February 27, 2004

The Collector

If (and it's a big if) Jayson Blair's new book is to be believed, the young fabulist had a hobby far stranger than cocaine:

"I lied about a plane flight I never took, about sleeping in a car I never rented, about a landmark on a highway I had never been on," he writes. "I lied about a guy who helped me at a gas station that I found on the Internet and about crossing railroad tracks I only knew existed because of aerial photographs in my private collection."
(Emphasis added.)

Posted by John Tabin at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)

Mailbag

I have an exchange with a reader regarding yesterday's AmSpec column on No Child Left Behind in today's Reader Mail. Scroll down past all the Passion of the Christ letters. (No, I haven't seen the movie yet.)

Posted by John Tabin at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2004

Educating Rod

For my latest column for the American Spectator online, I take the kerfuffle over Rod Paige's "terrorist organization" crack as an opportunity to examine the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act. I'm not a fan.

A big chunk of the information in this piece came straight out of the Kate O'Beirne article in the current National Review that I mention; if you're interested in the topic, her treatment, which is a bit more in depth than mine, may be worth your time.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:47 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Marriage, Again

Longtime readers know I generally favor gay marriage, but that I haven't written about the topic in quite a while, even as it's sprung into the headlines. The reason is ambivalence: Despite my support for gay couples seeking to wed on both coasts, I can't say I entirely approve of how this coming about.

As Instapundit has pointed out, the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts, which demands gay marriage, is far less persuasive than the the Baker decision that led to civil unions in Vermont, and I'm wary in any case of reading into constitutions things that their authors (in the case of Goodridge, the settlers of colonial Massachusetts) would not have imagined.

As for Mayor Newsom in San Francisco, I see little distinction between his actions and those of Judge Roy Moore in Alabama, with his Ten Commandments monument. The rule of law demands that public officials uphold their oaths of office.

I don't object in principle, obviously, to non-democratic checks against majoritarian tyranny, but there is a simple utilitarian problem with imposing social change undemocratically, in that it can create more problems then it solves, as with the corrosive polarization of the abortion debate in the wake of Roe vs. Wade. I fear that the debate over marriage is headed down the abortion road. (The other day I saw, for the first time, a car in suburban Baltimore with an anti-gay marriage bumper sticker.)

Nick Shulz has an excellent column today on conservative ambivalence over this issue. He writes:

Lots of younger conservatives think of themselves as tolerant, freedom-loving and possessing metropolitan sensibilities; but they also revere tradition and aren't comfortable with needlessly monkeying around with old institutions. The issue of same-sex marriage sits atop the intersection of these values.
I face a different but related problem; I value rationalism, and after studying the issue I find myself unpersuaded by the various sociological arguments against same-sex marriage of Stanley Kurtz, Maggie Gallagher, et al.; and also unnerved by the manner in which gay marriage is arriving.

Schulz suggests that ambivalent conservatives might find solace in the approach of Jonathan Rauch (who has long influenced my thinking on this topic), who proposes an alternative to the Federal Marriage Amendment that many conservatives are now signing on to: a constitutionalized Defense of Marriage Act, reading simply, "Nothing in this Constitution requires any state or the federal government to recognize anything other than the union of one man and one woman as a marriage." I think I could support that, and I might urge states to similarly constrain judicial activism at the state level. I would also, of course, urge state legislatures to legalize gay marriage.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2004

Edwards vs. Kerry

In my latest for the American Spectator online, I contemplate the possibility, post-Wisconsin, of a real race.

Posted by John Tabin at 04:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2004

The Masters' Last Disaster

The Drudge story (you know the one) has Chris Lehane's fingerprints all over it.

I told you that Kerry faced the danger of attacks by "Masters of Disaster" Lehane and Mark Fabiani. You may have thought that the Clark campaign running out of money and folding meant that the danger had passed. Not quite.

So why did Clark-- who, according to Drudge, predicted recently on background that "Kerry will implode over an intern issue"-- endorse Kerry today? Blogger Captain Ed has a theory:

If it seems a little early for Clark to give an endorsement -- after all, he just withdrew from the race yesterday morning -- it makes sense if he's looking for consideration as Kerry's running mate. Given that the bimbo eruption just occurred, if Clark stands by Kerry and winds up being the bridge Kerry needs to get past whatever scandal results from the Drudge story, he'll have earned Kerry's gratitude. Oddly enough, Clark himself figured into Drudge's story as having made an off-the-record comment to reporters predicting an infidelity scandal. If Clark withdrew with the knowledge of this story's imminence, it can only mean that he wanted to be in the best position to gather IOUs from Kerry and the Democratic Party.

UPDATE (12:05 2/13): The AmSpec's Washington Prowler reports that Clark's campaign staffers, Lehane most of all, objected to his intentions to endorse Kerry. Who knows what the Kerry campaign did to win Clark over; Captain Ed's theory, quoted above, is one possibility, but I'm not sure the politically neophyte Clark is that shrewd; he strikes me as someone who'd fall for anything.

The Prowler also suggests that the Drudge rumors "appear to be coming off Capitol Hill," rather than from the Clark campaign. A "staffer for a Democratic Senator from a mid-Atlantic state" says "Reporters have been feeding off this stuff for months up here." My impression is that Drudge got it from his media sources, who've been looking into the story; if reporters have been asking around the Hill, that doesn't necessarily mean they weren't spurred on by Lehane's shopping the story around.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

The Electable Candidate Who Isn't

Let me add my voice to the growing chorus: Kerry isn't that electable. Democrats just think he is.

Jonathan Chait: "If this is his high-water mark--and it's hard to see how it could not be--that bodes ill for the Democrats."

Noam Scheiber: "Thanks to the infinite wisdom of the Democratic primary electorate, I fear [doubts about Kerry's electability are] not going to surface until the general election campaign."

Jonah Goldberg: "The Democrats seem to have succumbed to a terrible bout of wishful thinking, like Michael Moore bringing a condom in his wallet to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit-photo shoot."

And Will Saletan breaks down the crosstabs and demonstrates that Kerry is winning among liberals trying to pick a candidate who they think can win, but that when it comes to a true measure of electability, actually winning among centrists voting on the issues, Edwards beats Kerry.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:58 PM | Comments (2)

February 10, 2004

Is Kerry Unstoppable?

It certainly appears so. He swept the weekend contests, and, according to the polls, is poised to win in Tennessee and Virginia today. "Kerry Wins ____" on every frontpage in the country a couple times a week provides a lot of momentum.

There's a close battle for second in Tennessee between Clark and Edwards that may determine whether Clark bows out; third in both states-- Edwards looks like he'll get a solid second in Virginia-- might provide the impetus to do so.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2004

Dueling Ledes

"After the Sunday disaster on Meet the Press, it's fair to ask: Does Mr. Bush still have the confidence in himself to continue as president?" -Jed Babin on The American Spectator online today.

"President Bush did just fine on Meet the Press." -Me, same site, same day.

Let it never be said that TAS doesn't cover things from all angles.

In my column, I go on to focus in on a talking point Bush appears to have gotten from the blogosphere.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:36 AM | Comments (3)

February 06, 2004

Prediction

John Kerry will sweep Michigan, Washington, and Maine this weekend. The polls show Kerry dominating in Michigan, and the other two have been seriously contested only by Dean, and I see no evidence that Dean has any ability to end his losing streak. Incidentally, Dave has been all over the Dean implosion; see his series of three gleeful posts from Sunday through today.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2004

Let the Mud-Slinging Begin

In my newest column for the American Spectator online, I wonder: Is it time for Clark's Masters of Disaster, or for increasingly bitter Deaniacs, to begin doing real damage to John Kerry?

Posted by John Tabin at 02:18 AM | Comments (1)

February 04, 2004

Stay Tuned

A full analysis of last night's election and its implications is forthcoming. The short version: I see Clark and Dean becoming the anti-Kerry attack dogs, with Edwards as the potential beneficiary.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

Mini-Tuesday

Today's the day. First of all, Kerry will win in North Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, and Delaware. If he should lose any of those (not likely), then much of the analysis that follows will go out the window.

In South Carolina, Edwards has the edge in all the polls. Michael Graham thinks Edwards will win, and that the victory will prove irrelevant. I agree on the first point, but I'm not sold on the second; Kerry may coast to a coronation, but if not then Edwards could be well-positioned to emerge as the alternative to Kerry (or at least as Kerry's obvious choice for running-mate).

Oklahoma is especially interesting. Clark has been slightly ahead of Kerry in the polls, but if Kathryn Jean Lopez's exit poll data is correct, then it could be Edwards, not Kerry, who passes Clark. (Most polls put Edwards in third, but SurveyUSA showed a very close second; SUSA's "3-way foto finish" analysis could prove correct.) Did I say Edwards could emerge as the viable anti-Kerry? If he takes SC and OK, he almost certainly will.

Dean won't be a factor today. I'll take another look once upcoming races jump to the forefront, but my guess is we'll find him still dead.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:23 PM | Comments (1)

Yeeeeaaagh!

Dean excited his base so much, he scared off everyone else. Is Bush in danger of scaring off his base by courting the middle? That's the question I explore in my newest column for the American Spectator online.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:46 AM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2004

Or Maybe a Three-Man Race?

The newest polls from Oklahoma all show Clark in the lead. I was wrong to pronounce him dead yesterday (wishful thinking); Kerry's momentum has slowed, and the race will come down to the wire. Intriguingly, SurveyUSA shows Edwards in second, ahead of Kerry. Second in OK and first in SC would be a respectable splash for Edwards.

And Edwards does look good in new South Carolina polls. The boneheaded Democratic loyalty oath that Michael Graham writes about here could propel Kerry to a victory, but the victory would be tainted; whether that taint would be enough to let Edwards continue is an open question.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2004

A Two-Man Race

Kerry passed Clark in Oklahoma today, according to Zogby; it's a dead heat, but Kerry has the momentum. If he gets a close second, Clark may still claim to be a factor in the race, but if Edwards wins South Carolina the media will focus on the two Johns.

The latest Albuquerque Journal poll on the New Mexico caucuses shows Kerry well ahead. Dean really is dead as Dillinger.

RealClearPolitics averages out four seperate polls taken from the 28th to the 31st to an 8-point lead for Edwards, but the race can't be read quite that clearly. Michael Graham points out:

What CBS's pollster has done is call a random sample of registered voters and asked them "Do you plan to vote in the primary?" And as any pollster will tell you, nearly everyone says "yes," even if they've never voted in a primary in their lives. Pollsters deal with this by using voting records to call people who have voted in most or all of the recent primaries.

Ooops: There hasn't BEEN a recent primary. Add the fact that South Carolina has open primaries (no party registration) and the pollsters are making total and utter guesses as to who is actually going to show up and vote.

That's true as far as it goes, but that doesn't mean the polls are without value: if the method is consistent, then the trends should show up correctly. Zogby's is the most frequent tracking poll, so it should register trends best; the trouble is that Zogby, with his generally conservative turn-out models, is showing the closest race:

Edwards leads in the Northwest and Coastal regions of South Carolina, but Kerry has moved ahead in the Central region. Kerry also leads among Democrats, while Edwards’ edge is among Independents and cross-over Republicans. The two candidates are very close among voters over 50, while does well among 18-29 year olds. [sic-- who does well among 18-29 year olds??]

Kerry has good support among African Americans, though Sharpton is slowly moving up in his base (at Edwards’ expense). Edwards and Kerry are very close among all ideological groups and tied among both men and women. On one hand, Kerry led for the one-day of polling, as Undecideds creeped up in numbers. On the other hand, Edwards holds a three to one lead among Leaners. South Carolina is very fluid.

My sense is that Edwards' big lead among leaners is a very good sign for him; if turnout is high-- and with all the media buzz in SC it ought to be-- Edwards has a good shot of seeing the late-deciders break to his column.

Edwards thus has a good shot at making it out of Mini-Tuesday as the one viable alternative to Kerry.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:27 PM | Comments (1)