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November 30, 2005

A moderate Democrat and Moderate Republican meet in the middle

California politics don't always align well the national categories. The "spread" is pretty wide out here. The conservatives in this state are the real thing, the outer tips on the right wing. And the Liberals too, are present in a particularly extreme variety that defies caricature. There are dozens of smaller ideological groups, extreme libertarians, radical environmentalists, and others, all overlapping and interacting. In between these more defined positions are the majority of the voters, not drawn out to the extremes, just trying to make some sense of it all.

Governor Schwarzenegger, who ran as a moderate Republican with conservative support, has appointed, Susan Kennedy, a noted Democrat from his predecessors administration, as his new Chief of Staff.

Kennedy told reporters her views don't different that much from Schwarzenegger's, given that she is a moderate Democrat and he is a moderate Republican.

"There's not a lot of light between us," said Kennedy, who said she voted for all four of the ballot measures

In the yawning gaps between the political poles in California, centrists can find common ground. Even where there are differences in opinion on issues, a moderate Democrat and Republican will find the other to be more accepting, more reasoned, more willing to listen, than the leadership or "core group" of their own party. I'm not surprised that the Governor has made this choice. Especially since he want to win re-election.

Kennedy said that after 25 years in the political trenches for Democratic candidates, she has grown tired of partisan wars.

"This is not a time for California to hunker down behind partisan labels," Kennedy said. "The bottom line is that I believe in this man...and where he wants to take California...to get past the partisan labels and to get things done."

Predictably, the conservative door-keepers reacted angrily.

The appointment drew fierce opposition from the right wing of Schwarzenegger's party Wednesday. The Campaign for Children and Families issued a statement saying that Schwarzenegger's "left turn" had angered "pro-family, conservative voters."

These folks are, no doubt, especially unnerved because Kennedy is gay. Did I mention that she has been active in abortion rights as well. There is real risk in this move, the Governor needs to find a solid base of supporters. Conservatives helped in the recall campaign that got the job for him, but they are not a reliable base for him It remains to be seen if he can solidify the ground in the middle. From the Sacramento Bee.

"This makes Schwarzenegger a man without a country," said GOP strategist Dave Gilliard, who helped run the campaign to recall Davis. "The Democrats will never accept him or embrace him, and now he's breaking with his base. I don't understand it."

If Arnold is "a man without a country" he certainly won't be lonely. Loads of Californians are wandering in the no-mans-land between the warring factions, wondering if we will ever have candidates we can support with enthusiasm. I hear a lot of my neighbors from both parties, expressing frustration with the need to "hold one's nose" before voting in California elections. The professional mouthpieces from either party or from interests/ideology groups like to represent their people as the "core" of the state. I'm not buying it. This has been a very disappointing year for those of us who wish to see this state reformed and back on track, but I'm not ready to surrender the state to endless political warfare. There are plenty of people in the middle. Let's see if the Governor can unify a base among them.

UPDATE: Dan Weintraub seems to agree that this is a smart move.

The early speculation is that hiring Kennedy will hurt Schwarzenegger with Republican voters. I don't buy it. Most voters will never know who is in the governor's inner circle. And virtually all voters will judge Schwarzenegger on his results, not on his choice of advisers. If Kennedy helps Schwarzenegger accomplish the goals he has set for his administration, she will help him get reelected.

Dan notes that conservatives ought not to be surprised, since Schwarzenegger has always been taking advice from "real Kennedys."

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Posted by Jay on November 30, 2005 at 03:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

The Republican Straw Poll moves to Hewitt.Com

The regular straw poll of Republican favorites for the 2008 presidential election has moved to Hugh Hewitt's blog, now that Pat Ruffini has retired his site. Let's see if McCain's good performance last week helps him, let's see if Bill Frist can be any less popular.

Condi Rice has traditionally been the favorite of the "fantasy candidates." Here; remarkable wok in the past weeks ought to keep here there.

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Posted by Jay on November 23, 2005 at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

A system beyond merely "broken"

Nickie Goomba has "swiped" (it's a Goomba thing) an article by Steve Frank appearing in the California Conservative (and Steve's Site as well). The subject is the sorry state of the Los Angeles schools. According to Nickie's commenters, its not just Los Angeles. That square's with my observations as well. The "schools" in some areas of California defy the definition of the word. The Los Angeles Unified School District graduates just 50% of those attending, and many who stick around to graduate are very poorly prepared.

Here's a sample:

Early in the week, 10,000 South Central Watts residents marched because the unions would not allow a local High School to become a Charter High School--the current school has almost no one going to college because the diploma is worthless. Many "graduate" from this high school as functional illiterates, but the School Board, the puppets of the unions, question the need to allow education standards at the school.

At the same time the folks see the failures of the schools, the voters gave this bankrupt agency another $4 billion bond, after passing a $10 billion bond a couple of years ago. Of course, at least one billion of the previous bond has been wasted, corrupted or unaccountable. The bonds are needed because of crowded classrooms--crowded with illegal aliens.

This year California is instituting its first high school exit exam. According to the LA Times, 100,000 seniors statewide will not pass. Now districts wonder what to do with them? Some will issue a "Certificate of Completion" rather than a diploma. Think on that a bit. It's a certificate for having "not left". That's the sort of "Certificate" one receives in 1st grade. What are these students expected to do with these certificates?

Some of these kids may have genuinely desired an education. Indeed, some, perhaps many of those dropping-out would have stuck it out if there was a reasonable chance that they would have a chance. The system, however, offers them little beyond a Certificate of Completion, or a diploma that may not be worth much more.

Earlier this month CA voters rejected an attempt to reform this system in a small way, dunned by a blizzard of Union ads and mailings into terror that the schools were under attack from Conan himself. Voters have indicated that they care about education for the state, and have provided bonds and budget mandates. What the voters lack is the stomach to reform a system that is sinking fast. A black-hole for funds and bonds that shows successes only where teachers (note: not the union, the teachers themselves) and parent finds ways to work around the system. The great school districts in this state get significant funding and assistance directly from the parents and the community. Elsewhere parents have defied the state and the union and revamped schools.

I have a child in a California public school; a pretty good one. Making this district work is an enormous effort, What happens in other, nearby districts is very sad, and what happens in some notorious urban districts is shocking. In some towns, immigrant populations (from Asia) have pro-actively "taken over" school districts and forceably raised standards and school performance. In larger cities new private schools spring up to take in the children of Asian immigrants and families from other states, who refuse to put up with the nonsense coming from the schools authorities. The voters, on the other hand, are mysteriously unconcerned about 50% drop out rates and the like, or they are so cowed by the powers that be that they will not take a stand even in a secret ballot.

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Posted by Jay on November 21, 2005 at 09:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

Centrists...Popular but Un-electable?

A couple of quick links concerning centrism:

Jonah Goldberg makes the following comment over at The Corner, concerning Israeli PM Ariel Sharon:

Ariel Sharon is set to leave the Likud Party and hold fresh elections as the head of a centrist party. This is going to create a huge problem for the Juan Cole types. It's not as much fun denouncing cabals of evil "centrists" in the Pentagon and White House.

I wish that were true (the part about it's "not as much fun".) Sadly, it does seem to be quite fun to denounce the "cabals of evil centrists") as the centrists catch it from both sides. Your political enemies will rally to defend one of their own, but centrists tend to get lukewarm backing from their friends and none at all from the other party, even if they happen to like the guy (or girl.) I'm not sure how to feel about Sharon, but I do know that he will have some challenges making this work.

The other item concerns America's most prominent, maverick centrist, John McCain. Here's Micky Kaus:

On NBC's Chris Matthews Show yesterday, David Brooks said conservatives had warmed to John McCain, and Matthews said he'd heard the same thing. ... Let's see. Conservatives are for McCain. Liberals like McCain. Centrists love McCain. Doesn't that mean McCain might, er, win? Who's going to vote against him? In a general election, it seems like McCain would come close to being elected by acclamation! It will take all the genius of the American political system to make sure he isn't on the ballot. ...

The last sentence is the real winner. "It will take all the genius of the American political system to make sure he isn't on the ballot." Centrists in general, and McCain in particular, have a way of being really popular with everybody, except when they're really unpopular with everybody. Its a hot or cold existence for a guy like McCain. With folks from the political "wings" half the people love 'em and half the people hate 'em. With centrists the formula is different; everyone gets to love you half the time and hate you half the time.

In the primaries and caucus months the hard core supporters carry you forward. Centrist, alas, are great at breadth of support and week on depth of support; liked by all and loved by few. In the general election that could work wonderfully, but one has to get to the general election, and theres the rub. "all the genius of the American political system" will challenge a centrist like McCain or Guliani to get that nomination.

That said, Go John! The Senate would be a complete wasteland but for McCain. These events this week may look like ordinary partisan wrangling, but there is a war on and these are serious times, as folks inside the beltway seem to forget. McCain seems to "get it." I hope and expect that the displays of weakness and displays of courage will be remembered.

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Posted by Jay on November 20, 2005 at 11:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saving Murtha from himself

As I mentioned yesterday, the quick vote in the house on a resolution to withdraw all US troops from Iraq helped to clarify what Rep.Murtha was intending to say. His position very much needed to be clarified. Over the weekend both Murtha and other leaders of his party have been saying that the vote was a cynical stunt, and that what was voted on was clearly not what Murtha had advocated.

That's nonsense. In the hours after Murtha's speech all talk concerned how this military veteran had called for immediate withdrawal. Here's the first paragraph of the NYTimes report on Murtha's Thursday speech. (via Kausfiles)

The partisan furor over the Iraq war ratcheted up sharply on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as an influential House Democrat on military matters called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops and Republicans escalated their attacks against the Bush administration's critics.

What the House did Friday evening was to take this popular interpretation of Murtha's remarks and put it to a vote. In the course of the hasty debate (the best kind, btw) Murtha himself had a chance to clarify that this was not at all what he had intended. Given the depth of feeling and the serious nature of the battle we are fighting, a chance to clarify may have been a great gift to Mr. Murtha.

Had this vote not occurred the Democratic leadership and their media supporters would have been pumping the "immediate withdrawal" angle all week. In response, the Republicans and the military supporters would have responded by attacking Murtha to discredit his judgment. The Representative may well have gained favor with the anti-military crowd in San Francisco, but he would have lost friends and reputation with many others. I cannot say who would have come out of the firestorm over the Thanksgiving recess a winner, Republicans of Democrats, but I can predict with great confidence that Mr. Murtha would be the loser.

As it is, he's going to carry the label, "Cut and Run" for a while. likely the remainder of his career, and that's his own doing, (or the responsibility of the people who put him up to it.) He was handed a slim opportunity to moderate his language and recover some reputation. We'll see if has sense to use it.

Posted by Jay on November 20, 2005 at 09:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Clearing the fog

I have to admit that I really enjoyed that little dust up in the House last night. I'm no fan of the partisan bickering that is so commonplace at the Capitol, but this was different. Sure, it was essentially R's vs D's, but there was a serious subject and, to my mind, a serious need.

Would I be giving into cynicism if I asserted that Rep. Murtha's statement the day before had been carefully staged to be sufficiently ambiguous to allow Democrats and their media supporters to claim that a decorated veteran has called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and then immediately deny that any such thing was said to anyone who reacts angrily. Ambiguity is a popular political tool. I suspect that the leadership had the talking points and the television appearances all lined up for the recess. A week or two to discuss the dramatic erosion of support, safe in the knowledge that the ambiguity was there to protect them.

I have said that I don't like partisan bickering, but there nothing wrong with two-party politics and a good debate. I also don't like the silly spin-games these folks like to play. I love the idea of a nice clear vote.

The Dems have said that the motion put up for a vote last night was not really what Murtha was proposing. Well, that's a valuable clarification, because that was certainly what people were saying at the time Murtha said it. If all we accomplished yesterday was to remove the ambiguity from Murtha's position, I call that a step forward. Now we are all spared a week or more of punditry over a position that is not supported by either party, and our troops can go back to doing their excellent work.

Tossing out ambiguous remarks about something as important as this war is beyond "irresponsible"; I really don't know how to characterize it. Could last night's vote be the start of a "no BS" phase in the House? That seems almost too good to hope for. Perhaps we can get a vote on record about the "we were duped!" accusation.

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Posted by Jay on November 19, 2005 at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2005

A flashback moment for the baby boomers

Bob Woodward is forever linked in history, and in the memories of folks over 45, with Richard Nixon. Congrat's to Hugh Hewitt for spotting the almost spooky way Woodward is echoing Tricky Dick in these comments.

Woodward as Nixon: "I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."

There must be come great meaning or lesson here, or perhaps some deep insight either psychological or philosophical, but I admit that I can't see it. It's just one of those things that make you go "hmmm", a coincidence to good to be a coincidence.

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Posted by Jay on November 17, 2005 at 01:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate Republicans in Flight, an explanation?

I've spent days pondering what could possibly have convinced the Senate Republicans the way to respond to public concern over Iraq by cut and run. Golly, that's a real confidence booster! For a bit I figured that they needed to invest in some scientifically designed tin-foil hats, to protect themselves against the mind-control rays that were evidently being used by the Democrats, but now I think I have a more realistic explanation.

I wonder if this was not a defensive maneuver for the mid-term elections. Should things go poorly in Iraq, these Senators will have a CYA vote on record to use to deflect their opponent's claims that they were doing nothing to prevent the disaster. If things go well in Iraq, this vote will have faded into memory, and anyway, the Democrats are not likely to use it against them. I wonder if they were not "hedging their bets' a bit in case the war becomes an even more potent campaign weapon.

If that's the reason, their lack of courage is disheartening, if not entirely unexpected. Even if that is not the reason, there is a strong smell of cowardice in this action. But then, not that I want to defend these cravens, but it is the lack of stomach among the U.S. electorate that is the root source. Still, a sorry performance for the Senate Republicans (with the obvious exception of those who voted against the resolution, and recognizing that, as a Californian, I ought to be careful about criticizing any Republican that has actually won an election)

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Posted by Jay on November 17, 2005 at 12:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Condi continues to amaze

Condi Rice continues to do some very impressive diplomacy. Some people achieve note as diplomats by virtue of being in the right place at the right time, but Condi seems to be succeeding on the basis of her personality and approach. She has a exquisite sense of when to be absent, and when to be present, when to be calming and easy, and when to be tough and demanding. I especially liked this quote (from the New York Times coverage)

Ms. Rice had also avoided personal involvement, and last February she deliberately left the region to avoid appearing at a summit meeting of Arab, Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, to complete the Gaza withdrawal plan.

But when she arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, aides said she was determined that this trip was going to be different, in part because of Mr. Wolfensohn's dire warnings about the deteriorating situation.

"We're going to get this done while I'm here," Ms. Rice told Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas in separate meetings, according to State Department officials. The two leaders' reaction, the officials said, was skepticism,

Not, "I hope we can get this done", or even, "we would lie to get this done", but a no-confusion statement that the time had arrived (now that she had arrived) for things to get settled. She is establishing a very healthy pattern, when Condi arrives the maneuvering and bluster stop and it's time to settle.

Greg Djerajian at Belgravia Dispatch, who has much more experience watching diplomats at work than I, likes what he sees.

...a quick note to congratulate Condi Rice on a job well done. I'm still dubious in the extreme we will get to final status talks by '08, but at least we've got a little shot in the arm for a change rather than peace process drift & decay
Like any experienced observer of the Middle East, Greg is not ready to declare a victory, even a partial victory, but he sees progress. Even the LA Times is impressed by the Sec of State. In their editorial today they proclaim that "Condi gets it."
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE has finally demonstrated what a little roll-up-your-sleeves diplomacy can achieve in the Middle East. Tuesday's agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on opening the borders of the Gaza Strip and allowing freer movement of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza reflects Rice's involvement in advancing the peace process. ... Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn played an important part in the agreement, mediating talks on border crossings and other economic issues. Wolfensohn also was willing to criticize both sides when he thought they were stalling. But the final agreement required shoves from Rice. Hours before announcing the pact, Rice said that results would come "with will and with some creativity."
This story, provides more details on the process, and on the importance of Rice's personal approach. The story has been buried, it seems, at some news sources, I saw it in the print edition of the Mercury News (not on the front page, but at least in the front section), for example, but couldn't locate it in the on-line edition. The newly launched, Open Source Media portal has it prominently featured, a good sign. Congrat's (again) to Condi!

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Posted by Jay on November 16, 2005 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Open Source Media, formerly "Pajamas" has gone live.

What was once called Pajamas Media has finally gone live with it's news portal, and has changed names to Open Source Media, which some don't like but seems fine by me. If you understand the reference to software development, the name does a good job of capturing what the news portal is trying to do.

I really hope this thing works out, as I am daily frustrated by the lack of a transparent news source (I've given up on searching for a truly "objective" source of news and interpretation, very likely such a thing is not possible. If these guys can bring the whole story with their biases and views out in the open I can make do with that. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

More from me on OSM over at Bird's Eye View.

Posted by Jay on November 16, 2005 at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack