Archive:

May 2006, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Memorial Day At The Museum Of Flight:  On Monday, I went to the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, which is just south of Seattle, for their observance of Memorial Day.  (And, I confess, to see an airplane or two.)

Those who gathered for the observance were more likely to be old, or very young, than in the middle.


(This picture was taken some time before the ceremonies; many more came later, including the Tukwila mayor and members of the Tukwila City Council, who had those reserved seats in the front row.)

The Boeing Employees Concert Band played patriotic songs, ending with a medley of the service songs.   For that last number, the conductor asked the veterans of the different services to stand when their song was being played.  I was touched to see the veterans from the different services stand, proudly, if not always as straight as they once did.


There was a brief ceremony in which the names of those lost in Afghanistan and Iraq were read by officers from three of the services.  After that the Tukwila mayor spoke.  I listened long enough to see that he was not going to match Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and then drifted away to watch the crowd.  But I came back to see them honor five veterans from a very famous group, the Tuskegee Airmen.  (It was an appropriate place to honor them because, as I learned later, many of them had gone on to work for Boeing, in this area.)


All in all, it was a moving ceremony.  Even some of the small children seemed to understand that something serious was happening, though they may have been hazy on the details.
- 3:33 PM, 31 May 2006   [link]


Worth Reading:  Michael Grunwald describes that strange organization, the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps is one of the oldest and oddest federal agencies.

It got its start as an engineering regiment during the Revolutionary War, building fortifications at Bunker Hill.  It is still run by Army officers, and it still oversees military projects such as the reconstruction of Iraq.  But most of its 35,000 employees are now civilians working on civilian projects -- deepening ports; replenishing beaches; draining wetlands for agriculture and development; and taming rivers for barge traffic, flood control and hydropower.  Officially the Corps is a Pentagon agency, but it functions like a congressional preserve; its civil works budget consists almost entirely of earmarks requested by individual members of Congress and endorsed by the Corps.

So the United States doesn't really have a water resources policy; just a pork-barrel water resources agency that builds pet projects in congressional districts across the country.
That's harsh, but most students of the Corps would agree with him.

Modern presidents, including President Bush, have tried to control the Corps and failed.
Bush has proposed zero funding for most of the zaniest Corps projects; he also shut down the Outer Banks debacle, and fired an assistant Army secretary who complained publicly about the proposed budget cuts.  The deepening of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal seems dead, and the Corps has stopped dredging some of its little-used waterways.

For the most part, though, Congress has ignored Bush's proposed cuts.
As they ignored previous presidents.

The failures of the floodwalls that protected New Orleans during Katrina revealed design (and perhaps construction) failures by — the Corps.  More than any other governmental organization, they are responsible for the flooding of New Orleans.

After Katrina, the Corps said that all of its failed floodwalls had been overtopped by a hurricane too powerful for the Category 3 protection authorized by Congress, while Bush's critics said the administration's budget cuts had hamstrung the Corps.

Both were wrong.  Katrina was no stronger than a Category 2 when it hit New Orleans, and many Corps levees collapsed even though they were not overtopped.  Bush's proposed budget cuts were largely ignored, and were mostly irrelevant to the city's flood protection.
The Corps, and their friends in Congress — especially in the Louisiana delegation.
The Louisiana delegation and the Corps also deserve blame for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, an alternative shipping route to the Port of New Orleans.  The outlet was always popular with port officials and a few shipping executives, but it destroyed more than 20,000 acres of wetlands, created a "hurricane superhighway" into the city and never attracted much traffic.  Now computer models suggest it amplified Katrina's surge by two feet.

And the outlet was only the most destructive of the pork projects the Corps has been building in Louisiana when it should have been upgrading levees and pursuing its plan to restore the state's coastal wetlands.  In 2000, I described how the Corps had spent $2 billion wrestling the wild Red River into a slack-water barge channel that wasn't being used by any barges; four of its dams had been named for Louisiana members of Congress, and the entire channel had been named for former Louisiana senator J. Bennett Johnston (D).  The Corps was also spending $750 million to build a lock that was supposedly needed to accommodate increasing barge traffic on the New Orleans Industrial Canal -- even though barge traffic was steadily decreasing.  The Corps spent $1.9 billion in Louisiana in the five years before Katrina, more than it spent in any other state.  But all that money didn't keep New Orleans dry.
Grunwald wonders why we continue to tolerate all this, even after Katrina.  I think the answer to that is simple.  Most journalists were determined to blame the Bush administration for any failures during Katrina, and so the public does not understand that the Corps, and its friends in Congress, are to blame.  That helps Democrats, but won't help us avoid the next disaster.

(If all this seems generally familiar, it may be because because you read one of the posts in which I speculated that the Corps was to blame for the failures of the floodwalls, here, here, and here.

If you are a glutton for punishment, Grunwald has five examples of terrible projects here.)
- 1:24 PM, 31 May 2006   [link]


Dual Voting In New York:  What I found most interesting about this story is how nearly everyone involved seems to think this kind of dual voting is common and, if not strictly legal, certainly nothing to be concerned about.
For three decades Bruce A. Rich has spent summers in tiny Saltaire on Fire Island, where he has served as a village trustee for the last couple of years and was on the ballot seeking another term in today's local election.

But Mr. Rich has another home, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he is also registered to vote and has been voting for years.
And here's what the judge in the case said:
In the end, the litigants settled the case in State Supreme Court in Riverhead as Mr. Rich volunteered to withdraw his name from the ballot.  Even the judge in the case, Acting Justice Edward D. Burke Sr., was intrigued.

"Certainly this is something I would like to hear about, because there is a whole population in the East End of Long Island that does that regularly," he said.
A "whole population . . . that does that regularly".  Including, perhaps, this judge?  Whether the judge commits this kind of vote fraud or not, he seems certain that it is entirely routine.   (And from what I can tell, dual voting is generally undetected, especially when the two homes are in different states.)

Some of us believe in the one man, one vote principle; others don't.  And that second group includes literally thousands of people (most of them Democrats) who voted in both Florida and New York in the 2000 election.  Illegally.  (Though they may have been partly balanced by others who voted in both Ohio and Florida in the same election, also illegally.)

(One man with two homes actually sued to be allowed to vote in both places.  If he had won and set a national precedent, Teresa Kerry (Or is she back to Teresa Heinz again?) would be able to vote in five different local elections.)
- 4:23 PM, 30 May 2006   [link]


Seattle PI Columnist Joel Connelly allowed two friends to register at his vacation home — fraudulently.
Joel Connelly, the contumelious liberal columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has 4 people registered to vote claiming residence at his 737 sq. ft cabin on Whidbey Island.

These registered voters are: Connelly himself, Virginia Snyder, who Connelly informs me is his "master landscaper", and Ellen and David Lawsky.  Connelly is an interesting case, as he might be able to argue plausibly that he's resident of either Seattle or Whidbey Island.  My interpretation is that he's a Seattle resident who is claiming voting residence at his weekend home so he can vote in more competitive races, but he asserts other facts that would support his claim to a Whidbey Island residence. I'll get to this at the end of the post.>

The registrations that appear to be outright fraudulent (and I don't use that word lightly here) are those of Ellen and David Lawsky.  David Lawsky is a correspondent for Reuters, who relocated from the Washington, DC bureau to the Brussels bureau in 2001.  Ellen Lawsky is Head of the International High School in Brussels.
Stefan Sharkansky, who dug this up, has more on where the Lawskys actually live here.  After their registrations became public, the Lawskys conceded defeat and asked that their Whidbey Island registrations be cancelled.

This is a classic example of what I have been calling distributed vote fraud since 2004.  (The name is new, but the phenomena is very old.)  There is no reason to believe that Connelly, or the Lawskys, coordinated these registrations with any elected officials or party leaders.  They did this by themselves, taking advantage of our loose election laws.   And most likely none of the three will suffer anything other than embarrassment.

Though perhaps not enough embarrassment.  That two journalists, and an educator, would do something like this gives us another reason to distrust both professions.  And it gives us one more reason to believe that journalists don't take vote fraud seriously — when it is directed at Republicans.

(Why did the Lawskys register in Washington state, rather than Washington, D. C.?  I don't know, but I would guess they wanted to vote in competitive elections, which are more common in this Washington than in that Washington.

If you haven't, you may want to read my disclaimer on distributed vote fraud.

Finally, if you look in the right hand column, you will see a new category: Vote Fraud.  I plan to have a link at the end of the category to all my posts on vote fraud, eventually.)
- 2:20 PM, 30 May 2006   [link]


Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid owes us an explanation.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.

Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority.
. . .
Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts — particularly on multiple occasions —when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions.
. . .
Two senators who joined Reid for fights with the complimentary tickets took markedly differently steps.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., accepted free tickets to another fight with Reid but already had recused himself from Reid's federal boxing legislation because his father was an executive for a Las Vegas hotel that hosts fights.
But I doubt whether Reid will be able to come up with an explanation that satisfies most of us.

(Reid was a middleweight boxer in high school, which may explain his interest in the sport.)
- 1:31 PM, 30 May 2006   [link]


Here's a surprise.
With Republicans angrily splintered and facing a perilous fall election, House Speaker Dennis Hastert will make a little history Thursday as he becomes the longest-serving Republican speaker.

Hastert, with nearly 7 1/2 years in the leadership post, will oust another Illinoisan from the record books: former Rep. Joseph Cannon, whose 7-year, 5-month tenure ended in 1911.
At least to me.

I would have guessed that either Speaker Cannon, mentioned in the article, or Speaker Reed, would have served longer.

Democrat Sam Rayburn served the longest as Speaker, as you almost certainly know.  Democrat Tip O'Neill served the longest uninterrupted time.

There's an entertaining, and mostly approving, description of Speaker Reed in Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower.)
- 8:07 AM, 30 May 2006
Another long serving Speaker  was Henry Clay, who was elected five times to the post.  He served decades before the Republican party was founded, but his Whig party was, in many ways, the predecessor to the Republican party.
- 1:42 PM, 31 May 2006   [link]


Follow Up On "Speaker" Pelosi:  Three weeks ago, I sent an open letter to my congressman, Jay Inslee, asking him why he thought Nancy Pelosi was fit to be Speaker, and possibly President.  Congressman Inslee never replied.

This devastating New York Times article may help explain why the Democrat who represents Washington's 1st congressional district was unable to come up with a defense of Pelosi.

Ms. Pelosi, the California Democrat and House minority leader, lends herself to easy caricature by Republicans.  She is an unapologetic liberal, with a voting record to match (the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, said she was neither a "New Democrat" nor an "Old Democrat" but a "prehistoric Democrat").  She is wealthy (married to an investment banker, she has assets listed at more than $16 million).  She represents San Francisco, which Republicans love to invoke as a hotbed of counterculture decadence and extremism.
. . .
Ms. Pelosi can struggle at times to give the air of the gravitas that powerful women like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Condoleezza Rice do, both friends and adversaries say.  She can appear tentative and overscripted in interviews, with a tight smile and large, expressive eyes than can leave an impression of nervousness.
. . .
I had a hamburger last night and it was my breakfast, lunch and dinner," she said last week.  "And I had these strange things.  I realized they were French fries."  She made quick spiraling gestures with her fingers to show what they looked like.

It was apparent that she was not familiar with curly fries.
. . .
She repeated Jesse Jackson-like alliterative sound bites in halting un-Jackson-like cadences.   Republicans, she said, "are engaging in deluge and desperation," while her Democratic caucus "is a great collection of idealism, intellect and" — she paused while trying to summon the third "i" — "integrity."
. . .
Ms. Pelosi nodded vigorously when asked if she was friends with Representative Tom DeLay, whom she had just seconds earlier described as "corrupt."  She went on to catalog the work the two had done together in Congress.  And then Ms. Pelosi affirmed, once again, how "corrupt" her friend Mr. DeLay was.

That's what the New York Times, a newspaper which will be trying to promote Pelosi to Speaker, says about her.  Speaker Hastert has his faults (as all of us do), but he is far more impressive than Minority Leader Pelosi.  And I would bet that Hastert knows what curly fries are.

The careful reader will note that the reporter, Mark Leibovich, did not challenge Pelosi's claim that she is a Catholic, with "very traditional" values.  (Interestingly, the Times dodged the abortion issue in just the same way, in an article on Pelosi, just after she became Minority Leader.)  I think it is fair to conclude that the New York Times is willing to hint that Pelosi may not be qualified to be Speaker, much less President, but not say enough to spoil her chances.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(For more on Pelosi, see this post, in which I describe her as a machine politician, and this post, which compares Pelosiville to Hasterland, Pelosi's San Francisco district to Dennis Hastert's suburban Illinois district.  And for something visitors should know before they visit Pelosiville, see this post.

The article mentions a more moderate Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, saying that "has made no secret over the years of his interest in moving up the leadership ranks".  That's a weird way to put it, since Hoyer ran against Pelosi for the leadership position.)

- 6:37 AM, 30 May 2006   [link]


Senator Cantwell, Real Networks, And Eavesdropping:  Washington state's junior senator has spent most of her working life in the public sector.  But she did work for Real Networks, though I have never seen a good description of what she did there, other than negotiating a contract with the Seattle Mariners.  And I may be too cynical, but I have never been able to shake the suspicion that her job at Real Networks, which made her a millionaire, was, essentially, a campaign contribution from the company's founder, Rob Glaser, who is quite generous toward left wing causes and candidates.  (Cantwell's very brief official biography is so vague on this question that she does not even mention Real Networks by name.)

As I said, perhaps I am too cynical, but one thing is certain:  Without the cash that she got from her brief time at Real Networks, she almost certainly would have lost to Senator Slade Gorton in the 2000 election.  So her time there was crucial to her political career.

And that makes it fair to ask what Cantwell knew about one of the bigger scandals of the personal computer era, the eavesdropping that Real Networks did on its unsuspecting customers.  The invasion of privacy was so bad that PC World named the Real Networks player the second worst product of all time.  (After AOL, from 1989 to the present.)

And some of RealNetworks' habits were even more troubling.  For example, shortly after RealJukeBox appeared in 1999, security researcher Richard M. Smith discovered that the software was assigning a unique ID to each user and phoning home with the titles of media files played on it--while failing to disclose any of this in its privacy policy.  Turns out that RealPlayer G2, which had been out since the previous year, also broadcast unique IDs.  After a tsunami of bad publicity and a handful of lawsuits, Real issued a patch to prevent the software from tracking users' listening habits.  But less than a year later, Real was in hot water again for tracking the habits of its RealDownload download-management software customers.

In other words, Real Networks was spying on its customers.  (Apparently, the information they were collecting is worth big bucks to recording companies.)

Now what did Cantwell know about these invasions of privacy, this eavesdropping by Real Networks?   I have never seen the answer to that question.  She may have known nothing — which would support my suspicion that her job there was a campaign contribution.  Or, she may have known all about it, which raises doubts about her willingness to protect our privacy.  I am not sure which explanation is worse.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I am never been able to resolve the central question about her 2000 win:  If one could exclude all the illegal votes, would she still have beaten Slade Gorton?  After that election, I attempted a rough, back of the envelope, estimate, and decided that she probably did not win legitimately.  At the time I made the estimate, I would have put the odds at 60-40 against her win being legitimate.  Now, after all we have learned from the 2004 election about how King County conducts elections, I would put the odds against her 2000 win being legitmate at 90-10, and perhaps even higher.  (Those outside Washington state may need to know that King County includes Seattle, a Democratic stronghold, and most Seattle suburbs.)

Rob Glaser knew about the spying by Real Networks, and that tells us something interesting about this wealthy leftist.  Like George Soros, another wealthy leftist, Glaser believes in rules, but does not always think those rules should apply to himself.)
- 5:09 PM, 28 May 2006   [link]

As I Predicted:  In this post, I wrote:
And now imagine how our "mainstream" media would cover that story, if the mass deportations were ordered by a Republican president.  (Maybe even a Democratic president.)  It isn't hard, is it?   We'd be shown hard working families (but never criminals) being forced across the border by police, with kids crying and mothers weeping.  Neighbors would be found to testify that those deported were fine, hard working people.
And that is exactly what the Oregonian did in this story.
A group of neighbors and friends sob into their Kleenex as they try to explain to a congressional aide why the Diaz family should not be deported to Guatemala.

It's true that the father, Luis Diaz, came to Oregon illegally in 1991 and applied for political asylum.  It's also true that nearly three years later, with his fate still undecided, his wife, Irma Diaz, followed a "coyote" into California from Mexico with their two young children.  Once here, she gave birth to a daughter, now 11 and the only U.S. citizen in the family.

But 67-year-old Gloria Hook says she can't think of a family more deserving of special consideration.  They hold multiple jobs, file tax returns and the children are polite and respectful, says Hook, one of a dozen people called by the Diazes this month to pitch their case to Chris Maier, an aide to Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.
The only thing the article leaves out is that the Diaz family attends church regularly, and celebrates all the American holidays.  (And they may, but those details might be too shocking for some at the Oregonian.)

Note also that their 11 year old daughter, Jennifer, is a legal American citizen.  If you deport her parents, do you leave her behind?

The reality is that there are many families like the Diazes.  The reality is that the "mainstream" media will give those families enough positive coverage to cripple any attempt at large scale deportations.  Those who want to solve our immigration problems should face those realities.

(The reporter doesn't explain why the Diaz family and their supporters are talking to the aide.   They may be asking Senator Smith to introduce a private bill that would allow them to stay in the United States.  At one time, most private bills were immigration bills benefitting individuals, or single families, and I suspect that's still true.)
- 5:58 AM, 26 May 2006   [link]


Update On The Pellicano Investigation:  According to this New York Times article, Hollywood lawyers are getting nervous, and for good reason.
Three months after the indictment of Anthony Pellicano, the private detective who prosecutors say routinely wiretapped enemies of the rich and famous, a fraternity of high-priced lawyers who do Hollywood's business from glass towers in Century City are waking to a grim truth: the government believes they are the problem.
. . .
But it is only now becoming clear that powerful businesspeople and stars are just collateral damage in a hunt for the real target: what government lawyers see as corruption in a legal system that is suddenly being policed after decades of neglect.
. . .
Closer to home, seasoned lawyers are stunned by the thrust of an investigation that has already battered one top firm, where one name partner, Terry N. Christensen, is awaiting trial on wiretapping and conspiracy charges and another has left in the ensuing turmoil.  At another firm, where the industry legend Bert Fields has acknowledged he is a subject of the inquiry, several other lawyers are under investigation, and 11 partners and associates have bolted.
Maybe there is a reason that so many in Hollywood believe everyone is corrupt.

(Still nothing on Pellicano's possible connection to an even more famous client, Bill Clinton, which I last wrote about here.)
- 3:20 PM, 25 May 2006   [link]


Worth Reading:  The "Anchoress" says that President Bush has never surprised her.   (Though she mentions a surprise or two in her long essay.)
President Bush has never surprised me.  He is, in essentials, the man he ever was.  It does not surprise me that he is a Christian man living a creed before he is a President, that he is a President before he is a Conservative.  It seems to me precisely the right order of things
And, although I would emphasize different aspects of Bush, I haven't been surprised by him, either.   He is still the man who earned an MBA from Harvard and then used what he learned there to make a small fortune running a major league baseball team.  He is a pragmatic results-oriented leader, a man at home with statistical evidence.

And he still has some of the attitudes that he brought from Midland to Yale.  He has little patience with politically correct ideas, and other nonsense.  Those attitudes grate on some, but delight me, since I think they are a justified response to the arrogance common among our professors and journalists.
- 11:09 AM, 25 May 2006   [link]


President Bush Is In Tune With The Public On Immigration:  So says Dick Morris.  (Who has read a poll or two in his professional career.)
While their party leaders steadfastly resist granting "amnesty" by allowing "illegal immigrants who have jobs in the United States to apply for legal temporary-worker status," voters back the proposal by an overwhelming 63-29 percent.  And, despite the posturing of the right wing, Republican voters say yes by 63-30.

Nor are Democrats any more likely to fall in line behind their party's polarizing positions.  Asked if they back "using thousands of National Guard troops temporarily to help patrol agents along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration, voters as a whole answer yes by 63-31, and even Democrats support the idea by 52-40.
. . .
The American people see illegal immigration as a serious problem and tend to favor anything that will solve it.  Eighty-six percent say it is a very or somewhat serious problem, and 57 percent call it very serious.  Only 13 percent take it more lightly.
. . .
President Bush understands, for once, where the public is on this issue.  As a result, his proposal is a grab bag of every proposal that is out there.  The two parties' extreme ideologues are mistaking the public's mood in attempting to parse the Bush package and back the parts that appeal to their ideologies while opposing the rest.  That is not what Americans — or their own constituents — want.  They want everything passed, whether it has its genesis on the left or the right.
And, although Morris does not say this, Bush has always advocated a "grab bag" of proposals.  He has always, for example, backed both greater border enforcement — and a guest worker program.

When Bush has done what he said he would do, he has driven some on the left nuts.  Now, he seems to be driving some on the right nuts — by doing what he always said he would do on immigration.  But the public has generally agreed with Bush — as they do now.
- 10:41 AM, 25 May 2006   [link]


If The French Were Less Arrogant, this would be less amusing.
California has done it again.

Exactly 30 years after the historic Paris wine tasting that changed the wine industry forever, a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon once again beat out its prestigious Bordeaux peers in what has come to be known as the wine rematch of the century.

In May 1976, nine French wine experts judged New World cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays against their beloved red Bordeaux and white Burgundies in a blind tasting.

Judges ranked the California wines as superior.  The French were shocked.
This time they were not as shocked, but they did lose again.

(The wines I buy are much less expensive, but even inexpensive wines can be quite pleasant, these days.)
- 7:12 AM, 25 May 2006   [link]


Who Is The Best Player In The NBA?  That's a harder question to answer than you might think, as Malcolm Gladwell explains.
Basketball presents many of the same kinds of problems [as heart surgery].  The fact that Allen Iverson has been one of the league's most prolific scorers over the past decade, for instance, could mean that he is a brilliant player.  It could mean that hes selfish and takes shots rather than passing the ball to his teammates.  It could mean that he plays for a team that races up and down the court and plays so quickly that he has the opportunity to take many more shots than he would on a team that plays more deliberately.  Or he might be the equivalent of an average surgeon with a first-rate I.C.U.: maybe his success reflects the fact that everyone else on his team excels at getting rebounds and forcing the other team to turn over the ball.
Gladwell presents this problem to introduce The Wages of Wins, by economists David J. Berri, Martin B. Schmidt, and Stacey L. Brook, who claim to have developed an algorithm that measures how much an NBA player contributes to his team's wins.  (By their measure, Allen Iverson is not even close to being the NBA's best player, something I have suspected for many years.  And Seattle fans will be interested to learn that Supersonics guard Ray Allen has had almost as good a career as the much more famous Kobe Bryant.)

Gladwell uses the book to make two larger points; the more complex the activity, the harder it is to measure, and the more likely that our impressions will be wrong — sometimes drastically so.

Offhand, I cannot think of a more complex activity than politics.  So we should expect that it would be fiendishly difficult to measure the effectiveness of politicians, and we should realize that our impressions will often be wrong.  And, of course, politicians do much of their work in private, unlike NBA players.  Bob Dole was often described as an effective Senate majority leader, and I think that's probably true.  But I recognize that I came to that judgment without being able to watch him play, so to speak, since nearly every important thing Senate leaders do is behind the scenes.

In extreme cases, we can make judgments.  For instance, I am confident that my assessment of the Senate career of John Edwards is correct; he accomplished nothing in six years.  But other judgments are harder to make.  For instance, was Clinton as much a disaster as an executive as he appeared to be in his first years?  (In the later years of his presidency, he more or less gave up trying to manage the government and went back to campaigning, something he does very well.)  If I had to answer that question, I could give you impressions, but no more, and I can't even imagine a formal way to measure Clinton's executive skills.

If the judgments I make on politicians sometimes seem tentative, that is because I have recognized, for many years, just how difficult it is to evaluate what politicians do, not because I am naturally wishy-washy.  Those who are far more certain than I sometimes amuse or annoy me, but most often sadden me, because their certainty is, in my opinion, entirely unjustified, and sometimes leads to serious mistakes.

(The senate career of John Edwards gives us another important lesson:  Reporters, who make their living with words, are likely to greatly overvalue politicians who are good with words.  Reporters are likely, in other words, to fall in love with sweet talkin' guys like John Edwards, and ignore their lack of accomplishments.)
- 6:16 AM, 25 May 2006   [link]