"A Democrat points out Rahm apologized to Shriver, but not to the liberals he called 'retarded.'" More at Politico about this tempest in a teapot.
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner always struck me a smart, level-headed guy. You don't make a fortune in Silicon Valley if you're a dummkopf. Of course, business smarts don't always translate into political smarts, as voters are learning to their chagrin today.
Poizner called a bizarre press conference in Sacramento on Monday, in which he accused former eBay CEO Meg Whitman -- his main rival for the Republican nomination for governor -- of "criminal" campaign tactics. Poizner wants the state attorney general's office and the FBI to investigate Whitman's campaign consultants.
Torey Van Oot of the Sacramento Bee reports the gory details:
GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner today said he has reported "threats" made by the Republican rival Meg Whitman's campaign adviser to law enforcement officials.
Poizner said at a press conference that Whitman campaign strategist Mike Murphy issued "crystal-clear" threats to his staff in an attempt to effectively "cancel the election" by pushing him to drop out of the race.
"This is not an attempt to be hardball and to be aggressive, but this is an attempt to effectively manipulate the election process, the integrity of the election process, by issuing these threats behind the scenes to get me not to run," he said.
The campaign provided a copy of an e-mail in which Murphy asks an unidentified Poizner campaign consultant if there is any chance Poizner, who is trailing Whitman in the polls and in campaign funds, will reconsider his run.
The e-mail, provided by the campaign to reporters and in a letter to law enforcement officials, says the Whitman camp can spend $40 million "tearing up Steve if we must."
"I hate the idea of us each spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a damaged nominee," Murphy wrote, according to the e-mail.
In the e-mail, Murphy offers that the campaign could "unite the entire party behind Steve right now to build a serious race" for U.S. Senate in 2012.
In a letter sent to the FBI, U.S. Attorneys Office, Fair Political Practices Commission and state Attorney General Jerry Brown, Poizner also claims Murphy told a senior adviser that the campaign would "put (Poizner) through the wood chipper" if he did not drop out of the race.
Poizner evidently believes Murphy -- who often appears as a guest and occasionally fills in for Dennis Miller -- was being literal. If that's so, then Poizner isn't politically smart at all.
It is true that I have been trying to find a way to avoid a costly and unnecessary Republican primary. I believe it is important that Republicans across California unite around Meg Whitman to defeat Jerry Brown in the fall. It is also true that I am not the only one with this view. Many Republican leaders are more and more concerned that the Poizner campaign, now 28+ points behind in the polls and still sinking, is becoming little more than a stalking horse for Jerry Brown and the Democrats, especially since Commissioner Poizner has been loudly threatening to run a multi-million dollar negative campaign against Meg Whitman for months.
Several weeks ago I was advised by a source close to Steve Poizner that his pollster, my old friend Jan van Lohuizen, had been expressing grave doubts about the viability of the faltering Poizner campaign. So I emailed Jan; this is the email the Commissioner is so excited about. About ten days ago I also placed a phone call to a second senior Poizner consultant. We had a nice talk and discussed the option of Poizner considering a race for Senate in 2012. The consultant offered to discuss this with Commissioner Poizner and asked for a number where I could be called back. I do not plan to make any further comment on these discussions, as I do not want to create even more embarrassment for his consultants or get anybody fired.
Judging from the Commissioner's rant today concerning the FBI and Jerry Brown, I take it the Commissioner's answer is "no."
There's more. (Murphy also expresses concern about Poizner's "mental condition.")
This is not good for Poizner, who is, in fact, trailing badly in the polls. No doubt his advisors thought he could portray Whitman as just another vicious pol disguised as a business-savvy outsider in an election year down on "politics as usual." Unfortunately, Poizner comes off as an underdog desperate to get traction. (Hugh Hewitt says much the same.)
It's really too bad, because Whitman is such a lame candidate. Her radio ads are as tedious as they are ubiquitous. She's currently traveling the country to peddle her new book of clichés. After Tom Campbell jumped to the Senate race, I had hoped Poizner would make a stronger showing. Instead, he's imploding. Just as well. If Poizner thinks Whitman is nasty, he wouldn't last five minutes in a stand-up fight with Jerry Brown or the SEIU.
Thomas Mitchell provides a terse lesson in constitutional law for his readers in The Las Vegas Review Journal:
Don't imagine what you want the Constitution to say or pretend it says something it does not.
If you, like the president, don't like what the Constitution says, amend it. An amendment banning corporate free speech probably would pass, because most people think the rest of us are too gullible to resist a message backed by money.
If that's the case, this experiment in democracy is over.
Update: President Obama on Friday said the U.S. would aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent in 2020, the Washington Post reports. Evidently, "hope" is a governing philosophy.
Cap-and-trade, or at least the version of it envisioned by the execrable Waxman-Markey bill, is in peril in the U.S. Senate. But for the moment, California is moving forward with the expansive carbon cap regulatory regime mandated by AB 32. That's even though the state's Air Resources Board knows the economic collateral damage will likely be extensive.
Although "skeptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg doesn't mention California specifically, he makes a good case in Friday's Wall Street Journal for why Sacramento should think twice about cap-and-trade and the headlong rush to slash carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020:
Despite all the optimistic talk about solar, wind and other green-energy technologies, the alternatives we currently have aren't anywhere close to being able to carry more than a fraction of the load fossil fuels currently bear. For two decades, we've been putting the cart before the horse, pretending we could cut carbon emissions now and solve the technology problem later. But as we saw in Copenhagen last month, that makes neither economic nor political sense.
If we really want to solve global warming, we need to get serious about developing alternatives to coal and oil. Last year, the Copenhagen Consensus Center commissioned research from more than two dozen of the world's top climate economists on different ways to respond to global warming.
An expert panel including three Nobel Laureate economists concluded that devoting just 0.2% of global GDP—roughly $100 billion a year—to green-energy R&D could produce the kind of breakthroughs needed to fuel a carbon-free future. Not only would this be a much less expensive fix than trying to cut carbon emissions, it would also reduce global warming far more quickly.
Are you listening, Governor Schwarzenegger? Do you care?
More fallout from President Obama's denunciation of the Supreme Court during Wednesday's State of the Union. The Wall Street Journal's editors "unpack the falsehoods" the president managed to load into three sentences:
The Court didn't reverse "a century of law," but merely two more recent precedents, one from 1990 and part of another from 2003. Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce in 1990 had set the Court in a markedly new direction in limiting independent corporate campaign expenditures. This is the outlier case that needed to be overturned.
Mr. Obama is also a sudden convert to stare decisis. Does he now believe that all Court precedents of a certain duration are sacrosanct, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal, 1896), which was overturned by Brown v. Board (1954)? Or Bowers v. Hardwick (a ban on sodomy, 1986), which was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas (2003)?
The President's claim about "foreign entities" bankrolling U.S. political campaigns is also false, since the Court did not overrule laws limiting such contributions. His use of "foreign" was a conscious attempt to inflame public and Congressional opinion against the Court. Coming from a President who fancies himself a citizen of the world, and who has gone so far as foreswear American exceptionalism, this leap into talk-show nativism is certainly illuminating. What will they think of that one in the cafes of Berlin?
I think the last point is arguable, but the bottom line is strong.
Judge not the words themselves, but their effect on the audience. The president fully expected that his hundreds of supporters in the legislative branch would stand and cheer, while the justices remained seated and silent, unable to respond even afterward. Moreover, the president's speech was only released about 30 minutes before the event, after the justices were already present. In short, the head of the executive branch ambushed six members of the judiciary, and called upon the legislative branch to deride them publicly. If you missed it, check the YouTube video. No one could reasonably believe in their heart that this was respectful behavior.
Then there is the substance of the remark itself. It was factually wrong. The Court's ruling in Citizens United concerned the right of labor unions and domestic corporations, including nonprofits, to express their views about candidates in media such as books, films and TV within 60 days of an election. In short, it concerned freedom of speech; in particular, an independent film critical of Hillary Clinton funded by a nonprofit corporation.
While the Court reversed a 1990 decision allowing such a ban, it left standing current restrictions on foreign nationals and "entities." Also untouched was a 100-year-old ban on domestic corporate contributions to political campaigns to which the president was presumably referring erroneously.
That is a whole lot to get wrong in 72 sanctimonious words.
Ouch. Just imagine what would happen if Barnett turned his attention to the other 7,100.
Finally, I can scarcely believe I agree with everything Jonathan Chait writes here. But I do!
Hillsdale College's Kirby Center in Washington D.C. sponsors an excellent monthly speakers' series called "First Principles on First Fridays," in which Hillsdale academics or friends of the college discuss Big Questions. All of the talks are online and available for download as podcasts. I'm currently listening to Larry Arnn's November talk on The Crisis of American Constitutionalism. Good stuff.
CNN's State of the Union focus group reveals that independents are tired of "hope." Notes the American Spectator's Philip Klein, "As always with focus groups, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt." It's nice to know, however, that I'm not the only one who has a negative visceral reaction to the word in almost any context.
Still, one shouldn't get too cocky about President Obama's apparent reversal of fortune among independents, because that would be racist, says San Francisco Chronicle blogger Zennie Abraham:
But when the hangover from the SOTU cleared, and the GOP realized what happened, some conservatives went for the racial-code-word jugular and sounded like White Supremacists in the process.
One such example is Red State's Erick Erickson.
In his Red State blog post, Erick Erickson used a word that's has a totally racist connection to describe President Obama's delivery: "cocky."
What you did not know at home listening to Barack Obama's speech tonight is that he inserted a few quips that were not in the prepared text. They were cocky and snide.
Erick Erickson, forgetting that Barack Obama is President of The United States, or perhaps upset about it, echoed the same views expressed over at the White Supremacist website Stormfront....
Abraham proceeds to quote from some obscure racist nobody's ever heard of, and concludes:
In other words, Erick Erickson and Red State apparently think that this African American President needs to be "slammed back" because he's too "cocky" and presumably like other black men should know his place.
Apparently, Nat X moved to San Francisco and started a blog when The Man took his show off the air.
Does anyone seriously buy these tendentious claims anymore? Anyone who is not wholly invested in the race hustling racket, I mean? Good grief.
The mighty Hadley Arkes makes a brief but compelling case at the Corner for abandoning the State of the Union's "monarchical" format.
Arkes is on to something. (Mark Steyn agrees and riffs on the idea a little more.) The annual spectacle Americans know today is an innovation that dates only to Woodrow Wilson. The Constitution says only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." Until the vainglorious and megalomaniacal Woodrow showed up, every president simply wrote a report and sent it over to Capitol Hill. The old way was better.
I didn't watch Obama's address live; I heard a few minutes of it on the radio. And then I read the full text before I listened to more audio today. It reads better than it sounded.
Politics is tribal, and we often give our support and our votes to people with whom we most closely identify. I count myself a fellow Declaration of Independence conservative in the John Eastman tribe.
I heard a few weeks ago that the dean of Chapman University Law School was contemplating a run for attorney general of California. Last week, Eastman told Legal Newsline that he's the best candidate "to fix the mess that Jerry Brown has created for us." And now he has launched a Web site to help raise awareness and funds for his campaign. (He needs to get his Twitter feed up to speed, though.) I'm not sure I can send Eastman any money on my meager freelancer's wages, but I'm happy to lend my support in just about any other way.* That doesn't mean you shouldn't pony up, however.
Some Californians will know Eastman from his weekly appearances on the Hugh Hewitt Show. (Update: Here is audio of Eastman's hour with Hugh discussing his candidacy the other day.) I know and previously worked with Eastman at the Claremont Institute, where he was director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and I was director of publications and managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books. Eastman has a long and distinguished career as a constitutional lawyer. His writings and amicus briefs are extensive and impressive. He clerked for Clarence Thomas. I've no doubt that the Democrats will try to smear Eastman as an extremist. (He's actually given speeches to the Federalist Society -- quelle horreur!) He isn't.
In an election year in which voters are more skeptical than usual of career politicians, Eastman is a highly attractive and rare sort of candidate: A competent outsider. And he's a good man. I look forward to voting for him in June and again in November.
* (In case anyone is wondering, no, he didn't put me up to this post. I think I saw John briefly at a Claremont event last spring, and I haven't corresponded with him since September 2008. I did send him an e-mail a few weeks ago when I first heard that he was exploring a run, but he has yet to reply. Not complaining; just saying. Update: E-mail answered!)
Just how unprecedented was President Obama's pointed criticism of a Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address?
Tony Mauro of the Legal Times has an informative post that looks at the way presidents since Woodrow Wilson have treated the Supreme Court in their annual addresses to Congress. Bottom line: It "was beyond unusual; it was almost unprecedented."
The operative word here is almost.
I discovered that Mauro piece by way of Glenn Greenwald's mendacious, hypocritical and utterly shameless denunciation of Alito at Salon. Here is a writer who has gleefully joined in the orgy of politicization of the court now denouncing the politicization of the court. I found myself shaking my head and mouthing "not true" from the first paragraph. But, hey, credit where it's due.
Tangina Barrons has joined Carol Anne in the light.
Or, rather, the actress who immortalized the character in three Poltergeist films has gone to her reward. Zelda Rubenstein was 76.
The diminutive Rubenstein did cartoon voice work before making her debut in the atrocious Chevy Chase-Billy Barty vehicle, Under the Rainbow. She went on to roles on television, including most memorably as the sheriff's radio dispatcher in Picket Fences.
But this will be how millions of fans will remember her:
(More Rubenstein clips here.)
At 47, Rubinstein -- a Pittsburgh native, Zaius will be happy to know -- abruptly decided to end her career as a medical technician. She told an interviewer:
“I had no idea what I would do next, but I knew it would involve advocacy for those people who were in danger of being disenfranchised,” she said. “I wanted a platform to be visible as a person who is different, as a representative of several varieties of differences. This is the most effective way for me to carry a message saying, ‘Yes you can.’ I took a look at these shoulders in the mirror and they’re pretty big. They can carry a lot of Sturm und Drang on them.”
Rest in peace, madame.
The takeaway from President Obama's first official State of the Union address may not be the (bogus) spending freeze, his call for a jobs bill, education reform, or the pledge to end the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Rather, the most significant moment was this passage from the speech assailing the Supreme Court's decision last week in Citizens United v. FEC, and Justice Samuel Alito's reaction to it:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
Nice touch there with the bit about "all due deference."* Just after Obama finishes saying "including foreign corporations," Justice Alito -- who is already shaking his head -- can clearly be seen saying the words, "Not true."
As more than one blogger has pointed out, this is another "Joe Wilson moment"... not for Alito, but for the president. Rep. Wilson of South Carolina famously shouted "You lie!" from the gallery last autumn when President Obama last addressed a joint session of Congress on health care reform. Specifically, Wilson objected to Obama's claim that the bill then under consideration would not cover illegal aliens. Wilson's outburst may have been indecorous -- and he did subsequently apologize -- but it also had the virtue of being true.
Although Alito's more dignified retort may have appeared awkward to some -- Orin Kerr, Kashmir Hill and Allahpundit are among those who think the justice should have sat in silence and let the president "demagogue the First Amendment" -- he was also telling the truth.
The president, however, was not.
Bradley Smith, former FEC commissioner, says flatly: "The president's statement is false."
The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making "a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election" under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any "expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication... ."
In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen [sic]? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.
But perhaps the most subtly devastating reply to Obama's attack comes from none other than the New York Times' former Supreme Court correspondent, Linda Greenhouse:
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.
But this was a populist night and the target was irresistible. There are a variety of specific proposals floating around to address the Citizens United decision. The president offered no specifics and did not endorse any of them. Just as the decision doesn’t lend itself to a sound bite, neither do the fixes.
Greenhouse tries to offer the best possible spi... er, interpretation of what the president said, but there can be no denying that he botched a cheap attempt to score populist points. Worse, this one brief moment may completely overshadow everything else he attempted to do with the speech. If none dare call it "arrogance", may we at least call it folly?
* By the way, I reject the view that Obama's critique of the Supreme Court is somehow unprecedented or especially alarming because of the venue in which he made it. Here's an example of what I mean from The American Spectator's blog: "Has a president ever attacked The U.S. Supreme Court like that in such an august setting?" I don't know the answer to that, but I'm sure some enterprising blogger will fill us in before breakfast. (Update: See here.) Clearly, American history is replete with examples of U.S. presidents battling the High Court for political supremacy. Andrew Jackson, anyone? And as Kevin Mooney points out in that Spectator post, "President Franklin Roosevelt's attacks on the judiciary ultimately worked to his political disadvantage back in the 1930s." Obama can expect no different.
Good news from Menifee, where parents and school district officials have come to their senses about Webster's dictionary. The Press-Enterprise reports:
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary will return to fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School, a committee of Menifee Union School District parents, teachers and administrators decided Tuesday.
An alternate dictionary also will be placed in the classrooms, and parents will have the option of choosing which dictionary their child can use, Superintendent Linda Callaway said in a statement about the committee's decision at a school board meeting Tuesday.
School officials pulled the Merriam-Webster dictionaries from classrooms last week after an Oak Meadows parent complained about a child stumbling across definitions for "oral sex."
The decision to offer both dictionaries was made by a committee of about a dozen school administrators, teachers and parents. School board policy calls for such a committee to be formed when classroom materials are challenged.
Here's a PDF of the school district's statement on the resolution. I'm pleased that Menifee's elementary school kids will continue to have access to first-rate dictionaries. Their teachers and administrators, however, could use a remedial course in writing simply and directly.
Menifee's absurd dictionary ban made me reach for my own copy of Webster's -- I don't actually have the "controversial" Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition in my library, but I do have a copy of Webster's II New College Dictionary. And therein lies a short story.
The dictionary was a gift from my late friend Chris Warden, on the occasion of the birth of my son Benjamin. Chris loved the language; he knew I did, too; and so he expected I would impart that love to my first-born. Lord knows I'm trying.
Truth is, I had forgotten where this dictionary came from. And so I forgot what Chris wrote on the flyleaf. Here it is:
To combat consternation
Calm, cool cerebration
A concatenation of confusion
Conspires with chaos, a constant collusion
Yet a conservative confluence
of candor and comprehension
Will compel composure, commute contention
Collect the truth
Claim your faults
A happy accident... and a charming, bittersweet reminder of Chris's wit and wisdom.
A follow-up to the story yesterday about Menifee Union School District pulling Merriam-Webster's dictionary from some classrooms obscures more than clarifies. Today the Southwest Riverside News Network reports, contrary to previous accounts:
1) Only one school in the district removed the dictionaries from its fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, not all schools districtwide.
2) Although one parent, a classroom volunteer, discovered "oral sex" in the dictionary, several other parents in the district raised concerns about "age-inappropriate" content.
3) But! It turns out the term "oral sex," which set off the hullaballoo in the first place, does not in fact appear in the dictionary. That's a real head-scratcher...
4) What's more: "The term 'oral sex,' which the initial parent complaint was about, is not a term that is never heard or written," said Joan Bertin, executive director for the New York-based National Coalition against Censorship.
Say what now?
The story closes with a nugget of clarity (sort of): "A committee to review the dictionary and decide if it should be permanently removed is expected to begin meeting within the week.... According to (school) board policy, the committee may take up to 30 days to review the complaint and decide on its educational appropriateness and its suitably for fourth and fifth grade readers."
My preference would be for the board to simply leave the dictionaries where they are and forget this ever happened. I'd wager that this kerfuffle has had salutary effect of sending every fourth and fifth grader who's gotten wind of the story scrambling for mom and dad's dictionary, in search of the forbidden fruit. And if they've encountered such words as cunctation, fucoid, Mother Hubbard, oracular, shist, and titian along the way, so much the better. Language wins!
Turns out, that's Herbert's lead -- RCP appropriated it for the headline; the Times's head was "Obama's Credibility Gap." Meh.
In any event: Who is Barack Obama? Who is Barack Obama?!?
Here's Herbert walking down a well-trodden path:
Americans are still looking for the answer, and if they don’t get it soon — or if they don’t like the answer — the president’s current political problems will look like a walk in the park.
Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist.
Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.
In danger of being perceived as such by whom, Mr. Herbert? Independents? They're already disaffected. Leftists? Depends which leftists you talk to, I guess. Rank-and-file Democrats? Maybe. But once you've lost the hard-core activists and the fickle independents, where does that leave you?
Right about here.
*With apologies to James Taranto.
Good news! The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is getting smaller. "Emergency spending to combat last year's recession combined with a muted recovery will push this year's federal budget deficit to $1.35 trillion, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday," according to our friends at the Washington Post.
What's that? You say the news is freighted with caveats and exceptions?
"The figure represents a slight improvement over previous projections but would still be one of the deepest budget holes since the end of World War II."
Well, sure. Even so, the deficit is headed in the right direction and as long as the economy continues to improve, the numbers aren't likely to get any worse, right?
"And the numbers, the CBO notes, are likely to get substantially worse."
Oh... dear. And why is that, exactly?
"This year's deficit -- which is only slightly lower than the $1.4 trillion the government racked up last year -- would continue to expand if Congress approves additional spending this year. The House, for example, has already approved a jobs measure costing more than $150 billion, and the Senate is considering a package of tax cuts and social safety net programs that would cost more than $80 billion."
The other problem is taxes, which are likely to go up if Congress and President Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire and do not make the necessary adjustments to the alternative minimum tax to spare millions of middle-income earners from an unpleasant surprise. Genuine tax reform isn't on this administration's agenda.
Although the CBO says nothing about President Obama's proposed three-year spending spree, the Post notes the move "would save only about $15 billion next year but as much as $250 billion over the next decade." That doesn't even cover a fraction of the U.S. debt payment.
Never mind. Party on.
Stories like this drive me crazy -- almost as crazy as schools' insipid, mindless zero-tolerance policies.
The Press-Enterprise reports that the Menifee Union School District in southwest Riverside County has pulled Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves last week. Why? Naughty words -- or, as the district put it, "age-inappropriate language."
According to the P-E, which first shared the story Friday:
After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across "oral sex" in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.
School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.
"It's just not age appropriate," said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.
"It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.
First, I can't believe it took school officials this long to figure out that the dictionary includes vulgarity, profanity and obscenity. My word-nerd buddies and I made precisely the same discovery 30 years ago. We were hardly pioneers. (Parochial school students have a variation on this; i.e., scanning The Song of Solomon for "the good parts." You know what I'm talkin' about!)
Second, I really cannot believe that one parent spurred the district to such drastic action. Apparently, neither can some members of the school board:
Board member Rita Peters questioned why one parent's complaint would lead the district to pull the dictionaries.
"If we're going to pull a book because it has something on oral sex, then every book in the library with that better be pulled," she said. "The standard needs to be consistent ... We don't need parents setting policy."
Peters said if the dictionary quarantine is setting a precedent, a committee should be formed to review all school books for age-appropriateness.
I would dissent slightly from Peters' blanket conclusion about the role of parents in district policy-making. Surely parents should have input. But this is simply absurd. I wish this busybody -- whom the story mercifully does not identify -- had trained her righteous indignation on something... oh, I don't know, useful.
A parent with three kids in the district makes the perfectly sensible point that the dictionary isn't the problem here.
“You want to dumb down the kids? You don’t create lifelong learners by sticking them in a box and telling them what books they can read,” Jason Rogers told the Southwest Riverside News Network. “That is not the worst word in the dictionary. Kids are going to be exposed to things, and it is the parents’ job to explain it to them, not the teachers’ or the school district’s (job).”
“It is not such a bad thing for a kid to have the wherewithal to go and look up a word he may have even heard on the playground. To me it is brilliant,” he added.
Sounds like a man after my own heart.
Mary Elizabeth Williams makes sport of the Menifee puritans in Salon today: "Those kid these days! With their sexting and their pregnancy pacts and their dirty book reading. I mean, Jesus, have you taken a look at this thing called Merriam-Webster's 10th edition? It's like an R. Kelly album."
If you want to know what other corrupting words are lurking in the pages of Webster's, Williams has an extensive (but hardly exhaustive) list.
Meanwhile, over at the Huffington Post, Jayne Lyn Stahl sounds as shrill as the Menifee parent who complained in the first place. "[S]hould the school district's committee decide to make the egregious act of pulling dictionaries from school shelves school policy," Stahl warns, "no educator in Menifee will be able to teach seventh grade American history without also removing the Bill of Rights."
(She also thinks it's no coincidence that banning the dictionary in a small district in Southwest Riverside County comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. SEC. I'm not joking. The better comparison would be to Apple.)
Newspapers as far flung as the Guardian in London have noted the story. I expect the mockery is flying fast and furious by now. The question is whether the district will have the good sense -- or the shame -- to let the matter drop and put the dictionaries back on the classroom shelves.
(Thanks to Chris Rywalt for noticing the story and sending it along to me.)
Update: L.A.'s NBC affiliate just aired a story about the row. It's safe to say that Menifee is now the lamest town in the universe. Sorry, friendly acquaintances in Menifee!
Peter Schramm, an American born in the wrong place, is one of the finest conversationalists I've ever encountered. Peter has a knack for reminding -- sometimes none too gently -- those of us who grew up spoiled and coddled in American comfort that whatever ails the Republic in places like Washington D.C. and Sacramento does not necessarily afflict the far reaches of the Republic.
"Sometimes the educated-sophisticated class gives us the impression that we are on a downhill slide toward collapse and degradation and are about to give up governing ourselves," Peter wrote Sunday at No Left Turns. "I actually don't need election returns from distant states, or a good Supreme Court decision, to remind me that we are still capable of governing ourselves. I just have to go to places like Winesburg (and they are everywhere)."
Behold Conrad Black, writing from a federal prison cell in Sumter County, Florida, laying waste to Barack Obama's first year:
The burning question after the Massachusetts Senate election is whether the administration responds by making a course correction to survive politically by jettisoning its policy core and cleaning up its methods, or 'doubles down,' as President Obama has implied, and escalates the ideological and guerrilla war for direction of public policy. This was a referendum on the Obama administration, including health care, not just on health care. Even less was it just the rejection of an astonishingly unappealing candidate, predestined to glory as a trivia question. John F. Kennedy took that seat with lashings of his father's money in an anti-Brahmin revolt against Henry Cabot Lodge in 1952, and was reelected by 864,000 votes in 1958. In the intervening years of Teddy Kennedy, the Democrats could have won with a candidate not confined to two legs and one head. This was less a wake-up call than a Te Deum for a dying and sweaty dream.
The president has three principal problems. He is well to the left of the public and of what he promised the voters in 2008, and it is an old, passe leftism, that is authoritarian, deviously presented and was discredited in this country decades ago; the sort of nostrums that caused Bill Clinton and others to become 'New Democrats.' He is increasingly perceived as having credibility problems and of being cold, cocksure, narcissistic and intoxicated by what he modestly called 'the gift' of his own articulation. And as president, he has been quite, and quite surprisingly, incompetent.
And that's just the first two paragraphs.
(Hat tip: Steve Hayward, who says of Black's piece, "Haven't seen scorn this lively since R. Emmett Tyrrell's serial demolitions of Jimmy Carter 30 years ago.")
The seismic events of the last few days ends, in some respects, the phony war of the first year of Obama's presidency. As is the case in truly fracturing democracies, the opposition simply does not and cannot accept the fact that it is out of power.
...But the truth is that these forces have also been so passionate, so extreme, and so energized that in a country reeling from a recession, the narrative -- a false, paranoid, nutty narrative -- has taken root in the minds of some independents. Obama, under-estimating the extremism of his opponents, has focused on actually addressing the problems we face. And the rest of us, crucially, have sat back and watched and complained and carped when we didn't get everything we want. We can keep on carping if we want to. But it seems to me that continuing that... is objectively siding with the forces of profound reaction right now.
The prescription: Physician, heal thyself.
Troubling news from Fairbanks, Alaska, where tempers are flaring in the drive-thru lane.
The Associated Press reports a man who hit a Taco Bell manager in the face with a double-decker taco has been sentenced to one day in jail and one year probation.
This was no random taco assault. The assailant, Warren Strickland, claims Taco Bell miscreants spit in his food because they couldn't get his $1.49 taco right. The manager accused him of lying to get free food.
Strickland also has to pay a fine and -- constitutional lawyers, take note -- is banned from Taco Bell for a year.
Next time, Warren, just throw it on the ground.
Mark Helprin has a new piece in Friday's Wall Street Journal warning against repeating the mistakes of the past while reacquiring some old habits as the country emerges from the Great Recession:
How things will turn out is anyone's guess, but it would be nice if, as in the quiet during and after a snow storm, Manhattan would reappear to be appreciated in tranquility; if cops, firemen, nurses, and teachers did not have to live in New Jersey; if students, waitress-actresses, waiter-painters, and dish-washer-writers did not have to board nine to a room or like beagles in their parents' condominia; if the traffic on Park Avenue (as I can personally attest it was in the late 1940s) were sufficiently sparse that you could hear insects in the flower beds; if to balance the frenetic getting and spending, the qualities of reserve and equanimity would retake their once honored places; if celebrity were to be ignored, media switched off, and the stories of ordinary men and women assume their deserved precedence; and if for everyone, like health returning after a long illness, a life of one's own would emerge from an era tragically addicted to quantity and speed.
Two news items in California, both outrages committed in the name of environmental and species protection at the expense of real people and genuine prosperity.
• First item: "'Two Gates' proposal for delta is put on shelf"
According to the Modesto Bee and the Associated Press, the U.S. Interior Department has put the brakes on a pilot plan that would have placed two removable gates in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta aimed at preventing the threatened delta smelt from getting mulched by water pumps. Under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act, federal courts have drastically slashed the amount of irrigation water delivered to farmers in the drought-plagued Central Valley. The result? A government-made dust bowl.
"Department of Interior officials say the project had to be put off so experts could review the science underpinning the project," the AP explains. Meantime, unemployment in some areas tops 40 percent as fields go fallow. Thank goodness for El Niño!
Modesto Bee columnist Jim Boren wonders why Reps. Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza, the two Central Valley Democrats who represent the area hurt most by the drought, continue to support President Obama's agenda. Reconsidering their support, Boren writes, is "probably the only leverage Costa and Cardoza have with an administration that has gone back on its word on finding ways to help San Joaquin Valley farmers get increased water supplies."
Maybe so. I can think of a few other questions: Where are Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein? Where is Nancy Pelosi and why do Costa and Cardoza remain loyal to her? What took them so long to become active on the issue? And why do the people continue to vote for those clowns?
• Second item: "Environmentalists sue over state attack on moth"
This one is a bit more complicated. The state agriculture department is trying to stop the light brown apple moth from infesting berry crops, which are a huge economic driver for the Golden State. (California strawberries alone are a $1.8 billion industry.)
The Sacramento Bee reports that two Northern California groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday to stop the agriculture department from using a chemical pheromone to disrupt the male moth's pursuit of the female. According to the story:
A lawyer for the Pesticide Watch Education Fund out of Sacramento and San Francisco and the Davis group called Better Urban Green Strategies (BUGS) said he doesn't know for sure what sort of environmental threat the substance called pheromone might present. Rather, attorney Donald B. Mooney said, the state's exemption of itself from California Environmental Quality Act review is an abuse of the process.
"All the lawsuit seeks is that they comply with CEQA before they initiate the program," Mooney said.
Now, CEQA is a nightmare law. How bad is CEQA? The law is so onerous that even Jerry Brown criticized it in a speech last year. (Don't worry, Brown didn't renounce his green fanaticism; he was just pandering to the crowd.) So the lawsuits are certain to delay any effort to control the spread of the moth.
State agriculture officials say the pheromones pose no threat to public health. Trouble is, the state may be exaggerating the threat of the moth.
"We're talking about a pest that is a superficial feeder. It just causes light scarring on fruits and doesn't really affect ornamental plants at all," Jeff Rosendale, owner of Soquel Nursery Growers, explained to MetroSantaCruz.com for a 2007 story about the controversy. "The berry growers haven't said there's a really big problem and the apple growers haven't said anything. I don't think we'd even know it was here if it hadn't been discovered by a retired entomologist."
Given the high economic stakes, however, agriculture officials and regulators don't want to take any chances. So either the state is overreacting with an expensive program yielding mixed results and placing onerous additional burdens on growers and sellers, or environmentalists are putting California's multi-billion dollar berry crop at risk with their CEQA lawsuits. In any event, farmers take a hit, the economy continues to suffer, and consumers lose.
George Will, The Washington Post:
On Thursday... the Supreme Court, in a gratifyingly radical decision, substantially pushed back the encroachments that the political class has made on the sphere of free political speech. This was radical only because after nearly four decades of such "reform" the First Amendment has come to seem radical. Which, indeed, it is.
Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School and the Volokh Conspiracy:
Corporate money has already long been in politics; the most influential actors in most political campaigns are corporations. I speak here of media corporations, such as the one that owns the New York Times.... The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision simply means that other corporations, and unions, will enjoy much the same First Amendment rights that media corporations have. My guess is that most business corporations will not exercise those rights to nearly the same extent that media corporations have.
(Also see Volokh's interesting post speculating further on the effects of Citizen's United on the mainstream media.)
Richard Hasen, Loyola Law School and the Election Law Blog:
Though the decision deals with federal elections, expect state and local corporate and union spending limits to be challenged, and to fall, throughout the country. There are many responses to Justice Kennedy's reasoning. He wrongly assumes that corporations or unions can throw money at public officials without corrupting them. Could a candidate for judicial office, for example, be swayed to rule in favor of a contributor who donated $3 million to an independent campaign to get the candidate elected to the state supreme court? Justice Kennedy himself thought so in last year's Caperton case. And yet he runs away from that decision in today's ruling. Justice Kennedy acknowledges that with the "soft money" limits on political parties still in place, third-party groups (which tend to run more negative and irresponsible ads) will increase in strength relative to political parties. And that possibility raises the real chance Congress will repeal the "soft money" limits, thereby increasing the risks of quid pro quo corruption.
Allison Hayward, George Mason University:
The Court finally took the issue of whether the Constitution protected independent spending by corporations head on. Good for the Justices. Notwithstanding the fact that this ban has been in federal law since the 1940s, and lived on with a wave to past court decisions that paid insufficient attention to the constitutional rights being burdened, the Court stepped up. No doubt some will call this activism. I think it was the responsible course to take.
Lyle Denniston, SCOTUS blog:
While the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom are far from absolute, any time a legislative or other government body attempts to curtail those freedoms, the effort starts with a decidedly negative outlook. Such restrictions come with the heaviest burden of proof of necessity that any governmental act must put forth in order to win judicial approval. And, on Thursday, the Court simply made that burden a good deal heavier in the realm of curbs on political speech, in the form of spending money on campaigns, or otherwise.
Doug Kendall, the Constitutional Accountability Center:
The Court sweepingly rejected limits on corporate electioneering expenditures on constitutional grounds. The only ways to truly "fix" the Court's ruling in Citizens United are to change the Constitution to expressly permit restrictions on corporate campaign spending or fight a long-term battle over the future of the Supreme Court, eventually producing a ruling overturning today's profound error. Only the latter option is plausibly successful.
Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21:
Today’s Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case is a disaster for the American people. It will unleash unprecedented amounts of corporate “influence-seeking” money on our elections and create unprecedented opportunities for corporate “influence-buying” corruption.
Jacob Sullum, Reason:
The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United... is a decisive victory for First Amendment rights, much more dramatic than most people expected when this case got started. ...(T)he Court rejected the very notion that the First Amendment allows the government to discriminate against speech by groups of people organized as corporations....
Instead of prolonging this chilling effect by issuing another ruling that narrows BCRA's speech restrictions with uncertain practical consequences, the Court chose to throw out the restrictions entirely, along with the misbegotten, dangerous logic underlying them.
Bart Gall, Institute for Justice:
The Founders’ crucial insight was that politicians, under the guise of acting in the public interest, will always attempt to censor effective political speech that could negatively impact their power and chances for re-election. Thus, it is them, not corporations or other speakers, from whom Americans need protection. Accordingly, the Founders, in language that could not be clearer, enshrined within the First Amendment the requirement that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.”
By striking down federal restrictions on corporate speech in Citizens United, the Supreme Court has demonstrated that it understands the meaning and importance of this simple command. If this understanding continues to elude “reformers,” then perhaps it is not the public’s mental prowess they should be questioning.
How in the world will the republic survive the Supreme Court's decision today? Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who favors free speech except when it matters, vowed (in so many words) to unleash a terrible vengeance in retaliation.
"In the coming weeks," Feingold said, "I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible." (Trust me, that's as much a threat as it is a promise.)
And New York's Chuck Schumer assailed the court's "activist and far reaching decision," which, he claims, "opens the floodgates and allows special interest money to overflow our elections and undermine our democracy." Schumer, who knows a thing or two about special interest money, and his colleagues would have Americans believe that the court's modest decision Thursday fundamentally alters the way campaigns are financed in America. But all of the hemming and hawing about "opening the floodgates” ignores the reality that the floodgates have always been open. The flood of money and influence-peddling had simply flowed through different channels to the same destination.
As Roger Pilon counsels at Cato's At Liberty blog, let's all take a deep breath and dispel one big myth about what the justices did and didn't do: "(C)orporations still cannot...contribute directly to campaigns." More importantly, Pilon writes, this business of curtailing the First Amendment in the name of preventing "corruption" should be put away once and for all.
Half of our states, states like Virginia, have minimal campaign finance laws, and there’s no more corruption in those states than in states that strictly regulate. And that’s because the real reason we have this campaign finance law is not, and never has been, to prevent corruption. The dirty little secret — the real impetus for this law — in incumbency protection. How else to explain the so-called Millionaire’s Amendment, which the Court struck down in 2008. That little gem in the McCain-Feingold “reform” package exempted candidates (read: incumbents) from the law’s strictures if they were running against a self-financed “millionaire,” who could not be prohibited from spending his own money campaigning. Thus, the nominal rationale for the incomprehensible edifice we call “campaign finance law” — to prohibit corruption — suddenly disappeared if you were running against a millionaire. Well, the Court, fortunately, saw right through that. And a majority on the Court saw the light in today’s decision, too. The First Amendment is not a “loophole.” It’s the very foundation of our democracy, and we are the stronger today for this decision.
Today’s Court overturned the will of the people as expressed through Congress and the president — typically a hallmark of “judicial activism” charges lobbed like hand grenades by conservatives. And it departed from the Court’s own long-expressed understanding of the Constitutionality of such laws. Departing from precedent is not not activist.
Two points. First, Justice Kennedy discusses the weight of precedent on this case at considerable length in the Court's majority opinion. Down a couple of espressos and have at it!
Second, Joel forgets -- as many conservatives have conveniently forgotten when it suited them, too -- that the judiciary is a co-equal branch and that the will of the people must be reasonable and constitutional to prevail. The bottom line is precedent should not be binding always and evermore if a decision is wrongly decided or misapplied. Otherwise, we'd be stuck with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson.
My old boss John Temple, the man who dreamed up RedBlueAmerica.com and who is responsible for unleashing the vaunted Boychuk-Mathis juggernaut upon the world, is moving to the fever swamps of Honolulu in the godforsaken climes of Hawaii to become editor of a new publication called Peer News.
Here's how John spins this grim development on his blog:
Today Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay, announced that I’m going to become the first editor of Peer News, a Honolulu-based local news service that will produce original, in-depth reporting and analysis of local issues in Hawaii.
Pierre and Randy Ching co-founded Peer News Inc. in 2008 “with the goal of empowering citizens and encouraging greater civic participation through media.” I learned of the project in November when a friend pointed out Pierre’s blog post about his search for an editor. He wrote: “We believe that a strong democracy requires an engaged society supported by effective news reporting and analysis. And, we believe that this can be done in a profitable, sustainable way.”
I share those beliefs, and when we began talking I became excited about the opportunity to work as a member of their team. I’ve collaborated with many great people in the newspaper industry over the years, but my new colleagues come at these challenges from a fresh perspective and with a record of accomplishment in the online world. I’ve enjoyed my freedom since the Rocky Mountain News closed last February. I’ve been writing here and elsewhere, speaking, consulting, traveling and learning new skills. But as I wrote in a column for The Wall Street Journal last summer, "I genuinely miss being part of a larger entity with a purpose." That I now will have the opportunity to help build one from scratch, to create a new news culture with such talented partners, makes me very happy.
Okay, okay, I guess that qualifies as extraordinarily good news.
Peer News is worth watching closely as old media companies struggle to survive and nonprofit groups experiment with different models in places like San Diego, Washington D.C. and Seattle. In this sluggish and uncertain economy, it's heartening to see some new media capitalists venturing boldly into the marketplace with experimental for-profit models of their own.
And, oh by the way, unemployed journos: John's hiring. "Hawaii experience or background is a big plus." Hmmmm. I'm a California guy who mostly writes opinion on state and national issues, but I do make a killer chi-chi...
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a key provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" law that restricted corporate campaign contributions to election campaigns.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission centered on a challenge to the FEC's 2008 ruling that prohibited showing "Hillary: The Movie" on cable television during Clinton's presidential primary campaign. The FEC said the movie was essentially a campaign ad -- one financed by corporations in a manner outlawed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
We should be thankful for the court's decision today, and not just because it bumps the "news" that John Edwards is the father of Rielle Hunter's love child. The McCain-Feingold law was and is an unconscionable assault on free political speech. As I wrote in the Scripps-Howard column when the Court heard rearguments in September:
The Supreme Court has said repeatedly that Congress may, in fact, abridge freedom of speech if there is "a compelling state interest" and "a narrowly tailored remedy." But there is no justification for McCain-Feingold's restrictions. The rules have become so complicated and far-reaching that the government in March actually suggested that under current law it could ban other media, including books. That way madness -- and tyranny -- lies.
Eliminating the corrupting influence of money from politics has been the stated goal of campaign finance reforms for at least a century. The reforms Congress passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal and again with the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 have, of course, done no such thing. Instead, campaign finance reform has empowered bureaucrats, courts and political incumbents.
The Court didn't go as far as I would have liked, but did go further than I expected, overturning at least two precedents (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and parts of the court's very first decision on McCain-Feingold, McConnell v. FEC).
As many courtwatchers expected, the mercurial Justice Anthony Kennedy was the court's swing vote in the case. "If the First Amendment has any force," Kennedy wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, "it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech."
Brother Mathis is unhappy with the outcome (and, yes, his headline is overly provocative). He writes: "Big corporations (and, to be fair, big labor unions) will now rule the discourse to an even greater degree."
On the contrary, corporations and unions -- both of which are in a bad odor with most voters, depending on party -- will remain as subject to scrutiny and equally as adept at avoiding it as ever. The court ruled, with only Justice Thomas dissenting, that McCain-Feingold's disclosure requirements remain in force. And yet even with those requirements and myriad rules and restrictions, the current campaign-finance regime hasn't prevented Big Oil, the Military-Industrial Complex, Big Labor, the Trial Lawyers and sundry K Street moneymen from acquiring elected officials as their wholly owned subsidiaries. What it has done, rather, is create an elaborate regulatory charade that rewards insiders and raises significant barriers to outsiders.
Nobody should expect today's decision in Citizens United v. FEC will alter the fundamental inequities of the reigning "reforms." But to the extent that one fetter to political speech is now lifted, that is reason for celebration.
Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy notes the court's rationale for upholding McCain-Feingold's disclosure requirements: "While disclosure requirements may also burden political speech, Justice Kennedy explained, such requirements may be justified by the government’s interest in ensuring that the electorate has information about spending on elections and campaigns, and the specific disclosure requirements at issue are constitutional as-applied to Citizens United. The opinion also includes a substantial discussion of stare decisis, and why such considerations counseled overturning prior precedents."
No doubt that's why Nick Nyhart of the Public Campaign is so dour: "This decision will force candidates for Congress to spend even more time dialing for dollars and attending gala fundraisers instead of focusing on the challenges facing our country. It will increase members of Congress's fear of political reprisal for votes cast or policy decisions made that may be in the best interests of their constituents but are opposed by deep-pocket lobbyists. Congressional schedules will be pitted against the calendar of campaign fundraisers."
But Ilya Shapiro, writing at the Cato Institute's blog, dismantles the tired old argument by Nyhart and others that the First Amendment doesn't really mean what it says. "Today’s ruling may well lead to more corporate and union election spending, but none of this money will go directly to candidates — so there is no possible corruption or even 'appearance of corruption.' It will go instead to spreading information about candidates and issues. Such increases in spending should be welcome because studies have shown that more spending — more political communication — leads to better-informed voters."
My friend Doug Bandow adds at the American Spectator's blog (answering Khabalox): "No one likes 'special interest' spending on elections. But if the government is going to have the power to tax, regulate, and destroy individuals, companies, and industries, they must have the right to influence who gets elected to the government."
Finally: Joel and I are supposed to be talking to Steve Hayward on the podcast this weekend, but maybe we really ought to be talking to his better half.
Republican Scott Brown has won the special election in Massachusetts to fill the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. Brown -- who, contrary to the opinion of certain execrable MSNBC talk show hosts, is no rabid right-winger -- serves two purposes, and two purposes only: He stops the Obama-Reid-Pelosi health care catastrophe and he blocks the Waxman-Markey cap-and-tax nightmare.
Let us dispense with a couple of myths about Senator-elect Brown. He was not the Tea Party candidate. Yes, Tea Party organizations supported him to the tune of around $300,000. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more. To argue that Brown is the first Tea Party "victory" is to overestimate the fractious and disparate Tea Party movement's influence.
Scott Brown is not a conservative. Do not confuse his appeal to conservatives as being properly conservative. He's a Republican. Worse, he is a Massachusetts Republican, meaning he's part of an embattled brood with which just over one-in-10 Commonwealth voters identifies. Sure, he might qualify as conservative for the Massachusetts electorate. But do not think for a minute that Brown is another Jim DeMint or Jon Kyl.
Forget the stupid, calumnious campaign attacks -- none of that stuff should be taken as factual anyway. Brown voted for MassCare and he supports some form of cap-and-trade, just not the Waxman-Markey bill. He's generally pro-choice, but opposes late-term abortions. In most states, he's a moderate or perhaps even a liberal.
I predict with metaphysical certitude that many of the people who supported Brown's campaign and cheered him Tuesday night will be denouncing him as a RINO by Labor Day. But as long as he blocks the two worst elements of the Obama agenda, as our own Poochucker put it so beautifully, "he can be as RINO as he wants to be for all anyone cares."
The question then becomes what Brown's victory means for Republicans this year. Knowing the GOP, the party bosses will completely misinterpret the results and continue to confuse mere opposition with advancing an agenda of their own. Republicans do opposition exceptionally well. After all, they've had so much practice at it. Opposition might even propel Republicans back into the majority. But this is a populist moment. Shrewd Democrats are as likely to exploit the public's mood as Republicans. It would be foolish for Republicans to assume that just because voters oppose Obama's more hubristic policy initiatives, they therefore support Republicans and their ideas. The problem is, nobody knows what the hell those ideas are.