Political MoJo

ABC Poll: Public Trusts Republicans More on Terror

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 1:24 PM EDT

Via the Note. It would be nice if people weren't so...well, you know.

"Terrorism has inched up in importance in the 2006 midterm elections and Republicans have regained an edge in trust to handle it, helping George W. Bush's party move closer to the Democrats in congressional vote preference," writes ABC News' Polling Director Gary Langer.

"The Republicans lead the Democrats in trust to handle terrorism by 48-41 percent among registered voters in this ABC News poll, a flip from a seven-point Democratic advantage last month. And 16 percent now call terrorism the top issue in their vote, a slight five-point gain."

"The Republicans' edge on handling terrorism is still vastly below their 35-point lead on the issue heading into the 2002 midterm elections. But it's still their best issue, the one Bush rode to re-election. And part of their gain is among independents, the key swing voters in any election: They now split between the parties in trust to handle terrorism, after favoring the Democrats by nine points last month."

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Bush's Great Awakening (And Great Smelling of Coffee)

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 4:15 AM EDT

Don't miss Peter Baker's story about Bush telling conservative reporters that the nation is going through a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion as a result of the war on terror. This will come as news to some historians who believe we're already due for the Fourth or the Fifth in the Great Awakenings series. Then again, there's Robert William Fogel, the University of Chicago Nobel laureate who maintains that we're witnessing the political consequences of the Fourth Great Awakening, the rise of charismatic, evangelical, and pentecostal expressions of faith in the second half of the 20th century. The thrust of this movement includes, according to Fogel, an "attack on materialist corruption; rise of pro-life, pro-family, and media reform movements; campaign for more value-oriented school curriculum; expansion of tax revolt; attack on entitlements; return to a belief in equality of opportunity." Among Fogel's devotees, it seems, is Karl Rove. Now for that "return to a belief in equality of opportunity" part...

Torture Insurance: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

| Wed Sep. 13, 2006 3:50 AM EDT

CIA officers are getting--and the government is paying for--insurance to cover their legal costs and any civil judgments should they get sued by people alleging they were abused in secret agency prisons (or, presumably, not-so-secret facilities like Baghram and Abu Ghraib). Granted, so far the only CIA-related case along those lines was that of David Passaro, a private contractor found guilty of killing an Afghan detainee who died after being severely beaten with a flashlight. But many at Langley are worried, reports the Washington Post, that a Justice Department that encouraged them to stretch the law won't be there for them when the hammer comes down from the courts or Congress (something our own Jim Ridgeway suggests could happen on a number of scores).

"There are a lot of people who think that subpoenas could be coming" from Congress after the November elections or from federal prosecutors if Democrats capture the White House in 2008, said a retired senior intelligence officer who remains in contact with former colleagues in the agency's Directorate of Operations, which ran the secret prisons.

"People are worried about a pendulum swing" that could lead to accusations of wrongdoing, said another former CIA officer.

Fun with Guns

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 8:04 PM EDT

University students in Michigan will have a chance to aim paint ball guns and BB guns at cardboard cut-outs of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, thanks to the Repaublican National Committee, which is funding Fun With Guns events for collegiate Republicans.

Think Fun with Guns isn't challenging enough? Then how about Catch An Illegal Immigrant Day? Penn State University dropped its plan to hold a Catch An Illegal Immigrant Day after there was an outcry over it. But the event has been held at other schools, including the University of North Texas.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has written a letter to Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, the text of which follows:

Dear Ken,

A troubling article today reported that a Republican National Committee-hired intern is planning events that can only be described as divisive, potentially dangerous, and discriminatory to promote the Republican Party's agenda at the University of Michigan.

Promoting "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day," which has been used by the Republican Party in other states including Pennsylvania and Texas, is not only offensive, it promotes discrimination for political gain. And an event titled "Fun with Guns" that encourages young Republicans to shoot cardboard cut-outs of Democratic leaders further promotes intolerance and violence. These un-American activities cannot go unchallenged.

We'd read that the RNC would use its funds to engage in negative campaigning in a desperate attempt to hold on to power and mobilize Republican voters in November, but these un-American attacks and violent, inflammatory campaign tactics are beyond the pale. As Chairmen of America's two major political parties, we have a responsibility to elevate the political discourse in America. Whether this is directly an RNC funded activity or not, I ask that you not only order such events ceased but also denounce these types of campaign tactics that breed only hatred, division and fear.

You said yourself to a gathering of Hispanic elected officials that America is a "nation of immigrants.a nation united by ideas, not race, creed or place of origin." That same day you also acknowledged that "we are all held to account by a common rule of law," and that "respect for this basic concept is critical to an America where we are all treated the same." To demonstrate your commitment to these words and ideals you must immediately act to have these desperate, inappropriate attacks stopped. America's democracy can only continue to work if we respect each other, and uphold the values that have made our country great. I hope to hear back from you on this important matter promptly.

Best regards,

Howard Dean, Chairman Democratic National Committee

Are We Safer? (Are We Even Safe?) Does Congress Care?

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 6:45 PM EDT

The US Congress at its finest (AP):

WASHINGTON - Ports security legislation that most senators agree would make the country safer was stuck Tuesday in election-year politics as Republicans threatened to scrap it if Democrats forced in a wide range of provisions.

It was unclear when the Senate would vote — if ever — on the bill that as recently as last week was considered a sure thing.

The Democratic plan "will kill the bill," said Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska. "We have a bipartisan bill to start with. ... All these amendments are just coming out of the sewer right now. There's just too many of them, and they're just nothing but attempts to block this bill."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said his plan would also bolster security on trains and buses and at chemical plants, strengthen U.S. intelligence missions overseas and approve all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, half of which are still undone.

"Let's see if they'll vote against this," said Reid, D-Nev., hoisting a thick stack of white papers.

A timely reminder that, even though the midterms might turn on the issue of national security, that doesn't mean anything beneficial to national security will actually get done in the next couple of months.

Ben Bernanke's Hippie Roots

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 6:37 PM EDT

It turns out that the man whose very choice of words directly influences the fate of our economy long ago had a different sort of way with words. At his South Carolina high school Ben Bernanke authored a hippie dictionary; Bloomberg lists some of its content:

Bird - a lady as in "cute chick" or "henpecked"

Dig - to like, to enjoy, as "The hippie undertaker digs his work.''

Down trip - a drag

Drag - a down trip

Hang-up - a neurosis or fetish

In gear - the cat's pajamas

Lie-In - a form of peaceful protest that often fails when demonstrators go to sleep

Square - someone who stays home New Year's Eve to hear Guy Lombardo play "Auld Lang Syne''

Straight - as in "stiff'' (see "dig'')

Swing - what someone does who thinks Guy Lombardo is a football coach (see square)

Trip - a rocket flight without the rocket

You dig?

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More US Troops Needed if Anbar Insurgency to be Defeated

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 3:39 PM EDT

Yesterday's Washington Post reported that Anbar province in western Iraq is all but lost to the insurgency (which is dominated, there, by Al Qaeda in Iraq). Today the senior commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq, seeking to counter that assessment, succeeds only in confirming it (AP).

"I've got the force levels I need right now," [Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C.] Zilmer said. "My mission out here, along with the rest of the force, is to develop the ISF (Iraqi security forces), and I think we have the appropriate force levels to do that. Now, if that mission statement changes — if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight — then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here."

Meaning he'd need more (American) troops--in addition to the 30,000 currently in Anbar. Does the US have the appetite for a military escalation there? Unlikely.

Anti-War Candidates and the Primaries

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 3:14 PM EDT

Folks who oppose the war in Iraq (and are ticked off at the deception and misdirection that got us into it) shouldn't read too much into Hillary Clinton's expected drubbing of anti-war insurgent Jonathan Tasini, notes John Nichols over at The Nation. Clinton after all, in addition to enjoying all the advantages of incumbency, is an A-list celebrity and a formidable fundraiser. There are races, though, where anti-war messages are more interestingly--perhaps decisively--in play. Nichols lists a few.

* The Maryland Senate race, where former NAACP executive director Kweisi Mfume has been far more aggressive in his opposition to the war than Cardin. Mfume's focus on the cost of the war is especially noteworthy. "The billions of dollars being spent to wage this war continue to distort our priorities and drain our economy of much needed resources," the former congressman argues. "We don't ever seem to have the money that we need when it comes to driving down the cost of health care or driving up the quality of our public schools, because we are throwing so much of it into this war."

* Maryland's 4th Congressional District, where veteran activist Donna Edwards has come on strong at the close of her Democratic primary challenge to complacent incumbent Albert Wynn. With fresh endorsements from the Washington Post, the major newspaper in the district, and the region's Teamsters, Edwards is clearly credible. And she is closing with a strong anti-war message in a race against a Democrat who she blisters for "casting his lot with Bush and the Republicans on such critical issues as Iraq..."

* Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, where Democrat Olav Martin Sabo is retiring. Several of the candidates in the crowded Democratic primary have articulated anti-war positions. Of the frontrunners, the most aggressive is state Representative Keith Ellison, who says, "I am calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. I opposed the war before it began; I was against this war once it started and I am the only candidate calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops."

* Arizona's 8th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Jim Kolbe is stepping down. The Democratic field is crowded and Jeff Latas lacks the funding and the name recognition of several of the other candidates. But the retired Air Force fighter pilot is a compelling contender.

Nichols, citing the example of the staunchly anti-war John Sarbanes, son of Sen. Paul Sarbanes and a frontrunner for an open U.S. House seat representing Maryland's 3rd District, also argues that "[o]nly when Democrats have the wisdom and the courage to articulate a clear anti-war position will they begin to steer the debate in Washington."

For more on the November elections, check out the Times' nifty interactive map (click on it).

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Primary Races to Watch Today

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 1:55 PM EDT

In addition to Sen. Lincoln Chafee's fascinating battle to keep his job ("If you want to see just how large Republicans can build their Big Tent, or alternately, how tight they can hold their noses, look at the Senate primary race in Rhode Island today."), here are some primary races to watch today (AP):

  • The New York Democratic primary for attorney general, with former federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo - son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo - against Mark Green, the former New York City Public Advocate.
  • In New York's gubernatorial primary, Eliot Spitzer is set to pulverize Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi; Sen. Hillary Clinton likewise will crush anti-Iraq war candidate Jonathan Tasini in the New York Democratic Senate primary. (If she can hold Tasini to single digits Clinton will likely claim to have neutralized the anti-war opposition to her larger political ambitions.)
  • The Maryland Democratic Senate primary, where Rep. Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and one-time head of the NAACP, are among 18 contenders for an open seat. The winner will face Michael Steele, who, if he wins in the fall, would be the Senate's only black Republican.
  • The Democratic primary for a House seat in Minnesota in an open, reliably Democratic district which includes Minneapolis. Four candidates are running, including state legislator Keith Ellison, who won his party's backing. If he won, Ellison would be the first Muslim member of Congress.

Study: Global Warming Gives Hurricanes Extra Wallop

| Tue Sep. 12, 2006 1:02 PM EDT

hurricane.jpg

Well, then. Scientists have found evidence that global warming is heating the ocean and giving extra wallop to violent hurricanes (San Francisco Chronicle). Since 1906, sea-surface temperatures have warmed by between 0.6 and 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit -- in the tropical parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans where hurricanes get their start, and there's been a surge in big storms since the early 1990s.

The researchers, at Lawrence Livermore lab in California, tried to figure out what caused the hike in ocean temperatures by running a bunch of different computer models based on possible single causes. The best pointed to greenhouse gases.

Skeptics--not just your Flat-Earthers but bona fide hurricane experts--aren't persuaded. But the lead author of the new study says, "the models that we've used to understand the causes of [ocean warming] in these hurricane formation regions predict that the oceans are going to get a lot warmer over the 21st century. That causes some concern."

PLUS: Check out this graph, from ClearTheAir.org, tracking ocean temperature and hurricane strength over the past 30 years. (Click on the image.) (Thanks to reader Pete Altman.)

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