Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Old Year

Gov. Jodi Rell said she planned to pick her battles carefully with the Democrat leadership this year.

"I have great plans, but I also understand the people of Connecticut have elected me to be the voice of reason.”


The governor indicated she is willing to bargain with Democrats concerning her plan to eliminate the local property tax on motor vehicles.

"I very much have every intention of doing it. But if they're going to stand there and give me one of these folded arms and just say, 'Go ahead, we're not even going to entertain it,'" Rell said. "I need to pick my fights and I need to pick the ones that are going to make the biggest difference for the taxpayers."

Re-elected by a huge margin, the governor said she would use her political clout in negotiations with the Democrat dominated legislature.

"If it's something I believe is detrimental to the people of Connecticut, I won't have any hesitation of standing up and telling the public why," she said, predicting bonding, taxes and the budget will be the largest areas of contention.

House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams have said they have no plans to steamroll Rell despite their veto-proof majorities. Williams said he was not spoiling for a fight.

"All sides are looking for areas of agreement where we can move forward. Certainly we've got enough challenges.”

If “moving forward” means more of the same, Connecticut had better batten down the hatches. Moving forward from the Weicker years, state government has managed to triple the budget within the space of three governors: Weicker himself, a recovering Republican who fathered the income tax; John Rowland, a Republican who spent the money Weicker hauled in; and now Republican Governor Rell who -- as her predecessors have done to no purpose -- claims to be ready to do battle on taxes, bonding and the budget. Businesses considering moving into the state no doubt have noticed the old pledges of yesteryear, followed by carefree spending, and even Massachussetts – once derisively called Taxachussetts – appears to be more prudent than Connecticut.

The upcoming New Year is beginning to look much like the rag tailed preceeding years: Punch and Judy shows in which Punch spends, Judy threatens to stamp her feet, and life merrily moves forward on old well-worn paths. For years, Democrats have negotiated the gold out of the teeth of compliant Republicans. With Lisa Moody – the great compromiser – steering business through the Rell administration, the new year will follow the tried and true script that has successfully secured in office all the usual culprits.

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During Christmases past, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued crèche lovers who wanted to install their artworks on public property. The Supreme Court will permit the art installations provided the crèches are accompanied by various non-Christian and secular representations so as to dilute an alleged Christian message. A crèche plus a plastic Santa plus a menorah plus a signed copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins--40% off after Christmas--is okay with the Supremes; a stand alone sculptural representation of the Holy Family is strictly verboten.

But now that the Connecticut chapter of the American Atheists Inc. has sued a Baptist church in Jewitt City for ringing bells and disturbing the peace of non-Christians, a modification of the Supreme Court ruling seems to be wanting. In the New Year, church bells will peel only if they are accompanied by the sounds of police sirens, heavy metal band music and Madonna videos showing the celebrated but crucified diva pinned to a Swarovski crystal cross topped by a menorah.

Is it not ironic that the suit happy atheists have chosen a Baptist church as their target? The “separation of church and state” doctrine that some constitutional scholars believe has been misinterpreted by the ACLU and derivative organizations is found originally not in the US Constitution but in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association. A cluster of Jeffersonian texts that advert to the notion of “separation of church and state” show that Jefferson did not intend by this phrase to suggest that the federal government – which includes federal courts – should have the power to regulate or impede the practice of religion in the states.

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And--yes Virginia!—for sure there will be a Sen. Joe Lieberman to kick around in the New Year. Lieberman has become the Richard Nixon of the Democrat Party leftists; heavy breathing bloggers who have denounced Lieberman in language that could not be repeated even on the Colin McEnroe show just can’t let it go, poor things. In The New Year, they may be able to cast off their burden of hate and learn to embrace their disease.

Love liberates.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dodd’s Anti-War Views Mature

It’s a little surprising, what with all the political wags in the state, that no one yet has suggested Sen. Chris Dodd may have had a Damascus road experience in Damascus while cannoodling with that consummate liar Syrian President Bashir Assad.

Dodd now is positioning himself for a run for the presidency, already crowded on the Democrat side with anti-war candidates. Like Dodd, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards all voted in favor of the war at first; but, now that the war has soured, all favor some form of withdrawal and redeployment.

How to distinguish oneself in this pea pod of anti-war presidential contenders presents a dicey political problem.

Dodd’s most recent view on the Iraq war was summarized in an op-ed piece he wrote for an Iowa paper: Troops engaged in Iraq, Dodd wrote, should be re-deployed “to the Syrian border, to stop the flow of terrorists; to the north of Iraq, to better train Iraqi security forces; to Qatar, to form a quick-strike force if necessary to defend our vital interests; to Afghanistan, to resume the hunt for Osama bin Laden; and for those who have already overextended their tour of duty by one or two years - home.

"If the Iraqis don't demonstrate the political will to unite, we should begin this process - in consultation with our military leadership - of reducing troop levels within weeks, not months."

So then, the terrorists supplied by Syria and Iran have only weeks, not months, to get out of Dodge; and if they fail to do so, Dodd, were he president, would withdraw American troops to Qatar. That’ll teach’em. Will the strike force in Qatar be permitted to cross contingent borders to destoy the influx of terrorist from Iran or Syria? Will the strike force in Qatar be permitted to dissassemble the largest resistance militia in Sadar City?

Of course, Dodd’s views on the Iraq war were fully formed prior to his visit to Syria. The senator proposed redeployment during a speech in Providence in the Fall, declaring it should "begin immediately and continue over the next 12 to 18 months."

Before his trip, Dodd was convinced that the war could not be won, and the tete a tete with Assad provided him with an occasion to expand and ventilate his views, while suggesting to others they were grounded in intelligence he had gathered on the spot. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since his early years, when Dodd was provided with a safe haven from war’s affronts by the Peace Corp – he served during the Vietnam years in the Dominican Republic -- Dodd has been a make-diplomacy-not-war protester; and Kerry, of course, rode his anti-Vietnam war protests into office. Neither of the two senators is as cagey and practiced a diplomatist as Assad.

It is these staged “diplomatic opportunities” that suggest there is something slippery and unctuous about Dodd, although very nearly everyone who has met him agrees he is not a verbose cardboard cutout, like his friend John Kerry, but a thoughtful politician with an eye fixed on self preservation.

And self preservation in the age of blogs, weakened political parties and the rise of political independendistas requires a certain amount of agility. Senator Joe Lieberman, it will be recalled, lost a Democratic primary to a novice Lowell Weicker wannabe from Greenwich. Going into the presidential primaries, Democratic candidates would be wise to bear in mind Lieberman’s humiliation; here was a Vice Presidential candidate turned away from office by a “principled” or “anarchic” – depending on one’s point of view – opposition that had organized around party loyalty and resistance to an unpopular war.

On the other hand, even in deep blue Connecticut, Lieberman was able to rally and win the general election. That is lesson two in the campaign playbook. And the lessons seem to be as contradictory as they are treacherous.

In the future, many seasoned politicians may find themselves similarly caught between primaries increasingly dominated by narrow self interest groups and general elections decided by general rather than particular interests. How to navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of modern politics may require the political assiduousness of an Assad, the tricky-dickiest politician in the Middle East, and the question arises: Are Dodd or Hillary Clinton or the other Democrat presidential contenders up to it?

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Matter Of Justice

Students of politics know that every political issue has a foreground and a background. Political acts – which is to say, actions that affect the polis or state – occur within a context, and the context informs the action. The art of journalism involves a bringing forward of the background, so that discrete political acts will be understood by those affected; not only the principal players, the actors on the stage but, more importantly, the audience, the polis or state itself, which is affected by the actions of politicians.

The background surrounding the selection of a Chief Justice for Connecticut’s Supreme Court now threatens to swallow up the foreground. It is a very tangled web, involving principles of justice, the entire state Supreme Court – indeed, the entire court system in Connecticut – the state legislature, Governor Jodi Rell and the welfare of the citizens of Connecticut.

The foreground has been in view for some time. Everyone must be familiar by now with the well worn script: Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court William Sullivan, the only Republican on the court, is going to retire, and he wished to help a colleague, Justice Peter Zarella, get the appointment. Rell picked Zarella for the spot, and all hell broke loose – because Sullivan had delayed printing a decision that, he wrongly supposed, might have jeopardized the appointment.

One must suppose that the legislative committee charged with reviewing judicial appointments, though itself a creature of politics, is composed of honorable men and women capable of doing their duty; and their duty was to ratify the appointment of the best candidate for Chief Justice – who was, and is, Peter Zarella. Rell’s initial selection was a superb choice. By any measure, Zarella is a brilliant jurist, a strong and capable administrator and an honorable man.

Then along came Sullivan’s folly and, close in its wake, political opportunity, at which point the background rose up and swallowed the foreground; so that what we now have on stage is the usual witch’s brew of political chicanery, worldly ambition, tooth and claw politics and behavior unfitting human beings.

How to get back to square one?

Easy: You do the honorable thing.

For Rell, the honorable thing would be to re-nominate Zarella. The re-nomination necessarily would be attended by a political message; what political action is not? It is not necessary to ignore the political dimensions of the appointment. Connecticut’s Democrat dominated legislature and a weakened Republican Party in the state are waiting to see whether Rell, who so far has shown an agility in leaping over burning barricades, will be spooked by a judiciary committee that, having extracted a hundred pounds of flesh from Sullivan, may want a Supreme Court justice more to their liking.

The Connecticut Law Tribune’s Advisory Board, no novices in the matter of judicial appointments, recently weighed in with some sage advice.

“Governor Rell,” the committee advised, “should treat Justice Zarella fairly and resubmit his name since there is no evidence that he engaged in any wrongdoing or even knew what Justice Sullivan had done until after Justice Palmer reported Sullivan’s decision to place a hold on a Supreme Court ruling in which he and Zarella were in the majority.

“Gov. Rell undoubtedly was impressed by Justice Zarella’s record and his achievements, which are in no way diminished. There is little doubt hat he is one of the most able, articulate, and cerebral justices.”

Other judges, who need a strong hand at the administrative helm, are similarly impressed.

The honorable thing for the legislature would be to demonstrate that in punishing Sullivan – perhaps the most politically inept justice on the court – it has ably performed its duty. At this point, no other judge in consideration has been subjected to Zarella’s close examination, necessarily occasioned by Sullivan’s folly. If the legislature had found a log in Zarella’s eye, we should have heard about it by now.

The Law Tribune Advisory board concludes its commentary with this line: “Gov. Rell and the legislature should favorably consider Justice Zarella for the post of Chief Justice based on his qualifications and experience, and not let events in which he was only passively involved color the nomination.”

That is good advice that ought to be fairly received by fair minded men and women.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What Chris Dodd And The Go Along To Get Along Media Did Not Want Us To Know About John Bolton

Former UN delegate John Bolton, the object of attention of the friends of the enemies of US interests, was tapped by President George Bush to serve in the State Department as undersecretary for arms control and international security. His appointment as UN delegate was opposed by US Sen Chris Dodd, among others, and the opponents were able to prevent the nomination from coming to a vote in congress.

Writing in National Review, Jay Nordlinger tells us, that Bolton’s most notable achievement in the State Department “was to lead the diplomatic effort to establish the Proliferation Security Initiative, which has been useful in slowing the spread of nuclear weapons. (It got Qaddafi in Libya, for example.) Bolton is often faulted for being a diplomat lacking in diplomacy; repeatedly, his record contradicts that impression. What trips people up is Bolton’s strict pursuit of American interests; they think of diplomacy as multilateralism for its own sake.”

Using the seat in the UN as other nations invariably do – to project and promote national interests – was the fly in the ointment of those who think that the UN should always and everywhere represent international interests, too often defined at “turtle bay” as interests that subvert the foreign and national interests of the United States and its allies. Such people have never read any of the lengthy highly partisan speeches of its members.

Bolton’s opponents – who, unsurprisingly, were Bush’s opponents, most prominently Democrats such as Sen. Chris Dodd and their allies in the media – “… contended that Bolton was utterly unfit to work at the U.N. A reporter for the Washington Post said a lot when he said that Democrats had ‘assailed Bolton’s knack for making enemies and disparaging the very organization he would serve.’ Many of us responded that that was exactly the problem: These Democrats thought that the purpose of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. was to serve the United Nations; in fact, his job was to serve the United States, in the arena of the U.N. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, said of Bolton, ‘He’s been contemptuous of the U.N.’ Many of us pointed out that there was much to be contemptuous about: Saddam Hussein’s chairmanship of the nuclear-disarmament committee; Bashar Assad’s chairmanship of the human-rights committee. The presence of the Cuban, Sudanese, and other monstrous regimes on that committee. And so on. Democrats clearly wanted the U.S. ambassador to be a U.N. advocate; they also clearly cherished the international body as a check on Bush foreign policy.”

“Once at Turtle Bay, Bolton worked with his usual alacrity and skill. He tirelessly presented the American position, whatever it was, on any subject. A Washington Post article put it well after he resigned: Bolton had “recast the role of ambassador to the United Nations, a post traditionally filled by prominent Americans who helped explain the organization to Washington.” This ambassador had been more interested in explaining Washington’s views to the organization. His critics liked to paint him as a “rogue,” a wild ideological animal — but he certainly never veered from the president. As he put it to a group of journalists last summer, “Some people may find it unfortunate, but I actually follow my instructions.” And you were seldom unclear where Bolton, together with the president, stood. When Bolton left, the ambassador from India said of his counterpart’s frankness, ‘It made it easier for us, because we knew exactly what his position was.’”


Few of Bolton’s detractors, especially Dodd, spoke of his record in the UN when they signaled that they were prepared to block his appointment yet a second time. Nordlinger outlined some of Bolton's chief accomplishments as UN delegate:

“You might point to a flurry of resolutions, passed in the Security Council between July and October of this year: No. 1695, on North Korean nukes; No. 1696, on Iranian nukes; No. 1701, on the Hezbollah–Israel war; No. 1706, approving a U.N. force to Darfur; and No. 1718, again on North Korea. All of these resolutions were passed unanimously, except for the one concerning Iran, which Qatar opposed. Of course, you might ask what these resolutions mean if there is no follow-through — no consequence — as Bolton himself has long and eloquently asked. The Security Council acts on Iran, and Tehran thumbs its nose — to which Annan, the Europeans, and the U.N. at large say, “All right.” The Security Council acts on Darfur, and Khartoum says, “Nothing doing” — to which the U.N. blob says, “All right.” Hezbollah and its allies in Syria and Iran are happily violating Resolution 1701, and hardly anyone cares. No wonder the world’s tyrants disregard and snort at the U.N. Security Council. But if you are interested in resolutions and count them as a good, Bolton has succeeded.”

“Best about Bolton was the spirit he brought to his work, the clear relish he took in it. He was idealistic and hardheaded in equal measure. He talked to the press constantly, about anything they wanted to talk about. And he was almost always on the record. With the “gaggle,” he was informative, entertaining, caustic, charming. His briefings were one of the best shows in town. He felt that public diplomacy was part of his job, so he made sure to be heard on al-Jazeera, the BBC, Japanese television — all over. Some other U.N. diplomats resented his dealings with the press. But they talked too, only off the record, or in leaks and such.”


Those opposing Bolton’s appointment as a UN delegate had an opportunity to ground their opposition in Bolton’s record in office, but they chose not to do so. It’s tough to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What Now in Iraq?

There are two kinds of realists, Christopher Hitchens reminds us in a suburb analytical piece printed in Slate magazine, an on-line publication: real realists and fake realists.

“Many people write as if the sectarian warfare in Iraq was caused by coalition intervention. But it is surely obvious that the struggle for mastery has been going on for some time and was only masked by the apparently iron unity imposed under Baathist rule. That rule was itself the dictatorship of a tribal Tikriti minority of the Sunni minority and constituted a veneer over the divisions beneath, as well as an incitement to their perpetuation. The Kurds had already withdrawn themselves from this divide-and-rule system by the time the coalition forces arrived, while Shiite grievances against the state were decades old and had been hugely intensified by Saddam's cruelty. Nothing was going to stop their explosion, and if Saddam Hussein's regime had been permitted to run its course and to devolve (if one can use such a mild expression) into the successorship of Udai and Qusai, the resulting detonation would have been even more vicious.

“And into the power vacuum would have stepped not only Saudi Arabia and Iran, each with its preferred confessional faction, but also Turkey, in pursuit of hegemony in Kurdistan. In other words, the alternative was never between a tranquil if despotic Iraq and a destabilizing foreign intervention, but it was, rather, a race to see which kind of intervention there would be.”


The present crisis in Iraq has a pre-history and began in 1991: "…it was Saudi influence that helped convince President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker to leave Saddam Hussein in power and to permit him to crush the Shiite intifada that broke out as his regime reeled from defeat in Kuwait. If, when reading an article about the debate over Iraq, you come across the expression "the realist school" and mentally substitute the phrase "the American friends of the Saudi royal family," your understanding of the situation will invariably be enhanced.”

Postmortems are always important. “How did we arrive at the rim of the volcano?” is not an idle question. But a correct answer to the question “How did we get here?” does not begin to address the larger and more important question “Having arrived, what are we to do now?”

There are only three possibilities: “The first is dictatorship by one faction or sect over all the others: a solution that has been exhausted by horrific failure. The second is partition, which would certainly involve direct intervention by all its neighbors to secure privileges for their own proxies and would therefore run the permanent risk of civil war. And the third is federalism, where each group would admit that it was not strong enough to dictate terms to the others and would agree to settle differences by democratic means. Quixotic though the third solution may seem, it is the only alternative to the most gruesome mayhem—more gruesome than anything we have seen so far. It is to the credit of the United States that it has at least continued to hold up this outcome as a possibility—a possibility that would not be thinkable if the field were left to the rival influences of Tehran and Riyadh.”

That is a dose of realism it would pay everyone to take to heart.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dodd's Conditional "Support"

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, US Sen. Chris Dodd “could back a temporary increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq - but only if that surge was for a very short period and specifically helped end American involvement.”

Should anyone be worried that Dodd’s position may not please progressives in the Democrat Party who together worked to oust Sen. Joe Lieberman from the senate, largely because of his support for the war, they need not trouble themselves too much; Dodd’s “support” of the introduction of new troops into Iraq is heavily conditioned.

In the Courant report, Dodd laid down two conditions that must be met to assure his support: 1) Before new troops are introduced, the two warring religious sects, the Shias and Sunnis, must sit down and recognize that they have an obligation to come together as a people; and 2) The troops must be “needed” to “get the job done.”

"Show me, Dodd said, “some demonstrable evidence that they're coming together as a people - Shias and Sunnis, sitting down and recognizing that they have an obligation to come together as a people - then I'd be willing to support some additional people if we needed it in order to get the job done."

The difficulty with these conditions is that they cannot be met before troops are introduced to quell the violence in Baghdad. The troops are “needed,” proponents of that view have said, precisely to quell the violence.

Elsewhere in the Courant account, Dodd questioned the view “that more money and more soldiers here will solve the situation” as “fundamentally false.” Perhaps to express his solidarity with Sen. Harry Reid, Dodd added, "In fact, I would argue to some degree that the continuing presence and the suggestion that we'll send more people and more money, I think delays them making the decision about their political future."

It’s all as clear as mud. Dodd’s position seems to be: The introduction of more troops to quell the violence in Baghdad is doomed to fail because the continuing presence of American troops there is an efficient cause of the violence. The increase in troops, however, should be permitted – but only if conditions are met that can never be met.

Tipping his hand in the Courant story, Dodd added that in the absence of the demonstrable evidence of that [unity], "I will not be supporting surges in troops. That's a phony argument in my view; that's just delaying the inevitable." The reporter did not ask Dodd what his view of “the inevitable” might be, but some scholars has suggested that an American defeat in Iraq would be followed by consequences that even the fiercest opponents of the war might find indigestible.

Even on the left it is generally supposed, with a shrug of the shoulders, that an American defeat in the hot war on terror would involve a partitioning of Iraq into its constituent elements. Iran, which has supplied the terrorists in Iraq, is waiting to swallow a large chuck of the country. And the Kurds, the object of Saddam Hussein’s murderous intentions, will not be safe under a regime controlled by Mahmoud Ahmadinijad of Iran, who in turn is controlled by anti-Israeli theocrats in the Middle East. Then again, a victory by those who tumbled hotly out of the Grand Ayatollah Ruholla Musavi Khomeini's pockets after the Shah of Iran was deposed would mean, at a minimum, some discomfort in places more familiar to American tourists than Zawra Park in Iraq – Paris, for instance.

Dodd will be visiting terrorists enablers in Syria with Massachussetts Senator and former Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry, who in his anti-Vietnam War period had some experience in negotiating with hard-bargainers like Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, then head of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, an arm of the North Vietnamese communist government. The two met in Paris to negotiate peace on terms acceptable to Madam Nguyen and her puppet-masters.

The real lesson in all this Beltway posturing is that the Democrats are still in a campaign mode--after having seized control of both houses of congress. Most of us are still waiting for them to get out of that groove and propose solutions that will actually make things better both here at home and in the Middle East.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dodd, Ambassador At Large

If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him -- Cardinal Richelieu

US Sen. Dodd is like one of those Russian dolls in a doll; open one up and you find another inside. Open that one, and you find yet another. Somewhere inside all the Dodd dolls is an "ambassador to the world" doll strutting its hour upon the stage. Dodd's ideas about the efficacy of diplomacy in Arabia are certain to go over big with the French. Ever since the age of Richelieu, the French have been masters in diplomacy. When news of the death of Richelieu was brought to the pope of the day, he is reported to have said, "If there is no God, Richelieu will have lived a good life; and if there is a God, he will have much to answer for." So with all diplomats.

Reviewing a David Pryce-Jones book, Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews, Mark Steyn remarks:

“Since the time of Napoleon III, French diplomats have described the country (the Middle East) as ‘une puissance musulmane’ -- a Muslim power. They meant it originally in the same sense that Queen Victoria was a Hindu empress. Instead, the more enthusiastically they took up the dictators and fanatics of the region, the more humiliations have been visited upon them. It couldn't happen to a more deserving geopolitical poseur, of course. But, with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe increasingly hostile to the French state and all its works, the Fifth Republic, concludes David Pryce-Jones, 'is acquiring an internal reality as "une puissance musulmane" on lines quite different from anything envisaged by those who have fostered this intellectual illusion.' Painstakingly culled from decades of extraordinarily smug dispatches in the Quai's archives, this book (at a time when the striped-pants set are back in the ascendancy in Washington) is a sobering lesson in the limitations of foreign policy 'expertise.' Pryce-Jones's title is especially well chosen: in the end, French policy has been a betrayal of France itself.”

The Arabs have a way of eating and spitting out diplomats. When one of the Imams supporting the war against the war on terror predicted that the West, despite its superiority in weaponry, would lose in the struggle for supremacy because “Arabs are patient,” while the goal driven West is anxious, he spoke for all Arabs.

Now that the US Congress in its wisdom has decided to send emissaries to Syria and Iran to sue for peace in Iraq on its own terms, Cindy Sheehan’s prescription for peace in the Middle East is becoming more and more palatable. If we have already decided that the West has lost the war on terror, why not cut and run before there are more fatalities?

As a general rule, negotiations between belligerents after a war has commenced usually involve terms of surrender. That is why leaders of counties at war with each other are unwilling to negotiate until victory has been decided. Once victory has been achieved, negotiations are fairly straight forward: The victors simply dictate the terms of surrender to the conquered. In cases in which victory has not been decided, negotiations can only be considered, to turn a phrase, war by other means. The Middle East does not present the happiest theatre of action for diplomats representing disparate congressional and presidential ambitions.

The real problem in negotiating with Middle East terrorists and their client states -- Syria and Iran -- is that there is no clear cut victor in the battle between the United States and the terrorist network.

The only realists on the political stage in the Middle East just now are the anti-diplomats: Sheehan, the abandoned Bush, the imams, the terrorists, and the forlorn women of Arabia, doomed for the next few decades to be imprisoned in their burkas.

The small window of opportunity United States opened for both women in the Middle East and young students struggling to break free of 10th century mullahs is about to be banged shut by the too clever Richelieus of the 21st century.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

No More 9/11

The Commanders in Chief over at the New York Times soon will call for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, some suppose, to be deployed in New York City to prevent… Well, everyone knows what they will prevent.

"Lamb: Do you think you'll eventually call for us to get out of Iraq?

"Andrew Rosenthal- Wow, should I answer that question?

"Lamb - Absolutely.

"Rosenthal- I think its becoming more likely. I mean I don' t know what George Bush is going to say. We've been going through this very odd spectacle this week of all these meetings and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. We actually wrote about it this week. I mean, are we really supposed to believe he just started thinking about it this week? What are these meetings about? Are we supposed to believe the Army just started thinking about it this week? I mean its crazy. It has to be true that he's just going through this for some crazy public relations stunt.

"It depends on what he says - if he comes up with a plan that could lead in some reasonable period of time to an orderly withdraw than that's one thing. If he sticks to these fictions about achieving victory and all the other things that he keep talking about then we may have to change. It really does depend, I mean, we're going to withdraw our troops from Iraq and we're going to do that without initiating a fully functioning government that serves as a beacon of hope for the Middle East. I mean its interesting and very instructive to go back and look at last year's strategy for success in Iraq strategy included: defeating terrorists, establishing full democracy in Iraq, an independent army, and an Iraq that is part of the international economic system, I don't know what that means. Are they supposed to join the IMF or the WTO? I don’t know what the heck that means. And this kind of burgeoning democracy throughout the Middle East well none of that 's going to happen, I think that's pretty clear - at least not in George Bush's timeframe."


And isn’t it comforting to know that someone out there takes threats of sexual molestation seriously?

Coming fast on the heels of that discouraging word are reports that ex-president Jimmy Carter has disarmed.


"BOSTON Jimmy Carter has decided not to visit Brandeis University to talk about his new book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."

"The former president says he doesn't want to debate Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz as the university had requested. Carter tells the Boston Globe that Dershowitz -- in his opinion -- "knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

"Carter's book is controversial because the title's inclusion of the word "apartheid" appears to equate the treatment of Palestinians with the state-sanctioned racial segregation that once divided South Africa.

"The Nobel Peace Prize winner who brokered the 1978 Camp David peace accords says the goal of his book is to provoke dialogue and action.

"Dershowitz asks if Carter wants to encourage more debate, 'then why won't he debate?'"

Stem Cell cannibals

The BBC reports that stem cells are being “harvested” from newborn babies – not fetuses – in Ukraine, a gruesome tale if true. Of course, it couldn’t happen here. We have laws – don’t we?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Signs of Christmas

One can always sense the approach of Christmas: Winter’s bite is in the air; crèches spring up, where permitted; uncles and aunts lay in supplies, most importantly food for the holiday; Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is re-read, again; ACLU lawyers busy themselves preparing suits to prevent Baptist churches from ringing bells in Connecticut, soon to be followed by a suit requiring Catholic churches to remove crosses from steeples lest the sight send village atheists into psychological tailspins; books written by atheists decrying the asininity of the Christian faith are reviewed positively, without a hint of irony, in the Hartford Courant; and somewhere in this land of milk and honey, reporters or commentators once again threaten to start their own religion, unmindful of Voltaire’s advise to a student who asked him how best to go about such a business.

Voltaire said: First you make a nuisance of yourself and get yourself arrested. Then you submit to crucifixion on a cross and die a painful death. And -- here comes the really hard part -- you lie in a tomb for a few days and, finally, raise yourself from the dead.

To bring in the season this year, faith being too important a matter to be left to the ACLU and atheists alone, my wife, her guide dog Jake and I went to Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford to hear a performance of J.S. Bach’s “The Magnificat,” first performed at Vespers on Christmas Day 1723, at the Church of St Nicholas, Lepizig.

“The Magnificat,” also called the canticle of Mary, is found in that section of the Christian bible where Mary the mother of Jesus, hearing that her sister Elizabeth is with child, pays her a visit. As soon as Elizabeth catches sight of her sister, the baby in her womb leaps for very joy. Now, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb is John the Baptist, who from this moment on never stopped leaping for very joy in the presence of God, and this leaping for joy is very much a part of Bach’s angelic music.

To Elizabeth’s joyful greeting – “Blessed are you among women” -- her sister responds in what has come to be called the Canticle of Mary, a part of the Church’s prayer in the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm: He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent empty away.”

In the Magnificat, Bach has set these words to music.

Not for nothing is Mary regarded in some Christian churches as its first and best – meaning most faithful – theologian. She is the first disciple. Discipleship, as in the word “discipline,” involves a striving and an acceptance of salvational truth.

The performance was well attended. Jake, too, was there among the trumpets, timpani, flutes, oboes, strings and continuo, his snout pointed in the direction of the copper colored drums, watchful by my wife’s side, catching a sly wink from one of the musicians and waiting under the high vaulted ceiling for what he knew not, blissful to be with us wherever we were. Then the singers filed in, filling the transept of the church, and the music began, and Mary’s prayerful words of assurance and longing rose like incense up the vaulted height and filled the twilight nuzzling the ceiling with Bach’s baroque five part chorus.

After Bach, who is not prepared to embrace the joy at the very center of Christmas has no love of music, no love of God, no love of Love. To those who love music and God and Love – be joyful in this time of blessed expectations; for in the fullness of time, a savior sleeps in his mother’s arms. But soon it will be done to him according to his word: “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to myself.” That is the eternal message of The Magnificat.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Terms of Surrender

Negotiations between belligerents after a war has commenced usually involve terms of surrender. That is why leaders of counties at war with each other are unwilling to negotiate until victory has been decided. Once victory has been achieved, negotiations are fairly straight forward: The victors simply dictate the terms of surrender to the conquered. In cases in which victory has not been decided, negotiations can only be considered, to turn a phrase, war by other means.

The real problem in negotiating with Middle East terrorists and their client states -- Syria and Iran -- is that there is no clear cut victor in the battle between the United States and the terrorist network.

Bush, not to put too fine a point on it, is not disposed to surrender; neither are the leaders of Syria and Iran, though both Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Mamoud Amadinajad of Iran – as well as the much arrested Cindy Sheehan, citizen of the world -- would dearly like to dictate terms of surrender to the United States.

In the universities of Iran, students are hanging on to the 21st century by their bleeding firgertips, striving not to fall back into the 10th century. According to one report, pro-democracy students at the Amir Kabir University heckled their president and burned his picture. They are not content with surrender either.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rennie's Trojan Horse

Kevin Rennie a Hartford Courant moderate Republican highly praises the prospective Republican Party chairman, Rob Simmons, in his most recent column.

"Simmons would be a high-profile chairman who could command attention and is conversant on important issues. In addition, Simmons is not afraid to take the fight to the Democrats…

"Simmons has already met with the new chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, the political organization of House Republicans. He talked about the "investment" the party needs to make in moderate Republicans in the Northeast and Midwest. The party can be shrilly conservative and stay in the minority, or it can stop emphasizing losing social issues and have a shot at winning the seats it needs. "If you regularly present a right-wing agenda, you isolate moderates…"

“At the distance of 13 months before the presidential caucuses begin, Simmons thinks 2008 could be a good year for Connecticut Republicans. Two popular Republicans, John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani, are already very popular in Connecticut. He thinks outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney might also have some appeal here. His animated talk about the presidential race, which is already upon us, is more evidence that Simmons does not intend to hang up his cleats.”


This is tendentious and self serving analysis bordering on the criminal.

The Connecticut Republican Party has been neither shrill nor conservative; it has been an accomodationist party--and it has gotten nowhere.

Rennie would be hard put to identify one “conservative” program put forward by the Republican Party in Connecticut during the last two decades; still less could he point to shrill Republican Party office holders. There are none.

Rennie is nudging Simmons towards positions advocated by the paper for which he writes, the Hartford Courant--hardly a shrill, conservative voice.

Those positions would include, of course, “property tax reform” and “anti-sprawl” measures that would plunge a dagger into the heart of Connecticut’s ailing economy.

One reason the economy is ailing is that there are too few “shrill” Republicans in the legislature opposing Democrat programs. Virtually all Republican legislators, a dwindling cohort, are moderates who have been co-opted by the Democrat Party. But then, Rennie is used to co-option, as are most other liberals who write for the Courant--which is not part of the solution to what ails the Republican Party, but rather its principal cause.

The old Greek warning applies here: Beware of Trojans bearing gifts. Perhaps someone could persuade the Courant’s cartoonist to draw a picture showing a Trojan horse labeled “Sprawl” entering the Republican Party bastion, a fortified castle labled “Moderateville.”

Pictures are always worth a thousand words.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Is Dodd Credible?

Way back in August of 2005, US Sen. Chris Dodd advised anyone who cared to take his advice that President George Bush should not appoint John Bolton as an ambassador to the United Nations while the Congress was in recess because Bolton “lacks credibility,” is “damaged goods” and “doesn’t have the confidence of the congress.”

In fact, no one knew at that point whether Bolton had “the confidence of the congress,” because Dodd and others, by means of what the media euphemistically had called a “filibuster,” kept the nomination from coming to a vote in the congress. The so-called “filibuster” was really more like a work stoppage, and if Bolton was “damaged goods,” the goods had been damaged largely by Dodd.

This is how clever senators assure that presidential appointments should not be made to the UN. First, by means of a work stoppage they prevent the congress, sometimes called “the greatest deliberative body on earth,” from deliberating and then voting on appointments. Then they demand from the administration information not likely to be surrendered for a series of legitimate reasons. Then they suggest that an appointee to the UN will, always and everywhere, act on his own initiative; when, in fact, they know that such appointees act always at the behest of the president and his advisors. This misperception of the role of a UN delegate, so named because his authority and instructions are delegated by others effectively, “damages the goods.”

If you are a clever senator, you are now able to claim with some plausibility that persons who are “damaged goods,” lack “credibility” and do not have the confidence of the congress should not be appointed as delegates to the UN.

Things did not work out quite the way Dodd intended. President Bush waited until congress adjourned, made a recess appointment, and Bolton found entrée to the UN by a back door.

Dodd had charged that Bolton tried to fire two analysts “because they wouldn't provide him with the intelligence he wanted to have on a speech he was going to give to the Heritage Foundation and some testimony he wanted to provide on different occasions.” These charges were answered by Bolton in eight hours of congressional testimony before the Intelligence Committee, but when the Bush administration refused to provide to congress the names of people involved in 10 telecommunication intercepts, Dodd and others “filibustered” the appointment. While the names were withheld, the texts of the intercepts were provided to the relevant heads of the committee. Both the chairman and the top Democrat on the committee said after their briefing that Bolton had done nothing wrong. Chairman Roberts said, “The names were irrelevant because, quite frankly, these intercepts, and he requested only 10 of them, I would describe them as almost pure vanilla.”

After a year and some months in service at the UN, it now becomes possible to answer Dodd’s hypothetical question concerning Bolton’s “credibility” as a UN delegate.

Following Bolton’s abrupt resignation from the post, columnist Robert Novak wrote of Bolton’s service “…the permanent U.S. staff there regards Bolton as President Bush's most effective U.N. envoy, his record climaxed by achieving a unanimous Security Council vote on the Korean question.” Bolton, acting at the behest of the Bush administration, was largely responsible for persuading China, North Korean’s patrons, to persuade “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il to stop behaving like Iranian President and wing nut Mahmoud Amidinijad on the matter of nuclear arms, no small accomplishment and one that could not have been achieved by a delegate that “lacked credibility” among his peers.

“Dodd's delight over Bolton's departure,” Novak continued, “is shared at the United Nations by anti-American Third World ambassadors and U.N. bureaucrats… Dodd, striking a pose of smiling affability, has been the driving force behind the assault on Bolton. An ardent supporter of normalizing relations with Cuba, Dodd is inexorable in blocking any nominee hostile to Fidel Castro's dictatorship. He kept Otto Reich from getting confirmed as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs and now has done the same to Bolton.”

In the upcoming Democrat controlled congress, Dodd is scheduled in January to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and one can only hope that he acquits himself in his new position as well as Bolton has done in the United Nations.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dodd Runs Bolton Out Of Dodge

Republican successes are punished unremittingly by partisan Democrats.

If one reads just the Connecticut press, and nothing else, one must suppose that U.S. delegate to the United Nations John Bolton was a failure during his short term in the UN.

That is not true. As Robert Novak notes in a column on U.S. Senator Chris Dodd and Bolton. And, of course, Dodd supported those who refused to bring to a floor vote Bolton's nomination to the post, congress' way of executing the prisoner and then washing one's hands of the business, the coward's way out.

Some responsible journalists, David Lightman of the Hartford Courant among them, continue to refer to Dodd as a senator who rarely opposes presidential nominees. Dodd now has at least two notches on his pistol – representing Reich and Bolton – and one wonders how many more Bush nominees Dodd must successfully run out of Dodge before reporters stop referring to him as one who generally believes that presidents should have the opportunity to choose their appointees and begin to realize that Connecticut’s senator, unlike his father Tom Dodd, is not hostile to dictators who are hostile to the interests of the United States.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Peas In A Pod: Spitzer and Blumenthal

Elliot Spitzer, the attorney General of New York, appears to have pulled it off. Most political prognosticators agree that he will be the next governor of the empire state.

It may well be a step down for him.

The attorneys general have managed to define their office as a safe haven outside of politics, and so they have little opposition; certainly they have little opposition in the media. Former attorney general Joe Lieberman reconfigured the office here in Connecticut from what used to be called in the colonial period “the king’s lawyer” to the more exalted position of “the people’s lawyer,” and the change in form necessarily involved changes in functions. There are no attorney general anti-bodies out there in the body politic. The power of the attorney general is hedged about only by sleepy-eyed judges who are busy engaged in their own bailiwicks.

Since many legislators are either sympathetic lawyers themselves or bureaucrats whose livelihood depends on an entrenched legal establishment, the barriers that form in republics to contain centers of power do not exist for the attorneys general. Normally, one would expect the attorney general to be kept in line by a wide-awake media concerned with aggregations of power. But attorneys general have been given a pass by the tribunes of the people for a whole series of unexamined reasons.

It’s possible that some journalists may be envious of the powers of the office. There is not a member of an editorial board or a publisher of a newspaper in this grand republic that would refuse the gift if the sugar plum fairy were to bestow on them the power of subpoena enjoyed by Spitzer and Dick Blumenthal. The attorney general dabbled in journalism as a student, and his all too frequent press releases bear the stretch marks of journalistic hyperventilation. Then too, there are the usual ego boosters inherent in the job: If you can shake down the captains of industry with threats of expensive lawsuits, intimidate the legislature into promulgating laws you favor and appear with your mug in the papers at least twice a week, pretty soon you begin to imagine that you are a very fine fellow.

Gore Vidal, a national treasure of wit and wisdom, offered a fitting description of the Kennedy clan descending on Washington D.C. after John F. Kennedy had been inaugurated: Vidal said it was like watching the mafia taking over a small northern Italian town.

Well now, here’s Thomas Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, unloading on Spitzer and his army of lawyers: “He’s the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge and the executioner. Spitzer’s approach is to walk in and say, ‘Well, we’re going to make a deal, and you’re going to pay $600 million to the state, and you’re going to get rid of this person and that person, and if you don’t do it by tonight, then I’m going to indict the company.’ What does indict the company mean? It means they’re going to put you out of business. It’s the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern times.”

It is a mystery to some why Spitzer would want to surrender such autocratic powers to become a mere governor?

Urged by powerbrokers in the Democrat Party to run for governor or senator--or anything, anything at all--Blumenthal consistently has resisted all efforts to dislodge him from his position as the people’s lawyer of Connecticut and its principal media darling. But Spitzer has taken a bold step forward; his career as governor will bear watching. The eyes of other attorneys general and governors are upon him.

How will he handle, for instance, the ambitious, publicity hungry attorney general of New York who will follow him? The interests of attorneys general and governors, despite the public comity between the two offices, do not always coincide. Governors are business boosters and shy away from litigation that serves to depress the interests of companies that are contemplating moving into the state and gracing it with tax dollars. Attorneys general are interested in ethical propriety, mugging for the cameras and someday becoming governor.

Blumenthal does not have Spitzer’s problems--yet.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Grand Ball

“Governor Jodi Rell says there are three committees working on her January third inauguration. One is working on the parade, one on the inauguration ceremony and one on the ball…

“Rell says her office is waiting for some guidance from the office of state ethics on how best to fund the inaugural ball. New laws taking effect ban contributions from lobbyists and contractors. In past years, both helped to foot the bill.”
--News Channel 8 Report


Dear Prince Charming,

It’s a little embarrassing. Somehow, the invitation to the Grand Inaugural Ball was sent to your lobbying firm by mistake.

As you are doubtless aware, new laws banning the acceptance of contributions from lobbyists and contractors are now in effect, and my wide-awake staff–-particularly Ms. Lisa Moody–-have advised me, somewhat tardily, that you have a contract with the state.

Unfortunately, Mr. Charming, your commendable altruism makes it impossible for me to entertain your presence at the Grand Inaugural Ball. Thank you in advance for future contributions--non-redeemable--to my future campaigns.

Remember. It’s better to give than to receive.

Yours affectionately,

M. Jodi Rell, Princess


To whom it may concern,cc PJR

I cannot be certain which of the three committees arranging the installation of Princess Jodi Rell as Governor of the state of Connecticut this response should be sent to; so I am dispatching it to all three committees mentioned in a Channel 8 report. See attached.

Our lobbying firm, Prince Charming Inc., is in receipt of a rather frigid letter from Princess Rell uninviting the prince to her Grand Inaugural Ball. We choose to regard that letter as having mistakenly been sent to our office.

We are certain that Prince Charming has NEVER made a campaign contribution to the gracious Princess Rell.

As you know, the prince, generous to a fault, has limited his giving in the post-John Rowland years to the standard charities. Our legal team--Nasty, Brutish and Short--has advised us that political contributions in this new era of ethical propriety would be risky, not to say dangerous, while the whole countryside lies under the sway of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and his army of lawyers. Even dragons sleep. Ethical Puritans never sleep.

Hoping that the last line of your letter is not to be taken in vain, we remain your faithful servants,

The Staff of
Prince Charming Inc.


Memo to Lisa Moody

Lisa, I’ve been in contact with the ethics people. Prince Charming Inc. has filed every year since former Governor Ella Grasso left office. The record shows no contributions were ever made to us from PCI. Could you please double check everything, run all the findings by the “ethical puritan”--heh, heh… I like that one--and, if all is kosher, please, PLEASE, re-invite the prince to the ball. As you know, the invitation was suggested by a certain someone on the staff of a certain newspaper, largely because the prince is an ardent proponent of anti-sprawl measures. Sprawl, the prince said in one of his rare interviews, “is awkward and may in the future interfere with my view of the pastures of plenty that surround my humble abode.”

Lisa, have you ever SEEN the prince’s humble abode? Please get on it ASAP.

PJR


Memo to Princess Jodi Rell From Lisa Moody

Done!

LM


Memo to Princess Jodi Rell From Lisa Moody

Ooops! You’re not going to like this. The ethics people have said--unfortunately AFTER the invitation was re-sent to the prince--that they have found a contribution sent to your campaign by a person affiliated with Prince Charming. So, I sent another letter to the prince revoking the re-invitation. Sorry, but in the post-Rowland epoch, one can never be too careful.

Abjectly yours,

LM


To Whom It May Concern,

What kinds of IMBECILES are in charge of your offices? The affiliate you mention is not associated with Prince Charming Inc.--never has been. He is a preposterous fraud, who often has affected an association with the prince for reasons of self aggrandizement. It’s been in all the papers!!!

Your letter has sent my heart-sick prince to his bed, where he is wasting away for love of the princess, who cruelly has turned her face from him. Is there no pity? If you prick a prince, does he not bleed?… etc., etc.

Peremptorily,

Nasty, Brutish and Short


Memo to Princess Jodi Rell From Lisa Moody

You’re not going to like this…

The Last Moderate Republican Standing

What do Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Lincoln Chafee have in common? They were -- it now becomes possible to speak of them in the past tense -- all moderate New England Republicans. And they are all gone.

Moderatism (if I can coin a word) has often kept Northeast Republicans in business in a political theatre that is overwhelmingly Democratic. Moderatism – some incorrectly called it pragmatism -- was the Republican’s River Styx; bathed in the waters of moderatism, Northeasten Republicans, afloat in a bitter sea of Democrats, seemed to be, like Achilles, invulnerable to attack.

Until he was unhorsed by Joe Lieberman, Sen. Lowell Weicker was the very epitome of the Republican moderate, a rakish “maverick,” willing to “take on” his party in matters of grave principle, who often seemed to Republicans to be a liberal Democrat in a powdered wig. “Mavericks” are the party turncoats we like.

Weicker was defeated, so it was thought at the time, because his treachery towards other Republicans had alienated even “Jacob Javits” Republicans; and when the moment arrived that Republicans were presented with a choice, they chose the real over the ersatz Democrat.

Other Connecticut in-state Republicans, drawing the proper lesson from Weicker’s folly, were determined not to push the envelope. Chris Shays, the last of the breed after the recent Democrat tsunami washed the rest of the Republican moderates out to sea, is Weicker lite. Shays is the last moderate congressional Republican still standing in New England.

There is no question that the war in Iraq contributed to Republican defeats. But those who believe that support of the war was the principal and only factor in Republican losses in the state must answer two serious objections: 1) The two Connecticut politicians most intimately associated with Bush’s war policy – Shays and Lieberman – both successfully defended their seats in campaigns in which the war figured prominently; and 2) the only office of any importance won by Republicans this year was the governorship.

Some Republicans – prophets, unloved in their own state, crying in the wilderness – have been arguing for some time that a good part of the fault lies in the weakened condition of the state Republican Party, which never really recovered from Weicker’s attentions.

The time may be at hand for Republicans to cross the Rubicon. The path Republicans have traveled so far has only led to a smaller, powerless party and a one party state. Crossing the Rubicon would involve trading in the politics of personality for a politics of ideas. And here is the sticking point: A politics of ideas is necessarily divisive. Once put into practice, ideas are swords that, in the words of one particularly divisive historical character, “set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

At some point, Republicans in Connecticut must decide what ideas, specifically Republican, are worth the trouble? If Republicans could carry from their burning house a handful of useful ideas that may be used after the conflagration to rebuild the Republican Party in the state, what would they be?

Small, efficient government for example certainly is an idea worth pursuing, because small and efficient governments maximize personal liberty. An efficient government simply would not allow – not for a moment – an educational system in which whole generations of urban school children are written off as uneducable, when quasi and non-public institutions such as successful charter schools and Catholic schools, drawing from the same pool of students, have been far more successful supplying their charges with the skills they need to maximize their personal liberty. Oddly enough, it is Democrat Mayor Eddie Perez who seems to have had his fill of educational incompetence. Perez recently welcomed as Superintendent of Hartford schools Steven Adamowski, an educator who has reorganize school districts rather than to continue to consign students to permanent inefficiencies. In the long run, these ideas may be catchy.

Thus far, Democrats have been selling ideas and programs to people – very expensive programs and ideas. Republicans have contented themselves with screeching at the costs of the programs and preserving the gubernatorial office from assault, which is why the Democrats are a majority party, while Republicans are disappearing from the political landscape except as decorative adornments.