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Friday, October 04, 2002

Georgewillian Conflation

Tony Adragna
Will, there's much drawing of linkages between Bush v. Gore and the case from NJ — with especial attention to how both cases are attempts by Democrats to thwart law. Goerge Will's "The Democrats' Torricellian Twist" is an exemplar of the argument:
The Times -- sometimes a stickler for legality, sometimes not -- said "legal wrangling over ballot access cannot be allowed to obscure the central issue, which is one of democracy." Here we go again.

Now people may fully understand the recklessness of what Al Gore almost accomplished in Florida. Unhappy about the result the political process was producing, he tried, with the assistance of a compliant state Supreme Court, to rewrite the rules of the process....

For 36 days in Florida in 2000, Democrats displayed ferocious contempt for any rules under which they do not win. Next month, voters everywhere should consider the New Jersey spectacle when weighing how much power Democrats deserve.
'Course, I'm not the type of "partisan" of whom Jane Galt speaks: I can ditinguish the cases — I think the Florida Supreme Court was correct, but I disagree with the NJ Supreme Court. Why?

Let me start with where I think the cases are similar: Neither one is about "changing the rules". While both courts did deal with statutes, they also looked to their own precedent in cases where equitable relief was sought from the effect of strict adherence to statutory language. Notwithstanding that a party may disagree with how a court interprets statute and applies precedent, a court applying its own precedent can hardly be accused of "changing the rules".

It's clear that both of these courts have a history of looking at the relevant statutes not as locked doors — come late and you can't get in — but as guarded gates through which the porter may let one pass if the proprer words are spoken. The proper words in these cases are — or ought be: This remedy is needed to protect the rights of voters. I can't imagine any court in this country not granting relief, consistent with principles of equity and constitutional law, in the interest of protecting voters rights despite statute, so long as the harm being addressed is real and the remedy is practicable.

Now I come to where I think the cases diverge: Facts & Circumstances.

In Florida an election happened, the result of which was so close that state law mandated a recount. The Democrats initially asked for a manual recount on Nov 8, well within the time prescribed by statute. A controvery arose over whether the deadline for reporting totals (Nov 14) had the effect of making recounts impracticable — there was no way that the recounts could be completed in time.

There was also a dispute over the circumstances under which state law allowed candidates to seek manual recounts — the state arguing that manual counts are allowed only when it's demonstrated that the mechanical tabulation is faulty due to mechanical error v. the Democrats argument that manual counts are allowed whenever a mechanical count fails to record the "intent of the voter" even if that failure is due to voter error (undervotes & overvotes).

The Florida Supreme Court looked at that record and found that candidate Gore was harmed not by his own negligence, but by denial of a state law right. The extension of the deadline was not a "rule change", but a case specific remedy. Further, the legislature enacted nothing more specific than the "intent of the voter" standard. The Court fashioned an equitable remedy that was well founded in precedent — both the court's own record and the conduct of Florida elections.

As the Florida Fiasco evolved toward its culmination before the US Supreme Court, so did the issues in dispute and the arguments on both sides. The case finally reached the point where even if the Supremes had agreed with Florida's high court, there was in practice no remedy available — the final opinion in Bush v. Gore left it to the state court to do the impossible.

But, wherever you come down on this record, it is at least a dispute where both parties sought to protect voters from some real harm — disparate treatment, or invalidation of votes that had already been cast. On that point I would — if I were on the court — join Justice Stevens' dissent:
As the majority explicitly holds, once a state legislature determines to select electors through a popular vote, the right to have one's vote counted is of constitutional stature. As the majority further acknowledges, Florida law holds that all ballots that reveal the intent of the voter constitute valid votes. Recognizing these principles, the majority nonetheless orders the termination of the contest proceeding before all such votes have been tabulated. Under their own reasoning, the appropriate course of action would be to remand to allow more specific procedures for implementing the legislature's uniform general standard to be established.
In the NJ case, I'm of a different opinion. I disagree with the NJ Supreme Court because I don't think the facts & circumstances warrant a remedy. I don't see who is harmed by leaving Torricelli on the ballot — except those who would rather have someone else on the ballot.

Torricelli missed the statutory deadline not because some other party wouldn't let him proceed in a timely manner, or because he attempted to proceed in a timely manner but wouldn't have met the deadline anyway — he missed the deadline simply because he didn't want to withdraw at that point.

The circumstance in which Torricelli decided to withdraw — voters don't feel good 'bout him and polls revealed that he was set to lose — are not extraordinary, but part of the regular political process.

On a review of this record, I don't see how the court decided as it did...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
News Judgment The NBC Nightly News yesterday did a long segment on the shootings in Maryland, but then inexplicably followed with a segment on the nutcase shooter at the UN, almost equating the two. The News Hour yesterday mentioned the UN shooter, but not the Maryland shootings.

Two Boys From Baghdad and a Grown-up E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a great column in today's WP about Mike Thompson, the congressman who went to Baghdad with Bonoir and McDermott, but refused to grandstand:

Just deliver the message you intended to send and skip the news conferences. That's what Thompson did: "My message to the officials was: If they want to prevent a war, they need to prevail upon Saddam Hussein to provide unrestricted, unfettered access to the weapons inspectors." Bonior insisted he and McDermott were saying the same thing, but that message got, shall we say, diluted with their comments on Bush and their criticism of sanctions.

The anti-war crowd isn't as interested in preventing war as they are in taking down President Bush. They are actually hurting the Democrats and they'd get a lot more traction if they concentrated on the war issue.

Krugman "Erred" Score one for Andrew Sullivan as the NYT's Paul Krugman finally issues a correction for citing an unsubstantiated email.

Razor-Thin Professor Larry Sabato has updated his fall election Crystal Ball. Only 7 House races are true "toss-ups" now. The action is in the Senate:

Even partisans should be convinced by now. The battle for the Senate will go right down to the wire.

NJ has been moved from "leans Republican" to "leans Democrat." It will be interesting to see the first polling results for Forrester v. Lautenberg. The Professor has a good analysis of that race and the Missouri Senate contest.

Is QP Next? As if state employees here in Virginia didn't have enough to worry about with pending lay-offs to be announced on Oct. 15: the Virginia Department of Transportation, VDOT, has cracked down hard on internet use, firing or suspending employees.

Fifteen workers were fired, the department said yesterday, and another two resigned for using their taxpayer-supplied computer access to look at pornography Web sites. All are men.

Another 61 employees have been suspended without pay for two weeks for spending two hours or more in a day looking at Web sites that were not related to their work.

Eight contract workers also were fired for excessive Internet use

Another agency also got tough:

After a separate investigation, four State Corporation Commission employees have resigned and another was reprimanded after they were found abusing the commission's e-mail system.

"When you see instances where a person has [a personal] e-mail ratio of 10-to-1, 16-to-1, 20-to-1 to their business e-mails, that's inappropriate use," said the SCC's Ken Schrad

There are questions as to whether this discipline was selective:

Some VDOT workers say the department's policy was not enforced and the punishments were not fairly applied.

"There's a lot of confusion about this stuff," one official said about the department's zero-tolerance standard for personal use of the Internet.

"If they'd run it on zero-tolerance," said the official, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, "there'd have been a few thousand" people punished at the highway agency

My question is, were any of these employees given a warning?

Caption Contest Blues It appears that posters from The Refuge boycotted the Caption Contest en masse this past week. I did, not out of malice, but out of a total lack of inspiration. I'm trying to get fired up by the latest contest and encourage the brothers and sisters of The Refuge to do the same.

Thursday, October 03, 2002
Update 9:00 PM: I've reflected on the oral arguments, and I've figured what bothered me so much is when Forrester's counsel argued that the cases cited by plaintiff are distinguished, the banc's response was basically, "So what!" But, isn't a court of equity supposed to consider all the facts and circumstances, else how can they fashion a remedy that fits the particular case? And, if you can establish that the harm is due to some negligence on the part of those seeking relief, then shouldn't the remedy be denied? You can argue that it's the voters who are harmed, and that's true, but the voters didn't seek relief, and contributed to the harm by... well... chosing Torricelli in the primary. What am I missing?...

Proper Principle, Dumb Decision

Tony Adragna
I think you're wrong about "The Squeaky Wheels of Justice Get[ting] Greased", Will — I stayed up late last night to watch a replay of the oral arguments on C-SPAN, and it seems to me that the NJ Supreme Court had absolutely no trouble reaching their decision. It would be more apropos to say that the Justices greased the cogs of NJ's Democratic Party machine. Worst of all, though, is that the Justices didn't just help the NJ Democrats troubleshoot their malfunction, but greased the skids of the entire NJ elections administrative vehicle to give the party a free ride.

One of the Justices asked bluntly, and though I'm paraphrasing, "grease the skids" is an exact quote: What do we need to do to grease the skids so as ballots can be reprinted and sent out in time for election, thereby satisfying what we believe to be the legislative intent of the 51 day rule.

I understand that the Court needed to weigh some competing interests in order to get at an equitable remedy, and that strict adherence to statute ought give way when such adherence results in an injustice. But, I can't but agree with Forrester's counsel — the Justices relied upon a faulty assumption without which relief should have been denied.

The primary competing interests needing to be weighed — correctly cited by the Court — are "whether the dual interests of full voter choice and the orderly administration of an election can be effectuated if the relief requested by plaintiffs were to be granted"(pg 4 of the order). The Justices' understanding of the statute — to which I'll defer because... ummm... they know state law better than I do — was made clear during oral argument: The intent of the statute is nothng more than seeing that the process has sufficient time to run its course.

The Court is obviously correct regarding the statutory deadline — the deadline per se isn't sufficient to deny relief where there's sufficient time left that the administrative process can still proceed in an orderly manner. But the Court is ordering that the process go forth in an extraordinary manner — why else the need to "grease the skids" — without consideration of whether the circumstances giving rise to this request for relief are equally extraordinary.

The fact that the NJ Democratic Party has been ordered to defray the costs doesn't help — it merely says that if you've got the money, then you can buy your way out of a losing race.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
The Squeaky Wheels of Justice Get Greased The NJ Supreme Court didn't even need a night to sleep on it, Tony, cranking out their unamimous decision at warp speed. So much for all the legal scholars who looked at the law. They should have just consulted the NYT editorial page.

The court has spoken and I think it's a mistake for the Republicans to appeal. They should merely let the fetid stench of the big fix linger in the fall campaign air.

A word of warning: Republicans, unfortunately, often perfect techniques that the Democrats pioneer.

Safire Quotes Your Hero Tony, you have to love the quote that William Safire uses to describe the Democrats' power play in NJ:

"Nothing is more fatal than a dodge," young Winston Churchill told Commons in 1906. "Wrongs will be forgiven, sufferings and losses will be forgiven or forgotten . . . but anything like a trick will always rankle."

Another Horrific Crime Shades of Andrea Yates, a Norfolk, VA woman drowns her three young children, but then commits suicide by jumping off a bridge.

Shouting Out to the Cornfield

Tony Adragna
Hey Dave, how 'bout some Cornfield Commentary on the inconvenient fact that a certain Republican from Iowa opposes Mr. Bush's request for authorization:
For myself, I have enormous regard for our President and great respect for his foreign policy advisors, but I have come to the conclusion that this resolution misfits the times and the circumstances.

As powerful a case for concern as the preparatory clauses of this resolution outline, they do not justify authorization for war, particularly absent further Security Council and multinational support...
He goes on to talk about percieved America hubris "with a strong prospect of counter-productive ramifications" for the "the underlying conflict against terrorism and undercut core American values and leadership around the world." He cites concerns "rang[ing] from the dilemma of street combat to problems of post-war governance to world-wide Muslim reaction." And he says that "this resolution is based on a misunderstanding of modern science as it applies to weapons of war."

I thought it was just Democrats who were making these arguments?[Tony asks with a heaping dose of sarcasm]

Leach concludes:
Today for the first time in human history we have a doctrine of mutually assured destruction between 2 smaller countries -- Iraq and Israel -- one with biological weapons, the other nuclear. The problem is that British and American intervention could easily trigger an Iraqi biological attack on Israel which could be met by a nuclear response. Not only would we be the potential precipitating actor, but our troops could be caught in crosswinds and crossfire.

This is a circumstance we should step back from.
What's the dif between the substance of Gore's & Kennedy' opposition and the substance of Leach's opposition...

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

"A Shallow Disagreement"

Tony Adragna
WaPo's editorial board is on target vis a vis what's wrong with the dissent coming from both Gore & Kennedy: Not that it's opposed to Mr. Bush's goal in Iraq, or going to war in pursuit of that goal — there's no alternative offered by these folks because "In other words, these leading Democrats argued that the president should do exactly what he is doing . . . only not now, or not so fast."

It's only in the reason why "not now, or not so fast" that what Gore & Kennedy are doing becomes clear: though the President has gone to the UN and made a case for punitive action, Gore & Kennedy are still addressing arguments at unilateralism & preemption... In other words, they're trying to have a debate on the new doctrine, and are merely using the current case as a vehicle for that debate despite that Mr. Bush isn't pursuing the new doctrine in the current case (rhetorically he is, but not in practice)...

Update III 9:45 PM:Glenn pointed me to Mickey's comments, with which I can't disagree
Statutes? Bah! -- and both Volokh and Reynolds have the same reaction I do, namely to wonder if we missed the class in law school where they taught about the "interest of the election laws to preserve the two-party system." Volokh charges that they'd never do the same for the Socialist Party candidate -- but it looks as if the justices are pleading guilty to that charge from the outset[...] I would add that the court doesn't appear to have made any effort to discern a statutory scheme here. The operative rule seems to be: "We're going to do what we think is right unless there's an incredibly clear black-letter statute saying we can't. And then we can always declare it unconstitutional." Does the elected legislature have any role to play here at all? ...

UpdateII 8:15 PM: Color me Libertarian — the NJ Supreme court ruled for NJ Democrats. The rationale
[it] is in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system and to submit to the electorate a ballot bearing the names of candidates of both major political parties as well as of all other qualifying parties and groups.
Kilmurray v. Gilfert, 10 N.J. 435, 441 (1952);

And the Court remaining of the view that the election statutes should be liberally construed
to allow the greatest scope for public participation in the electoral process, to allow candidates to get on the ballot, to allow parties to put their candidates on the
ballot, and most importantly, to allow the voters a choice on Election Day.
Catania v. Haberle, 123 N.J. 438, 448;
There's more opining, but that's the relevant precedent. I don't see how those interests couldn't have been served by simply leaving Torricelli on the ballot notwithstanding that he's a loser — that he's a loser threatens not the two party system, limits not participation, the party had a candidate on the ballot — chosen through the primary process — and "most importantly" voters still had a choice on Election Day... hmmm... I think this ruling is bad law...

Update: I meant to address the "competitiveness" argument. There are two ways of looking at this argument: (a) If Torricelli can't be replaced on the ballot, then you still have a contest notwithstanding that he's "not competitive"; (b) If the only rationale for replacing Torricelli is that he's "not competitive", then you ought lose — neither code nor constitution guarantees the quality & effectiveness of candidates, but leaves that judgement to voters, and NJ Democratic voters screwed the pooch at the primaries.

Democrats are Too Clever In NJ

Tony Adragna
I mean "clever" in the "glibly facile" sense, Will. While we can reasonably disagree over the GOP's objection to manual counts during the 2000 elections — mechanical malfunction v. voter error — the Democrats' request was at least based on a defensible construction of the statute and reading of the case law. In New Jersey, as Dave Kopel notes, the Democrats’ argument [in support of] nominee replacement at this late date is baseless. [Actually, Dave says “appears to be baseless”, but I don’t know how it can be seen any other way — he may be making allowance for case law regarding “technicalities”, but a waiver of the technical requirement can’t be warranted when the candidate withdraws for no other reason than a sure loss]

The “too clever” argument is based on a plain language interpretation of a NJ statute on filling vacancies in “representation”. The argument assumes that the statute applies in the case of a resignation within 30 days of any general election — including a general election where the office being resigned from is on the ballot. The argument goes from there that if Torricelli resigns at the appropriate time, then the governor may appoint a successor who would be able to not only serve the rest of the term — ‘til January ’03 — but would able to serve in an appointed capacity ‘til ’04 at a minimum, or ’06 at best.

The problem with such a plain language read is that it gets at results so obviously beyond reason that there’s no way such a construction could have been the intent of any legislature (excepting some Third World “democracies”). The unreasonable result here would be the cancellation of a general election contest for no other reason than that the incumbent party fears losing ( supra: Third World “democracies”). That can’t have been that intent of the statute — indeed, a reading of the prohibition against “temporary appointments” when a vacancy is created by the expiration of a term of office makes clear that the legislature expressly intended to not allow what the plain language at some other point might suggest [the only way to fill a vacancy at term expiration is to... ummm... hold an election!]

I don’t think the Democrats are seriously considering this “too clever” argument. If they are, then I’m going to hafta go Libertarian — I can’t in principle vote Republican [certain social justice issues where myself & the GOP will never see eye-to-eye], I’ll no longer be able to [in good conscience] vote Democratic, and non-participation is no longer an option.

Dean Broder Lives: I put more weight on the President’s actions coming out more multilateral than his rhetoric, but I’ve ever been of the opinion that there’s a disconnect… Just an aside, Gwen Ifill does a good job, but I still miss Broder on t.v.

Pox Politico: I was quite surprised with the lack of acerbity in Kelly’s tone today, Will. The only thing with which I take exception is the continued insistence that McDermott et al represent “the party's mainstream” — to apply the caricature in that way seems at best lazy, and at worst deliberate dishonesty…

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Garden State Skullduggery I've thought a lot about the NJ Senate race situation, going back and forth in my mind. I've finally decided that the Democrats made their bed with Torricelli. They have to sleep with him.

If Bill Simon withdrew from the California gubernatorial race and a few GOP bosses got Richard Riordan on the ballot, Riordan would probably beat Gray Davis. Still, it would be an outrage that should not be allowed to happen. Republican primary voters chose Simon, fair and square. Absent his death or unexpected physical incapacitation, he's the choice. Political incapacitation, i.e., a lousy campaign, is not a valid reason to withdraw in favor of someone else.

So it is in NJ. The Democrats knew everything they needed to know about Torricelli except his poll numbers before the deadline to change candidates. At least in the CA hypothetical, Riordan could be construed as GOP voters' second choice, giving him a tenuous claim to the nomination if Simon withdrew. Democrats in NJ offered no alternative to Torricelli prior to his nomination. Frank Lautenberg was not on the primary ballot.

If political parties want to keep the tremendous advantage they enjoy in putting their candidates on the ballot, they must be held accountable for those they choose. It's time to hold the Democrats accountable for "The Torch."

There is a separate issue here that I'm thinking through now. With the Carnahan "election" in 2000, the Patsy Mink situation in Hawaii, and now the Torricelli contretemps, is the ever speeding information age of politics that Mickey Kaus wrote about producing an anti-democratic "loophole" in our system? Or is it even a loophole? In other words, do we need long-drawn out processes for nominations anymore, or will we have "stand-in" candidates who disappear 30 days before an election in favor of a candidate who is selected because he/she doesn't have the weaknesses of the trial balloon stand-in?

Maureen's Crystal Ball You can stay home until 2008. Maureen Dowd has seen the future:

[Hillary Clinton's] supporters have sketched out a Doomsday scenario that would catapult her into the White House:

In the flush of patriotism and empire-building, the Republicans take over the Senate and keep the House this fall. Then President Bush wins his war on Iraq. He and his inner circle become more arrogant.

General Rove, as he is known in Hillaryland, pushes through the most reactionary agenda since the Congress of Vienna, packing the courts with young right-wingers opposed to abortion and all regulations. Congress, too, gets carried away with an ultra-conservative agenda.

The maniacally centrist American public craves another correction. Right, left, right, left. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton

A Plague on Both Your Houses Instapundit has already blogged Michael Kelly's column, but I was struck by Kelly blasting both parties, even as he zeroed in on criticizing Democrats over their foreign policy:

And there is no rational way to explain the Republicans' habit of promptly passing a massive tax cut for all people named Forbes every time they are in danger of gaining popularity with all other people.

That helps explain Kelly's coda:

Parties do the darnedest things. To themselves.

Wake Up, David David Broder is supposedly the "Dean" of America's political reporters. So, today, with the biggest political story of this election season breaking--Torricelli's withdrawal--Broder mails in a warmed-over Watergate metaphor for Bush's Iraq policy.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Is Mr. Bush "Serious"?

Tony Adragna
Talk about evasion:

Bush Signs Bill on Jerusalem's Status

President Bush, at the risk of angering the Arab and Muslim worlds, yesterday signed legislation requiring the administration to identify Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a U.S. official said.

Faced with a choice between endorsing the controversial legislation passed by Congress and shutting down U.S. diplomatic activity, Bush put his name to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2003, which gives the administration more than $4 billion for running the State Department.

The White House, in a statement later, will argue that the language on Jerusalem reflects a "sense of the Congress" and is not binding for U.S. policy, a senior official said. The bill goes further on Jerusalem than previously demanded by Congress, which for years has pressed successive administrations on the related question of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Administrations have promised to make the move but have repeatedly put it off because of the ill feeling it would create in the Arab world, which considers Arab East Jerusalem to be occupied territory and the capital of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza....
Where's the "moral clarity"... where's the "for us or agin us"... why are we still mollycoddling the "Arab Street"...

I'll tell 'ya where those things are — in the rhetoric, right where it's always been, but...
Is it a newly charismatic Bush or just some clever word usage? Speechwriting director Michael Gerson declined to discuss it.
Long as I'm asking 'bout where things are, how 'bout: Where's the Truth? Bernard Lewis responds:
"As a specialist on Islam, I find myself disturbed by all the nonsense being talked, by both Muslims and non-Muslims. On the one hand, you have people who would have you believe that Islam is a bloodthirsty religion bent on world destruction. On the other hand, you have people telling us Islam is a religion of love and peace - rather like the Quakers, but less aggressive. The truth is in its usual place."
I heard Lewis make that same comment on C-SPAN the other night, and it struck me as a rebuke to much of what I've read in the Blogosphere...

BTW, I also saw Hagel's remarks yesterday, and I wasn't at all surprised... probably because I was paying attention while he's been saying the very same thing all along — anybody following the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings since July 31st knows that it was never just the Democrats pushing Mr. Bush to "make the case", and it was never a partisan ploy...

So, OK... I had to work today and didn't have time to read anything other than WaPo...

Monday, September 30, 2002

Democratic Dilemma

Tony Adragna
I think today's Novak column hits closer to the target than any other piece I've read so far. The Democrats' dilemma is about finding a way to oppose Mr. Bush on policy — both foreign and domestic — without allowing a "slender fraction of House Democrats who flatly oppose this war" to be put forward as representing what is, in fact, not the party's position vis a vis what to do about Iraq.

At the same time that the Democratic Party leadership is trying to make sure that a marginal position remains on the margin, dissenters within the party and politicking from the GOP have been arguing that the party leadership doesn't really support military action against Hussein, but have only gotten to that point for the most unserious and insincere reasons — a political calculus that says going to war is better than losing leadership of the Senate.[ Lets not forget that "Daschle has responded with defenses of Bush's sincerity" while Daschle's own is being questioned from right & left]

But that calculus had nothing to do with the party's decision to support Mr. Bush on going to war against Iraq. It's clear that the leadership of the party has only opposed Mr. Bush on unitaralism and preemption, not wanting to see Iraq become a test case for those two aspects of the Bush Doctrine. That Mr. Bush went to the UN and made a case for punitive action — we need to act together to see that Hussein complies — rather than preemptive action, and that the President asked for a Congressional Resolution, mooted the Democratic leadership's opposition. The question then becomes: Do we deal with the issue in a timely manner — on the President's timeline — and hope we can get back to the domestic agenda sometime before the election, or do we find another reason to oppose the President on Iraq?

Finding another reason is really not an option — it's untenable on both political and logical grounds. To have the President cede his position on the most salient criticisms only to have his compromise met with partisan political oppositionism — rather than principled opposition — would be political suicide. And make no mistake, a reiveiw of how the Democratic Party's position on Iraq and it's position on the use of force has evolved over the last 10 years would prove an inconsistency with current attempts to argue against regime change and the application of military force to effect compliance with international norms.

A case on point is Rep. McDermott's position. I would commend his concern for the impact on children that's caused by sanctions against Iraq — an issue he signed on to in '98 and '00 — but I agree with the writer who in '98 noted that "Rep. Jim McDermott showed the moral fortitude of a Chihuahua (not to mention the mental aptitude of a walnut)". And how to square McDermott's current opposition to military action when in Dec '98 he he voted in support of a resolution "expressing congressional support for troops in and around Persian Gulf and for efforts to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power in Iraq", I haven't a clue. Well, I do really — it's partisan oppositionism rather than principled opposition.

That's what's got the "peace party" folks all riled up — that the Democratic leadership is trying to work with the administration to get at the best outcome on dealing with Iraq, instead of against the administration simply because we're the opposition party.

That Daschle "caved" on timing of a vote on a resolution — before instead of after the election, and expeditiously rather than after a lengthy debate — was because he had no other choice. The timing was dictated not by domestic political considerations, but by the fact that Mr. Bush chose the most opportune time to make his case to the international community — his speech at the opening of the General Assembly. As truncated as the schedule is, the President needs to know fairly soon whether he's got the support of Congress.

But, to say that the debate has been truncated is misleading — not only has the debate been going on for some time now, but the way that it was conducted actually brought the administration to a position that skeptics on both sides of the aisle could support.

Notwithstanding assertions that there are going to be legislators voting in support of a resolution against their own judgement — and David Brooks even went so far as to admit that the assertion applies to members in both parties — my sense is that votes against are where you'll find the unprincipled votes — unless you consider oppositionism for its own sake a virtue.

We do still need to get to a debate on the Bush Doctrine, on which there's disagreement over the implications of unilateralism & preemption, but I agree with Jackson Diehl:
That Colin Powell now is negotiating the text of another Security Council resolution on U.N. inspections with Russia, Syria and France points to the real weakness of the Bush doctrine -- not that it is too radical but that it lacks the political momentum needed to overcome decades of encrusted old thinking and bureaucratic inertia. It's not just that liberal academics haven't signed on to the new doctrine. Inside the administration, it's hard to find anyone -- other than Rice -- who subscribes to every part of it. Instead, some push the unilateral offense, some the democratic nation-building -- and no one quite gets his or her way. In practice, despite all the alarms, the administration's foreign policy, when not entirely paralyzed by internal infighting, mostly follows the old norms.
Until the administration gets "serious" about whether it intends on pursuing this new doctrine, or simply wants to maintain the rhetoric of "scary word[s] used to motivate the United Nations", there's no hurry to get to this debate.

Larry Live

Will Vehrs
University of Virginia Professor and pundit Larry Sabato took questions today about the fall elections at the Washington Post's online site. QP readers know that I've been following Professor Sabato's updates of the mid-term elections that can found here.

Sabato reported during the Q & A that he had been told Senator Torricelli would deny breaking reports that he is withdrawing from the NJ race.

Update: Apparently, Professor Sabato got some bad info because Torricelli is expected to withdraw any minute now ... it's 5:06 EST and I'm watching CNN, waiting for the press conference. Jeff Greenfield is speculating on what will happen once The Torch withdraws ... having a Democratic Governor and Democratic Attorney General in NJ helps the Democrats in several possible scenarios.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Defending the Baghdad Boys? Today we should see some brave souls rise to defend Jim McDermott and David Bonior. I'm waiting to be convinced that these two short-sleeved tourists are mere peace-seeking ambassadors and not dupes for Saddam.

Bizarre Byrd I've been noting for some time that Senator Robert Byrd (D, WV) is losing effectiveness due to his advanced age. Senator Strom Thurmond (R, SC) has been ineffective for years, but at least the GOP leadership and Thurmond's staff knew enough to keep the old man out of the public eye. Not so with Byrd, as Bob Novak pointed out yesterday:

The 84-year-old, eight-term president pro tem of the Senate has taken the floor with increasing frequency to deliver long, meandering attacks on the Bush administration. He has accused the executive branch of attempting unconstitutional seizure of power in the prospective war against Iraq, homeland security and federal spending.

Novak claims Byrd's colleagues are becoming concerned.

Consistently Safire William Safire lumps the Bush Administration in with the Clinton Administration today:

Remember, a couple of years ago, the scandals about the way corporate giants like Hughes Electronics and Loral Space, led by big Democratic contributors, sold secret U.S. satellite technology to Chinese aerospace companies and semiconductor manufacturers?

Remember how right-wingers like me got all worked up about our shortsighted government and venal executives placing the interests of international trade over the needs of national defense?

I am ashamed to report that the Bush administration is getting ready to let our ever-hungry multinationals do the same thing

Safire, unlike some of his fellow columnists on the NYT op-ed pages, is independent and willing to criticize his own "side."

A Rare Glimpse Most of us only follow the partisan hearings for the confirmation of judges to the various Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Once the hearings are over, unless we're in the legal profession, we don't read too many opinions from these judges.

Today the Richmond Times-Dispatch does something out of the ordinary: they publish excerpts from a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling along with an editorial on the case in question. I liked
the RT-D's editorial sentiment:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently decided not to hear en banc - as an entire court - the case involving Virginia license plates and the Confederate logo. Today's Op/Ed Page features excerpts from four of the judges' six published opinions. Two concur; two dissent. All four make compelling points. Their intellectual rigor pays tribute to the court and its members. It would not be a surprise if many readers found themselves agreeing with all four statements. There is a reason individuals earn places on the appellate bench. They rank among the best.

It's really no wonder that the Senate has increasingly applied ideological litmus tests to judges. Outstanding nominees of any stripe can be extremely persuasive.

Two of the concurring opinions are from judges frequently mentioned as potential Bush Supreme Court nominees: J. Harvie Wilkinson, III and J. Michael Luttig.

Republican in Trouble Senator Tim Hutchinson (R, AK) is likely to lose in his re-election bid. He's battling a strong opponent with a great Arkansas pedigree, Mark Pryor, and he's been hurt by his divorce and remarriage to a much younger staffer. This is an example of where a "family values" candidate should be judged harshly--not because of something his children did, but because of something he did.

0-1 My soccer team, the "Heat," was soundly whipped on Saturday, 2-0. My kids didn't look awake and most barely arrived to the 9AM kick-off on time. I made a huge coaching mistake by running a 3-3 line-up. A 4-2 set might have given us a fighting chance. This coming Saturday we play at 11AM and we'll definitely be in a 4-2.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Punditwatch and the Boys From Baghdad

Will Vehrs
Punditwatch has been posted. I suspect that the appearance on This Week by Congressmen McDermott and Bonior, live from Baghdad, will generate a lot of furious commentary. I could have easily written a column just on that ....

This will be the last Punditwatch until the weekend before the election, November 3d. Punditwatch will be pursuing a theatrical opportunity during the month of October--a pale imitation of Andrew Sullivan's Shakespearean sojourn, but at least something far different from feverish note-taking on Sunday mornings.