When the first Baby Boomer filed for Social Security in October, ABC News and the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank led the pack in media scaremongering -- pushing the widely disputed myth of a pending crisis while dismissing the less alarmist views espoused by many economists, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) noted 10/19. At the top of ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson (10/15), the anchor declared it a “day of reckoning,” later calling it “one of this country’s greatest challenges.” Correspondent David Wright called the first Baby Boomer filing for benefits “the raindrop that’s about to become a tsunami,” and warned that “paying for the Baby Boom’s retirement may leave the next generation high and dry.” The Post’s Milbank went further, claiming that Baby Boomers “will begin to bankrupt the nation.”
The crisis claims in each report were more or less the same. According to ABC’s Wright, “In 10 years time, Social Security will be paying out more in benefits than it takes in in taxes. And about the time the last of the Baby Boomers retires, the system will go bankrupt.” As Milbank put it, “As the Boomers retire, Social Security will go into the red in 2017 and become insolvent 24 years later, according to the system’s trustees.”
This rhetoric is profoundly misleading, FAIR noted. Social Security has built up a massive surplus in order to pay for the long-anticipated retirement of the Baby Boomers. As FAIR reported in 2005: “The Social Security Administration predicts the program will be able to fully pay all promised benefits through 2042, when most Baby Boomers will be dead -- even using pessimistic assumptions about future economic growth. Annual productivity growth is forecast by SSA at only 1.6% through 2078; in the years 1913-1990 (including the Great Depression), it grew by about 2.3%, a rate that would more than wipe out any future shortfall (“2004 Social Security Trustees’ Report”; “The World Economy,” OECD, 2001).
A few weeks earlier, former Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan -- whose word the media usually takes as gospel -- told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that there was no urgent Social Security crisis at all. “Social Security is not a big crisis,” Greenspan explained. “We’re approximately 2 percentage points of payroll short over the very long run. It’s a significant closing of the gap, but it’s doable, and doable in any number of ways.”
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a renowned Princeton economist, has similarly debunked the notion that Social Security is heading into a crisis. The long-term financing of Social Security is “a problem of modest size. ... It’s not at all hard to come up with fiscal packages that would secure the retirement program, with no major changes, for generations to come.”
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic & Policy Research has written frequently about the overhyping of the system’s long-term financial shortfall. (See Baker’s book with Mark Weisbrot, Social Security: The Phony Crisis (1998) and Baker’s blog, “Beat the Press” at Prospect.org.)
FAIR concluded: “With Americans’ hard-earned Social Security money on the line, there is an urgent need for journalists to provide the public with accurate information, based on solid economic analysis. Yet instead of taking cues from economists, the media have decided to base their coverage on hyperbole from right-wing think tanks.” See fair.org.
SUPPRESSING PROGRESSIVE TALK. Austin, Texas, liberals lost a few friends 10/16, when they woke up to find that “Progressive Talk” KOKE-AM 1600 had been sold and was now broadcasting Mexican music instead of progressive talkers such as Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes. Border Media Partners, which owned seven radio stations in the Austin market, sold underpowered KOKE-AM to another company, which promptly switched it to “Norteño” music. Five of BMP’s remaining six Austin stations are Spanish-language and BMP apparently had lost interest in building a progressive talk station. The exile of the “Air America” lineup to the Internet and satellites leaves the state’s most liberal city without a liberal talk show, while several Austin stations feature right-wing talkers. Right-wingers may crow that the market has rendered its judgment of progressive talk radio, but in a nation that is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, 3-1/2 years after Air America Radio started broadcasting in the face of corporate resistance, progressive listeners deserve better than the the 50-some stations that broadcast Air America and the 75 stations that broadcast Schultz. (We also note that stations that have actually promoted their progressive lineup are doing well in cities such as Minneapolis, Minn., Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and Madison, Wis.)
Instead, the Bush-dominated Federal Communications Commission chairman is moving to expand the ability of corporate conglomerates to consolidate control of radio and TV stations. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin’s ambitious plan, which he hopes to get approved by the five-member commission before Jan. 1, would repeal a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same city. Currently, a company can own two TV stations in the larger markets only if at least one is not among the four largest stations and if there are at least eight local stations. Current rules also limit the number of radio stations that a company can own to no more than eight in each of the largest markets.
John Nichols noted at TheNation.com (10/18) that two key senators, Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), have written Martin and other commissoners, declaring that, “We do not believe the Commission has adequately studied the impact of media consolidation. The FCC should not rush forward and repeat mistakes of the past. The Commission is under considerable scrutiny with this proceeding. We strongly encourage you to slow down and proceed with caution.” Nichols added, “That’s the necessary message. But it must be amplified -- in Congress and in the communities across America that will become media ‘company towns’ if Kevin Martin, George Bush and Rupert Murdoch get their way.”
Free Press, Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union filed thousands of pages of comments on 10/22, using the FCC’s own data to dismantle claims that removing the ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership would increase local news. In reality, cross-ownership results in a net loss in the amount of local news produced across local broadcast markets. (See stopbigmedia.com.)
Also, USA Today reported (10/22) that Rupert Murdoch, who recently won control of the Wall Street Journal, told investors that the Fox Business Network, which signed on 10/15) likely will lose $70 mln in its first year and cost as much as $200 mln before it breaks even.
SMOKERS PAY EXTRA -- OVEREATERS NEXT? The Tribune Co. will start charging employees of its media conglomerate $100 a month if they smoke, or if anyone in their family who is covered by the company health plan smokes, Michael Mayo a columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted 10/10. “Naturally, this makes me wonder what other unhealthy sins will be surcharged in coming years,” wrote Mayo, who does not smoke. “Will there be fees for alcohol use? Eating fast food? Having high cholesterol? Not adhering to proper weight/body mass guidelines?” He added that everyone’s premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums are going up next year. “In my case, my annual out-of-pocket maximum for each family member is going from $1,250 per person to $2,000 per person. And that’s not even including prescription drugs. And that’s in addition to my $4,000 share of the annual premium that I’m paying” for his wife and child. The Tribune Co., whose 11 daily newspapers include the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, as well as 23 television stations and the Chicago Cubs baseball team, recently was bought for $8.2 bln by a Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell. Commenters to Mayo’s blog at sun-sentinel.com noted that similar surcharges for employees who smoke or are overweight are in place at other corporations.
HOW FEDS DON’T TORTURE SUSPECTS. In the days after 9/11 the FBI got an Egyptian native to confess to having a radio that allowed him to communicate with the airborne 9/11 terrorists. As Steve Bergstein noted, Abdallah Higazy was staying in a hotel in New York City on 9/11/01 when the planes hit the towers and the hotel emptied out. When the radio later was found in the room he had occupied, Higazi denied any involvement with the terrorist attack, until an interrogator threatened him that Higazi’s family in Egypt would be taken into custody by Egyptian security officials, who are known for their brutality. Bergstein noted, “Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy’s life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that’s why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.” So Higazy “confessed” and he was processed by the criminal justice system until, a few weeks later, an airline pilot showed up at the hotel and asked for the radio he had left there. After the pilot’s story checked out, Higazy was freed but he sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice, but after court officials issued the lengthy opinion they realized that it included details about the FBI agent threatening to have Egyptian security forces torture Higazi’s family. So the opinion was reissued with the threat of family torture redacted because of “national security” implications. But Howappealing.law.com posted the unredacted version (10/18).
Meanwhile, a congressional committee on 10/18 heard testimony from a Canadian citizen who was detained by US authorities in September 2002 on suspicion of having links to al Qaeda. He was sent to Syria where he was tortured for 10 months. Maher Arar, an engineer and a native of Syria, was seized while on a stopover at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. He was never formally accused of any crime in the US or Canada, but he was sent by the US to Syria where he was tortured by Syrian military intelligence, who were unable to link him to terrorist groups or activities and eventually returned him to Canadian authorities. A Canadian investigation later found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrongly labeled him an Islamic fundamentalist and passed misleading and inaccurate information to US authorities. Canada awarded him $10 mln in compensation, but the Bush administration has never admitted an error. Arar had to testify to Congress by video link from Canada, because he remains barred from the US. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), who chairs a House Judiciary subcommittee on human rights issues, said, “Mr. Arar, let me personally give you what our government has not, an apology. Let me apologize to you and the Canadian people for our government’s role in this mistake.”
Arar said he was grateful for the apologies, but he hoped the Bush administration would do so, too. “Let me be clear: I am not a terrorist, I am not a member of al-Qaeda or any terror group. I am a father, a husband, and an engineer. I am also a victim of the immoral practice of extraordinary rendition,” he said. Arar’s lawsuit against the Bush administration was dismissed in February 2006 after the Bush administration invoked the State Secrets privilege. The case is under appeal.
ETHNIC CLEANSING ENDANGERS LA. DEMS. Louisiana Republicans saw mixed results from the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans as the low turnout in Orleans Parish helped Bobby Jindal win election as governor without a runoff. But the GOP didn’t get the sweep they hoped for as Dems won at least one statewide race and led two others.
Jindal, a suburban New Orleans congressman, got 54% of the first-round vote in a 12-person field on 10/20 as no Dem emerged as a serious challenger. The statewide turnout was about 46% of registered voters. In New Orleans, the turnout was about 27%. In the 2003 gubernatorial primary, before Hurricane Katrina and FEMA displaced hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents, about 122,000 people voted in New Orleans. Nine months after Hurricane Katrina, about 115,000 people voted in the runoff for New Orleans mayor. But after another year of state and federal authorities dragging their heels on rebuilding working-class neighborhoods and refusing to reopen public housing units, only 75,880 in Orleans Parish voted in this year’s state primary. Political analyst Greg Rigamer told the Times-Picayune he thinks the decline reflects a trend of more residents giving up their New Orleans homes. “I think this is an indication that people have moved on,” he said.
That bodes ill for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)’s re-election, Robert Travis Scott wrote in the Times-Picayune. Huge margins in New Orleans, her hometown, helped her narrowly win her first two races for the office. In 1996, she edged Republican Woody Jenkins by a mere 5,788 votes to win the runoff. Her victory margin in Orleans Parish was 100,395 votes. In 2002, the Orleans factor again made the difference. The senator won Orleans by 78,900 votes, compared with her statewide lead of 42,012.
But Quinn McCord of Hotline noted (10/21) that Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (D), the senator’s brother, was re-elected on 10/20 with 57% of the vote, so well over 51% of Louisianans are still willing to punch “Democrat” on their ballots. The voting showed an electorate that is about 1/3 straight-ticket GOP, 1/3 straight-ticket Dems, and 1/3 swing voters who lean Republican, but not overwhelmingly, he wrote. Republicans also forced runoffs in Dem-held attorney general and ag commissioner races in which Dems led the first round; those results could provide further clues on where Louisiana is headed in 2008.
PRO-LIFERS BLAST SCHIP OPPONENTS. Ten House Dems who oppose abortion rights sent a letter criticizing the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) for not backing a bill to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The anti-abortion rights group had taken aim at lawmakers who voted for an earlier House SCHIP bill that included Medicare provisions that the NRLC claimed would lead to rationed care and government-sponsored euthanasia. After those provisions were stripped, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told The Hill (10/17), he couldn’t believe it when NRLC did not swing in favor of the SCHIP bill that President Bush vetoed. The Hill reported, “Posing a rhetorical question to the NRLC, Ryan asked: ‘Why aren’t you supporting it now? Are you really concerned with protecting life or are you concerned with protecting the Bush administration?’”
Catholics United, a social justice group (see catholics-united.org) ran radio ads against 10 anti-abortion House members -- including five Catholics -- for voting against the expanded SCHIP. ‘’That’s not pro-life,’’ the ad says. ‘’That’s not pro-family. Tell Congressman (blank) to vote for health care for children.’’ The five Catholics are Joseph Knollenberg and Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan; Steve Chabot of Ohio; Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi (the only Democrat among the 10), columnist Robert Novak noted. Others targeted by Catholics United are Tim Walberg of Michigan (non-denominational Protestant); Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (Lutheran); Sam Graves of Missouri (Baptist); John Peterson of Pennsylvania (Methodist), and Thelma Drake of Virginia (United Church of Christ). While Republicans have sought to use abortion rights as a wedge issue with the sizeable Catholic population, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association all urged Congress and President Bush to support SCHIP.
BUSH ALSO FOUGHT SCHIP AS GOV. When President Bush at a 9/20 news conference declared “I have strongly supported S-CHIP as a governor, and I have done so as president,” he was, of course, lying. Writing in the Washington Spectator (10/15), Lou Dubose, former editor of The Texas Observer, recalled how Bush in 1999 tried to limit the program, setting the qualifying threshold at 150% of the poverty level, which would have insured only 300,000 of Texas’ 1.4 million uninsured kids, at a time when the state’s budget was running a substantial surplus and his own brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, set the qualifying threshold at 200%. In New Jersey, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, whom Bush would appoint as his first director of the Environmental Protection Agency, set the threshold at 300%, opening the program up to greater numbers of children. Eventually, Dubya yielded to political pressure and agreed to the Texas Democrats’ plan, with its enrollment of 500,000 children in the program. After the bill was signed, Bush told one Democratic legislator, “Congratulations, you shoved it down our throat.” As Dubose noted in a 1999 Nation article, at the same time Bush was fighting efforts to cover more children, he was also pushing “a tax break for oil-well owners.” (ThinkProgress.org, 10/16)
SAFE, LEGAL, AND LESS FREQUENT. A new study released by the Guttmacher Institute (guttmacher.org) and the World Health Organization (10/11) and published in the British medical review The Lancet finds that the number of induced abortions worldwide has declined from nearly 46 mln in 1995 to less than 42 mln in 2003. It’s fallen most sharply in places where abortion is safe and legal, and where contraceptive education and use are widespread. In Eastern Europe, where contraceptive use increased substantially over that period of time, the number of abortions fell from 48 to 28 per 1,000 women. The study also found that abortions happen at about the same rate in places where it’s legal as in places where it has been outlawed -- meaning illegality doesn’t deter women from having them, it only means they’re more likely to have unsafe abortions, Kate Sheppard noted at Prospect.org (10/12).
MARTINEZ OUT AS GOP CHAIR. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) quit 10/20 after nine months as general chairman of the Republican Party, marking the latest casualty in the GOP’s bitter internal fight over immigration and dealing another setback to President Bush’s years-long effort to court Latino voters. The White House had engineered the ascent of the Cuban-born Martinez over the objections of many cons as part of an effort to repair the GOP’s image among Latinos. That image suffered when Republican congressional leaders and conservative activists stymied administration-backed measures that would have created a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. “I believe that not to play this card right would be the destruction of our party,” Martinez said in a spring interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Hispanics make up about 13% of our country, and by 2020 will be closer to 20%. It is a demographic trend that one cannot overlook.” Robert de Posada, president of the GOP-leaning Latino Coalition, told the Times Martinez’s departure is especially disheartening because it follows the resignation of another high-profile Latino in the GOP: former US Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. “The message that it sends is Latinos are not welcome,” De Posada said. “The radical conservative base has a temporary victory right now.” Next year’s election could be decided by Latino-rich states such as Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. But Jonathan Weisman reported in the 10/23 Washington Post the GOP, sensing a major potential wedge issue, plans to hammer the Dems on illegal immigration.
THE REST OF PLAME’S STORY. Valerie Plame Wilson, who lost her career as a clandestine intel officer after Bush administration officials leaked her background to columnist Robert Novak, has started promoting her book, but Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent now working as a security consultant, noted that there still is much Plame cannot tell because of CIA censorship. Writing at noquarterusa.net (10/21), Johnson, who also was former State Department Coordinator for Counter Terrorism from 1989 to 1993, noted that the CIA succeeded in getting a federal court to block Plame from talking about her work with the CIA before February 2002. While White House apologists are free to suggest that she was a desk jockey in Langley, Va., Johnson said, “Because of a pending appeal in her freedom of speech case against the CIA, she cannot say anything about joining the CIA in September of 1985 fresh out of college.” She can’t talk about her training or her first tour overseas, or her experiences as a Non-Official Cover officer. “She certainly will not, at least for now, be able to tell you about being taken hostage and subjected to torture for two days. ...
“But she can admit that in February 2002 she was a senior covert operations officer involved in projects that went to the heart of the President’s highest priority -- finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Valerie’s identity and ability to carry out that mission during a time of war were compromised by Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Ari Fleischer, and Karl Rove. Their actions were both treasonous and cowardly. Yet the person being penalized and compelled to sacrifice her constitutional right of free speech is Valerie Plame Wilson.”
Johnson also noted that in 2004 the FBI received intelligence that al Qaeda hit teams were enroute to the US to kill Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Valerie Plame Wilson. The FBI informed Plame of this threat. “As the mother of two pre-school children, her first thoughts were about protecting her kids. She took the threat seriously and asked for help.” The White House beefed up protection for Cheney and Rove. But the White House and the CIA declined to do anything for Plame. “So if you have wondered why Joe [Wilson] and Val are a little pissed off, this might help shed some additional light on the matter. Not only did the Bush Administration out a covert intelligence officer working on the most sensitive national security issues in a time of war, but when that officer faced a direct threat to her life and her family’s safety because of that public exposure, they did not do a goddamn thing to help.”
HILLARY’S BUSH CONNECTION. The man who rescued George W. Bush from financial disaster in 1986 has quietly moved into Hillary Clinton’s inner circle of key financial backers, Russ Baker and Adam Federman reported at realnews.org (10/16). Longtime GOP backer Alan Quasha’s role with Harken Energy, which bailed out Bush’s failing oil company, drew intense scrutiny from investigators and the media in the early ’90s and again during Bush’s first term because of its dubious financial practices and connections to the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Along with a business partner, Quasha has been forging new links with Clinton and her associates for several years. Among other things, they have raised substantial sums for her, and in 2005 they discreetly hired Clinton confidant and longtime Democratic Party money man Terry McAuliffe, providing him with a lucrative temporary perch until the Clinton campaign formally launched with McAuliffe as its chairman. “That Hillary Clinton’s campaign is involved with this particular cast of characters should give people pause,” says John Moscow, a former Manhattan prosecutor who in the late 1980s and early ’90s led the investigation of the BCCI global financial empire -- which included Harken board members among its prominent shareholders. “Too many of the same names from earlier troubling circumstances suggests a lack of control over who she is dealing with,” says Moscow, “or a policy of dealing with anyone who can pay.” In the wake of revelations that Clinton accepted large sums of money from convicted swindler Norman Hsu, her involvement with Quasha and his associates is likely to raise new concerns over major sources of money for her presidential bid. See the full article, published in conjunction with The Nation magazine, at realnews.org.
DON’T MESS WITH LIBRARIANS. While members of Congress defer to the White House on war powers and national security, Charles Pierce of Newton, Mass., recalled in a note to Eric Alterman at mediamatters.org/altercation (10/19): “A couple of years back, some FBI types showed up at my local library. They demanded the library turn over to them several computers because a terrorist threat against Brandeis University allegedly had been made from one of them. The librarian, Kathy Glick-Weil, told the Feebs to get stuffed and to come back with a warrant next time.” Pierce noted that Glick-Weil is leaving the library and moving to Pennsylvania. “I just thought I should note upon her departure that Kathy showed more patriotism than ever existed in the crepuscular office of our rancid succubus of a vice president, more courage than ever existed among various bedwetting, child-stalking bloggers, and more integrity than exists in our spavined political elite,” Pierce wrote. “She certainly showed more spine than the Democratic Senate is demonstrating. What a spectacle -- the lords of the Information Age, a passel of cowards, buying indulgences on a medieval scale from a legislative body lousy with careerist poltroons. When the White House lawyers showed up at their doors, bearing nothing more than some illegitimate ‘directives’ based on crackpot legal theories and some sweet anti-regulatory sugar to sprinkle on top of the urine cakes, not one of these titans of the new economy was brave enough to do what Kathy did, alone, in front of armed federal agents. Good on her, always.”
SORRY DEMS. During the debate before the vote to override President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which fell 13 short of the two-thirds needed, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) ridiculed the GOP’s purported fiscal concerns about the $35 bln cost. “You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement. This bill would provide healthcare for 10 million children and unlike the President’s own kids, these children can’t see a doctor or receive necessary care. ... But President Bush’s statements about children’s health shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than his lies about the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up. In Iraq, in the United States and in Congress.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to join Republicans in condemning Stark’s comments, showing once again that she is tougher on her own caucus than she is on the GOP. “While members of Congress are passionate about their views, what Congressman Stark said during the debate was inappropriate and distracted from the seriousness of the subject at hand -- providing health care for American children,” Pelosi said (10/19).
After the House by a 196-173 margin on 10/23 killed a Republican resolution to censure Stark for criticizing the president, Stark stepped forward with an apology. “I want to apologize to my colleagues, many of whom I have offended,” Stark began. He then apologized to “the president and his family” and “the troops.” He concluded, his voice cracking with emotion, “I hope that with this apology, I return to being as insignificant as I should be.”
NEW INEQUALITY HITS ALL. Daniel Brook, author of The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, argues that the new inequality is a problem for just about everyone. We have often heard that the average CEO now makes almost 500 times what the average factory worker makes, when only a generation ago it was less than 100 times. But at bookclub.tpmcafe.com (10/15) , he noted that in 1972, the top corporate law firms in Manhattan paid their newly-minted lawyers $16,000, the federal government paid theirs $13,300 and Legal Aid paid $12,500. Today, corporate firms pay their new hires four times as much as the government and non-profit sector pays theirs. So , “there are tons of jobs for new lawyers that pay $35,000 and tons that pay $135,000 and precious few in between. The same is true of pay gaps between professions: in 1970, starting teachers in New York made just $2,000 less than those Wall Street lawyers; now they make $100,000 less. So when we talk about the polarization of the class structure we aren’t talking, as conservatives would have you believe, about college-educated people pulling away from high-school drop-outs or talented, hard workers being rewarded while dopey slackers fall behind. We’re talking about the corporate class -- who often have the same educational credentials as many public servants and creative types -- pulling away from everyone else.”
HOUSE SEATS AT PLAY. With congressional Democrats in an unaccustomed funding advantage over the GOP, the recent flurry of GOP retirements -- Reps. Jerry Weller in Illinois, Jim Ramstad in Minnesota, Heather Wilson in New Mexico and Deborah Pryce and Ralph Regula in Ohio -- could be only the tip of the iceberg for 2008, Stuart Rothenberg wrote in the 10/18 Roll Call, as all of those open seats are excellent Democratic targets. Dems also hope to target Republicans who won unimpressively last year, such as Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg in Michigan and Jon Porter in Nevada. Other vulnerable Republicans could include Reps. Jim Saxton in New Jersey, Sam Graves in Missouri and Vito Fossella in New York. In districts where inexperienced or underestimated Dems came close to upsetting GOP incumbents in 2006, Dems hope for rematches against Republican Reps. Robin Hayes (N.C.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), Mike Ferguson (N.J.), Jim Walsh (N.Y.), Randy Kuhl (N.Y.), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and possibly Mark Kirk (Ill.)
Dems will have some trouble in some basically GOP districts that they won last year only because of unusual circumstances, such as those formerly represented by Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), as well as districts in California, Kansas and Florida. “Still, the public’s overall desire for change -- so strong among Democrats and independent voters who voted Democratic in unusual numbers last year -- remains a big challenge not only for Republican challengers but also for GOP incumbents who survived last time but face a more experienced, better-funded test in 2008,” Rothenberg wrote. “At this point, anything from little net change in the House to a considerable Democratic win seems possible. The one thing that seems certain is that Democrats will once again control the House after next year’s elections.”
GOP SWEATS SENATE SEATS. Louisiana is one of the few question marks for Dems as they seek to regain a solid majority in the Senate, which is now split 49-49 with two indies caucusing with the Dems. The GOP has 22 seats up for re-election up in 2008 while Dems must defend 12. And five veteran GOP senators have announced their retirements, with Colorado and Virginia favored to replace them with Dems and Nebraska and New Mexico up for grabs. Even Idaho, which should be a GOP lock, will require attention after Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was pressured to retire after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense stemming from an arrest on an indecency charge, but he refused to step down early. Of the 17 remaining GOP incumbents, Time noted, four are in states John Kerry won in 2006 -- Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Oregon. Even Alaska might cause problems, as Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is embroiled in a federal corruption probe. In addition, Republicans trail Senate Dems by more than $15 mln in campaign funds. Even in Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for election, only 49% approved of his performance in an October SurveyUSA poll. Dems think they have an outside chance of gaining nine seats, which would give them the 60-40 supermajority to overcome GOP filibusters.
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2007
Subscribe to The Progressive Populist