Alex's Outlook

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

NH Primary

CNN says Kerry's leading easily, with Dean a distant second and Edwards and Clark battling for a distant third. Not bad, but it could have been better. For us Republicans, I mean. Kerry was pretty much going to win, so I'm not crying about that. Dean could have used a respectable second-place finish, but he lost by 15 points instead. Remarkable. Losing by that much will hurt his campaign even more than it has already suffered.

It's fortunate that Edwards didn't do better, but a third-place finish isn't too bad. Joe Lieberman lost badly as expected, and maybe he will call it quits before he wastes anybody else's money. He lost the race as soon as he went pro-Bush on Iraq. (He was the only candidate who didn't waffle his support for Iraq and Bush.)

His Fraudulency the fired general who voted Republican since Nixon Wesley Clark's fourth-place finish was a fiasco. I prognosticated below that Kerry's win was a major blow for Clark. At least it's gratifying that Clark's naked opportunism has failed. A fourth-place finish by Clark seems to make this race Kerry's to lose and Edwards' to win.

My crestfallen-ness at Dean's implosion has ebbed away: Kerry, I've decided, is almost as unelectable as Dean. Kerry, as it happens, is Massachusetts' liberal senator; Ted Kennedy is more conservative. I don't think Kerry, as a Mass. senator, has ever faced a real political race in his life, except possibly for his first Senate primary (as it is with almost all senators). He has to be one of the worst public speakers in the race. As William Saletan of Slate reports:

At first, Kerry bounced across the stage and arched back his shoulders, letting his jacket slip off with a smile you'd expect to see from a stripper. But soon enough, he tightened up. As Kennedy entertained the crowd, Kerry sat in the background with his fingers clasped together, sucking his lower lip and patting his hair nervously to make sure it was still in place. Just before Kerry rose to speak, his wife placed both hands on his shoulders, trying to impart calm and strength. Hundreds of fans waved Kerry signs and applauded his every word. He wasn't there to inspire them. They were there to inspire him.

Physically, Kerry's repertoire is painfully limited. He thrusts his index finger at the audience in an overhead arc again and again, as though launching a projectile. He seems to be trying not to animate his thoughts but to expel them. Above the neck, nothing but his mouth moves. If you showed anyone a video of Kerry with his lips blacked out, they'd never know he was speaking. On television, it often seems as though that Kerry is looking at you but not seeing you. In person, you realize that he is looking at you but not seeing you. His words are even more stilted, particularly when he ruins a good line by adding prepositional phrases?"in this country ? as a fundamental commitment ? to all our citizens ? regardless of circumstance"?until everyone is silently begging him to stop.

Edwards would be a lot tougher, but after some thought I don't see even him winning a single southern state (except Florida obviously, and in my humble opinion Florida 2000 was the last stand of Democrats in the South, Florida included). But Edwards would be strong in Rust Belt swing states like Ohio; Kerry wouldn't. Kerry has his medals, yeah, but he also voted to cut FBI and Dept of Defense funding and has compiled one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

State of the GOP

George W. Bush's less-than-inspired SOTU address has kept alive the love-him-and-hate-him opinion a lot of libertarian conservatives have regarding Bush. Andrew Sullivan is one of them, and he has been hammering Bush for a while for his affinity for Big Government, fiscal irresponsibility, and chipping away at civil liberties (e.g. ephedra and steroids).

One could argue that the Republicans have conquered government and government has conquered the Republicans. I haven't been so sure; I have mostly been part of the "starve the beast" school of thought. (If you cut taxes and raise spending rapidly, sooner or later one or the other has to give, and the GOP will cut spending before it raises taxes.)

Lately, my faith in that theory has been shaken. In a democracy, deficits do not necessarily matter; Japan has a much bigger entitlements crisis than we do, a national deficit of 160% of GDP (America's is about 67%) and annual deficits of 7% a year. America is certainly more deficit-conscious than Japan, but at the rate Congress is spending it makes one wonder.

Since it's impossible to tell now, I'm sticking with the GOP through 04. After that, there won't be any more excuses for this French socialist spending spree. I'm guessing Sullivan will too, but a lot of us conservatives are already pretty torn. Patience in small-government circles is wearing pretty thin.

Predictions for the New Hampshire catfight (Jan. 27)

Kerry's going to win. Howie's going to come in second, with a possible very close third (or even upset second) by Edwards. I have written Clark off for the second time. As I said below, Kerry's comeback from the grave was a major setback for Clark. I think it hurt Clark more than it hurt Dean, actually. Edwards' strong second in Iowa also damaged Clark pretty badly.

Dean shot himself in each foot with the "YEARGH," but he's not finished yet. If he pulls a second place finish, NH will have helped him. A lot. He has plenty of cash in the bank, so he is far from finished. The two Johns are both desperate for cash even after post-Iowa windfalls, and they have no organization in the Feb. 3 states. Then again, organization didn't do Gephardt much good in Iowa.

Kerry and Dean are the frontrunners. Neither will fare well against Bush. If Edwards does well in NH, he will have SC locked up. He's the biggest threat to Bush, just because he has a remote chance at fracturing the South.

New funny blog

Allah Is In The House has landed on my top shelf of blogs. It satirizes the hatred of a large segment of the Muslim world against the West. Thus, it is very un-PC, and hilariously so. (It took me a bit to figure out that it was satire, however!)

Check it out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Stock boom continues apace

Today the Dow closed at 10,624 and the Nasdaq at 2142.

When Bush II took office on Jan. 20, 2001, the Dow stood at 10,587 and the Nasdaq at 2770.

The Nasdaq still has a ways to go, but we shouldn't be seeing any more giant downward red arrows captioned, "Markets have lost (insert ominous percentage here) since Bush took office."

SOTU speech = weak

Random thoughts:

Bush's State of the Union speech was mediocre at best. It was full of little technicalities that apparently were supposed to show how compassionate he was. Things like a marriage-promotion initiative, a jobs-training program, an anti-steroid program (What??) Honestly, what is steroid prevention doing in a state of the union speech?

I guess Bush thought he was throwing a bone to fiscal conservatives by telling Congress to hold spending growth to under 4 percent this year. Trouble is, in last year's SOTU he told Congress to keep it within 4.1 percent, and look where that got us (9.2 percent spending growth). We will see how serious Bush is about reining in spending growth when Congress' colossal $375 billion transportation bill hits his desk. It's about $130 billion more than Bush wanted. If history is any indication Bush will cave as he always has. At least, unless Tom Daschle and the Democrats manage to block the bill in the Senate. I find myself rooting more and more often for Daschle and against Bush these days. A rather sad commentary on the GOP if I may say so myself.

Bush has incredible audacity to continue claiming that there were WMD in Iraq.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Kerry wins

At least I got Kerry right!

Kerry - 38
Edwards - 32
Dean - 18
Gephardt - 11


Apparently the more moderately left-of-center mainstream of the Democrats completely rejected Dean's liberalism.

Gephardt, almost as liberal as Dean, has already decided to quit the race. He will probably wait for a Labor secretaryship in the now remotely possible event of a Democratic triumph in 2004.

Kerry will vault into NH with a lot of momentum. Ditto for Edwards in South Carolina. The question is, where does this put Clark? Some people see Clark as Kerry without the hauteur, and others see Kerry as Clark without the GOP baggage, and more impressive generally. I think this helps out Kerry a lot more than it seems, because many Democrats will now be faced with Kerry, the bona fide liberal his entire life, versus Clark, the conservative who changed colors in 2002. Kerry arguably has better "patriotic" credentials because of his three Vietnam wounds; Clark was essentially fired from his position.

Dean will probably try to sprint back to the middle, but this was a significant defeat for him. A week ago he was the undisputed frontrunner; today he placed a distant third. At least 61% of Iowa voters voted for electability over Dean-ism.

At first I was a little bummed out, that the Democrats had regained their sense of electability and turned Dean down. But now Bush won't be able to pander to the center, and he will have to pay more respect to his base, which he hasn't been doing much of (other than tax cuts). Maybe it will be a 52-47 or 51-48 election after all. Or maybe Dean could win NH and stir the pot again. Who knows?

It's foolish to make Iowa predictions, and it also probably won't have much to do with who actually wins the Democrat nomination, but it's also obligatory. So here are my predictions:

Kerry
Dean
Gephardt
Edwards.

The Edwards and Kerry campaigns will be rejuvenated. The anti-Dean camp will fracture. Clark seems to be Kerry with a lot of Republican baggage, and I can't believe he's even gotten this far. The cult of Bush-hatred seems to be so strong that Democrats are willing to exchange Bush for someone who has been a Republican for the past 30 years.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Clark exposed?

The far-famed Matt Drudge seems to have come across some pretty explosive stuff. Any rational person would think that this would do Clark in. But Clark has weaseled a lot before and gotten away with it, and the Democrats are simply desperate to unseat Bush. This is quite convenient, because Clark's rise within the Democratic Party needed to be stopped soon.

This will give more steam to Kerry and Edwards, the two dark horses. Gep might get a little runoff too. However, the anti-Dean faction will be more fractured than ever, as it is without a single unifying figure.



Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Iowa coming down to the wire

After the months of Kerry leading an obscure field, and then Dean usurping Kerry, the leader's seeming overwhelming advantage has evaporated, and the race is neck-and-neck once again, with six days to go.

Howard Dean has the support of 24% of those polled; Gephardt and Kerry (where did he come from?) with 21% each; and John Edwards (?!) with 15%.

A lot of Democrats are obviously reconsidering their support for Dean, which to me seems unfortunate. But with no Clark, anti-Deaniacs are failing to coalesce around a single alternative. Dean has hit a gold mine of endorsements, with Al Gore and Tom Harkin having endorsed him already and ol' Jimmy Carter evidently planning an endorsement one day before the Iowa caucuses. [Update: Carter has made clear that he does not intend to endorse Dean. However, joke candidate Carol Moseley Braun plans to endorse him instead.]

If Howard Dean wins Iowa with about 35% and the rest of the vote is split between Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards, that would probably be just as good for Dean as sweeping Iowa entirely. Gephardt would get knocked out, but Edwards and Kerry would feast on the hype of respectable finishes. That would seriously destabilize Clark's momentum as "the" anti-Dean candidate, and Dean would still command the largest single bloc of the Democrat primary electorate while Clark, Kerry and Edwards thrashed out the anti-Dean primary. That would surely be preferable to Clark having all the anti-Deaniacs to himself, as far as conservatives are concerned.

On the other hand, a Clark-Dean bout might be in Dean's favor, depending on how heavily he wants to hit Clark's previous Republicanism. (It amazes me that Democrats are willing to tolerate someone who has voted for Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes, and raised money for Bush 2, and said that Iraq had WMD, and then said he was against the war in Iraq, and then said that he was for it, and then decided that he was against it.) But what do I know? I thought Clark would trip up in his political novice-ness and slowly fizzle out. I was wrong.

If Dean can win Iowa barely and let Edwards and Kerry share the spoils of respectable finishes, he will be sitting pretty for New Hampshire; if he sweeps Iowa, he can't complain, either.

If Gephardt wins Iowa, I don't think he will be going anywhere else, but he will damage Dean's New Hampshire momentum, helping out Kerry/Clark.

I thought the Dem primary race was over a while ago, but it seems to have gotten interesting again.

Surprise, surprise

A week or so ago a few inquisitive Danes generated a ruckus when they announced that they had found some Iraqi artillery shells with a blister-agent chemical weapon. Lo and behold, the claim has turned out to be false, just like all the ones before it.
After a 16-man team from the Iraqi Survey Group (search) was sent to the scene to examine the mortar shells, tests of five of them yielded no traces of chemical agent, a Danish military official told Fox on Wednesday.

Even if the shells had had any WMD, it wouldn't have done Bush any good. The shells were more than ten years old, probably from the Iran-Iraq war when the U.S. tacitly sanctioned Iraq's use of chemical weapons against massive waves of virtually untrained Iranian troops.


Tuesday, January 06, 2004

John Thune announces challenge to Daschle

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle will be challenged by Republican ex-Rep. John Thune, giving Daschle a tough race and turning a sixth Democrat Senate seat into a tossup.

Texas redistricting survives yet another hurdle

The Republicans' battle to lock up the House of Representatives until 2012 seems to have survived its most crucial test. A Republican-heavy federal court determined that the Democrats "failed to prove" that the redistricting plan violated minority voting rights. As a result, the Texas congressional delegation (tied 16-16 between Republicans and Democrats) will probably swing 23-9 in favor of the Republicans. Maybe a couple of crafy conservative Democrats will survive, but it would be tough. This is the first time Texas Democrats have been on the receiving end of the redistricting gun.

There are about 25 seats in the country that can be called somewhat competitive. The Republicans should enjoy a 20-vote majority in the House after this redistricting bout, which means that barring a liberal tsunami the Democrats won't have the House until (possibly) after the next round of redistricting in 2012. No new taxes until 2012!

The Democrats plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. I would be really surprised to see the Supremes take the case, because it's so partisan and the Court is notoriously averse to partisan political cases (e.g. the Democrats' last-minute replacement of Bob Toricelli, who was losing big time, with Frank Lautenberg in the 2002 NJ Senate race). If the Supremes did take the case, I think they'd rule in the GOP's favor.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Rep. Ralph Hall Joins the GOP

Texas Representative Ralph Hall, the most conservative Democrat in Congress, switched to the Republican Party yesterday.

Ralph Hall is 80 years old and has voted with the Republicans on pretty much everything. Even ex-Rep. Connie Morella, a liberal Republican that conservatives loved to hate, voted with the Republicans more often than Hall voted with the Democrats. Hall even voted for Dennis Hastert as Speaker of the House! No Republican has voted for a Democrat Speaker in a long time.

An interesting thing about the House of Representatives is that there are a lot more conservative Democrats than there are liberal Republicans. The House is really split about 235-200 in favor of conservatives because of southern Democrats such as Rodney Alexander and Ken Lucas, who vote with the GOP almost all the time.

At least Texas is split 16-16 between Republicans and Democrats now. With luck we will improve that to about 22-10 after Chainsaw Tom DeLay's redistricting. Republicans should also knock off Republican Rep. Ron Paul, who votes "no" on just about everything; for all his "constitutional scruples," Representative No's endless "no" votes oftentimes place him alongside Democrats against his own party.