Friday, December 30, 2005

The Republicans' 2008 nominee: depressing prospects.

If I weren’t so disgusted with the way the Republican Party’s been heading lately, I might actually feel sorry for them. They’ve got a pretty weak bench for 2008. I’ve heard a lot of Republican names tossed around as possible presidential candidates, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a strong candidate who looks like he (or she) could win an election. Consider these:

Gov. Mitt Romney (MA)—He's already abandoned his 2006 reëlection bid as well as any interest in governing his state. I get the feeling that Romney hopes to run as a conservative who’s obviously a conservative because people in his own state of Massachusetts loathe him. Considering Romney’s father George Romney, it’s obvious that sometimes the apple really does fall far from the tree.

Gov. George Pataki (NY)—Wake me up when he stops talking.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (NY)—He favors abortion rights and he favors treating gays as human beings. As if that weren’t enough to alienate him from his own party, Giuliani has had a few mistresses, guaranteeing he’ll never make it out of the primaries.

Gov. Tom Ridge (PA)—Maybe, but he didn’t really impress as Homeland Security Director, and he doesn’t seem to be interested in running, anyway. My theory is that he’s holding out to run for Sen. Arlen Specter’s seat, who’s retiring in 2010.

Sen. Rick Santorum (PA)—Santorum’s already retracted his presidential ambitions. Considering he’s the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate right now, I’d say that’s a wise move. I don’t think he’ll even keep his job this year.

Sen. George Allen (VA)—Solid conservative credentials and popular in his own state, Allen is one of the Republicans’ best candidates for 2008. But is he too conservative for mainstream America? We’ll see.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (NC)—Seems Dole was something of a dud in 2000. She went down early in the primaries, complaining that money is ruining politics. (Say, who won that primary, anyway?) Dole’s Senate seat is up for reëlection in 2008 also, which makes it seem unlikely that she’d abandon it in order to run for president.

Rep. Newt Gingrich (GA)—He talks about running for president again. I kinda don’t think he will, but all that talk will sure help him sell more books!

Sec’y of State Condoleezza Rice (AL)—She won’t even run. I honestly don’t see where anyone gets the idea that she could win—unless you count the racists and sexists who think that blacks and women would feel bound to vote for her because she’s black and a woman.

Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush (FL)—He’s said that he’s not interested in running in 2008, and I’ll bet that America will be going through Bush fatigue by then. If he runs, it would be smart to wait until 2012, but I have a feeling that by then America won’t be crying out for another Bush, either. We were dumb enough to restore the Bushes once, but I don’t think we’ll do it again.

Sen. Bill Frist (TN)—Once the darling of the right wing, Senator Frist has been bogged down in scandal, which won’t be forgotten in time for the primaries. Even without his stock scandal, Frist wasn’t that strong a candidate to begin with.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN)—Occasionally mentioned as a strong possibility, Pawlenty’s sagging poll numbers have relegated him to second-tier status. It doesn’t look good for him.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR)—Gov. Huckawho? Could this largely unknown governor and native of Hope, Arkansas catapult himself to the Oval Office? It’s been done before, I understand, but I don’t know if it could be done again. If the governor can define himself in the public eye better, he might have a shot, but I can’t think of any accomplishment of his that surpasses his having lost 100 lbs. in a year. If that’s a prime qualification for the presidency, then Jerod Fogle would thump Huckabee in an election.

Sen. Sam Brownback (KS)—The state that gave us Alf Landon and Bob Dole will give us another also-ran. Don’t expect much energy from this guy. (Attention nitpickers: I know that Alf Landon was actually born in Pennsylvania, but he made his name in Kansas, so I give Kansas the credit.)

Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE)—This maverick has defied Bush and hasn’t kissed up to the Christian Right enough. He’s the kind of medicine that the Republican Party needs, for the most part, but I suspect the party won’t take it.

Vice President Dick Cheney (WY)—He never was presidential material, and now he’s even lower in the polls than George W. Bush. He’s also said he won’t run, despite the speculation of some. I don’t see it happening.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO)—Tancredo is running on an anti-immigrant platform, which is depressing to watch, and might serve to drive all the Republican primary candidates to the right, which will help none of them. The mere existence of Tancredo's campaign would be a poison pill to the Republicans' hopes of holding onto the White House in 2008.

Sen. John McCain (AZ)—His time is passed. We’ll see him raise holy heck in the Senate for years to come, but McCain could never take the helm of today’s fractious Republican Party and saunter into the White House, like he could have in 2000, had he not been savaged by the Bush campaign. Plus McCain will be 72 in 2008. Sure, they’re long-lived in the McCain family, but would the cancer-and-Karl Rove-surviving McCain be up to the ten-year marathon that would begin with an announcement in early 2007? I suspect not.

I think that covers all of them, but there might be one or two that I’m missing. If so, please fill me in. I’m always interested to learn more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2006: Could the Democrats do better than impeachment?

It's not much of a stretch to call President George W. Bush a failure, nor is it unkind. It would be unkind not to call him that, in fact, because the success of America's style of government relies on open criticism of our elected officials, and when one is screwing up, we're honor bound to say so. That's the root of participatory democracy.

In 1973, when it became apparent that President Richard Nixon had gone too far in the abuse of the office of the president, all the Congressional Democrats stood up and started pressing for his resignation or impeachment, but it wasn't going to happen until most of the Republicans joined in, which eventually did come to pass. Of course, a proper investigation of Nixon's excesses might not have happened at all if both houses of Congress hadn't been controlled by Democrats who, all ethics aside, do have self interest at stake, and were naturally more disposed to investigating a Republican president than a Republican-controlled Congress.

Consider where we are today. In the time since Bush took over the presidency in 2001, the Republican Party has controlled the House continually, and has controlled the Senate for all but eighteen months. Further, political partisanship has run much deeper on the part of both parties over the past decade than it did during Nixon's time. Remember the 1990s, when the Republican-controlled House impeached President Clinton just because he lied about getting a blow job. These days President Bush has obviously lied to us about intelligence reports from Iraq, which he used to justify invading that nation, and hardly anyone is proposing an investigation of the criminal who currently occupies the Oval Office.

If the Democrats were to take control of either house of Congress (or both,) it's unlikely we'd see actual impeachment proceedings during Bush's last two years in office, but it's safe to assume that there'd be more of an investigation into the Bush administration's lies and misdirections leading up to the invasion of Iraq. And if Bush were impeached by one house of Congress, there's no guarantee that the other would also impeach him, even if the Democrats controlled both. Consider the blow job impeachment of 1998, when the the House voted to impeach but the cooler heads in the Senate did not.

Furthermore, as appealing as the impeachment of a criminal president sounds, would such a move be in the best interests of the Democratic Party, anyway? I believe that even if the Democrats take over both houses of Congress in 2006, they won't vote to impeach, but rather use the crashing failures of the Bush administration as cudgels on the president. This would be far more effective for the Democrats, since they'd have George W. Bush to kick around for two more years, and the Republican Party, as a bonus, is losing its cohesion already. Democrats in control would only exacerbate the Republicans' disarray

It's hard to say how likely it is that the Democrats will take one house or both. With the focus on all the scandals of the Republican Party in 2005, the Republicans have had trouble recruiting candidates. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), widely considered to be vulnerable, doesn't seem to be attracting the Republican heavy hitters, with all of them focusing on the state's open governor's seat instead. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) is another Democrat who doesn't seem to be attracting an opponent, despite her low approval ratings in her own state. And Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) was also touted as vulnerable, but so far has only seen an opponent in the form of Rep. Katherine Harris, whose run isn't winning much approval on the part of her party, though no other Florida Republicans have stepped up to the plate. Sheesh... rig an election for the president, and five years later, they won't even take your calls! How's that for gratitude!

It seems unlikely that the Democrats will take back the Senate, but if they're going to pull off a miracle, this is their year to do it. There's only one Senate seat that stands a chance of switching from blue to red next year—the open seat currently held by retiring Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota. The Republicans have put forth Rep. Mark Kennedy (not a scion of the Massachusetts Kennedys) and have coalesced around him, while the Democrats look like they're going to have to face a primary between Attorney General Amy Klobuchar and children's activist Patty Wetterling. True or Better endorses Klobuchar, but the fact remains that it's too early to figure who could win the primary. Klobuchar has a strong, broad following in the state, while Wetterling has proven herself by giving Kennedy a close run for his seat in his own (very Republican) district back in 2002.

The Democrats need to pick up a net of six Senate seats to take control. Here are the seats where things look good (or at least kind of good) for us:

Arizona—One-term Senator Jon Kyl has voted along party lines, and remains popular—among Republicans. However, Kyl has lately been doing all he can to get his face in front of the cameras, hoping to distinguish himself from his more noticeable colleague, John McCain. It seems that Kyl wants more than to shake the dubious distinction of being "Arizona's other senator;" he seems to be working extra hard to stay in the spotlight these days. Kyl is being challenged by Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Jim Pederson, who's been garnering some national attention as of late, including an endorsement by General Wesley Clark, who for some reason is taking an interest in politcs far flung from his home state of Arkansas. (Could the general have bigger things on his mind?) Pederson has moved from gadfly status to that of a significant challenger lately, and Arizona's junior senator seat is looking more and more vulnerable. Kyl did lead the charge against Bush's abortive nomination of Harriet Miers, though, and he also opposes the Republican Party's fight against immigrants' rights. This is understandable, coming from a border state senator, but it won't help him in the eyes of the national party. Still, Kyl isn't the most vulnerable of Republicans; if Pederson or another Democrat were to take his seat over, it would be a remarkable upset.

Missouri—Jim Talent hasn't served a full term yet, having narrowly defeated Senator Jean Carnahan in a special election in 2002. The reason for the special election is that Carnahan was appointed to fill her late husband's seat when he was killed in a plane crash during the 2000 election three weeks before he went on to defeat the still-alive John Ashcroft. Talent is seeking a full term, but looks weak. He's voted pretty much exactly in step with the Bush administration all during his tenure in office, which might help him with his base, as long as Bush's popularity keeps... um... never mind. Talent's in trouble. Popular Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill is the decided Democratic candidate for this seat, and will pose a tough challenge. The name McCaskill is a big one in Missouri, and she'll give Talent a run for his money—and stands a good chance of tossing him out.

Mississippi—Mississippi's senior senator, Trent Lott, isn't exactly vulerable, but his seat might be. There are rumors that Lott might be retiring, which has the Republican National Committee all in a tizzy, having to go from not having to defend the seat at all to needing to defend an open seat. State representative Erik Fleming has declared his candidacy, but we can't call this serious unless Lott steps down.

Montana—Senator Conrad Burns is looking more and more vulnerable. He's been tied to Tom DeLay in a big way, and it's taking a toll on the perception of his integrity among Montanans. Montana isn't as reliably Republican as one might think, either. In fact, it's recently seen a Democratic takeover of its state government and its statehouse, and its senior senator, Max Baucus, is a Democrat, as well. State Senate Leader Jon Tester and State Auditor John Morrison are both vying for this vulnerable seat.

Ohio—Senator Mike DeWine has found himself in a tough spot lately, often voting against his party out of fear of alienating Ohio's largely moderate voting populace. DeWine, having served one term in the Senate, is facing unpleasantly low poll numbers. DeWine is also facing Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett and State Senator Sherrod Brown. Hackett has shown himself to be a formidable adversary, losing a House race to new Representative Jean Schmidt 52-48. The race was in Ohio's extremely conservative third district, and for a Democrat to do that well is something of a miracle. Brown has better name recognition statewide, and polls have shown that he'd be a far stronger candidate against DeWine. Of course, those polls were the Brown campaign's internal polling numbers, so take that with a grain of salt. At any rate, DeWine has something to worry about. We'll see if he can successfully distance himself enough from President Bush in time for next November, when this Rust Belt state, whose economy is suffering from the auto industry's recent financial woes, decides if it wants to keep this Republican around.

Pennsylvania—Senator Rick Santorum is considered to be the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reëlection next year. Santorum first came to office in 1994, the Year of the Angry White Male, riding a wave of Republican partisanship to knock out incumbent Senator Harris Wofford (who had been appointed to finish the term of the late Senator John Heinz (R)). Santorum went on to narrowly defeat the disorganized, underfunded campaign of Pittsburgh area journalist Ron Klink in 2000. But this time, it looks like the Democrats are more serious about taking this seat. New York's Senator Chuck Schumer, who's been heading Democratic recruitment for 2006, saw to it that there would be no primary, chasing off former Republican Barbara Hafer, securing the nomination for State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. Casey is a bit too conservative for my tastes, but he's a darn sight better than Santorum, who's already trailing in the polls against Casey. This is one for the Republicans to worry about.

Rhode Island—Senator Lincoln Chafee has it tough, being a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. Worse for him, he's got a primary challenge to fend off against Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, who thinks Chafee is too liberal. If Laffey beats Chafee in the primary, this seat will almost certainly flip Democratic. The likely Democratic nominee is former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, though State Secretary of State Matt Brown is also in the running, along with Iraq vet Carl Sheeler. Even if Chafee survives the primary, he could still lose. 2006 is shaping up to be a fiercely partisan year—not a good time for a Republican in a fiercely Democratic state.

Tennessee—Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is stepping down next year, and is allegedly planning a run for the White House. This is leaving his Senate seat open, and there are many who are after it. This is a possible Democratic pickup, but at this point, it's hard to handicap this race. Rep. Harold Ford is the Democrats' prime candidate, but there's also State Senator Rosalind Kurita in the running. Ford is the favorite, and he's also very popular in the House. He's conservative enough for Tennessee, so he's a good candidate. A problem arose recently, though: Harold's uncle John Ford got nailed in an FBI sting operation called Operation Tennessee Waltz. If the sins of the uncle don't visit themselves on the head of the nephew, we could well see a Democratic pickup here, too. The Republicans haven't yet coalesced around a candidate, which is good news for Ford, who can spend more time solidifying his position while the Republicans catch up. Tennessee, with its Democratic governor and its conservative Democratic nominee, could see a seat flipping.

The Democrats would need to take twelve House seats to take control, which might just happen, considering the growing anti-Republican and anti-incumbent fever that we've been seeing more and more of lately. I don't have an analysis of twelve House seats that could flip in 2006, but... I'll have one. Watch this space.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jeannine Pirro drops her Senate bid

Westchester County District Attorney Jeannine Pirro has dropped her challenge to Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York). Pirro's campaign has been dead for some time; she just made it official. Many claimed she'd be a real threat to Senator Clinton, citing the shopworn we've-got-a-woman-so-more-women-will-vote-for-us argument, which is based on the ideas that 1) most or all women have an irrational prejudice toward female candidates and 2) Hillary Clinton has nothing going for her except for the fact that she's a woman. The same logic applies to Republicans who are sure that Condoleezza Rice would be a slam-dunk candidate because she's black.

Pirro is a political klutz, and probably would have done better if she'd run for attorney general. She's damaged goods now, though; she might have a shot at the state senate, but nothing higher than that. The state Republican Party has got to be furious at her for having sucked up all that oxygen vis-à-vis the Republican Senate primary, and I don't blame them. Now talk has revived of Ed Cox running—you know, Richard Nixon's son-in-law. Heh... in this time when the Republican Party is bogged down with scandal after scandal, they need another Nixon like an 18½-inch hole in the head.

Anyway, Clinton will coast to reëlection to the Senate in 2006, will probably throw her hat in the ring in 2007, will certainly endorse the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, and will coast to reëlection to the Senate in 2012. Really, the United States is ready to elect a woman to the presidency, and it will have a female president one of these days. It just won't be Hillary Clinton. Mark my words.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"None of your civil liberties will matter much after you're dead."

Those are the words of Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.

In response, Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said, "Give me liberty or give me death." Feingold went on to call Cornyn's comments "a retreat from who we are and who we should be."

There's more here.

This info was brought to you courtesy of the Daily kos.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rev. Wildmon urges Ford Motors to hate gays—how you can help!

The Ford Motor Company pulled an ad campaign a while ago that targeted homosexuals. They tried to sell them luxury cars. This is the kind of thing that Ford has done for a long time: it's tried to sell cars. Nothing new there.

However, this has not set well with the AFA and the Reverend Donald Wildmon, who is calling for a boycott of Ford. Wildmon and friends don't like the idea of Ford treating homosexuals as regular human beings. Christian charity isn't designed to stretch that far. If Ford insists on trying to sell cars to gays, the AFA says that they're going to lose the family market through this tactic.

It's an ominous threat. Remember when the Southern Baptist Leadership Council boycotted Disney? Disney lost so much money that they couldn't afford to make any more movies, and they had to shut down their theme parks...

Oh, wait: that didn't happen. It didn't affect them at all. And when the Southern Baptists called it off, Disney didn't see a surge in profits, either. Likewise, I don't think we'll see a change in Ford's market share, one way or another.

After meeting with gay rights activists last week, Ford's CEO Bill Ford, Jr. said, "We value all people—regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences." Sounds like a very Christian attitude toward the whole affair. Then Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said that the company had no further comment on the matter, which is entirely appropriate.

Don't get me wrong: I support boycotts when there's a real principle at stake. I have avoided Exxon products since the Exxon Valdez mess back in 1989, and I still do. Boycotts more often than not don't amount to much. Regardless, it can be a good principle, though the principle of hating a whole group of people is not one I can get behind, much less respect. I wonder if Reverend Wildmon would have any success with preaching a message of love and acceptance rather than one of hate and marginalization? I suppose we'll never know, but I bet that would make for a much better world.

I'm currently in the market for a car, but I'm afraid Ford won't benefit from me. I'm probably going to buy one used, since with the way I've been financially, I might one day be able to consider buying a new car when I'm maybe fifty. I'm 36 now, and still paying off student loans, but that will be done by the end of the year. I'd love to make myself useful to Ford or any other company that makes decent policy decisions. If anyone is interested in helping me support the right companies, send money. Cash, checks, whatever. I promise that if you send me money, I'll put it to good use by buying the most expensive consumer goods possible manufactured by companies with consciences. I'd buy a new Ford product, probably a Volvo, which is made by Ford. Not an SUV, anyway.

All contributions to this noble cause may be sent to:

Kurt Kaletka
295 Greenwich St., No. 103
New York, NY 10007

Please help me be a conscientious consumer! If enough of you chip in, I'll be able to quit my job, and you'll get more blog entries, so obviously there's something in this for all of us. Foreign and obsolete currency is accepted, but domestic U.S. dollars are of course preferred. Remember: I'm only doing this because I care, so you can give me money and feel really good about it. I know I will!

McCain's Straight Talk Express is having engine troubles

Did anyone catch John McCain on George Stephanopoulos the morning of December 18? It was a most distressing performance, to say the least. There is little doubt that Senator McCain is planning a run for the White House in 2008, and is making himself plenty prominent in the public eye. One thing that Senator McCain has going for him is that he's viewed as a man of principle by both Democrats and Republicans. One thing that Senator McCain has going against him is his apparent need to suck up to the Bush voters, which requires less "straight talk" and more vacillation.

The Senator looked cowed when Mr. Stephanopoulos asked him about the fraudulent intelligence that was used by the Bush administration to sell the war to the public. McCain looked frightened of saying anything that would make George W. Bush look bad. Maybe this is related to a deal that McCain might have struck with the President to get him to say "Uncle!" and finally admit that torture is wrong and that a country like the United States should neither practise nor condone it. Or maybe this is because Senator McCain doesn't want to lose the support of the Bush loyalists, whom he'll need behind him in the 2008 Republican primaries.

He also looked a little embarrassed when Mr. Stephanopoulos asked him about how Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) managed to ram through a rider to the defense appropriations bill to fund the troops in Iraq. Senator Stevens' rider would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil drilling. McCain said that he was disappointed that Stevens did this, but that it's too important to hurry up the funding to the troops to get hung up on principles. Despite the fact that most Americans feel that drilling in the ANWR is wrong, the Republicans in the Senate (and the White House) are trying to use this war to force this provision through. It's sad that McCain is being such a milquetoast, but then, he's crossed George W. Bush before, and he no doubt remembers what happens when you do that. Who can forget the 2000 South Carolina primary, when Bush's campaign team, led by Karl Rove, savaged him with push polls suggesting that he'd fathered an illegitimate black child? (McCain did no such thing, of course, but that didn't stop Bush and Rove and friends from saying that he did.) Clearly, John McCain remembers, even though he says he's put it all behind him. He'd better remember: if he doesn't, he knows he'll have to forget about the White House, and for good, this time. No doubt Mr. Bush has taken Senator McCain into some back room and made that clear with some "straight talk" of his own.

It's really sad to watch. John McCain is really very impressive when he speaks his own mind. When he's knuckling under to a man like George W. Bush, he comes across as a hollow shell. It's not that there's a lack of hollow shells in Congress; it's just that knowing what John McCain used to be makes it all the more painful to watch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

So Bush lied. So what?

Hey, folks. Vernon the Rat here, balancing this forum with a refreshing conservative point of view. With President Bush acknowledging that over 30,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of our invasion, I think it's time to finally cut the guy some slack. The media seem to have been critical of President Bush for a long time—several weeks already—so why don't they lay off him? With all this scrutiny he's getting, you'd think Dubya was a Democrat or something.

I'm really getting sick about people complaining about how Bush lied about WMDs to win support for attacking Iraq. Anyway, we're in Iraq now, defending the principle of freedom and bringing freedom to the Iraqis. We're sharing with them all the rights that we free Americans enjoy. Even though Bush lied about why we went into Iraq, and even though he's lying about how his intentions have "always been the removal of a brutal dictator," what's the big deal? There's nothing wrong with a little selective dishonesty, as long as we come out on top.

We'll control Iraq and its oil, and keep the Arabs on edge for at least a generation. It's not like we're ruining Americans' lives, anyway. Isn't Bush the president of the United States of America? He doesn't need to look after Iraqis. Just Americans. Yes, he lied to us, but he only hurt Iraqis, so what's the big deal? You have to concern yourself with results

I never really bought the "Saddam has WMDs" bit, no. But he lied to us to earn our support for his campaign to export democracy and American values to the Middle East, and to provide Americans with essential resources like petroleum. It was a useful lie, which is something that Liberals just can't seem to get their heads around: lies, when useful, can accomplish much good for a large number of people when compared to the bad done to a small number of people. Compare America's population to that of Iraq, and tell me which one is bigger. More people are benefiting from the Iraq war, because the majority of the benefits go to Americans, and there are more of us. As a rat, I can vouch for this. If a restaurant leaves a lot of garbage lying around, a few humans might die of botulism or something, but even more rats benefit, so it all works out fine. Our invasion of Iraq is as smart and helpful as an unsanitary restaurant, which is good for not all of us but at least for most of us.

Bush got us to this good place by lying, so really, it's okay. A handful of soldiers have died (compare this number of casualties to the casualties of World War II!) and some Iraqis have died. But more people benefit. Count your blessings, and be grateful for your freedom. And for restaurants that flout health codes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A left hook for Senator Lieberman

Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean, the 2004 presidential hopeful and winner of the Best Tarzan Imitation in Iowa that year, runs a political activist group you might have heard of called Democracy For America, or DFA. DFA takes up liberal causes regularly; I get emails from them all the time. Getting on an email list costs nothing. You probably know that by now.

Jim Dean has written a letter chastising Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut.) And to be fair, what Senator Lieberman said was pretty bad. To wit, last week Lieberman said this: "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." That’s no way for anyone to talk about President Bush, much less a Democrat. Or, as Representative Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) put it shortly after Lieberman made that comment: “What credibility?”

Will Jim Dean’s petition cause Senator Lieberman to do a little soul-searching? Or is this just rabble without a cause? I say it’s neither. This petition has got more to do with uniting other Democrats and heightening sentiment against Bush. Lieberman's got a few troubles right now, facing a possible general election challenge from Independent Lowell Weickert, whom he defeated... um... a long time ago in order to get his Senate seat in the first place. Weickert, a popular former governor and former Republican, could really mess things up for Lieberman next November. Another possibility is the "Draft Amy" movement, which is seeking to draft actress Amy Brenneman to challenge Lieberman in the Democratic primary. They're pushing for this because they're big fans of the actress. I also heard some talk about pushing Ted Kennedy, Jr. to run for the seat. I don't know much about him except that yes, he's the son of that Ted Kennedy, and that he's a lawyer of some sort. I'd be amused to refer to "the Ted Kennedys" of the Senate. (If you’re over the age of 45, you might not get my “Ted Kennedys” joke, so don’t worry if you don’t.)

The Republicans don't seem to have much in the way of a candidate, despite Lieberman's low approval numbers in Connecticut. Governor Jodi Rell is currently the most popular governor in the country, but she just took over last year, so it would be a bit too soon for her to pull out. Representatives Nancy Johnson and Christopher Shays might also be logical candidates, but they're too entrenched in their districts, I guess, and too powerful in the House to think about leaving right now. It's telling that neither of them is stepping forward to challenge Lieberman; I think it shows just how futile the Republicans feel that seeking this seat is right now. Things might change if Weickert enters the race, but I think Weickert's presence would be more prone to split the Republican vote than the Democratic vote.

Connecticut has plenty of Republicans, even though it leans more Democratic on the national level. Bush's unpopularity won't exactly inspire Nutmeg State Republicans. I predict that if Weickert enters, the Republican vote will be split between Weickert and staying home to watch "Judging Amy" reruns. Lieberman will keep his job, but hopefully he'll be cowed a little. Probably not, but you can only ask for so much.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Probable 2006 New Jersey Senate matchup: Menendez vs. Kane.

Sorry I've been away for a while, folks. I've been sick as a dog and haven't had net access in the interim. I'm still sick, but I've got some net access back. It's too much to explain, so I won't. Instead, I'll just talk about New Jersey, because that's what's on my mind right now.

Looks like Governor-Elect Corzine of New Jersey is about to name his successor to the U.S. Senate: U.S. Rep. Bob Menendez of Jersey City. A good choice, and I’m not disappointed, even though I personally favored Acting Governor Richard Codey, who took himself out of the running. Mr. Corzine is expected to announce this either today or Friday, according to the Gloucester County Times.

State Senator Tom Kean Jr., the only Republican who’s announced his intention to seek the seat next year, has sort of kind of not said what his feelings are about Mr. Corzine’s decision, whatever that decision will be. According to that same Gloucester County Times article, "Sen. Kean has said on several occasions that the campaign will not be about who he runs against," said Even Kozlow, Kean's campaign manager. "We intend to run a very clean campaign." Then, showing a perhaps inadvertant penchant for irony, Kozlow says, in the same article, "Clearly New Jersey works best when run by reformers than by party bosses ... Clearly Democratic bosses will do whatever they have to stay in power." Ch’yeah… sounds like the nice words you hear in a “clean campaign” to me.

Maybe I’m speaking too soon, but it kind of looks like Mr. Kean is gearing up for another vicious slugfest, perhaps evocative of the 1996 Torricelli/Zimmer matchup. Or maybe Mr. Kozlow just isn’t smart enough to stay away from smearing people while talking about running a “clean campaign.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Could America be approaching idiot fatigue?

I wonder if voters could wind up with idiot fatigue soon. It seems like sometimes, and who knows why, voters will be prone to back someone who has a certain personality trait. Carter exuded integrity, which felt nice after Nixon. Reagan exuded aggression, which felt nice after Carter. Clinton exuded certitude, which felt nice after Bush. And Bush exuded simplicity, which felt nice after Clinton. (The opinions expressed are not necessarily my own; that's just my approximation of the conventional wisdom.)

So now that voters have had their simpleton fix, will they be yearning for competence again in 2008? I know I'm starved for it, but that's what I always prefer. The general feeling of the voters is what I'm wondering about. I hope they do seek out competence; an additional four years of a grinning idiot would destroy what's left standing of this country in 2008.

I'm in love with Howard Dean. Again.

Howard Dean is doing a bang-up job as the head of the DNC. He's really found his place. He's a first-class organizer who knows when to use authority and when to cede it. I think we'll get our first really solid proof of Dean's efficacy after the midterms, and I believe he'll do well by us.

It's no wonder that Dean got the job not by a noisy faction agitating to install him in the post but rather by Democratic organizers from all over the country. I remember reading in the New Republic earlier this year that Dean had promised to give more control to local Democratic organizations rather than Terry McAuliffe's top-down management style. It's like the Democrats were gasping for air, and Dean threw open the vents for them. Dr. Dean has made the airy prediction that the Democrats will take back both the House and the Senate in 2006. That's unlikely, but it's his job to talk like that. And he might even be right. If Bush's slump continues the way it has been, that could very well happen. But Election Day is still 341 days off, and a lot can happen in that much time. It's best not to count any chickens yet, but the Democrats' immediate future looks better than the Republicans', suffice it to say.

When Will Rogers made his famous quip the he doesn't belong "to any organized political party--I'm a Democrat," he struck on a truth about the nature of the Democratic Party. Democrats do better when they acknowledge that there are some things that are best left up to local control, particularly when it comes to organizing. There are times when this didn't work out so well, like back during the civil rights struggle, but they cleaned house eventually, setting standards and abandoning the racists to seek shelter under the Republicans' big tent. The fact remains that the Democrats' tent is bigger, much more inclusive, than the Republicans' has ever been. Anyway, when you see tents and elephants together, you're probably at a circus. The Republicans have no shortage of clowns, either.

The Republicans have a formidable adversary in Howard Dean, and if they don't know it yet, they'll figure it out soon enough. Dean may or may not run for president one day—I bet he doesn't—but I'll go out on a limb that Dean can make a greater contribution to the Democratic Party than any Democrat who sits in the White House could make in the near future. I'll go further and say that if there is a Democrat ordering new drapes for the Oval Office three Christmases from now, credit will go in no small part to Howard Dean. Some of it will also go to us, too, because as the Doctor knows, his giving more control to all the local Democratic organizations will only help if we get involved and stay involved. So let's keep up the good work.