Politics: January 2004 Archives

Inconsistency on states' rights

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Josh Claybourn has a nice snippet on Democratic candidates' views on states' rights at the end of his comments on Thursday's debate:

"It's interesting that the candidates will support States' rights when it suits them, but run from it when it doesn't. For instance Sen. Edwards was firmly in favor of letting States determine what constitutes marriage, and Dean was more than willing to let States determine their level of gun rights (in spite of the Federal 2nd Amendment). But these same Democrats despise States rights in areas such as abortion where it might harm their position.... These candidates are abandoning the formality in favor of their desired results."

President Bush seemed to indicate a desire that states work these things out on their own (but in the legislature, not in the judiciary), though he also seems to support the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for the states, though it does have the effect on not requiring any state to recognize any other states' laws on the matter. This is clearly so with civil unions. I keep hearing conflicting things on how it deals with a state that legalizes gay marriage under that name.

Al Sharpton had to chime in about how civil rights and human rights shouldn't be left to states. The states' rights mantra is for him a reminder of the pre-Civil War era, when black people weren't treated as legally fully human. I just don't see how that's even the same issue. It may be true that an amendment was necessary to give black people full rights, and therefore the Constitution needed revising. But you could just as easily argue that the Constitution needs to be amended to protect the unborn with rights that they don't legally have right now. Sharpton's comment cuts both ways. If rights need to be guarded at the federal level and not left to states, he thinks that shows an absolute right to abortion that states shouldn't tamper with, but he's also leaving the door open for someone to come in arguing that fetuses have a right to life that shouldn't be left for states to decide and should be enforced at the federal level. I doubt he wants that.

NH debate comments:

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The short of it: I wasn't able to watch this one, so I have more to say, given that I was looking at a transcript for this. Kerry, as in Iowa, seems presidential but seemed like he's back to the old-school liberal positions that Bush will have an easier time running against. Edwards' reason for voting against the $87 million for Iraq made sense. He looked like a fool on the questions about Islam or about the Defense of Marriage Act. Lieberman, as usual, was the best of the bunch, with only a few things I disagree with. Dean seemed his usually self from the transcript, so maybe the difference everyone is talking about is in his tone and demeanor. The false statements and na�vet� are still strong. Clark seemed to have no clue. He had no responses to the best questions against him, and the coherent things he said all sounded like Kucinich, who was coherent all the way but such a nut that he isn't much higher on my list than Sharpton, who wasn't coherent at all and changed the subject every time anyone asked him anything serious.

Bush's spending

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Since I've been in the business of defending President Bush against conservatives, I might as well post a link to the conclusions of a non-partisan study of the Democratic candidates' proposed policies and how they compare to the current administration's. This looks as if people voting on this one issue should prefer Bush, despite the rhetoric of some of the Democrats to the contrary. I'm not trying to justify lots of spending, but when you have to pick between two people it's best to pick the one who isn't as bad, even if you're mad at him and want a change to send a message. Sending it by bringing in someone who would be worse is not the way to do it (even if your way of bringing in the Democrat is by not voting or by voting for a third-party candidate).

Incidentally, here's the order of lowest to highest budget increases beyond what it is now, at least among those mentioned:

Joe Lieberman (169.6 billon)
John Edwards (199 billion)
Wesley Clark (220.7 billion)
Howard Dean (222.9 billion)
John Kerry (265.11 billion)
Dick Gephardt (368.8 billion)
Dennis Kucinich (1.06 trillion)
Al Sharpton (1.33 trillion)

They conclude that spending has gone up by 23.7% since Bush took office, but even Lieberman is 15% higher than that, and he's the lowest of the bunch.

Update: Andrew Sullivan has been one of many I had in mind when I wrote this. He's responded to Instapundit's link to this information by pointing out that even with these figures a divided government is better than a monolithic Republican control of both the legislature and the executive. I assume the unstated argument is that a divided government will have a harder time getting any of these agenda [yes, this word is plural] passed. Therefore, a Democrat in the White House with a huge budget still would get less passed if the House and Senate are still controlled by Republicans, and on this issue at least a Democrat would still look better.

I guess I have two things to say to that. One is that it assumes a really tight lead in the Senate and a slightly less tight lead in the House will stay that way or lead to an increase in Republican seats. It's not clear to me that we should assume that, even if it seems likely. Second, it's worth thinking about which policies these candidates are supporting with these huge budget increases. If we're going to be spending lots of money, I'd rather it be on what Bush wants to spend it on, then probably Lieberman and Edwards would be second and third on the list. I don't think we could trust Clark and Dean about what they say they would do, so I can't evaluate them, and I know Kerry's preferences are far from what I would want the money spent on, even if he does seem to be one of the more honorable and presidential-sounding candidates. Kucinich and Sharpton probably shouldn't even have been mentioned in this sentence.

My conclusion: the value of the policies the money would be spent on is inversely proportional to the amount of money that would be spent on them. That gives two reasons to support the Bush end of the spectrum over against anyone lower on the list. A divided government might lower the amount of money spent, but these other factors still get Bush my vote even considering this issue alone, which some conservatives are saying might cost Bush their vote.

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