The Blue Pages

. . . rantings from a young Democrat inside the beltway and outside the loop

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cue the Violins: A Matthew Jerome Hiatus

I have to give the bad news today that this will be my last blog post, at least for a while.

Say what? Yeah, it is true. Don't slam your head against your keyboard in anger--it can't bring the Blue Pages back.

I am pretty bummed about this and I'm actually surprsingly sad as I write this post. But I've come to the conclusion that this is necessary for two important reasons. Let me 'splain:

1) Potential Conflict of Interest. I've wanted my blog to be an accurate representation of my opinions, and never a propaganda arm. And I feel it has been just that. However, I currently work with a Democratic political organization, and with a new electoral cycle starting up (a presidential one, no less), I am worried that I may have opinions that are opposed to those for which my firm works. Sure, I write with a pen name and have never named the organization I work for, but it wouldn't be rocket science if someone wanted to try to figure it out.

So, that left me with three options; either refuse to write about campaigns that my firm is involved in (even though campaigns are the things I am most excited about), write about clients my firm works with only in a favorable light, or continue to keep my fingers crossed that no one would ever make the connection. All 3 options are unacceptable to me, so I had to choose the none-of-the-above option.

2) Time vs. Quality. When I began this blog, I was employed part time while taking grad school classes. This was the case through August 2006, when I decided to work full time and take grad classes. Almost instantly, the amount of free time I had to write this blog dropped, yet my excitement during the election season allowed me to quickly jot down thoughts and get some of the energy out that I would've spent thinking about politics anyway.

Now, however, I am finding it more difficult to blog in my spare time. It is always a pet peeve of mine when other blogs aren't updated frequently, or when my own blog isn't updated frequently; it makes for a less-than-quality product. So again I saw two realistic options; either I post whenever I can, which may only be once a week, or I post frequently but with questionable quality. Again, I found both options unacceptable.

SO--what does this mean to my eight or nine fans?

Well, I really have loved this Matthew Jerome experiment, and I am not done with it. I may be able to be a contributor on another blog (where I wouldn't have to cover the whole gamut of politics and thus have to omit issues that there are conflicts of interest on). I may write a different blog with only a partial focus on politics. The point is that this has been kind of addictive for me, so I highly doubt that I'll never go back in some form. I just need to figure out what that form is.

That's why I've mentioned in the title that this is a hiatus--I do plan to come back.

In the meantime, if I can talk highly about myself a bit, I'm pretty proud of this blog. I don't think anyone can doubt that I was personally responsible for the overwhelming Democratic wave that swept the country this past year.

Well, maybe not--but still, I think I was able to intelligently and interestingly address politics without being too reactionary-partisan. And I'm glad to have connected up with many other bloggers, and to have had some really intelligent discussions and debates in the comments section. And it was pretty gratifying that people seemed to enjoy what I have to say and the manner in which I say it.

Blah blah blah.

So, stay tuned, because I do plan to continue in some fashion. But for now, we'll have to gently tuck the Blue Pages to bed, sneak out, wait for 15 minutes, sneak back in, and smother it with a pillow until it can't breathe anymore. Wow--that was a violent end. Sort of didn't expect that.

But in all seriousness, many thanks to all for being a part of this very fun part of my life, and I'll be back when I think of something else to do. Here's to a successful Democratic Congress in '06 and a Dem victory in '08.

Matthew Jerome

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Cyber Hammer is a Comedian

Tom DeLay has a blog. The aptly name TomDeLay.com is the disgraced former Republican's main media mouthpiece these days. It is an interesting experiment, in all seriousness, as I don't know that many politicians keep blogs that are as uncensored as his is (that is, it is common for candidates and elected officials to have blogs these days, but really they are mostly just press releases being written by their assistants).

My guess is that Tom sees the netroots angle, which he hasn't really engaged in before, as the way for him to fester under the radar for a few years until he regains his power and the time is right for his reemergence, sort of like Voldemort. So who knows, stranger things have happened, and this may be a way for DeLay to connect with the right-wingers to become influential again. (Sample comment from one fan on his blog: "I have hardly seen as eloquent a rebuttal to [Nancy Pelosi's] antics at this. Nice work. Now...RUN FOR PRESIDENT!" Yikes!)

However, this post by DeLay is funny. Specifically, the following lines, if you keep in mind the author: "By hand-picking Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) to do in her longtime rival Hoyer, Nancy seemed to forget all about the ‘culture of corruption’ that she blamed on the House Republicans (and me in particular). Instead she went to bat for Murtha, her trusted henchman, whose screen credits include appearing to be holding out for a better deal in the FBI’s ABSCAM bribery sting. Compounding her problems, one of her less subtle allies, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) was reported by even the liberal Washington Post to have made not-so-veiled threats on behalf of the Pelosi/Murtha team."

There you have it, folks--Tom DeLay, the king of corruption, cronyism, and strong-arm tactics, speaking out against corruption, cronyism, and strong-arm tactics. I don't even necessarily disagree with DeLay on these points (except for his assertion that Murtha was "holding out for a better deal" in ABSCAM), but it is amazing that after all that has happened with DeLay, after he resigned in disgrace, and arguably precipitated the downfall of Congressional Republicans, that he would still not get it. DeLay has the nerve to criticize someone for the evils for which he was most infamous. And that actually makes me laugh.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Van Holla

Progressive wonder-boy Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), whom I campaigned for as a volunteer in 2002 and am now represented by since I moved to Bethesda, was just named head of the DCCC, or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He is succeeding Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL), whom he worked with as a DCCC deputy during this past cycle.

Here's the story. And here's a picture of him in the lunch room at my high school which for some reason the administration called the SAC. (The lunchroom was called the SAC--not the high school, which was called Montgomery Blair).

For those who don't know, the DCCC chair is the Democratic member of the House that is responsible for allocating funds and candidate recruitment in Congress. An ineffective chair may produce a nationwide slate of weak candidates. This cycle, Democrats put up very strong candidates and were able to win 30 House seats, largely because the candidates were particularly strong, and because of smart strategic decisions regarding resource allocation.

So, this is very cool. Van Hollen won two tough elections as an underdog in 2002. He beat the heavily favored Mark Shriver (of Kennedy fame) in the primary by organizing a strong grassroots base, and he then beat multi-term Republican incumbent Connie Morella in the general by taking advantage of a gerrymandered district (hey, its true.) He fits the bill well--he is very polished, he's intelligent, and he knows how to win tough races against strong candidates, which is just what you need in a DCCC chair if you want to win races.

Van Hollen may have a bigger challenge than Rahm had, because Rahm had the benefit of only having to play any kind of defense at all on 3 seats (which he successfully defended). However, Republicans are already targeting many of the seats they lost which are in reliably Republican areas, specifically the former seats of DeLay, Foley, Pombo, and whoever lost in Kansas. And of course, the political environment will be tough to be predict, but its hard to imagine Van Hollen could have a better environment to run Democrats in than Rahm had.

So with Maryland natives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Chris Van Hollen rising to power this electoral cycle, we may be seeing a lot more Old Bay in the House cafeteria (which is still the only thing that I associate with Maryland, despite living here my whole life.) Van Holla!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Me?

Did you hear the news? I've been named Time Person of the Year. No, really--me. I hope there's some sort of prize money.

Well, more accurately, YOU were named Time Person of the Year, too. "You," you'll see if you follow the link, refers to YouTubers, Bloggers, and other individuals who now have a capacity to affect their country in far greater manner than ever before. The argument is that bloggers helped put funding and momentum behind candidates, George Allen wouldn't have been defeated if it weren't for YouTube, Facebook and MySpace have made it easier for individuals to get their messages out, and blah blah blah.

So congratulations, You. You're right up there with FDR, Deng Xioaping, and Bono.

No offense, You, but I don't think You would've made my list. I might pick Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for being the politicos behind the successful election season (as, respectively, DCCC and DSCC chairs). Or how about Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is about to become the first female speaker of the House? Or perhaps Rummy, since 2006 was shaped politically by the American public's consensus that Rumsfeld's war has been a complete failure.

Still, as much as this year's person of the year is a nauseoutingly cutesy selection from the geniuses at Time ("I know!! How about YOU!" "Promote this man. Break time!"), there is no doubt that the Internet is really being harnessed as a tool for democracy. But does this make our country better, or worse? Is this something we should be celebrating--that the slightest gaffe will be immortalized and can ruin a public servant's career because someone out there put it up on YouTube, or that the same out-of-context arguments can be cited over and over by rabid partisans? I think there will be some time before we know if the costs outweigh the benefits.

I forgot who brought this up to me, but someone pointed out recently that journalism is really reverting back into what it was at the beginning of the 1900s. Originally, newspapers were blatantly partisan, and that was the expectation--many were paid for by political parties. There were multiple news sources, and people pretty much adhered to the ones with which they agreed. We eventually entered a world of objective journalism, but now with cable and the internet, we've created narrow niche markets to the point that being objective may no longer be financially feasible. That is, when there are 3 news sources on TV, a large segment of the population is up for grabs, so they to appeal more broadly. With 40 cable news stations, they may each have difficulty accessing enough of the market to be profitable, so they have to distinguish themselves, and thus become conservative news or liberal news or whatever. More so with the Internet--what's the most popular "moderate" or "centrist" blog? I don't know, because there probably isn't one.

So, don't get me wrong, I'm proud of You. You clearly affected things, for better or for worse. And at the very least, it will be hard to imagine a larger cop-out for Time in years to go (2007's Person of the Year: Carbon-based Life Forms!)

Oh, and this is funny. When you go to the Time website, you get a Chrysler ad (I don't know if it is still there, but see the Daily Kos, which pointed this out, for the screenshot) before you can proceed to the Person of the Year section. Clearly Chrysler wanted to play off the fact that people would be going to check out person of the year, and wanted to incorporate that into their ad.

So, the first line? "You may not be Time Person of the Year." Wow--they probably thought that one was pretty safe. D'oh!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Senator Johnson is in Critical Condition

Yesterday afternoon, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) was taken to the hospital for "stroke-like symptoms." His spokeswoman has announced that he did not have a stroke or a heart attack, but MSNBC is reporting that the Senator is in "critical condition" and according to "unconfirmed reports" is having brain surgery. Reports are kind of flakey so far, as it appears everyone is hush hush, so you have to take this all with a grain of salt. Story here.

Also, a CNN and AP update, c/o a coworker's email: "Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) was diagnosed with a congenital arteriovenous malformation (CNN). He underwent brain surgery last night and is in critical condition. Harry Reid, who went to the hospital, called Johnson 'a "dear friend to me and to all of us' (AP). "

First and foremost, I really hope he comes out ok. I've always liked Senator Johnson. He is one of these decent, earnest, soft-spoken, Midwestern populist types. He's more conservative than your average Democrat, which may be expected in South Dakota. In any case, he must be doing something right: According to SurveyUSA, he has the 9th highest approval rating of all 100 Senators in the Senate, at 70%.

Obviously, there are political implications to this. Let's go through them. (I don't know if it seems crass to discuss these immediately, but let me assure you that it isn't. They are my secondary concern right now, but obviously this man's health affects the country, so it is important to look at what may happen.)

A) If Senator Johnson dies or resigns, South Dakota state law allows Republican Governor Mike Rounds to choose Johnson's successor. In all likelihood, Rounds will choose a Republican to fill Johnson's seat, making the Senate 50/50 for D's and R's. With VP Cheney as the tiebreaker, this gives the Republicans the Senate back.

B) If Johnson is too ill to serve but decides not to resign, then he keeps the seat, and the Democrats keep the Senate. The 17th Amendment of the Constitution allows state legislatures to empower their executive to choose successors in the case of "vacancies," but being too ill to serve does not make the seat vacant. (Recently, Strom Thurmond and Jim Jeffords both were arguably too ill to serve yet held onto their seats.)

Let's hope that it doesn't come to either of these; not because of the political consequences, but because of the man's health.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Uno Mas!

Take out your Jeromegress scorecards, everybody--The Dems have picked up another House seat. (Actually, don't take out your Jeromegress scorecards--those scores are final! Besides, Adam already gave his concession speech, and that's a prize that can't be taken away).

Former Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez beat 7-term Republican Henry Bonilla in the 23rd District of Texas yesterday (AP story here). In the general election, Bonilla got 48% of the vote and Rodriguez split the other 52% with about 8 candidates (Rodriguez himself lead the pack with 20%). I've had a hard time finding official results, but Rodriguez won pretty convincingly, with anywhere from 54-57% of the vote. So, interestingly, Bonilla got a lower share of the vote in the run-off than he did in the general.

What is there to say about this race? No, seriously, what is there to say? I don't know much about either candidate. I've heard that Rodriguez is a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, but I suppose you have to be in Texas. But it is nice to get this cherry on top to the hot fudge sundae that was the 2006 Democratic wave.

This election did not mean that Texas is turning blue, or more liberal, or anything like that. But it did mean that under the right circumstances, Democrats can win in gerrymandered Texas districts without running against, oh, let's say, a write-in Republican candidate with a hard-to-spell name and a Katherine Harris personality (that would be Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who actually served the rest of Tom DeLay's lame duck term and had DeLay's entire staff quit on her within the first couple of days.)

This puts the Democratic pick-up in the House at 31 (but really 30, since one of the seats they "picked-up" was from Independent Bernie Sanders, who was caucusing with them anyway). The only undecided race is Florida 13, Katherine Harris' old district, where the election results are rightfully disputed. And about Florida 13, I'm amazed I haven't blogged about this. I'm a bit behind the times on the story, but basically, the whole thing is a huge mess.

As it stands, Republican Vern Buchanan narrowly edged out Christine Jennings, with both receiving about 50% of the vote and Buchanan leading by a mere 373 votes. However, some 18,000 voters in the district voted on electronic machines for Senate and Governor and down-ballot races, but oddly they decided not to vote in the House race. Everyone agrees that something went wrong, but the question becomes waes it merely a glitch or was it a theft of Democratic votes? When you consider that those 18,000 voters split for Democrat candidates at the top of the ballot about 60-40, which would have easily been enough for Jennings assuming they broke similarly in the House race, it looks pretty suspicious.

So we'll wait to see what happens with that election. In the meantime, let's celebrate election night once more with the addition of Ciro.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Bipartisan Solution to Iraq?

Interesting op-ed in the LA Times today by GOP consultant Mike Murphy on what Bush should do next in his conduct of the Iraq War. The gist of his argument: Bush needs to draft Democrats to help him run the war in Iraq.

Murphy says: "[Bush] should establish a bipartisan war council made up of his national security team and the Democratic leaders of the key national security committees in Congress. Under the president's leadership, this council would conduct the Iraq war, becoming the key coordinating vehicle for Iraqi policy. The president would not cede his authority as commander in chief, but he would work with this group — which would include such leaders as Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) — to develop a consensus policy for Iraq."

He continues: "The war in Iraq has become partisan — and partisan wars are impossible to fight successfully. . . . Developing compromise inside such a war council would not be easy. The president would find ceding power a very bitter pill to swallow, and his Democratic critics would find that the Iraq war is much easier to criticize than to manage. But only legitimate bipartisanship can give the president back the authority he needs to move diplomatically and militarily."

So, first, let's get all the criticisms out of the way: this is a radical solution, and an imperfect one, and one that I could not imagine happening in any administration, least of all this one. I'm not crazy about conducting a war by committee either.

But all of that aside, I do like the general principle behind the idea, which is that issues of war and security should rise beyond partisanship. If we give both parties a stake in conducting this war, I think we may start to see solutions that are less partisan and more pragmatist. Additionally, those running the war will hopefully focus more on what the right moves are in the war, as opposed to what their opponents will say about those moves: the bipartisan council would own a decision to withdraw troops just as they would own a decision to increase troops.

This war's been so bungled and disastrous from the beginning, maybe it would take a radical solution like this to really help us make the right decisions over there.