Sunday, October 30, 2005

Washington Post: Stop the Campaigning

There is as yet no meaningful evidence that the president, Congress and the media are prepared to abandon their infatuation with continuous campaigning as an alternative to actual operation of the federal government.

As I understand the history of the presidency, it was only early in the last century that presidential candidates began actively campaigning on their own behalf. Perhaps a reversal of that trend would help the systemic problem outlined in this piece. Certainly something must be done.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Washington Post: Judicial Activism

This is not a new position in the debate on judicial philosophy. It is a point worth making and, if one truly cares about the future of the nation, it is also a point worth listening to.

Friday, October 28, 2005

MSNBC: A Partisan Perfect Storm

In the day since the Miers nomination was withdrawn, many have already begun to speculate on the next nominee and what impact that nomination may have on recent developments in the Senate. In this article, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is essentially calling on the president to provoke a conflict on that body between the parties. Having looked at the pool of likely nominees, I think that there are several options, such as Michael McConnell, Michael Luttig, and Maureen Mahoney, that would be responsible and in the interest of national unity. By nominating an exreme conservative, as Sen. Brownback would seem to support, the President would only further contradict his old claim of being a "uniter" and imperil the compromise that senators of conscience reached recently. The national debate on abortion, for which Brownback advocates, has already been going on in this nation for years. His preference is to try to end the debate by confirming a nominee whose pro-life stance would serve as a proxy for the actual votes that Brownback hopes to win in a few years. Just as conseratives argue, correctly, that the Supreme Court has a duty to decide what is lawful, so too does the Senate have a duty. Their duty is not to use confirmation hearings as a platform for political benefit, but to confirm nominees whose legal expertise and ability to remain unbiased will ensure the continued stability and effectiveness of the Supreme Court. I would be most agrieved if the vision of Senator Brownback came to pass and personal politics took the place of justice.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Washington Post: Return the Power to the People

I was hoping for an opportunity to demonstrate that Democrats can be dangerously partisan as much as Republicans, and just then I found this story. Efforts to heal American democracy, including reforms of campaign finance and state redistricting, face strong opposition from both sides of the aisle. California Democrats may have real concerns about the political ramifications of a mid-cycle redistricting plan, but any plan that reduces the political obstacles to effective governance is good for all citizens. This is one reform that I am glad to see the Governator championing.

Boston Globe: Reading the Race in Virginia

The tactics described in this piece, which captures well the reliable strategy that Kilgore seems to have adopted from the 2004 presidential campaign, are known to be reprehensible. Coverage of the election has shown that the appeal to popular fears are turning voters in Virginia off and helping to diminish faith in the electoral process. I hope that the recent progress made by the Kaine campaign will translate into a victory, if only because it may help to discredit the tactics that seem to be the center of GOP strategy.

I believe that Virginia, as a microcosm of the nation, gives a good model of our political reality. The urban centers tend to be more moderate and provide balance between the parties but the volume of conservative hardliners who all vote Republican mean that the state GOP remains a power that is hard to temper. The most apt comparison between Virginian and national politics is the marginalization of the independent candidates. Russ Potts, a responsible and reasonable Republican, has refused to embrace empty rhetoric, but cannot get past the two party behemoth to provide a real alternative for conservatives.

This is an important election for Virginia as it will determine whether the progress towards fiscal stability will continue. But, like all other elections, it is also important because it can teach the voters about themselves. If the voters of Virginia reject the tactics of alienation and fear, then perhaps the nation will have some hope. Our political system operates in such a way that we will never have perfect options, but we do have meaningful choices to make. I hope that Virginians and Americans will start making better choices about what values actually matter in picking leaders and what sort of civic life we are willing to lead. We have a chance to start doing better on November 8.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Washington Monthly: Meet Rep. McHenry - The Rising Underbelly of the GOP

This piece should be fascinating for anybody who enjoys reading about dirty politics. It chronicles the education and introduction of a career politician with no hesitation to whatever it takes to win. McHenry is aptly described as somebody who "could someday be vice president." If you have any interest in knowing how Republicans have come to dominate Washington with a decade-old majority, take the time to read this. It may help you take more of an interest in the candidates in your Congressional district, which is always good.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Washington Post: Mission Accomplished in Operation Distract From Poverty

I wish this were more surprising.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Washington Monthly: Might Delay Finally Be Done

Some surprising and uplifting news on the Tom Delay front, depending on your perspective. Perhaps the impunity of The Hammer will not go unpunished. It would be smart for Republicans not only to recognize that Tom Delay should no longer be a force in national GOP politics, but they might also be well served to distance themselves from the conduct and deportment that landed Delay in his current predicament.

Well perhaps one should only hope for one miracle at a time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Washington Post: A Return to the Progressive Era for America

I ask any who pass by this page to read this article twice. It is not very long, but it contains the best explanations of the problems that this site hopes to clarify and also contains the best basis of a solution which I have heard up to this point.

The author gives a brief explanation of what force bound American heroes like Teddy Roosevelt, Governor Robert LaFollette, and Chief Justice Earl Warren (Republicans from back when reason ruled the GOP) together and what made them better than their present day succesors. This piece combines cogent examination with cautious optimism. Put simply, I love it. Please read it.

LA Times: Is Peace Really The Answer

This criticism of the war opposition on the left hits all the worthwhile pro-war talking points, and raises an argument which is interesting but not novel. The writer asserts that the departure of American troops cannot happen while the reality of violence is still menacing the Iraqi populace. Indeed, the question is posed as to whether we can expect peace in the near future.

What this article leaves unsaid, as indeed many do, is that the cultural affinity for brutal demonstration of authority means that this violence will not end any time soon. There are many forces for peace in Iraq, but many of the organizations with which we have to deal to improve security are still sorting whether their loyalties belong to peace or violence.

Reason tells me that most forces in Iraq hope for public order, but the consensus that it can be obtained by democratic means is still imaginary. The main factions in Iraq have too many tensions within and among one another for peace to be in reach by any global standard. So if America wanted to bring peace to Iraq with out current operational framework and troop levels, I believe we would need to maintain a troop presence in perpetuity - that is, until the end of time.

I agree with many Americans that the departure of our troops right now would not be fair to long suffering Iraqis, and that we have an obligation to do the best we can to leave Iraq with honor. However, we absolutely (and this means the voters most of all) must face the reality that sooner or later our forces will have to leave Iraq and likely that day will come before Iraq is secure. So our "peace with honor" will almost certainly have to be a compromise, which will probably mean that the current leadership will not understand how to craft it. If only I could be wrong on this one.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Opinion Journal: Problem With Miers Nomination Reveals Greater Problem With Bush

I generally respect the writing of Peggy Noonan, not as much her reasoning. Her recent column is not an exception, save for this supposition-

"Maybe after five years he is fully revealing himself."

For those long suffering Bush opponents, the nomination by Bush of one of his personal lawyers and a woman who has played an important role in his political machinery, is no surprise whatsoever. But to his allies, the gut-shot decisions and excessive focus on loyalty are usually much more useful for them, so it seems natural that when his arrogance is not the same as their arrogance, they see it as a revelation.

There are plenty of people giving many good reasons for their opposition to Miers, so I will try to confine commentary here on the nomination in the context of internal GOP politics and inter-party relations.

There are some useful political observations in the piece this week by Noonan, but disregard her personal views on the subject because, as usual, they are mostly wrong.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Washington Post: The Unjustifiable Justice

I feel confident assuming that I am not the only person to make this play on words in recent days. Except for the contention by George F. Will, that signing McCain-Feingold is the reason Bush cannot be trusted to discern the best way to protect the integrity of the Constitution, because I can think of much better reasons not to trust his judgement, I agree with this column fully.

Christian Science Monitor: Campaign Finance vs. Republican Majority

The point made by many about the futility of campaign finance reform is that money cannot be kept out of politics and, therefore, it is a waste of resources to try. I refute that proposition by saying that just because it is impossible to stamp out murder, I believe we can all agree that it is a worthwhile enterprise to try.

Real problems with campaign finance reform stem from the belief of some people that there are no problems with money dictating the outcomes of political competition and thus the course of American government. Conveniently enough for many of these people, the money generally flows from them or to them (or they dream that one day it will).

Perhaps hoping for a conviction for Delay in this case is fanciful. However, this development should embolden the enemies of dirty government and encourage people to keep pursuing those whose opinion of government is that it cannot, and as a result should not attempt to, rise above the level of common politics. I hope for the sake of the crusaders who have not yet given over completely to the cynicism that politics breeds, that something, anything will come of these indictments and this will not be a vindication for criminals.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Economist: Conservative Realignment On The Horizon

The most obvious truth of American politics is stated quite directly in this piece:

"America has two dysfunctional parties."

However, what may not be as obvious is the observation that the tensions within the conservative movement may come to a head and produce a change in Republican leadership in the near future. With the leadership of ethically-challenged Delay and obstinate Dubya seeming to fall out of favor, perhaps the famously popular Guiliani and McCain will have a chance to see if their substance can defeat the political guile of the Rove-Delay machine that has put its faction in control of the GOP and the USA.

Another point to note is the apparent inablility of the Democratic caucus to capitalize on a series of political blunders. This may be a good thing, because it reduces the potency of GOP claims of partisan opportunism, but it also means that these mistakes can go largely unpunished if Republicans also fail to clean their own house.

The silver lining may be this - if dramatic shifts in the Republican and Democratic parties are coming (hopefully not just wishful thinking) to compensate for this period of political blundering with little meaningful governing, then perhaps 2008 could see a real contest for leadership of the grandest republic on the Earth instead another poll to see which party produces the better poster-boy. Stranger things have happened, and we've waited long enough.