republican leadership is in trouble, so they have one response: Blame the gays! It’s all Foley’s fault, or maybe the pages’ fault, either because these high schoolers didn’t risk ruining their lives by confronting a 6-term congressman, or because they were just so gosh darn cute that no gay Republican could be expected to resist.

You’d think what’s coming would make any self-respecting gay Republican ill. Except for one thing -- why are there still any self-respecting gay Republicans left?

And making Foley the scapegoat only goes so far. Not only is the House GOP campaign committee refusing to return money Foley gave, but spokesperson Carl Forti said the GOP would be happy to put Foley’s own campaign war chest to use, such as trying to bail out at-risk incumbent (and Speaker Hastert supporter) J. D. Hayworth. Hate the sinner, love the sinner’s cash.

The House Republican leadership said they were protecting children, but they were really protecting their own power. The Bush administration claims it’s protecting us -- and they are, from the bone-chilling “threat” of toothpaste and shampoo on airplanes. And when Republicans fail, it’s the victims of their errors who must apologize.

So swing voters, here’s your question for the “accountability moment” coming November 7: How much failure is enough?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

That Was Then But This Is Now

On September 24, the Tribune ran a major across-the-top editorial attacking a political ad that has never actually run in Arizona. This followed an editorial in the Arizona Republic similarly attacking the ad the previous Tuesday. So both papers have gotten their knickers all twisted about an ad that nobody has seen here. Must be some ad. My piece ran with an op-ed by Le Templar, justifying their position, which repeated an error in their 2004 position claiming that they were saving free speech from both Bush and Kerry, who, according to the Tribune, both had called for government regulation:

In August 2004, presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry both wanted to cut off the ability of independent groups called "527s" to raise money and to craft commercials attacking election candidates. We said at that time such government interference would run afoul of the right to speak freely about politics, even when such talk includes inaccurate information or inflammatory language.

That's what the previous Tribune editorial page editor Bob Schuster wrote in 2004, but he was wrong on the facts then, and now Le has repeated his mistake. For his part, Bush didn't say he wanted to ban 527s; he was somewhat inarticulate but he called only for a ban on 527s using "soft dollars." Those groups could run all the ads they wanted, saying whatever they wanted, but only using hard dollars. Bush only called for a change in the campaign finance rules that (surprise!) would have benefited Republicans and hurt Democrats. For his part, Kerry never called for any legal ban on 527's or any governmental review of their speech--he said only that the wildly inaccurate Swift Boat ads should be out of bounds, just like you say about Vote Vets, but somehow you never managed to get around to the accuracy of the Swift Boat ads because you've been too wrapped up in Bob's inaccurate portrayal of both Bush's and Kerry's positions on 527s in 2004.

I wrote about Bob's erroneous attribution of positions that neither Bush nor Kerry actually held, pointing out that neither candidate actually said what Bob said they did. Maybe I'm wrong. If Le can find some documentation of Kerry calling for legal or governmental review of speech by 527s, I'll gladly apologize, but I've checked again and Kerry never said what the Tribune now twice has said he did, and in reality Bush never did either. Bob misstated both Bush's and Kerry's position on this issue in 2004, and now Le is doing it again to justify why the Tribune never spoke out about the accuracy of the Swift Boat ads (which were seen here) but are suddenly running a truth squad on the Vote Vets ad (that hasn't been seen here). The government regulation argument is factually incorrect--that is, if Tribune editorials should be held to the standard of truthfulness they want to apply to Vote Vets. If they're using the Swift Boat standard of "truthiness," that's another matter, but they should have let me know so I could have matched their accuracy more precisely.

That's way more than you need on this issue. Sorry, but that's what happens when it's something I know about (and when I can quote myself--how weird is that?) On with the column!

That Was Then, But This Is Now
East Valley Tribune, Oct. 1, 2006

Last Sunday, upset by an ad from Vote Vets, an “independent” political committee that’s endorsed more Democrats than Republicans, attacking GOP incumbents for voting against money for body armor for troops in Iraq, the Tribune editorialized that the ad shouldn’t run, because it’s “wrong,” “patently false,” and a “waste" of time and money.

Maybe so -- but that never bothered the Tribune before.

Both daily metro Phoenix newspapers have run major editorials attacking an ad yet to appear here. The ad must be incredibly powerful to goad both papers into preemptive attacks -- and hopefully for the GOP incumbent, this preemptive war works out better than Iraq.

The Tribune editorial shared one error with the initial analysis by, which took a leading role in attacking the Vote Vets ad. However, Factcheck updated their critique to acknowledge that vote in question occurred after floor statements and press releases describing the money as intended for protective helmets, vests, and inserts.

Factcheck updated their analysis after criticism from Media Matters. The Tribune may consider the Vote Vets ad’s inaccuracy as “patented,” but readers should view both critiques and decide which one best supports their preexisting beliefs.

But if Factcheck is the arbiter of truth, then the Tribune should note that they also called a Bush-Cheney 2004 ad against John Kerry, attacking him for voting against body armor for troops, similarly false. I don’t recall a Tribune editorial attacking Bush for false campaigning on this exact issue.

The Tribune also called the Democratic amendment an attempt “to score political points.” This presumably was to distinguish it from Republican-organized votes on flag-burning, abortion, and Terry Schiavo.

There’s also one amazing euphemism in the editorial, the assertion that “the Pentagon misjudged the danger from insurgents to troops . . . and so didn’t order enough body armor.” The Pentagon? We’re blaming a building?

Sometimes “the Pentagon” is shorthand for the Department of Defense, but who was running DoD for planning and execution of the Iraq war? Who essentially fired everyone who warned that the war might cost more, require more troops, or take longer than Rumsfeld wanted? Who said we’d be greeted “as liberators”?

Maybe I also would have guessed wrongly about how Iraq would turn out, but I’d be expect to be held accountable for my mistakes. Shouldn’t we hold Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush -- and congressional Republicans, who refuse to engage in any effective oversight -- accountable for their mistakes?

But last Sunday’s editorial also directly contradicts past Tribune pronouncements. In 2004, the Tribune called candidates seeking to keep ads off the air, specifically because of truthfulness, “disingenuous.” No, worse; such efforts were unfair and unconstitutional: “These groups have the same First Amendment rights as the candidates to spend what they want and say what they want, and the candidates’ druthers should have nothing to do with it.”

Even though those 2004 ads were “other than polite, maybe even other than accurate,” the Tribune supported airing them: “That’s the way of a freedom-loving democracy. The thing is, freedom is also preferable to having those who see themselves as your betters control you for the sake of their sense of order.”

But that was then, when inaccurate ads were running against a Democrat. Now that ads may run against a Republican, the Tribune wants to reconsider its freedom-loving rhetoric and replace it with something more, well, pragmatic.

The Tribune now considers itself one of our betters, a self-appointed guardian of discourse recommending what we see and hear. In 2004, such infringement on speech made you “ultimately less protected from the politically powerful” and meant you “have been robbed of a piece of your dignity as a moral agent defining your own life.” In 2006, the Tribune wants to instruct advocates on what kind of ads they should and shouldn’t run.

Why were the less-than-accurate Swift Boat Vet ads a necessary, if messy, part of democracy, but the Vote Vet ads are “dangerously” incorrect and shouldn’t air? If there’s a principle here (other than “It’s O.K. if a Republican does it”), I’d love to hear it.