Political MoJo

Suddenly, Democrats are the Official Morality- and Anti-Terrorism Party

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 10:20 PM EDT

Yep, it's official. In the span of a week, the Democratic Party has gone from being the party of dissolute, weak-kneed peaceniks to being the party of morally upstanding security men—according to, of all people, Americans.

A Newsweek poll released Saturday found that more Americans trust Democrats to "do a better job of handling moral values" than trust Republicans—42 percent vs 36 percent. And a USA Today poll gave Democrats a 5-point edge on fighting terrorism, which is astonishing considering the so-called War on Terror as been the heart of GOP's campaign.

The lead could evaporate as Republicans dump their huge war chests into attack ads, but for the moment one could be forgiven for feeling a sense of awe: not since well before 9/11 have the Democrats so thorougly socked it to Republicans on the GOP's home turf.

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Baker Commission Proposes the United States of Iraq

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 8:04 PM EDT

The Baker Commission, a bipartisan group set up by Congress, is now proposing the division of Iraq into separate Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions. James Baker, former US Sec of State and Co-chair of the commission, says this is the only alternative to Bush's steadfast rule of "staying the course." The division will transfer power to the regions and a skeletal central government based in Baghdad will head up, among other things, the distribution of oil.

It turns out that this is not the first time the division of Iraq has been on the table. According to the Centre for Research on Globalization, the idea was actually part of the administration's pre-invasion plan.

But like many administration non-plans, this one seems ill-advised.

According to the British Sunday Times, "Many Middle East experts are horrified by the difficulty of dividing the nation." Juan Cole weighs in on his site:

1. No such loose federal arrangement would survive very long (remember the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States?).

2. The Sunni Arabs, the Da`wa Party and the Sadr Movement are all against such a partition and together they account for at least 123 members of the 275-member parliament.

3. The Sunni Arabs control Iraq's downstream water but have no petroleum resources. If the loose federal plan ends in partition, the situation is set up for a series of wars of the Sunni Arabs versus the Shiites, as well as of the Sunni Arabs and some Turkmen versus the Kurds.

And so on.

As Goes One Republican Editor in PA, So Goes the Country?

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 7:29 PM EDT

In an editorial titled "Time To Switch Teams," a Times Herald-Record business editor announces he why won't vote (as he always has) Republican in the fall:

The reason Republicans are bent out of shape is that this Foley scandal is the proverbial last straw. We've had it. The out-of-control spending. The earmarks. The graft with the lobbyists. The arrogance. The abrogation of principles that Goldwater, Reagan and others worked decades to spread.
The Republicans will lose the House in November. Absent big changes, I have to say they deserve to. I will help them lose it, because in my own congressional district, Pennsylvania's 10th, I'm voting for Democrat Chris Carney. As the campaign literature for Carney slyly notes, he's been married for 18 years to his college sweetheart.
Why might he note that? Because his opponent, and the incumbent, Republican Don Sherwood, engaged in a five-year affair in Washington with a mistress some three decades his junior.
My father had choices. The Republicans offer me candidates who can't even keep their pants on. I've had it.

(Great. But why "slyly"?)

With $90,000 In His Freezer, What's Not To Love?

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 5:19 PM EDT

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has endorsed the candidacy of Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, the man who gave a new meaning to the term, "cold hard cash." Jefferson is the target of a federal bribery investigation. Those he has not been charged, one of his aides and a Kentucky businessman have already pleaded guilty. During the course of the investigation, agents found $90,000 in cash hidden in Jefferson's freezer.

The surprise isn't so much that Nagin would lend his support to someone under investigation who looks pretty guilty, but that he would so enthusiastically support a Democrat. Nagin, a lifelong Republican who suddenly "became a Democrat" a day before his first mayoral campaign began, has governed like a Republican, and even endorsed Bobby Jindal (now a Congressman) for governor. Jindal is not merely Republican, but is on the extreme right wing end of things.

Nagin's endorsement of Jefferson adds one more item to the list of things he has done that cast doubts on his ability to lead. From waffling about whether a landfill should be in the middle of a residential area to bungling the towing of trashed cars after Katrina to recently making a questionable deal with a trash pickup company, the mayor has caused New Orleanians to question his re-election. However, they have only themselves to blame.

North Korean Nuclear Test Rattles Asia -- and Planet

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 3:05 PM EDT

Ah yes, remember this Economist cover? Not so funny today...

Anyway good analysis and useful resources for further reading from the Council on Foreign Relations here (running under the arresting headline, "North Korean Nuclear Test Rattles Planet.") A snippet:

Over the longer term, experts worry about pressure on North Korea’s neighbors to match its new nuclear capabilities. Japan, in particular, has the ability to move in this direction quickly, notes CFR’s Walter Russell Mead. This CATO brief looks at the “inevitable” march of nuclear arms across Asia. And here are issue briefs from the Nuclear Threat Initiative on Japan and South Korea. Writing in Asia Policy, Marcus Noland, a fellow at the Institute for International Economics, examines the possible economic impact of a Pyongyang nuclear test (PDF) on East Asia. North Korea could likely “build a crude nuclear warhead” and has enough plutonium for between four and thirteen nuclear weapons (PDF) say analysts David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security. The Nuclear Threat Initiative provides a chronology of North Korea’s missile development program and maps of suspected nuclear enrichment sites.

Kerry's Swift Response to Two-Year Old Smear Campaign

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:52 PM EDT

John Kerry continues to put the finishing touches on his 2004 campaign strategy:

Kerry said he is concerned that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is again resorting to "the politics of fear and smear." [...]

"We're not going to give them an ounce of daylight," said Kerry, who is considering another run at the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

The senator said his response to the commercials in 2004 was not strong enough.

"We thought the fact that the truth was out there was enough," he said. "Clearly it wasn't."

OK, so Kerry finally gets that his non-response to these attacks was pathetic. But does he think that if he runs again he'll get Swift Boated in the same way he did in 2004? And what exactly is his big plan for fighting back, besides actually paying attention next time? No doubt there will be a brilliant strategy unveiled by 2010.

This just in: Kerry thinks of snappy comeback to 5th-grade school-yard taunt.

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Gays Like Kolbe

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:51 PM EDT

Despite the temptation to blame Mark Foley's self-proclaimed gayness for his repugnant behavior with young male pages, it was Congress's only out gay Republican, Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who schooled Foley on how to treat and not to treat pages. Kolbe had a friendly relationship with many pages, and on one occasion offered to let several formal pages stay in his Washington home while the congressman was away. Kolbe's warmth led one page to approach him in 2000 with concerns about some emails Rep. Foley had sent him. Kolbe certainly should have done more, but he did at least confront Foley about his behavior. He later suggested that another page show Foley's emails to the clerk of the House. At least Kolbe did more than House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Foley Investigations and Fresh Revelations

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:24 PM EDT

Never let it be said that the gathering threat of nuclear armageddon distracted us from Mark Foley's salacious exchanges with underage male pages. The weekend brought the revelation that Republican lawmaker Jim Kolbe knew of the exchanges as far back as 2000 (pushing back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress has copped to knowing about Foley's behavior); and the claim, made by a former page to the Los Angeles Times, that he had a sexual encounter with Foley in 2000 at the latter's Washington home, after he left the page program. Now begin the investigations, with the FBI and the ethics committee pursuing a range of important questions, the sordid answers to which could yet put Dennis Hastert -- and who knows who else? -- out of a job.

'Tis the Season for Attack Ads

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:13 PM EDT

California talk radio host Melanie Morgan and her conservative nonprofit Move America Forward were hard at work this weekend raising money for the organization's latest smear campaign, which, of all likely targets, will take aim at Bill Clinton. The ad blitz, according to one of several mass emails that went out to MAF supporters over the weekend, will "rebuke" Clinton for his "recent efforts to undermine support for the war on terrorism -- on national television." (Emphasis theirs.)

MAF, it seems, was moved to action after Clinton's recent appearance on Fox News Sunday (ostensibly to discuss the Clinton Global Initiative), during which he was asked by Chris Wallace whether his administration did enough to rid the world of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. "At least I tried," a visibly heated Clinton responded. "That's the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try." Clinton went on to criticize the current administration for disregarding the counterterrorism strategy he left for his successor and for marginalizing counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.

Move America Forward, which has previously branded Nancy Pelosi a "domestic enemy" and has launched a "U.N. Out of U.S." ad campaign, is expected to debut its latest attack ad tomorrow on CNN and CNN Headline News. The ad (view it here) opens in typical fashion – a tight shot of Osama bin Laden that leads to a 9/11 montage, rendered in black-and-white for dramatic effect. Meanwhile, a narrator intones: "Terrorists want to kill us. They've attacked over and over again. Our president didn't have his eye on the ball. He didn't make the war on terrorism his top priority. But enough about Bill Clinton."

While attack ads are clearly not the province of one political party or the other, questions have been raised about whether Move America Forward, which describes itself as a "non-partisan, not-for-profit," is pushing the envelope on its nonprofit status with its clearly partisan agenda. The Contra Costa Times explored this question in early September:

The IRS prohibits groups eligible for tax-deductible donations from engaging in partisan activity. While such groups can speak out on policy matters and perform a small amount of lobbying, they cannot urge support for a particular candidate or party, said Bill Steiner, a Sacramento-based IRS spokesman….

A nonprofit group does not have to explicitly express support for a particular candidate or party to be in violation, Steiner said. For instance, the IRS launched a probe of the liberal All Saints Church in Pasadena after an anti-war homily delivered by rector George Regas just before the 2004 election.

Trekkies with Disposable Income Pay Millions for Memories

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:02 PM EDT

For the Trekkies among us:

The BBC reports that fans spent $7.1 million for Star Trek memorabilia in an auction at Christie's this weekend. The auction house apparently underestimated Trekkies in estimating that a 78-inch-long miniature of the Starship Enterprise (used in the title sequences of Star Trek: The Next Generation) would go for around $30,000. Someone scooped up the plastic prop for a cool $576,000.

Other top sellers included $62,400 for a replica of Captain James T Kirk's command chair from the bridge of the spaceship on the original series, and $144,000 for a costume belonging to the original series' Dr McCoy.

For those who may not have nabbed any of the thousand items there is still a way to tap into the nostalgia. Some fans, distraught over the series coming to an end took matters into their own hands and started Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, an online series which has so far produced 46 episodes over seven seasons.