Blogs

Dueling Videos in the Aftermath of Hillary's Debate Stumble

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 11:32 AM EDT

After Hillary Clinton's subpar performance in the most recent debate, the Clinton campaign tried to take the spotlight off her blunders by releasing this video, called "The Politics of Pile On":

And it may come back to hurt her, because it invited the Edwards campaign to release this video, called "The Politics of Parsing":

Obama has been talking a lot about how he's going to start attacking Clinton. Edwards, on the other hand, has actually started attacking Clinton.

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A Recess Appointment for Mukasey?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 11:13 AM EDT

mukasey.gifAs David noted yesterday, Senate Dems will have a chance to block Michael Mukasey's nomination on Tuesday when the Judiciary Committee puts him to a vote. Whether or not they will do so remains a big if, given that it will require a no vote from each of the 10 Democrats on the committee and, as yet, only four have signaled that they will oppose his nomination. As it stands, New York Senator Chuck Schumer appears to be waffling. An early advocate of Mukasey, he said yesterday that "no nominee from this administration will agree with us on things like torture and wiretapping. The best we can expect is somebody who will depoliticize the Justice Department and put rule of law first." Later today, Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy is expected to announce whether he will support Mukasey's nomination.

As the Los Angeles Times points out today, even if the Dems on judiciary stand firm on Mukasey, the president could attempt to install his AG pick in a recess appointment—one that will remain in effect until the close of his presidency—over Congress' upcoming holiday break. In that case, the Times notes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could try to out maneuver the president, "by keeping some lawmakers in Washington over the break to ensure that the chamber was always in session."

Depending on the outcome of Tuesday's vote, the Dems could find themselves (again) in a showdown with the president, who came out swinging yesterday in defense of his nominee. Playing the Dems-won't keep-you-safe card, the president said that "on too many issues, Congress is behaving as if America is not at war" and that blocking Mukasey "would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war." The latter is a bit of a strange comment, one that doesn't display terribly much confidence in Peter D. Keisler, the acting attorney general, a founding member of the Federalist Society (the conservative lawyers group), and an ideological soulmate of the administration.

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.

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."

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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.


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