Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Reading

  • When I went off to college in 1971 and moved from Ohio to Florida, I used to scan the student parking lots for other Ohio license plates among the mix of out-of-state cars. It was a way of staying connected with home, in a way; of not feeling alone among all the orange-and-white Florida plates. Nowadays it isn’t license plates so much — it’s area codes.

    Jay works in communications for a Washington think tank, but if you want to give him a ring, try Boston. Samantha studies international relations in Dupont Circle, but you’ll have to call San Francisco to find her. Michele has been a congressional aide on Capitol Hill for nearly four years, but ask for her number, and you’ll be calling Starkville, Miss.

    In a city known for its revolving door of young professionals, graduate students and eager-eyed Hill staffers, many a mobile phone number proves that home is where the cell is.

    Like a rear-windshield decal or an old college T-shirt, a cellphone number has become as much a part of an identity as a Social Security number. It represents a hometown, a college or a first job, and such memories are not casually thrown aside for a few good years with a 202 romance. For these area-code clingers, those 10 little digits provide a constant in the face of changing locations and uncertain futures.

    And, hey, it’s great small talk.

    When I was in college, it was, “Hey, what’s your sign?” (as in astrology. Virgo, by the way.) Today it’s “What’s your area code?” (305 here.)

  • The recent flap over Paul Hackett in Ohio puts the focus on veterans running for Congress this fall.

    For Democrats struggling to win back Congress, it seemed like the most obvious of election strategies: erase the Republican advantage on national security by running real-life combat veterans as candidates.

    In theory, at least, a candidate with a uniform, rank and military résumé should be redoubtable: a symbol of strength, patriotism and resolve, and at least somewhat inoculated from the debilitating personal attacks that have come to represent American politics.

    So it is in the 2006 Congressional elections, soldier-candidates are marching across the campaign field in numbers not seen in a half-century, many veterans of the Iraq, Afghan, Vietnam, Balkan and first gulf wars — nearly 100 candidates in all, not including a single incumbent.

    Most are Democrats, but Republicans have come up with their own veterans as well. Many were recruited by their parties, but others decided to run on their own or were encouraged by left-leaning bloggers who think these candidates can help Democrats win back Congress. Some candidates are motivated by opposition to the Iraq war, but others are talking about health care, job creation or energy.

    Many Democratic candidates present themselves as the saviors of the party, saying they had been united both by opposition to Republican policies and by attacks on them or other veteran candidates.

    As the Hackett incident pointed out, the Democrats can’t assume that just recruiting veterans will provide them with the body armor they need to win in the fall. Sometimes, as the following story points out, they’re victims of friendly fire.

  • Dana Milbank in the Washington Post handicaps the Democrats for the fall election…not who will win but who will get the blame if they don’t.

    The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll found that, approaching the midterm elections, Democrats enjoy their biggest advantage over Republicans in 14 years. Issue after issue — Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, Jack Abramoff and now Harry Whittington — gives the opposition party a potential advantage. And then there’s the historical advantage enjoyed by the opposition in the elections midway through an incumbent president’s second term. To some, this might be cause for celebration. But not to Democrats. Beaten in the last three election cycles, the party has a serious insecurity complex. Convinced they will face another disappointment in November, Democrats are already busy figuring out who among them should be blamed for the inevitable defeat. Here’s a guide for handicapping the Democratic precriminations.

    Hillary Clinton

    Bill Clinton

    Joe Lieberman

    Harry Reid

    John Kerry

    Al Gore

    Howard Dean

    William Jefferson

    Jack Murtha

    Nancy Pelosi

    Joe Biden

    Karl Rove.

    Well, at least they haven’t blamed the bloggers. Yet.

  • Today is the annual Gold Coast British Car Show in Lake Worth. I’m off early this morning with Bob and his Austin Healey to participate. I’ll bring back some pictures. Tally ho!