Tuesday's Times details how the GOP is ending strong this year, giving them the momentum they need to hold on to power:
Procrastination, power struggles and partisanship have left Congress with substantial work to finish before breaking for the elections. The fast-approaching recess and the Republican focus on national security legislation make it inevitable that much of the remainder will fall by the wayside.
At best, it appears that just 2 of the 11 required spending bills will pass, and not one has been approved so far, forcing a stopgap measure to keep the federal government open. No budget was enacted. A popular package of business and education tax credits is teetering. A lobbying overhaul, once a top priority in view of corruption scandals, is dead. The drive for broad immigration changes has derailed.
An offshore oil drilling bill painted as an answer to high gas prices is stalled. Plans to cut the estate tax and raise the minimum wage have floundered, and an important nuclear pact with India sought by the White House is not on track to clear Congress. New problems surfaced over the weekend for the annual military authorization bill. And numerous other initiatives await a planned lame-duck session in mid-November or a future Congress.
“It is disappointing where we are, and I think Republicans need to be upfront about this,” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia and a member of the House leadership. “We have not accomplished what we need to accomplish.”
It's been making the rounds in our office, and maybe yours by now. Chris Wallace's interview with President Bill Clinton doesn't lack for fireworks. Wallace starts with a "hit job" question, implicitly accusing Clinton of not doing enough to fight terrorism. And the former President doesn't pull any punches in answering it.
Check out the Washington Times today to see Simon's response to the new Gallup Poll. According to the poll, the national party preference is even among likely voters.
"Nobody believes those numbers. I don't think anybody in the country believes the generic party preference is even right now," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network. Still, Mr. Rosenberg said, Mr. Bush's efforts to elevate the terrorism issue in the campaign "has been marginally effective." "The Republicans got a bounce out of his 9/11 speech. The president does have the ability to change the debate in the country. The problem is, it is not sustainable," he said.
The Washington Post took a courageous stand on the current battle over immigration. It is worth reading in its entirety. Here it is:
THE CYNICAL immigration endgame of the 109th Congress isn't particularly surprising. But after a session in which the Senate actually managed to produce a bipartisan, comprehensive measure to overhaul the existing system, the latest, enforcement-only developments are nonetheless disappointing and dangerous.
The House has passed, and the Senate seems ready to go along with, a measure to require construction of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border. That would cost at least $2 billion, and that's in addition to a $2.5 billion initiative, entrusted to Boeing Co. this week, to erect "virtual fences" along the northern and southern borders.
A fence would damage relations with Mexico, harm the environment and, especially in the absence of broader changes, be ineffective. Even if a foolproof fence could be placed along every mile of the border, it wouldn't eliminate illegal immigration. Perhaps half of those in the country illegally did not slip secretly across a border but arrived through official entry points, using fraudulent documents or coming in legally and overstaying their visas.
But the fence is, sadly, the least offensive of the measures under consideration. On Wednesday, the House approved an unnecessary and arguably unconstitutional bill to require voters to show photo identification to take part in federal elections beginning in 2008; in 2010, the ID would have to demonstrate proof of citizenship. This would effectively disenfranchise many poor and elderly Americans, who are less likely to have, or be able to obtain, such documentation. It responds to a non-problem. The manifold challenges of election administration do not include large numbers of noncitizens trying to vote. The Senate should not go along.
Yesterday, the House passed another batch of immigration-related measures, the worst of which would deputize state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. The measure would permit, but not require, state and local police to arrest and detain illegal immigrants for even civil violations of federal immigration law. This would undermine the ability of law enforcement to deter and prosecute violent crime. As New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, "Do we really want people who could have information about criminals -- including potential terrorists -- to be afraid to go to the police?"
The most disappointing aspect of the debate is the passive posture of President Bush. Mr. Bush could have used his bully pulpit to make clear the importance of comprehensive reform. He could promise to veto the bills on the understanding that enforcement measures, even justifiable ones, will be needed as leverage to obtain the comprehensive program he says he wants. Instead, he's meekly following the worst instincts of his fellow Republicans. "Yes, I'll sign it into law," Mr. Bush told CNN, adding, "If your question is, 'Will I stop trying to push for a comprehensive reform?' The answer is, 'No, I won't stop trying to push for comprehensive reform.' " With pushing like this, who needs opponents?
The Post headline says it all: " Intelligence Analysts Say War Spread Terrorism "
So, despite hundreds of billions spent over five long years, tens of thousands of casualties, the degradation of our military and the ruining of America's image around the world, Bush's own government has concluded that our failure in Iraq has made the world much more dangerous.
Congressional Democrats have said that they are nationalizing the elections. Will this quote, and this story, appear in every Democratic ad right now, this week? The Republicans have made their closing strategy clear - Democrats will make us less safe in the war on terror, cut and run in Iraq and raise taxes. Their ads are mirroring their national arguments.
If Democratic leaders are to nationalize the elections around their arguments, then the ads run must mirror the national argument. Is this happening? According to the Washington Post a few weeks back, most Democratic candidates are rejecting the leadership's position on Iraq. So what does this mean about the Democratic Party's capacity to nationalize and have our arguments and our ads mirror one another? An election is only national when a Party is speaking with one voice, everywhere.
Putting this headline and the NIE into every race, right now, would be a good way to test whether Democrats really believe there is a national narrative, and can execute on it.
Bored on a friday? Why not sign up for Casual Observer. Its an online trading system, in which you get $5000 imaginary dollars to bet on the outcome of close races in the run-in to November. A friend of mine has roped me into an informal league, a contest which i fear might forever prove i know very little about predicting elections. Trading seems show a slight narrowing of the Democratic lead in House races, which doesn't seem unreasonable given spread of Bush's slight security poll bounce, falling gas prices and the like. What else do we learn? The market is long on Jim Webb (who it thinks has a generous 55% chance of winning in Virgini) and Martin O'Malley, short on Angelidies, and can't make up its mind on Connecticut, where things are pretty much 50/50. You can check the other stocks offered here. I'm suspicious of it at the moment, in particular as to whether the market is sufficiently liquid to provide accurate information. Still, we mustn't get too Poindexter about it. Its just a bit of fun after all. Naturally, if you've got any insider tips............
EJ Dionne on the economy and the elections. Rising gas prices have given the Republicans a fillup, but as he points out, from a low base. But the other economic fundamentals - wages, incomes, price rises, slow job growth - haven't changed.
The GOP is still in trouble on the economy. The New York Times/CBS News poll published Thursday found that 36 percent of respondents thought the economy was getting worse, compared with 17 percent who saw it getting better.
But this is actually good news for Republicans, considering that in July the same poll found that only 12 percent saw the economy improving while 47 percent saw it declining. And in the Pew survey, the proportion of voters listing gas prices and the constellation of issues around energy as the country's most important problem fell from 14 percent in May to 7 percent this month.
And so it begins. We've known for a while that the Republicans have planned to trot out a tax increase message, as a siamese twin to "cut and run." There have been reports that the GOP would run the national campaign on security, but in local races would try to capitalize on voter concern about the economy by running hard on tax. This makes sense, particularily if you listen to reports like this on NPR this morning, showing discontent over the economy in rural areas (and noting that Dems were doing surprisingly well amongst rural voters.) And, so, no surprise yesterday when President Bush began to roll out the tax message, during a sweep through Florida yesterday.
Predictability notwithstanding, there is something rather fantastic about all of this. The President says that, if the Democrats win back the House, they would raise taxes. In fact he says they plan to raise taxes. I might be ignorant on this matter, but i no of no such plan. And i can't think of any particular reason why a Democratic house would to do this. Come 2008 Democrats will have to cope with the unexploded bomb of whether to repeal the Bush tax cuts and get slated for raising taxes, or to suck it up and forgoe any hope of returning to fiscal balance. Mark Warner fired the most recent shot on this battle this week, and it'll run all the way through the elections. But that is not relevant in this election.
The Democrats have neither plans for a tax increase on anything, nor planned increases in spending so large as to infer that a tax increase would be needed, nor any chance of enacting such an increase with a Republican President and a likely Republican Senate. Naively one might that in order to say they will Republicans would at least feel obliged to concoct some sort of rationale for the claims. But no. Check out the RNC - where you will find not a single fact-sheet or issue brief giving any reason why the Democrats might actually raise taxes in practice. Add this together with their other frequent dissembling over rising wages, fast-growing job numbers and falling deficits and it seems clear that out there, beyond the outer-rim of the reality-based community, a passing familiarity with the truth is no longer something to which one should even aspire.
As our own Pete Leyden would say, the web has gone 2.0. The NYT has an excellent update about the state of the internet and the increasingly important role of video:
"...the world has gone batty over video. Thirty-second clips, three-minute spoofs, half-hour sitcoms, TV dramas that haven’t been shown in decades, rap videos, Hollywood blockbusters and feeds from TV news outlets big and small are flooding online. The term video itself is already starting to sound old — the equivalent of songs before the advent of MP3’s and downloads."
Progressives need to understand this technology, and how we can use it to get our message out. If you've been wondering what Apple iTV, NBC Broadband, Google and Yahoo are up to in this space, this article is a good way to get up to speed.