Tuesday, April 22, 2008
New unpaid political endorsement on BeldarBlog
Those using aggregators as their sole means to review new posts here may miss the new unpaid political endorsement now running in my sidebar. I suspect it will be the first in a series between now and November 2008.
Comments pro and con, so long as in reasonably good taste, are earnestly solicited.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
True statement, despite having come from Hillary: "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan"
I know that with the degree of concentration they've maintained on their overriding goal of replacing George W. Bush, it's hard for the Hard Left, and indeed for the entire Democratic Party, to actually remember what was going on within the United States in the first few days and weeks after 9/11/01. An overwhelming majority of Americans were grimly resolved to hit back — to hit back as hard as we possibly could, meaning militarily — against al Qaeda and their cooperative hosts, the Taliban, in Afghanistan.
But the sentiment was not unanimous. Others besides Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, were eager to put the blame for 9/11 squarely on America, and still others, like Amnesty International, earnestly argued against any military response and in favor of a brisk law enforcement effort in cooperation with other governments, including the Taliban.
Now, in the 2008 election campaign, it's Hillary Clinton, of all people, who's been caught telling the truth for once — and it's a bitter truth that the Hard Left, including its hysterical Obama supporters, continues to deny. From the opening paragraphs of a Huffpo piece entitled "Clinton Slams Democratic Activists At Private Fundraiser," we read of Sen. Clinton's expression of irritation at her opposition from the Hard Left:
At a small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton blamed what she called the "activist base" of the Democratic Party — and MoveOn.org in particular — for many of her electoral defeats, saying activists had "flooded" state caucuses and "intimidated" her supporters, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by The Huffington Post.
"Moveon.org endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] — which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down," Clinton said to a meeting of donors. "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with....
MoveOn.org is quoted in the same Huffpo piece as not only resolutely disputing Hillary's statement, but linking it to that great boogey-man Karl Rove:
In a statement to The Huffington Post, MoveOn's Executive Director Eli Pariser reacted strongly to Clinton's remarks: "Senator Clinton has her facts wrong again. MoveOn never opposed the war in Afghanistan, and we set the record straight years ago when Karl Rove made the same claim. Senator Clinton's attack on our members is divisive at a time when Democrats will soon need to unify to beat Senator McCain. MoveOn is 3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers who are an important part of any winning Democratic coalition in November. They deserve better than to be dismissed using Republican talking points."
And just now, as I'm working my way through today's TiVo'd talking heads shows, I heard Fox News' Chris Wallace repeat and seemingly accept this disavowal — hook, line, and sinker — as part of his interview with Clintonista Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Fox News Sunday. Perhaps afraid to offend any genuinely dangerous snakes, even Snake-Oil Chuck didn't correct Wallace and defend the accuracy of Clinton's statement.
So let me say this as precisely as I can: Eli Pariser and MoveOn.org are calculating, deliberate liars, and you have to be an utter idiot to believe their claims that he personally, or that MoveOn.org, "never opposed the war in Afghanistan."
MoveOn.org's and Pariser's disavowal has been thoroughly debunked from the right, by Byron York of the National Review:
At a time when polls showed a huge majority of Americans favoring military action against the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington, MoveOn put its energy into opposing the war in Afghanistan. Shortly after the terrorist attacks, Boyd and Blades circulated a petition that read, “Our leaders are under tremendous pressure to act in the aftermath of the terrible events of Sept. 11th. We the undersigned support justice, not escalating violence, which would only play into the terrorists’ hands.”
At the same time, an activist named Eli Pariser, recently graduated from college, circulated a petition of his own, calling on George W. Bush to use “moderation and restraint” in responding to 9/11 and “to use, wherever possible, international judicial institutions and international human rights law to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, rather than the instruments of war, violence or destruction.” Boyd and Blades were so impressed by Pariser’s work that they hired him; he now is a top MoveOn official.
And it has been thoroughly debunked from the left, from a Peter Beinart piece in The New Republic (which used to appear here, but which, unfortunately and perhaps conveniently, they since appear to have taken offline or firewalled):
Wes Boyd and Joan Blades write that I am "simply wrong to state that MoveOn opposed the war in Afghanistan." But the petition MoveOn circulated after September 11 speaks for itself. It demands that the United States "support justice, not escalating violence," calls for "ending the cycle of violence," and says that "[i]f we retaliate by bombing Kabul and kill people oppressed by the Taliban dictatorship ... we become like the terrorists we oppose."
By any reasonable standard, that is opposition to war in Afghanistan. War, by definition, does not end "the cycle of violence." And any military action that avoided "bombing Kabul" would have left the deeply interwoven Taliban-Al Qaeda regime in power. Had the United States done as MoveOn counseled, we might have avoided killing Afghan civilians. But prolonged Taliban-Al Qaeda rule would surely have killed many more while threatening American lives as well. It is this insistence on absolute American purity, and the refusal to make real world moral tradeoffs, that produces the practical hostility to U.S. power that Arthur Schlesinger Jr. termed in The Vital Center "doughface" progressivism.
But do not believe any of them, gentle readers. Believe instead your own eyes, because through the miracle of the internet, you can still read, in its original pristine form, the online petition that MoveOn.org began running on September 25, 2001. Just click this link.
Finally, I'll reprint here what I wrote in my own blog's comments when this issue came up during MoveOn.org's sponsorship last year of their infamous "General Betray-us" advertisement:
Courtesy of the Wayback Machine — because MoveOn.org has nacht und nebeled this from their own website, of course — here's a link to the online form petition, intended to be sent to the president and Congress, as of September 25, 2001:
"Justice, not terror"
Our leaders are under tremendous pressure to act in the aftermath of the terrible events of Sept. 11th. We the undersigned support justice, not escalating violence, which would only play into the terrorists' hands:
In bringing terrorists to justice, the U.S. must commit to protecting innocent civilians everywhere and ending the cycle of violence....
To combat terrorism, we must act in accordance with a high standard that does not disregard the lives of people in other countries. If we retaliate by bombing Kabul and kill people oppressed by the Taliban dictatorship who have no part in deciding whether terrorists are harbored, we become like the terrorists we oppose. We perpetuate the cycle of retribution and recruit more terrorists by creating martyrs.
Please do everything you can to counsel patience as we search for those responsible. Please ensure that our actions reflect the sanctity of human life everywhere. Thank you.
(They continued running essentially the same thing throughout 2002 and into early 2003.)
That's not support for taking out the Taliban or al Qaeda or anyone through military force. That's not support for any kind of war, period. You can't have a war, even a war in which all reasonable care is taken to avoid collateral damage to innocents, without escalating the amount of violence. "[Searching] for those responsible" was what was being argued by those who insisted that, gee, we ought to just ask the Taliban to extradite those mean naughty al Qaeda folks.
Read the damned headline. They've carefully scrubbed the phrase "Justice, not terror" from their current website, but MoveOn.org's leaders were arguing that we Americans are the terrorists while the smoke was, quite literally, still rising from Ground Zero. Okay, fine. Free country, First Amendment, yada yada. But don't come to my blog and tell me that's not Hard Left. Just ... don't.
UPDATE (Mon Apr 21 @ 2:05pm): Gateway Pundit has a nice screenshot of MoveOn.org's online petition (of which I'm also preserving a copy, here), as captured from the Wayback Machine service. DRJ, guest-blogging at Patterico's Pontifications, was kind enough to link both this post and one by Tom Maguire at Just One Minute. Tom and his commenters quote and link additional contemporaneous evidence from 2001 as to MoveOn.org's opposition to military action in Afghanistan. This is simply not a close question; there is no possibility that Tom or I are misinterpreting or misstating MoveOn.org's previous position.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Beldar on Baze
Today, in Baze v. Rees, the SCOTUS rejected two capital defendants' challenge to Kentucky's use of the "three-drug cocktail" for administering its death penalty. The vote was seven to two — only Justices Ginsberg and Souter voted to reverse — but no more than three justices agreed on any single rationale for affirming the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision to permit the continued use of this procedure. Instead, the Court produced seven separate opinions spanning 97 pages; only Justices Souter and Kennedy did not write a separate opinion.
Prof. Orin Kerr, blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy, promises a detailed post later, but there are interesting comments already to his quicky preliminary post here. Beldar's own summary (admittedly guilty of over-generalization, for your convenience and my amusement):
Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito stayed true to their promises during their confirmation hearings to be respectful of precedent — too much so, on this occasion and in my opinion (given my disdain for the jumbled mess of the Court's recent Eighth Amendment rulings on "cruel and unusual punishment). Chief Justice Roberts' opinion, joined only by Justices Kennedy and Alito, insists that Courts are ill-equipped to evaluate medical issues — then proceeds to do exactly that, mostly by cherry-picking supporting findings and evidence from the record developed in the Kentucky state trial court. Any time you have the U.S. Supreme Court citing and discussing the substance of articles from medical journals like Lancet, it's gone astray — no proper interpretation of the United States Constitution can be found in medical journals.
Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are still writing as if they were circuit judges who are painfully conscious of their lack of authority to modify or overturn Supreme Court precedents — even when it's abundantly clear that those precedents fatally conflict with one another and/or ought never have been decided that way to begin with. Thus we have Chief Justice Roberts winding and twisting through various previous (and incompatible) formulations of the legal tests to be applied to a case like this one, pretending to harmonize them into something coherent. It's a very workmanlike — or it would be, for a circuit judge wearing judicial handcuffs — and it leaves us with a sort of matrix, a check-list for lower courts to work through. Indeed, Justice Alito wrote separately just to emphasize how tough it will be for any future petitioner to successfully navigate the checklist all the way through to a successful ruling finding any particular method of execution unconstitutional.
Basically, behind all their "heavy burden" and "substantial (not theoretical) risk" qualifiers — beyond the boxes in the check-list for lower court opinion-drafting — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Kennedy are saying: When and if a bunch of other states have actually adopted some obviously better method of execution, then and only then can those of you in the other states come back to us with these arguments about which is relatively more humane. But for now, and until then, Kentucky's system and anything that looks pretty much like it can proceed.
That's pragmatic. It avoids a sweeping cleanup of Eighth Amendment law that's badly needed, but that would be criticized from the left as conservative-policied judicial activism. But in this area of con-law, as with the Court's last few decades of precedent on affirmative action and abortion rights, the maze of precedents that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Kennedy are trying to navigate is built on a rotten foundation. Maybe in their judgments this case wasn't "the" case to give the whole Eighth Amendment structure a good push and bring it crashing down; but I think it was.
Justice Thomas, characteristically for him, would rather frankly recognize that the emperor has had no clothes for a long time. He boils this down to: Is Kentucky using this system out of a deliberate intent to torture people in addition to killing them? The answer to that is no; and that, says he, should be the end of the issue, as far as the Eighth Amendment and the federal Constitution are concerned. He's absolutely right.
Justice Scalia joins Justice Thomas' opinion, but also writes separately just to snag and throw back a few foul balls that Justice Stevens had popped deep into the outfield. Justice Stevens — no surprise — thinks we ought to re-think the death penalty in its entirety, but he can't quite come up with a good reason to pretend that this particular three-drug cocktail is unconstitutional, so he votes to affirm anyway.
Justice Breyer is troubled, very troubled ... and about many things, indeed about just about everything. But he ultimately agrees with six of his fellows that the petitioners just haven't shown "enough" to establish that some additional safeguards or some different protocol would make a big difference. (Basically, he's not quite willing to endure the justifiable mockery that Justice Ginsberg will get from her view, described next.)
And finally, like the diligent ACLU lawyer she once was, doggedly committed and well-accustomed to trying to make a liberal silk purse out of any sow's ear she's presented with, Justice Ginsburg (joined by Justice Souter) says the Eighth Amendment absolutely requires executioners to tickle the condemned murderer's eyelashes to make sure he's really deeply unconscious. And they also have to call his name. (Probably tenderly, but that's just my interpretation.) Because he might just be dozing. I somehow missed the eyelash-tickling/dozing discussions in the Federalist Papers, but Justice Ginsberg's analysis is all part and parcel of the liberal theory of jurisprudence which believes in a "living, breathing, and even occasionally flinching-when-tickled Constitution."
I didn't make up that stuff about the eyelash tickling. But that's exactly the kind of constitutional analysis, and the kind of SCOTUS Justices, that the current Democratic presidential candidates want. Clinton-42 appointed Justice Ginsberg, and either a Pres. Clinton-44 or a Pres. Obama would appoint clones of her. So I ask you again, my gentle readers of the conservative persuasion: Do you still think that, consistent with your love of country and Constitution, you can afford to sit out the 2008 general election because you're disappointed with the GOP's nomination of John McCain?
There will certainly be new death warrants signed in Texas within the next few days, and executions will resume by the end of May or June. No matter how many different opinions the SCOTUS produced, the state trial and appellate courts, and the federal district and circuit courts, can all readily tell that the current freeze on executions has been lifted by a 7-to-2 vote. Lawyers for capital defendants will try to squeeze through the tiny notch that the Roberts and Alito opinions left open, but it's not going to happen — not until some substantial number of state legislatures, or Congress, come up with a better execution protocol.
And to be clear: I hope those legislatures will try to do exactly that. Despite my snark, this is a serious topic that raises hard and important questions of public policy. But not hard questions of constitutional law. Let the legislative committees commission and then examine their experts' reports; let the executive agencies refine their procedures. All that should go forward. But a mostly well-functioning method of execution — as an instrument of public justice in those states that have chosen the death penalty — ought not be halted because it's short of perfect, or because there are arguably better methods and protocols "out there" yet to be discovered, defined, and implemented.
Final question: Is this choice of quotation (and its unacknowledged black comedic pun) an example of Chief Justice Robert's dry wit? Or am I just being hypersensitive, as a sometimes defense lawyer whose clients once included the local electric utility?
By 1915, 11 other States had followed suit, motivated by the "well-grounded belief that electrocution is less painful and more humane than hanging." Malloy v. South Carolina, 237 U.S. 180, 185 (1915).
"Well-grounded"? Well, yes.
UPDATE (Wed Apr 16 @ 9:20pm): Lots of well-chosen blockquotes at Althouse will give you more flavor in the various Justices' own words, but alas, Prof. A mostly withholds her own reactions (at least until she responds to some comments). And Dodd at OTB has an admirably concise scorecard if you got lost in my comparatively long-winded analysis.
UPDATE (Thu Apr 17 @ 2:22pm): Prof. Kerr has now posted his promised thoughts on the case, which include an apt comeback to Justice Stevens' claim that
the Supreme Court's decisions "retain[ing] the death penalty as a part of our law" have been "the product of habit and inattention." The Supreme Court is inattentive to the death penalty like college guys are inattentive to women and beer.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Recordings and Sen. Obama's "politics of purpose"
Some folks are faulting the blogger who recorded, then reported, Sen. Barack Obama's comments at a San Francisco fund-raiser about "bitter" small-town voters who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them." They argue that intimate fund-raisers like this one "are always off the record," such that Sen. Obama was fully justified in being less careful with his language than he would have been had he known it was going to be recorded for public scrutiny.
They're obviously unfamiliar with even the very thin record of legislative accomplishments that Sen. Obama can claim in either the Illinois or U.S. Senates. From his campaign website:
Amid the partisanship and bickering of today's public debate, [Obama] still believes in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose — a politics that puts solving the challenges of everyday Americans ahead of partisan calculation and political gain.
In the Illinois State Senate, ... after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, Senator Obama worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.
So: If a recording can be used to undercut a capital murder prosecution, that's good. If a recording can be used to expose a side of a Democratic presidential candidate that he'd rather conceal, that's bad.
Such is Sen. Obama's "politics of purpose" — as practiced, if not as preached.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
NYT chooses picture that reveals much about Dubya
From Fox News (emphasis mine):
White House officials are criticizing The New York Times for publishing a photo they see as editorially unfair.
Accompanying an article on Friday about this week's NATO summit in Romania, The Times included a very large photo — almost half a page in size — that showed President Bush standing somewhat alone. The shot was taken moments before the NATO group photo, as leaders were looking for their positions on the platform. But President Bush had obviously found his.
White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said, "Only The New York Times would choose a photo of the president standing alone during a week when NATO allies instead stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him on our security policies."
President Bush achieved two major goals during this week's summit: NATO leaders unanimously endorsed the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe and agreed to provide more troops for the war in Afghanistan.
Here's the picture, which accompanied this article, entitled "NATO Endorses Europe Missile Shield":
With the additional information Fox provides, however, that I've bold-faced in the block quote above, this picture is indeed very characteristic of Dubya — a man whose presidency has been the opposite of Bill Clinton's in most respects, including Clinton's famous proclivity to ramble, delay, and show up late. If the next goal on the checklist is a group picture, Dubya goes ahead and hits his spot, leading by example and deed, not by mere rhetoric. With him, being gregarious doesn't get in the way of action.
International meetings like these are mostly photo ops anyway — based on instructions given by their respective principals, the diplomacy has mostly been done beforehand between the actual diplomats, whose bosses are then expected to shake hands, hit their spots, and smile for the cameras before the press conferences. George W. Bush doesn't have to literally glad-hand or arm-twist to remind anyone present that without American leadership — from its founding in 1949 to today — there would be no NATO, and certainly no effective alliance between America and the fragmented, argumentative, over-cautious, and self-obsessed European states.
The other leaders are mostly shown looking down to find their spots. Dubya was already in his. Next order of business?
Friday, April 04, 2008
Is Obama still smoking while hiding and denying it?
I've written very recently of my sympathy for Sen. Obama's difficulty in trying to quit his cigarette habit. It literally took a heart attack three years ago to get me to stop, and even so, the last time I had a craving for a cigarette was ... oh, about six seconds ago. I am certainly not one of those ex-smokers who's become completely intolerant of those who still indulge, or those who have tried to quit without success so far. And I am, and always will be, vulnerable to the possibility of resuming the habit. So I'm slow to condemn smokers.
But it's disturbing to have my suspicions renewed that Sen. Obama's not only a chronic smoker, but a chronic liar about whether he's been successful in quitting. Jake Tapper of ABC News blogged yesterday about an episode from last August in which he'd smelled cigarette smoke on Sen. Obama, despite the campaign's emphatic denials that he'd still been smoking. And Tapper was apparently reminded of that episode by Obama's vague and evasive statements on the topic of his smoking on MSNBC's
Hardball Softball with Chris Matthews on Wednesday:
MATTHEWS: When did you have your last cigarette?
OBAMA: You know —
MATTHEWS: Was that the last time you cried? What was that like?
Because that shows—Bush the president gave up booze. I always thought that was an impressive thing about him. I gave it up. I know how hard it is. You just give it up cold turkey. What was it like to you and what advice can you give these kids?
OBAMA: Don’t start.
MATTHEWS: Don’t start. What does it take, besides a lot of people watching you, in your case —
OBAMA: Having your wife say on "60 Minutes" that if you see Barack with a cigarette, let me know. That —
MATTHEWS: No cheating.
OBAMA: Well, you know—
MATTHEWS: No cheating.
OBAMA: I fell off the wagon a couple times during the course of it, and then was able to get back on. But it is a struggle like everything else. And I think that it is important to just keep in mind, I have a nine-year-old daughter and a six-year-old daughter. And I want to give them away in their weddings and I want to see my grand kids, and I want to set a good example for all these young people here, and I want to make sure as president of the United States, everybody knows that I’m going to try to stay healthy. I need you guys to stay healthy, too, because we need to bring our health care costs down.
MATTHEWS: How many smokers are there here right now? Smokers stand up. Smokers stand up. Come on. Be honest. Come on! Smokers.
OBAMA: All right, guys.
MATTHEWS: Talk to these people.
OBAMA: You need to get it straight. You guys need get on the case.
MATTHEWS: I applaud this school, a very low smoking school. Or else a very dishonest school. Let me ask you, any time in this campaign, did you have a chuckle that you just couldn’t get rid of?
Something weird that happened; it was so crazy that you just went to bed laughing about it.
OBAMA: I think that happens once a day. But then I stopped watching cable news.
(If you have any doubt about how deep a dive "into the tank" Matthews and MSNBC have taken for Obama, this transcript should end it. You can almost hear the tiny gears in Matthews' tiny mind turning — "Oh my God, I've actually asked a hardball question that demands a specific answer that might be embarrassing! Verbal grenade! Must smother it with my own body and blather so no one will notice and the candidate doesn't have to answer!")
I want to know the answer to that question: When exactly was the most recent occasion on which you had so much as one puff off anyone's cigarette, Senator? Or if we ask, "How long has it been?" are you going to have to respond "What time is it now?"
I'm very much reminded of the contrast when Fred Thompson was asked, while he was still in the race, what his "guilty pleasures" were. Fred said he didn't have any guilty pleasures. He enjoys a good cigar now and then, Fred said, but he doesn't feel guilty about it. And Fred doesn't lie about it, or try to conceal his habit from those who may think less of him for it.
If the more truthful current description of Obama would be "an occasional smoker who's still trying to quit" than "an ex-smoker who suffers occasional relapses," then Obama and his campaign should use the more accurate description.
Given other, far more serious vices to which he's admitted indulging in his youth but claims to have overcome, the current deception is particularly troublesome. I'm also a willing customer for the "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible" line of apology and explanation. But in general, episodes of falling off the wagon become progressively less forgivable, and the pattern of concealment and cover-up that people use to hide one bad habit not infrequently hides more than one. When the concealment generally works, it encourages continued concealment, and sometimes (see, e.g., Eliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, Gary Hart, Barney Frank, etc.) it encourages even more recklessness.
Recklessness is a quality that Americans voters should and do try to weed out of their presidential candidates, if you'll excuse that pun.
Even in the nanny-state America that your party is trying to move us toward, Senator, in which cigarette smoking will eventually become a criminal offense — anywhere and everywhere, even by consenting and well-informed adults who are heavily taxed for the privilege — the Nixon Rule will still prevail: It's not the crime, it's the cover-up that brings down most politicians.
Are you covering up, Senator? If so, you should quit that, even if you can't quite quit smoking yet. You don't have to give us a daily progress report on your attempts to quit, or engage in extended self-flagellation if you've put those efforts aside for a while. You don't have to flaunt the bad habit either, and indeed, you shouldn't. But when asked, be honest about it. If you can truthfully say "It's been four days since I've had a cigarette," say that, and be proud of it, but don't exaggerate that into a claim that you've successfully "kicked the habit" yet.
UPDATE (Fri Apr 4 @ 2:30pm): AllahPundit is amused that Tapper feels so betrayed, but asks: "What right does a presidential candidate have to lie to a nosy reporter about something that’s totally irrelevant to the election and therefore none of his business?" InstaPundit answers (italics his): "Say, every right in the world?" But Tom Maguire demurs: "[I]f he is lying to us and to his wife, not to mention whiny reporters, well, that is modestly newsworthy.... No stone left unturned, or unthrown, says I."
I think Tom understates the case for the relevance of this to the campaign, and AllahPundit and Prof. Reynolds, uncharacteristically for them both, seem to be completely missing it. This isn't about finding flaws to pick at. This is a window into Obama's personality. It starts by telling us something about his personal judgments in the past, like his disclosure of his past marijuana and cocaine usage, but it goes on to tell us about his willpower now. It tells us something at least as important about his health prospects as John McCain's melanoma history. But by far the most important thing this could tell us is about his authenticity. It's not just whether he's been lying to his wife or whiny reporters. It's whether he's still lying to the American people, who are very much trying to get to know him so they can decide whether to entrust him with the presidency.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Dear Dr. Dean: Amputate, but don't deny or further delay the surgery on FL & MI delegations
||Howard B. Dean III, M.D. |
Chairman, Democratic National Committee
||William J. Dyer a/k/a "Beldar"|
Conservative Republican lawyer-blogger
||Florida & Michigan delegations, |
2008 Denver Democratic National Convention
Doctors like getting advice from lawyers on non-legal matters about as much as doctors like being sued by lawyers on medico-legal matters. Add in that I'm a conservative Republican who holds you in laughably low regard and who's consistently mocked you since 2003, and this memo is almost certain to go straight to the bottom of your circular file.
But even a blind pig can occasionally find an acorn; even a Republican can occasionally see something about the Democratic Party that's obscure to a Democrat; and even a lawyer can occasionally persuade a doctor that his stubborn pride is about to result in an incredible injustice. (Okay, I made that last part up; it's actually never happened in the history of the world, at least in this particular quantum universe. But there's always a first time. Well, not always. But maybe.)
Although you've been reasonably successful in concealing it, you probably have a favorite between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That would only be human, but it ought not matter for purposes of the discussion in this memo. Indeed, as one of your political opponents, I used to be convinced that the best thing for the GOP would be for the Dems to nominate Hillary. But I'm now persuaded that my party ought to be able to beat either of them. Or put another way, either Obama or Clinton would make an incredibly attractive target for my scorn and ridicule leading up to the 2008 election. Either as a voter or a blogger, I'm now mostly indifferent on the subject of who your party nominates.
I'm about to assert a proposition that you may find hard to believe, suffering as you do from chronic Bush Derangement Syndrome and the sclerotic cerebral arteries that are too often characteristic of your original highly opinionated profession (and altogether too common in my own):
Completely apart from their own political preferences, Republicans — as Americans — might actually give a damn about whether your party disenfranchises 1.75 million Democratic primary voters from Florida and 600k Democratic primary voters from Michigan. In fact, many of us do. And as much as we might enjoy the continuing SNAFU within your party over your ham-handed, inflexible, and uninspired leadership on this issue, we actually share in your own party primary voters' interests that their votes count for something instead of for nothing.
Put bluntly: If you beat us next November, it would be better for the country, including us Republicans, that you have done so fair and square, against the nominee who is genuinely the preference of your party. And if we beat you next November, it's likewise better for the country, including us Republicans, that we have done so fair and square, against the nominee who is genuinely the preference of your party. Donkey or elephant, our new president will need all the political credibility he or she can muster in order to succeed or fail on his/her own.
Despite your own weird leftist leanings, I believe you actually have a strong moralistic core (albeit with a version of "morality" that varies considerably from my own). Before you became a politician, you often made recommendations to your patients and their families that they found unpleasant; occasionally, in emergencies, you were obliged to act even without their fully informed consent simply to save your patients' lives for long enough for them to climb the learning- and decision-making curves. On those occasions, you acted as a sort of trustee, certainly a fiduciary, of your patients' own interests.
And so too, now, due to your power and position as Chairman of the DNC, you're called upon to make recommendations and, if necessary to avoid calamity, even to act precipitously.
Here are the simple facts of this political emergency, which is as compelling and urgent as any medical emergency you ever faced in your training and career as a physician:
If you capitulate totally to the Obama campaign, stick to your guns against Billary, and refuse to honor the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries in any manner, you run a serious risk of killing your patient.
If you capitulate totally to the Clinton campaign, retroactively rescind all of the penalties threatened, and seat all of the delegates from Florida and Michigan as if those primaries were wholly legitimate, you run a serious risk of killing your patient.
But: If you compromise — if you recognize that a lingering infection of illegitimacy must be excised decisively through amputation — your patient may yet live, and recover to the point that some time in 2009, regardless of how the November 2008 election came out, no one will be arguing with a straight face that your decision back in April 2008 was outcome-determinative.
Amputate now, rather than deny or even further delay the necessary surgery. Amputate now, so that your party's worst-afflicted limbs may have a little time to heal, and that the remaining primaries will remain meaningful (and indeed, possibly outcome determinative). Amputate now, lest your remaining choices, after more delay, all turn entirely unacceptable.
Indulge in the practical reality that for almost all of the Michigan voters, "uncommitted" or "Richardson" or "Biden" meant "anyone but Hillary." There's only one such candidate left, so give precisely one-half of the delegates generated by those votes to Obama (who wasn't on the ballot). Give Clinton exactly one-half of the delegates that would have been generated by the votes cast for her.
Do the same for Florida: Hillary gets half of her delegates, and Obama gets half of the delegates who'd have gone to him and the other candidates.
Meantime, irrespective of the delegate count, declare in your most solemn voice that every vote has been counted, and every vote counts — and that for purposes ever after of reporting and recording the popular vote from the Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries, every vote cast in them shall be deemed to count in full.
Therein lies the master component of the compromise, sir: For this declaration will enable Hillary to argue to the super-delegates, for what it's worth (and with obvious factual backup), that to the extent they consider popular vote totals in making their own decisions, they ought to consider every popular vote, including those from Michigan and Florida, which after all are large swing states likely to actually be in play in November 2008.
The controversy will be over. Your party will have re-enfranchised its voters — entirely for purposes of the nonbinding popular vote, and fully half-way, exactly as the GOP did, for purposes of the resulting delegates — from Florida and Michigan. You don't have to admit that the GOP was smarter than you in the way it handled this from the outset, but you can still use the "parity with our opponents" argument to buttress your decision.
Clinton won't be hurt as badly, and Obama won't be helped as much, in the pledged delegate count as if neither state's delegations were counted at all. But the net change won't be outcome determinative. Nor will it even change the current front-runner: Obama will still be ahead (for now) in both pledged delegates and popular votes, albeit by a smaller margin than if no delegates or popular votes from those two states were counted.
Finally, besides giving the Clintonistas another talking point with the super-delegates, you clarify what Clinton must do, and what Obama must prevent her from doing, in the remaining primaries — in a fair way, and in time for it to matter.
Regarding that last crucial point: If — with the benefit of the undiluted popular vote counts from Florida and Michigan — Clinton can go on to gain a slight majority in the total popular votes after adding in the next (and final) 10 primaries, then her argument to persuade super-delegates to recognize her (arguably better) general election prospects becomes as clear-cut as it possibly can be.
If, by contrast, Obama hangs on to even a razor-thin popular vote majority (or even denies one to Clinton), as well as keeping his lead in pledged delegates, then Clinton's pitch to the super-delegates will almost certainly fail.
Given current polls and the cold, hard mathematics, Clinton has an uphill, but far from impossible, task in catching up on popular votes even with Florida and Michgan counting fully. The result would be far from pre-ordained. Rather, it should re-energize both campaigns, and the voters in all 10 remaining primary states!
And immediately, you're a hero. You've sliced through the Gordian knot. You've eliminated dispute over the past, and you've returned all the focus to the future — i.e., the remaining 10 primaries and, perhaps, the convention.
You won't have solved the potential problem of the super-delegates producing a different result than the pledged delegates alone would have produced. But that's a bigger, separate, and still hypothetical problem that you should be glad to kick down the road a few more months.
After the election, regardless of its outcome, address the awful problem of the too-long primary race, too many debates that include too many pygmy candidates, and primary-date gun-jumping states by agreeing with your GOP counterpart to appoint a bipartisan commission (chaired by, say, Sam Nunn and Hailey Barbour) to propose new federal legislation that would be parallel and binding on all states. But for now:
Amputate. The gangrene is climbing up toward your party's vitals from two limbs whose effective use, even through a prosthetic, will be badly needed in the general election. Those limbs will need time to heal, and you can't risk waiting any longer.
Just find someone at The New Republic or Brookings to make this same proposal tomorrow, so that you don't have to credit me for the solution and you can save face. Don't worry: I won't sue.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
A soccer game on a steamy spring afternoon in Houston
The drizzle earlier in the afternoon hadn't been enough to wash the high-count grass and tree pollen out of the air. With brilliant shafts of late afternoon spring sunshine now wandering across the soccer field, this was definitely a "two coats of sunscreen" day, and you you could almost, but not quite, see the clouds of humidity just above the grass. Of course, no one who really knows Houston would have mistaken today for August, but the conditions were still far from ideal. And when the other team's bus driver took them to the wrong middle school, the prospect of a win by forfeit for the home-team Johnston Greyhounds grew more attractive, at least to the adult fans present.
Still, the other team wanted to play, and this was already a make-up game for one rained out earlier in the season. Anyway, the seventh and eighth grade girls on the Greyhounds hadn't signed up for varsity soccer just to compile a record. They wanted to play too. And so they cheered when the other team's bus finally hove into view.
The littlest Greyhound had already renewed her generous coat of sunscreen. She demonstrated once again for her dad how well she'd learned (from him, or at least with his encouragement) to rinse her mouth with a huge gulp of tepid water. She gargled, and then spat it onto the ground with such forceful defiance as to mock the very idea that boys, or men, might also try to play this game from time to time.
During the first minute, the Greyhounds squelched an offensive threat from their opponents just in front of the home goal, and the visitors had all turned tail to trot back onto defense. Except somehow, the ball was still on the ground, rolling uncontrolled and fairly slowly. Rolling right into the Greyhounds' goal. Visitors 1, Home 0.
The next five minutes of the first half featured several sharp battles for control at midfield, during three or maybe four of which the littlest Greyhound, a defensive mid-fielder, charged into a clump of taller, heavier girls sprinting with the ball toward the Greyhounds' end of the field. Each such encounter ended with the littlest Greyhound sprawled or sitting on the ground, sometimes with and sometimes without an opponent there too, but always with the ball safely diverted way upfield. The visitors began to look at her like she might be slightly crazy, maybe dangerous, certainly fierce and fearless — even though one good, strong breeze would have seemed likely to blow this seventh-grader (who could easily pass for a fourth-grader) off-field like a dandelion puff.
It was still 1/0 at the half, despite most of the first half having been played near the Visitors' goal and in their end of the field. After that flukey first score, the Greyhound's goalie had only touched the ball about three times total. But in the second half, I don't think she touched it at all; the Visitors never had a serious shot on goal.
Roughly four minutes into the second half, the Greyhounds had a corner kick-in. The Greyhounds' strongest kicker boomed a line drive just about six feet above the ground, but with a wicked spin that brought the ball arcing back slightly toward the far corner of the goal. In a split-second, instinctive reaction, one of the Greyhounds' eighth grade captains leaped into the air and executed a perfect header, sending the ball slightly up but at a sharper angle — directly into the top back corner of the Visitors' goal. The whole play took less than a second, and if we'd caught it on video, it would be climbing up the YouTube popularity ratings tonight.
That electrified the Greyhounds — and indeed, it was their most exciting goal so far this entire season — and also unnerved the Visitors. The Greyhounds' next two (and final) goals followed within the next three minutes; each was on a perfectly executed set play, culminating in a deft pass from the center forward to a trailing wing with an unimpeded shot at the goal.
The Visitors had more raw athletic ability, and they were bigger and about as fast. But they lacked both finesse and fundamentals, and more importantly, they lacked teamwork. After the Greyhounds' all-stars highlight-film (if only we'd had video!) first goal, though, you could see the Greyhounds' confidence grow with every successive minute. Their faces reflected new confidence that yes, these techniques can work! and yes, we're a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts!
The final score was Visitors 1, Greyhounds 3. And overall, it was an entirely typical girls' soccer game, pretty much like hundreds of others played around the country and the world today.
My own voice is gone tonight and will be hoarse tomorrow, though, and I wish I had even a photo or two of the Greyhounds in their new, deep-purple jerseys, black shorts, and purple socks. If you haven't guessed, the littlest Greyhound — the one whose size-smallest jersey reaches almost to her knees and whose butt was covered in mud and dust by halftime — is my youngest, Molly (age 13).
Molly's other news of the day was that she had received the results of her class' most recent Stanford Achievement Tests. She'd been frustrated by this test for the last couple of years, because in each of those years she'd had one subject or another (a different one each year) in which her scores didn't quite reach the PHS ("post-high school") level. This year, though, Molly had all PHS scores. (Q: "So, kid, are you ready to just skip high school?" A: "Naw, high school will be too much fun to miss it, Dad.") That, plus some good defensive play and a team win, made today a good day for her, which in turn helped make it a good day for me, too.
Webb as Obama's Veep choice?
James Joyner speculates about the possibility that Barack Obama might choose a fellow first-termer, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), as his running mate. (H/t InstaPundit.) That prospect tickles my funny bone, so I'll republish here (with modifications and additions) a comment I originally left on an Althouse post some time ago:
George Soros' head would instantly explode if Obama picked Jim Webb as his Veep nominee. Are Democratic 527s the main beneficiaries of his estate planning, I wonder?
The thought of Webb and Obama sharing a ticket really makes me giggle. I can envision a joint appearance with Webb getting into gear about the Scots-Irish and their heritage, and how they provided the work ethic which built the United States into the greatest country in the world — all while Michelle Obama silently seethes.
Then Barack Obama would explain that the Second Amendment permits the District of Columbia to ban handguns outright. At that exact moment, Webb would slyly nudge his briefcase, with its Glock and three extra magazines of ammo, further under the table.
Midway through Rev. Wright's closing benediction, I would expect Webb to engage him in a fist-fight.