Friday, July 30, 2010

Someone needs an address

This mixture of tech and politics is freaking hilarious:
Conservative talk radio host Michael Reagan, eldest son of former president Ronald Reagan, is selling e-mail addresses on his website with an appeal to conservatives to stop giving their money to companies he casts as tied to liberalism.
Writes Reagan: "People who believe in true Reagan Conservative Values are unwittingly supporting the Obama, Pelosi and Reid liberal agenda! What do I mean? Well, every time you use your email from companies like Google, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple and others, you are helping the liberals. These companies are, and will continue, [sic] to be huge supporters financially and with technology [????????] of those that are hurting our country." [Brackets mine]
Yeah, those Apple email addresses are really popular these days. Seems like everyone's got one. You don't want to help Al Gore out by getting one of those! I'd much rather have an address from that huge, completely independent company Hotmail. By the way, are they privately owned or something, because I'd love to buy some of their stock, but after I clicked on the MSN link in Hotmail to search for stocks I couldn't find them listed anywhere. What gives? Must be some small startup somewhere.

I have no idea if any of these companies actually support Barack Obama's policies. They probably give to both sides. But I'm just saying, if this guy doesn't even know that Microsoft runs Hotmail then it sure doesn't say much for his research abilities. I wouldn't buy water from this guy if I were in the desert.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On and on it goes

Another victory for the Obama Team in the war on the War On Drugs.

It's amazing how far the center has moved on this particular issue in the past two years.

Racism? What Racism?

TPM has a pretty breathtaking interview with the tool who said that Shirley Sherrod's relative wasn't lynched because the mob that killed the guy wasn't big enough. It's actually a pretty good introduction to how Republicans think about race. Here's how it starts:
"I have felt for a long time that my friends on the American left, in the Democratic party have just had this atrocious history with racial issue," Lord said. "I mean it just can't possibly be any worse. I've gone back and read all the platforms for the Democratic party starting in 1840 which was the first one."
He does have a point. The Democratic Party was, for the first few decades of its history, a pretty noxious institution that mostly existed to support slavery, while opposing infrastructure improvements, industrialization, the national bank, etc. Were I alive back then, I would have been a Whiggish Republican probably up until the 1910s at the earliest. But this strange fixation with what Democrats were up to in 1840--without mentioning what they've been up to over the past few decades--is pure propaganda and not an argument. By the same token, I could say that the South was dominated by slaveholders during that same time period, which shows that there's still lots of pro-slavery sentiment in the South, which hardly seems true. Lord at least does mention Nixon's Southern Strategy, but doesn't really engage with it.

I could go through the rest of this thing, but what's the point? There is no argument here, none at all. As the veneer of inclusiveness that George W. Bush attempted to impose on the Republican Party has departed, what is becoming clear is what we've always known: that, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of white people on the right who are aggrieved on the topic of race. I know a little something about this, growing up as I did in the Placer County area of California, which has been dubbed "The New Orange County". Most people I knew there were not racist by any means, but I know of more than a few that shared this sense of aggrievement. Virtually every single person I've met who has these sorts of racial issues is someone whose dreams were somehow unfulfilled and had to deal with failure of many sorts before growing embittered and trying to find a target to blame for their screw-ups. Most of these people are just people who couldn't own their failures, which to me has always been the sign of a weak person. This garbage appeals to a very specific type of person, someone with dreams and perhaps some talent but little self-esteem or real ambition, usually with strong feelings of entitlement, who would prefer to excuse themselves from responsibility rather than to go out there and try harder to get what they want. So, if someone like this hears some stories about unqualified black applicants getting good jobs instead of qualified white people (a highly exaggerated phenomenon in my experience) or about Cadillac-driving welfare queens or what have you, the story hits. Finally, an explanation for their tragedy that makes sense! Then jealousy and anger pop up. Of course, that these people are jealous at people who are so much worse off than they are is more than a little pathetic, but I don't think being pathetic is separable from being racist. My predominant experience of these sorts of people has been among the Baby Boomer Generation, who basically grew up being told that they were going to be guaranteed success and happiness. It's conceivable that they feel that their failure in some way is a breakdown of the social contract, but ultimately it's just because things didn't turn out the way they hoped they would. The world wasn't like what their parents told them, and by this point they should know that.

Jealousy, of course, is easier than changing one's assumptions. And racism is a weakness. All prejudice is. It ensures that emotion overshadows reason and intellect and provides a big blind spot in one's thinking, one that makes it more difficult to see the world clearly. That's why it's important to know it, recognize it in ourselves, and overcome it. Of course, since racial aggrievement is a blind spot, it's that much harder for people who suffer from it to see it, and this makes them easily manipulable to cynical political and media figures.

Dick Morris's scions

Seriously, fuck these guys.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The DISCLOSE Act, or, The Final Nail in The McCain Myth

So, the DISCLOSE Act failed to break cloture today. It's not that surprising, as the Republicans have been moving rightward on campaign finance since 2009 in order to avoid the freedom-crippling limits of union and corporate spending on politics. Were Thomas Jefferson alive, he would undoubtedly weep at what we'd done with campaign finance, destroying his vision of capitalist democracy and all. Look, this isn't really my issue, and while I personally don't think there's anything wrong with campaign finance reform I think attempts to fix it attack the symptom rather than the disease, which is income inequality. But it is interesting. Campaign finance reform is a popular issue, and Republicans making this sort of stand just seems brazen and politically dumb. The smarter move from their point of view would have been to accept some sort of compromise that neutered the measure, as House Democrats pretty much already did by exempting the NRA. But in a typically lucid stance the Tea Parties decided that the best way to address the intolerable collusion between government and business was to let business spend as much money as it wanted on politics, which I'm sure will make NO MORE BAILOUTS a reality forever. I'm sure the moderates would have wanted to act on this, but as with most things there seems to be limited political space for Repubs to freestyle these days. It's actually a pretty good campaign issue for Democrats, as another data point with which to paint the GOP in general as a bunch of corporate tools.

What interests me most is that John McCain voted to filibuster, along with all his colleagues. I think it's worth pointing out. Admittedly, McCain kinda-sorta reversed himself on this some months ago, but campaign finance reform was among the earliest heterodox positions that McCain adopted, and that he's now opposed even to debating the topic in the Senate shows just how little the man actually stands for. Like most people on the left I bought into the McCain Myth for most of the Bush years. My reasons were, I suspect, pretty typical: as I became more and more convinced of the twisted nature of the Bush Administration, I deeply wanted to believe that there was someone with actual power who realized the extent of their wrongness and had the guts to fight against it. For a time, McCain seemed like exactly the person I--and so many others--were hoping would take the stage. Certainly, the Democrats of 2001-2005 were a pretty uninspiring bunch. McCain seemed to be the only hope of people like myself--he actually seemed to relish the role. So the McCain Myth grew, thanks to people like myself and the media. I think even McCain himself believed it for a time. But it was all bullshit, as the only things that truly drive the guy are twin burning desires: to use military force as liberally as possible, and to advance a highly pronounced ambition. Virtually every position change he's ever made can be thoroughly explained by those two factors. Campaign finance reform was due to his personal scandals--he had to adopt an image of a clean-politics reformer to stay in office. His moderation on other issues occurred during the late 1990s, at a time when the public had tired of the Gingrichian right-wingery that had been ascendant in the GOP during that decade, and after losing to Bush in the GOP primaries McCain's further move to the left can be easily explained as a realization that he probably had no future in the GOP and wanted to get cozier with the other party (famously, it is speculated that he considered switching parties). And his movement back to the right, culminating in his supporting Bush in 2004 instead of joining John Kerry's ticket, really was the climax of the building of the McCain Myth--and the moment it started going bust. McCain must have realized that if he threw in his lot with Kerry he would never actually be president, while if he got over his anger and backed Bush he just might have a crack at the job. I'm quite sure he would have run against Bush had the Democrats given him the top slot on the ticket, and he might even have won. He didn't switch parties, though, and ultimately the prospect of ending the combination of environmental neglect, upward wealth redistribution, and torture--the Bush Troika that McCain vehemently opposed--were no match for McCain's desire to succeed Bush in office. McCain is certainly politically shrewd, but in retrospect his backing of Bush showed the lie in his transformation into Mr. Elder Statesman, and his slide downward toward becoming a polarizing and unlikeable party hack has, at last, reached full fruition. Remember the date, folks. If you had any last inklings that John McCain is a good guy and an honorable public servant, now is the time to drop them.

In the end, I suspect that McCain will be judged harshly by future historians, who will just be baffled by how much good press the guy got for someone with hardly any legacy and rather obvious venality, and will probably chock it up to the desperation of the times. I predict that McCain will have a tough time winning re-election this year even in Arizona, just because I can't imagine that anyone on the right, left or center trusts him anymore. It would probably be better for him if he lost because he still has a chance to try to do things that will burnish his legacy a little bit and maybe dull the acrid smell of his actual record (think Herbert Hoover and his tireless work for children after he left office), but my guess is that he'll get another term in a close, nasty, 51-49ish race that will require him to pander to racist xenophobes (The immigrants are coming to take your jobs, my friends!), Glenn Beck worshippers and fundamentalist wackos in such a way that will make his infamous address at Falwell U. in 2006 look mild, and that his last term will see him losing ever more influence, up until he finally earns his richly deserved irrelevance. I think there's probably a great novel or film to be made with McCain as a politically talented antihero, although it's worth noting that his arc is eerily similar to war hero-turned-Congressman Clay Overbury's in Washington, D.C. by Gore Vidal, which would so totally make an awesome movie.

A must-read on climate change

Jon Chait continues to make sense on the issue: The Planet Isn't Cooked Yet.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama and FDR

This is something I've been thinking about for some time now. I'm not pivoting off of any particular argument here, but after reading too many blog posts and comments about how Barack Obama should be like FDR I simply feel compelled to say that these comparisons are faulty on a number of levels. They take many of the wrong lessons from Roosevelt's term and simply don't take into consideration the vastly different contexts in which the two men lived and governed. This is not to diminish Roosevelt's accomplishments in any way, so much as to say that there are limited lessons to be taken from a man first elected to office nearly 80 years ago. There are timeless lessons here, of course, but what's right for one time isn't what's right for another.

I don't want to make a super-long essay out of this. Obama has been pretty successful as president so far--he's gotten much of what he wanted, and while the stimulus turned out to be insufficiently ambitious it was largely responsible for keeping the economy from completely collapsing. In general terms, he's experiencing the same sort of squeezing pressures that most first-term presidents wind up facing--an angry and vituperative opposition, a frustrated and disappointed political base, and a public that is having second thoughts about the new direction in which Obama is taking the country. This is par for the course. In fact, it's more the rule than the exception. Bush 43, John Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt are among the only exceptions that I'm aware of, and all are exceptions that prove the rule, as all three were helped politically by a trend of unity after traumatic disasters--9/11 for Bush, the Cuban Missile Crisis for JFK, and Hoover's Depression for Roosevelt. The 2008 financial collapse was definitely traumatic, but it wasn't a Black Friday sort of event and it comes after the travesty of the Bush years, where national unity is elusive as ever. This constrains Obama's options significantly.

Comparing a politician to Roosevelt is sort of like comparing a basketball player to Michael Jordan. It's not really a fair comparison, which is exactly why firebagger types do it. Roosevelt admittedly was great at setting the right tone for his presidency, as a happy warrior fighting for the common man. Obama could have used some more adept image management along Roosevelt's lines, to be sure. But if anything, his first two years have been more progressive than Roosevelt's. There has been no Obama equivalent to the budget-slashing Economy Act, but there has been more progress on gay rights than FDR accomplished for black people, not to mention financial reg reform and health care reform. To say that Obama should focus more on the economy is silly to me as FDR's focus on the economy meant direct control of prices and wages that economists today concede are not good economic practice, as well as public works programs that wouldn't work nearly as well today because of pay differentials. The Civilian Conservation Corps paid $1 a day for work, an incredibly low wage even then. Admittedly, for the 25% of the country that was unemployed, it was way better than nothing, and a great stimulus program in terms of bang-for-the-buck. But since we thankfully don't have 25% unemployment, those programs would probably not be as popular today. This is to say nothing of the advent of public-sector unions, who would invariably try to organize the workers and soon we'd be paying $20 an hour per person to pick up garbage. I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure that the CCC would be a bit less cost-effective today than it was back in the 1930s.

I haven't agreed with every policy the Obama Administration has put in place. Mostly I've been frustrated by the lack of a clear tone set by the Administration and the laughable poverty of the media efforts they have undertaken. To be fair, though, Roosevelt had an entirely new and powerful medium to take advantage of, while there's nothing remotely like that for Obama. There's less of an excuse on the prior problem, which I'll admit is a fair place for an FDR comparison. I suppose the best explanation is that Obama wasn't as prepared for the presidency as Roosevelt was and, like most presidents, struggled to define himself amidst an ever-expanding and bewildering set of problems, and didn't pivot quickly enough from being an inspiring candidate to being The Man. Again, not an uncommon problem. Clinton is an obvious example, but there are others. I mention Clinton because, in time, he was able to strike a very appealing tone. The two men have somewhat different gifts, but I have little doubt that Obama will find his stride.

And, by the way, this strikes me as a good fight to have:
President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress "are setting the stage for a high-stakes battle over taxes in the final weeks before the November congressional elections, betting that their plan to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy will resonate with voters who have lost houses and jobs to what many see as an era of Wall Street greed," the Washington Post reports.
Republicans have been able to push regressive tax cuts through in the past because there was a little something in there for average people too. Nobody outside the base really believes what the GOP says about tax cuts for the rich. If the Democrats fight on the terrain of letting taxes on the rich go higher while keeping them lower for everyone else, I think it should go well for them. It's favorable ground for such a fight, and the whole "tax cuts pay for themselves" notion is laughable to most people. Should make for an entertaining showdown.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Because I'm not a complete partisan

Let me join with Dennis in my revulsion at Ed Schultz's speech over at Netroots Nation. Here are some of the highlowlights:

But Schultz's specific criticism was that the Obama administration reacts to controversies sparked in and furthered by conservative media.

"They must have a war room at the White House. I think they've got a sissy room too," Schultz said. "I didn't vote for that." [...]

He said he supports primaries as needed to keep the party's moral compass. "We have to do our vetting process. You're either with us, or you're against us in the progressive movement in America," he said.

He also complained that Obama hasn't gone on his show or sat recently for interviews with Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, adding that during the campaign, "I busted my ass for Obama." Schultz said that instead of going on The Ed Show, Obama went on Bret Baier's show on Fox, "in my time slot. What's that all about?"

Yuck! So basically, this guy is a sexist, self-obsessed, ultimatum throwing would-be tribune of the people. I realize this guy wants to be the Rush Limbaugh of the left, but honestly, you could change two words in here and it could just be Rush Limbaugh.

I actually find it shocking that making a sexist joke at a progressive event wouldn't be a career-ender. Conservatives complain that the media only notes when their side does something like this, and while I think it's mostly bullshit I really can't explain what's going on here. I see Ed Schultz as essentially a left-wing Tea Partier who can be just as dangerous as a Limbaugh if his perspective really gains some mainstream purchase on the left, and that this incident hasn't already crushed him--and, indeed, that he actually merits the keynote at a big activist conference of the left--just worries me about the sort of power he must already have. I think it's a mistake for the left to assume that what's happening to the right can't happen to us too.

In historical terms, this guy is the Charles Coughlin to Glenn Beck's Charles Lindburgh. Ultimately, FDR beat them both. I hope that Obama is similarly successful.

Be careful what you wish for

Steve Benen picks apart John Boehner's entire three-point agenda if the Republicans reclaim the House:

1. The would-be Speaker thinks the Affordable Care Act is an "impediment for employment," in part because it "will it ruin the best health care system in the world." This is idiotic. There's evidence to suggest the ACA will create millions of jobs, and no evidence of the law discouraging job creation. Indeed, the law has barely even started -- what Boehner wants is the old, dysfunctional system that wasn't doing any favors for the economy.

2. Boehner thinks saying "no cap and trade" will help create jobs. In reality, the Democratic energy/climate proposal would create a lot of jobs in a growing global industry, but there's also the question of logic -- Boehner thinks opposing a policy that does not yet exist will create jobs. In other words, a key part of Boehner's jobs agenda is to ... absolutely nothing.

3. Boehner's convinced that Bush's failed economic policies, if we just leave the tax rates in place, will eventually work. Sure, they failed miserably in the last decade -- worst modern presidency for job creation, massive deficits, weak economic growth -- but why should failure discourage repetition?

This is all well-said. Boehner is an interesting figure to me. A comparison to the current Speaker is instructive: say what you like about Nancy Pelosi, but she's an effective, low-key House leader. She could give a damn about making some headlines and is completely focused on advancing a progressive agenda and being an effective leader of her caucus, and I think it's a testament to her abilities that not only has she been so successful at moving legislation, but that there hasn't even been an inkling of a palace coup against her. The same cannot be said of, say, Newt Gingrich, who was constantly intrigued against and was very nearly replaced by John Paxon in the mid-1990s, before getting the full Thatcher treatment after the impeachment fiasco ended.

Boehner, on the other hand, is a loudmouth whose policy ideas range from impossible to unwise. His fussed-over appearance and uncontrollable need to get into the headlines seem to indicate a healthy amount of narcissism. Incidentally, does this guy have any actual fans? I realize that Republicans are excited about the prospect of Speaker Boehner because it will have meant that they won the House, but I have yet to read any conservatives who are actually excited about John Boehner being Speaker. And I suspect he'd be an epically lousy Speaker. Should congressional watchers like Charlie Cook be right and the GOP win something like a 4-seat majority (combined with a still-Democratic Senate), Boehner would be unable to advance his ideological objectives much at all. He would, though, be dealing with a caucus filled with firebreathing Tea Party types demanding debates on Social Security privatization, immigration restriction, health care repeal, etc. That he's been setting some of these themes for the election will constrain himself even further, as he'll be expected to follow through on them. A very small majority will be very unworkable since nearly all Republicans would be crucial votes on bills, and bipartisan support will be harder to come by as GOP gains will come at the heavy expense of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. Just ask informed Democrats how much they like how things are working in the Senate these days. Things would probably be about the same in this hypothetical for the Republicans. Pelosi would never have passed anything big with such a tiny majority, and she has much more impressive leadership skills and political sophistication than does Boehner. Additionally, Boehner doesn't really seem to have much media savvy, and being able to keep his coalition together would involve setting the right tone for his opposition, which I have seen no evidence he's been able to do. And Boehner's tendency toward gaffes and overstatements would make him an easy target for satirists and a perfect foil for Obama. Compared to the adversaries he's bested, Boehner must seem to Obama like a junior varsity challenger. After all, Obama has beaten the foremost woman in Democratic politics and (for a time) the most popular politician in America. Facing off with an overmanicured idiot from Eastern Ohio oughtn't to be too much of a challenge.

In fact, I half expect Boehner to be challenged for the speakership by his whip, Eric Cantor, though I somehow doubt Cantor would win a contest based on the GOP's famed emphasis on seniority and "waiting one's turn." I still think the Dems will hold onto Congress, but there are upsides to being on the short end of a tiny Republican majority. Obama, of course, is at his best when facing off against someone. His strength is counterpunching, not necessarily launching offensives. And Boehner looks like just the sort of person he would be able to whip easily.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Colorado looks poised

To stay blue, that is:
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) demanded that the two GOP gubernatorial candidates in Colorado drop out of the race, the Denver Post reports.

If they don't, he said he will run for governor as an American Constitution Candidate, a move likely to split the Republican Party in November's general election.
This is just another casefile in the fringe right's chickens coming home to roost. Tancredo is crazy, but certainly shrewd, and he no doubt figures that this is the year that someone with his profile could go far. He's not wrong about that. But there's no way he wins statewide if he gets the GOP nomination, and if the Democrat in the race, John Hickenlooper, manages to win in a landslide, he might well wind up saving the Democrats' appointed Senator, Mike Bennett, as well as vulnerable Congresswoman Betsy Markey by dragging them through on his coattails. Tancredo is doing this because the GOP candidate has been a caught plagiarist, which is one of those random strokes of luck that don't happen very often. Amazingly, the Democrats will probably have a decent election cycle in Colorado. Wouldn't have expected that from such a volatile swing state.

The GOP has made quite a few mistakes this year when it comes to recruiting candidates, but to be fair, they didn't want people like Sharron Angle and Rand Paul to get their nominations. I think this Colorado disaster is more a case of bad luck for them than anything else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blue Dogs: Going to fade away?

Tom Schaller notes that it's Blue Dogs that are poised to take it in the teeth in November. No doubt most progressives would be happy with the Blue Dogs merely fading away into oblivion, even if it means that Nancy Pelosi has to deal with a diminished House majority. I'd be mildly inclined to disagree, but the more I think about it, the more I think that the Blue Dog phenomenon really is pretty much in its terminal stages, and the only interesting question is what sort of politics eventually supplants it.

I'm not sure I can write a grand narrative of the Blue Dog Coalition, but so far as I can tell it was part of a movement during the 1980s and 1990s in which Democrats from the South, the historical base of their party, were being squeezed between an increasingly liberal national Democratic Party and an increasingly conservative Republican Party. Most Southerners sympathized with the GOP's issue positions but many still thought warmly of Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy, regardless of how little they liked the more liberal-dominated current version of the party. So the solution that the Third Way/DLC/Blue Dog/Clinton wing of the Democratic Party came up with was to present an alternative that accepted many conservative axioms, like military hawkishness, but that preserved a lot of the social welfare policies that the South still liked. And it worked for a while, too. It kept the Democrats in control of Congress until 1995, and it got Clinton elected president in 1992 and 1996. Of course, the inherent limitation here was time: as the FDR-worshipping oldsters departed the scene and were replaced by their more conservative children and grandchildren who had less affection for the Democratic Party. This replacement process took some time to complete, but by the mid-1990s it had reached a tipping point and the Gingrich-led Republicans were able to flip much of the South over to them for good. At first, they just got all the real Dixiecrats who essentially were Republicans, but that replacement process has been going on ever since, and now it's the rest of the Blue Dogs who are endangered. Additionally, while the Blue Dog experiment was successful for a while, I think it was fundamentally unsustainable because it required a sort of displacement from the direction of the national Democratic Party which couldn't really be continued infinitely. They are supposed to be on the same team, after all. A vote for Travis Childers (D-Mississippi) really is a vote to keep Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker's chair.

So, depending on your orientation, the Blue Dogs are either a decades-old plot to sell out essential Democratic values, or a valuable check on the Democrats' liberal wing. Really, though, the Blue Dogs' time seems to be up because they simply have no coherent agenda, identity, or argument. They talk about the deficit a lot, but Blue Dogs voted for nearly all the big-ticket Bush items that exploded the deficit, such as Bush's wars, Medicare Part D, and the tax cuts. Most Blue Dogs opposed the deficit-cutting Affordable Care Act while many, like Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln, support an unfunded cut on estate taxes. There is no coherent thread running through these positions, aside from a desire to avoid getting too far to the left of the Republican agenda and not pissing off too many wealthy individuals. And since there's little love remaining among white Southerners for the Democrats, the only thing really keeping most Blue Dogs in their seats is their personal popularity (or that they represent seats so Democratic that they could potentially support more liberal members, such as the one held by Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper). Sen. Lincoln is an interesting test case here. She is an uber-Blue Dog who was elected in 1998 and was highly popular until the health care debate, when her popularity plummeted. She would have been drummed out of the caucus had she not voted for the bill, but her voters didn't care for it. Lincoln herself liked the idea and tried to make the bill more palatable by demanding some concessions that made the bill a bit more conservative, but did nothing to help her standing among the voters. What's more, she was entirely incapable of mounting any sort of argument in favor of the bill. I think it's generally true that the last thing Blue Dogs want to give their voters is a clear choice of agendas, because it's pretty clear they'd lose easily. This is not the state of affairs of a healthy political identity. Lincoln is down in the polls by 25 points and is hardly likely to rebound, though interestingly the more outwardly liberal Mark Halter polled much better than she did, which sort of makes one wonder if any of the premises underlying Blue Doggery even hold true anymore.

My only question is: what comes next? My hope is if that Blue Dogs throughout the South get defeated, that non-Blue Dog Southern Democrats like Rep. Tom Perriello would become the new models for a different kind of Southern Democratic politics. Perriello is not an across-the-board liberal by any means--he's conservative on abortion and guns--but he actually has a pretty solid argument to make and a decent ability to pitch progressivism to people who aren't its natural targets. He supported health care reform and ACES (i.e. the House's climate change bill), and he's actually pretty interested in making an argument and explaining his stances, with some real success. The Blue Dogs aren't very interested in advancing an argument so much as in cobbling together some sort of coalition of wealthy backers and indifferent voters to take advantage of incumbency rates. Perriello clearly wants to actually advance ideas and causes. He's in a tight race to keep his seat that the national climate doesn't look likely to help, and even if he wins it's not certain that he's not just a sui generis figure and that his politics aren't really exportable to other parts of the country. But one can always hope, right?

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's a trend!

We have the second straight poll showing Harry Reid beating Sharron angle. This coming on the heels of Rand Paul's follies, Scott McInnis's plagiarism scandal, and Tom Emmer ensuring that every service worker in the state votes against him (plus a little something from oppo research) and you really have to wonder how inept the Republican recruiting has been for this year.

Personally, I don't want to overstate this. I don't much care for Jon Cornyn, but he is a fairly smart strategic thinker and clearly wanted to emulate the Democrats' successes in '06 and '08 by recruiting candidates in sync with their states. Had he gotten his way--had Trey Grayson gotten the nod in Kentucky, Charlie Crist in Florida, Sue Lowden in Nevada--his party would be much better positioned to win big in the Senate. Okay, maybe not so much the Chickens for Checkups lady, but at the very least before that gaffe she presented herself as a decent candidate and mainstream Republican. Even despite the gaffe she might have had a shot at beating Reid. But the RGA has recently had two huge setbacks that were entirely of their own making and seems to be about as helpful to Republicans as the DGA is to other Democrats.

Apparently Minnesota and Colorado are listed as Toss-ups for their gubernatorial races by Larry Sabato. They won't be for long.

A little note to my left-leaning readers

If you were considering giving money to the Democratic Governors' Association, I'd hold off in light of this:

Paid for, of course, by donations by the sorts of people who like three of the people in the ad. This reminds me of what Gray Davis did here in California some years back, when he highlighted the moderate aspects of Dick Riordan's record during the GOP primary in order to face a right-winger at the polls. It worked, but things didn't turn out so well for Gray even in the short run.

The cynicism of this sort of stuff, though...I recognize that politics sometimes requires people to make tactical arguments and compromises and such, but does anyone really think that this sort of stuff will make for anything more than a fleeting tactical victory on the way to losing the war? I'll tell you this, if the DGA ever sends me any fundraising materials I'll just print this out and send it back to them.

WTF, Frum?

I see that David Frum is putting out a solution to our employment problems:

Immigrants now make up some 15% of the US labor force. They are concentrated in the less skilled portion of the labor force and in industries hardest hit, especially construction.

If immigration levels were curtailed, the job gap would be a lot smaller. And if illegal immigrants returned home, rather than being put on a "path to citizenship," the problem of putting the unemployed back to work would be smaller and easier.

Needless to say, I'm not impressed. The knock against Frum is that he's a perfectly conventional Republican who acts like a moderate, and is willing to speak civilly and engage with others, but has no gripes with any aspect of the Republican agenda aside from on some social issues. I had a somewhat favorable opinion of the guy in spite of (or perhaps because of) never having read his blog regularly. But his point here is just idiotic, and it's fairly typical of GOP arguments on immigration: ignorant and nonsensical. It's identitical to the arguments made by trade protectionists, which I assume Frum formally isn't, only he is as immigration restrictionism basically is protectionism.

Protectionism fails because it ignores the problem of inflation. Sure, stopping imports means that the same stuff made inside the country becomes more expensive, and the people making it get paid more. But the first half of that equation is what causes inflation, and it's usually inflation that vastly outstrips any increase in wages earned. Admittedly, people are too worried about inflation at the moment, the government should be engaging in more inflationary policy in a time of deflation and not less, and visions of Germany in the early 1920s still scare people far more than they should, but it should be noted that protectionism has, in fact, been tried by various countries undergoing a lack of demand and deflation to try to boost earnings and improve economic performance. Countries like, well, The United States of America after the stock market collapse of 1929, as explained in a surprisingly cogent (though intentionally and hilariously dull) manner by Professor Ben Stein.

It's also worth noting that the Confederacy effectively had a protectionist trade policy during the Civil War (though certainly not by their own choice), and they experienced Weimaresque inflation as well. Not a lot of people know that. If protectionism actually delivered higher standards of living, every country would be doing it. Its track record speaks otherwise. Political pressure along that path inevitably crops up during a recession, and it's up to political leaders to head that off, be it on textiles, agriculture, or labor. Frum's position serendipitously coincides with his party's xenophobia but cuts against his party's trade policy. Incidentally, a lot of the more cosmopolitan and elite Republicans realize that immigration is good for the economy because it keeps prices down, and further realize that granting illegal immigrants legal status would be great for the government as those newly minted citizens would be paying taxes, which would provide a bump in federal revenues and help close the deficit without having to spend any money. Hell, immigration was the one area of policy where George W. Bush was actually good, and it's very regrettable that his attempt at immigration reform wasn't successful. As was sometimes the case during W's reign, the Democrats' desire to keep Bush from winning a victory prevented them from allying fully with Bush on the issue and showing solidarity in favor of his policy, which would not have precluded making the Republican Party look xenophobic and at least partly made up of racists. Such are the perils of overpersonalizing politics. Deep down, Frum probably agrees with Bush on this issue as he does on practically every other issue, but he's forever on shaky ground with the angries because of stuff like this. So we have to suffer through his pandering here. At least, that's what I think is happening with this post.

While we're on the subject, Frum has more thoughts to share on the economy:
Extending the Bush tax cuts would be helpful to long-term economic growth – but hardly constitutes an effective anti-recession measure. The Bush tax cuts have been in force since 2001 and 2003. The crash of October 2008 and the ensuing recession happened anyway. The medicine that did not prevent the disease is hardly likely to cure it.

Yet there are policy improvements that Republicans could deliver – and which would help lift the country out of the worst recession since 1945. The first is a payroll tax holiday. Mr Obama added $787bn to the national debt with a poorly designed “fiscal stimulus” that did little to create jobs. Now is the time for a Republican alternative. The US collects about $40bn a month from the payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicare. A one-year holiday from such payments would put money in workers’ pockets and encourage employers to hire, at only a little more than half the cost of the Obama stimulus. The holiday would have been a great idea in January 2009. It still is now.

This is even worse than the last one. Frum admits that tax cuts didn't prevent the economic crisis, then suggests a tax cut anyway. Here's some bold new leadership for the GOP! He says that the stimulus created few jobs, which is just nuts. Admittedly, the White House is not an impartial observer when it says that the stimulus created 2+ million jobs, but Frum is seemingly endorsing the GOP line that the stimulus did absolutely nothing to improve the economy. Shit, even your fellow sensible-ish right-wingers Reihan Salams and Megan McArdles won't say that much! It might be fair to say that the stimulus didn't create enough jobs, but to take Frum seriously I guess those people paving I-80 here in Northern California don't count? The teachers who get to keep their jobs because of Race To The Top are a mirage or something? Aargh! And while a payroll tax holiday would be a lot more egalitarian than the Bush tax cuts were, Frum evidently doesn't see fit to mention that about 1/3 of the stimulus consisted of similar tax cuts. So the thing he's saying didn't work already did what he suggests we should do now, only we should do less of it now then we did then. And he even puts a thing in there about the deficit without mentioning that his cuts would add to the deficit. It's like a fucking pretzel, this argument.

What kind of economic mind do I have? Practically zero. I took some econ courses in college. I don't have anything close to a head for the complex stuff that Paul Krugman posts to elaborate on his columns. But even I can see that David Frum has no clue here. He should mend fences with the activist right on his own time, instead of polluting the Dish with this nonsense.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Still bullish about our liberal future

And without irony as well. Just read these guys.

Look, I realize that the Democrats are not going to do too well in the upcoming elections. It's the economy, essentially. But it looks to me as if the Republicans are going to win a partisan victory and not an ideological one. Aside from the usual bromides about excessive spending and taxes, the GOP is offering itself as a completely blank slate, with the seeming awareness that they would lose easily in a war of actual ideas. And it might not come to that in 2010. But in the long term, the GOP is still unpopular, and its big-ticket policy proposals--that'd be vouchers, privatizing social security, cutting Medicare, and warfare, seemingly--are unpopular with the public. And they know it. At the moment, opposing Obama is enough for their base. But if they actually are able to claim some power this year, I find it difficult to see how it turns out well for them. The hard-liners they are poised to elect are going to, you know, want to reopen stuff like Social Security privatization, and if John Boehner winds up getting a very narrow majority his options are going to be very constrained. Could actually lead to bipartisanship, if only to keep the Bachmann types from getting their way.

By way of comparison to the GOP's current situation, Ronald Reagan commanded broad popular support on taxes, crime, defense policy, and so on.

When the Overton Window doesn't let the draft in

Count me as skeptical about this premise, by Peter Beinart (courtesy of Andrew Sullivan's blog):
The more fundamental difference between the Obama era and its New Deal and Great Society predecessors is this: Back then, progressives did not define the left end of the political spectrum. In the 1930s and 1960s, America featured honest-to-goodness alternatives to capitalism, home-grown radical movements that scared the crap out of the American establishment and sent some of its denizens scurrying into arms of reformers like FDR and LBJ. Because our entire ideological spectrum has shifted right since communism’s collapse, reforms that once looked like centrist compromises now look like the brainchild of Chairman Mao.
Technically, much of this is correct. But it ignores the little fact that Franklin Roosevelt was called a socialist by the far right of his day. Everybody knows this, and the right wing still believes it today, but Roosevelt was not a socialist by any means. In fact, like Obama, FDR fought his left wing when it came to nationalizing the banks and up until World War II the government seized approximately zero private enterprises, so far as I can tell. His economic views were fundamentally the same as Winston Churchill's, who is often regarded by conservatives as "their" WWII leader because of their disdain for Roosevelt's policies, even though Churchill was an avid and early supporter of this. And for conservatives who are unclear as to what real socialism looks like, there's a pretty good example of it here. Say what you like about Roosevelt, but he was extremely uninterested in doing any of that stuff. And yet the right wing called him a socialist anyway. It's almost as if they don't have a clue what the word means.

And then there's this little matter:

The poster's amateurishness aside (they couldn't find a picture of Kennedy from the front with a white background?), I think it says everything one needs to know about how the far right viewed the moderate Jack Kennedy back in the 1960s. These days, most Republicans like to say that Kennedy would be a Republican were he alive today. I think it's fair to say that this is an exaggeration. Kennedy did favor cutting taxes and a somewhat confrontational military posture, and he wasn't a labor liberal by any means. But he favored numerous expansions of the involvement of government in peoples' lives, including Medicare, Medicaid and Civil Rights. JFK was also a close personal friend and ideological soul mate of Chief Justice Earl Warren, whose jurisprudence absolutely infuriated conservatives in so many ways. Warren effectively demolished the notion of states' rights in a way that conservatives have found impossible to reverse, and Kennedy consulted extensively with him on his Supreme Court picks. It's true that Kennedy's picks didn't quite live up to what Warren might have expected of them--Byron White wound up as a Frankfurteresque political liberal/judicial conservative on the Court and Arthur Goldberg only held his seat for a few years, at which point LBJ decided that he wanted to put some of his cronies on the bench. But the fact remains that, despite what they might say now, conservatives of the day had very little use for John F. Kennedy, and their treatment of him was about the same as their treatment of all modern Democratic Presidents, from FDR through Obama. That there might have been a nominal socialist movement in America back then (and an even more marginal communist movement) seems largely irrelevant since most conservatives either didn't believe the differences between hard-leftism and liberalism were very great, or they figured that all of them were in cahoots and part of the same larger problem.

What Beinart is doing is trying to apply the conventional wisdom of how conservatives feel about past presidents now to formulate a theory about how they felt about the same guys back then. These days, quite a few conservatives have decided that Kennedy was practically one of them, and many have also decided that Clinton wasn't all that bad. While conservatives in my personal experience still harbor anger toward Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, very little seems to be thrown in Lyndon Johnson's direction, which perhaps makes sense in the context of the times (JFK's death, LBJ's commitment to bombing Vietnam) but is difficult to square with Johnson's domestic policy record. The most natural reading of all this is that while conservatives have mostly treated all post-Wilson Democratic presidents in roughly the same manner while they're in office, some of those men either won their battles so completely that conservatives had no choice but to move on and accept their losses (Johnson) or turned out to be not too threatening to the right wing in the final analysis (Kennedy and Clinton). Of course, that Jimmy Carter isn't in the latter category, and is in fact perhaps more vilified than Roosevelt, is completely baffling to me. I guess you had to be there?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is Scott Brown our future?

I think this TNR piece about Scott Brown does a good job exploring the truck-driving Massachusetts Senator's appeal, but I think the notion that Brown represents any sort of strategy for Republicans is wrong. That Brown is as right-wing as possible without alienating the center isn't cutting-edge Republican politics, so much as the natural posture of Republicans (and quite a few Democrats, albeit from the left). And while Brown's general cluelessness toward policy might indeed help toward making Brown more relatable toward his constituents, I think that Brown's appeal really is sui generis in that I don't think that someone without his looks, charisma, common touch, etc., but with the same cluelessness and political views would have ever had a chance to win.

Ultimately, though, while Brown's milieu seems to be serving him well at this point I think he'll run into significant problems in the next year or two. If he has to run on a Palin-fronted or Romney-fronted ticket in 2012 he's going to be squeezed just like, say, former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT). Northern Republicans and Southern Democrats tend to do well in years where the other party is in power, but fundamentally the tribal elements of our politics are inescapable.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Palin's Worst Enemy

Andrew Sullivan is an insightful writer on many different subjects. Sarah Palin is not one of them. For the past few months, Palin has kept popping up as an object of Andrew's attention, often in conjunction with the rumors concerning Trig Palin's birth, which is an entirely uninteresting story to me. He's also quite bullish on her chances of national success: this is a typical post in this vein.

I'm not sure exactly what about Sully's analysis bothers me--I don't think he has a problem with strong women per se, though he does have his blind spots as we all do. But when writing about Palin, he seems to be writing about a different Palin than the one I've observed. Palin certainly could win the nomination--and the presidency--though the odds are quite low. Perhaps marginally higher than Romney's, who I think would lose to Obama somewhere in the neighborhood of 57-41 in the popular vote if nominated, but still a long shot. I have gone over why I don't think Palin will win several times before, but since it's on my brain because of Sully, I'll do a quick top-five list.
  1. She doesn't have the work ethic. Palin's lax administration as mayor of Wasilla turned a small town into a strip-mall, big box suburban nightmare. She was famously disengaged as governor (Lyda Green is a very funny woman, BTW), and as soon as the job got tough she quit. There is little evidence that she'd work hard to secure the GOP nomination or win the election. I just can't see Palin groveling to precinct captains and county commissioners so as to gain access to their turnout machinery. Undoubtedly she'd hope for an Obama-style grassroots drive to appear on the right to propel her to victory, which could happen, but anyone who knows knows that the Obama Movement in 2008 didn't just happen out of thin air, but rather as a result of the extremely hard work of David Plouffe. Which leads to the next point...

  2. She's a poor administrator. I guess I sort of made the case up there, but I'll add to it. Part of being a good administrator is being a good judge of talent and character. Palin's inner circle should be a reflection of that. And that circle includes...Randy Scheunemann and Fred Malek. The former was a McCain campaign washout, and the latter of whom has a nickname that sounds like something Quentin Tarantino made up for Inglourious Basterds: "The Jew Counter" (seriously, look it up). I'm sure these guys have their skills, but running a successful national campaign? I'm skeptical.

  3. She has no new vision. Barack Obama is instructive here. He offered the appealing notion of getting past all that Boomer baggage and toxic Bush-era partisanship, a noble if perhaps too optimistic notion. But people liked hearing it. Palin offers a return to all that. Obama offered a commitment to social justice, while Palin offers business as usual. Obama is a powerful communicator, but Palin just isn't. Not that it matters, as her message is pretty toxic to most people. I do believe that America is a conservative country on the whole, but it has little in common with the Tea Party form of conservatism. I tend to think that a Sam's Club conservatism that combines social conservatism with more generous economic policies would make the Republicans practically unbeatable--at least for a decade or two, until this happens--as that seems to be pretty much in line with where America is now. That's the sort of conservatism America possesses. But it's not Palin's conservatism at all, which might be why so much of the country hates her. Don't people actually have to tolerate you a little bit to win?

  4. She's in a weak position. Some people want to compare Palin to Hillary Clinton, but the truth is that her position now and Clinton's before 2008 are quite different. Clinton was the clear frontrunner up until the primaries started, typically with leads of 20-30 points over her opponents. Palin trails badly in the polls, both nationally and in the early primary states, in a party that almost never rewards insurgent candidacies. Romney's base is among the GOP's business classes which is where the money is (and quite frequently the nomination as well). In addition, Palin's hopes to pull off an Obama-style insurgency are dampened by the Republican nomination schedule, which is light on caucuses and heavy on primaries. Without the caucuses, Obama would not have clinched the nomination. Her only hope of winning is to drag Romney's numbers down by going negative, but Romney will likely do the same to Palin, which should be interesting as she's received the kid-glove treatment both from her party and the media. She doesn't take criticism all that well.
And that's my case. Palin does have talent as a performer, as Andrew says. But she is who she is. She's her own worst enemy. And she's going to keep herself from the White House.

Postscript: Mr. Larison makes the Giuliani connection that I've been making for quite some time, and he's right on the money:
An important difference in their promotions by the media is that Giuliani was promoted as a serious candidate because many journalists and pundits liked him or at least respected some of the things he had done in New York, and Palin is being built up as a contender because many journalists and pundits both fear what she represents and assume that the GOP is so far gone that she is its natural leader. They overestimate her chances to the extent that they underestimate Republicans’ instinct for self-preservation and survival. Palin may not run at all, but if she does my guess is that her campaign will flame out almost as spectacularly as his did. When it comes time to vote for a nominee for President, most of her admirers are not actually going to vote for her. Many of the people who view her favorably will prefer someone else as their nominee, and in any case many of her admirers don’t think she is qualified.
The media isn't appreciably liberal in most respects, though it does have the typical cosmopolitan condescension toward the flyover country. Larison puts it nicely here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Harry Reid's continued slide toward re-election

I realize that things play differently inside the wingersphere, but Sharron Angle's legal quest to keep people from finding out what she believes is so dumb I can't see any angle (pardon the pun) that works for her in this story:
After she won Nevada's Republican Senate primary, Angle's campaign took down most of its website, and later replaced it with a relaunched (and somewhat toned down) version. But the Reid campaign saved the old version, and put up a website called "The Real Sharron Angle," reproducing the old content. Then on Friday, the Angle campaign sent them a cease-and-desist letter, alleging violation of copyrights for Reid having reposted Angle's old campaign literature. [...]

The Reid campaign did initially take down the site, seemingly obeying the cease-and-desist, and rerouted users to one of their other anti-Angle sites. But now they're put it right back up, simply removing the sign-up fields, some formatting and other identifying marks.
I just don't understand any of this. For one thing, nothing on the internet ever goes away. The Internet Archive lets you grab seemingly anything that's ever been on the internet. For example, you can check out Ms. Angle's very first website from 2003, which features a number of links to the same sorts of fringe-y stuff Angle supports now. This is not to discount other backups like Google caching, or even something as quaint as someone just saving the thing as an html file. The moral of the story is that if you put something into cyberspace it's never coming back. Filing a suit won't stop reporters from writing about the site, in any event, and I don't think the voters will agree that any sort of right to privacy should envelop campaign materials. Angle's extreme wingnuttery no doubt helped her capture the Tea Party vote, but she seems to have a curiously old-fashioned conception of what materials stick around in modern politics. And filing a lawsuit against publicizing the website just spurs more interest in it. It makes it look as though the Angle team has something to hide, which will make local media look at it all the more closely. The site becomes more newsworthy than it would otherwise be. It makes the candidate look secretive and somehow ashamed of the extreme views reputed to her (and she thus looks weak), it allows Reid to both look sympathetic for trying to have a fuller debate while also letting him pivot to the question of what else is out there that Angle doesn't want us to see.

This is such a good story for Reid I don't know how he could even screw it up if he wanted to. Angle's best bet would have been to not engage with the story and dismiss it as irrelevant, or to try to find some intemperate quotes by Harry Reid so as to facilitate the sort of he-said-she-said reporting that the news media naturally gravitates toward. She has instead shown why Democrats have been highly enthusiastic about the prospect of taking her on this year. Someone this touchy and incompetent is unlikely to defeat someone as experienced and savvy as Reid. While I have some quibbles with his style as Majority Leader, the guy has managed to go from losing by 20-plus points to being competitive with Angle, and it's hardly over yet.

What is Feingold's problem?

Mistermix asks, in response to a Russ Feingold ad sucking up to conservatives: "Could it be that the reason Russ Feingold is in trouble is that he’s an unpalatable mix of trimmer and righteous prig?"

Feingold is clearly a bit of a horse's ass at times. On the one hand, he's been right an astonishing amount of times over the past decade, and his opposition to the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War have been thoroughly vindicated in retrospect. But the financial reform stuff is inexplicable. I could understand his opposition to it if it were some sort of bargaining tactic, but his statements on financial reform betray a shocking narcissism. Here's one that's quoted in the post: "Rather than discussing with me ways to strengthen the bill, for example, they chose to eliminate a levy that was to be imposed on the largest banks and hedge funds in order to obtain the vote of members who prefer a weaker bill."

Of course, this levy had to be eliminated because moderate Republicans Scott Brown and Susan Collins made it clear that they would vote against cloture on the bill if it contained the fee. With all Democrats beside Feingold on board with the bill, plus presumably Collins's fellow Maine Republican Olympia Snowe (who did not complain about the fee) and whoever eventually takes Robert Byrd's seat, there are 59 votes in favor of FinReg, one short of the required 60. Feingold could have saved the fee had he announced his support for it. Instead, he has chosen to insult the intelligence of those of us who follow these things closely by acting as though some sort of dastardly Blue Dog plot to weaken the bill, rather than a small tweak to try to actually pass the thing. The amount of self-pity, rationalization, and slipperiness in this sentence alone can't help but move my opinion of Feingold just a little bit from being a conviction-based crusader toward just another arrogant politician who can't admit that he made the wrong call. As for the bill's ultimate effectiveness, I'm not unsympathetic to people who wish it were stronger. But at some point one has to make the choice between bolstering the status quo and taking whatever progress you can. Too many liberals think that politics is like The West Wing when, really, it's a lot more like Yes, Minister.

I suppose we shouldn't blow this completely out of proportion--the guy does have a pretty good track record, as I said before. But I guess this is a good piece of evidence that while I believe they often try to do the best job they can, we should never completely put our faith in politicians. Though Feingold is still preferable in my book to the risible David Obey, his fellow Wisconsin Democrat. Ugh.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Speaking of Theodore Roosevelt...

I would be remiss if I didn't point you all toward one of my favorite Gore Vidal essays, entitled Theodore Roosevelt: An American Sissy. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but you have to read it to get what he's saying.

Historical rankings of presidents

As a history nerd, I can never let something like a new batch of historical rankings to pass by without any comment from me. Check out this Siena Poll of historians yourself. My thoughts:
  • Teddy Roosevelt might be a top-10 president, but he's certainly not #2 of all time. His record of progressive accomplishments is dwarfed by Woodrow Wilson's (#8), and Theodore Roosevelt's diplomatic accomplishments are belied by a rather putrid (and nearly racist) nationalism that was extreme even for the time. TR's high ranking merely confirms my belief that these things tend to be popularity contests. TR was a more interesting personality than Wilson.

  • The oddest feature of this list is the resurgence of the Founding Father presidents on the top. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe occupy positions 4-7 on the list, and I find this utterly baffling. I can understand Washington and Jefferson, but wasn't Madison kind of a terrible president? Great man, important man, but all I remember about the guy is that he picked a fight with Britain that resulted in the War of 1812 that America lost. And Monroe strikes me as an exceedingly odd choice. I like the Monroe Doctrine as much as the next man, but I don't think you can point to too much that Monroe did that really changed America. Seems pretty average to me.

  • Nice to see G. W. Bush in the bottom five, with all the usual suspects. That's partly because he's rated the second-least intelligent president after Harding, which seems about right.

  • The really interesting part is at the end, where they give the top and bottom two presidents for each criterion they use. In so many cases they're spot on: Nixon gets lowest ratings for "Avoid[ing] crucial mistakes" which kind of sums up Nixon, I think.
My personal list of the best presidents would probably include the Roosevelts, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Ike, Truman, and Lyndon Johnson (despite Vietnam). I'm not including Obama for now as it's just too soon to tell. The consensus choice of worst presidents are all more or less acceptable to me, but I'd love to see Andrew Jackson fall in there at some point. He's still the subject of popular biographies on account of his personality, but this guy was personally responsible for starting a depression about as bad as the Great Depression, entrenching pro-slavery forces in the Supreme Court, and generally feeding the hysterical angry Southern nationalism that led to the Civil War and that's been with us ever since. I guess he did keep the nation from splitting up in the 1830s but that's about all I can say for the guy. Screw Andrew Jackson.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.