Category Archives: Spin Cycle

Left, right; left, right; left, right… Give it a REST, people!


This morning, I was surprised to see that The Washington Post didn’t lead with their big scoop, which I had heard about on the radio first thing, on my way to my 8 a.m. dental appointment:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said…

That’s so much bigger than other turn-of-the-screw stories that have led the paper in recent months.

Instead, the paper led with the congressional-baseball shooting, which of course is HUGE, especially if you’re published in Washington, but there was nothing new since last night. Rep. Scalise (may God send his healing grace upon him) was in critical condition yesterday, and he still was today.

But I guess I was wrong, based on what I heard on the radio later on a call-in show. Apparently the latest murderous nut-job case was Filled With Historic Political Significance, to hear what folks were saying.

Sorry that I didn’t take notes — I was driving — but it went kind of like this:

A man calls in and blames the shooting on the Left. After all, this guy was a lefty (so of course every liberal in the country was to blame). And he was made about Trump (so everyone who is mad that Trump is president is to blame). He had some kind of complicated theory about this all being part of the Left’s campaign against free speech, somehow connected to all the silly “safe zone” nonsense on college campuses. He explained that people were expressing themselves politically by electing these Republican lawmakers, who were delegated to speak for those people, and this guy was trying to shut them up by killing.

He was immediately followed by a woman who had zero hesitation about blaming it on the Right. After all, Trump had encouraged violence at his rallies, and didn’t Ted Nugent say something about assassinating Obama, and Trump invited him to hang out for hours at the White House? Therefore, she implied, everyone to the right of center was to blame for this, yadda-yadda.

Oh, come on, people! This isn’t a left-right thing. I mean, I was pretty disturbed by the whole Bernie Sanders billionaires-are-oppressing-us-all-and-we-must-get-angry-and-rise-up-against-them shtick, but it’s an outrage to suggest that even Bernie Sanders (whom the shooter supported) is in any way to blame for this, much less every other liberal in the country.

Obviously, such thinking must be refuted. But to do so by trying to turn it around and blame on conservatives everywhere is equally absurd.

Give it a rest, people! Not everything is an expression of the left-right dichotomy that you seem to think explains everything in the world. In fact, most things aren’t.

What we have here is a nut, one who went on a murderous rampage for reasons particular to him, which we’ll never know for sure because, as a result of what he did, he’s dead.

If there’s a political point to be made, it’s the one I made yesterday: It’s too easy for homicidal nuts to get their hands on guns. If we’d all like to have a constructive conversation about doing something to prevent that, great. But in this atmosphere, I’m not holding my breath…


Hillary: ‘I want those emails out!’ I’ll bet she DOES…

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Hillary Clinton has broken a month’s media silence with a brief, but testy, exchange of questions with reporters that saw her demand the swift release of her personal emails and defend money received by her family.

The former secretary of state called on the department to “expedite” the release of the records from her time in office after news that it might take until January to publish the cache recently turned over by her office….

Now, before you scoff, let me say that I take her at her word. When I read that the State Department was planning on dragging its feet until at least January, my very first thought was that this was very bad news for Hillary.

Think about it: If you’re she, would you rather have it all come out now, when there’s time to explain and then let people forget, or right as the primaries are starting?

So I believe her.

Dems seem desperate, clutching at Graham’s out-of-bounds joke about himself, the GOP and other white men

I initially learned of the incident from the Brad Hutto campaign, which has skewed my reaction:

Hutto Blasts Graham for ‘white male only’ Comments

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show”

Orangeburg, SC – Democratic candidate for US Senate Brad Hutto spoke out this evening in response to news reports regarding Lindsey Graham’s leaked comments at an exclusive all-male private club. Graham told the group members he was helping them with their tax status and that “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

Hutto made the following statement:

“When behind the closed doors of a private club, Lindsey Graham let his true colors show. He is only interested in his own ambitions and the best interests of the wealthy donors he hopes will fund his possible presidential campaign.  Women, people of color, and middle class and working families have no part in Lindsey Graham’s plans.  But, we shouldn’t be surprised. Lindsey Graham voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against equal pay for women, against raising the minimum wage and against the level of support our veterans have earned and deserve. He’s consistently supported tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans and corporations while trying to privatize Social Security and Medicare. We already knew where Lindsey Graham stood. Now, he’s just confirmed it.”


And the thing that put me off right away was the dead earnestness of the reaction. I read that quote, “if I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.” And without any explanation or context, I knew that it was a joke. Because, you know, I’m not dense. It reads like a joke, without knowing anything at all about who said it. Knowing that it’s Graham, it obviously couldn’t be anything else.

And of course, when you follow the link — or look at any of the coverage of the incident after Peter Hamby reported it — the fact that it’s a joke is reported at the top, and accepted without question. Everyone understands that this was the Hibernian Society, and the drill is that you stand up there and make fun of yourself.

And yet, there’s not one word in this release that acknowledges that. It’s treated as though Graham were making a straightforward, naked, campaign promise to this group he was speaking to. Which is absurd on its face, but the absurdity doesn’t seem to register on Hutto or his campaign. The release seems to expect the voters to believe that Graham was dead serious, as though he were Ben Tillman or something.

Now if Hutto had acknowledge the joke and said it was a bad joke, in terrible taste, it would be a different matter. The assertion might be debatable — a good argument might tip me either way on the point — but it would at least be respectable.

He could legitimately get on a pretty high horse about it. He could say that it says terrible things about Graham that he could even conceive of such a joke, and think it was funny. He could say it would be unseemly to joke like that with an all-white-male crowd even if he knew it would never leave the room — or especially if he knew it would never leave the room.

As a joke, it’s pretty edgy stuff. Like, almost “Family Guy” edgy (which is to say, “OhmyGod, why am I laughing at this?” edgy). A white Republican senator, speaking to an all-male, all-white group, says something that both mocks himself as a GOP politician (and mocks the idea of himself as a presidential candidate along the way) and digs at the audience itself. It was pretty nervy. It was the kind of thing I might say to such a group in spoofing a GOP politician, while being pretty nervous about whether they would laugh or not.

On the one hand, you can argue that it shows a pretty finely developed sense of both social conscience and irony to want to mock a crowd like that, and oneself, that way. Like, look at all us white guys schmoozing; aren’t we ridiculous?

But a very good case could be made that a politician who represents an entire state in the South should never, ever make such a joke — particularly if, you know, he belongs to the official party of the Southern white man. There’s really nothing funny about living in a state in which the racial division between the parties is so clearly understood by all, Tim Scott notwithstanding.

So make that case. But don’t give me this nonsense like you think he was being serious. Like you think it’s a statement of policy when a politician tells an all-male group, “I’m sorry the government’s so f—ed up.”

I mean, have a little respect for me. Give me a f—ing break, as a U.S. senator might say.

This may be the most intellectually insulting thing I’ve seen from the Democratic Party since all the “War on Women” nonsense. It’s an appeal that assumes appalling degrees of emotionalism and gullibility on the part of its audience.

After the Hutto release, the state party doubled-down on this meme that Graham was baring his soul:

BREAKING: Lindsey Graham makes offensive comments at male-only club. We’ve had enough of this. Add your name now to send a message: It’s time for South Carolina to move beyond this kind of behavior!

As if we couldn’t add more to the list of reasons why we need to get Lindsey Graham out of office, this happens:

While at an event at a males-only club in Charleston last month, Graham – who’s toying with the idea of a run for the presidency — charmed his friends with blatant bigotry: “white men who are in male-only clubs would do great in my presidency.”

A couple moments later, he insulted Baptists. “They’re the ones who drink and don’t admit it!”

These offensive comments are NOT okay – and absolutely unbecoming of a United States Senator.

Will you click here and send a message that it’s past time for South Carolina to move on from this kind of behavior?


Breaking News @ South Carolina Democratic Party

If you can take that seriously, by all means click on the links and give some money. Which is the point.

The fact is, if Hutto and his party just left this alone, the half-perceived news coverage would cause a lot of their constituents to leap to the very response that they wish to see them leap to: “Lindsey Graham said WHAT?” But to take them by the hand and misrepresent the situation so as to lead them there is something else altogether.

The difference here is that — appropriately or not (and personally, if I were his campaign manager, I’d probably be giving him hell right now for f—ing up) — Graham was kidding, but the Democrats are not. They really want people to believe that they’ve caught Graham being genuine. As though this were a “47 percent” moment. Which it plainly is not.

So which is it? Is SC economy in the tank, or doing great?

Apparently riffing on a release sent out by the SC Democratic Party, Will Folks writes:

Is it a “great day in South Carolina?”

Not if you live in Cheraw or Bennettsville, S.C.  These two rural towns are reeling after a recent announcement from Bi-Lo – a regional grocery store chain that operates roughly 200 supermarkets in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

According to reporter Mary Edwards of WMBF TV (NBC – Myrtle Beach/ Florence, S.C.), Bi-Lo is shutting down stores in Cheraw and Bennettsville – a move that will leave 130 employees out of work.

The job losses are coming sooner rather than later, too, with the store’s regional public relations manager telling Edwards the stores will be closing prior to November 19 of this year.

Happy Thanksgiving, right?…

Remember Colonial Stores?

Remember Colonial Stores?

As a native of Bennettsville, I can remember when it had a thriving retail environment, with a bustling Main Street and several supermarkets in the downtown area — Winn-Dixie, Colonial (anybody remember Colonial Stores?), an A&P, and later, a Harris Teeter.

Not so much anymore. I haven’t counted the grocery stores lately, but it’s been awhile since downtown has been what it was.

But the view can still look pretty good from Columbia, as Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt writes today in The State — and he has plenty of facts on his side:

By any measure, South Carolina is on a roll. Over the past four years, we have been making major gains — gains that are bringing economic stability and opportunity to communities across the state.bobby_hitt_110111

We’ve celebrated big recruitment wins, including announcements by the world’s top automotive and aerospace companies, boosted opportunities for small businesses and created an environment that encourages existing industry to continue expanding in our state.

The facts are clear: Trend lines show unemployment on the decline while the number of South Carolinians working has risen to historic highs. Our economy is humming, and companies around the world are choosing South Carolina as a place where they can succeed….

That team approach starts at the top, with Gov. Nikki Haley personally invested and fully integrated in what we’re doing, meeting and speaking with prospects or our existing companies. As the CEO of the state, she understands the importance of customer service and a personal touch. In fact, one thing we hear from clients all over the world is that she readily gives them her cell phone number and says to call her with any issues….

So which is it? Is our economy in the dumps, or thriving?

DGA tries linking Haley to Perry on ethics front

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release...

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release…

This seems like a bit of a stretch — Nikki Haley has a history of ethical challenges, but no indictments — but I guess this is what parties do:


To: Interested Parties

From: DNC and DGA Communications
Date: August 27, 2014
Re: Haley, Perry & the Ethically-Challenged Governors of 2014

Rick Perry and Nikki Haley have a lot in common – they’re both GOP governors from the South whose administrations have been plagued by ethics scandals. And they both eye higher office while struggling to execute their current jobs.

But while they campaign across the Palmetto State, they won’t be able to dodge questions about their ethical lapses.

Sure, Perry was recently indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official but Haley has had enough scandals during her first term to make even the most ethically-challenged Republican Governor blush.

Haley has time and again put politics ahead of being Governor.

Her administration has been rocked by a scandal at the Department of Social Services that allowed children to suffer in in unsafe and even deadly situations. Rather than take decisive action to address her administration’s inexcusable failures, Haley and her administration appear to be more focused on obstructing the investigation and covering up their failures.

And of course, that wasn’t the first time the Haley administration has tried to cover up her incompetence – millions of South Carolinians had their personal financial information hacked and children have been put at risk from a tuberculosis outbreak in public schools.

Haley has also misused taxpayer-funded resources for political and campaign travel.

As Haley and Perry campaign around the state, Governor Perry’s indictment, serves as a reminder to voters of Haley’s scandals, coverups and incompetence.  Governors Perry and Haley are just two of the many Republican Governors who find themselves under investigation or otherwise mired in scandal.

Below please find a rundown of the other GOP Governors scandals that have surfaced this cycle:

Branstad, Terry (Iowa): The Branstad administration is under investigation about whether administration officials were fired for political purposes.

Brownback, Sam (Kansas): The FBI is currently investigating potentially illegal lobbying of the Brownback Administration by former members of his inner circle.

Christie, Chris (New Jersey): Christie and his Administration are currently being investigated by no less than four separate local, state and federal agencies: the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation’s inquiry into Bridgegate and surrounding events.

Corbett, Tom (Pennsylvania): Gov. Corbett continues to receive serious scrutiny for taking thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from corporations, lobbyists and other special interests who have received big state benefits, and a political action committee set up to help Corbett win re-election received a donation of nearly a million dollars that potentially violated state law.

Deal, Nathan (Georgia): The state of Georgia was forced to pay nearly $3 million to settle lawsuits with whistleblowers at the state ethics commission who were allegedly fired for investigating Deal’s 2010 campaign. It has now come to light that the state’s ethics commissioner director claims she was threatened and pressured by the Deal administration in the summer of 2012.

LePage, Paul (Maine):  According to reports, Governor LePage met with individuals affiliated with an organization categorized by the FBI as a domestic terrorist movement, and in those meetings, it appears LePage joked with the group about “hanging” Democratic legislators. This extreme, dangerous rhetoric has no place in politics.

Snyder, Rick (Michigan): The Snyder administration allegedly favored corporate benefactors and his family over Michigan citizens by not only shielding a state contract that benefited his cousin from budget cuts but even doubling it to $41 million.

After Rick Snyder’s administration eliminated a criminal background check program for home care workers, the state hired nearly 3,800 individuals with criminal histories to take care of disabled adults on Medicaid, including over 500 violent felons and 285 convicted of sex crimes.

Walker, Scott (Wisconsin): Walker has been engulfed in not one, but two massive investigations:

  • The first John Doe investigation resulted in six of Walker’s associates have been convicted of wrongdoing, four of whom have been sentenced to prison ranging from felony theft from charities intended to benefit wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, to misconduct in public office, to doing official campaign work on county time.
  • The second John Doe investigation is ongoing and is currently on appeal. In this case, prosecutors allege that Walker himself was at the center of a nationwide “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside conservative groups. Documents released last week show Walker personally solicited millions of dollarsfor a group that supported him during his recall election.

BONUS Massachusetts Republican Gubernatorial candidate – Baker, Charlie: Baker has been at the center of controversy over whether he violated federal and state pay-to-play laws when a venture capital firm where he is a partner received a multi-million dollar New Jersey pension contract only months after Baker contributed to Chris Christie’s party committee.

DOUBLE BONUS Former Virginia Governor – McDonnell, Bob: Sure, he’s a former governor now, but he was in the same class of governors hailed as reformers. He is now on trial over accusations that he accepted over $170,000 in gifts and loans from a donor in exchange for using his office to promote the donor’s business. McDonnell and his wife have been indicted on 14 counts of corruption, obstructing an investigation and accepting bribes.

Hoffman: Another TV ad from the 1st District

Looked at from this distance, the contest for the 1st Congressional District GOP nomination has looked like a case of Sanford sitting atop the name-recognition hill, and Larry Grooms exerting the most energy trying to take it from him.

A third candidate I keep hearing from (and let me remind you that my perspective is skewed by the fact that I keep hearing from this guy and Grooms; others could be running just as hard but not making the effort to let me know about it) is Jonathan Hoffman.

No, I hadn’t heard of him, either, so of course he’s running a standard “I’m not a politician” campaign. To the extent that is appealing, he certainly has an advantage over Sanford and Grooms.

But this new TV ad tells me next to nothing. It shows him in uniform, and I thank him for his service. It shows him with the last Republican president. He uses the word “conservative” only once in 30 seconds, which by Republican primary standards shows extraordinary restraint. Of course, he uses other phrases that suggest such values to the base, such as “small business owner.”

And he makes the usual dubious claims that Republicans in SC tend to believe as gospel, such as:

  • He wants to be elected “to take on out-of-control spending and the growth of government.” Compared to what absolute measure, I find myself wondering. It’s interesting to contrast this belief to what I read this morning in the libertarian Economist, which, after asserting that “By most measures Mr Obama’s positions have been rather moderate,” notes that the public now is in a more conservative mood: “The conservative idea that spending must be cut is taken for granted, even though government spending is already lower in America than in most advanced economies.” Did you catch that? Looked at from outside, the U.S. government is not some out-of-control behemoth. It is only that to people who choose to believe it is.
  • Then there’s this chestnut: “let’s get back to constitutionally limited government.” Something that, of course, we’ve never left. He doesn’t have to explain what he means because no on in the GOP base would challenge him on it. Me, I want details. Back during the Bush administration, Democrats would say this very same silly thing. They were usually referring to the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 measures that Democrats as well as Republicans voted for and legally passed, under lawmaking provisions of our, ahem, Constitution. Now, Republicans generally mean something like Obamacare. Which, according to the GOP-appointed Chief Justice and a majority on the Supreme Court, is constitutional. Or is he referring to killing U.S. citizens with drones and without the benefit of due process? If so, I’d like to hear him square that with is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush in fighting the Global War on Terror, which the current president is only guilty of pursuing a tad more aggressively than his predecessor, casting drones far and wide and putting boots on the ground in the very heart of Pakistan.

Mind you, I’m not being critical of Mr. Hoffman. He’s not doing a thing that pols of both parties don’t do in this ridiculously facile medium, the 30-second ad. It would be practically impossible for him to answer the questions he raises in my mind within that format.

But these ads aren’t meant to answer questions. They are meant to communicate, in the most minimalist, Gestalten flicker, a set of emotions along the lines of “he’s like me,” or “I trust that man.” So they deal not in facts, but in presumptions, ones that are shared, even if they fly in the face of reality.

Grooms’ ads are the same. Sanford’s go a bit farther, because so much is known about him, and some of what is known is problematic and has to be addressed. But it is of course addressed in the most emotional, simplistic kind of way, merely communicating, “You must not hold it against him.” Why? Because “I trust that man, despite all.”

But it is on these extremely thin, grossly inadequate bases that we decide elections in this country.


Don’t count Joe Wilson among those wanting the sequester

Joe Wilson put out this release today:

At midnight tonight, the Department of Defense and other government agencies will fall victim to the President’s sequester. Every American family will be affected by the shifting of funds. In the South Carolina’s Second Congressional District, which I am grateful to represent, the Army’s base at Fort Jackson in Columbia is expected to lose approximately $75 million dollars. Additionally, the Savannah River Site in Aiken and Barnwell will be forced to furlough thousands of hardworking employees and stall critical national missions due to a possible $200 million budget cut. Both of these shifts will endanger our national security. The President and the Senate have refused to negotiate with House Republicans on a possible solution until today. House Republicans have voted twice to avoid sequestration. Our nation has a spending problem and we must address these issues before it is too late and our debt spirals out of control. The President should change course and begin working with both Houses of Congress to tackle the nation debt, which threatens American families. In conclusion, God Bless our troops and we will never forget September 11th in the Global War on Terrorism.

I’m glad that on this, Joe is going the traditional Republican strong-on-defense route, rather than the Tea Party way, as voiced by Mick Mulvaney:
When pressed about the defense cuts, Mulvaney said, “an 11 percent across the board reduction is probably not the best way to run a military. And

I do worry about a hollowed out military – a military that looks the same, but it not capable of performing the missions that we want it to perform. That’s what frightens me.”

But the second term Republican added, “I was the one who offered the amendment to freeze defense spending. I offered a 1 percent across theboard cut to help pay for (Hurricane) Sandy. I’m not one of those Republicans who thinks that defense spending is off the table.

“And that’s why I’ve supported previous efforts to replace those reductions with other reductions. But again, that being said, the only thing worse than those military cuts would be no cuts at all.”

When asked about cuts to other programs, including Homeland Security, education, and owelfare programs, Mulvaney was even more blunt.

“If we have to accept reducing spending in a less than perfect way, then I’ll except reducing spending in a less than perfect way. And keep in mind – this would be the only real spending cuts we’ve actually seen since I got to congress.”

8DCBDF95-9F0E-433C-A46A-6F1FE0E4D5CA copy

From Sanford’s clip file

A colleague calls my attention to Frank Rich's column over the weekend, which starts in on our governor about halfway down:

    At least the G.O.P.’s newfound racial sensitivity saved it from
choosing the white Southern governor often bracketed with Jindal as a
rising “star,” Mark Sanford of South Carolina. That would have been an
even bigger fiasco, for Sanford is from the same state as Ty’Sheoma
Bethea, the junior high school student who sat in Michelle Obama’s box on Tuesday night and whose impassioned letter to Congress was quoted by the president.

her plea, the teenager begged for aid to her substandard rural school.
Without basic tools, she poignantly wrote, she and her peers cannot
“prove to the world” that they too might succeed at becoming “lawyers,
doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president.”

    Her school is in Dillon, where the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, grew up. The school’s auditorium, now condemned, was the site of Bernanke’s high school graduation. Dillon is now so destitute that Bernanke’s middle-class childhood home was just auctioned off in a foreclosure sale. Unemployment is at 14.2 percent.

    Governor Sanford’s response to such hardship — his state over all has the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate — was not merely a threat to turn down federal funds but a trip to Washington to actively lobby against the stimulus bill. He accused
the three Republican senators who voted for it of sabotaging “the
future of our civilization.” In his mind the future of civilization has
little to do with the future of students like Ty’Sheoma Bethea.

such G.O.P. “stars” as Sanford and Jindal have in common, besides their
callous neo-Hoover ideology, are their phony efforts to portray
themselves as populist heroes. Their role model is W., that
brush-clearing “rancher” by way of Andover, Yale and Harvard. Listening
to Jindal talk Tuesday night about his immigrant father’s inability to pay for an obstetrician, you’d never guess that at the time his father was an engineer and his mother an L.S.U. doctoral candidate in nuclear physics.
Sanford’s first political ad in 2002 told of how growing up on his
“family’s farm” taught him “about hard work and responsibility.” That
“farm,” the Charlotte Observer reported, was a historic plantation
appraised at $1.5 million in the early 1980s. From that hardscrabble
background, he struggled on to an internship at Goldman Sachs.

Of course, with enemies like Frank Rich, the governor's liable to get some sympathy from me. Never have liked that guy's work — he has all of Paul Krugman's objectionable characteristics as a mindless hateful partisan, without the saving grace of being a Nobel winner in economics.

Anyway, I'm less impressed with that sort of mention than I am the kind that our governor gets in his favorite journalistic habitat, the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, where they continue to try to construct an alternative universe in which Mark Sanford, possibly the least accomplished governor in the nation, is an actual contender for President of the United States sometime this century. (I don't know about you, but I found "Serenity" way more believable — I just can't see terraforming taking hold in this world the WSJ is trying to conjure into being. Do you think Sanford could get the Reaver vote?)

Which reminds me that I meant to pass on this piece by WSJ board member Kimberley A. Strassel about our gov, which ran 10 days ago:

    South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is mooted as a GOP presidential contender. During the stimulus debate he told President Barack Obama, to his face, that the Palmetto State wanted no part of a spending blowout that would be harmful to the economy, to taxpayers, and to the dollar. He even traveled to Capitol Hill to stiffen Senate Republicans against the plan….
    The 48-year-old South Carolina governor is of the party wing that believes it failed in its core promise of fiscal responsibility, and in tackling the bread-and-butter issues (education, health care) that worry voters today. He's made his name partly by confronting his own party, which runs the legislature.

My very favorite part is when she strains to make it sound like Mark Sanford has actual achievements in S.C. to boast of:

    Nearly every year since he was elected in 2002, Mr. Sanford has proposed to cap spending at state population growth plus inflation. His state senate has ignored him. He's used his line-item veto more than 500 times, usually on pork projects. The legislature routinely overrides. Far from diminishing his standing, these lost battles have made him popular in the state.
    His policies have made South Carolina more competitive. In 2005, the state passed its first-ever cut in marginal tax rates for businesses, and in 2007 broader tax relief. He's shepherded tort reform, and crafted incentives to encourage property insurers to remain in the state after a spate of hurricanes. South Carolina still has problems (in particular, education), though since 2003 it has had the 16th fastest job growth in the nation. Its unemployment rate — the third highest in the country — has been exacerbated by record growth in the state's labor force.

Did you catch that? We have so much employment here because there are just to darned many of us! Mark Sanford has made S.C. into such a Nirvana that people are a-comin' here quicker'n we can find jobs for 'em!

WashTimes picks on SC schoolgirl

More than one friend has brought to my attention this piece from Salon, taking up the cudgels for a schoolgirl here in South Carolina:

Friday February 27, 2009 06:11 EST

Criticizing Ty'Sheoma Bethea

thought it would come from Michelle Malkin or Rush Limbaugh, but Malkin
is too busy planning her anti-tax tea parties while Rush gets ready for
his close-up at the Conservative Political Action Committee this weekend (which is a collection of nuts so nutty even Sarah Palin stayed away).

No, it was the conservative Washington Times that cast the first stone at Ty'Sheoma Bethea,
the Dillon, S.C., teenager who wrote to Congress seeking stimulus funds
for her shamefully dilapidated school. Obama used her statement, "We
are not quitters," as the coda of his speech Tuesday night, but now the
Moon-owned paper tells us what's wrong with Bethea, in an editorial
with the condescending headline, 'Yes, Ty'Sheoma, there is a Santa

Obama "presented" Bethea "as a plucky girl from a
hopeless school who took it on herself to write the president and
Congress asking for much needed help," the Times began, ominously.
Wait, she's not a plucky girl from a hopeless school? The editorial
depicts her instead as a player in Obama's "mere political theater"
because the president has been using her school, J.V. Martin, as a
"political prop" since he first visited in 2005. Wow. Dastardly.  I'm
getting the picture: Obama, that slick Democrat opportunist, has
repeatedly visited one of the poorest schools in South Carolina, a
state that voted for John McCain.  You just know he leaves with his
pockets stuffed with cash every time he makes the trip.

It gets worse….

And you can read the rest of Joan Walsh's piece here.

You know, I long ago got cynical about these regular folks that presidents of both parties put on display
during their prime-time speeches. I'm actually capable of understanding that public policy affects real people without such smarmy concrete evidence. Such faux-populist gimmicks are the rhetorical equivalent of those insipid man-on-the-street interviews that local TV news shows do, the ones that make me want to scream, "I don't care what this person who has obviously never thought about this issue before thinks! Either tell me something I don't know, or go away!" Such things tend to strike me as manipulative, phony and insulting.

So I'm not here to imbue this little girl with some sort of oracular power or something. But come on, people — picking on a little kid who just wants to go to a decent school? This is where ideology gets you. You get so wrapped up in your political points you want to make, you forget that there's a real person there, even when she's staring you in the face.

Earlier this week, I called a guy in Latta who had rung my phone (according to caller ID) at least 10 times that day, refusing to leave a message. (As I've probably told you, ever since my department ceased to have a person to answer phones, I have to let the machine get it and get back to people when I can, if I'm to have any hope of getting the paper out each day.) But I called back on the chance that he was disabled or something, or there was a problem with my voice mail.

There was no phone problem. He just wanted me to be the latest of several people at the paper he had berated for saying J.V. Martin school was built in 1896, when PARTS of it were built much later. Some of it, I seem to recall him saying, in 1984. Does this seem like a huge distinction to you? It didn't to me, either, but it was VERY important to him. He wasn't saying it wasn't a substandard facility, mind you; he just had that one objection, and he maintained it was the height of irresponsibility on the part of the newspaper not to point out that distinction.

Anyway, the situation is what it is. J.V. Martin is a facility that stands out in a part of the state not exactly known for stellar school facilities, as you've read many times before in our paper, seen in Bud Ferillo's "Corridor of Shame," and read in Kathleen Parker's column last week. You know, that wild-eyed liberal Kathleen.

Is that Dillon County's worst educational problem? Probably not. There's the bizarre governing setup for local schools there, whereby the high school football coach, by virtue of being the only resident member of the county legislative delegation, decides who will be on the school board. The caller and I discussed that, and he thought it was worse that a certain other party — the son of the late South of The Border founder Alan Schafer — has too much influence. I don't know anything about that, but the Coach Hayes thing has always been weird and Byzantine enough for me.

South Carolina should be able to do better than J.V. Martin, and if it can't, that's an argument for getting some federal help, as much as I dislike federal involvement in school matters. All this kid did was ask for something better, and a newspaper derides her as an emblem of "irresponsibility." That's a hell of a thing.

Well, that’s a big releef

At 11:02 a.m. today, I received a release from Jim Clyburn's office with the following headline on it:


Then, at 11:33, I got the corrected version, which makes me feel so much better:


Still awaiting the next correction; I'll let you know when I see it…

Obama’s news conference

Did you watch it? What did you think?

As usual, I think the new pres handled himself well. The guy's just chock full o' poise. I also think he made some good points selling portions of his stimulus plan — particularly the green energy and medical records parts.

And as usual, when I force myself to watch one of these things, I sympathized with him and what he was trying to say, and got really irritated at some the stupid, facile, superficially provocative questions the media reps asked. For instance, I know we're supposed to think Helen Thomas is cute or something because she's so old, but what the hell did she mean by "so-called terrorists" (which the president politely called her down for, by setting out quite clearly what a terrorist is). And did she really want the president to blurt out, in response to her hectoring (see how she kept asking it, talking over him?), who in the Mideast has nukes and who doesn't? What did she expect him to say, something like "Oh, you mean, besides Israel?" Does she think a new president should gab with her, in front of the country, about whatever juicy tidbits he's picked up at those cool intel briefings?

And who was it, the CNN guy? who asked, as this guy's walking in the door and beginning to turn our resources more fully toward a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, "Hey, when can we leave Afghanistan?" What kinds of questions are these? Are they randomly chosen from questions overheard on the street, or what? What sort of intelligent answer could anyone possibly expect from such a question?

And The Huffington Post? A blog? A representative of Arianna Huffington gets a question, as opposed to… I don't know… the Chicago Tribune? What do they do, drag these names out of a hat? Or is it, "let's give one to a serious newspaper, one to a network, throw in a blog, and if there's a little old lady in tennis shoes we'll give her a shot, too?"

I've never really liked the combination of journalism and theater that is the news conference… all that posturing and primping before one's peers and the folks at home, everybody trying to impress somebody, and mostly persuading everyone as to what idiots they are. The very few such events I attended as a reporter, I kept my mouth shut rather than be part of the show. If I couldn't find out what I needed to know before such a cattle call, I wasn't doing my job. Later, as an editor, I told reporters they'd BETTER have the whole story ahead of time, and preferably have it filed. They should then attend the show on the remote chance that something would come up they didn't know already. They were not to ask questions during the conference unless they couldn't get them answered any other way (which they should regard as a failure), for the simple fact that they'd better know a LOT more than the TV and radio types who live off such events, so why should they get to feed off your good questions?

It occurs to me as I reminisce that I was not the easiest editor for a reporter to work for… probably a good thing I defected to editorial in 1994, and left all that behind.

Oh, well. I think I'll read some Moby Dick and go to bed.

Joe sez it’s all that dope we’re doing

The Sanford administration keeps looking for explanations for the fact that we have too much unemployment in South Carolina. First, when the Employment Security Commission ran out of money for jobless benefits (the function of the tax being cut awhile back, combined with — duh — dramatically rising unemployment), he said it's gotta be the ESC's fault; they must be inefficient or something.

Now, his Commerce Secretary's come up with an alternative explanation: It's all that dope. From the AP:

South Carolina Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor has added a new wrinkle to the nation's third-highest unemployment rate by saying drug use is keeping people from getting jobs.

Taylor briefed Gov. Mark Sanford and his Cabinet on today about why he pushed the Employment Security Commission to document why people are out of work and how frequently they claim jobless benefits.

Taylor says the state needs to teach people that failed drug tests will keep them out of work for months. He says recruiting businesses to places with high drug test failure rates doesn't help.

The commission's three members face a Monday deadline to turn over information to Sanford or risk being fired. Sanford says his office will review the data before he decides their fate.

South Carolina's jobless rate was 9.5 percent in December.

Call it the Michael Phelps theory…

Of course, this has the state spin cycle up at full throttle. I first heard of the Taylor comment when I got this response from the S.C. Democrats:

Fowler Calls for Apology from Sanford for Commerce Secretary Slurs

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler on Monday called upon Gov. Mark Sanford to apologize for Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor's slurs against South Carolina’s unemployed workers.

According to The Associated Press, Taylor who Sanford appointed as Secretary of Commerce in 2006, told the governor and others attending his cabinet meeting Monday that South Carolina workers are having trouble finding jobs because of their drug use.

“Instead of looking for real solutions to our state’s unemployment crisis, the governor and his cabinet are flailing around desperately, looking for any excuse that will divert blame during this time of crisis. The Secretary of Commerce is supposed to be the state’s ambassador for recruiting new businesses, but Sanford’s pick has been a failure.  Taylor’s comments reflect Gov. Sanford’s desperation to distract attention from South Carolina’s deep unemployment problems, and demonstrate his own poor management skills in supervising the Department of Commerce, which is part of his cabinet,” said Fowler.

“Sanford would rather slur the reputation of South Carolina workers than own up to his own failings and risk his ambition to be president. He and Taylor seem to have no evidence backing up the accusations of drug abuse, they just throw it out there in hopes it will stick.”

South Carolina’s unemployment rate was lower than the nation’s almost every year from 1975 through 2000. But the state’s average yearly jobless rate has been significantly higher than the nation’s since Sanford took office. In December it stood at 9.5 percent – the nation’s third highest, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I can't wait to hear the rest of this story…

(And no, that's not a photo of Joe demonstrating, a la Ross Perot, how drug use and unemployment converge on a chart. It just looks like it. That's a file photo.)

When centrists are wrong

The Paul Krugman column I picked for tomorrow's op-ed page has some things seriously wrong with it, as do most Krugman columns: He trashes Obama for seeking bipartisan support of the stimulus (Krugman HATES bipartisanship), and he demagogues like crazy:

    What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of
American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition,
undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who
flip their houses?

In its anti-UnParty sentiment, the column could be said to have precisely the opposite message of my Sunday column. But I chose it anyway, partly because one of the main missions of the op-ed page is to give you opinions other than mine, but also because he raises, in a backhanded way, a good point: Just because someone is a "centrist" doesn't mean he's right (or she's right, in the cases of Susan Collins and Olympia Snow).

In fact, one thing I ran out of room to say in my Sunday column, but had wanted to say, was that in the case of this bill, there are centrists and there are centrists. You'll recall that I ended the column thusly:

if the president has a bill that Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Ben
Nelson of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine all voted for, the nation
would have a chance of moving forward together. And together is the
only way we can recover.

When she was proofing it Friday, Cindi came into my office to object that John McCain was not a member of the gang of "centrists" negotiating over this legislation. I said yeah, that's right. Neither is Graham. I didn't intend to say they were involed in the Nelson-Collins group. I meant to say that it would have to have even broader support than what it would take to get the Nelsons and Collinses on board.

In fact, as I would have explained if I'd had a couple more inches to work with, that particular group was guided by a principle that I thought was wrong-headed: They simply wanted to cut $100 billion out of the bill, period (or that's the message I got, anyway). Since I was worried that Krugman was right when he said in a previous column that Obama's stimulus proposal wouldn't be enough, I doubted that making it LESS, on principle, was the right thing to do.

I mean, take your pick: Spend $800 billion that you don't have or $900 billion that you don't have. How is the former necessarily better than the latter? Once you've decided that massive deficit spending is what you've gotta do, in for a dime, in for a trillion…

And yet, this press release from Susan Collins seems to indicate that for her at least, reducing the amount was the point:

After days of leading bipartisan negotiations, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Ben Nelson (D-NE) tonight announced an agreement on an amendment to the Economic Recovery Act currently before the Senate. The Nelson-Collins amendment would reduce the total cost of the package to $780 billion-$110 billion less than the bill that the Senate is currently considering.

"This deal represents a victory for the American people," said Senator Collins… "We've trimmed the fat, fried the bacon, and milked the sacred cows…"

The idea that when it comes to stimulating the economy, less is more, seems unpersuasive to me. So does the DeMint position that all you need is tax cuts. So does the position that all massive spending is good.

So is the idea that just because someone is labeled a "centrist" doesn't mean they're right. (But it sure doesn't mean they're automatically wrong just because they're centrists, as Krugman believes.)

Nobody's got the monopoly on wisdom in this discussion, from what I've seen. There are certain things I think the stimulus ought to do: It should spend money as quickly as possible and spend it on things we'll have something to show for down the line — such as physical infrastructure that we needed to spend on anyway. I think the tax cuts are going to be pretty useless because they're spread too thin for anyone to feel them. But rather than cut them out, I'd direct that money to shovel-ready, needed infrastructure. I think any cost ceiling anybody tries to place on the plan is fairly arbitrary (such as Obama's own reluctance to go over the magic trillion mark).

But there's only one thing that I think is fairly non-negotiable: This thing needs to transcend the partisan spin cyle. To turn around our economy, we've got to be pulling together. This needs to be something that the overwhelming majority of Congress can go back home and sell, something that leaves the talking heads on 24/7 TV "news" little to natter about. And I believe that goal is worth spending a little more time to achieve.

The sheriff’s dilemma

Hey, y'all leave my twin Leon alone. The sheriff's got enough problems without folks giving him a hard time for saying he wants to apply the law equally. (And no, y'all haven't been piling on so much here on the blog, but I keep reading the letters and so forth…)

That said, I find myself wondering: Is there a case here to prosecute? I mean, are there precedents that lead one to think this is a case worth pursuing?

The theory in favor of the sheriff going after Michael Phelps goes like this: A rich, white, international celebrity shouldn't skate for doing something that poor, obscure, black kids do time for. That sounds good. Equality before the law and all that.

But I wonder: How many of those poor, obscure, black kids were put away on the basis of the sheriff having heard that they smoked dope at some time in the past, accompanied by a photo that in and of itself is vague. If the alleged perp weren't admitting it, we wouldn't know that was him, or that he was actually smoking dope through that bong. (Before you scoff, I had a good friend in college — a boy from Clio, as it happens — who had shoulder-length hair, and who liked to use Zig-Zags to roll himself a joint made of pure pipe tobacco. If not for the sweet smell, no one would have believed that wasn't dope. But it wasn't. It takes all kinds to make a world, you know.)

If you make me pick a number, I'd say the number of guys doing time at the Alvin Glenn center, or in the state pen, who were put away on that sort of evidence would be approximately zero. Generally speaking, if you're not holding at the time of arrest, the cops don't bother, right? So how is this equality of the law, speaking in terms of way things actually work in the world?

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the prisons are full of people who were nailed when somebody posted a picture of them apparently toking on MySpace. I'd be quite interested to hear evidence to that effect.

Y’all listen in, now, ya heah?

Well, this is something new. I just now got down in my external e-mail far enough to see this item from 9:37 this morning:

**Press Conference Call**

White House Domestic Policy Council Brief for Southern Reporters on American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, February 5, at 1:30 p.m. ET, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, will discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan on a press conference call with southern reporters.  Barnes will discuss the impacts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan and answer questions.

WHO:              White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes

WHAT:            Press conference call

WHEN:            Thursday, February 5, 2009

                          1:30 p.m. ET

Well, looks like I missed it. (They might not have let me in anyhow, since although I'm Southern by birth and inclination, I haven't held the title of "reporter" since 1980.) So I'm left to guess. Do you think it was just like the briefing for the Yankee reporters, except they talked slower and said y'all a lot? Did they say, "Don't y'all tell a soul, but we're gonna give y'all extra heppin's of stimulus and treat the Yankees like red-headed stepchildren?" Did they use metaphors only we'd understand, involving field peas and the Chicken Curse?

I don't know; I'm left to wonder. And one of the things I wonder is, why couldn't Robert Gibbs have handled this briefing? You'd think it would be right up his alley. Although she was born in Virginia, and did undergraduate at Chapel Hill, is Melody Barnes a real Southerner? Who's her Daddy? How did she end up working for Ted Kennedy, and belonging to the New York Bar Association? Mercy sakes alive… I reckon I'd understand a heap more if Ah'd been able to listen in…

‘Buy American’

Obama has sided with Republicans and biz types in opposing congressional Democrats' "Buy American" provisions in the stimulus bill, much to the chagrin of the Big Labor lobby.

I thought I had made up my mind on this when I read a story in the WSJ that put Obama on one side, and Harry Reid on the other (my instinct in such a choice is to go with Obama, every time). Besides, I'm a free-trader, and one of my beefs with Obama during the election is that he wasn't.

But when I mentioned that this morning, one of my colleagues strongly disagreed. She said (helping you guess who it was) that if taxpayers were putting up the dough, of course it should stay in this country.

Me, I don't want to take the global economy back to a bunch of little protectionist islands. If the economy starts to recover anywhere, I want the growth to flow freely. But I saw my colleague's argument.

Then, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins (below) came to see us this afternoon, and he talked about how our good friends in the Great White North — our biggest trading partners, the people we get the largest amount of oil from, etc. — are absolutely freaking out about the "Buy American" thing. And with good reason, from their perspective. And they are our good friends and allies. So I value their opinion.

Looking around, I see that Paul "Nobel Prize in Economics" Krugman is no help — on his blog, he argues it both ways (although I admit, I understand his anti-protectionist argument better than his wonkish one to the contrary).

What do you think?

How can you tell who that is with the bong?

One thing I'll say for Michael Phelps — he had plausible deniability on the bong photo, which I didn't actually look at until today, and which you can see here. If he hadn't admitted that was him, I wouldn't know.

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that…

… except this: The Brit tabloid said, "THIS is the astonishing picture which could destroy the career of the greatest competitor in Olympic history."

Which made ME think: Hasn't he sort of already had his career as a "competitor in Olympic history"? I mean, he won the 8 medals, right? Did we think he was going to win 8 gold medals again, or what? Are we then talking NOT about his career as a competitor in the Olympics, but rather his career as what? An endorser? What?

I don't know. The whole getting-excited-about-people-as-celebrities thing is something I don't get anyway. The News of the World, judging by its Web site, probably knows way more about that stuff than I do.

Now, about that ‘zero Republican votes’ thing…

The last time they did this, I had no doubts that the Republicans were wrong. When not one of them voted for Clinton's Deficit Reduction Act in 1993, it was about as pure an example as I can recall of partisan mule-headedness and populist demagoguery. Not to mention the fact that they were wrong on the issue. Argue cause and effect all you like, the passage of that legislation WAS followed by dramatic deficit reduction. And the way the GOP went to their home districts and told everybody about how those awful Democrats had raised their taxes was unconscionable. Especially when South Carolina Republicans said it — most people in S.C. did not see their taxes increase, unless you count the 4-cent rise in gasoline tax. And what importance can you honestly attach to 4 cents a gallon when monthly fluctuations in price are usually far more than that? (Of course, you know what I think about gas taxes.)

I remember actually watching TV news — something you know I don't often do — during that vote. Somebody had Al Gore on live, and Al was as stiff and awkward and priggish as only he can be as he talked about how wrong the Republicans were not to support it, with the roll call going on in the background (I'm thinking it was the Senate; in any case not one Republican in Congress voted for it). But he was right.

This time, I'm not as sure. I'd LIKE for our elected representatives to get together on anything as big as spending $819 billion, rather than splitting along partisan lines. I mean, if we're going to do it, let's do it together — doing it divided increases the chances that it the stimulus will fail. I say that because Phil Gramm had a point — so much of the economy is psychological. If the country sees this as THE plan that everyone agrees on, the country is more likely to have its confidence boosted. If it sees every member of one of the two major parties (for now) decry it as a waste doomed to fail, we could be looking at some self-fulfilled prophecy.

That said, I don't know but what a Republican — or UnPartisan, or anyone else — who says this plan isn't going to do the job doesn't have a point. After all, Paul Krugman says it won't, and he's no Republican.

On the other hand, their reason why this package isn't quite the thing is all bass-ackwards. They complain that only about a third of it is tax cuts. Well, I'm worried that a third of it IS tax cuts, and that those tax cuts will have zero effect on stimulating the economy. I haven't seen figures yet on exactly what the tax cuts will mean to the average American, but as I pointed out before, in an earlier version, the amount we're talking about would have given each worker only about $9 a week — which is just barely enough to go to a movie. By yourself. If you don't buy popcorn.

If you're going to have a stimulus package, either SPEND enough to really kick-start the economy (and this doesn't appear to be enough), or target tax cuts to where they are likely to stimulate some real activity. Unfortunately, in trying to provide something for everybody — and then going to woo the GOP in person — Obama may have produced a solution that doesn't do enough of anything. And then, after all that trouble, you fail to get the bipartisan support that you were trying to buy with that $300 billion in tax cuts.

As for what you will probably hear them yammer about most on TV news (and in the rest of the blogosphere) — what partisan political effect this vote will have — I don't have a dog in that fight. Whether the Republicans have cooked their own goose by voting against a plan that will work, or set themselves up to be blamed for it NOT working, or are poised to recapture the House because they were the only ones to see it wouldn't work, or whatever… I don't care. I'd like to see both parties suffer in the next election, just on general UnPartisan principles. Unfortunately, I might get my wish: The stimulus could fail, and both parties be blamed — but that be the least of the nation's worries. You know what I'd be worried about right now if I were a Republican? I'd worry that my caucus just invested its hopes in economic failure — just as Harry Reid et al. bet all their chips on our failing in Iraq. That's not a position you want to be in — your nation having to fail for you to be right. But that's their lookout, not mine.

For my part, I hope the stimulus works. Or that something we do soon works. And as long as it does, I don't care who gets the credit — even a political party.

How porky can stimulus be, if Clyburn’s not getting his bridge?

There's a certain irony — not necessarily a contradiction, but irony — in the fact that Republicans are pinning their opposition to the ginormous stimulus bill the House passed yesterday on allegations that it's just a bunch of pork for Democrats' home districts…

… while the favorite public works proposal of the third most-powerful Democrat in the House is NOT included.

Yes, I get it that Jim Clyburn says it's not for a lack of political will to fund it, but rather a matter of those pesky environmentalists tying it up with a lawsuit. He maintains that if it weren't for the blasted tree-huggers, he'd have gotten the span between Lone Star and Rimini funded.

But it's still ironic. If this project that he has wanted so badly for so long can't make it into an unprecedented, extraordinary $3.2 billion infusion of federal funds into South Carolina, it's probably missed its best chance ever.

As for what IS in the $819 billion extravaganza, I have not audited it to see whether it's pork or not. It does occur to me that just about anything that would meet the standards of what the stimulus is supposed to be — extra spending, on stuff the federal government would not normally spend on, "shovel-ready" and labor-intensive — it would probably be something that someone could legitimately call "pork" if they are so inclined. Think about it: What IS pork? Generally, it means something spent in some elected representative's district that would not meet normal standards of being a national spending priority (or state priority, when we're talking pork on that level of government). Well, presumably if it were something that had been determined to be a national priority, it would have been funded already.

Bottom line, I don't know what the percentage of overlap between the two sets (good stimulus projects on the one hand, "pork" on the other) would be — say, 80 or 90 percent, just to venture a wild guess? — but it seems like there would be very strong correlation.

Or am I missing something?

Anyway, I made that point to a colleague earlier today, and he said, "Yeah, well what about this mandate that NASA spend on fighting global warming — that's not a job-producer." I said, "well, it would probably mean jobs for the engineers and techno-geeks required to implement it." He said, "but NASA already has engineers." And I said, "Yes, but if what I was reading in The Economist this morning is correct, a lot of them would otherwise be losing their jobs because Obama doesn't want to follow through on the Bush goals of going back to the Moon and on to Mars." That's gotta mean some latter-day Werner von Brauns joining the unemployment lines. (Which is a whole nother debate I may raise in a separate post.)

I don't know; we're probably both right. Which means Democrats can say this is a great stimulus bill, and Republicans say it's a bunch of pork, and nobody be lying…

Something completely different

Editorial Page Editor
Perhaps it would be a bit much to quote from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new!” How about Monty Python? “And Now For Something Completely Different….”
    There is a tension in the air today between two ways of viewing the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. On the one hand you have thousands upon thousands who have scraped and planned and arranged to be in Washington — or the millions upon millions who will be watching from a distance and with them in spirit — who are fairly vibrating, resonating with communal anticipation. This includes elderly black folk who are praising God because they never thought they’d see the day. It contains — just barely, given the magnitude of their excitement — young people of all colors who left school and jobs and suspended their lives for a year and more to work toward this day. And more conventionally, it includes Democrats who are as thrilled as any group of partisans have ever been that their guy is finally going to replace that other guy.
    On the other hand, there are those who think this is all a bit much, or more than a bit: Whoop-tee-do, they think. A guy won an election. He’s just this guy, you know. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. Nothing changes: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
    Some of the latter, jaded, unexcited group are Republicans. Pretty much all of them are white. There’s not necessarily anything bad about them; they don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade. They just sort of want it over with. As Kathleen Parker suggests in the column on the facing page, there’s just so much earnestness and idealistic hoorah that one thinking person can possibly stand as we stride forth into this new age. That doesn’t make Ms. Parker a bad person. And I know that neither she nor the others in the “this is all a bit much” set are bad people, because, well, I’m sort of one of them.
    Or at least, I was. In the last few days, I changed my mind. The cynics are wrong, and the folks who just can’t contain themselves have it exactly right.
    I wrote the editorial above. I went into it as a chore that needed to get done and out of the way — one of those obligatory editorials you sometimes do, not because you had something you and your colleagues on the editorial board were burning to say, but because the particular moment in history demanded that you take note and say something.
    You may think that writing an editorial is about figuring out how to say what you already know you think. And often it is. But sometimes, it’s a process in which you discover what you think. That’s what happened here. The more I looked and read and reflected upon where we are as a nation and how and why we got here, the more I realized how significant this inauguration is, and how it differed from the previous 13 of my lifetime.
    No, it’s not that he’s a black guy. Yes, that’s a huge milestone for the country, and worth celebrating, but if you focus too much on that you miss just how different this moment is. As I said in the editorial, the nation chose much more than a racial first in this election: “It chose youth. It chose intellect. It chose pragmatism over the constant ideological bickering of recent years. It chose the promise of action rather than stalemate. It chose, in a word, change.”
    Yes, any new president represents change. But this change is generational, and attitudinal, and fundamental. The closest thing in my lifetime was when the generation of Dwight Eisenhower handed off to the generation of John F. Kennedy, but even that falls short. In choosing Barack Obama, the nation really took a risk and got out of its comfort zone. For Democrats, the safe and obvious choice was Hillary Clinton, or someone like Joe Biden (a point that underlines Mr. Obama’s wisdom in choosing his running mate, a move that made the risk more palatable). In the general election, even the “maverick” opponent was the safer, more comfortable, more conventional choice.
    This country decided it had had enough of the kinds of politics and government that we’ve had up to now. It chose a man who was practically a novice in politics and government — which made him untainted, but also meant he had almost no relevant experience. And yet, he possessed the eloquence and demeanor and intellect and attitude that persuaded us that he could deliver on the promised change.
    And you know what? I think he can, and will. I’ve seen proof. One example, which speaks volumes: his decision to pull South Carolina’s own Sen. Lindsey Graham — John McCain’s closest acolyte, leading advocate of our nation’s presence in Iraq — into his circle of foreign policy advisers. By sending Sen. Graham with Sen. Biden to Iraq and Afghanistan, and then appearing with both men to draw attention to the fact, explaining that he was “drafting” Sen. Graham “as one of our counselors in dealing with foreign policy,” the president-elect charted new ground. He threw out the rule book of partisan and ideological convention, and he did so in the pursuit of the very best ideas, the ones most likely to serve the nation and its interests and allies going forward.
    I’ve never seen anything like this, and neither have you. This is something completely different, and yet something that, after today, we’re going to see a lot more of. And that’s a wonderful thing for this country. It’s worth getting really excited about.

For more that’s different, go to