Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Young Politics 3rd Edition Online Now

Take a few minutes and check out the 3rd edition of Young Politics, hosted at You'll find many thought-provoking articles including Jeremie Beaudry on "When Voting Goes Bad," Sagar Satapathy presents "Verdict on Saddam," and Bill Losapio writes about "Misplaced Leftist Giddiness and a Big Good Riddance to the GOP." The Thomas Political Report's recent article on John Kerry is also included. Let the writers know what you think, even if you disagree. We'll let you know when the 4th edition is online. Thanks.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Baker Panel Should Recommend a Federalized Iraq

After a weekend of seemingly constant violence in Iraq, President Bush couldn’t have been anything but relieved to meet Monday with the bipartisan group that might be the last best chance to save his presidential legacy. The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton, is spending the day meeting with Bush and his national security team, including Dick Cheney, Stephen Hadley, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, John Negroponte, Michael Hayden and Gen. George Casey.

The group is expected to release its findings and recommendations before the end of the year. One of those recommendations should include implementing the Biden-Gelb proposal of federalizing Iraq into three regions: Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish. Each of these regions, or states, would share the country’s oil wealth and would be responsible for administering their own regions. More importantly, from a security perspective, Iraqi and Coalition forces would be better positioned to help stem the sectarian slaughter.

It is clear, and the study group will confirm, that “victory” in Iraq, specifically the type of victory that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have been trumpeting for the last four years, is impossible. Also, the notion that Iraq will be able to function as a democracy, western-style or otherwise, and will have a military that will be able to address security issues without the assistance of Coalition forces in twelve to eighteen months is a fantasy.

The White House has consistently said that any plan to split Iraq is a “non-starter” but there are rumors that the Biden-Gelb plan may have some strong support within the study group and it will be difficult, if not impossible, for President Bush to dismiss the plan if the bipartisan panel recommends it. The Iraqi parliament currently has in place a general outline of how the regions would look based on the Biden-Gelb proposal.

As presented by Senator Biden to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, the Biden-Gelb plan has five specific points:

1. One Iraq with three regions.
2. A viable Sunni region with shared oil revenues.
3. More aid, but tied to the protection of minority and women’s rights.
4. Maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity and engage its neighbors.
5. A responsible U.S. drawdown and a residual force.

Point four is certain to be a recommendation of the study group. For months now, President Bush has been adamant in his reluctance to engage Iran and Syria. James Baker and incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have both openly questioned the administration’s policy of isolating of these two countries, a policy forcefully endorsed by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Three autonomous regions would also allow Coalition forces to concentrate on two specific objectives: first, allow Coalition forces to be deployed to enforce the borders of the regions and second, allow Coalition forces to be deployed to enforce the borders between Turkey and northern Iraq, Iran and eastern Iraq and Syria and western Iraq. Reducing the flow of foreign fighters and their ever-increasing military arsenal streaming over Iraq’s borders would greatly help in protecting our troops.

The results of the mid-term elections have clearly shown the reluctance on the majority of Americans--Republican, Democrat and Independent--to escalate the war in Iraq. Any proposal, such as the one being floated by Senator John McCain to increase troop levels in order quell the violence, will never get off the ground. That does not mean that an increase in troop levels may not be one of the recommendations of the study group. A recommendation of such may be the last gasp of the neo-conservatives inside and outside of the Bush administration.

James Baker has said that he wants a consensus from the ten-person commission on whatever recommendations they present to President Bush. The Biden-Gelb plan contains the elements that allow the United States and its allies to implement a realistic plan that, although it doesn’t achieve the lofty expectations championed by President Bush, it offers the hope of at least reducing the death toll which shows no sign of slowing down. That, at a minimum, would be a victory on which we could build.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rumsfeld Is Defiant to the End

One only needs to carefully read between the lines of Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation statement in the Oval Office yesterday to realize that he still fails to accept the obvious: the war in Iraq has become a debacle. If the ultimate blame for the decision to invade Iraq lies with President Bush, the failure of the war these last three and a half years lies squarely at the feet of the stubborn former Secretary of Defense.

“Mr. President, thank you for your kind words and the wholly unexpected opportunity you provided me to serve in the Department of Defense again these past years -- six years,” said Rumsfeld. “It's been quite a time. It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill, something to the effect that: I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.”

“The great respect that I have for your leadership, Mr. President, in this little understood, unfamiliar war, the first war of the 21st century, is not well-known, it was not well understood, it is complex for people to comprehend. And I know with certainty that over time the contributions you've made will be recorded by history.”

It’s clear that Rumsfeld was calling all of those people, including over thirty million who voted for change just a day earlier, ignorant of facts only he knows regarding the Iraq war. It is all too “complex” for us normal folk to understand. What is not clear is whether Rumsfeld was also being critical of Bush’s decision to remove him and replace him with a man who brings the long needed foreign policy perspective of George H.W. Bush’s administration.

It is this dangerous hubris of the neo-conservatives that put American troops in the position that they are today and most likely will be for the next five to ten years. However, the age of the neo-cons is coming to an end and it was hastened by the votes of an uneasy populace. History reminds us that many were critical of Bush the father for not marching on to Baghdad in 1991. We don’t have to wait for history to remind us that the son should have listened to the father well before November 8th, 2006.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Long Night and Morning for Republicans

It may not have been a tsunami, but it was a big enough wave to wash Democrat’s into power in the House and possibly in the Senate. While our predictions of Democratic House gains were off by at least ten seats, possibly more, the Senate might still end up where we predicted depending on the outcomes in Virginia and Montana.

It was a difficult night for the Republican Party, especially for George Bush. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to say that “all politics is local.” Well, this election, based on exit polls, was nationalized on issues like the war in Iraq and corruption in Congress. When the early votes started to roll in, Republican House losses in Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania foreshadowed a tough night for the Party of Lincoln. The only question that seemed to remain was how large the Democratic House margin would ultimately be and whether or not the Democrats could steal the Senate as well.

Initially, the Senate looked to be safe for the Republicans. Tennessee was in the books for Bob Corker and George Allen and Jim Talent looked strong in Virginia and Missouri respectively. But, as we’ve seen often before, the late votes that normally trickle in come from the larger cities and it was no different last night. Claire McCaskill won by a comfortable margin in Missouri and Jim Webb has enough of a lead in Virginia that if Allen contests, he’ll be labeled a sore loser.

That left it up to Montana, which until this morning was closer than Virginia but which has just been called for Jon Tester. The Democrats will have control of both Houses of Congress. The historical trend of the House and Senate switching Parties in tandem stays intact, and the last two years of the Bush presidency look to be very different from the first six. Some highlights from last night:

-Joe Lieberman’s triumph has to be sweet for him, especially with his claiming 50% of the popular vote in Connecticut.

-Although he ran a competent race in Maryland, Michael Steele was not able to overcome the huge Democratic advantage in Maryland to defeat Ben Cardin. Both he and Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich lost by large margins.

-Many Republican strategists will be questioning whether George Bush’s last minute visit to Missouri helped or hurt Jim Talent. Although he campaigned in largely friendly areas, Bush’s unpopularity may have been a boost to McCaskill in the final days.

-The Abramoff scandal may have been the final nail in the coffin to Conrad Burns in Montana which may have been the final nail in the coffin to the Republicans in the Senate.

-Rick Santorum went down swinging till the bitter end, yet he gave a very classy concession speech after offering congratulations to winner Bob Casey Jr.

-George Allen is most likely finished as a senator from Virginia and he is definitely finished as a potential presidential candidate in 2008. Jim Webb, while not running a flawless campaign himself, has a chance to be a very significant member of Senate due to his strong military background.

-Republicans lost some high profile members in the House, including Hayworth in Arizona, Pombo in California, Simmons and Johnson in Connecticut, Shaw in Florida, Chocola, Hosttetler and Sodrel in Indiana, Ryun in Kansas, Northup in Kentucky, Gutknecht in Minnesota, Bass in New Hampshire, Sweeney in New York, Taylor in North Carolina and Hart, Weldon, Fitzpatrick and Sherwood in Pennsylvania.

-Democrats will now hold twenty eight Governor seats including the extremely important seat in Ohio.

-Same sex marriage bans passed everywhere they were on the ballot except in Arizona.

-The Missouri amendment to allow stem cell research was approved.

The American voters spoke, and it’s impossible for George Bush and the Republican Party not to have heard.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions

Polls open less than twenty four hours from now so it’s time to make some predictions. There has been a great deal of buzz this weekend and this morning regarding some polling data indicating that specific races, especially races for the Senate, have begun to tighten, mostly in the favor of Republicans. Two polls, the Gallup and the Mason-Dixon poll, are polar opposites when it looks at the races in Rhode Island, Missouri, Virginia and Montana. What is a political pundit to believe?

Only one poll matters…the one tomorrow. It was inevitable that the races would tighten. While there has been no October or November surprise for the Republicans, there has been enough good news to help solidify their base in the last week to ten days. John Kerry’s blunder, positive stock market growth, lower unemployment and the Saddam Hussein verdict were all headlines that put some wind in Republican sails, and President Bush out on the campaign trail, even though he has stayed in red states, has also been a positive factor nationally.

One historical trend keeps coming to mind as the election nears: since 1914, control of the House of Representatives has only switched when the Senate has switched also. Most polling continues to show Democratic candidates still running very strongly in House races around the country. There are at least twelve races that currently look increasingly likely to switch from Republican to Democrat which leaves only a net gain of three more seats for the Dems to win in order for them to take control of the House. Only six Democrat held seats fall in the toss up and leans Democratic columns while forty eight Republican held seats fall into the leans Dem, toss up and leans Republican columns. It’s hard to see Democrats not picking up those three remaining seats.

So where does that leave us in regards to the Senate races if, historically, they would have to switch from Republican to Democrat as well? While the challenge is much harder for the Democrats in the Senate, it is not impossible. Many states still have very tight races, including Montana, Rhode Island, Missouri and Virginia. Amazingly, Maryland is not a lock for the Democrats yet and Republicans may be feeling a little bit too comfortable about Tennessee. All of these races could go either way.

There was no question that both the Democrat and Republican bases would be motivated on November 7th. Karl Rove has created a formidable Get Out The Vote machine, and while the Democrats are still playing catch-up to Rove, they are not as far behind as many might think, and the disillusionment with the war in Iraq has become the best GOTV issue the Democrats have had in years. So, if the national base turnout from both the Democrats and Republicans is equal, to at most, a one percent advantage to the Republicans, and a ninety two year trend in House/Senate changes has to be considered, what will be the deciding factor in these elections?

Independent/Unaffiliated voters will decide the mid-term elections this year. While both the Democrat and Republican bases will have a strong turnout, Independent voters, who usually don’t turnout heavily in mid-term elections, will be a force at the polls this year. If this is true, the Republicans will be in for a long night because all of the polls show a decided advantage for Democrats as it pertains to Independent voters. Polls show that those voters will be voting AGAINST George Bush in large numbers which mean they will be voting FOR the Democratic challenger in most races. Just a few percentage points spread in the Independent vote will be more than enough to decide the outcome in close House and Senate races, and unless Karl Rove is a supreme genius who has created the greatest political machine of all time, those races should break Democratic.

Regarding the historical trend, trends, like records, are made to be broken. Remember that officially you will have two Independents in the Senate, Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and Bernie Sanders in Vermont. Those two are expected to align and vote with the Democrats. That leaves the possibility that the Senate becomes a 49/49 Democrat/Republican split which favors the Democrats. Just a little wrinkle for the trend.

So, let’s look at our predictions:

House of Representatives

Democrats need to pick up 15 seats for control of the House. We predict they will pick up 18 seats, far from the tsunami that has been predicted but we're sure after twelve years in the wilderness, the Democrats will be very pleased.


Let’s first look at the races that have been on the radar but now seem to be firmly in Democrat, Independent or Republican possession:

Arizona: Republican Kyl should hold off a late charge by Democrat Pederson. Democrats thought this race had a chance to go their way but it may be a case of too little too late.

Connecticut: Independent Lieberman looks to be safe here. Republicans were smart to throw their candidate, Schlesinger, under the bus. Without him drawing votes away from Lieberman, Democrat Lamont was never able to close the distance. For Republicans, it’s a win. They’d rather have Lieberman in there who is an Iraq war hawk as opposed to Lamont who would be another thorn in Bush’s side.

Michigan: Democrat Stabenow beats Republican Bouchard pretty handily.

Minnesota: Democrat Klobuchar also puts a pretty good whipping on Republican Kennedy.

New Jersey: Democrat Menendez holds off Republican Kean. Kean had a chance here but fumbled at the end. It’s one thing to attack your opponent when it comes to corruption. It’s another thing to portray in commercials the Italian Mafia making calls on Menendez’s behalf. New Jersey Italians did not like that, and they will show their displeasure at the voting booth.

Ohio: Democrat Brown will defeat Republican DeWine. Ohio is just plain ugly for Republicans in 2006.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Casey will clobber Republican Santorum. Casey ran a great campaign…he shut up and let Santorum do all the talking. Santorum may go down as one of the most divisive political figures in all of history.

Washington: Democrat Cantwell will hold off Republican McGavick. Not the year for a red candidate in this blue state.

Now let’s look at the races that will decide the Senate balance of power:

Maryland: There is a good chance that Incumbent Governor Bob Ehrlich will hold onto his seat by beating Democratic challenger Martin O’Malley. Ehrlich, after being behind all year, has peaked at the right time. The question is whether his coattails will be enough to lift his Lieutenant Governor, Republican Michael Steele, to victory over Democrat Ben Cardin. Steele has closed the gap but it’s getting late. In any other year, Steele, who has shown his great personality, might beat Cardin handily, who has shown himself to be as stiff as they can get. We think even though Ehrlich will win, Steele will come up short by the slimmest of margins. Prediction: Cardin.

Missouri: Bush’s visit over the weekend definitely energized Republican Talent’s campaign, but will it be enough? Democrat McCaskill has run a very competent race. She knows she will do well in the cities and she’s concentrated on getting out the vote in suburban and rural areas which Democrats sometimes fail to do. This, along with the gift that Rush Limbaugh gave her campaign by criticizing Michael J. Fox, also gives her a boost with the stem cell issue. The stem cell amendment looks like it will pass and we think it will carry McCaskill as well. Prediction: McCaskill.

Montana: Republican Burns has been gaining ground here and the recent visit by President Bush has helped to keep the momentum going. This state is as red as it gets and we see more of a chance for the Republican base to come home in this state in the last few days then anywhere else. We think this will happen which will make it difficult for Democrat Tester to hold on. Prediction: Burns.

Rhode Island: This is a state where those Independent voters we talked about may make all the difference. Some polls show Republican Chaffee bouncing back to take the lead while others show Democrat Whitehouse with the advantage. The Independents will most likely tip this race to Whitehouse although it will probably be a nail biter. Prediction: Whitehouse.

Tennessee: We think this race is closer than some of the polls seem to show. Democrat Ford has run a good race, but we believe he made a misstep by confronting Republican Corker at his press conference. Also, the much criticized ad that stirred up the subject of race in this contest seems to have worked in Corker’s favor. There probably isn’t enough time for Ford to catch up. Prediction: Corker.

Virginia: This race, no matter the outcome, has produced one fact: along with John Kerry, Republican George Allen has destroyed any chance he had of becoming President. Frankly, for both Democrats and Republicans, this is good thing. Kerry has shown himself to be “The Great Non-Communicator” and Allen has displayed that he is not a very intelligent person. It’s better that both get put on the sidelines sooner than later. As far as this race is concerned, Democrat Webb may not be the best candidate himself but Allen has done significantly more to shoot himself in the foot than any candidate in recent memory. Momentum has been moving in Webb’s favor, but this is still Virginia. Allen needs to get votes from downstate in huge numbers to offset Webb’s advantage in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. Webb also needs to steal some disgruntled Allen votes elsewhere in the state. We think he will. Prediction: Webb.

That would leave us with Republicans holding 50 seats, Democrats 48 and 2 Independents. With the two Independents expected to vote with the Democrats, Dick Cheney looks to be a busy guy for the next couple of years. Republicans still maintain the majority, literally and figuratively.

Republicans will have to look at this outcome as a victory. The House could easily switch back in 2008 and they prevent the Democrats from claiming a mandate. Democrats have to take what they can get. It’s been quite a long time since they had something to hang their hats on and this will give them some momentum as they look towards selecting a candidate for president. Either way, no tsunami. But at least, also, no more political ads.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kerry's Finished: That's No Joke

In the new CNN poll just released yesterday, registered Democrats were asked which potential candidate they would most likely support for President in 2008. Hillary Clinton led the list receiving 28% of the vote followed by Barack Obama with 17%, Al Gore and John Edwards with 13% and John Kerry with 12%. This poll was taken before Kerry’s recent attempt at humor, and although it is still early to think about 2008 in some aspects, it’s not too early to realize that John Kerry will never become President of the United States.

The most striking element of the three day saga of the joke gone wrong is that it serves as a reinforcement of exactly why the majority of voters rejected Kerry in 2004. First, he mangles, what he says, was an attempt at humor at the expense of President Bush. His aides sprinted into damage control mode by releasing the full text of his comments to show what he “really” meant to say. Sure sounds a lot like “I voted for the 87 million dollars before I voted against it.”

Second, after White House press secretary Tony Snow raised the volume on Kerry’s comments by calling for an apology, along with Kerry’s friend and soon to be Presidential candidate John McCain, Kerry decided to fight back. “I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy,” Kerry said. “I’m sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won’t take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks who’ve never worn the uniform of our country are willing to lie about those who did.” Sure sounds a lot like what he should have said when the Republicans tried to “Swift-Boat” him.

Finally, he eventually was forced to apologize; forced not by his own admission that what he said was not only stupid but unnecessary in the last week before a mid-term election where his Party has a real chance to damage the opposition. No, he was forced by the people in his own Party, led by Hillary Clinton, who realized that the last thing Democrats needed was the focus of the electorate taken off George Bush and put on John Kerry. "As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones that my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about and never intended to refer to any troop. I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended," Kerry said. Sure sounds a lot like a flip-flop.

Worse than what he said is the fact that Kerry doesn’t possess the political acumen, the political “chops,” to get himself out of a sticky situation. It took less than a day for the Republicans to put him on the ropes over something as simple as a misinterpreted line on the campaign trail, and not even his campaign. How easy would it have been for Kerry to just have said: “Sure, I’m sorry if what I said offended anyone in uniform. I offer my apology. But why haven’t President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld apologized to the American people for sending this country to war over WMD that wasn’t there? Why haven’t they apologized to the 150,000 troops that were sent out there to the desert without a plan going in and with no plan to get out? Why hasn’t President Bush apologized for spending this country into the greatest fiscal crisis in our great history? I don’t mind apologizing, but it seems that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld don’t apologize or answer to anyone but themselves. Well, Tuesday, you, the American people have a chance to change all that by voting for the Democrat in your local election. That will make it much easier for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to say they’re sorry.”

A great politician knows how to flip the switch, turn a negative into a positive. Most people can dance, but not like Fred Astaire or Michael Jackson. Most people can carry a tune, but they can’t sing like Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. Most politicians, at least the ones that are successful, have to at some point in their career deal with a moment that must take some talent, some political acumen, to extricate themselves from. Twice now, the Swift Boat controversy and now the joke-that-wasn’t controversy, John Kerry had to sing and dance his way out, and he couldn’t. It was sad to watch.

The CNN poll already is an early signal that Democratic voters have given up on Kerry and this latest controversy is just the proverbial nail in the coffin. His Presidential prospects are gone, so now he must decide if he wants to continue to serve his country as a Senator and build a legacy of which he can be proud. The senior Senator from Massachusetts accomplished that feat after his Presidential aspirations dried up. Now the question is whether the junior Senator will follow his lead.