Media Continues To Exaggerate Problems For Democrats

Predicting an election months ahead is risky, but the pundits will certainly keep trying. As I also noted on Tuesday, the media also likes to make matters look worse for the Democrats than they actually are. There are more examples, such as The Note claiming that Democrats Are Dropping Like Flies.

This year is likely to be a bad year for many incumbents of either party, but the media is paying more attention to Democrats who are dropping out than Republicans. Steven Benen notes that fourteen Republicans and ten Democrats are not seeking reelection to the House. Six Republicans and two Democrats are not seeking reelection to the Senate. Three Democrats beyond those prevented by term limits are not running while four current Republicans (and five if we count Sarah Palin) are not seeking reelection.

While often harmful to a party’s chances, sometimes it even helps if the incumbent does not run. Byron Dorgan’s retirement will make it very difficult for the Democrats to hold on to the North Dakota Senate seat. On the other hand, Chris Dodd dropping out makes it very likely the Democrats will hold onto his seat, with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal leading all Republican candidates by at least thirty seats.

The effects are more difficult to call in Colorado where Bill Ritter has decided against running for reelection as Governor. Ritter has divided the Democratic Party in the state and the party’s chances might be better without him running. Among those considering running is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The Denver Post reports that the White House is fine with the idea of him leaving if he chooses to run.

The anti-incumbency mood has also led Michigan Lieutenant Governor  John Cherry to drop out of the race to replace Jennifer Granholm. A member of the Granholm administration would have a tough time getting elected. Granholm inherited a weak economy in Michigan when she became governor, and national economic conditions have limited the possibilities for a recovery. It might be tough for any Democrat to win this race, but turning to an outsider as opposed to the sitting Lieutenant Governor should increase the chances.

Political conditions can be very different by November. Unexpected events such as 9/11 and Katrina resulted in rapid changes in how the parties were viewed. Democrats might be at their lowest point now while engaged in a difficult fight over a controversial health care reform measure. It is unlikely they will take up such controversial matters this year.

Republicans do benefit from being the party out of power, especially considering the historical trend for such parties to do well in off-year elections. Republicans, however, might have a problem due to cash problems after spending so much money in 2009. The tea baggers have made a lot of noise (further amplified by the right wing media) but they are not contributing much money to either political party.

Joan Rivers, Security Threat and Other Risks of Flying

I’m sure glad I didn’t read this one until after my daughter’s flight from Costa Rica returned without incident last weekend. I had little fear that there would be another terrorist attempt so soon after the attempt on Christmas. I do think I was justified in fearing that the over-reaction could have caused problems with her return trip. While she had no problems returning, I’ve now found that Joan Rivers was in Costa Rica at the same time but was not allowed to board her flight:

The New York Daily News reports that comedian Joan Rivers was among the many travelers to get snared in the heightened-security frenzy that overtook airports after the December 25th failed terrorist attack. Rivers wasn’t allowed on her Newark-bound flight in Costa Rica this past weekend by a “jittery Continental Airlines gate agent” who thought the two names on her passport, which reads “Joan Rosenberg AKA Joan Rivers,” seemed “fishy.”

She did eventually make it home, while others traveling through Newark experience delays when the airport was locked down after someone went back through the airport exit and past security. Another flight out of Detroit was diverted due to a “suspicious” package which turned out to be a Christmas ornament.

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Why Did The Bomber Return To His Seat?

Andrew Sullivan posted an email from a reader wondering why the “undie-bomber” didn’t just set off the explosion from the bathroom as opposed to returning to his seat. On first read it is a compelling theory that al Qaeda wanted the bomber to be seen by other passengers:

If the intent of al Qaeda in this latest instance was to bring down an airplane, then it failed.  But if its intent was to create fear and overreaction, then it succeeded  Personally, I think it was the latter.  It is quite possible (in fact I think probable) that the people who planned this event, and used the young man from Nigeria as a tool, were aware that due to security measures in place, there was no way they could actually get a bomb through that would actually work.  The detonation equipment needed would have been detected.  The same applies, by the way, to the shoe bomber.

Again, think about it.  If you wanted to blow up a plane, would you attempt it from your seat, where somebody could quite possibly stop you?  No, you would go to the washroom where you could set off the bomb without disruption.

To have plausibility, it is probably necessary to assume that al Qaeda was using him as a tool. We know that al Qaeda would have no problem recruiting people who are willing to die in such a bombing. It’s the old 70 virgins reward. The same thing which makes some willing to take up such a deal would also make many reluctant to set off a bomb which is not intended to explode in their pants. I suspect that it would be harder to recruit someone to ignite such a device near their testicles knowing they were going to both live and be apprehended. (This brings to mind an episode of The Sopranos where Tony was confronted by a religious individual who did not fear death and would not give into his demands. The target complied when the threat was changed from death to castration.)

I really have my doubts that al Qaeda’s main goal was anything other than for the plane to explode. Yes, they had a partial victory with the fear they created in this country, but that was nothing compared the reaction they would have obtained from a successful bombing.

There is a good explanation for why the Nigerian returned to his seat. He was intentionally seated over the fuselage. I’ve heard speculation that the intent was not only to destroy the plane, which might not have been successful from another location, but to have an explosion while the plane was descending which would have resulted in casualties on the ground in suburban Detroit. While still not as dramatic as 9/11, this sounds far more what an al Qaeda organization would plan than an intentionally failed bombing attempt.

This is not to say that they it is not possible that they realized that the could salvage some degree of a psychological victory even if the bomb did fail to explode.