Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Who says Talking Points

Who says Talking Points readers aren't the smartest folks on the web? After reading last night's post two intrepid Pointsters showed me how the Republicans were right (!) and how I'd been wrong all along about the brouhaha in Seminole and Martin counties.

Tossing out those absentee ballots isn't a matter of disenfranchisement, it's an issue of basic fairness! Not to Al Gore, but to the voters themselves.

Why didn't they complete the forms? These absentee voters went up to the brink and then didn't pull the trigger. They clearly had second thoughts - just like those non-chad-whacking African-American and elderly Jewish voters down state. These are really just more protest voters who decided not to vote for anyone at all.

Sound strange?

Fuhggedaboutit! It happens in Florida all the time.

Ahha Ahha Caught in

Ahha! Ahha! Caught in the act! Who am I talking about? Andrew Sullivan!

For several weeks now, as a regular reader of andrewsullivan.com I've been watching Sullivan pillory my guy Al Gore for all manner of crimes, inconsistencies, villanies, violations of this canon and that. But now I've caught him.

In the course of a post gently attacking Rick Hertzberg's most recent column in the New Yorker about the moral argument for Al Gore's case, Sullivan writes:

The point of a Republican system of government is precisely to undermine the simple conflation of majority and morality.
Sounds right ... But wait! Don't we mean here 'republican' as in Machiavelli and Harrington and Sidney and Locke and Shaftesbury?

(Who are these people? Doesn't matter. It's Talking Points showing a little one-time-graduate-student- of-Early-Modern-English-history leg. Indulge him. It's knowledge he can't put to any other use.)

Back to my story.

What's with the capital-R? You only use the capital-R when you're talking about the Republican party. What's going on here? A Freudian slip? Perhaps so.

P.S. Talking Points would like to stipulate that he chatted with Sullivan last week and Sullivan was perfectly charming. Sullivan is a Washington big-wig and Talking Points is, well ... a small-wig. So he's really hoping Sullivan will take this whole little outburst in good humor. Really hoping.

Just when Im starting

Just when I'm starting to think the Republicans might …might have the better part of the argument about whether or not improperly filed absentee ballots ought to be tossed out in Seminole and Martin counties, well, along comes Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee. I don't know what else to say but that Nicholson is just a snarling and ferocious character. And his constant effort to paste a smile over his nasty outbursts just gives him an even more menacing appearance.

Okay, enough ranting about Jim Nicholson. Back to my point.

Republicans and the New York Times editorial page have a good point arguing that it's unseemly for Gore to possibly be benefiting from throwing out thousands of absentee ballots of voters who committed no intentional fraud. It certainly gives me pause.

Nicholson is on MSNBC at roughly 9:20 PM on Wednesday night. He's debating Ed Rendell, chairman of the DNC. Rendell offers to Nicholson that the Dems will drop every lawsuit to every ballot if the Republicans will agree to a hand recount of the ballots in every county in Florida - especially of course those choice ballots in Miami-Dade. Nicholson responds that there's no reason to recount those votes, the much-mentioned 'undervotes,' because those are ballots of people who intentionally did not cast a vote for president. And then he tosses in that Democrats just can't wait to disenfranchise Bush voters - and, in a gratuitous flourish, that they especially want to disenfranchise military voters.

So here you have the rub. Everyone who is even remotely honest concedes that the bulk of those undervotes in Miami-Dade and other counties are from people who tried to vote. Maybe they didn't vote correctly. Maybe their intentions are unrecoverable. But no one seriously thinks all those people went to the polls and intentionally didn't vote for a candidate in the race that most everybody cared most about.

So you have Jim Nicholson making an assertion that is transparent and deceitful crap. And tossing in a few slurs for good measure.

What this really comes down is that folks like Jim Nicholson can lie in transparently ridiculous ways and in so doing attempt to exclude numerous ballots. But if Democrats - or private citizens trying to help them - try to knock out illegally cast ballots they're unprincipled slime. Democrats, it seems, have to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules, while no rules appear to apply to Republicans.

Democrats believe that they would win the election if all the votes were counted. And they have good reason to think this is so. If this is the case how wrong is it to knock out votes if in so doing you'd arrive at the outcome that a full tabulation of the votes would show? Or to put it another way, is it possible to steal your own car?

Is this really an unfair way of looking at it?

I'm anything but oblivious to the morally suspect nature of this sort of reasoning. But I put it forth to show the difficulty of contesting an election under rules which the other side seems uninterested in following.

So what to do?

If it were legally feasible to make such a deal (and I'm quite sure it's not) the ethical use of the Seminole and Martin ballots would be to do the following: get the ballots excluded by legal process. Then go to the Republicans and say 'fine, you wanna play that way. Then we win. But if you'll agree to a hand recount in every county in the state then we'll withdraw out objections to these ballots. And we'll live by the outcome of those hand recounts without recourse to tossing out those absentee ballots. Take your choice.'

Hardball? Yes.

Fair? Totally.

Possible? Of course not.

P.S. If, in the course of the Seminole and Martin county trials, it turns out that Republicans were extended the opportunity to correct their ballots while Democrats were not, well … then all bets are off. I say throw 'em out.

P.P.S. Watching how worked up Nicholson just got I'm almost tempted to think the Dems might still have a chance at this. Almost.

Today Talking Points came

Today Talking Points came across this little snippet in an article by Curt Anderson of the Associated Press:

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and once Bush's rival for the GOP nomination, said he has talked to Bush about moving campaign finance reform legislation and promised swift January confirmation hearings for Cabinet appointees.
This passage seems to imply that maybe Bush and McCain were trying to work out some sort of arrangement on this highly contentious issue. (McCain has vowed that "We will have blood all over the floor of the Senate" until soft money is banned.) That could either mean that Bush was becoming more flexible on campaign finance reform and expressing a willingness to compromise on McCain-Feingold or it could mean that McCain himself was drawing off his commitment to push forward on the bill as the first order of business in the 107th congress, no matter what. Either possibility would be quite distressing to me, err… Talking Points, but for very different reasons.

Talking Points would hate to see McCain, whom he admires a lot, flake on his signature issue. But he'd also hate to see Bush see the light and jump on the campaign finance reform bandwagon. Eventually Bush will have to. Because the bill will pass the Senate this year. But if Bush gets religion now he'll miss all the anguished blood-letting and political damage he'll earn by opposing it till the bitter end. And that would take all the fun out of it.

So Talking Points looked into it. Turns out the article is a touch misleading. McCain spoke to Bush a few days after Thanksgiving mainly about the presidential contest and also brought up his decision to push for campaign funding reform in the next congress. But Bush didn't have anything to say on that count. So, in other words, nothing has changed! McCain's still gonna push it; Bush is still going to oppose it.

Or at least that's how it looks right now.

Phew!

This time Talking Points

This time Talking Points actually breaks some news on the on-going GOP-Senate-Leadership-in-Denial story. As regular TPM readers will know, Senate Republicans are currently divided between those who want to face the reality of a divided Senate and those who want to use Dick Cheney's vote to pretend they possess something more than a purely nominal majority.

When Senate Republican committee chairmen met yesterday all but three wanted to keep to majority rules which would dictate that Republicans get more seat assignments than Democrats. Those three were Senators Ted Stevens at Appropriations, John McCain at Commerce, and Fred Thompson at Government Affairs.

Who says Talking Points never hooks you up?

Ahhhhh So you didnt

Ahhhhh! So you didn't believe Talking Points when he told you that Trent Lott was still living in denial about what happened in the Senate on November 7th? Well, maybe you'd be believe the New York Times? (Yeah, I thought so).

This article by Allison Mitchell describes how Senate Republicans are now divided between those who are willing to split resources and committee seats with Democrats and those who aren't. Trent Lott's in the second group and his conservative-heavy leadership team was just reelected. Their plan: screw the Democrats. With Dick Cheney's vote, we still call the shots.

Note to Trent: Don't bet on it.

The Daschle line:

"What I will simply say is that we will not be satisfied with anything less than a 50-50 split in the responsibilities and opportunities presented to this caucus and to their caucus in the next Congress."
That sounds right.

For quote of the

For quote of the day Talking Points nominates these choice words Democratic strategist David Axelrod told the Philly Inquirer's Dick Polman.

"[Al Gore] has fought his heart out, and he is getting an agonizing lesson in the unfairness of life. He knows in his own mind that he really won it, and that he was foiled by surreal circumstances. He has to process all that. The most difficult task of all is letting go."
Talking Points hasn't quite, totally, absolutely, positively, completely lost hope. But, ya know, we're getting close.

Can someone do me

Can someone do me a favor? I need someone to talk to Trent Lott. Talking Points has never had particularly fond feelings for, or cordial relations with, the Mississippi Republican. So he's probably not the one to give Lott the news. But isn't this getting a bit ridiculous?

That's Lott in the picture. In case you're wondering, he's the Gulf Coast dandy with the ABSURDLY OVERSIZED feather in his cowboy hat. (Does this guy have something to prove? Is this some sort of sublimated courting ritual?)

Anyway, back to my story. Isn't this getting a bit ridiculous?

On November 7th Lott had his head handed to him on a platter. But he apparently hasn't felt around on his neck stump to notice that something is missing. Lott is starting to look like the little boy who goes to another kid's birthday party and is the only one who doesn't realize he ain't the main attraction. Who's gonna tell him?

That analogy doesn't work for you? Well then he's the has-been loser whose friends don't have the heart to tell him to pack it in. Actually, wait a second. That's not an analogy. That's exactly what's happening! He is a has-been loser whose friends don't have the heart to tell him to pack it in!

Ever since he led his Senate caucus to a humiliatingly poor showing on November 7th Lott has been making the rounds, telling reporters he hopes Senator-elect Hillary Clinton gets struck by lightening, that maybe some Senate Democrats will die and put the Republicans back in the Majority. Occasionally he makes reassuring comments about reaching out to the minority party. Lott's inappropriate bluster seems to grow at exactly the rate that his power diminishes. Maybe Don Nickles and Larry Craig need to organize some sort of intervention?

Trent … buddy, amigo. You're going to be the first Senate Majority Leader in history with no majority. The first one who needs a boost from the executive branch to get you into the big chair. Your colleagues on the Democratic side don't think you're the Majority Leader. And the only reason your Republican colleagues aren't pitching you overboard is that they all think your job is going to suck. Don't believe me? Take a peek at this article in The New Republic. In fact, let's just ditch the 'Majority Leader' title. Can't we just call you Parity Leader? It's still a capitalized title. You still get the big office. But no more "Majority Leader," okay? Not until you get another majority.

Talking Points just got

Talking Points just got his first blast email from something called the Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition Foundation, Inc.

(Not just a transition but a foundation. He really must be president.)

It says Dick Cheney's going to be up on Capitol Hill tomorrow shmoozing with people from the House and the Senate.

P.S. Talking Points really doesn't mean this in a flippant way. But didn't this guy just have a heart attack? Shouldn't he be taking it a bit easier?

Talking Points doesnt think

Talking Points doesn't think today's double-barreled court decisions make it any more likely that George W. Bush will be our next president.

But it's starting to look pretty clear that Dick Cheney will be.

Most observers have lauded President Clinton's willingness to put vice-president Gore's talents to use during their two terms in the office. But here's one of the reasons you don't want to use the vice-president as a de facto prime minister (or, let's be honest, a de facto president.)

What if the president and the vice-president have a falling out? Or what if they break on a significant point of policy. With a Chief of Staff or a Secretary of State or a senior advisor, this isn't a problem. The president fires them. Or they resign. But Bush can't fire Dick Cheney. The vice-presidency is a constitutional office.

Now, I'm willing to admit that it's hard to figure how Bush and Cheney would break on a significant policy issue since Cheney seems to tell Bush what to think on every policy issue.

But, hey, maybe W. will start reading books after he's sworn in as president. Maybe he's not dumb, just a late-bloomer?

Anyway, it's worth thinking about.

LiveWire