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My Midterm Musings November 2, 2010

Posted by SV in Democracy, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized.
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No election day would be complete without my underqualified analysis and predictions on the day’s outcome.  I have been a poll-junkie over the past several months, and have read up on as many House and Senate races as I could.  It will be no surprise that Republicans will have a very good night, the question has just become how much of one it will be.  The GOP will almost certainly retake the House, and pick up a minimum of 7 Senate seats, possibly as many as 9.  So without further ado, here are some of my predictions and races to watch:

Final Senate Tally: Net gain of 8 seats

Final House Tally: Net gain of 57 seats

Senate
Critical GOP Gains: Illinois, Colorado, Nevada - If Republicans can pick off President Obama’s old Senate seat, it will be a huge morale victory and portend big gains in the Great Lakes region.  GOP candidates are already doing very well in every state bordering Illinois (WI, IA, IN, KY, and MO), so Mark Kirk has a better than even shot of pulling this off.  Colorado’s GOP candidate, Ken Buck, has seen his margin in the polls tighten over the past month, but his lead has been consistent.  Assuming the Colorado gubernatorial debacle does not peel away votes from him, he should pull off a narrow victory.  Few Senate races have gotten as much media attention, or outside money, as Sharron Angle’s bid to upset Senator Harry Reid in Nevada.  Although this race has been within the margin of error for months, expect Reid to be narrowly defeated by night’s end.

Longest Wait: Alaska - In all likelihood, the final results of the Alaska Senate race will not be known for days, or even weeks, after voting ends tonight.  The 3-way contest between Republican Joe Miller, Democrat Scott McAdams, and Republican-running-as-an-independent-write-in Lisa Murkowski (the current senator who lost her primary), has been a roller coaster.  Miller, who enjoyed a lead for months, has seen his support slip as moderates and Republicans flock to Murkowski.  My prediction is that Murkowski will come in first, Miller in second, and McAdams in third.  However, many of her write-in votes may be invalidated by the courts, so this could be a replay of the Minnesota senate contest two years ago.

Biggest Open-Seat Blowout for Democrat: Delaware – Delaware Republicans nominated an unelectable conservative in their deep blue state.  Democrat Chris Coons will walk away with this one by at least 15 points.

Biggest Open-Seat Blowout for Republican: North Dakota - Next to only the Kansas and Utah races, this one has the best chance of the Republican, the popular governor John Hoeven, crossing the 70% threshold.

Biggest Surprise of the Night: Republican John Rease wins in West Virginia - The Mountaineers are traditionally Democratic but have backed Republicans in the past several presidential elections.  The Democrat running to fill Robert Byrd’s old seat, Governor Joe Manchin, boasts a popularity rate above 60%.  His GOP rival is a successful businessman, but he has a favorable rating far below the governor.   If West Virginians elect Raese, it will clearly be a signal that they are deeply dissatisfied with President Obama’s agenda.  If they elect Manchin, it will also be a signal that they are deeply dissatisfied with the ruling party (witness his ad where he shoots a copy of the Cap and Trade bill).  Expect Manchin to be the most conservative Democrat in the chamber.

Don’t Count Them Out: Fiorina in CA and Rossi in WA – Although both of these candidates are down in the polls, their challenges have become the toughest incumbents Barbara Boxer (CA) and Patty Murray (WA) have yet faced.  California’s contest will hinge on turnout (Democratic likely to be higher here than in the rest of the country due to the marijuana initiative) and the fallout from the tumultuous governor’s race.  While Rossi has come within striking distance of Murray, it may be too little too late.  Almost all of Washington votes by absentee ballot or early voting, so the contest was likely decided over the past couple weeks.

House

Bellweather for Anti-Incumbency: Barletta Beats Kanjorski in PA – In 2008, Democrat Paul Kanjorski (PA-11) was reelected to his 13th term with just 52% of the vote.  President Obama carried the district by a much wider margin.  If Republican Lou Barletta pulls off the upset, it could well be a signal that voters across the country are willing to vote out their own long-serving representatives, even though their seniority often brings influence and federal dollars to the district.

Bellweather for Northeast Comeback: Hanna Knocks Off Arcuri in NY - Democrat Michael Arcuri (NY-24) won his second term in 2008 with just 52%.  The district he represents has a slight Republican registration advantage.  Currently only 2 members of New York’s 29 House districts are Republicans.  If the GOP is to have any hope of establishing a firm foothold in the majority, it will have to wrest away seats like this in the northeast that flipped in 2006 and 2008 to Democrats.  Republicans cannot hope to have a lasting majority if they are locked out of the 3rd biggest state in the country (Texas by contrast has 12 Democrats to 20 Republicans).

Campaign Strategy: Perriello vs. Hurt in VA - In 2008, Democrat Tom Perriello (VA-5) was elected to an open seat by a margin in the hundreds of votes.  Since then he has become a vocal and consistent supporter of President Obama’s agenda.  This has hurt him in a district where Republicans have a 5-point registration advantage.  In 2008 he was able to draw on the support of UVA students and Charlottesville liberals.  If they do not turn out this year, he is sunk.  He has become the only representative to bring President Obama to campaign specifically for his district.  While most Democrats are running away from their leader, Perriello is embracing him.  If he wins, Democrats will be emboldened to run strongly on their record in 2012.  If he loses, they may become more timid in their support of the President’s agenda. 

Biggest Surprise of the Night: Charles Djou Holds on in HI - While Republicans have occasionally held the governorship in Hawaii, they have been virtually locked out of the congressional delegations.  When Neil Abercrombie retired to run for governor, Republican Charles Djou won his seat in a special election, helped by the fact that two Democrats remained in the race.  Although at the time many assumed he would serve a short stint in Congress, polls have him within the margin of error to his one opponent this time.  Either for lack of Democratic enthusiasm, or just Hawaiians wanting to give him a shot at a full term, there is a slight chance Djou may pull this race off.

Primaries and a New Rise of Antiestablishmentarianism May 21, 2010

Posted by SV in Democracy, Politics, President Obama, Republican Party, Uncategorized.
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Tuesday’s primaries were surely a preview of things to come in November – unpredictability, anti-incumbency, and polarization.  The hammer of populist rancor and antiestablishmentarianism fell equally on Republicans and Democrats, and Republicans-turned-Democrats.  Both as a result of the primaries and the special election that took place in Pennsylvania, it appears that the tsunami of 2010 may be a more modest tidal wave than was previously anticipated.

First, a brief look at the races starting with the Keystone state.  In the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, Joe Sestak, a relatively unknown 2-term U.S. congressman, unseated incumbent Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter.  Specter was known for his moderate views and independence from party over his 30-year career, which often mirrored the positions of PA voters.  According to CQ, Specter and Sestak both voted with President Obama and the Democratic leadership over 95% of the time in 2009.  So what accounts for the primary voters’ abandonment of Specter, who was endorsed by the governor and the President?  Part of it was this anti-incumbent phenomenon, but part of it must also be attributed to the fact that there wasn’t much difference between the two candidates, and the energetic and younger Sestak tirelessly pointed back to Specter’s three decades as a Republican.  It will be interesting to see whether Sestak can continue his anti-establishment campaign while he holds a congressional seat in the face of Pat Toomey’s challenge.

The special election in PA’s 12th congressional district, to replace the late John Murtha, was equally significant.  In a district where largely conservative voters hold a Democratic registration advantage of 2 to 1 over Republicans, Democrat Mark Critz won by a small margin.  He did this by running to the right, saying he would have voted against the health care bill, cap and trade, and other unpopular bills.  It did, however, provide a blueprint for those Blue Dog Democrats fighting to hold onto their seats – come out strongly against the administration’s agenda and focus on local issues so as not to nationalize the race.  Whether this will be successful remains to be seen, but it may thwart Republican prospects of capturing the 40 seats needed to retake control of the House of Representatives.

The Kentucky race was probably the most fascinating of the evening.  Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, backed by moderate Republicans and the GOP establishment, was crushed by over twenty points by his Tea Party rival, Rand Paul (son of long-shot presidential contender Ron Paul).  A self-described libertarian, Paul ran a relentless anti-establishment campaign (he has never held public office) against the pragmatic conservative Grayson.  In this action Kentucky primary voters effectively devoured one of their own to nominate someone with pure ideological credentials – someone who probably belongs in the Libertarian Party more than the Republican Party.  The fact that Paul had to spend the first day of the general election campaign defending his position on the Civil Rights Act with theoretical arguments spells trouble for his prospects in November, as Michael Gerson of the Washington Post makes clear here.  I will go out on a limb and opine that the KY primary has effectively killed the GOP’s slim chances of winning 10 seats and retaking the Senate in November.

Both parties are eating their own in the search for ideologically pure candidates

In Arkansas, the primary was much less conclusive.  Three-term incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln narrowly edged her liberal opponent, but she was still below 50%, which forces the contest into a runoff in early June.  Her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, criticized her not only for her moderate views but also on an anti-establishment, anti-incumbent platform.  Lincoln, who was already considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats in November, may pull it out in June but is unlikely to repeat the miracle in November.

So what is the lesson from the elections on Tuesday (and the Utah GOP convention last month)?  It seems to be that moderates and incumbents, regardless of party, will be persecuted in November.  If a candidate did not always support or always oppose the President, voters will be more inclined to send them packing, branding them as too establishment to represent their constituents.  This spells trouble not so much for the parties as for the nation as a whole.

Pure ideologues have their role to play in our political system, but it has never been the dominant role.  Partisan voting has its advantages on certain issues, but not the critically important ones such as national security (conflicts, treaties) or domestic policy (health care, energy policy).  While some of this is the fault of liberal over-reach in Congress and the White House, the remedy is not to elect hyper-partisan (or libertarian) politicians.  If the Democrats wish to lend permanency to their legislative accomplishments, they will have to retain the moderate forces within their party to hold valuable seats in the South and West.  If the Republicans wish to roll-back some of the more egregious excesses of the Obama Administration, they will have to retain their own moderates to hold or win valuable seats in the Northeast, Southwest, and Midwest.  Antiestablishmentarianism is attractive when voters are seeking to “throw the bums out,” but the parties and candidates are playing with fire – to be effective, they not only have to be capable of running against Washington but also of mastering it in order to govern.  Otherwise they will quickly become the “bums” they so recently evicted.

One-Sided Arms Control April 26, 2010

Posted by SV in Nuclear Proliferation, President Obama, Russia, U.S. Foreign Relations, Uncategorized.
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[This article was first published by the Center for Vision and Values here: http://www.visandvals.org/One_Sided_Arms_Control.php]

President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Prague on April 8—and did so to global accolades. It was the culmination of years of negotiations and a major triumph to finally achieve agreement with Moscow. Unfortunately, President Obama’s signature was attached to a naïve arms control treaty that threatens the strength of the U.S. nuclear umbrella that defends over 30 friends and allies. It compromises American interests while benefiting the Russians and weakening international security and stability.

On the surface, START looks like a reasonable albeit constrictive treaty. The 800 delivery-vehicle limit on bombers and missiles is about 100 below what is currently deployed. The 1,550 nuclear-warhead limit can easily be achieved by retiring some aging B-52s and changing the way they are counted. The treaty provides for telemetry exchanges (information from missile test launches), which promotes mutual trust. It also contains no overt constraints on missile defense or the ability to deploy non-nuclear systems with global reach.

A quick glance at the treaty’s effects is more troubling. The 800 delivery-vehicle limit will cut valuable systems used to defend the United States and reassure its allies. Conversely, Russia only has to continue already planned decommissioning of obsolete missiles and submarines. The U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force will probably have to be reduced from 450 to 400 deployed missiles. The most survivable nuclear platforms, stealthy ballistic-missile submarines, will shrink by two submarines to remove four dozen missiles from accountability.

The bomber fleet will be limited to 18 stealth B-2s and dozens of 50-year-old B-52s. The remainder will be converted to conventional-only capabilities or simply eliminated. The future triad of missiles, submarines, and bombers will therefore be smaller, less flexible, and less capable of reassuring America’s friends and allies in threatening environments.

These cuts may seem minimal, but when the missile reductions are combined with the cancellation of NASA’s Constellation program, they could severely weaken the already decimated industrial base. The solid-rocket-motor industry is particularly vulnerable to collapse. An inability to sustain and replace valuable systems like ballistic missiles will have long-term negative consequences for our scientific and deterrent capability.

While the new warhead limit is 30 percent below the Moscow Treaty of 2002 limit, complicated counting rules give the Russians a whopping advantage. Each Russian bomber can carry eight warheads on cruise missiles, with the potential for more in the bomb bay. Under the New START, those 76 bombers count as only 76 warheads. Therefore, Moscow could deploy 500 or more warheads above the 1,550 limit, which would put it equal or above the Moscow Treaty limits. The United States, with its strict adherence to treaty law, will not imitate such devious accounting to ignore the 1,550 limit. Can we say the same for the Russian Federation?

The Bush administration began talks on a successor to START in its final years. The Obama administration publicly designated negotiations as the centerpiece of its “reset” with Russia and rushed negotiations in such a manner that the Russians knew exactly who wanted the treaty more. As former Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker has argued, you do not go to a car dealer and say “I absolutely positively have to have that car and I need it today, how much is it?” However, that is exactly what the president has done. In an effort to meet arbitrary deadlines, the American negotiators made multiple unnecessary concessions, most notably abandoning the missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Now Russia is objecting to any future missile-defense deployments, saying they would be cause to withdraw from the New START.

This treaty is different from past nuclear reductions in one important aspect: It is meant as a “down-payment” on President Obama’s pledge for moving toward a “world without nuclear weapons,” rather than to primarily improve U.S. national security. President Obama needs START to (among other things) justify his Nobel Peace Prize. He will push senators to provide their advice and consent for ratification of a bad treaty. Although many senators will want to avoid the pro-nuclear weapon label, the existence of these weapons has guaranteed American security for over 60 years.

The New START has turned out to be a golden missed opportunity. Instead of negotiating a treaty with modest reductions and extensive verification provisions, the administration opted for a bold approach. Proponents argue that the United States no longer needs the nuclear force structure it has from the Cold War. They assert that America’s conventional superiority can increasingly fulfill the mission of nuclear weapons. Conventional weapons, however, do not have the same deterrent effect provided by nuclear forces. As Margaret Thatcher observed, “There are monuments to the futility of conventional deterrence in every village in Europe.” Until the international security environment is severely improved, drastic reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons will not make the world more secure. Address the root causes of conflict between states, and wider nuclear reductions will be more successful and constructive.

Notorious February 13, 2008

Posted by SV in Uncategorized.
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On 12 February 2008, senior Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria.  This came nearly 25 years after Mughniyah’s most deadly attack, the 1983 Marine barracks truck bombing, which he helped coordinate.  He was also found to be responsible for the Beirut embassy bombings and the kidnappings of Westerners in Lebanon in the mid-1980s.  For more information on this notorious terrorist’s activities, see www.tkb.org or read Robert Baer’s excellent memoir, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism.

What, then, are the implications of this development in the wider War on Islamist Jihadists? First of all, it brings forth the fact that this struggle is not confined to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but that it stretches across much of the Middle East (and to cells around the world – Mughniyah was linked to 1990s attacks in Argentina).  Secondly, it helps dispel the myth that a terrorist can commit devastating attacks against the West and not eventually be brought to justice (Mughniyah had disappeared nearly 15 years ago after living constantly on the run and reputedly undergoing plastic surgery).

This therefore counts as an indisputable victory for the worldwide effort to root out terrorists and bring them to justice.  Though he may not be as well known as bin Laden, those who have studied the issue of terrorism in depth remember that the Marine barracks and Embassy bombings in 1983, the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon, the hijacking of a TWA airliner in 1985, the Khobar Towers bombing, and the attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s, were all interrelated by the involvement of Mughniyah.

Though many Arab nations and groups like Hezbollah are attempting to charge Israel with conducting this assassination, it is of little consequence who authorized or carried it out.  The point is that a lifelong terrorist was finally brought to justice.  Though many forgot about his attacks and even his existence over the past 15 years, the FBI and CIA never stopped their pursuit, as attested by the fact he remained on the list of Most Wanted Terrorists.  His crimes against humanity made him just as notorious as Osama bin Laden, and the civilized world should experience relief that he will not be able to kill another innocent again.

Posting to Resume December 9, 2006

Posted by Adam Nowland in Uncategorized.
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Politically Incorrect will soon see a revival of sorts, as posting will resume shortly.  Due to time constraints, posting has disappeared for several months, but with the addition of another writer, we should be able to make more analysis available.  We hope to maintain our honest and accurate reporting of world events, as well as increase our readership.  We look forward to your continued support over the next few months.

The Hypocrisy of the United Nations July 20, 2006

Posted by Adam Nowland in Hezbollah, Israel, Kofi Annan, Lebanon, Middle East, Uncategorized.
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The recent wave of conflict rocking the Middle East has already become an issue that has polarized the world, pitting those who believe Israel is using excessive force and undermining the feeble government of Lebanon against those who believe that Hezbollah is an organization of such evil that Israel should be given the leeway it needs to crush the terrorist group.  As I’ve watched the events unfold in the news, I’ve come to three conclusions: Hezbollah started the chain of events that led to the current outbreak of violence; No one should mess with Israel, since they don’t usually respond with kindness; and the United Nations is a useless, hypocritical organization.
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Posting to resume May 20, 2006

Posted by Adam Nowland in Uncategorized.
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The lack of recent posts is a result of the last few days of college and finishing exams and preparing to leave.  I will resume regular posts soon.  Thanks for your patience.

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