I’ve been thinking lately about the 2008 presidential campaign. Not so much about the Democrats as the Republicans. All the Dems in the race seem like decent and competent people, so I’m just not that worked up about it. Admittedly, I don’t want Hillary to get the party nomination, but that is because A) I’m afraid she’ll be a lightning-rod for GOP dirty tricks (yes, more than the other candidates), and B) and someone else put it, future historians should not look at the list of U.S. presidents and see “Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.” Politics in this country is already too near to an aristocracy.
But if the Democratic candidates are boring for their lack of problems, the Republican ones are interesting for their problems. Romney has an extensive record as a comparatively progressive Republican from the People’s Republik of Massachusetts, and he’s trying to live that down. Giuliani just last week reiterated his support for state-subsidized abortions. McCain, after cultivating an image as a straight-talking maverick in 2000, has spent the last seven years carrying water for the administration, and has painted himself into a corner with flatly ridiculous statements in support of America’s ongoing debacle in Iraq. There are plenty of other candidates running for the GOP nomination, but not many have really risen above the background noise.
I have been speculating about the role that Karl Rove may play in the 2008 campaign. Rove has been considered a solid-gold political asset for a long time now. And at some point before January ’09, Bush may decide to bequeath Rove to one of the Republican campaigns. And so I wonder: Will this come during the primaries or general election? If it comes during the primaries, who will be the lucky recipient? And will that guy really be so lucky? After all, any campaign with Rove on board is going to be treated as a nuclear-grade threat, so his presence could create more problems than it would solve. Something interesting to keep an eye on during this interminable campaign.
Via TPM, I learn of this LA Times story on our upcoming war with Iran.
The Bush administration has postponed plans to offer public details of its charges of Iranian meddling inside Iraq amid internal divisions over the strength of the evidence, U.S. officials said…some officials in Washington are concerned that some of the material may be inconclusive and that other data cannot be released without jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods. They want to avoid repeating the embarrassment that followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, when it became clear that information the administration cited to justify the war was incorrect, said the officials, who described the internal discussions on condition of anonymity.
For most people, “learning from your mistakes” means learning how to avoid that mistake in the future. For the Bush administration, it means learning how to make the same mistakes more effectively.
Read What’s the Matter with Kansas? recently. The book homed in on and answered a question that has been bugging me for a long time.
The way I see it, the Republican party doesn’t seem like it should hold together as a single party. There are the country-club conservatives, people interested in laissez-faire economic policies (or blatantly favorable economic policies) and not particularly interested in social issues. And there are the red-meat conservatives, who seem more populist, but are mostly interested in social issues. The way I’ve always perceived it, each pays lip-service to the interests of the other, but ultimately their interests don’t overlap, and may even clash.
Kansas responds to this directly, and essentially portrays the plebian red-meat conservatives as the willing dupes of the country-club conservatives, who push on hot-button issues to get them worked up, without ever really throwing them a bone. People always talk about banning abortion, but nobody ever does anything about it.
And this is where I find a point of disagreement: over the past few years, right-wing triumphalism has led to more actual action on those issues. South Dakota did outlaw abortion. Most states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
And of course, over the past 6 years, a different wing of conservatism has achieved prominence, the neoconservatives, the foreign-intervention maximalists. Frank doesn’t really address this faction, but in the current political climate, it’s impossible to talk about politics without talking about that.
Still, these are isolated problems in what is otherwise an interesting and entertaining read. Frank does show how the embrace of laissez-faire principles has damaged Kansas, but those principles have become part of the red-meat faction’s holy crusade, even to the direct self-impoverishment of its members. And shows how the bizarre history of the state brought them 180° politically to where they are.
Set aside a few minutes and read this extraordinary post by über-blogger Teresa Nielsen Hayden. It’s long, and if you already read Making Light covers some familiar ground, but it’s worth it.
So the Democrats have taken both the House and Senate. Admittedly, they had a little help from the White House, which managed to turn off many voters with a litany of crimes and errors too long and obvious to mention. But what surprised me is that the Republican majority—especially in the Senate—ended not with a bang but a whimper. The GOP could have put up a fight over the results in Montana and Virginia. In fact, I expected them to, and was surprised that they didn’t. I expected dirty tricks being masterminded by Karl Rove, lawsuits, etc. Nothing. Both Burns and Allen rolled over pretty meekly.
There is always a difference between the way a thing exists in the real world and your mental model of it. In my mental model of today’s GOP, the party is ruthless and effective (among other things). I suspect that many progressives have held a roughly similar model, and the Republicans have done plenty to create it. So the quick concessions are jarring, surprising. It makes me wonder if Democrats have been scaring themselves into paralysis with tales of the big scary boogeyman when the boogeyman really isn’t that big or scary.