Just in case you can't get enough of me in real life.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Party Review

In the last two weeks alone I have attended, by my count, five holiday parties. I bet you're all thinking: gosh Matt, it would be great if you described each in excruciating detail, since we live vicariously through you. Well, in the words of Professor Farnsworth: "Good News Everyone!" Below, I thoroughly recap each party so that you can see how pathetic your lives are compared to mine.

1. NPR Holiday Party

Location:
NPR Headquarters building. Several floors, actually.

Scene:
A bunch of underpaid, cynical people trying to disguise the fact that they're actually having a good time. All Things Considered playing in the background on continuous loop.

Booze: Plentiful, but of poor quality. Domestic, macro-brewery beer and yellowtail wine. This is what you people have been using my pledge funds for? Sheesh, I thought this was supposed to be ground zero for liberal snobbery.

Food: Unexpectedly good. Small portions of whole meals allowed me to eat a full dinner while standing upright. Desserts featured chocolate covered strawberrys and bunuelo chips (begins drooling on keyboard).

Contribution to War on Christmas: Existing

Quasi Celebrity Sighting: I was a few feet away from Scott Simon of Weekend Edition.

Thing I Was Tempted to Say, but Didn't: "Scott, do you recall that commentary you had a few weeks ago complaining about all the negative campaigning in this years Congressional elections? It's the gullibility of people in the press such as yourself that allows the Republicans to get away with that stuff (and, yes, the most egregious and misleading attacks uniformly came from the GOP this year, just like every year, not that you have the intelligence to notice or the guts to admit it)."

Best Feature: Live band. Way to waste pledge funds and public funds with classy jazz ensemble guys!

Lamest Feature: A "nightclub" in the employee break room where people could either boggie down or get their grove on (depending on your age) to Micheal Jackson's greatest hits. Very few people dancing, most of them embarassing themselves.

Overall Grade: Not perfect, but exceeded expectations. B

2. Jen and Tom's Holiday and We're Leaving for the Czech Republic Party

Location:
Jen and Tom's apartment in the trendy, yet still violent, Columbia Heights neighborhood, where I don't know if I don't fit in because I'm not cool enough or because I haven't been to prison enough times to acquire sufficient street cred.

Scene: A bunch of well behavied young people sitting quietly and discussing relatively bland topics like the local sports team. [Note - my mother reads this blog.]

Booze: We wouldn't dream of it. But, if we had actually imbibed, there would have been homemade egg nog, champagne, wine, and holiday beer.

Food: An excellent homemade roast, gormet cheese, and some other stuff that was really good but I can't remember it all (because of the interesting conversation). Good spread considering that this was a small affair.

Contribution to War on Christmas: Cynical comments about commercialism, gratuitous gypsy bashing.

Quasi-Celebrity Sighting: Senior writer for U.S. News and World Report was there. Does that count?

Thing I was Tempted to Say, er Yell, But Didn't: "Dear God, stop texting people. This is the lamest addiction I've ever encountered."

Best Feature: Probably the roast, which was labor intensive and totally unexpected. Also, good parking spot.

Lamest Feature: Me. What do you call someone who shows up 20 minutes early to a party, proceeds to spill wine, I mean grape juice, everywhere, break a crystal glass that was given to one of the hosts by his mother, and then shamelessly take everyone's money in a poker game, I mean, bible trivia? Mr. Not Going to be Invited Next Year. I need an intervention for sucking.

Overall Grade: A. I can't take off points for problems that I caused.

3. Toby and Laura's "This was a Get Together, Not a Holiday Party, So Don't Blog About it" Party.

Location: Toby and Laura's house in Takoma Park. Dirty Hippies everywhere.

Scene: More yuppies playing board games. No, really.

Booze: Good and plentiful wine and beer options, including Anchor Steam (mmmm.... Anchor Steam).

Food: Gourmet cheese and pizza. By this point, I could actually feel my arteries hardening.

Contribution to War on Christmas: Used time to talk about plans for upcoming Fourth of July instead of Birth of Our Savior.

Quasi Celebrity Sighting: Well ... there was a prominent attorney from the FTC present. Does that count?

Thing I Was Tempted to Say, But Didn't: "Big W in the House"

Best Feature: Board Games. Seriously. I actually had a good time playing whatever game we played. Scategories?

Lamest Feature: Toby, because he doesn't eat vegetables, and it freaks me out.

Overall Grade: A-. A party that far exceeded its modest ambitions.

4. Goodwin Procter Holiday Party

Location: Acadiana, in the same building as Goodwin Procter. Very original.

Scene: Partners pretending to like eachother. Associates trying to avoid having awkward conversations with partners. Support staff looking on with bemusement. A surprising number of "alumni" eating as much free food as they possibly can.

Food: This really was outstanding (hey, it's a law firm). People carrying trays of crabcakes (oh, how I miss that aspect of the private practice of law in DC) and Cajun meatpies. Carving stations for excellent roast beef. All the large shrimp you could possibly want. And dessert that included this wonderful fudge-based concoction.

Booze: Open bar. No restrictions. In other words, Shangra-la.

Contribution to War on Christmas: Spent an absurd amount of money on food and alcohol on people who, mostly, already have plenty. This party actually made Baby Jesus cry.

Quasi Celebrity Sighting: It's a two-fer! National Security Advisor Steven Hadley and Neocon at large (or, in his words, a "Scoop Jackson Democrat") Jim Woolsey. Interestingly, I never saw either man come within 20 feet of the other. Hmmmmm.

Thing I Wanted to Say, but Didn't: "How's our man Maliki doing in Iraq, Hadley? Do you have confidence in him?"

Best Feature: Aside from the food and top shelf booze, the fact that there were so many old friends that I got to see, even if only briefly. Goodwin has quality people in spades.

Lamest Feature: Not so much lame, but the space was a bit crowded and I couldn't talk to everyone I wanted to.

Overall Grade: Despite some awkward conversations here and there, I had a good time. I'll give it a solid B.

5. FTC Holiday Party

Location: Our offices

Scene: Coworkers mingling. Exchanging pleasantries. Trying to pretend that they had something in common other than work. Cheesy decorations that we were responsible for putting up and taking down on the same day.

Food: pot luck! You know what that means: decent, but not great appetizers, cold entrees, very good desserts.

Booze: Shhhh!

Contribution to the War on Christmas: We filed a civil action freezing Santa's bank accounts, just for the heck of it.

Quasi-Celebrity Sighting: Well, the Chairman (who is a woman, but whom we call "Chairman" nonetheless) stopped by along with the other Commissioners to perform a humorous skit based on dancing with the stars. Does that count? Well, screw you then.

Thing I wanted to Say, but Didn't (actually, I did say this one): "I hate that guy" to one colleague referring to another colleague.

Best Feature: the White Elephant Exchange, which, totally coincidentally, I organized.

Lamest Feature: We ran out of forks!

Overall Grade: C. I can't give anything higher to a party that requires that much work by its attendees, especially when we're getting so much pressure to file cases during the holidays.


Wait for it ...

My next post is going to be a review (plus a grade) of all of the holiday parties I attended over the last few weeks. If there's one thing we know how to do in DC, it's host garish holiday parties (note, not "Christmas Parties," per our War on Christmas (TM)), featuring D list celebs. Problem is, I still have my own office party to attend tomorrow, so I'm going to wait to post my review until then (or maybe Wednesday, depending on how much fun I have).

Monday, December 11, 2006

College Bowl Rant

Note - those of you who don't care about college football should probably just skip this post - unless you enjoy seeing someone lose it over something completely trivial. But you're not that sort of person, are you?

So, I finally got a chance to look at this year's college football bowl schedule, and my first thoughts were mostly profanities. Look, there are a few things that make this time of year so special: anticipating the birth of our savior, buying gifts for those you love, the warm companionship of friends, recconnecting with family, reaffirming your faith in the human race, and intriguing matchups of good college football teams played on neutral fields. The bowl season is one of the things I spend the entire fall looking forward to. I don't ask for much, just a system that isn't totally corrupt and nonsensical. This year, the bowl system failed to meet that standard.

First, just like every year before, they have added more bowls to ensure that even the most mediocre (and in some cases, crappy) teams get to play in front of hundreds of disinterested fans. This year, we will be subjected to the following craptacular games: Rice vs. Troy (these teams both managed to get blown out by Florida State, so at least they're both kinda equally crappy), New Mexico (4th place in the Moutain West Conference, way to go!) vs. San Jose State (don't make fun of wife's alma matter, don't make fun of wife's alma matter), Cincinnati vs. Western Michigan, and it goes on like that, but I don't want to waste any more energy typing about these losers. But as bad as those teams are, it's even more annoying that this year the NCAA allowed teams with .500 records to go to bowls. Hence, we have a ton of 6 loss big schools that are only in bowls because they have a lot of fans. Kentucky, Arizona State, Iowa, Kansas State - you should be ashamed of yourselves.

And then there's the fact that they bowls that have some good teams waste them on terrible matchups. Texas loses 3 games, all to good or great teams, and they get to play against 6-6 Iowa. Rutgers loses one friggin game and winds up playing Kansas State in a game that's not even televised in most homes. A good and improving South Florida team is forced to play East Carolina. It's like they didn't even try. And no, I will not apologize if these teams lose their bowl games. That's the real injustice here - the good teams have nothing to play for and therefore often drop these games out of boredom.

Finally, this is always a problem, but the commercialization seems even more crass this year. The San Diego County Credit Union Bowl? the Papajohns.com (the .com is important) Bowl? Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl? This is beyond pathetic.

I'm so pissed off about this, I might just not watch some of these games ... nah, who I'm kidding?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It only gets worse from here

The Washington Post had a good idea for its Opinion Section this week: historians debate how George Bush's presidency will go down in the history books. Sadly, the execution was lacking. In true historian fashion, the writers spend way too much time defining the issue and very little time, you know, actually analyzing how people will see Bush's performance in hindsight.

And that's a shame, because I think there's a very persuasive, and enlightening, argument to be made that as bad as the Bush presidency is seen now("Brownie you're doin a heckuva a job!"), it will look far worse in twenty years or so. I know that predicting how future generations will view current events is fraught with danger, but I think we know enough now to say that history will judge the Bush administration very harshly.

Generally, presidents are measured by how they responded to the challenges they were presented with during their time in office. Often, presidents will be given a break by historians if they simply try to resolve difficult issues. The thing about Bush is, on several fronts, he did not even make an effort to confront the critical issues of our time, and he completely effed-up the only one he tried to address. Future generations will dislike Bush even more than we do, mostly because they will be left to solve the problems that he either created or never tried to fix.

There are three critical issues that are confronting us right now, and that have been confronting us for most of the Bush presidency: terrorism, the looming gap in the amount of money the goverment has promised to spend in the future and the amount it will likely receive in revenue, and global warming. Bush has screwed up the first, made the second even worse (and would have done more damage if not for Democrats in Congress (not that they'll get any credit in the media for that)), and has steadfastly ignored the third.

1. Terrorism

Do I really have to explain this one? I'll just hit the high points. First, he invaded Afgahnistan (good), but took away troops from the hunt for senior Al Qeada officials to prepare for an invasion of Iraq (stupid). I'm not sure if we could have really succeeded in turning Afgahnistan from a lawless, opium producing, terrorist stronghold, but right now we appear to be losing that country because we don't have the troop strength on the ground, not to mention that we've lost focus on our efforts there. In order to sell the Iraq war to the American people, the administration did not want the government to reveal the costs of occupying the country. Putting aside the anti-democratic nature of such actions, it practically guaranteed that Iraq would go even worse than it otherwise would have. Experienced people in the government understood how difficult it would be to occupy a country with ancient sectarian hatreds, but when they tried to draw up plans for the occupation, they were shut down by Rumsfeld and other administration hacks who feared that the plans would leak to the public and support for the war would collapse (which it probably would have, but that's no excuse). The rest is history.

Right now, people have a general sense that Bush is losing the war, but the general public is not genearlly aware of just how badly it has been handled, mostly because people are focused on what we can do to get out of there. Future generations, however, will be more interested in what went wrong. Their inescapable conclusion will be: Bush made a terrible strategic decision and then didn't even bother to do a proper job of executing it. Sounds pretty terrible to me, and this is Bush's best issue.

2. Federal Deficit

At least Bush wanted to stop terrorism. When it comes to the federal deficit, his intention has been to turn a manageable problem into a disaster. When he came into office, the long term financial situation of the country was problematic, but generally solid. Tax revenue probably needed to be increased, but not by much. Social Security was in better shape, but might have a small revenue shortfall in 50 years ago. Medicare, however, was headed for a significant shortfall. Instead of addressing the shortfall, Bush exacerbated it by cutting taxes for the rich.

This might have been excuseable before 9/11, but how do you explain the second tax cut after the administration had decided to launch a second war? War, tax cuts - pick one, unless your plan is to lose a war and bankrupt the country, which has been the results of these policies. Worse, it's not like Bush has tried to cut domestic spending; he has expanded Medicare in a dramatic and wasteful fashion. Right now, people aren't focused on our looming fiscal crisis because the bill hasn't come due, but when we have the inevitable tax hikes in the future, people will realize that the only people to benefit from Bush's tax policies were the super rich.

(And please, don't talk to me about Social Security "reform." Privatizing Social Security does nothing to solve whatever fiscal problems the program has (and I don't think it really has any). Bush could have easily solved those supposed problems by reaching an agreement with Senate Democrats without privatization, but he wasn't really interested in shoring up the system, only destroying it.)

3. Global Warming

A few years ago, the effects of Global warming were scary, but speculative. Now they're real. Species are going extinct or migrating to cooler climes, weather patterns appear to have been affected, and we're just getting started. But Bush has refused to do anything about the problem. Indeed, he barely acknowledges that it exists. Even a mediocre president would be trying to lead a global effort to address the problem; Bush refuses to even take the most modest measures at home. Hell, even conservatives like John McCain have floated solutions, but Bush just can't bring himself to take any action that offends his old oil buddies. Pathetic. Right now, people are concerned about global warming, but still aren't feeling most of its effects. Looking back 20 years from now, Bush's inaction will look borderline criminal.

Balanced against this record of failure, Bush has no real achievements. I think it's folly to try to identify who is exactly the worst president of all time, but given time, Bush will certainly be in that conversation.

I'm back baby!

We got an extension at work, so I'll be posting weekly again for the rest of the year. This is still going to be a busy time for me professionally and personally, so my posts will be shorter and less involved - in other words, readable.

PS - not sure about hitting the slopes in Jan, Tawni. Kind of depends on how the litigation develops. Who knows, next month I may be sleeping on your couch in Seatlle or sleeping in my office.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

PSA

Aside from the election, I haven't had much time to do this blogging thing because work has been so intense. In the next few days, I should find out whether I'll be filing my case this month or sometime in 2007. If it's this month, then I won't really have time to blog, but if it's put off, then I'll have time to resume weekly posting.

Stay tuned ...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Post Mortem Part III: The Long Term Future of Progressive Politics

See my previous election post-mortem posts on the legacy of the GOP Congress and analyzing the actual numbers below.

This post is going to be a bit more personal than the prior two. I didn’t expect to write something like this after the election, but my political views have evolved more in the last few days since the election than in the last five years. What’s changed? I now have a lot more faith in the possibility of forging a new, long-lasting progressive political consensus in this country.
As I mentioned in my first post-mortem post, the 1994 election was not a fun one for me. Clinton’s election in 1992 appeared to herald in a new era of technocratic governance that would use innovative means to build a more just society. Essentially, was a restoration of the Kennedy administration, when liberal elites revamped social welfare programs from the banks of the Charles River.

In 94, it all came crashing down. While the clown show otherwise known as the GOP Congress (see my first post below) provided a great deal of entertainment (anyone remember Newt Gingrich’s reasons why women were ill-suited for combat?), the late 1990s were a very depressing political period. Basic competence from our government was considered a victory for progressives. EPA still around? Hooray! Budget balanced? What an amazing accomplishment! The very fact that our government was willing to make an attempt at doing something it supposedly did was pointed to by Democrats as "proof" that Bill Clinton’s centrist politics were working.

During this same time, I was wondering politically (as most do in college). I moved far to the left, at first. But I quickly became disillusioned by campus radicalism (which was particularly obnoxious at AU), and began drifting rightward. I don’t think I ever considered myself a conservative, but I did begin to find some conservative rhetoric attractive. So, I decided to check it out. I even went so far as to take a class on conservative political thought.
What I saw wasn’t pretty. I concluded that the empirical case for conservative policies was almost always completely lacking. I found popular conservative arguments to be laughable. And the books I read and discussions we had in my Conservatism in America class were scary. I concluded that Conservatism was not really a political ideology but an emotional overreaction to socialism. Every argument was premised on the idea that all non-conservative politicians and ideologues were covert socialists who secretly hated America; therefore, the best public policy is to do the opposite of what they would do. I also concluded that its core adherents were willing to do almost anything to enact their agenda, including subverting democracy. My conclusions were confirmed the next spring during the Clinton impeachment fiasco.

From that time until say, last Wednesday, I became something of a mirror image of the 1960s neo-Conservatives: not so much enamored with liberalism as committed to destroying modern Conservatism. The last 6 years of conservative rule further cemented my belief that conservatism, with its contempt for empiricism and its messianic zeal, was not a viable ideology and would wreak profound damage on the country if left unchecked. Thus, I became something of an oddity: a non-liberal rabid partisan Democrat.

This negative mind set has the advantage of clarity, but it also limits your political imagination. Going in to this election, I was hoping that a desire for competence would pull us through in enough marginal (purple) districts to give the Democrats control of the House for at least 2 years. I did not dare hope for more. And early on Tuesday night, it looked like that was what had happened.

It was the returns later in the evening that really opened my eyes. Insurgent candidates who had run unapologetically progressive campaigns in very red areas either claimed upset victories or near misses. Nancy Boyda took back KS-2, which everyone assumed was lost for a generation when we lost it in 1994. Tim Walz took back rural MN-1, which everyone assumed was too socially conservative to elect a democrat. And Montana, to much fanfare, elected Jon "I will repeal the Patriot Act" Tester to the Senate. We took several rural and blue collar districts in Indiana. We also had near misses in rural, Western districts like CO-4, NV-2, ID-1, and WY-At Large. These results are a signal to me that 1) it is possible to build a new progressive coalition, and 2) that coalition can and must include socially conservative voters.

Now, I don’t want to come off as naive. People who have been voting Republican in the last decade or so have been doing so for a very good reason: they prefer conservative candidates. If its disrespectful for Republicans to assume that African Americans vote for Democrats out of habit (see my random thoughts post below), it is disrespectful to assume the same thing about culturally conservative whites. The burden is on those of us who are not conservatives to convince them to change their minds. Tall order, but not impossible. The problem, as I see it, is that so far there’s been little to no effort made to reach out to rural areas in an honest way. Instead, we occasionally run a Democrat who tries to convince voters that he or she is really a Republican. Sometimes these candidates actually win, but they do nothing to build a larger progressive movement. The campaigns we should be running are those that the insurgent candidates ran this year: proud of our ideals and respectful of those who disagree with them.
Explaining, honestly, why we disagree won’t satisfy everyone, but it’s certainly better than lying about our true position on the issues, and everyone can tell when you’re full of it (Harold Ford, this means you). A progressive political movement should be defined as the movement that refuses to demonize any group of people, be it sexual minorities or social conservatives. We should make clear that we respect people’s views, even when we disagree. This would be in sharp contrast to modern conservatism, which holds that its adherents are culturally-superior to everyone else. The last few years have made clear that there is a yawning decency gap between culturally conservative voters and their representatives in Washington and in the press. At some point, the nastiness (not to mention hypocracy) of people like Bill Bennet will be too much to bear.

And if our ideas do get taken seriously, then I think we will bring a lot of people into the progressive coalition. Study after study of public opinion has shown that as many as one third of self-described conservatives believe that government should protect workers, care for the environment, and assist those in poverty. And even if we cannot get a majority in a given "red" congressional district, the new progressive voters in that district could be a boon to our chances in state-wide contests (especially in states like Colorado, which has pockets of intense liberalism). Adding rural, socially conservative voters to the progressive coalition will give liberalism a popular legitimacy it simply lacks right now.

The so-called technocratic liberalism of Kennedy and Clinton is dead. It has always lacked a real constituency and has always produced a backlash from those it would save. Harvard’s class of 2002 is not going to redeem America. Today, this type of liberalism calls itself "centrism," but everyone else recognizes it as liberalism. It hopes to convince suburban voters to support it based on its supposed competence and expertise. That won’t inspire anyone. What we really need is a political movement that is dedicated to proposition that government exists to act in the public interest, and that a decent society takes care of the vulnerable in its midst. In what is still by-and-large a Christian nation, such a movement would be formidable. All we need is someone would credibly lead it. And I have to admit, I’m inspired at the though of such a movement actually succeeding. While I’ve most recently taken to calling myself a Liberal, what I may really be is a capitalist Social Democrat.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Post Mortem Part II - Analysis

OK, ok, no more speechifying. I'll go from bitter partisan mode to political junkie mode. Let's take a look at what this election tells us about the electorate and our near-term political future.

The national exit poll reveals some very good trends for the Democrats. The most striking thing, of course, is that the Dems won nationally by about 8 points (after you adjust for about a 2 point pro-Democratic bias in exit polls, as we painfully learned in 2004). To put that in perspective, that is the largest margin of victory achieved by either political party since Bill Clinton's win in 1996. But that was due in part to Ross Perot's third-party candidicy. And the GOP held on to Congress (despite losing some seats). Prior to that, the most lopsided victory was George H.W. Bush's victory over Michael Dukakis, but, again, his party did not capture Congress. Probably the only victory that rivals this one in recent memory was the Democrats' 1982 victory. But that victory was fueled by the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The actual results were not quite as stunning as you'd expect in terms of the number of seats that changed hands, but that was probably due more to the fact that the GOP had really prepared for this because they had been sucking for so long (more on the individual results below).

So, what fueled this result: anger at the GOP congress' straying from Conservatism, as conservatives claim, or an ideological realignment. The evidence in the exit poll is mixed, but there does seem to be some evidence that the country is moving a bit leftward. First, look at the demographics. As with most off-year elections, they skew older, wealthier, and whiter than the electorate in Presidential elections. In other words, you'd expect it to be more conservative than it was in 2004. It wasn't. Only 32% self identified as conservative - the lowest number in recent memory.

I don't want to make too big a deal out of this. Clearly, people of all ideological stripes were angry at this Congress (for good reason, see below). Also, Iraq was a huge issue. But look at how many people listed the economy as a top concern. Those voters overwhelmingly favored Democrats. These results are consistent with other polls showing strong and growing support for a liberal economic agenda. No matter what happens in the next two years, chances are the public is going to demand a progressive political agenda and an endgame in Iraq. Also, the seats that the Democrats won are, with a few exceptions, imminently defendable. A lot of them have been trending our way for quite some time. In a decent political climate, I expect the Democrats to hold the House. I dare say I have reason for optimism.

Finally, a note about the individual races. You know what I love about politics? The human element. Flawed candidates, surprising races, and macabe spectacle - awesome. A lot of conservative candidates got some well-deserved comuppances. Don Sherwood thought he would be ok if he paid his mistress 30,000$ in hush money to stop alleging he chocked her. How does he not see that his political career is over? His first ad of the season was admitting an affair, but denying the abused. He lost by a huge margin. Katherine Harris claimed that God was calling her to run for the Senate. God has a sick sense of humor. She lost by 25 points to a man who was once literally represented on a magazine cover as a stuffed suit. (no, really, how does Bill Nelson keep winning?) Richard Pombo, who spent his years in Congress trying to repeal the endangered species act, was defeated when his constituents realized that: a) he was a conservative and b) was hopelessly corrupt.

There were a lot of second-tier races that fell to the Democrats, but they missed some of their better targets. Somehow, Heather Wilson has apparently survived, despite being in a very Democratic district in very Democratic year. Same with Deborah Pryce (leading some people to think that GOP women were somewhat immune from the pro-Dem wave because they defied stereotypes of what GOP representatives were supposed to be.

Finally, I'm really happy to see that Conrad Burns will no longer be stinking up the Senate with his crazy, paranoid rants. His best line of the campaign: "Bush has a plan, but he's not going to just tell everybody. You'd go and blow it!" Yeah, Bush's secret plan to win the war that he won't actually employ until after the elections, so it will seem like a Christmas miracle!

All in all, a great night. Some disappointments early, but the important thing is that we're in a brave new political world (I hope).

Post Mortem Part I - A Fond Farewell to the GOP Congress

It was a shame that Ann Richards did not live to see this day. To me, her defeat in 1994 has always symbolized what went wrong in American polictics in the 1990s. My Ann nostalgia was at its zeinith for this election after reading a tribute to her in the October issue of Texas Monthly (the cover, by the way, read "Can this Man Save the Aggies?", referring to the difficult task ahead for the president of Texas A&M, Robert Gates, our new Secretary of Defense, so the Aggies are going to fix the mess in Iraq - my father will be thrilled). 1994 was, to say the least, a difficult election for me. I saw good people defeated by, in the words of Tapped (American Prospect blog's) "fools and knaves". And no race was more emblematic of that night than watching Ann Richards, who most people thought was a smart, effective governor, go down to a man who had never done anything of significance in his entire life. (For those of you who are not Texans, we now call that man President (curls up in fetal position and rocks back and forth for an hour)).

Of course, most people remember the 94 election as the one that gave the GOP control of both housed of Congress for the first time in 40 years, and the GOP Congress has, seriously, made me embarrassed about my goverment to an extent that I had never felt before and hope to never feel again in my life. This was a profoundly unserious group of people who had an ambitious agenda that didn't make a lick of sense. Listing all of the transgressions of the GOP Congress would take days, but it's worth reexamining some of its lowest moments just so you understand why I loathe these people.

During the 1990s, the Congress spent an absurd amount of time investigating the most trivial offenses by the Clinton administration. None of them turned out to be of any consequence. They took 150 hours of testimony regarding whether the President had unethically used the Whitehouse Christmas card list for fundraising purposes. Congressman Burton obsessed over whether Clinton had Vince Foster murdered. Not satisfied with the FBI's conclusion that Foster committed suicide, Burton held hearing after hearing on the issue. And when that didn't pan out, Burton tried to demonstrate that Foster was murdered by firing a handgun into a melon. Shockingly, the GOP lost all interest in investigating the executive branch once Bush was elected. In fairness, though, it's not like anything has gone awry in the last six years.

The Clinton obsession was despicable. It was like Rush Limbaugh was running the show. They decided to impeach Clinton because, well ..., they could. Neither Clinton's affair nor his inconsequential lie (the case was frivolous) in a deposition constituted "high crimes and misdemeanors," but the clown show proceeded nonetheless. And a clown show it was. Several GOP members of congress angrily denounced Clinton's moral transgressions, only to get caught for DOING THE EXACT SAME THING. Helen Chenowith (elected in 94, of course) was doing her chief of staff. Newtie was sleeping with a young staffer himself. She later became his third ex-wife. Henry Hide was revealed to have had an affiar with a married woman. He called it a "youthful indescretion." He was 44 at the time of the affair. There were others. My personal favorite was Bob Livingston, who promised Newtie that he would support him for Speaker if he could be chair of the ways and means committee (where he could rack up gifts from lobbyists, no doubt), but then betrayed him anyway. This gave us 6 fabulous hours of the Livingston Speakership. He had to resign when it was revealed that he, too, was cheating on his wife.

Perhaps because they were so busy getting revenge on Clinton, the "revolution" of 1994 didn't actually produce much in the way of legislative accomplishments. Thank God! There were ideas that were objectively stupid that got serious hearings and a lot of support. There was a serious attempt at defunding the SEC (because, as Enron showed, there wasn't any need for securities regulation). Someone proposed a bill to eliminate ALL federal taxation. Regulated industry was literally invited by the Congress to write the laws governing them. There were attempts to repeal most, if not all, environmental laws.

After Clinton vetoed most of this crap (and stood his ground when they shut down the government), the Congress thankfully gave up and turned its attention to staying in power as long as possible. Corporate welfare proliferated. Earmarks soared to ten times that of the high mark of the Democratic Congress.

Another way Congress tried to stay in power: Gay baiting. Problem was, a lot of them were closeted homosexuals themselves or had hired openly gay senior staffers. Ed Shrock from Virginia was a sponsor of the Gay Mariage Amendment. He got busted trolling the internet for anynomous gay sex. Rick Santorum memorably likened gay sex to "man on dog action." When it was revealed that his cheif of staff was gay, he defiantly stood by him (which was the right thing to do, but it does demonstrate that, like almost all DC Republicans, he doesn't really believe that there's anything wrong with being gay). And who could forget Mark Foley? (By the way, there are many, many others, but they just haven't been officially outed, and I don't want to get sued). I respect that the majority of Americans believe homosexuality is morrally wrong, but elite opinion doesn't believe that, and the GOP just doesn't have the courage to come out and say that they don't have a problem with gay people.

I'll spare you a recount of the last few years, because you probably recall those decables: Schaivo, the bridge to nowhere, the multiple indictments, the so called K-Street project that ensured that GOP members had a high-paying job as a lobbyist lined up in case they ever wanted to make a lot of money, the refusal to do anything about global warming, etc ... One thing, however, deserves special mention. After 3 years of Iraq going to hell in a handbasket, the GOP congress was content to stall on investigations, and refused to challenge the administration in any way. In the spring of 2006, with Nancy Pelosi's subtle encouragement, Jack Murtha, a hawkish, decorated Vietnam Veteran who had supported every war of the past 20 years, including Iraq, introduced a resolution calling for a phased redeployment of American troops by the end of this year. You all know how I feel about this, but I recognize that good people can disagree. Iraq is a tough situation, and no one has a monopoly on answers. But we absolutely must have an honest debate if we're ever going to fix this mess.

The GOP, however, was not interested in finding solutions; it just wanted to score political points. First, they refused to schedule a debate on Murtha's resolution and instead scheduled a debate on an absurd resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of all forces from Iraq, hoping to make it seem that that was the Democratic position. Then, they held a "debate", where they did nothing but shout slogans and lie to the American public. They said that Iraq was doing well and that victory was right around the corner. Even though they knew that poll after poll said otherwise, they insisted that the Iraqis wanted us to stay. They accused the Democrats of helping the terrorists and not caring about the Iraqi people, and Murtha of cowardice. The Democrats, by the way, spoke honestly about the mistakes we had made, even those who wanted to stay in Iraq indefinitely. Not one Republican criticized our war effort or acknowledged that Iraq was devolving into chaos. Given the stakes of that debate, how can we call what their refusal to have an honest debate anything other than treason?

I'm not so naive enough to think that the Democrats will be perfect, but they will be a vast improvement over the last 12 years. Indeed, one of the pervese things about the way the Republicans ran things was that it increased public cynicism to the point where people thought that we can't do any better. But we have done better in the past, and I believe we will do better in the future, starting in January.

Post Election Coverage here at Mattranting

Well, I was going to do a post-mortem for the GOP congress last night, but I was too drunk from celebrating. Now that I'm basking in sweet, sweet sobriety, I'm going to start on my post-mortems. I'm actually going to do this in three parts. First, I'll post about the evil that was the GOP Congress. Next, I'll analyze the actual results for what they tell us about the electorate, and the chances of the Dems holding the Congress for a few cycles. Finally, I'll do a post about how this election has radically changed my outlook on politics and what those of us who lean left should do to build a lasting idelogical majority. I'll try to get these posts up ASAP, so the posts should come fast and furious.

And away I go ...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Random Thoughts

I’ll try to have something more profound up tonight, but since I stayed up until 4 last night waiting for the Burns/Tester results that were never coming in (a glitch in the reporting where, apparently, a local official wanted to double check the count - good for him), my brain is completely fried and all I can do is give you some random thoughts on last night. Considering how scatter-brained I am right now, this could be really entertaining in unintentional ways:

- I’m not sure why, but for some reason one thing that stuck with me from last night was just how badly some key Republicans came off last night during interviews with the national media. Well after Ben Cardin had been projected the winner of the Maryland Senate race, Mellman went on CNN to say, over and over again, that Michael Steele, the Republican in the race, had "possibly made history tonight." He used the word "history" or "historic" about a half dozen times at least in a two minute interview. When CNN pointed out to Mellman that Cardin was leading in the vote count and that the only county left to report was overwhelmingly African-American Prince George’s County, Mellman said that Steele was "going to do really well there." In other words, black people were going to vote for conservative Steele because he’s black. The only word to describe this attitude is racist (and don’t think black viewers didn’t catch that). Cardin won 76% of PG county and 72 percent of the African American vote, by the way. Mellman also tried to hype the "blowout" win in Ky-4, but while he was gloating, the race tightened significantly. Rep. Davis still won by a decent amount, but it was an odd thing to be touting at the time. Mellman didn’t do anything to assuage GOP fears of a blowout, and he didn’t point to their successes (there were a few, especially at the house level). He may lose his job over this. Seriously, he sucked that bad.

Another Goper who came off badly was, surprisingly, John McCain. In his CNN interview he was trying to sound somber and presidential, but instead just looked depressed (did he not see this coming?). Worse, when talking about the war, he just rattled off neo-con talking points about how we have to have the "will to win." He sounded totally out of step with the country on Iraq. Mark my words: John McCain will not win in 2008. He would even lose to Hillary (in fact, polls already show that). His case for staying in Iraq is not only unconvincing, it sounds tone deaf and doesn’t respect the opinion of the American people. (Joe Lieberman, for all his faults, sounds better when explaining his position on the war.)

Finally, Denny Hastert, who will soon be liberated from the heavy burden of being in the leadership, refused to concede even after the Dems were projected to take the House, and, worse, said that there were "some good pickup opportunities out West." Yes, there were ... for Democrats! Every prognosticator said the Dems would win seats out West and that none of their seats West of the Mississippi River were in danger. Hastert had to know that, but I guess he just wanted to sound like a fool one more time while people are still paying attention to him. Oh, and by the way, to the people of his district: you guys should be ashamed of yourselves. This man was corrupt and dishonest in very obvious ways, but you give him more votes than you gave Bush in 2004?

- I spent most of the evening watching CNN’s coverage, occasionally checking out the networks and CSPAN. CNN was probably the best because it was the most comprehensive, but I was generally disappointed. They did not talk enough about the dynamics and the stories behind the races, and they had almost no coverage of victory or concession speeches. In past years it’s been much better.

- Speaking of CNN, I thought that they had a good team of politicos on hand, except of Bill Bennet. What a JERK! When he wasn’t spouting talking-points, he spent the rest of the night insinuating that those who disagreed with the social conservative mantra on issues were completely lacking in morals. You know, I really don’t like to lectured on morals by a man who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts on (what a sissy) slot machines. And I don’t like being told that I’m out of the mainstream by a person who, I’m serious, advocated armed insurrection in response to the Terri Schaivo rulings. To me, his attitude is exemplary of what’s wrong with the Republican party. Now that the elections are behind me, I’m coming to the conclusion that there is a decency gap between social conservative politicians, who hate liberals and are, essentially, national socialists, and social conservative voters. I know that some social conservative voters do go off the rails, but the one’s I know are decent people who care about their country and always treat me and others who disagree with them with respect. I will never forget the decency that generosity that people in my conservative church showed me when I was growing up. It breaks my heart to see them led by the likes of Tom Delay. I would love it if they were to rebel and take back their party. Ross Dohat of the American Scene blog would be a great leader of that movement (in fact, he already is, and you should be reading him). Speaking of which ...

- My father is going to kill me for this, but ... I like J.C. Watts (also part of CNN’s coverage), and have for some time. When he got to Congress, he had a reputation for being sort of dumb, but he grew up and rehabilitated himself. He ran against Delay for majority leader. When he lost, he realized what the GOP had become and he couldn’t be a part of it anymore. Principled, decent, honest. Not a bad combination. And there’s a Senate seat opening in OK probably very soon, just sayin.

- I was planning on buying a bottle of Champagne last night. I was near the liquor store. But then I choked. I just couldn’t tempt fate like that. So, instead I celebrated with some 2 day opened $10 wine from: "Lodi." Sounds like a swank California wine locale, right? It’s a suburb of Fresno.

- Here’s something that is a mattranting exclusive - when it’s all said and done, the Dems will pick up not one but two seats from Texas. Henry Bonilla’s district, TX-23 was changed, again, by the courts, so by law he had to win with over 50% of the vote or be forced into a run off. With 94% of the precincts reporting Bonilla has only 48% of the vote. Better still, it looks like he will be in a run-off with former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, who is a very good fit for this district. Generally, when an incumbent can’t get more than 50% of the votes the first time around, he’s toast in the runoff.

- The greatest story never told is ... the Dems great night in the Governors’ races. They now have 28 governorships, a healthy majority. And there are some rising stars among the bunch: watch for Martin O’Malley and Deval Patrick in the years to come.

- I’m a bit puzzled at some of the house results. I thought there was no way we would lose NM-1, but it appears as if we have (recount pending). On the other hand, I thought there was no way we would win KS-02, but we did. It seems like the GOP incumbents who knew they were facing tough races from the outset did a bit better than those who were caught in the polls late in the game. Also, it seems, again, that the Dems did not get their fair share of the hyper-close races. If they had (or had gotten a bit lucky and won more than their fair share) they might have won at least 5 more seats, and my prediction of 240+ would have been on the money (oh well).

- The DNC is very confident that we’ve taken the Senate. I’m beginning to agree with them now that Tester’s lead has grown. On a related note, the award for best blog comment of the night goes to The New Republic’s Michael Crowley, who said of the Green Party nominee for VA Senate:
Her entire candidacy seems to be based on high-speed rail. (Gail "for Rail" Parker.) Let's hope it was worth potentially affecting the partisan balance of the Senate.

- While we’re on the subject, there was an unseemly pattern that I noticed about the GOP incumbents who lost yesterday. In Santorum’s concession speech, Talent’s concession speech, and in Allen’s semi-concession speech, they all started off by thanking God. Heretofore, I had never seen a losing candidate do that, and, as a Christian, I find it inappropriate. It seemed to be saying, "I’m still holier than thou!" Now, one time is an aberration, but three times is a trend. Were they told to do this? Was it part of a long-term strategy to woo back some of the evangelicals who had voted for Dems in greater numbers? Weird.

- Finally, this election was not the realignment election that I was desperately craving for, but it did provide some closure. In 94, I watched in horror when, as Charlie Pierce put it, fools and knaves defeated lots of honorable Democrats whose only crime was trying to do the right thing on the budget. The reason was that there was so much pent up Republican strength in some Democratic districts, that the GOP just put warm bodies in place and, next thing you know, you have some really mediocre people calling themselves Congressman and Congresswoman (one of my favorites is the Utah woman who got busted for money laundering about a month after she won). Last night, we finally got rid of some of these people. In Arizona, J.D. Hayworth, one of the biggest jerks in the House, went down in flames. In Kanas, Jim Ryun, who seemed to know little, if anything, about the issues, went down. That one was especially sweet because people thought we had lost that seat for a generation (also, it didn’t hurt that KS Republicans actually made it slightly more Democratic in an attempt to pick off Dem Rep. Dennis Moore in KS-3. Oops!). In Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, a lightweight’s lightweight, went down in FLAMES (by about 20 points). Proud racist (up until recently anyway) George Allen has almost certainly lost in Virginia, a state that I had written off as insane when I was in college. And Jim Talent, who basically ran for the Senate to be Bush’s handmaiden, went down by a surprisingly large amount to Claire McCaskil. Washington is going to be a much more tolerable place for the next two years. (Oh, and it now looks like Conrad Burns will get to spout his nonsense in Montana full time. Heckuva job Burnsie!)

I spoke too soon

Things are looking better now. J.D. Hayworth and Jim Ryun losing is starting to make my night a lot better. Not ready to do a post mortem until I see what happens out West (looks like we're just going to miss in WY and CO-4). Honestly, this has been more draining than I thought, and I probably won't have the post-mortem up until tomorrow.

I spoke too soon

Things are looking better now. J.D. Hayworth and Jim Ryun losing is starting to make my night a lot better. Not ready to do a post mortem until I see what happens out West (looks like we're just going to miss in WY and CO-4). Honestly, this has been more draining than I thought, and I probably won't have the post-mortem up until tomorrow.