1) LET IT SNOW
– Hugh Hewitt says something explicitly that I alluded to last night – that Tony Snow is serving his country and in doing so is showing great patriotism. His talents are needed (more on that below), and taking on this huge challenge can’t be an easy thing for him given the pay cut, his health issues and the time he’ll have to spend away from his family.
I do have one quibble with Hugh, beyond his historically silly claim that Rocky Colavito should have gone into the Hall of Fame twice before Carl Yastrzemski went in once. Hugh offers the following appraisal of the “hollowed ground” (as liberal bloggers Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong referred to it in their runaway best-seller “Crashing the Gate”) of the White House Press corps: “There are some smart folks in the WH press room, but there are plenty of pretty faces as well.”
It is not immediately apparent to me where Helen Thomas fits on this continuum.
2) …BUT DEFEAT IS AN ORPHAN
– Because Snow has written a handful of columns that were critical of the White House and has still been welcomed into the administration’s inner sanctum, James Taranto (probably the country’s best blogger) suggests that the administration has been taking the advice of Peggy Noonan (probably not the country’s best columnist). Noonan wrote last week:In the end it doesn't matter if White House staffers suddenly listen to critics, to non-pre-vetted policy intellectuals, to questioners, complainers, whiners, Wise Men, if you can find them, and people who actually have something to say. But it does matter if George Bush does.
It matters that he becomes his broadest self and comes to tolerate dissent, argument, ambiguity. That actually would be daring. It would mark not the appearance of change but change, not the appearance of progress but the thing itself.
When Noonan wrote this last week, I let it go without comment because I thought it sufficiently banal that it didn’t warrant any column space. But the suggestion that this president demands everyone march in ideological lockstep is a liberal canard that has gained widespread currency simply because it has been repeated so often.
Does anyone think that Donald Rumsfeld doesn’t speak his mind? How about Colin Powell? He was around for four long years. I would daresay you would have a far easier time identifying ideological outliers in the Bush inner sanctum than in the Clinton inner sanctum. In the Clinton inner sanctum, the only name that leaps to mind is Robert Reich, and he outlied in the wrong direction.
Yes, Ronald Reagan staffed his operation with a bunch of non-team players and free-lancers. But the Reagan cabinet has never been held up as a paradigm that future presidencies should seek to emulate.
3) YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?
- Matt Drudge ran a little piece about what he calls the sluggish sales of Markos Moulitsas’ book. Drudge says that Nielsen’s book scan shows that only 3600 copies of the book have been sold, which for what was heralded as the blogospheric equivalent of “Gone with the Wind” seems a tad disappointing.
Markos struck back at Drudge with a furious blog post insisting that “Crashing the Gate” is hotter than Teresa Heinz Kerry in a silky negligee. For the record, contra Drudge, I think the fact that Markos’ book ranks # 25 on Amazon is pretty impressive. The fact that it’s apparently selling fewer copies at big box bookstores than the Collected Works of Helen Thomas seems rather contradictory.
Or is it? It’s hardly surprising that Markos’ core audience inclines to internet purchases. It’s also not very surprising that he doesn’t have much appeal beyond his core audience. Let’s face it – he’s an acquired taste. While I think “Crashing the Gate” provides a valuable and crisply written account of where the Democratic Party is today (a.k.a. Nowheresville), I can’t imagine anyone other than a political junkie purchasing the book.
What is sad is that Markos felt it necessary to respond to Drudge’s baiting. Drudge was obviously just trying to get under Moulitsas’ skin. Clearly, he succeeded.
4) GREAT MINDS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY…
I know no one ever follows the links when I link to Kos, but follow this one. Just trust me.
I have frequently called Chris Bowers the sharpest of all liberal bloggers. Bowers seems perversely intent on proving me wrong, as he continues on a strange quest to prove that he’s no sharper than the typical bowling ball.
You might remember after the primary for the Congressional seat formerly held by the orange jump-suit wearing Republican Duke Cunningham, Bowers assured us that it was bound to be a Democratic carry since Democrat Francine Busby picked up 43% of the vote and the combined 8 Republicans in the race picked up 57%. Even though the 43% was below the Kerry line, Bowers figured that pealing off 8% of the Republican vote would be easy enough come general election time. At the time, I confessed that I had obviously over-estimated Chris Bowers.
Well, Chris is still at it. In an internal Busby poll, the news of which Bowers triumphantly heralds, Busby is trailing the Republican nominee 45% - 43%, suggesting that to date Busby has picked up exactly 0% of the 8% she needs to secure the victory. Writes the chest-thumping Bowers, “One week after the primary election, Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray are locked in a statistical dead heat, with 45% for Bilbray and 43% for Busby, with 3% for minor candidates Libertarian Paul King and Independent William Griffith and 8% undecided. These data reflect the strength of Busby's candidacy for a number of reasons.”
Normally I would consider myself responsible for smacking down such nonsense, but guess who beat me to the punch. Seriously – guess. Okay, I’ll give you a hint. His name rhymes with Farkos Foulitsas.
It’s true. None other than Kos himself responded to this laughable nonsense in a withering fashion: “This is a district in which the former Congressman is in prison for corruption far beyond the usual ‘culture of corruption’ craziness, and our candidate's own internal poll doesn't have her above the Kerry line for the district? I don't think this poll looks all that hot for us, frankly. In fact, I think it looks terrible. If voters were ready to punish Republicans for their culture of corruption, what better place for that to manifest itself than in the district of one of the most corrupt of the lot?”
Now please, let’s keep this quiet because we don’t want the Democrats to figure this out: This “culture of corruption” may set bloggers’ hearts ablaze, but it falls flat with the rest of the electorate. So does this “competency” thing. Modern Democrats might want to ask Michael Dukakis how well a campaign based on the decidedly non-soaring ideal of competence tends to work out. In order to win anything, the Democrats will have to do a lot more than just show they’re really angry.
5) I’M GOING ON THE RECORD
– Over at my friend Jonathan Last’s Galley Slaves site, JVL is presiding over an interesting debate about what kind of box office “United 93” is going to do. I’m chipping in my 2 cents now: United 93 will be the biggest box office hit since “Titanic.” Hollywood will be stunned; so will left wing pundits who invariably argue that either a) We should stop talking about 9/11, or b) It’s too soon to make such a film.
Largely because of a bizarre media campaign to not tell the entire gory and disturbing story of 9/11 and to prematurely yank the footage from the news stations, there’s a great pent-up desire across the country to talk about what really happened that day. By all accounts, “United 93” is a great movie and will provide such a moment not for healing, but more importantly for understanding. At the risk of venturing into Frank Rich territory, “United 93” will be a landmark cultural moment.
6) HONEST QUESTION – Precisely what portion of our dependence on foreign oil is due to our automobiles? Does anyone know? If you do, could you send me the information? I could do the research myself, but I’m looking for someone authoritative who knows this stuff like the back of their hand.
7) Today was a travel day, which accounts for the late and light post. But because you all care, I
will share some fascinating details of a genuinely unusual flight.
I was seated on the aisle in the last row. By the way, Jetblue doesn’t board by rows anymore; all the computer modeling and everything else have shown that random boarding is the fastest way to fill the plane. I have a theory for why this is so. People who are inclined to get on a plane first (even though it obviously won’t get them to their destination any faster) are doers. They’re (we’re) Type A’s. In other words, we’re not the kind of folks who will dawdle endlessly searching for Row 14 and then take twenty minutes figuring out how to jam our carry-on into the overhead compartment. Because of this free-boarding system, we get on first (because that’s our way) and then the dawdlers who putter down the aisle saying to no one in particular, “I need a blanket and two pillows” don’t hold up the show because basically they’re amongst their own kind.
After I sat down, just such a dawdler came towards my row. She was sitting in the window seat. As I got out into the aisle to let her in (as a gentleman should), she told me I might want to consider staying in the aisle for a couple more minutes because her daughter who had the middle seat would be along presently. Sure enough, I looked up and saw about ten rows away a woman who was clearly the daughter in question. She was also carrying a duffle bag roughly the size of Shaquille O’Neal.
One of the flight attendants spied her and said there was no way the overhead compartment would accommodate that thing. The mother interceded, saying to her daughter, “Tell her what’s in it.” The daughter said, “It’s an urn.” The mother said, “It’s my husband’s ashes and we’re bringing them back to Boston. He died in Florida over the winter.” The flight attendant suggested they take out the urn, but that the rest of the giant duffel bag would have to go underneath. The urn in its velvet case rode back to Boston under the seat next to me. The daughter said to me, “I bet you’ve never had an urn next to you for a flight before.” She was correct.
Normally, that would be plenty of excitement for just one flight. But we
had more in store. As we made our final approach to Boston, the plane began swaying violently. The pilot was obviously having some sort of problem with the yaw. Just before we touched ground, literally just a few feet before, the pilot pitched us upward and we zoomed away.
As we climbed back to 4,000 feet, several passengers became unnerved. I always take my cues from the flight attendants. They, too, were rattled. I decided to try to calm the flight attendants (who were sitting en masse right behind me) with a stupid joke. As panic swept over the cabin and strangers began holding hands, I turned to the flight attendants and said, “I know this might sound strange, but I really don’t want to die a virgin…”
Anyway, we landed safely. And my marriage vows remain unbroken.
Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org