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Michael Ubaldi, January 19, 2004.
Bloggers and journalists are weighing in with their turn at the crystal ball for tonight's caucus results. As far as polls can show, what was once a clear victory for Howard Dean and a rejection of his Congressional, Democratic colleagues is a neck-and-neck between Gephardt, Edwards, Dean and Kerry. Michael Graham has spoken to a Southern friend who shares Glenn Reynolds' faith in an ascension of John Edwards; on weekend television John Kerry was the titular frontrunner; the Midwest is Gephardt's home, and one could only expect his investments to pay off somehow; and Howard Dean, despite much-publicized "attacks" by rivals and critics alike, remains highly competitive and popular to the active fringe.
How will it turn out? I expect the Kerry surge to perform like any unlikely conjuration: poorly, leading to a collapse of his vote. The man was born for the solemn, deliberative dignity of the Senate, and could shut down a wild rave if he so much as stepped on the dance floor. Simply watching his rallies - after the polls surges, mind you - demonstrates how indisposed he is to whipping up pol fever. He's speaking softly in monotone, or shouting uncomfortably in monotone.
John Edwards, while charismatic, seems to lack both the verve and vinegar to excite partisan Democrats, especially against a backdrop of the popular, anti-Bush verbal abuse coming from Howard Dean and - even though he's not in Iowa - Wesley Clark. Edwards' drawl may be a nice blend of Al Gore's and Bill Clinton's but he's not obsessive like the former, nor a brilliant con like the latter. It may be that Iowans, predilection for Southerners or not, will vote for the candidate by whom they most want to be represented in November. Even at this late stage, can anyone recite Edwards' campaign slogans or describe his platform? They may be attractive - even moderate. But Edwards struggles against months of having been drowned out.
Dick Gephardt, like U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr., has been treated well by age. He'll have hair and a babyface thirty years from now. But as the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes explains, the former House leader from Missouri proceeds from a position that is so established as to be uninteresting to presidential contests. As I said a few days ago, the Midwest is his territory - and it's been handily carved up by his competitors. Gephardt's repeated labeling of the president as a "miserable failure" was wrong and a bizarre overreach; on the other hand, his unwavering support for military action against foreign threats is commendable. Like traditional populism, strong defense is not appealing to the leftist core of the party. Most poignant was Gephardt's campaign advisor responding to a question from Fox New Sunday's Chris Wallace yesterday morning: What will Gephardt do if he can't take Iowa? According to the advisor, the Gephardt camp has planned for nothing but total victory. Dedicated fatalism is admirable, if pitiably.
Of the four, I do not expect the winner to be Kerry, Gephardt or Edwards. You know who that leaves.
Michael Ubaldi, January 16, 2004.
Glenn Reynolds has two more arguments, by Charles Krauthammer and Ken Silber, as to why Bush's space initiative leaves NASA better than he found it.
Michael Ubaldi, January 15, 2004.
Just when you thought Dennis Kucinich had established the parameters of weirdness enough for you to forget about him for awhile, Danny and Kevin O'Brien remind us just what our 10th Ohio District Representative is (in)capable of.
Michael Ubaldi, January 15, 2004.
The 2004 federal budget is $2.2 trillion. NASA's is $15.5 billion. Reasonable estimates suggest the space agency's share of the pie would need to rise gradually to $20 billion within a few years if footprints are to be made in Martian dust within a generation.
I don't want nor expect to need Social Security. I don't like the idea of managed care via Medicare. If I starve as an old man because my pockets are empty, I deserve to starve. Much as I want to see him succeed, I don't like the idea of Bush believing it necessary to protect his left flank by bloating one or more entitlement programs - which is to say, I'm not crazy about the current political vision of domestic America. Might my generation be able to ease our savings away from Washington, while allowing older recipients and recipients-to-be their entitlement dues? If spending is to be cut, let's concentrate on entitlement expenditures that help gobble up 38% of budget - not the minuscule, inspiring program that gave us GPS, oxygen devices and the MRI.
Michael Ubaldi, January 12, 2004.
Jay Nordlinger on Democrats who, to paraphrase Howard Dean, would like their party back:
Yesterday, I was having breakfast with a friend of mine, a lifelong Democrat — but not a leftist Democrat, more like an admirer of FDR-Truman-JFK. Explaining his intention to vote for Bush in '04, he said approximately the following: "All that matters is our security. Other issues and policies are small change compared with, 'Who's going to do his utmost to keep us alive? Who's going to be most serious about those who would kill us?' There's only one issue in this campaign: who understands the threat, and who doesn't."
If it wishes to avoid having little to do with the direction of the country this century, the Democratic Party needs to split. Do you trust an American president and the capitalist system less than meddlesome, international bureaucracies and foreign dictators? Kindly reapply for membership in the Green Party. Does Mr. Nordlinger's vignette describe you? Wait for the leftists to flee in disgust or go ahead and kick them out, and then work to reassemble as a viable party; perhaps more publicly minded but without hesitation advocates, first and foremost, of the United States. The longer this excision takes, the more Democrats will vote as and eventually become Republicans.
GEPHARDT REDUX: A qualification to my application of "embarrassing" to Dick Gephardt's standing. Some polling has become a much more pleasing sight for Gephardt in these later stages of the caucuses. All the same, he has yet to receive any big-name endorsements. And no one can forget how he was booed for his support of Iraq's liberation, or fail to acknowledge how he shows neither the momentum nor commands the media attention to ride a popular sensation to victory. Or how his turf - unions, the Midwest, his turf - is being shared with Howard Dean.
Michael Ubaldi, January 9, 2004.
We've got good economic news and bad economic news for today: unemployment is down, though Labor Department canvassing did not discover payroll gains matching some fairly high expectations. Considering that the recovery is far greater than one batch of mixed results - and the numbers, however disappointing, are on a trend line - I'll take the good news.
AND: If worker productivity rises, companies may not need to immediately increase payrolls. When productivity beefs up revenues, providing capital, however, new employees should find their way into the picture.
Michael Ubaldi, January 9, 2004.
John Derbyshire writes, one part-serious and one part self-parody with an eye to Andrew Sullivan, on the oddly surprising old hat of celebrity marriage:
I wouldn't want to make too much of this, and it is, as I said, the least consequential aspect of the matter, but don't you feel, as I do, that there is something slightly pathetic about Britney's deed? In fact, about Britney? Of course, it is no easy matter to summon up a tear for someone whose net worth is in the same range as Tanzania's. Nor is it easy to believe that the lady has much insight into her own condition, assuming that condition is what I am suggesting it is — utter spiritual vacuity. From a recent Newsweek interview:When Spears talks about the South Asian musical influences on In the Zone [her new CD], she says she's "been into a lot of Indian spiritual religions." When asked if one of them is Hinduism, she says, "What's that? Is it like kabbalah?"
Finally, it's a funny thing about some peoples' view of celebrity. If a star drops out of sight and assumes the relative obscurity enjoyed by the rest of us, it's interpreted derogatorily. In fact, an escape from the narcissism and auto-canonization of showbiz is probably the healthiest choice anyone could make for themselves.
FELIS CATTUS, IS YOUR TAXONOMIC NOMENCLATURE: I was just trying to be cute, but Danny O'Brien pulled out the big guns and went Jane Goodall on me. For the record: Chimps are not Bonobos. Bonobos are not chimps. Chimps are traditionalists; bonobos are ravenous, sex-hungry love beasts. Read his in-depth, link-rich explanation. Since human behavior carries a natural aggression and a predilection for males to compete over one lucky female, I'm a little wary of scientists assuming that decadent Rome and Haight-Ashbury came straight from Bonobos. But interesting ideas nevertheless. At the very least, it's thankful to know, however rowdy Hannity & Colmes becomes, that we didn't descend from howler monkeys.
Michael Ubaldi, January 8, 2004.
Granting amnesty to illegal aliens? I can see where some would view this as a left-of-center interpretation of law and practicalities; a move begging to be made by a self-described "compassionate conservative." Even progressive. If anything, the White House intends to sideline yet another issue Democrats might have wielded in the fall. As with Medicare, Democrats would be forced to move even further left, partially for philosophical reasons but mostly for the sake of partisanship.
That's the political angle. Is it wise, economically beneficial or even right to show legal immigrants a quicker, if jagged, path to citizenship - one that mocks their own legitimate efforts to call themselves American? British expatriate Sullivan hurts the debate by going ad hominem on John Derbyshire. Derbyshire may be old-fashioned, but has a special connection to the matter: he's an immigrant, too. Came from England. And he did it the legal way.
And then there's the source of illegal aliens. Why do they come? Could corruption in the private and public sectors, disjointed industry and market-unfriendly economic policies - all that spells "mud" for Mexico's domestic product - be a tiny factor in the decision of thousands to scurry their way into California and Texas? To risk death, manipulation or deportation? I think so. Is the plight of Mexicans the United States' fault? No, certainly not in the wake of gestures like the trade-reviving NAFTA agreement. And certainly not when an American president makes gestures that, if naive, can't be criticized for their coldness.
One solution, simple to conceive of but difficult to bear out, is that Mexico offer a livelihood, economically and politically, at least faintly competitive with its two English-speaking, northern neighbors. We can't possibly think that aliens come here for the climate. And besides, when was the last time an American national skipped south, except to go on vacation or give the slip?
Michael Ubaldi, January 8, 2004.
Since fisking Howard Dean's jaw-dropping foreign policy speech from outside the borders of logical American debate, I've resolved to wrap up and lay off until the major primary ballots have been cast. Wesley Clark, too, has been on a plateau - at least as far as defining himself publicly. But I couldn't resist responding to Jay Nordlinger's morning jog into the forest of anything-goes partisanship, care of the general:
Check out Clark: "I suspect [Bush's] advisers said, 'Now, Mr. President, you know, there's no guarantee we could ever get [bin Laden]. You know, it's, you know, you ought to go somewhere, you know, go somewhere easy, do something easy like taking care of Saddam Hussein, and he's probably connected . . .'"
Michael Ubaldi, January 4, 2004.
Something that's likely to be highlighted in today's news programs is a Time/CNN presidential election poll giving Bush a notably thin edge over Howard Dean, 51% to 46%. One small caveat: of 1,004 respondents, 399 were Democrats or "leaners." Nationally, voters with Democratic affiliation have dropped to historically low levels, one report placing them at 17%. As you can see, that's half the size of the representative group in the Time/CNN poll. What does it mean? First, the poll is not a reliable indicator of a general election, now or this November - so it really shouldn't be used to introduce television segments demanding if Bush is vulnerable. Second, this bodes well for Bush, as the only places where nearly 40% of voters consider themselves Democrats or sympathizers are Blue States.