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Blathering About Bill and Hillary: The Right's Lazy Attacks

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:57 AM EDT

Charles Krauthammer's column in the Post today accomplishes nothing. Offering no evidence, Krauthammer posits Americans are gripped by a "deep unease" over the possibility of a Hillary Clinton-Bill Clinton co-presidency. He doesn't use polls or anecdotal evidence to support this claim. He has done no interviews. He just declares this to be true.

And as for why Americans are wary of such a situation, Krauthammer insists that it goes beyond the psychodrama of Bill and Hillary's troubled marriage, but repeatedly falls back on that troubled marriage to make his point. For example, take this paragraph, with my thoughts in bolded brackets:

The cloud hovering over a Hillary presidency is not Bill padding around the White House in robe and slippers flipping thongs. [invokes Bill's infidelity while insisting that Bill infidelity is not the issue] It's President Clinton, in suit and tie, simply present in the White House when any decision is made. [why is that a bad thing?] The degree of his involvement in that decision will inevitably become an issue. [it will? evidence?] Do Americans really want a historically unique two-headed presidency constantly buffeted by the dynamics of a highly dysfunctional marriage? [presents no evidence that Americans object to "unique two-headed presidency"; again invokes Bill's infidelity while insisting Bill's infidelity is not at issue]

I can't help but note that considering how disastrously this administration has run the country, most Americans would probably welcome Bill Clinton back in the White House. But that's not the point. The point is Krauthammer has no evidence. The sort of sloppy, lazy writing on display in that paragraph is found throughout his column.

The real culprit here may be the standards of column writing, which have gotten so low that even columnists for the Post and the Times can blather on without making any substantive points and without including evidence. Here's a great example.

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Did the Mormon Mafia Work Its Magic for Kyle Sampson?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:38 AM EDT

sampson.jpgDespite his spectacular fall from grace, Alberto Gonzales's former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson has nonetheless managed to land a lucrative revolving-door post at the powerhouse law firm Hunton & Williams. Sampson, you'll recall, was the guy who drew up the hit-list of U.S. Attorneys slated to get fired for not being loyal enough to the GOP.

Hunton & Williams has hired Sampson for its food and drug practice, where business is booming thanks to Rep. Henry Waxman's renewed focus on the FDA. Sampson got a plug from Hunton partner David Higbee, who was Sampson's roommate at Brigham Young University. But the folks at Hunton aren't just providing a soft landing for a disgraced Bush administration official out of the goodness of their hearts. A Utah native and former Mormon missionary, Sampson also has close ties to one Orrin Hatch, for whom he worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee and who is a notorious foe of the FDA. Hatch is almost single-handedly responsible for preventing any meaningful regulation of dietary supplements, and will be a key focus of all major anti-FDA lobbying efforts.

Opening Salvo in the War on Halloween

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:37 AM EDT

Liberals make war on Christmas, conservatives make war on Halloween.

More on Bush PR Maven Hughes' Departure

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:05 AM EDT

Slate's Fred Kaplan weighs in on Karen Hughes' decision to quit her job as undersecretary of state to burnish America's image abroad and return to Texas:

It may be that, as [Hughes] focused more on the substance and less on the flash, she realized that what she'd been asked to do simply couldn't be done. If the measure of success was how well she was selling U.S. policy, she was failing because there was no good story to sell.

"My guess is that the next year is going to be brutal for anyone doing 'message' control and with the elections they will be irrelevant as well," a recent Foggy Bottom denizen explains Hughes departure to me. "Life is too short, so she threw in the towel."

Unmarried Women are the Democratic Party's Christian Evangelicals

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:19 AM EDT

There's a new poll out that reveals a key Democratic voting bloc for 2008. According to research done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner on the 2006 elections, the gap between Democrats and Republicans amongst unmarried women is 36 points, a massive difference. At just over a quarter of the eligible voting age population, unmarried women are the single largest Democratic-leaning voting bloc, bigger than African-Americans and Hispanics put together. And they're loyal, too. Over the past several cycles they are second only to African Americans in terms of commitment to the party.

In terms of size, party ID, and loyalty, they resemble a key voting bloc from a different party: Christian evangelicals. According to the poll (see this pdf for full details), "In a generic presidential match-up, unmarried women favor the Democrat by a 70 – 24 point margin and in named match-up, Hillary Clinton leads Rudy Giuliani 66 percent – 30 percent among this cohort." [Ed. note: "Cohort"?] Unmarried women voted for Kerry by a 24 percent margin in 2004, which means the advantage Democrats have in this group is growing.

The key difference is turnout. Evangelicals' ability to get out every last vote is legendary, as is the Republican Party's willingness to pander to them. On the other hand, no one has ever focused a messaging or get-out-the-vote campaign exclusively towards unmarried women. Considering the fact that the percentage of America that is unmarried has risen from 27 percent to 47 percent over the last half century (and that number is only getting bigger) some serious organization, messaging, and hardcore focus on the part of the Dems is worthwhile here. Critical, even.

Oh, and PS — Hillary Clinton has been playing to women strongly in the last few months. Maybe Mark Penn has already done this research.

Update: My MoJo colleague Stephanie Mencimer writes me to take issue: "The democrats have an enormous message aimed at unmarried women. It's their stance on abortion/contraception, which has been completely unwavering. I would wager that this is one reason unmarried women stick to the party, which has of late tried to tone down the abortion rhetoric a little but still is pretty militant on this front. Get out the vote efforts are obviously a little different, but even then, abortion rights groups do a lot to turn out single women voters." Point taken.

What Does 60 Minutes Tell Us About "Curve Ball" We Didn't Already Know?

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 11:20 PM EDT

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From the looks of this press release not much. Here's the news they're claiming to break:

Curve Ball is an Iraqi defector named Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who arrived at a German refugee center in 1999. To bolster his asylum case and increase his importance, he told officials he was a star chemical engineer who had been in charge of a facility at Djerf al Nadaf that was making mobile biological weapons. 60 Minutes has learned that Alwan's university records indicate he did study chemical engineering but earned nearly all low marks, mostly 50s. Simon's investigation also uncovered an arrest warrant for theft from the Babel television production company in Baghdad where he once worked.

Ok, his name is new. And that's big. But him being a liar, and a thief (and also, a sex offender) and a whole bunch of other things 60 Minutes is claiming to have uncovered have in actuality been known for years. You can read all about the Curve Ball saga in our Iraq War Timeline. And much of the original reporting on Curve Ball was done by the LA Times. And former CIA official Tyler Drumheller, the apparent big source for 60 Minutes, has been speaking out for years.

Which is not to say that Bob Simon's two year investigation won't yield some great new stuff. I'm sure it will. But I just wish they'd give credit to the LAT and others who broke or championed the Curve Ball story back before it was fashionable to call out the Bush administration.


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Re: Serviam

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 7:49 PM EDT

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Good for the conservative operatives behind Serviam for advancing the "We Are Rome" narrative by choosing a Latin name for their new merc mag. In explaining "what we mean by serviam" (Latin for "I will serve") they declare an "unabashed … professional editorial commitment to old-fashioned values." So it's pretty clear the Serviam folks want the Roman connection drawn. But perhaps they didn't think through all the implications.

Exactly why the Roman empire fell is a topic classicists have been debating pretty much since it happened (and when it happened is itself unresolved). But one oft-cited reason is—you guessed it—Rome's increasing reliance on vicious, untrustworthy mercenaries to police its empire. For any aspiring merc mag publishers, that's an, um, awkward fact you might consider before going with the cool-sounding Latin name. For fellow classics nerds, there's more on the Roman experience from Edward Gibbon's 18th century classic, The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, after the jump. Be warned, florid Augustan prose ahead:

SC Dems Bar Colbert

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 7:31 PM EDT

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The South Carolina Democratic party voted today to keep comedian Stephen Colbert off the state primary ballot, saying they considered him an insufficiently serious candidate. I guess he wasn't such welcome competition after all.

Putting aside the issue of whether or not Colbert makes the grade (though I don't see anyone else asking supporters to donate $100,000 to schools), what does it take to be considered a "serious" candidate? Do you need supporters? Do you have to want the job? The designation of "seriousness"—and, by extension, viability—tends to reflect the conventional wisdom of the media echo chamber far more than the candidate's actual merit. Call it the spoiler effect, wherein third parties and so-called "fringe candidates" are deleted from polls, kept off ballots, and literally forbidden to debate their better-heeled challengers. With such sparse options, it's no wonder that pundits and voters alike spend hours parsing the lead candidates' general statements for nuance and difference.

Bottom line, this country should welcome candidates who stray from the center and take principled, controversial positions, even if they lose in the end. If we broaden our definition of productive debate, we'll broaden our choices too, and maybe alleviate some of our cynicism. You want to be considered a serious candidate? Earn it.

—Casey Miner

Senators Warn White House on Iran

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 6:48 PM EDT

Thirty Senators have signed a letter sent to President Bush today, expressing concern with the administration's increasingly bellicose rhetoric on Iran.

"We are writing to express serious concern with the provocative statements and actions stemming from your administration with respect to possible U.S. military action in Iran," the letter states. "These comments are counterproductive and undermine efforts to resolve tensions with Iran through diplomacy."

"We wish to emphasize that no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action against Iran," it continues.

Among the thirty members who signed, Senators James Webb, John Kerry, Robert Byrd, Dick Durbin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Herb Kohl, Byron Dorgin, Jack Reed, Max Baucus, Debbie Stabenow, Claire McCaskill, Barbara Boxer, Daniel Akaka, Tom Harkin, Thomas Carper, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Rockefeller, Robert Casey, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, John Tester, Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, and Barbara Mikulski.

You can read it here.

Mike Davis on the SoCal Flame Blame Game

| Thu Nov. 1, 2007 5:47 PM EDT
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The search for someone to blame for the Southern California fires continues. Current top suspects: climate change and kids with matches. In today's TomDispatch, master of urban disaster Mike Davis lays the blame for the San Diego conflagrations at the feet of former city mayor Pete Wilson. Before he went on to become "the baddest governor to ever grab the mic and go boom!"*, Wilson sparked the development boom that turned the city's backcountry into "pyrophiliac gated suburbs and elite estates." And if you think the appeal of these little tinderboxes on the hillside has gone up in smoke, think again, says Davis:

...the new fire cataclysm seems to be rewarding the very insiders most responsible for the uncontrolled building and underfunded fire protection that helped give the Santa Ana winds their real tinder. While conservative ideologues now celebrate San Diego's most recent tragedy as a "triumph" of middle-class values and suburban solidarity, the business community openly gloats over the coming reconstruction boom and the revival of a building industry badly shaken by the mortgage crisis.

* For a recap of Wilson's greatest hits, check out the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy's 1992 version of "California Über Alles," which memorably skewered the then-presidential aspirant: "I give the rich a giant tax loophole / I leave the poor living in a poophole."