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April 18, 2006


And who has been convicted of "failure to act" and who has been reelected President or promoted while unquestionably guilty of "failure to act"? And which country has been unable to grasp this for the last five years?

R and L agree: Rummy is a symbol. But that's where the agreement ends.

we can't afford to fire him. he's a symbol says the Right. No matter how he deserves it, firing him admits we were wrong - and we can't have that.

Don't think Rummy did this by himself. He's but a symbol says the Left.

The dust-up over gays in the military reflected an unfortunate fact of American political life: For decades, the top leaders of the American military have been overwhelmingly conservative and Republican in their political sympathies. I say "unfortunate" not because the brass's political views have often differed from my own but because it does not serve our military or our public life well to have the leadership of the armed forces so skewed in a single political direction. Nor does it serve liberals well to be -- or to be seen as -- reflexively hostile to the military.

And that may be the silver lining in the current cloud over Rumsfeld and our Iraq policy. Some smart and patriotic generals are telling us that a policy is not wise or respectful of our troops just because it is put forward by politicians on the right end of our political spectrum. We may be witnessing the weakening of partisanship in the top echelons of the military. That would be very good for our republic.

Let's have hearings says the Center. Shades of Bernstein.

The Republicans are really stuck here--you go into an election with the party you have and the leaders you have. They can't jettison Bush without disaffecting their base, but it is hard to see any appeal for independents. I expect more retirements from Congress as guys who haven't been challenged in years think about what's ahead. Bush was weird as usual in his short press availability this morning. When they asked about staff changes, he talked about high gas prices, and how the gov't was going to do something. As if.

The Dems really need to get positive soon, though, about what they would do differently, or turnout will just go down.

As Bernstein says, one of the most important differences with Watergate is the role of the VP. The resignation of Agnew was a necessary precursor of the removal of Nixon.

Don't miss this article about Cheney and his staff. It is relevant to the above post as well.

re turnout from Gallup:

The latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows that Democrats remain strongly positioned for this year's midterm elections, leading Republicans among both registered voters and a smaller group of regular voters. Democrats report heightened levels of enthusiasm about voting this year, a departure from each of the last three midterm elections. Republicans' enthusiasm is lower than in recent midterm elections.


I have read both the Bernstein article and the one cited above by Mimikatz. Will no one deliver us. Cheney is most frightening.

Bernstein's article is literarily well written, and very well argued. Indeed, Bernstein is no Woodward, glory be to God for that.

I assume others have, like me, read arguments elsewhere, that Democrats should drop "incompetence" as their main campaign argument, and cast the choice in more ideological terms. I grant, framing the election around competence offers the possibility that a truly efficient/successful administration professing the same ideals as the Bush folk would, by inference, be deemed acceptable. But that ignores the possibility that the goals of the administration are in and of themselves incompetent (i.e., unable to lead to success). And, more to the point, it assumes that elections -- especially national ones -- can be fought primarily on ideological grounds. That's a notion with which I strongly disagree.

One of the great misconceptions of political pundits is that elections are won "in the center". This nostrum was clearly disproven by Bush's win, and that was hardly the first instance -- Carter was easily more "centrist" than Reagan, and both Willkie and Dewey probably stood closer to absolute center than FDR. It would be truer to say elections are decided by "voters in the middle", but I think it's a mistake to assume the votes of these centrists are decided by which candidate stands closer to them in some strict litmus test (were this true, Kerry would have had more of their votes in '04). Their vote is, rather, primarily a judgment on the incumbent party: has it performed well (competently) or not? So we can't afford to let this issue slip in importance.

There are, of course, many voters who do decide on an ideological basis -- who's with me or against me on tax policy, abortion, Iraq, etc. These people constitute each party's base, and their votes are more or less locked in already. The key/deciding voters in every election are those who don't have a devoted position on any of those issues, but do have an opinion on how things are going. What they want to know about Iraq is, are things progressing or not? What they want to know about taxes is, are burdens being shared equitably, and is the economy benefiting? They have no strong opinion about the size of government; they just care about its effectiveness. Thus, for them, competence is the biggest issue imaginable.

I'd make the case that all great political turnarounds -- the Dems in '32, the GOP in '68 and '80, the Dems in '92 -- come about not because the electorate has undergone a sudden ideological conversion, but because the incumbent has obviously got things in such a mess that a change of course seems vital. (Sometimes the battles are over issues that aren't even ideologically clear, like Vietnam or the hostage crisis) What the newly-empowered party does when it gains control does have a more strongly ideological component -- and I worry that too many Dems are only ready to be the Congressional Dems of 1930 (who were still talking about tax cuts) rather than the FDRs we need. But, as far as GETTING control...I think incompetence is not just our best issue, it's the most time-proven way of winning known to man.

I'm with you there, demtom, and will not let up on it. i live in a small town and that's what Main Street cares about.

It is important to remember that mid-term elections are both driven locally -- and have national themes, and the mix of these id different from place to place. Competence or incopentence can be a theme -- but it has to work in accord with local circumstances. I keep remembering the Dukakis 1988 campaign which was all about competence, and from a 17 point lead, it went down hill to defeat. In some places it helped Mike -- in many places it was a ho-hum issue. It doesn't really promise anything concrete -- something you can eat, wear, or sleep in, or use when you are sick. It begs the question, Competence to do what????

Right now lots of interesting political things are happening that suggest the underlying strategy. In lots of races, people are pressuring the weaker candidate to drop out -- avoid primary fights. Reason -- tiz better to go into general elections without an alienated minority. Good GOTV happens when no one is "mad" -- and in 2006, we need races without anyone being "mad."

Next step is to set up how each candidate is different from the opponent. This could range from playing golf with Abramoff to some set of votes, or it could just be personality -- but you need to know how each contest is set up.

Finally you get to the "Vision" business -- what are you really for as a change in policy? If I were writing ad copy today, I would do something to counter Bush's claim to being the "Great Decider" -- (I'd put it to "Great Pretender" music score -- and flash "trust" poll numbers on the screen.) But that may not be where we are at next fall -- but I would morph that question into whether Congress should have an active role in the deciding business. Then (assuming I am working against a Republican incumbant -- I would morph to times the incumbant seems to have questioned the "Great Decider's" decisions. And I would end it with a three point salient list of things the Democrat is "for."

In my state we are defending an open but currently democratly held Senate Seat, a strong majority DFL house seat open because of a retirement, and we have three Republican held seats that could be in play. Competence would not work in any of these races.

Sara, I don't know why it wouldn't work. Dukakis ran on being a humorless technocrat... and got slammed with "Boston Harbor is the most polluted.." ads, which were devastating. Almost as devastating as pics of him trying to ride in a tank. That's not an example of what to emulate.

But running against Rs is running against the status quo. Katrina and competence are joined at the hip, e.g.

What's up with the Dems - all so silent on Iran? While the drumbeats reminiscent of a recent invasion keep pounding louder and knowledgeable folks like Col. Sam Gardiner stating that covert ops have already begun in Iran. Are we witnessing a repeat? Acquiescence through silence. What will the next Kerry have to say in 2008, I was for or against the middle east conflagration?

Sara, the thing about Dukakis' competence campaign was, it had no validity. In '88, the economy was still humming, and Reagan had signed deals with Gorbachev -- from a "how are things going?" standpoint, the election was in the bag for the incumbents. You can't convince voters of incompetence when their own eyes tell them the opposite.

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