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Saturday, December 14, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Tony, remember those salad days of November 6th, when Republicans seemed ascendent and Bush "[bestrode] this narrow world like a Colossus?" What a difference a month makes. Now Republicans are reduced to hoping that Democrats will overplay their hand.

All eyes will be on the Sunday shows for the pundit and newsmaker verdict on Trent Lott. Punditwatch will be there!

Virginia Corner

L'Affaire Lott is spilling over, as I knew it would. The quirky "Colon Club" is in the news and Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Jeff Shapiro found it newsworthy.

Anticipating his elevation next month to speaker of the House, Del. William J. Howell, R-Stafford, has been making the rounds.

Yesterday, Howell's stops included the all-male Commonwealth Club for mildly ribald remarks to a stag chitterling-and-eggs breakfast at which three Hooters Girls distributed holiday hams to raffle winners

Ah, those problematic Hooters Girls, at a "stag" party, no less.

The event was fairly restrained, taking place during a period of heightened sensitivity about gender and race. Still, some expressed concern about the breakfast, which was punctuated by Howell's brief talk and organizers cracking wise about state and local political figures.

Of course, even though this little gathering was "fairly restrained," someone needed to be apprised of it and offered the opportunity to find it "troubling":

Del. Viola O. Baskerville, D-Richmond, deputy chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, was troubled by the presence of even a smattering of public officials at an event that used to draw a slew of political headliners.

"It's another instance of male Republicans in leadership showing their true colors, and it's time for people to start connecting the dots," Baskerville said. "The public should scrutinize its elective officials; everything is subject to a higher level of scrutiny

I suspect some Democrats were in attendance, but evidently they failed to show any colors.

Is Governor Warner too nice? The question occurs to me as I ponder an announcement he made Thursday:

During an appearance in Roanoke, Warner outlined initiatives to ease long lines at Department of Motor Vehicles offices by contracting some services to local officials and adding "self-service" computer terminals at DMV offices. Twelve customer-service centers were closed to help bridge Virginia's $2 billion shortfall.

Under Warner's plan, Virginia would pay for training and equipment for local DMV agents, said Motor Vehicles Commissioner Asbury W. Quillian. Warner said he would also establish mobile licensing teams that could temporarily set up in underserved regions of the state.

The plan will cost about $600,000 in fiscal year 2003 and $1.5 million by 2004, Warner said

Those hardy souls who have followed my coverage of the DMV chapter of Virginia's budget difficulties will remember a suggestion that Warner was using closed DMV offices to make a point to Republicans--support budget cuts that inconvenienced citizens or raise the revenue needed to support the services they wanted to preserve. I would have bet that Warner would stand firm and let Virginians grouse about DMV to their Republican representatives, forcing them to make tough choices.

As Republicans indeed heard the grousing and joined it, I thought they might show an unseriousness when the General Assembly convenes in January by passing special interest legislation to re-open offices that Warner closed. Republicans would have to make offsetting cuts and Warner could challenge the fairness of their choices. Convenient car registration or Medicaid?

Instead, Warner's reform impulse took over and he presented this sensible plan that will probably provide the same services for less money. Unfortunately for Democratic partisans, it looks like he got "rolled" by the complaining Republicans and did not stand his ground.

Being the "Reform Governor" means being too nice sometimes and looking out for the Commonwealth instead of seeking partisan advantage. That's probably a good thing, but he might have eliminated some Republican chortling if he had advanced this plan when he announced the cuts. I suspect they will still try to re-open some closed offices.

Friday, December 13, 2002

A Cardinal Rule of Apologies

Tony Adragna
Will, remember what John DiIulio wrote about how to make an apology
[...]My dad died in my arms in August after a three-year battle with illness. I thought mainly of him on Monday. He always taught me that when you apologize to people, you apologize "with no half-smile, with all your heart, and on your knees, or not at all."

In other words, whether completely culpable or not, and whether there are complicated mitigating if not exonerating motivations and circumstances or not, you do not express honest, heartfelt remorse for wrong by quibbling over how the wronged person or persons characterize it. In this case, my cultural-paternal conditioning, plus my Catholic self-examination of conscience, accounts for my repeat of Mr. Fleisher's words. Basta.
To wit: An apology that comes out as a defense is no apology at all.

We Catholics deliberatly engage in this "self-examination". In the Mass we daily recall our failings, and seek forgiveness for "what we have done, and what we have failed to do." No quibbling over what was our intent.

And so, I was disheartened by Cardinal Law's attempts at defending his archdiocese, understanding the legal dilemma he faces and the appropriate legal defense, but hoping that His Eminence would just do what he, as a man of virtue, knows in his heart is the proper thing. Well, this morning His Eminence took a big step
"I am profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for having accepted my resignation as Archbishop of Boston.

"It is my fervent prayer that this action may help the Archdiocese of Boston to experience the healing, reconciliation and unity which are so desperately needed.

"To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.

"To the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity, with whom I have been privileged to work in our efforts to fulfill the Church's mission, I express my deep gratitude. My gratitude extends as well to so many others with whom I have been associated in serving the common good; these include those from the ecumenical, Jewish, and wider inter-religious communities as well as public officials and others in the civil society.

"The particular circumstances of this time suggest a quiet departure. Please keep me in your prayers."[emphasis added]
I highlight the resignation, instead of the apology, because he's already "acknowledge[d] publicly [...] responsibility for decisions which [...] were clearly wrong." The Cardinal recognized on that ocassion that "Apology in and of itself is not sufficient", but "that the efforts that have already been made and which are in process in this Archdiocese to insure the protection of children as we move forward will serve as a motive to accept my apology." However, neither was that action sufficient — personal responsibility obtains some personal consequence as penance. The consequence of Cardinal Law's failure as pastor had to be abdication of his see.

While this resignation heals not the wounds of victims, it's nonetheless recognition of how grave was the failing, an act of humble contrition, and it's the right thing to do.

My only question is, why did the pope not not accept Cardinal Law's offer when he offered it in April? [BTW, I don't know how the reporter reconciles that "Law had resisted resigning for months" with the downpage report that he has "volunteered his resignation during his last unannounced trip to Rome in April" — sloppy journalism?]

At last Mr. Bush forcefully denounced Sen. Lott's comments. I don't understand, though, why Lott won't act with some humility and resign his leadership position... We do know what the opposite of humility is... [I will stay late at the office so's I catch Lott's news conference at 5:30 — maybe this Democrat will get his wish]

Kurtz is on the "media story", and doing his usual yoeman's work. I wish that he had highlighted Josh's and Andrew's commentary as a direct contrast to the "days in which Lott's comments were somehow deemed not newsworthy" by major media. But, I guess it was more important to front up orts like
[...] a "senior White House official" told CNN's John King that it was "cowardly" for the Mississippian to phone in his comments to Sean Hannity and Larry King rather than face the cameras.
"Cowardly" is strong, but deserved.

At least TAPPED, being a blogger, gives bloggers their due. In answering the question "why now" vis a vis Trent Lott's coziness with racist groups being such a story when the basic facts have been know for awhile, TAPPED responds
Something changed, though, in the last few weeks. Tapped would say the combination of a) seething Democratic frustration and a need for blood; b) new information (the birthday party); and c) a lot of furious debate in the Blogosphere somehow propelled this story onto the front page. And poof! The new storyline was established. From now on, if he stays, Lott will always be the "controversial majority leader dogged by questions about his ties to white-supremacist groups."[italics added]
'Course, Edsall, blowing his own horn in the NewsHour segment you cited, was sounding like 'twas all his fault.

"I Tell Ya, Bloggers Get No Respect"

Will Vehrs
The blogosphere, and particularly Joshua Micah Marshall, played a huge role in raising the profile of the Trent Lott story. You wouldn't know it to talk to the establishment press.

Last night, two top reporters covering the Lott story--Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post and Adam Nagourney of the New York Times--discussed the story with Jim Lehrer on The News Hour. Lehrer wanted to know how the story snowballed:

JIM LEHRER: Why? Why was it so slow? Why didn't it catch on?

THOMAS EDSALL: I think people, including editors and reporters, are reluctant to get into these issues in an aggressive fashion. But once they do it turns out to have a lot of consequence and result. And the echo effect having -- now receiving it, is pretty profound and significant.

ADAM NAGOURNEY: I think there's a great media story to be done here, actually, a specific story. I think that newspapers in general are reluctant to sort of carry the banner on stories when you're sort of driving it.

We can argue about whether that's right or not, and reporters are I think wary or I would argue should be, of gaffe or gotcha stories. I do not think this is a gaffe or gotcha story, but at first until you saw the video, you couldn't be sure. And I think that often these stories are driven-- and I think Tom's right - I think it's because the Post-did this on Saturday -- helped drive this along-- often these stories are driven by Democrats, or the opposition.

Nary a word about the work of Marshall, Instapundit, et. al., from these insular guys.

I must say, however, that both had some good observations and also said things that might raise the old "media bias" specter. On Bush's speech condemning Lott's remarks:

NAGOURNEY: I think that one result of what the president said today is that it's going to give some cover to Republican Senators, should they want it, to come out and be more critical of Senator Lott...

I think that in a strange way, Mr. Bush's remarks could undercut Mr. Lott's position even more, to tell you the truth.

I don't want to overanalyze or suggest maybe more intelligence there. Who knows? But if you take the premise that the president, President Bush and the people around him have never loved Trent Lott and would not be particularly upset at getting him out of there, and you take the premise that Democrats I think would ultimately like to keep Trent Lott in there, no matter what they're saying now because he's a good target, then maybe what the president's doing here, which you know, puts him out in front of the issue that he wants to be out front of, re-enforces his attempt to sort of present the party as a different Republican Party than maybe we remember growing up, and then criticizes him, making it easier for other Republicans to criticize him, might have the net result of sort of making it easier for Trent Lott to go. I just suggest it out there. I'm not sure they are that smart but...

EDSALL: Bush's own forthright statement in support of equality -- civil rights, really was sort of a backhanded slap.
That is just what Trent Lott and his... in his two appearances so far, has not done.

All in all, an unusually illuminating News Hour segment. Interesting that Lehrer did the interviews, and not Terence Smith, their media correspondent.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Good News

Will Vehrs
Tony, I did get into a sudden busy streak ... you've covered the important issues, so I'll just mention two "good news" items.

This story warmed my heart:

The Washington snipers' youngest victim made his first public appearance today, escorting first lady Laura Bush on a tour of Children's Hospital, where the 13-year-old boy spent a month fighting for his life following the shooting outside his Bowie middle school.

Smiling shyly, the curly-headed eighth-grader, Iran Brown, accompanied Bush and her Scottish terrier, Barney, on the first lady's annual holiday visit to the Washington, D.C. hospital

I'm so glad this young man survived and so thankful for the medical care that made it possible. He is truly an inspiration.

The First Lady was in fine form as she visited the patients:

Asked if she rides horses at the Bush ranch in Texas, Bush smiled. "We don't ride horses," she explained. "My husband is what is known as a 'windshield cowboy.' He rides a pickup truck."

The other good news item: our friend and my occasional Caption Contest benefactor Dodd Harris is celebrating nine years of sobriety. Nine years. Dodd, congratulations.

Justice Thomas Has Been Heard From...

Tony Adragna
Well, since you must be busy with other pressing items, Will, I guess it's up to me...

Our favourite Supreme Court reporter has her usual run down on oral argument before the Court — a case which took up some QP column inches not too long ago
Once in a while, a case comes along that makes a Supreme Court reporter proud to be involved, even tangentially, in the life of the high court. Oral argument in today's cross-burning case, Virginia v. Black, was most definitely one of those days. First, the facts are wonderful: Some of the alleged cross-burners in this case were either too drunk, racist, or stupid to actually set a wooden cross on fire, even with the help of lighter fluid. Love it. Second, the justices are wonderful: Perhaps it's because Chief Justice William Rehnquist is still home recuperating from knee surgery and Justice John Paul Stevens presides with a lighter touch, but everyone seems to be acting out like they would with a substitute teacher. You half expect a paper airplane to come wafting off the bench. They're rowdy and funny and chattering amongst themselves, cutting each other off, cracking each other up, and generally acting half their age (i.e., mere septuagenarians). It's bedlam out there. Love it. Finally, when you have good oral advocates doing a good job on a good issue, the place always arcs up like tinfoil in a microwave.
Dahlia just keeps going from there, with classic Lithwick witticisms like, "The facts read like outtakes from A Charlie Brown Redneck Christmas", and "Out of nowhere booms the great, surprising 'Luke-I-am-your-father' voice of He Who Never Speaks."

After listening carefully to the Justices questions, Dahlia tells us where she thinks the Court is headed
[...]No one can deny that cross-burning is criminalized solely because of the message it conveys. And it's clear from the justices today that the more they think about this message, the madder they get. Well, doesn't that prove Smolla's point? That this statute exists only to censor one particularly virulent, hateful message? Not quite, if the justices can massage this "message" into a "threat," as they appear inclined to do. There is a reason we keep talking today about things that happened 100 years ago; it's because cross-burnings still symbolize and celebrate that terror and violence, even when they no longer actually threaten it. Oddly, at least for the court, the reminder of a past threat seems to be enough.
I'm sure that I don't like that outcome. I'd rather the Court hold differently on the facts & circumstances in each of what should have been separate cases at Virginia's high court.

For those who didn't like Kissinger appointment, at least Mitchell's replacement as Vice Chair is Lee Hamilton. Not only does Hamilton already have a good idea where intelligence reform should be headed, but "[h]e also chaired the select committee that investigated covert arms transactions with Iran during the Reagan administration." That ought silence those concerned that this committe is gonna let itself be steamrolled on the "who knew what and when"[though, I'm still of the opinion that we've already learned as much as there is to learn — 'cept why heads have yet to roll...]

Our favourite Chicago Sun-Times columnists is not happy 'bout "Picks for Bush economic team [looking like losers]"
With his economic program's outlines charted, President Bush was looking for a secretary of the Treasury and national economic adviser who would energetically sell his tax cuts. In tapping John Snow and Stephen Friedman, he picked two sometime deficit hawks to culminate an absent-minded selection process...
Downpage Novak notes that "Snow does hold some conservative credentials", but in the next graf he writes
However, Snow was a member of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which opposes tax reduction. It includes such stalwart anti-supply-siders as Leon Panetta, Bill Frenzel, Alice Rivlin, Peter Peterson and David Stockman. In the early 1990s, Snow headed the Business Roundtable, which then was notorious for its opposition to all tax reduction and its tilt in political contributions to Democrats. Representing big business, he worked with the Clinton administration in 1993-94 for deficit reduction--achieved by tax increases.

The explanation of how a secretary of the Treasury-designate can be for and against tax cuts at the same time is found in what former Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour told me six years ago in criticizing the Business Roundtable's bipartisanship: ''Big business has no party and never shall have.''
There is, though, something about Snow that ought gain the approbation of everyone
after the Democratic victory in 1976 [Snow] found temporary shelter at the American Enterprise Institute, where supply-side zealot Jude Wanniski was his office neighbor. Wanniski likes to argue with everybody, but he found Snow was interested only in railroad law--the one subject about which Wanniski admitted ignorance.
Doesn't make Snow qualified to be SecTreas, but frustrating Wanniski deserves some recognition...

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Christmass In Proletarian Hyattsville

Comrade Tony
We have no use for such fascist exercises as deciding which property owner is deserving more recognition — each of my conrades adds to the collective.

Just follow Comrade Tony's example...

Decision of the Judges is Final

Will Vehrs
Tony, the sign appeared in the yard, so the Vehrs' humble abode is once again an official Brandermill Holiday House.

Democrats' Dilemma: Deficient Daschle!

Tony Adragna
You know, Will, I do have a concern about the current focus on Lott, and that is the danger of my partisan brethren losing sight of our own leadership problem. Reflecting on Daschle's accomplishments as Senate Majority Leader, I can't but conclude that his last was giving Jeffords sanctuary during the latter's fit of boltation. Reviewing my thoughts on that occasion [reviewing my previous thinking being a permanent affliction I apologize not for], I came across a particularly prescient nugget in an Explainer fray post
[...] the left-wing on the Dem party still has alot of influence (that's going to be Daschle's challenge).[emphasis added]
That I could know this and still predict I'd be "thumbing my nose" at you come the '02 elections — well, I wasn't listening to my tummy. An effective leader ought have been able to work out between the factions a coherent — and cohesive — message. That Daschle wasn't able to do, and [correct me if I'm wrong] I don't know that he was ever able to do so when he was previously minority leader. Wasn't it Mr. Clinton's "triangulation" that proved effective in moving the Democratic agenda back then?

Is there a cure for what ails the Democrats? William Saletan points to it
If you want to understand why Democrats lost the Senate in 2002, those two quotes sum it up. It's hard for a Senate leader, particularly one with a bare majority, to dictate a clear message the way a president can. Maybe Daschle could have done it; maybe not. Either way, he didn't. He settled for a tossed salad of messages about fiscal responsibility, fairness, Social Security, prescription drugs, multilateralism—wait, what was that first message again? You see the problem. The salad had no theme.

Stabenow's message has a theme. Maybe it's the message Democrats should have delivered. Or maybe they should have emphasized fiscal responsibility. Or maybe they should have emphasized health care. In any event, the key word isn't demand or responsibility or health. It's "or"—as opposed to "and." A potent message is singular. It can cover many subjects, but it has to cohere
To which the gist of my response is: Yup!, But Daschle is still in charge!

Short-term fixes are mere distractions from solving structural problems. In other words, they're cop-outs on making tough choices that tend toward unpopularity in the near-term. Good on Governor Warner for doing the right thing...

The media's problem isn't "bias", one way or the other. Nope! The real problem is laziness: going with CW instead of original analysis, reworkiing press releases from advocacy groups instead of looking into the issues, "copycat" reportage instead of breaking news, etc. There's still much good journalism, but there's an ever increasing amount of lazy journalism — on both sides of the liberal - conservative divide.

On the other end of the Age Spectrum, I found in one of today's WaPo editorials a tale which tugs at my heartstrings
Charged as a fugitive from her guardian in New York City, the youth was taken to the D.C. Superior Court, where a judge, professing to be bound by law, turned her over to the Youth Services Administration, knowing full well that the minor would be placed in Oak Hill Youth Center, the city's facility for juvenile offenders in Laurel, pending a court hearing the following Monday. But wait a minute: Post writer Sewell Chan reports that, according to city policies and court orders, runaways and children detained awaiting trial aren't supposed to be housed with juvenile offenders committed to the city's custody. Besides, the only girls' space at Oak Hill lacks individual sleeping quarters. No matter. Judge Lee Satterfield, head of the Superior Court's family division, while acknowledging in an interview last night that youths awaiting court procedures must be segregated from adjudicated juvenile offenders and that no such facilities exists for girls at Oak Hill, said the court had no choice but to turn the child over to Youth Services until a court hearing could take place. So that's where the 12-year-old was sent. And that, unfortunately, is where she was sexually assaulted by two other residents on Sunday evening.

But the 12-year-old's nightmare odyssey through the D.C. bureaucracy was just beginning. The city decided the next day to drop the runaway charges, so it was farewell to the Youth Services Administration and hello to Child and Family Services, which sent her to Children's Hospital for a medical screening. But not so fast: A warrant for her arrest as a runaway arrived from New York, thanks to a report from the D.C. police. So the girl was taken away from Child and Family Services and hauled back before the Superior Court -- which promptly returned her to the Youth Services Administration, which in turn routed her back to Oak Hill, the scene of her sexual assault.
The city finally did what was proper, but why did this child need go through the nightmare? Certainly the girl shouldn't have been on the street engaged in prostitution, but that doesn't compare with what happened to her while in the city's care.

I've a high level of personal interest in how the state deals with children in its custody, and how it resolves whatever put that child into the circumstances where state intervention is required. It seems to me that over the past 30 years some places still haven't made much progress...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, you are a true believer. You should be Santa's press secretary.

Media Bias by the Numbers "Liberal" media bias was the watchword for a long time. Now, "conservative" media bias is making inroads as conventional wisdom. Michael Kelly, who ought to have more important things to talk about, tries to regain the "liberal bias" initiative and he's got statistics galore:

Fox News has surpassed CNN as the news leader on cable, with, as of last week, 800,000 viewers to CNN's 600,000. The evening broadcasts of NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS were viewed last week by, respectively, 11.4 million, 10.5 million, 8.8 million and 2.7 million people.

Of course, the new counter-argument is that the major networks aren't liberal any more and are just rubber stampering cogs in the Bush machine.

Real Life Example Today Robert Samuelson tackles the plight of the "mature worker" in his WP column:

Older workers span the spectrum of human potential -- from deadwood to spark plugs. But many are expensive workers. They've received years of cost-of-living and merit wage increases. Their health expenses are rising. When companies want to cut costs -- as they do now -- the temptation to substitute younger (and cheaper) workers for older (and more expensive) workers is powerful. "Early retirement" programs multiply. Experience is expendable.

Here in Richmond, VA, we have a real-life examples of Samuelson's point as revealed in a class action lawsuit filed yesterday:

One former Capital One employee was given a midyear pay increase for her accomplishments, just months before she was fired for poor performance.

Another received two Circle of Excellence awards for exceptional job performance in Despite a cash crunch that's causing deep cuts in services, Republican lawmakers - with an eye on next year's election - want to eliminate another tax.

She was 48 at the time of her termination. He was 45.

Both allege they were fired because they were considered too old for the credit-card company and the youth culture it promoted

Capital One is Richmond's largest employer and they receive large cash incentives from the state for creating new jobs. Those who are filing this lawsuit may just be disgruntled employees whose performance wasn't as stellar as advertised, or whose performance declined rapidly after they received awards and bonuses. But Capital One's actions do look suspicious on their face and previous stories in the Richmond Times-Dispatch have revealed an almost "Enronian" corporate culture. This sort of personnel management policy is the seamy cousin to smarmy corporate CEO pay and perk excess. We'll see how this lawsuit is settled.

Tone Deaf? I may be proven wrong if present trends continue and won't mind a bit. Trent Lott's position continues to deteriorate and his incomprehensibly bad series of responses to his latest, but by no means first Dixiecrat gaffe must now be factored into the equation. If Lott and his staff cannot make this "go away" with a strong, clear apology and fence-mending operation, they certainly aren't up to speaking for Republicans on substantive issues that will be thrown at them in the coming Congress.

Virginia Corner Lots of juicy Virginia news today!

BIG Reform After noodling around the edges on reforming state government, Governor Mark Warner revealed the centerpiece of his agenda yesterday: a massive reorganization of the state's technology bureaucracy:

At the heart of the proposed reforms: consolidation of IT operations at 91 executive-branch agencies into one new agency, the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. Employees working now under separate agencies and systems operated separately would be combined in the new agency.

The governor proposes eliminating three agencies: the Department of Information Technology, the Department of Technology Planning and the Virginia Information Providers Network Authority

This reform is not a short-term budget fix, however:

Initial savings would be minimal. The state would have to spend $14 million on consolidation costs before an initial savings of $23 million next year. But after that, Warner said, the money saved would grow dramatically, by some estimates approaching $100 million by the time he leaves office in 2006.

I think this Warner initiative is exactly what he needs to seize the high ground in the budget debate--a big, bold, comprehensive plan with a vision behind it. Will it work? I'm not so sure. These large scale reorganizations are difficult to pull off effectively--they depend on equally bold vision and leadership well below the Governor's level. Those commodities are often in short supply within state government. When everything is consolidated into one department, there is the risk that you will have one large mediocre group instead of scattered pockets of excellence and pockets of incompetence.

Another potential weakness of the plan is its long, drawn-out implementation schedule. That can lead to the "death by a thousand cuts" syndrome. Already, there are indications that this might happen before the plan can even be approved:

To emphasize the premium he is placing on legislative passage, Warner said he will present a single omnibus technology bill to the assembly, which even some supportive legislators said was politically risky.

"Cherry-picking is part of the process," said Del. Jeannemarie A. Devolites of Fairfax County, a House GOP leader. "If there are one or two big objections, you could lose the whole thing

Expected the entrenched to "push-back," as Warner is fond of saying, but the General Assembly risks looking like a special interest playground if it tinkers with the plan in a way that preserves "special interests" in the technology area.

Death Tax Maneuvers Several Republican Virginia lawmakers are supporting a repeal of the estate, or "death tax." This appears to be a way for moderate Republicans seen as sympathetic to other taxes ingratiating themselves with the GOP "anti-tax" wing. This State Senator may have the best feel for the pulse of the electorate, however:

State Sen. James K. "Jay" O'Brien Jr., R-Fairfax, who recently won a special election to the Senate on an anti-tax platform, said the defeat of sales-tax referendums in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads would preclude any consideration of tax increases for at least another 10 years. But he said he found the voters in no mood to cut taxes further. The public wants the state to live within its current budget situation, he said.

The 2005 Campaign Presumptive 2205 gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, D, and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, R, continue to check and checkmate each other as they jockey for advantage. Kaine unveiled an ambitious education initiative that includes a constitutional amendment and both men have endorsed the state taking over failing schools. Hopefully, only the terminal political junkies like yours truly are paying attention to this skirmishing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Santa Lives!!!

Tony Adragna
Glenn points to a BBC NEWS item 'bout an Anglican vicar who tells outrageous lies
It is the news no child wants to hear - and certainly not from the mouth of a vicar.

Youngsters at a Christmas carol service were devastated when the Reverend Lee Rayfield told them Santa Claus was dead.

Even parents at the service in Maidenhead, Berkshire, were shocked to hear Mr Rayfield say it was scientifically impossible for Father Christmas to deliver so many presents so quickly...

Mr Rayfield also told the youngsters that reindeer would burst into flames if they had to travel at the speeds necessary.
'Tis bad enough that the vicar told these lies — he had to compund the offense by making these representations to children ill prepared to refute the assertions made of whole Christmass wrapping paper.

At least the good vicar knows how to make an apology
"I did not realise how young some of them were and I am sitting here now wondering how I managed not to realise.

"Even when I was there, I did not twig. I am mortified and appreciate I have put some parents in a difficult position with a lot of explaining to do. I love Christmas."
Note to Glenn: I've oft thought [but never seriously considered] of parting ways with Rome — a risible village vicar pales in camparison to a contemptible cosmopolitan cardinal...

Somebody's Gotta Clean Up That Pile

Tony Adragna
In the interest of quasi-punditorial comity, I will note for the record, Will, that you never did refer to the "piling on" pejoratively. But, taken together with the "partisan payback", you must see how your comments would be "misunderstood".

Though, there's no way that the worst misunderstanding of your remarks comes close to what's clearly understood in Trent Lott's.

So, what about the "partisan payback"? You suggest that we need to be on the lookout for some good 'ol fashioned muckraking the likes of which parties used to do for purely political reasons. That may end up being the case going forward, but I'm not seeing it. Lott left his muckheap in plain sight, where any cub with at least one good journalistic leg to walk with, or politico with an ounce of partisan pique, would step in the pile for simply not paying attention.

So, where were all of the political stories, outraged editorials, and critical commentary from the op-ed page pundits? Let's ask Howie
What, you weren't aware that the Senate majority leader was in hot water for appearing to embrace the segregationist cause?

Perhaps that's because, until this morning, most major newspapers hadn't done squat on the story.
Which is hard to understand for this reason: There were cameras rolling. It's on tape. It was on C-SPAN, for crying out loud.

If a Democrat had made this kind of inflammatory comment, it would be the buzz of talk radio and the Wall Street Journal editorial page would be calling for tarring and feathering. But Lott seems to be getting something of a pass.
This was a prime opportunity for the "liberal media" and congressional Democrats to do a "gotcha" as payback for the Wellstone memorial "outrage" and the "they care more about unions" rhetoric, but that didn't happen. Hell, Tom Daschle — target of much vitriol from the right — didn't just keep quite: He defended Lott!

Nay, my friend, this isn't about partisan politics — muckraking. It is about mucking out the GOP's leadership stable, and if those volunteer muckers from within the GOP aren't able to get the job done, then don't blame us for wanting to lend a hand.

As for Lott's "apology", that isn't any kind of "excrementitious exclamation" — it's just plain 'ol horseshit. He was "misunderstood"? Gimme a break! Speaking off-the-cuff entails evoking what's in the memory — it's not pulled out of thin air. Lott's excuse, however, is made out of whole cloth...

Louisiana aside: I threw that gratuitous ending on just to get a rise, not intending to suggest as Krugman does. From what I've read, the raproachment between Landrieu and her Louisiana base — black voters — was already done.

Better than Broder's nostalgia is staff writer Johnathan Weisman's item headed, "Past Remarks May Haunt New Economic Team"
"[Snow and Friedman are] on the record as real hardliners on a balanced budget," said William A. Niskanan, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute and a former Reagan White House economic aide. "That's going to make it difficult for them to accept policies that substantially increase the deficit, and it will reduce their credibility in marketing policies that will have that effect."

Said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.): "There are going to be a lot of questions."

Economists were also scratching their heads yesterday.

"The new names circulating now, John Snow and Stephen Friedman, do not in my view seem to fit the avid tax-cutter mold talked about," wrote Donald H. Straszheim of Straszheim Global Advisors, an economic consulting firm, in a memo to clients. "What am I missing?"
Exactly! What are we missing?

What we're missing, of course, is Mr. Bush's proposals for the coming year. I think you're right about more than just co-opting the "change the team" message, Will...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
A Lott More Tony, in my effort to write a "catchy" headline yesterday, I misled readers. "A Lott of Piling On" didn't really reflect the totality of my post. In fact, I said "Lott deserves all the bashing he's getting, i.e., I approved of piling on. My real point was that I didn't think this unseemly incident was enough to get Lott fired as Majority Leader. Tom Daschle's reaction, I think, is probably what most Senators thought: "There but for the grace of God go I. I've said some dumb things in my time ...." If Lott goes as Majority Leader, I want it to be because of his overall performance, not for two stupid sentences.

You take issue with my "partisan payback" line of thinking. All I know is that it was Trent Lott who was booed at the Wellstone Memorial. I wouldn't draw a straight line from that incident to the reporting on Lott's gushingly inappropriate tribute, but I wouldn't be surprised if those who wait for impolitic remarks in order to start a partisan spin operation didn't have some extra motivation to "get" Lott.

Paul Krugman of the NYT is all over Lott today and he hints at linkage:

At first the "liberal media," which went into a frenzy over political statements at Paul Wellstone's funeral, largely ignored this story.

Partisans never forget.

As for Republicans and folks like Instapundit leading the charge against Lott, I would just say that I doubt if Republicans first began beating the drums on the story, unless they were enemies of Lott to begin with. As for the same folks who criticized remarks at the Wellstone funeral and Lott's comments, it just shows that some people have more than a "Lott" of intellectual integrity.

Krugman supports one of your suggestions, Tony:

In Louisiana, black turnout — the result of a determined get-out-the-vote operation, perhaps helped by Mr. Lott's remarks — was the key to Ms. Landrieu's unexpected victory. Might I suggest that this tells us something?

I'm a little dubious of this because the story was slow to break, but it's certainly possible Lott was mentioned in "get out the vote" phone calls.

Another Dig The WP's David Broder, already nostalgic for former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, puts the swipe he took at Bob Novak on Sunday's Meet the Press into print today:

Early in the administration, when the air was filled with confident -- nay, smug -- talk about vast budget surpluses stretching at least a decade into the future, O'Neill used what I have described as a barnyard epithet to dismiss those rosy forecasts. My colleague at that breakfast interview, columnist Robert Novak, was dismayed at O'Neill's heresy. But when those projected surpluses melted into deficits this year, O'Neill's judgment was vindicated.

Anne, Not E.J. Poor Anne Applebaum. Her excellent WP commentary on the Augusta/NYT/Margaret Burk dust-up was accompanied by ... a picture of E. J. Dionne, Jr. Hopefully, it's corrected by now--E. J. has his own mildly "gloating" column about the Louisiana Senate race.

Here's Anne's summary paragraph:

Women no longer associate feminists and feminism with the causes they care most about, like equal pay. Which is hardly surprising, given the degree of interest that major women's organizations have shown in the membership of an archaic club whose 300-odd members pay up to $50,000 a year in dues, just to have the privilege, every so often, of hitting a small white ball across a manicured green lawn.

She thinks women's organizations should worry more about the rape of Iraqi women, female circumcisioin, or, closer to home, the dearth of affordable childcare options.

For Corrections Aficiandos If you're interested in how newspapers issue corrections, the Richmond Times-Dispatch's A. Barton Hinkle has an amusing take.

Virginia Corner The state is always seen as shortchanging localities in some way, so every year there are rumbles of some proposed shake-up to get around the problem. Some elected Fairfax County Supervisors want the county to become a city:

Becoming Virginia's 40th city would be a lengthy, costly effort requiring approval from county voters and the General Assembly in Richmond. City status would also come with new fiscal responsibilities, because cities and towns must maintain, and in some cases build, their own roads.

But [Supervisor] McConnell's idea underscores a growing desperation among Fairfax leaders, who have long complained that most of the taxes raised locally end up in state coffers and don't come back to the county

As might be expected, this idea is not necessarily being embraced by the elected representatives who would have to carry such legislation:

Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R), co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was less than sympathetic to local officials.

"They're not so desperate they can't give the school superintendent a hefty raise," Callahan said. School Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech received a $20,000 raise and a $25,000 bonus last month

This idea will go nowhere, I predict, but the notion of reforming the tight controls the General Assembly wields over localities will probably get a hearing.

Monday, December 09, 2002

"Payback" Doesn't Explain It...
...And Watching the PunditWatcher

Tony Adragna
I've been thinking 'bout what's wrong with your "partisan 'payback' for the Wellstone Memorial debacle" assessment, Will. I think you're wrong on two grounds. First, as Glenn notes
[...] an awful lot of the people piling on Lott were piling on the Wellstone debacle, too. Me, for instance. And so far I think more Republicans than Democrats have called for Lott to step down from his position as Majority Leader.
This is also contra Mark Dahley's assertion on why Lott is getting hit hard — it's not the "liberal media" hitting Trent Lott [ BTW, if "a former Clinton Staffer runs the NY Times", he needs to talk to the guy who thinks he runs the New York Times] And There were plenty of liberals who expressed opinions from outrage to disappointment over the Wellstone memorial [as well as lots of liberals who expressed outrage at Clinton's morally reprehensible personal conduct — we just didn't think it rose to the level of an impeachable offense].

Second, to compare the questionably disrespectful [ I agree it was, but for a different reason] activity at the Wellstone memorial, to what happened at the Thurmond birthday, well, I don't get it. What Lott said was morally reprehensible, whether or not he meant the implication. That he hasn't bothered to attempt a clarification — even if disingenuous — I find troubling, and you should too...

Kudos! (cont.) Damn, Will. You trying to get your foot into the door of a new career? You're now published in just as many places as most media pundits. You go, boy!

Glenn, Come Back!!! Post Something New, Anything!!!

Will Vehrs
As I write, it has been hours since Instapundit last posted something new, leaving his commentary that takes me to task over Trent Lott as a big bull's eye at the top of his page. I sure hope he hasn't been abducted by aliens.

I can't take take much more of the abuse that's pouring in ....

UPDATE: Glenn was out driving around with Mickey Kaus and now has a nice long post about it that "buries" the Lott thing. Whew!

Punditwatch Goes Local

Will Vehrs
I've long had a desire to do a "Virginia Punditwatch," tracking the many local columnists and commentators around the Old Dominion the way I try to summarize the best and worst of our weekend talking head friends.

I've finally gotten my chance. Virginia Pundit Watch debuted today on Bacon's Rebellion, a weekly on-line Virginia business, economic development, and politics magazine. The column will appear on Mondays, assuming my Trent Lott comments don't get me run out of town on a rail.

'Tis A Steaming Pile,
And He's Not Cleaning It Up!

Tony Adragna
Will, I don't think it's so much "piling on" as noting how odoriferous is Lott's excrementitious ejaculation. I initially favour, in all instances, giving a person benefit of the doubt where there's a chance that what was said, or how it's percieved, isn't what was meant. However, the more I look at Lott's comments in light of what we know about his past association with the Council of Conservative Citizens, I can't get at a fair read that mitigates the offense.

Even the plausible explanation I offer below — seeing it in light of his remarks about putting troops on the border to keep out those wanting to do us harm and tying it to Cooksey's comment — doesn't get Lott off the hook.

Most noteworthy is Lott's failure to come out and say "that's not what I meant, and I would never mean such a thing". Instead, his flack comes out with a response that sounds too much like that given when the senator was previously criticzed on his association with racists
"This group harbors views which Senator Lott firmly rejects. He has absolutely no involvement with them wither now or in the future," John Czwartacki said this week.
He defended Lott's 1992 keynotte speech to the CCC at a Grenwood, Miss., meeting, arguing: "This appears to have been a widely attended political gathering with the senator giving what sounds like generic stump speech remarks ... With their votes, contributions of time or time, tens of thousands of people endorse Trent Lott's views. That endorsement does not necessarily go the other way around.
Why not just have said, "I was wrong to associate with these people", instead of defending the association as nothing more than having given a "generic stump speech"? Maybe it's true that he intended not to support their views, but the very fact that he would speak to such a group knowing their views [to say that he didn't know those views is incredible] tells that he's either a) stupid, b) tacitly supports those views, notwithstanding denials, or c) both a & b.

So, we come to the present, and another look at Lott giving the "generic stump speech", only this time it's ostensibly the "puffy birthday tribute". But look at the man he was paying tribute to, and what Lott's tribute cited as worthy of pride. See that in the context of Lott's own history and refusal to unequivocally admit his wrongness in associating himself with those views [racism, segregationism].

I'll only give a body benefit of the doubt so long as there's reason to doubt. I've no longer doubts about Trent Lott — the answer is c.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
A Lott of Piling On Tony, Trent Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday bash were dumb. His follow-up comments were dumber. I wish Lott wasn't the Senate Majority Leader. Lott deserves all the bashing he's getting, but let's not confuse that bashing with a substantive critique. These comments are not the stuff of Republicans switching over to the Democratic Party, or demands from within the Republican Party that Lott resign. I see this as a little partisan "payback" for the Wellstone Memorial debacle. Watch for more scrutiny and reporting of impromptu remarks that might have a negative connotation in an increasing spiral of "gotcha." Watch for even more bland and cautious speechifying, with anything remotely controversial being preceded by, "I'll probably join Trent Lott in the dog house for saying this, but ...."

Political Wrap I loved William Safire's off-hand comment on Meet the Press yesterday. He speculated that Gore, Kerry and the others would duke it out in the run up to the New Hampshire primary, then Gary Hart would upset them all.

Listening to Al Gore yesterday, I couldn't help but eagerly anticipate a debate between the former VP and Senator John Kerry. Gore's reputation for being a great debater was based on his record of wounding Democratic competitors or the hapless Ross Perot. I think his reputation was well-deserved and it's only because presidential debates are a different animal that Bush was able to defang him in 2000. Internal Democratic debates are conducted on subtle shades of issues and nobody cares about "likeability." Gore and Kerry will have a real donnybrook and Kerry won't be a Bill Bradley punching bag.

Mara Liasson is probably right when she said on Fox that Bush will end up grabbing the Democrats' idea for a payroll tax cut and make it sound as if it was his idea all along.

How come it's ok for Democrats to trash the economy now when it wasn't ok for Republicans to trash it during the 2000 campaign? I sure hope the businesses of this country aren't listening to the "blame game" part of political debate that both sides trot out so predictably. "Oh, somebody's trashing the economy, so I'm not going to spend a dime until they say all is well."

Virginia Corner The LAT/WP News Service story on John W. Snow as the presumptive new Treasury Secretary has the local angle played up in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Richmonder tapped for Treasury secretary."

Snow is chairman, president and chief executive of CSX, a freight and transportation conglomerate that is based in Richmond. CSX is a major coal hauler and operates the largest rail freight network in the eastern United States.

We're not parochial here in Richmond.

Virginia Republicans are feuding again. There is the "no new taxes" wing battling the "some tax increases are inevitable" wing:

"Eventually we will get there," Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, chairman of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, said of a possible sales-tax increase cushioning localities against revenue losses tied to the car-tax rollback and reduced state aid.

Hanger was among several Republican legislative leaders - all members of the party's fading centrist wing - who yesterday depicted GOP resistance to higher taxes as unrealistic

I think the tax debate is a good one to have, but it has to rest on more than sloganeering. The "no new taxes" wing has to show its vision of what a no new taxes state government looks like; the "new taxes" wing has to show where the revenue will go and how it will be spent wisely.

In other words, the two Republican parties need to compete with Governor Mark Warner on "the vision thing."

Nail-biting Time My development's holiday decoration judging started last night and continues tonight. I was out on a ladder putting up newly discovered strings of long-forgotten lights until well past dark yesterday, not to mention placing the stuffed animals on their appointed benches. Sorry, MommaBear, but it's just not over until it's over.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Iraq, Louisiana, O'Neill, Gore, Arledge Meet Punditwatch

Will Vehrs
There were almost too many issues for the weekend pundit shows and Punditwatch covers the highlights. The Democrats have halted Republican momentum in Louisiana, Saddam Hussein is trying to halt war momentum, and Al Gore is looking for a dose of momentum. It's all in there.

Did Trent Lott Mean What He Said? YES!

Tony Adragna
I think Sen. Lott meant what he said in the same context that Cooksey meant what he said. It's a different scenario, but the same solution: i.e. If we didn't let all these foriengers into the country, then we wouldn't be worried 'bout terrorist cells...

Not defending the statement — just looking for a plausible explanation that's not support for the Dixiecrat platform.

It's still a terribly stupid statement, and he ought get the same treatment Cooksey did.

Now, I wonder if folks in Louisiana got wind of Lott's comments before they voted...

What Hapened in Louisiana...

Tony Adragna
I'll tell ya
Landrieu Beats GOP Challenge In Louisiana
Democrat Takes 52% of Vote In Runoff for Senate Seat

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 7 -- Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, staving off a concerted challenge by the ascendant Republican Party and by President Bush, won reelection to a second term tonight against state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell in a runoff.
Landrieu beat her Republican challenger by about 40,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million tallied. With all precincts reporting, Landrieu had 642,974, or 52 percent, to 603,160, or 48 percent, for Terrell...
The story also mentions what happened to John "If I see someone (who) comes in that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over" Cooksey (R-Monroe)... hmmm...