Outlook: McCain and Clinton Eye '08

Markos Moulitsas and Byron York
Founder, Daily Kos Political Blog; White House Correspondent, National Review
Monday, May 8, 2006; 1:00 PM

Markos Moulitsas , founder of the political blog Daily Kos, and Byron York , White House Correspondent for National Review, were online Monday, May 8, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss their respective Sunday Outlook pieces on what Senators Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) need to do to gain support from their bases. Moulitsas says that Clinton is part of a failed Democratic establishment, including her husband, that allowed for a George W. Bush presidency and Republican majority, and that she needs to move away from the static establishment in order to energize Democratic voters. York examines McCain's recent overtures toward Jerry Falwell , whom he publicly denounced six years ago, and the need for him to win over the conservative core of the Republican party if he wants to be their candidate in 2008.

Hillary Clinton: Too Much of a Clinton Democrat? , ( Post, May 7, 2006 )

John McCain: Can He Be a Falwell Republican? , ( Post, May 7, 2006 )

The transcript follows.


Washington, D.C.: Markos: Your piece seemed to be just a wee bit self-congratulatory. The core take-away for me: the Democratic Party's base is more liberal than the party as a whole and it is strongly and uncompromisingly anti-war. Of course it is, netroots or not. The question is whether a candidate that comes from the party's base can win in the fall -- and whether the party base can stomach the compromising that needs to be made in order for a candidate to appeal to a broader section of voters. Counting on the 2006 mood to be there in 2008 may be betting on way too much good fortune, whatever the power of the netroots movement.

Markos Moulitsas: At this point, the whole nation is overwhelmingly anti-war. That's not an issue that will divide people left or right. And it won't be a surprise to see several Republicans take "anti-war" positions on Iraq. Hagel is pretty much already there.

As for the netroots, what we're looking for isn't "left-wing" or any wing. What we're looking for are Democrats who are proud to be Democrats, who aren't afraid of the rabid right wing, and are secure in what they stand for and what they believe.

In short, we're looking for leaders.


Spartanburg, S.C.: Between McCain's amnesty for illegals and his constant preening for the mainstream media, my gut reaction to McCain 2008 is "over my dead body." I am willing to work for any candidate who can beat McCain, and increasingly it looks like that guy may be Rudy Giuliani. I know a lot of folks who are in the "Anybody-but-McCain" camp as well. Yes, we disagree with Rudy on abortion, but at least we know where he stands. Could Rudy Giuliani be the McCain-killer in this race?

Byron York: He certainly could, but only if he runs, and that is simply not clear at this point. Giuliani has been campaigning widely for Republicans around the country, accumulating political IOUs should he decide to run. If he does, most GOP strategists believe he and McCain will be fighting over the same group of voters, and Giuliani might well emerge the winner.

On the other hand, Giuliani is making a lot of money these days and seems to be happy. After his experience of almost running against Hillary Clinton in 2000, he might decide that he doesn't need the scrutiny and irritation a run for president would involve.


Atlanta, Ga.: To Byron York: I don't know how much it matters, but is this about "Can McCain make other conservatives happy?" or "McCain versus Allen or Romney", because if the latter, McCain might accept an invitation to liberty university, or try and explain his beliefs on same-sex marriage, but if Romney or Allen really seems to make social conservatives feel like they (GA or MR) is one of them, then it won't matter as much.

Byron York: That's true. But McCain, at the moment at least, is far ahead of Allen and Romney in the polls. Now, even if the polls just measure name recognition at this point, the numbers suggest McCain might win more support among all types of Republicans than Allen or Romney. What he needs to do is win the support of of at least some Christian conservatives, not necessarily all of them. What will kill him, however, is if all Christian conservatives are united against him. He's trying to make sure that doesn't happen.


Southern Maryland: Mr. York,

If McCain panders to the fundamentalist wing of the GOP, do you believe he will undermine his reputation as a party maverick? And if he wins in 2008, do you think he will go along with much of the fundamentalists' agenda purely to pay off his political debt?

I'm an independent who voted for McCain when the Maryland GOP held an open primary in 2000. Although my positions on social issues are generally more liberal than McCain's (I favor legalizing gay marriage), I have always seen him as more of a Reagan Republican than a Falwell Republican. I think the GOP could use more McCains and fewer Tom DeLays and Rick Santorums, men who push an agenda that amounts to theocracy.

Byron York: I have to say that I don't like it when the word "theocracy" is thrown around. It conjures up images of the regime in Iran and the Taliban, with its soccer stadium executions, in Afghanistan. Do you really that Tom DeLay and Rick Santorum are moving us in that direction? Certainly there are some on the fringes of the left who believe that George W. Bush and some of his followers are plotting to throw out the Constitution and establish Levitical law, but I don't think they need to be taken seriously.

As far as McCain and the GOP are concerned: His image as a maverick in 2000 was nurtured by an admiring press corps -- the group McCain sometimes referred to as "my base." In recent months, since McCain has made clear that he intends to run for the Republican nomination as a Republican, that image has taken a number of hits. Yes, he still bucks his party on some issues, but McCain will position himself firmly in the mainstream of the GOP. As I said elsewhere, he is not turning his campaign over to fundamentalists, but he doesn't want to alienate them all, either.


Madison, Wis.: Markos - you mention Gov. Warner and Sen. Feingold favorably. I can understand your liking Feingold, who's been so outspoken. But why do you think Warner is any better than Sen. Clinton?

Markos Moulitsas: What makes you think he isn't better than Clinton?

People make all sorts of assumptions without doing the proper investigation. Take a look at Warner's stellar record as governor of Virginia, and how he got a ton of progressive policies enacted despite working with a Republican legislature, and how he ended office with an 80 percent approval rating.

Warner has shown leadership and governed like a true progressive. I'm always curious as to why people would assume otherwise.


Des Moines, Iowa: Markos - what percentage of the candidates you personally endorsed have won elections?

Markos Moulitsas: I'm a Democrat. Not many of those have won lately.

Not to mention, if I endorsed only incumbents, I'd have a 100 percent success rate. Not many of those lose. But that would be a cop out.

We're working toward a progressive Democratic majority. If people like you want to mock us as we do that, then by all means, it's a free country.


Avon Park, Fla.: I think that there is one major overlooked factor that limits Hillary Clinton's ability to win the general election. That is that she's been pretty much defined. Public opinion on her is set. She has a high floor and low ceiling of support. Mark Warner, Evan Bayh, and Russ Feingold have more room to grow than Sen. Clinton. They can attract voters who aren't committed to them now. What do you think of that?

Markos Moulitsas: I agree. I can't imagine Hillary's numbers rising over the next two years. People's minds are already made up on her. That's why all her efforts to change her stripes really are quite silly.

As Democrats start realizing that there are alternatives to Hillary, her numbers will mimic those of Joe Lieberman three years ago. She has nowhere to go but down.


Seattle, Wash.: After reading the article on Hillary Clinton's problems on the left, I've got to say the Democrats are going to screw the whole thing up: Hilary is herself too far left to be elected. She will be portrayed as the candidate of gay rights, partial birth abortion, and the teachers' unions, and she will be wiped out by McCain.

A Clinton supporter told me that all Hilary has to do is win what Kerry won plus Arkansas. But what this leaves out is that Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon are not reliable Democratic states. McCain may be kissing up to evangelicals now, but his independent credentials are well established and he might take all four of those states.

That would not be fatal against a moderate Southerner or Midwesterner, because evangelicals really do not like McCain and might stay home under those circumstances, thus putting some Red states in play. But the candidacy of Hilary will concentrate evangelical minds wonderfully.

So tell me: do democrats want to win, or do they want ideological purity, thus condemning the country to a dangerous foreign policy and fiscal insanity?

Markos Moulitsas: I'm not sure who is demanding ideological purity. Far from it, in 2004 John Kerry got the nomination in large part due to the perception that he was "more electable". That same dynamic will likely be a huge factor in the 2008 race.


Baltimore, Md.: Do either of you gentlemen care to comment on the New Republic profile of George Allen? Between his love for the Confederacy and his violent, outright sadistically brutal behavior toward his younger brothers and sister, he seems to be a little peculiar psychologically.

Markos Moulitsas: Everyone does stupid things as youths. I'm more concerned about things he has done as an adult to suggest that he hasn't shed all vestiges of what was essentially white-supremicist thinking as a teen.


Charleston, S.C.: Mr. York,

Thanks very much for your article. As you point out in your article, times are changing in the Republican party. Most conservatives, that I know, do not regard George Bush as a true conservative any longer. At least John McCain would bring fiscal conservatism back to the party. After all, what is the point in having republicans in power if they will spend and govern like democrats? McCain wants to stop illegal immigration, balance the budget by controlling spending, and fight the war on terror with the military and not the FBI. How could he not be considered conservative? Is gay marriage the only position that conservatives care about? That is certainly not Goldwater/Reagan conservatism.

Byron York: McCain is, by any definition of the word today, a conservative. I think you would be hard pressed to find anybody in the Republican party who does not like his stand on spending and the war on terror. You'll get a lot of argument about immigration -- a lot of people in the GOP base accuse McCain of being pro-amnesty, and he may pay a political price for not being tougher on that.

The answer to your question is that there are certainly some single-issue voters in the GOP, but most voters will make their decisions on a number of issues.

On the cultural issues, when I interviewed Jerry Falwell for this article, he told me that in his view there were just two deal-breakers: a candidate's stand on abortion and his stand on gay marriage. Yet Falwell also said he would accept McCain's decision to vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment this year and wait to see if the federal courts throw out the various DOMAs in the states. If that happens, McCain has said, then he would vote for a marriage amendment. So McCain, has apparently persuaded Falwell to be at least a little flexible on one of the issues he called a "deal-breaker."


New York, N.Y.: I'm really fascinated - where did the idea that Hillary Clinton should run for president come from? I know, she has the party establishment behind her, and she has tons of money - so SOMEONE must want her to be President! I'm not even sure I want her for my Senator anymore. She is the one Democrat I would stay home for, and for Repubs, I bet they can't wait for her to run - they won't have to do anything else to energize their base! BTW - I am a lifelong and active Democrat, and a female. If she doesn't have me, who does she have?

Markos Moulitsas: Hillary has her fans. And I hold her no ill-will. But if she wants to run for president (and it will be HER decision ultimately), she'll realize that the coalition that elected her husband isn't there for her anymore. There are too many attractive alternatives.


Washington, D.C.: Well, of course we have to mock anyone who thinks the progressive Democrats can elect a president. The Republicans are in trouble because of the democratic base plus those of us who simply want a balanced budget and a prudent foreign policy. Why do you think those of us in the middle will tolerate a left winger who insists on dragging in a lot of irrelevant baggage like gay rights and abortion right up to the moment of birth? We'll simply sigh heavily and stay home since no party represents us.

Markos Moulitsas: Hmmm, sounds like right-wing rhetoric to me, since I don't know of a single person who advocates abortion to the "moment of birth". Nice try, though.


Political Dynasticism: Markos,

You missed the primary negative of Hillary Clinton. If she ends up getting the nod, we will enter our third decade of two family rule. Political dynasticism is a major sign of decline in democracies. We laugh at Third World countries for this stuff.

In a society where our Congress is more and more filled with "legacies", or social mobility is now significantly below Europe's, we really don't need to establish two de-facto royal families.

Markos Moulitsas: Yeah, good point.


Arlington, Va.: For Byron: McCain seems to be losing his base voter -- the mainstream media in Washington. But the question remains is whether McCain will take on a big battle that has him opposite his fan club in the press -- other than the war in Iraq. Merely heading to Liberty University to give a speech is a meaningless gesture. How about stepping up to the plate more on the president's judges, or real Social Security reform, or a myriad of other issues where conservatives really want and need action?

Byron York: See what I said elsewhere about McCain's "base." Yes, the trip to Liberty University is symbolic, but I think you can argue that McCain has taken stands on some big issues. Don't gloss over the war -- McCain is the most hawkish Republican around, willing to bet his presidential prospects on it. And on judges, I think you could argue that McCain, as part of the Gang of 14, helped break the roadblock created when Democrats took the unprecedented action of filibustering an entire slate of judicial nominees. McCain is in part responsible for President Bush winning confirmation for Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, Priscilla Owen -- all circuit court nominees the Democrats vowed to stop. And oh, by the way, the president also got John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, in part as a result of the filibuster agreement. So I think McCain can credibly argue that he has good credentials on the judges issue, which is hugely important to the Republican base.


Lyme, Conn.: I personally like how Russ Feingold has been having the courage to state things before others do; while others who seem to wait and make certain the political winds have shifted enough for them to follow with similar sentiments. Yet, it seems pundits keep dismissing Feingold as "unelectable". What makes pundits think someone like that doesn't have a chance?

Markos Moulitsas: Two divorces, no family to use as campaign props, and he's short. Some would also add that being Jewish is a potential problem, though I'd like to think that's no longer an issue.


Washington, D.C.: Kos: Any chance HRC gives all her money to the real electable candidate?

Markos Moulitsas: No.


Washington, D.C.: Mr. Moulitsas,

I tend to agree with you about Bill/Hillary Clinton and their impact on the Democratic party. Many party enthusiasts speak about the Clinton years with great nostalgia, but fail to consider their impact on the strength of the party. I think if you look at Bill Clinton's message and not his political ability, he would have a tough time winning the Democratic nomination today. If Hillary Clinton should win the nomination, I think that would bring all of the Republicans out in droves, including those that may be miffed with the current Republican president and congress and might have considered staying home on election day. I think her nomination would essentially deliver the Presidency to McCain or whomever wins the Republican nomination. Any comments?

Markos Moulitsas: Republicans have screwed things up so bad, that EVERY Democrat will be "electable" in 2008. Perhaps Hillary energizes the conservative base, sure, but I don't buy into the "electable" thing.

That said, a lot of people do, and that's going to be one of the hurdles Hillary needs to cross if she seeks the nomination.


Washington, D.C.: Let's say Sen. McCain gives a toned-downed speech of his "agents of intolerance" speech he gave in 2000 to the commencement at Liberty University, won't this be his best chance of regaining his maverick title? Or is this just not going to happen? Thanks.

Byron York: My money says it's not going to happen. I asked McCain what he planned to say in the speech, and he said he had not written it yet. But I got the impression that it will be in the standard "as you go forth" commencement address tradition. The importance of McCain's appearance at Liberty will probably be in his being there, not in what he says.


Louisville, Ky.: Markos,

I look forward to your visit here on Wednesday.

But I'd like to ask you if you think that coming out against Clinton is kind of piling on. I'm not sure about who all of these Democrats ate that feel she's the frontrunner for the election, but I know that I haven't met a single one.

Is the fact that she's got a bunch of money the singular factor for her supposed front runner status? And given that Bush's win in 2000 was mostly due to have having been the most successful fundraiser of all time, is Clinton's war chest necessarily a bad thing?

Markos Moulitsas: Much of it is a media construct, the Post being guilty of it as much as most.

Money is a factor for that perception, but so is her universal name recognition and the fact that her team includes many of the people that helped her husband win the presidency twice.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kos and Byron,

Thank you for doing the chat. I'm an avowed Democrat but some of the Republican hopefuls interest me, none more than Chuck Hagel. As McCain slides to the right to gather the base, do you think Hagel can successfully insert himself as the "centrist/maverick candidate" for the GOP? And if so, how likely is he to come out on top?

Back on the other side of the aisle, who do you see giving HRC the most problems in the primaries? I see Edwards and Biden as viable candidates, and Vilsack and Warner are governors, which immediately makes them likely Hillkillers. Thoughts?

Markos Moulitsas: Hagel had a 98 percent voting record from the American Conservative Union last year. I don't think he's slotting himself as a "moderate", and he's got too much class to try and pretend to do so.

Hagel is one of a dying breed -- an honest conservative. But let there be no doubt, he is VERY MUCH a conservative.

On the Dem side, the most likely person to become the "anti-Hillary" is Mark Warner.


Falls Church, Va.: Mr. Moulitsas' article in yesterday's Post centered so much on the growing power of the netroots and online fundraising and organization, but I was disappointed not to see any mention of the one potential 2008 Democrat who could truly bring the progressive netroots to fruition as a serious constituency: Former VP Al Gore.

While he might need convincing to make the run again, I simply do not see another possible candidate who could so easily put together a serious campaign against Senator Clinton. From his strong and persistent anti-war message to his personal crusade for the environment, Gore is a leader that not only the influential online left can get behind, but much of the Democratic establishment as well.

Markos Moulitsas: It's kind of pointless to talk about someone who has shown no interest whatsoever in running.


Arlington, Va.: I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on Joe Biden as a presidential candidate, especially in comparison to HRC and the other early "frontrunners". Thank you!

Markos Moulitsas: He'll be an "also-ran", completely irrelevant to the final outcome of the race.


Boston, Mass.: How can social conservatives take Rudy Giuliani seriously? He's a brazen adulterer. I mean, he went out with Judith Norman in a way that was totally disrespectful of his wife. I get the feeling that Giuliani's problem areas, when magnified by the national stage, will be more crippling than those of, say, Howard Dean.

Byron York: I have talked to a lot of conservatives in South Carolina about Giuliani, and they greatly respect what he did on September 11. Some of them who follow life in New York City also appreciate what he did before September 11, which was to make the city a vastly safer and more livable place.

So they respect him. But he is pro-choice, pro-gun control, and probably pro-gay marriage, which are obvious problems in a Republican primary. The feeling seems to be that if, because of another terrorist attack or some other reason, the war on terror jumped back to the top of everyone's agenda, Giuliani might do very well. If, on the other hand, that doesn't happen, and security is not the top issue, then Giuliani's other positions might well do him in.


Fairfax, Va.: Was Pelosi's atypical Meet the Press challenge confronting Russert's use of the Republican narrative that the public equates systemic K Street corruption with Kennedy's drug addiction the sign of a more aggressive Democratic leadership or is it time to ditch the DLC and support a third party candidate or a Democratic progressive?

Markos Moulitsas: A third party candidate from the left would ensure another 4 years of Republican mismanagement of our country (not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on).

I'm a fierce critic of Pelosi, but she has shown some signs of aggressiveness that is giving me some (faint) hope.


Arlington, Va.: McCain is too old--and he's had cancer how many times? He better pick a really exceptional running mate.

Byron York: You make a very good point. If he were to win in 2008, McCain would be 72 years old on inauguration day. He seems very vigorous today, but that is a reasonable concern for voters to consider.


New York, N.Y.: Markos,

Is Gore a realistic possibility? He seems to be more ready now than three years ago. If he does run, what happens to Hillary Clinton?

Markos Moulitsas: He seems more ready because he's NOT running. He can be himself, say whatever he wants, grow his beard whenever he wants, etc. He clearly feels liberated, and has shown no inclination to get back in a game where you have to keep your mouth shut lest the *truth* be interpreted by a moronic media as "gaffes".


Los Angeles, Calif.: It appears that the far right of the GOP is shooting itself in the foot in regards to the emerging Latino vote. Bush got 40% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and the GOP is at around 20% with them now. Will that spell doom for the GOP in 2008, or will they adjust with toned down rhetoric?

Markos Moulitsas: Bush and Rove want to legalize as many immigrants as possible. Recent immigrants were more likely to vote Republican than Democratic in 2004. This was a growth demographic for the GOP.

Now, all that work by Rove has been flushed down the toiled by the Republican xenophobic right.

As a partisan Democrat, I'd be cheering this on if it wasn't for the fact that there are Republicans who are trying to criminalize entire families, rendering apart entire communities.

So, in this case, I'm actually rooting for Bush to reign in the Tom Tancredos of his party, even if it helps the GOP's electoral chances moving forward.


New York, N.Y.: I am not a huge HRC fan by any stretch, but I do think she can win (I just don't know how likely it is).

I am beginning to wonder if being a woman may be an asset for her, as opposed to a liability. If the Republicans constantly attack her on gender issues (like Ken Mehlman's calling her "angry"), don't you think they run the risk of antagonizing young, female professionals and driving them into the Hillary Clinton camp?

Also, I would be interested to hear which, if any, states HRC would win that John Kerry lost in 2004...

Markos Moulitsas: It's an asset to be the lone woman in a field crowded with men. She stands out more from the crowd.

As for the electoral map, I can't imagine a single state that HRC would've won that Kerry lost in 2004. But in 2008, the country will be so sick of Republican mismanagement that we may very well see some purple states flip, like Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Ohio.


Anonymous: Any chance that Howard Dean will stay calm, and reemerge as a candidate? I have a feeling Karl Rove will put his scream speech on endless loop if he becomes the Democratic candidate, no?

Markos Moulitsas: Dean will not run for president in 2008.


Fairfax, Va.: Mr. Moulitsas, are there any progressive Democrats that may have a chance to get the presidential nomination, or have the DLC and Schrum and company locked it all up?

Markos Moulitsas: Depends on your definition of "progressive Democrats". Everyone has theirs.

I think Warner is a progressive Democrat and I think he can win the nomination.

As for the DLC, they are a dying organization. They have become irrelevant.


Washington, D.C.: Markos:

You criticize Hillary Clinton for not taking a strong stand for pulling the troops out of Iraq. You're of course right that one should take a strong stand for whatever you believe in, but for someone who's against the war, wouldn't you want to keep the troops in there as long as possible, so that nobody can blame the subsequent failure on pulling out early?

Markos Moulitsas: I wore combat boots. My brothers and sisters in arms, serving in Iraq, need to be brought home safely.

Political ramifications be damned.


Richmond, Va.: If several men run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008, wouldn't this help Hillary Clinton get nominated, since the women in the party would almost all support her? And the male Democratic candidates would be hesitant to attack her for fear of being accused as chauvinists by all the feminist Democrats. So are the Democrats stuck with Hillary if she does run?

Are there any substantial numbers of women in the Democratic party who oppose Hillary Clinton? I am sure there are many Republican women who would be against Hillary because of their strong stand on family commitment and their corresponding anger over her reaction to Bill Clinton in the Affaire Lewinsky. Are all the Democratic women OK with Hillary Clinton because it is fair for her to do anything to maintain her power and future political options?

Thank you.

Markos Moulitsas: Hillary is not inevitable. That was the whole point of my piece.

There are both women and men who support every single candidate in the Dem field. Hillary is no different. She has some male support, and she doesn't have every woman's support.


Cortez, Colo.: This question is for Byron York. I disagree that Republicans are in trouble. Undoubtedly Mr. Rove will come up with something as compelling as the gay marriage scare to keep the party in line and of course the party owns the issue of world wide war on terror and abortion. After George Bush was elected in 2000 and then reelected in 2004 with a Republican congress and supreme court, I was surprised to see no particular push to dismantle social programs including public education. Indeed, there were huge additions to said programs. I am curious now, if you know, what is the Republican plan or goal beyond staying in power and making Christianity a more dominant voice in government?

Byron York: A Republican strategist would probably tell you that George W. Bush never ran as a budget-cutting, small-government conservative. Of course, no one knew he would be as unworried about overspending as he has turned out to be. On the other hand, I think if you asked anyone in the White House what their one big goal is, it would be to win the war on terror.


Ontario, Calif.: Do you think that the seemingly unending disclosures of bribery and other misconduct involving Reps. Jefferson and Molohan are taking the sting out of the Democrats' "culture of corruption" charge against the Republicans?

Markos Moulitsas: Nope.

We are taking care of our corrupt congressmen, stripping them of committee assignments and calling for their investigation. Republicans (who control all of government, don't forget), elect their most corrupt to leadership roles.


Byron York: In response to the question about the New Republic's piece on George Allen, the magazine's blog, The Plank, has recently pointed out a Richmond Times-Dispatch article on Allen's opponent, Democrat James Webb. Here is part of that article from the Times-Dispatch:

James Webb, one of two Democrats seeking the nomination to run against Sen. George Allen, once spoke of the bravery of Confederate soldiers. The speech is posted on his personal Web site, www.

In 1990, U.S. Senate candidate James Webb spoke movingly of the Confederate Army and his Confederate forebears...

Webb refrained from criticizing Allen last week when it was revealed that Allen wore a Confederate pin in his high school yearbook photograph.

On June 3, 1990, Webb, not long removed from a one-year stint as Ronald Reagan's secretary of the Navy, spoke at the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery...

Webb spoke of two ancestors who had lost their lives fighting with the Confederate forces and another who served three years in a Virginia cavalry unit and survived.

Webb noted in the speech that the survivor named his son Robert E. Lee Webb in honor of the Confederate commander. Webb's grandfather also was named Robert E. Lee Webb.

Webb spoke of the brave Southern soldiers who fought with "squirrel rifles and cold steel against a much larger and more modern force."

Webb said, "I am not here to apologize for why they fought, although modern historians might contemplate that there truly were different perceptions in the North and South about those reasons, and that most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery."

Me again: I think this is a pretty neutral issue.


McLean, Va.: Since the official topic is '08 elections, I'm gonna try a non-presidential one.

CW says the Dems make gains in the Senate this year, but fall short of a majority. This is in a year where there are more Dem seats up for election than Repub. In '08, by my count, there will be 12 Dems and 21 Repubs up for election. That seems to me the more likely year for a possible shift in power. Are people in either party thinking about this, recruiting candidates, etc?

Markos Moulitsas: Of course. 2008 is shaping up to be a bad year for the GOP.

However, respected non-partisan political prognosticator Charlie Cook says he would bet on a Democratic Senate at the end of 2006. Cook has a great election prediction track record, but I can't begin to imagine that happening.

So bottom line, who the heck knows. I do know that Democratic voters need to be better motivated if we are to make significant gains this year. I see a malaise amongst ALL voters, Republican and Democratic. I suspect we'll have record LOW voter turnout this year.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Byron,

Any chance of a McCain/Coburn ticket?

Byron York: That seems a little off the wall, but is actually a good question. When I interviewed McCain, he had just come from the floor where he and some other Senators had just succeeded in killing a $15 million project to encourage Americans to eat more seafood -- a pork project for seafood, as it were. The leader of that effort was Tom Coburn, and McCain was singing his praises and giving Coburn lots and lots of credit for seriously taking on earmarks. That said, no, I don't think we'd see such a ticket.


McLean, Va.: I actually have two questions:

My friend and I were talking about the 2008 election and he was saying how he thought a Kerry-Gore ticket (or vice versa) would be a wise choice for Democrats. I say it could be party suicide. Even with the positive attention Gore may receive from his new movie and Kerry's emergence as a strong presence on the war in Iraq, too many people remember their mistakes from the past. Gore came off as dispassionate and Kerry was a flipflopper. Who would you guys agree with?

Also, saying that McCain and HRC both overcame party opposition and won the primaries for their respective parties (which could prove difficult for both), who do you believe would win in the general election??

Markos Moulitsas: Democrats don't give their politicians second chances, the way Republicans do.

Gore would have no interest in being a veep again (why would he?). And Kerry really is yesterday's news. Too many new, interesting faces to go back to 2004.

As for McCain/HRC matchup, who knows? McCain has the early lead on those silly polls. But there's a serious legacy of GOP mismanagement during the Bush administration that McCain would have to overcome.


Bethesda, Md.: Markos,

Could you enumerate some of the "ton of progressive policies" Mark Warner got enacted in Virginia?

Markos Moulitsas: Forward Together


Va.: Governors are more successful at being presidents. Can senators be successful too?

Byron York: This is one argument that hasn't been used much about McCain, and it is a legitimate one. In general, senators don't get elected president, and it is not clear whether McCain could become an exception to that (almost) rule. In addition, there hasn't been much discussion of the so-called 14 year rule with McCain. The rule suggests that politicians have a "sell-by" date after which they just don't get elected president. If that period is 14 years after one's first entry onto the national scene, as it has been in many other cases, then McCain is past his date.


Walterboro, S.C.: For both:

WHY is it that every four years we begin anew with the assumption that Senators are the frontrunners?

History teaches otherwise. Kennedy was the only sitting Senator elected President in over a century - America elects Governors and Generals most often, because they have proven they can run something larger than a Senate office staff.

We even elect University Presidents -Wilson & Ike- more often than Senators.

Markos Moulitsas: History can suggest, but it can never predict. Bush has bucked all sorts of historical trends during his presidency, so I've quit giving history any weight.

That said, I am much more intrigued by governors -- who have EXECUTIVE experience -- than legislators.


Centreville, Va.: As a social conservative whose faith informs my vote, I don't need McCain's stance on gay marriage or other social issues to vote against him. I've got enough other reasons, mainly that I find him to be a preening huckster whose main issue is himself. He's all against pork unless it benefits Arizona companies- I still remember him forcing National Airport here in DC to accept longer flights so he could fly more easily from Phoenix to here on America West. He's for what he calls "clean government", at the expense of free speech, and his signature issue has seen the rise of the unaccountable 527.

No thanks.

Byron York: On the issue of speech, you're right. One of the reasons a lot of conservatives didn't like McCain in 2000 was because they viewed his signature issue, McCain-Feingold, as an infringement on free speech. They still do. The only good thing that can be said about that is that issues have moved on, and McCain won't be running on campaign finance reform in 2008. But the system still remains a mess, with the rise of the 527s a direct result of McCain-Feingold.


Louisville, Ky.: Markos,

I'm sure you'll agree with me that, given the last six years of total Republican government, conservatism no longer has a legitimate place as a style of governance. Clearly, conservative government will always lead to corrupt, wasteful ends. The Katrina response is a prime example.

How does a progressive push that idea forward into the mainstream, especially considering long-held deference to the idea of a two-party system? I would imagine that if only one party is actually interested in governing, perhaps it makes the most sense for the old boy network GOP to just sit on their rich enclaves in the Midwest and the south without messing everything up for everyone else.

Markos Moulitsas: Part of the problem progressives have is our huge infrastructure disadvantages. In short, we don't have the machinery in place to create and promote the progressive message to the American people. Uninformed conservatives will chuckle at this and rant mindlessly about the "liberal media". But smart conservatives know better and pump billions of dollars a year into their think tanks, training institutes, leadership programs, media machine (Fox News, Rush, etc), and a party machine that is technologically on the cutting edge.

Liberals just started building their counterpart machine last year.


Alexandria, Va.: Both articles pointed out how bankrupt the two parties are. We are facing disastrous fiscal mismanagement and a bungled, strategically damaging foreign war. And Osama is still at large. Yet the putative Democrat frontrunner simply sucks up to big contributors and runs on safe, phony issues like flagburning; the discussion on McCain, meanwhile, centers on how much he has to pander to certain constituencies on equally phony issues like Defense of Marriage. By Western historical standards, the two parties have been around for a remarkable length of time -- 150 and 200 years. I say they have become stagnant, corrupt oligarchies which maintain power by a combination of pandering, fear-mongering, and bribery (yes, that's what political-contributions-for-earmarks is). They need to be swept away into the dustbin before our major national problems can be addressed. Agree/disagree?

Markos Moulitsas: As long as we have a winner-takes-all system to decide these elections, we're stuck with these two parties.

The best path to reform is to take them over, which is what the current conservative regime did to the old Republican Party starting in the mid-60s.


South Riding, Va.: Here's a question for both of you- Let's say that McCain and Hillary get the respective nominations. I see at least three possible disaffected constituencies, social conservatives, anti-amnesty/pro-border folks, and the anti-war netroots. That's assuming both candidates haven't triangulated sufficiently to keep these groups in line. Do you think any of these groups might be disaffected enough to go over to the other side, or support a serious third-party or independent candidate?

Byron York: No.


Detroit, Mich.: Markos,

Bush is at 31% now according to the just released Gallup. Is there a point where the bottom drops out and the MSM start covering this guy critically? Or have they made their bed given the WMD and Plame outing? (Jane Hamsher of firedoglake had an excellent post on this yesterday.)

Markos Moulitsas: They've gotten better as of late, but yeah, it's amazing how fearful these people are of covering this administration. Contrasted with the craziness of the Clinton years, and it's quite puzzling indeed.


Centrist Democrats: If Clinton runs, I suspect her biggest obstacle will be not her politics but her personality. Would you agree? Most of the criticism directed at her seems very personal, describing her as power-hungry and egotistical. I'm not sure I want her to run in 2008, mostly because of all the old stories about Travelgate that will be rehashed.

Byron York: Certainly almost everyone would agree that Hillary Clinton does not have her husband's talent at winning people over. But how many people do?

As far as her record is concerned, it seems to me to be only fair and reasonable that what she did in the White House from 1993 to 2001 be examined if she runs for president. Health care reform, Travelgate, missing billing records -- all of it will get another look. That's just the way it works.


Exeter, N.H.: Markos--I am myself quite opposed to Hillary Clinton based on what I've seen from her, especially given that we have a robust slate of alternatives--anyone from the folks you name to Al Gore to Bill Richardson to Phil Bredesen--hell, even a quasi-clown like Mark Cuban would be an exciting alternative to Hillary Clinton.

It seems to me a more effective argument than the one you advanced would be to say " as much as she might try, she's not going to fool anyone that she's Bill," rather than the fatuous idea that Clinton's was a "failed presidency." That dog most certainly won't hunt.

Markos Moulitsas: It wasn't Clinton's presidency that was failed, it was his stewardship of the Democratic Party.

He killed the party.


Bethesda, Md.: Markos, I don't think you read The Post much, if you think they're pro-Clinton.

Markos Moulitsas: Who made that claim? Not me.


Markos Moulitsas: That's it for me today. Thanks everyone for coming by.


Byron York: Signing off. Thanks very much for your questions.


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