Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Well, in the midst of the most exciting political convention of my lifetime, I've become embroiled in a wonkish but nonetheless dire situation at work involving security breaches at government agencies and lots and lots of money. So I will be spending the next few days making sure that if shit happens to blow up in someone's face, it won't be the face attached to my head.

Monday, July 26, 2004

A lot of people have chided me for my rosy view of the electoral vote situation.  Indeed, today we seem to have favorable evidence for the pessimists, as Bush has small leads in some new polls in Florida and Ohio. 

Yet, if you look a little deeper, you can see what intense trouble Bush is in, and why my analysis is still perfectly valid.  Look at it this way - among the states still in serious contest (a list which, as I predicted, no longer includes Pennsylvania), the three big prizes are Ohio, Florida, and Michigan.  If Kerry wins two out of three of these, he wins handily.  On the other hand, Bush could conceivably win all three of these states and still lose the election.  You really don't need to look much further than that simple fact to see why, headed into a Democratic convention that is likely to be one of the most unified in recent memory, the President* is at best a slight underdog. 

Here's some Raul Groom political trivia for you - can you name the last sitting President to come from behind after August 1st to win reelection?


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I spent the weekend at the Hawthorne Street Intergalactic Poker Championship, where I was mercilessly dismantled by several extraordinarily bad poker players.  I am deeply disappointed in myself. 

I also hate this new blog posting interface.  And I'm still feeling lethargic from the witch's brew of beer, red wine and rum that I drank on Saturday night.  I've had several abortive attempts to write a DU article, but so far, nothing is shaking out.  Time to turn pro.

Friday, July 16, 2004

You know who's cool?  Bob Herbert. You know who just rubs me the wrong way?  E.J. Dionne  
I'm not sure what it is about E.J.  I'm supposed to like him, of course, he's an allegedly quite liberal columnist for the country's premier political newspaper.  But it is very rare that I read one of his columns that I don't read several points that really just don't ring true.  It may be that we just see the world from different perspectives, which is fine and, let's face it, probably a credit to the guy.  But deep down I have to say it seems like he's phoning it in.
First of all, the Atwater/Rove comparison is thin.  The two men have a lot in common, but their styles aren't particularly similar.  Part of that may be the target of their attacks - Dukakis was hapless, and far from the best and brightest the democratic party had to offer at the time.  Kerry is a fascinatingly intelligent power campaigner and an extremely cool customer who thrives in the stretch and who is not going to blunder away the campaign without help.  A lot of people, including me, were a little disappointed when he crushed the Dean Nation, but you have to admit, from a pure sports fan's perspective, that primary strategy was a thing of beauty.  Compare that to how Dukakis got the nom, and well... 
But part of it is definitely the style of the men themselves.  Put simply, Atwater had it - he was the real thing, a guy who could've got work running interference for Lucifer himself, and probably will someday.  Rove is a cheap thug who grew up on brute force and crude cloak-and-dagger bullshit.  His political life will not end gracefully, because grace is not in him.  Comparing the two is like comparing Johnny Chan and a particularly skilled deck mechanic.  Both make their money playing poker, but it ain't the same game, really.
The other thing is this flip-flopaphobia so many Democrats are developing.  Here's a chess maxim for you - never assume your opponent's strategy is correct.  "Flip-flopper" is a slur that politicians hurl when they can't think of anything else to say.  It's ridiculous, and it doesn't work.  People who aren't going to vote for Kerry but can't think of a good reason are going to latch on to the flip-flopper thing as a justification, but it isn't going to define the campaign the way the "Al Gore is a dirty liar" script defined Campaign 2000. 
If you think about it, flip-flopping is a crude synonym for politics.  Pretty much the only legitimate power a Senator has is his right to vote either "yes" or "no" on anything he wants.  If you aren't willing to play ball on that field, you've left yourself without much of an angle.  Which is why, for example, the Republicans can consistently win votes that they should have lost by holding the vote open and working the crowd.  They aren't just going up to these guys who voted "yes" and saying "Are you sure you wanted to vote 'yes?'"  Gasp!  They are making deals to get these guys to change their votes. 
Anyway, I've got to go.  Hopefully more later.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

It's an exciting time to be alive. The right wing is cracking and foundering, and everybody seems to be grabbing at anything they can get their hands on to try to slow the inexorable decline of the entire apparatus. It positively amazes me the saturation coverage the right-wing press is giving to the idea that Joseph Wilson lied about whether his wife recommended him for the Niger mission. The attacks just make no strategic or logical sense. Wilson's criticism didn't make much dent in Bush's credibility, and he's been pretty well marginalized since then. The major effect of the whole dust-up was the Plame Leak Investigation, which is concerned purely with the conduct of executive branch officials, and to which Wilson's truthfulness or otherwise has no conceivable relevance. All of these guys, especially Novak, MUST know that there are indictments looming, and that in a matter of weeks, all their desperate attempts to pooh-pooh the matter are going to look very, very silly. But they just can't help themselves, they are programmed to just constantly slime anybody that turns his back on The Family, right to the bitter end. It's pitiful, really.

One thing it does point out is one of the major weaknesses of the center-left, which tends to latch on to conservative turncoats as if they were the second coming of Bobby Kennedy. John McCain, Joseph Wilson, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, all these guys are really fundamentally freaked-out right-wing nut jobs (particularly on foreign policy in Wilson, Clarke and McCain's case, and just generally with O'Neill), but as soon as one of them breaks ranks with the Bush Administration every wishy-washy half-Democrat in the world wants to run over and kiss his ring.

What invariably happens is that after assuming that the only reason anybody could ever have for attacking Bush is a deep-down commitment to truth and justice and light, we find out the guy was really just working an angle, and then all the people who fell in love with the guy make idiots of themselves trying to defend him.

So, really, no disputing Novak's central theme. I just don't understand why The Weekly Standard, The National Reivew, and Novak all feel the need for this massive anti-Wilson blitz. It would be like if Clinton had tried to use character attacks on Paula Jones to defend himself in the investigation of his perjury in the Lewinsky affair. Once the investigation got to that point, it just wasn't relevant anymore.

Meanwhile, none other than Jim Hoagland has gone off the reservation on Iraq, and is now not only using the word "defeat," but he's actually calling out Bush for putting his reelection ahead of achieving real stability in Iraq. Personally (thinking back on my comments above) I'm skeptical that Hoagland will remain out in the wilderness like that; his next column will probably be some attack on Democrats for playing politics with the war, but just this little glimmer of light is something just about as remarkable as it gets. No one was a more enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War than Jim Hoagland. He bent over backward, sideways, and diagonal to carry the prewar water for the DoD, even going too far once and criticising the CIA for not backing up Bush's claims that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction, which criticism left a pretty embarrassing polyp hanging out there on the bunghole of this whole "The CIA Made Me Do It" defense the pro-war folks are trying to mount.

Damn, this shit is getting long. Much longer, and it could be a column. What am I wasting this shit on my blog for?

Contact Raul Groom.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Well, I took a little extra vacation there after the Fourth... And now I'm back for a quick drive-by, as I'm trying to write an article on this subject, but I just wanted to throw this out there.

Lots of people are saying that there needs to be some sort of policy in place in case elections are disrupted by a terrorist attack. I'm not sure I agree, but I'm not trying to be coy by not citing references - I have heard it from many people, not just in the press, and the idea seems to be gaining a lot of traction.

Currently, as I understand it, the power to set the date of an election technically lies with the U.S. Congress, though they always schedule the election for the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, by tradition. Thus the power to postpone an election that's already been scheduled would also rest with Congress.

The trouble there is twofold; one, a deliberative body is not going to be able to act fast enough in the event of an attack that occurs on election day itself. Two, again in the case of an election day attack, once the polling day arrives, Congress is in reality exceeding its authority if it tries to postpone the election, since the election day has already been set, and has arrived.

So in the event of an election-day attack, I concede there is a problem, though I'm not sure it can't be remedied with the current system, which would be that we would open and close the polls normally, to whatever extent possible, and then after the votes were tallied, the loser would need to make his case in court that the results were invalid and a revote was needed. This avenue has its flaws, as we saw in 2000, but in my view it is probably superior to any of the remedies proposed thus far.

However, if people are overwhelmingly of the mind that in the event of an election-day terrorist attack at a polling place, elections should be postponed, this authority probably does have to be Executive authority, and said authority would need to rest in the hands of one person - the President of the United States.

Clearly, though, it is not germane to give the sitting President the authority to postpone an election in which he is a candidate. The remedy here is simple, and makes a lot of sense - in the event that the President was forced to use his authority to postpone an election due to an inability to provide security at polling places on the scheduled election day, that President would withdraw his candidacy for a second term, and his party would nominate someone else.

Simple, huh? And really, it seems pretty clear that if a President cannot even provide Americans with sufficient security to allow them to vote in a Presidential election without fear of being blown up, shouldn't that President resign, anyway?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

OK, we got ourselves a political story. Freak Power Mark IV is upon us. The stuff you see below is a test, pay no attention to Buckley or his two-faced horde.

I found out about the emergence of a freak power campaign in North Carolina. I can't say more now. I'm sending a man to cover it (seriously, folks, this isn't like my imaginary research team.) He's he best man I have.

More tomorrow...

Freak Power Mark IV

Freak Power Mark IV

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Despite the desperate cries to the contrary of just about everyone, it looks very much like Carol Coleman WAS asked to submit her questions to Bush in advance. Scottie Mac was given an excellend opportunity to deny this claim yesterday, and gave this performance:


Q Did anyone in the White House or the administration ask Irish television or its reporter, Carol Coleman, to submit questions in advance of her interview with the President last Wednesday?

MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, a couple of things. I saw I guess some reports on that. I don't know what every individual office -- whatever discussions that they have with reporters in terms of interviews. But obviously, the President was -- is pleased to sit down and do interviews with journalists, both from abroad, as well as here at home, and to talk about the priorities of this administration. And I think anytime that there is an interview that's going to take place, obviously there are staff-level discussions with reporters before that interview and to --

Q -- what are the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, to talk about what issues might be on their mind, and stuff. That's -- but, reporters --

Q That's not the same thing as asking for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Let me finish.

Q -- and my question is, were questions asked for.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Reporters, when they meet with the President, can ask whatever questions they want. And any suggestion to the contrary is just --

Q Right, but that doesn't answer the question. Did somebody in the administration ask her for questions in advance, and is that your policy?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in terms -- you're talking my policy?

Q No, the administration's policy.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what an individual staffer may or may not have asked specifically of this reporter, but some of these interviews are set up by people outside of my direct office and control.

Q Well, will you say from this lectern that it is not the policy of this White House to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Will you let me complete what I'm trying to say? Thank you. Just hold on a second. As I said, and you know very well from covering this White House, that any time a reporter sits down with the President, they are welcome to ask whatever questions they want to ask.

Q Yes, but that's beside the point.

MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly there will be staff-level discussions, talking about what issues reporters may want to bring up in some of these interviews. I mean, that happens all the time.

Q Indeed, it does.

MR. McCLELLAN: So reporters are able to ask whatever questions they want, Bill.

Q Right, but that wasn't my question. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to look into this further.

Q Is it policy to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't know what some individual staffer may have done in another office, specifically in terms of this question that you're asking. I'll be glad to look into it. But reporters can ask the President whatever questions they want. I think we've addressed this question.

Q Is it your policy to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is not my policy. In fact, if reporters would give me their questions, this press briefing would be a whole lot easier, I'm sure. But that's not my policy.

Q Sometimes you might answer them. (Laughter.)


Just to be clear, on MONDAY Coleman accused the White House (actually she didn't phrase it as an accusation, apparently assuming that this was SOP for the Bush administration) of making her submit her interview questions to Bush in advance. This is a very, very serious accusation, and the White House had spent the last few days sliming Coleman to anybody who would listen. But McClellan pleads ignorance when he's asked about Coleman's accusations, saying he doesn't know if somebody asked her to submit her questions in advance.

If the WHPC lets this drop, and somebody spray-paints "Fuck the Pope" on the National Press Club building next Wednesday, well, it wasn't me.