|Man Without Qualities|
Saturday, November 06, 2004
The bizarre media infatuation with John Edwards goes on ... and on ... and on, completely cut loose from any moorings of his actual accomplishments or campaign performance.
The latest symptom of this curiously persistent disease, to which members of the fourth estate are more vulnerable than hospitalized nonagenarians are to pneumonia, can be found in the Los Angeles Times in the form of an article that manages for many paragraphs to extol the potential in this Vice-President manque without ever mentioning that he would not have been re-elected as a Senator from North Carolina, or that his recently demised Presidential ticket just lost his home state by 13% and lost the adjoining state of his birth by 17%. Yet the Times airily blathers:
[John Edwards] remains a fresh-faced 51. And though his career as a North Carolina senator ends with the new year, he is viewed as a top contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2008.
Yes, his career as a North Carolina senator ends with the new year - and polls showed for months before he decided not to seek another term as Senator that his Senate career would end whether or not he sought that office again. No, according to the Times, the Senator's big problems seem to be finding some way to keep in the public eye and his wife's cancer. That he contributed essentially nothing to Kerry-Edwards' performance except his advice to John Kerry to go to the courts in Ohio, advice now universally regarded as terrible, is apparently not worth a mention.
What the heck is wrong, wrong and wrong again - over and over and over - with the Times and the media generally when it comes to John Edwards?
MORE: From Maguire:
Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of a wartime biography of Kerry, cautioned that Kerry's diary included mention of a meeting with some North Vietnamese terrorists in Paris. Edwards was flabbergasted. "Let me get this straight," [Senator Edwards] said. "He met with terrorists? Oh, that's good."
All relevant evidence indicates that Senator Edwards is every bit as clueless and just as much of an empty suit (outfitted with trousers possessing a full wallet) as Maguire's story suggests. One of the causes of John Edwards' failure in the Senate (and he is a Senate failure by any standard of success I have ever seen applied to a Senator) was his often-observed ignorance of basic Senate activities and his failure over six full years to garner any reputation for having command of any significant area of legislation. Foreign policy? Not a clue. Taxation? Tax the "rich," close the "loopholes" - the rest defeats him. Too technical. Let the staff take care of it. Environmental regulation? He's against pollution and, of course, "toxins." Tort reform? Please. He did not craft a single meaningful tort reform bill in his entire Senate history - yet that is supposedly his area of "expertise." Apparently being able to cobble up a profitable jury argument is not the same as understanding the big picture of tort - the way, say, Richard Epstein manages. Labor law? Nope. International trade? Say what. Defense? Boring. Intelligence? Nada. Nunca.
Yet the media adores John Edwards! He's the future of the Democratic Party!
Bill Clinton assumed the Presidency in 1993 having run and won on a vague centrist-sounding Democratic Leadership Council platform bereft of significant clear messages other than that he did not like the job George H.W. Bush had done. Once in office Mr. Clinton made a dramatic shift to the left that accommodated Washington liberals but was inconsistent with whatever was "clear" in his faux-centrist campaign. By 1996 the economy was doing well and Mr. Clinton ran and won on that prosperity alone. His second campaign was famous for "miniaturizing" the Presidency with proposals like a "national 911 telephone system" and was bereft of whatever modest clarity his first campaign had possessed.
Yet today Mr. Clinton has no hesitation in advising surviving Democrats that they "need a clear national message." Of course, Mr. Clinton never had a "clear message" designed to last past his then-current campaign or other expediency - like his "Bridge to the Future" that Doonesbury noted was probably already back in the box by sunset on election day.
But Mr. Clinton has never been consistently a "do as I say, not as I do" operator - or a consistent operator of any sort. His new advice to the current President is honest, heartfelt and drawn from Mr. Clinton's own long and deep experience in the highest office of the land:
"This election presents a great opportunity for President Bush and a great opportunity for Democrats, and the two are not necessarily in conflict."
What Mr. Clinton says here is so true, and so born out by his own history. In 1993 Mr. Clinton inherited a Congress and Demoratic Party then in possession of broad and deep hegemonies. What an opportunity for Mr. Clinton this was! Like an alcoholic scion of a vast family fortune, he immediately proceeded to dissipate that basis of those Democratic hegemonies with his massive tax increases, loony health care reform disaster and much else - including that alarming shift to the left and towards the Beltwayers noted above. What opportunities for Republicans he created! By 1994 the voters expressed that alarm by stripping Democrats in Congress of the House. Mr. Clinton joined with Republicans to pass NAFTA and Welfare Reform, two measures that struck deeply at the Democratic Congressional hegemonies - and whose long term effects probably contributed significantly to Republican gains in 2004. By 1996 Mr. Clinton was running for a second term on the concept of "triangularization" - an obscurationist term for running as a Democrat expressly against the Democratic Party in Congress. Yes, Mr. Clinton also ran in 1996 against the Republicans in Congress, but every Democrat does. It was Mr. Clinton's Dick-Morris-advised 1996 hostility to Congressional Democrats that represented the special opportunity in that race.
Yes, Mr. Clinton's is urging his successor, Mr. Bush, to adopt the Clintonian view of a President's time in the White House as a series of great personal political, financial and sexual opportunities, and the Clintonian perspective of never hesitating to exploit any of those opportunities. Mr. Clinton was not stingy with the Republicans where it aided his personal aspirations - and he is urging the same approach on Mr. Bush. Indeed, as outlined above (and there is so much more!) Mr. Clinton created a series of great opportunities for Republicans, at first in Congress and ultimately in the form of Mr. Bush's ability to snatch the Presidency itself from Al Gore, who should have won in a walk as Mr. Clinton's Vice President.
"This election presents a great opportunity for President Bush and a great opportunity for Democrats, and the two are not necessarily in conflict." Yes, what Mr. Clinton says here is so true, and so born out by his own history.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
The Polar Express - Review:
This year, The Polar Express takes its swings at entering into the Christmas classic catalogue by throwing a bunch of kids on a train and making them question whether or not they should believe in Santa Claus, who for the purposes of this film will be treated a lot like Jesus. Jesus by the way is the guy who actually invented Christmas, yet somehow never makes it into Christmas movies. He keeps getting bumped out in favor of that fat, jolly, pretender.
Gee, Mr. Gibson ... if you're looking for, you know, some kind of a prequel .. I mean ... do you think? It wouldn't be, you know, very bloody (except for that "slaughter of the innocents" sub-plot, of course). But it might make people, even critics, fell good about themselves and even happy.
Having just delivered yet another electoral disaster for the party whose national committee he chairs, Terry McAuliffe is out in front today again hilariously thumbing his nose at reality:
"I don't think a 51-49 election is any mandate," Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said in an interview.
Yes-in-deedy. And no doubt he wouldn't regard a 16-wheeler that ran him over on K Street to be any truck, either.
Of course, the persistence of the transparently incompetent and dangerous Mr. McAuliffe as Chairman of the DNC is proof positive that the dead hand of the Clintons continues to steer the Party's operations. As Mr. McAuliffe denigrates and misstates Mr. Bush's 51% to 48% win, is anyone going to remind the Chairman that he was installed in his current office by a President who was elected to office twice without garnering a majority of the popular vote either time? And is it just picking to think that a national party chairman should be able to state correctly the percentage of the popular vote his party's candidate received in commenting to the New York Times?
Mr. McAulifffe has been on a role of sorts. "This is the best election night in history," he noted on election day (Nov. 2, 2004), just before 8 p.m. EST - a time by which almost every other observor had already realized or strongly suspected that the voters had probably completely cooked almost every significant Democratic goose.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Some understanding of the scale and scope of the recently fulfilled Kerrydammerung is beginning to form in shellshocked Democrats and mainstream media, although the causes of their predicament continue to utterly elude them. The New York Times is full of evidence. Paul Begala's Op-Ed sums up the current state of flawed consciousness on the left in a single short paragraph:
But to the surprise of the handwringers, the viciousness of the campaign inspired voters to stand in line for hours in a rare display of the power of civic duty. And Mr. Bush's relentlessly negative campaign earned him the ultimate legitimacy - a solid majority of the vote in a high-turnout election.Mr. Begala has things about half right: Mr. Bush's certainly received a solid majority of the vote in a high-turnout election. But Mr. Begala still hasn't got the scale and scope of things quite right. Mr. Bush's did not just handily endure in his office with a record slice of a record turnout, he also prevailed through increased margins in both houses of Congress and significant and historic shifts in several state legislature. Unlike Mr. Bush's personal victory, those legislative advances cannot even arguably be attributed to foreign affairs or the war on terror, except at the fringes (for example, Tom Daschle's idiotic and immediately retracted "what did the President know and when did he know it" 9-11 moment had its effects, but it wasn't the most important factor in turning him out of office - his "I'm a D.C. resident" crack registered severely in Aberdeen). More generally, by running and winning as a conservative, Mr. Bush operates under no implied imperative that he "govern from the center" as the Democrats and mainstream media desire - and that is especially true in the area of social policy. (By the way, Mr. Begala's belief that when you think a Nobel Peace Prize winner is too mean, you're really running a positive campaign is nothing short of bizarre. Yasser Arafat won that Prize in 1994, and in 1973 it was claimed by Henry A. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho - none of those three worthies is easily mistaken by anyone for a sweetheart.)
The make up of Mr. Bush's support should terrify Democratic nabobs everywhere - especially that one figure: 42% of Hispanics voted Republican compared with 35% in 2000 -- and a majority of Florida Hispanics in Florida voted for Mr. Bush. The result follwed although the Washington Post pollsters had assured the nation that the Hispanic vote was not moving right, and that Hispanics were actually more upset about Iraq than the electorate generally. [UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times puts Mr. Bush's share of the national Hispanic vote at 45%.] Even among African-Americans, the Democratic Party's most important single constituency, Mr. Bush edged up his vote share to at least 11% from 8% four years ago. I write "at least 11%" because there are indications that the actual number is much higher, including the fact that in Ohio Mr. Bush received 16% of the African-American vote. It is possible that Ohio African-American are different than African-Americans generally (the make up of this constituency is much more heterogeneous than the media suggests - with more than 25% in the New York area with families not coming from the South, but from "the Islands," for example). But I suspect the problem has more to do with the reluctance of some African-Americans to report Republican votes to exit pollsters. [UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times puts Mr. Bush's share of the national African-American vote at 14%.] In evaluating the scale and scope of the election results, consider this: If more than 40% of Hispanic voters regularly vote Republican, or if substantially more than 10% of African-Americans consistently vote Republican, the Democratic Party as we know it simply cannot win many elections and probably cannot continue even to exist.
Similarly, Mr. Begala correctly indicates that this campaign included its share of criticism of the "other guy" on both sides, and he is also right in to assert that the campaign should have that component. But Mr. Bush also identified several major areas of federal activity in which he can now quite legitimately claim he and the new Congress were just given a mandate to reform. "I've earned capital in this election and I'm going to spend it for what I've told the people I'd spend it on." Social security - short of complete privatization - is one such area. Education is another. Taxes. Then there is the make up of the federal judiciary. The two factors described above - turnout makeup and mandate for reform - combine to create a threat to the Democratic Party vastly larger than the two factors suggest separately. That's because the Democratic Party coalition already threatened by constituency defections has largely become a collection of interest groups held together by nothing more than the very programs which Mr. Bush and the new Congress have now been charged to reform. For example, Mr. Bush was forced to withdraw the voucher component of his education bill in 2001, but tension between the key Democratic African-American and Hispanic constituencies, on the one hand, and its overly-influential teachers-union constituency, on the other hand, has continued to rise over the issue of public education quality. Worse for the Democrats, the "charter school" option, which the teachers unions perversely seek to undermine but which is actually the main alternative to vouchers, has been weakened. A federal education voucher program would go far to dissolve this portion of the Democratic coalition while actually improving education. Social security and Medicare reform provide even larger opportunities for breaking up the Democratic base ... and assuring even bigger Republican gains in the future. Indeed, my guess is that this election shows that the 1996 federal welfare reforms have already significantly weakened African-American dependency on - and affinity for - the Democratic Party, to the greater prosperity of the African American community but not the Democratic Party. That effect should continue to grow.
The responses to date of Mr. Begala and other Democrats give no hint that they are aware of the magnitude of the peril to their cause, but their entire coalition is in serious danger of complete disintergration. No matter how often they whistle "I belong to no organized political party, I'm a Democrat" past the grave yard, the problem is new and is not going away. Mr. Begala and his like - and that includes Senator Clinton - should be afraid. Very afraid. A lot more afraid than they are admitting they are in public at the moment.
The embalming fluid has scarcely permeated John Kerry's political corpse, but word is out ... again:
By gosh, that John Edwards is good. So good. Sounds good. Looks good. Probably smells good! He'll be back in 2008 ... he's gonna be a contender ... and watch out America!
As always when the media succumb to John Edwards, a little reality check is in order. As a Senator, the man "represented" North Carolina, which George Bush just carried by thirteen percentage points - 56% to 43% against the ticket on which John Edwards was the Vice Presidential candidate. On the other hand, that's better than Kerry-Edwards did in the state in which John Edwards was born - South Carolina - which Mr. Bush just carried by seventeen percentage points - 58% to Kerry-Edwards' 41%.
But by gosh, that John Edwards is good. So good. Sounds good. Looks good. Probably smells good. He'll be back in 2008 ... he's gonna be a contender ... and watch out America!
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
When the heck are the undecided voters supposed to start breaking for the challenger? The Real Clear Politics poll average - and almost all of the major polls (Marist and, curiously, Fox News, being exceptions) are showing Mr. Bush doing better today nationally than he did yesterday or even the day before yesterday. That suggests that procrastinating voters may have been making up there minds in favor of the incumbent - although Senator Kerry has been benefiting from "weekend poll bumps" that dissipate on Mondays. But no matter how one reads the polls, Senator Kerry has not yet benefited from any "break to the challenger."
But I suspect that Mr. Bush is doing even better than even today's polls suggest. It appears that many pollsters actually build into their voter models some version of the Incumbent Rule. Today's Gallup Poll actually reveals that its model "assumes" a 90% "break for the challenger" - which pushes Mr. Bush 49% - 47% lead to a 49% - 49% tie. Gallup is unusually honest about this model - and does report the original figures. But other pollsters such as Zogby - who massage their numbers with far more subjectivity than Gallup, do not disclose the hidden influence of the Incumbent Rule on the late pollings. But it appears to be there.
In other words, Mr. Bush is doing better in the final polls than he was doing a day or so ago, even though those final polls are probably intentionally skewed in favor of Senator Kerry by incorporation of some form of the Incumbent Rule (obviously not the form that pertains only to final polls and election returns).
As I have noted in several prior posts, I believe Kerry-Edwards will receive far less benefit from the Incumbent Rule (in any formulation) than have most prior challengers, just as that ticket did not receive a "post-Convention bounce" of any significance.
Then there is the fact that Kerry-Edwards' representatives, surrogates and media watercarriers are suddenly playing down the polls. Susan Estrich, for example, appeared on television last night to inform us that she was in constant communication with the Kerry-Edwards' pollsters, and that for the past several days they have been telling her not to pay any attention to the polls. That is consistent with prior reports that Democratic private polls show movement towards Mr. Bush.
Then there is the African-American community. If it is really the case that 15%-20% of African-Americans vote Republican, it is simply impossible for states such as Florida and Ohio to be all that close. And three polls have confirmed this long-predicted "trending away" of the African-American vote from the Democratic base. But the Republican vote would not be the end of such an effect: If, say, 17% of African-Americans vote Republican, there is likely a larger-than-customary transitional segment of the African-American community that simply won't vote. Indeed, the 2002 elections showed signs that many African-Americans could no longer stand voting for a Democrat, but couldn't yet bring themselves to vote Republican. This year, it looks like many African-Americans plan to make the full transition to voting Republican. That suggests that there will likely be a margin of "incompletely-trended-away" African-American voters who will simply not vote. Without overwhelming African-American support, no Democrat is likely to win - and at this moment Senator Kerry does not seem poised to get overwhelming African-American support. Further, if there were ever a case in which one might wonder whether poll respondents might not be completely forthcoming to a pollster, an African-American revealing a desire to vote Republican is it. If anything, it seems likely that the polls underreport African-American support for the Republicans.
And let's not forget that all of the better economic models predict a handy win for Bush-Cheney.
All of which leads to the following prediction:
Bush to win, with north of a 3% margin over Senator Kerry in the popular vote.
From the Washington Times:
Chief Justice Rehnquist did not disclose which type of thyroid cancer he has, how far it has progressed, or his prognosis. Dr. Ann M. Gillenwater of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston said the combination of chemotherapy and radiation is the usual treatment for anaplastic thyroid cancer, a fast-growing form that can kill quickly. About 80 percent of people with that type of cancer die within a year, even with treatment, according to the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. "Unfortunately, it rarely responds very well, and this is just a holding action for most patients," said Dr. Herman Kattlove of the American Cancer Society.
My best guess is that he has not yet resigned only because he does not want the Court - and, especially, appointment of the Chief Justice - to be an election issue any more than it absolutely has to be an election issue. I agree with Dennis Hutchinson:
"He doesn't want to be a factor" in the election, Mr. Hutchinson said. "The one thing all members of the court hate is the assumption that they are partisan or sensitive to partisan politics." Dave Rohde, a political science professor at Michigan State University, said Chief Justice Rehnquist's illness probably will not sway many last-minute, undecided voters.
If the likely dignosis is correct, Justice Rehnquist will probably resign almost immediately after the election.
Monday, November 01, 2004
The New York Sun reports:
The "honorable discharge" on the Kerry Web site appears to be a Carter administration substitute for an original action expunged from Mr. Kerry's record, according to Mark Sullivan, who retired as a captain in the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps Reserve in 2003 after 33 years of service as a judge advocate. Mr. Sullivan served in the office of the Secretary of the Navy between 1975 and 1977.
That Teddy Kennedy - such a sweetheart!
Link from Let's Fly Under the Bridge
Sunday, October 31, 2004
As noted in prior posts, the Man Withut Qualities has some reservations about the applicability of the Incumbent Rule - especially in this election. There has been some fussing about when the Incumbent Rule is suppose to take effect. It's all very nice to say "after the final poll" - but polling in this race will continue right up to and through election day. We are now two days from election day, and most versions of the Incumbent Rule should be kicking in. What's happening? Well, we have this early report:
A Newsweek poll showed the president moving ahead of Kerry in the popular vote, 50 percent to 44 percent, after being tied in the same survey a week ago. Democrats said their private surveys hinted at momentum for Bush.