Wednesday, February 27, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

The BBC is reporting (but not yet have a write-up) that four high profile FARC prisoners have been released.

The background on the story can be found here: Colombia hostage mission begins

The newly freed should be the following:

  • Gloria Polanco: Former congresswoman, 42, kidnapped in 2001

  • Luis Eladio Perez: Former senator, 50, kidnapped in 2001
  • Orlando Beltran: Former congressman, 50, kidnapped in 2001
  • Jorge Gechem: Former congressman, 57, kidnapped in 2002

This is a big deal, as these are clearly high value prisoners and hopefully is a signal of good will and a willingness to negotiate on behalf of the FARC. Further, this release has gone far more smoothly, it would seem, than the previous release that included the promise of a boy that the FARC didn’t even have in their possession.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT, William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82

Mr Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, his son Christopher said, although the exact cause of death was not immediately known. He was found at his desk in the study of his home, his son said.

Going out working bears dying in a hospital, to be sure. Of course, it also means that one’s passing is likely quite a shock to one’s family.

May he rest in peace.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN’s Political Ticker, Richardson: Endorsement could come ‘within days’

Tuesday suggested he may endorse a former rival in the Democratic White House race sometime this week.


“I may make a decision and do an endorsement,” Richardson said.

Asked if the endorsement could come within the next couple of days, the New Mexico governor replied, “Possibly, yes.”

Well, that’s exciting, now isn’t it? He might endorse someone maybe sometime this week!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Dan Drezner does a better job, perhaps, of capturing what I was getting at on Sunday in my post on Nader’s latest candidacy:

Why does a man who received 0.38% of the vote in the last election merit valuable minutes on Meet The Press, not to mention hours of speculation about his candidacy and its effects on the 2008 campaign? Will Tim Russert bestow similar press time to the Libertarian Party candidate — who received a similar number of votes?

Now, an initial fair rejoinder would be that MTP ought to, in fact, give all the third party candidates more attention, perhaps even as much as has been given to Nader. However, it does seem as if Nader receives far more serious attention than he deserves–at a minimum it is disproportionate to his relevance. Yet, Russert spoke to Nader as if he was some sort of kingmaker.

I took Nader seriously in 2000, not because I thought that he had a chance to win, but because he was engaged in real party building.1 He needed 5% of the popular vote to achieve a share of federal election funds in 2004. Now (as in 2004) it seems that Nader mouths rhetoric about challenging the Reps and the Dems,2 but really he is about getting himself on TV. He does not seem serious about a real reform movement, or about affecting changes to the party system over time, regardless of the very real intellectual argument that can be made for his candidacy.

Of course, granted, Nader’s motives aren’t the issue, per se. One can affect change without really meaning to do so. However, there is also a point at which if one really wants what one claims one wants (and Nader claims to want change to the party system) then one has to determine the best way to do so. There is little doubt that Nader has alienated a good number of possible supporters because of 2000, but more to the point he has achieved the point of self-parody–which means, by definition, that he is not taken seriously. As such, he is an awful agent for change. Further, one could argue that he could better achieve his stated goals not by running a Pat Paulsen-esque campaign, but by working to organize third party actors into a coalition that could build into the future. For example, the idea of seeking that 5% is a possible goal, yet Nader will get on TV chat shows and win 0.25% of the vote.

  1. And I am not one who is concerned about whether Nader siphons votes one way or another. Indeed, my basic position is that people should vote for whom they please, if that vote is their sincere democratic expression. Now, there are issues that can be said about strategic choices, but I do not think that one has any other moral obligation when voting aside from utilizing it as a means of democratic participation. []
  2. And, I will note, I am more sympathetic to reform in US democratic institutions now, including the structure of the party system, than I have ever been in my life. As such, I am not contra party system change in a general sense. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

The Pirate Poll has Obama at 50% and Clinton at 42% in Texas. while CNN has the Lone Star State at 50-48, in Clinton’s favor.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via CBS News: CBS Poll: Obama Surges Ahead Nationally, CBS News/NY Times Survey Finds Obama Opens Up 16-Point Lead; Also Leads In Head-To-Head Match Up With McCain

Obama, coming off 11 straight primary and caucus victories, had the support of 54 percent of Democratic primary voters nationally. Clinton had 38 percent support.

His continued surge in popularity will certainly have its affect going into the March 4th primaries–especially given the Clinton campaign’s ongoing inability to figure out what argument to make in favor of Hillary. Indeed, they need to put an APB out on Hillary’s voice, as she appears to have lost it again. Maybe they forgot to pack it up when they left New Hampshire. Did anyone look under the hotel bed before they left?

At a minimum, the plagiarism claim looked petty and ineffective (if not desperate) and yet that has been one of the more prominent anti-Obama “arguments” directly made by the campaign in the last several weeks. The silly “look, he dressed like a cra-zee Muslim” bit yesterday underscores the desperation of the Clinton camp (and their anemic denials (or, really, non-denials) didn’t help at all).

Although the NYT reports Clinton Campaign Starts 5-Point Attack on Obama so, no doubt, things will be back on track for the Clinton campaign any minute now:

After struggling for months to dent Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy, the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is now unleashing what one Clinton aide called a “kitchen sink” fusillade against Mr. Obama, pursuing five lines of attack since Saturday in hopes of stopping his political momentum.

Of course, if staffers are indeed using phrases like “kitchen sink” (meaning, they are going to throw everything they have at him), then the desperation is very, very real.

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Monday, February 25, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

I have noted before (here and especially here) my concern with the practice of President’s issuing “signing statements” along with bills that they sign into law. The basic practice is definable as follows (from a CRS report [PDF] on the subject):

Presidential signing statements are official pronouncements issued by the
President contemporaneously to the signing of a bill into law that, in addition to commenting on the law generally, have been used to forward the President’s interpretation of the statutory language; to assert constitutional objections to the provisions contained therein; and, concordantly, to announce that the provisions of the law will be administered in a manner that comports with the Administration’s conception of the President’s constitutional prerogatives.

The major problem here is the notion that a president would sign into law something which that president deems to be unconstitutional, but instead of exercising the constitutionally provided veto, the president would simply allow the bill to become a law, and simply make a note about those provisions in the law that said president feels could be ignored at some later date.1

Such behavior is, I would argue, an abrogation of presidential responsibility, as under our constitutional system, the president is supposed to utilize the veto to reject laws that the president deems to be unconstitutional2 Beyond the abrogation of responsibility, it is noteworthy that the signing statement is an extra-constitutional act, i.e., there is no constitutional provision for the president to issue any type of interpretative document concerning the bills he signs.

Given the recent surge3 in the usage of signing statements, and the general debate that the Bush administration has engendered on the question of executive power, it is worth knowing what the candidates think about signing statements. Matthew Shugart came across a BoGlo piece from last December which detailed the candidate’s views on these statements as part of a questionnaire given to each on executive power.

Of the remaining viable candidates, here are the answers, in full, given to the question on signing statements:


I have opposed the Bush Administration’s abuse of signing statements, and as President, I would not use signing statements to disagree on policy grounds with legislation passed by Congress or as an end run around the veto. I would only use signing statements in very rare instances to note and clarify confusing or contradictory provisions, including provisions that contradict the Constitution. My approach would be to work with Congress to eliminate or correct unconstitutional provisions before legislation is sent to my desk.


Signing statements have been used by presidents of both parties, dating back to Andrew Jackson. While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability.

I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1100 laws – more than any president in history – is a clear abuse of this prerogative. No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president’s constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that.


As President, I won’t have signing statements. I will either sign or veto any legislation that comes across my desk..

The only constitutionally defensible position is that of McCain (and, not coincidentally, it is the briefest of the responses). It would seem to me that both Clinton and Obama are saying that they would use signing statements in a way not that dissimilar to Bush’s, just that they would use them less frequently.

Again: if there is a question about the constitutionality of the law, then the president has a duty, I would argue, to veto the bill and thereby force the Congress to fix the provision (or to abandon the project altogether).

Indeed, if a president wishes to allow a bill to come into law without signing it as a symbolic protest, then that option exists, but that is rather the direct opposite of issuing a signing statement.

  1. This is something President Bush in particular has been a master at doing, indeed in historical fashion. According to the report linked above, if we look at recent Presidents: 26% of Reagan’s signing statement had objections, Bush I’s 68%, Clinton’s 27% and Bush II’s 86%. This was as of October 2006. []
  2. Indeed, that is the original purpose of the veto power–not the shaping of public policy to suit the ideological views of the president . []
  3. If I may use the word. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

Matthew Shugart has added up the popular votes won by the various candidates as of the latest contests and Obama is .56 shy of 50%.

Meanwhile, McCain hasn’t quite broken the 40% barrier.

Click the link above for the whole list.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Andrew Sullivan on the Clintons:

How did they come this close to losing this? They had all the money, all the contacts, all the machine levers, the entire establishment, the biggest Democratic name in decades, and they’ve been forced into a humiliating death-match by a first-term black liberal with a funny name. It seems obvious to me that the Clintons blew this because they never for a second imagined they could. So they never planned to fight it. Once put in a fair contest, they turned out to be terrible campaigners, terrible politicians, bad managers, useless executives, wooden public speakers. If you’re a Democrat, that’s good to know, isn’t it? All that bullshit about Day One and experience? In retrospect: laughable.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Raul Castro named Cuban president

Raul Castro has been unanimously selected to succeed his brother Fidel as leader by Cuba’s National Assembly.

No surprise there.

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