Archive

  • JAILBIRD ROCK? ...

    JAILBIRD ROCK? Newt Gingrich (who I still believe will be the Republican nominee in 2008, so get used to him) got some attention in New Hampshire this week for giving a speech at "First Amendment" dinner and declaring that the War on Terror called for "a totally different set of rules" on speech. But what he would take away with one hand, he gives back with another. In the interest of, he said, "expanding First Amendment rights," he called for the elimination of all limits on campaign contributions, in exchange for candidates' and parties' reporting all contributions on the Internet. This proposal is not new: Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 informs me that when it was introduced in Congress a few years ago, it was known as " DeLay-Doolittle-Ney ." Now that the first of those is under indictment, the third has copped a plea, and the middle one is under serious investigation, one has to wonder: What should you call a piece of legislation when all of its cosponsors are in jail? (By the...
  • BUT DID ANYONE...

    BUT DID ANYONE TELL HIS POLITICAL ADVISORS? I don't know how this process works, but Mitt Romney has named his two primary economic advisors for the 2008 campaign, and, to his credit, they're proponents of, quite arguably, the most politically radioactive ideas in economics. Greg Mankiw 's current obsession is a significant gasoline tax, a policy he's so committed to he's created a Facebook group to promote it. Meanwhile, Glenn Hubbard provided crucial backup support when Mankiw admitted that outsourcing was good for the economy -- a position that doesn't play so well in The Rust Belt. In a weird way, both these moves speak well of Romney. Mankiw's "Pigou tax" obsession is arguable policy, but it's an undoubtedly serious -- and even unpopular -- attempt to deal with a profound threat. And taking a fatalistic view of outsourcing, while again up for debate (which I'll leave to Dean Baker ), is at least ideologically honest. Both these guys are serious about policy -- more so, in fact,...
  • FASCISTS OR HYSTERICAL PUNDITS?

    FASCISTS OR HYSTERICAL PUNDITS? : Diane McWhorter has the most bizarre interpretation of this year�s election results to date, in Slate *. It appears to argue that the midterm elections confirm not that Americans are more populist, or even more conservative, but that they are more fascist. Based on a 66 year old musing from Eleanor Roosevelt , McWhorter asserts--without a shred of empirical evidence--that Americans have a long standing tolerance for any political movement that can instill confidence in the public that they will competently carry out their agenda whatever it may be. At the time, Roosevelt fretted that Nazism would appeal to Americans for that reason. Therefore, she leaps to conclude that Americans only voted Democratic on November 7, because they rejected President Bush� s incompetence, not his policies. While I�m not one to gainsay the importance of the government�s failed response to Hurricane Katrina and violence in Iraq as decisive factors, I think her assertion...
  • NO SHAME IN...

    NO SHAME IN HIS GAME. I don't know how to find the audio of it, but David Frum gave a really rocking commentary on NPR today. It argued -- without shame or self consciousness -- that just as Republicans entered office and passed massvie subsidies for the oil industry, Democrats are about to pass massive subsidies for some of their big supporters. And which sinister sector will the Democrats be lavishing funds on? Public universities. The degree to which the GOP message machine has fallen apart ("Democrats: They'll expand your Pell Grants!") is really quite remarkable. Update : Here it is. --Ezra Klein
  • FRIST IN FLIGHT....

    FRIST IN FLIGHT. All of us in punditry shed a tear today upon news of Bill Frist 's withdrawal from the 2008 presidential contest. His absence will deprive us of a seemingly limitless number of gaffes, craven flip-flops, and opportunistics overreaches, all of which make for excellent copy. Given the sad news, it's worth going back to our November issue and reading Brian Beutler' s send-off to Frist. Beutler seems to be operating under the belief that Frist was a bad majority leader. Speaking as a liberal, I believe he's one of the greatest leaders Republicans have ever had, and I hope they keep the mold intact. --Ezra Klein
  • If Only Business Columnists Were Required to Know What U.S. Government Bonds Are

    We keep hearing about the failings of the U.S. education system. Economic columnists give us endless examples of such failings. Alan Sloan, a columnist for Newsweek, the Washington Post and MarketPlace radio gives us a beauty in a column that appeared in some form in all three venues (here's the Newsweek version.) Sloan notes that Social Security is projected to need to draw on its trust fund in about a decade. He says that at this point "we'll fix Social Security by again increasing payroll taxes and trimming the benefit formula." Now, if Mr. Sloan understood how government bonds worked, he would know that they have value, that's why people all over the world hold them and in fact are willing to hold them at a very low rate of interest. When Social Security starts drawing on the trust fund it will simply redeem its bonds at the U.S. Treasury, just as tens of millions of people, corporations, and banks have done over the years. Of course, the Treasury will need the money to repay...
  • THE PROBLEM WITH...

    THE PROBLEM WITH PICKING A SIDE. Laura Rozen has reported that there's chatter in military circles about picking a side in the burgeoning civil war in Iraq. I have also heard this option described as the "pick a winner" strategy, with the idea being that the U.S. could forge an alliance with whoever appears to be likely to win the conflict and then help them crush the opposition in a short and decisive war, thereby creating a state with enough of a monopoly on the use of force to have internal stability (though not necessarily justice). Should this strategy be pursued, all signs point to the U.S. allying itself with the Shia in Iraq, since they are the dominant population, and also less involved in the anti-American insurgency. In today's Washington Post , however, Saudi national security advisor Nawaf Obaid throws a wrench into the works and makes clear, once again, the conundrum of our present position. If the U.S. picks a side, he warns, Saudi Arabia will have to pick one, too:
  • MUSICAL CHAIRS. ...

    MUSICAL CHAIRS. I'll have to disagree with the mighty Atrios on this one . Blogospheric talk about the Harman/Hastings contest wasn't premature or chump-like. Just because "there was never anything coming from Pelosi 's office suggesting that he was her designated man for the job," didn't mean there was no reason to believe he was her man for the job. Second in seniority, publicly supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, there was every reason to believe Pelosi would turn to Hastings. And for those who thought it a bad idea, every reason to oppose it publicly and prematurely. Unless I've misremembered my School House Rock, there's no public campaign for Select Committee Chair -- the Speaker simply chooses who her candidate, and then the deed is done. If you want to influence it, you have to do so before the appointment. As for whether this was really "a big fact-free fake controversy likely set up by Harman supporters," it's resulted in the elimination of both Hastings and Harman...
  • THE MAIN EVENT.

    THE MAIN EVENT. Today's meeting between President Bush and Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki in sunny, safe Amman is not likely to solve Iraq's problems. If the text of Stephen Hadley 's leaked memo is any guide, the purpose is to confirm that al-Maliki is still our guy despite his inability to control the sectarian violence that is often perpetrated by factions within his governing coalition. The Post says Bush is likely to press al-Maliki to take on the Mookster , whom Newsweek is now calling "the most dangerous man in Iraq." Pressure is not going to cut it, I'm afraid. Why does the Mahdi Army exist? Because several million Shi'a are desperate for services and protection from criminals and Sunni insurgents, while the government has proven unable to provide those things. The Hadley memo suggests that al-Maliki's government needs to do a better job providing services in Sunni areas, but it also needs to do a better job in Shi''ite areas in order to obviate the need for Sadr. The danger, though...
  • TIMING IS EVERYTHING....

    TIMING IS EVERYTHING. I'd dispute Mike Crowley 's assertion that Wes Clark' s primary problem in 2004 wasn't an excruciatingly late start. According to Crowley, Clark's real problems were "that he seemed unsure of his own position on the Iraq war, recited oddball canned answers about abortion which suggested unfamiliarity with the subject, and generally proved himself to be a terrible politician," all of which sound to me like saying his problem was a late start. There's no doubt that, right out of the gate, novice politician Wes Clark fumbled. He gave contradictory answers, seemed confused by certain issues, and generally gave the impression of...being a novice politican. Problem is, a couple weeks before the first primaries is neither the time nor the place for novice politicians. And given that he started too late to compete in Iowa, but the race was essentially decided there, he was out before he even began. Had he started a year out from the first primary, however, he could have...

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