Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia University, in the Washington Post: “Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.”
Thousands of protesters from Hezbollah and its allies spent a second night in a tent city in downtown Beirut, within earshot of the office-turned-residence of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
“Beirut is free, Siniora out,” thousands chanted during a late Saturday night rally at a central square. The protesters said they would not leave before the government fell.
I’m confused — how come the warbloggers of the world aren’t posting photos of “protest babes”, proclaiming the latest victory for the admininstration’s freedom agenda, and crowing about the continuation of the Arab Spring? Democracy = large street protests, right?
– Donald Rumsfeld, describing his Iraq strategy in a classified memo written two days before he resigned. Rumsfeld added, “In my view it is time for a major adjustment.” Read the full text of the memo HERE.
The SecDef’s final memo on Iraq is some interesting reading; certainly it suggests that the policy implications of Bush firing Rumsfeld are pretty unclear. His thinking, by the end, was sort of all over the map.
Determined to wade ever-further into the analytical fog, Bush is going to be meeting with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim to try and build ties with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The idea here is to reduce the influence of Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr is influential, in part, because Nouri al-Maliki of the Dawa party was dependent on Sadrist support to obtain the Prime Ministership. SCIRI and Dawa together would be able to govern — in formal parliamentary terms — without Sadrist support, so were SCIRI to be brought behind Maliki, or were Maliki to be replaced with some other figure who enjoyed SCIRI and Dawa support, then Sadr’s power would be checked. Maybe.
It’s worth recalling, however, how we got to this position in the first place. After all, under Ibrahim Jafari we already had a SCIRI/Dawa coalition in power that limited Sadrist influence over the government. The price Jafari had to pay for SCIRI support was SCIRI control of the interior ministry. In the wake of the election, Zalmay Khalilzad decided to work to get Jafari out of office and SCIRI out of control of the interior ministry. The solution was Maliki, and, at the time, David Ignatius channeling Khalilzad informed us that “The most important fact about Maliki’s election is that it’s a modest declaration of independence from Iran.”
Now we’re going back ’round the loop again. Bush keeps shuffling the deck, but the cards he’s looking for don’t exist.
Interestingly, one of the academic articles Perlstein mentions in support of Schaller’s claim — Nicholas Valentino and David Sears, “Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South,” American Journal of Political Science (July 2005) — has been part of the regular rotation in the social science writing course I teach. Valentino and Sears argue that Southern white voters who display racially conservative attitudes are significantly more likely to vote Republican than other groups of Southern white voters. To put it crudely, then, the article suggests that while not all whites who vote Republican do so because they are racist, white racists in the South are likely to recognize the Republican party as a comfortable home for their aberrant views on black intelligence, patriotism, work ethic and and trustworthiness among other character traits.
I read the Valentino and Sears paper yesterday, and I think it’s plausibly true that the authors are biased against Republicans. In particular, they adopt some inflammatory terminology that I wish they’d avoided, because their data and their empirical argument seem very strong and the terminology is going to lead people to miss their point.
Building off yesterday’s skepticism that either party will become “merely regional” or whatever over the long-term, let me say that I think a lot of people engage in poor prognostication because the experience of Democratic Party domination from 1933-1968 is misleading. A 35 year period in which the Republicans had the White House for only eight years and did even worse in congress creates the impression that that sort of thing might happen again at some point. This, in turn, tends to generate a desire to write books like Building Red America, One Party Nation, or (on the other side) The Emerging Democratic Majority predicting that we’ll emerge from the rough muddle that’s existed since 1969 with decisive control for one side or another.
On a theoretical level, however, political parties are self-interested institutions in the business of winning elections. Meanwhile, there are only two of them. We ought, therefore, expect to see a lot of minimum winning coalitions, a lot of median-voter theorem behavior, out-of-power parties repositioning to fit demographic and ideological trends, etc. and all this should produce rough long-term parity. Before Civil Rights, on this view, the United States didn’t have a genuine two party political system, and that opened up the possibility of dominance. You can see something similar, perhaps, in contemporary Canada where the Liberals can lose (as they did at the last election) but the Conservatives can’t really win a majority, because a share of Liberal losses wind up benefitting the Bloc Québécois rather than the alternative national party.
The real long-term political question, on this view, isn’t about partisan dominance, but about the terms of equilibrium — how do both parties shift around to maintain rough parity and what are the implications of those shifts for policy.
In an interview yesterday on Al Arabiya TV, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if the Bush administration has made any mistakes in Iraq. Here was Rice’s response:
SECRETARY RICE: …As to whether the United States has made mistakes, of course, I’m sure, we have. You can’t be involved in something as big as the liberation of a country like Iraq and all that has happened since, and I’m sure there are things that we could have done differently; but frankly, we are looking ahead. And when I’m back at Stanford University, I can look back and write books about what we might have done differently.
In other words, Rice realizes that — as bad as things are in Iraq — the Bush administration must have made mistakes. But she refuses to think about them until she leaves office.
The problem with this approach is the there are 140,000 troops in Iraq right now. There is an imperative to identify and correct mistakes in our strategy. Instead, Condoleezza Rice and President Bush are staying the course.
Bill Simmons proclaims this year’s NBA Eastern Conference the worst conference in the history of pro sports. If you follow the Association, you know what he’s talking about. That said, let me ask everyone to consider a complicating factor. As of right now, the four worst records in the East belong to Boston, Milwaukee, New York, and Charlotte at .333, .333., .333, and .250 respectively. At the end of last season, by contrast, the four worst teams in the East were Toronto, Atlanta, Charlotte and New York at .329, .317, .317, and .280.
In other words, the very worst of the East is better than it was a year ago. This is particularly true when you consider that most teams have only played 15-17 games or so this season and extreme results are more likely with small samples. In a sense, then, I think the weaker conference has flattened rather than gotten worse.
Kevin Drum writes a bit about the latest in secret data mining programs, the Automated Targeing System that has been assigning Americans secret “risk scores” based on “analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.” Reading the article, I was struck by something. The authors of the piece spend about a page and a half explaining the program and quoting critics. Their criticisms are pretty clear — they’re concerned that there’s no oversight of this program and that it works in secret, so citizens have know opportunity to check or correct their risk rating. Then comes the response:
The Homeland Security Department says the nation’s ability to spot criminals and other security threats “would be critically impaired without access to this data.”
And this is how it always goes with this administration, isn’t it? That’s totally non-response to the actual criticisms. Obviously, neither you, I, Kevin, nor the ACLU has any way to say whether or not criminal-spotting capabilities “would be criticially impaired without access to this data” because the entire program operates in secrecy not subjected to any kind of oversight, corrections, or outside scrutiny. And that’s what people were complaining about!
Meanwhile, I wonder if “past one-way travel” makes you more or less of a risk? I’ve taken a fair number of one-way flights in the past.