Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Carnival of Divided Government UNDECIMUS - Springtime for Divided Government Edition

"In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. "- Alfred Lord Tennyson
"And a middle aged man's fancy turns to thoughts of divided government." - DWSUWF
Welcome to the march 21, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - Special Springtime for Divided Government Edition. Ah ... Spring. Invoking daydreams of flowers, poetry, love, baseball, fishing, golf, and what exactly was that other thing that a young man's fancy turns to???

Oh yeah. I remember now. Spring break, tequilla, and and outdoor sex.Well, this year we have a very special spring season indeed. A spring like we have not seen is six long years. A spring with effective oversight of the executive branch. A spring with a President threatening to veto misguided congressional ecomonic policy and excessive spending. A spring with judicial and congressional review of domestic surveillance reasserted. In short, a Spring of Divided Government, and it feels s-o-o-o good. Almost better than outdoor sex. Almost. In celebration of this very special spring, and without further ado, we offer a bit of verse, and a spring bouquet of divided government posts.

Ode to a Divided Spring
After a summer of war plans misguided,
The fall election finally provided -
A winter Congress that was free
Of single party decree,
And a spring with government divided.

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration, in order to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this Carnival of Divided Government UNDECIMUS - Springtime for Divided Government Edition, as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and mainstream media on the singular topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. But let us not dwell on the negative on this fine spring day.

We humbly offer for your consideration, this ...

Spring Bouquet of Divided Government Posts
Our first flower in the bouquet, is Michael Currie Schaffer writing in the New Republic and CBS News, about the "The Benefits Of Divided Government" and the surprising and immediate impact it has had on foreign policy:
"For all the scholarly hand-wringing about the foreign-policy implications of divided government, and all the global bewilderment at how we can have an executive branch that negotiates things like climate treaties and a legislature that proceeds to deep-six them, Cheney's huddle with Musharraf shows that the separation of powers has its charms... As Cheney himself put it before the 2004 election, "It's absolutely essential that, eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because, if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States." Two years later, while Cheney was accusing Democrats of "resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies," ... That message gets just a wee bit diluted when the veep pops up in Islamabad to say, more or less, that those same Democrat sissies are willing to be tougher on North Waziristan's putative constabulary than the manly folk of the executive branch."
That particularly fragrant flower in our divided government bouquet by Mr Schaffer was actually a "two-fer". He not only shows that because of divided government provides the administration additional leverage negotiating with Pakistan, but he also reminds us how divided government allowed us to side-step the deeply flawed Kyoto Protocol.

Blair Nathan at The Stanford Review also notes the ironic benefit of divided government on Iraq policy in "Good Cop, Bad Cop: How a Democratic Congress may be of help in Iraq":
"A divided government could allow the US to prod the government of Iraq in ways that would not have been credible before. It has been argued that the Iraqi government has been expecting the US to be eternally patient and accommodating... The Bush administration has shown a great deal of forbearance with Nouri al-Maliki’s progress--or lack thereof—in stabilizing and securing his country. On the home front, the administration has insisted that Maliki’s government needs time to make things work. The ascendancy of the Democrats in Congress, however, affords an opportunity for President Bush to get tough and effective with the Iraqi government. “We are willing to give you all the time you need to suppress strife and insurrection,” he can say to the Iraqis, “but I can’t speak for them [The Democrats].”
Crunchy Con at BeliefNet offers thanks and praise for the "The blessing of divided government":
"Does anybody doubt that if the Democrats weren't in charge, this outrageous scandal involving eight US attorneys being forced out for political reasons wouldn't be investigated by Congress? Verily, verily I say unto you once again, the good Lord is using the Democrats like He used the Babylonians."
Amen! Thank you Lord!

Bob Caylor editorializes in the Fort Wayne News Sentinal, leading the Hoosier cheers for a divided state government in "Divided? We can stand it"
"Let’s savor the impasses of divided government and the welcome music of partisan griping. Halfway through this session of the Indiana General Assembly, one party blocking the other may save Hoosiers from some ill-conceived and sweeping changes in law and taxation. Few Hoosiers want to see state government paralyzed. But so far this year, a General Assembly hobbled by a partisan divide has helped rein in expansions of government power and taxation."
Mmmmm. Savory. Tasty. Delicious.

Emily Bazelon, writing at Slate, cannot contain her enthusiasm for divided government in "A Few Angry Lawyers" :
"Today, four of the Bush administration's formerly loyal U.S. attorneys showed up to testify before Congress and raised the lid on DOJ and Republicans in office. All sorts of things crawled out. And after years of living in one-party Washington—and logging hours at snoozer Republican-controlled committee hearings—I confess, it was a thrill to watch. Hooray for divided government!"
Three cheers! Hip! Hip! Hooray! Huzzah! Huzzah!

David Epstein at the Reflective Pundit strikes a cautionary note in "Be Careful What You Wish For":
"... it reinforces the notion that it's dangerous to have only one party control government, which is of course the mainstream view of why we have so much divided government these days. If Democrats want to retake the White House in 2008 and keep Congress for a while too, they should leaven the conversation with a few more reminders to the public about how it's the Republicans that keep mismanaging the government and then lying about it."
We will see more of this sentiment as we approach the next election, and it dawns on Republicans and Democrats alike that the only way to maintain a happy state of divided government is to elect a Republican President in 2008. DWSUWF simply does not subscribe to the argument that Democratic politicians are somehow inherently more moral or resistant to the seduction of power than Republican politicians (or vice versa). It is quite simple really, the way to enjoy the benefits of divided government, is to always elect a divided government.

Leigh Ferrara at the Mother Jones Blog reports on "Chuck Schumer to Bush on Prosecutor Purge: Explain Yourself":
"This is an interesting part of the probe because it not only implies careful calculation on the part of the White House and the DOJ but it may implicate Senate Judiciary Committee (the senate committee investigating the firings) Ranking Minority Member Arlen Specter, whose chief of staff Michael O'Neill, under "orders from the DOJ," slipped the amendment into the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Specter is now co-sponsoring a bill to reverse the amendment -- perhaps to save face? I love divided government!"
Me too! I love it! Oh. I better sit down. Apparently I got a little too excited. Sorry about that.

Ron Burgundy is relaxing in the Liberty Lounge, and musing about how "House, Senate Dems realize power limited":
"In moving so fast, we gave the impression it was easy," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (news, bio, voting record), reflecting not only on the minimum wage bill, but several other measures that newly empowered Democrats passed in January, only to see them stack up in the Senate. Some Democrats say the struggle over the minimum wage bill is likely to become a model over the next two years for working within divided government."
Brink Lindsey makes exactly the right point at Cato at Liberty Blog in his post "More on Libertarians and Democrats":
After all, as Cato’s Stephen Slivinski has written, real federal spending increased at an annual rate of only 1.5 percent under Bill Clinton, as compared to a 5.6 percent rate of growth during George W. Bush’s first term. So Democratic politicians can run and win on a record of fiscal prudence. Yes, it’s true that Clinton’s good spending record was due in significant part to the fact that he faced a GOP Congress for most of his time in office. But this just shows that people who care about controlling spending would do better to rely on divided government than on Republicans’ small-government rhetoric. And you can’t have divided government without electing some Democrats!"
Let me just repeat that: "... people who care about controlling spending would do better to rely on divided government than on Republicans’ small-government rhetoric." Exactly so.

Laura Ebke at Red State Eclectic squarely faces the consequences of right wing fringe politics in "Republicans and Family Values":
"Right now a significant number of Republican voters say they'd vote for Giuliani, even though he's got a "family values problem" a mile wide. I think, though, that's because of Rudy's natural charisma, post 9/11, and because those Republicans who are really thinking about politics see him as the most likely to beat either Clinton or Obama--and Republicans REALLY don't want to lose the White House, assuming that the tide has turned for a while on Republican fortunes in Congress. A piece of power in a divided government is better than being relegated to complete minority status in a government with the two political branches controlled by one party."
True. True. Laura identifies a very good reason to support Giuliani in the Republican primaries. But this is an even better reason to support Chuck Hagel, who is more conservative than Giuliani, has no "family values" problem, will pull Democratic support in the general election and was right on the Iraq war since before the war.

Joe Gandleman at The Moderate Voice references Howard Fineman's column and finds A Smoking Gun In The Gonzales Fired Prosecutors Case?":
"This scandal points up the benefits of divided government where there is authentic, vigorous oversight."
Agreed, and it cannot be said often enough.

MVDG worries in his blog Michael P.F. van der GaliĆ«n about General Eaton's complaints in "General Eaton: Republicans Worst Thing That’s Happened to Army":
"I do know that Bush et al. have mishandled the Iraq war tremendously, that Rumsfeld should be held accountable years ago, and that divided government is always best."
Always best. Always. Always. Always. I could not agree more with Michael, but to be fair, our shared view is not universally appreciated. As part of our continuing commitment to Divided and Balanced reporting, we offer this final dissenting view on divided government.

Dick Cheney opines (whines?) at Human Events that divided government has its problems in "A Conservative View of the Role of Government"
"With a divided government and strong feelings on both sides of the aisle, getting things done is a bit more of a challenge than it was before... We’ve got a lot of vacancies on the bench, and the elected branches of government have a duty to fill those vacancies. Divided government is no excuse. "
I am sympathetic to his argument. Just think of the conseqences if we had divided government in 2003. Why, it may have been completely impossible for the office of the Vice President to cherry pick intelligence and stampede the American populace into a war that we did not need to fight. We may have found a different way to deal with Saddam Hussein.

A single off-topic bud.
Finally, we conclude with a longstanding tradition at The Carnival of Divided Government to include one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgement and symbolic proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. The winner for this edition is ...

Bull Jones presenting a prescient post that pre-dates the Walter Reed flap in "Oops! The VA did it again!" posted at The Bull Speaks!
" The sad truth is that the “VA” has been as screwed up as Hogan’s Goat practically since it began. Wallowing in red tape and political shyte through, (and because of), both Republican and Democrat administrations the VA has somehow always found a way to screw the very Veterans it was set up to serve - much like America as a whole, I’m sad to say. Before anyone decides to call me down for that last line, you should ask yourself a couple of questions. For example, “When did I last thank a Veteran for his service?”
A fair question. For me it was last Saturday. I was talking to a Southwest Airline pilot while waiting for my flight from San Diego. Turns out she was in the Air Force reserve and had completed four (4!) tours in Iraq flying cargo jets. I thanked her and offered to buy her a beer. She was on-duty, so I decided to drink that beer in her honor all by myself.

Chris Matthews has been a consistent advocate for veterans on his show Hardball, and distills the problem eloquently "Why do we permit soliders that we honor for their service to be treated like they are a problem when return as a veteran?" (this quote is a paraphrase from memory, I will link and correct when I can find the source). In addition to the Bull Jone's suggestions in this post, DWSUWF recommends contributing to the Iraq and Afganistan Veterans of America.

With that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). The next edition will be the Carnival of Divided Government DUODECIMUS - Special One Year Anniversary Edition, to be posted on the first birthday of this blog, Monday April 23, 2007. Blog articles may be submitted for the carnival of divided government using the carnival submission form. Past posts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Finally, if you enjoyed this carnival, you shoul also check out these other recent fine collections:

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.


Unknown said...

You have a very reasonable approach to the perhaps best way to keep government within certain boundaries. Yet, there also may be times when it may be better if the same party has control of both political branches. Let's see what 2008 brings and let's decide thereafter what solution may be the preferable one in the particular circumstances of that time.

Superdestroyer said...

I found you site from a link at The Moderate Voice.

If divided government is always best then how will you fell when the Democrats get such a demographic advantage that the Republicans cannot win at the National Level or even on most state levels.

If you look at the changing demographics of the United States, national politics in 2020 will probably look like state politics in California (a huge Democratic advantage with a small possibility that a non-politician, already famous person can run as a Republican).

mw said...

"there also may be times when it may be better if the same party has control of both political branches"-bn1

I've heard variations of this, but I cannot really say that I understand what possible circumstances those would be. From Dems, I hear "well - since the Republican had single party control for so long - we need it for a while to undo the damage they have done."

From Reps I used to hear - "We need all branches to implement limited government spending and tax reforms."

I don't find either argument compelling. Reps had control for six years and the government grew bigger, spent more, and eroded more rights than under any administration in history. Dems are showing now that they are willing to use the exact same parliamentary games as the Reps did to stifle debate and steamroll their agenda. There is no indication that things would get better if they also controlled the White House.

I suppose one could make the case that in a time of war, it would be beneficial to have a unified single party government, but even that is not clear. In times of unambiguous national threat, the congress and the people will always give the President wide latitude as Commander in Chief. OTOH, when the threat is ambiguous, as Iraq certainly was, a single party government may permit precipitous and unwarranted action.

Niskanen and Slivinski have shown that we are more likely to get engaged in major wars under single party control than under divided government, so I guess how you feel about that argument, depends on whether you think our war waging decision process should be deliberative or on a hair trigger.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment.

mw said...

" will you feel when the Democrats get such a demographic advantage that the Republicans cannot win at the National Level" - SuperD

I just don't buy it. Less than a year ago people were still talking about a "permanent majority" for the Republicans in Congress. Convetional wisdom was that they were unbeatable. These things always move in cycles. The pendulum will swing back, once Bush is out of the White House.

I agree, that the Dems have a huge structural advantage to maintain a majority in Congress in '08. That is why I am supporting a Republican for President in '08. But by 2010 the Republicans will likely have the structural advantage, with more Dems than Republicans up for re-election in the Senate.

I am really going to crawl out on the skinny limbs now, but I think there is a good chance that the Republicans will re-take the Senate majority in 2010. If they also keep the White House in 2008 - you now have 2 of the 3 in Republican hands. What does that do for your 'huge democratic advantage' ?

thanks for the comment.

Superdestroyer said...


I was not discussing the 2008 or 2010 election but further out. If you look at the last thirty years of elections, the only ethnic group that the Republicans win more than 50% of the vote is whites. Since whites are a shrinking demographic group in the United States, that means that the Republicans will slowly lose their ability to get a majority.

If you look at California, the Republicans have no chance of ever winning a majority in the state house of senate. As the demographic of the United States become more like California, National politics will become more like California.

The reason that so many liberal political writers wrote about the Republican majority is that refuse to look at demographics. They liberal, Democrat voting college professor do not like to think that the Democratic Party gets about half of its votes from non-whites that over 70% or more for Democrats.

mw said...

Cripes. I thought I was going out on a limb by making predictions for 2010. 30 years? Are you really trying to predict the voting preferences for people who are not even born yet?

The American Dream is color blind. Most Americans just want the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their family. To the degree that Republicans can once again identify themselves as the party of prosperity and opportunity (as opposed to the party of elective wars) they have plenty of time to build a constituency in any demographic.

Superdestroyer said...


You should realize that demographics of a country dictate its destiny. The U.S. is becoming more black, hispanic and Asian just like the California where you live. Those groups vote overwhemingly for Democrats and have for decades.

There is no issue or strategy that will give the Republicans any advantage with blacks, hispanics, jews, asians, or gays.

Also the American Dream is definitely not colorblind. Just look at your own California and it become a majority hispanic state and with the total number of whites decreasing.

Currently, when middle class whites live a Democratic dominate area they quickly realize that they can change nothing at the ballot box but just vote with their feet and move to another state.

Eventually enough states will become so solidly Democratic like Mass. or DC that the Republican will not be able to win.

Look at California, it is no longer in play for the Republican during presidential elections or U.S. Senate elections. The total number of U.S. congressmen, State Senators, or state reps will never be as high in the future as they are now.

mw said...

Let us deconstruct.

Supe says:"You should realize that demographics of a country dictate its destiny."

You offer absolutely no support for this statement. It is ridiculous on the face of it and incompatible with the notion that ideas matter. You also apparently limit the definition of "demographics" to mean exclusively race, which means you are using the word incorrectly. Demographic factors also include economic status, age bracket, geographic region, and simple population growth trends and more. I consider trends in each of these categories to be more important demographic factors than race or religion in assessing US politics, political affiliation and the country's "destiny".

Supe says:"The U.S. is becoming more black, hispanic and Asian... Those groups vote overwhemingly for Democrats and have for decades. There is no issue or strategy that will give the Republicans any advantage with blacks, hispanics, jews, asians, or gays."

While historically accurate, your extended conclusion is complete nonsense. I cannot believe that anyone would even assert this. You are saying that one's skin color, religion, or sexual orientation absolutely determines political party affiliation. Not philosophical ideas, not political vision, not economic self-interest - only color and creed matter according to you. You are just flat wrong. You are not Moses, and just because you've decided to carve your opinions into a tablet does not make them true. Nothing is set in political stone. For decades the Solid South was dependably Democratic. Now the South is dependably Republican. People will vote out of ideology and economic self-interest. As any group moves up the economic scale, their politics inevitably change.

Supe says:"Also the American Dream is definitely not colorblind. Just look at your own California and it become a majority hispanic state and with the total number of whites decreasing."

WTF??? Who cares if it is a majority Hispanic state? Hispanics want the identical American Dream that everyone else wants - An opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their family. Ever hear of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." ??? That is what Hispanics want. And Blacks. And Asians. And Whites. And Gays. And Jews. And Evangelicals. That is what all Americans want. That is the American dream, and it does reside in Americans of all color, creed and sexual preference.

To the degree that the Republican party can once again be identifed with that ideal (as opposed to the Party that wants to use government to tell people how to live), to exactly that degree the Republican party will begin to pick up suppport in all those groups.

Supe says:"Look at California, it is no longer in play for the Republican during presidential elections or U.S. Senate elections..."

Wrong. California has voted for Republican Presidiential Candidates in the past, and will again. California has elected Republican Senators in the past, and will again. I'll bet on it, and I'd bet that we will see either or both in the next 10 years (within two Presidential/Senate election cycles).

Superdestroyer said...


You offer nothing to support any of your claims. You seem to believe that politics is like professional sports where the loser gets an easier schedule or higher draft picks.

What happens in politics these days is a negative feed back cycle. Republicans are failing and everything in politics will reinforce the failure.

The feedback loop was less important because Democrats could/can always count on the support of blacks, hispanics, jews, unions, and government workers.

A third party can not realistically get started in the U.S. because blacks,hispanics, jews, and other demographic groups will not leave the Democrats.

I believe that you are incredibly naive to believe that there is an issue and will help Republicans appeal to blacks or hispanics.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happinses differs greatly based upon culture and ethnicity. Look at current black culture, it focuses on getting goodies from the government instead of expanding opprotunity in the private sector. How can the Republican ever hope to appeal to a group that demands expansion of government goodies? It cannot and thus the Republicans will eventualy fail.

I also find it laughable that you believe that the Republicans can ever hope to carry California in a presidential election. You live there and should be able to see how hopeless it is for Republicans in
California. I wonder when the last Republican will be voted out of the State Senate in California? Probably early than almost anyone suspects.

mw said...

You seem to believe ..." - supe

And you seem to believe that nothing matters in electoral politics except race.

No matter how many times you vehemently repeat your unsupported dogmatic beliefs, it does not make them any more true. As Cosmoetica said in a reply to your similar comments in a TMV thread:

"SD- people predicted the demise of the Republicans during the Great Depression and WW2- then came Ike. After ‘64 and Goldwater, they were dead. Then came Vietnam, which led to Nixon, and after Watergate, the R’s were left for dead. Then came Reagan and the Iran hostage crisis. Same unexpected results have led to resurgent D’s. You are following the fallacy of uninterrupted trends. Your view is also ahistoric."

On a more troubling topic, I find your broad generalizations and characterizations based on race to cross the line into prejudice and bigotry. It is one thing to quote historical trends based on demographic data. It is another thing to make broad characterizations about blacks or any other group based solely on skin color or ethnicity. These are the comments that you make that cross the line:

From this thread:
"Look at current black culture, it focuses on getting goodies from the government instead of expanding opportunity in the private sector."

From the TMV thread:
"Look at the buzzwords used by the current Democratic candidates. Does anyone doubt that when the black and hispanic population hear John Edwards say “Tax increases on the Rich” what they hear is “Tax increases on whites.”

I moderate comments on this blog to control spam and not to limit debate. However, I am not interested in letting my blog become a forum for promoting prejudice. I don't know you, and I don't know what is in your mind so you get the benefit of the doubt. I assume you are really not intending to say what it sounds like you are saying, But if you are, you'll just need to take it elsewhere.