What NPR’s Intellectually Lazy Brand Of Crossfire-Lite Really Says

As I hear Katrina vanden Heuvel rip Alito to shreds on NPR’s All Things Considered (as I type this!), arguing that he’ll absolutely for sure roll back decades of Civil Rights legislation, etc., etc., I’m struck by the disconnect between how the (NPR caricature of the) “Left” is portraying the nominee versus what seems like a more sensible reading of this nomination.

I think I have a new axiom: When Katrina vanden Heuvel serves “from the Left” on NPR’s brand of Crossfire-Lite, know that the issue is all about nothing . . . she very rarely sounds passionate about anything in this contrived format.

(Incidentally — and parenthetically — National Review’s Rich Lowry is on the other side right now and I tell you, he sounds a lot more believable than vanden Heuvel, who is basically phoning it in.)

So by way of prediction, I think this Alito character will be confirmed no problem, and the partisans on the “left” will waste too much political capital and/or vital oxygen on a fight not worth fighting. And just so you know, the disconnect between what partisans say and the reality on the ground is what makes Contrarians. And, yes, that’s a threat.

By way of an update, not only does Katrina vanden Heuvel make me want to read National Review but her flat, uninspired Democratic talking points make me want to follow links from the National Review, and — wouldn’t you know it? — I’m becoming more convinced that the Democrats are wrong on this one. Thanks, Katrina! You ought to work for your boyfriend Karl!

Justice Alito

The Alito nomination has but one purpose, we can all agree: appeasing the base and thereby getting the “big mo” back in Bush’s direction. Bush likes to lead, he hates to drift or follow. I’m not convinced that a big cave-in to the base is actually “leading,” of course. But that’s how it will be interpreted. It will return us all to a familiar Washington rhythm: Bush nominates extremist > Democrats are split on how to oppose > Right-wing base labels them as unpatriotic > extremist is confirmed. A rhythm as soothing as the waves breaking on a beach.

As an aside, it is disappointing that we’re down to one woman on the Supreme Court. And not because of “quotas,” or some such nonsense. The fact is, a woman’s right to choose has become the single paramount issue of the court, at least in terms of public perception. Regardless of your politics, wouldn’t you feel better if there were a few more women making that decision?

P.S.: Roe is still more or less safe for a couple of reasons. One, Chief Justice Roberts said in his confirmation hearing that Roe is settled as a precedent. That leaves us with Scalia, Thomas, and now probably Alito looking to overturn, right? So the American Taliban is still two votes short. Second, as has been mentioned often, Roe is a great mobilizer for the GOP. They wouldn’t want to lose that.

P.P.S.:I guess I should be proud that there are now two Italian-Americans on the Supreme court. We’ve come a long way from Sacco & Vanzetti. It’s a shame, of course, that they have to both be extreme conservatives. But unfortunately that’s how minorities get ahead in America: by playing against type. It’s also how Republican Hollywood actors get elected to office with such surprising consistency, but that’s a discussion for another day!

Got Scooter Fatigue? Stick With Us For A Sec!

I’m this close to succumbing to Scooter Fatigue, but before that happens, I’d like to point to this article in New York Magazine. I do this for two reasons — one, because New York Magazine is not half bad these days and two, because writer John Heilemann gets at the broad brushstrokes that make this whole scandal halfway interesting:

Over dinner the other night at the St. Regis—not far from where Judy Miller and Libby held their infamous assignation—a longtime Republican operative outlined for me, in koanlike form, the three-step program he believes Bush must now pursue: “Change the people, change the subject, and absolutely feed the base.” Helpfully, and not incidentally, the withdrawal of Harriet Miers’s nomination offers a ready avenue to achieving two of those objectives: By putting forward a barking-mad ultracon choice for the Supreme Court (one with impeccable credentials, mind you, in the mold of Scalia or Bork), Bush can shift the locus of controversy away from Fitzgerald and Plame while simultaneously appeasing the right. Yet among some Republicans there’s a palpable sense that this may not be enough—which brings us back to Cheney.

Even three months ago, talk of showing Vice the door would have been met with derisive laughter. But now there are signs, however faint and subtle, of Bush’s distancing himself from Cheney—and with them murmurings in various quarters about Condi or McCain. The case for the former is simple: Bush loves her, and it would be historic. The case for the latter is less straightforward but arguably more compelling. With McCain, Bush could legitimately claim to be cleansing the Augean stable. He’d be getting a foreign-policy expert (and one who, unlike Cheney, disapproves of torture). And, given the dynamics of the GOP, the party of primogeniture, Bush would be, in effect, selecting his successor as the Republican standard-bearer in 2008.

Given Bush’s grasping attachment to Cheney, no sensible person would bet the rent on his doing any such thing. And yet one can’t help but wonder if their relationship will ever be quite the same. For the past six years, Bush has heard ad nauseam that Cheney is indispensable to him: that without Cheney’s counsel, his skill at playing the Washington game, and, most of all, his competence, Bush and his administration would be lost. Yet now it emerges that the myth of Cheney was more than a little overblown. The man, it turns out, wasn’t even competent enough to run a decent black-bag operation, let alone transform Iraq. We hear endlessly that Bush’s most deeply ingrained trait is his bedrock sense of loyalty. But sticking with Cheney is no longer about loyalty. It’s about sheer desperation.

So, yeah, Heilemann hedges his bets — it’s Condi or McCain except for if it’s still Cheney! — but this morning’s news about the Scalia-esque Samuel Alito makes him look pretty smart, no?

Dirty Hands

Via Seattle Monorail Blog, an Interesting op-ed in the Seattle PI on why voting for the monorail is the least bad option. Bottom line: you can’t just keep opposing things. We need answers, and the monorail is the only one that’s been proposed, planned, and vetted:

In the four years since the Nisqually earthquake, anybody with doubts about the monorail has had an open floor and a ready audience for other ideas. Too bad the podium’s been empty.

Say what you will about the SMP — and I could say a lot — they got their hands dirty. They spent 8 years (and nearly $200 million) hammering out a plan. The plan is far from perfect, but they’re getting there. The SM Blog also notes that the new plan has cut costs by 64%: from $11B to $3.9B. And they’re still going to get 80% of the ridership: 57,000 daily vs. 69,000. And, at 10.6 miles, 78% of the original plan.

Isn’t that a pretty good deal?

2008 and Withdrawals

Maybe it’s just Friday, and I can’t think straight, but I’m puzzled. There’s all this talk about the various Democratic senators’ evolving positions on the Iraq war will position them for a Presidential run in ’08. Hillary and Biden say “stay the course,” but otherwise keep their mouth shut. Feingold (and now Kerry) argue for a phased withdrawal by the end of 2006.

Two obvious questions:

1. Why are we even debating this when the military generals on the ground agree that we’ll be mostly gone by the end of ’06? Given the logistical issues of extracting nearly a quarter-million military and support personnel, the difference between “staying the course” and “cutting and running” seems to amount to whether the last troop will leave in late November or early December of next year.

2. Given that, why are these guys even bothering to get this specific? They won’t have to start campaigning in earnest until early- to mid-2007, so why even stake out a position and get bogged down in a quagmire? My gut says that this is what Hillary’s more or less decided to do. See how events play out, and don’t go on record with too many criticisms. I understand that there’s early left-wing support to be had by speaking out, and that may be a prime motivator. But we all know Kerry’s going to run again in ’08, so he really doesn’t have anything to prove. So why not just sit back, let events unfold, and play it as it lies?