Edwards on poverty

In this Washington Post front-page story, former Monitor reporter Alec MacGillis explores John Edwards's emphasis on fighting poverty and some of the criticism of his ideas.

The gist: "Advocates and researchers praise Edwards for focusing on an issue they say too many have shied from over the years. 'It's so refreshing,' said Peter Edelman, a former aide to [Bobby] Kennedy who quit the Clinton administration in protest over its welfare overhaul and now teaches at Georgetown Law School. 'It's a wake-up call for a lot of people in this country.' But Edwards's plan to 'end poverty in 30 years' also underscores the challenges of tackling poverty in the political arena, of the intractability of the problem and of the seeming timelessness of the debates over solving it."

Reaction here with links to other reaction.

UPDATE: Since New Hampshire readers may remember Alec, here is a piece he wrote last month on Mitt Romney's Mormon support. Commentary here.

Fred Thompson's arithmetic

This definitely reads like the speech of someone who wants to be president.

An excerpt: "Taxes are necessary. But they don't make the country any better off. At best they simply move money from the private sector to the government. But taxes are also a burden on production, because they discourage people from working, saving, investing, and taking risks. Some economists have calculated that today each additional dollar collected by the government, by raising income-tax rates, makes the private sector as much as two dollars worse off. To me this means one simple thing: tax rates should be as low as possible. This isn't anything ideological, and it really isn't some great insight. It's common sense arithmetic."

In their own words

The transcript from last night's Republican debate.

Bill Gardner's poker face

"I have an answer, but it would not be helpful to give it." -- Bill Gardner, asked when he will schedule the New Hampshire primary.

The flip side of Obama's middle name?

Bob Kerrey interviewed by The New York Observer:

"Mr. Obama, he says, is 'inexperienced,' but 'on the foreign policy side, his big strength is that his name is Barack Hussein Obama.' He argued that Mr. Obama's foreign-language skills, connection to Muslim countries and personal background uniquely qualify him to send the message that 'we are not your worst enemy, unless you make us so. And then we're your worst enemy.' "

Iraq, Democrats and the White House

A roundup of news and commentary on the Democrats and Iraq and the pros and cons of the candidates' positioning:

Bill Richardson tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "I'd pull out our troops, every one of them, even residual forces. Because our troops have become targets. They've become the excuse for propaganda against us, and we are now viewed as occupiers."

He also touts his A rating from the NRA, his aversion to raising taxes and his willingness to use military force when appropriate.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama indicate they are more willing than the other candidates to strike a deal with President Bush on the Iraq funding measure the president vetoed yesterday.

If Obama doesn't break with Clinton on this issue, does that give John Edwards the opening he needs?

Can Richardson win the hearts of Democrats who don't want to give an inch on Iraq despite his heterodox stances on other issues?

Is Edwards not as antiwar as he seems because he (gasp) talks to and reads books by people who see merit in a muscular foreign policy?

Real debates

Joe Biden has a petition up calling for a 90-minute debate on one topic: Iraq. Whatever else you think of him, he is of course correct that 60 seconds is not enough time to talk seriously about this issue, or any important issue.

So, since we've started so early, and we're going to have so many so-called debates anyway, how about limiting each event to one topic? You know, national security one week, health care the next. Entitlement spending here, the role of the courts there. Immigration in California, crime in Pennsylvania, energy policy in New Hampshire.

Heck, Biden doesn't have to wait for the parties to get serious about debates. He just has to find one other serious candidate (from either party) to join him in Concord, and I guarantee they'll get media attention -- from us dead-tree types and from the Vloggers. (If he can't find a debate partner -- shame on anyone who would say no -- he can always spar with Newt.)

This is the most serious job in the world these candidates are applying for. We deserve a more intelligent way to decide whom to hire.

What dreams are made of

Today's Monitor carries a lighthearted AP story about what the presidential candidates might be doing if they had followed their dreams in a non-political direction. Clearly, some played along more than others:


  • Joe Biden: Architect.
  • Hillary Clinton: "Continue to work for causes and issues I care about, in a setting like a university or foundation."
  • Chris Dodd: Teacher.
  • John Edwards: Mill supervisor.
  • Dennis Kucinich: Astronaut.
  • Barack Obama: Architect.
  • Bill Richardson: Center field, New York Yankees.


  • Sam Brownback: Farmer.
  • Rudy Giuliani: Sports announcer.
  • Mike Huckabee: Bass guitar player for a touring rock band.
  • Duncan Hunter: Outdoor writer.
  • John McCain: Foreign service.
  • Mitt Romney: Auto company chief executive.
  • Tom Tancredo: President.

So, like George Costanza, Biden and Obama long to be architects; Clinton can't manage a simple answer; and Kucinich imagines himself . . . in space. [Sorry, couldn't resist.]

Whizzer of Odd, indeed

One of the more curious moments at last week's Democratic debate was Bill Richardson's answer when asked by moderator Brian Williams to name his model Supreme Court justice:

"GOV. RICHARDSON: It would be Justice Whizzer White.

"MR. WILLIAMS: How about someone who is among the living? (Laughter.)

"GOV. RICHARDSON: It would be -- and in this particular case, Judge Ginsburg, who said that this was an erosion of a woman's right to choose and degraded the ability of a woman to protect herself health-wise."

So Richardson's second choice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the dissenter in this month's partial-birth abortion case, who fears the court has now done serious damage to the right to an abortion first recognized in Roe v. Wade. But Richardson's first choice is Byron White, one of only two dissenters in . . . Roe v. Wade. [Roe was decided with another case, Doe v. Bolton, where White filed a dissent covering both cases. He also joined then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist's dissent written in Roe.]

More in this post, from which the title to this one is taken.

UPDATE: Ginsburg succeeded White on the court -- so they are linked in that sense. And, for what it's worth, when Ginsburg spoke in Colorado in White's honor, she, too, expressed admiration. From a local account of the speech:

"Before she was appointed as White's successor, Ginsburg argued six sex discrimination cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She won five of the cases, each significantly advancing women's rights. 'I would have won all six of them if it had been up to White,' Ginsburg said."

Biden bites his tongue

If you're one of the 299 million or so Americans who didn't watch last night's presidential candidate "debate," this 38-second clip will catch you up.

There's reaction everywhere for anyone who cares to read it. For what it's worth, Liz Mair and Drew Cline reached opposite conclusions about Barack Obama.

UPDATE: Yes, someone actually transcribed the whole thing.

Romney v. McCain-Feingold

Apropos of today's Monitor story on Mitt Romney's criticism of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, here is a YouTube clip of Romney during his 1994 Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy.

In the clip Romney expresses concern about the associations between money and politics. He calls for federal campaign spending limits, saying that without them, money will play too big a role in elections. And he says he would abolish PACs.

This week Romney wrote: "Let's start with something basic: the American people should be free to advocate for their candidates and their positions without burdensome limitations. Indeed, such advocacy can play an important educational role in elections, helping to provide information to voters on a range of issues. Do we really want government telling us when we can engage in political speech, and what form it can take?"

Clearly, this is another issue where Romney has changed his thinking. Given that my own thinking on campaign finance reform has changed, I can't fault him for the conversion. I can ask, however, why he didn't immediately acknowledge the conversion. After all, he doesn't need some meeting with a researcher to explain this one. There's an actual law that's been on the books for five years. There's a record of the consequences, intended and otherwise.

"I fell in love with my country"

Here is a two-minute video version of John McCain's announcement speech in Portsmouth yesterday. It includes this:

"Thirty-four years ago, I came home from an extended absence abroad. While I was away, I fell in love with my country. I learned that what's good for America, is good enough for me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country ever since, in uniform and in office, in war and peace."

And this: "I'm running for president of the United States; not yesterday's country; not a defeated country; not a bankrupt country; not a timid and frightened country; not a country fragmented into bickering interest groups with no sense of the national interest; not a country with a bloated, irresponsible and incompetent government. I'm running for president of the United States, a blessed country, a proud country, a hopeful country, the most powerful and prosperous country and the greatest force for good on Earth. And when I'm president, I intend to keep it so."

The full speech is transcribed here.

Immigrant song

John Derbyshire sees Sam Brownback's reversal on immigration as a "major straw in the wind. Out on the stump, these guys — who thought about immigration for about ten minutes total in the previous 60 years of their lives — are getting an earful from conservative voters."

For what it's worth, one of Rudy Giuliani's bigger applause lines Tuesday in Henniker followed his call for tamper-proof ID cards for everyone coming into the United States. I don't have the exact quote, but he said, in effect, the country needs to know who you are and why you're here, and if you don't want to come forward, then you should be thrown out [applause].

Teachable moment?

"Two of this country's biggest philanthropists are promising $60 million to get education reform on the political agenda," according to Marketplace. Bill Gates and Eli Broad are behind what might be called "the biggest issue ad of all time."

Less fear, more loathing

In case you can't get enough of the flap over Fear-gate, this and this should keep you busy awhile.

Also on the subject of Rudy, the New York Daily News reporter who followed him to Henniker Tuesday writes: "A hint of the old, in-your-face Rudy Giuliani peeked through the carefully cultivated image of a presidential candidate yesterday when the former mayor went off on a questioner at a campaign stop."

Went off? Excuse me, Rudy knows how to go off on somebody. This is going off on somebody (a ferret lover). The exchange in Henniker was dramatic, but it was not an "unleashing of his infamous temper."

My own take on the event ran in today's Monitor.

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