Monday, July 30, 2007

The Daily Digest: Republicans vs. YouTube

A YouTuber implores the Republican candidates to remain in the YouTube debate

Cato president Ed Crane recently asked if Hillary is a neocon? His libertarian colleague Steve Chapman, of the Chicago Tribune, answers in the affirmative: "A Hillary Clinton presidency promises to unite Madeleine Albright's zeal for using bombs in pursuit of liberal ideals with Dick Cheney's vision of the president as emperor."

Reviewing Milton Friedman: A Biography, by Lanny Ebenstein, Doug Bandow relates a lesson in market-based parenting: "'Once, when the family was traveling across country by train, Milton gave [daughter] Jan and [son] David the choice of a room with berths or the difference in cash between the price of the room and the price of riding in coach. The children chose to sit up in coach for two days.'"

Before there was Freakonomics (2005), the best-selling book that popularized the "dismal science," there was Tyler Cowen, the modern-day cult hero of libertarian economists.

A tipster leaks to Jim Geraghty a selection of Fred Thompson's vocal support for McCain-Feingold, "legislation that tends to a level of support among NRO readers roughly comparable to the Ebola virus."

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Prince of Darkness Can Smile

From a breakfast I attended this morning; write-up to follow.

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The Subtle Bias of "Loophole"

Another word has lit up press critic Jack Shafer's radar for loaded locutions: "loophole." Shafer concedes the word's utility—it "compresses interesting findings from the complex worlds of campaign finance, taxation, or regulation"—but argues that it's often used to editorialize rather than report. He cites three recent examples, from the Post, Times and Chicago Tribune, respectively.

Headline: "Loophole Lets Candidates Skirt Donation Limit." Story: Presidential candidates are legally collecting contributions for both their presidential campaigns and for re-election to their incumbent office, thus allowing supporters to make double donations to them. To wit: "Candidates Exercise Maximum Fund-Raising Rights."

Headline: "Mexico Moves to Cut Back Tax Loopholes for Businesses." Story: The Mexican government wants to collect more taxes, so it's rewriting the tax laws. To wit: "Mexican President Calls for More Taxes."

Headline: "House Blocks Stores' Bank Bid; Senate May See Closer Vote on Bill Closing Loophole." Story: Under current law, firms can own and operate "industrial loan companies," a limited type of bank that competes with established banks, who fear the competition and are thus calling for restrictive laws. To wit: "Banks Make Progress in Winning Protection from Competition."

Shafer's argument is wonderfully libertarian, but he ignores the distinction between "natural" loopholes and man-made ones. "Natural" loopholes are unsolicited and arise after-the-fact. A typical example is so-called 527s, tax-exempt organizations named after that section of the United States tax code. Such groups emerged from a campaign-finance law that capped political contributions by individuals, while left non-PAC organizations, like 527s, free to raise unlimited amounts of money. The 26 U.S.C. § 527 loophole was thus a benign happenstance.

By contrast, man-made loopholes are lobbied for and deliberately slipped into legislation. These are the infamous loopholes—the myriad special preferences, credits, exemptions and deductions that make laws unbearably complex—and unlike their coincidental cousins, they're fully deserving of opprobrium.

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What's Harder to Fire Than a Tenured Professor?

An abiding loyalist and potential fall guy, embodied perfectly in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If you're wondering why the "Judge" inspires such bipartisan scorn, consider this dispatch from Slate's Emily Bazelon, concerning his congressional testimony earlier this week:

When Gonzales says to [New York Senator Chuck] Schumer, "I'd like to look at my responses" at the press conference, Schumer is ready to smoothly reply, "We'll bring them up to you right now."

"Good," Gonzales says, which he must immediately regret, because it's a trap. After some whispering from the row of aides sitting behind him, Gonzales says that he "did misspeak" at the June press conference, "but I went back and clarified it with a reporter." Which reporter? More whispering. "Dan Eggen, at the Washington Post, two days later." Schumer presses. Gonzales repeats, "I clarified my statement to the reporter." Then, after more questions and more whispering, "I didn't speak directly to the reporter." There's an intake of breath around the room, and it's not just from the women wearing pink whose hats and banner and mouth tape read "Fire Gonzales."

"What did your spokespeople say to him?" Schumer asks.

"I don't know," Gonzales answers.

Additional reasons Gonzo should spend more time with his family here.

Also, pigs do fly: tenured fraud Ward Churchill, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been given the boot. My take on the incident that exposed his notoriety, which occurred at my now-alma mater, here.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Daily Digest

"The decision to adopt Hillary and drop Clinton has nothing whatsoever casual to it," observes Tod Lindberg.

David Frum notes three elementary mistakes in Bob Novak's memoirs: (1) Novak and Frum lunched, only once, at the Oval Room on November 21, 2001, not at the Hay Adams on September 19, 2001. (2) Frum began work as a White House speechwriter in January, not March, 2001. (3) Frum does not live in Georgetown, which Novak should know because he's been to Frum's house for dinner.

Check out the best of Reagan's TV ads from his 1984 campaign.

Does Daily Kos violate McCain-Feingold? According to a complaint filed with the FEC, "It surely spends at least $1,000 per year in hosting and based on what they charge (and get) for advertising, their support of candidates is certainly worth over $1,000 per year. Lastly, their self-identified purpose is to influence elections in the Democrats favor." David Freddoso draws the appropriate conclusion: "None of this is an argument for regulating Kos, but rather an argument for abolishing the silly campaign finance regime that that the Kos-krazies and their ilk have pushed on us for a generation now."

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Daily Digest

Choose your URL carefully. A site called Who Represents, where you can look up agents who represent celebrities, is available at Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at More examples here.

Jonathan Martin and Dave Keene read Bob Novak's memoirs so you don't have to.

Is Bill Richardson the much-hyped but little-confirmed libertarian Democrat? Dave Weigel investigates.

Mickey Kaus "hears rumblings" that the NYT will soon scrap its TimesSelect experiment.

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The Logistics of Withdrawing from Iraq

Last night, Joe Biden returned to his old self, overpowering his opponents with knowledge and passion on the most important issue in this election: Iraq. Example:

It's time to start to tell the truth. The truth of the matter is: If we started today, it would take one year, one year to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq, logistically.

Time's Michael Duffy elaborates:

The reality is that it's difficult to get out fast. It took the Soviets nine months to pull 120,000 troops out of Afghanistan. They were simply going next door, and they still lost more than 500 men on the way out. Pulling out 10 combat brigades—roughly 30,000 troops, along with their gear and support personnel—would take at least 10 months, Pentagon officials say. And that's only part of the picture. There are civilians who would probably want to head for the exit when GIs started packing. They include some 50,000 U.S. contractors and tens of thousands of Iraqis who might need protection if we left the country.

Slowing things down further is the sheer volume of stuff that we would have to take with us—or destroy if we couldn't. Military officials recently told Congress that 45,000 ground-combat vehicles—a good portion of the entire U.S. inventory of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, trucks and Humvees—are now in Iraq. They are spread across 15 bases, 38 supply depots, 18 fuel-supply centers and 10 ammo dumps. These items have to be taken back home or destroyed, lest they fall into the hands of one faction or another. Pentagon officials will try to bring back as much of the downtime gear as possible—dining halls, office buildings, vending machines, furniture, mobile latrines, computers, paper clips and acres of living quarters. William (Gus) Pagonis, the Army logistics chief who directed the flood of supplies to Saudi Arabia for the 1991 Gulf War and their orderly withdrawal from the region, cites one more often overlooked hurdle: U.S. agricultural inspectors insist that, before it re-enters the U.S., Army equipment be free of any microscopic disease that, as Pagonis puts it, "can wipe out flocks of chickens and stuff like that."

I'd like to hear why Bill Richardson, who wants to "bring all the troops home . . . in six months, with no residual forces," thinks his knowledge of military matters trumps that of the guys doing the heavy lifting.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Fred Thompson Update

Fred Thompson, Mark Corallo and Ed Gillespie, 2007

Why are Christian conservatives so eager to embrace Fred Thompson, who once lobbied to overturn the domestic gag rule? The answer's complicated, but plausible (hat tip to Soren Dayton): neither Thompson nor Rudy, who's been the consistent Republican front-runner, is a reliable social conservative. But if Thompson wins the nomination, then evangelicals will be able to claim victory. If Rudy wins, they lose their kingmaker status.

The latest hires: HSP for direct mail, Rich Galen and Linda Rozett for communications, and Bill Wichterman and Joe Cella for religious outreach.

Of Thompson's aforesaid lobbying stint, the National Review editors reflect that "Pro-lifers should . . . treat this episode as a regrettable bit of ancient history," because Thompson seems to have changed his mind about abortion. "But the picture is cloudier than it should be, because Thompson has been less than forthcoming about the evolution of his views."

Since 2003, Thompson's PAC has paid his son $176,000 for doing "next to nothing," reports Dick Morris.

Update (7/24): Campaign manager Tom Collamore has resigned, to be replaced by former senator and former energy secretary Spencer Abraham as chairman, and Randy Enwright, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa and the Republican Party of Florida, as the day-to-day manager.

Also, Stephen Rodrick of NY Magazine is the latest journo to accompany Thompson on the trail.

Update (7/25): JT Mastranadi, who less than two weeks ago was brought on as research director, resigned this morning. According to a friend, Mastranadi was "fed up" with the "lack of structure" and was unclear about his role in the coming campaign.

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The Daily Digest

The invariably funny Dave Weigel live-blogged last night's Democratic debate. (Google, the debate's co-host, lavished some cool perks on the press pool.)

Obama is chummier and softer, but, as Jennifer Rubin observes, he simply cannot compete with Hillary's "experience, judgment and preparation. . .. All but the most rabid of the Democratic base I think will come to see that. So I would suggest that the GOP primary voters think long and hard about electability. Otherwise, we'll be debating whether First Gentleman or First Guy sounds better for Bill."

David Hogberg captures the state of Newt: "Newt is a great idea man. He provides the GOP and the conservative movement a wonderful service in that role. Why mess that up with a run for the Oval Office that would prove disastrous?"

Speaking of Newt, his new grassroots group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, which has seven staffers on payroll, is spending like John McCain, hauling in almost $115K last month but shelling out almost $415K.

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Changes at Cato

1. Bob Levy has joined the board of directors.

2. Tom Palmer has been promoted from senior fellow to vice president of international relations.

3. Jacob Grier, a former intern, is back, in the media relations department.

4. Podcast producer, Anastasia Uglova, has taken a position with NBC. Her successor is Caleb Brown.

5. Broadcasting director, Evans Pierre, has left.

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The Daily Digest

Ayn Rand novels convert young people into libertarians. Departments of Motor Vehicles convert our parents. Dan Mitchell echoes Radley Balko on the urgent need to reform this bureaucratic no-man's-land.

Here's something rare: voluntary transparency in a campaign. To wit: Mike Huckabee has posted audio archives of his blogger conference calls, among other media events, on his Web site.

Christopher Caldwell profiles Ron Paul for the NYTM.

Having been stripped, nearly 40 years ago, of his only tangible responsibility, to oversee the Public Health Service, the surgeon general has little or no authority to coordinate the federal government’s public health activities. His office is routinely politicized, and he reports not to secretary of Health and Human Services, but to the assistant secretary. The result, argues Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council, is that the position "today has become mostly one of a bully pulpit to serve as a federally funded advocate." The solution: abolish the office.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

In Praise of Bill Richardson's Ad Team

Patrick Hynes doesn't like John Edwards's new ad, but Bill Richardson's new one, which continues the job interview theme, is catchy and substantive:

If you like this, you'll love Richardson's previous two (for what it's worth, Matt Bai, of the NYTM, thinks they "feel more like a cry for help than a campaign pitch"):

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Scott Garrett vs. Don Young

The Club for Growth provides the back story:

Scott Garrett, along with several other brave House members, have been offering amendments to the Labor-H[HS] spending bill to strip it of pork. Yesterday, Garrett sought to remove a pork project inserted into the bill by Rep. Don Young of Alaska. You might recall that Young was one of the authors of the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" earmark. Also recall that Young is a three-time winner of the "Porker of the Month" award.

Of course, Young was predictably upset that Garrett would go after his beloved earmark. He issued a not-so-subtle threat by saying, "And like I say, those that bite me will be bitten back."

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The Daily Digest

I'm unsure which is more horrifying and revolting: that a mother of two young children would turn herself into a bomb, or that her country's laws forced her to do so, lest she face execution for adultery. Time's Tim McGirk reports from Jerusalem on the Sophie's Choice for Palestinians. Related: in 2004, I asked, "Is there no shame?"

Amnesty International recently added to its catalog of human-rights abuses the denial of access to abortion. But as the Weekly Standard reports, the members-only part of its Web site discloses an interesting nota bene: "This policy will not be made public at this time. There is to be no proactive external publication of the policy position or of the fact of its adoption issued."

As a former journalist, one of the blogs I read everyday is FishbowlDC, a gossip blog about Washington, D.C., media. Fishbowl is part of the Media Bistro empire, which, on Tuesday, was sold for a cool $23 million. What is Media Bistro, you ask? Rachel Sklar, of Eat the Press at the Huffington Post, offers an insider's history.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Who's Spending What?

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Wisdom from Joe Klein's Politics Lost, Part 2

6. On John McCain:

It was one of the oddest qualities I'd ever seen in a candidate—entirely sincere and politically brilliant. . . . In one fairly dramatic example, McCain told me, unbidden, that the breakup of his first marriage was all his fault: "I've lived a very, very flawed life. I don't think people would think so well of me if they knew more about that part of it". . . .

"There aren't many of us who haven't done things we're ashamed of over the past 25 years," I said.

7. On Al Gore:

There was something about the vice president that simply demanded couchification. He was successfully analyzed by his opponents. He was unsuccessfully analyzed by his own consultants.

8. On John Kerry:

He proved weak, indecisive, and yes, aloof. At six feet, four inches tall, with a head of hair that came out of central casting and a sonorous baritone that slouched toward drone, he literally seemed to have his head in the clouds; there was a distressing, unfocused, soporific quality tot he man. The prevailing mystery of the Kerry campaign, especially for those who had known him longest—the Vietnam veterans he had led in war (and in peace marches)—was: Whatever happened to the courageous young leader who had risked his life to protect his crew in Vietnam and risked his political career to oppose the war when he came home?

9. On Bill Clinton

[A] womanizer of desperately bad taste.

10. On Howard Dean (paraphrased):

When the Democratic front-runner for president in 2004 said the capture of Saddam Hussein didn't make America safer, "the real problem was that Dean didn't seem particularly happy that Saddam had been captured—in fact, he seemed disappointed that the president's war effort had succeeded in any way."

11. On Mario Cuomo:

In 1982, I traveled through New York State with Mario Cuomo, who was more than 30 points behind Ed Koch in the Democratic primary for governor. The biggest issue in the race was the death penalty, and Cuomo was on the wrong side of it. And yet, at every stop, Cuomo insisted on explaining his position; if the audience didn't ask him about the death penalty, he'd bring it up himself. "You might well ask me how I'd react if a member of my family were the victim of a brutal crime," he would posit, in an eerie prediction of the question that would boggle Dukakis in 1988. "Well, my daughter was recently assaulted on the street in our neighborhood by a man who burned her breast with a cigarette. My son Andrew got into the car with a baseball bat and looked all over the neighborhood for the guy—and I've got to say, if I'd ever caught up with him ... [ellipsis in original] well, I can't guarantee what I would have done. But I'd be acting on my worst impulses, my momentary anger. One of the purposes of the state is to protect us from our worst impulses—and the desire for vengeance is one of the very worst. So, lock 'em up. Throw away the key. But don't succumb to our worst impulses, our vengeance."

12. On Democratic words that work (paraphrased):

Greenberg and Clinton devised a brilliant euphemism for spending money: "investing" in the future.

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Wisdom from Joe Klein's Politics Lost, Part 1

A month ago, I was asked to name the three most recent books I had read. I could only name two—Bob Woodward's State of Denial and One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century.

I explained that I am a voracious reader, but of newspapers, magazines and blogs, but I was chagrined.

Accordingly, I've since digested three books, all of which I'll blog about by quoting or summarizing the passages I underlined. Here's the first, which was inspiring, highly informed, balanced while retaining conviction, yet not wholly persuasive; that is, Joe's thesis works best if applied selectively rather than comprehensively. (Disclosure/self-promotion: as an editorial intern at Time in 2004, I did some research for Joe on this column.)

Here's the thesis (excerpts follow after the jump):

I am fed up with the insulting welter of sterilized speechifying, insipid photo ops, and idiotic advertising that passes for public discourse these days. I believe that American politics has become overly cautious, cynical, mechanistic, and bland; and I fear that the inanity and ugliness of postmodern public life has caused many Americans to lose the habits of citizenship. . . .

[What we need is] not just the intermittent bolts of unmassaged oratory but also the spontaneous moments of honor and cowardice, the gestures, the body language, the smirks and sighs—that gave us real insight into those who would lead us. It encompasses Bobby Kennedy quoting Aeschylus and Richard Nixon saying that we won't have him to kick around anymore.

1. On Ronald Reagan (paraphrased):

Once, when Reagan aide Michael Deaver handed his boss some questions Deaver had planted with a friendly audience, Reagan tossed the questions into the trash. "Mike, this won't work," he said. "You can't hit a home run with a softball.

2. On Republican vs. Democratic messaging:

Ronald Reagan had given his party the gifts of simplicity and clarity and, as we have seen, a coherent belief system that could be explained in sentence fragments. Military Strength. Low Taxes. Traditional Values. The Democrats, by contrast, were the party of the complex, clause-draped sentence: "We need to spend money on Head Start programs in order to... [ellipsis in original]". . . .

Democrats slouched toward public pessimism—the middle class was always suffering silently, the poor neglected, the environment degraded—but they were philosophically optimistic: humankind was improvable, reform possible, government could help make things better. Republicans, by contrast, were publicly optimistic—the United States was exceptional, the greatest country in the world, and anyone who said otherwise was unpatriotic—but privately realistic and often pessimistic: people were who they were, the poor would always be with us and there was no sense trying to change them. . . .

In public, Reagan's 1984 "Morning in America" was countered by Congressman Richard Gephardt's 1988 "it's close to midnight and getting darker all the time". . . . In 1968 . . . an academic named William Gavin, who would later become a White House speechwriter, sent Richard Nixon a memo about communications strategy: "Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making an effort to understand what we are talking about." He went on to discuss the difference between intellectual and emotional appeals: "Reason requires a high degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier. Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand."

3. On impressions vs. policies:

In the television era, fleeting impressions counted far more than cogent policies. Fleeting impressions were all most people had time for. Presidential politics was all about character... [ellipsis in original] or rather, the appearance of character. . . . [I]t wasn't about the economy, stupid.

It was about the appearance of caring about the economy, stupid.

4. "The best political advice I've ever heard," from William Bennett to a meeting of the Christian Coalition:

"Some of the people who follow me onto the stage are going to say things that you will find very pleasing. They speak our our 'virtues' and the vices of the other party. They will speak about 'us' and 'them.' But in America there is no 'us' and 'them.' There is only 'us.' And if a candidate tells you only thing that you want to hear, if he asks nothing of you—then give him nothing in return, certainly not your vote, because he is not telling you the truth."

5. On fund-raising:

"Do you want to know what I do all day?" he [Alex Sanders, the Democratic sacrificial lamb in the 2002 race for Strom Thurmond's South Carolina Senate seat] asked me. "I sit at a desk with a telephone. A woman named Ashley Newton sits across from me with pieces of paper called focus sheets and a stopwatch. She hands me a focus sheet and a phone number and some vital information about a potential contributor. I call the number. She starts the stopwatch. I have six minutes to make the sale. I'm supposed to make ten calls per hour. So I start out like this, 'Hello, my name is Alex Sanders and I'm running for the United States Senate. Have you ever heard of me in your whole entire life?' Then I chat with him for a moment about life at his horse farm or whatever. I tell him I know about the horse farm because I have a focus sheet with all this information. And then I say, 'I'm not calling to ask for your vote. It'd be a waste of time to ask for a single vote. My purpose is far more humiliating. It's the chemotherapy of a political campaign. It's painful... [ellipsis in original] Wouldja give me some money?' If they say yes, I tell them I have two more questions, and these are far more humiliating than the last. 'First, I am so sorry to have to ask but, when you gonna send the money? Can you send it today?' And then I say, 'Now this last question is so embarrassing that I can hardly bring myself to ask it, but... [ellipsis in original] How much?' And before they can think about it, I jump in and say, 'How 'bout a thousand bucks?'

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How Obama Counts to 258,000

In the first six months of 2007, 258,000 people—more than a quarter million—have donated to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Since none of the other candidates in either party has claimed more than 100,000 donors, Obama's roster is a remarkable record.

But the NYT uncovers a caveat: unlike the calculations of every other campaign, this number is not limited to actual donations, but includes paraphernalia sales, like Obama T-shirts, baseball caps and buttons.

Muddying the waters further, the Obama campaign has not disclosed how many donors have exclusively contributed in this way.

Is this gaming the system, or innovative bookkeeping? You decide.

Update: Seems like it's truth in advertising. According to Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer,

These purchasers are donors, and the law requires that we treat them as donors, which is indeed what they are and how their monies are used. There is no "trick" involved. People who support Obama would like something to show their support, a hat or T-shirt: this is a way that small donors in particular can show their support and still contribute to the campaign. Most of these donors have contributed again… and again. We are proud to have them. Campaigns that don't expect to have this level of interest among small donors tend to outsource their campaign material sales to vendors. For example, the Clinton campaign has contracted with Financial Innovations to sell their paraphernalia. Financial Innovations makes all of the profit from those sales and takes the loss if no one buys the materials. To our knowledge, the Obama campaign, because of the tremendous grassroots enthusiasm, is the only campaign to feel they could generate sufficient interest in T-shirts and other materials to not contract with an outside vendor.

Furthermore, Pfeiffer says, people buying campaign paraphernalia (mostly T-shirts) account for "less than 1% of our donors," and more than half of those who bought such items subsequently gave to the campaign in the traditional way.

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The U.S. Senate Pulls an All-Nighter

Jeff Zeleny is live-blogging the drama at the the NYT's Caucus blog:

The all-night congressional debate on the Iraq war is under way, with Democrats and Republicans lining up to take their turns speaking on the Senate floor.

The boxes of pizza have been delivered. The cots have been dusted off. And the sergeant-at-arms was standing by, ready to fetch any senator who did not arrive in the chamber when the buzzer sounded for a late-night quorum call.

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The Daily Digest

Yesterday, Norman Borlaug, whose discovery of high-yield dwarf wheat sparked the Green Revolution that forestalled mass starvation, received the Congressional Gold Medal. He is only the third person to receive that award along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Eating sushi should be an experience. As Trevor Corson, author of the The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket, puts it, "A trip to the neighborhood sushi bar should be a social exchange that celebrates, with a sense of balance and moderation, the wondrous variety of the sea."

"He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle, and he does not score many goals." David Beckham is overrated.

The NYT profiles Numbers USA, the obscure, Arlington-based nonprofit that spearheaded the recent defeat of the immigration reform bill.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Guess the Writer

Creationists are “yokels,” Pascal’s theology is “not far short of sordid,” the reasoning of the Christian writer C. S. Lewis is “so pathetic as to defy description,” Calvin was a “sadist and torturer and killer,” Buddhist sayings are “almost too easy to parody,” most Eastern spiritual discourse is “not even wrong,” Islam is “a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms,” Hanukkah is a “vapid and annoying holiday,” and the psalmist King David was an “unscrupulous bandit.”

Answer here.

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The Daily Digest

How much money does Bob Novak make?

Of Valerie Plame Wilson, Novak asserts, "I don’t think she was an important person in the C.I.A." Deroy Murdock highlights evidence to the contrary.

Meet Jeremy Lott, my boss when I interned at the Cato Institute and now the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at Cato's libertarian sister, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (He blogs here.)

John McCain was never going to win the Republican nomination for president. As Sean Higgins of IBD argues (and Phil Klein backs up), "McCain's status as a politician with a national following is based solely on a single win in New Hampshire eight years ago that had as much to do with his rivals' mistakes as anything else. He's never demonstrated any ability to win over Republican voters nationally. Given these facts, the question isn't why his campaign is faltering now but why is anyone surprised by this?"

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Bloggers' Space Constraints: Attention Span

In his farewell op-ed as a columnist, Bruce Bartlett complains that bloggers "have the advantages of no space constraints."

But as Don Surber, of the Charleston Daily Mail, points out, "[B]loggers still have the space constraint called attention span."

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lindsey Graham vs. Jim Webb

Although I highly regard both men, I'm embarrassed at their level of debate on today's Meet the Press:

I prefer Michael Moore vs. Wolf Blitzer:

Or Jon Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson:

Or Rosie vs. Elisabeth:

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Friday, July 13, 2007

The Daily Digest

I've long argued that tax reform is more important, more urgent and easier to sell than tax relief. In his latest Newsweek column, George Will bolsters my case with another insight. As Michael J. Graetz of the Yale Law School has written, politicians "use[]s the income tax the way my mother employed chicken soup: as a magic elixir to solve all the nation's economic and social difficulties." Simplification, Will continues, by "eliminating deductions, exemptions, credits and other legislatively conferred favors," would drastically curb all this meddling and peddling.

Everyone calls the president the "commander in chief," but as Garry Wills points out, the president is the COC of only the army and navy, and of the National Guard if he federalizes it. He is not the commander in chief of civilians.

Check out N.Z. Bear's latest project:

Check out David All's latest project,, which promises to be "the premiere [sic] online clearinghouse for Republican" fund-raising.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Romney's Too Perfect? You're Too Envious

One of the less-analyzed refrains about Mitt Romney is that he’s flawless. Whether it’s his Liberace locks, George Washington probity, Norman Rockwell family or Bill Gates success, “Romney may ironically turn off some voters by being too, well, perfect,” writes Matt Lewis.

The reason for this topsy-turvy attitude, Matt argues, is that Americans have always been anti-elitist. This is true, but we disdain privilege over merit, not success itself. We frown upon those who are born rich, but we "want to be like Mike."

Leaving aside anti-Mormon bigotry and Romney's lack of spontaneity and warmth, the root explanation for the "too-perfect" sneer is more insidious. People are naturally drawn to people like ourselves, for both positive and negative things. But since Romney's life has been so strikingly charmed, it's hard to identify with him. Instead, we cling to a Bill Clinton who snacks at McDonalds, or a Michael Bloomberg who rides the metro, or a Jimmy Carter who tells Playboy that he has "looked on a lot of women with lust."

Such shortcomings reveal humanity, but they also bring down our icons to a "real" level. As Matt puts it, "To some people, extraordinary is creepy."

Consider: Was Martha Stewart convicted of insider trading? See, Mrs. Perfect isn't so perfect, after all! Did Britney Spears shave her scalp and then attack an SUV with an umbrella? See, America's sexkitten is really a nutcase! Did Mitt Romney strap the family dog to his car roof for a 12-hour ride? See, the square family man abuses animals!

Such schadenfeude exhibits what novelist Ayn Rand termed “hatred of the good for being the good.” The corollary is that only when our stars fall from grace—only when we can see them behind bars or in tears or simply squirming—do we open our eyes.

That's a shame, because the candidate who's truly inspiring is already before us.

Update (7/15): Here's an elitist custom Americans rightly disdain: when the Queen of England finishes her meal, everyone's meal is finished.

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The Daily Digest

Patrick Ruffini advises politicians how to embrace the Web 2.0: "[C]andidates shouldn't Twitter; they should TwitterGram. They shouldn't blog; they should videoblog. That solves the authenticity dilemma of campaign Web sites—we'll know for sure it's them, in video or voice, delivering a message many times more compelling than plain text."

It's now a cliche that Dick Cheney is the most influential and powerful person ever to hold the office of vice president. The question everyone wants to know but few do: how does he do it? In a fascinating four-part series—the kind of journalism that makes us remember why bloggers need the so-called MSM—the Washington Post "examines Cheney's largely hidden and little-understood role in crafting policies for the War on Terror, the economy and the environment."

Cato's Gene Healy is hard at work on a new book, tentatively titled, The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Romance with Executive Power. Nut: "If the public expects the president to solve all national problems, physical or spiritual, the president will seek—or seize—the power necessary to handle that responsibility. As a result, powers that the Constitution leaves to the states or the people increasingly flow to the center, and increasingly become concentrated in the hands of one person."

You know who Mitt Romney is. Now meet his dad, courtesy of a Time cover story from 1959. Related: Jonathan Cohn asks if George Romney would be proud of his son's presidential politicking?

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McCain Agonistes

Matt Lewis puts his finger on it, as recounted to the Politico by a "McCain source":

[S]peaking at a private event, [McCain] accepted praise for his little-appreciated anti-abortion stance—only to remind the conservative crowd that he also supported stem cell research.

"How many times have I seen that?" mused this person [the McCain source]. "He just cannot keep himself on message, he just can't keep himself from telling people where he disagrees with them."

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Offsetting Your Liberal Guilt

A few months ago, Charles Krauthammer coined the phrase "limousine liberal hypocrisy" for those who claim to neutralize their excessive carbon emissions by funding green projects elsewhere. The process works by buying credits from a "carbon broker," who promises to reduce emissions somewhere on the planet equivalent to what you've spewed into the atmosphere while jet-setting on your private plane or electrifying your McMansion.

But this much liberal guilt is too much for even Tom Friedman, whose credentials include a proposal to rev up the tax on gas to 50 cents a gallon and who is now challenging his fellow Prius owners to

offset their real sins, not just their carbon excesses. . . . Imagine if you could offset the whole Ten Commandments. . . .

Imagine if there were a Web site—I'd call it—where every time you thought you had violated one of the Ten Commandments, or you wanted to violate one of them but did not want to feel guilty about it, you could buy carbon credits to offset your sins.

Here's how it would work: One day, you're out in the backyard mowing the lawn and suddenly you covet your neighbor's wife. Hey, it happens—that's why "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" is one of the Ten Commandments. No problem. You just go to and buy 100 trees in the Amazon or fund a project to capture methane from cow dung in India—and, presto, you're free and clear.

So, Laurie, Leo and Al, whaddya say? Are you ready to put your money where your morals are?

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The Daily Digest

The WSJ documents how different presidential candidates are using Google AdWords. For instance, John McCain buys ads on queries for "president," his name and the names of his main opponents, among other things. Mitt Romney, who employs Google for a "couple hundred" words, which change daily, targets locutions like "Olympics," "health care" and "cutting spending."

Continuing the CEO campaign theme, Jonathan Martin reports that Romney's organizational structure in Iowa—20 full-time staffers, coordinators in most of the state's 99 counties and a group of about 50 "super volunteers"—has virtually locked up the state for him.

The newly renovated White House press room will open on Wednesday. Mike Allen provides a vicarious tour of the new facility and of its storied history.

Check out the Capitolist, an anonymous, uncensored message board for congressional staffers (to post, you must use a computer with a Capitol Hill IP address).

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

In Praise of the Boston Globe

Unless RealClearPolitics links to an article there, I don't read the Boston Globe. Three recent articles, however, impressed me that this is a very much a serious newspaper:

"Giuliani Watchers Wonder if He Will Overplay 9/11 Card" examines Rudy's exploitation of our national tragedy.

"Not All Would Put a Heroic Sheen on Thompson's Watergate Role" investigates Fred Thompson's role as minority counsel during the Watergate hearings.

And "The Making of Mitt Romney" is the most comprehensive and fascinating profile thus far of the Mormon from Massachusetts.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Romney Lovebirds, Continued

Jonathan Martin picks up on a theme I noticed in May (part one here; part two here):

As close watchers of the GOP race know, he [Mitt] gushes over Ann Romney at public events, calling her "sweetheart" and even explaining how "they're still going steady." But watching Romney interact with her out of the direct public eye reveals an even greater depth of devotion. He unfailingly opened doors for her, graciously introduced her and whenever he had a moment along the parade route would turn around and tease her for riding in the air-conditioned "Mitt Mobile." "Real hard for Ann this time," he joked.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Daily Digest

Hott4Hill Featuring Taryn Southern

Emergency eye surgery has forced Jim Gilmore to suspend his presidential campaign.

Social networking for politicos? Check out, coming soon.

Todd Ziegler identifies and lauds the novelty of Ron Paul's Web site: "Interestingly for the social candidate, his blog doesn’t even allow comments. Instead, it encourages visitors to discuss/interact with the blog content on social sites like Digg,, StumbleUpon and Facebook. He seems to deliberately avoid building a community on his own site. Due to this, supporters have no choice but to organize elsewhere. . . . [T]he use of these free tools is done out of necessity. But the strategy here is also very sound: by not giving supporters much to do on his own site he maximizes the amount of noise they make in other venues. It is the perfect approach for an insurgent candidate like Paul."

Speaking of Paul, Wonkette pens a memo to his campaign manager: "There’s no need to have him prance around like John Edwards, obviously, but one good suit (with two pairs of pants, two shirts and three ties) and two $150 pairs of decent dress shoes would go a long way towards making your candidate look less like a vacuum-cleaner repairman." Similarly, Mike Gravel, the Ron Paul of Democrats, who donned khakis and a blazer at his party's last debate, could use a visit from Lisa Butcher and Mica Paris.

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Elephants Chase Donkeys

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Daily Digest

The morning-after pill: abortion or contraception? William Saletan investigates.

Adam Liptak tracks down several double standards concerning the clemency for Scooter Libby and clemencies denied to others similarly situated.

Jim DeMint, a loyal Republican senator from South Carolina, knows how to spin. First, blame the sin, not the sinner: "The president’s intentions were good, the heart was in the right place, the legislation was bad." Second, conjure hope out of disaster: "If this [immigration bill] had passed, America would have lost all confidence in the Congress and the president. I think this is going to give us a fresh start."

The New Yorker's press critic, Ken Auletta, reports on an underappreciated aspect of Rupert Murdoch's genius: his discipline. "The Bancrofts [who own Dow Jones, which owns the Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch is seeking to buy] wanted a board that the family would control in perpetuity, with the power to hire and fire the editors and the publishers, and leverage to protect employees from Murdoch—an extraordinary proposition. It is a measure of Murdoch’s discipline that he did not explode at the implication that he was some sort of uncaged vulgarian or at the idea that the Bancrofts would control the paper after selling it. Instead, Murdoch said—gently, by all accounts—that he could not invest five billion dollars of his shareholders’ money in order to become a mere spectator. He proposed a board like the one he had established for the Times of London and the Sunday Times, where of the 15 members only seven have no ties to News Corp., and where he can theoretically hire or fire the editor only with the assent of the board."

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McCain Shakeup Affects E-Team

Pat Hynes still has a job, but his boss, Christian Ferry, does not.

As for the campaign's prospects, Ryan Sager convincingly writes, "Spread some butter on this guy... he's toast."

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This Blog Is Rated NC-17

Free Online Dating

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The Daily Digest

In a bunker under the White House on 9/11

The iPhone spin stops here.

Contrasting the energy policies of the libertarian Cato Institute with the conservative Heritage Foundation, Jerry Taylor concludes that Heritage is more hostile to the free market than is the Sierra Club, of all places.

Here's an apt, Luntzian turn of phrase: "political power." It's a spin-off of "government power," which conveys undefined but big authority. "Political power" sounds more specific, pairing the idea of power and politics to convey the inevitable when the latter is given too much of the former: corruption.

In 2000, 95 percent of Wyoming women who had abortions traveled out of state to get them. In Mississippi, the number was 60 percent, in Kentucky, 41 percent, and in South Carolina, 35 percent. Accordingly, argues Eyal Press, "[A]bortion-rights advocates ought to focus less on the specter of a Supreme Court reversal than on the reality of who is—and is not—able to exercise choice under current laws."

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