Washington Post reporter Dan Balz on last night's elections:
The most significant change came among independent voters, who solidly backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008 but moved decisively to the Republicans on Tuesday, according to exit polls. In Virginia, independents strongly supported Republican Robert F. McDonnell in his victory over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, while in New Jersey, they supported Republican Chris Christie in his win over Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president's health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership.
Tuesday's elections provided the first tangible evidence that Republicans can win their support with the right kind of candidates and the right messages. That is an ominous development for Democrats if it continues unabated into next year.
Ten paragraphs later:
[David] Axelrod warned against extrapolating into the future the shift among independents. He said he believed that many people who called themselves Republicans in the past now call themselves independents but are still voting for Republican candidates. "I don't think they portend long-term trends," he said.
Gee, wouldn't it have been nice if Balz gave readers some indication of whether Axelrod is right that "many people who called themselves Republicans in the past now call themselves independents"?
I mean, that would certainly have some impact on the significance of Balz assertions about independents becoming "increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies," wouldn't it? It could even mean that "independents" aren't "increasingly disaffected," but rather that people who are disaffected are increasingly calling themselves independents rather than Republicans. Those two things are very, very different.
And, indeed, various polls this year have shown the percentage of the public that self-identifies as Republican is at or near an all-time low, which lends some support to Axelrod's claim.
This is exactly the kind of question Dan Balz is supposed to resolve, isn't it? His article is billed as "analysis," after all. Wouldn't it be great if he provided some?
The Washington Post's Ramesh Ponnuru offers up standard-issue right-wing opposition to "federal funding for abortion":
Americans may be divided about whether and to what extent abortion should be allowed, but for more than three decades there has been a fairly broad consensus that federal money shouldn't pay for it. Pro-lifers regard the Hyde amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding for most abortions, as the single policy that has done the most to save unborn lives. Some pro-choicers regard it as consistent with their view that the government should stay out of abortion decisions.
The health-care legislation being considered by Congress up-ends this settlement. All of the major bills would offer new subsidies to help people purchase insurance that covers abortion, and those with a public option would authorize a new government-run insurer to cover abortions.
Most Republicans oppose this idea, and so do pro-life Democratic congressmen. They should keep fighting (even though the Democrats will surely be under a lot of pressure to give up). Abortion coverage would almost certainly raise the abortion rate, and would make taxpayers involuntarily complicit in the taking of innocent human life.
The objection to the (even indirect) use of federal funds to pay for abortion on the grounds that "the government should stay out of abortion decisions" is basically dishonest. Does Ponnuru consider Medicaid payments for a trip to the emergency room to fix a broken leg "government involvement in medical decisions"? I'm sure he doesn't. The government refusing to pay for a legal medical procedure is the opposite of the government staying out of the decision.
It's a shame Ponnuru doesn't attempt to reconcile the claim that the government refusing to pay for a legal medical procedure he doesn't like with the standard conservative complaint about "government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor."
It's also a shame that Ponnuru doesn't explain why it's wrong to make taxpayers "involuntarily" pay for abortion, but it's fine to make them involuntarily pay for the death penalty, or wars of choice.
But mostly it's a shame that the Post doesn't ask him to. If it did, it might prompt an actual thoughtful discussion, rather than a rote regurgitation of broad talking points. It might actually help people understand Ponnuru's position. What he posted sure doesn't -- it doesn't include anything we didn't already know about conservative opposition to federal funding for abortion, and didn't address any of the obvious questions about that opposition. It added absolutely nothing to the discourse.
Sometimes, if a word is used over and over again in the wrong way, it starts to lose its meaning. Take the word "guys," for example. It's now completely normal to say, "hey guys," to a group of people, even if there isn't a man in sight. It's a verbal tic that feels comfortable and gets an intention across, even if it's technically wrong.
Yesterday, the Washington Times added to its witch hunt of President Obama's appointees by accusing David Hamilton, a Seventh Circuit nominee, of being "a radical's radical," based on a lot of misleading information. This is nothing new--the Times has been on the front line of attacking Obama's appointees, and it seems that they know only one word to describe them: "radical." Since January, Times editorials have used the word "radical" to describe at least 11 advisers or nominees, and in some cases, on multiple occasions. For example, according to the editorials:
Then, there was the mother lode: On October 13, the Times published an "administration of radicals" editorial, which it billed as a "dishonor roll" of administration officials. The top honors went to familiar targets Jennings, Jones, Sotomayor, and Butler, but it also named Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, White House adviser Tom Daschle, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh, White House adviser Ezekiel Emanuel, and National Intelligence Council nominee Charles W. Freeman Jr.
If the Times' editorial writers are going to smear basically every appointee the Obama administration can come up with, they should probably find a new word to throw around. This one is becoming meaningless.
How'd you spend your election day Tuesday? If you're a Fox News host or political analyst, you might have spent it shilling and celebrating for conservative and Republican candidates:
That glee transferred to Fox & Friends, where Fox News revelled in calling GOP victories the "winds of change," a "Republican revival" and a "blueprint for success."
Note the very GOP-friendly lede in this morning's paper, courtesy of Nagourney [emphasis added]:
The Republican victories in the races for New Jersey and Virginia governors put the party in a stronger position to turn back the political wave President Obama unleashed last year, setting the stage for Republicans to raise money, recruit candidates and ride the excitement of an energized base as the party heads into next year's midterm elections.
And then later in the piece:
For Republicans, the results on Tuesday were welcome news after one of the party's toughest years.
That's a bit odd, because in Tuesday's paper, the Times' Adam Nagourney was quite clear about what the implications of the Congressional race N.Y.-23 race would be:
Worst outcome for Republicans: Losing the New York congressional race, which has showcased deep divisions between moderates and conservatives over how the party should rebuild to return to power.
According to Nagourney on Tuesday, losing the N.Y. race would be the "worst" outcome possible for the GOP. Well, guess what? Republicans did lose the N.Y. race. But in today's Times, that loss is dramatically downgraded on the significance scale. Suddenly that loss in no way curtails the GOP's ability to "raise money" and "ride the excitement."
UPDATED: According to the Times headline today, GOP hopes have been "Rekindled." Hmm, on Tuesday, a loss in upstate N.Y. represented the GOP's "worst" possible outcome. But on Wednesday, that same loss helped "rekindle" GOP hopes.
Would it be asking too much for Nagourney to explain this glaring contradiction?
UPDATED: In a separate election Times piece today by David Halbfinger and Ian Urbina, the newspaper stresses:
Republicans swept contests for governor in New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday as voters went to the polls filled with economic uncertainty, dealing President Obama a setback and building momentum for a Republican comeback attempt in next year's midterm Congressional elections.
What happened to the "worst" case scenario of losing N.Y.-23?
UPDATED: For the record, Nagourney today did acknowledge the N.Y. loss up high in his piece:
But a Democratic victory in an upstate New York Congressional district — after an ideologically pitched battle between moderates and conservatives over how best to lead Republicans back to power — signaled that the Republican Party faces continued upheaval. The Democratic victory came over a conservative candidate who, with the enthusiastic backing of national conservative leaders and well-financed grass-roots organizations, had forced out a Republican candidate who supported abortion rights and gay rights.
From Fox Business host Eric Bolling's Twitter account:
From the November 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
On Tuesday, Beltway denizens were stressing that Tuesday's three major off-year elections were all important, and if Dems lost all three it would be very bad news and tell us all kinds of important details about Obama's political standing.
Well, check that. Dems, in something of a shocker, won the upstate N.Y. Congressional race in a very red district, while losing two governors races in N.J. and VA. So what's Balz's spin at the WashPost? Only the VA. and N.J. race are worth dissecting; only the VA. and N.J. contests tell us anything useful about the political mood of the country. (i.e. It's "ominous" for Democrats.)
From Frank's November 3 Wall Street Journal column:
Glenn Beck, the popular Fox News host, has a red telephone on his desk that never seems to ring. Every now and then, in a moment of acute frustration, he will pick it up and give the camera his trademark pleading-puppy look.
What Mr. Beck wants to hear from the phone are answers, and he wants to hear them from the highest authority in the land: the phone, he says, is "a dedicated line right to the White House." And when Mr. Beck gets things wrong, he wants his antagonists on Pennsylvania Avenue to correct him. But "They don't call. They're not going to call."
Consider a few of the other grand assertions tossed out by the panic-peddling host last week: that the cause of last year's financial crisis was pressure exerted by Acorn and "the people in Washington" on otherwise-reluctant mortgage lenders; that the cause of the inflation of the 1970s was President Jimmy Carter's quest for a "socialist utopia."
These are postulates that it is only possible to believe after you have utterly closed yourself off to conventional ways of knowing, after you have decided that the reporting and analysis and scholarship on these subjects are not worth reading, and that you will choose ideological fairy tales over reality until the day a magical phone call comes from on high.
What Mr. Beck's silent phone really symbolizes is a new kind of ignorance, a coming high-tech dark age in which people can choose to blow off professional standards of inquiry; in which they can wall themselves off with cable TV and friendly Web sites, dismiss what displeases as liberal bias, and demand that any contrary view be transmitted to them via telephone call from the president himself.
Why not let Mr. Beck and his viewers have their fun? Because ideas have consequences. Maybe, as many believe, Glenn Beck is indeed the future of the conservative movement. From tea parties to town-hall meetings, thousands are signing up and fitting themselves out with their very own hotline to nowhere.