Blogs

How Did Robo Calls Affect the Election?

| Sat Nov. 11, 2006 12:58 PM EST

According to TPM Muckraker.com, voters in more than two dozens districts throughout the country were barraged with sometimes-harrassing robo calls in the weeks prior to the election. In at least seven of those districts, Democrats lost by margins of only a couple of thousand votes.

In Florida's 13th District, Democrat Christine Jennings, who is involved in a recount, lost the election by only 386 votes. In the last three weeks of the campaign, the Republican Party spent over $58,000 on robo calls against Jennings. In the case of Jennings and other candidates, people receiving such a call at first thought the caller was the Democratic candidate because of the call's misleading opening. Several voters complained about this. If a voter listens to the entire call, only then does she discover that the call comes from the Republican Party. But the majority of people, of course, hang up. The problem is that the phone rings again...and again and again and again, until the voter listens to the entire call. Since most people do not want to listen, voters are left with the impression that they are being harrassed by Democratic candidates.

Democrats have asked the FEC, the FCC and the Department of Justice to investigate the nature of campaign robo calls.

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The Post-Election Price of Oil: Up, Up, and Away?

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 5:57 PM EST

The analysts at New York Global Securities, a major investment strategy firm, didn't see a plot by oil companies to lower prices during the election. But they do believe speculators will now push up the price of oil to the extent they believe the government will let them get away with it. From their October 18 report, Speculation in the Oil Market and the U.S. Midterm Elections:

We believe that following the U.S. midterm elections on November 7, 2006, the price of oil is likely to test the tolerance of the market and the new members of Congress; that is, we believe that after the elections oil will appreciate until there is fear in the market that Congress will take action. It is too early to speculate on the exact level of the increase, but our recommendation at this time is to become progressively long oil at these prices as the election approaches, with the expectation that a topping test pattern will become clear shortly after the election. We believe that the last three major declines in the price of oil coincided with various U.S. Senatorial hearings and expectations surrounding the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. We further believe that these events may have caused speculators within the oil markets to become cautious, resulting in a drop of more than 20% in the price of oil. With regard to the two prior declines, once the Senate hearings were over and the Senate did not take any significant action, the price of oil began to increase. We expect that following the current U.S. elections the price of oil will again rise testing the tolerance of the new Congress.

So far, it's too early to tell if NYGS will be right.

No Joy in Jerusalem Pride Parade

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 5:23 PM EST

There's something sad about gay groups cheering the passage of seven more anti-gay marriage amendments (because they passed with just a small majority), and journalists, myself included, taking heart that the measures didn't tilt the election in the Republicans' favor. After all, fewer than a handful of Democrats have promised to protect gay rights—employment or housing, much less marriage.

And in Jerusalem today, gays, lesbians and their allies were forced to stage their pride "march" in a stadium at the Hebrew University surrounded by police. Gay groups have been demanding the right to march in the holy city since June, the traditional gay pride month. Two weeks ago, ultra-Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Christians gave up battling each other and took to the streets in violent protest of the pending march. The Vatican also demanded that the march be cancelled. The story was scarcely reported in the U.S.—the Chicago Tribune followed it, and the AP gave it a quick blip:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have rioted in Jerusalem nearly every night over the past week, burning garbage cans, blocking roads and assaulting police officers in an attempt to get the authorities to call off the march, approved months ago by the Supreme Court.

Where faith and regard for historic holy spots have been unable to check religious groups' mutual animosity in Jerusalem, their shared hatred of gays and lesbians has succeeded. There's no pride in that.

Grover Norquist: "Imagine There's No Dubya..."

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 4:24 PM EST
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At Grover Norquist's weekly conservative confab this Wednesday, the topic was how the GOP can get its groove back in the next two years. You gotta hand it to the K Street Project mastermind. Dude is cocky:

Despite short-term setbacks, Norquist said, the conservative movement is "perfectly healthy. No one is losing because they favor tax cuts, are pro-life, pro-gun or pro-growth.

"In two years, there is no George W. Bush and almost no Iraq war as presently constructed," Norquist said.

"And Democrats will be standing there, naked to the winds, having been forced by Nancy Pelosi to vote for tax increases, gun control and impeaching the president," he added, referring to the future speaker of the House.

Visions of disrobed Democrats aside, note how Norquist's smugness actually reveals his eagerness to get beyond Iraq and George W. Bush (echoing the neocons' new favorite theme). Yet somehow I suspect Republicans are going to have to confront those two issues in 2008 before they can get back to the business of being "real" conservatives. If only the Bush legacy could be drowned in the bath tub before then!

Firebombing Eco-Activists Plead Guilty, Get Prison

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 4:16 PM EST

Four enviromental activists connected with the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front have plead guilty in federal court to participating in a five year campaign of arson crimes, a move that could net them each several years in prison. That brings to a total of 12 guilty pleas federal prosecutors have squeezed out of the clatch of so-called eco-terrorists wanted for attacks in several states whom they arrested in December. Mother Jones ran a searching piece on their most spectacular attack, the firebombing of a Colorado ski resort, shortly after it happened. And here's some background on the post-9/11 crackdown on eco-terror.

Word on Washington's K Street

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 3:22 PM EST

Now that Democrats have control of the House and Senate, what of K Street? Some have started to speculate on the fate of the famed corridor, replete with suit-wearing self-professed "political junkies," steakhouses built for power lunches and the odd vending table of knock-off purses.

The Hill reported that former Republican senators Jim Talent and Mike DeWine are being touted as "good catches" for the street's business community. Meanwhile, based on contributions made to liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi's campaign, the National Journal's Hotline has K Streeters leaning to the left.

I ventured out to the K Street Corridor on a balmy afternoon Thursday to catch people on their lunch breaks and get their opinions on the outcome of the mid-term election.

Robin Baldwin, who works in contracting with the US Army Corps of Engineers was lounging in the sun on a park bench, taking a break before having to go give a deposition. Baldwin didn't predict any major changes.

"There is something about having a lobbyist come visit you and I think that as representative or a senator, it makes them feel more important," she said. "I don't know if they'll necessarily be more liberal. Whoever pays the most money, that's the way they'll lean."

This thought was echoed by a dark-suited man on the sidewalk at K and 20th who did not want to be named, but identified himself as an "expert." "I'm a consultant," he said. "I have been in Washington since 1968."

"I've been here for a long time and every year the political environment has gotten harsher and nastier," he said. "There's a very brief honeymoon period and then the party in power abuses the party that they just kicked out."

I found Dean Stoline, an attorney for the American Legion and proud Iowan (Democrats now control the state legislative and executive branches in his home state for the first time in 42 years), walking down K Street toward 18th Avenue. Wearing a grey suit and sporty sunglasses on the sunny day, Stoline was upbeat and already excited about the next election.

"As a political junkie I think this will be the best presidential campaign of my lifetime because it will be wide open in 2008," said Stoline.

While taking a cigarette break on a sidewalk bench, a lawyer from Pennsylvania in recruiting for a K Street firm (who chose to be unnamed) said he was disappointed by the mid-terms. The Republican was also looking forward to the next presidential election.

"I wanted Rick Santorum to win and I felt that because he was tied in with George Bush and he's a Republican he wasn't given a fair deal," he said. "I hope that Rudy Giuliani decides to run [for president] and win. I respect him."

Down the street Jeff, a bike courier waiting for a taxi delivery, was hoping for lower gas prices but was happy that Donald Rumsfeld was out of his former job as Defense Secretary.

"There's one of them out," he said. "It's going to take two more years for the next one."

--Caroline Dobuzinskis

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"Who's Rumsfeld?"

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 3:04 PM EST

C.J. Chivers brings us this Borat-worthy, tragi-comic scene:

Hashim al-Menti smiled wanly at the marine sergeant beside him on his couch. The sergeant had appeared in the darkness on Wednesday night, knocking on the door of Mr. Menti's home.

When Mr. Menti answered, a squad of infantrymen swiftly moved in, making him an involuntary host.

Since then marines had been on his roof with rifles, watching roads where insurgents often planted bombs.

Mr. Menti had passed the time watching television. Now he had news. He spoke in broken English. "Rumsfeld is gone," he told the sergeant, Michael A. McKinnon.

"Democracy," he added, and made a thumbs-up sign. "Good."

The marines had been on a continuous foot patrol for several days, hunting for insurgents. They were lost in the hard and isolating rhythms of infantry life.

They knew nothing of the week's news.

Now they were being told by an Iraqi whose house they occupied that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, one of the principal architects of the policies that had them here, had resigned. "Rumsfeld is gone?" the sergeant asked. "Really?"

Mr. Menti nodded. "This is better for Iraq," he said. "Iraqi people say thank you."

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines, just as he had informed them the day before that the Republican Party had lost control of the House of Representatives and that Congress was in the midst of sweeping change. Mr. Menti had told them that, too.

"Rumsfeld's out," he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. "Who's Rumsfeld?" he asked.

The accompanying photo is haunting

'It is Virginia that Turned the Senate Blue'

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 12:54 PM EST

Shortly after George Allen conceded yesterday, shifting the balance of power in the Senate, Jim Webb appeared before supporters in Clarendon, Virginia, raising his son's combat boots in the air, which he'd worn throughout his hard-fought race.

"We have a much, much stronger Democratic Party," Webb told supporters.

Webb also told supporters he would vote soon on increasing the minimum wage and would address the war on Iraq in the approach he outlined throughout his campaign, calling for the withdrawal of American troops in Iraq, where Webb's son, a marine, is currently serving, and joint diplomatic talks with nations in the region. "I think people care about [Iraq] and that's one of the things that you saw in the election," Webb said. An Associated Press exit poll found the majority of moderates and independents in Virginia voted for Webb, influenced largely by his stance on the war in Iraq.

At the rally, there was quite a bit of jubilation and perhaps some disbelief at the fact that Webb's victory had clinched the Senate for the Democrats.

Supporter Tom O'Brien was impressed with the contribution of volunteers to Webb's campaign. "Just the fact that they had that much dedication and that he was able to get this far is pretty unusual," said O'Brien.

The election's first Virginia-wide poll found incumbent Senator George Allen ahead by 16 points in late July. Webb campaign volunteer S.R. Sidharth has been credited with turning the campaign in Webb's favor after George Allen called the young man of Indian descent 'macaca' in August.

"It is Virginia that turned the Senate blue," Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told supporters at the rally.

-- Caroline Dobuzinskis

Official Reality

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 11:32 AM EST

Given the turn of events the past few days, I am reminded of what someone told me for a piece on Iran contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar I published earlier this year in the magazine:

...To many who saw the Iran-Contra scandal unfold, it all adds up to a familiar picture. Jonathan Winer worked for a Senate committee led by John Kerry that, in the mid-1980s, probed rumors of the secret arms deals and of the funneling of the profits to Nicaragua's right-wing Contra rebels. For years as the investigation continued, critics—led by then-congressman Dick Cheney—"called us conspiracy nuts," says Winer. The committee kept hearing tips about private individuals secretly carrying out the government's business, he recalls. "Officials tell you none of it is true, because there's no record that any of these things took place. It creates a situation where oversight is practically impossible because official reality is completely misleading, and unofficial reality—which is the truth—does not exist." In the end, the scandal was uncovered after control of Congress shifted to the Democrats and, simultaneously, more and more evidence was revealed in Iran-Contra-related lawsuits and media investigations.

"What has to happen is, you have to have the press and Congress and the courts all playing their constitutional role for the truth to come out," Winer says. "If any of those components don't function, you can wind up with serious problems."

Press working: Check. Congress playing a role? Now, presumably in the coming months, yes, check. What Winer told me that didn't make it into the piece is that the whole exercise was not about punishing people, as far as he was concerned, that wasn't what he wanted; what he cared about was getting the truth -- so that official reality is no longer so misleading.

Lincoln Chafee: Leaving the GOP?

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 11:04 AM EST

Lincoln Chafee, the moderate Republican Senator from Rhode Island who was unseated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in Tuesday's election, hinted at a news conference yesterday that he may exit the GOP. "I haven't made any decisions," he said. "I just haven't even thought about where my place is." But, according to the AP:

When pressed on whether his comments indicated he might leave the GOP, he replied: "That's fair."