And the winner is . . .

Robert Reich suggests Al Gore will win the Oscar for Best Documentary and use his acceptance speech to announce he's running for president. To which a friend quips: "I think it would be hilarious if -- since many of the winners try to make substantive political speeches -- Al talked about vacuous Hollywood inside baseball (Britney hates Paris, etc.)."

On George Washington's Birthday (observed)

I'd vote for the guy who gave this speech.

I'd also vote for a day off Thursday (this year).

Truly limited government

George Will writes that Congressman Ron Paul of Texas will participate in the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire April 4:

"Paul, who really believes in limited government, will infiltrate that confabulation of sedate candidates in order, he says, to find out 'how many real Republicans are left.' This could be entertaining, meaning embarrassing. . . .

"Paul thinks everyone is born an instinctive libertarian, 'wanting to be let alone.' Unfortunately, 'the school system beats it out of you.' Paul voted both for the ban on partial-birth abortion (a fetus is alive, leave it alone) and against the ban on same-sex marriage (none of the federal government's business). He refused to allow any of his five children (three of whom are doctors) to accept federal student loans, and he will not accept his congressional pension. He voted against campaign-finance regulation in 2002 and the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act in 2006, denouncing the former as the left's attack on free speech and the latter as the right's attack. Because they are 'not authorized within the enumerated powers of the Constitution,' he regularly votes against awarding gold medals to distinguished figures, including—gasp—the Gipper."

No, no, Nader

Nine pages of numbers to play with in this Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, including this rundown of the candidates that people would "under no conditions" vote for:

  • Ralph Nader -- 76 percent
  • Newt Gingrich -- 64
  • John Edwards -- 45
  • Hillary Clinton -- 44
  • John McCain -- 40
  • Rudy Giuliani -- 36
  • Barack Obama -- 34

Mitt Romney and the rest of the declared field were apparently not included. Best detail: Nader has a higher no-chance number (80 percent) among Democrats than among either independents or Republicans.

The vote next time

Video excerpts of Hillary Clinton's Senate speech yesterday regarding the threat posed by Iran can be watched here. Two key lines:

"If the administration believes that any -- any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority."

"When I say no option should be taken off the table, I include diplomacy."

UPDATE: The full text is here.

The vote last time: The text of the Oct. 10, 2002, Senate speech Clinton gave before voting to authorize the use of force in Iraq is here. It ends with these lines:

"So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him - use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein - this is your last chance - disarm or be disarmed."

Restore the great writ!

Say you're running for president. And you have a website. And you have to choose one issue to put at the top of the homepage. Would you choose . . .

"Help restore Habeas Corpus and the rule of law!"?

At least for today, that's Chris Dodd's choice.

In their own words: Romney, Obama

You can read Mitt Romney's official announcement, delivered this morning, here.

You can read Barack Obama's, delivered Saturday, here.

Tired of Bush? How about a Clinton?

"Eight years ago, George W. Bush capitalized on Clinton fatigue. Clearly, Hillary Clinton intends to return the favor, running for the White House on Bush fatigue. Her weekend tour of New Hampshire was a strong beginning."

From Mike Pride's take on Hillary Clinton's Concord High appearance.

Of course, some people are tired of both families.

Capital Beat extra: Clinton's health care lesson

What did Hillary Clinton learn from her and her husband's first attempt at health care reform? We asked her in an interview over the weekend. Here's her answer:

"I learned that it's very difficult, and in fact maybe impossible, to work on something as big as health care reform is without laying a much better groundwork for developing a consensus in the country.

"Back in '93 and '94 there were many people who were upset about the number of the uninsured. But there wasn't yet an appreciation by the majority of people in our country that what Bill and I were trying to do was not just about getting insurance for the uninsured, but to try to get costs down for everybody; improve quality for everybody; look over the horizon at global competition that was going to make it increasingly difficult for our businesses here in America to compete globally if they had to bear the responsibility solely of providing health care for their employees.

"So we didn't really have as good an understanding of what it would take to build support for the changes we were recommending, and we didn't understand the fierce opposition by people who had a vested interest in the system as it was already functioning. So it left us with an inability to really carry our message effectively.

"And we made process mistakes about how we set it up, and how we involved people, and how we communicated with the press. So I learned a lot. But I think that actually better prepares me for doing it this time, because I am well aware of how difficult it is.

"It's one thing to set the goal, which I am setting, of universal health care coverage. But to get from where we are, over the opposition that will re-emerge, to get legislation passed in Congress and implement a new system is going to be difficult."

- Sarah Liebowitz

Liner notes: Clinton in Concord

I'm always interested in the songs campaigns choose for candidate appearances. On Saturday at Concord High School, Hillary Clinton entered to "Right Here, Right Now" by Jesus Jones, a catchy 1991 hit with references to Bob Dylan, revolution and "watching the world wake up from history."

After the speech and the formal Q&A, the song choice was the 1974 No. 1 hit "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. It starts: "I met a devil woman/She took my heart away." And continues later: "Any love is good love/So I took what I could get." Is that the message you want voters going home with?

It's the hair

Howie Carr spots one thing Mitt Romney has going for him that his rivals cannot match:

"Check out the evolving Mitt hairdo. Back in 1994, he was sporting a basic, part-on-the-side standard-issue rich-guy coif. Now he’s going with the heavy-gelled, combed-straight-back look. A 'full Reagan,' as it’s known in GOP circles. And something that neither McCain nor Giuliani is capable of."

Ed Mosca probably didn't consider the hair when he wrote this.

Capital Beat extra: Clinton's man in New Hampshire

New Hampshire Democratic Party Executive Director Nick Clemons will be Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire state director, her campaign staff confirmed today. As the party's director, Clemons helped coordinate the recent Democratic takeover of the House and Senate.

He begins his new position in a couple of weeks, party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said. Sullivan will appoint an interim director but allow her successor to find a permanent replacement. (Sullivan is stepping down next month.)

- Sarah Liebowitz

Obama's politics, Obama's faith

Andrew Sullivan calls Barack Obama's June 28, 2006, speech "the finest public speech on religion in public life in years." He links to the text, posted on Obama's website, here.

To get the full flavor, however, go to YouTube and watch the speech (in five parts) starting here. (The successive parts of the speech can be found in the sidebar window.) Obama uses as a jumping-off point his 2004 opponent Alan Keyes's comment that "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama." He goes on to make the case that Democrats (he also says "progressives") "make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives -- in the lives of the American people -- and I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy."

Souter v. Starr

Supreme Court politics have become inseparable from presidential politics, a development traced in Jan Crawford Greenburg's new book Supreme Conflict. And of course Supreme Court politics are always especially relevant to New Hampshire when Justice David Souter's name comes up. A Q&A with the author over at Scotusblog includes this discussion of Souter:

"The chapter in my book about the Souter nomination is called 'The Devil You Don’t.' That derived from a remark by a senior administration official, who summed up the decision to nominate David Souter this way: 'There’s the devil you know, and the one you don’t. We went with the one you don’t.' Of course, as I report, the 'devil you know,' the person who was passed over, was none other than Kenneth Starr. Incredibly, a group of attorneys in the Justice Department opposed Starr’s nomination because they believed he wasn’t conservative enough. That led to the 'devil you don’t,' David Souter. Souter’s nomination came about through a combination of vetting failures in the White House and those internal personality disputes at the Justice Department. I don’t think he 'evolved' or changed once on the Court — unlike other justices, such as Kennedy or O’Connor. Souter may have said he was a conservative, but he didn’t know himself. He’d never had a philosophy — he hadn’t ruled on substantial constitutional questions. That became clear in the confirmation hearings, when conservatives watched with alarm as he heaped praise on Justice Brennan, defended the rulings of the Warren Court and rejected Scalia’s conservative legal theories."

Reviews of the book with very different points of view can be found here and here. The latter also discusses Jeffrey Rosen's new book, The Supreme Court, an excerpt of which informed a recent Monitor editorial on court politics and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Real world v. Kos

The latest Daily Kos reader poll finds nearly equal support for John Edwards and Barack Obama among the crowded Democratic field. Kos has added a runoff between those two, acknowledging:

"In the real world, Hillary will likely by in the mix until the race's bitter end. But in this world, I'm curious to see what people would do if the field was narrowed down to these two netroots front runners -- Obama and Edwards."

For the record, Edwards is ahead so far.