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Daniel Henniger
Says …

For Democrats, judicial philosophy is a cultural Armageddon. Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy have turned the Senate into a Branch Davidian compound. No one in the liberal cult is allowed to leave, including the hostage nominees–unless they recant their conservatism. How many Senate Democrats plan to be in this bunker when Bill Frist’s ATF squad detonates the “nuclear option”?

Did he just say that Senate Republicans are like Janet Reno?

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Desperation
So I’m watching Fox while cleaning up my apartment, and they have this “financial expert” on, saying things like you can “put your money in the bank” if it’s privatized and that you’d have a better rate of return if you stuffed your money “under your mattress” instead of investing it in special-issue treasury bonds.

I ask myself, “Who is this idiot?” Unfortunately he’s Jonathan Hoenig, a Northwestern graduate who runs Capitalist Pig Management LLC. In order to get a friendly voice on privatization, Fox had to go to a Badnarik voter who runs a fund called Capitalist Pig.

I think to myself, “Wow this Social Security plan is really crashing on the launchpad.” And then Fox shows this.

I’m pretty sure you could drop acid and produce a more sensible line-up than Fox News right now.

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My reaction to the press conference
IT BURNS.

UPDATE: To clarify, it drives me nuts that no one ever thinks to ask why the treasury bonds in the Social Security Trust Fund are “IOUs sitting in a file cabinet,” yet treasury bonds in personal accounts are “backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.” This is literally nonsense. Perhaps he means that under a privatization plan, since the government will be responsible for less of peoples’ pensions, there will be less debt. Still, I’d like to actually hear that said.

UPDATE II: Has anyone else noticed that Joe Scarborough is extremely erudite and honest when commenting on MSNBC’s reaction roundtables? That’s weird.

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Over your head
I’ve heard a couple talking heads discuss tonight’s Bush press conference as a way of “taking his case directly to the American people.” If so, then what was the 60 Stops in 60 Days tour? I always thought the presidential press conference was a sort of inside-the-beltway, business as usual thing. Helen Thomas goes to it, for chrissake. So is the press conference more of a direct-to-the-people event than a town hall?

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The world needs laughter.
CBS News

“I fully recognize that the personal retirement account is not the only thing needed to solve Social Security permanently,” Mr. Bush said. “But it’s a part of the solution.” The president has not spelled out the size of benefit cuts that would go along with the private accounts.

He continued to stress that the Social Security system would be “flat bust” in 2042, when it will be able to cover about 73 percent of benefits owed. And he repeated his pledge not to change benefits for those already getting checks or those 55 and older.

A heckler in the Nebraska crowd wasn’t buying it. “Quit lying … you liar,” he yelled.

“We love free speech in America,” Mr. Bush replied and then continued his speech.

I love the ellipsis (…) in that quote.

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I’m your bogeyman
I think this story Kos links to is bullshit. The Guardian’s cover today shows “internal polls” that put 100 Labour seats at risk. Thing is, the Guardian is totally in Labour’s thrall, and I think the party leaked them this info to put the fear of God into their apathetic voters. No one actually wants to vote Labour, but their base (around 37%, enough to win 376 of 646 seats) can be motivated by fear of electing Michael Howard, the Tory leader. Howard is a fairly loathed veteran of the Thatcher and Major governments who symbolizes much of what put voters off Tories in the first place – imagine the Democrats nominating Janet Reno and you get a picture of what Howard symbolizes and how disliked he is. I mean, Tony Blair said Saddam Hussein had weapons that could kill your children in 45 minutes, and Howard is still seen as less “trustworthy.”

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In praise of William Hague
(For full affect, imagine me ostentatiously holding a martini as I say this first part.)
So I was talking with Andrew Sullivan last night, and in between interruptions by people who wanted to query him about Catholicism to watch the veins in his neck turn blue, I asked him about William Hague. Sullivan’s profile of Hague in 2001 was the first piece of his I’d ever read, and having lived in England only 10 months before the article’s publication, I had come to the same conclusion as Sullivan: This was a decent man getting a raw deal.

Even if you don’t agree, you’ve got to think he’s got an interesting story. Hague was a young, brilliant conservative who in 1977 gave one of the key speech at the Tory party conference. He looked like this.

He went on to Oxford and was elected to parliament in 1989, at age 28. He was in the cabinet by age 34, and when the Conservatives lost the 1997 election, he was elected one of the youngest party leaders in Europe. The trouble was, he looked like this.

Yes, he had the same features he had at age 16, but now he was bald. In this age of media and image and spin, this led to him earning possibly the meanest political nickname of the past 50 years: the “Fighting Fetus.” This gave cartoonists the inspiration to draw him as a little boy in short pants, as seen here:

It’s a bit difficult to imagine the same level of vitriol directed at a politican by our press. Hague just wasn’t taken seriously at all. He became a convenient punching bag for journalists to take out all their grievances against the Tories, and his popularity went septic. The 2001 election, which wasn’t winnable anyway, turned into a rout, and at age 40 Hague basically entered a forced retirement from the front edge of politics.

Sullivan’s take on this was that Hague should have calmly stepped aside in the 1997 leadership race and let some poor slob like Michael Howard (the current leader, elected in 2003 at age 58) take the hit in the 2001 election. Probably true, but what thirtysomething gets a chance at power like this and says “best to sit and wait a bit”?

Hague’s got a new biography out, of William Pitt the Younger. I’m sure it’s good, and it’ll be interesting to see if it makes any progress in rehabilitating his reputation.