Bush Appoints Opponent of Birth Control To Run Office on Family Planning

We expect Republican appointees to be opposed to abortion rights but we see another example of how extreme the party has become in Bush’s appointment as chief of family planning at the Department of Health and Human Services. Susan Orr opposes contraception, labeling it part of the “culture of death.” She also supports abstinence based education even though it has been shown to be ineffective, resulting in increased teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Steve Benen notes the significance of this position:

Keep in mind, Orr’s position is not just some symbolic office for a figurehead. She will now oversee HHS’s $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS’s Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

It’s not a meaningless job. Orr will have “extensive power to shape the kinds of information disseminated to millions of women,” and will be able to “develop new guidelines for clinics, set priorities, and determine how scarce dollars get spent.”

Conservative Orthodoxy and Voodoo Economics

I’ve often noted that a major problem with the modern conservative movement and the Republican Party is that they put ideology before reality. As I recently noted, this can be seen in their rejection of science, including their views on evolution and global warming, their disputed claims about Iraq such as the presence of WMD and a connection to 9/11, their promotion of alternative history with their denial of the nation’s heritage of separation of church and state, their views on the near-absolute power of the Executive Branch, and in promoting what previously was called Voodoo Economics. Megan McArdle gives another example of how conservatives place ideology over reality on economics:

A conservative publication, which I will not name, just spiked a book review because I said that the Laffer Curve didn’t apply at American levels of taxation, even while otherwise expressing my vast displeasure with the (liberal) economic notions of the book I was reviewing. This isn’t me looking for an alternative explanation for the spiking of a bad review: the literary editor accepted it, edited it, and then three hours later told me it couldn’t be published because it violated their editorial line on taxation.

I suppose I ought to have known, but I didn’t. Go ahead liberals, pile on: you told me so. The Laffer Curve and the supply siders pushing it seem to be the teacher’s unions of the right.

Needless to say, the comment on the teacher’s unions brought about responses such as this from Matthew Yglesias.

Cheney’s Law and The Breakdown of the Constitution

Frontline is back for another season of documentaries and starts out strong, once again doing the reporting which most of the mainstream media fails to do. This week’s episode (available for view on line) is on Cheney’s Law. The documentary shows how Dick Cheney had the goal of expanding the power of the Executive Branch ever since the days of seeing Congress investigate and limit the powers of Gerald Ford and later Ronald Reagan.

Cheney is shown urging previous presidents to ignore the Constitutional checks on the power of the president, but it wasn’t until George Bush that he had a president willing to ignore the rule of law. The attacks of 9/11 provided the perfect opportunity for Cheney to act upon his beliefs as he argued at the time that we must become a government of men and not law.

The New York Times has reviewed Cheney’s Law:

Much of what is reported in the film about Mr. Cheney’s efforts to encroach on Congressional and judicial autonomy since the attacks on the World Trade Center will already be familiar to readers of liberal blogs (particularly the lawyer Marty Lederman’s postings on Balkinization (balkin.blogspot.com) and the meticulously detailed articles on the vice president’s role written by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker (now a reporter for The New York Times) and published in The Washington Post over the summer. (Both Mr. Gellman and Mr. Lederman deliver trenchant anecdotes and analysis in the documentary.)

But that is almost entirely beside the point. “Cheney’s Law” is an exemplary exercise in synthesis that displays a reserved tone and still manages to feel like a riveting political thriller as it diagrams the ways in which the vice president’s vision was often so seamlessly assimilated.

Of particular interest is a lengthy interview with the conservative law professor Jack Goldsmith. He oversaw the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel only to come to blows with the administration when he challenged that vision, refusing to support the National Security Agency wiretapping program that required reauthorization. “I went as far as I could,” Mr. Goldsmith, who has recently written a book called “The Terror Presidency,” economically recounts. “But at some point the legal arguments ran out.”

I’ve previously noted Goldsmith’s recent book and the full interview with Jack Goldsmith is available on line. During the interview, he discussed the view of virtually unlimited executive power which arose after 9/11:

[What was your sense of Yoo’s Sept. 25, 2001 memo on the president’s constitutional powers in the war on terror?]

… In some respects it was an unremarkable document, in the respects that it basically said that the president had very broad authority to use military force to protect the nation from attacks from terrorists. And it impressively marshaled precedents going back decades, and even into the 19th century, that articulated the executive’s view of its very broad powers. …

The truly remarkable thing about the opinion was in the last paragraph or two, where after articulating the idea that the president had all of these broad powers without the need for Congress’s support, it also said that Congress could not restrict the president’s powers. So it went beyond the idea that the president didn’t need Congress’s authorization, and said that there was nothing the Congress could do to stop the president from doing these things. That was the remarkable part of the opinion. …

Dick Cheney and George Bush are trying to reshape the nature of our government in an alarming manner. One question we face in choosing a successor in 2008 is whether they can be trusted to respect the Constitution or whether they will continue to exercise expanded powers.

Edwards Will Help Democrats In Rural Areas As They Return to Minority Status

The Edwards campaign has been pushing claims of electability for the last several months, most likely to distract potential supporters from his actual weakness in this area. Convincing supporters of the validity of this argument has been one of the few successes of the struggling Edwards campaign. For example, MyDD has a front page story arguing that John Edwards will help us with rural voters.

Before his decision to accept matching funds, along with the spending limitations this requires, there might have been some truth to this. Edwards might have done better than Obama in rural areas and possibly would have done better than Clinton, but his advantages in Iowa are fading. Edwards was also unable to help the ticket in 2004, even in his home state where he was considered to be unable to win reelection to the Senate if he ran.

Even if Edwards could have done better in rural areas with a level playing field, limitations on his spending now make it virtually impossible for him to be competitive in traditionally Republican areas. Republicans would be able to outspend Edwards by such a wide margin for several months that by the time of the conventions few in traditionally Republican leaning areas would consider him.

The other problem is that, while Edwards might have helped in rural areas if not for his limitations on spending, he would lose votes among far more groups. Edwards alienates independents, suburbanites, the “Starbucks Republicans” who voted Democratic in 2006, professionals (other than fellow lawyers), and more educated voters. His conservative record on civil liberties issues, social issues, and foreign policy, as well as his populist economic policies, are all negatives among such groups. The net effect of an Edwards nomination might be to pick up a few more votes in rural areas but it would not be worth the cost of alienating all those who are voting Democratic for the first time in decades.