Saturday, December 23, 2006

Farewell, Senator Stafford

Former Vermont Senator Robert Stafford, a strong voice within the GOP for environmental-protection legislation and support of education (Stafford loans are named for him), has died at age 93. Stafford, who served two years as Vermont's governor, went on to represent the Green Mountain State for eleven years in the House and seventeen years in the Senate; he retired in 1989.

A champion of clean air and clean water laws, Stafford organized a successful override of President Reagan's veto of portions of the Clean Water Act while serving as the ranking Republican on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.

The AP obituary for Senator Stafford notes that he mostly stayed out of the public eye since his retirement, although during the civil unions debate in Vermont he said publicly "I consider that love is one of the great forces in our society and especially in our state of Vermont. It occurs to me that even if a same-sex couple unites in love, what harm does that do anybody or any society? So I felt compelled to come here and say that."

Godspeed, Senator Stafford. You were one of the best.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Another one bites the dust.

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh has dropped his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, just two weeks after announcing the formation of an exploratory committee.

Bayh's statement:

"During my two terms as Governor and now in the United States Senate, it has always been more about the people I was able to help than the job I held. As you know I have been exploring helping the people of my state and our country in a different capacity. After talking with family and friends over the past several days, I have decided that this is not the year for me to run for President and I will not be a candidate for the presidency in 2008. It wasn't an easy decision but it was the right one for my family, my friends and my state. I have always prided myself on putting my public responsibilities ahead of my own ambitions.

The odds were always going to be very long for a relatively unknown candidate like myself, a little bit like David and Goliath. And whether there were too many Goliaths or whether I'm just not the right David, the fact remains that at the end of the day, I concluded that due to circumstances beyond our control the odds were longer than I felt I could responsibly pursue. This path - and these long odds - would have required me to be essentially absent from the Senate for the next year instead of working to help the people of my state and the nation.

I am immensely grateful for the support of my family and friends and the thousands of people around the country who helped me with their time and their resources. There may be no campaign in the near future, but there is much work to be done. When the Senate returns, I will focus on the issues that matter to the people of my state and are critical to the future of the nation including reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating opportunity for middle class families, and implementing a national security strategy that is both tough and smart."

Probably a smart move for Bayh, although it's always sad to see another centrist candidate leave the race. He's only 50, so he's got years of service left, and this could position him well for a VP slot.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Calling for Better Accounting on Iraq

The NYTimes reports today that the incoming House and Senate budget committee chairmen "said they would demand a better accounting of the war’s cost and move toward integrating the spending into the regular federal budget, a signal of their intention to use the Congressional power of the purse more assertively to influence the White House’s management of the war."

It's about time! The Administration has gotten away with "emergency supplementals" and other obfuscatory budgetary tactics for far too long. The costs of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan ought to be tallied up within the regular budget process. Yes, obviously there may be a real emergency which could require additional funding after the budget is passed, but the Administration's total unwillingness to work within accepted frameworks should have been stopped years ago.

Democrats will use a little-noticed provision in the defense authorization bill that requires the president to include Iraq/Afghanistan numbers in the regular budget plan. This amendment, sponsored by Senator McCain, was passed by the Senate 98-0 back in June.

Senator Kent Conrad, who will chair the Budget Committee in that chamber, told the Times "We are now going on four years into this war and they are still funding it with these patchwork supplementals without oversight and without accountability, and that just has to stop." Indeed.

Fair, honest accounting is something that I hope all of us - liberals, conservatives, centrists, war supporters and opponents, &c. &c. - can agree on. There is absolutely no reason to allow this Administration to continue increasing the budget deficit without being held accountable for it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Book Review: "The Iraq Study Group Report"

I've just finished reading the Vintage edition of The Iraq Study Group Report, which was printed almost overnight for its public release last Wednesday. It's a fairly short document - just 96 pages of report and another fifty pages of supporting documents - but it's an important one. This bipartisan group of some of the most interesting minds in American political life today managed to reach consensus on seventy-nine recommendations for a new approach to America's policy toward Iraq and the wider Middle East region. These recommendations are not something that we ought to take lightly, and I hope that they will be given their due by those who must decide whether to act of them or to continue down the current, perilous, path.

I believe that the recommendations contained in this report, if pursued in a comprehensive, bipartisan and coherent manner, have the potential to provide America with not only a viable exit strategy from Iraq, but also a blueprint for lasting stability in the Middle East and a lessening of ideological warfare here at home. No, this report is not a magic bullet and will not solve our problems overnight. But following this strategy, it seems to me, would improve our chances of success ... or at least decrease our chances of abject and utter failure characterized by continued deterioration of Iraq and a possible regional conflagration.

If you don't want the Vintage version of the report, you can always download it here in pdf form.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Recent Reviews

Since I'm about to go into a brief period of hibernation so I can finish my class-work for the semester, I thought I'd pass along a few of my recent book reviews from PhiloBiblos, starting with the most recent (links are to the reviews).

- Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography by Janet Browne.
- Not Your Usual Founding Father: Selections from Benjamin Franklin, edited by Edmund S. Morgan.
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke.
- The Collectors by David Baldacci.
- Micromegas and Other Short Fictions by Voltaire.
- Thunderstruck by Erik Larson.
- A Small Moment of Great Illumination by Leonard Pitt.
- Passionate Minds by David Bodanis.
- The Interpretation of Murder by Jeb Rubenfeld.
- Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Rennison.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Good Article on Potential Bloomberg Run

John Heileman has an extensive and well-written piece in New York Magazine about Mike Bloomberg and the chance he'll make a run for the White House in '08 (under certain conditions). I have to say, I remain intrigued ...

Bolton Out, Time for Cooperation

There is some very welcome news this morning: John Bolton, the recess-appointed UN Ambassador, has finally seen that confirmation was not in the cards and will resign. I repeat my call for the nomination of Jim Leach to act as America's ambassador at the United Nations; he is precisely the kind of diplomat we need representing us there at this time.

Charles at WeThePeople has more on the Bolton departure.

[Update: Hotline has Bush's full statement].

[Update: Drudge says George Mitchell is "said to be on the short-list" to replace Bolton. This seems unlikely, but would certainly be an interesting move and a 180-degree shift from the previous nominee.]