Monday, May 12, 2008

Unassisted Triple Play

This has happened only fourteen times in major league history - an unassisted triple play:

It happened tonight in a game between the Indians and the Blue Jays. You'd think the announcers would be a little more excited about having witnessed it.


Regarding Reagan

My friend Jason passes along a Newsweek piece in which a liberal, Sean Wilentz, and a conservative, George Will, discuss the legacy of Ronald Reagan. It's an interesting conversation in its own right, not least because Wilentz has a lot of admiration for Reagan and suggests that he's becoming more universally recognized as a historic president. I urge any reader interested in recent history to give it a look.

The thing about it that I found most fascinating, however, is that almost everything both men say about Reagan could also be said about George W. Bush. I've said before that I believe Bush will go down in history as a much more consequential president than Ronald Reagan, especially if Iraq and Afghanistan are long-term successes. I don't like everything that George Bush has done, but most people forget that there was a lot about Reagan that even members of his own party didn't like (Will and Wilentz mention a few). People point to Bush's approval numbers and scoff at any suggestion that he'll be vindicated by history, but they forget that Harry Truman, who is widely respected by historians today, had even lower numbers than Bush does.

Bush's legacy, especially among conservatives, will someday eclipse that of Ronald Reagan who is justly regarded by contemporary conservatives as an icon. Bush's impact on the Supreme Court and on tax policy, the relative health of the economy despite terrific shocks (9/11, Katrina, the lending crisis), his liberation of 50 million people from oppression, his success in preventing further terrorist attacks on our soil, his stand for life, his compassionate outreach to the poor around the world, especially in Africa, the culmination under his leadership of Reagan's dream of a ballistic missile defense, his personal grace, virtue and faith, his appointments of minorities to positions of power, all of these and more are either the equal of RR or exceed what Reagan was able to accomplish.

Anyway, read the article. It's well worth the ten minutes it'll take you to do it.


Operation Chaos

There's been a flurry of media attention over the last several days on the matter of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos," i.e. the talk show host's attempt to persuade Republicans to cross over and vote for Hillary in those Democratic primaries where voting is "open" to anyone. He's also urging Republicans to change their registration to Democrat for the sole purpose of voting for Hillary in those primaries which are closed. The putative purpose of all this is to keep Senator Clinton close enough to Senator Obama in the balloting that she'll be encouraged to stay in the race until the convention. Rush's thinking is that the longer this race goes on, especially if it goes all the way to the convention in August, the weaker the Democrat candidate who emerges from the fray will be.

Some Democrats are upset by this, but exit polls show that Mitt Romney defeated John McCain among Republicans in several states that McCain won because he garnered more of the non-Republican vote. So, the Democrats really have no right to complain.

There's been some media commentary on the ethics of all this, but it is legal, and that brings us to the topic of this post. Whether Rush succeeds in weakening the Democratic party or not, Operation Chaos will have served a salutary purpose, in my opinion, if it accomplishes two things:

First, it will be a good thing if the blatant manipulation of one party's nominating process by members of the other party causes both parties to realize that open primaries are a political absurdity. Why should Democrats, for example, have a say in who the Republicans will run against them? Perhaps after this primary season state parties will start asking themselves that question and close their primaries to all but members of their own party.

Second, there has been a trend for the last several decades toward doing everything possible to make voter registration easier. In some states you can join a party and vote in their primary just a few weeks, or even one day in the case of Connecticut, prior to the election. If the rules were changed to require that registration be closed, say, by Dec. 31st of the year before the primaries begin, that would effectively end tactics like Operation Chaos. Months before the voting started voters would be less likely to know whether there would be a close race in their own party and would thus be more reluctant to change their affiliation just for the sake of voting in another party's contest.

Whatever effect Operation Chaos has had, and Obama's people have said that it gave Hillary 7% in Indiana, a state she won by 2%, it would have been impossible to pull off at all had primaries been closed to non-members and had registration been closed long before the primaries began. If these two reforms gain wider consideration because the Democrats have been manipulated into a self-destructive primary campaign, then Operation Chaos will have been, on balance, a very good thing.