Saturday, November 11, 2006

NEWSFLASH! John McCain is considering a run for the Oval Office!

Senator John McCain of Arizona is about to form an exploratory committee for a possible presidential campaign, advisers said, taking a concrete step toward a full-blown campaign in 2008.

Advisers to Mr. McCain said he had not made up his mind whether to run, although he has acknowledged that he is strongly considering doing so.
Now you wait just one second, New York Times. Do you honestly mean to tell me that John McCain -- a man who's been campaigning for at least the last twenty-four months -- is actually giving some thought to thinking about exploring the possibility of maybe considering a potential run for the presidency? I am flabbergasted. Utterly flabbergasted.

Reaction to the Rumsfeld resignation among marines in Iraq:

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines, just as he had informed them the day before that the Republican Party had lost control of the House of Representatives and that Congress was in the midst of sweeping change. Mr. Menti had told them that, too.

"Rumsfeld’s out," he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. "Who’s Rumsfeld?" he asked.
I'm guessing that marine would have been able to figure out who Rumsfeld was if he'd taken a second to think about it, but even if that's not the case, I wouldn't begrudge him his ignorance; he certainly has better things to worry about (though I think the odds are decent that the quote made his mother cringe). But it's surprising to me that "Rumsfeld" wasn't a name he automatically knew. Given the amount of influence the Secretary of Defense's decisions have on the everyday lives of people like Lance Cpl. Davis, I'd have imagined that Rumsfeld would be nearly as well-known as the president. Clearly, I'd have been wrong. (Unless, of course, Lance Cpl. Davis doesn't know who Bush is, either, in which case he's probably not a fair person from whom to generalize.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

From The Onion:

Evangelical Haggard Claims He Was Molested By Republican Congressman

November 10, 2006 | Issue 42•46

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO—Evangelical leader Ted Haggard, who stepped down last week after confessing that he purchased methamphetamines and various services from a male prostitute, revealed Wednesday that he was repeatedly molested by an unnamed Republican congressman in the late 1990s. "We would communicate on the Internet and then meet in his Washington office to, I thought, discuss faith-based initiatives," said Haggard in a tearful admission in which he asked for the forgiveness of God and his congregation. "Before long, he had progressed from praying alongside me to having me sit on his lap at his desk, and then to touching me in my bathing-suit area. I trusted the congressman, and he violated that trust." Authorities have not acted on Haggard's allegations, saying that Republicans are often accused of wrongdoings simply because so many of them lead secret gay or criminal lifestyles.

According to this post from the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire (a post that I only saw because Wake-Up Call linked to it), Comedy Central's InDecider blog actually broke the news of Rumsfeld's resignation about twelve hours before it was anywhere mainstream. Go figure.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So, as you may have heard, George Allen conceded (snivellingly) at about 3:00 this afternoon, giving the Democrats both houses of Congress for the first time since November 8, 1994. Lieberman will caucus with the Democrats, thank the Jesus -- and in honesty, I never really thought he wouldn't. But to cut and paste from an email I sent this afternoon:

[In] choosing not to step aside and let Lamont take the seat, Lieberman put himself before the party (with, to read it most charitably, "the people of Connecticut’s" interests at heart). And while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, it had the potential to become worrisome when he became the swing vote. Given his willingness to put self (and maybe Connecticut) before party, it was not a 100%-sure-thing that’d he’d say to the Republicans knocking on his door, "No, I don’t want [nearly any committee chairmanship]. I’d rather remain a Democrat." That's what he'd probably say, mind, but there there was at least a chance that instead he’d say, "If I remain a Democrat, I’m just a conservative, loyal member of the caucus [he’ll be chairman of the Homeland Security committee]. But if I become a Republican, I’m a superstar with any chairmanship I want, which will enable me to do more good for myself the people of Connecticut."

He swears he’ll caucus with the Democrats, and I now believe him. And honestly, even at my lowest point, I would have put the odds that he’d caucus with the Democrats at around 2:1. But with, say, Ned Lamont, those odds would have been 2:0.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

At around 9:00, the AP called Virginia for Jim Webb. Republicans "in touch" with the Allen campaign say that Allen plans to concede.

I think I just fainted.

Some wrap-up notes:

  • Montana's been called for Tester, embiggening the odds that control of the Senate will be decided by a crotchety old state court judge in Richmond. Someone better keep an eye on Katherine Harris: she's got a lot of free time now, and this is what she's good at. (Note: The Hotline's Marc Ambinder is reporting that "senior Republican officials and White House aides" think Virginia is lost, and will pressure Allen to concede.)
  • Steny Hoyer wants the Majority Leader's office.
  • Denny Hastert doesn't want the Minority Leader's office. (But Boehner does.)
  • There was also something about Rumsfeld; not sure what it was....
  • From The Hotline's extensive collection of election scorecards comes a breakdown of the celebrity-guest effectiveness of the various White House '08 Democrats. In order of efficiency:
    • Obama, 80.4% (37 races won, 9 races lost)
    • Biden, 76.9% (20-6)
    • Edwards, 75.7% (44-14)
    • Kerry, 71.6% (58-23)
    • HRC, 70.0% (28-12)
    • Feingold, 68.8% (11-5)
    • Dodd, 68.0% (17-8)
    • Vilsack, 58.3% (14-10)
    • Richardson, 57.1% (24-18)
    • Bayh, 54.2% (13-11)
    • Clark, 42.9% (12-16)
    Partly, of course, those numbers are dictated by the races in which the bigwigs chose to become involved (in several of Wes Clark's races, for instance, he could have provided a fifteen-point bump without actually affecting the outcome of the election). My biggest surprise is Biden: who'd have guessed there were even 26 candidates who liked the man enough to ask him to campaign for them?

For a quick summary of last night's results, check out On Call's headline-style wrap-up.

(And note: there's been no announcement from Montana yet, but Tester's margin has narrowed to 2,000 votes.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Just after 8:00, CBS called Pennsylvania (Casey) and Ohio (Brown). That's two of the six. (Though it's worth noting that none of the other networks are calling those two yet.)

8:35: MSNBC calls Pennsylvania for Casey.

8:45: PBS calls Pennsylvania for Casey, too. Way to be, Pittsburgh!

9:00: On Call reports "various calls" (including MSNBC and PBS, the two I'm keeping an eye on) for Menendez in New Jersey (which is not one of The Six, but was pretty competitive at the end, so it's notable). Also, CNN jumps on the Casey bandwagon, and calls Minnesota Senate for Amy Klobuchar.

9:05: CNN has clearly spent at least one hundred million dollars on stand-up desks and flat-panel monitors, and they would like everyone to know it.

9:10: With 68% reporting, George Allen is up by 4,000 votes. Also, I think Jeff Greenfield's job title tonight is "sidekick."

9:15: CNN and MSNBC project Connecticut for Lieberman. I sure hope he's a Democrat.

9:20: MSNBC projects that Ben Cardin has beaten noted crazy-person Michael Steele (Maryland, like New Jersey, is not one of The Six, but was close enough to bear watching). And On Call reports that John Yarmuth has unseated Anne Northrup in KY-03, which is (I believe) the second House pickup of the night.

9:27: CNN projects Rhode Island for Sheldon Whitehouse. That's three of six, baby!

9:33: CNN projects IN-02 for Joe Donnelly, making the House Democrats +3.

9:46: With 82% reporting, George Allen is up by 27,000 votes. Webb insists everything's okay (the 18% still waiting to be counted are all NoVa, he says), but I'm starting to get a little nervous.

9:57: Chris Matthews is apparently as proud of the fact that he knows the phrase "right now" as CNN is proud that it has one trillion billion dollars' worth of flat-panel televisions.

10:00: Rick Santorum concedes.

10:10: On Call is projecting that Paul Hodes has beaten Charles Bass in NH-02, and Chris Murphy has beaten Nancy Johnson in CT-05. That's +5 for the House Democrats (assuming I haven't missed any).

10:12: With 89% reporting, Allen's up by 24,000 votes. Sheesh.

11:05: A whole wave of House projections in the last hour. Democrats have picked up CT-02, FL-22, IN-08, NC-11, OH-18, PA-7, and PA-10. If my math is right, that puts the House at 220R-215D, putting the Democrats three seats away from a majority.

11:08: Hey, hey, hey. CNN projects NY-20, IN-09, and AZ-08 for the Democrats. You can do the math.

11:09: CNN projects that the Democrats will take the House.

11:14: With 96.60% reporting, George Allen is up by 13,000 votes, or 0.59%. Anything closer than 0.50% will trigger an automatic recount, so Webb's really counting on some last-minute help from the eighty or so precincts left.

11:17: Still waiting on projections from Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Montana, and Arizona. Whichever party takes three of those five will control the Senate.

11:37: The Washington Post has apparently withdrawn its Maryland projection. I'm not buying it, though: no way does Michael Steele win that race.

11:41: With 97.42% reporting, Allen's lead is down to about 5,000 votes, or 0.21%. With a total of only sixty precincts remaining, there's basically no way this doesn't go to a recount.

12:14: CNN is reporting that Webb has taken the lead in votes, but I'm going to stick with the Virginia Board of Elections, since that's what I've been watching all night. With 99.18% reporting (twenty precincts left), Allen still has a 1,900-vote lead.

12:44: MSNBC calls Tennessee for Corker. Democrats have to go 3-for-3 in the states that are left.

12:52: Still watching:

  • Missouri: 69% reporting; Talent (R) 49.84; McCaskill (D) 46.76
  • Montana: 31% reporting; Burns (R) 41.10; Tester (D) 56.72
  • Virginia: 99.26% reporting; Allen (R) 49.36; Webb (D) 49.44
1:03: Big update from Missouri. With 80% reporting, Claire McCaskill takes a 14,000-vote lead. 49-48.

1:09: The Terminator was reelected as governor of Culleyfornia.

1:28: Still watching...
  • Missouri: 81% reporting; Talent (R) 48.01; McCaskill (D) 48.70
  • Montana: 52% reporting; Burns (R) 45.42; Tester (D) 53.04
  • Virginia: 99.47% reporting; Allen (R) 49.36; Webb (D) 49.43
2:09: Talent concedes! MSNBC calls Missouri for Claire McCaskill! And then there were two! (Sorry for all the exclamation points; I'm genuinely excited.) (!)

2:27: Brian Schweitzer announces that we'll have a final call on Montana within the hour. Thirty-minute drumroll, please....

2:48: MSNBC just cut to Norah O'Donnell so that she could explain that if the Democrats manage to pick up only one of the remaining two Senate seats, as opposed to both, the Senate will deadlock at 50-50 and Dick Cheney would have to break the tie. Thanks, Norah.

3:34: Brian Schweitzer is clearly a liar.

3:42: Montana has already started to recount votes. They continue to insist, though, that a result is coming soon.

3:55: After a brief phone conversation with a local news reporter in Helena, Chris Matthews, Bob Shrum, and the rest of the talking heads (or "babbloons," an entertaining word that I just coined [a portmanteau of "babbling" and "baboons"; I may be getting a bit punchy]) are "about 90%" convinced that the Democrats are going to get The Six they needed.

4:40: Still no decision in Montana, and they're saying now that they won't have anything before 7:00. I'm guessing I'll still be awake at that point, but in the interest of getting some actual work done, I think I'm going to call an end to the live-blogging. Bonsoir, mes amis.

Take a look at this picture of the Clintons voting this morning. Notice that they're standing in line.

Now, it's not that I think the Clintons should be automatically bumped to the front as soon as they walk in the door. But if you're standing there and you notice that the two people behind you are Bill and Hillary Clinton, how do you not say to them, "You guys can go ahead"?

An exhortation to the readers: as Richard III said to Macbeth, "Get thee to a votery!"

(Polls close at seven here in Virginia, and at eight for most of the rest of the east coast. If you haven't voted yet, you ought to go do it now. But remember this: every time you vote Republican, God kills a kitten.)

For the record, the sites I've been checking most often today:

A couple of last minute horse-race primers:

  • At the Post, Dan Balz and David Broder have produced an exhaustive rundown of the competitive races in all fifty states.
  • And at the Times, the Caucus blog has posted a viewers' guide for tomorrow.
Happy voting.

(Also, check out the Washington Post's Crystal Ball Contest. 11 former champions return to defend their honor. Tune in to watch Mary Matalin lose!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Two tangentially-related* articles from today's New York Times:

  • The first, an op-ed by the chairman of NYU's sociology department, proposes a mandatory runoff for any election in which the result cannot be determined with at least 99% statistical certainty (in other words, if one million people vote, the winning candidate's margin of victory would have to exceed 1,300 votes in order to avoid a runoff; if five million voted, the margin of victory would have to exceed 3,000). It's an interesting idea, and he explains it well. And, Christ: anything's better than leaving it up to Scalia.
  • The second, an editorial, notes that this year, for the first time in recent memory, the New York Times will endorse not a single Republican. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?
* - Which is to say, "Two articles that were close to each other in the newspaper."

Why people who don't like polls don't like polls:

Virginia Senate

  • Gallup: Allen, 49-46.
  • Mason-Dixon: Webb, 46-45.
Montana Senate
  • Gallup: Tester, 50-41.
  • Mason-Dixon: Tie, 47-47.
Rhode Island Senate
  • Gallup: Whitehouse, 48-45.
  • Mason-Dixon: Chafee, 46-45.
All released today. And with the possible exception of the Montana race (I'm too lazy to look up the n-size, so I can't say for sure), they're all perfectly complementary.

For the record, my predictions: Webb 50-48; Tester 51-49; Whitehouse 51-48. (And thanks to Wake-Up Call for the numbers.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The election results are in... two and a half days ahead of schedule. Call your bookies; fearless predictions ahead:

  • Riding a wave across the (south, southwest, west, midwest...), Democrats take back the House in stunning fashion. Final tally: 243 D, 192 R. (Fearless, I say!)
  • With wins in Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia, the DSCC picks up the six seats they need to retake the Senate. Unfortunately for everyone, they fail to win in Tennessee, making Joe Lieberman the most valuable man in the Capitol: if the Republicans can convince Lieberman to caucus on their side of the aisle, they'll control the Senate; if they can't, the Democrats own Congress.
You heard it here first, folks. (Thanks to the Washington Post's Midterm Madness game [which I plan to win], my pick for every single Congressional race is viewable here.)

On Tuesday, voters in Michigan will confront Proposition 2, which seeks to disallow public organizations from the consideration of race or sex when making hiring or admissions decisions.

I've made several attempts now to write about Proposition 2, but each time I sit down, the post gets longer and more preachy. And that's not what I want to do. I support affirmative action; I think Proposition 2 is a mistake, and I think Jennifer Gratz is a big whiny whiner. But an in-depth defense of an actual policy is a bit heavy for these parts (and plus, who has the time to read write such a thing?). So instead, I'll link to a few good articles, and I'll make a couple of quick comments. As is my way.

Comment 1: From the New York Times piece:

"I don’t know a lot about Proposition 2, but I do know a neighbor kid, a good kid, a local kid with a 3.7-3.8 average, who didn’t get into the university and he should have," said Vicki Smith, who is white, shopping one afternoon at Kohls department store. "I do think there’s something wrong with their admissions."
Now listen, Vicki Smith. Maybe you're a very nice person. And if so, I'm sorry to have to say this. But if you're going to vote in favor of Proposition 2 because some white kid you know didn't get into Michigan (perhaps because his "3.7-3.8 average" wouldn't even have put him in the top half of the entering class), you're misguided.

Comment 2: One of the proposition's most vocal proponents is Jennifer Gratz, the 29-year-old leader of a group cunningly called "the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative" (Gratz, who must be one of the whiniest people on the planet, is somewhat famous for her starring role in Gratz v. Bollinger). She notes:
"We have a horrible history when it comes to race in this country. But that doesn’t make it right to give preference to the son of a black doctor at the expense of a poor student whose parents didn’t go to college."
In theory, I don't disagree. But that's not usually the way things work.

Affirmative action was designed to remedy the disconnect between a lofty goal (a race-neutral society) and real life (an anything-but-race-neutral society). It was not, and is not, intended to be a permanent fixture. Rather, it's a Band-Aid: it treats the symptom until we can figure out how to treat the disease. I can't think of anyone who believes affirmative action to be a perfect system, and I can't think of anyone who doesn't look forward to the day when merit-based judgments are sufficiently fair to eliminate the necessity for the consideration of race and gender.* But the allocation of rights and privileges according to merit is only a fair system if everyone has equal access to the mechanisms by which merit is measured. And right now, that is simply not the case.

Flip through any daily newspaper and you'll likely be confronted with a few particularly egregious examples of racial discrimination in action. But these examples tend to be isolated, and thus easily separable: not in my town; not in my country; not in my church. More subtle forms of racial discrimination, on the other hand (not to mention discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation), often pervade every aspect of our everyday lives. Employment, housing, education... these are the bedrocks of our civilization (bedrocks of incalculable importance if our civilization is to be one based on merit), and they are all vulnerable to the pernicious effects of racial bias. If discrimination is allowed to persist in these key areas, then we'll simply never get to a point where affirmative action is no longer required. And yes, racially-motivated affirmative action dictates that occasionally the son of a black doctor will beat out the better-qualified daughter of a white coal miner, and this is regrettable. But to prevent that injustice by prohibiting institutions from considering race at all would be very much cutting off the nose to spite the face. And that would be a shame.

Thanks to an unfortunate quirk in our system of government, one state's residents are generally prohibited from voting in another state's elections. For this reason, my interaction with this issue pretty much ends here. But if I did live in Michigan, I can say with absolute certainty that I'd be looking forward to voting against Proposition 2.

* - Note that I very much don't mean to slight the value of diversity. Instead, I choose to imagine that, in the perfect world of the future, merit will be judged in such a way as to have diversity built right in. How convenient!

Sunday's New York Times Book Review features an excellent 4,000-word essay on democracy by Washington Post columnist Michael Kinsley. Highly recommended.

Bill Frist, no longer certain of his chances at the actual White House, has decided to hedge his bets by building his own.