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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Jonathan Chait's Journey Through the Looking Glass

I have addressed Mr. Chait in the past. Not much in the form of "engagement;" one can't engage when all you have to offer is taling points. Mr. Chait's obtuse piece compares the '06 mid-terms to World War I. Don't ask me, but I'm going to cite a few key 'graphs in this utterly hilarious piece.

HT: Hugh Hewitt

Despite being called a "world" war, the vast majority of fighting from 1914-1918 took place in a relatively limited space. The same is true of the 2006 elections. Collectively, they are a national election, but for most Americans, the fight will take place "over there." The battle for control of the Senate will take place mostly within five states where Republicans, who hold a five-seat advantage, look vulnerable: Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Missouri. Democrats lead in the first four and appear close to a tie in Missouri. To win the Senate outright, the Democrats would have to sweep those states and win one more, most likely Tennessee, a conservative state where the Republican has retired, or Virginia, a moderately conservative state where incumbent Republican George Allen is in a a tight race with former Reagan official-turned-Democrat James H. Webb.

Two of these races seem to hold the most interest because they may be testing grounds for new tactics by the Democrats. One is Pennsylvania, where Democrats have nominated Bob Casey Jr., despite the fact that he is an opponent of abortion rights. The other is Montana, where the Democratic nominee is Jon Tester, a beefy, populist farmer with a buzz cut. In both races, the Democrats' goal is to find a way to win back working-class voters who may be attracted to the party's economic platform but abhor the Democratic cultural agenda. Casey hopes to accomplish this by neutralizing the abortion issue. Tester's approach is less issue-based and more personality-based. These races may be the equivalent of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, where the British first introduced the tank into combat. In both cases, the significance of the battle lies less in the immediate outcome than in what it portends for the future use of a potent new tactic.

OK, let's take them one at a time: In Montana Conrad Burns is within 3 points in both Gallup and the Mason-Dixon polls. In Missouri, James Talent leads Claire McCaskill by 4 points in the latest Gallup polls. In Ohio, DeWine trails Sherrod Brown by six points, but DeWine is prone to strong finishes. That race is considered tight based solely on DeWine's capability to finish the game every time. In Pennsylvania Santorum trails Bob Casey by 5 in the latest Keystone poll. All of these candidates are well within striking distance of closing the gap to a literal dead heat, or can pull off a late campaign surge that delivers them back to the Senate. Mr. Chait also brings up Tennessee where Bob Corker is beating Harold Ford by a resounding 13 points in the latest Mason-Dixon polls. Virginia was another ground state that the Democrats hope to pick up. Sen. Allen is not nearly as "in trouble" as the Democrats portray. He, too, is within the distance to make the race a late ground game.

Do the Republicans have cause for alarm? To a point, yes. There is still plenty of time for the odd gaffe, or even a "surprise" to come out. But all the GOP has to do is answer the claim, and return to the message. That message is simple, and has been overlooked by the pundits because they don't think we can win again on the same platform. That platform is reinforcing the weaknesses of the Democrats in the war, Their constant calls for retreat, their hyperventilating about programs keeping this nation safe, and twisting the measures to be illegal which they're not. They have done their best to make the war look unwinnable, and to accuse the president of committing crimes in office. Unlike Nixon, this isn't true, and thus ends the similarities to "Vietnam," which the Left is desperately trying to relive.

As was the case in World War I, the limited terrain has spurred a strategic quarrel about widening the war. During the Great War, generals on both sides, but especially the Allies, debated whether to concentrate their resources in France, where the heaviest fighting took place, or to open fronts elsewhere, such as Turkey or Mesopotamia. Democrats are having the same debate today. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is committing resources in all 50 states, with the long-term goal of making his party viable everywhere. This strategy has drawn bitter criticism from Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York — the Democrats in charge of directing their party's electoral campaign — who insist that the 50-state goal has diverted resources from battleground states where control of Congress will be won.

For a fifty-state plan, doesn't that mean they have to include all fifty states? If that's the case, why was Joe Lieberman left swinging in the breeze. An eighteen-year incumbant with a 90% liberal voting record that the party turned on. He's not the only one, either. As Marcie picked up on Thursday, the Democrats will eat more of their young to serve the new ideology. Al Wynn--MD, and Bobby Rush--IL, have been savaged by the Democrats. They are considered "conservative sympathizers," having been with the GOP one time too many. And often, it's for one issue. Rep. Rush is under attack for his participation on the energy Bill, and Lieberman was frozen out because of his war stance. The party has abandoned longtime incumbants to toe the new party mantra.

Even though the battle is for Congress, no entity has more at stake in these elections than the Bush administration. If Democrats manage to win control of one or both houses of Congress, it will be seen as a major and final rebuke of a presidency that has faced massive public disapproval through most of its second term. Not only would it become instantly difficult for the Bush administration to achieve its policy goals during its final years in power, it would expose the administration to congressional investigations, which under Republican control have been rare and toothless. Want to know why Bill Clinton was plagued by constant scandals while his successor has been mostly scandal-free? It's not because Bush is a saint. It's because Clinton faced a hostile Congress, while Bush enjoyed a compliant one controlled by his allies.

The key word in his tiatribe above is "if." I wonder ... Can Mr. Chait answer my question? What, exactly, is the Democrat Party platform for 2006, Mr. Chait? We know it well. It's what been preached since after the 2004 loss of John Kerry. Get the troops out of Iraq, and move on impeachment procedures of President Bush. What happens if the Democrats don't get the House? No impeachment. It must go through the House first, then onto the Senate. No House control, no impeachment. And if they do manage to take the house, and the House approves the impeachment, the Senate, still in GOP hands, will never confirm the vote.

It'll be a replay of 1998 all over again. And as for the idea of "compliant," what planet does Mr. Chait come from? This congress has been openly hostile to him, as well. His judicial nominees have faced a virtual battleground in the Senate by Democrat obstruction. Sen. Harry Reid boasted that they had "killed the Patriot Act." The Patriot Act has helped us get a great many of our enemies, and has allowed us to keep a close on them. The Democrats see programs that help us, and are within the legal confines--backed by precedent from the federal bench--as illegal, unconstitutional, and seriously in need of being shut down.

Now, which party do you think has a chance in Hell this year?

Democrats, meanwhile, see the November elections as their final chance. They were routed in 1994 (much as the French and Russians were in 1914) and have been slowly clawing back ever since. With public opinion at their backs, they see 2006 as their last, best chance to win back Congress.

Clawing their way back? They lost Tom Daschle in 2004, and the Senate even further with that defeat. In addition, President Bush was sent back to Washington with the people's consent. I hardly consider that a "gain" for the Democrats. And while they think they have "public opinion" at their backs, it's based on polls. That isn't even coming close to getting to the truth of how the nation really feels. I'm not saying that they're all hunky-dory over the war. Long wars tend to really grate on the populace. But a majority of this nation supports the troops, and to do so honestly, you have to support the mission. They do. All of the political polling data, run by those focusing solely on the 2006 elections and nothing else, shows that we will have a push year. No pain, but no gain for either side. One or two seats exchanging hands in either House or Senate will not help the Democrats. And as I pointed out above, tyhe states the Democrats are targeting may seem precarious for the incumbent, or the "newbie" (Tennessee is literally up for grabsas Frist is retiring) right now, but all of them are well within the margin of error. (Allen is the only one outside that margin, but I believe he has weathered the "macaca" comment, and he is back on the offensive against James Webb).

Beneath the scare-mongering, though, there truly are some rather lofty principles at stake, and here is where I should admit that I strongly prefer that the Democrats win. If I had to sum it up in a word, I would say that the key issue in November is accountability.

Bush has put his policies before the American people three times. The first time, in 2000, he got half a million fewer votes than his opponent but won because of poorly designed ballots and voting machines in Florida. The next time, in 2002 (when he framed the elections as a referendum on his presidency), he derived enormous benefit from having been in office when terrorists attacked the United States. The third time, in 2004, he faced a wildly inept opponent in John Kerry (and that's not just sour grapes; I said so here before the election). Bush has never been a popular president, yet he has been enormously influential both at home and overseas — in most ways, to the country's detriment. Unpopularity is one thing, but a defeat at the ballot box is another, and it's the sort of negative judgment Bush badly deserves.

A second reason that Bush has been unaccountable is Congress itself. A primary role of Congress is to oversee the president through hearings, debates and investigations. Indeed, our entire political system is premised on the idea that the executive and legislative branches will clash. Under Republican control, Congress has utterly abdicated this responsibility. "This Congress doesn't see itself as an independent branch that might include criticizing an incumbent administration," said congressional scholar Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

He wants criticism from Congress? Has he forgotten about Dennis Hastert and James Sensenbrenner taking the president to task over the immigration reforms he was calling for? They could not reach a reform bill in committee, but the enforcement end of it was passed. Um, hello? National security, Mr. Chait?The important part passed, and I'm happy to see that neither House caved on their principles. Likewise, when the president nominated Harriet Miers, it was the GOP who came out swinging over her, first. The Democrats sat back, surprised at how quick we were to anger.

That was a lovely time in American politics as the party grew stronger over it. We reached a compromise. Fortunately, she withdrew. I brought up the Patriot Act earlier, and while it's "death" was overly exaggerated, it didn't return unscathed. There were portions cut from the original, and done mainly at the behest of Congress. And while the Democrats can claim most of the credit on moving those changes forward, they needed the GOP, and had their fair share of assistance from the majority party. Congress has done a decent job of questioning the president; at times a bit too much considering his Contitutionally-enumerated powers. After all, it's Arlen Specter spear-heading the move to bring the president's powers as commander-in-chief into check by questioning the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program. Don't tell me that Congress has given him a "rubber-stamp."

He continues to prattle on about "checks and balances" from this point forward, however we should remind the public of the past history of the Democrat Party regarding national security. Let's start in 1976 when Carter was elected, and look at how he dealt with radical Islamofascists. President Clinton treated the incidents like matters of law enforcement rather than a military matter. As numerous officers have stated, on the record, in the '90's we weren't on a war-footing with these people.

Now we are, and the Democrats are wailing about it. What's sad is that we're still not on the footing we need to be. Even during World War I and World War II, the State Department worked WITH the president. His intelligence agencies kept their mouths shut. That's not exactly true right now. (Last time I checked, Khatemi's visa is still A-OK, and he can come visit America.) If the Democrats think this is a nation prepared for a war that's going to take awhile, think again. The only good news they have for the future is George Bush can't run again in 2008 (and I doubt he'd like to).

But if they keep their hopes up so high for 2006, they're going to come crashing down to earth on 8 November. If they have a majority (and I'm not predicting one for either House) it will be a slim one. This year won't be a replay of 1994. I know the Democrats are desperately hoping to pick up a firm enough majority to end any interference from the Republicans. For the Senate that means a total role reversal; the Democrats won't win ten seats. In the House they need fifteen seats to take control, but they need at least an additional ten to make that majority solid. If this doesn't happen, then we have a virtual deadlock. Two or three could be persuaded to cross party lines. Ten is a bit much, especially over contentious issues like immigration reform.

My prediction stands. There will not be much ground gained on either side unless one side or the other really bungles the sprint to the finish line. I don't see the GOP shooting themselves in the foot right now, but I don't see a lot of headway either. Many of these "battleground" states are nearly even. The prognositcators can pay attention to the polls, but I think it's smarter to look at each serious race. Look at what each candidate is doing. If anyone hadn't noticed, Ned Lamont is trying to moderate his previous stances because he's behind Lieberman in the polls. That was supposed to be the watershed moment of this year's midterms, and it's already backfiring on them.

And so is this perpetual rhetoric that the Democrats are winning the midterms. It's designed to basically make people stay home. They think they can convince enough people to stay home on election day. I doubt their wish will come true. But I'll happily remind them of their folly when we do win in November. I just can't buy the BS that guys like Jonathan Chait are shoveling. I appreciate the opinion, but this piece seemed a bit out of place with his analogies.

Publius II


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