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November 12, 2005


I was going to write a silly lovelorn pseudo-missive from the "Typhoid Mary of Political Communications" just to let y'all cut loose with some snark, but instead I'm going to follow up on a request I made in the sequel to that "BREAKING: DEMS CUTTING DEALS" dKos diary.

I think it would be really valuable to have a two part series on how (part 1) bloggers and (part 2) blogizens are viewed by our representatives, focusing on what behavior is effective and what isn't, with suitable examples, such as the aforementioned TMoPC and dKos diary. Personally, as a blogizen, I'd like to know how I can diary-rally the troops to my "pet cause" without myself or those I enlist being regarded as wild and wooly-eyed whackos by my representatives. Or, if I've been sufficiently rabble-roused by someone else's work, what my most effective approach is to making my voice known.

And I would lay out at least 10¢ for that.

Newsie's questions of the week:

1. So pundits have weighed in about the ramifications of the 05 elections. What (from the 05 campaigns & elections) are the top three lessons for Democrats?
2. What should be the Dem strategy on defeating Alito and getting a more moderate nominee? (Me: Go after the Vanguard stuff hard. Ethics is already a big problem for BushCo, so why not hammer it even more?) Or is Alito the best we could hope for?
3. Look into your crystal ball. Who will emerge as the anti-Hillary in the Dem Pres primary race in 2008? Why will it be that person?
4. What should be the Dem message on Iraq?
5. What are the top three factors in Kaine's win in VA? What are the top three factors in Corzine getting a higher than expected margin in NJ?
6. Grade Dean's chairmanship of the DNC so far. Grade Emanuel's chairmanship of DCCC so far, and Schumer's chairmanship of DSCC so far.

Do you know that my wife hates me because I spend so much time on blogs?

We need to start a "blog-anon" for family members of blog addicts.

How do we avoid a (real, this time) Constitutional Crisis™ when dubya's bubble bursts?

The two most powerful people in charge of handling the boy prince will probably be gone before next November, creating a monstrous vacuum. Rove is on his way out, "spring in his step" or no. Cheney's on his way out. If Fitz doesn't get them first then Poppy's people will figure some way to ditch them before they take down the whole GOP. Meanwhile Bush is a narcissist of the first water, and with Rove and Cheney gone he will be desperate for someone, anyone, to handle the day to day bidness of prezidentin' (it's hard work ya know, and it's about to get hella harder). So who's gonna do that? McCain? Condi? Hughes? Card? Powell? Or somebody I've never heard of?

A real outsider -- say one of Poppy's people -- is not going to sit well with the dauphin. Any Senator suitable for the veep gig would either be an idiot who can't see that the existing GOP power structure is history, or a megalomaniac focused primarily on leveraging their incumbency to control the emerging structure. Either way they are unlikely to contribute meaningfully to getting us out of this mess. All this, just ahead of a major economic downturn and increasing international hostility towards the US...

The problem is that for the past five years the WH has been a courtier's paradise, furiously selecting for sycophancy and against competence. There is nobody anywhere near 1600 PA Ave who has any fucking idea whatsoever about, or any interest in, actual governance. Let alone genuine leadership. But there are plenty of people who are deeply interested in raw power, and quite a few who are looking at jail time if a real housecleaning comes around.

There's a don't-impeach-shrub thread going at dkos which to my mind mostly misses the forest for the trees. The sort of realignment Kos advocates doesn't actually diminish the official powers of the executive, and even if Dems take back both houses (hope is not a plan) but resist the urge to impeach, Kos's "Jodi Rell problem" is still a problem. The minute Cheney and Rove are both gone all bets are off and we get a devil we don't know, whether we impeach Bush or not. And with hard times coming that could just as easily be an American Hitler as a Gerald Ford or Jodi Rell.

So please tell me a story about the next three years, Kagro X. It doesn't have to be all happy and optimistic, it just has to be plausible and end with the Constitution intact enough to do a little convalescing.

BTW Blue, that's an interesting question, though I suppose the trivial answer is to call up your congresscritter (er, their staffers that is) and pick their brains directly for where they draw the line. There's always going to be some distance between what gets people riled up and what makes a particular flash-mob credible, but I agree that it behooves all of us to ponder it.

Kagro, sounds like you need some consulting of your own. Try telling her the blogs are just what you use to hide the window with the porn. As to golf you're on your own.

1) Jesselee has a good post up about RSC versus BluntCo versus the Tuesday Morning Group. Obviously Bush being down is a huge factor in that, as is the generally embarrassing environment for the Rs that brought Bush down. I'm wondering though how much having sidelined DeLay has to do with it. Could DeLay have sat on this; is Blunt really that much less fearsome; how much are the ambitions of Pence and Wamp and Boehner driving this. Can the dividends of a Ronnie Earle investigation, (or the costs of DeLay-style corruption), really be so great? This seems just too good to be true. Hell, I'll criminalize politics from here til Christmas if the payoff is a destroyed Republican conference.

Also, how fleeting or lasting will the disarray in the Republican House be?

2) Floating under the radar during this is Olympia Snowe's vote in the Senate Finance Committee. I'd REALLY like to hear more about that.

3) What is Carl Levin doing. How recently did the Senate Democrats get access to this business about the torture of al-Libi and the known-to-be-awful intelligence that we got from it. It seems like Levin and Reid could be even more aggressive than they are being now, by going to the press harder, although I suppose they're using this as a sword over Bush's head, getting mileage that way, and then they'll dump it when they're ready. Still, if anyone was going to outmaneuver Bush back in fall 02 spring 03, it would have been Levin. Has he been on the bench, or engaging in some traditional deference to the executive until recently, or what? And is he slowly warming up, or playing a behind-the-scenes hard game now?

4) Who's hurting who in that Dana Priest article is still unclear to me. Factions of CIA playing each other?

That's more than a nickel's worth of questions, so just choose any or none. And congratulations on the newborn; I didn't know about... him/her.

Radish -- That may be more than a five cents question, but here's a nickel's worth.

The vacuum implosion itself is a serious problem, and behind that there are a brace of "road to ruin" problems.

Cheney's replacement (unless it happens prematurely) must survive vetting as a potential Bush "housecleaning" successor. The Republican caucus is unlikely to achieve consensus; Democrats will have influence or even veto power.

The Successor will be at once a place-holder (in the sense that he or she will forswear am election run in 2008), and a leader in crisis (the depth of which is insufficiently appreciated).

As a leader in crisis, the Successor will require abundant good will on both sides of the aisle. This again gives Democrats leverage in selection and appointments, and creates great difficulties for the Republican coalition.

House and Senate leadership structures are unlikely to survive unscathed.

Democrats will face uncommon opportunities, in response to which they must avoid overreaching.

Nationwide, Republicans (plus acceptable Indies and Dem's) should be brushing up their resumes as they would in a normal transition process. Expect a mixed cabinet, a homecoming of adults, and an unambitious agenda.

No impeachment, but a (limited) program of serious investigative hearings.

Before or after November 2006? Likely after ... but not long after.

I'll try to get back here after I've had some time to consider the questions on the table. But let's start off by saying that now that Bob Brigham and Swing State Project have parted ways, he'll be doing his blogging at the web site he launched this summer with financial backing from Democratic donors and venture capitalists Deborah and Andy Rappaport: Leave No District Behind. Of course, we wish him well there.

Stop by and have a look at what he's done with the Rappaport's investment.

Blue -- When you contact an elected official on any subject, in any medium:
1. Don't waste time (yours/theirs/staff's).
2. Operate within the bounds of conventional belief systems when possible (and recognize the greater burden of proof where this is not possible).
3. Try to argue with reference to your target's belief system.

Blog-mediated campaigns often fail at all three. Elected's are major consumers of inbound opinion. They can tell pretty quickly when your advice is ill-informed or ill-intended.

Many blogizens adhere to starkly nonstandard belief systems, but for whatever reason (social isolation?) they think everybody thinks the way they do. [And they tend to think anybody who expresses contrary opinion is cowardly/evil/crazy/stupid/bought. See Point #1.]

Blogs can be useful vehicles for putting salient facts and effective arguments in the hands of individual advocates. Unfortunately, there is an evident blogospheric bias in favor of transparent ignorance and crazy talk.

It's not yet clear whether blogs will be more effective (on balance) for the arguments they push, or for their opponents.

Ah, thank you, RonK. Excellent value really -- "The Republican caucus is unlikely to achieve consensus" is worth a nickel all by itself, and by the time I got to "homecoming of adults" I was feeling much better.

re Bob Brigham's new place I think he, uh, needs to spend a little more of the Rappaports' money. ;-)

I'm sure he'd agree with you, radish. Let's see if the Rappaports do.

Newsie --
4. Looking forward, the Democratic Party should take no position on Iraq.

Individual Democrats should take individual positions per their individual holdings of conscience, judgment and statesmanship.

The GOP was wrong to take up War as an implement of partisan politics. Democrats -- as part of their program to restore Virtue in Government -- should revive the dictum that politics stops at the water's edge.

Looking backward, Democrats should insist on strict accountability for the Administration's conduct in diplomacy, defense, intelligence and public discourse ... and should hold their congressional Republican counterparts accountable (up to and including censure proceedings) for obstruction and obfuscation. Plenty of grist for the mill in that corner.

I think Ron has covered things nicely here, Blue. I would add this: You should expect roughly the same reception for your comments from your elected representatives as you'd expect from your doctor when you say, "I read on the Internet that..."

That said, it was always my experience that the communications taken most seriously on Capitol Hill were those demonstrating a clear understanding of the issues and their procedural posture. A missive exhorting Democrats "not to make deals," for instance, as was urged the other night, offers no ready response. How would you respond to such a dispatch? Probably with a standard form letter explaining your general position on the budget reconciliation bill. That's how the Legislative Correspondents (LCs) in the offices of the Members contacted the other night will respond. They won't know what to make of a panicked screed against the making of "deals."

That's not even to mention the fact that no deals were made. Budget reconciliation is generally a party-line affair, and there's rarely if ever anything that can induce people to cross the aisle. So an e-mail like that won't get a second look. It gets queued up with the other hundred or so that might come in, and all get the same form letter. Dems: Thank you for contacting me. I opposed the Republican budget package. It cuts this and that and the other thing. Thank you for your interest. Reps: Thank you for contacting me. I supported the budget and its sensible cuts in this and that and the other thing. Thank you for your interest.

Generally, that's all you're going to get no matter what you chime in on. But at least most issues afford you the opportunity to say that you support or oppose something in particular -- something which has an actual chance in hell of happening, unlike the prospect of making a deal with the other side in exchange for your support of reconciliation.

Newsie --
2. In my view, play it big. Emphases:
* The swing seat is at stake, and with it the course of the Court for a generation.
* Bush is a discredited leader whose White House may face legal and Constitutional "Trials of the Century". [Extra credit: Frist's legal troubles, DeLay's legal troubles, ...]
* Republicans have followed a COURT PACKING strategy ... holding seats open during Clinton's term, and demanding up-or-down votes during Bush's term [which began with an episode of partisan judicial activism in 2000, and would have ended in 2004 if they hadn't successfully obstructed the Plame investigation].
* Under influence of an agenda-driven Federalist Society, Americans get one kind of Law in Republican-appointed courts, and another in Democrat-appointed courts. Alito's dissenting opinions suggest he would aggravate this harmful trend.

Season to taste with spot issues (ethics, religion, reproduction, etc.) to move a vote here or there. Encourage individual Republican "declarations of independence" from Bush. Talk up alternatives -- including qualified non-wingnut women.

At the showdown, don't be shy about invoking the F-word, and don't be afraid of the Nuclear Option.

They may get Alito, they may not. Make it their last trip to the well.

texas dem -- 1 & 2 -- These questions are more punditory ("whaddyathink, Bub?") than consultative ("whaddawedonow, Coach?"), but worth addressing for context.

Two factors:

1. GOP Leadership (Executive and Legislative) plotted an untenable course, and unwisely lashed themselves to the wheel. The untenable course was evident in 1999 when Bush promised to apply the same trillion dollars to tax cuts, debt reduction and pet programs, and make it up in volume.

Lashing themselves to the wheel? Harder to explain. Their predecessors -- Reagan and Bush41 -- made midcourse concessions to reality. Leadership under Bush43 is an ideological all-star team, still convinced they create their own reality.

Why did they think they could fund Katrina relief via Operation Offset (a preconceived program-slashing laundry list)? I dunno. Why did they think they could divert the War on Terror into serial Wars of Liberation (a preconceived empire-building laundry list)?

2. GOP Leadership (Bush/Rove, DeLay, Frist) isn't going to be around as long as most of their membership. DeLay is sinking fast, Frist isn't running for reelection in 2006, Bush is on borrowed time (or at least influence). It was inevitable that Republicans in Congress would peel off, one by one and two by two, looking to the future. The scandals and stumbles only accelerated this process.

Disarray is deep, and probably long-lasting. Could DeLay have held it together longer? That's not clear. His leadership twisted and broke a lot of arms for the sake of single-vote margins. With this Reconciliation -- ANWR plus social program cuts plus district sacred cows -- he's not in single-vote territory. He might not even be in single-digit territory.

If GOP were cruising to a status quo election cycle in 2006, leadership would have more clout with membership ... but they're probably not, so they don't. Vulnerable R's don't want to defend cuts in food stamps, and their ideological hardcore peers don't want to go home without those cuts. (It might be their last chance for a long time.)

My favorite two.

Argh. Meant to say that these two points were my favorite:

* Bush is a discredited leader whose White House may face legal and Constitutional "Trials of the Century". [Extra credit: Frist's legal troubles, DeLay's legal troubles, ...]

* Republicans have followed a COURT PACKING strategy ... holding seats open during Clinton's term, and demanding up-or-down votes during Bush's term [which began with an episode of partisan judicial activism in 2000, and would have ended in 2004 if they hadn't successfully obstructed the Plame investigation].

This is great! Ron's doing all the heavy lifting, which is great for my delicate situation. Next thread: Take Out the Garbage -- 5¢.

And I'm not even going to talk about what it's done to my golf game.


You've got time for golf?

What's up with that?

Tom DeLay + golf? 328,000 page hits.
Roy Blunt + golf? 34,800 hits.
John Boehner + golf? 13,600 hits.

See also Michael Crowley's Caddy Hacks: Golf, the ultimate symbol of Republican corruption in Slate.com

drgardner... Dr. Gardner? I'm being lectured on golf by a doctor, now?

I play at the local municipal course -- actually a Regional Park, since discrete municipalities are the exception rather than the rule around here. It's a good Republican cloth coat...er, Democratic golf course.

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