Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rumsfeld rips Republicans a new one

UPDATED: Sunday, September 03, 2006
On Tuesday Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered a speech at the American Legion's annual convention where he took aim at un-named critics of the war with comments like these:
"any moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere."

"It seems that in some quarters there's more of a focus on dividing our country than acting with unity against the gathering threats."

"Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America -- not the enemy -- is the real source of the world’s troubles?"
We applaud Mr. Rumsfeld's comments, but wonder why he did not take the next logical step to specifically identify exactly who is the source of these dangerous views. As a public service, DWSUWF, with this post, steps in where Mr Rumsfeld fears to tread, and names names.

William M Arkin at the Washingtion Post, gets defensive, and states in his column that "Rumsfeld is saying that he [Rummy] is the "who" that is right, and everyone who disagrees with him is not only wrong, but a danger to freedom." Arkin seems to takes this criticism personally, and proceeds to assert that Rumsfeld is the actual source of troubles in Iraq and the real danger to our American way of life. This is rather a petty view on Mr. Arkin's part, as I think Mr. Arkin fundamentally misunderstands who Rumsfeld is accusing of "dividing our country" and exhibiting "moral and intellectual confusion".

Keith Olberman took a similar dim view of Rumsfeld's commentary, dismissing out of hand, Rumsfeld's subsequent disclaimer that his views were being misconstrued by the media. Frankly I found both the enthusiastic fawning over Olbermann's commentary from the left (as exemplified by this post on Crooks and Liars) and the denunciation from the right ( as exempified by two posts by Cassandra at Villainous Company covering the range from snarky dismissal to disappointed melancholy) seriously over done and seriously over the top.

You see, I believe Rumsfeld when he says he really was not speaking about Democrats opposed to the war. He was talking about Republicans. Looking over the news for the last few weeks, we can easily ferret out just who these morally and intellectually confused Republican dividers might be.

As recently as the 8/27 Sunday morning on Meet the Press, we have conservative columnist Bob Novak and National Review editor Kate O'Beirne commenting on the war:
Kate O'Beirne: "Tim, it’s, it’s actually not so that there have been all these uncritical cheerleaders who support the war for years. We had at—National Review had an Iraq—a cover on Iraq before the November ‘04 elections called “What Went Wrong?”... The [conservative] symposium we have in this, in this issue, the first thing they reject, unanimously, is the administration line that things are better than they look. They’re not buying that argument, and yet the administration keeps making it. They all recognize and agree things are deteriorating. Some conclude we’re losing, some say we will without doing some significant things differently...they fear we’re losing this war and they don’t see a clear plan on the part of the administration to win it."

Robert Novak: "I think the, the real question, I believe, maybe journalists ought to consider—reconsider, is not whether they—we’ve done such a terrible job but whether it was an impossible job in the first place and shouldn’t have been started."
Kate O'Beirne understood who Rumsfeld was talking about, and practically said so on Hardball with Nora 'Donnell later that same week:
NORA O‘DONNELL: "Welcome back to HARDBALL. The fierce fight over the war in Iraq is getting sharper and nastier every day. This week Donald Rumsfeld compared war critics to appeasers of Nazi Germany and today the president vowed to keep fighting despite the war‘s unpopularity. Here to take on this fight is the “National Review‘s” Kate O‘Beirne ..."

KATE O‘BEIRNE:" ...You know what amazed me, first of all if you actually carefully listen ... Secretary Rumsfeld‘s speech is not actually what he did with respect to the Democratic critics of the war, he didn‘t so label them, but what amazes me is how the Democrats always rise to the bait. He talks in terms of World War II, warns against morally and intellectually complacent people and confusion and appeasers and what do the Democrats say, stop talking about us like that. Well, he wasn‘t ..."
O'Beirne was smirking and practically laughing when she said this. Note, while she specifically states that Rumsfeld was not talking about Democrats, she does not say who he was talking about. That is because she knows that Rumsfeld was talking about the National Review and her and the other Republicans critical of the war, who were suddenly all over the news.

More examples. In the same MTP show, Tim Russert quotes Republican Senator John McCain, from earlier in the week:
"One of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required. ... ‘Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders.’” Those are all quotes of the president or the secretary of defense or the vice president. “I’m just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be.”
On Tuesday E.J. Dionne in his column "Slowly Sidling to Iraq's Exit asserts that "Many GOP candidates part company with Bush" over the war and identifies a few more of these "morally and intellectually confused" Republican "dividers".
"Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), one of the most articulate supporters of the war, announced last Thursday that he favored a time frame for withdrawing troops. Shays is in a tough race for reelection against Democrat Diane Farrell, who has made opposition to the war a central issue. After his 14th trip to Iraq, Shays announced that "the only way we are able to encourage some political will on the part of Iraqis is to have a timeline for troop withdrawal."

In July Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) returned from Iraq with an equally grim view. Americans, he said, lacked "strategic control" of the streets of Baghdad, and he called for a "limited troop withdrawal -- to send the Iraqis a message." Just the month before, Gutknecht had told his fellow House members that "now is not the time to go wobbly" on Iraq...

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), facing a challenge from Democrat Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, took a page from former president Bill Clinton's playbook by triangulating between Murphy and the president. A Fitzpatrick mailing sent earlier this month said that Fitzpatrick favored a "better, smarter plan in Iraq" that "says NO to both extremes: No to President Bush's 'stay the course' strategy . . . and no to Patrick Murphy's 'cut and run' approach.""
"Free Republican" crossposting at "Say Anything" declares that Newt Gingrich is the de-facto leader of the conservative movement with this Gingrich quote:
"Well, first of all, I think we have to recognize that the strategy which they have been following has failed. And I think it's important to recognize that, because until you're prepared to admit that this strategy's failed, you're not going to have the energy and the drive to shift to a new strategy."
Mark Kilmer at Red State helped to ferret out yet another "morally and intellectually confused" Republican - Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska:
"He said that Iraq was another Vietnam, "total anarchy." He said that "the future of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqi people, just like it was in Vietnam." Hagel said that we were in a civil war in Iraq, there was corruption, and Iran was more influential in Iraq than we are. He repeated that we should begin withdrawing our troops from Iraqi in six months because it does us not good to "kill Americans and put Americans in a civil war."
Now, no one has ever accused uber-conservative writers George Will and William F Buckley to be intellectually confused, so we must assume that Rumsfeld feels that they are only "morally confused" when they write:

Buckley in his National Review column "It Didn't Work:
"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed... Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans....He [George Bush] will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies. Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat. "
George Will in his column - The Triumph of Unrealism:
"Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official," insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."

The official is correct that it is wrong "to think that somehow we are responsible -- that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies." But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that. It is more dismaying that someone at the center of government considers it clever to talk like that. It is the language of foreign policy -- and domestic politics -- unrealism."
It is abundantly clear who and where Rumsfeld is directing his comments. After all, when has Rumsfeld ever cared about criticism from the left? Why would he start caring now? The Rove strategy to win elections is always about getting the base to the polls - not convincing Democrats to vote Republican, but just finding more Republicans to vote. This was a political speech targeting the base.

The Republicans have a political problem in 2006. Rumsfeld took aim at the Republican "dividers" as the source of the problem. The source, the fountainhead, the center, of this "moral and intellectual confusion" that could cost the Republican party their majority in congress are the Republican "dividers" and their conservative fellow-travelers.

We owe Mr. Rumsfeld a debt of gratitude, because armed with this information, we now know exactly what to do:

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Un-Carnival of Divided Government

Monday Tuesday Meme Momentum Monitor V
Do you ever get that feeling that you are "the last to know"? I've been blogging since April, and it was only last week that I learned about "blog carnivals". I don't know how I missed it. I mean it's not like they are hiding or anything. So, for the last five weeks I've been posting these weekly roundups of Divided Government posts - which are functionally identical to a "Carnival of Divided Government" - except that I do all of the work finding them, don't tell anyone about it, don't invite anyone to submit their posts, and don't let anyones else participate in any way. Clearly there is an easier way, and that way is called "blog carnivals". A hat tip to Peter Porcupine and Don Surber for showing me to the carnival ticket booth.

Un-Carnival
More on the carnivals later. First the weekly round-up (or "Un-Carnival", if you will) of Divided Government sightings (and potentially the last, as I intend to subsume this feature into a soon-to-be-announced Carnival of Divided Government, if there is enough interest).

UPDATE: The First "Carnival of Divided Government" will be posted at DWSUWF on Monday, September 18. Send your "divided government" submissions, either via e-mail (see my profile) or via the Carnival of Divided Government submission form. The words "divided government" or "gridlock" or "single party control" must appear in the post to be considered.
Bryan Caplan claims in his post "The Libertarian Case for Divided Government" at EconLog, that he taught Stephen Slivinski everything he knows. And so we find ourselves offering up yet another plug for Slivinski's book (I believe this is the third mention in the last four posts):
"My former student Stephen Slivinski, now director of budget studies at Cato, has just published his first book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government. There's lots of neat stuff in this book, but the best is his chapter on the libertarian benefits of divided government..."
What can I say. Slivinski devoted a chapter to divided government. If anyone writes a complete book about it, I guess I'll just have to turn over the entire blog to him/her.

Moving on. Tuesday last was the 10 year anniversary of the passage of welfare reform. Bull Moose takes note in his post "Success", asserting that divided government was the very reason the law succeeded. Capn Ahab at "Pardon the Interruption" agrees:
"The law was the product of divided government. Republicans initially offered legislation that was far too draconian. A Democratic President forced compromise. It was a textbook example of how government should work. It was a model of the vital center in action. Indeed, one of the primary reasons why Democrats may fare so well in November is the yearning for a return of the checks and balances of divided government."
Indeed.

Mr Finch of In the Library With Mr. Finch
had a couple of expansive posts on topic with "Divided We Stand: Part IV" and "Follow on points".
"A model has been developed which states that the kind of government America has works best, when the elected bodies of that government are divided between the two major parties... Single-party government is highly correlated with corruption and perceived incompetence. (Small wonder, with no opposition actually IN government to blow the whistle.) ... Might there be a third way? A President whose party controls one, but not two, of the houses? I don't guess a single-party government - under either party - is going to get it. Still less, a grid-lock scenario. How about the alternative?"
I still call Mr. Finch's "third way" a divided government. In fact, a divided congress is the preferred scenario for divided government.

Lemuel Calhoon at Hillbilly White Trash quotes NRO and asks "Who SHOULD win this November", concluding that divided government won't work to restrain spending with this particular president. He is wrong, but it is an interesting if convoluted argument:
"The fact is that President Bush is not a conservative. He is conservative on some issues, maybe more than half of them, but he is not a "movement conservative". Advancing the cause of conservatism is not one of his goals. He honestly believes that big activist government is good for the nation. This makes it very unlikely that he will find himself at odds with a Democrat House in the same way that President Clinton was with a Republican one. Bush's sincere belief in big government coupled with his extreme reluctance to use the veto will likely mean an explosion of spending unlike anything seen in US history. Unless the Senate, which will certainly stay in Republican hands puts on the brakes... It’s clear from the fact that this discussion is even occurring that the Republican majority has a dismal record on limiting spending. The party has lost its fiscal compass. If the Republicans do lose the House this cycle, it will be hard to argue, based on spending policy, that they deserved otherwise. The ideal scenario for fiscal conservatives would probably be a brief period in the wilderness, a single cycle in which the GOP could regroup and refocus on the core fiscal issues that powered the Reagan revolution, led by a presidential candidate with a genuine commitment to spending restraint. But there are no guarantees in politics, and the Democrats could instead hold onto control, starting an era of even bigger government."
It is this simple Lemuel: If you re-elect this crop of big spending, big deficit, big government Republicans under the mantle of this big spending, big deficit, big government president, then you will get even more big spending, big deficits, and big government. The dynamic of partisan Republican/Democrat tension in a divided government will reign the spending in, just like it always has. It is the party division, not ideological division that is causal. The fact that GWB has no fiscal ideology is irrelevant. He is still a Republican.

Carnivals
New, but related topic: The newly discovered Carnivals. Once I found the ticket booth, I started submitting posts (after all, I had 5 months worth to choose from), and what do you know, we hit the trifecta today.

First up, Don Surber is hosting the "Rino Sightings:Ninja Warrior Edition" carnival and linked to our post called (coincidently) "Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans". Also linked is a great post by Politburo Diktat on "what we should do next in Iraq". He has some good advice for our president.

Next up, Ken Goldstein at Random Thoughts Notes and Incidents is hosting the "Carnival of the Decline of Democracy" and tapped our post "Why You Should Vote Like Me -or- I can't get no satisfaction". I cannot say that I agreed with much else in that carnival, but I did find the Muslim-American perspective of Abu Sahajj of the Wa Salaam blog commenting on "Arab Criticism of Democracy" to be quite interesting.

Finally, The Boring Made Dull Blog is hosting the "Economics and Social Policy" carnival and added our post "Why Divided Government Works" along with some editorial comment:
"I have a lot of sympathy for this position. One of the reasons that the Republicans are in trouble is that they've been spending like a bunch of Democrats. If we were not at War, I wouldn't mind a Democratic House with a Republican Senate (gotta have majorities here in order to get even compentent judges confirmed). As it is, a Democratic House means surrender in Iraq, impeachment hearings, and encouragement to the enemies of freedom everywhere."
While appreciative of inclusion in the Carnival, I find this argument weak, and refer Mr. BoringMadeDull to the previously referenced Politburo Diktat's post , or Katie O'Beirne and George Will's comments quoted in the prior post. With the Iraq issue thusly disposed of, we can get on with restoring good governance in November:

UPDATE:
But wait! Late breaking news. Matt Barr at the "Socratic Rhythm Method" is hosting the "Carnival of Liberty: Life Liberty & Property are in Jeopardy!" That's "Jeopardy!" as in Alex Trebeck. DWSUWF is proud to learn that our post "An Illustrated Guide to Divided & Balanced Government." was selected for the prestigous "That Gov't Governs Best" category for $500.
I also recommend that you say "I'll take 'War me Down' for $400 Alex." for an introduction by Stephen Littau of "Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds" to Irshad Manji a brave and outspoken voice for Islamic reform.

And now - back to good governance:

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Disgruntled Conservative Book Club

Maybe I am just noticing it more, but dissension in the Republican ranks seems to be getting more play in MSM. This morning on Meet the Press, it was a topic of the round table discussion wiht Bob Novak, Kate O'Beirne, Albert Hunt, and Eugene Robinson.

Novak focused on conservative dissatisfaction with spending and immigration:

"I don’t think it brings back the disaffected conservatives who may stay home on Election Day. That’s the real problem. Not that they’re going to vote for the Democrats, but they may stay home because all my reports indicate that there’s two issues. They’re still very unhappy with the president about immigration and government spending, and they see no improvement on those scores. And so, consequently, Tim, there’s enormous pessimism in Republican ranks about losing—definitely losing the House of Representatives and possibly losing the Senate."
Russert then brought the discussion back to shrinking conservative support for Iraq:
"MR. RUSSERT: Kate O’Beirne, hearing Bob Novak and looking at the cover of your magazine National Review, “Last Chance for Iraq,” and looking at the comments that the founder of your magazine, William F. Buckley Jr., who said, “One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed.” And then listening to George Will, conservative commentator, who said, “It is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson - one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job - about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies.” This is remarkable. Conservatives saying that Iraq has failed and that perhaps it may be emboldening our enemies.

MS. KATE O’BEIRNE: Tim, it’s, it’s actually not so that there have been all these uncritical cheerleaders who support the war for years. We had at—National Review had an Iraq—a cover on Iraq before the November ‘04 elections called “What Went Wrong?” And most recently, of course, we have a collection of, of people, very sympathetic with the aims and goals in Iraq, answering the question of whether or not it’s lost. The administration hasn’t done a very good job of addressing those concerns on the part of conservative supporters of the war. The symposium we have in this, in this issue, the first thing they reject, unanimously, is the administration line that things are better than they look. They’re not buying that argument, and yet the administration keeps making it...

MR. HUNT: Kate, the problem, however, is that look, Bob, I, I somewhat disagree. You can make the McCain case—we might agree or disagree—but you can make the case that we need to really escalate over there. We need to send more troops, not just take troops from Mosul and send them to Baghdad, but really go and, and, and cut off the Iranians, and, and make a full-fledged effort, and say, “We’re going to be there for years, folks.” Or you can say we’re going to be in a staged withdrawal. We’re going to go to an enclave period and try to create some kind of partition in that unnaturally created country. The one thing that’s not credible, as the National Review pointed out, is stay the course. Bush’s policy is the one policy that’s absolutely not credible. So I think that makes it very tough for Republicans today."

As further evidence of this phenomena, I offer this list of book titles, by, for, and about disgruntled conservatives. You won't find these books on the President's summer reading list, but perhaps they should be. These are relatively recent titles, and taken in aggregate, even just the titles are revealing of the depth of dissatisfaction felt by old-school conservatives for this Republican administration.

If the mid-terms are close, voters on the margin will be the difference in determining majority control in congress. Disgruntled conservatives, by either staying home, or voting for divided government, could be those voters. As we have repeatedly pointed out on this blog, for conservatives that put their "limited government" principles before party loyalty, divided government is a very good thing.


Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big GovernmentTitle: Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government
Author: Stephen Slivinski, Director of Budget Studies at the Cato Institue.

Comment: "A scathing look at how the Republican Party, once the paragon of fiscal conservativism, has embraced Big Government and become even more irresponsible with taxpayer money than the Democrats."- James Pinkerton (White House domestic policy aide under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush)

Excerpt: "Cutting government spending now runs contrary to Republican political aims... Today the GOP is so closely aligned with the mechanisms of Big Government that it finds itself unable and unwilling to shut the contraption down.... The corruption scandals that have afflicted the Republican Party ... are a natural by-product. "Republicans have actually become more promiscuous than Democrats when it comes to earmarks... They've become cogs in the Big Government machine."

Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan LegacyTitle: Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy
Author: Bruce Bartlett - Conservative economist and Reagan administration official

Comment: "Bartlett's attack boils down to one key premise: Bush is a shallow opportunist who has cast aside the principles of the "Reagan Revolution" for short-term political gains that may wind up hurting the American economy as badly as, if not worse than, Nixon's did."- Publisher's Weekly

Excerpt: "My main concern is with Bush’s economic policy because that is my field of expertise. But it doesn’t mean that I am content with the rest of his program. I am deeply concerned about the Iraq operation, which has more in common with Woodrow Wilson’s policy of making the world safe for democracy than with traditional conservative foreign policy, which is based on defending the American homeland and avoiding unnecessary political and military entanglements with other countries–a view best expressed in George Washington’s Farewell Address. I am also concerned with Bush’s cavalier attitude toward federalism and his insistence on absolute, unquestioning loyalty, which stifles honest criticism and creates a cult of personality around him that I find disturbing."

Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative CauseTitle: Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause
Author: Richard A. Viguerie has been recognized as a founder of the modern conservativemovement... he first became involved in national politics as executive secretary of Young Americans for Freedom, the conservative youth group founded at the home of William F. Buckley Jr.

Comment: "Massive deficits. Out-of-control spending. Amnesty. Nation building. Cronyism. Lies. Pandering. Arrogance of power. Corruption. Influence peddling. According to outspoken conservative Richard A. Viguerie, often referred to as the funding father of the New Right, these outrages depict both the Bush White House and the Republican controlled Congress." - Amazon Book Description

Excerpt: "Now it has become apparent, however, that the Republican leadership in the White House and Congress is conservative in name only. They have used the popularity of the word "conservative" to cloak their big government, big business agenda ... the growth of the federal government and intrusiveness of the federal government have exploded under all-Republican control. It is far worse today than during the divided government of the 1990's."

The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican PartyTitle: The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party
Author: Ryan Sager is a columnist for the New York Post and RealClearPolitics.com. His writing has also appeared in Reason magazine, National Review, City Journal, Wired News, TCS Daily and the Wall Street Journal.

Comment: "Two feisty American factions are at daggers drawn. No, the fight is not conservatives versus liberals. Rather, it is libertarian conservatives versus 'social issues' conservatives. In this illuminating examination of the changing ideological geography of American politics, Ryan Sager suggests that the conservatives must choose between Southern and Western flavors of conservatism. He prefers the latter." - George F. Will

Excerpt: "The Bush administration, steered by the thinking of Karl Rove, has adopted a philosophy of big-government conservatism, which joins unrestrained government spending to an aggressive appeal to religious conservatives. It is a philosophy that has led Bush and the Republican Congress to create a $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit, making Bush the first president in a generation to create a new federal entitlement program. It is a philosophy that has led the president to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would override the decisions of several state governments on a matter that has traditionally been left to the states... And ultimately it is a philosophy that has the Republican Party running hard and fast away from the ideas that have been the underpinning of the conservative movement since before Goldwater."

Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush PresidencyTitle: Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency
Author: Patrick J. Buchanan, America’s leading populist conservative, was a senior adviser to three American presidents, ran twice for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1992 and 1996, and was the Reform Party candidate in 2000.

Comment: In his indictment of the current Bush administration and its "neoconservative"policies, pundit and occasional presidential candidate Buchanan likens the American condition to that of Rome before the fall, citing "ominous analogies" such as "the decline of religion and morality, corruption of the commercial class, and a debased and decadent culture." According to Buchanan, the blame for this state of affairs rests squarely in the lap of "neoconservatives," who are mere liberals in sheep’s clothing. These neocons, the author contends, have wrestled control of the Republican party out of the hands of true conservatives such as himself, Barry Goldwater and, of course, Ronald Reagan—with disastrous results.- Publishers Weekly

Excerpt: "Since the Cold War's end,all the blunders of Britain's ruling class in its march to folly have beenreplicated by our elites, from the arrogance of power to the alientation of allies to the waging of imperial wars where no vitalU.S. interests were at risk... In 2003 the United States invaded a country that did not threaten us, did not attack us, and did not want war with us, to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have. By attacking and occupying an Arab nation that had no role in 9/11, no plans to attack us, and no weapons of mass destruction, we played into bin Laden’s hand... It is called "the Bush Doctrine". It is a prescription for permanent war for permanent peace, though wars are the death of republics. "No nation", warned Madison, can "preserve its freedon in the midst of continual warfare."

The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How To Get It Back On TrackTitle: The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How To Get It Back On Track
Author: Thomas E. Mann, the Senior Fellow in Government Studies at the Brookings Institute, and Norman J. Ornstein, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Comment: Their book argues persuasively that relentless partisanship and a disregard for institutional procedures have led Congress to be more dysfunctional than at any time in recent memory. Looking back to the arbitrary and sometimes authoritarian leadership of Democratic speaker Jim Wright and the Abscam scandals of the 1980s, the authors demonstrate how they presage the much worse abuses of power committed by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. - Publishers Weekly

Excerpt: "The arrival of unified Republican government in 2001 transformed the aggressive and active GOP-led Congress of the Clinton years into a deferential and supine body, one extremely reluctant to demand information, scrub presidential proposals, or oversee the executive... The uncompromising assertion ofexecutive authority by President Bush and Vice President Cheney was metwith a whimper, not a principled fight, by the Republican Congress."

I posted this same list on a couple of other blogs and I'm getting some interesting comments. I'll let them percolate a while, then compile and update here in a few days.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

S, M, L, XL - Sizing, Dividing, & Balancing Government

An Illustrated Primer on Divided & Balanced Government
Preface
This blog is in the service of promoting one topic and one objective, the benefit of voting for and securing divided government in Washington D.C. We have researched and cited articles, white papers, and books from journalists, scholars and leaders that explicate in detail the benefits of divided government. We have debated the merits of divided government with blog readers and authors. We have offered example after example from the news of the day, demonstrating how single party control of the federal government leads to bad governance, while government divided between the major political parties leads to better governance. Still, it is not enough.

The Problem
The idea of divided government as a positive, actionable political objective remains mired in the collective subconscious of the voting electorate. While we occasionally hear and read about divided government in the newspaper, on the web, and on TV, it always seems to be in the context of an off-hand comment, or a brief observation of an interesting but seemingly unimportant political element, worth noting, but quickly forgotten. The idea has yet to successfully fertilize and germinate, let alone give birth to a real political movement. Net net - we need to impregnate the body politic with this potent political idea. In an effort to inseminate this idea into the broad populace, I have assembled this educational illustrated primer, which I hope will serve as an invitation to explore and appreciate the seductive beauty of these ideas.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I found these photographs on the internet, and cannot speak with 100% certainty as to their veracity, provenance, or accuracy. However, since they were secured from Reuters, a highly respected photo-journalism and news service, you should have all the confidence in the accuracy of these photos that is merited from a source with Reuter's reputation.

Nipping the Problem in the Bud - A Divided Government Primer
First, it is important to understand that there is no absolutely right or wrong answer to the question of exactly how big government should be. Government can be appreciated in a variety of sizes. In this primer we will illustrate that, regardless of size, it is more important to ensure that our government be divided and in balance.

Big Government
For some, the bigger the government the better. The seductive charms of big government are easy to see. Advocates of big government believe the milk of human kindness can only be effectively distributed and enjoyed with a bountiful, abundantly large government. Others believe that an overly large government is not natural, creates inflated expectations, and requires excessive support. They fear the single-minded pursuit of the benefits of large government will lead to an artificial enhancement of government size. While this may provide short-term gratification for government patrons, the long-term effects are often unexpected, and can lead to sagging government fortunes and other expensive unintended consequences. Now, both the right and the left have their favored constituencies, who can be expected to grab and grope for all the government largess they can get their hands on. This is the important point: If the government of the right and left are not in balance, the perception of these abundant government assets will be distorted, creating confusion and dissatisfaction among all government patrons, users, and abusers alike.

Limited Government
Limited government advocates believe that as far as government is concerned: more than a modicum is wasted. Limited government advocates believe that government has a proper purpose, that government should be limited to a size that is appropriate to that purpose, and anything beyond that purpose is a perversion of the proper use of government assets. For limited government advocates, a large government detracts from the sleek and supple performance of the socio-economic body. They see big government as a distraction at best, and at worst, a dangerous, resource sucking, freedom restricting, gold-digging promiscuous harlot (Limited government advocates are generally not considered to be as much fun as the proponents of big government).

Moderate Government
Others choose a middle course. They point out that people will always want what big government has to offer. At the same time, they recognizing that there is only so much to go around, and there must be some limitations on how government should be used and contained. Correct sizing of the government containment cup is important, and properly cleaving a decision between the A, B, C or D choice requires careful consideration and handling.

Balanced Government
The seductive appeal of suckling from government resources, whether large or limited, cannot and should not be denied. It is this very appeal that makes government so attractive and so dangerous. It is only through maintaining a balance between right and left, that we can be assured that government resources are used to nurture, to protect, and not to corrupt.

I hope this simple primer will stimulate your interest in exploring the benefits of divided and balanced government in detail. By stripping back the facade of partisanship, we expose the truth about limiting our focus on the right or left, and can appreciate the glory and symmetric perfection of a government divided and balanced.



Divided Government is Better Government

UPDATE: Friday, August 26, 2006
I was questioned whether my message was being trivialized by my illustrations in this post. Then, reading wapo this morning, I decided that if MSM pundit Eugene Robinson can take Washington Post Op-Ed space to write: TomKat vs. the Tom-Toms -"The real news today ... is too depressing for a summer morning when we all ought to be on a beach somewhere... Let's wallow instead in the tabloid news" ... Then I can wallow in a few gratuitous humorous metaphors to make my point.

UPDATE: Friday, July 25, 2007
Added tags. Added Labels. Edited offer. Fixed typos.

Technorati tags:, ,.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kudlow says "the electorate wants a more divided government"

Monday Meme Momentum Monitor Part 4
A weekly meander through the blogosphere, stalking the elusive Divided Government meme.
Lawrence Kudlow, (economist and CNBC television personality) comments on the midterms and divided government in his blog post "Lamont, Liberals, and the Midterm Election"
"On the House side, I have to believe that national discontent from the left and the right over Iraq will lead to a Democratic victory. My sense is the electorate wants a more divided government, rather than Republican control in the executive and legislative branch."
Intending to console conservatives about why they should not be too concerned with the Republicans losing the House, he actually makes a strong statement on the beneficial consequence of divided government:
"Unquestionably, President Bush will veto any Democratic tax hikes, should they come about in a new Congress. Bush will put on his Grover Cleveland hat, and get downright veto-ornery on tax and spending increases (something regarding the latter, he should have done several years ago)."
If it takes a Democratic House of Representatives to get this President to veto a few spending bills, well - 2 years out of 8 is better than nothing. In a very different context, Pejman Yousefzadeh makes a similar comment in this post at Red State. He is responding to a John Heileman story inNew York Metro speculating on "What If 9/11 Never Happened?".
"At the same time, the electoral success enjoyed by Republicans in the 2002 midterm elections may not have happened and the Senate may have remained in Democratic hands, giving us a divided Congress. This would have engendered greater satisfaction about the political state of affairs this year (voters evidently love divided government, after all) and there would be a lot less talk about how the entire electorate wants to throw the bums out in 2006."
I find it interesting that two conservatives acknowledge the Divided Government meme in such similar, backhanded way - Perhaps saying "Well, "people seem to like divided government." is as close as they can get to stating the obvious fact that our country would be better served by the Democrats taking majority control of the House in 2006. It is a hard pill for conservatives to swallow, but it is the cure for what ails us.

Dennis Sherrard discovered the same Niskanen article so often cited in this blog, and is much more direct about the benefits of divided government in his post "Why We Need Divided Government" (posted at both "Indies Are Us" and"Third Parties & Independents")
"... more than ever, it is vital that at least one house of congress elect a majority that is not of the same party as the current administration installed in the White House ... Lack of governmental oversight is much higher when a single party controls the White House and Congress. The recent hoopla over Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's finding of the warrantless wiretapping by the Bush administration unconstitutional speaks volumes over the lack of the Congress in doing it's job... An opposition Congress can have a chilling effect on the executive branch's actions, and it should. As the Cato Institute's article suggests, we seem to have better results with a divided government."
Stephen Slivinski, Director of Budget Studies at the Cato Institute is a favorite of this blog. His work on the outrageous spending behavior of the single party Republican control in this adminstration has been cited here frequently. He has a new book out ("Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government") which deserves (and will get) a dedicated post. John Aloysius of the Denver Post covered a recent stop on his speaking tour, where he touts the benefits of divided government:
Put faith in gridlock, not political parties

Article published Aug 20, 2006
" ..The outcome of Republican control has been everything Democrats were known for, and libertarians profess to abhor: wasteful government spending, titanic new bureaucracies, federal intrusion in private matters, elective war and a metastasizing national security state.

"Republicans just don't act like the party of Goldwater or Reagan anymore," he [Stephen Slivinski] told his fellow libertarians at the think tank here last week.

The era of big government isn't over, as Bill Clinton once professed. "It's been replaced by something far worse," said Slivinski, "the era of super-sized government — and for that we have Republicans to thank."

"Buck Wild" makes a compelling case that the best protection for individual rights (and wallets) in America rests in divided government. And that the best thing voters can do is take Congress or the White House away from the Republicans, and give it to the Democrats...

"Cutting government spending now runs contrary to Republican political aims," Slivinski writes. "Today the GOP is so closely aligned with the mechanisms of big government that it finds itself unable and unwilling to shut the contraption down...

"The corruption scandals that have afflicted the Republican Party … are a natural by-product."

"Washington is most restrained — militarily and fiscally — when power is divided among the parties, Slivinski argues. In the course of American history, the country has more frequently gone to war under one-party government, and "united government gives us government that grows twice as fast."

"One need look no further back than 1994, when the Republicans captured the House and lay siege to Clinton's Oval Office. A divided Washington cut the government's share of the gross domestic product from 20.7 percent to 18.4 percent, and balanced the federal budget."

Then the Republicans won the White House. "This trend was reversed almost immediately after George W. Bush's inaugural parade, " Slivinski writes. "Together Bush and the Republican Congress managed to expand government spending to 20.8 percent of GDP in 2006. By this standard, they have effectively overturned the Republican Revolution. "

For his fellow libertarians, Slivinski has some startling advice: Clap term limits on Republican incumbents, and elect enough Democrats to ensure divided government.

"If you can't put your faith in a political party, " he says, ''perhaps you should put your faith in gridlock."
I love this guy.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans

The congressional budget office released new budget projections last week. The "good" news in the report is that this year's deficit is not as bad as was feared. Of course, use of the word "good" in the same sentence as the CBO report, makes about as much sense as a fish on a bicycle, or, perhaps a more appropriate absurdity - flying pigs. If, before GWB was elected in 2000, I was told that the Republicans would become the party of big government, and the Democrats would become the party of fiscal responsibility, I might have replied "Right. When pigs fly out of my ...". As this chart from the CBO report confirms, we are halfway there. This is not good news. In a year that the CPI increased 3.6% and the Gross Domestic Product increased 6.6%, our Republican leaders in Washington have increased federal spending by an astounding 7.7% and are adding an additional $260 Billion to our national debt.


Here we have yet another illustration of how far today's Republicans have strayed from the path of limited government and fiscal conservativism. Adding insult to injury, we have apologists for this administration promoting the patently false, intellectually dishonest pretense that this CBO analysis is good news. What is absolutely clear from this report, is that the Republican party running our government has only a name in common with the party of Ronald Reagan, or even the party of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America".

Apparently, the "preferred spin" is to compare this report's projection with the inflated estimates from earlier this year. Some examples, from disingenuous or delusional bloggers:

Blog on The Hill:Tax Relief Helps Shrink Deficit posted by N.J. GOP Rep. Scott Garrett
"Today’s CBO projection of another drop in the Federal budget deficit is further proof that the tax relief policies passed by this Republican Congress are fueling a real economic rebound. This latest prediction puts the deficit at $36 billion lower than the mid-year economic report from the Office of Management and Budget in July. "
A blog for all: The President's 2006 Budget Shrinks Deficit
"CBO now projects a deficit of $260 billion for fiscal year 2006, about $111 billion less than it estimated in March for the President’s budget ...I say take a bow Mr. President, the CBO was wrong, you were right, take some credit for a job well done."
Dissecting Leftism
"For 2006, the government deficit will be 2 percent of gross domestic product, down from the old baseline prediction for 2006 of 2. 6 percent. ... On Aug. 17, when the more extensive annual Update of the Budget and Economic Outlook appears, that 2 percent figure is likely to show up more definitively..."
Wow! What great news! Only last March we were prediciting that we would lose an arm and a leg, and yes we actually lost the leg but the arm was only lost up to the elbow! We saved the stump from the shoulder to the elbow! What a triumph! Just think how much greater a triumph this CBO report could have been, if we only had predicted losing both arms and legs in March!

I just don't get it. Who do they think they are kidding? I guess they are writing crap just to appeal to themselves, sort of a right wing daisy chain of mutual pseudo-intellectual masturbation. Well, at least they are enjoying themselves. In the meantime, they are helping enable this adminstration to continue driving the country at high speed, while drunk on spending, careening recklessly down a fiscal highway to hell.

I have no problem with tax cuts in general, nor with the Bush tax cuts in particular. I agree that tax cuts help the economy. I agree that they have helped stimulate economic growth and tax revenues. The problem is not the tax cuts. The problem is with the wild spending that continues to accelerate under this adminstration and this Congress. The spending orgy is still spinning wildly out of control. There are still no spending veto's from this President. There is still no discipline from either Congress or the President. But, there is plenty of "earmarked" pork to go around. Even enough for good old Joe Lieberman. This single party controlled government of big spending, big deficit, big government GWB Republicans were already documented last fall to outspend the single party controlled LBJ Great Society / Vietnam Democrats. This CBO report makes it clear that there is no improvement, and this administration and Congress will set the new high water mark of big government, big spending, big deficits, that may last for all time. We will never again be able to say those words "big government, big spending, big deficits" without following it with the word "Republican".

Fortunately there are conservatives that have maintained some intellectual integrity about what is really going on:
DON’T POP THE CORKS - CBO Outlook for the Federal Budget Is Still Bleak by James Horney and Richard Kogan
"The Congressional Budget Office today released new budget projections showing a deficit of $260 billion for fiscal year 2006, which will end on September 30.[1] Although such a deficit would be $30 billion lower than the Office of Management and Budget estimated on July 11, and just over $100 billion less than CBO projected last March (excluding the effects of legislation enacted since March), the new CBO projections of spending, revenues, and deficits through 2016 are not cause for celebration by those troubled by the bleak federal budget outlook. Among the reasons those concerned with fiscal responsibility should not break out the champagne are: CBO is not projecting that revenues will be higher in 2006 than the Administration estimated last month — CBO and the Office of Management and Budget both project that revenues will total $2.403 trillion this year.CBO is projecting a lower deficit for 2006 than OMB did because it believes federal agencies will spend less of the funds currently available to them by the end of the fiscal year than the agencies reported to OMB. (In some instances, that simply means that more of the funds will be spent next year.)

* A deficit of $260 billion in 2006 would represent the largest 6-year deterioration in the budget in 50 years. In 2000, there was a surplus equal to 2.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product. A deficit of $260 billion this year would be equal to an estimated 2.0 percent of GDP. That 4.4 percentage point deterioration in the budget would be the worst 6-year deterioration in half a century (the next worse was from 1998 to 2004, when the deterioration was slightly less than 4.4 percentage points). This deterioration is hardly a reason for jubilation. CBO’s deficit estimate of $260 billion in 2006 illustrates one other reality as well. Based on Joint Committee on Taxation estimates, the total cost of tax cuts enacted since January 2001 in 2006 is $258 billion (including the increased interest costs of the debt that result from the borrowing that is required to cover the lost revenues). This means that even with the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the response to Hurricane Katrina, the federal budget would essentially be in balance this year if the tax cuts had not been enacted, or if they had been offset by either increases in other taxes or cuts in programs, as would have been required under the Pay-As-You-Go rules that tax-cut proponents first ignored and then allowed to expire."
Cato Institute: CBO Releases Latest Deficit Numbers
"The U.S. budget deficit will rise to $286 billion in fiscal 2007, up from this year's projected deficit of $260 billion, the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] predicted on Thursday. The CBO's deficit projection for the coming fiscal year was higher than the $265 billion it predicted in March."
Stephen Slivinski, the Cato Institute's director of budget studies and author of Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, comments: "The CBO report shows that the economy is rapidly expanding. Unfortunately, it shows that the budget is, too. Total government spending is expected to grow by a dramatic 7.7 percent this year -- that's faster than the projected economic growth rate (6.6 percent). And the federal budget is projected to hover at 20 percent of GDP until the end of Bush's presidency. Contrast that with the 18.5 percent of GDP that government consumed when the Republicans took total control of both Congress and the White House. It's a stark example of how the GOP has taken on the role of the party of big government... it is not blue skies ahead: the CBO report projects staggering growth in the so-called entitlement programs. Medicare spending is expected to skyrocket from $372 billion in 2006 to $909 billion by 2016. This is a spending crisis that needs to be addressed."
Repeat after me -
The Disease:
Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans.
Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans.
Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans.
The Cure:
Just Vote Divided.
UPDATE August 22. 2006
Speaking of conservatives with intellectual honesty, who needs Air America, when you have pundits like Joe Scarborough? Conservatives in open revolt about the spending policies are commonplace. Conservatives questioning GWB's suitability to be President? Leave it to Joe. The Washington Post covered the right wing sh*t storm in the wake of Scarborough's segment "Is Bush an Idiot?" last week:

Pundits Renounce The President
Among Conservative Voices, Discord By Peter Baker
Washington Post

"For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"Couldn't let this pass without comment... In a later telephone interview, Scarborough said he aired the segment because he kept hearing even fellow Republicans questioning Bush's capacity and leadership, particularly in Iraq. Like others, he said, he supported the war but now thinks it is time to find a way to get out. "A lot of conservatives are saying, 'Enough's enough,' " he said. Asked about the reaction to his program, he said, "The White House is not happy about it."
Joe sticks to his guns in his "Regular Joe" column:
"These days the President seems distracted, disjointed and dumbed-down in press conferences. His jokes fall flat and are often inappropriate. And like Reagan, George W. Bush seems to be getting worse with age instead of better... In the case of Bush I wonder whether there no one in the West Wing that can tell their boss he needs to spend more time in front of a teleprompter and less time watching ESPN... Has anyone considered keeping the President away from the press altogether if he is no longer up to the task of answering questions? I’m seriousIf George Bush has lost his ability to give a commanding presser, then stage manage him differently. Play to his strengths. Control Bush like Deaver controlled Reagan. Show him only in settings where he is in control ... Right now, this President cannot afford to bumble his way across the world stage. He needs to be seen as a strong, confident leader capable of managing the greatest foreign policy crisis since the Cold War."
OK, Joe says to keep the President from the press, manage him like an actor on a stage, and almost says he has alzheimers, but he still says he would vote for him. Whatever.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Divided government ≠ Bipartisanship

Monday Meme Momentum Monitor III
A paddle through the rivers of the blogosphere, fishing for divided government meme momentum. This, our third soire' with this title, is the first to actually be posted on a Monday, a feat in which I take considerable pride.

To begin, a couple of posts that can only be described as "backhanded", or at least "grudging" compliments of divided government. That's fine. We'll take 'em any way we can get 'em.

SW @ SW's Energy Gap in his post "The Bullshit Middle" takes exception to notion of a "vital middle ground" except in a divided government:

"So, why shouldn't the conclusion be "There is too much partisanship"? ... for the sake of the well intentioned folks who might be tempted to draw that conclusion and buy into that sort of argument, that is, be tempted by the David Brooks, Joe Lieberman line of shit, regarding a vital "center" this bipartisan concensus "middle" that was exemplified by this nutty "gang of 14" idiocy, I'll try to write real slow so it can be understood. Such a strategy can make sense when we have a divided government. That is, when one branch of government is controlled by one party and the other controlled by its opposite. In that case, finding the middle ground between the two basic ideologies represented by these two power centers, could result in good policy that might be reflected in law. So, the concept is not entirely crazy... The goal, as has finally be realized by most Democratic activists, has to first be, regaining some sort of power. Now, this could be regaining the House of Representatives this fall, or it could be the Presidency in 08. For many thoughtful independents, divided government may well be the goal. The House going Democratic in the fall and the Presidency being completely up for grabs is probably as it should be for many."
I like this line of thinking, because it makes these points:
  1. Divided government is the first and primary step to fixing what ails us.
  2. Divided government is the cure to "partisanship" and not some milquetoast moderate Republican version of single party politics.
  3. Divided government is the goal for thoughtful independents.
SW manages to make these points in far fewer words that I seem to be able to manage on this blog. What is truly interesting, is that this "anti-bipartisanship" rhetoric from the the left, is virtually identical to this "anti-bipartisan" rhetoric from the right as articulated by Ryan Sager on RCP: "But it might stop anything much from ever getting done in Washington, D.C., which is a start (Of course, it could also lead to an outbreak of "bipartisanship" -- the worst of all possible political outcomes.)" Yet they both are sympathetic to divided government. I mean, really, how bi-partisan can you get?

Andrew at Obsidian wings makes a complementary point about divided government in his post "I don't care"

"I don't really see a great deal of difference between the two parties. Yes, the Republicans are certainly setting some records at the moment, both in ineptitude and malfeasance, so I will be quite pleased if the Democrats take back at least one house of Congress in November. But I don't have any great hopes for the Democrats beyond the hope that divided government will produce a little gridlock and maybe even some oversight of the executive branch. I'll be pleased to see the Democrats take on the President about executive overreach (one of the reasons I'll be voting Democratic in the fall). And as I noted above, if we get some gridlock it won't break my heart, as avoiding more No Child Left Behind acts and expansions of entitlement programs like Medicare Plan D would be good things... I'm of the opinion that the Republicans are currently more corrupt as much because paying off Republicans leads to better results than paying off Democrats at the moment, but it's true that I cannot point to similiar Democratic scandals back when the Democrats controlled Congress... OK, so maybe I do care. The cynic in me wonders if the Democrats really are all that likely to be any better than the Republicans. Given that we're stuck with a two-party system, however, I suppose I'd best hope that they will be, since they're the only realistic alternative. Bring on the gridlock."
Point being - You do need to care, but you don't need to believe in either Republicans or Democrats to believe that divided government will immediately improve our government.

Let us now paddle out of the blogospheric tributaries and back into the main stream of media,where we find John Dean reviewing the recently published work of Mann and Ornstein, and an interesting echo of the sentiment expressed by SW and Andrew:

Two Congressional Experts Explain What Has Gone Very Wrong With Congress By JOHN W. DEAN
Mann and Ornstein are hands-on political scientists who have been in Washington, and immersed in the workings of Congress, for almost four decades. Regardless of who runs Congress, they will continue their work. But during the last decade, they have grown "dismayed at the course of Congress." Although the deterioration began while the Democrats were still in control, it has, under the Republicans, accelerated and approached crisis dimensions. And a dysfunctional Congress affects our democracy profoundly... On behalf of the institution to which they have devoted their professional lives, Mann and Ornstein are now speaking out, in The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How To Get It Back On Track (Oxford University Press)... Mann and Ornstein have no quick fix for Congress's many problems. Rather, history instructs them that "major change within Congress is most likely to originate outside. Citizens at the polls are the most powerful agents of change," although strong leaders can occasionally help by shaking things up.

They suggest two possibilities currently on the horizon that could have institutional benefits for Congress: Democrats regaining control in the 2006 mid-term election with a significant win, and/or a centrist presidential candidate emerging in 2008 and winning.

Mann and Ornstein comment that "While still in the minority, Democrats in late 2005 remained remarkably unified." (Now, in mid-2006, I believe this is still quite true.) The authors note that "Were [the Democrats] to return to the majority as a result of the 2006 mid-term election, the political logic of divided government might well produce some reduction in partisan rancor and at least occasional cross-party policy agreement." But they also caution that such agreements would still be difficult "because any sizable Democratic Party gains would come at least in part at the expense of the remaining few Republican moderates."
One final stop as we slide out of the media main stream, into this backwater eddy, where bloggers Liberal Avenger and Nerd Update take note of David Franke's post (self-described as "one of the founders of the conservative movement in the 1950s and 1960s"), and yet another disgruntled conservative who opines on the virtues of divided government in this post on LewRockwell's blogsite entitled "The Democrats’ Impeachment Plans":
"For those (like myself) who oppose King George from the Right, the main reason to want divided government is to slow down the financial destruction of the United States a bit. In recent decades the two periods of slowest growth in the federal government have occurred when we had divided government in the Reagan years, with a GOP White House and a Democratic Congress, and in the Clinton years, with a Democratic White House and GOP Congress. Both parties are evil, but at least with divided government they spend most of their energy fighting each other. That's the best we can hope for in the short term... A second reason for wanting divided government would be to hold King George, if not his minions, accountable for their actions in killing American soldiers and draining the American treasury in an unconstitutional and unprovoked war of aggression. Since I guess it's expecting too much for Congress to bring charges of treason, I'll have to be satisfied with a middle-of-the-road course of impeachment. If the Democrats really have the balls to do this, the next two years could be tremendous fun AND bring government growth to a relative halt!... My congressman is a Republican who calls himself a "conservative" but voted to give King George unconstitutional authority to pursue war at his whim, and voted to bankrupt Medicare still faster with the prescription drug plan – the two most destructive votes in the GOP Congress. I don't even know who his Democratic opponent is, but I'll be voting for that Democrat. It's the true-conservative thing to do."
Divided and Balanced. Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dancing Bear pas de trois

Paraphrasing the question posed in Joseph Heller's Catch 22 - "What if everyone was blogging about the Connecticut Democratic primary?" I can only respond as did Yossarian: "Then I'd be a damn fool not to."

Ned Lamont beat incumbent three term Senator Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic primary by a margin of 4% with an unprecedented high voter turnout for a primary. Lieberman was not facing any scandal. Lieberman's tenure and committe appointments put him in a position to shovel pork to Connecticut with a bulldozer. He had a huge campaign war chest, and the solid support of the Democratic Party establishment. He was endorsed by the Democratic party demi-god Bill Clinton. This is the profile of an incumbent that cannot lose. Some attach significance to the fact that the margin of victory closed to only 4 percentage points, but this is clearly a case where "The wonder of a dancing bear is not that the bear dances well, but that it dances at all."* Well, this particular bear was looking like Gene Kelly last night.
[* Quote attributed to John Irving but not sure if he is the original source]

Defeating an incumbent is a very hard thing to do in a general election. Defeating an incumbent in a primary is well nigh impossible. We saw an awful lot of "dancing bears" last night. An incumbent moderate Democratic Senator that was a hawk on on the war was defeated. An incumbent, anti-war rabid left wing Democratic Representative of Congress was defeated (opeative word is "rabid"). An incumbent moderate Republican Representative supported by Presdent Bush was defeated. If a dancing bear is a wonder, a pas de trois of dancing bears is even more notable.

Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post has the story:
House Incumbents McKinney, Schwarz Fall in Primaries

"In the shadow of the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, angry voters in three states showed their discontent last night by unseating two incumbents and choosing a candidate who campaigned against his primary opponent's bipartisan past. The defeat of Georgia's outspoken Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) and Michigan moderate Rep. John J.H. "Joe" Schwarz (R) appeared to confirm the strong headwinds that polls suggest members of Congress will face in November from an angry electorate looking for change."
Some bloggers take note but fail to appreciate the bear's fancy footwork:

The Glittering Eyes asks: The people have spoken! But what the heck did they say?
"My first reaction to last night’s results with Lieberman, McKinney, and Schwarz all defeated was that there was an anti-incumbency movement at work. But on reconsideration I’ve decided that, as James Joyner notes, the results are more clearly explained by issues specific to each individual campaign than some general movement against incumbents."
James Joyner at Outside the Beltway wonders if: Lieberman + McKinney + Schwarz Defeats = Anti-Incumbent?
"Uh, against how many incumbents who won their primaries? Don’t they signal anything? Oddly, since I tend to vote Republican, I have paid no attention to the Schwarz contest. I gather that he was, like Lieberman, defeated by a candidate more closely aligned with his party’s base. McKinney is, well, McKinney. Slapping a police officer, making one outrageous statement after another, and an even nuttier dad making constant idiotic statements to the media were, shall we say, not helpful. Now, I don’t doubt that there’s a strong anti-incumbent wind out there. But three losses easily explained by the idiosyncracies of the individual contests are hardly further evidence for it."
Nonsense. No one goes into a voting booth and just votes against incumbents. A general anti-incumbent bias is always distilled to the "idiosyncracies of the individual contests". The "idiosyncracy" is a specific action trigger for the generalized anger at incumbents over the direction this government has taken our country. In this environment, voters look for idiosyncracies as an excuse to throw their particular bum out of office. They are practically begging for an idiosyncracy. "Just show me an idiosyncracy. Make my day, punk!"

One incumbent losing a primary is an interesting aberration. Three losing a primary is a political chorus line of dancing bears. And that dancing bear chorus line will look like the Rockettes by November.

The DWSUWF blog will happily join that high-stepping, incumbent-kicking line.

Just Vote Divided.