Last week I wrote a column in the New York Post, which set out some ground-rules for George W. Bush’s appointments (yes, I knew it was all over even then).
The basic gist of it was this: the Democrats would resist the temptation to indulge in a lot of confirmation funny business if Bush would come to grips with the dubious nature of his election and appoint a moderate cabinet. One passage read:
He is simply not in a position to appoint more than a few token conservatives to his cabinet. Certainly none to the marquee positions at State, Justice, Defense and Treasury. And none to Cabinet positions dear to the hearts of his Democratic opposition, i.e., no paycheck-protection activists for Labor Secretary, and no supporters of regulatory rollback at the EPA.
Well apparently W. didn’t heed my advice. According to several published reports Bush is considering James M. Talent as a possible Labor Secretary. (Talent retired from congress to run for governor of Missouri this year, and lost.) Democrats should and I believe will see this as an insult, a slap in the face. Dems really care about what the Labor Department does, for obvious reasons. For them it’s not just a place to fob off ideologues and hacks who are out of a job.
Why is Talent such an objectionable candidate? Well, he’s just very, very anti-labor. Consider his congressional ratings from the National Federation of Independent Business (a conservative business lobby) and AFSCME (the big public employees’ union). In 1998 NFIB gave Talent a 100% rating; AFSCME, a 0% rating. That doesn’t mean Talent’s a bad guy (well, okay â¦ actually it does mean that.) But it does mean that he’s about as hostile to unions as you can get.
Senate Democrats should simply say, Jim Talent may be a decent guy. But he’s unacceptable for Labor Secretary, period. If Bush wants to go to war, fine. Go ahead. But they should try to make an example of Talent he if does.
The electoral college determines who is president (of course, even here Bush needed ‘help’.) But the popular vote determines who gets a mandate. And Bush’s 300,000-plus loss in the popular vote is so much less than a mandate that it’s not even funny.
So Senate Democrats should say to Bush: Listen, it’s cool you’re president and all. Someone’s got to be president. The Supreme Court says you’re president. So you’re president. But, between us, we don’t really even think you got elected legitimately. So appoint your dads buds. Put in some solid Republicans at State and Defense and Treasury. For Transportation, Commerce, Energy, have at it. Appoint whatever wackos you want. But try to push through someone like Jim Talent for Labor Secretary and we’ll eat you alive.
P.S. And in case you’re wondering. Yes, Tom Daschle reads Talking Points religiously.
I just came across this article by Deroy Murdock in National Review Online. It’s not an article exactly. More like a catalogue of all the major highlights of infantile, conservative self-pity. It even has bullet points! … We’re too nice. The Left is on the warpath. We’ve gotta learn to fight. Yada, yada, yada.
Headline: The Right’s Too Nice
Deck: Battle Stations!
Trust me, you’ll get a real kick out of it. I give it the Talking Points seal of approval!
Just about every major paper in the country ran an article this morning about Louisiana Democratic Senator John Breaux’s meeting today with George W. Bush. And the possibility that he’ll offer Breaux a cabinet post. This, of course, is part of the reconciliation-bipartisanship -be-nice-to-me-please agenda which Bush is now pursuing.
But why isn’t anyone pointing this out? There is probably nothing that Bush could do right now that would piss Democrats off more than appointing Breaux, and thus reducing their margin in the Senate to 51-49.
Breaux, of course, would be dead to Senate Dems for such an act of betrayal.
I guarantee you, if Breaux accepted an appointment, the day he walked out of the Senate, Tom Daschle would grab him and plant a big, hard kiss right on his forehead (obligatory Godfather reference).
But what about Bush? To Dems on the Hill this wouldn’t be reaching out. It would be war.
Is this intentional? Do they want to screw with the Dems? Or is this just a misunderstanding of how Washington politics differs from politics in Texas?
In a weird way I suspect it’s both.
P.S. If Talking Points is just brimming over with all these choice insights, you’re probably asking yourself, why doesn’t he write a column for some major metropolitan daily?
Talking Points spent some time last night at a conclave of Democrats (well, mostly Democrats). And the consensus seemed to be … Bad News: our beloved candidate just lost to a hapless dork who may be less qualified to be president than any candidate in the last century. Good News: our opponent for the next four years is a hapless dork who may be less qualified to be president than any candidate in the last century.
Alright â¦ alright â¦ I can live with that. That works for me.
Speaking of being in the opposition, Democrats now seem intent on making one of the first priorities of the 107th congress.
Isn’t this just great politics?
As we’ve seen, this is a very important issue. Whether or not Palm Beach county threw out upwards of 20,000 ballots in 1996 as well as 2000, it’s just an unacceptably high number. So the issue is good on substance.
But think of the politics.
Bush can’t run away from the issue, obviously. And yet what is the subtext of the whole debate? We need to reform our election machinery so that the loser in the race doesn’t slip through as the winner because a bunch of voting machines don’t work right. Isn’t that it? Even the Bush-friendly sub-text would be, we have to reform our election machinery so that the ‘winner’ isn’t hobbled and made illegitimate by faulty voting machines.
It’s win-win politics for the Democrats.
Finally, now that all the distraction is over, we can get down to the real business of the post-election period: bashing that lousy stab-in-the-back wretch Ralph Nader.
Watch for future posts.
If you’re interested in Talking Points’ take on Al Gore’s wonderful and heart-breaking concession speech you’ll have to hop on over to Feed Magazine where it was just published late this morning.
But your visit to Talking Points this morning isn’t totally in vain. Let’s go to the pictures.
Remember all that talk about the ‘rule of law’ from those election-grabbing conservative Justices on the Supreme Court?
Rule of law? Rule of law my #%$#!
Above you’ll see (in this picture from today’s New York Times) a seat-belted Justice Breyer and a seat-belted Justice Souter riding off into the evening in the gentle and protective embrace of the state.
Now this raises an interesting question. Justice Scalia certainly has libertarian impulses which might give him anti-seat-beltist politics. But what happened to strict-construction? What about the rule of law? Doesn’t the law apply to everyone?
My read here is that Scalia is just putting his politics above his respect for the law.
But then we already knew that about him, didn’t we?
P.S. Talking Points would like to give a special TPM shout-out to the two eagle-eyed Pointsters who clued him in to the political import of this pic.
Please, please, please bring back the subjunctive mood!!! I can’t take it. No more ‘if Governor Bush becomes president.’ Or ‘should Bush become the president.’ No ‘were Bush to be the next president.’ Not even the semi-heart-breaking ‘assuming Bush becomes the next president.’ We’re down to ‘when Governor Bush is sworn in â¦’ Ahhh! The fatal ‘is.’ I guess it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is. But clearly it doesn’t mean anything good.
(Uggh! Candy Crowley on CNN just said the ‘Bush Era’.)
Okay, let’s go to the Talking Points doomsday grab bag.
1. A Talking Points quote of the day. This one from Lois Frankel, the Democratic Minority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives (basically the Sunshine state Dick Gephardt).
“Let’s take our energy. We’re going to fix those machines, we’re going to register those voters, we are going to learn to vote right and come two years, we will leave no chad behind.”
Leave no chad behind! I like it. Even sounds a little like a southerner saying ‘leave no child behind.’ (Try it. You’ll see what I mean.)
2. And now to the decision. If you only read one paragraph in the whole bundle of Supreme Court concurrences and dissents, read Section A of Justice Souter’s Dissent. (Hey, don’t be so lazy. It’s only one paragraph. Trust me, it’s worth reading.)
And the most stunning part of the Per Curiam brief (the majority opinion):
“The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint member of the Electoral College.”
Section II, B
Perhaps true. But still stunning.
3. Got an email today from a friend sending me a link to a Bush parody based on The Grinch. I went and looked at it and for the first ten seconds it seemed totally moronic (and I started to wonder about my friend). But he’s right. It’s actually really funny. Take a peek.
4. And finally, inevitably, a picture. This picture comes from The Hindu, one of India’s national newspapers. I think many newspapers must have a machine called a goof-alizer. These are special machines that you run a photo through and a relatively normal-looking person comes out looking like a complete doofus. Apparently The Hindu has a damn good goofalizer. See for your self.
What did I tell ya?
P.S. I promise: after this I will get over my hurt about Gore, grow up a bit, and stop making fun of how people look.
Ugghh! I wanted to help the Gore folks see if there was any wiggle room in the Court’s 5-4 decision. Everyone is saying it certainly looks like a defeat. But equal protection, changing the law, not changing the law, standards, no standards. The decision is so complex. It takes a while to puzzle through every part.
But I think I’ve found the crucial passage. And I have to admit it looks like black letter law. In Rehnquist’s majority opinion, page 3, sub-section 4, footnote 2, it says “said recount plainly violates the George W. Bush protection clause of the United States constitution …”
Ouch! Hard to find a way around that.
Let me see if I understand this.
Florida wants to have a recount. But handling and interpreting different votes in slightly different ways is a violation of the constitutional rights of certain voters – presumably those voters who get their votes scrutinized more strictly than others. But how to come up with a standard? Ehh! Let’s just not count any of them.
Or, there’s another possibility. “Voter intent” is too imprecise a standard to insure fairness and basic equity. And every voter’s rights have to be upheld. But there’s just not enough time to work all this out. So, hey, let’s just not count any of them.
Am I missing something?
Talking Points doesn’t go in for quick-hits or cheap-shots. No childish humor or graceless attacks at other people’s expense.
But let’s just make this one exception, okay?
Look at this picture, which recently appeared in the Washington Post, and tell me whether this is the real Tom DeLay or the wax replica of Tom DeLay in the Tom DeLay Heritage Museum in Sugar Land, Texas.
Hard to tell, isn’t it?
You can send your answers here.
(Come on … You know you see it too. You know it’s funny.)
P.S. Next post, back to incisive political analysis.
Is Joseph Klock the Rosencranz and Guildenstern of this tragic saga or what? I was trying to decide whether he was the Rosencranz or the Guildenstern but then I decided he was oafish and clumsy and ineffectually devious enough to be both. (Klock, of course, is the attorney for Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.)
In the first run through before the Florida Supremes Klock’s strategy seemed to be to get in the face of the Justices as much as possible and pepper his shaky legal arguments with throw-away lines from Hardball.
He did a bit more of that today. But apparently the Cosmic Director of this sorry little show wanted to add a pinch more comic relief and had Klock consecutively misnaming Justices Stevens and Souter (calling Justice Stevens Justice Brennan and Justice Souter Justice Breyer.) Even Scalia couldn’t resist whacking him around a bit. The Supremes momentarily broke out of their heated tones to have some fun ritually hazing this hapless rube.
(I saw Olson flub a name last week, addressing one Justice when he was being addressed by another. But addressing a dead man was a particularly canny move on Klock’s part.)
There wasn’t much fun to be had in the Court for Gore-ites today. But at least Klock gave everyone a good laugh.
P.S. Did you notice Rehnquist repeatedly asking Boies whether the Florida Supremes ordered the statewide recount in the interests of ‘fairness.’ I think that was a trap. But Boies seemed to fall into it. I suspect Rehnquist thinks that decision in the interest of ‘fairness’ would on its face constitute something more than the straight interpretation of statutes that is all the US Supremes say the law allows.
This is a classic bait-and-switch. If they try to make it fair they’re changing the rules. If they don’t it’s an equal protection violation.