Friday, February 11, 2005

Sports, Politics, and Fairness

Driving to work this morning, I found myself listening to Bill Bennett’s “Morning In America”, but today Bill was out sick and they had a guest host in. I tried looking up his name on Bennett’s site, but no luck, and I forget the name, so I’m simply call him “Twerp”, for reasons which should become clear in a moment.

This being Friday, Twerp decided to step away from politics and discuss the Super Bowl. Fine, but Twerp decided to deliver his opinion that Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid should be fired for losing the Super Bowl. He followed that up by wondering what Rush Limbaugh had to say about the Super Bowl.

First, the necessary personal rebuke to Twerp. You blithering idiot!!!

Now, on to why Twerp is wrong. I have been in a position to hire and fire people for most of the last twenty years. It’s not fun, on either end. You really want to find good people, just as they want to find a good job. And when it’s necessary to let someone go, you make sure you do it the right way, and for the right reason. Now, just what has Coach Reid done? The Eagles’ site says this:

“During his tenure, Reid, 46, has earned coach of the year honors twice, compiled the highest winning percentage (.629) in team history, captured three consecutive division titles and three trips to the NFC Championship game for the first time in franchise history, and registered the most playoff wins (5) in club history.
In 2003, the Eagles overcame a sluggish 0-2 start and a slew of injuries to post their second consecutive 12-win season. During that season, Reid registered his 50th career win (in his 81st game) to become the fastest coach in team history to reach that milestone. A year earlier, Reid was the overwhelming choice as the NFL's coach of the year as they thrived without the services of Donovan McNabb to still capture homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs.
After a 5-11 mark in his first season, Reid led the 2000 Eagles to the greatest turnaround in franchise history, finishing 2nd in the NFC East at 11-5 and earning a trip to the NFC Divisional Playoffs. For his efforts, Reid was named the NFL's coach of the year by the Maxwell Football Club, The Sporting News, and Football Digest.“

Ahem. Note that this is the non-updated list, that doesn’t mention winning the Division this year, winning the Conference title, and coming within a single score of winning the Super Bowl. That’s the sort of performance that should begetting praise and bonus money, not threats to his employment. I guess we should be those Olympic Athletes who only win a Silver Medal are losers, to say nothing of Bronze Medalists, huh?

OK, so Twerp is a brain-dead jerk.. What’s this got to do with anything? It’s about ego. Politics is not a good location for education. I’ve noticed a lot of mocking, at the notion that Howard Dean, John Kerry, and John Edwards might have political futures. I’ve sensed a real hubris on the part of certain big-name Senators and Congressmen, who seem to think they’ve got everything all wrapped around their pinky. But just as the Eagles will retool and plan and get ready for next year, the Democrats will be back for 2006 and 2008 – Count on it. And underestimating the other guy? Well, you don’t want to give someone else any cause to name you ‘Twerp’, I’m sure.

On to Fairness. Now that I’ve shown some respect to the Democrats, it’s time to put a boot in their face. It amazes me how Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or John Kerry can act like they haven’t lost badly to the Republicans over the past five years. At first I though it was denial, then just putting up a game face, but now I really believe they have bought into the myth of the reborn Liberal. There’s almost something to that, by the way – Bill Clinton jumped into the Presidential race less than a year after President H.W. Bush’s approval rating was 93%, Jimmy Carter was an unknown 2 years before he was elected President, and so on. But the Republicans need to impose a hard lesson about Fairness on the Democrats, the same lesson they learned over a hard sixty-plus years: When you have the White House and both Houses of Congress, you tell the other side what is fair. The Republican Party owes nothing to the Democrats, and plenty to the people who gave them the power to do something to fix the mess in Washington. They also gave them responsibility for the work, and a reminder that we’ll be watching them.

Fair is also the subject of the role of bloggers. A Christian Science Monitor story discusses the court case between Apple Computers and bloggers who share information the company wants to keep private. The question has finally come up officially: Are bloggers journalists? If not, what are their rights? If yes, what are their responsibilities? A medium which is self-checking can move very quickly, but the potential for abuse, both by bloggers themselves and by those who may gain influence with them, must also be considered. Just as there are different levels of integrity standards at different newspapers and networks, so it’s natural for bloggers to have to sort this out for themselves. In the Blog Identity series, I discussed this matter briefly, and noted that bloggers who build alliances and networks will have to be careful to work out agreements that can stand up to a more careful scrutiny than they are used to seeing.

So, what’s fair? You tell me.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Eason Jordan’s Friends

Eason Jordan, the CNN Executive who cannot manage to stick to the facts in his political commentary, has found himself in a minefield of his own making this month. According to the Truth Laid Bear, nearly five hundred blogs are actively writing on the issue, and that includes only those blogs which have registered to be tracked by the TLB system.

The crux of the issue is whether or not Mr. Jordan made the specific claim that U.S. forces deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq, while attending the Davos conference last month. Mr. Jordan has denied making the comments, and the Davos people have refused to release the videotape known to exist of the statements (how convenient). This morning, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal published an editorial on the scandal, and his words (unintentionally) convey the severity of the crisis, as Stephens tries to grant his friend a pass on conduct unacceptable to any reasonable observer.

Mr. Stephens explains his position to speak on the matter:

“By chance, I was in the audience of the World Economic Forum's panel discussion where Mr. Jordan spoke. What happened was this: Mr. Jordan observed that of the 60-odd journalists killed in Iraq, 12 had been targeted and killed by coalition forces. He then offered a story of an unnamed Al-Jazeera journalist who had been "tortured for weeks" at Abu Ghraib, made to eat his shoes, and called "Al-Jazeera boy" by his American captors.”

Let’s start with the obvious: Eason Jordan, in position to speak for the entire Cable News Network, specifically claimed that journalists had been “targeted and killed” by Coalition forces. Neither that claim, nor his “tortured for weeks” allegation, contained even a shred of truth, no supporting evidence whatsoever. On that point alone, the man should be fired, and nothing less.

Mr. Stephens notes that at the moment these allegations were made, Representative Barney Frank immediately challenged those claims, and Jordan Eason backed off, not pursuing his charges, but distinctly not retracting them, either. Instead, Jordan tossed out a couple more claims, again unsupported, in the vein that reporters felt the military had it out for them. In other words, he left his false claims hanging out there, and tried to support those lies with other claims he felt no inclination to support.

I have not written on the Eason Jordan scandal before now, because it seemed patently obvious to me that CNN has no credibility or sense of responsible journalism; that died years ago. I am writing now, because of the shameful excuses put up by his colleagues, who want America to give him a pass on unconscionable statements. Mr. Stephen’s editorial is certainly one of that ilk.

In the third paragraph of his editorial, Mr, Stephens claims:

“Already they [meaning bloggers] have feasted on the juicy entrails of Dan Rather. Mr. Jordan, whose previous offenses (other than the general tenor of CNN coverage) include a New York Times op-ed explaining why access is a more important news value than truth, was bound to be their next target.”

Imagine that. It so happens, that I saw Dan Rather on “60 Minutes II” last night. He is still pulling a paycheck from CBS, is being allowed to retire on his own schedule, and has not been forced to even admit he had involvement in the conspiracy to perpetrate a fraud against the President of the United States, for the express purpose of influencing a Federal election. The man commits a felony, and skates without so much as a reprimand. Yet Mr. Stephens would have the public believe Dan Rather was mistreated, simply for getting caught and having his fraud made public. As for Eason Jordan being “bound to be their next target”, this strikes me as especially absurd – despite prior unprofessional conduct, there is nothing to indicate any interest on the man among bloggers, prior to the Davos trip. Stephens refers to a Google search on Jordan; I wonder if he has bothered to note that all the interest in Jordan is recent? I strongly doubt it – it seems far more important to Mr. Stephens to cast Jordan as the innocent victim of a conspiracy, than admit he caused his own troubles.

The reader will doubtless expect the judgment presented by Bret Stephens on his colleague and friend:

“Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making.”

I’m sorry to have to be blunt, Mr. Stephens, but no, you are quite wrong. Mr. Jordan deserves neither credit nor forgiveness, in part because he did not, in fact, retract “the substance of his remark”, and because at his level, such unprofessional conduct must have clear, serious, and permanent repercussions, if we are to consider your profession at all responsible or credible.

Your article was illuminating, Mr. Stephens. Where before I had cause to question the integrity of CNN, I now have cause to question your own, as well.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Day of Discovery


Back in 1976, my dad got the idea that we should visit our grandparents in Philadelphia. Since this was also the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, he also decided we should see the East Coast of the United States, and so after driving more or less straight up through the heart of America to get to Pennsylvania, we returned home by the Eastern Seaboard, visiting many of the original colony states, and of course, Washington D.C.

We arrived in D.C. Friday July 2, and on Saturday, Dad decided we should visit Congress. My dad was always the sort of fellow to just assume he could do whatever seemed like a good idea, so we didn’t call ahead, but just got on a bus and walked the rest of the way to the Capitol.

Congress was adjourned for the holiday of course, especially with many celebrations for the special day (I note that the celebrations for declaring our Independence got a lot of attention, while the 1983 Bicentennial of our Constitution, which actually made the plan work, got short shrift), and so much of Congress was closed and locked up, including the offices for all the Representatives. Not at all dissuaded by this, my dad decided we should visit our Senators, so off we went to their offices.

There was nobody around for most of the offices, but the doors were open and I remember I got the strong feeling we weren’t supposed to be just stomping through the place, but my dad was at full speed and had us in firm tow. There was a desk at Senator Bentsen’s office, in which sat a forlorn staffer, who patiently explained to my dad that unless we had a meeting assigned in advance, we could not see our Senator. Undaunted, my dad set off for Senator Tower’s office. A few minutes later, we were poking our heads into rooms in a suite of offices which at first seemed to be empty. My dad found one guy with his head hunched down, working on some paperwork, his suit jacket hung on the chair back. It turned out to be Senator John Tower himself.

OK, I admit my first reaction was less than imposing – here was this short, ordinary guy in a rumpled shirt and pants, working at a desk on a Saturday. He didn’t seem to mind us coming in unannounced at all, and appeared to be genuinely pleased that we took time to see him. My dad spoke with Senator Tower for a while about bills and laws, while I craned my neck to try to see what he was writing. I suddenly realized that Tower was answering his own mail, in his own pen. Personally, my hand cramps up after a couple hundred words, so I was a little surprised to realize Tower had worked his way through more than a dozen letters when we showed up. Tower’s office was a lot like anybody else’s, and looking back I am still surprised that he didn’t have the usual ‘I love me’ trophy wall that adorns most politicians’ places. Maybe it wasn’t his regular place, but he looked at home in a normal hardwood swivel-chair, with papers everywhere. It also occurs to me now, that Tower’s office had the look of a man who wasn’t worried about image nearly as much as getting work done.

Am I saying that John Tower was some kind of people’s hero, just because we caught him at his desk on a weekend? Not at all, though it does suggest something to me that one Senator had a staffer parked out front to keep people away, while the other left his door open, and took an hour out of his day just to talk with people from his state. Of course, I give both Senators credit for being at their offices on a Saturday of a holiday weekend, when almost everybody else was out of the place. As I wait for responses from my present elected Representative and Senators, though, I think back to one little day in the Summer of 1976, when I got a personal sample of how Congress treats their supposed bosses. And for whatever else was wrong or good about John Tower, on that one day he impressed me that he was serious about his job, his duty, and his honor. Wherever you are now, Mr. Tower, I remember.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Positional Authority

There is a lot of confusion about the Middle East, especially about what comes next. John Kerry lost the election, in some part because he was not able to express a cogent plan for addressing the U.S. Foreign Policy for the region. Predictable bickering by the Left and the anti-U.S. factions has made discussion on the attendant points difficult as well, and there lies an unfortunate lapse in a unique opportunity to demonstrate a way to sort out most of the more serious problems in the region. To some degree, the Middle East campaign is a mirror of the President; clear on a gut level and moving in the right direction, but difficult to express in dialogue. Also, those who recognize President Bush's intentions, are in many cases desperate to stop him at all costs, because W's vision threatens the status quo of more than a century.

In previous articles on this region, I have commented on the history of Colonialism by Europe in the Middle East. All of Islam was at some time under the control and dominion of a European nation, to a degree to make claims of U.S. imperialism laughable by comparison. During the War from 1914-1918 in Europe, the Arab world saw an opportunity to shake off its masters, but made the mistake of trusting the British and French and Germans, which resulted in another generation under other European masters. After World War 2, new states came into being, but none (except Israel) were Democratic in nature, most accepting Kings, Sultans, or outright Dictators in control of their land and people. Most Americans are unaware that Arab nations had their governments imposed on them during the 20th Century, and this led directly to the rise of OPEC and Islamic fundamentalism (which had risen a number of times before in futile attempts to throw off secular government in favor of Theocracy), most commonly expressed in Wahabiism. Also, the Arabs followed the poor choice of trusting the Nazis during World War 2, by trusting the Soviets during the Cold War. Not all, of course, and the United States bears some responsibility for poor conduct by American oil companies, who often acted in their own capacity, making agreements with Arab nations for their own advantage.

This brings us, more or less, to 1979. I admit the quick review of Arab history to this point is overly simplistic, but I take the risk here of assuming my readers are familiar with at least the basics of Islam, Sharia, the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, the 20th Century European wars, and the rise of Petroleum exports in Economic and Geopolitical terms. For now, I want to touch briefly on recent history, which in the region is contained in the Iranian Revolution, the Iraq-Iran war, the rise of State-sponsored Terrorism and Islamic Fanaticism, the Gulf War, the crisis of Israel, and the Palestinian question. In the most essential terms, those elements showed early support for the Islamic State, the willingness of Arab nations to use and support unconventional means in hopes of chasing out both the Soviets and the Americans, the peculiar identities of the Jews and the Americans in the region's history and destiny, and the need to come to grips with everyone's needs.

When George W. Bush came to power, I do not believe that he fully understood the nature of Islamic Terrorism, of the potential for Arab Democracy, or of the opportunities he had, mixed with the dangers he faced. I think those developed with time, however. We all have lived through the history of the last decade, so there is no particular point in reciting events, except to note the unusual composition of forecs, as much political and diplomatic as military and economic. The removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan was an absolute requirement, one the President was not hesitant to pursue. He saw from that position, however, the chance to make Afghanistan something it had never been before, and this led to the elections that the Old Media has so studiously ignored for the past few months, in part because they do not believe what has happened, and in part because the Old Media is not able to understand the significance of what has changed.

From the victory in Afghanistan, Bush saw the opportunity and need to address the threat represented by Saddam, and again he was not slow to take the opportunity. This is not to say that Bush was aggressive, so much as he was determined not to let Saddam slide back into his old habits. Hussein's defiance, however predictable, was also his undoing, as the old tyrant was unable to recognize the commitment President Bush had accepted.

After the fall of the Baathists in Iraq, many thought that Bush had over-stepped. certainly we heard that claim a lot from his rivals, and from certain Arabs. Note, however, that the Arabs making those claims, when they weren't Baathists and Dictators themselves, were Kings and unelected Potentates. What they feared was not so much George W. Bush, or an Iraq without Saddam, but exactly what happened in late January: free elections.

Now look at the region. Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to commitments to stop the violence against Israel. Students in Iran are demanding reform from the Mullahs. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush specifically called on Saudi Arabia to become more democratic, and warned Syria that the United States would be watching them with well-armed observers. Some have taken these events to mean that the United States is planning another invasion soon. Possibly, but I doubt it. Many tyrants are of the ilk of Moammar Qaddafi, who agreed to relinquish his own WMD in 2003, because he saw what could happen to his country, and he wanted none of it. It won't be immediate, but it will be a true factor in future Arab events, to accept twin Democracies in the Middle East which are not Jewish.

There is a limit to what the United States can accomplish, yes. But in the right position, the United States can do more than has ever happened before in history. And George W. Bush has given the United States that positional authority.

Power only goes so far, but in some situations it goes a lot further than usual. This is true of every kind of power, and certainly in matters of knowledge and cooperation. That is, a demonstration of power can prevent the need to fight everybody, and that's the case here. Comparing conditions in 2000 and now, there have not only been incredible changes in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, and from recent events, possibly Iran and Syria. Certainly, it's refreshing to hear Arab governments which indignantly demanded the US accede to their conditions in 2000, now insist their confidence that they are ready to work with the Bush Administration. And if we pay attention to that change, the United States can build on that change to lead the entire region into the opportunity that the Bush Doctrine has made possible.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Academic Arrogance, or Moronics 101

////\\The journal "Policy Review", at prestigious Stanford University, is known for its insightful articles and dilgent scholarship. Apparently, however, the editors took a month off and let an unprincipled boor put up an ill-prepared rant under their banner.

"Stanley Kurtz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University." gushes the byline under Kurtz's title, "Demographics and the Culture War". Certainly the title is intriguing, so I gave it a read. Not long after, I had to suppress the gag reflex, as a stream of unsupported and outright false claims poured forth from the mind of Mister Kurtz (I sincerely hope that no accredited institution has lowered itself to the level of giving this man a Doctorate).

Rather than subject you, my fine readers, to the limited mental acuity of Mr. Kurtz, I simply link to the article here. However, in the interest of covering the broad points of Mr. Kurtz's rhetorical perambulations, I also present here the text of my Letter to the Editor at "Policy Review", as follows:

"While I understand the attraction some scholars place on "disaster" theories, especially on the grand scale, the article published by Stanley Kurtz on February 6 is still disappointing; one expects better on this level, and from a publication like yours.

Kurtz begins with a claim he never bothers to support with evidence, that the family as we know it is on a path to "dissolution". Sure, he cites one (!) statistic, the reduction of average children born per mother in industrialized countries. The rest is conjecture, bordering on rash hysteria. After all, the sudden rise in population growth led to adaptions in the countries affected; why wouldn't a change in the other direction also lead to correlating adjustments?

To Kutz's other contentions:

1. Getting older is NOT getting weaker. Surely a man with academic credentials understands that we have shifted from the agrarian and industrial bases of national strength to an information-based society. After all, while Kurtz is quick to note that the average lifespan has increased by 29 years since 1900, he somehow managed to consider none of the salient factors, including the fact that fewer people than ever are forced to live by brute muscle power. Education is broader and more easily acquired than ever before, and with it comes means of easier life and greater return. Most of us learned this in our freshman year of college, so it seems peculiar that a Research Fellow has missed that point.

2. Kurtz continues his parade of assumptions by regarding immigration as necesarily bad and a danger to national identity. He somehow forgets the shift in prominence of nations is at least indirectly tied to the advantage of nations with liberal immigration policies, especially the United States. We are, to be blunt, a nation OF immigrants, and have many times adjusted our policies to take advantages of a deep talent pool. It is ludicrous to believe that an examination of the effects of demographic shifts would fail to consider this element.

3. Kurtz actually contends: "By the time many professional women have completed their educations, their prime childbearing years have passed." He cites no evidence whatsover to support this, much less note the exponential growth of on-line and remote campus universities, which provide degrees from fully accredited schools in time-convenient plans. He ignores the sharp rise in home-schooling, especially combined with home-based businesses, which allows parents to raise their children while still pursuing successful careers. These alone would invalidate Kurtz's short-sighted claims.

4. Kurtz claims "no one knows what future productivity will be". That is true in any one point of reference, but overall such a claim is laughable. The New York Stock Exchange, for example, has historically grown by double-digit margins on average. The fact that one year or short run may show losses, does not at all invalidate the very real gains made in the longer term, especially when one considers that this growth is measured across all industries. Kurtz's claim simply shows he knows nothing about economics, or innovation in business practices. Further, Kurtz's assumption that functional Social Security reform would best depend on anything other than overall American business growth and productivity, as demonstrated by the Dow Jones average, merely reflects that he has completely missed the fact that Social Security depends on paycheck contributions, on those very same businesses he won't trust for dividends or share growth. Historically, Social Security has not been able to keep up with Inflation, much less provide a reasonable pension over the course of a lifetime, but stocks traditionally do very well, especially Index Funds.

In the end then, Kurtz notes a few books he likes,and pins his claims to them, however loosely. Sadly, it's apparent Kurtz lacks a similar devotion to the facts.


DJ Drummond"

I do not expect that the good folks at "Policy Review" will actually print my letter, nor frankly that they will consider my rebuttal to the insufferable Mr. Kurtz. Anyone willing to grant that man a stage is beyond reasonable measures, which brings me to the real point of this article.

One clear sign of a weak argument, is that ist proponents become increasingly angry and unwilling to discuss the facts germane to the matter. This why Socialists are able to post their claims on websites and in their rallies, but flee honest debate on their contentions. This is also why West Coast universities are able to throw out articles which are unsupported by facts or common sense. Liberals have lost the confidence of most voters, and so have fallen back to the Mainstream Media and Academia for their arguments. As MSM figureheads age and find themeselves challenged by the New Media blogs, Talk Radio, and balanced stations like Fox News, Liberals will lose that bastion over time and retreat further and more bitterly into those Colleges and Universities they stil control, where resentment of change, assisted by Tenure, will feed a continuing if smaller generation of minds to indoctrine.

But just as Racism lost the false claims to rational or empirical validation, so also Liberalism will fail to impress objective minds. Where there was some small measure of Liberal success in the FDR policies, and Conservative policiies were dismissed by vituperative comprisons to 19th-Century practices, now we see the failures of Liberal ventures, overmatched by the clear superiority of Conservative practices in Economics, Foreign Policy, and Civil Rights. In the end, people will decide for themselves, and the myth of Liberal Politics will take its place in the ash bin of foolish ventures, alongside Eugenics, Luddism, and the Pet Rock.

For now, however, we can only expect Liberalism's advocates to become more shrill and bitter. This will be evident in their reaction to American Resurgence and the rise of Democratic Republics in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and their articles will be less and less centered on facts and objective reason. In such papers, the authors will declare their direction and resolution, plain to the reader but blind to themselves, as often happens in these cases.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Politics and History

People may be forgiven for thinking the current political landscape is delusional. The Democrats seem completely oblivious to the fact that they lost the 2004 Election by any measure, with Bush retaining the White House, and the GOP increasing seats in both the House and Senate. For their part, the Republicans talk as if they had won the race for the Presidency with more than 50.8% of the Popular Vote, and seem to believe they are primed to take the sort of command in Congress that Democrats enjoyed for more than a half-century. There is, however, reason for each party’s optimism.

The Democrats are in somewhat of a more desperate position. The simple math puts them in the minority is every leg of government. The Dems, as a result, are bluffing to hide their relative weakness, hoping to get to the Midterms without significant long-term damage. They also are riding on support from their long-term allies, the liberal press and academia, where Conservatives were banished long ago. These assets are real, and have helped the Democrats many times before.

As for the Republicans, they face the same problem now, as they did during the Reagan years; most Americans consider themselves Conservative, certainy many more than consider themselves Liberal. However, that does not translate to an automatic preference for Republicans over Democrats, and there are several reasons for that dichotomy. First, while Conservative Democrats do not exist anymore in the US for any real intent, there are a number of Liberal Republicans, and this dilutes the message of the GOP. Next, politics are regional, and as Schwarzenegger’s run to the Governor’s mansion in California showed, the Republican message adapts to the culture where it is played. Democrats do the same thing,of course, and the resulting range of images which often stray from the party platform confuse people, often resulting in the “they’re just like each other” mistake. It takes a deeper look to see the larger forces at work. For here, I want to address the historical forces I recognize at work.

The Democratic and Republican Parties, compared to most political parties, are anomalies; political parties generally die out in less than a century, because they are unable to adjust to changing realities. They either accomplish their major goals, like the Federalists, and so lose any reason to continue as they have, or they fail to stay relevant, like the Whigs, and are replaced by something more popular. The Democrats, and after them the Republicans, have changed their identities a number of times, and both are likely to do so in the near future, though for different reasons.

The Democrats gained their initial identity under General, later President, Andrew Jackson. They lost national position through flaccid responses to North-South feuding, as much interstate trading as slavery issues alone, and especially when the Republicans came to power under Lincoln. Reconstruction nearly destroyed the Democrats, but with Grover Cleveland, the Democrats found new authority under a Reform mandate. The bad news for the Democrats fell in two words: Tammany Hall. In the 19th century, most politics of value to the average American was Local and State; the Federal Government of significance only in wartime. The Tammany Hall scandal matttered, because it showed that while Federal Democrats might be more reform-minded, many in control of State and Local machines were nothing of the sort. This led directly to the success of Reform Republicans like William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Republicans temporarily lost power back to the Democrats because of infighting. Teddy Roosevelt’s feuding against Taft let Woodrow Wilson gain the advantage in 1912, and with it the White House. Wilson’s policies after World War One were too high-handed for the Congress and most Americans, and it was not difficult for Warren Harding to retake the White House for the Republicans in 1920. Economic stability in the U.S. during the 1920s (as compared, for example, to the economic conditions in Europe) worked to the advantage of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover - at least until the Stock Market Crash, and Hoover’s paralysis in response.

Franklin Roosevelt became the icon of Democrat success in part due to Hoover’s poor communication skills. FDR’s economic fixes were not really the right ones, except that he had specifics to offer, and the confidence to stand behind them. And confidence mixed with eloquence is strong stuff in politics, enough to establish the Democrats as the dominant party in America for more than a generation. Enough that even though Eisenhower introduced the foundation for Civil Rights through desegregation policies and support for black leaders, it’s the Democrats who gained the most credit in most people’s memories.

But Time brings arrogance and assumption to many men. In 1968, Johnson’s moronic methods of expressing positions had undercut the support for Democrats in the South and West, allowing George Wallace to draw support away from the Democrats’ nominee Humphrey, and allow Richard Nixon to win the 1968 Presidential Election with only 43% of the Popular Vote. Nixon ran the White House largely as a fiscal and social moderate, but in the end he couldn’t overcome his personal shortcomings, and the Democrats eviscerated the man, reducing the GOP to near-destruction in the 1974 Midterms.

The Republican Party was reborn with the rise of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s devotion to the Conservative cause, provided a clear choice for Americans. In 1964 the Democrats were too strong, in 1968 and 1972 Reagan wouldn’t attack Nixon, but in 1976 Reagan came on strong, nearly defeating incumbent Ford for the GOP nomination. By 1980, Carter’s failed policies across the board made Reagan the natural choice.

But there was only one Ronald Reagan. When he left office in 1989, his successor was hardly in the same mold, and definitely not to the same scale. The Democrats were in some measure of trouble, having failed to win more than one Presidential election in the past six, but they continued to control Congress, though they were losing the scale of advantage they were used to having. Bill Clinton used the same split in support in 1992, to win the White House with 43%, in the same way that Nixon won in 1968. Two years later, the collective effect of Clinton’s policies helped voters decide to give the GOP a chance in Congress, and the House leadership shifted to the Right. Two years after that, most Republicans in Congress had failed to show in practice the differences from Democrats they had claimed in campaigns, and the Democrats saw Clinton re-elected. In 1998, the Democrats made gains in the Midterms.

This brings us to George W. Bush. Anybody want to consider what it mean in 2000, for a Conservative Republican former Governor of Texas, to come to office with Republican control of Congress? That’s why the Democrats made such a deal with Jim Jeffords, to throw the Senate back into Democrat control. And that made the 2002 Midterms critical for both parties. Traditionally, the party in control loses seats in a Midterm, but not in 2002. The Democrats then refocused on 2004, hoping to change the flow of political change. The results show they failed.

As a result, the Democrats are looking at the possibility of the Republicans adding to gains in 2006 and 2008, especially since the demographics indicate the President enjoys real support from most Americans; the Job Approval polls fail to note that Bush has increased his floor level of support since the middle of his first term. But the Republicans need to be careful to pay attention to the voters in general; the Democrats were down in 1994, and before that in 1956, and both times came back strong.

The joker in the deck may well be Howard Dean. The Democrats have correctly taken note of his fundraising and web skills, to say nothing of his organizational skills. On the other hand, if Dean takes the chair at the DNC, he will hold the keys to Democrats’ primaries, putting real obstacles in the way of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry; it will put the Democrats on a new course of radical Liberalism in all likelihood; a course likely to solidify their seats in a few Congressional Districts,. but which runs counter to the stated desires of most voters across all demographic measures. It appears the Democrats have decided to double-down, betting everything on a negative reaction to the President. The Democrats did the same thing in Reagan’s second term, but seem to have forgotten that in 1985-8, the Democrats controlled Congress; this time there is reason to believe that if the Republicans are willing to use their power as the majority party, they will be able to produce landmark legislation. That’s why I and others are interested in knowing the true priorities and goals of the 109th Congress; that knowledge will show the direction of this nation for years to come, possibly for the next generation.