Political MoJo

Deflating the "Independents in '08!" Meme (and Taking a Knock at Howard Fineman)

| Wed May 9, 2007 11:27 AM EDT

Howard Fineman is once again following my lead. Hot on the heels of my blog post speculating about a Hagel-Bloomberg independent ticket in the 2008 presidential race, Fineman writes in Newsweek that, yes, an independent ticket in 2008 is a real possibility, but no, Hagel shouldn't be considered its most likely torchbearer. He cites Bloomberg, Gore, and get this, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  fineman_serious.jpg It takes Fineman until the end of the piece to acknowledge that Arnold can't run and Gore likely won't. And having retracted two of the three heavy-hitters at the center of his article, Fineman somewhat lamely mentions Lieberman and Hagel as possibilities.

So I was right -- Hagel and Bloomberg. And maybe Lieberman. But one gets the sense that Fineman was on deadline, and wanted to take the "Independents in '08!" meme for a test drive without really having all the material he needed as fuel.

In fact, this whole "Independents in '08!" thing feels a little like a media creation -- something political journalists daydream about when bored of covering the same six frontrunners for... well, how long is the campaign season now? Two full years? It has a sideshow feel to it -- I should have conveyed that better in my post about Hagel and Bloomberg.

Witness, for example, Fineman's reasoning for why an independent candidate could win this year when such candidates have failed in every other year. The early primary schedule means that the winner of each party's nominations could be identified by early February of 2008, seven months before the parties' conventions. In those seven months, speculates Fineman, buyer's remorse will set in for some members of both parties and they will go looking for someone else to support.

Okay, I guess, except no committed Republican or Democrat treats party identification that trivially, and the independent voters won't have made up their minds that early, meaning buyer's remorse won't have time to set in. Besides, the GOP and the Dems probably realize there is too much time between the deciding primaries and their conventions and will likely move the convention dates up. Problem solved.

Fineman ends by saying, "Keep an eye on the independents. There's where the action is, and will be." I say, meh. Take it all with a grain of salt.

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No Domestic Partner Benefits For State Employeees In Minnesota

| Tue May 8, 2007 11:19 PM EDT

After Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made it clear that he would veto any bill giving domestic partnership benefits to several state employees, the Minnesota legislator dropped the matter last week. Members of the House and Senate eliminated language in a major spending bill that would have given such benefits to domestic partners, including gay partners.

The original language provided benefits for gay couples only, but was expanded to cover other domestic partners, including siblings. The language was changed because of Pawlenty's threat to veto any bill that included giving benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. A spokesman for the governor said: "we really haven't had a chance to review" the new language, but added that "generally, the state government finance bill has a lot of question marks."

Extending insurance coverage to non-married partners had the backing of the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Association of Small Cities.

Weird Weather Watch

| Tue May 8, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

MoJo is tracking the effects of changed weather patterns on towns and wildlife. Read about the Southern California spring with no flowers or berries—but with serious economic impacts—on The Blue Marble.

D.C.'s Gun Ban Could Be Headed to the Supreme Court, Gun Laws Beware

| Tue May 8, 2007 4:30 PM EDT

Last month, I interviewed Robert Levy, the Cato Institute senior fellow and constitutional lawyer, who successfully used a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment to overturn the D.C. gun ban in March. When the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Levy's case, Parker v. District of Columbia, it dissolved the strictest gun regulations on the books in any state and marked the first time this interpretation of the Second Amendment has been used to successfully overturn a state's gun law. When Levy and I spoke about his victory, he mentioned the likelihood that Parker would go before the Supreme Court. Today, that likelihood just got greater. The D.C. federal appeals court denied D.C.'s request for a second ruling before the entire court. (Originally, the case was heard before a three-judge panel.) So, Levy is likely off to the Supreme Court. Gun laws beware! If Parker is upheld in the Supreme Court, the ruling will jeopardize state gun laws across the nation, making them vulnerable to more legal challenges.

NY Times Hears the Call on Postal Rate Increases

| Tue May 8, 2007 2:01 PM EDT

If you aren't following the story of USPS's postal rate increase that unfairly targets small, independent magazines, read up!

Now that the New York Times is on board, the fight is going mainstream!

Six Arrested in New Jersey for Worst Plot Ever

| Tue May 8, 2007 12:29 PM EDT

If you've scanned the news today, you've probably seen the story about the six men who were arrested before they could execute a plan to attack New Jersey's Fort Dix Army base and "kill as many soldiers as possible."

According to a federal spokesman, four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was born in Turkey and one was born in Jordan. A report on this that I saw earlier had a quote from a federal official calling their plot a potential act of terrorism, but that quote has been removed -- this is where definitions get murky -- and currently there is no evidence that a foreign terrorist organization was involved.

I will say this: Worst. Plan. Ever. Not to make light of a plot to kill American servicemen (or anybody, really), but is there a worse place for six random dudes to attack than a United States Army base? Why not rob the police station while you're at it? They couldn't think of something that might have a higher chance of success and lower than a 100% chance of death?

I guess that's the point -- martyrdom -- but seriously, folks.

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One in Eight Iraqi Children Dies Before Turning Five Years Old

| Tue May 8, 2007 10:53 AM EDT

Incredibly depressing news about Iraq: "One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005." I know this sounds simple-minded but my God, what an unbelievable horrible place to be a child, or maybe even worse, be a parent.

So yeah, the child mortality rate in Iraq has soared in recent years, and the war-torn country now ranks last in Save the Children's "child survival rankings." Ranking first is Iceland. The United States didn't do so well:

The U.S. placed 26th, tied with Croatia, Estonia and Poland. Nearly seven children die for every 1,000 live births in the United States. That was more than double the rate in Iceland, and 75 percent higher than rates in the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan and Slovenia.

Health care reform, anyone?

Obama on Energy Independence

| Mon May 7, 2007 3:42 PM EDT

The first two thirds of Obama's speech today got my hopes up that he was backing away from the corn-ethanol shtick. But the last third brought me down to earth. Even if corn-ethanol takes third place in his speech now, the corn-belt senator would probably never drop support for corn-ethanol subsidies, which may be the biggest greenwash ever.

All around, his proposals are better developed than in his speech one year ago. He proposes to raise fuel economy standards by 4 percent per year, instead of just 3 percent. He also wants to subsidize Detroit's move to hybrid vehicles. And he supports a carbon cap-and-trade system. What would work much better would be to tax carbon emissions and raise the fuel tax. But they don't call taxes the third rail for nothing.

Romney: I'll Make Up Anything if Pat Robertson Approves

| Mon May 7, 2007 1:48 PM EDT

Any francophiles out there that want to fact-check Mitt Romney?

"In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."

Yup, Mitt Romney is courting the religious right (he made the statement at a graduation speech at Regent University, the college founded by Pat Robertson) the easiest way Republicans know how: bashing the French. Oh, and porn and violence:

"Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool."

Good heavens, can you imagine if Mitt Romney ever saw violent porn starring unmarried French people? His head would explode. But even a headless Mitt Romney would kowtow to the leaders of the religious right. You can't win in the GOP without doing so:

It was Romney's second appearance at Regent University in the past four months. His visits underscore the competition for support from top Christian conservative leaders such as Robertson, whose television programs have millions of viewers. Romney, along with several other GOP hopefuls, attended a convention of religious broadcasters in February. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani will appear at Regent next month.

How Come Obama MySpace Page Creator Doesn't Have a Lawyer?

| Mon May 7, 2007 1:15 PM EDT

As Josh writes here, there has been quite the flurry over the changing of hands (from young paralegal and diehard supporter to Obama's official campaign staff) of the unofficial, yet official-looking, 160,000 friend-boasting Barack Obama MySpace page. When the scandal blew up, there was talk that the 160,000 MySpace friends Joe Anthony, said diehard supporter, rallied together were theoretically worth a bundle of cash, and therefore all moral questions aside, the Obama campaign should pay up. Micah Sifry, founder of techPresident, (a site that monitors campaigns' web strategies) noted on the site:

Care2, the massive progressive email list vendor, charges about $1 per email address that they generate for a campaign.

But like Sifry points out, Anthony could not have generated this large number of members if it weren't for Obama's success and charisma, so it's not like he could expect to make $160,000 plus, but I'm betting, if he'd played his cards right, he could've raked in some dough. I mean, these campaigns pay media consultants big money to gather supporters the way Anthony did. Apparently, though, contrary to what Obama's campaign staff were claiming -- that he was just looking for a "big payday" -- Anthony doesn't seem to be after money at all. Sifry writes on Friday:

Anthony is pondering donating the url over to a non-profit group, or trying to continue working with the community gathered around the site to make it into a kind of clearinghouse or forum on the presidential candidates in general.

He is also still planning to vote for Obama!? Alright, so, I know I should feel warm and fuzzy about this, but instead, I'm scratching my head. This guy could have made some money -- at the very least, he could have more adamantly demanded some compensation for his 2.5 year-long (Anthony maintained the page for 2.5 years) labor of love. Why didn't he? Are we really seeing loyalty to the Democratic movement trump selfish desires, did he just give up or did he not have the right counsel? He's a paralegal, right? Where were all his lawyer friends?