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A penny for your thoughts indeed. Around here that would be a raise.

What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Election Debrief
Friday, November 10, 2006
Last post, I made reference to the phenomenon of the “latte liberal.” That’s the supposedly derogatory term the Reps invented this time out to describe Nancy Pelosi and her ilk. I’m not 100% sure what a latte liberal is, but I do know that I want to be one. I imagine people sitting upstairs in the lounge at Starbucks, using the wi-fi, sipping lattes and eating scones and talking politics and writing in their blogs. I’m SO there! If I hadn’t already accrued so damned much brand equity in “A Penny’s Worth,” I’d seriously consider changing the name of this blog to “Latte Liberal.”

Latte liberal. I LOVE that. I’m totally getting a t-shirt that says “latte liberal” on it. I think we’re THIS close to making “liberal” hip again.

So anyway, let this latte liberal sort out all the political goings-on of the week for you.

Item: Republicans Go Quail Hunting, Inadvertently Shoot Selves in Face
Obviously, the country sent a clear message on Tuesday, a message about a lot of things—notably Iraq, the so-called War on Terrorism, and checks and balances (turns out we like a two party system after all.) Of course it was pretty clear for some time that the Dems would take back the house. But the improbable victory in the senate really makes this seem like a tidal wave, a sea change, a tsunami, a watery metaphor of your own choosing, in American politics.

But let’s not forget that the Dems won control of the senate by a margin of 51-49, the thinnest margin possible. And that two of those 51 aren’t even technically Dems, they were Independent candidates who will caucus with the Dems. So really, there are 49 Reps, 49 Dems, and 2 Indies in the senate. And oh yeah-- let’s not forget that the last two senate races to resolve were decided by a sum total of about 12,000 votes.

The Dems, in a very real way, won control of the senate by just 12,000 votes. A hair’s breadth. A hanging chad.

In light of how close the senate swing was, let’s take a moment to ponder the things that led up to the election. You had your Jack Abramoff, and several Reps (I have to bet, the tip of the iceberg) resigning in the ensuing web of scandal. You had Marc Foley, the gay Republican child rapist. You had Ted Haggard, a powerful leader of the evangelical right, exposed as a boy-crazy meth head. You had George Allen, popular Rep incumbent senator from Virginia, using a racial slur that he learned from his Tanzanian Jewish mother, captured on video and posted on YouTube. In hindsight, it is no exaggeration that with that one utterance, the senate flipped. (Note to George Allen: next time, try not to make a racially insensitive comment to the guy from your opponent’s campaign while he is video taping you.)

You had an unpopular war. You had a border security crisis. You had perhaps the most corrupt and ineffectual and uni-partisan congress ever. And every week, you had a new Rep screw-up.

And after all this… the Dems took control of the senate by a mere 12,000 votes. That’s less than one vote for every twelve thousand registered voters. Call it, say, 6,001 to 6,000.

It is worth considering, pondering, how narrow this senate victory really was. To be fair, if the Dems had picked up only 4 seats, it would have been a moral victory; everything had to break just exactly right for them to take the senate. But everything DID break right… exactly right.

The thing that strikes me here is that, somehow, the Dems managed not to hand this election back. It was theirs for the losing, it was certainly close enough to lose… and yet they managed not to lose it. To put that in perspective, the last Dem to hit a buzzer beating shot was, I’d reckon, JFK. It aint like they pull out the close ones, is what I'm saying.

In recent weeks it seemed like every time something else bad happened to the Reps, you could see the Dems pacing nervously. “Oh sure, we look good now. But just wait till they spring that October surprise on us.” I think some Dems are still waiting for the October surprise. John Kerry tried to provide one, sticking his foot so deeply down his throat that his own bile ate a hole in the tip of his loafer. (Alec Baldwin correctly noted, “If you wanna be president, you can’t blow the line.”)

Pundits on the right have been warning us, “The Democrats didn’t win this election. The Republicans lost it.” And that’s true. But this time, the Dems managed to successfully stay out of the way and let them loose. And that may just be the biggest news of all.

Item: It’s the Center, Stupid
Cable news junkie that I am, I’ve heard many pundits from the right (example: Bill Bennett) say, “Oh sure, the Dems won—but look at how conservative the winners were!” The implication being, it took Republican-like Dems to win, not the Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Barney Frank, “latte liberal” black gay Jew communist tax-raising, baby-eating, terrorist-coddling crazies that truly represent the core values of the Democrats.

There are only two problems with that theory.

One, as Bill Mahr pointed out on Larry King, is that there is no far left in American politics. Nancy Pelosi, the Rep boogey-chick, poster girl for Everything We Hate About Liberals, is a left-centrist. She isn’t anti-business, she isn’t for socialized medicine, she isn’t for dialoguing with Hugo Chavez. In fact, her most egregious transgression is representing San Francisco (wink, wink.) It’s just that the Reps have moved so far to the right that anyone on the other side of centrist looks like Che Guevara to them.

The second problem with that theory is that, clearly, by moving so far right, the Reps have abandoned the center. Reps are no longer a big tent party; they are a party for extremist social conservatives and paranoid xenophobes only. And I don’t mean that as an insult to the people I actually know who are registered Reps. I think if most of them were honest with themselves, they’d admit that the Iraq War was once a mistake, and is now a boondoggle; that they don’t really care if gays can marry as much as they care about affordable health care and good schools for their kids; and that the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration with the Rep congress rubber stamp is anathema to their true conservative values.

After you energize your base, you are supposed to turn to the center. Karl Rove steered the Republican party hard right, assuming that somehow he would draw some sort of strength from his fundamentalist crazies, and that the rest of Americans—or at least roughly half the rest—would follow. In truth, what happened was the same thing that happened in 1980, when so many former Dems voted for Reagan: “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me.” If the Reps are going to abandon the center, then of course the big tent Dems will embrace it.

Or, put another way: There are about 30 million voters for whom the three most important issues are that gays can’t marry, that abortion is criminalized, and that embryonic stem cell research is outlawed. Republicans will take about 90% of their votes.

But there are many other voters who actually share the direction of some or all of these views, but not the intensity. These voters recognize—rightly—that such divisive “values” issues should not be elevated to the level of “agenda” issues. War and peace, the economy, security, the environment, tax policy, social services—these are agenda issues (unless, of course, you are both gay and engaged to be married.)

Now, suddenly, we have a name for social conservatives who nonetheless vote based on legitimate agenda issues. We call them moderate Democrats.

So yeah, the Rove Reps can count on the votes of 30 million evangelicals. BUt in national American politics, 30 million isn't a base or a constituency. Its a niche. And as far as the other 120 million or so registered voters are concerned, the Reps have a problem.

Item: The Rumsfeld Timing; Sometimes it’s the Stupid, Stupid!
The day after the election, President Bush graciously accepted Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation (i.e., he fired the guy.) We now know that he’d made this decision a good two weeks earlier, and that he had selected the replacement by the Sunday prior to Election Day.

What I want to know is, why the dickens did the president wait until after the election to fire Rumsfeld? Think about it. He knew before the election that he was going to fire the guy, but he waits until after to actually do it. Why?

Bush says he waited because he didn’t want it to look as if he was firing Rumsfeld for political advantage. But we all know that isn’t true; if he thought it would have provided political advantage, he would have done it in a heartbeat. And rightly so.

The thing is, I am 99% sure it would have provided a political advantage to the Reps. In fact today I can go so far as to say, if Bush had fired Rummy before the election, THAT would have been the October (or November) surprise. A lot of Dem candidates were running for congress with little discernable platform beyond “Rumsfeld sucks!” Bush should have called their bluff: “You want Rumsfeld fired? Fine. It’s done! Now what reason does anyone have left for voting for you?” The Dems, we know, had the wind at their backs; firing Rummy would have taken the wind out of a lot of fragile sails. It would not have been a sign of weakness; it would have disarmed the opposition. (Doing it after the election, of course, now that is a sign of weakness.)

So then, why not fire the guy before the election? I think there are two possible reasons: (a) Bush believed it would in fact hurt the Reps chances; or (b) he thought that the Reps might well have a strong showing, and if that happened, maybe he wouldn’t have had to make a change. If the Reps hold both houses, maybe Rumsfeld doesn’t get fired. In fact, ponder that with me; no WAY he gets fired, right?

I think that Bush and Rove are too politically shrewd to have believed that firing Rumsfeld in advance of the election would have done anything but helped Reps. So I end up concluding that the reason Rumsfeld got the ax Wednesday was that Bush thought that the Reps would have a good Election Day, hold the senate for sure and maybe even the House, and so he wouldn’t have to act. Because if you’re going to make that move, you might as well make it a week earlier and reap the benefits thereof.

We were told that Rove informed the president at 11PM Tuesday night that the House was lost (must have been important for Rove to decide to wake the president.) And Wednesday, Bush appeared legitimately flummoxed and surprised.

So cruising into Tuesday, President Bush thought things looked pretty good for Republicans. He didn’t want to fire Rummy just yet, because he was hedging his bets. Things were looking rosy to him.

I find that incredulous, and just a little bit scary.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 8:41 PM  

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