Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

In the New York Times article on censure today, Stuart Rothenberg is referred to as a nonpartisan political analyst.  That is inaccurate.  His political leanings are quite clear.  Take this column on national security:

Pardon me if I had a feeling of déjà vu, but the sight of dozens of Democratic members of Congress and "first responders" together "rallying" in Washington, D.C. to prove that Democrats are tough on terrorism and the party of "real security" brought back memories of Boston's Fleet Center and all those senior military men vouching for John Kerry and the Democrats.

With Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Dick Durbin (D-IL) standing in the front row of a throng of Democratic House and Senate members, who in their right mind is going to think of Democrats as "pro-military" or tough on defense and national security matters?

This is just snotty Republicanism, it's not analysis.  There are good reasons to dispute the merits of the Democratic REAL Security plan.  But snottiness isn't one of them.

And then there's this biased analysis.

Polling confirms that Democrats look better these days on national security, but it isn't because of rallies like the one yesterday at Union Station in the nation's capital. It's because the war in Iraq has not gone well and President Bush fumbled the ball on the Dubai ports deal. But the party still has long-term problems on the issue because many grass roots Democrats and party leaders simply don't believe in projecting U.S. power (including military power) the way Republicans do.

There are two problems here.  One, progressives do believe in projecting US power (Kosova anyone?), but we don't believe that losing wars and lying to the world actually does that.  Two, progressives believe that a country that rests its global stature solely on military strength, and not on the production of wealth, is doomed.

Rothenberg's analysis just sort of assumes that Democrats are isolationists, which isn't true, and that Americans agree with Republicans on the desire to fight pointless wars.  That's fine, coming from a Republican.  So drop the nonpartisan label already.

Tags: New York Times, Stuart Rothernberg (all tags)



Re: Stuart Rothenberg is conventional wisdom

Maybe a year or so ago, I caught a class or seminar Rothenberg was giving on elections to students at American Univ on CSPAN. He didn't strike me as partisan one way or another, but he is very much into the conventional wisdom and that's how I see his comments above.

by phillydem 2006-04-01 07:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

I wasn't really politically aware back then, but I seem to recall that Kosovo was opposed by progressives.  Feingold voted against intervention, for example, and I know that my university's Nader people had just come off protesting about it.  Doesn't speak for everyone of course; got any polling?

by ItsDrewMiller 2006-04-01 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

Clinton was right on Kosovo.  Genocide is a legitimate reason to take military action.  I am not advocating military action per se but we don't do enough to prevent genocide worldwide.

by John Mills 2006-04-01 11:36AM | 0 recs
that's right

Clinton walked a weird tightrope on that one--the progressives and hardline conservatves aggressively opposing it, McCain leading a group demanding ground troops, and your moderate dems supporting it.  Ah, the days when there could be internal party splits like that...

by Valatan 2006-04-01 11:43AM | 0 recs
Projecting American Power

I don't know about Rothenberg's politics, and I do think he repeats conventional wisdom -- but I do think there's a grain of truth in there, in this sense: a lot of people really do associate strength on national security with eagerness to start wars, and on that basis, Democrats are always going to be at a disadvantage.  

They can try (as they are doing) to point out that "real security" has to do with knowing when not to go to war, and that Bush endangered national security through his recklessness, but there's always going to be a segment of the population that thinks "national security" is a code word for "bomb the brown people and hate the U.N." It's a strange combination of internationalism (spread freedom everywhere) and isolationism (screw the U.N., screw the French) that simply has no place in the Democratic party.

Remember, when the Democrats did get the lead on the national security issue in the '60s, they got it by doing stuff that was frankly awful: lying about a "missle gap" to scare people into thinking the Russians were about to blow us to smithereens (Kennedy) or getting us into an unnecessary and unwinnable war (Johnson).  If the only way to get the lead on national security is to go back to doing that, then I'd rather have the Democrats stay reasonably sane.

by maestroanonymo 2006-04-01 09:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Projecting American Power

Actually Dems had led on defense and foreign policy up until Eisenhower because the Repubs were the isolationist party prior to WW II.  It wasn't until Vietnam the parties really traded places.

by John Mills 2006-04-01 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

He also rights for a far right wing online paper called Town Hall. How biased is his handicapping races?

by progressiveliberaldem 2006-04-01 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

Interesting.  You might be right.  Charlie Cook leans a little left and since they are on together so much, Rothenberg could be the balance.

by John Mills 2006-04-01 11:32AM | 0 recs
Rothenberg is not "Right-Wing"

While I don't always agree with Rothenberg, I wouldn't classify any of his writings as ideological.  He and Charlie Cook get paid to correctly analyze and predict congressional elections.  If they don't do it well, they don't get new clients or keep their old ones.

What Rothenberg is stating is functionally true about appearances and perceptions regarding Democrats and security issues.  It does not matter what the Democratic plan is if the masses don't take their plan seriously because of either how they talk about security or who they have to talk about it.  Rallies don't change public opinion for the positive and often do more harm than good, no matter how noble the cause.

I disagree with Rothenberg about the messengers he mentions... Durbin and Stabenow are not viewed as whacko leftists and I think they do come across as reasonable.  I do agree, however, that the reason that the Dems are now ahead on security issues is about 95% because of what is going on in Iraq, and about 5% because of dissatisfaction with Bush's views on immigration.  Him stating that opinion does not make him right-wing.

I have attended several panels in the past with both Cook and Rothenberg giving their election analysis and they are usually pretty equally tough on both parties.  I have heard both of them talk about negatives of both Dem and GOP canddiates, and from my readings of them in the past few weeks, they have been fairly complimentary to the Dems for their candidate recruitment.

by Ian in DC 2006-04-01 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Rothenberg is not "Right-Wing"

One can be Republican and fair.  Rothenberg is a Republican, and he is also a good analyst.

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-01 11:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Rothenberg is not "Right-Wing"

Actually I am pretty sure that neither Rothenberg nor Cook are registered to vote just to make sure they aren't tied to a party.

by Ian in DC 2006-04-01 01:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

Rothenburg is stuck in the time when he came of age, roughly 1968 - '78 or so.  I was standing about 5 feet from him at the Union Station event that Matt quoted him writing about.  I spoke to him at the event in a friendly way.  Frankly, I wanted to boost a couple of candidates and people like Rothenburg like to be recognized and talk to political hangers on like me who occasionally might tell him something interesting.  PAC people listen to him and the candidates I care about need moiney.  I could tell I failed that test, but only on the terms he set.  I did tell him a couple of things but he was happy to just throw the conventional wisdom back into my face.  I know one thing, he doesn't think the progressive netroots are much to write home about.  I honestly think we are going to prove him wrong.  Rothenburg could learn a little if he read a few more blogs and talked to party officials a little less.  I don't think Stuart Rothenburg has ever heard of the Netroots Fundraising Page or even ActBlue.

I don't think he is a Republican ideologue.  I don't think he is any more ideological than the maker of a Las Vegas sports book.  Instead he is just a creature of his time who likes to order the world according to the assumptions that formed him. Rothenburg is a smart guy who has seen a lot of politics, maybe even a little too much.  

Actually, I think his analysis made some good points.  Some of the Democrat incumbants on the stage at Union Station seem a little tired.  Rothenburg chose to look at some of them.  I saw and heard a lot of wisdom too, especially from Madeline Albright, an old lady who has a better understanding of the world than Stuart Rothenburg or me.  The Democrats need some new voices.  Stuart Rothenburg should have covered the Fighting Dems when they were in DC.  

November will tell if the conventional wisdom and the old order are passing.  Folks like Rothenburg probably think I'm looking through rose-colored glasses of my own hopes.  He has been right before, probably more often than me.  If it really is all about TV ads and security posturing then he is right. I'm betting that Democrats and swing voters will see some new faces running as Democrats and like what they see and hear.    

by howardpark 2006-04-01 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst

I don't know if anyone thinks less of Stu Rothenberg than I do, but on the question of whether or not having a rally with "first responders" is going to change anything, he's right.

by Kagro X 2006-04-01 03:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Stuart Rothenberg is a Right-wing Analyst
I can't believe you all are spending so much time talking about me. It's a waste of time.
My only response about the Townhall comment above is this: Nathan Gonzales (my colleague at the Rothenberg Political Report) and I also contribute weekly to Political Wire, which is a more liberal website. We intentionally picked two very different websites to reach two very different groups of people. It's called balance.
Second, if any of you check out Townhall, you will see that Nathan is getting absolutely ripped for something we recently posted.
Townhall's readers are calling us communists. You call us right-wing wackos. That should say something to any of you who have an analytical, dispassionate bone in your body.
by Rothenberg 2006-04-02 12:45PM | 0 recs


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