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May 03, 2005


Two things.

First, I think you need a series title for these posts--the same news keeps coming day after day. You know, "Bush slide, part 213."

And on that note, have you seen this bit on how Denny Hastert's parting ways with the Bugman on social security?

Majority Leader Tom DeLay and many conservatives unhappy with the Senate's cautious approach want a House bill on Social Security ready as soon as possible, while Speaker Dennis Hastert prefers to wait and let the Senate act first, according to Republican aides.

I'd love to see that difference of opinion fester!

God, lots going on here. First, after reading the sub-headline "what else can go wrong for Bush," I thought "they didn't mention Bolton." But there it was, in the next sentence.

Second, I like that they refer to him "running low on his precious supply of political capital," indicating that that Newsweek no longer believes, as Bush not only wanted others to believe but which he himself apparently stupidly believed, that he had a mandate.

Then there's the description of DeLay as "ethically challenged." When a politician is described that way, it's like a cancer patient being described as "no longer in remission and not responding to treatment."

On the nuclear option issue, there's the old adage known to just about anyone who's ever served or worked in a legislative body: when you don't have the votes, you talk. When you have the votes, you vote. I notice Frist doing some talking about the nuclear option, but not any voting.

Regarding the press conference, some folks may have seen the diary at Daily Kos by Georgia10 with shots of about 15 headlines from the morning after his presser summarizing his pitch on Social Security as calling for benefit cuts. The ironic thing about it was, based on his ease with the questions and the fact that he wasn't a complete blubbering idiot, I thought from purely performative standpoint, it was one of his better press conferences. But the message he conveyed was bad, and it resulted in absolutely brutal post-event press coverage.

Finally, there's emptywheel's cite about Hastert trying to reel in DeLay. Remembering that DeLay put Hastert in the speaker's chair with the expectation--largely fulfilled to this point--that he would control Hastert, I have to wonder if the relationship is starting to turn, as rank-and-filers more concerned with reelection than ideology join Shays and start to coalesce into a "throw DeLay an anvil before he drowns us all" caucus. If so, I would think they would try to foster division between Hastert and DeLay, leaving DeLay more exposed and vulnerable to a challenge (possibly from Boehner?).

I've been writing about the inherent contradictions in the current Republican coalition for a couple years, but I've hesitated to speculate on whether those contradictions would cause cleavages that might threaten their electoral strength and ability to govern. I'm starting to wonder if those contradictions are finally starting to divide the party against itself.

Well, join the club on that last point. Even since about Schiavo time, it's been evident they're cleaving... business wants a funtioning congress and social conservatives want something else entirely. NPR says the 'born agains' (their term) are rallying 'round the country re the nuclear option. What a mistake.

DHinMI, I think, as you say, the contradictions have been there for a while, but it's maddeningly difficult to get voters to focus on them in times considered, if not good, at least not wholly bad. Though there are generally long-term trends that define political eras, in the immediate electoral situation, voters tend to choose based on present circumstance. We now see the Dems of the mid-70s as hopelessly divided, but they united enough to score the stunning '74 Watergate/recession victory, and the Carter '76 squeaker. It was only when bad times hit them (hostages and gas-lines) that things flared irreparably. Had the Iranian revolution never happened, Carter might have prevailed narrowly the way Bush did in '04, and given the illusion the party could sustain the divisions. Conversely, had Judge Sirica not pursued Watergate, and the OPEC price-rises of '73-'74 never happened, we might not have seen a Democratic president post-'68 for a quarter century.

I know this frustrates alot of folks on our side, who think Bush is obviously the worst president in history, and should have fallen to defeat easily last year. We did, in fact, persuade a whole lot of people (independents, especially) to vote against the "popular wartime president", but the fact that we didn't quite make it is due to certain circumstance (the mediocre but definite job growth of spring '04, the waning of bad news from Iraq just before election time). It's not, as Bush and his cohorts either believed or tried to sell, a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for the state of the party. An Iraq that hasn't been a success by any sane standard, and an economy that peaked at break-even and now seems likely to plunge negative, will do more to highlight the party's contradictions over the next few years than any position papers from the DNC. (I'm sure you know from history that the DNC, post-Hoover's '28 election, planned a "campaign of education", to let voters know how the GOP was hurting them. The events of the following years rendered that plan wholly unnecessary).

The great comedy in the story Demfrom CT posted is Gillespie's suggestion that Dems piling on so soon after November is unprecedented. Apparently he doesn't recall Bob Dole's appearance on Election Night '92, when the then-Minority leader announced he was going to represent "the 57% of the country who didn't vote for Clinton" -- or the two years immediately after, when we had more filibusters than we'd had in the preceding century.

Oh, well...I'm sure our vigilant press will correct the false assertion.

Good points, all. In fact

leading to "more assertiveness on Congress's role" on a range of issues

is the only thing that'll sink Bolton and bring sanity back to DC.

On Democratic discipline—I certainly see it as an outgrowth of the presidential campaign. Reid, Boxer, Durbin, Kennedy, Clinton—these people are Kerry's friends and colleagues, people who actually know him, and it isn't hard to imagine that they understand the challenges he faced and the choices he made in a way that others do not. Those others are the "lousy candidate" school (in various degrees of vehemence), led by people who have never run for office, entrenched oligarchs like Mike Wallace—they did the same thing to Gore. I think Dean gets it too—he's an experienced politician and office-holder, after all.

I guess if I were in charge of framing it, I'd call it "putting democracy back into politics" or something like that. Jon Stewart would probably call it "making America safe for democracy." One of the best answers Kerry gave in the debates was overlooked as far as I know, in the town hall when he tried to answer the young "abortion is murder" woman who Schieffer (another oligarch) obviously had placed front and center for just that moment. Basically Kerry said that in a democracy you have to represent all of the people, no matter what your own personal beliefs are. That's what it means to be a representative of the people. That's what Kerry's friends and colleagues in the House, the Senate, and the Democratic Party get.

I give Kerry a lot of credit for keeping his wits about him and moving forward. I also liked Gore's eremetic approach—emerging from self-imposed exile in the wilderness to take office and restore order to a corrupt government in disarray is one of the oldest and most powerful themes in Chinese political life, as well as art and literature.

The correct spelling for the word I chose to describe Gore's approach is "eremitic" ...

What's so fascinating about this is that Gallup's Frank Newport sees Bush in the same tight range of approval he's had for months -

Our weekend poll pegs Bush's overall job approval rating at 48%, unchanged from a week previous. With the exception of one early February poll that had Bush's rating at 57%, 13 Gallup polls conducted since the beginning of the year have shown Bush's approval rating to be hovering in a narrow range between 45% and 52%. His average for the first quarter of his second term was 50.7%. Looking back in history a little further, we find that Bush's approval averages for the four quarters of 2004 were 50.9%, 47.8%, 50.1%, and 51.6%. His yearly average for 2004 was 50%.

Thus, we can say that Bush's job approval rating is now just slightly below his average for the past year and is actually just about where he was in the second quarter of last year.

What's changed is media coverage, obviously, suggesting no sinner is irrevocably lost. Then again,the current coverage is what Americans needed and deserved all this time.

Ten Thousand Things, I think you make an interesting point: for all the media and blog disdain of Kerry as dreary Washington insider, his status as a long-serving Senator (as well as his close margin) gave him more ballast in Congress than Dem candidates have had over the preceding quarter-century. Once the McGovern Commission rules were implemented, Dems began to regularly choose candidates with little or no connection to the DC party -- Carter, Dukakis, Clinton. (The exceptions, Mondale and Gore, got their nominations via connection to the previous un-Washington president) This meant there was little institutional connection between the Congressional party and the candidate/president. So, when defeat, or, in Clinton's case, simply hard times appeared, the folks in Congress couldn't drop the ticket-topper quickly enough. Kerry, aloof reputation or not, has a presence in Congress, and has not been disdained in the same way previous candidates have.

DemfromCT, two things about Gallup's observation: First, his extraordinary ability to keep Bush's numbers higher than in any other poll makes him of course a suspect commentator (notably, at all of Bush's worst times, Gallup seems to come up with those samples that overstate GOP representation). Second, the observation that Bush is about where he was in second quarter '04 is hardly reassuring to Republicans. Last Spring was when Abu Ghraib crystalized the burgeoning fiasco in Iraq, and many polls had Bush's numbers down as far as 41-44%. Had that situation held, he'd have lost emphatically.

You're quite right, of course, that the current coverage-tone is what Bush has deserved all along. I'm cautiously optimistic the press will remain in this mode (though there will be occasional resume-swoons, like the hysterical over-praise for a few good Laura Bush jokes). The major forces that led to the kid-glove treatment of the first term are now gone: first, the desire to promote Bush vis-a-vis the press-despised Clinton; then post-9/11 intimidation (and subsequent Democratic timidity). Absent another huge zeitgeist-shifting event, I see the press continuing to be far more critical -- though still perhaps less than the administration actually deserves.

off topic, but did anyone see that Pat Robertson slighted Frist's WH ambitions? How representative is Pat's thinking these days, and if he is correct about Rel Right feelings about Fristibuster, then the nuclear mess is not a savvy measure to prove his bona fides regardless of the expectation of winning or losing (which was my guess), but in fact a move of political desperation by the CatSlayer. The 2008 GOP WH race will be so much fun.

Crab, check out this post from Ezra:

Frist's Lament

demtom, you can't make sense of Gallup without looking at party ID, which has been known to swing wildly there. I don't have it, although steve Soto (Left Coaster0 usually digs it out. Regardless, I accept that Bush isn't in Nixon or GHWB territory, although folks forget how low the Great And Popular (in death) Ronald Reagan was through much of his Presidency (40's).

'08 is the relgious radicals' best chance, maybe their last chance for awhile. The rank-and-file believes it won the election and so has the right to name the next nominee. They're not to be placated. The era of pretending to be outsiders is over. They have to produce.

Either they splinter, or every presidential hopeful toes the line and you see all the wingnuts they've kept away from the convention podium since '92 at home and in prime time. And there's a reason they've been kept away. It'll be interesting to see who can raise the money to run against them, if anyone.

Look at Jeb, look at Frist: the minute they jumped through one hoop those guys were there holding another. It's either a dog fight or a hostile takeover.

If all of these Democrats are being so tough all because of Kerry's campaign, I wish they had bothered to show it during his actual campaign. Personally, I think they got weak and lazy back then and went back to their standby strategy of "if we are nice and look pleasant, then the public will reject those crazy Republicans." That failed (AGAIN) and now the Dems have nothing to lose.

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