November 19, 2014
Charles Clapp's classic "The Congressman."
What do members of Congress really do, anyway?
What have they done traditionally? True, staffs are bigger now--but much of life on The Last Plantation is the same as 50 years ago. What values, if any, are shared by those on work in Capitol Hill?
The Brookings Institution first published "The Congressman: His Work as He Sees It" by Charles L. Clapp in 1963 (507 pages, Anchor). Congressional fellow, policy wonk and former Capitol Hill aide, Clapp was one of the first Washington "old hands" to study and write about the way a legislator actually thinks and works--as opposed to "how Congress works" generally--in the American Congress.
It's based on a study of 36 non-senior House members (i.e., relatively new to the job) who varied in philosophy, districts represented, personalities, and even perceived abilities.
Sure, 50 years ago, Congress enjoyed much smaller personal and committee staffs, and arguably considered less complex issues than they do today. America and the world have changed.
But in his book a Clapp pinned down and explained a few important things that have not changed, and not likely to change: the primacy of becoming an "expert" in one or two areas of national concern (usually reflected by committee assignments), the albatross of reelection every two years, sensitivity (even over-sensitivity) by members to discrete constituent communications and requests, and the fact that all of these men and women, regardless of overall intelligence, work ethic and personality, work hard (yes, no question, they all work hard, despite public's understandable animosity toward and need to demonize them) at a gig that would be daunting to anyone and is impossible to master in all respects.
As a friend notes, Congressional membership is "a lot of job." "The Congressman" is worth reading or at least skimming, whether you're a politics junkie or an average voter who wants to learn a bit more about American decision-making. It can still purchased through a number of online outlets and may be even downloadable, if you look around a bit.
November 17, 2014
William Jefferson Clinton: Lame Duck This, Everyone.
William Jefferson Clinton. Love him or hate him, he always comes ready to play. MSNBC: Bill Clinton’s advice to Obama: Have fun during final two years. The piece is by Alex Seitz-Wald and it begins:
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Former President Bill Clinton on Saturday urged President Obama to have fun and cut deals with Republicans now that the GOP controls both chambers of Congress. Clinton also said Obama’s decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the election likely depressed Latino turnout.
“I never bought this whole lame duck deal. I just didn’t,” the former president told Politico’s Mike Allen at an event here. “That’s my only real advice. It needs to be fun. It’s a great honor to go to work in the White House. It’s crazy to say you’re a lame duck and waste a single day of that precious time.”
Still, the former president – who himself faced a Republican-controlled Congress in his final two years in office – had more substantive suggestions as well. “I think that he should minimize the chances of being a lame duck, which he can do by continuing to have an agenda, and using the budget process to make deals with the Republicans, because now that they have both houses, they have a much more vested interest in actually governing,”
Clinton noted that his administration was working “right up until noon” on the day of his successor’s inauguration, and suggested that Obama needs to try harder to advance his agenda. There are still “five or six” big things he thinks Obama can get done, including immigration reform.
“There’s nothing sadder than seeing anybody whose term-limited, like a great athlete, get out of playing whatever you play and then you can’t do what you really love to do any more, so you just sort of let go,” Clinton said.
November 06, 2014
The mid-terms are over. Let the winners gloat and do their dance.
Dems humiliated. GOP has both houses. Not to worry, sports fans. It swings back in 2016. And then back again in 2018. In meantime, the poor, the new poor and climate policy take one huge step back. Those are way-important short-term concerns. And if you're comfortable, rich or super-rich? Chances are--and more than ever before in U.S. history--that your good fortunes had nothing to do with (1) hard work or (2) brains. Luck and accident of birth are the new "skills". Get over yourselves. Welcome to the new lower England.
from Peasant Wedding Dance, 1607, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638)
November 05, 2014
Congratulations, Senator-elect Shelley Moore.
Last night a college classmate we all knew as Shelley Moore--smart, pretty, well-liked, elegant and the daughter of then-West Virginia governor Arch Moore--won the West Virginia U.S. Senate race. Shelley Moore Capito is currently a seven-term member of the House. When she is sworn in in January, she will not be Duke's first female United States senator. But she will be West Virginia's first--and the first West Virginia GOP senator in over fifty years. Nicely done, Ms. Moore. See today's Washington Post and Talking Points.
OMG. In the next issue of Tiger Beat...
Getting Weird and Wired with Kim Jong-un, Asian Heartthrob Jefe.
November 04, 2014
FDR on voting.
Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.
-- FDR (1882-1945) Patrician, Activist, Charmer, Leader, Bad-Ass.
Emma Goldman on voting.
If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.
--Emma Goldman (1869–1940) Anarchist, Activist, Writer, Leader, Bad-Ass.
October 17, 2014
Photoshop This: Say it ain't so, Tom Corbett.
Since 2011, a former law partner of mine, Tom Corbett, a first-rate trial lawyer and past U.S. Attorney, has been the Republican governor of Pennsylvania. Not bad, considering that Pennsylvania, like its neighbor New Jersey, has been steadily morphing from GOP to Democratic in the last 25 years. In the November 2010 election, Corbett was able to take control back from Democrats, who had enjoyed 8 years under the popular Ed Rendell. Now running for his second term in a close race, Corbett is again hardworking and people-savvy as a campaigner. He generally picks topflight staff for everything. So he is way too smart to let this happen, via the Philadelphia Daily News: "Smiling black woman next to Corbett on his website was Photo-shopped." According the Corbett campaign, others in the offending image were photoshopped, too. Not the best damage control, either, guys. Finally, not too good picture of you, Governor. Bad week, I'd say.
September 18, 2014
UPDATE: Decision day in Scotland.
Update as of 10 pm Scottish time/5 pm EST: Most UK and American news sources have it that 5 hours after the Scottish polls closed, the vote is too close to call. Our prediction: the "No" vote (rejecting independence) will narrowly prevail.
Today, in an official referendum of the United Kingdom, 4 million residents of Scotland will decide whether or not to end Scotland's 307-year union with the United Kingdom. Scottish independence is the only item on the ballot. Only Scottish residents--and even most non-Scottish residents--can vote. The voting age in Scotland is 16. Polls close at 5 pm (12:00 noon EST in the U.S.). A true and correct copy of the ballot is below.
August 11, 2014
Three Yale law students in Slate: American sex offender laws are unfair, draconian and based on bad science.
In Slate today, the article "Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far" argues that both state and federal sex offender registry laws are draconian and wrongly based on "the terrible exceptions" rather than the norm. We agree. Bravo to the three Yale law students--Matt Mellema, Chanakya Sethi and Jane Shim--who wrote it. Part II of this story on what to do about it ("making registries smarter and better") will appear in Slate on August 15. Excerpt from today's piece:
In seeking answers to those questions, over the last several months, we were surprised to find that one of the sharpest—and loudest—critics of the ballooning use of registries is Patty Wetterling [mother of an abducted child missing since 1989].“These registries were a well-intentioned tool to help law enforcement find children more quickly,” she told us. “But the world has changed since then.” What’s changed, Wetterling says, is what science can tell us about the nature of sex offenders.
The logic behind the past push for registries rested on what seem like common sense assumptions. Among the most prominent were, first, sex offenders were believed to be at a high risk for reoffending—once a sex offender, always a sex offender. Second, it was thought that sex offenses against children were commonly committed by strangers. Taken together, the point was that if the police had a list, and the public could access it, children would be safer.
The problem, however, is that a mass of empirical research conducted since the passage of Jacob’s Law has cast increasing doubt on all of those premises. For starters, “the assumption that sex offenders are at high risk of recidivism has always been false and continues to be false,” said Melissa Hamilton, an expert at the University of Houston Law Center, pointing to multiple studies over the years. “It’s a myth.”
July 31, 2014
A Question of Standing: Does the GOP House have any class? Does it have a good lawyer?
I used to like the GOP more. Whether or not I voted its way on a candidate or an issue, I liked what Republicans brought to the table in the national discourse. We need a two-party system in America. And until House Republicans decided to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998, I had the utmost respect for any articulate bearer of the GOP line. I needed to hear those ideas. But now my enthusiasms are dampened even more. Yesterday, the House 225-201 House voted to authorize a suit against President Obama for failure to implement statue as passed by Congress. See, e.g., today's Politico. Specifically, GOP members of Congress claim they are harmed by the White House's series of reprieves via executive orders on enforcement of a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employers offer health coverage or pay a penalty--a requirement that most Republicans oppose anyway. At best, the vote gives both Rs and Ds something to spin during the upcoming mid-term Congressional elections. But apart from that, the ideologically-driven vote is embarrassing and petty given the expanded use of executive orders by all modern presidents to tweak statutes. This is a political squabble. Purely political. In addition, it will be difficult for the House to allege in its complaint that the House itself has been injured by any of the president's action. As such, under well-settled constitutional law, no federal court is likely to grant standing to the GOP plaintiffs.
Above: George Thorogood. "And one day in 1998 the GOP members broke real bad and stayed that way."
April 21, 2014
England's most famous Etonian suffers a lapse in class.
Did the British PM blow a few "dog-whistles" at cranky devout Christian voters last week? Though almost a week old, this story has legs--in and beyond Old Blighty--because it's so, well, appalling. It is also cringe-worthy for any American, with or without an understanding of English constitutional law, who stayed awake during high school civics back in Indiana. David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, apparently decided to tap the ever-dwindling Church of England "cultural" vote. The Guardian was one of the first to report it in "Prime Minister David Cameron: I am evangelical about Christian faith". To make matters worse, Cameron also said that England was a "Christian" country. A day later, the Guardian's Polly Toynbee wrote her own piece, "David Cameron won't win votes by calling Britain a Christian country", and asked
So why God now?
His core message, "This is a Christian country", dog-whistles to key voters. Ostensibly, it soothes the noisy but electorally few affronted folk in the pews angry about gay marriage, whose fury he had underestimated. For them Cameron ladled out syrupy retro-visions of the C of E [Church of England] of his Oxfordshire upbringing, its liturgy and heritage, his love of early morning eucharist at his children's school's church. But his "Christian country" message is really whistling to the errant flock fled to Ukip. They may never attend, but the C of E is a cultural identity marker for those sharing Nigel Farage's distaste for foreign tongues on his commuter train.
Naturally, Cameron is careful to say "this is not somehow doing down other faiths". But those who feel threatened on account of their non-Christian faith won't find Christian branding reassuring. This week, an article on this site described how the far right is using pork to persecute Jews and Muslims, as Marine Le Pen stops schools serving non-pork options in the French towns she now controls. More horrible still, members of the Flemish Vlaams Belang party reportedly stormed into a school and forced pork sausages into children's mouths.
Can I get an amen?
April 07, 2014
Think you can prepare and skillfully interview anyone? Then try Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sometime.
Think you can skillfully interview anyone? I do. I take pride in dragging out facts, doing cross and direct, taking depositions, putting people at ease and, in general, making contact with people and getting them to open up. I'm good at it, others tell me. And then this morning I read The New Republic's recent interview with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago congressman and Obama's colorful ex-chief of staff. This was that rare you-cannot-prepare-for-everything interview. TNR reporter Issac Chotiner was a very good sport--few journalists or lawyers could have done better. Me? Well, I like Mayor Emanuel. But I would have likely lost my temper at a couple of junctures. Strike that. Not likely. For sure. It's an interesting if contentious conversation.
March 16, 2014
1916: Forógra na Poblachta
("Proclamation of the Republic", April 24, 1916)
January 26, 2014
France's New First Girlfriend?
French Actress Julie Gayet, 41.
November 25, 2013
William Jefferson Clinton: The First Bubba in 2017?
Dang. In 2017 we might see Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will have turned 69 just before election day in 2016, sworn in as the nation's first female POTUS. Her White Housemate? One William Jefferson Clinton, who will then be 70. No matter what your politics, it does sound like fun. What, if anything, do you think about this? Can we hear from commentariat-pundit-pollsters like Mike O'Neil?
November 08, 2013
The Economist: Time for Britain to Turn Outward.
In the next five years, will Britain take a proactive role in the European community? Or will it turn inward? Will it lead, or merely observe the Continent from its reliable safe distance across the English Channel? Will the UK even stay in the European Union? Do see in this week's The Economist Little England or Great Britain? Excerpt:
Britain once ran the world. Since the collapse of its empire, it has occasionally wanted to curl up and hide. It can now do neither of those things. Its brightest future is as an open, liberal, trading nation, engaged with the world. Politicians know that and sometimes say it: now they must fight for it, too.
October 29, 2013
Hermann the German: Merkelphonegate.
My friend Hermann, still braving Berlin after all these years, notes that "Germans Push To Introduce Espionage Etiquette Manual". Excerpt:
Folks in Germany are always very anxious about social etiquette and behaving correctly in public. The "Knigge," for instance, is a famous book about social rules and how one should behave in practically all situations. When it comes to seating arrangements at table, for instance:
1. Couples that aren’t married always sit together.
2. Married couples normally don’t sit abreast.
3. Not until the homemaker wants to sit on the table the guests are allowed to sit, too.
4. The dish rests on the table until the last guest has eaten his meal.
Now, in the wake of all this undue excitement going on about the Obama administration’s benevolent “Merkelphone” eavesdropping program, Germany has decided to take the initiative when it comes to etiquette in certain private (or private eye) matters, too. During a two-day summit in Brussels, the Germans have suggested the introduction of an internationally recognized Espionage Etiquette Manual to be followed geflissentlich (studiously) by all superpowers on earth.
The "other" Herman, or Arminius, was a leader of Roman Auxiliary Cavalry in the 9th Century AD. In the three-day battle known as the Varus Schlact, which took place in a dense forest, he switched sides, led the destruction of three Roman Legions (about 10,000 in number) and stopped Roman expansion into what is now Germany.
November 13, 2012
Dem Businessman Erskine Bowles: "This Magic Moment".
Business Insider notes that Bowles, North Carolina businessman, educator, former White House Chief of Staff and Democratic co-chair of President Obama's 2010 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, said in an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett yesterday that "now" is the time for a debt deal on Capitol Hill. Bowles and former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, the commission's Republican co-chair, wrote the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, a bipartisan proposal which President Obama would not approve after its release in December 2010.
"I think this is truly the magic moment," Bowles said.
"We've got a second-term Democratic president who is willing to put entitlements on the table. We've got a Republican speaker who really gets it, who understands the dangers we face and is willing to put revenue on the table."
"We've probably got as many as 50 members in the Senate, equal number of Republicans and Democrats who are for a balanced plan," Bowles added.
"But most importantly, what we have, we have this fiscal cliff, this crisis, which really will create chaos if we go over the fiscal cliff and we don't immediately get a deal thereafter."
November 11, 2012
Neoconservative Bill Kristol on Congressional Deadlock: "Let People Float New Ideas".
Me? Generally, I like free markets. I don't like progressive taxes. I want everyone to know achievements will not be (1) discouraged as dreams or (2) penalized once accomplished. I also dislike (read: hate) partisan-line or cookie-cutter thinking--on the Right, the Left or the Middle. When I can't see the logic or merit of the other side's case, I will, on occasion, tolerate compromise "just because". And I know how stubbornly "being right" is always expensive and unproductive.
In mid-February last year I spotted Bill Kristol, founder of The Daily Standard, former Daniel Moynihan aide and the closest thing to living royalty in American conservatism--his dad, Irving, was Managing Editor of Commentary and a Rock Star of the Right--in the sumptuous lobby of a west coast Ritz-Carlton and wondered two things. First, had this precocious (and by all accounts) brilliant neocon preppie with a Harvard Ph.D ever stayed in even a Cambridge Holiday Inn? Secondly, how flexible, really, was he ideologically?
I just got my answer on the second one, and I think Bill Kristol has big ones. Well done, sir. See Fox News clip below.
And in The Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON -- Conservative commentator and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said Sunday the Republican Party should accept new ideas, including the much-criticized suggestion by Democrats that taxes be allowed to go up on the wealthy.
"It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "It really won't, I don't think. I don't really understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer."
"Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile?" he asked.
One of the biggest fights as Congress returns will be over taxes, as cuts put in place by former President George W. Bush are set to expire at the end of the year. Republicans want to extend those tax cuts for all income brackets, while Democrats want to raise revenue by allowing them to expire for wealthy Americans.
Exit polls last week found that six in ten voters supported ending the tax cuts on the wealthy, but House Republicans have remained adamantly opposed to allowing any of the rates to expire, instead supporting other changes to the tax code. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated on Friday that was unlikely to change.
"By lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know that we're going to get more economic growth," he said at a press conference. "It'll bring jobs back to America. It'll bring more revenue. We also know that if we clean up the code and make it simpler, the tax code will be more efficient. The current code only collects about 85 percent of what's due the government. And it's clear that if you have a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, that efficiency -- the effectiveness and efficiency of the tax code increases exponentially."
November 07, 2012
Congratulations, Mr. President. So, what now, sir?
I got to DC last night late. Obama won. And the Senate withstood a GOP challenge. Around 12:15 am, after I started to hear the celebratory honking from folks on U Street, Q Street and streets in east Georgetown, it occurred to me. With this close and this grueling a race, even with it over, America is the most politically and culturally divided it has been in my lifetime. We are still at an iffy place of definitions. What next, folks? And let's start with those SCOTUS nominations. Jobs. The deficit. Privacy issues. Energy security. Mideast policy. Health care. And the fact that we have split into several Americas.
November 06, 2012
Vote, ok? Just vote.
Like prayer, meditation or horseshoes, voting need not be perfect. It need not be fully informed. It doesn't have to be correct. But do vote today. Use or lose it, big guy.
October 23, 2012
Man, were we wrong: Obama the Aggressor owns Night 3.
It wasn't that the talented Mitt Romney performed poorly last night; he didn't. It was just that Obama was so uncannily good. And he was all over Romney without seeming like a bully. Well done. Night 3 was no "draw" and came close, in my view, to being a rout. My last three serious live tweets (from earliest to latest) sum it up:
Obama dumbing it down: Surrender Mitt. You don't know the world. You screwed up small biz in Massachusetts. It's curtains for ya', kid.
Obama seems to fairly glow tonight. On his game even more than #2. Telegenic. Confident. He's enjoying Battle. Warrior in Zone.
I was wrong to predict draw tonight. Am calling this for Obama to same degree Mitt triumphed in #1. Obama in Zone at times. He's the Man.
At the Gannett House: Who's the Man now?
October 22, 2012
Prediction for Obama-Romney Night 3: A Street Fight with Mitt as Aggressor--and a Draw.
Tonight at 9:00 EST President Obama and Governor Romney debate foreign policy--expect lots on China, Libya and Iran--in Boca Raton, Florida with Washington CBS Bob Schieffer mainstay as moderator. As Round 3 is foreign policy, you would expect it to be Obama's night. But you can also expect Romney, once again, to be over-prepared. And Romney will try to launch several attacks that the President is "soft" on China and Iran. He will be planting seeds with voters across the board who are uncomfortable with Obama's internationalist view of the world. Romney, of course, doesn't have any foreign policy experience to attack. So he will be the aggressor. His attacks will neither succeed nor fail; he will just be lobbing them in there. Obama, in turn, will not miss a trick in any of his responses. However, Romney's secret weapon in the debates has been Rob Portman, the junior U.S. Senator from Ohio who's done a great job of getting Romney ready. For the first time ever, Romney will sound like he knows his stuff on world affairs--and he will startle us. Both candidates will hold their own tonight. Our prediction: a street fight and a draw.
Senator George S. McGovern (1922–2012)
He is the most decent man in the Senate.
--Robert F. Kennedy, 1968
Growing up, professionals born in the 1960s were often likely to have political heroes on the GOP side of things. Ronald Reagan is a good example, and he seemed to excite college kids in a way other Republicans had not since Ike. But if you were born earlier, say in the 1950s, your heroes came in a veritable pantheon that included certain "lefty" U.S. senators: Robert Kennedy, Birch Bayh, Gaylord Nelson, Eugene McCarthy, Tom Eagleton, Ed Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Abe Ribicoff, Dick Clark. And George McGovern from South Dakota. McGovern, who by his own missteps was beaten by Nixon in 1972, was really heir to Robert Kennedy's ideas and following after Kennedy was shot and killed in 1968.
A lot of people thought this bookish WWII war-hero was a little too liberal, and personally a bit too peaceful and gentle, to be the President of the United States. But those around him--like Gary Hart, Frank Mankiewicz, Warren Beatty and Hunter Thompson--knew better. Senator McGovern was a tough and feisty guy. He just wasn't flashy about it. But once in the fall of 1972, McGovern was mercilessly heckled at a rally by someone very close to the stage. When the rally was over, McGovern stepped down from the stage and gestured for the man to come over to him. The man came. In the middle of a throng of Secret Service agents and admirers, McGovern cupped his hand over his mouth, got real close to the man and whispered in his ear: "I have a secret for you. Kiss my ass."
October 18, 2012
Voice of America interviews Patrick Ukata on Ibrahim Prize for African leadership.
Yesterday on Voice of America's Straight Talk Africa, VOA mainstay Shaka Ssali interviewed our friend Patrick Ukata, Professor of International Relations at American University's School of International Service in Washington, D.C. The entire show, which was broadcast live simultaneously on radio, television and the Internet, is here.
By way of background, earlier this week, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation released its 2012 edition of Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which annually assesses governance in every African country. Interestingly, the Foundation also announced that this year no one deserved the annual Ibrahim Prize for achievement in African leadership this year. Only three leaders have been awarded the prize in the last six years. In yesterday's hour-long Straight Talk program, Patrick was asked: who do you think deserved to win this year’s Mo Ibrahim Prize for governance and why? Also on the show was Eric Chinje, Communications Director for the Ibrahim Foundation, via a London studio. Listen to Shaka Ssali, Patrick and Eric discuss the quality of new leaders and new regional governments in the daily-changing political and economic canvas of the new Africa.
At American University, Patrick, who also a lawyer, specializes in the political economy and international relations of Africa, legal reforms and governance. He is widely known in American and Africa for building and directing the American University of Nigeria (AUN), a privately funded American-style university in Nigeria. It began in 2004, and is the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Patrick Ukata on Gwen Ifill's "Washington Week" in July. (PBS photo)
October 17, 2012
Obama Blows Off His "No Angry" Rule to Seize the Night. And, Fellow Yanks: Do You Feel Lucky, Yet?
Candy Crowley just before last night's thriller. (ABC News)
The problem with people in 2005 having talked me into having "a blog" is that actual non-wanker work--yes, they still have that--interferes with blogging and other digital New Age life. Blogging in my case does beat some alternatives. Like explaining to a Capitol Hill cop at 1:30 AM you thought it was perfectly okay to drive on the sidewalk in front of the Tune Inn and that, growing up back in Ohio, you did that all the time.
Anyway, I thought one of my always-sober "live tweets" last night during Obama-Biden Night 2 in Hempstead, New York--a town hall format led by CNN's Candy Crowley on both domestic and foreign policies--summed it up. Very nice to see the president get his Mojo back:
Dan Hull @Whataboutparis 7:27 pm ET
Am calling it. Obama "won" handily tonight--but not on scale Romney won Oct. 3. New game. A feistier than ever prez rehabilitates himself.
I also liked another live tweet by my talented friend and political commentator Mike O'Neil:
Mike O'Neil @michaeljoneil
Most awesome moment of the debate: Candy Crowley remembering exactly what the Pres said on the day after the Libya attack. Incredible!
Speaking of the moderator Crowley, did she show a disposition toward favoring Barack Obama last night? Yes, I thought she did, but that it was slight. One possible explanation? When things heated up, Governor Romney on a few occasions adopted a barely perceptible but weird patrician tone of voice with the both Obama and Crowley. Which in a way was funny (is that the real silver-spoon Mitt?). However, in Candy Crowley's case, and when things were not going his way, he talked to her cavalierly and crisply, like she was hopelessly bad extra kitchen help on Parents' Night at the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills.
My overwhelming take-away if pedestrian feeling after seeing President Obama and former Governor Romney go at it? That I am, frankly, lucky to live in a country (a) that attracts national candidates of this caliber, (b) that attracts and encourages such diverging viewpoints and (c) that lets us talk about those viewpoints openly and without fear. Every four years, I am amazed by this. I am proud of it. You don't get this everywhere else on the planet, Jack.
But we have a big problem now in the quality of the discourse from the voters--not from politicians running for office. From the looks of the both traditional and digital media I see in this election cycle, our culture wars in America at the "higher-information" voter levels alone are getting meaner, uglier, more polarized and more intensely personal than they have ever been. Check out Twitter last night and the blogs this morning. Some Romney supporters believe that Obama has an agenda to destroy the American way of life. Obama supporters often believe Mitt Romney is an anti-middle class elitist who is comfortable with sick or old people dying in our streets.
Neither of these portraits, of course, are accurate. Yet more and more people act as if one of these two sketches are true--and an alarming number of people have decided to hate or fear one of these two candidates. The blackest of agendas are imagined. The candidates are assumed to not even be acting in good faith.
How did we ever get this dumb?
We have two jihads going on. More than any time in my memory, educated people are buying into stark portrayals of the two contenders in either black or white. The candidates have become grotesque cartoon characters. Let's get something straight. Neither Obama nor Romney is evil. Each can competently run the United States--and even arrive at the same outcomes under different policies and philosophies. Both will lie to us a bit to keep or get power. That happens in politics. Get used to that, please.
Sure, the stakes are high right now. A down-economy has Americans, and people all over the world, in unexpected and new kinds of pain. Vigorous debate between citizens is important and to be expected now. In the meantime, let's not dumb down our conversation so much that the personalities or ideas of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and anyone else on the national stage are painted in gross distortions and absurdities.
October 11, 2012
Debate Prediction: Joe Biden Over Paul Ryan By Two Touchdowns; Ryan Way More Annoying.
In tonight's vice-presidential debate in Kentucky between two talky Irish Catholic guys, Joe Biden, about to turn 70, will triumph over but not trounce Paul Ryan, 42.
Unfortunately, Ryan is more annoying than any pol alive (including Biden) when he gets going. Further, the young Wisconsin congressman has trouble "seeming smart" or seasoned when he talks his highly-touted economic plans, policies and especially underlying numbers. Like the late Jack Kemp, my old buddy at the Longworth Building, and who Ryan used to work for, when Ryan talks economics he sounds like he's parroting something Dan Moynihan or Milton Friedman said or wrote but really doesn't get that well yet. Even low-information voters pick up on this stuff.
Joe Biden? He is way smarter than people think. He is more likable (and, yes, smarter) than Ryan. And he is one of the best natural politicians the country had ever produced. He will be very well-prepared. Biden will be feisty--but not talk as much as Ryan. Watch also for Biden to strip away on national television his GOP-painted cartoonish "buffoon" image in much the same way Mitt Romney last week blew away the "uber-robot" caricature. People will be reminded, too, that on foreign policy he's more knowledgeable and experienced than the president, Romney and Ryan put together.
Finally, this is Ryan's first national debate; he will be a little nervous. The Vice-President has done a few; he is never nervous.
2008: Senator Obama confers with Biden during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Biden chaired. (Washington Post)
October 04, 2012
Horse Race: Debate Night 1 Belongs to Mitt Romney.
Whether I like it or or not, Mitt Romney did well last night and, for the time being at least, completely destroyed his "robot" image. He connected with the audience--something I and others thought he simply could not do. In this first debate of three, on domestic policy only, both candidates were less than perfect and credible on the substance and validity of their economic and taxation plans, but Romney was energetic, feisty and human. The president seemed tired and anxious. Round One to the formerly moderate silver spoon Republican pol and ex-governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney was very, very well-prepared.
Domestic Policy Night: Mitt Romney's Night. (AP photo)
October 02, 2012
Prediction: Mitt Romney "Wins" First Debate.
No, it's not wishful thinking. It just makes sense. As I type, Mitt Romney, who is often dull but hard-working and mega-bright, is preparing for what is obviously the three most important nights of his political life: the televised debates of October 3, 16 and 22. Respectively, the debates will cover the topics of domestic policy, domestic policy/foreign policy in a town hall format, and foreign policy. If Romney can shine, it will be tomorrow tonight--again, the topic is domestic policy and not in a town hall format--and I expect he will shine and out-perform President Obama in this first one. To all my cookie-cutter and doctrinaire fellow Democrats out there who think Mitt's a "robot": maybe so--but he's a talented robot. Romney has everything on the line and, to be fair, he is no choke-artist. He is preparing for the debates with the equally hard-working and smart Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman. Expect him tomorrow night to be the most prepared candidate for a presidential debate ever. He will surprise everyone. And he must "win" tomorrow night. The second and third debates? Obama already has the upper hand. The president is better than Romney in town hall settings (October 16) and at least sounds more articulate than Romney on foreign policy (October 22). The second and third debates are the president's to lose.
Tomorrow night's debate host Jim Lehrer, of PBS's NewsHour.
August 09, 2012
Gutsy, Superfluous--or just Awkward? Obama weighs in on BSA rearticulation of policy banning gays.
We'll call it all three--but it's certainly leadership. Well done, sir. As my fellow Eagle Scouts debate whether to give up their awards, President Obama, via spokesman Shin Inouye, appears to condemn BSA's stance banning gay members and leaders (both NBC stories by Miranda Leitsinger), the policy BSA clarified and, in effect, re-announced three weeks ago. Kudos to once-outlier and now-player The Washington Blade, which broke the story. And there is some awkwardness here. The Blade also notes that in a "follow-up email, Inouye said Obama won’t resign or relinquish his position as honorary president of the Boy Scouts as result of this position."
August 02, 2012
Pippa Middleton Puts the Big Hurt on Chanel Designer Karl Lagerfeld's Vision.
According to the New York Daily News, and several other sources, the head designer at Chanel doesn't like Pippa Middleton's face. See Karl Lagerfeld blasts Pippa Middleton: 'She should only show her back'. That's not the point here, Karl. We don't care about Pippa Middleton's face. She has other attributes which make us very happy to be alive.
A star is born.
July 17, 2012
In the Huffington Post: Back from Berlin, Tan, Ready & Rested, Bennet Kelley is All Over Mitt Romney.
Internet lawyer, Georgetown fan, radio host, network television guest, political commentator, Hull McGuire of counsel, writer, columnist and Renaissance man Bennet Kelley has returned from his tour of Germany to hit the ground, as usual, running. At his regular column in the Huffington Post, see Mitt Romney: The "Us the People" Candidate. He begins with the can-do energies and positive direction he sensed last week in Berlin which do seem to contrast with the current American angst:
While the ghosts of fascism and communism are never far away, Berlin today is booming and Germans are confident and proud. In contrast, a recent Rasmussen poll showed that a plurality of Americans believe that our best days are behind us -- something that would seem unthinkable to what we have called our "Greatest Generation."
These are different times and it seems that the notion of "We the People" is over. Unlike World War II, where citizen and soldier each were vital to the war effort, in the last decade we have fought our two longest wars yet no sacrifice was ever asked of the citizens. Far from it in fact, as we cut taxes during wartime for the first time in our history.
And about Mitt Romney. Me? While I do think that Mitt Romney is one of the better presidential candidates the GOP has ever produced from the standpoint of sheer talent and managerial ability, Romney is perhaps uniquely unsuited to govern the U.S. now: a time when more Americans are suffering economically than they have at any time since the 1930s. Romney is, by personality, education and upbringing, one of the most sequestered and insulated major political figures we have seen in some time. He is not a bad man. But he makes even the entire Bush family seem almost working-class and possessed of a common touch in his obvious in inability to connect with anyone outside of his family and a small circle. Mitt Romney will never feel your pain, folks. He's simply not wired that way.
Bennet has other problems with Mitt Romney--which are less important to me but far more important (and less metaphysical than my sense of Romney, the human being) in the scheme of this year's election. They are the very issues the Democrats will drive home in the next few months:
the perfect candidate for "Us the People" as he hides his money in overseas tax shelters and Swiss bank accounts since "only the little people" pay taxes after all. That such a person could be elevated as nominee of a party reflects the fact that today sacrifice is a dirty word.
Consider for a moment the fact that, during World War II, Ford and General Motors converted their factories to military production to help with the war effort. This would be anathema to Romney and his fellow vulture capitalists at Bain who purchased American businesses, sold off their assets and then shipped jobs overseas.
Romney survived a GOP nomination process that clearly defined who was not included in the Republican definition of "Us" -- African and Hispanic Americans, Muslims, gays, women and the poor. Romney's economic proposal contemplates more tax cuts and other benefits for "Us" with the cost and burden to be borne by the poor and others not fortunate enough to be "Us."
July 14, 2012
223 years ago, was the Marquis de Sade really a player in the storming of The Bastille?
"And the moral of the story is never lean on the weird. Or they will chop your head off. Take my word for it, Bubba." For the report of an old friend, see our 2008 post How the Marquis de Sade was finally forced into politics.
France's Tweetgate: New French President Hollande, man of the people, stud, does his first Bastille Day.
French President Francois Hollande today.
Photo: Antoine Antoniol.
PARIS - A feud involving the French president's live-in girlfriend, his former partner and his eldest son may have tarnished the new leader's carefully cultivated image as “Mr. Normal” — credited with helping him win the spring election among a populace weary of his flashy predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Francois Hollande agreed to take a question about the family feud that has riveted the media during a television interview Saturday — a sign that in the Twitter era, even French leaders can't keep their private lives private.
But he sure did try.
Mid-way through the nationally televised interview on tradition-steeped Bastille Day, the reporters asked for his reaction to “tweetgate” as the feud is known. It began with a tweet sent out by his companion Valerie Trierweiler during last month's legislative elections. The tweet expressed support for the political opponent of his ex-partner Segolene Royal, the mother of the president's four children, who was defeated in her bid for a parliamentary seat.
Hollande may have agreed to take the question, but he quickly shut it down, saying that he intended to keep his public and private lives separate — and that he had asked those close to him to do the same.
But it may be too late to put the genie back in the bottle, since the tweet has set the French political establishment aflame, and turned the president's image on its head.
Widely criticized as a vindictive move, the tweet went viral and dominated news shows.
July 09, 2012
Oh Mexico. Sounds so simple. Never is.
See MSNBC on protests of the July 1 election results: "Tens of thousands protest in Mexico against president-elect, alleging vote fraud". Excerpt:
Pena Nieto won the July 1 election by almost 7 percentage points, according to the official count, returning the PRI to presidential power after 12 years in the wilderness. He is due to take power in December, replacing Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN.
The constitution barred Calderon from running for a second term. The PAN candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, finished third, with many voters dissatisfied over relentless drug violence and sluggish growth.
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador finished in second place, but has refused to concede, accusing Pena Nieto of stealing the presidency.
Marco Ugarte /AP
June 29, 2012
Radical Replevin: Secret Diaries, a Vampire-Hunting A. Lincoln and the Lawyer-Pol as The Anti-Wimp.
Preposterous but fun. A beloved leader and lawyer as the Anti-Wimp. But Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg as the Undead?
Benjamin Walker plays a Radical Dude.
June 28, 2012
No matter what your politics are, National Review's Dan Foster hands-down wins prize for best media quip on today's SCOTUS ACA ruling.
The News Editor of the conservative National Review Online this morning on Twitter:*
Daniel Foster @DanFosterNRO "Kennedy is a pimp. He never could have outfought Santino. But I never knew until this day that it was Roberts all along."
*Via the always-excellent Colin Samuels, Godfather to IP Wonks.
June 11, 2012
Mike O'Neil: Tomorrow's Arizona race for Rep. Gaby Giffords's seat. "The Only Other 2012 Bellwether Election."
See by Mike O'Neil in today's Huffington Post "The Only Other 2012 Bellwether Election." Excerpts:
Prior to the November presidential election, there are only two instances this year where actual voters will cast ballots in elections that could provide a clue about the mood of the electorate. The first of these was the Wisconsin recall election, in which Republican Governor Scott Walker successfully withstood an attempt to oust him from office. The second is the race for the remainder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords term which will be held on June 12.
In any individual race there are always factors other than the national mood that are relevant. Walker, for example, may have benefited by a reluctance of voters to oust an elected official for anything short of criminal offenses. Much about the Arizona Congressional race, however, suggests that it could be an excellent barometer of public sentiment on national issues. The district itself is regarded highly competitive.
It was represented for over two decades by Jim Kolbe, a moderate Republican. When Kolbe retired, the seat was won by centrist Democrat Gabrielle Giffords. If this district were a state, it would be classified as a presidential tossup.
This race pits her former aide, Ron Barber against the Tea Party candidate, Jesse Kelly, who narrowly missed beating Giffords in 2010.
May 17, 2012
Eastern Market: The Best 30 Minutes of My Day on Capitol Hill.
In my old 'hood: A corner of the Hill to eat, drink, buy oddities and watch humans. A small funky Roman forum. And the last of the many public markets that once served Washington, D.C. over a century ago.
April 29, 2012
Liberia: Reaction to Charles Taylor's conviction at The Hague is mixed.
The Charles Taylor verdict is the "first of its kind" against a world leader at The Hague. See this NPR report. Lead-in to the interview:
In an historic judgment, the UN-backed court at The Hague found Liberia's former president, Charles Taylor, guilty of war crimes. He was convicted of abetting murder, rape, and the forced enlistment of child soldiers during Sierra Leone's civil war.
Taylor had been on trial at The Hague for almost five years. He was accused of backing rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during that country's civil war by selling them weapons in exchange for diamonds.
It was a dramatic trial. There was graphic testimony about gruesome atrocities, mass rapes, amputations, cannibalism and information about the tens of thousands of people killed during the decade-long war.
Taylor in court 3 days ago.
April 26, 2012
Politico: Sen. Rob Portman as Mitt Romney's Number Two.
Southern Ohio's Taft Country has a long tradition of smart, hard-working, solid, uber-credentialed and refreshingly un-flashy Republicans who run for office, get elected and stay awhile on the national stage. Cincinnati's Rob Portman is in that mold. He would help Mitt Romney govern. If you vote GOP in November, Portman is, hands down, the most talented number two you could hope for. See in yesterday's Politico "Rob Portman: Vice President Vanilla?".
April 17, 2012
Tripoli or The Hague: Can Muammar Gaddafi’s son get a fair trial in Libya?
Muammar Gaddafi’s son and former heir Saif al-Islam will be put on trial inside Libya and there will be a verdict before the middle of June, a Libyan official said on Monday.
The decision comes despite appeals by rights groups to Libyan authorities to hand him over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for trial, amid fears that he may not get a fair trial in Libya.
A trial in the capital Tripoli would, however, mark a small step forward for the central government, which has been struggling to unify the country under its authority since Muammar Gaddafi’s capture and killing last year.
Reuters: Saif al-Islam.
April 05, 2012
In The American Prospect: Ohio's Rob Portman as Mitt's Running Mate.
Ohio's first-term U.S. senator, and Cincinnati golden boy, does make sense for a Romney GOP ticket. And, while staid, Portman (in our view) is still way more exciting than Mitt Romney. See "Romney's Veep Calculations" by Patrick Caldwell, who otherwise nails it in his piece of two days ago. Talented Portman would help Romney govern.
April 03, 2012
High Speed Rail in America: Some things our European cousins do quite well.
And so we should take that hint. Why can't we take a more earnest stab at high-speed rail? Three of our builder clients (and a 4th targeted one) are at once encouraged, skeptical and curious about this Reuters story of yesterday: New California High-Speed Rail Plan Cuts Cost. Kudos for Governor Moonbeam, also in office when I was in college. The article begins:
(Reuters) - California officials on Monday unveiled a major overhaul of a controversial plan to build a high-speed rail system in the state, slashing the cost by some $30 billion, to $68.4 billion, and addressing other criticisms of the massive project.
The new plan must now receive a final blessing from the California High Speed Rail Authority before going to the state legislature, which has to approve the release of the first chunk of the nearly $10 billion in rail bond funds voters approved in 2008.
The state must greenlight the spending and sell the first of the bonds to obtain $3.3 billion in federal matching funds and start construction in the fall as planned.
White House press conference Rah-Rah Exhibit "A" in early April 2009, 3 years ago. C'mon, guys.
March 19, 2012
Atlantic Review: "Best Music Videos for the US Elections".
Need perspective? Whenever you can, please visit our Berlin-based friends at the enduring Atlantic Review, a press digest and online magazine founded by American and German Fulbright Alumni in 2003. Like me, AR mainstay and co-founder Joerg Wolf grows weary of watching the GOP candidates this election cycle ensure a second term for our transformational if often-floundering young U.S. president--but Joerg does like the rock 'n roll part, as it were. Everywhere you go, pols wanna rock. And is Santorum's staff far out, or what? Dang.
March 14, 2012
Mitt Romney's Never-Ending Rick Santorum Nightmare.
No matter what you think of Rick Santorum's conservative and often 18th century social, religious and political views, let's give him some credit. Like him or not, Santorum has tapped into a huge "at-large" constituency of voters in the American South, West and Midwest. These voters have always been there--and been there for the taking. The mainstream media and just about anyone else who comments on politics couldn't pick up on the Santorum Sleeping Giant factor that quickly. The reason? We live, breathe, dance and listen to the rhythms of the coasts.
Don't worry. Rick Santorum won't be your next president. But it's been nice to have a guy in the race who keeps pandering to a minimum. You know what he believes. He talks about it. And, man, does this guy have followers all over America. You want to change America? Then work on Santorum's far-flung voters--the vast majority of them are wonderful humans who just think and feel differently than you on many issues, often for good reasons. But not on Santorum. He's not "the problem". See, e.g., The Guardian today: Rick Santorum Wins Mississippi and Alabama Primaries--Live Reaction.
March 07, 2012
The American Prospect: On Newt Gingrich's Super-Bad Super Tuesday.
"Newt Gingrich had a terrible Super Tuesday." Even if they are waning, let's give Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul (and especially Paul) some credit for adding to the conversation America has every four years. I can't and won't vote for any of the GOP candidates we've been forced-fed so far. But each, especially Paul and Santorum, warts and all, is more authentic--i.e., like me, you may not "like" them or buy into them, but at least they actually believe what they are saying--than Romney, who America is about to meet on a much larger scale. While he is talented, smart and accomplished, Mitt is one very insular and uber-eccentric man, folks. My prediction: he will give most of us, at least us Yanks with intuition and horse sense, the King-Hell Creeps. See at Jay Harris's greatly new-and-improved The American Prospect this piece: Newt's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Super Bad Tuesday. It begins:
Newt Gingrich had a terrible Super Tuesday.
Yes, yes, he won Georgia, his home state, going away. But he not only failed to win any of the other nine states that held elections, he failed to place second in any of them as well.
He came in third in the other two Southern states that held contests—Tennessee and Oklahoma. In five states—Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Vermont—he ran fourth, behind Ron Paul.
Newt Gingrich in early 1995
March 05, 2012
Right on schedule, Mom-and-Pop Russia claw again at Putin.
CBS News at Pushkin Square today: Russian cops violently break up Putin protest.
RIA Novosti/Ramil Sitdikov
King Putin: "I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia".
But Mother Russia? She'll still take Gandhi-like to the streets today. She still doesn't like the dog food. Her Mom-and-Pop middle class and younger professionals finally got an outrageous mojo working last December and they are hungry and poised for more protests. See at Reuters "Russia's Putin Faces Protests After Poll Triumph". Vladimir Putin won yesterday, even if you accept as true allegations of violations and fishy votes, but he's:
on collision course with the mainly middle-class protesters who have staged rallies in the capital and other big cities since a disputed parliamentary poll on December 4.
The protest organizers, who see Putin as an autocratic leader whose return to power will stymie hope of economic and political reforms, said their demonstrations would now grow.
Despite the opposition, mainly among well-educated and relatively well-off young professionals, Putin's support remains high in the provinces and his victory had not been in doubt.
But the mood has shifted in the country of 143 million and the urban protest movement portrays him as an obstacle to change and the guardian of a corrupt system of power.
Reuters: The triumphant but spooked Putin yesterday.
February 23, 2012
Mike O'Neil and Rep. Jeff Flake on GOP Arizona Shoot-Out.
February 20, 2012
Presidents' Day: Checking back in with President Cleveland.
Speaking of come-back kids, Grover Cleveland was president 1885-1889, was out of office for four years, and then president again 1893-1897. In November 1888, he and former Ohio senator Allen Thurman lost to Civil War general and lawyer Benjamin Harrison and future New York governor Levi Morton.
In January 1889, the defeated Cleveland went back to New York to practice law. But his new wife Frances told a White House staff member: "Take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house...we are coming back four years from today."
Frances was right. He won again in 1892.
February 06, 2012
The Best News from Mexico in Months: Josefina Vazquez Mota.
See at MSNBC "'I will be the first woman president of Mexico in history',". Mexican Congresswoman Vazquez Mota, 51, shakes up the old boy political culture of Mexico, by winning--and winning easily--the National Action Party's primary last night:
The personable, cheerful Vazquez Mota invited party members to help her beat the telegenic and handsome Pena Nieto, who is married to a glamorous telenovela star.
"We begin a new road," said Vazquez Mota. "A road to defeat the real adversary of Mexico, who embodies authoritarianism and the worst antidemocratic practices; who represents the way back to corruption and offers impunity as a conviction. The adversary is Pena Nieto and his party."
Vazquez Mota is considered the PRI's strongest challenger, though Mexican voters seem weary of the ruling National Action Party which has governed for 11 years. Delegates are betting that a woman candidate could boost party appeal.
"It injects a certain new note of uncertainty. There's never been a strong female presidential candidate for any other major party before," said Eric Olson, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute. "It adds that historical element and maybe some excitement."
February 04, 2012
"Frozen Fury": Mom-and-Pop Motherland Go After Putin Again.
Today in Russia, in a number of cities, the presumably-rigged presidential elections next month (March 4) brought out more middle-class crowds to protest the Putin regime. Despite Arctic temperatures, the number of protesters are said by observers to exceed the crowds of December 2011. See at NYT "Protesters Throng Frozen Moscow in Anti-Putin Protest".
January 24, 2012
WAP Guest Writer Mike O'Neil: "National Spotlight to Turn on Arizona: Four Reasons Why."
Political consultant and on-air commentator Mike O'Neil has written and talked about national politics for three decades. In this WAP guest post, he writes on why his adopted state of Arizona has become thrust into the national limelight.
National Spotlight to Turn on Arizona: Here Are Four Reasons Why.
By Mike O'Neil
1. The Special Election for Gabrielle Giffords' seat may be a very early indicator for the mood of the entire country in 2012: The primary for the special election will be in April and the general special election will be in June. A vote in a tossup district with no incumbent in the middle of a Presidential election year? You don't get a better early indicator of the national mood than that.
2. The February 28 Arizona Presidential primary looks like it will matter--and there will be an extended period in the national limelight. In the week after the Florida primary, there are four caucuses. Then there are three weeks (February 8-27) with no primary or caucus. For those three weeks, Arizona and Michigan (that also has a primary on the 28th) should be a major focus of national attention.
3. President Obama is coming to Arizona tomorrow, Wednesday, January 25--the day after his State of the Union address. His trip also includes Iowa, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan, all battleground states. Why Arizona? Except for Missouri (which was a virtual tie in 2008), Arizona is probably the only state Obama did not carry in 2008 that he has a prayer of carrying in 2012. And the state has had more than its share of national newsworthy events (probably why the New York Times assigned a full time reporter to the state last year). While Arizona might be a stretch for him to carry, even making the attempt may be important. Otherwise the political narrative is exclusively about him playing defense, trying to hold on to enough of his 2008 states to get re-elected. Arizona represents almost his only opportunity to play offense-and change the narrative.
4. Competitive Districts without Incumbents. Perhaps 10% of the congressional districts in the country are truly competitive --and most of these have incumbents. Giffords district is competitive. (It was held by a moderate Republican, Jim Kolbe, for many years). Interestingly Arizona now will now likely have three of these rarities (truly competitive and without an incumbent): Giffords' District (CD2), the newly created central CD9, and (if Paul Gosar moves to the Western CD4 as he has indicated), the Northeast/Flagstaff CD1 will also be vacant. Three very competitive districts, each without an incumbent. A rarity.
Stay tuned. Should be fun.
--Michael J. O'Neil, PhD
(Copyright MJO. All Rights Reserved.)
January 11, 2012
London's Mayoral Race: Is Boris Johnson going to keep his job?
That is one of the questions--and a good one--posed by The Economist this past weekend in "London's Mayoral Race: Back into the Fray". In May, London's incumbent mayor Boris Johnson, a flamboyant and often very funny Conservative, former MP, journalist and author (hatched from the Conservative Party's usual lower England Etonian-Oxford tribe) will run against the same opponent he faced in 2008: "Red" Ken Livingstone, the Labour Party candidate, and a serious lefty, who was Johnson's predecessor. Both Johnson and Livingstone are capable pols and managers. While Johnson's eccentricities and manic kind of charisma have made him a popular mayor, Livingstone, who is two decades older than Johnson, may have the advantage of pitching to his more natural constituency in the traditionally liberal urban electorate of London. Johnson is eccentric as hell, fun to watch and connected very well with voters in 2008. Whether or not he is re-elected five months from now, he is expected by many to become Prime Minister some day. But he may not be a shoe-in May. Excerpt from The Economist January 7 article:
London leans left—-as big, diverse cities tend to. Mr Livingstone, knowing that voters often punish governments between general elections, aims to paint his rival as just another Tory. And although the polls suggest that Londoners prefer Mr Johnson on policing, the economy and the Olympics, he trails on the vital issue of transport. A spate of strikes on the Tube has encouraged the view that Mr Livingstone, a machine politician and a man of the left, is better at dealing with London’s ornery unions.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Mayor of London.
January 04, 2012
Iowa: You got me where you want me.
Results for Iowa Republican Caucus (U.S. Presidential Primary)
Mitt Romney 30,015 24.6%
Rick Santorum 30,007 24.5%
Ron Paul 26,219 21.4%
Newt Gingrich 16,251 13.3%
Rick Perry 12,604 10.3%
Michele Bachmann 6,073 5%
Jon Huntsman 7,450. 6%
Herman Cain 58 0%
Buddy Roemer 31 0%
No Preference 1,350. 1%
Other 1,170 .1%
December 05, 2011
"A First-Rate Madness": A Book that Expands Your Take on Leadership Styles.
If you think your boss might be a whack job some days, bet on him anyway. While its writing and organization could have been even better, and the research perhaps deeper, the ideas in A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi, who runs the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, will likely change the way you think about leadership. At the same time it gives you an empathy for both internal personal pain and exterior quirk in decision-makers you almost certainly never had. It's also a brave book. "Mental Illness" is given a broad definition here but most of Ghaemi's subjects--he includes among others Churchill, Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Kennedy, General W.T. Sherman and Ted Turner--are explained according to biologically-inherited and/or drug or chemical-induced traits (usually a combination of the two) that will stand the genre of biographical "psycho-history" on its already tormented head. The thesis: In times of crisis, leaders with abnormal or even "bad" mental health are much more effective than sane ones. And, of course, they are a lot more interesting to consider.
December 02, 2011
The Mitt Romney Syndrome: "But the dogs don't like him..." Bring back Dick Gephardt for Dems?
Mitt Romney can't "connect" with y'all. See at today's MSNBC "Voters remain cool toward Romney".
You see The Mitt Syndrome a lot in U.S. presidential politics. The guy is exemplary in nearly all respects: mega-smart and mega-talented (he is--don't kid yourself), well-spoken, energetic, good-looking, celebrated for past successes, did well at the best schools on earth, has family values up the wazoo and a squeaky clean past. He has, in short, a golden résumé. He's a little too perfect maybe?
And for whatever reason, Romney is hopelessly incapable of making a connection with other humans (i.e., voters) outside his admiring circle of family, friends and allies. He's detached and remote--qualities which even John F. Kennedy often displayed but somehow made work for him.
In that respect, Romney reminds you a little bit of Al Gore--but much more of Dick Gephardt, the respected Democratic former Missouri Representative, House Majority Leader, lawyer's lawyer and Eagle Scout. Gephardt impressed me both on paper and visually from the first time I saw him on a close-circuit C-SPAN system in the Longworth Building in 1980. But he couldn't and didn't turn anyone on, either. Of Gephardt, when he last ran for president in 2004, a Midwestern political consultant finally said:
Gephardt is like the Perfect Dog Food. Made with the best ingredients. Tested. Meets all quality standards. Attracts the right investors. Perfectly packaged. And the dog food industry? Competitors are envious and in awe of the product.
Problem is the dogs--the dogs just don't like it.
Dick Gephardt, now just 70, in 1988.
November 30, 2011
Rep. Barney Frank Retires: One Far-Out Mother Who Everyone Will Miss.
Political persuasion, party affiliation and sexual preference rarely define anyone. Heart, soul and moxie do. We will all miss Barney Frank, who is leaving the U.S. House of Representatives after 32 years. See yesterday's Politico at page one and Frank Legacy: ‘One of a Kind’. Frank, now 71, was a partisan Democrat. But in the tradition of Henry Clay, Jacob Javits, Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy, he could cut non-partisan deals. Excerpt:
Frank rose to prominence during the early years of C-SPAN coverage of House floor action, perfecting the art of drawing sharp contrasts in public debate while negotiating compromises behind closed doors.
November 28, 2011
Mitt Romney is like his dad Michigan governor George in any respect?
I don't see it--but the Washington Post does. See "George and Mitt Romney: Like father, like son, until a political parting point".
November 15, 2011
Everyone's Mitt Romney Problem.
Although I've voted for a Republican for president only once, watching two major GOP presidential candidates self-destruct these past few weeks has been painful. We need at least two strong political parties in America--and we need credible candidates in both parties. Election cycles are a great way, of course, of taking the pulse of a nation. Every four years, we bat a few issues around. We learn what's important to us. We get our bearings.
Now, and for the first time since I could vote, we have Republican issues without viable Republican leaders. As matters stand, I'd have to bet on and vote for President Obama, who will likely be facing Mitt Romney. Barring a further substantial weakening of the economy, Romney will lose--and lose, in my view, big time, both in popular and electoral college votes.
There was a time somewhere between Teddy White's book The Making of the President, 1960 and now--and clearly by 1980--when Republicans finally learned the gritty and often ugly black arts of how to run national campaigns: House, Senate and Presidency. And, once they got the hang of it, GOP operatives often ran those campaigns like well-oiled businesses. Southern states started it off. Young political strategists like the late Lee Atwater--smart, super-intuitive, passionate and mean as a snake--led the way.
Right now, however, the best Atwater clones on earth can't put anything together for the GOP. To belabor the obvious:
1. Herman Cain. Loved this guy. Our hero until the "let Herman be Herman" tact failed two PR rules: a. Be first with bad news, especially when you can see it coming. b. Don't lie about that which the electorate will forgive you for anyway. Forget about the polls. Forget about the Libya flub. We all question his judgment on how he handled the questions on sexual harassment more than any actions which may have led to them.
2. Rick Perry. Personally, I loved this guy even more than Herman. On my dad's side, we're probably somehow tribally-related--but Perry can't be my President. Ever. But I'd jump at the chance to have dinner with him, listen to some blues, drink Ripple and split a tab of Vicodin.
3. And the winner is Mitt Romney--who Obama will soundly trounce, whether I like it or not (and I probably would). Why oh why can't the mega-talented Mitt be more like his dad, George, the late crowd-pleasing ex-governor of Michigan? When I see Romney on TV, I still get that creepy feeling that "something or someone else is driving". So, apparently, do many other folks. He can't connect--or even appear to connect--with other humans no matter how hard he tries. A tragedy. This is one smart guy. Romney will be the candidate--and he will lose.
Anything Barack Obama can really do to ensure a second term? I doubt anyone connected with the Obama 2012 campaign is as optimistic as I have been above. Or as glib. I've been wrong a lot, on U.S. presidential campaigns. Very wrong. Let me give you two examples.
During most of 2003, I was raising money for Wes Clark--I was a Clark convention delegate until he withdrew from the race--because I was sure that, as much as I like him as a legislator, John Kerry could never even be nominated (I confidently told his campaign chief this on a fine spring morning in 2003 at Kerry's Stanton Park campaign office).
In 2007 and 2008, I worked for and supported Hillary Clinton--and was as surprised as she was when she did not win the Democratic nomination.
Things change quickly and unpredictably. In late 2003 and 2004, John Kerry finally found the traction I predicted he didn't deserve and would never earn. In 2008, Barack Obama overcame Clinton on a slowly-building but steady and unstoppable wave that left pols and most Americans breathless.
Hillary as Obama's running mate? To give the President the best possible shot at relection, some journalists and political strategists would whisper two words in his ear: Hillary Clinton. Clinton denies interest in the Vice-Presidency. However, some experts, like my friend Mike O'Neil of O'Neil Consulting, a long-time pollster, political consultant and thinking-man's talking head, believes that Hillary Clinton as Obama's running mate in 2012 is highly likely and something to watch for.
I spoke with Mike O'Neil Sunday night. An Obama-Clinton ticket, he said, "would instantly energize the party and infuse life into the Obama campaign." For Clinton's part, O'Neil noted, she would be hard pressed to turn it down "because it would guarantee her the 2016 nomination (win or lose)." O'Neil pointed out that in 2016, Clinton will be 69 years old. Many believe she seems unlikely to retire from public life four years from now. And, O'Neil continued, "barring a health incident, Hillary Clinton would still come across as younger than, say, McCain, presented himself, in 2008."
"Obama would be a fool not to offer it to her," O'Neil concluded. "And Clinton would be foolish to turn him down."
November 11, 2011
France's Sarkozy: How about a 2-Tiered Europe?
We think not--but let's hear out a European leader who has wanted all along for Europe to start working again. The Economist's enduring columunist Charlemagne asks "Two-speed Europe, or two Europes?" It begins:
Nicolas Sarkozy is causing a big stir after calling on November 8th for a two-speed Europe: a “federal” core of the 17 members of the euro zone, with a looser “confederal” outer band of the ten non-euro members. He made the comments during a debate with students at the University of Strasbourg.
August 25, 2011
Washington Post: Earthquakes, U.S. Monetary Policy & the Terrible Wrath of Fiscal Gods.
Last week in Phoenix I met with Mike O'Neil, friend, prof, TV news pundit, doer, fellow politics junkie and Renaissance Man. We both worship at The Washington Post. See Matt Miller's "Earthquake: A Divine Downgrade?"
July 25, 2011
Mr. Franken of Minnesota: All Couples Good Enough, Smart Enough, Equitable Enough.
So far he's been a good Senator for Minnesota, the Dispossessed and the Left. We don't have to agree with him on everything. We like the cut of his jib. He's become important to the national conversation. Our friend and Renaissance man Al Franken did an e-mail blast Sunday morning:
There’s no good argument against marriage equality. There’s no good argument for the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the most unfair laws passed in my lifetime. And there’s no good argument for leaving it on the books.
June 17, 2011
Say Cheese, Guys: Rep. Weiner, Close Friend Say Goodbye.
Good call, finally. See in yesterday's The Economist "So Ends A Cocky Tale". Excerpt:
As his congressional colleagues distanced themselves and others called for his resignation, some liberals pushed for him to stay. They have not been defending his despicable behaviour, but his political reputation.
He was, to be fair, a tireless advocate for liberal causes. He defended Obamacare when few others did, and went to bat for NPR when its funding was challenged. He enjoyed verbally jousting with Republicans, and he was good at it. His impressive oratory was the initial draw for at least a few of his online pen pals.
May 02, 2011
Can-Do Catharsis in America: Bin Laden Killed on Obama Order.
Lafayette Park Flash Mob May 2, 2011. Photo: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta
March 10, 2011
The UK: Scotland upgrades view of America.
From our Senior Brit Cultural Advisor ("Things Celtic") Duncan Campbell King--whom quite remarkably recently-separated WAC/P writer Holden Oliver hasn't slept with yet--at Mr. Campbell's Wrath of a Sumo King:
February 23, 2011
Wild Thing: Mayor Emanuel.
We need to get used to it. He's The Man now. See in the Chicago Tribune Bob Secter's article "A Raft of Promises, a Boatload of Problems". Excerpt:
When he succeeds Richard M. Daley in May, Emanuel will immediately inherit a city with a stark divide between haves and have-nots, a chronically underachieving school system, a crumbling transportation infrastructure and a police department that is seriously understaffed.
What's more, the business and job-generating engine was sputtering even before the recession took hold, new census data shows Chicago is losing residents, costly parking meters and high property taxes remain flashpoints, and long-term neglect of public-worker pension funds has backed the city into a financial corner.
February 17, 2011
The Economist: After Mubarak.
For the long view of "what Egypt means", do see this one: The Autumn of the Patriarchs. Excerpts:
Since the fall of Mr Mubarak, numerous mini-revolutions have taken place across Egypt. Journalists have overthrown their editors, workers their union leaders, professors their university deans. Even the police have returned to the streets, striking to demand the removal of the senior officers they blame for their disgrace.
For the rest of the region, the attraction of these revolutions goes beyond the satisfaction of seeing despised dictators hounded from office. During Egypt’s long period of stagnation under Mr Mubarak, Cairo, once the undisputed centre of the Arab world, was increasingly eclipsed by such upstarts as Dubai and Beirut.
Now, suddenly, the heroic imagery and rousing lyrics of Egypt’s revolution permeate Arab airwaves.
February 02, 2011
Maryam in Marrakesh: The Art of Being Here Now.
Unfortunately, she had to cancel one of her many trips to Cairo this week. So, as usual, she improvises, improves, does what's possible today. And then some. Visit Maryam. Seer, Doer, Worker, Polymath.
January 20, 2011
GOP-led U.S. House repeals year-old health care reform law.
Sometimes a Smug Notion. Noted. And it probably won't matter. Now it's the Senate's turn. And then there's a veto cooking up over at the Big House just down the street. Know any Magic? NBC: House Votes to Repeal Health Care Law. It begins:
WASHINGTON—The Republican-controlled House has voted to repeal the nation's year-old health care law, clearing the way for the second phase of the "repeal and replace" promise that victorious Republicans made to the voters last fall.
The repeal, which was passed by a vote of 245 to 189, has little or no chance of passing the Senate, where Democratic supporters of the law have the majority. And Obama has vowed to veto it if it reaches his desk.
Republicans said repeal was necessary because the law provides for a government takeover of the health care system, raises taxes and would destroy jobs.
Democrats denied that, and said repeal would strip Americans of new protections against insurance industry abuses that deny them coverage they have paid for.
January 17, 2011
Hermann the German: Tucson, Guns and Sarah Palin.
The New Congressional Redistricting in the Wild West. Probably not. So we always listen to the Berlin-based Hermann the German at Observing Hermann for one possible German reality check on America. He even speaks English. Writes it. Seems to likes tall blondes named Greta, Rolanda and Sigfreda. And Hermann's right a lot, friends. See his "Sarah Palin?"
Above: "Hermann's Triumph at Teutoburg Forest", Johann Janssen (1870-73). Another Hermann the German, or Arminius, in September of 9 AD, trouncing Roman legions. What? You're a proud Western professional, businessperson or leader? You don't know about Arminius? Then finish your education. Or at least start one.
January 12, 2011
Bennet Kelley on Tucson: A New Year of Living Dangerously?
See Bennet Kelley's column yesterday in the Huffington Post, "Responding to Tucson's Day of Terror". Excerpts:
Gabby and her husband Mark thanked me for the prior column [in March 2010, denouncing violence against Democrats like Giffords following the passage of health care reform] and I responded by telling them that I just wanted them to know that people out there "got their back". That is something all of us can do now in response to Tucson's day of Terror.
Just as midnight gives way to dawn, so must we fight darkness with light. We can shine a light on hate speech and incitements to violence by promptly exposing and denouncing it wherever we see it and calling it for what it really is. This is because the offense of hate speech is not just its content but the assumption that the listener must share these views.
This is especially true when hate is wrapped in the flag, since there is nothing patriotic about hate, bigotry or violence against public servants chosen by the people.
January 07, 2011
A Freshman Senator to Watch: Ohio's Rob Portman.
Pretend for a moment that all Republicans and Democrats cannot be reduced to cartoon characters and cultural stereotypes, or relegated to someone's gallery of demonhood. Learn about Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (Washington Post), sworn in just this week. He's smart, honest, well-spoken, young (55) and has done everything right so far. Well, perfectly. He's an "R"--but not a shrill dweeb. My sense is that the reading of the U.S. Constitution yesterday across the Hill would have embarrassed him. (But he would never tell me.) The most talented and sane end of the GOP establishment loves the guy. Importantly, we think he'd even get along well with our bud Al Franken. As a fellow Midwesterner, Franken would admire the new junior Ohio senator, too.
January 05, 2011
The 112th Congress: Bring It. But Bring Jobs.
I'm so nervous I just sit and smile. I worked "up there" twice but I never saw this: (a) 15% real unemployment, (b) a split-as-hell Congress, (c) a new but able Speaker with the personality of a lead weight, and (d) a black U.S. President with a 50% approval rating and the luck and fortune of a grown-up Ferris Bueller. See for starters today's The Hill. And Sarah Palin's still a Total Betty. (I do like her smile.) By the way, if you are a lawyer or other professional of any age or specialty and think all this Congress stuff above doesn't concern you, you're wrong. Please think more about that nice job at Sears.
November 09, 2010
Mother Jones: Fear and Weirdness in the 2010 U.S. Elections.
Kevin Drum's November 5 article in Mother Jones--the enduring hell-raiser and serial winner of National Magazine Awards--is called "Weird Findings From 2010's Exit Poll Data". Excerpts, based on the new numbers:
The most intriguing result here is the top one: People who didn't vote in the previous presidential election shifted into the Republican camp at a fantastic clip. I have no idea why.
The most important categories are probably white voters and older voters, both of whom shifted Republican far more than the general population. Beyond the raw size of the shift, however, whites are important because their absolute numbers are so big and older voters are important because their big Republican shift was accompanied by higher turnout.
Conversely, although rural voters also shifted Republican in big numbers, their importance was diluted because their turnout was down.
November 03, 2010
One college daily on the elections: "A changing of the guard".
From today's Duke Chronicle:
G.O.P. takes House while Democrats retain slim Senate majority
By CIARAN OCONNOR
In a sharp rebuke of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, citizens across the country voted Tuesday to shift the balance of power in Washington, handing Republicans control of the House of Representatives and whittling down the Democrats’ Senate majority.
While the Grand Old Party made significant inroads in the Senate, knocking out well-established incumbents like Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln and Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Democrats won crucial races in California and Nevada that ensured they would retain control of the body.
In the House, Republicans took advantage of widespread voter discontent to beat a range of Democratic incumbents, many of whom fell victim to their unshakable association with a sagging economy and an unpopular president. As The Chronicle went to press, the GOP had picked up 59 seats, more than enough to guarantee it will control the chamber for the next two years. Sixteen seats remained undecided, according to The New York Times. [more]
October 05, 2010
George W. Bush, Revisited, Sort Of.
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sunday, February 3, 2008, "One of us".
October 03, 2010
Consider a run for President, too, Rahm.
Why not? I do like Rahm--and always have. This is not merely because Rahm Emanuel might well have been my Congressman, and maybe even Mayor, if my family and I years ago had not left the feisty suburbs of lakeshore Chicago years ago for Cincinnati, Ohio, an ironic result, arguably, of my dad's corporate successes. While I may be alone at my firm in reacting this way, I, for one, was doubly moved Friday by his remarks during his final moments as White House Chief of Staff. It was political (and politics done well)--but human and real. For a mix of takes, see blogs at the Chicago-Sun Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.
Above: Rahm Emanuel, only 50 and not a lawyer, is solutions-oriented, driven, tough, smart, openly rude to Slackoisie, and wonderfully un-PC. Government plus business experience. Mega-talented, unafraid, energetic. And a leader. Oh, good dancer, too. Questions?
September 27, 2010
Brit Politics: Revenge of More Liberal, More Pro-Union, More Controversial Baby Brother.
MP David Miliband v. MP Edward Miliband. LA Times: "Britain's Labor Party Chooses New Leader". This happened in intra-party elections held Saturday in Manchester. The Miliband family--three generations of it--is storied, talented, and inspiring. The winning brother, Ed Milband, is 40. Ed's win makes things more turbulent, if more interesting, in the UK government, now lead by the Conservative Party. Its leader is Prime Minister David Cameron, 43, who took office in May. Ah, dear Old Blighty. She's about to put on a show.
Critics, often preferring big brother David, called Ed Milband "Red Ed".
September 10, 2010
Mother Jones, you really know how to make a guy sore.
The definition of marriage has never included "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." But we forgot (totally) why homosexuality is like bestiality and pedophilia. So time to check in with ex-U.S. senator Rick "Man on [pick animal/child]" Santorum. At Mother Jones, do see "Rick Santorum's Anal Sex Problem".
August 26, 2010
Ted Kennedy died on August 25th last year; the following is our post on the day after:
Nearly everyone I am close to lives in a time zone ahead of mine. Except my friend Ellen who called me about 11:15 PT last night and told me. Even with a fifteen months' "heads up" about Ted Kennedy having brain cancer, I was stunned that Kennedy--the only one of Joe Kennedy Sr.'s four boys to not die violently and young--had died. So this did hit me. My first vote for a Republican presidential candidate ever last November--John McCain--was not the sea change in my ideas, instincts or emotions I had thought. I don't expect anyone under 45 or so to understand. Below is exactly what we wrote last year, on May 22, 2008, in this post, the day after it was disclosed that Kennedy was ill:
To be Irish is to know that, in the end, the world will break your heart.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Call me a cultural stereotype. A boomer. A limousine liberal. I don't care. Ted Kennedy being diagnosed with malignant cancer of the brain floored me. I don't even know why. Long ago, Duke University, which changed my life in a number of ways, awarded me my first paid desk job to work for Wisconsin's Senator Gaylord Nelson. With some help from my father, I rented an overpriced and horrible little apartment across the street from the hospital on Washington Circle where I had been born 21 years earlier, and excitedly entered the world I'd been seeing on television since I was in my early teens growing up in the Midwest. That first sunny Monday morning in May, I walked all the way to work, zig-zagging down Pennsylvania Avenue, and then up Constitution Avenue, well over two miles total, just to take it all in.
But I walked in a hurry.
Edward Moore Kennedy (1932-2009)
The Hill job was in health policy, and I was asked to follow and report on the work of the busy U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Health, chaired by then 42-year-old Ted Kennedy. I saw Kennedy up close a lot during committee sessions and mark-ups during the next 3 months. (A few years later, I worked again on Capitol Hill, and lived there for many years. I'd see him around. Today, if I were lucky, he might recognize my persistent face if he saw me--but I certainly wasn't important those first 3 months.) But way before that, as the "last Kennedy", he was always part of the soundtrack of my life and my friends' lives since we were in our early teens. But he was more than a name, mystique and the booming populist oratory and Gaelic cadences of speech which come naturally to him.
For me, Ted Kennedy has never been about ideas, legislative agendas or even the Kennedy schmaltz: the hope, the dream that never dies, the struggle, all that. He left that music to others, like to his uber-aggressive brother-in-law, Steven Smith, and to his staff. I just never saw Kennedy as an ideologue, even when he ran for the American presidency--which I bet he never really wanted. A character out of a novel, he's simply as Irish as they come: brooding, playful and contradictory. Quietly but definitely war-like. He's smarter than people think, and remarkably adept at sifting through and making sense of too much information thrown at him.
In the main, though, he's passionate, human, even poetic--and vulnerable in all the best ways.
Like lots of senators, he's also distracted as hell, even endearingly spacey--but warm and charming, a natural politician, easily the best in his family. He can turn that on and off. Like Bill Clinton, and for whatever the reason, Kennedy genuinely likes people; it's not for show. Watch the guy in a crowd. He's at ease once he's there. He physically resembles most, and is most like, his mother Rose, the family saint and caregiver. And that soulfulness, I think, helped him to be very good at his job. Family friend and economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said that Ted Kennedy was the best U.S. senator he'd seen in his lifetime.
Finally, the last Kennedy is as wounded as they come, too. Try, if you can, not to cry when you watch a clip of his eulogy of his brother Robert in 1968, when he was 36. Kennedy's voice cracked badly, and I can't forget the sound of him as he struggled to finish the speech for his older brother. It wasn't about politics, ideas, or even about anyone's family. The sound was pure grief and loss, unashamed.
See in New York Times "Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies".
August 25, 2010
The Economist on Rod Blagojevich: "Can I get a witness?"
See "The Never-Ending Swansong". Excerpt:
The verdict was the latest anticlimax in what has been a disappointing summer for rubberneckers. After declaring his eagerness to testify, Mr Blagojevich did not take the stand. His lawyers subpoenaed several leading Democrats, including Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett.
In the end, though, the defence produced a grand total of no witnesses. Conspiracy theories abound, but the most realistic explanation is that the lawyers concluded that further testimony would only help the prosecutors.
Not exactly Jefferson, Stevenson, Lugar. It's Chicago, Jake.
July 16, 2010
New O'Goldman Sachs logo.
Yesterday's $550 million settlement (in 3 months since fraud lawsuit was filed!) is more than a "nice result". It is Magic. And we are impressed. SEC looks ultra-wimpy on this one.
July 12, 2010
Return of Newt: Give him credit for timing.
No comment--but if Gingrich, 67, wanted to wait for a way-low American moment to "declare", today's probably that day: Monday, July 12, 2010, and True Winter in America. AP: "Gingrich says he's considering presidential run".
16 years ago
July 07, 2010
Senator Franken: And they said nothing really all that weird would happen before late 2012.
Good enough, smart enough, Senatorial enough. Alan Stuart Franken, love him or not, is smart, a player, still funny and still the junior U.S. senator from Minnesota. He was sworn into the Senate one year ago today.
June 22, 2010
Tan, rested, back in the saddle: Will Bob Bork ride Elena Kagan?
Call it a reckoning. See yesterday's Washington Post and this Salon piece: "The Borking of Elena Kagan". Both report that Robert Bork will publicly oppose Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. While Bork, now 83, may or may not have been a morally pretentious weenie, he is mega-talented, a fine legal thinker, and likely would have made a fine Supreme Court justice. In any event, Bork would have been a marked improvement over Clarence Thomas as a touchstone for the right on the most elite court in Western history. Most lawyers of any political persuasion now admit that. "Borking" Bork in 1987 was not one of our finest moments--and yet we continue to insist on over-playing partisan politics with fine judges and solid lawyers in the nomination process. Not one of the better modern traditions of Congress. So let's Not Be Borking anymore--starting with Elena Kagan. Finally, another issue, and it's cultural, at least for this blog. With John Paul Stevens gone, who will wear bow ties?
1987: Bork gets a plug from a former president and the undersigned's ex-Congressman in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
May 20, 2010
Main Street's May Day Times Square Wake-up Call: Did America listen this time?
Counterterrorism expert and D.C. lawyer Eric O'Neill, The Georgetown Group, on what the Times Square bombing attempt means.
We Yanks get the big hint? We note that this week's Newsweek and cover article about the May 1 Times Square bombing attempt hit the stands with a date of May 17. That's a long time. Did the first news of the Times Square misfire or fall flat with much of the establishment media and most Americans?
Just starting to sink in, maybe?
True, no one was hurt. Mainly because the bomber--Faisal Shahzad, a Westernized Pakistani--is a very young 30 and a world-class screw-up. Your average troubled, normally mild, and lackluster young American male who can't chew gum and do loyalty oaths at the same time. Moreover, the press may have unevenly or half-heartedly covered it simply because we have all been consumed with so much happening at once: the residuals of health policy wars, the Goldman Sachs hearings, mid-recession finger pointing, the BP spill off our southern shores.
Maybe Islamic terrorism is decentralized, domestic, and in your backyard? But Shahzad is also a U.S. citizen--and very unlikely to have been under the command-and-control protocols of any branch or level of mainstream Al Qaeda. He's obtained degrees in and lived in the U.S. Father and husband. Devout. And before things went bad for him personally, he even had a house in what would pass for Connecticut suburbs. There are certainly others like him we haven't met yet.
What does that mean for day to day life in America? Do we see malls, parking lots, and subway stops differently in the last three weeks? Probably not--but maybe we should. Are we suddenly in "mass denial" about what was precisely everyone's fears after 9-11?
A new kind of "homegrown" threat? In a short but compelling interview with Reuters last week, Eric O'Neill, both general counsel and chairman of D.C.-based The Georgetown Group, and often still in the news for his role (and subject of the movie "Breach") in taking down spy and FBI agent Robert Phillip Hanssen in February of 2001, came closer than anyone to both defining the problem and what's needed.
Listen to the above segment and O'Neill's comments, which begin at about 1:25.
May 10, 2010
The hearings start in about 6 weeks. The better coverage is at The Washington Post. Kagan, 50, and in most respects the perfect candidate, will win--but with a huge fight, featuring her strident 2004 "moral high road" (our term) dissing of military recruiters at HLS. See, e.g., The Dailey Caller.
May 07, 2010
UK wakes up to hung Parliament.
April 28, 2010
Goldman on Jenkins Hill.
Tuesday's hearing was an attack not only on Goldman but on short selling itself.
See "Goldman Sachs: What to Make of the Circus?" Securities and corporate governance hand Broc Romanek, a veteran of the SEC's Office of Chief Counsel, and former in-house, has collected some of best coverage of Tuesday's marathon hearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, plus some of the better earlier coverage, at his TheCorporateCounsel.net.
April 22, 2010
What goes around: Greg Craig and President Obama
An epic battle starring limousine liberals? Greg Craig, the former top lawyer in Obama's White House, will represent Goldman Sachs Group in the surprise SEC fraud action concerning complex mortgage-backed securities that were structured and marketed by Goldman Sachs for one of its hedge fund clients. The SEC complaint alleges that Goldman Sachs failed to disclose that the program of securities it devised "bet against" mortgage securities Goldman was also promoting.
Craig, who recently moved from Williams & Connolly to Skadden, is widely seen as being pushed out of Camp Obama last Fall by pragmatists who didn't like the strict timeline he proposed for closing down Guantanamo Bay's detention facility. And this week the President, although carefully choosing his words, morphed into an anti-Wall Street (and therefore anti-Goldman) mode as he pushed for legislation to more tightly regulate Wall Street firms. Showdown with the old Boss?
It's interesting news. The SEC, an independent Article II agency and quasi-court created by the Article I Congress, it is argued, technically does not work for the Article II White House. So there is apparently no revolving door problem for the steady and mega-charming uber-WASP Greg Craig. Really? True, Craig is a lawyer, not a lobbyist, and the White House is not seen to control much of what the SEC does.
Well, we hope he's not caught in the ethics net because we like watching Craig, a Boomer's Boomer, work.
Craig is a youthful guy in his sixties who won't whine about working past 7:30 PM. We currently have to work with people who will be "stressed" into early retirement by 38. But Craig is one of us. For the first time in decades, WAP? feels like going to church. Or something. Maybe just the Old Ebbitt. See at Politico "Goldman Sachs Taps Ex-White House Counsel". Excerpts:
On Friday, the SEC charged the firm with securities fraud in a convoluted subprime mortgage deal that took place before the collapse of the housing market.
Next week Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein will face questions from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is looking into the causes of the housing meltdown, the source said.
In Craig, Goldman Sachs will have help from a lawyer with deep connections in Democratic circles.
"A former White House employee cannot appear before any unit of the Executive Office of the President on behalf of any client for 2 years—one year under federal law and another year under the pledge pursuant to the January 2009 ethics E0," said a White House official.
The official also said that the White House had no contact with the SEC on the Goldman Sachs case. "The SEC by law is an independent agency that does not coordinate with the White House any part of their enforcement actions."
April 13, 2010
"So what are you doing after the 21-gun salute, Stud?"
They call me The E-Man. Buy you a drink? Not one thing about the never-ending Congressman Eric Massa story as reported so far is new or different in sexual misadventures on Capitol Hill over the past 30 years. Even the February 2nd bartender-at-the-wake episode, which occurred in Hornel, New York, is a bit tame, and old hat.
Weirder things have happened in Congressional offices, in the storied Longworth HOB, and of course at DC wakes, especially the seriously-Irish ones. And have happened to ex-military people like Eric Massa. Or to their DC bartenders, a feisty form of royalty in the Beltway. A word about DC bartenders: no one should take liberties with them, or try. They are much tougher than New York (City or State) barkeeps. Never offend a 1988 graduate of Georgetown or GW who's tenured at Clyde's or Bullfeathers, and still plotting his next move.
A new bad Massa at The Last Plantation? Certainly, "first complaint" internal investigations have been way more botched. Still, past tawdriness levels may have been exceeded here. See The Washington Post and Carol Leonnig's reporting in "Staffers' Accounts Paint More Detailed, Troubling Picture of Massa's Office". Do give retired Naval commander and ex-Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) a point or two for resigning back on March 8--that is different--and let's wait for the results of the full and tardy investigation.
March 22, 2010
The Atlantic: Health care reform passage as "a tainted victory".
Sunday's vote was "landmark", sure. So is each Hell's Angels' Labor Day Picnic. But it's not over, even procedurally, and so far it hasn't been pretty: the way the bill got passed says more about us as a divided, enraged and mean-spirited people than it does about how far we've come on health care in America. Maybe the best single take right now is Clive Crook's piece this morning for The Atlantic entitled "A Tainted Victory". Excerpts:
It is absurd that getting the Senate bill through the House should have been such a struggle.
[Scott] Brown won in Massachusetts for a reason. The Democrats had failed to make their case for this reform to the American public. They pressed the case for some sort of reform, but that was easy: the country was already there.
What the country dislikes is this particular bill, and the Democrats, intent on arguing among themselves, barely even tried to change its mind.
People struggle to understand how extending health insurance to 32 million Americans, at a cost of a trillion dollars over ten years, can be a deficit-reducing measure.
March 05, 2010
The Religion of Hell's Kitchen.
Jacob Riis photo of Bandits' Roost (1890)
Above: Hell's Kitchen, NYC, before it got cute. The work, images and outcry of Riis were all famous at the time. So was this photograph. Next door to Times Square, Hell's Kitchen always seems worlds away. It keeps changing but stays famous: from Irish and German immigrant sub-city to gangland neighborhood to actors' quarter to, these days, more of a yuppie heaven.
But it's still authentic. Real estate brokers years ago came up with the new labels of Clinton and Midtown West--but it did not work. Those handles will never replace the real name. Older neighborhoods, like older people, have personalities--they are feisty as Hell. And they have spirit. If you are in Manhattan some weekend, stroll around there on a Sunday morning early.
The whole 'hood is a Religion, just like the rest of New York City.
February 19, 2010
Washington Post: 'Justice Obama' may make more sense.
At this blog, we regard Mr. Obama with the kind of respect and reverence often reserved for a Jimmy Carter, Adlai Stevenson or Robert Taft: great, brilliant, inspiring, transformational, a beacon to their party's rank-and-file. And wholly "deserving" but fatally unsuited by personality to be President of the United States.
While we greatly admire President Obama, we agree with the sentiment in the title of our post. Lawyer's lawyers and reflective academics should not lead a Superpower. We tried to tell you this in late 2008. We were heartened when Mr. Obama had the sense to select Rahm Emanuel, enemy of the Slackoisie, as his chief of staff. But it's not enough, even as we recognize many U.S. presidents (i.e., Bill Clinton) get off to awkward and even tragic starts, and flounder in the first two years.
In November of 2008, I broke a life-long pattern by voting for John McCain, a Republican, for president. My own family, in southern Ohio and Florida, moderate Republicans all, also broke ranks and voted for Obama, a Democrat. My aberrant vote? Sour grapes, in part. I was, and still am, more comfortable with a centrist manager like Hillary Clinton as my national CEO. She's simply not a doctrinaire or big government Democrat. Hillary's a Boss--a strong and decisive one.
But there was more to my vote for John McCain (as the above 2008 links to past posts suggest) than revenge, or a business owner's jones for the machine that is Hillary Clinton. At this blog, we do regard Obama with the kind of respect and reverence often reserved for a Jimmy Carter, an Adlai Stevenson or a Robert A. Taft: brilliant, great, forthright, inspiring, transformational, a beacon to their party's rank-and-file. And wholly "deserving" but fatally unsuited by personality to be President of the United States.
Caution, risk aversion, a drive to over-analyze, "reasonableness", and a strong "deliberative" nature are fine qualities in everyone but leaders of powerful nations. Jimmy Carter, an engineer by training, and maybe at heart, had those qualities--and so does our current commander-in-chief. Do see Jeffrey Rosen's coming op-ed piece in the Washington Post this Sunday, "Supreme Court Justice Barack Obama?", which the Post was kind enough to send to us and presumably to others us last night. Three Rosen excerpts say it all:
He's too detached and cerebral. Too deferential to Congress. Too willing to compromise. And he's too much of a law professor and not enough of a commander in chief...
Obama's academic credentials for the [Supreme] court -- including serving as president of the Harvard Law Review and as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago -- are obvious. But it's his even temperament and low boiling point that seem tailor-made for the court at this polarized moment.
David Gergen, the CNN commentator who served as an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, recently reflected on Obama's State of the Union speech in an appearance on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report." Although he praised Obama's intellectual abilities and terrific presidential campaign, he lamented his "detached" and "professorial" attitude once in office.
Note: We could see Mr. Obama as a fellow worthy wearer of
bow ties. And Justice Stevens could use a bud these days.
February 11, 2010
Charles Nesbitt Wilson (1933 - 2010)
"Come on up and meet my girls". In the 1980s I saw him in person just once, chatting up people near a bank of pay phones on the first floor of the Longworth Building, where I worked. That's the only thing I remember that he said.
You simply watched him. You weren't hanging on every word. He was tall, jovial and charming, and leaned back and to one side when he talked. That day, he was having a good time--but to me he seemed smarter, more formidable and even more fun than the way Tom Hanks would play him twenty years later. You would have noticed him no matter what he had done for a living. He really didn't seem like a U.S. Representative (or that he cared whether he did).
Anyway, we had all heard that he had a good-looking staff of women in his office next door at the Rayburn Building. Some of us may have checked.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Wilson helped secure money for weapons and worked with then-CIA agents Gust L. Avrakotos and Mike Vickers to get them to the mujahedeen. The Soviets spent a decade battling the rebels before pulling the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1989.
Wilson left politics in 1996, after he no longer found it any fun.
January 24, 2010
Dina Vierny (1919-2009) was Aristide Maillol's model and real life muse. She died January 20, 2009.
August 06, 2009
Nicely done, WJC.
Bill Clinton always did come to play. He and movie pals have excellent airplane adventure, do critical reconnaissance on the Dear Leader, secure release of Ling and Lee, and set stage for future talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs. Not bad, sir. See "Bill Clinton has quite a story to tell", a Reuters piece by Steve Holland, and "Let the Big Dog Run", a New York Times op-ed by Maureen Dowd.
It's not just Kim Jong-il. Even President Obama gets a little weird and excited around Wild Bill.
July 05, 2009
Palin: Still a Robo-Babe.
Way cute when she's mad.
And still a great political property. Don't write her off. Now you've all done it. She's really mad. And outside the cabin. See Joan Walsh's "Sarah Palin Resigning as Alaska Governor" at Salon.com. This is a fine-looking, energetic and feisty American woman. And in the Yank outlaw mold. We need a Sarah. Especially since--as Holden Oliver noted back in February--the French started getting all the good Anchorettes. Palin still married to that former First Dude guy?
July 01, 2009
Senator Franken: Good enough, smart enough, tough enough.
The Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously gives Franken the nod over Norm Coleman. Al Franken got out there and worked his wazoo off for that Senate seat. Congrats, Renaissance man--and welcome to arguably the world's most elite club. Los Angeles Times: "Goshdarnit Al Franken's a Senator". But is putting him on the Senate Judiciary Committee a good thing?
P.L. 111-22: A Hurdle for Purchasers of Foreclosed Homes.
A bona fide tenant renting a home will be entitled to a 90-day notice before being evicted by the new owner upon foreclosure of the home. On May 19, Congress passed a Senate version of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (also known as the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009). It was signed by President Obama and took effect the following day, May 20.
The 90-day notice is a minimum requirement; a tenant with additional protections already in place (e.g., "Section 8" tenants) won't lose those existing protections. The Act defines bona fide in such a way as to prevent the prior owner from abusing the requirement by mischaracterizing himself as a tenant.
The notice is relatively simple to execute. And as the Washington Post suggested last week, it may not be slowing down the resale process. Still, it is a hard and fast required step. The Obama administration's summary of the legislation as passed is here. It includes a sunset provision that terminates its requirements on December 31, 2012.
June 23, 2009
The National Journal: Team Obama
The "people who run things" in the new administration are carefully collected for you in this interesting and useful article cataloguing what looks like a talented, credentialed and hard-working Team Obama. See by James Barnes and the National Journal staff "Obama's Team: The Face Of Diversity". It's marred only by a trumpeted and somewhat lame observation that less than half of the senior posts are filled by white men. Can we get past that, please?
April 20, 2009
Is Obama making some Americans go nuts?
Brit wits want to know. Whatever the ailment, it must be dicier than jetlag, and more contagious. We've noticed it, too. On television, at least one conservative talking head per day has blown a tube on the air; it started two weeks ago, right around the time Obama started getting on planes. What gives? WAC? voted for John McCain--but he (WAC?, or McCain for that matter) is not crazy from the loss. The Economist, too, wonders about "The Obama Derangement Syndrome":
Mr Obama may be widely admired both at home and abroad. But there are millions of Americans who do not like the cut of his jib—and a few whose dislike boils over into white-hot hatred.... The internet crackles with comparisons between Mr Obama and various dictators (Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini) or assorted psychotics (Charles Manson and David Koresh).
April 15, 2009
Good enough, smart enough, tough enough.
Stuart saves Minnesota? And patient enough. "Senator Franken" still sounds, well, funny--but we'll take him even though there have been far less able legislators in the U.S. Senate than D-turned-R Norm Coleman. Too bad that Minnesota--historically a liberal state that has more than once played a major role in defining U.S. populism--can't have them both this term. AP two days ago: "Minnesota court declares Franken leading vote-getter". Problem: we can expect more legal "wrangling". So see Bonnie Erbe's modest proposal yesterday at USNWR.
April 06, 2009
Obama in Europe: More than Kennedy-lite.
WAC? is wrong about many things--and was wrong to suggest five months ago that Barack Obama was not ready for prime time on terrain outside the U.S. Maybe Obama can't save the world, or your 401(k)--but our phlegmy Brit friends give Obama high marks for making friends in Europe. They do so, of course, without gushing. See The Economist: "The G20 Summit: The Obama Effect". It was published April 2 but still captures the Obama "atmospherics" in the days since then. Obama has even charmed dour Prague, where (despite its arresting beauty) being in a really bad mood has long been a popular sport. And as expected, France and Germany may emerge as the nations least likely to support aggressive stimulus measures:
President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe had done a lot already to provide economic stimulus. What was needed was far tougher regulation, whose targets would include hedge funds, traders’ pay, rating agencies and tax havens. Both of them seemed keener on trying to prevent financial crises in future than on dealing with the one that is raging now.
February 25, 2009
"Nobody messes with Joe."
Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.
That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort - because nobody messes with Joe.
--The President, February 24, 2009
Vercingetorix Memorial in Alesia, France
February 19, 2009
Arizona's Budget Cutbacks: Speed cameras backfire, kill work ethic.
Subduing the driven, rewarding the Slackoiesie. According to our friend Dr. Michael O'Neil, political consultant and pollster with Tempe, Arizona-based O'Neil Associates Inc., and frequent television news commentator, that's exactly what speed cameras--part of Arizona's solution to its current budget crisis--are doing to the state's citizenry. Along with other states, Arizona is grappling with its largest state budget shortfall ever. New governor Jan Brewer is doing all she can. We are all moved by Arizona's grit and resolve.
But speed cameras?
It's a hidden and "pernicious" tax, O'Neil argued one Sunday morning on an NBC affiliate with the buzz-saw precision of Clarence Darrow on his best roll. Speed cameras were slowing busy Arizonans down. Stifling achievement in Type As. And lulling the laid-back and lazy into deeper sloth-like comas. We agree. And of all states, this artifice comes from the one that gave us the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, Moses of the American Right, an inspired no-nonsense candidate for President in 1964 who urged Americans to get off their sofas, stand up, and get out there and inherit a chain of department stores, like he did? Say it ain't so, Arizona.
Mike O'Neil explains the unintended consequences of the Arizona speed camera tax in his NBC commentary here.
February 12, 2009
Stimulus bill: $789 billion
Yesterday, and 'ahead of schedule', House and Senate conferees approved a bill that could be voted on this week. Details of the bill are not widely known yet. For now, see The Washington Post: "Congress Reaches Stimulus Accord". Four very general parts: tax breaks, investment in health care and alternative energy, funding for infrastructure, aid to state and local government.
February 10, 2009
This is Elkhart.
And this is Elkhart high on Obama. Like my beloved alma mater hundreds of miles away, Elkhart, Indiana is a small but serious socially conservative community of reasonable men and very smart women that works hard to produce young adults who may some day take their places as high-functioning members of the ultra-bourgeoisie. Just kidding, mainly. WAC? has northern Indiana blood, twice lived near Elkhart as a child, and is practically a homey. Speaks fluent Hoosier.
This is the real Midwest, though. Obama didn't do well in Elkhart in November. So right now, it's the perfect town to pitch your $800 billion idea. See Bloomberg: "Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan". Excerpt:
He mobilized an army of people in the American heartland who cheered at scripted applause lines with the ways of Washington as an all-purpose villain.
Then he used his first primetime news conference last night not so much to present new arguments or numbers as to invoke the plight of Elkhart, Indiana, a recession-ravaged town of 52,000 people with an unemployment rate that has more than tripled in a year to 15.3 percent. He visited there yesterday morning and adopted it as a symbol for his appeal. [more]
February 04, 2009
Tom Daschle goes paws up.
Obama's well-liked HHS nominee withdraws re: $146,000 in back taxes. See yesterday's Washington Post.
January 28, 2009
The Economy: Mr. Obama goes to Capitol Hill.
In the Senate, the new president was peppered with questions about the proposal [economic stimulus package], with GOP senators pressing him to reconsider the package’s $825 billion price tag and to keep the stimulus focused on the housing and financial markets. Obama was also asked to consider helping the housing market with the second half of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
January 13, 2009
Hillary's new trial
Only a senator as forthright and as respected as Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) could raise the question the right way. Hillary is one of the great managers of our time, and her husband gives good phone and great parties. She works hard. She's well-traveled. She's even been to Arkansas and Utah, both foreign countries. We know that Bill can hold his own in a conversation with the wife of the Sultan of Kelantan. Confirm her. Washington Post: "Clinton Challenged on Foreign Library Contributions".
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nominee of President-elect Barack Obama to become the new secretary of state, appeared before a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today and ran into a challenge over foreign donations to her husband's presidential library. [more]
January 07, 2009
Update: Sweet Caroline
According to a blog yesterday at The Economist, new polling shows that Caroline Kennedy's quest for Hillary Clinton's New York U.S. Senate seat is in trouble. This is strange and somewhat sad news. Here's a smart and decent if private woman who, ironically, didn't correctly ramp up for and manipulate the political press coverage her own family first turned into an art fifty years ago. Excerpt:
It's about the lousy image that Mrs Kennedy has presented, and her inability to deal with a suddenly skeptical press corps that had only ever treated citizen Caroline as a princess.
January 06, 2009
Franken: Good enough, smart enough--but not there yet.
Stuart saves Minnesota by 225 votes. Writer-actor-funnyman Harvard grad Al Franken (color him a big bold D) is certified as winner and declares victory. But now ex-Dem incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) has a week to challenge the Minnesota election board's decision. We think Coleman will meet that deadline before this post is done. See NYT, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Boston Herald. Watch for the Senate to delay seating Franken.
December 19, 2008
Al Franken: Good enough, smart enough, and lawyered-up.
Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Franken Posts Lead Over Coleman". Last night, two votes ahead. Today, 250.
The intense scrutiny of "voter intent" resumed today by the five-member board charged with directing Minnesota's recount in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic rival Al Franken, and the day's rulings turned the challenger's slight deficit into a triple-digit lead.
Stuart Saves Minnesota?
December 15, 2008
Good enough, smart enough, late enough.
And doggone it, it's a bit annoying. Fun wonky Al (who WAC? prefers) v. competent ex-Democrat Norm continues in Minnesota U.S. Senate race recount. We like everyone's pluck, and appreciate the oddity of the stats here (just hundreds of votes separating the candidates with 2.9 million cast on November 4), but it's getting to be time for Repose. Swearing-in time soon, guys. Yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune "Franken, Coleman campaigns reduce challenges".
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and I still have a shot at Norm Coleman's Senate seat."
December 11, 2008
Advice of the week.
"The only way for a reporter to look on a politician is down."
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Salon: "Rod Blagojevich's bad hair day"
Here, by Salon's Edward McClelland. It begins: "For every Barack Obama or Abraham Lincoln, this state produces a dozen Rod Blagojeviches." See DOJ's December 7, 2008 criminal complaint, and 75 page affidavit.
December 07, 2008
The fourth Senator Kennedy?
And why not, if you like a mix of ideas and personalities in the U.S. Senate? See New York Times: "Kennedy Is Said to Cast Her Eye on Senate Seat" (is NYT's headline deliberate, or an eerie Yeats slip?). Next month, New York Governor David Paterson may appoint lawyer-writer Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat once Clinton's nomination to be Secretary of State is confirmed.
If Kennedy becomes New York's next U.S. Senator, watch for her to be more moderate and centrist than either of her uncles, Ted and Robert (who also held that seat in New York, 1965-68). She will be "practical" and more like her dad, John Kennedy, who was no fire-breathing liberal, or even a tad doctrinaire, as a U.S. Senator or President.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, December 1960.
Photographer: Lynn Pelham
November 14, 2008
Princess Hillary of Foggy Bottom?
So Hillary Clinton, who I have always liked, and I might soon be neighbors, sort of.
The State Department in Washington, D.C sits on its haunches on 22nd and C, Northwest, a few blocks south of the the official WAC? birthplace on 23rd and H. There, just off Washington Circle, at the edge of the West End, and every single Friday evening about 5:45, my astral twin lurks, and hunts for cabs to go east to Kelly's Irish Times near Georgetown Law. Or scouts out interesting women walking west (those woman are never headed to Kelly's). Every single day, the other twin misses D.C. like the perfect friend and lover who got away.
But Hillary Clinton is interesting enough, even if not our long lost love. And she's smart, even though she greatly annoys, to put it mildly, many of our firm's client reps--who are not likely to read this blog, especially on Friday evenings. We (the twins) will accept her into our Foggy Bottom 'hood. The Huffington Post, which is wonderful even when it's wrong, says that "Officials: Obama Offered Clinton Secretary Of State".
Foggy Bottom: People buy homes near WAC? birthplace.
New Haven: People plot careers at State.
November 13, 2008
Franken-Coleman update: Just lawyering up for the Holidays.
Yesterday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Getting All Lawyered Up for Senate Recount
By Kevin Duchschere
The U.S. Senate recount will ensure a hectic holiday season for lawyers, scores of whom are expected to be deployed across Minnesota by the Coleman and Franken campaigns in the weeks ahead to monitor the counting and to prepare for a possible post-recount challenge. [more]
November 12, 2008
Return of the Alpha Ds: Howard Dean, MD.
The 50-state strategy. DNC Chairman Howard Dean, the 2004 presidential candidate and ex-governor of Vermont, can take a lot of credit for Obama's big win last week--if people will only let him. See "Obama's Debt to Howard Dean" by Mike Madden at Salon.com.
November 06, 2008
Our vote for White House Chief of Staff.
It's Chicago North Side Congressman, boy wonder and pit bull Rahm Emanuel, former White House staffer, and from the most amazing and increasingly-celebrated batch of Chicago kids in one family you could dream up. See Washingtonion.com. Emanuel has the added advantage of not being a lawyer. He swears wonderfully, we hear--maybe better than the famously irreverent Ben Bradlee, former Washington Post editor. He has never even heard of Work-Life Balance, or thinks it's a foo-foo drink you can order in Lincoln Park. Openly rude to slackers. And wonderfully un-PC. Democrats badly need a guy like that. We hear Obama has offered and he will accept. This is fun. Pinch us.
Minnesota U.S. Senate race: Recount over 725 votes.
I'm good enough, smart enough, close enough. Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Recount: The Coleman-Franken brawl drags on".
November 04, 2008
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and I may soon be a U.S. Senator."
From pizza to field staff, from lawn signs to phone lines, a campaign costs a lot of money. We could try asking the pharmaceutical companies and Big Oil for big checks, but somehow we don't think they're going to help.
From Al Franken for U.S. Senate, Minnesota, via yesterday's e-mail from his campaign re: "The last (and best) fundraising email of the campaign".
Franken, a liberal Democrat, is an ex-SNL writer-player, Harvard graduate, actor, funnyman, author and broadcaster, with a talented daughter and Renaissance woman WAC? has big crush on. Both Franken and Minnesota first-term Senator Norm Coleman (Franken's polar opposite in all respects) are spending serious fortunes on the race. Franken may win today, too.
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and I have a shot at Norm Coleman's Senate seat."
November 03, 2008
Got any money left?
Election 2008: Summary of Federal Campaign Contribution Limits. State of California, too.
October 27, 2008
The Election 2008: Going Rogue in America.
Is America a fun country or what? Consumer spending down for 3rd straight month, the government buys a few banks, WAC? retreats to mud baths in the California desert, Obama keeps up the Kennedy-lite, McCain gets angry, Palin goes rogue. E.g., The Australian.
October 17, 2008
Trading Places: Christopher Buckley, WAC?
These arresting days of late 2008 may be some of America's best.
Unless we learn, in the next 18 days, that in fact John McCain spearheaded a white slavery operation in Southeast Asia during the six years he was supposed to have been a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, I will vote for McCain to be my next president. My vote will be cast with many reservations and--for the first time in my life--for a Republican presidential candidate.
Try not to demonize me--or any one else who is trying hard to get it right this election year. Barack Obama, as talented as he is, struck me again and again as the new Jimmy Carter: smart, good and yes a great man--and likely an ineffective leader once in office. Carter, at least, was not untested. In Obama's case, I listened but couldn't buy the Kennedy-lite "change now" noises from a gifted young guy who has never managed anything except for his brilliant and historical
Chris Buckley: Vote pairing with Dan Hull?
campaign. Sure, other nations, particularly EU countries, will like Obama. His U.S. Supreme Court appointments would be more to my liking. But I'd prefer Obama's tough but soulful wife, Michelle, as my next president. I seek leaders who are a bit more engaged, and can get angry. Obama is currently not one of them. In six years, Obama will be well shy of 60, and he can start running for president again then.
By then, Obama can get his mojo working, if he has one. Or his wife can run.
Sarah Palin is a Ditz, you say? How can I do this? Answer: we've had at least 3 ditz presidents in my lifetime. Ronald Reagan was the first, and on intellect he makes Palin seem like Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, just in a really cute dress. Look, Palin's not my cup of tea, but she's one of the most talented politicians you'll ever see anywhere. Don't oversimplify or underestimate her. She's going to be around a long time. Make room for her, don't demonize her. Palin's no cartoon. Besides, if you really think she's not "smart enough", she's lots of fun to just watch.
More interestingly and importantly, however, a major conservative has crossed over to the "dark side", albeit a different one than I just did. Christopher Buckley is William F. Buckley's son, a small government conservative and fine, established novelist and journalist in his own right. Two days ago he announced his support for Barack Obama. He offered his resignation from his position on his dad's The National Review--which accepted it. See WSJ. Buckley the Younger's offending piece and reasons for supporting Obama are found in The Daily Beast, in "Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama".
If you are a Republican, or a libertarian, please don't demonize Buckley, either. Buckley is refusing to be defined by personal ties, traditional conservative doctrine, and life-long identification with The Right. He sees Obama as a fresh and superior thinker, and a temperate problem-solver: a kind of a new age Philosopher-King. I think Buckley is wrong--but it just doesn't matter. I'd love to have dinner with Chris Buckley. If that happens, we promise in advance not to demonize or oversimplify anyone, except perhaps in jest.
Which brings me to the point, a happy one.
Get used to it: Palin's going places.
The mean-spirited and, I think, often mindless Reagan Revolution, which arrived in DC like an angry sandstorm in January 1981, is officially over. During those 28 years, no one helped the national dialogue along that much. True, Republicans made things personal, moral and cast in absolutes. But my mostly Democrat and limousine liberal friends were also busy making sure that the First Amendment became a joke and a nightmare; you couldn't safely use words like chairman, stewardess, girl, secretary, "Chinese wall" or Indian, or tell the receptionist she looked great, without having Geraldo, Nancy Grace and National Public Radio live in your front yard for a few days. Some of us wanted to evolve at our own unenlightened pace.
You also had to be nice to, accommodate and otherwise be careful with mediocre and arguably lazy people in the workplace. No energy, drive, gospel or values about work itself became the norm. "Adequate": that was the new "excellent".
But I think these political and economic events of these arresting days--late 2008--will do some very good things: (1) dismantle cookie-cutter definitions of what Rs and Ds stand for, and (2) modify notions of what government (thanks for buying all my banks, guys)--and markets--can and can't do. Americans may finally talk and solve problems without freeze-dried ideologies, party "identification", routine character assassination, and pop mantras being the main events and passions in their conversations--and the very source of their "ideas". Our politicians, "idea" tanks, mass media and U.S. television news--e.g., Fox and MSNBC--in particular have been doing just that.
Special note: Television news is supposed to give you information, not tell you what to think, or how to vote.
If you need a template to worship (i.e., organized religion), okay, fine. Faith is the hardest--not to mention often the most dangerous--activity for humans. But religion, and spirituality, is something we can do alone. We engage in politics, however, with one another; you can't do it fully in private, and you participate on the basis of reliable information presented fairly. When we start taking cues from the best-sounding available scripts by media-on-a-mission on how to vote, and how to govern ourselves, we are in really trouble.
A suggestion. American media would do well to get back in its box and, to the extent humanly possible, report facts and stop giving cues. U.S. journalists, including broadcast people, are some of the best educated, most traveled and admirably pedigreed citizens in the world. Hey, you folks know better. You do have some responsibilities to your less-polished viewers and readers.
It's going to happen anyway. People will start to think for themselves--and stop relying on the media, forced-PC cultures in all camps, party lines and platforms to instruct them on how they must think and feel. We need a New Conversation, free of certitude, either moral or intellectual, and worthy of the subtleties and complexities of the world we face.
October 03, 2008
Government by Gaels?
Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water's roar?
The charm. The love of words. War-like energies. Child-like joy and optimism mixed with bouts of sadness. And, of course, the burning, even tortuous, God-given right to serve as General-Manager-of-the-Universe, at least while on earth. By now, surrounded as I am by lawyers with big Irish genes, I know it when it when I hear it. For example, Joe Biden is as Irish as Irish-American pols come. But according to Newsweek writer Carl Sullivan, John McCain, Sarah Palin and Barack O'Bama each have strong ancestries in Ireland. Well, all four sure can talk. But WAC? sees nothing "Irish" in the talented but deliberate, mild, unconfrontational Senator Obama. It will be up to Joe.
Daniel O'Connell, Irish lawyer-politician, fighter, charmer, Muse.
October 02, 2008
Lawyers, Voting and Voters' Rights
Politics are always important. If you are a lawyer and don't believe that, please (a) sue your law school, (b) find another blog to read, and (c) consider new employment selling home improvements, shoes, PEZ dispensers or insurance. Re: the 2008 elections and the Fifteenth Amendment, which turned 138-years-old this year, see at GlobalTort this fine collection of resources.
September 28, 2008
Is Obama too wimpy to be President of the United States?
For over two decades, I've worked for and raised money for both national Republican and Democratic officeholders and candidates. And I've always voted "D" for president. But after watching the first 2008 debate Friday night, I am not so sure. Right now, I'd feel far more comfortable in the years 2009-2013 with Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, Mr. Rogers or maybe the late Tom Mix as my Decider in war, foreign affairs, the economy or even human rights than I would with Obama. Is Obama just another All-Resume, No-Action post-boomer talker? No, I don't love John McCain. But can Obama even utter the word "horseshit" under his breath without choking to death? See Salon. Can he get angry without seeming embarrassed about it? BO is a bright guy--and so what? Can he think and decide? And get things done?
All hat, no cattle? Can Obama Please Mix It Up More?
September 25, 2008
America, world markets, and presidential politics.
The president's address last night of 9:00 PM ET is here. An embarrassed Congress is expected to finalize its $700 billion attempted "rescue" of the American economy this week. And even Friday's presidential candidate debate in Mississippi may be postponed (hopefully for the right reasons). At a time when the image of the U.S. has been declining abroad steadily in nearly every respect, WAC? hopes that the two presidential candidates quickly step up--senators McCain and Obama are now both their parties' newly annointed leaders, and new world leaders--and put not just America, but the world's economic markets, ahead of their historic election contest in 40 days. This week, and more than ever, the governments and businesses of Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa watch us. True, they all gloat a little--but they worry a lot more. They are our colleagues and business partners.
September 20, 2008
Camelot in France: The First Odd Couple.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, First Lady of France, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Vanity Fair's September 2008 cover story is "Paris Match". At the Élysée Palace, writer Maureen Orth "encounters a pair of romantic predators who appear to have met their matches."
September 17, 2008
"I believe in Wasilla."
You think America is getting even more dumbed down? Well, decide for yourself. Meet Todd, the First Dude, or Sarah Palin's "package", in Salon. Excerpt:
According to local politicos and observers, he lurks around the capitol if he doesn't have anything better to do, which, since he works seasonal jobs in oil and fishing, is fairly often.
And then see this:
September 02, 2008
The GOP's other Storm: Sarah Palin
Sin in Alaska. John McCain has got Big Ones picking her. And she's a robo-babe. Bravo. But often-conservative WAC? thinks her 17-year-old kid Bristol's pregnancy underscores the danger of (1) not checking closely enough your VP choice (always difficult, we realize: "So, Sarah, any serious mescaline users at the Palin house? Juicers? Flings with Druid-worship?") and, (2) more importantly, the dangerous certitudes of the often-jackass American Christian right. See Los Angeles Times.
August 27, 2008
A couple of Irish guys.
WAC? has more R than D writers--but we miss Irish pols, who tend to be Democrats because they can't help it. And we love this picture.
August 25, 2008
Denver: Gavel Time
The only way for a reporter to look on a politician is down. --HLM
Both major party conventions affect You--and they showcase new U.S. leaders and party "comers" in both camps. Wednesday night is worth watching: our friend Wild Bill, and Delaware's Joe Biden, the VP choice, who started his job as freshman Senator the year before a wide-eyed WAC? worked in his first paid "desk job" on Capitol Hill for Gaylord Nelson. Plus some smart if less interesting politicians. If you are an American, be grateful you live in a country where we have 1000 Tony Blairs--all willing to endure the brutality of U.S. national politics.
Other than that, be skeptical and acerbic, like the Baltimore master.
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
August 24, 2008
Hey Joe, where you going?
AP: "Official: Obama Picks Biden For Veep". Super-Smart move by Obama but not likely to change the 2008 race. Wild Bill and Hillary will call many shots at convention and play with minds through November.
August 22, 2008
"Veep Watch Drags On"; Obama's dreary schmaltz-fest.
See today's Boston Globe. Three days after our Biden prediction, sober TV heads keep saying Biden Biden Biden. WAC? was right about something? Another gratuitous prediction: in November, Hillary Clinton supporters vote for John McCain in nightmarish droves, often voting "R" for first and last time in their lives. Finally, Obama bores WAC? silly with the wimpified Kennedy-lite stuff. Real boomers are appalled: the hope, the dream, change, good crops, motherhood, justice for all, Sunday drives do not equal a platform. Months of nothing. Dude, we love your resume and work ethic, but just what are you saying?
AP file photo: Sen. Obama with Chairman Biden in 2007
August 19, 2008
Our Obama VP pick: Joe Biden
We don't love Obama--but we have some advice for him: Joe Biden.
At 65, Biden seems younger than his years--and at times more youthful than the candidate. Biden has been in the U.S. Senate more than half of his life (since he was 30), and knows his way around D.C. But he's still a stone natural campaigner and a skillful "people" guy--and good with the blue collar folks all over the U.S. Obama has trouble with now and will, in our view, continue to alienate. He's Roman Catholic, Irish, and, well, way more fun than Obama. Biden's a pol and lawyer--but never a Weenie. He's a survivor of great personal tragedy at a relatively early age and stage in his career, which we admire. In the past few years Biden has picked up big foreign policy credentials, which elude Obama. Cons: he's got some personal baggage, and sometimes he just talks too much.
Biden's only serious competition for the VP job is either unknown or lackluster. Note: We do like Hoosier Senator Evan Bayh, too--but we liked Evan's charismatic and inspirational dad, Birch, a lot better. We would love to see Evan "get more like Birch" as he matures. Evan Bayh is still young. Biden has Birch Bayh's gift for connecting with people now. Like 80-year-old Birch, Joe Biden can still whip up a crowd over 40 that didn't attend Harvard, Williams or Duke, or doesn't know which fork to use at the Cosmos Club.
July 27, 2008
Obama in Berlin, Paris.
Photo: Matthew Rose
WAC? thinks America is still uncomfortable about the idea of a young charismatic black man with an insider's golden resume being president. We are embarrassed about that inner conflict. Unfortunately, we haven't come that far. As with public figures from Jerry Lewis to Bill Clinton, Europe may like Obama more than we do. From The Paris Blog in a post by Matthew Rose, the UK's The Independent, and the New York Times.
July 26, 2008
The Senate works on Saturday; NBC gets all excited.
The U.S. Senate is still the most elite and effective legislative body the world has ever seen. And most members of Congress--even the dumber, wimpier and more clueless legislators--work very hard. Weekend sessions aren't all that unusual, but it apparently makes good copy ("rare weekend session") to slip that in there. MSNBC: "Senate approves sweeping housing-rescue bill". The House passed the bill on Wednesday, and the Senate acted today. The president still needs to sign it.
WASHINGTON (MSNBC) - The U.S. Congress approved a massive housing market rescue bill Saturday, offering emergency financing to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, creating a new regulator for the mortgage titans and setting up a $300 billion fund to help troubled homeowners.
With the U.S. housing market in its deepest slump since the Great Depression, Congress acted with unusual speed in recent days to move the election-year bill to the White House.
So John Edwards is a big dog, too?
Fox News, and the National Enquirer, say the ex-Senator's been breaking bad, maybe with a staffer's mistress, and maybe not. It's confusing to us, but at least someone is having some nasty-immoral adult fun:
A Beverly Hills hotel security guard told FOXNews.com he intervened this week between a man he identified as former Sen. John Edwards and tabloid reporters who chased down the former presidential hopeful after what they're calling a rendezvous with his mistress and love child. [more]
July 11, 2008
The French president gets the chair.
The presidency of the European Union's Council, the EU's main decision-making body, rotates every six months. EU countries take turns chairing and overseeing the Council's agenda. The second half of 2008 is France's turn. And so "Charlemagne", the Europe affairs columnist at The Economist--which is evolving into a kind of Time or Newsweek for the entire West--tries to explain why Europe is "nervous" about Nicolas Sarkozy’s stint in the chair.
June 11, 2008
The Economist: America getting there.
The London-based weekly magazine The Economist does not always love the United States. But it has undertaken a useful and entertaining role in the West: wonky Motherland commissioner to monitor and scold the world's busiest overachievers and self-appointed police force since imperial Rome. So I was happy to see this week's cover and cover story, "America at its best". I could not agree more, and had to pinch myself a lot in the last 18 months when thinking about the quality of presidential candidates produced in the 2008 contest. And we may have made longer-term gains, beyond candidate choice. Without question, America--the insular "ruffian" nation that could never quite square its domestic life with its democratic ideals--crossed thresholds, surprised people, and probably made race and gender history. For us, it was progress. The article's concluding paragraph:
Both candidates have their flaws and their admirable points; the doughty but sometimes cranky old warrior makes a fine contrast with the inspirational but sometimes vaporous young visionary. Voters now have those five months to study them before making up their minds (and The Economist will be doing the same). But, on the face of it, this is the most impressive choice America has had for a very long time.
Photo: The Economist
June 03, 2008
MSNBC: WJC really ticked off at Vanity Fair reporter.
"Scumbag" alert. Sorry. More politics. We can't help it. MSNBC "First Read" excerpt:
The same Huffington Post reporter who broke the Obama “bitter” story got a new scoop yesterday of Bill Clinton lashing out at Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum and calling him “sleazy,” “dishonest” and “slimy” for his critical magazine article on Clinton. It’s worth noting that the HuffPo reporter didn’t identify herself as a reporter and said she disliked the article when asking for his reaction.
From the piece: “Tightly gripping this reporter's hand and refusing to let go, Clinton heatedly denounced the writer, who is currently married to his former White House Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers. ‘[He's] sleazy,’ he said referring to Purdum. ‘He's a really dishonest reporter. And one of our guys talked to him… And I haven't read [the article]. There's just five or six blatant lies in there. But he's a real slimy guy,’ the former President said. When I reminded him that Purdum was married to his former press spokesperson Myers, Clinton was undeterred. ’That's all right-- he's still a scumbag,’ Clinton said. ‘Let me tell ya--he's one of the guys -- he's one of the guys that brought out all those lies about Whitewater to Kenneth Starr. He's just a dishonest guy--can't help it.’” [more]
May 31, 2008
Saturday's Charon: The PM feels your pain.
Charon QC gets a cold call from Britain's Prime Minister in "Gordon cold calls British public…Hello…is that Charon?…".
May 28, 2008
Fun new game: MSNBC's GOP Veepstakes.
Click above to play new VP game with MSNBC's Chuck Todd and David Gregory. Our pick and prediction is lawyer Rob Portman, 53, not nationally known, but a talented Bushie and conservative who goes down well with the "real" GOP rank and file, which has been grooming him for years. With roots in southern Ohio's Republican "Taft country", Portman's been a Cincinnati congressman, and both U.S. Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush. That's an exemplary resume for a relatively young guy. Long-term weak point: he has hardly any enemies, which makes you wonder about him.
May 16, 2008
Mike Huckabee: He's back!
May 09, 2008
EU trade commissioner: "Lose the protectionist jive"
One of the best points made in the 2008 U.S. presidential election has come from a British politician. A reporter with the Financial Times in London writes that EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, a former member of Parliament and Labour Party mainstay, has had it with candidates, presumably Obama and Clinton, hunting American Democratic votes with protectionist rhetoric that they themselves don't likely believe. And he thinks the campaign noise may be setting the world trading system back by "decades". According to the FT, in a BBC interview on Hardtalk soon to be aired, Mandelson said:
It is irresponsible to be pretending to people you can erect new protection, new tariff barriers around your economy in this 21st century global age and still succeed in sustaining living standards and jobs. It is a mirage and they know it...
It is going to lead us into a vicious spiral of beggar-thy-neighbour policies which will take us decades back in terms of trade growth.
Mandelson refused to name the culprits.
May 07, 2008
Mr. Obama: Got platform?
After the Indiana and North Carolina primaries yesterday, NBC's Tim Russert may be right, and you may be the Man. Most Americans love hope, motherhood and good crops. We are optimists if nothing else. But specifics, if you please. The U.S. economy? Foreign policy? Trade?
May 06, 2008
2008 U.S. primaries: just about done
Today: Indiana and North Carolina
May 13: West Virginia Democratic, West Virginia GOP (1/3 selected)
May 20: Kentucky, Oregon
May 27: Idaho GOP
June 1: Puerto Rico Democratic
June 3: Montana Democratic, New Mexico GOP, South Dakota
May 03, 2008
London has a new--and different--mayor.
Yesterday in UK local elections, Conservative Party candidate Boris Johnson defeated the Labour Party's incumbent two-term mayor, Ken Livingstone. Labour lost hundreds of council seats in London, northern England and Wales in the party's biggest defeat in 40 years. See Daily Telegraph. Even by Brit standards, which prize oddity, the new London Mayor Johnson, a 43-year-old writer and TV commentator, is a unique fellow. AP: "Eccentric and offensive, London's new mayor boasts a devastating wit but reckless streak".
April 29, 2008
Elections in America
The election...was not fought over great issues. Few elections are. Questions important to the nation, it is true, were before the public eye--the tariff, land policy, internal improvements--but on these questions there were no clear-cut party stands. It was, rather, chicanery, slippery tactics, and downright falsehoods upon which the politicians relied to win the contest.
--Glyndon Van Deusen, in The Jacksonian Era, 1828-1848, Ch. 2 (Harper & Row, 1963 ed.), discussing the 1828 U.S. presidential election.
April 24, 2008
Chelsea does Duke; disses Dad.
In yesterday's The Chronicle, Duke's daily: "My mother would be a better president than my father," she said. "She is more progressive and more prepared."
April 22, 2008
Predicting Pennsylvania--and the rest of the primaries.
Pollster and consultant Mike O'Neil of O'Neil Associates is a friend of ours. We liked the following article by Mike--he prepared it especially for the Pennsylvania primary today--enough to print it entirely and word-for-word:
The Rest of the Story: Predicting the Outcome of All of the Remaining Democratic Primaries.
Michael J. O'Neil, Ph.D
"It is difficult to predict, especially the future."
Last month, I sent out a missive "The Myth of Momentum in the Democratic Primaries" in which I argued that the pattern of Obama and Clinton victories could be explained primarily by the demographics of the various states, rather than by any of the "momentum" that has been widely discussed in the press.
The beauty of any such argument is that of ex post facto logic: if you explain after the fact, you will always be "right" in your "prediction" since you can alter the theory to fit the known facts precisely.
If the theory is right, however, it should predict the future. Of course, as the philosopher Yogi noted above, this is harder to do with accuracy.
Those of us who conduct opinion research, however, are often (incorrectly) presumed to be in the prediction business. We are not, but (with appropriate caveats), it can be fun.
So, for fun only, here it is: if the demographics relationships observed throughout the election so far hold (that is the "catch", to cover my posterior if I am "wrong"), it would mean the following:
Clinton wins Pennsylvania tomorrow.
But the following Tuesday, Obama wins North Carolina by an even bigger margin (completely erasing Clinton's delegate gains in PA).
Indiana is closer, but probably Clinton territory (like PA and Ohio, but a chunk is in the Chicago media market, and that gives Obama a boost, but probably not enough to win (this is the closest of the remaining states).
Back to tomorrow: Should Clinton win by less than 5%, the confetti will drop and she will declare a big victory. But every politico (and super-delegate) will know that her campaign is toast. The only question will be how long it will take her to get the message. A 10% win will be real, but still not enough to get her many delegates. (5% to 10% will be ambiguous; well within expectations-and spin-meisters on both sides will make arguments, all of them fallacious). A 20% blowout, on the other hand, would be a real loss for Obama.
Poll numbers: these average a 6% Clinton win, down from 20% a couple of weeks ago. Will this momentum continue? I doubt it, for two reasons. First, historical patterns: Obama has typically gained until the weekend before the election when Clinton gets back a few points. Second, most of the "undecideds" look (demographically) like Clinton people. If they vote, she wins-and maybe big. If they stay home, it gets close.
Expectations will be reversed in North Carolina, though Obama currently is winning there by more than Clinton in PA.
And the Rest of the Primaries?
Following demographic and geographical patterns we would predict Clinton wins in West Virginia (5/13), then Obama wins in Oregon while losing Kentucky (both 5/20), Obama ends primary season by winning both Montana and South Dakota (6/03).
In between, we have votes in two non-states, Guam (4 delegates) and Puerto Rico (55 delegates, more than many states!). All of the prognosticators have said that Puerto Rico should be Clinton territory, since she has won Hispanics to date. I don't buy this argument, since I see no reason to assume that native Puerto Ricans necessarily resemble Mexican Americans or Cuban Americans. They are different. But, I am NOT saying that Obama will PR. I just reject the logic behind the assumption that Clinton will win there. And there have been no reported polls in PR. Bottom line, like Sgt. ("I know NOTHING!") Shultz, we really know nothing about PR. The demography of PR does not resemble that of any state.
There you have it. A scorecard against which to measure the results of the rest of the primaries.
What does it mean?
The Obama lead is almost certainly intact on June 3. If so, he continues to trickle in super-delegates (he has been gaining about one a day for the last six weeks). Then the only question will be whether enough super-delegates declare early enough to forestall a convention fight. (Watch to see if a major Clinton insider, someone like PA Governor Ed Rendell, bolts. Nothing less may be required to get her to realize it is over). The speed of super-delegate decisions may depend on whether they enjoy being courted more than they hate being threatened/cajoled. (Is a 3am call from Bill a good thing or a bad thing?)
What could change this story?
A major Obama disaster-something much bigger than the stuff we have seen thus far. Don't hold your breath: it's not likely.
A Clinton loss in any of the states I have indicated she will win. This would signal a collapse of her campaign. Up until now, her campaign has looked viable, even if it is now a long-shot. A loss in a "must win" state would make the campaign look futile, and would likely signal the end.
Michael J. O'Neil PhD
April 19, 2008
Newsweek poll: Hillary drops back more.
At WAC?, politics is always important. Who governs and how informs culture, business, law, religion and even art. So our writers watch, chose sides, get involved when inspired, vote and argue amongst ourselves. We have serious Rs, Ds and "Others". A Newsweek poll says Hillary Clinton is losing ground: "Despite her campaign's relentless attacks on Barack Obama's qualifications and electability, Hillary Clinton has lost a lot of ground with Democratic voters nationwide going into Tuesday's critical primary in Pennsylvania..." [more]
April 07, 2008
March 14, 2008
Simple Justice on Spitzer Exit
At WAC?, we think that politics--the art of controlling your environment--is important every day, and especially important if you're a business person or a lawyer. Do see Scott Greenfield's article "Spitzer Aftermath; What to Expect" at Simple Justice. We like New Yorker Greenfield for his brain, his pluck and his ideas.
March 12, 2008
Governor Spitzer resigns.
Effective St. Patrick's Day. Classy and smart speech, at least--and we think you'll be seeing him again. Bloomberg. Hello, Governor Paterson.
Obama wins Mississippi
Bloomberg: Obama's Mississippi Win Blunts Clinton's Recent Delegate Gains. In a very short time, the Clintons have lost their famous mojo in American black community.
March 06, 2008
So HRC is "back"--and quite a few more contentious primaries to go. If you're not maxed out, still inspired and/or rich, see our famous FEC Contributions Guide, a summary (with citations) of what you can give to HRC, Obama or McCain. Campaign contribution limits for California are also thrown in for laughs. Seriously, don't try some of this stuff at home, especially if you're in a group or organization; ask for help.
March 03, 2008
Tomorrow the streetfight: Obama v. HRC, Texas, and Back to Ohio.
AP: Texas and Ohio battleground. Two big states with rich and colorful political histories; anything could happen. Yes, this affects you--and all your clients. Right now: Obama has 1,385 delegates, HRC has 1,276. Total of 2,025 needed to win. John McCain looks like the GOP winner.
February 27, 2008
The politics of being a righteous dude.
Or Guy-ness in America in the 2008 election. Male bonding. John and Obama being guys to have a beer with. Hillary-bashing. And "I'll show you something primary, wench..." From the liberal but way-manly Salon: "The Dude Vote".
February 25, 2008
U.S. Election: The Return of Ralph Nader.
And bad news for U.S. Democrats--he will siphon off votes from Obama and HRC. See Telegraph.co.uk in London: "Ralph Nader Joins Presidential Race". Also: The Hill. Chicago Sun-Times. Washington Post. More coverage.
February 20, 2008
A truly American election: 2,025 or 1,191 "to win".
NBC: Delegate Count. Dems: HRC down by 50; Obama's got the 'mo. GOP: McCain has 884. It's all historic no matter who you bet on. Who the hell are we Yanks, anyway? And re: our egalitarian ideals, can we walk the walk?
February 11, 2008
U.S. Democrats: Horserace!
Pardon my dripping schoolboy excitement. But even the most dreamy, idealistic American kid growing up in the 1960s--was there any better and more interesting time to grow up?--could not have imagined a "run-off" between two candidates like HRC and Obama. You need to stand back and look at this one, the 2008 election: the most spirited, surprising and genuinely defining (just who are Americans anyway?) U.S. election in WAC?'s lifetime. Still 8 months away from November. After Saturday's primaries and caucuses--in which Obama wins big in Nebraska, Louisiana, Washington state--HRC has 1,084 delegates to 1,057 for Obama. 2,025 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. See The Washington Post.
February 08, 2008
George W. Bush: "Most American" U.S. President Ever?
Dan Hull, who has never voted for anyone named Bush, thinks the answer is a big Texas hell-yes. And he's convinced that 19th-century French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, author of the prescient Democracy in America (1840), would agree with him in a heartbeat. See Dan's op-ed piece, "One of us", featured this past Sunday in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, owned and published by Richard Mellon Scaife who--along with the famous 2004 Teresa Heinz battler Editor Colin McNickle--was kind enough to put up with Dan and his take.
February 07, 2008
Mike Huckabee has done Mitt in. The Washington Post.
February 06, 2008
UPDATE: McCain Rules Super Tuesday; Dems in a horse-race; yesterday's primary results...
...are here on this NBC interactive map. John McCain was the big dog of the day. HRC wins NY and California. Illinois to Obama. Obama (who does well in Midwest and South), Romney and The Huckster each win and excel in surprising states.
Updated 4:00 PM ET: Obama--838 delegates; HRC--834. Dang!
U.S. expatriates a factor in 2008.
I know from my travels abroad since 1992 that Europeans in the major powers there--e.g., France, Germany, the UK--always have focused on our national elections more than we have focused on theirs. It's sad but true, likely due to our geographic isolation, and cultural insularity from non-U.S. themes. And the 2008 U.S. presidential election is being followed more closely abroad than any other election cycle ever--especially in western Europe, where business people and regulators really like to "watch" us. But just as interesting: American expats all over the world have developed into a voting block.
February 05, 2008
Super Tuesday is today and this is history....
....and in play are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado (caucuses), Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho (D), Illinois, Kansas (D), Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico (D), New York, North Dakota (caucuses), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah. NBC put together a primer for you. Fellow Yanks: This is your America. Don't screw around. Vote today if you are able to vote.
January 30, 2008
DENVER (AP)--Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters' sympathies but never diverted his campaign, according to The Associated Press and NBC News. [more]
We expect you'll see the boy again. He's 54 and, whether you like him or not, he's a natural with ambition, game and grit. Query: These days how do you keep a populist message from sounding like class warfare?
Florida votes: McCain defeats Romney; Giuliani likely out.
McCain, Clinton Win Florida Primaries
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch/DowJones)--John McCain of Arizona won a closely fought battle with Mitt Romney to win Florida's Republican primary Tuesday night, propelling his candidacy mightily forward to the 24-state Super Tuesday contest on Feb. 5.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani placed a disappointing third in Florida's Republican race after staking much of his run for the nomination on the Sunshine State. Late Tuesday, Giuliani was reportedly set to drop out of the race and endorse McCain on Wednesday.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton handily defeated rival Sen. Barack Obama in an expected win. [more]
Baltimore Sun: Giuliani's Concession: A Bad Day in Florida
AP: McCain Beats Romney in Florida GOP Race.
Sydney Morning Herald: Giuliani Who? McCain Claims Florida.
London Times: McCain Takes Florida as Giuliani Campaign in Tatters.
Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia: Hillary Clinton Wins Easy Florida Vote.
January 29, 2008
You gotta vote for somebody.
Visit our Federal Election Commission Campaign Contribution Summary, first created in 2002, and regularly checked and updated. If you don't cough up $2300 to a national candidate, that's fine with us--but at least vote in your primaries and vote in November. These are interesting times in the still new American experiment. Let's not screw it all up by merely watching them go by. Get in the game. Like the famous Bob Dylan song, "you gotta vote for somebody". Well, you guys know what we mean.
Street Fight: "Oh, now you've Kennedy-ed me....I'm shrinking".
Or, "Senator Obama, we knew Jack Kennedy, and you, Senator, are--well, dude, you were two-years-old...."
But that really does hurt, HRC, and we feel your pain. But Uncle Ted, Joe Jr., Caroline--that's dirty touch football, sports! With certain voter groups--including many in the "50+ over-educated guilty white liberal people" block--Kennedy endorsements cannot be trumped. Ouch! But misty-eyed we-shall-overcome Leary-lovin' Mailer-readin' baby-boomer old white liberal that WAC? is, the Truth is that Hillary Clinton is 10 times more prepared and qualified to become president than Obama is. Hands down. Still, ouch. This is a street thing now, my fresh-faced friend. An Irish thing. Whiskey! Hit us again! Another. Another. Turn your glasses over. We got the sand now--and we be most game for ya'. Begin the new age, new frontier epic battle: Boston Lace-Curtain Irish v. Chicago Little Rock-Bubba Protestants.
Anyway, Irish up by one...
WASHINGTON (AP) Two generations of Kennedys - the Democratic Party's best known political family - endorsed Barack Obama for president on Monday, with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy calling him a "man with extraordinary gifts of leadership and character," a worthy heir to his assassinated brother.
"I feel change in the air," Kennedy said in remarks salted with scarcely veiled criticism of Obama's chief rival for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as her husband, the former president.
"I have marveled at his grit and grace," he said of the man a full generation younger than he is.
Query: Can the nearly 60-year-old Kennedy machine still write, or what?
Photo: ABC News.
January 27, 2008
SC: Clinton punts, Obama makes big U.S. history.
Is this an interesting--and let's face it, great--nation or what? AP. WAC? has followed national elections since 1968--and there has never been a year like this one.
January 26, 2008
And NYT endorses McCain.
"...the best choice for the [Republican] party’s presidential nomination". [more]
January 25, 2008
Chicago girl makes good.
NYT edit board endorses HRC. Well, if you're her, it's almost the ultimate--and you'd be celebrating, duck-walking, and doing the antler dance. The New York Times is the Democratic Party, and it just endorsed Hillary Clinton.
January 24, 2008
Loathing on the campaign trail: "All life is junior high".
Presidential elections--beauty contests--dweeb wars. NYT: Romney Tops In Ill Will Among GOP Rivals. "Within the small circle of contenders, Mr. Romney has become the most disliked . Actually, we like Mitt, and think he's immensely talented; we just think he's way creepy. And how about those mini-me staffers he's got?
January 23, 2008
Election 2008: "Say it ain't so, Fred..."
January 22, 2008
2008 election: Can Wild Bill dance?
Last night's Myrtle Beach, SC Dem debate: personal, feisty and a bit childish. No one looked too good to us. A John Edwards night--but an Obama crowd and an HRC set-back. See Chicago Tribune. Highlight of evening was question: How "black" a president was Bill Clinton? Obama, using dancing as the criteria, hits it out of park. Note that WAC? dances way better than Bill, Obama--and especially Clarence Thomas. And we do the Philly Dog New Breed, picked up from spectacularly drunk lawyer-friends who are partners at the Philadelphia firm of ______ after a 3rd Circuit argument last year. Those Penn Law boys got Rhythm.
January 21, 2008
Mr. Huckabee's Bible-based America: "Have a magnificent Christmas".
Does Huckabee still believe that his narrow version of Christianity must dominate every detail of human existence in this country? He doesn't like to answer hard questions about the intersection of his faith and his politics, but it is long past time that somebody demanded a straight answer.
Granted, Salon's writers are generally "liberal"--but that doesn't mean that they are always wrong, or trying to get your kids to try out Satan-worship instead of Pep Club after school. And here at WAC?, by the way, there are no known athiests, some of us attend conventional services, and we all like the holiday season, including Christmas. But Mike Huckabee's now famous charming, pandering, anti-secular, First Amendment-rattling "Christmas message" made WAC? question both his smarts and his character. Just as bad, hardly anyone except Ron Paul called him on it for more than a day. Bad, bad form--by Mike, and by all of us. Moreover, you'd have to be blind or an LSD/glue/nitrous oxide casualty not to believe that the intersecting white bookcase edges behind him in that spot were not deliberately intended to represent The Cross. So what's Happy Mike thinking? Our take: If you don't get the Establishment Clause, Mike, that's not good, of course. (Remedial high school U.S. history and government classes might help.) If it's an election ploy, hey, you old fox, that's wickedly clever, but it's sad and cynical to pander to those who would not or could not comprehend the primacy of the church-state division in American history, law and tradition. That, folks, is sacred.
Un-American, Mike. Bad dog.
January 19, 2008
My little town: OpenCongress
When I worked and/or lived on Capitol Hill (15 years all told), new "local" newspapers and weekly magazines about Congress and our national yet surprisingly insular little town and community within The District would come and go. Only a few of them survived and prospered. But here's a new and interesting one, at least to me, via Ed. at Blawg Review and the Susan Crawford Blog: OpenCongress. It's an on-line magazine apparently mixing the traditions of The Hill and the Library of Congress' Thomas with the added trumpeted goal of reporting the "real story behind the story". We'll assume that means facts and not gossip.
January 15, 2008
Michigan primary: It's 8 PM EST, and the hay's in the barn now.
We don't think the Michigan primary means much. But we like to watch Michigan--a beautiful place with a bit of everything--as our principal blogger lived there twice, in Detroit and Grand Rapids. And he spent his childhood summers at Pointe Aux Barques, near Port Austin, where he started his first business and developed a life-long respect for old houses, the smallmouth bass and the beauty and raw power of the Great Lakes. AP: "McCain, Romney in tight race as Mich. votes ".
January 11, 2008
NBC report: Europe watching 2008 contest.
January 10, 2008
Guessing about Wes Clark.
Obviously, he wants to be a player in the hoped-for HRC 2009 administration. But which job does he want? Four years ago, some of our lawyers raised money for him. We even organized fund-raisers we were too busy ourselves to attend. And I was one of his California delegates to the Democratic convention before he dropped out of the race in early 2004. In 2003 and 2004, Clark just wasn't ready for prime time in a gruelling 24/7 modern U.S. presidential race. He was too new to national politics. But he's got "talent". Like anyone worth a damn, he has detractors and enemies out the wazoo. However, so far none of them have kept him out of the fray with real or made-up stuff about his personal life or military career. He's still a crowd-pleaser. So what is he and/or HRC thinking?
January 09, 2008
Two jolts in New Hampshire: It's McCain and Clinton.
MANCHESTER, N.H. (Boston Globe, Jan. 8)--Senator John McCain of Arizona delivered an electric jolt to the Republican presidential contest tonight by decisively capturing New Hampshire’s presidential primary, and Democrat Hillary Clinton apparently revived her White House hopes with a narrow win.
The Associated Press and NBC projected Clinton the winner over Barack Obama of Illinois in a contest that polls suggested Obama would win by a healthy margin. Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina was projected a distant third. [more]
John McCain: The new Comeback Kid?
"McCain had been both smart and lucky...." A friend of ours, Michael O'Neil--a political consultant, pollster and TV commentator--posted this on his blog on January 7, the day before yesterday's New Hampshire primary: "McCain’s Rise from the Political Graveyard is Not His First". Not bad. His firm is O'Neil Associates, Inc.
January 07, 2008
Heartbreak ahead for Hillary Clinton?
See Walter Shapiro's article today in Salon.
January 04, 2008
Iowa: Obama, Huckabee win.
Edwards (30%) and HRC (29%) behind Obama (38%). Romney (25%) and Thompson (13%) behind Huck (34%). And Biden and Dodd bow out. Can Obama overcome the too-young-for-president charge, and do it without mentioning JFK? Can Mike Huckabee raise some magnificent money in the long haul, and figure out where Europe is? Tune in next week folks, after New Hampshire primary. AP: "Obama turns back Clinton to win Iowa caucuses". See The Plank, The New Republic's blog, for some of the saner non-emotional blog coverage.
January 02, 2008
The tapes, the tapes--in America it's always missing tapes.
December 31, 2007
"But, dudes, no mothers, okay?"
The dozens in Iowa. Rumble. God-fearing candidates get down. LA Times: "Huckabee Casts Romney Campaign as 'Dishonest'". And now, according to the NYT, there's a new warrior--a formidable one--waiting in the wings: Mike Bloomberg.
December 21, 2007
U.S. House committee issues subpoena in tape investigation.
Congress has shut down for the year but the House Intelligence Committee is still busy. Yesterday it issued a subpoena to Jose Rodriguez, the ex-CIA official who headed the agency's National Clandestine Service and allegedly directed that interrogation videotapes of two suspected terrorists be destroyed. Bloomberg: "House Panel Subpoenas Ex-CIA Official in Tape Probe". The NYT mentions that former Bill Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett will represent Rodriguez.
December 20, 2007
Lawyer-blogger in hot water over criticism of elected judge
BROWARD COUNTY (Dec. 13) - A defense attorney's law license is at risk because he posted an angry description on the Internet of embattled Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Alemán, calling her an "evil, unfair witch." Last week, as Alemán was on trial for alleged misconduct before the Judicial Qualifications Commission, The Florida Bar signed off on its finding that Sean Conway may have violated five bar rules, including impugning the judge's qualifications or integrity.
In the Halloween 2006 posting on a blog, Conway denounced Alemán for what he said was an "ugly, condescending attitude" and questioned her mental stability after, he says, she unlawfully forced attorneys to choose between unreasonable trial dates or waiving their clients' rights to a speedy trial. [more, South Florida Sun Sentinel]
And see Kevin O'Keefe's post "Lawyer Faces Discipline For Criticizing Judge In Blog" and Carolyn Elefant's Legal Blog Watch piece "Are Florida Judges Too Hotheaded?".
December 18, 2007
House spending bill: $516 billion, 1,482 pages, $7 billion in pork.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House Monday approved a $516 billion measure funding 14 Cabinet agencies and funding for troops in Afghanistan, setting the stage for a year-end budget deal with the White House.
President Bush has signaled he'll ultimately sign the measure--assuming up to $40 billion more is provided by the Senate for the Iraq war--despite opposition from GOP conservatives. [more]
The Senate debates the bill today.
December 14, 2007
Don't Bogart that story, Hillary.
Politics of Bong Hits, Part II...
MSNBC: "The Audacity of Dope". Boston Globe: Shaheen resigns. Good. NYT: Ex-Howard Dean wonk and Edwards top aide Joe Trippi catches HRC chief Mark Penn in a complicating televised act of utter classlessness. Bad--but good for Trippi. Now WAC? may want its HRC DC summit money back. And we'll gladly give back all the business cards and ashtrays we horded.
December 13, 2007
2008 Campaign: The Politics of Bong Hits.
Booze, pot, the antler dance and breakin' bad. Welcome to the invisible ink in the resumes of not a few talented people born between 1946 and 1963. The Associated Press reports that Bill Shaheen, a key Hillary Clinton aide, hinted to The Washington Post that HRC may try to do in Sen. Barack Obama with his admissions of drug use in his youth. See "Clinton Adviser: Obama's Drug Past A Liability". Shaheen later said he regretted the remarks; the Clinton campaign said they were not authorized. But that's like trying to un-drop recreational acid.
December 07, 2007
DOJ won't investigate Nifong in Duke case.
Which makes sense. See today's Duke Chronicle.
December 06, 2007
Subprime mortgage rate freeze
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hundreds of thousands of strapped homeowners could get some relief from a plan negotiated by the Bush administration to freeze interest rates on subprime mortgages that are scheduled to rise in the coming months.
"There is no perfect solution," President Bush said Thursday as he announced an agreement hammered out with the mortgage industry. "The homeowners deserve our help. The steps I've outlined today are a sensible response to a serious challenge."
Read the full article here.
December 03, 2007
Karl Rove speaks at Duke tonight.
Together at last. Get ready. Duke has a history of odd-but-fun theater at public figure speaking events; when Hunter Thompson appeared at Page auditorium in the 1970s, serious bikers got word of it and attended. HST, drunk and feisty, was pulled off the stage by a faculty member, and first amendment noises followed. For Rove's talk, which if we're lucky will be equally as demented, expect an angry-but-funny Halloween with students in orange jump suits. What really makes this interesting: Peter Feaver, an ex-National Security Council staffer and conservative Duke political science professor, will moderate. See "Protesters Prepare for Rove" in Duke's daily, The Chronicle, and The Independent Weekly (Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh).
November 16, 2007
You're smart when you're angry.
Give her credit when it's due. In last night's Gang War in Las Vegas, HRC does well fending attack from Dem candidates. AP: "In Feisty Debate, Clinton Fires Back". And see Salon coverage. Watch for some conservatives to start commenting favorably on her toughness, preparation and work ethic. Is she a CEO or what?
November 15, 2007
"Warren, you old hippie, that's easy for you to say."
Warren Buffett backs the estate tax in testimony before U.S. Senate Finance Committee. See coverage of yesterday's hearings at WSJ and TaxProf Blog. Unlike many others, Buffett would reform rather than repeal the estate tax. None of this was a surprise, as Buffett has been a supporter of the estate tax generally to check momentum "toward plutocracy". However, Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway's chairman, and with a net worth of approximately $52 billion, did say he would give all
you American mini-millionaires out there a break. He opposes reinstatement of the scheme in place before 2001 which gave decedents' estates a $1 million exemption from the tax and then taxed at a maximum rate of 55%. Instead, Buffett wants an exemption of around $4 million--twice the current $2 million--with lower but gradually increasing rates. The exemption would be adjusted for inflation. Under current law, the estate tax exemption will be gradually increased, and the maximum tax rate gradually decreased, until 2010, when the estate tax is repealed. However, unless Congress changes the law, in 2011 the estate tax will automatically return with a $1 million exemption and maximum tax rate of 55%.
November 13, 2007
New American era: The Exotic First Partner
Kurtz--he got off the boat. He split from the whole goddamn program.
Captain Willard, in Apocalypse Now (1979)
We're barely even talking here about WAC?'s bud Wild Bill, who faces some serious competition in the "off-the-boat" (i.e., campaign bus) category. In today's Salon, see by Rebecca Traister America's Next Top Spouse. It's a guide to "the brassy, opinionated, loud, difficult and plum-crazy partners on the arms of their president-running partners".
November 09, 2007
"Mukasey Wins Vote in Senate, Despite Democrats’ Doubts"
WAC? was wrong about this one. From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 — The Senate confirmed Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general Thursday night, approving him despite Democratic criticism that he had failed to take an unequivocal stance against the torture of terrorism detainees. [read more]
November 08, 2007
Hillary Clinton keeps surprising us.
Hillary Clinton--who WAC? predicts will start picking up increasing support from moderate Republican women (and some men) in two key states--is doing well these days. NBC/WSJ poll: "Clinton Holds 20-Point Lead Over Rival Dems". Still very, very early. Like a friend once said: "This is America--no one wins the nomination without a couple of near-death experiences."
November 01, 2007
Perils of Waterboarding
AP: Bush Backs Mukasey on Waterboarding "Stance" [quotation marks ours]. The U.S. attorney general nominee Mukasey is a fine lawyer and jurist. But WAC? thinks he's toast. Next up?
October 30, 2007
Blogs of War, Day 5: Michelle Malkin
We continue with our showcasing of a few of the better political blogs in honor of the 2008 election--alternating the right and the left persuasions. Next up, and on the right, is Michelle Malkin, hands down one of the most popular blogs in the world. Malkin is also a mother, wife, conservative syndicated columnist, author, and Fox News Channel contributor. My boss Dan Hull could care less about any of the foregoing and wants to have dinner with her immediately; Malkin's a total Betty. She lives in DC. Interestingly, she's a graduate of traditionally liberal, elite and way-PC Oberlin College in Ohio, of all places. Today she finds Hillary Clinton masks and costumes frightening but certainly appropriate for Halloween. See "The Frightful Specter of Hillary Clinton".
October 29, 2007
Argentina's first lady wins presidency.
Bravo. And does this mean WAC? can exchange the pesos we got stuck with in Buenos Aires in 2001? See at Reuters, Argentina's First Lady Wins Top Job:
BUENOS AIRES--First lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will become Argentina's first elected woman leader after easily winning a presidential vote that was largely a referendum on her husband's economic successes.
October 16, 2007
Hillary Clinton's Big Week for Women
All week long. And a very fine week indeed for D.C. cads with a weakness for wonky women. See Real Clear Politics, The Atlantic and The Washington Times. Clinton strategist Mark Penn's rally-the-troops memo is here. More importantly, is the Capital Hilton on 16th and K a great place to meet girls this week, or what? Name's WAC?, sweetie, Vassar '85, and a friend of Hill's, could you dig a wine spritzer?
October 10, 2007
Fred Dalton Thompson is now a 2008 GOP Player.
Like other public figures who won fame on television--Jerry Springer, Howard Cosell, Charlie Rose, Tim Russert and Geraldo Rivera, to name a few--actor-ex-US Senator Fred Thompson started out life as a lawyer.
Last night in the "R" presidential debates, he sounded like a pretty good one, holding his own and handling himself well enough to give candidates Rudy Giuliani and the spectacularly annoying Mitt Romney some future worries. Fred needs work but he's a player. But it still seems to us that Rudy will be the GOP candidate. MSNBC.
October 09, 2007
The Blogs of War, Day 3: Right Wing Nuthouse
And back on the right, we have Rick Moran's Right Wing Nuthouse. He's from the northwest Chicago suburbs (way west of WAC?'s old neighborhood on the lake in Highland Park and his mother's childhood Evanston), conservative, of course, and he likes to write longer pieces but posts frequently. Not a hip-shooter. Thinks for himself. Looks "down" on all politicians, not just Ds. He loves the Cubs and Da' Bears in a way that is most poignant. He swears wonderfully when he's in the right mood. And he worries about America's space program in "The Enormous Damage Done to Our Space Program by 'the Space Race'".
Sold Out: HRC women's summit next week in DC
Hillary Clinton's all-day women's summit (i.e., mega-fundraiser) next week on the 17th in DC is being billed as attended by women from all 50 states. It's sold out. Sensitive new-age guy WAC? and another Hull McGuire person will attend. Hey, it beats giving money to state judge candidates in the jurisdictions where HMPC is licensed to practice law. Besides, we need the party. And I need a quick trip home.
October 04, 2007
Idaho U.S. Sen. Craig not permitted to withdraw guilty plea.
In the wild wide world of wide stances, see WSJ Law Blog. Tough break for criminal defense lawyer Billy Martin, a WAC? favorite.
October 02, 2007
Hillary's new $22 million
Contrary to what WAC? thought a year ago about her chances--we are wrong a lot ("best qualified but worst Dem candidate who can't and shouldn't get the nomination", we said)--HRC is kicking butt generally and now plays out pre-primary clock. AP: Clinton Tops Obama in 3rd Quarter Fund-Raising. Not over yet. But we are impressed. Dang.
The Blogs of War, Day 2: The Brad Blog
The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the government is to live under the government of worse men. --Plato, The Republic, 360 B.C.
Over on the Left, today we have The Brad Blog, by journalist-broadcaster Brad Friedman. Last week a guest blogger posted "McCain Hurriedly Backtracks After Bigoted Anti-Muslim Comments". Hey, we told you these political bloggers (both Ds and Rs) were partisan and
serious--wait until you get a load of some of the other "Blogs of War" we'll show you. But we like The Brad Blog because there is way more writing-thinking and less yelling-knee-jerking than some of the other political sites. As Holden just mentioned to me on the phone: "Dude, just because you're off-the-charts partisan doesn't mean you're dumb or crazy." TBB has substance to match the moxie.
October 01, 2007
Duke's apology: enough to stop a civil suit by players?
September 27, 2007
Hanover hangover: Hillary by hair of the hound
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire started out as a mission "to tame and civilize the wild and savage American Indians", or something like that. It's a great place, and one of the finest colleges in the world. In fact, WAC?, growing up in Cincinnati, applied to and was admitted to Dartmouth in the 1970s--but did not attend, citing as reasons his inferior drinking skills* and "are you crazy?...no girls". So he
headed for warmer Durham, North Carolina, where there were women, really interesting and smart ones, and no one started drinking until at least 10 AM. At last night's presidential Dem candidate debate in Hanover, WAC? and I, watching sporadically from San Luis Obispo, were impressed that now co-ed, always mega-smart but still hard-drinking Dartmouth student body apparently stayed passably sober for some of the evening program.
Our quick and dirty report: Hard to pin down Queen Hillary wins, as she runs out the clock. Strong showing by feisty John Edwards on Iraq war (he'll somehow just end it with no residual ops). Joe Biden--watch for him to end up as HRC's Secretary of State--is a traditional WAC? favorite but we can still see clearly enough to give him barely third place. Obama was really out to lunch--bad night for him--and WAC? still thinks he can kiss this all goodbye. He's not "ready"; he's never been ready. Maybe 2012. But, hey, this campaign is not over for anyone. We could be wrong. --HHO and JDH
*WAC? would have needed remedial drinking courses at Dartmouth. During a WAC? visit at age 17 to Dartmouth, an older ex-athlete from WAC?'s high school in Cincinnati, and WAC?'s former doubles tennis partner, got drunk in a dorm room where WAC? was hanging out one night and "blew lunch" on both WAC?'s new winter coat and on his Joni Mitchell "Blue" album.
September 24, 2007
The Blogs of War, Day 1: Viking Pundit
Man is by nature a political animal. --Aristotle, Politics
Beginning today, and as our time permits, we'll start showcasing a few of the stronger U.S. political blogs: left, middle, right, and even off-spectrum. We start with Eric Lindholm's Viking Pundit.
What do American politics and the 2008 U.S. presidential election have to do with law, this blog, clients, customers, business, international law, litigation, IP, corporate tax, natural resources and the global economy, anyway?
Well, to us, everything. While each of us here who write or suggest
posts can be opinionated, the What About Clients? blog is non-partisan, with writers of several persuasions and strains: GOP, Democrat, independent (and one Druid, but she could be kidding). We are about ideas and standards, but we seek to mix and match the best--and then use it in real work and real life. Politics, and who stays in power or comes to power, affects all of that.
But we have no traditional or cookie-cutter party agenda. No "moral" imperative. Among ourselves, knee-jerk anything or convention for its own sake are frowned upon, and even laughed at lovingly. But if you consistently and steadfastly buy into this party line, or that cultural agenda, or anyone else's "outline" (other than your own), we might secretly think you're a chump. But we're here to help.
Similarly, Hull McGuire employees over the years, on their own, have worked for, raised money for, thrown and attend fundraisers for, and contributed to both Republican and Democratic candidates for national office. We encourage it. Each of us look beyond party. We cross-vote. But we think that politics--the art of controlling one's environment--is important no matter what your views are. Participation rounds out and secures your status as a true world citizen. And this is America, folks: use it or lose it.
On the Right, see Viking Pundit, by Eric Lindholm, "the only conservative in Western Massachusetts". His site is of particular interest to us as research indicates that WAC?'s mom, and therefore WAC? himself, has some serious Norse blood: reddish hair, love of life, attitude, and an overt marauding instinct (i.e., desire to rove and raid in search of plunder). On the Iran president's controversial visit to Columbia University--Columbia has this way cool First Amendment thing going some lawyers have heard of--Lindholm of course gets it right: "Ahmadinejad's a nutter. Let's be the adults in the room and send the message that we're made of stronger stuff." Lindholm writes like he probably talks, gets to the point, respects others, and he's funny. Visit him on line. NOTE: I know Massachusetts, and Lindholm's gotta be lonely as a conservative in pretty much any part of the state--the reverse of our JDH, an alleged "D", living for some reason in San Diego, with all those Orange County-esque Rs.
September 07, 2007
Duke LaX news: Rich kids have rights, too--and maybe they can get damages.
AP: "Former Duke Lacrosse D.A. Reports to Jail". Meanwhile, the City of Durham negotiates civil damages with some fancy Yankee lawyers representing the 3 Duke students. Even Williams & Connolly's Brendan Sullivan--as Oliver North's wonderfully aggressive lawyer in the Iran-Contra hearings 20 years ago, he said to Sen. Daniel Inouye: "I am not a potted plant"--is involved.
September 04, 2007
The Blogs of War: 2008 U.S. Elections
"If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much space."
--Ernie of Glen Burnie, lawyer, philosopher, New Age pundit
Well, you could at least vote. It's the day after Labor Day: time to rev up for 2008 elections. Whether you're red, blue, green, independent or just another American man, woman, business person, manager, drone, government worker, accountant, lawyer, associate, partner, dynamo or human just barely mananging things these days, slouching toward your future, drooling at your desk, this 2008 election stuff concerns you, dudes. See Salon.com's "guide to the political blogosphere" in The Blog Report, where there's someone for everyone.
September 03, 2007
U.S. 2008 election line-up and result?
Our prediction, and without comment: it will be Clinton-Obama v. Giuliani-Romney, unless one of the four is discovered to have done something "bad" in past or future. And unless there is a new 9/11 style attack on American soil, Democrats will win, but barely. Fred Thompson will be flavor of the week for several months but not be in play by end of February 2008. And for a while Thompson will be discussed as the perfect GOP VP candidate for Rudy.
August 31, 2007
Former Durham DA Mike Nifong back in court
See here, from The Chronicle, Duke's daily newspaper.
UPDATE 9/1/07: "Ex-Durham DA sentenced to one day in jail"
August 28, 2007
"Name's Larry--I work over near Union Station--just hate the echo in this one, don't you?"
August 27, 2007
Update: Gonzales is out; Clement is acting AG
August 02, 2007
"And as the Greek philosopher Plotinus, who I also heard about at the Deke House at State, said many centuries later..."
The AP reports re: ongoing hearings on the U.S. Attorney firings that today "Bush aide offers little in testimony to Congress". And before an unamused Senate Judiciary Committee, this young guy cites, sort of, the poet Homer, apparently a favorite at the Bush White House:
“I hope that you can appreciate the difficulty of my situation,” [J. Scott] Jennings said. “It makes Odysseus’ voyage between Scylla and Charybdis seem like a pleasure cruise.”
Hillary and Rudy each pull ahead
NBC reports that here, based on a Peter Hart/Neil Newhouse bi-partisan poll. "Only" fifteen months to go until November 2008. Nonetheless, ex-political junkie and burned-out fundraiser WAC? just called from an undisclosed hotel in Puebla, Mexico and confidently predicted: new character attacks on Giuliani very soon, that the attacks don't work, and that you now have your two candidates. "And forget about Mitt Romney"--he is sincere and talented, but painfully annoying, and "way too weird for Peoria".
July 26, 2007
Most of U.S. media misses another award to 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Americans shallow? C'mon. Lindsay Lohan got trashed again, the shopping malls are all open, Wales is probably in Europe somewhere, and a college degree will still get you a job at an insurance company or the local utility for the next 35 years. What the hell else do we need to know? Well, maybe this: see an article by Newsweek's Jonathan
Alter on the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner who helped expand the world's food supply, "He Only Saved a Billion People". President Bush and Congress just held the ceremony to award American agronomist Norman Borlaug, 93, the Congressional Gold Medal. That award itself was announced 8 months ago. The WSJ noticed--but no one but Alter did this justice:
Only five people in history have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal: Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel ... and Norman Borlaug.
July 18, 2007
Congress: New Slack City
The AP reports that "Senate Pulls All-Nighter On Iraq". It sounds sillier than anyone expected. And what pansies. In olden days (circa 96th and 97th Cong.), when WAC? worked for Congress during those pointless posturing all-nighters, we (a) stayed up for 4 or 5 nights in a row with no cots, (b) ate nothing but the cheapest pharmaceutical "Crank", and (c) drank only coffee, whiskey, beer from the Tune Inn and Jolt cola, all out of dirty Mason jars. Spartan. Tireless. And just as lame.
April 12, 2007
13 months at Duke: lawyers, pols and money.
Here, from the Associated Press. It's over - and it's not. As a Duke person, one who covered the Civil Rights beat in Durham off and on for a year working on The Chronicle, Duke's student daily (back when student newspapers wrote about such things regularly), I've stayed out of this. But the most astute thing that can be said was already said by someone else anyway--reportedly said yesterday by one of the wrongly accused lacrosse players--to this disturbing effect:
"If the State can do this to you [i.e., us Duke players] even if you have the resources to fight, think of what the State can do to you if you don't."
April 05, 2007
Come 2009, will WAC? have an old friend in the White House?
WAC?, a recovering Democrat still surrounded by Rs on all fronts, is not sure whether Hillary Clinton can be elected. However, out of everyone in the current field of candidates, this lawyer, leader, manager, innovator and Renaissance woman, who has at least sounded more and more like a Republican in the past 2 years, would make the best chief executive, hands down, love her or hate her, no contest--and that's just a fact, Jack. And she certainly married well... If Hillary wins, WAC? and Hull McGuire may very well have an old and fun friend in the White House.
April 02, 2007
The War in Washington, D.C.
“We tried a monarchy once,” Chuck Hagel (Nebraska-R) said recently. “It's not suited to America.” See in London's The Economist the article The War Comes To Washington. If you are not familiar with The Economist, do visit it. WAC? considers it to be a world-wide version of Time and Newsweek combined. It's as fair as print journalism gets, often funny and always well thought-out and well-written. If you are a business lawyer, The Economist is a must.
March 05, 2007
Tom Eagleton (Sept. 4, 1929 – March 4, 2007)
The guy was mega-talented, never boring, and tragically unsung. I was lucky enough to be around Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton (D), a lot one summer long ago when I was attached (through Sen. Gaylord Nelson) to Kennedy's Health Subcommittee. No matter what you thought of his politics, Tom Eagleton (in Senate 1969-1987) was brighter, more driven, more creative, funnier, more polished, and way more interesting than most US politicians on the national stage....
He grew up privileged, but never acted like it. He seemed like a guy who might enjoy a beer. He was accomplished but fun. Openly irreverent, and with a strong Bohemian streak, he loved Pall Mall non-filters. Two or three puffs, and put it out. Over and over. If someone used in normal conversation the word "crazy", he's say "hey, let's watch that word around here, okay?" (making fun years later of his treatment for depression being all over the news in 1972). I can't do him justice--suffice to say Eagleton was something out of a great novel with richly-drawn, complex and beloved heros. I just really liked him.
I'm sorry--and gulp--but Ann Coulter is wonderfully feisty and funny, too...she's right sometimes--so stop all this PC stuff or I'll turn into a Republican.
It's here (in case you missed it), people are up in arms, and yeah, I like her--and I like John Edwards, too. But Edwards is running for national office. Let's not get too excited about the word "faggot". Unfortunately, in her context, it just means lame and ineffectual; people know what I mean/you mean/Ann Coulter means in that context when you say it the way she said it. Besides, it was funny--and her main point was not about Edwards, being gay or Edwards being gay (which no one believes for a second); rather Coulter lamented that all forms of human eccentricity and even small-mindedness which we liberals do not like this week have become illnesses society much treat.
Despite being surrounded all day long by Republicans, WAC? is not homophobic, likes gays, likes non-gays, likes people, likes words and even prefers the alternatives of "poof" or "fudgepacker" from time to time ("packer", for short, and for ease of reference, is good, too...). I also like the words "weenie", "twit" and "harpy", and the expressions "wretched harridan" (for an unpleasant woman) and "big-enough-to-have-their-own-zip-code" (for extremely portly people). But none of these are suspect classifications under the law either--nor should they be. They are not "hate" speech. So WAC? probably needs lots of rehabs--including one for swearing (hey, is there a "one-stop" facility I can go to?).
March 04, 2007
3-party system: accept, evolve--or just smoke a Marlboro?
No child ever wrote to Santa, "Bring me, and a bunch of kids I've never met, a pony, and we'll share."
Politics, the art of controlling one's environment, is still important to me. For years I worked and/or raised money for candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, and now I've grown very weary of the whole thing. But I still love author and humorist P.J. O'Rourke--for years Rolling Stone magazine's "Republican" counterweight to Hunter S. Thompson--who wrote the above in "Why I Am a Conservative in the First Place", RS (July 13-27, 1995). P.J.'s got a point--and it's a good place to start all political conversations. Human selfishness and willfulness is an old, old verity.
February 05, 2007
Luntz's Words That Work: Orwellian, Machiavellian or just a tool?
It's likely all three and I am going to buy it. It appears to be a book for anyone who pitches and persuades. Republican consultant and pollster Frank Luntz has written Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, which is already controversial (see here, here , here, and here) on the power of words. But it's not a "Republican" book. Luntz advises politicians on the language they should use to win elections and promote their policies. Luntz is all over the media--and there's no stopping him. So far the book sounds worthwhile--even when the detractors sound off.
January 28, 2007
Robert F. Drinan - Lawyer, Congressman, Irishman, Priest. He served as a Representative from Massachusetts 1971-1981.
January 24, 2007
Weenies in the News: Former DA in Duke rape case charged with ethics violations; WAC? monkey shocked again, goes nuts, flies to Durham, NC, holds mindless, pointless, gratuitous and demented press conferences in copycat mode.
From the Associated Press, and an excerpt:
“If these allegations are true and if they don’t justify disbarment, then I’m not sure what does,” said Joseph Kennedy, a law professor at the University of North Carolina. “It’s hard for me to imagine a more serious set of allegations against a prosecutor.”
Club Ned (...with apologies to the great Ned Beatty)
WASHINGTON, DC - H.R. YMCA: U.S. House Passes Groundbreaking Emergency Fudgepacker Legislation Protecting Defenseless Pages. Can my new Democratic U.S. House trumpet something more substantive soon? When WAC? worked in Longworth HOB and Russell SOB, Page School kids were precocious young sharks and rich-kid bohemians who needed no protection whatsoever from anyone or anything in the Capitol Hill community. They needed $20 to buy beer, dope and smack, the number of the nearest brothel, or maybe a new bong from an Adams-Morgan headshop. Wake me up when the Dems are done.
December 27, 2006
Michigan, Football, Yale and Genuine Class
Ford was Everyman's U.S. president, a straight shooter and Dan Hull's Representative when he was a kid in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
December 18, 2006
Serious Suggestions for 2007
1. Republicans: Bring back Don Rumsfeld. He's enormously talented, a national treasure, maybe indispensable. He's not evil, or a knee-jerk partisan; he correctly gets that civil rights are different in a war, and just needs to clean up his act a bit. He is a different breed than Cheney, Rice or Wolfowitz and has loads more real character and strength than Colin Powell. (Take a good look, too. Rummy "is us"--like him or not.) Forget about his age. He's too smart to waste, not ready for retirement.
2. Democrats: Consider a Joe Biden-Hillary Clinton ticket in 2008. It might work, if Senator Biden can get past certain old baggage with the voters. Hillary Rodham Clinton can't win--maybe not ever, but certainly not in 2008--and Biden has that Bill Clinton/President Bush-esque gift of connection with voters that HRC lacks and will continue to lack. A natural politician, Joe Biden actually likes other people, and it shows.
3. Consider a system of nationwide reciprocity in lawyer licensing. Let NY counsel freely invade CA if they need to to work there for longstanding clients as long as they agree to CA bar discipline.
4. Take a stand. Discourage "required" gender-neutral speech. Enough is enough. Let nature take its course. Words come into the arsenal of real English when they are ready. Quit forcing the issue. Resist "chairperson".
5. In the alternative, set aside a "required" day where everyone must smoke, smoke heavily, and smoke Camel non-filters.
6. In the alternative, set aside a day in the workplace on which everyone must talk to one another like Elvis ("thankyouvirymutch, for that e-mail, little honeys..."). And on that day, flirt in the workplace--and openly. Refuse to be a Dweeb.
7. Work very hard at anything you care about. Plan. Pray. And...swear and curse more--but only at work, and only on the record. More Howard, less Conan, less Rosie. More Parker Posey, less anyone named Brittany, Justin or other Gen X names. More Annabeth Gish. More Ellen Bry. Everyone in U.S. must acknowledge in writing that the simplest woman is 10 times more complex than any man.
8. Joking about any client is now a firing offense.
9. Stop Political and Cultural Stereotyping--and other Drive-By Cartoon-ings.
If you are a Democrat, please talk--really talk--to a Republican. And vice versa. Humans are complex and have all manner of reasons for voting or thinking the way they do. Resist the temptation to reduce people to political stereotypes in order to feel warm, fuzzy and self-righteous about your own ferverently-held beliefs, choices and situation. Be fairer. We all fall short here--even international and ecumenical WAC?, on his best day, harbors unfair prejudices and misapprehensions. Its smartest, best-read and best-travelled GOP and Dem friends do, too.
And the most gifted Americans also screw this one up royally, by conveniently reducing people with whom they disagree to cartoons and stock characters from bad morality plays. This past year one of my client reps, Julie McGuire (of Hull McGuire) and I had dinner with a wonderful and engaging poet and Pulitzer Prize winner. As he admitted, and movingly confessed, he was insular and isolated with other writers, academics and friends at Princeton and at his other home in Paris to a degree that my law partner Julie McGuire, was "the first Republican" he had talked with in many, many years. He seemed genuinely shocked (1) that he liked Julie, (2) that she was first in her class at Carnegie-Mellon in Mathematics and Business before entering law school (in which she was also first in her class), (3) that she had ever read James Joyce and (4) that she is both religious and spiritual, and very kind. Republicans, he had always felt, must be shallow, insensitive, patriotic in a goofy way, way dumb and just plain mean.
That, ladies and gentleman, is cultural insanity. And we are all doing it this decade in some degree. Americans are smarter than that. The culture war in America has become a drug too many of us need to feel Moral, Part of The Correct Sub-Tribe, and Right. Being Right is expensive, and will stunt your growth. Avoid contempt prior to investigation. Stop turning one another into silly Sci-Fi monsters-that-never-were. If you are a "D", start with George Bush, one of our most "American"--the good stuff/the bad stuff, warts and all--presidents ever (like Rumsfeld, Bush is us.) If you are an "R", re-evaluate Wild Bill Clinton, a visionary, inspirational and at heart a genuinely pro-people guy who, like Rummy, was damn funny and fun with reporters. Talent is talent--and none of these guys are Vlad the Impaler, Dr. Evil or Bugs Bunny. They trim Christmas trees, have dinner with family, play saxophones and drink beer in the Boom-Boom Room at the Westin like the rest of us.
10. Finally, and more importantly, Do Grow. Have a difficult but worthwhile relationshp. Read Hunter Thompson, and Francois Villon. Travel. Talk to people who aren't like you at all. Leave a legacy. Be original in some productive way. And at least play your old Yardbirds, John Mayall, Byrds and Kinks albums. Loud.
But get out of your cars and dance. Have a great 2007.
December 07, 2006
Weenies in the News: Bill Frist
Staying in both loops, WAC? has dirtied his hands for both Ds and Rs, on Capitol Hill and in campaigns--intern, government employee, legislative assistant, lobbyist and fundraiser. True, it's a mixed, weird crowd that gets off on this stuff. But people from all persuasions are heartened by this anticlimactic news. WKRN.com: Frist Steps Down From Senate Majority Leader. Chattanoogan.com: Bill Frist Will Not Run For President In 2008. The second story is an old political one. Except when he opened his mouth, Frist was the Rs' perfectly engineered dog food; in the test markets, however, none of us dogs ever liked it.
November 20, 2006
Borat: Aggressively un-PC, Disturbing, Wonderful.
Speaking of not-PC, ten days ago I saw Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a spoof about a goofy anti-Semitic eastern European journalist created and played by a Jewish comedian and actor. It's not for everyone, but Borat is marvelously demented, inventive and painfully on-the-mark satire. A Vanity Fair reviewer called the movie a mirror Americans could hold up to themselves. I saw Borat in a theater of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of conservative Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a Jewish enclave of that city, and one of very few locations in western Pennsylvania where Borat was shown. The audience, one of all adult ages, howled.
Fertile new 4th Amendment/international law: Mini-Sub Stops.
Where will it end? One Sunday you and some buds are just tooling around in your sub off Costa Rica and the U.S. Coast Guard stops you, for no reason at all.
November 16, 2006
CQ on 2008 U.S. Presidential Election
From the Congressional Quarterly Weekly, here's "The '08 Race for the White House Begins", by Craig Crawford. Twenty-six candidates.
November 13, 2006
Election Law Special at Blawg Review #83
November 10, 2006
German Views on U.S. Mid-Term Elections
From the Atlantic Review, a news digest edited by three German Fulbright alumni now in Berlin, Hamburg and Shanghai, here is "German Reactions to the Midterm Elections". AR also recently published "US Election Results, German Prejudices and Direct Democracy".
November 03, 2006
Part II: Tennessee Senate Race: 'How would Jesus vote?'
From NBC News, by Brian Williams, here's "It’s Mud Over Issues in the Volunteer State" in Harold Ford Jr. v. Bob Corker. A Williams quote: "Hand-to-hand combat for votes."
October 27, 2006
The Senate Race in Tennessee: "How would Jesus vote?"
Before getting knee-deep into private practice, WAC? worked twice--on both Senate and House sides for, respectively, a 'D' and then an 'R'--at the U.S. Congress, and this consumed 3.5 years. Despite this, I still like national politics, and have been in and out of it on some level, usually fundraising, usually for 'D's, ever since. (Wes Clark was my last gig). Like other baby boomers, I came of age as Republicans learned how to run and win elections, which really just happened a little more than 25 years ago. I even sat in, as a young associate lawyer on the clock for a firm client, on a string of "strategy" meetings conducted by the late Lee Atwater, the infamous GOP consultant, after I had left Capitol Hill. I remember feeling like a spy.
Today, I am still amazed that over the past 25 years Karl Rove and other real, hard-core infrastructure Republicans out of the Reagan era before Rove, a talented but flat-out mean and extremely exclusive lot who most Americans never meet, could dupe millions of the now "new" rank-and-file middle-class Republicans in the South, West, Midwest, and even working-class parts of the Northeast--voters they don't personally like, care about or would ever have coffee with--into voting Republican in the first place. Yes, it amazes me.
I don't hate Republicans. I grew up in serious 'R' country, and I vote 'R' a lot. And I am a lawyer, one who writes about meeting higher standards; competence, even when evil, thrills us all. The Lee Atwaters and Karl Roves have been very effective--and Democrats have spent years wondering what hit them in a mix of alarm and envy. 'R's learned how to recruit big-time business and legal talent. 'D's, with their "big tent", have seemed repeatedly like world-class screw-ups, even during the Clinton years. The last time "competence" was closely associated with a Democratic presidential campaign was in Teddy White's book The Making of a President, on the 1960 Kennedy victory.
But I am even more amazed that many middle-class Southerners who are "religious" (of any race) ever vote Republican, or that they even exist in great numbers. Reagan Republicanism is at heart a Yankee-Northeast/Orange County, California invention for (1) the wealthy (let's not define that--but I am thinking $2 million minimum net worth) who vote their pocket books (that's perfectly rational) or for (2) the limited number of true believers who really do believe in non-activist government (that constituency makes sense, too). There are people of true faith in any religion, and other spiritual beings; they quietly inspire, and we seem intuitively to know them when they're around us a while. But you don't meet that many. I know and like lots of genuine Republicans in several states, Southerners included, and hardly any of them, except for a zealot or morally pretentious jackass here and there, claim to be particularly devout, observant or religious. Some of my best friends, and nearly all of our firm's clients (i.e., the client GCs and reps), are sane 'R's.
You can't tell anyone how to vote. But naturally-occurring religious Republican Southerners? Who are these guys? I travel, and I'm not running into them. But maybe I am dead wrong about their very existence. See Salon's article "How Would Jesus Vote?", focusing on the "church-vote" component of the campaign of Democrat Harold Ford Jr., who is black, in the Tennessee Senate race, and how Ford may pick up a few of those coveted 'R' church votes. This grabbed me. Maybe white 'R's are in those pews--and Democrat Ford, with a Bush-Republican Congress backlash going for him, has a shot at those voters.
October 14, 2006
WAC? Gratuitous Political Prediction: Bobby Shriver
July 24, 2006
Sane American Employer Sought By 157 Mega-Productive Lawyers.
WAC? does not, generally speaking, love either American lawyers or the U.S. federal estate (or "death") tax. Neither institution encourages productivity, is efficient, has high standards or is "customer-service" oriented. However, as to lawyers, there are always exceptions. And everyone loves productive lawyering. According to a New York Times article by David Cay Johnston, in what may be the Bush Administration's "back-door" play to emasculate enforcement and collection of the death tax in lieu of an outright repeal, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is cutting 157 out of its 345 estate tax lawyers in the next 2 months.
Forget for a moment about how you feel about the death tax and consider this amazing fact. The NYT article says that "for each hour they [IRS estate tax lawyers] work, they find an average of $2,200 of taxes owed to the government" (emphasis ours). WAC?'s advice is (1) show the article to associate lawyers to inspire new efficiency techniques and (2) if you do tax work at your shop, find out who these 157 people are--and hire them.
May 19, 2006
"Stress, Fear and Deception"
Expect to see a few lawyers missing their flights.
According to the Reuters news item "U.S. Expanding Behavior Profiling At Airports", agents of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration will now monitor passengers at high-risk airports for signs of "stress, fear and deception". Other signs of "abnormal behavior" are "wearing coats when it's warm" or "acting fidgety or nervous"... Constitutional issues aside, this can't be good news for lawyers. Most lawyers I know travel, are high strung to begin with, and can look menacing, paranoid or even slightly unbalanced just deciding what to order for lunch. Not a relaxed or "normal" lot. So let's hope the TSA people receive the right training.
February 17, 2006
Huh?--Hardly Any of the AUSA's We Know Are Eagle Scouts.
Since this post could make me seem biased about the federal prosecutor "personality", and to be unfairly generalizing, I'll make some preliminary comments. First, I'm an Eagle Scout. I know a real Eagle Scout when I see one. Second, I've defended in lots of federal environmental cases and in a few white-collar criminal and public integrity matters with U.S. Justice Department attorneys--generally an extremely talented bunch--on the other side. Third, DOJ is hands down the best place in the country to learn how to try a case. Finally, any U.S. Attorney's office is also a really good place for us all to get in touch with our inner Machiavelli. Some of my best friends have worked as AUSA's--almost overnight he or she develops the combined sensibilities and morals of a rock, a plant and a hammerhead shark.
Hardly any male AUSA I know is an Eagle Scout. I strongly suspect that an AUSA who is an Eagle Scout and at some point is outed as one is asked to formally repudiate the award in a secret and hopelessly demented "remedial" DOJ hooded ceremony, a Black Mass of sorts, followed by an hour or so of mead drinking and maybe doing the antler dance. So I was surprised but intrigued that the WSJ Law Blog this morning reported that the the president has nominated to the federal trial bench in North Carolina an obviously successful (by DOJ gun notch standards), forthright and talented 45-year-old U.S. Attorney with serious Republican credentials who was/is an Eagle Scout. He is a "tall and stout" one at that, according to The Raleigh News & Observer. And presumably trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and free of creative government witnesses, vindictiveness and Brady violations. Hey, let's hope so. This guy's probably going to be a federal judge.
February 01, 2006
The Article II, Section 2, Maybe-It's-Just-Me Department.
So Samuel Alito "wins" 58 to 42 with only 5 party "defections" total. Regardless of your politics, and notwithstanding how elastic the Constitution really is or isn't, does anyone out there really believe that the framers anticipated that the president's power to appoint "Judges of the Supreme Court" with "the Advice and Consent of the Senate" would yield the kind of process we've structured 219 years later?
January 13, 2006
"Who's Greener--Democrats or Republicans?"
Mainly for fun, I tried to answer the above question in an informal article with a surprising conclusion I wrote for the January-February Water & Wastewater Products Magazine as part of a bi-monthly column I write called "Waterlawged." One of my firm's practice areas is environmental law--especially Clean Water Act compliance and NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, if you really want to know) permitting. Even if you or your clients are not directly involved with environmental or natural resources law compliance--and especially if you have an interest in American politics or what goes on in Congress--you might find "Who's Greener--Democrats or Republicans?" interesting. Or at least funny.
WWP Magazine, as dull as it sounds, has great writing and useful (if sometimes technical) content. Put out by Stevens Publishing in Dallas, it is the best clean water industry publication I have seen. And WWP is fast becoming the Vanity Fair or Women's Wear Daily of the environmental trade pub circuit. It seems to be in search of sober latter-day Hunter Thompsons and good writers with environmental credentials; the writing, of course, must be dead-on accurate. And funny is not required.