Political MoJo

New Mexico's Unfinished Business

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 3:57 PM EST

The first congressional district of New Mexico, largely comprised of the city of Albuquerque, is still up for grabs, with results not expected until Friday. Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid has advantages -- she is a popular Hispanic in a district that is more than 1/3 Hispanic, the electorate has more registered Democrats than Republicans -- but the benefits of incumbency have made the Republican congresswoman, Heather Wilson, nearly untouchable since 1998.

That's no longer the case. Wilson leads by a mere 48 votes.

Madrid had an uphill climb in the campaign to unseat Wilson, a former Air Force officer, because Wilson has strong support from military and defense workers in a district that includes Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories. However, Wilson is widely considered a rubber-stamp Republican, having voted with the party-line 89% of the time since 1991 and has generated plenty of vitriol from local Democrats in recent years by running ads with testimonials like, "Heather Wilson is the most independent politician I have ever known…she is non-partisan."

Wilson also generated controversy as the number-four recipient of campaign contributions from former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ARMPAC, which is currently under investigation for corruption. She has returned less than one-quarter of those funds with local Democrats calling for her to give all of the money back.

Ultimately, this race may turn against her because her staunch support of President Bush is increasingly unpopular in a city where only 38 percent of metro-area voters approve of Bush. If Madrid wins, Wilson would be the first incumbent to ever lose the district.

-- Sam Taub

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The Silver Lining in Gay Marriage Defeats

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 3:13 PM EST

Yesterday's elections show that Americans may not yet have tired of banning same-sex marriage—despite the fact that only some 8,000 such marriages currently exist, and Massachusetts, the only state where they are legal, has shown slower-than-average growth in its out gay and lesbian population.

Nonetheless, tolerance is beginning to show through the fanaticism (which is fomented by hypocrites like Ted Haggard). Gay marriage bans that passed in five of eight states did so over the objections of more than two-fifths of the electorate. In 2004, only two of eleven states saw similar opposition. The vote on Arizona's ballot measure is so close that it has yet to be called.

Nor did the anti-gay amendments seem to swing the congressional elections as they were intended to. Minnesota, Colorado and Wisconsin, despite successful amendments, moved slightly to the left across Senate, House and gubernatorial lines. Arizona gave two new House seats to Democrats, and Tennessee and South Carolina showed no change.

Now, for some somewhat related news—good news—New York City is planning to enact legislation that would allow people to change genders on their birth certificates with just a letter from a doctor explaining why and a vow that the change will be permanent. The policy is in stark contrast to old laws that required years of counseling, a clinical diagnosis, and mandatory sex-reassignment surgery before a person could legally change genders. The law will only affect those born in New York. But transgender folks born in the city will now be able to marry a person of the same biological sex—if not the same gender.

Deceptive Regulatory Takings Initiatives Fail, Mostly

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 3:05 PM EST

Good news for opponents of insidious property rights initiatives. "Regulatory takings" initiatives failed in California, Idaho, and Washington (but not Arizona) last night. These measures would have required states to pay landowners for any regulations that devalue their property, crippling zoning regs and environmental protections while costing states billions of dollars. To take advantage of public outrage over eminent domain abuse, these bad boys were stuck on to bans on eminent domain for economic development. In Nevada and Montana, judges blocked the regulatory takings parts. Sucks for Arizona, though. Here's a state-by-state breakdown.

—April Rabkin

Range of Worldwide Reactions to Election Results

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 2:09 PM EST

In Europe, reactions ranged from celebratory welcoming of the new Congress, to cautious predictions.

The Arab world had mixed reactions. Some are worried that the Democrat victory could result in negligence of Middle East issues and a too-hasty retreat from Iraq.

Changes in trade policy are being anticipated in Asia where President Bush was in favour of free trade policies. President Bush is soon to travel to Vietnam for an APEC Conference. The Bush administration has been pushing for Vietnam, a major exporter of shoes, furniture and seafood, to join the World Trade Organization.

According to AP, trade negotiations in South American with Peru and Colombia will be encumbered by Democrats demanding labor provisions.

--Caroline Dobuzinskis

Immigration Slips Bush's Mind

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 1:55 PM EST

"I should have mentioned that," said Bush in a news conference that aired only moments ago in response to a question as to whether a Democratic Congress will be more sympathetic to comprehensive immigration reform, reform that Bush has long been touting. Yes, maybe it should have been tossed out there, seeing as it was only one of the most heated debates in this country throughout the year, but I can see how it could have slipped his mind. The president was quite busy squirming his way out of lying about Rumsfeld's resignation and trying to stifle his frustration with the onslaught of questions from the media.

Bush went on to say that, yes, progress on the border was important and would necessitate a "common ground" -- two words repeated incessantly throughout the conference -- between the Democratics and the White House. He said that a temporary worker provision would likely get his energy because when "someone is not trying to sneak into the country" that relieves pressure from Border Patrol agents who will then be able to focus on "drugs, guns and terrorists." "I really should have remembered that," said Bush. Well, I think he will have plenty of reminders. With the Democrats in control of the House and the potential for them to take the Senate as well, immigration will continue to be a hot-button topic and Bush will now have to prove that it was indeed the GOP-controlled Congress that bull-dozed through the bill authorizing 700-miles of fencing this October, a bill many Democrats rejected, and that his visions of comprehensive reform are indeed ones he tends to pursue.

Press Corp to Bush: "Will You Listen to the Voters or Listen to the Vice President?"

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 1:55 PM EST

Dick Gregory's question was among the highlights of the press conference Bush just held, in which he said he'd accepted, at long last, Donald Rumsfeld's resignation (Bill Kristol was right!) and went on to acknowledge that the "cumulative effect of the elections is a thumpin'."

Other notable moments:

On Rumsfeld: "You can't replace somebody until you know you have somebody to replace him."

"This isn't my first rodeo. Not the first time I've been in a campaign where people have expressed themselves."

Bush asks Dick Gregory: "You think I'm nuts? You think my sensibility has left me as a result of the campaign?"

Bush slams some aide for making the call to Speaker Elect Nancy Pelosi too early.

Called current border policy: "catch and release"

Asked about extending basic voting privileges to the residents of Washington D.C. (i.e. Home Rule) as he would the people of Iraq, Bush dodged the question, claiming he was working "to get the Indian deal done, and the Vietnam done."

Bush on Rove and their "reading contest" (?!?!): "I was obviously working harder on the campaign than he was."

Finally: "Until yesterday, I thought we were going to win. Shows what I know."

Somebody make a t-shirt.


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Bio of Defense Secretary Bob Gates

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 1:12 PM EST

More from Mother Jones on this later, but as a public service, here is the bio of Bob Gates, the man President Bush just named the next Defense Secretary:

Dr. Robert M. Gates is the 22nd President of Texas A&M University, the nation's seventh largest university and an institution recognized internationally for its teaching, research and public service. He assumed the presidency of the land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university on August 1, 2002. Dr. Gates served as Interim Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999-2001.

He served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993. In this position, he headed all foreign intelligence agencies of the United States and directed the Central Intelligence Agency. Dr. Gates is the only career officer in CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to Director. He served as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 1986 until 1989 and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser at The White House from January 20, 1989 until November 6, 1991 for President George H.W. Bush.

Dr. Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, serving six presidents. During that period, he spent nearly nine years at the National Security Council, The White House, serving four presidents of both political parties.

Dr. Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He is the author of the memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, published in 1996.

Dr. Gates serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the American Council on Education, the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America. He is President of the National Eagle Scout Association.

Dr. Gates serves as Chairman of the Independent Trustees of The Fidelity Funds, the nation's largest mutual fund company, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc. and Parker Drilling Company, Inc.

A native of Kansas, Dr. Gates received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary, his master's degree in history from Indiana University, and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. Dr. Gates is 62, and he and his wife Becky have two adult children.

Nancy Pelosi: Fiery, Liberal, and She's in Charge

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 12:58 PM EST

This assertive headline from the Globe and Mail says that Nancy Pelosi will be the one in control. The UK's Guardian acknowledged Pelosi will be perfoming a delicate balancing act with President Bush, but will have access to a "formidable machine."

American news agencies have put forward a more sceptical view of Pelosi's ability to maintain control over the opposing parties in the House. According to this article posted in the International Herald Tribune:

Her pledge to treat Republicans more fairly than they have dealt with Democrats could be "the first casualty of a Pelosi speakership," said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California who has written extensively about Congress.

The article also lists "a halting television presence" as one of the fiery leader's major weaknesses.

And USA Today reported that Pelosi may not be ready for prime time:

Longtime political observer Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, says Pelosi "is no Newt Gingrich. She really isn't intellectually interesting. Gingrich came up with ideas ... With her, I don't know whether that's true or not. We have to see if she is really ready for prime time."

-- Caroline Dobuzinskis

Bill Kristol was Right

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 12:56 PM EST

CNN reports that Bush will announce Rumsfeld's resignation today.

Breaking: AP Calls it for Tester

| Wed Nov. 8, 2006 12:43 PM EST

AP says Tester has squeaked to victory. Dems now with 50 Senate seats.