Miscellaneous 2008

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.

Silly Speculation

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!

More Trade Stuff

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.

Intel Committee Update

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.

I Guess This Is What Someone With Hawaiian Parents Gets

What American accent do you have?

Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you’re a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Defending Clinton

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?

Obama’s Electibility

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.

Another Reason to Oppose Richardson

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.

Random 2008 Thoughts

  • Don’t discount Wes Clark. He’s almost always forgotten, but he could very well run. He has a PAC and has been signaling interest for a while. He also has a huge asset in New Hampshire: Carol Shea-Porter. She got her political start campaigning for Clark in 2004, and Wes helped her out and stumped for her when the national Democrats didn’t. She was a good enough campaigner to win in a heavily, heavily Republican district while running against an incumbent that no one thought was vulnerable. That will be very helpful to Clark come 2008.
  • Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made big mistakes when they did not actively back the other newly elected NH congressman – Paul Hodes – in 2006. Kerry chose him as one of the recipients of his PAC money, as did Clark and Bayh. Bayh, Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Kerry, and Vilsack all campaigned in NH for Hodes. Kerry even set up Hodes’ GOTV operation for him – an operation that most likely lead to his win, given the Republican nature of the district. But not Hillary or Obama. In Obama’s defense, his PAC only endorses Senators, and thus his omission of Hodes is much more excusable than Hillary’s. Both Obama and Hillary called Hodes on election night to congratulate him for his victory. Maybe they should have started sucking up sooner.
  • Don’t forget NH Gov. John Lynch. If I had to guess, Evan Bayh, Chris Dodd and Tom Vilsack are the most likely candidates for a Lynch endorsement. While Lynch got every potential candidate in August 2006 (so Obama wasn’t in the picture) but Hillary to promise to participate in the primary in 2008, regardless of the primary schedule, Bayh was the only candidate publicly backing NH when the DNC’s proposal to stick in a caucus between Iowa and NH was first floated. Richardson, Kerry, and Edwards all signaled support for the proposal, and Hillary only gave Lynch a private assurance of opposition (with her not promising to participate or to publicly back the old schedule, it’s safe to say that Lynch won’t be backing Hillary). Dodd and Vilsack did not take part in the primary debate in any great degree, but have been sucking up to Lynch like crazy. My money’s on a Bayh endorsement, but anything’s possible. It would be quite bizarre if the three major Democratic elected officials in NH all backed different candidates – Shea-Porter Clark, Hodes Kerry, and Lynch Bayh. Lynch has significantly more clout and is much more popular than either Shea-Porter or Hodes, so his endorsement would matter more, meaning that even if he were the only major politician backing Bayh, his word could make a difference.
  • The right-wing Nader is coming. John McCain is running for president, and Jim Gilchrist – of Minuteman fame – has promised to run as a Constitution Party candidate if McCain did the same. Gilchrist is a potent vote-stealer. He ran as an American Independent – the California version of the Constitution Party – in a Congressional Special Election in 2005, and received 25.5% of the vote, whereas the Democrat received 27.8%, and the Republican (the victor) 44.4%. That he could take over a third of Republican votes tells you something. Even a minor, Nader-level candidate who pulls 2-3% of the vote can act as a spoiler. If Gilchrist can rouse up nativist Republicans, he could pull double digits – particularly if a pro-immigration candidate like McCain or Giuliani is the nominee. That adds up to a very good lookout for the Democrats, no matter their nominee. If the Republicans run a conservative, he’ll be that much easier to defeat. If they run a moderate, Gilchrist will steal his votes. It’s win-win for the Dems.