Well isn’t this a whole bucket full of interesting:
On Fox News last night, the chairman of Iowa’s Democratic party said that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is not laying the adequate groundwork for a presidenial campaign in the first caucus state and that many are starting to speculate she may not run if Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) enters the race.
Said Iowa Democratic Chair Rob Tully: “She’s been quiet and, you know, there’s a question that we all hear is that she may not get in this if Barack Obama gets in. I have never seen a reaction other than Bill Clinton in terms of the excitement that people have to meet Barack Obama. Some people just wanted to touch him.”
I think this outcome – Hillary not running – is likelier than some might imagine. It would pave the way for Hillary to become Senate Majority Leader, and the security of that post may appeal to Hillary more than a very risky presidential campaign (her decision to forgo a 2004 run shows that she is wary of launching risky campaigns).
In other 2008 news, Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard are idiots if they think outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is an at all serious candidate for the Republican nomination. This is a man who won a close gubernatorial campaign in 2002 by proclaiming himself pro-choice and a supporter of gay rights, had a governorship marked by Democratic gay marriage and government health care initiatives that are anathema to the mainstream of the Republican party, and then refused to run again because polls showed that Massachusetts voters despised him. He then flip-flopped on gay rights and abortion, indicating to social conservatives – his would-be base – that he doesn’t take the issues seriously, if not that he’s just a social liberal in disguise. He would almost certainly lose his home state, which overwhelmingly opposes the very concept of a presidential bid by Romney. Oh, and he’s a Mormon, which rules out 43% of the electorate, including 53% of evangelicals. Between his liberal history, lack of any support in his home state (which, due to its traditional Democratic bent, was supposed to be his main asset), and religion, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d win the primary. Mankiw and Hubbard would do well to start talking to either Newt or McCain, pronto.
This is all manners of stupid:
So who will it be in 2008? My guess is Jim Webb. Webb is not well suited to the manners of the U.S. Senate. And as his incident with Bush this week demonstrates, he’s deadly serious about ending this war and if others aren’t willing to stick out their neck on Iraq, he could feel compelled to do it himself. Plus, Mark Warner’s exit from the race creates a vacuum for another Southern candidate to compete with John Edwards.
Um…no. Jim Webb won by 0.4% of the vote against an incumbent who lead by 10-20% at the beginning of the race and would have stayed there had he not systematically ruined his campaign, gaffe by deadly gaffe. Webb will have only had two years in elected office of any kind by 2008. Webb has numerous skeletons in his closet, including borderline anti-Semitic negative campaigning against his primary rival, raging sexism about women in the military, usage of racial slurs, and, of course, those novel passages. And if that weren’t enough, he has no charisma of which to speak. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Greg Mankiw details the broad consensus among economists against outsourcing regulations, tariffs, and farm subsidies. Which raises the question of why this (social) scientific consensus should be treated any differently from that on global warming. I’d love to hear a lefty “fair trader” try to answer that with any consistency.
In other trade news, read this Robert Samuelson column. It’s the best takedown yet of the scary economic populism demonstrated by the Democratic class of 2006.
A not-so-wise man once wrote:
In the 1980s, there was a famous magazine called the New Republic. It was often brilliant, occasionally very influential, almost uniformly enjoyable to read, and one of its greatest strengths, and weaknesses, was its penchant for counterintuitiveness.
If contrarianism is indeed the defining feature of TNR, Brad Plumer’s certainly fitting in just fine.
Pelosi has disqualified Alcee Hastings – the impeached federal judge turned Democratic congressman – from serving as chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. However, according to CQ, the current ranking Democrat, Jane Harman, won’t be getting it either: “There is little to suggest Pelosi will reverse her intention to replace Harman atop the panel.”
This is very good news. Hastings v. Harman was a nasty choice. Hastings wins brownie points for his votes on Iraq and his overall progressive orientation (“fair trading” aside); then again, putting an judge impeached for bribery in charge of such a powerful committee would totally undermine Democratic anti-corruption efforts. Harman, however, has integrity, but is far to the right of the party (and the American people) on national security-related issues, including Iraq.
The most commonly mentioned compromise candidate, Silvestre Reyes, isn’t too great either; Laura Rozen details why. My personal favorite is the same as everyone else’s personal favorite: Rush Holt. He’s only been in the House since 1998, but he’s a physicist who’s worked as an intelligence analyst at the State Department – unique and valuable experience for this post. Moreover, his record on national security is impeccable (yes, he got Iraq right). But I think Holt’s inexperience will be his undoing. A more politically viable choice would be Sanford Bishop. He’s in the Congressional Black Caucus, pleasing the CBC now that Hastings won’t be chair. He’s also in the Blue Dog Coalition, which helps, as Harman is a BDC member as well. His selection would assuage the joint CBC and BDC anger that would normally accompany a compromise choice – and that’s what I think will win him the post at the end of the day. Sad, considering that his record on Iraq is to the right of even Harman. He voted for a resolution declaring Iraq to be part of the war on terror and condemning the idea of a timetable – in June 2006. Let’s hope Pelosi chooses Holt.
All of this Democratic infighting has to stop. Infighting should only happen when a party has no real idea how to govern in light of the failure of its earlier policies. The Republicans, in 1952, needed a primary fight between Robert Taft and Dwight Eisenhower. Their last president was abysmal beyond belief, and the last two presidents of the opposing party were among the greatest in American history. Where to go from there was an open question, and one that needed to be answered by the party as a whole. The Democratic party in 2006 does not have that problem. Our last president was not a failure. He was our Coolidge: a perfect model of how to govern in peacetime. Between his well-conducted humanitarian interventions, his near-perfectly performing economy, and his excellent Supreme Court choices, he was in many ways the ideal modern president. And yet we’re still fighting. We’re still rejecting Clinton’s legacy and reverting to protectionism (by the way, Ezra, if you’re going to use DeLong as evidence against NAFTA at least watch him go more in depth and show that he’s not repudiating globalization by any means). We’re still having debates about whether Clinton’s Wilsonianism was the right foreign policy, even after its unqualified success in Bosnia and Kosovo. And for no good reason. Yes, Clinton should have crafted a simpler health care plan and passed it before NAFTA to get union support. Yes, he should have gone into Bosnia earlier and intervened in Rwanda. But other than those things, he made very, very, very few mistakes in policy. What are we fighting about? Why do we need to reformulate policy when we have a spectacularly successful one just seven years behind us?
He’s by far the most popular Democratic politician in the country, and second only to Rudy among all politicians. In fact, he’s the only Democrat currently active in electoral politics to crack 50% approval, and he gets 58.8% (Bill Clinton’s the only other Democrat with >50% approval, with 55.8% – yes, Obama beats Bill). And if you don’t trust the peoples’ opinion on this, the markets are in agreement: based on current Tradesports odds, Mankiw estimates that Obama is by far the most electable potential candidate of either party. As if that didn’t make me happy enough, Gore is second.
Gov. Bill Richardson [D-NM] looks like an excellent presidential candidate on paper. Like the only two Democrats elected president in the last thirty years, he has gubernatorial experience. Unlike them, though, he has foreign policy experience, having served in Congress and as the US Ambassador to the UN. He even has executive experience at the federal level, having served as Energy Secretary. If that were not enough, he’s the enormously popular governor of a swing state, and is Latino, meaning he could turn key states like Florida, Arizona, and – just maybe – Texas. One would think that this would add up to an enormously well-qualified, and extremely electable, candidate.
I started having my doubts about Richardson’s electability when I met him about a year or so ago. He’s a friendly guy, but he can’t give a stump speech for his life. Actual quote: “One thing no politician talks about is education.” Seriously. As Kerry’s failure to win a completely winnable election showed, charisma and oratorical ability matter, and from firsthand experience I can say that Richardson has neither.
But even after that I believed that Richardson could – if he won the primary and general elections, which I thought were long-shots at best – make an excellent president. Now I’m not so sure. You see, back in the 1970s, when he was a Congressman, Richardson was a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a group led by Scoop Jackson. Scoop Jackson, of course, was the right-of-Nixon anti-communist Senator who – motivated by little more than thousands in Boeing campaign contributions – birthed the neoconservative movement. His staff included – this is a Democrat, mind you – Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and Richard Perle. The CDM itself was particularly shady, supporting “foreign allies who share America’s democratic values — whether it is the government of Israel in the Middle East or the government of El Salvador’s Jose Napoleon Duarte in Central America.” Jose Napoleon Duarte, of course, led a military coup in El Salvador and presided over numerous death squad massacres, such as El Mozote. The CDM also lent its offices to Team B, a Ford Administration project that worked to dramatically exaggerate Soviet capabilities without any basis in fact. In short, the CDM formed the larva of neoconservatism, and Richardson was a member.
This could be written off as youthful indiscretion if it did not influence Richardson’s later views. But in retrospect, it has. He has called a phased withdrawal from Iraq “not sensible policy”. He has praised the “Bush Doctrine” for creating the Cedar Revolution, even though the two aren’t connected in the least. Moreover, his rhetoric in both statements was suspiciously like that of a neoconservative. The bottom line is that after the last eight years, we cannot afford to turn our foreign policy over to someone who comes from the same intellectual tradition as Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle. It’s just too dangerous.