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Well I dont want

Well I don't want to go too far off message here. But I just need to say that I don't have too many complaints with how the Bush White House has managed to resolve this China stand-off. I think they flubbed it at first. And there are things that should have been done differently along the way (repeatedly saying this could damage relations was a touch feeble).

But all that said, I give the president reasonable marks. I'm no expert on the Chinese language obviously. But from a brief perusal of the papers it would seem we expressed a measure of apology without in any way admitting responsibility or wrongdoing. (The follow-on to this will be the key.)

The more important point, however, is that (to me at least) one of the measures of national power and greatness is the ability to suffer the insecurities and feebleness of weaker powers with a measure of grace. Pace my friend Michael Lind, but indulging someone else -- in the right circumstances -- is often a sign of power, not weakness.

Sort of like with David Horowitz. His flipping out over the Daily Princetonian's calling him a racist isn't a sign of power or prestige, only a sign that he's pitiful and insecure. Or like when he flew off the handle because of a small comment about him in like the fifth or sixth article I ever wrote.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Now if you'll excuse me I've got to go write a memo for some friends on the Hill about how to bash President Bush for humiliating the nation in the China hostage debacle.

Boy am I ever

Boy, am I ever proud of my Alma Mater. Or rather my Alma Mater's campus daily, The Daily Princetonian.

As you may have heard, The Prince was one of the campus papers that agreed to run David Horowitz's laughably amateurish anti-reparations for slavery ad. But they wisely went ahead and ran it with an editorial blasting Horowitz as a self-promoting cretin.

Horowitz has now turned around and refused to pay The Prince for running the ad because he says they slandered him.

(At the end of what is actually a pretty mild editorial The Prince said it was giving the ad money to the local chapter of the Urban League so as not to "profit from Horowitz's racism.")

Now what makes me so proud about this isn't that they ran the ad or gave away the money or anything like that. It's that the folks at The Prince have managed to give Horowitz quite enough rope to hang himself. And, boy, has he ever taken the bait.

Now even defenders like the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page and Andrew Sullivan are lining up to say what a complete ass Horowitz is making of himself.

Bottom line: if your whole racket is taking a stand on free speech rights you are in a very, very weak position trying to break a contract on the basis of someone else's offensive speech.

(I mean, come on, David. Just open up the *$%&#@% checkbook and give these kids some of Richard Scaife's money already.)

Yet Horowitz's actions really aren't so much offensive or brazen as they are comic. And that gets us back to a point that has been too little made in this whole brouhaha. Horowitz isn't really so much a racial provocateur as he is a sort of freelance imbecile, a flesh and blood cartoon.

(If you want an example, take a peek at the hilarious letter he wrote to Andrew Sullivan. It's a classic.)

If you haven't actually read his "ten reasons" why reparations are a bad idea you really should. They're less offensive than they are pitiful. Sure, several of the points are tendentious to the point of falsehood (see 1, 6, 9 & 10). But what's more striking is that they're written with the sophistication of an over-eager high school student. It's not even fact-checked: item #6 refers to the "slave system that was ended over 150 years ago." (This, presumably, is a reference to that little-known 'other' emancipation that occurred in 1851?)

As the folks at The Prince did a good job showing, the proper response to Horowitz isn't offense but laughter.

Why does anyone take this guy seriously?

Well as you must

Well, as you must now know SlatePoints AG was just a ruse. The real reason the Slate.com link is there down on the left is that Slate has just started a new feature called Mezine Central, a portal (as the web jargon would have it) to what they call "the best in political weblogs."

The best includes Kausfiles.com, AndrewSullivan.com, Virginia Postrel's site vpostrel.com, and of course the grand-daddy of all political blogs Talking Points!

Actually, I think I may be the youngest of the bloggers who made the cut. And why is that important, you ask? I haven't the slightest $%&#*#@ idea.

Anyway, part of the deal was that we each put a link to slate.com somewhere prominent on our sites. And that's the answer to the mystery of the Slate.com link.

If youre interested in

If you're interested in the broader issues involved in America's policy toward China and East Asia then, by all means, read this article by John Judis, my friend and former partner in writing the Below the Beltway column for the American Prospect.

The essence of John's argument is that liberals should get over the presumption that support for Taiwan vis-a-vis China is necessarily rooted in some reactionary form of McCarthyite Cold War militarism. And not just verbal support, but selling the Taiwanese the weaponry they need to defend themselves against Chinese threats of forced reunification.

About a year ago I wrote another Below the Beltway column which made something of a contrary argument -- making the case against the wacky right-wing hysterics who want to roil up East Asia with a new Cold War. My point was that a very ill-begotten sort of American domestic politics was threatening to sow havoc in East Asia. I don't think my piece is necessarily opposed to John's. But I would say also that in the intervening year I've somewhat shifted my position more toward his.

Now, having said that, I do think there's one part of the equation to which he gives too little attention. We should be willing to sell arms to the Taiwanese to help them defend themselves. We should probably also be willing to help defend thems directly should China seek to invade the island.

But as any sane person will realize, this second scenario is one we want to avoid at almost any cost.

We want to make clear our committment to defend Taiwan enough to prevent Chinese aggression but not so much as to encourage Taiwanese recklessness or efforts to secure formal independence. And that latter danger is much more than a theoretical possibility -- as a number of events in the late 1990s demonstrated.

So, yes, sell the Taiwanese the weapons they need to mount a credible defense. But also realize the dangers of making our support for Taiwan too fulsome.

More on this later.

Alright weve been getting

Alright, we've been getting questions for a while about why there's a link down there on the left to Slate.com. Now at last we can tell you.

Here's the deal: as you know, these have been difficult times for online content providers. NBC just pulled the plug on NBC Internet -- their lame online division with the commercials featuring that svelte, fetching brunnette. And little more than a week ago Inside.com, one of the most buzzworthy web ventures out there, pulled the plug on itself and 'merged' with Brill's Content.

Well, even ventures with deep-pockets behind them can't ignore the gusting winds roiling the online sea. So tomorrow we're going to be announcing the merger of Slate.com and Talking Points Memo.

Now for the moment, we'd really rather not comment on any rumors you may have heard about this actually being a buy-out of one company by the other. As will be clear when we do the role-out tomorrow afternoon this is a true merger, as signified by the new merged company's name: SlatePoints AG.

(The AG stems from some German financing we brought in to help float the deal. We'll also be dropping the ".com" suffix from the new company name -- on the reasoning that that's just way to 1990s for 2001 and sort of has the whiff of death about it, given the NASDAQ crash, and so forth.)

Anyway, you'll still get all the same great content from the new combined venture. Tim Noah's Chatterbox column is slated to be renamed "Talking Points, Jr." as of May 1st. But Kinsley and I still have to have a sit-down with Tim and iron that out. Aside from that, most of the existing features and columns will likely continue as they are.

P.S. So what's the Slate.com link really doing there? Well, something cool; but not nearly as cool as SlatePoints AG. I'll toss up a post with the real score later this evening.

By all means read

By all means read this excellent analysis in the Washington Post of the mix of internal Chinese politics and geo-politics at play in the current spy plane stand-off. The piece is particularly good in describing the unenviable position of Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the downside for the United States if this crisis leaves him weakened.

As far as fiscal

As far as fiscal policy goes, you really don't need Talking Points so long as you keep up with with Paul Krugman's 'Reckonings' column on The New York Times' Oped Page.

Sunday's installment provides an important reality check for anybody who's getting too excited about the rebuke the Senate gave the president last week -- slicing his $1.6 trillion tax cut to $1.2 trillion.

Unlike many of my friends, I'm quite happy to give Tom Daschle & Company real credit for succeeding at the art of the possible. Accomplishing even this was a major feat -- given that the filibuster is not available for tax and budget bills. And keeping all but one Democrat on board involved exceptional legislative skill on Daschle's part.

But, look, the real problem is that they only have fifty votes. And unless and until they get a few Republicans to work with them, there's just not that much they can do.

So, a great effort. But their power is just very limited. And as Krugman points out even a $1.2 tax cut -- organized along Bush's lines -- is still a disaster.

What's so important about Krugman's piece today is his willingness to state the obvious in unambiguous terms: the Bush tax cut package is premised on a bundle of lies, half-truths, and evasions. There is really no other candid way to put it. The cuts which go to the average family are paltry. The cuts it provides for the very wealthy are great. The danger it poses to the future solvency of Social Security and Medicare is profound. And if you're thinking about a prescription drug benefit under Medicare any time soon, well, you can just forget it.

Read the article. You'll be glad you did.

Wow Did you just

Wow! Did you just see Joe Lieberman on the Evans & Novak Show?

He talked a good game and made some interesting comments on a possible 2004 run.

More pointedly, though, he was the first marquee Democrat (at least the first I've seen) to openly make the 'Hey, you didn't really get elected anyway, bub' argument against George W. Bush. Yes, there was a touch of sugar-coating. But not much.

When I get a hold of the transcript, I'll post it.

P.S. Is there going to be an acronym for the 'Hey, you didn't really get elected anyway, bub' argument? No doubt. HYDRGEAB -- not exactly euphonious, but you can't have everything.

The Talking Points mailbag

The Talking Points mailbag has been filling up with requests for a run-down of the potential Democratic standard-bearers for 2004. Who's up, who's down. All that.

One of these days I'm going to write up a long post on why a potential Evan Bayh candidacy - essentially an article of faith for many Washingtonians - is premised on an outdated view of the Democratic party, a view from an era when Democrats were so flat on their backs that they had to find their presidential candidates in states where virtually no one ever voted for Democrats

But for the moment just a preview.

Being a popular two-term Democratic governor from Indiana teaches you one thing - caution. And lots of it. But now even some of those who should be Bayh's natural supporters for a hypothetical presidential candidacy are wondering whether that Indiana-bred caution may run so deep that he just can't be an effective national leader in the Democratic party.

And consider one reason for those doubts. Much of Bayh's potential presdiential cachet is based on his association with the Democratic Leadership Council (the centrist, more pro-business faction of the Democratic party) - much is often made of the fact that he's just taken the post as chairman of the DLC, the same post Bill Clinton held when he ran for president … yada, yada, yada.

But so far the DLCers cannot seem to get him to sign on to their alternative to the Bush tax plan.

So here's what this means. Bayh is trying to position himself as the centrist Democrat for 2004. Much of this is premised on his association with the centrist, New Democrat DLC. Yet he won't even sign on to their tax cut plan because he presumably thinks it's too liberal.

The person who gets the nod in 2004 will be the one who can bridge the divide between the centrist and labor-liberal wings of the party. But apparently the centrist wing of the party is too far left for Evan Bayh.

Isn't this a problem?

Earlier I said I

Earlier I said I thought it would be a mistake even to try to ban 'coordination' between candidates and independent expenditure groups. Let me try to explain why.

Let's take a group at random. The Sierra Club or the Christian Coalition. Each group has deeply woven ties to the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. It's in the nature of things that the Sierra Club or perhaps the AFL-CIO will be in on-going close contact with the members of the Democratic party. The candidates, the leadership, etc.

It's in the nature of things, normal, expected and most importantly, right. They're ideological allies. They share common goals both in terms of whom to elect and what legislation to pass.

They will also discuss political strategy. They can't help working together towards common goals, even if they avoid explicit conversations on the topic.

Now I know this isn't exactly what the anti-coordination folks are talking about when they talk about cracking down on what they call "so-called independent expenditure groups." And I agree that among friends we might be able to agree on when someone crossed the line and when they didn't.

But that's the point.

These things aren't decided among friends. Quite the opposite. They're decided among prosecutors and their potential targets.

The problem with getting into this thicket is that politicians and political advocacy groups would, in the nature of things, constantly be operating in a gray area where they were either a) discharging their highest duties as citizens by participating vigorously in civic life or b) committing serial felonies.

Yes, some examples would fall easily into either category. But most would not, I suspect. And the serious players - game theory being what it is - would necessarily have to run close to the line.

The problem here is not that the intent of the law is necessarily ill-conceived or constitutionally impermissible - though I suspect both are likely the case - but that the enforcement of the law would necessarily be arbitrary and political.

More on this later.

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