Friday, October 31, 2008

Carnival of Divided Government
Octâvus et Vîcênsimus (XXVIII)
Special Halloween Edition

Welcome to the 28th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The special "Scary Halloween Edition" . As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the Carnival of Divided Government Octâvus et Vîcênsimus (XXVIII), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single 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 explicitly 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.


It is Halloween, only days away from the election, and I cannot think of anything scarier than One Party Rule with a Democratic Party government. Well, except for One Party Rule under the Republican Party banner. But we killed that monster in 2006. Now a new One Party Rule monster is looming over the horizon. I feel like a resident of Tokyo. We no sooner finish killing off Godzilla, and here comes Rodan two years later. Sheesh. We're still cleaning the rubble out of the street from the last monster.

I see that John McCain and the GOP finally started to really push the divided government argument this week. That is really great guys, but a little late don't you think? After all, I have only been telling you that this argument was your only shot for... oh... about... TWO F*****G YEARS!!!

The potential for this argument was obvious the week after the midterms. I know because I said so. Right here. Then I explained why the GOP need to nominate someone who would appeal to moderates and libertarians - like Hagel. Last year I even changed party affiliation to try and effect change from the inside the GOP. Finally, early this year, I diagnosed the GOP as terminal:
"We are now on board a hell-bound train rocketing down the rails toward single party Democratic Government, with either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama controlling the levers of power for the expanded unitary executive designed by Dick Cheney, complemented by increased Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature and a real possibly of a 60 vote filibuster-proof plurality in the Senate. God help us."
"Hope" is the tag line of the Obama Axelrod campaign. My hope for the future? I fervently hope that the Democrats will not have time to do as much damage in two years of one party rule as it took the Republicans to do in six. My only remaining hope for this election cycle is that the GOP does not lose the filibuster.

However, if there is any hope for McCain between now and Tuesday, it is to be found in the traction clearly evident for the Divided Government argument. As we can see in BlogPulse...

... we are in the midst of a big spike of "divided government" activity in the blogosphere, which you might infer (correctly) is being driven by a lot ink spilled in the mainstream media. FWIW, the percentage of total blog posts mentioning divided government now is very close to the percentage in 2006 on the eve of the election that restored divided government. And there are a lot more blogs now than there were in 2006. Ok, I am grasping at straws. Hope springs eternal.

Another indicator of the potency of the argument, is that the Obama Axelrod campaign and supporters have taken notice. Suddenly there are many posts and articles making the case against divided government from Obamites and surrogates. Although it has only been 10 days since our last carnival (not my fault - the Blog Carnival site was down for three days), we have more material than I can summarize here. For this carnival, I will focus on rebutting some of the better counter arguments against, while disregarding partisan arguments of the form"Democrats are Angels, Republicans are the spawn of Satan".

Main Stream Media

Princeton professor Julian Zelizer writing for the Washington Independent kicks us off by propping up and knocking down a straw man in "One Party Government does not equal Extreme":
"Republicans have unveiled their closing argument. Desperate to prevent a huge Democratic landslide, Republicans warn that one-party government under Democrats would surely mean liberal extremism...The argument is based on a misreading of American history. For, during periods of one-party government, when Democrats controlled both the White House and the Congress, history demonstrates that they have not shifted radically toward a leftward agenda."
Right. But "liberal extremism" is not the primary problem with One Party Rule, professor. The real problem(s) is(are) concentration of power, abuse of power, undermining constitutional protections, erosion of freedom, faster growth of government size and spending, lack of oversight, excessive secrecy and more corruption. these problems occured to a greater extent under all modern era Single Party Rule administrations that lasted longer than two years (and some less).

John Judis, blogging at The New Republic, makes a peculiar argument in "Down With Divided Government":
"...let’s look at the more disastrous moments in the history of American administrations - where charges of impeachment were brought, and recriminations paralyzed the government. That would have to include the administrations of Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton - all instances of divided government... So if you look at America’s moments of glory and ignominy, the conclusion is inescapable: divided government is a curse, not a blessing, and should be avoided, if at all possible."
John seems to be an arguing that malfeasance by a Chief Executive should not be challenged by the Congress, apparently because the conflict might look bad or appear "ignominious". Bill Clinton perjured himself. Richard Nixon abused the power of his office. Determining whether these offenses rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" is the purview of the Senate. Impeachment is a vehicle to make that determination and an important element of the checks and balances in our Constitution. If John is suggesting that impeachment will never occur under One Party Rule, then that is an argument for, not against, divided government.

Jacob Levy
also rebuts the Judis argument at TNR.

Andrew Romano from Newsweek makes a repeat appearance in the carnival, following up his interview with Morris Fiorino with "Will America Vote Against a 'Dangerous Threesome'? ":
"McCain's basic premise is sound. Right now, Democrats narrowly control both chambers of Congress, and experts estimate that they'll pick up between 23 and 28 seats in the House and between seven and nine seats in the Senate. So if Obama wins, it's all donkeys all the time. That said, I'm not sure how well McCain's "divided government" argument will work from a political perspective. Why? Because it has to accomplish several difficult tasks at once..."
Andrew does not argue against Divided Government per se, but offers an analysis of why it may not be effective in moving the electorate at this late date. I agree with Andrew's analysis. It'll be tough. I've never thought of this as an argument that can move more than half of what Cato identified as the centrist, libertarianish, swing vote. Which is to say 5-6% of the electorate tops. That means this argument can only be effective if McCain kept the election close and it does not look like that is going to happen. We can only hope.

In the category of laughable partisan nonsense, Michelle Malkin notes that Chuck Schumer was "Against One Party Rule Before He Was For it":
Charles Schumer - FOX News Sunday, 4/10/05
“ can’t just have one-party rule here.” “The point is that there have to be checks and balances here."
Charles Schumer - ABC News Wednesday, 10/29/08
“Our view is very simple, and that is Republican senators, Republican incumbents aren’t for checks and balances. They’re for blocking change..."
Of course, we should also point out that Michelle Malkin was for One Party Rule before she was against it. DWSUWF, on the other hand was for divided government in 2006 and he is for divided government in 2008. The Welshman also took note of Schumer's flop. Glenn Reynolds and Jon Henke find a similar hypocritical pair of John Dean quotations. In 2006 Glenn was like Michelle. In 2006 Jon was like DWSUWF. So it goes.

The Polls

Gallup suggests that McCain's closing argument may be having an effect:
"...McCain has tried to remind voters that electing Obama as president to go along with a Democratically-controlled Congress would give the Democratic Party control of the federal government. That argument appears to resonate, as voters appear reluctant to want to give one party full control of the government regardless of who is elected president."
Temple University suggests Pennsylvania voters also prefer divided government, but may not vote for it:
"...the Pennsylvania electorate, one in which McCain trails Obama by 9 percentage points, supports the principle of a divided federal government. A majority of likely voters in the Commonwealth—51 percent—believe control of the presidency and Congress should be split between the parties, while just 18 percent believe one party should control both branches. Twenty-eight percent say it does not matter whether or not government is divided."
Maybe they should vote for it. Maybe they will.

In this Keith Obamaman interview, Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post describes an older poll finding Americans did not care about divided government, in direct contradiction to the two more recent polls above. Movement as we approach election day?

Hope floats.

Bloggers and New Media

Yid With Lid
quotes Charles Krauthammer and sums it up perfectly in "Obama + Pelosi + Reid + Frank =ECONOMIC DANGER FOR AMERICA":
"America's founding fathers built a government based on checks and balances. The Idea is to prevent this country from over-reacting to temporary swings in public opinion or worse to fall in line behind one demagogue. If Senator Obama wins the presidential election we are in danger of eliminating most of the checks and balances that have protected this country from the whims of one political leader. Based on polls we may have a Democratic President and a filibuster-proof Senate and a majority in the House. This democratic party "perfect storm" is a danger to the future of this country."
Well said, but he may be overreacting a bit. If the Republicans keep the filibuster, grow some balls, and regain the Senate majority in 2010, the damage will be minimal.

John at 2008Central has some more to say on divided government. In a prior post, he invented a new definition for Divided Government because he found the actual definition used by economists, historians and political scientists to be inconvenient. Since then he has also parroted John Justis' flawed reasoning (see above), and made an argument based on judicial appointments quoting Jeffrey Rosen in "The Judicial Question":
"A simplistic look at divided government always only looks at President and Congress. In all likelihood, the economy will continue to have problems in the next few years, and at some point, Republicans will be able to take advantage of that, at least in the House and possibly Senate elections. But what can’t be undone are Supreme Court appointments."
A simplistic look at the risk of McCain Supreme Court appointments (such as Jeff and John make here), pretends that the large Democratic majority in the Senate does not exist and will have nothing to say about confirming a McCain appointment. A simplistic look will completely ignore John McCain's moderate record in the Senate with Judicial appointments of both parties. A simplistic look will completely ignore the fact that John McCain led the "Gang of 14" bipartisan moderates in the Senate against George Bush and the GOP leadership, earning him the enmity of his own party to preserve the filibuster in the Senate for the minority Democratic party on Judicial picks. A simplistic look will ignore that he did so at the risk of his presidential amitions, for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do for the country. And - oh yeah - force the GOP's hand on more moderate judicial selections.

Len Burman at The Tax Policy Center questions EconomistMom's assertion of the historical basis showing fiscal irresponsibility under One Party Rule, and asks "Does Divided Government Guarantee Fiscal Responsibility?":
"The effect of divided government thus depends on whether McCain's promise of bipartisanship trumps his promise to wield a ruthless veto pen—something that's impossible to predict a priori."
Oh for god's sake, Len. Of course divided government does not "guarantee" fiscal responsibility. Of course it is impossible to know a priori exactly what will transpire in a McCain administration with a Democratic congress. This is politics after all. Are you really wasting ink electrons on these vacuous statements? The point is that there is a documented historical basis for expecting that we will have a lower spending growth rate and more fiscal responsibility under divided government, as shown by Niskanen, Slivinski, and others exactly as EconomistMom said. Len's post can be distilled to exactly this: I choose to pretend the historical precedent showing greater fiscal responsibility under divided government does not exist.


Kbliss at links David Frum and suggests "With Divided Government Unlikely, Let’s Minimize The Loss":
"It is time that the focus of proponents of divided government and centrists in general be turned from the Presidential race, which is lost (McCain is not going to win), to the Congress and particularly the Senate. While a significant Democrat victory in the Senate and the House is assured as well, efforts can be made to limit the scale of the Republican defeat. Efforts need to be made to minimize Republican losses, particularly but not exclusively of those in the rational middle... Following the principles of triage, the place to logically focus is with Senate Republicans, where saving a few Republican Senators will yield more bang for the buck. A 60 vote Democrat majority in the Senate would not be healthy for the country..."
Kbliss makes a good case. I'd much prefer to see McCain wielding a veto pen, but the damage can be contained over the next two years if Republicans have a filibuster and are willing to use it aggressively. I have been a bit critical of David Frum in past posts. He is one of the enablers that pushed the Republican Party to the brink of the abyss. But I concur with Kbliss that he is making a good argument now.

Jacob Sollum at Reason is voting for Bob Barr, but takes a long way around to come to the right conclusion about choosing between the lesser of two evils in "You Choose, You Lose":
"The crucial question is which matters more: a president's theory of executive power or the political environment he faces. If the former, Obama is the less risky choice. If the latter, McCain is, since he would face a less compliant Congress. In that case, the Republicans' sorry performance during their six years in charge of the executive and legislative branches, by highlighting the virtues of divided government, may be the best argument for their nominee."
This is similar line of reasoning to Dyre42, a co-blogger at Donklephant, and Rojas at The Crossed Pond who are also voting for Bob Barr, but sympathetic to the divided government voting heuristic. This is only anecdotal of course, but reading Jacob, Rojas, and Dyre's rationale, I wonder whether Bob Barr may actually be pulling more support from Obama than McCain, contrary to conventional wisdom.
"I placed my vote for what could be called a straight divided government ticket in that I voted Libertarian for president, Republican for Senate, and Democratic at the state level."- Dyre42

"In any era, Barack Obama would be an impressive advocate of all the wrong ideas. In an era in which the US faces $54 trillion in unfunded obligations, as well as an impending demographic crisis for which the bill is imminent, his agenda is simply insane. And for conservatives to support that agenda in their Presidential candidate at a time when the Congress is virtually certain to feature a massive Democratic majority beggars belief. Respect for the concept of divided government alone ought to rule Obama out from any conservative’s perspective." - Rojas
I respect those votes. OTOH, I cannot understand a self-described fiscal conservative or libertarian voting for Obama and One Party Rule.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock. For this edition - f*ck it.

And with that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). we will once again attempt to increase our CODGOV posting frequency between now and the election. Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government XXIX - Special Thanksgiving Edition sometime around - um Thanksgivng. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.


Some recent carnivals and compilations of note:
UPDATED: 11/01/08 - Fixed typos / Added post

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Barack buys an election?

UPDATED: 29-Oct-08

No, I don't really believe that Barack can buy the election. Obama's base of political and financial support is genuine. We don't know who all his contributors are, but they are genuine in their support. The amount of money that Obama raises is a function of his celebrity, his success as a candidate (big money special interest and corporate contributors genuinely love a winner), and his campaign's very effective and extremely aggressive pursuit of filthy lucre without regard for source or size. Still, I can't help but wonder what happened to the Democrats and Liberals who used to call for public financing of elections, claiming that the Republican fund raising machine was the equivalent to "buying an election". I guess it is perfectly ok to "buy an election" as long as it is a Democrat doing the buying.

Public vs. Private Campaign Finance

Frankly, I don't have a problem with how much money the Obama campaign raises. I consider the money that individuals, special interests and fat cats voluntarily contribute to Obama to be an expression of free speech. I oppose the public financing of campaigns. I have never checked off the box on my tax form to contribute my tax dollars to a political campaign fund. I opposed the McCain/Feingold Campaign "Reform" as a restriction on free speech. As far as I am concerned, if you want to take out a sub-prime second mortgage on your house and send Obama the proceeds, hey - both Obama and McCain will bail you out - go for it!

However, I do think there should be 100% perfect transparency on the source of every nickel contributed to every candidate. The Obama campaign apparently does not agree, as evidenced by their deliberate and calculated use of an on-line contribution mechanism which, unlike McCain's (or every single retailer who accepts on-line credit card purchases) , makes it easy to hide the identity of small contributors.


The Washington Post is following up - Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations:
"Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed. Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged."
Ed Morrissey learns from experts in credit card verification, that this was not just a matter of forgetting to turn on the credit card verification option "Team Obama probably didn’t just opt out of using these verification processes, but more likely rewrote the code on their site to bypass them..." Curiouser and curiouser.

Putting aside for the moment the propriety and rationale for the intentional sloppiness in the Obama on-line contribution security - the efficacy of the Axelrod/Obama contribution machine, the enormity of their war chest, and the unprecedented spending it permits has produced some truly astonishing effects and consequences that are, in and of themselves, worthy of note.

Most interesting - the Obama campaign is responsible for the end of public financing of presidential campaigns. The irony here is just too rich. Barack Obama, the candidate of a party that has long championed public financing, reneges on a commitment to public financing when it becomes clear he can raise far more money privately. By making a cynical, smart, self-serving decision to abandon the public financing system, he wins the presidency. John McCain, the candidate of a party that has long fought against public financing or, for that matter, any limitations on campaign contributions, accepts public financing as a matter of personal conviction, is severely disadvantaged in the campaign, and loses the election. Lesson learned: If you accept public financing - you lose. Public financing of a major party presidential campaign will never happen again. The Obama campaign killed it for all time. Good.

Well, they can try.

At some point, we have to step back and try to grasp the sheer enormity of what Axelrod and Obama have wrought. We can just look at it and admire it as a spectacle, as a force of nature, much like staring at Niagara Falls, Mount Everest or the Grand Canyon. Tom Brokaw, Charlie Cook and Chuck Todd tried to take it all in during Meet The Press on Sunday:
"MR. BROKAW: That fact is that Obama did go back on his word about accepting public financing. He went to private sector. He is spending a ton of money. Is this the end of public financing in American politics, Chuck?
MR. TODD: $3/4 billion dollars is what he is going to raise.
MR. BROKAW: Right.
MR. TODD: This is--his ad campaign is going to be more than Geico, OK? For this, for this last year. His brand more than, I think, Diet Coke. About...
MR. BROKAW: McDonald's.
MR. TODD: Yeah. About equal for what McDonald's is."
Think about that. The Axelrod/Obama campaign has spent as much selling the Barack Obama brand as McDonald's spends selling hamburgers. The numbers boggle the imagination. According to MSNBC, in the first 15 days of October, Obama spent over $105M or about half of what McCain spent on his entire Presidential campaign to date. Obama is spending $293,000/hour to win the Presidency.

The disparity in spending is just jaw dropping. Pundits and bloggers speculate about McCain pulling back advertising budgets in Michigan and other states. What do they expect?He has no choice. He cannot possibly keep up with Obama, so he has to pick his battles. Because of his principled but misguided decision to accept public funding, he brought a knife to a gun fight. Obama is outspending McCain on TV advertising in battleground states by at least three to one. And that is where McCain is trying to compete. In states where McCain is conserving resources, the disparity is much greater. They are outspending McCain on internet 117 to one. Obama is spending more on negative advertising than any campaign in history, and McCain does not have the resources to reply. It is a war of attrition and the McCain campaign is out of ammuntion. As the Wall Street Journal Editorial reports:
Gigot: And part of the problem, John, is McCain is lacking the money to be able run all the messages, some positive spots--Obama's running some positive spots too--but to answer some of those negative spots, for example, that claim that he would pay for some of his programs by cutting Medicare by $800 billion. I don't really agree with that, and I think that's a rebuttable proposition but if you don't have the money to do it, you can't rebut it.
Fund: Obama is fighting on a dozen fronts. McCain, because of the lack of money and resources, has to respond two or three of those fronts. The rest basically has to go by the boards.
It is no wonder that McCain must reduce spending in some states to compete in others. The wonder is that the polls are as close as they are with Obama outspending McCain at these extraordinary ratios. There are reports that in some markets Obama has purchased all available advertising, so McCain could not increase their spots even if they had the money.

Nothing to see here. Move along.
No. Really. Don't look here, look over there.

And in the midst of all of this, what is both the traditional and new media focused on? They are focused the McCain campaign spending on Sarah Palin's wardrobe and makeup. Even if you take the reported $150,000 wardrobe number at face value, you are talking about 30 minutes of Obama campaign spending or one half of what I like to call an "Obamahour$". In light of the Obama spending the coverage is, as Palin said "Ridiculous... Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me."

On the topic of staging - we learned last week that the Obamacropolis staging in Invesco Field during the convention cost the Democrats an additional $5.3 million (17 Obamahour$) above the cost already incurred in outfitting the Pepsi Center stage. Ed Morrissey wonders about the comparison:
"Under those circumstances, the extra $5.3 million for the vanity platform at Invesco seems like a strange and very frivolous spending choice. Obama could have given the same (uninspiring) speech at the Pepsi Center and saved millions of dollars. This isn’t the same as buying a wardrobe for a candidate who lacked one; Democrats had already spent almost $15 million on the Pepsi Center. Obama had a perfectly good stage on which to accept his nomination and demanded another for his own ego."
The biggest distortion, is that Obama is somehow rising above previous Republican fund raising efforts because most of this money is coming from small donors. Consider that notion completely debunked, courtesy of the Washington Post:
"Lost in the attention given to Obama's Internet surge is that only a quarter of the $600 million he has raised has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less, according to a review of his FEC reports. That is actually slightly less, as a percentage, than President Bush raised in small donations during his 2004 race, although Obama has pulled from a far larger number of donors. In 2004, the Bush campaign claimed more than 2 million donors, while the Obama campaign claims to have collected its total from more than 3.1 million individuals."
It is certainly true that the Axelrod/Obama campaign machine has broken all records for the absolute number of small donors. The more important point, is that to an even greater degree they broke all records for absolute numbers of rich, super-rich, special interest, corporate and fat cat donors. That is the real meat and potatoes of the Axelrod/Obama campaign war chest.

Cynicism vs. Hypocrisy

In my previous post (x-posted at Donklephant) commenter BenG suggested that I was swimming in "a bottomless pool of cynicism" regarding both parties. I guess that is fair. I just do not think it is a good idea to give Obama and the Democrats the virtual monarchical power that is in the offing next week. But that is just me. Others apparently think the Democrats and Obama will not be corrupted by more more special interest money and more concentrated power than has been granted any U.S. leader in more than a generation.

Connections between special interests, corporate interests, lobbyists, their contributions, and the access and influence the contributions garner must be inferred from circumstance. It has to be circumstantial, because if it was explicit it would be considered bribery and a felony. The only thing that can possibly keep these impulses in check is complete transparency on contributions and an opposition party with a share of power. The Republicans are about to be rendered impotent, and transparency is not a high priority in the Axelrod/Obama campaign. So - we are back to too much power and too much secrecy. This should work out well.

I guess I prefer swimming in a pool of cynicism to sitting in a hot-tub of hypocrisy, and I am seeing a lot of hypocrisy in the Obama campaign.

Since one party rule under Obama is a foregone conclusion, perhaps we should a better understanding of the the presidency we are buying and take a peek under the Axelrod/Obama secrecy kimono. Lets start with a good hard look at the deep and broad connections between just one major corporation and the Obama campaign.

AT&T Reaches out to touch Obama

I'll list some of the connections. You can infer your own conclusions from the circumstances.

Broderick Johnson is a lobbyist for AT&T. He is the president of Bryan Cave a lobbying firm that receives large amounts of money from AT&T to represent their interests in Washington. Broderick Johnson contributes large amounts of money to Obama and other Democratic party candidates and causes. Broderick Johnson is also an adviser to the Obama campaign.

Lyndon Boozer is a lobbyist for AT&T. He receives large amounts of money from AT&T to represent their interests in Washington. Lyndon Boozer contributes and arranges contributions of large amounts of money to Obama and Democratic candidates. Lyndon Boozer is a good golfer and loves to play golf with Democratic politicians.

AT&T was a major sponsor and contributor to the Democratic Party convention in Denver. In return, AT&T got their logo printed on a very nice leather tote bag. I'm sure that promotion on the tote bag was all that AT&T wanted in return for sponsoring the convention.

AT&T threw a lavish party for Democratic politicians at the Democratic convention in Denver. In the interest of supporting the Axelrod/Obama policy of zero transparency, the press was not invited. Not even the very liberal Democratic bloggers and reporters. Some reporters were even roughed up to keep them out. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Finally there is the very interesting case of Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, aka "Barack's Brain." David Axelrod is a partner in two firms collocated in the same office space in Chicago. Per the New York Times:
"Mr. Axelrod’s consulting business is divided between two companies. One, AKP&D Message and Media, focuses on political campaigns and is where Mr. Axelrod devotes most of his time. He is on leave from the other firm, ASK Public Strategies, which consults for companies and nonprofits, and is run primarily by his partner, Eric Sedler."
One wonders how Axelrod takes a leave from a co-located consulting firm with only three partners and where he is the “A” in ASK Public Strategies. Did they divide the office with blue tape on the floor and keep Axelrod on one side? Does he wear blinders and earplugs when in the office? But I digress. The NYT article continues:
"Beyond the different clientele, the two firms also have a different approach to transparency. While AKP&D identifies about 70 of its political clients on its Web site, ASK has a policy of nondisclosure. That was not always the case. The Web site’s archived version, from 2004, identified some of them, which in addition to Household International and Wisconsin Energy included Exelon, the country’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, SBC Communications and the Chicago Teacher’s Union. The archived Web site said ASK devised campaigns to “drive the public discourse to areas of greatest advantage” for a broad range of major corporations “seeking to influence public policy.”
Also among ASK's clients? You guessed it. From Business Week:
"Among ASK's other clients: AT&T. The telecom company, formerly known as SBC Communications, had been a customer, Sedler confirms, when it requested ASK's help to defeat a broadband referendum..."
And why shouldn't AT&T hire Axelrod's firm? After all, the "S" in ASK is David Axelrod's partner Eric Sedler:
"Prior to joining ASK Public Strategies, Sedler served as a Public Relations Director for AT&T Corporation, managing the company’s offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. In that position, he was responsible for directing the company’s corporate public affairs campaigns in the central and southeastern United States."
So AT&T gives a lot of money to ASK. Some of that money is in David Axelrod’s pocket, as one of three partners in ASK. But David Axelrod is on “leave” from ASK. Nothing to see here. Move along.

I am sure that all these AT&T connections are coincidental. I am sure that all of this circumstantial generosity has nothing to do with the fact that AT&T was under the cloud of a civil and criminal lawsuits as a result of their cooperating with an illegal Bush administration request to spy on Americans. I am sure that this has nothing to do with the fact that Barack Obama said he was opposed to granting AT&T immunity, but voted to grant AT&T immunity with the FISA capitulation. Pure circumstantial coincidence no doubt.

Draw your own conclusion. My conclusion - Obama will say anything when it is just talk and does not matter. He will act another way when it counts. That is the pattern we saw with Obama and Public Financing. That is the pattern we saw with Obama and Telecom Immunity. He talks reform, but acts out of self-interest. He talks bi-partisanship, but voted with a perfectly partisan 97% toe-the-party-line Democratic party voting record. That is the Obama/Axelrod way. That is the Chicago way.

And that is truly Change that AT&T can believe in.

Obama may not buy the election.

But AT&T may very well have bought a president.

And you can fool some of the people all of the time.

UPDATED: 10-28-08 - Fixed links and typos.
UPDATED: 10-29-08 - Added WaPo & Politico articles.
x-posted at Donklelphant - some good discussions in the comments there - check it out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Neocon warmongers for Obama!

I was not going to bother, but the Powell and Adelman endorsements have apparently been declared by the blogging powers that be as a mandatory post for all political bloggers. I have no choice but to declare a "Yossarian", as I have periodically done before. and paraphrase Joseph Heller's famous protagonist from Catch 22 - "What if everyone was blogging about the Powell endorsement?" I can only respond as did Bomber Pilot John Yossarian: "Then I'd be a damn fool not to".

The topic was not all that interesting, because I don't believe that either Powell or Adelman's endorsement will have any meaningful impact on this election. Obama will be elected for exactly one reason - the country is in the grip of an economic meltdown and market panic during the last few weeks of the election. A poorly executed McCain campaign did not help, but the economic fear swamps all other considerations. Under this kind of economic cloud the electorate will sweep the incumbent party out and the opposition party in. If McCain had kept it close, these endorsements might have made a difference and been important for Obama. As it is, the endorsements are bringing "coals to Newcastle". Unfortunately, Obama and the Democrats will claim a mandate, and with no meaningful opposition in Washington, we are on a high-speed hell-bound train to the inevitable bad governance, corruption and abuse of power that always accompanies single party rule.

Back to Adelman. Obama supporters have breathlessly covered his endorsement as a shocking validation of everything that is wrong with the McCain campaign. After all, this is a "loyal", lifelong Conservative Republican. I have a couple of problems with that characterization. First, it is astonishing that anyone who believes the Iraq war was a mistake (as do I) would put any credence in Adelman's judgment or take anything he says seriously. Adelman is most famous (infamous?) for his 2002 Washington Post editorial where he pitched the Iraq War as a "cakewalk":
"In 1991 we engaged a grand international coalition because we lacked a domestic coalition. Virtually the entire Democratic leadership stood against that President Bush. The public, too, was divided. This President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as "coalition partners" to convince the Washington establishment that we're right. Americans of all parties now know we must wage a total war on terrorism. Hussein constitutes the number one threat against American security and civilization. Unlike Osama bin Laden, he has billions of dollars in government funds, scores of government research labs working feverishly on weapons of mass destruction -- and just as deep a hatred of America and civilized free societies."
Adelman was a neocon's neocon. And the neocon "might makes right" eagerness to wield the military as a instrument of policy rather than as a last resort, coupled with their willingness to sacrifice the Constitution, rule of law, bill of rights, and common decency on the alter of "security" is the very reason why the Republican Party is about to rendered completely irrelevant.

As regards his professed "loyalty" to the Republican Party or conservative principles, recall that in a 2006 Vanity Fair article, Adelman was only too eager to hold himself and the Neocon philosophy blameless, while throwing everyone else in the Bush administration under the bus. It stands as one of the most gratuitous examples of craven CYA finger pointing ever committed to print. But hey! This is one of the key architects of the philosophy that may have destroyed the Republican party, or at least rendered it politically impotent for a generation. So why not pay attention to him and his endorsement for Obama? Neocons for Obama!

Colin Powell is a more interesting study. He has been a frequent topic of posts on this blog. Powell is a man I deeply respected in the Bush41 administration, and would have whole heartedly supported for President in 2000. If we had used the Powell Doctrine as a guiding principle in 2003 as we did in the first Gulf War, we never would have gone down the disastrous Neocon path in Iraq.

But the big question about Colin Powell remains - Why did he enable the Bush administration to support a policy he knew to be in contradiction to the successful doctrine that bears his name? Why did he choose loyalty to the administration over loyalty to the American people? I asked this question in an open letter and a 2006 post where I wondered "whether Colin Powell might, in the judgment of history, carry the label of being to Iraq what McNamara was to Vietnam":
"In 1995, Robert McNamara (widely referred to as "the architect of the Vietnam War") writing in his memoir "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam", revealed that as early as 1967 (with 25,000 American dead) he no longer believed that America could win the war in Vietnam, and as a direct consequence of expressing that view, resigned (or was fired) from the LBJ administration.... Neither McNamara nor LBJ chose to share that insight with the American public. Ultimately it took 50,000 American lives for a majority of Americans to learn that their government could not be trusted on the reasons for, nor the "light at the end of the tunnel" progress in, Vietnam. It is reasonable to posit, that if McNamara had recognized in 1968 that his loyalty was owed first to the American people, and second to the LBJ administration, had communicated what he knew then to the American people, we might have seen a better end, a quicker end, and fewer deaths and casualties in Vietnam... Colin Powell enabled the GWB administration to garner the support needed to put us on this course. I suspect that Colin Powell, out of misplaced loyalty, like McNamara on Vietnam, failed to be forthright and honest with the American people about Iraq. Should Colin Powell, in future memoirs, like McNamara, proclaim that he knew that the Iraq occupation was a wrong policy, he will, like McNamara, have blood on his hands for every day that passes between the time that he recognized the mistake, and the day he finally comes clean with the American people. It took McNamara 27 years. How long will it take Powell?"
Make no mistake. It was a critical decision point, a nexus in history, when in 2002 Colin Powell walked into the Oval office to advise the President. As he related to Tim Russert:
"when I took it to the president and said, “This is a war we ought to see if we can avoid,” I also said and made it clear to him, 'If, at the end of the day, it is a war that we cannot avoid, I’ll be with you all the way.' That’s part of being part of a team."
If Powell understood that this was the wrong path, Powell should have told Bush that he did not support the policy and resigned. Colin Powell enabled George W Bush to make the decision to prosecute the occupation. Colin Powell sold the war to the American people. After Cheney and Bush himself, Powell is the man most responsible for the war decision.

At some level Powell knows this. He is a study in contradictions. As a consequence of failing to act on what he knew to be right in 2002, he has spent years explaining and justifying his actions. I cannot help but feel that this endorsement is yet another attempt to assuage his conscience, rehabilitate his reputation and scrub the blood off his hands.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Carnival of Divided Government Septimus et Vîcênsimus (XXVII) - Special Inexcusably Late Edition!

UPDATED : 24-Oct-08
Welcome to the 27th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The special "Inexcusably Late" Edition. As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the Carnival of Divided Government Septimus et Vîcênsimus (XXVII), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single 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 explicitly 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.

No Excuses!

This edition was supposed to be published two weeks ago, kicking off an accelerated schedule of weekly carnivals heading into the election. What can I say? I just never got around to it. The reason for increasing the frequency did not go away. As expected, we are seeing the beginning of an upward trend in "divided government" posts and articles. From BlogPulse:

Since we are late, we have an embarrassment of riches in divided government posts and articles since our last endeavor. We'll start off with a sampling of traditional media...

Main Stream Media

Andrew Romano from Newsweek interviews Morris Fiorino in "Making Sense out of McCains 'Divided Government' Argument":
AR: "Is there an audience for McCain's divided-government message?"
MF: "We actually asked a question on a recent AP poll.... there was about 20 percent who still wanted divided government constellations. And there was more McCain-Democrat than Obama-Republican. So there is a set of voters out there that has this as their most preferred outcome. So if you added that set to the set that prefers a unified Republican government, you got about a tie. So if the McCain people have the same kind of data, that's obviously a place to go fishing."
Not only is "divided government" the best argument that McCain has going for him, it is the only argument that could still pull this out.

Rebecca Sinderland
at CNN reports "McCains Closing Argument: A push for Dived Government":
"Do we really believe that the American public is going to feel safe by having both the head of the Congress and the head of the White House from the same party that has had so many challenges with the way they’ve run Washington over the last couple of years?" McCain campaign manager Rick Davis asked on Fox News Sunday. It’s a strategy popular with some high-profile conservative voices."
It is also very popular with DWSUWF.

The Dallas Morning News endorses John McCain, fiscal responsibility and divided government:
"Mr. McCain is the one who promised to freeze domestic spending his first year and then limit it to 2.4 percent growth the rest of his term. He also has been clear about the urgent need for entitlement reform. You don't see that kind of independence with Mr. Obama, who has marched in spending lockstep with his party and mostly ducked questions about entitlement reform and budget cuts. The last time the nation saw Washington make real progress on deficit reduction was the 1990s, when a Democrat controlled the White House and Republicans held Congress. True, Republicans failed to cover themselves in deficit-reduction glory when they held the executive and legislative branches, but we read that as an argument in favor of divided government."
And a very good argument indeed.

Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times has the transcript of Chris Wallace interviewing campaign surrogates in "David Axelrod, Rick Davis exchange blows on Fox News Sunday":
MR. WALLACE: "All right. Let's talk about this question of divided government, because I did some research on it. Nineteen of the 31 elections since World War II have either produced or maintained a split government, in the sense that the White House and at least one of the chambers of Congress have been occupied by different parties. And voters seem to like that arrangement, which raises the question, Governor Pawlenty, instead of going after Obama on William Ayers or ACORN, the left-wing voter registration group, would McCain be better advised to go after Obama and his links to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the idea that if they all get elected they'll pursue a left-wing agenda for this country?"
GOV. PAWLENTY: " the point you raise, I don't think the country is going to like what -- the Democratic Party running the table on taxes, on education, on health care, and have kind of the liberal, unchecked, imbalanced approach to all of those issues. It's going to be bad for the country. I think having John McCain as president to balance that out and be able to work across the aisle, as he has throughout his career, to get things done would be a good compromise; a good balance."

Indeed. Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Even our cousins across the pond are getting into the act. The Economist has some good advice for the McCain campaign in "John McCain's Last Chance":
"The Democrats are likely to add at least another ten seats, and perhaps as many as 20, to their majority in the House. There is a real possibility that they may attain a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (Democrats are leading in eight Senate seats currently held by Republicans and are close in a couple of others; they control 51 of the 100 seats already). This will allow them to push through a wish-list of Democratic proposals on everything from “fair trade” to spending. The Republicans have only just started to point this out.
But Americans have a strong preference for divided government. America has only had one-party rule (with the same party controlling the White House and both chambers) for six years out of the 28 since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980—two years under Bill Clinton and four and a bit under George Bush. Mr McCain should argue forcefully that, as an experienced legislator who has worked with left-wing Democrats as well as right-wing Republicans, he will be the perfect man to check Congress where necessary and work with it where desirable"

In a similar vein, the Wall Street Journal opined about - "A Liberal Supermajority":
"Though we doubt most Americans realize it, this would be one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven't since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s. If the U.S. really is entering a period of unchecked left-wing ascendancy, Americans at least ought to understand what they will be getting, especially with the media cheering it all on...
The journal story was widely linked throughout the blogosphere, including DWSUWF and co-blogger Alan Scott Carl at Donklephant:
" we march toward giving the Democrats a potential supermajority, we really should consider the possible consequences. One-power rule is always a recipe for overreach."
The fundamental question in this election is whether American's preference for divided government will be sufficient to overcome their anger and desire to punish the Republicans for the disaster of the Bush administration. Speaking for myself, I was happy to see the Republicans lose the majority in Congress in 2006. I will be happy to see Republicans punished again in 2008 with an even smaller minority in Congress. However, I do not want Democrats granted virtual monarchical power,One Party Rule, and license to govern unfettered by any meaningful opposition.

Bloggers and New Media

Dennis Sanders at The Moderate Voice is still on the fence in "Moving into Ambiguity":
"...with Obama in the White House and bigger Democratic majority, would we have liberalism run amok? I wasn’t crazy with the GOP running the show from 2000-2006 and I’m none too crazy with having the Dems run everything. Absolute power tends to produce pretty lousy government. Could a President Obama become a check against going overboard, or will he just be an enabler like President Bush? I don’t know. So, there it is. I’m probably still leaning towards McCain, but I’m basically on the fence. I will vote for Republicans down-ballot because I want to have some divided government. As for President, we will find out."
Right diagnosis but wrong prescription, Dennis. We cannot get to divided government this year by voting GOP down ticket. The Dems are going to expand their majorities and possibly have a filibuster proof super majority in the Senate. The only way to re-elect Divided Government in 2008, is elect John McCain for President. It is the right thing to do.

Mark Landsbaum at Orange Punch, a liberty blog of the Orange County Register offers some lessons in Democracy and protecting minority rights in "Democracy: 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner":
"Here’s a vote for a divided government in Washington, where Democrats soon may find themselves in charge of each branch, directly by election and indirectly by appointment. We suspect if they do, they will proclaim they’ve received a “mandate” and that the people’s will must be enacted. The will of the people. What a fascinating concept... Is it wise for one party to control all branches of government? Is it even less wise when that party’s own propensity is to seek to do the majority’s will with the power to rob and loot others, but not their own?... It could be a dangerous four years."

Well. That was kind of depressing. I don't want to think about that right now.

How about we check in with Ray Harvey presenting Bailout posted at Blog of where he defines some terms, and deconstructs the bailout:
"Mercantilism is in every significant way the exact opposite of laissez-faire capitalism. Most businessmen today are not capitalists — insofar as they seek, demand, and receive government subsidies, or governmental protection from competition. This is also known as rule by special interest. It’s not only the type of system we live under in the United States today: it’s the system we’ve lived under for over a century now. Nominally, the U.S. is ruled by a divided government consisting of two primary parties, which are in a state of more or less perpetual gridlock, but this distinction, as we shall see, is only apparent... The truth about this once-great nation is that the right and the left are not fundamentally opposed: they’re two aspects of the same theme, and that theme is mercantilism."
A well thought out argument, but I don't agree with the premise that there is no difference between a divided government or one party rule under either the Democrats or Republicans. Too much historical evidence documented by political scientists, economists, and historians stand in contradiction. there is a very big difference.

Donald Hawthorne at Anchor Rising expores some of the consequences of the bailout in "An Argument for Divided Government":
"Many of us don't like McCain and also think he has run a terrible campaign. But the more we learn about Obama, the more willing some of us will be to hold our nose and vote for McCain. Because, in the end, it's not just Obama. It's the risk of Obama, possibly a filibuster-proof Senate under Reid, and a Pelosi-led House. Unrestrained left-wing politics.Which leads Fred Barnes to these thoughts. If we can't send the entire Federal government home on an extended paid vacation, then a vote for divided government may be the best we can hope for."
An inspirational call to action.

Teresa at Terry Ann Online also has a few things to say about "Divided Government":
"Divided government is one of the strongest argument McCain has... He needs to continually hit on this point in the next few weeks. Everyone keepson talking about President Bush's approval ratings, however, the American people aren't exactly ecstatic with the current Congress either. If you haven't noticed yet Speaker Pelosi and friends haven't gotten much done lately because they are waiting for a Democratic president who probably won't veto their legislation and reign them in. Check and balance."
Yup. It is all pretty obvious Terry. I am surprised and disappointed that more have not noticed.

Jeremy Hinton at Bering Drift explores McCain's "New Campaign Tactic: Divided Government is Good":
"It looks like there may be a new argument being weather ballooned by the McCain campaign, namely that having the same party in control of both the Legislative and Executive branches of government may not be the best thing for the country. Johnathan Martin at Politico has the details. Of course, the interesting thing is that the premise for this presupposes a poor showing for Republicans in Congress. Personally, i think this may be McCain’s best argument yet in the pursuit of independents. Just looking over Bush’s term, one can see the validity. I even agree to a point.."
Jeremy does not take his valid point far enough. It is enough to change his vote.

At PoliGazette, Michael Van Der Galien and Michael Merritt published an interesting series of posts on Divided Government since our last carnival.
The McCain Plan to Victory is Quite Simple:
"McCain should have made the case for divided government. It is likely that Democrats will not only win the presidential elections, but will also hold on to Congress. They may even expand their lead. This means that if Obama wins, Democrats will run every branch of the government. Although this would not have been a big problem if Democratic leaders were moderates, unwilling to give even a dime to special interests, the reality of the situation is somewhat different: three names - Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank..."
Will McCain Push for Divided Government?:
"I’ve previously expressed my support for divided government. I argued that it forces Congress and the president to work together in order to come up with a bill that will pass, but not pull the country in too far in one wrong direction or another. I believe both the liberal and conservative extremes are bad for America, and divided government helps to stop us moving toward one of those extremes too quickly. So an endorsement for divided government is intriguing. "
Divided Government - Its a Blessing:
"Make no mistake about it: America’s founding fathers believed divided government to be beneficial, even necessary for society and government to function. The video below, which makes the point, comes partially from West Wing, a television series truly produced by geniuses (it has tremendous academic influence, for instance)."
Ok, that last one was a bit self-serving, as Michael is reviewing a DWSUWF video, linked from this recent post.

Laura Ebke at Red State Eclectic also had some good things to say about that same video in "For Divided Goverment":
"An occasional correspondent, and fellow that I've come to agree with a lot of the time, "mw" of Divided We Stand United We Fall blog, has a great article over on his site, and has put this video together. Watch the video, then go over and read what he has to say. Needless to say, I agree. "
I can't help but think that Larua is a particularly intelligent and brilliant analytical blogger.

Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit quotes Craig Henry at Lead and Gold in "WHAT'S MISSING THIS ELECTION CYCLE:"
"I have not seen the establishment pundits writing/commenting on the joys of divided government. You know, like in 1996 when they suggested that the country would benefit if Democrat Clinton balanced the Republican congress." Well, silly, there's no Republican congress to balance this time!"
Well, DWSUWF may not be "establishment", but we have been a model of consistency.

Ken Blanchard at South Dakota Politics analyzes "Change We Can Be Suspicious About":
"...there is a reason why post-war America didn't turn out like post-war Europe. Divided government is the most basic theme of the American system, and it makes it harder for any single vision to be imposed on the whole structure of society and the economy. President Obama, if he shows up next January, will find that "change" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some of those different things will turn out to be mutually irreconcilable."
Ken also has some interesting insight into one of the insufficiently understood and vetted actors in this passion play - the inimitable David Axelrod aka Barack's Brain. check it out.

Finally, the media assault on "Joe the Plumber" prompted an angry letter from a reader to Mark Hemingway at The Corner:
"I really don't like McCain. I'll probably vote for him just as a vote for divided government. I'm far too libertarian in my leanings to be comfortable with McCain (or Obama, for that matter). That said, the way the pro-Obama media and bloggers, and Obama himself, have responded to Joe has got me nearly shaking with rage. They are attempting to destroy a man — a private citizen — who had the audacity to ask The One a question."
The letter hit a nerve, and was linked by DogFight at Bankstown, Rattler Gator, The Real Barack Obama, Cartago Delenda Est, Wizbang, and others.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock. For this edition we selected Doug Boude presenting "The 42 Year Old (Political) Virgin" posted at Doug Boude (rhymes with 'loud'), saying:
"As I stated earlier, I feel it...there's something about this election, this time in our history, this place that the world finds itself in that is foreboding and frightening. The world's on the brink of so many things, some amazingly good, some amazingly horrifying. For this reason, and because (though I may be but a single drop in the ocean) my presence, however miniscule, DOES count, I have registered to vote and will do so for the first time in my life this coming November."
My advice for you Doug... Just Vote Divided.

And with that we conclude this edition. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). we will once again attempt to increase our CODGOV posting frequency between now and the election. Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government Octâvus et Vîcênsimus (XXVIII) - Special Stretch Run Edition in about a week. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.


Some recent carnivals and compilations of note:
UPDATED: 24-Oct-08 - Added Links.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.