Monday, April 1, 2013

Ginsburg and the Senate

Over the weekend, I had a Salon column arguing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term (with retirement taking effect upon confirmation of her replacement). Today, I did a follow-up looking at where the votes would fall in the Senate.

A few more thoughts...first: I don't understand the objections that this line of thought is insulting to Ginsburg, or what I think is a related argument that SCOTUS should be above politics. I think that's a real misunderstanding of the Court. It's true that Supreme Court justices don't, and shouldn't, simply vote the way that Members of Congress vote on issues. But yes, absolutely, the Court is and is meant to be "political" and a part of the US democracy. And during an era in which the polity is highly partisan and polarized, it's no surprise that the Court is, too. Not only no surprise, but it's basically what we should want. The idea that the Court should be the same regardless of what voters want is anti-democratic -- and, given the Constitution, unrealistic.

When it comes to the Senate...there's some possibility that there could be some real difficult calls for individual Senators. One thing I didn't talk about is the Democrats; it's likely, but not certain, that they would stay united -- but that means that any individual Democrat who wanted to sink a nominee, presumably before she was named, could do so. It's probably also the case that several Senate Democrats would probably prefer that they can duck any SCOTUS fight, even if the party as a whole might welcome it.

On the Republican side, I can imagine a couple of things. To the extent that Barack Obama is more popular than Congressional Republicans, they might collectively want to make the whole thing go away quickly -- especially since the potential for Akin moment would be thought to be fairly high. But there aren't too many Republicans who would want to be the ones who case the winning vote for a Ginsburg replacement; even in Maine, that's something that could potentially draw a tough primary opponent.

Granted, all of this is mostly speculative at this point. But if it does happen, it's going to be an enormous story, and deservedly so. Might as well start thinking about it now.

Next in Line, Again

I like some of David Frum's advise to Democrats about 2016 and dislike some of it, but I'm afraid I'll mostly have to nitpick his premise. Yeah, it's the old next-in-line fallacy:

Hillary Clinton came second in the nomination fight of 2008. If she were a Republican, that would make her a near-certainty to be nominated in 2016. Five of the past six Republican nominees had finished second in the previous round of primaries. (The sixth was George W. Bush, son of the most recent Republican president.)

Democrats, by contrast, prefer newcomers. Six of their eight nominees since 1972 had never sought national office before.
I've written about this before several times (most recently here), but it's just not a very useful comparison. Republicans simply have happened to have had far more cycles with fairly obvious nominees than have Democrats. We don't know how a Democrat with a profile similar to Bob Dole's in 1976 would have done, because we just haven't really had any, for a variety of reasons.

Put it this way: on the one hand, the 2012 cycle sort of confirmed the "next in line" theory...if, that is, we conclude that Mitt Romney was the runner-up in 2008, which is sort of true but also sort of not true (by some measures, the Huck had a better argument for having come in second). But at the same time: does anyone really think that Rick Santorum will be an easy winner in 2016? If we don't think so, then we clearly don't believe that finishing second has any magic power; we might, for example, think that George H.W. Bush's vice-presidency was far more important in 1988 than were his 1980 primary wins. And once we loosen the definition of "next in line" to simply mean the most logical nominee of those who make it to Iowa (or something like that), then we find that Democrats are pretty much just as likely to select that candidates as are Republicans.

(Okay, minor nitpick on the count, too, those "six" nominees who "had never sought national office before."  Assuming we're ignoring renominations of sitting presidents, I count McGovern, Mondale, and Gore as having previously sought national office, while Carter, Dukakis, Clinton, Kerry, and Obama had not. Even if Mondale's quickly aborted presidential run doesn't count, which I'm fine with, surely the vice-presidency is a national office).

The big Republican win for next-in-line is John McCain, who had very little going for him other than having been the runner-up in 2000. But there's not much more to it, really.

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Rachel Maddow, 40.

No shortage of good stuff today:

1. Really, just stop saying "weapons of mass destruction." Spencer Ackerman explains.

2. How will the GOP fight against ACA in the states play out -- if it succeeds? Ezra Klein with a good column on it.

3. Matt Yglesias points out some basics of politics and economics.

4. Excellent column by John Sides about ideology and 2012 (and the future). My position on this: Republicans don't need an ideological adjustment to win the presidency, but they do need reform if they're going to be able to govern successfully.

5. But see also: Eric Schickler responds to John, and then John responds back to Eric. Quick point: John says that "Republicans had no problem winning presidential elections even when the Democratic advantage in party identification was much larger than now." Yes and no...there is that long stretch (9 elections) in which Democrats win unless Ike is on the ballot. Overall, I think it's possible that Democrats have taken a small but real edge, but also possible that the parties are still even and there's just some sorting around among what people call themselves...I haven't seen anything that convinces me one way or another.

6. And I don't know if anyone cares, but: my brother: not a moron.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 1973

Just a short segment today, with one big development.

Ehrlichman and Haldeman (in California) talk to Kleindienst about the Gray nomination, which they all agree is dead, and about cooperation from Justice on Watergate -- but on the latter, Kleindienst talks about some sort of independent counsel (a three-judge panel) running the prosecutions.

Back in Washington, Dean is continuing to tell his story to his lawyer, at Shaffer's Friendship Heights apartment. And that's not all: Jeb Magruder, having failed to talk his former assistant out of telling the truth to the Ervin Committee, decides the jig is up and hires a lawyer, too. Of course, he doesn't know about what Dean is up to, but he did feel it was urgent; Magruder's lawyer is at a convention in Bermuda, so that's where Magruder flies to (I think it's on this Saturday; the narrative from Emery isn't quite clear, other than he's definitely behind Dean).

Of course, while Magruder is certainly a threat on both Watergate and the cover-up, the big difference is that Dean knows the extent of Richard Nixon's involvement in the cover-up -- although, for now, he has only his word.

Sunday Question for Liberals

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the legislative progress on guns and immigration?

Sunday Question for Conservatives

The conservative push in GOP Senate primaries over the last several cycles: a net plus or net minus for conservative policy outcomes?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 1973

It's a travel day: Nixon, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman are off to the Pacific White House. Which means, alas, no more tapes during the following week. Before they leave, however, we do get Nixon and Haldeman talking. And elsewhere, it's a very busy day.

Jeb Magruder spends the day chasing after his former assistant, Robert Reisner, who he now learns from the Washington Post has been subpoenaed by the Ervin Committee. Alas for him and them all, to no effect. Reisner, by the way, checks in during the day with Fred Fielding, who works under Dean at the White House -- and Fielding, according to Reisner, basically tells him to tell the trust. Magruder, on the other hand, tells him over the phone "Everybody else is cooperating...If this gets out of hand, they're going to impeach the president." But Reisner lets him know he's going to tell the truth, specifically about the Gemstone meetings.

Nixon also retreats on testifying, with a new offer to allow the White House staff to testify to the Ervin Committee in some "informal" arrangement. It's not a complete surrender, but it is a major modification of the position they've been pushing all through March, and shows that the pressure of the last few weeks is getting results.

But the most important thing today, by far, is that John Dean decides to get out. As the president heads for California, John Dean secretly meets with a lawyer, Charles Shaffer, in a marathon five hour session. That day, and over the weekend, Dean spills most of the story to Shaffer (although Dean says that he still waited a week before involving the president and pre-Watergate Plumbers material). Shaffer immediately sees just how much trouble Dean is in, and begins preparing to cut a deal with prosecutors.

Before they left, Haldeman and Nixon discussed Ervin Committee maverick Republican Lowell Weicker, and then the general situation:


President Nixon: I want you to get the [goods?] on Weicker. I think we've got to play a tough damn hard game on him. And he is not a strong man.
President Nixon: Have they done the checking on his financial statements and everything?

Haldeman: As best we can, yeah.

President Nixon: Is his income tax being checked yet, or have we got our man [presumably the new IRS director Donald Alexander] in yet?

Haldeman: We nominated him, but he isn't confirmed.[...]


Haldeman: It's funny. Boy, the raw human stuff keeps -- as you grind people against the wall, it starts coming out. Mitchell -- that's why I was not so sure you ought to have Ehrlichman in with Dean. I don't know whether this is true, but Mitchell says that Dean doesn't trust Ehrlichman, he thinks Ehrlichman is maneuvering to --

President Nixon: Sink him?

Haldeman: -- sink Dean. Now, Dean thinks that Mitchell and Magruder are maneuvering to sink him. That's what he tells me.

President Nixon: I don't think Ehrlichman is maneuvering to sink anybody.

Haldeman: No, I think Ehrlichman will maneuver to keep himself clean.

President Nixon: You're damn right he will, and everybody does.

Haldeman: And he should.

President Nixon: Everybody --

Haldeman: As long as he doesn't pull anyone else in, and I don't think he will. And I don't think John has --

President Nixon: John wouldn't do it at the expense of somebody else.

Haldeman: No, sir.


The point of the first part of this is that Nixon only really knows one way to "play the game," and he's entirely blind to the danger to himself over it. Not that Lowell Weicker was going to ease off at any rate, but that the more Nixon revealed himself to be willing to abuse the powers of his office in vindictive assaults, the less anyone cared to stick with him when things got rough.

And on the second part...Ehrlichman has been out to sink the CRP people, Mitchell included, for months. Just striking that Nixon and Haldeman either can't see that, or don't want to see it.

What Mattered This Week?

It was sort of this week, sort of not, but I'll make a mention here of all of the implementation fights on the Affordable Care Act: they certainly matter.

I'll go with North Korea again in the "doesn't matter" category.

I'm not sure what to do with the SCOTUS hearings on marriage, so I'll leave it to you.

And beyond that, I've probably missed stuff...what do you think? What do you think mattered this week?

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 1973

The Ervin Committee moves quickly, subpoenaing Magruder's assistant Robert Reisner, who the FBI and the prosecutors had totally overlooked.

Today is supposed to be a big presidency day; Nixon has a nationwide address scheduled in the evening, which he will devote to a warning to North Vietnam (about cease-fire violations) and new price controls. Haldeman notes that Nixon's calendar was cleared to work on the speech, but Watergate did intrude a little, nevertheless.

The first plan of the day was to get out a statement about Dean volunteering to go to the grand jury and waive executive privilege...but that winds up getting shot down over the course of the day. Republicans around town want something done, however; George Bush, the RNC Chair, and Vice-President Agnew both signal their concern, with Bush asking for a meeting with Nixon. Another big concern is setting up good lines of communication with the Senate committee, or at least with Howard Baker; Baker and Ehrlichman speak on the phone in the afternoon, with Baker complaining "that nobody's really in charge. I keep getting information and feedback from three or four different sources, and it suddenly dawned on me no one person's calling these shots."

Later, Nixon and Ehrlichman speak on the phone. The "other activities" are presumably the Plumbers -- remember that Ehrlichman was more involved in that than he was in Watergate itself:


President Nixon: [...] And, as far as the other activity, you know...

Ehrlichman: We could defend that as national security.

President Nixon: This is national security, you bet we have. We've got all sorts of activities because we've been trying to run this town by avoiding the Jews in the government, because there were very serious questions.

Ehrlichman: We had leaks...

President Nixon: Because there were leaks in the government itself.
President Nixon: I remember. We couldn't get it done. Hoover didn't want to go fro the Ellsberg csae, didn't want to face the [situation?] Remember that?
President Nixon: So the investigation had to be undertaken for the national security of this country...


That's not all; Ehrlichman also tells Nixon that he's met with Pat Gray, and that Gray still wants to fight, even though all their information from the Judiciary Committee is telling them that there's little chance of confirmation. Gray is now clinging to a plan in which the nomination is put on hold by Judiciary until after the Ervin Committee is done, leaving Gray still Acting Director during that period -- and he's made a point of stressing that the White House would rather have Gray, a friend, there than an outsider. Which Ehrlichman takes as another threat; what might Gray leave for the next Director?

And on top of all that, Haldeman speaks to Mitchell in the afternoon, and Mitchell raises yet another concern. From Haldeman's diary:


Everyone says Dean is uptight. He's not making proper judgement. Mitchell strongly suggests that I make sure he doesn't go off the reservation without my reviewing it. I'm the only one he'll trust. His opinion of E is incredible and frightening, so I should establish contact with Dean and maintain it.


Haldeman, however, doesn't do anything with that warning. And it's no surprise; from Haldeman's point of view, it's Mitchell who is the problem, because if the campaign faction, Mitchell and Magruder, would take full responsibility then the White House would be off the hook. Or so everyone at the White House, including the president has been saying. Could Haldeman have done anything now? Perhaps not, but Mitchell is exactly right about where the biggest threat is right now.

Friday Baseball Post

Hey, the season is (almost) here!

A couple of things...

Okay, a month ago I said that the main thing (beyond health) that I would pay attention to for clues about the future was...Brandon Belt's extra base hits. I guess I'm happy now! Of course, who knows whether it means anything, but I'll choose to interpret it as a (very mild -- I'm not nuts) positive.

And Jay Jaffe has a fun column of "20 ways to improve baseball right now." I'll tell you the ones I disagree with:

* Designated hitter in both leagues? No way; I'd like to see more differences (bring back the split umps!).  

* Expand to Montreal and Puerto Rico? I would like to see a two-team expansion, but I'm all for another New York team, probably in New Jersey but it doesn't really matter. I'm skeptical that Puerto Rico would work, but willing to be convinced; Montreal would be fine.

* Stronger PED suspensions? I don't so much disagree as don't care, but anything to end the obsession with that stuff. I tend to think the current regime is too strict, for what it's worth.

* Vin Scully calling the 2013 World Series? Sorry; I'm a big Vin Scully fan, but he really is past his prime, and wasn't all that great in a two or three person booth anyway. Giving him one inning a game on the radio broadcast, alone, would be fine by me, though, but if you put him on TV he's going to get lousy reviews at this point, deserved or not.

And I'll add five more:

* Hey, I see David Aardsma was DFA today, leading to: pay David Aardsma to change his name, dropping that second "a." Hey, it was really cool that Hank Aaron was the very first player in alphabetical order. 

* Adopt my postseason scheme: two divisions per league, first and second place teams advance and play cross-division, first place teams get an easier route through the first round.

* Along with that: get a proper TV contract to promote the hell out of "pennant race week" -- the last week of the regular season. It's a drama that the other sports don't have, and baseball needs to learn to exploit it.

* Is it too soon to put Sean Forman into the Hall of Fame? I suppose so, but not by much. How about in seven years, when baseball-reference turns 20? I'm quite serious about this; he's in my view (perhaps controversial view) more deserving than the people behind the MacMillan book or Total Baseball. 

* And this one isn't an "implement today" kind of thing, but...yeah, baseball would be better off if the number of balls in play could increase, and pitches/batter decrease. I'm fairly sure that what's happened to date is simply players learning optimal strategies, but I don't think the results are best for the fans. You don't want to mess with things too much, but I'd love to have someone thinking about it.

Elsewhere: Teens Vote, More

New column up at the Prospect today supporting teen voting. Regular readers know that I've been on this for a while -- this one is primarily about just dropping the voting age a couple years.

Speaking of old themes, I hit Mitch McConnell and the GOP for exec branch nominations obstruction over at PP today.

Wednesday at PP I said that tax reform is the new repeal-and-replace, and made an actual prediction that there won't be a tax reform bill this year (or at least a scoreable, revenue-neutral one).

And then yesterday it was the House Republicans, in one amazing quote.

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Lucy Lawless, 45. OK: I wasn't really much of a Xena fan, at least not as far as actually watching the show. But I very much liked her D'anna.

The good stuff:

1. James Fallows on the costs -- to the US budget -- of Iraq and Afghanistan.

2. Micah Cohen looks at turnover in the Senate.

3. Ann Friedman interviews Chris Hayes, and talks quotas.

4. And a dissenting view to my post on public opinion, from Steve M. He argues that you can create "artificial" intensity that leads to action, which I said couldn't be done by presidents, by working at it in a sustained way for years. It's fair to say that there are some people who are partisan activists who were sparked by leading politicians, as opposed to those who became involved because some issue get them out of their houses. But in practice that's a very small group. Most of the people he's talking about, the Rush Limbaugh audience, don't become activists (more, although still a relatively small group, become avid consumers, but that's not the same thing). They learn, basically, the "right" answers to give on policy questions...but even then, it's not unusual to find that those answers are just a thin layer; that's why, for example, pollsters get surprisingly high rates of Republicans supporting some Democratic positions (minimum wage, background checks). Of course, the same happens on the other side, too.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28, 1973

In public, or close to in public, a landmark: a hearing of the Ervin Committee. It comes about because James McCord is reluctant to continue with the committee attorney and demands to speak to the full committee. They agree to hold a closed hearing; Ervin himself is unable to attend. It rapidly leaks out, with Connecticut maverick Republican Lowell Weicker the main source. And it's big news: McCord, having already named Magruder and Dean, now says that John Mitchelll and Chuck Colson had prior knowledge of the break-in.

However, it turns out that the real breakthrough was someone else McCord mentions: Jeb Magruder's assistant at CRP, Robert Reisner. Reisner had never been questioned by the FBI or the prosecutors, but he knew about all three Gemstone meetings, and had even been the one deputized by Magruder to tell Liddy, eventually, that the final plan was approved.

Meanwhile, in the White House, another series of meetings, with John Mitchell coming down after yesterday's request. Haldeman's diary, on his first meeting with the president: "We need to decide what to do if events overrun us."

That's in the morning. They meet again early in the afternoon, after Haldeman has learned more of what Magruder is now saying:


Haldeman: John [Ehrlichman] talked to Dean on what Jeb [Magruder] had told him....[J]ust trying to lay out what he thinks, what happened here is that the whole intelligence plan was hatched here at the White House by Hunt, Liddy, and Colson. And Colson called Jeb twice to tell him to get going on this thing, and specifically referred to the Larry O'Brien information. [...] [Magruder] says that there were four people in the White House who had full knowledge of the Watergate operation -- Colson, Dick Howard, who worked for Colson, Gordon Strachan, and Haldeman.
Haldeman: And Haldeman because Gordon Strachan told him that I approved the plan. Now Gordon Strachan says flatly and absolutely that he did not know and that I did not approve the plan...

President Nixon: And you didn't approve the plan.

Haldeman: No, sir. I did not.

President Nixon: But I think it's the important thing here that Strachan says it too.


They continue, talking now about Magruder's charge that Dean coordinated his (Magruder's) perjury, but that the problem now is that Dean is surely going to the grand jury and wants to tell a different story -- one that will undercut Magruder. Remember, Magruder's story -- everyone's story -- was that Liddy and Dean ran off unauthorized, with no one at the committee or the White House knowing anything about it, and siphoning off moneys that were given for something else. Now Dean wants to testify about the two Gemstone meetings so that he can say that he, Dean, opposed Gemstone. Which, so far, isn't supposed to exist (the problem being that Dean, who hasn't yet testified, doesn't want to commit perjury).

Haldeman then has John Dean in to talk to Mitchell and Magruder. Dean is only just now back from Camp David, where he still isn't writing the Dean Report, and now he asks Mitchell about it all. In his conversation with Mitchell, Dean says that Mitchell confessed. The story, as Emery relays it, is that Dean talks to Mitchell about the two Gemstone meetings he attended, and then at Mitchell's urging speculates that "Colson and Haldeman had piled on the pressure" and Mitchell eventually just authorized the thing to get rid of it. To which Mitchell replies: "Your theory is right, except we thought it would be one or two times removed from the committee." So that's Dean's story; Mitchell, however, denies it.

Dean also tells Haldeman, in addition to all that, that he is planning to consult a criminal attorney about the situation, something that Colson has been urging the president to do because none of the staff has expertise in what they're up against now.

Nixon and Haldeman mention this in their evening phone call:


President Nixon:...I think the difficulty in Dean's case is that (unintelligible) he can hire a criminal lawyer and so forth and so on, but where's that going to lead him? I mean, if you look at Dean, why I suppose --

Haldeman: We, he may show him a way around this, you know, that's a technicality basis or something like that.

President Nixon: I really feel that Dean's -- Dean is a damn good thing here. You know what I mean? I think I would stand on that. I mean, I personally would stand back of him on it, what the White House counsel simply can't talk. You know?

Haldeman: Well, but he's got to talk on his own charge. I mean, if he's charged directly, unless he takes the Fifth, and then you've got to fire him.

President Nixon: Well, maybe that has to e done. What good would that do? Then the question is about the others.

Haldeman: Yeah. And Dean's capable of talking just like Magruder is, if you undercut him very far too.

President Nixon: Oh, Christ, I wouldn't think of undercutting him. Never. He's been a hero, really.

Haldeman: Yeah.

President Nixon: Really, he's been a sturdy, like a giant. No, no, no, no, no.[...]
President Nixon: Be sure he knows we -- that he's backed to the hilt, doesn't he?

Haldeman: Oh yeah. He's in good shape.

President Nixon: Just thinks this won't work?

Haldeman: He just sees what at the moment is a knotty problem that he doesn't see the end...

Catch of the Day

Yeah, everyone is linking to this, but it's too good to pass up. Luke Johnson read John Boehner's quote from Lincoln today, and noted:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) quotes Abraham Lincoln in a memo released Thursday as warning of debt, but ignores the former president's call for a tax or tariff.
Of course, the reason that Boehner did that -- I mean, apart from the appalling sloppiness and laziness that a generation of easy accommodation by Fox News and the rest of the GOP-aligned partisan press has taught to Republican politicians -- is that Boehner, and most of the House Republicans don't actually care about federal budget deficits. This is our old friend, the War on Budgeting: Republicans have plenty of spending they don't like, but they are at best indifferent to the difference between federal revenues and expenditures, and most of the time they just don't acknowledge that revenues, expenditures, and the deficit have any relationship whatsoever.

Oh, speaking of lazy: Greg Sargeant is good on the incoherence of the Boehner memo when it comes to sequestration, which continues to be both a great GOP achievement and all Obama's fault. As for me, I just can't get over how pathetic it is for a party to brag about "forcing" the other party to pass a pretty much meaningless budget resolution.

The bottom line here is that there really are strong disincentives for, well, trying hard. That is, if your job is to spin, and you are guaranteed a solid hit across the GOP-aligned press no matter what junk you send out (and, along with that, you know that your core audience won't ever see the criticisms of your spin, even if they were open to believing them).

At any rate: Nice catch!

The Real Reason Public Opinion Doesn't Work

Jonathan Chait gets it half-right:

At his remarks today touting support for background checks on guns, President Obama said, "Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change." Actually, since background checks command 90 percent in the polls but lack support from Republicans in Congress, pretty clearly millions of voices calling for change are less powerful than holding a House majority. They're also less powerful than a Senate majority. Or even 41 Senators, who can stop anything they want. A well-funded lobby probably beats millions of voices calling for change, too.

Basically, everything is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change.
See, the problem here is equating "90 percent in the polls" with "calling for change." Sure, 90 percent of citizens, or registered voters, or whoever it is will answer in the affirmative if they're asked by a pollster about this policy. But that's not at all the same as "calling for change." It's more like...well, it is receiving a call. Not calling.

Those people who have been pushing for marriage equality? They were calling for change. And marching for it, demanding it, donating money to get it, running for office to achieve it and supporting candidates who would vote for it, filing lawsuits to make it legal. In many cases, they based their entire political identity around it.

Action works. "Public opinion" is barely real; most of the time, on most issues, change the wording of the question and you'll get entirely different answers. At best, "public opinion" as such is passive. And in politics, passive doesn't get results.

Action works. Oh, not all the time: sometimes action on one side is met by action on the other side, and on some things there's just going to be a winner and a loser. Sometimes, too, action by some is not enough, or it takes too much time, especially in a political system that is even more biased towards the status quo than most.

What's more, it's perfectly understandable why most of us, on most issues, barely have opinions, let alone take action. Action is hard! Action can be painful. Action is risky. Action is unpredictable. We all have plenty of other things to do, after all. For the most part, we only take action when we can't do other things -- when something is so wrong that we just have to do something about it. It's almost impossible to manufacture that artificially...that's why presidential attempts to go over the heads of Congress to the people rarely work. Not because Congress will ignore their constituents. But because a president, no matter how eloquent or popular, isn't going to stir people to action on something just because they happen to agree with him. Meaningful action is too big a commitment for the tiny signal of a presidential exhortation to get it to happen. It usually take something with a much more direct effect on our day to day lives. But if it does happen, look out.

So, yeah, Chait is right about the strategy of going over the heads of Congress, and that's the key point to make about all of this from the perspective of what a president should spend time on. But from the point of view of citizens: yes, action can make a difference. And it may not even take millions.

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Ken Howard, 69. Do people even know about the White Shadow?

A little good stuff:

1. Doug Ahler, Jack Citrin, and Gabriel Lenz on polarization and the new(ish) primary law in California.

2. Conor Friedersdorf on drones.

3. Dan Larison makes an obvious but overlooked point.

4. And welcome to the news media, 2013 edition.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27, 1973

Nixon and Haldeman are back in Washington, dealing with the McCord accusations that have leaked, Jeb Magruder's new threats, Dean's impossible situation, the continuing possibility that Hunt or Liddy will start talking, the continuing effort to find some way to get on top of things, the Gray nomination (which is still out there)'s going to be a busy day.

(Note: At this point, and for the next few weeks, there's far more information than I can include in these posts; I'll do what I can, but the White House is now obsessed with Watergate -- and there's also the prosecutors and the Ervin Committee. Haldeman's published diary has eight pages, virtually all on Watergate, today; Kutler has six taped conversations, and that doesn't include one revealed in time for Watergate trials).

The president meets with Haldeman in the morning and gets the biggest new bombshell: that Jeb Magruder, who was once a Haldeman protegee and had run the day-to-day operations of the campaign, was now threatening to say that Watergate was a Haldeman operation:



The next meeting is Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Nixon. They circle around to the one plan which might get them off the hook -- one that Ehrlichman has pushed for some time. If Mitchell confesses and takes responsibility for Watergate, then it's limited to the campaign, not the White House:


HALDEMAN: All I have is Dean's report. I did not talk to Mitchell, because this thing changed (unintelligible) want to be from Mitchell. Uh, he had a long conversation again today with Paul O'Brien, who's the guy he's been -- talked with yesterday. . .you know, this, that, and all that, and uh, he says O'Brien
is very distressed with Mitchell. The more he thinks about it, the more O'Brien comes down to Mitchell could cut this whole thing off, if he would just step forward and cut it off. That the fact of the matter is as
far as Gray could determine that Mitchell did sign off on it. And if that's what it is...

PRESIDENT: You mean as far as O'Brien is concerned.


EHRLICHMAN: You said, "Gray."

PRESIDENT: What's that?

HALDEMAN: I'm sorry. O'Brien not Gray. As far as O'Brien can determine, Mitchell did sign off on this thing and, uh, that's, and Dean believes that to be the case also. He can't, Dean doesn't think he can prove it,
and apparently O'Brien can't either, but they both think that that...

HALDEMAN: The more O'Brien thinks about it, the more it bothers him with all he knows, to see all the people getting whacked around, that he sees getting whacked around, in order to keep the thing from focusing on John Mitchell, when inevitably it`s going to end up doing that anyway and all these other people are going to be so badly hurt they're not going to be able to get out from under. Uh, and that's one view.

[And now Haldeman reviews what he has already gone over with Nixon in the earlier conversation: Jeb Magruder's new story]

HALDEMAN: How, to go back on the Magruder situation as O`Brien reports it, having spent several hours with Magruder, yesterday afternoon, O`Brien and Parkinson. Jeb believes, or professes to believe, and O`Brien is inclined to think he really does believe, that the whole Liddy plan, the whole super-security operation, super-intelligence operation was put together by the White House, by Haldeman, Dean and others.


HALDEMAN: Really, Dean, that Dean cooked the whole thing up at Haldeman`s instruction. Uh, the
whole idea of the need for a super-intelligence operation. Now there`s some semblance of, of, uh, validity to the point, that I did talk, not with Dean, but with Mitchell, about the need for intelligence activity and--

PRESIDENT: And that Dean recommended Liddy?

HALDEMAN: Yeah, but not for intelligence. Dean recommended Liddy as the General Counsel.

PRESIDENT: Yeah, but you see this is where Magruder might come--Well, go ahead. Okay.

HALDEMAN: Uh, that Mitchell bought the idea that was cooked up in the White House for a super-
intelligence operation, and that this was all set and an accomplished fact in December of `71 before Liddy was hired by the Committee. But then, Liddy was hired by the Committee to carry it out and that's why
Dean sent Liddy over to the Committee. Then there was a hiatus. There were these meetings in Mitchell`s office, uh, where Liddy unveiled his plan. And the first plan he unveiled, uh, nobody bought. They all
laughed at it. Cause it was so bizarre So he went back to the drawing, board and came back with a second plan and the second plan didn`t get, bought either. That was at the second meeting and everything just
kind of lingered around then. It was sort of hanging fire. Liddy was pushing to get moving on his plans. And at that point, he went to Colson and said, “Nobody will approve any of this, uh, uh, and, you know, we could, we should be getting,...


HALDEMAN: ...getting going on it." And Colson then got into the act in pushing to get which, which started with the Colson phone call to Magruder saying, ”Well at least listen to these guys.” Then the final step was--all of this was rattling around in January. The final step was when Gordon Strachan called Magruder and said Haldeman told him to get this going, “The President wants it done and there`s to be no more arguing about it.” This meaning the intelligence activity, the Liddy program. Magruder told Mitchell this, that Strachan had ordered him to get it going on Haldeman`s orders on the President's orders and Mitchell signed off on it. He said, “Okay, if they say to do it, go ahead.”

PRESIDENT: Uh, was that this is the bugging?

HALDEMAN: The whole thing including the bugging.



Dean's been pushing the idea of going, himself, to the grand jury and getting immunity. Now, there's another idea that they've started working on that Dean is pushing: a Warren-type commission to get around both the Senate and the grand jury. Ready?


HALDEMAN: Now, no man is above the law and that is a basic principle we must operate on, but under these circumstances, there's no possibility of a fair hearing and every man is entitled to the protection of the law, and the public is entitled to the facts in this matter. But the people who are in charge and are involved are entitled to, fair treatment. People who are involved, or were then accused to be. So, I'm creating a super panel which will have the cooperation of all investigative agencies. All the people who have been charged in this matter, have volunteered to submit their entire, their facts, to this panel.

PRESIDENT: Be questioned by it.

HALDEMAN: And be questioned by it. They've agreed to waive their right to trial by jury.

PRESIDENT: What (unintelligible) is that.

HALDEMAN: And the panel is empowered to act to remove, anybody that it sees fit because of involvement, to level fines and to impose criminal sanctions. The defendants in the in the Watergate trial, the men who have already been, uh, can also submit any information that they want.

PRESIDENT: (Unintelligible).

HALDEMAN: Anyone who does not submit to the proceedings of this committee under these conditions...


HALDEMAN: ...will be faced with the fact that all information developed by the committee from all other sources will be turned over to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. There will be no judgment until all the facts are received by the commission and then the commission will make public all of, its findings and the reasons for all actions taken. They will proceed in secret and their decisions will be final and not subject to appeal. And the people appearing before them will voluntarily submit to that. Right (unintelligible).

PRESIDENT: What kind of an appeal? How`s that (unintelligible).

HALDEMAN: Uh, I don't know.

EHRLICHMAN: That`s--that sounds like a little bit simpler than that, than what I originally thought he had in mind. He says, uh

PRESIDENT: Wonder if the President has the power to set up such a thing. Can he do that sort of thing? I know that the main point. I don't think so.

EHRLICHMAN: Executive process.

HALDEMAN: By voluntary (unintelligible).

EHRLICHMAN: You get the (unintelligible).

EHRLICHMAN: Yeah, but it isn't, it isn't that guy. It's the fellow who doesn't submit, who in effect is being denied due process.

PRESIDENT: Uh, you--you're right.

HALDEMAN: The information on him will be turned over to the criminal--might be he`d be subpoenaed.

PRESIDENT: No, then, you sort of condemned him by...

EHRLICHMAN: Negative inference.


PRESIDENT: ...negative inference.

HALDEMAN: We're all condemned by negative inference right now.

EHRLICHMAN: I, I appreciate that, but that's--

PRESIDENT: You're not condemned by a court.

EHRLICHMAN: Uh, it's a little different. Well, I, that isn't, that isn't a sine qua non on this thing. No.

HALDEMAN: He feels that there are a lot of advantages on this, uh, and two major internal ones. It will take the panel a long time to get set up, get its processes worked out, get its hearings done and make its findings and then you'll probably be past the '74 elections which`ll be desirable (unintelligible). Secondly, is the, the President maintains the ultimate stroke on it, because he always has the option on January 19 to pardon anybody who needs a pardon. So the potential ultimate penalty anybody that would get hit in this process could be about two years. His view would be to put--you need to get someone on the panel who knows politics. Former Governor, or something like that. But, uh, if you would want Earl Warren, if he'll do it, but he's down in Florida. What could that matter to the people? So what are you gonna do about Ervin? Well, you call Ervin down. You tell him the plans and explain why you're doing it, that justice is not being carried out now, there's a finger pointing and a lot of problems. And you ask him to hold his hearings in abeyance until the panel serves its purpose.


I mean, it's a complete bonkers plan, no? In the sense that there's no way that either the Senate or the courts would go along. Haldeman and Nixon had spoken, earlier in the day, about who might be's just  flailing. But soon enough, they return to the best option they had:


HALDEMAN: [...] The only other idea Dean comes up with is he said, "One thing you might want to consider is the President calling Mitchell in for a one-on-one talk. The President now has all the facts on this (unintelligible) tell us. But I, Dean, don't know the facts on Mitchell.” He said, "I thin think that Mitchell would not pull any punches with the President and if the President--that, that would be a way to find out what Mitchell's true perception of what did and didn't happen was."

HALDEMAN: And that's probably the only--supposing you had (unintelligible).

PRESIDENT: Suppose now, the fact that (unintelligible) too, my time. Suppose you call Mitchell and
say to him, "Will you--what do you, what do you learn, and uh, for what?” And Mitchell says, "Yes, I did it.” Then what do we say?

HALDEMAN: It's knowledge than we possess right now. If he would only confess (unintelligible).


EHRLICHMAN: And that's a terrible thing. I, uh, I think if he were faced with that reality, uh, he would,

PRESIDENT: Well, what is Mitchell's option though? You mean to say, uh let`s, see what he could do. Does Mitchell come in and say, "My fault...My memory was faulty. I lied?” No. He can't say that.

EHRLICHMAN: He says, uh, uh--

PRESIDENT: "That I may have given a-- without intending to, I may have given, been responsible for this, and I, I regret it very much, but I did not intend that, I did not realize what they were up to. They, they were talking, we were talking about apples and oranges.” That’s what I think he would say. Don't you agree?

HALDEMAN: I think.


HALDEMAN: He authorized apples and they bought oranges. Yeah

PRESIDENT: Mitchell, you see, is never, never going to go in and admit perjury. I mean you can, uh, talk about immunity and all the rest, but he's never going to do that.

HALDEMAN: They won't give him immunity anyway, I wouldn't think, unless they figure they could get you. He is as high up as they`ve been.

EHRLICHMAN: He's the big Enchilada.


Here's the thing about the Mitchell-did-it plan, which they've been batting around since June. 1. Every time one of them decides to finally confront Mitchell, they wind up choking; 2. Nixon's analysis is that Mitchell won't go for it anyway; 3. Even if Mitchell was to go for it, they still have the problem that it bypasses the White House staff, but not Nixon -- all of them have noted repeatedly that no one would believe that Mitchell did this and Nixon didn't know about it; 4. At any rate, it's really only a solution to the break-in at the Watergate. It doesn't help with obstruction of justice, which given McCord and Gray is very much on the table; it also doesn't help with the White House horrors, which means that Hunt, at least, would still be a problem for all of them.

Haldeman does call Mitchell, though, and asks him to come down to meet with them the next day (and is surprised to find that Magruder is in Mitchell's office when he calls). Back to Magruder:


PRESIDENT: How do you analyze Magruder, uh, tossing it off to you rather than to Mitchell? I mean
did that surprise you?

HALDEMAN: Well, he hits Mitchell too. I think he's trying to wrap me because he wants to get you in. I think, uh, my view is that what Magruder was doing here was firing a threat rather than an intent to say it--I don't think he intends to use that so much as he intended--he's trying to get. people shook up.

PRESIDENT: He isn't asking to see me is he?

EHRLICHMAN: Oh, no. He's trying, he's trying to get the line around you for his own protection.

HALDEMAN: (Unintel1igible) In other words, if all Magruder is going to do is take the dive himself, then we aren't going to care about it, if he makes, if he makes us worry that he's going to get...


HALDEMAN: ...Mitchell, you and me.

PREESIDENT: you see any way though, any way, that Magruder can stick to his story? No.

EHRLICHMAN: Yes, because he's an, he's an ingenious ...

PRESIDENT: Stick to the story? Yeah.

EHRLICHMAN: ...He is an ingenious witness, uh, uh--I think. I'm told. If he is really as good as he is, uh, as they say he is as a witness, its possible he could get away with it. Uh, it's, it's arguable.

PRESIDENT: So, that its his word against McCord.

EHRLICHMAN: And, and he is flowing with the stream, you see, he's, he's saying the things they want
him to say.

PRESIDENT: No. No. No. NO. No. No. No. No. I don't mean if he says, if I, I mean--

EHRLICHMAN: Oh, if he sticks to his old story—I see, I see.


EHRLICHMAN: I thought you meant the story he's laying out here.

PRESIDENT: Oh, no. No. This story. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. They'd take that in a minute.

EHRLICHMAN: I tell ya I am, I`m to the point now where I don`t think, this thing is going to hold
together, and my hunch is that anybody who tries to stick with a story that is not susceptible to corroboration is in, going to be in serious difficulty.

PRESIDENT: So, what do you feel then?

EHRLICHMAN: Well, that is why I said I thought he ought to move to a, a real and immune confession
of perjury if he can do it. There's too many crosscurrents in this thing now.

PRESIDENT: Yeah. This is my view that (unintelligible), I'm sure he checked it out. If Magruder is going to say that--then what the hell is in it for him?


PRESIDENT: Well, if he gets immunity—Good...


PRESIDENT: ...Good God!


The idea is that former Secretary of State William Rogers might be able to set up the Warren Commission-like panel, but Nixon meets with Rogers that day and Rogers shoots it down. So that's going nowhere. Late that afternoon, Haldeman checks in with Dean about the day's events, including Hunt's new appearance before the grand jury.


Haldeman: So the grand jury didn't meet this afternoon?

Dean: Yes, they did, but it was after that meeting. All counsel were present in the courtroom and then Hunt was to go before the grand jury in that situation...We have a terrible breakdown in communication with both the committees and now the grand jury. I used to be able to stay plugged in with the grand jury, but I'm too hot to do it now.


Then Haldeman talks about the options, including a special prosecutor, and report back in the evening to Nixon:


Haldeman: [Colson said] there is a very clear case for conspiracy to commit perjury, a very clear case for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Both those cases can be made and they can be sustained. As he put it, if a special prosecutor were to go to a Warren Commission, you would ensure indictment and almost probably, almost certainly conviction on those counts for a number of people.

President Nixon: So the Warren Commission's out?

Haldeman: He says the problem is, for any practical purposes if you bring in a special prosecutor, even with this grand jury, you can't limit his authority.
Haldeman: The greatest danger we have, Chuck feels, is a runaway grand jury.[...] And our objective now totally should be to control the grand jury and to control what happens within the grand jury. And he says the problem on the obstruction thing is that everyone in the White House, maybe not everyone, but a hell of a lot of people are participants in one way or another except himself.
President Nixon: Rewriting history a little better.


Colson's advice is basically the most sensible thing anyone has proposed all day: hunker down. No fantasies of getting in front of the story. Oh, and that the president should hire a criminal lawyer to advise him, since none of the staff are in a position to do that. But it's too late for that, too.

Tim Johnson

Earlier this week, Tim Johnson announced he won't be running for re-election. That makes seven announced retirements (five Democrats), along with the two resignations from John Kerry and Jim DeMint. 

Johnson will be 68 by January 2015, so his retirement is another stop towards a somewhat less aged Senate. 

In fact, we already have the three most likely replacements already in place. Former Governor Mike Rounds (b. 1954) is already running and is the probable Republican nominee, although we've learned not to count on such things always working out for the GOP. On the Democratic side, either Johnson's son Brendan Johnson (b. 1975) or Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (b. 1970) will probably make the race, perhaps setting up a tough primary. Yes, this is could be yet another example of a relatively old Republican nominee. 

As political junkies will have noticed, this also could be a setback for ridding the Senate of dynastic politicians. Tim Johnson was not a dynastic politician, at least not as far as I can tell. Of course his son would be. And so would Stephanie Herseth Sandlin -- in fact, she's a third generation South Dakota politician. Mike Rounds also comes from a political family; his father (according to wikipedia) had several jobs in state government, including state director of highway safety. I haven't looked at the other retiring Senators, other than noting that Jay Rockefeller (obviously a dynastic politicians) may be replaced by Shelley Moore Capito, whose father was governor of West Virginia. Oh, and she was born in 1953, so that's going on, too. 

Manufacturing New ACA Myths

Here's how myths get started.

Over the weekend, Alyene Senger at Heritage ran an item called "Obamacare at Three Years: Increasing Cost Estimates." Her claim:
Over the last three years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has revised its cost estimates for Obamacare’s new entitlements—the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies—many times, and they have more than doubled since 2010.
And she has a chart showing estimated new costs rising from $898 billion in March 2010 to $1.6 trillion in February 2013. The chart is titled "Obamacare's New Spending Estimates Keep Rising," and includes text saying "The Congressional Budget Office as made several estimates of the 10-year cost of Obamacare's new spending on the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies, and the costs keep rising."

The chart is important, because it's easily exportable. So David Frum today ran an item which was just the chart; the only thing Frum added was a one-sentence introduction, "The estimated costs of Obamacare keep rising."

I haven't looked, but I'm sure the chart will get plenty of play.'s entirely phony. The real story from the CBO charts she cites says the estimates haven't really changed at all.

Senger's own article undermines, to some extent, the story the chart tells. As she (quite honestly) points out, the March 2010 estimate was a ten-year projection in which the ACA only kicks in for the last six years. For the February 2013 estimate, which she again (very honestly) points out, is an eleven, not a ten, year estimate, the number she uses for the chart subtracts out the 11th year (2023). So it's nine years (plus one pre-expansion) compared with six (plus four pre-expansion).

But there's more! Neither the subsidies or Medicaid is projected to kick in all at once. In the original March 2010 estimate, for example, subsidies were expected to grow from $15B in 2014 up to $75B in 2017, and then increase more slowly ($82B in 2018, $87B in 2019). So the original estimate wasn't really for 6 full years of ACA; it was really four years before costs kick in, three partial years, and three full years. The February 2013 estimates, then, are for one pre-ACA year, three partial years, and six full years.

What we really need is year-to-year comparisons of the coverage expenditure estimates. These appear to be the numbers Senger is using from the CBO tables:

Year     2010 est     2013 est
2014         $49B        $47B      
2015          100           96
2016          158         153
2017          184         186
2018          197         206
2019          210         217

Um...that's not doubling. Indeed, since I assume that the 2010 estimate is in 2010 dollars while the 2013 estimate is in 2013 dollars that the small increase is pretty much all inflation-related. Indeed: the CBO reports also list four categories of payments (including for example penalties for individuals who don't have insurance), and the estimated offset from those goes from $42B in the 2010 estimate for 2019 to $68B in the 2013 estimate for 2019 (although some of that may be that the revenue effects were changed by other tax changes). By the way, that means that the net cost of coverage expansion now appears to be lower in 2019 than it appeared three years ago.

Now, if you want to use these numbers to say that keeping the original cost estimate under $1T was phony...I'll be right there with you. It was. Once fully phased in, the ACA has costs far greater than $100B per year. It pays for them, but yes, that number was phony.

But if you want to use these CBO reports to claim that "the costs keep rising"....well, that's not what CBO says. A better description of the data would be "the cost estimates have not changed at all over the last three years."

So everyone who runs Sanger's chart should know: it's massively misleading. Or, I should say: the bar graph is misleading; the text is just plain dead wrong. All in all, it's garbage.

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Buster Posey, 26. Oh, and with ~300 games, he's easily the all-time San Francisco Giants catcher, no?

The good stuff:

1. I know those of you who are not political scientists may not be interested, but I'm going to keep linking to items about the funding fight. The latest: Peter Hanson on the next steps. Also, Seth Masket has four examples of actual political science research.

2. Josh Putnam on Iowa/New Hampshire -- and what the parties are actually concerned about.

3. James Pethokoukis on Amity Shlaes.

4. Alyssa Rosenberg on gender roles and what's wrong with romantic comedies these days.

5. And Matt Yglesias on Star Trek episodes. Have to disagree with him on "Chain of Command." That's the Next Generation Cardassian torture epsiode, and I find it unwatchable; it's exactly that kind episode that Next Generation is easily mocked for. Torture is something that the other guys (and not even other humans, but evil aliens) do, and guess what? It's bad. Also, typical of a more important flaw in that series, which was that few of the two-parters had a payoff that was worth it. I'd recommend Darmok instead.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26, 1973

Haldeman's diary:


The P had me over again at 10:00 this morning for another six-hour session. I talked to Dean on the phone first to get a reading on how the reaction to the story is going. He decided last night to hire a lawyer and to have him give notice to the papers that he would move for libel action if they went ahead with the story.


OK, there's a lot there.

The story Haldeman is checking about is an LA Times scoop about what James McCord is telling Sam Dash, the Ervin Committee counsel: that Dean was involved in Watergate and that Magruder perjured himself. In fact, Dash gave a statement to the press the previous day making it public that McCord was talking to him, but the LA Times story has the detail that McCord had accused both Dean and Magruder.

Second, "another six-hour session." Watergate, now, is totally consuming the administration. Remember, this is the President of the United States and his White House Chief of Staff. They have other things to do!

Third: Dean hires a lawyer. Now, the idea of a libel suit is a joke; there's no way that Dean would want to subject himself to discovery at this point. He'd either have to perjure himself (and with an excellent chance of being caught), or confess to obstruction of justice, at the very least. But for Nixon and his men on March 26, the notion of John Dean consulting with an attorney should have been absolutely terrifying. Even if Dean only did it because he really did want to sue the LA Times, a lawyer is going to tell Dean to look out for himself -- and a John Dean looking out for himself, fully aware of what he's been telling the president and how the president has responded...oh my.

For now, however, Haldeman and Nixon don't focus on that last threat. Instead, in addition to McCord, there's a new worry: Jeb Magruder now tells the Committee to Re-elect's layer, Paul O'Brien, that the real story of Watergate was that it was all a White House idea in the first place, with Dean implementing Haldeman's plan for intelligence-gathering. In this version, CRP merely signed off on what the White House was demanding. This is essentially the flip side of John Ehrlichman's plan to blame everything on a Mitchell - Magruder - Liddy chain of command, and of course if yet another immediate problem for John Dean.

Catch of the Day

To Harry Enten, who teaches WaPo's Richard Cohen a bit about Republican primary and caucus electorates. Uh, yeah, New Hampshire Republicans are sharply less, not more, conservative than typical GOP primary-goers.

I do wonder about Iowa, however. As Enten details it, caucus attendees are quite a bit more likely to call themselves "very conservative" than primary voters in Ohio. I should know more about this than I do, but presumably some of that is about caucuses compared with primaries (caucuses get only the most intense voters, who are most likely not only to be strongly ideological but also more likely to think of themselves that way). The part I'm curious about is whether Iowa's first-in-the-nation status also plays in, with Iowa's voters getting the most partisan "education" of any.

At any rate: the more important point here is that everyone tends to overestimate the effects of going first. Yes, Iowa and New Hampshire do still perform some winnowing, but for the most part they simply implement choices made by the party as a whole. Candidates who are rejected by party actors nationally but take advantage of favorable local circumstances to run well in these early contests -- and Rick Santorum is a fine example -- generally tend to fizzle.

This also is the legitimate basis for the much derided "expectations" game. Some of that derision is deserved, but some of it is simply noting that context matters: a conservative candidate doing well in moderate New Hampshire should be treated as having accomplished more (all else equal) than that same candidate doing well in Iowa or South Carolina. And smart party actors react accordingly.

In other words, the whole complaint about Iowa/New Hampshire has been massively overblown, at least since the mid-1980s when the parties learned how to deal with the reformed process.

Also: nice catch!

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to James Caan, 73.

Yes, good stuff:

1. How political science should lobby, by Jennifer Victor.

2. Wait -- you mean goofy-sounding research may actually be useful? Carl Zimmer.

3. Gershom Gorenberg on Obama's speech in Jerusalem.

4. Irin Carmon on Justice Ginsburg, abortion, and marriage.

5. And E.J. Graff on marriage.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chag Sameach (and Elsewhere)

So I'll wish a Gut Yontif to everyone celebrating the Passover tonight. Absolutely the best holiday.

Which also explains why there's nothing much here today. Well that, and (hope you don't mind a little kvetching, otherwise just skip ahead to the "elsewhere" section below)...look, it's one thing to be up half the night with a sick kid; as parents, we all sign up for that. What's not fair is when, after doing that, you have to take the (feeling much better, fortunately) kid young woman to the airport because her first college spring break is over...which among other things means she'll be having her seder tonight with her uncles and aunts and cousins. First Passover away from home, surely rougher on the parents than on the kids. At any rate, between that, and that cleaning the kitchen is my job, and my share of the cooking, and the younger daughter's birthday yesterday...well, it's not a real productive blogging day. Did I mention there's a mother-in-law visit, too? Which is excellent (really; no complaint there, except for the well-spent time sink). But again, not much writing today. Probably tomorrow, too. Normal posting should resume as the week goes on.

I did write one about judges and Obama over at PP today. On Friday there I talked about the origins of the budget deficit obsession. At Salon on Friday, I managed to get Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and, yes, the Sage of Wasilla herself all into the top paragraph. There's also one over at Greg's place about the future of "repeal Obamacare."

The one that I liked is from PP -- there's been some argument around the interwebs about the effects of Iraq on policy change, and I responded with a broad one about Iraq, the ACA, democracy, retrospective voting, and other such things.

So again, Chag Sameach!

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Nick Lowe, 64.

And some good stuff:

1. Dan Hopkins on how to influence policy if you're a lobbyist.

2. Bob Dole and the current Senate, by Michael Kranish.

3. And Mark Kleiman tries a little education.