Political Animal


February 25, 2013 1:45 PM Lunch Buffet

By Ed Kilgore

Went out to dinner last night, and missed most of the Oscars for about the 50th consecutive time. Hope those of you into the event enjoyed the ten-hour spectacle. At least I’ll have a better idea which movies I will actually watch.

Here are some mid-day morsels for a rancorous pre-sequester Monday:

* Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski reports Senate negotiators nowhere close to deal on gun background checks.

* More signs of that new, “reformed” conservative movement: Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich join speaker’s list at CPAC 2013.

* Glenn Reynolds suggests GOP go after youth vote by pushing for lowering of drinking age back to 18.

* Ben Domench excommunicates Rick Scott from ranks of those brave GOP governors and puts Bob McDonnell on probation.

* At TNR, Robert Draper profiles Chris Van Hollen as potential future House Speaker.

And in non-political news:

* Nate Silver’s predictions missed one of major the Oscar awards (Best Supporting Actor), but he sure wasn’t surprised by Argo’s Best Picture win over Lincoln.

Back after some chores.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Gandalf on February 25, 2013 2:20 PM:

    It just never ends does it with republicans. According to Glenn Reynolds if republicans would just allow 18 yr olds to drink legally they'd be seen as hip and cool. And if they'd just let people steal music and movies with impunity then the young voter be on their bandwagon. Why is it all about the packaging with these people. You can wrap a shit sandwich in a pretty box with a ribbon and a bow but when you open it up it will always be a shit sandwich that's inside.

  • boatboy_srq on February 25, 2013 2:22 PM:

    * Glenn Reynolds suggests GOP go after youth vote by pushing for lowering of drinking age back to 18.

    Wasn't it the Reaganite GOTea who pushed for raising the drinking age to begin with - and withholding federal highway funds (and/or approval to lift 55 mph speed limits) if they did not comply? There are those of us out there who remember getting "done" by the various states' scrambling to comply with that whole FUBARd mess.

  • Keith M Ellis on February 25, 2013 2:33 PM:

    One thing you can rely upon from conservatives is to assume that their own political preferences are motivated by ideals and morality and truth while the political preferences of all "those people" with whom they disagree are necessarily motivated by naked self-interests each specific to whatever way in which conservatives have essentialized/sterotyped a given non-conservative group.

    Because, bottom-line, people who don't share their politics are deeply alien, nearly incomprehensible.

  • hells littlest angel on February 25, 2013 2:37 PM:

    I think the youth vote will hold out for free cell phones and condoms. But keep trying, right-whingers.

  • Keith M Ellis on February 25, 2013 2:38 PM:

    "Wasn't it the Reaganite GOTea who pushed for raising the drinking age to begin with - and withholding federal highway funds (and/or approval to lift 55 mph speed limits) if they did not comply?"

    I'm pretty sure you got the politics of this wrong. It's interesting that you did.

  • KK on February 25, 2013 2:40 PM:

    Great idea by Glenn. Untie the highway funds and let sanity prevail as we are the only advanced Democracy in the world with a silly drinking restriction on adults. The great thing is I assume we'd be all aboard the policy and Glenn's favored boys would get no credit.

  • jjm on February 25, 2013 2:41 PM:

    Nate Silver can be forgiven for missing on Tommy Lee Jones: he SHOULD have won. In fact, the movie was slighted in a dreadful way, especially Tony Kushner's outstanding script. I wonder if the Academy was prejudiced against a film that used words so precisely?

    Another question: wasn't Yann Martel, 'author' of the Life of Pi, caught having plagiarized it from a South American author, Moacyr Scliar "Max and the Cats", and asserted that it wouldn't have gone anywhere if he hadn't published it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/08/bookerprize2002.awardsandprizes

  • KK on February 25, 2013 2:44 PM:

    It was Reagan on the 21 drinking age. 55 might have been Carter, that I don't recall.

  • bobbo on February 25, 2013 2:47 PM:

    I say remove the drinking age entirely, mandate that everyone carry a gun, and FREEDOM !!11!1

  • David in NY on February 25, 2013 2:50 PM:


    Not that anybody should care.

  • boatboy_srq on February 25, 2013 3:02 PM:

    @Keith M Ellis:

    This is a (very bland) summary of opposition to the 55 mph national speed limit. Take a look at who opposed the law, and who did the most to get around it.

    The NMSL was wildly unpopular. To wit:
    The speed limit had very low compliance, contrary to the commonly accepted engineering practice that says that the speed limit should criminalize only the fastest 15% of drivers: From April through June 1982, speed was monitored on New York's Interstate highways, and an 83% noncompliance rate was found, despite extreme penalties ranging from $100 (1982 dollars, equal to $241 today) or 30 days jail on a first offense to $500 (1982 dollars, equal to $1,204 today), up to 180 days in jail, and a six-month driver's license revocation upon third conviction in 18 months.[22]
    In the 4th quarter of 1988, 85% of drivers violated the 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limits on Connecticut rural interstates.[23]
    In 1985, the Texas's State Department of Highways and Public Transportation surveyed motorist speeds at 101 locations on six types of urban and rural roads. It found that 82.2% of motorists violated the speed limit on rural interstates, 67.2% violated speed limits on urban interstates, and 61.6% violated speed limits on all roads.[24][25]

    Various states enacted legal measures to tiptoe around the 55 mph limit: Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah replaced traditional speeding fines with $5$15 energy wasting fines as long as drivers did not exceed the speed limit in effect before the 55 mph federal requirement.[22] Nevada's energy wasting fine was enacted on April 15, 1981, when signed by Governor Robert List. Motorists not exceeding 70 mph (110 km/h) in 55 mph (89 km/h) zones could be issued $5 "energy wasting" fines. However, standard speeding tickets were still allowed and "troopers were directed not to take the new law as a signal to stop writing tickets".[26]

    In 1986, North Dakota's fine for speeding up to 15 mph (24 km/h) over the limit was only $15 and had no license points.[27]
    South Dakota cut speeding fines in 1985 and stopped assessing points for being 10 mph (16 km/h) or less above the speed limit in 1986.[27]
    August 1, 1986, Minnesota, which normally suspended licenses after three tickets, stopped counting speeding tickets for no more than 65 mph (105 km/h).[27]

    In 1981, 33 state legislatures debated measures to oppose the NMSL.[22]
    Some law enforcement officials openly questioned the speed limit. In 1986, Jerry Baum, director of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, said "Why must I have a trooper stationed on an interstate, at 10 in the morning, worried about a guy driving 60 mph on a system designed to be traveled at 70? He could be out on a Friday night watching for drunken drivers."[27]
    Even organizations supporting the NMSL, such as the American Automobile Association (AAA) provided lists of locations where the limit was strictly enforced.[22]
    On June 1, 1986, Nevada ignored the NMSL by posting a 70 mph (110 km/h) limit on 3 miles (5 km) of Interstate 80. The Nevada statute authorizing this speed limit included language that invalidated itself if the federal government suspended transportation funding. Indeed, the Federal Highway Administration immediately withheld highway funding, which automatically invalidated the statute by its own terms.[12]

    1987 and 198865 mph limit

    In the April 2, 1987, Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, Congress permitted states to raise speed limits to 65 mph (105 km/h) on rural Interstate highways.[12] In a bill that passed in mid-December 1987, Congress allowed certain non-Interstate rural roads built to Interstate standards to have the higher speed limits. As of December 29, 1987, the states of California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma had applied for and been accepted into this program. The progra

  • Allan Snyder on February 25, 2013 3:10 PM:

    they should lower the drinking age, it's ridiculous to tell young adults that they can fight and die for their country, and vote, and be tried as adults, but can't legally have a drink.
    I view this as similar to marijuna legalization-it's a waste of time and money to enforce a law that so many people don't obey, although alcohol is more dangerous than pot, it should be dealt with through education and strong enforcement of other laws such as DUI.
    I don't care what the politics were(although I also seem to remember it being passed in the early 1980s, I was too young to drink regardless)-it's one of those dumb laws that we seem to be stuck with.

  • somethingblue on February 25, 2013 3:20 PM:

    Surely Republican SOP would be not to reduce the drinking age to 18 but to raise the voting age to 21 (or maybe 67)? I'm kind of surprised it hasn't occurred to them already.

  • RaflW on February 25, 2013 3:27 PM:

    I think the drinking age should be 19, so that kids still in H.S. can't quite get ahold of booze yet. But I think 19 for drinking, and for registering for selective service would be a smart combo.

    Not gonna happen, but interesting none the less.

  • Keith M Ellis on February 25, 2013 3:31 PM:

    @boatboy_srq: no, I know that the opposition to the 55 limit was concentrated among the GOP and the southwest/mountain west states.

    What I was disagreeing with was your claim that the impetus for the movement to raise the drinking age to 21 in all states, and coupling that to federal highway funding, was primarily from the GOP/conservatives. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case.

    The National Maximum Speed Limit (NMSL) and the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (NMDAA) are historically related but nevertheless distinct and the opposition to the first and the impetus for the second originated in two different quarters. The NMDAA's most visible and active backer was Mothers Against Drunk Driving and I can assure you that MADD was not primarily Republican and conservative.

    Wikipedia has pages devoted to both NMSL and NMDAA and I think you'll see that the politics were quite different between the two (that is, the opposition to the NMSL and the support for NMDAA, as you say). Arguably much of the support for both laws had a slight left-of-center bias, not right-of-center.

  • boatboy_srq on February 25, 2013 3:47 PM:

    @Keith M Ellis: perhaps, having been a FL resident at the time, and seeing what Tallahassee was like (although in comparison with today it seems positively Leninist), my perspective was a bit skewed. FL definitely associated the two far more closely than many states.

    I have no doubt MADD is well-intentioned. But their "there oughta be a law" approach to the issue always seemed a bit heavy-handed, and the assumption that their efforts reinforced - that the 18-20 crowd is old enough to be cannon fodder and mature enough to make political decisions but too immature to deal with alcohol - never sat well with most of the left-leaning folks I knew at the time. You may remember them as a left-of-center group: the ones around where I was most impacted most certainly were not. MADD seems like the converse of SGK: the MADD motivator may have been to keep youth safe on the roads, but a lot of "mothers" were driven by "them darn kids need some larnin'" rather than "I want my son/daughter to come home alive" (as opposed to a lot of women who support SGK for all the good it insists it does without questioning the leadership's anti-PP efforts). DUI is a plague - but heavy-handed laws, when coupled with selective enforcement and blind-eyed secondary- and higher-ed administration (the initial and mid-term results of NMDAA), are not an improvement.

  • Keith M Ellis on February 25, 2013 3:53 PM:

    And for what it's worth, I came of drinking age in Texas right when Texas began raising the minimum age. I'd wrongly remembered it as being year-by-year, but looking it up just now it actually was spread out over five years — twenty months between each increment, 1981-1986, from 18 to 21.

    While there was, and is, certainly a big strand of conservatism that is prohibitionist in general (concentrated among certain Christian conservatives who are inheritors of the prohibition tradition, particularly Baptists), and having grown up in a small town that was dry for most of my childhood (even though it was a state university town!), I can say that those folk weren't really a key part of the groups wanting to raise the drinking age.

    For them, they are prohibitionist in general — raising the age by three years is small potatoes. Not that they didn't find it welcome ... I'm sure they did. But it wasn't remotely a cultural touchstone issue for them, as I recall. The push for raising the drinking age was concentrated in those concerned about teenage drunk driving and fatal accidents, which were and still are a chief cause of teen fatalities, as well as teenage binge drinking and the like. I don't doubt that, say, Nancy Reagan was on TV supporting the NMDAA — but I guarantee that there were Democratic politicians and liberal activists right there beside her.

  • Sean Scallon on February 25, 2013 6:14 PM:

    I think CPAC's theme should be "CPAC 2013 - A Confederacy of Dunces!" Romney, Gingrich, Perry, Santorum, Palin, I mean at this point they might as well try make Dick Cheney the keynote speaker.