Saturday, July 12, 2003

His Majesty Speaks

Bush Considers Iraq Uranium Issue Closed By JOHN SOLOMON ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Saturday he had confidence in CIA Director George Tenet despite his agency's failure to warn Bush against making allegations about Iraq's nuclear weapons program later found false. "Yes I do, absolutely," Bush said. "I've got confidence in George Tenet. I've got confidence in the men and women who work at the CIA and I look forward to working with them as we win this war on terror."
Um, excuse me, Mr. Bush, but you don't get to decide when this issue is closed.

Remember when?

Back when George W. Bush thought credibility was important:
GOP presidential hopeful George W. Bush challenged rival Al Gore's credibility while a chastened Gore apologized for getting "details wrong" in his campaign rhetoric during their second debate last night. "I think credibility is important," Bush said, when asked whether Gore's exaggerations were a serious issue. "It's going to be important for the president to be credible with Congress, important for the president to be credible with foreign nations. It's something people need to consider - I think this is an issue."
For once I agree with the Shrub. Of course, in this case, Gore's credibility was being called into question because he: (1) used the wrong tense verb when talking about a girl having to stand in her classroom because of overcrowding and (2) gave the name of the wrong official that he traveled with while touring a disaster area in Texas. It's not like Gore mislead the nation about trivial things like THE IMMINENT THREAT OF NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION.

Tenet takes all the bullets

Oliver Willis has the goods on the administrations new "blame everything on the CIA" tactic. This has real potential.

Plenty of bullets to go around

I've been thinking a little more about yesterdays events. George Tenet says that he made a mistake in not squelching the "16 words" from the SOTU. He should have known better. I agree. But so should Colin Powell have known better. So should Condi Rice have known better. So should Donald Rumsfeld have known better. So should Dick Cheny have known better. So should George W. Bush have known better. Is this administrations best defense really that it is loaded with incompetents in all the top national security positions? Do you feel safe?

Friday, July 11, 2003

The last word...for now

Josh Marshall, as usual, says it better:
Here, frankly, is what I think happened. The White House wanted to include this charge in the State of the Union address. The CIA, as Pollack makes clear, had been getting beaten over the head for more than a year for intelligence assessments that, in Pollack's words, "weren't sufficiently alarmist." But including an allegation in the State of the Union which they more or less knew to be false was just further than they could go. They balked. The White House and folks from the Agency then started a negotiation over what was okay to put in the speech. At this point, someone suggested hanging the charge on the Brits. Again, I think it's very hard to believe that this suggestion came from the CIA folks. And in fact we have both NPR's and CBS's reporting saying that the suggestion came from the White House side. Saying that the British said this was technically true. Thus the speech was technically true. The problem was that it was willfully misleading since the CIA believed the Brits were wrong. The people on the Agency side seem to have decided that the White House had made their objections to such unhelpful information very clear. They felt they'd acquitted themselves of their minimum responsibility but getting the statement into the technically true category. And they relented. That was a terrible decision. No one had the guts to resign over this or really make a stink. Maybe heads should role at the Agency. Maybe it should be Tenet's. But all of this begs the obvious and singularly important question: the charge is that CIA didn't push hard enough to keep bogus information out of the president's speech. Who was pushing on the other side? Who was pushing to keep the bogus information in? And why?
It remains to be seen whether the media will buy the administration's latest attempt to deflect responsibility. It will all come down to whether they start asking questions about who put those "16 words" in in the first place. If the White House did it (my best guess would be Rice in conjunction with Rove) then the next question should be obvious: why were they insistent on fighting with the CIA over a statement that was technically accurate but substantively misleading? Why did they want to tell the American people something that their own intelligence people were insisting just wasn't true?

Tenet takes the bullet?

CNN Alert: CIA director takes responsibility for incorrect information in State of the Union address about alleged Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa. Update: via FOX News:
WASHINGTON ?— CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged Friday his agency wrongly allowed President Bush to tell the American people that Iraq was seeking nuclear material from Africa when analysts had doubts about the quality of the intelligence. "These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president," Tenet said in a statement released after Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, blamed the miscue on the CIA and members of Congress called for someone to be held accountable. "This was a mistake," the director's statement said.
Yes, we know that they shouldn't have been allowed Mr. Tenet. The question is WHY were they allowed? Saying its your fault isn't enough. We want to know WHY it happened in the first place. Update 2: Read that statement from Tenet again:
"These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president," Tenet said in a statement released after Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, blamed the miscue on the CIA and members of Congress called for someone to be held accountable. "This was a mistake," the director's statement said.
Where, exactly does Tenet actually take responsibility for the mistake? He admits to only one thing: that those 16 words should not have been included. But that is what everyone else has been saying already! Everyone know admits that it was "a mistake" to include those words. But does Tenet actually say, "my bad"? Or is he just creating the vehicle by which defenders of the President can infer this without having to actually say it himself? Let's put it this way: if Howard Dean were to have issued the exact same statement it would be no less true, but it would not be characterized as Tenet taking the blame for it. If I find a complete copy of the entire statement instead of just a news report that quotes I will post it here. Update 3: Here's the complete statement. It's a lot longer than that short little snippet FOX printed. I'll get back to you once I read it. Update 4: Okay, my eyes are bleeding now. No wonder people go insane trying to make sense of things like this. As I suspected, Tenet never really takes direct responsibility for the existing of those 16 words. He just says that they shouldn't have been included and only matter of factly says the CIA should have objected more vigorously. But that still leaves open the question WHY they didn't object more vigorously. Was it just because they were inept or were they feeling pressure to give their approval to a statement that was technically true but substantially dishonest in its implications? Also, why, in the course of recounting the history of this matter, does Tenet go out of his way to avoid mentioning the name of Ambassador Wilson? This was perhaps the most bizarre paragraph in this statement:
There was fragmentary intelligence gathered in late 2001 and early 2002 on the allegations of Saddam's efforts to obtain additional raw uranium from Africa, beyond the 550 metric tons already in Iraq. In an effort to inquire about certain reports involving Niger, CIA's counter-proliferation experts, on their own initiative, asked an individual with ties to the region to make a visit to see what he could learn. He reported back to us that one of the former Nigerian officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office. The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. The former officials also offered details regarding Niger's processes for monitoring and transporting uranium that suggested it would be very unlikely that material could be illicitly diverted. There was no mention in the report of forged documents -- or any suggestion of the existence of documents at all.
It seems odd to me that Tenet wouldn't just use Wilson's name since he has already been all over the news on this already. Or is this just an example of the absurd nature of secret intelligence that the name of the "former official" can't be revealed even when everyone already knows who it is? Also, I hilighted the "on their own initiative" point because it seems tailor made to cover Dick Cheney's butt. The allegation has been that Wilson undertook his effort at the instigation of the office of the veep. Yet here Tenet is saying that Wilson's mission was just a low-level operation, initiated without the approval of any higher authorities, and presumable because of this, his findings did not find their way higher up the chain of command. That's his story and he's sticking to it. We'll see just how well it sticks over the next few days. Update 5: Oh, one more thing. There is nothing in Tenet's statement that contradicts the CBS report from yesterday. Tenet, if he is admitting to anything, is only admitting that he allowed pressure from the White House to override the judgment of his people on whether the Niger/Uranium story should have been included in the SOTU. It does not excuse the White House for having brought that pressure in the first place. Update 6: (This post may take the record for number of updates I have made to it. And earlier today I said I don't do breaking news? Ha!) Someone over on the Bartcop forum made the very valid point that Tenet's statement doesn't save anyone's ass because Powell's own State Department analysts told him the same exact thing months before SOTU (courtesy The New Republic):
"in early 2002 intelligence analysts at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) pored over the bits of intelligence the United States had about the Niger uranium procurements. The INR analysts never received Ambassador Joe Wilson's now-famous debriefing of his trip to Niger, during which Wilson determined that the procurement probably never happened. Independently, however, they came to the same conclusion: " in March 2002, the bureau--whose sole reason for existence is to provide the secretary of state with intelligence analysis--sent Powell a memo explaining exactly that. "We knew it was important," an intelligence analyst who worked on the Niger issue for INR tells &c. "The issue might have traction, and so we wanted him to know what our opinion was." So Powell's office received a definitive intelligence assessment about the validity of the Niger-procurement claim from his own department in March 2002--ten months before the State of the Union address. Yet as late as December of that year, the State Department was still publicly treating the Niger-procurement claim as credible."
In other words, if Tenet is guilty then Powell is just as guilty. Which again raises the question of how so many people could have known it was a bad idea to put this in yet it got put in anyway?

Dean doesn't sell in the south?

I wonder about that, especially after reading positive profiles like this that are published in Tennessee.

Don't pin your hopes on George Tenet

Matt Singer brings up an important point about all the finger pointing:
Regardless, Bush, Rice, and Powell have now all said that the "CIA cleared the speech" -- if by clear the speech they mean backed off on the misleading version after Rove demanded it, then Bush is misleading the public. What makes me doubt what's going on here is that Rice never makes a statement that truly contradicts the CBS story. Here's what she says, fisked: "The CIA cleared the speech. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety," Rice said, en route to Uganda. CBS Reported: But CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports that before the State of the Union speech was delivered, CIA officials warned members of the president's National Security Council staff that the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa. According to sources, White House officials responded that a September dossier issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: "Iraq has…sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." As long as the statement was attributed to British intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections. There's no contradiction there. The CIA cleared the speech after it was changed, despite the fact that all knew the change was misleading. Both the CIA and the White House screwed up on this one.
The message of the CBS story is that the CIA allowed itself to be brow-beaten into signing off on a technically accurate but substantially misleading statement in the SOTU speech. The White House may be to blame for pushing for this deception, but the CIA is not blameless in this no matter how much they protested to begin with. This will make it hard for George Tenet to simply come out and say, "No I didn't" because yes, he DID. Those of us hoping for Tenet to burn Bush might want to reconsider. Tenet's ass is on the line as much as Condi, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Bush. To really blow this open we are going to need someone one level below Tenet who still objected, on the record, to the Niger/Uranium claims even after the White House finessed the claim. We need that someone to go on the record and point the finger at BOTH the White House AND George Tenet. Update: I may have to re-assess this if today's trends continue. It looks like the Bushies are settling on Tenet to take the fall for it. So, if he is already going to be humiliated, there isn't much benefit to him to not blow the whistle.

The sounds of silence

In case your wondering why I haven't written that much about the Niger/Uranium story its because I'm much to busy at work to keep up with a story that is changing by the hour and many others in the blogopshere are doing an admirable job anyway. Besides, one of my biggest complaints about the news media is the way it handles breaking news. They are so desperate to get something out there that they often run with questionable information that later proves to be false but often taints the publics perception of the problem for years to come (e.g., polls that show many Americans thinking that we have already found WMD in Iraq). It would be rather hypocritical of me, therefore, to try to fill up web space with breaking news. Besides, I got burned a little on the CHB story so I think I will leave the Headline News type posts to others who are willing to devote the time to it. I'm more of a historian than a reporter anyway.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Comparing economic growth

Related to the previous post about job growth comes this post by Dwight Meredith about economic growth in general under various administrations. Only one guess which party has the best performance.


DEAN SAYS THOSE IN ADMINISTRATION WHO MISLED NATION SHOULD RESIGN Manchester, NH -- Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean issued the following statement today: [July 10, 2003] "Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's statement yesterday - that he only found out that the Niger documents were forgeries -- "within recent days" was stunning. "What is now clear is that there are those in this administration that misled the President, misled the nation, and misled the world in making the case for the war in Iraq. "They know who they are. And they should resign today. "There will be investigations, and the truth will come out - the American people must know the truth - and those in this administration must be held accountable for their failure to give us the truth before we went to war. "But we do not need to wait for the investigations to rid these people from our government - they can resign on their own today. "I am now convinced more than ever that it was a mistake to have given this administration a blank check to engage in this war - as too many in Congress did when they supported the Iraqi war resolution."
This is what is known as seizing the initiative without overplaying your hand. I've already seen some criticism of the "those in this administration" line by those who say that Dean should come right out and accuse Bush, Powell, Rice and/or Rumsfeld. However, while it may be true that these people are among "those who knew", accusing them by name would be quickly knocked down as over-reaching by the press (who may still do this, but there is no reason to make it easy for them). Dean has, instead, done something better. By issuing a blanket general statement Dean has effectively labeled the ENTIRE administration as culpable for the deception until specific individuals step forward and take the blame. It no longer matters who specifically deceived the American people on this. They ALL share in the blame until they find someone specific to blame. Its also nice that this allows Dean to say, "I told you so" without actually having to say "I told you so".

Comparing job growth

I didn't catch this before, but Billmon has some startling graphs up on his page, along with detailed explanations, that demonstrate just how much better Democrats are than Republicans when it comes to producing jobs. He further demonstrates that Junior is by far the worst of the lot.

jobs 1.gif

Democrats should really seize on this.

Words of caution

Apparently the congressional 9-11 report is finally going to be released. There are some breathless news reports saying that the report will be explosive. Many in the blogosphere are repeating this mantra. Perhaps it will be explosive. Perhaps not. I'd advise caution in placing to much hope in what is coming out. It's an old technique to make bad news not seem so bad: first spread rumors that even worse news is coming down the pike. Then, when the bad news does come out, it will look better by comparison and everyone will sigh with relief. Update: Kos issues much the same warning:
If true, compounded with the whole WMD mess, this could paint the administration is a bunch of LIARS and INCOMPETENTS -- both leading to the deaths of thousands. I say "if true" because people are going to play the expectations game. In this case, the administration has an interest in really hyping the report, leaking suggestions that it will be, well, "explosive". That way the actual report can't live up to the expectations and the press will think, "oh, it's really not that bad". We'll see.

The Google News Democratic Poll for 7/10/2003

This Week (7/10) Last Week (7/10)
1 John Kerry 3590 18.4% +0.5 2 3100 17.9%
2 Howard Dean 3450 17.7% -0.5 1 3160 18.2%
3 Bob Graham 2670 13.7% +1.1 4 2180 12.6%
4 John Edwards 2570 13.2% 0.0 3 2290 13.2%
5 Dennis Kucinich 1780 9.1% +0.7 7 1460 8.4%
6 Dick Gephardt 1750 9.0% -0.8 5 1700 9.8%
7 Joe Lieberman 1740 8.9% -0.3 6 1600 9.2%
8 Al Sharpton 1340 6.9% -0.1 8 1210 7.0%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 629 3.2% -0.6 9658 3.8%
There was quite a bit of shuffling in the orders this week. Kerry regained the #1 spot but the gap between him and Dean remains very narrow. Kerry still benefits from being the nominal front runner in the eyes of the press. Meaning that nearly any news story that refers to any of the other candidates is going to refer to him as well. Dean is still a threat to take over that spot however. The next few weeks will tell where the Dean mo' is going. The middle also shifted around considerably, with the biggest surprise being the jump for Dennis Kucinich from perennial #7 to the #5 spot (ahead of Gephardt and Lieberman). This may reflect the impression that he is the only other candidate that is "firing up the base" in a way comparable to Dean. And in a week where Dean stories were everywhere, Kucinich stories weren't far behind. This could actually be to Dean's benefit. One of the media myths being passed around is that Dean is the candidate of the "lefty-left". But the more Kucinich hangs around the more he can be used to point out that he is the REAL candidate of the "lefty-left". Gephardt and Lieberman really need to do something to return to the media spotlight if they don't want to get buried in the Dean deluge. (Methodology: All numbers are taken from the hit counts when searching on the Google News Service for news stories containing each candidate's name. Click on each name to rerun the search. You will likely get different results as the numbers are constantly changing. I make absolutely no claim that these numbers have any real meaning.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Some new links I've been adding to the left: Crooked Timber - A new blogger collective Americans For Dean - A new blog devoted to things Dean Donkey Rising - The blog for the Emerging Democratic Majority


Well, seeing as how I passed on the Capitol Hill Blue story about a direct eyewitness to Bush being briefed on the shakyness of the Niger Uranium story it behooves me to pass on the retraction of that story as well.
Damn, I hate it when I've been had and I've been had big time. In 1982, while I was working for Congressman Manuel Lujan of New Mexico, a man came up to a me during a gathering in Albuquerque and introduced himself as Terrance J. Wilkinson. He said he was a security consultant and gave me a business card with his name and just a Los Angeles phone number. ... On Tuesday, we ran a story headlined "White House admits Bush wrong about Iraqi nukes." For the first time, Wilkinson said he was willing to go on the record and told a story about being present, as a CIA contract consultant, at two briefings with Bush. He said he was retired now and was fed up and wanted to go public. "He (Bush) said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could," Wilkinson said in our story. "He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country." ... Then a friend from the Hill called. "You've been had," she said. "I know about this guy. He's been around for years, claiming to have been in Special Forces, with the CIA, with NSA. He hasn't worked for any of them and his name is not Terrance Wilkinson."
Oh well. I guess the old adage about "to good to be true" proves true again.

I received an email from a reader who expressed some concern about potential growing pains in the Dean campaign and whether the immaturity of some campaign people might lead to a major embarassment for the campaign later on. This is, of course, one of the dangers of the campaign approach that Joe Trippi is taking. Putting so much faith in the supporters of the candidate to control the destiny of the campaign is showing a huge amount of faith in our ability not to f*ck it up. Here's what I wrote back (paraphrased somewhat):
This is still very new and there will be some rough spots. Someone initially posted an item on the blog about the AmSpec article but then quickly pulled it when several people warned them that it smelled supsicious. Is this what you are talking about? I still side with Joe Trippi on this, we can't stress ourselves out worrying about the inevitable. We can only deal with the problems as they come up and, so far, the campaign has been pretty nimble on its feet when it comes to these things. As far as I know there is a moderator on the blog (Moveable Type certainly provides the ability to zap messages). I think the campaign has struck on an amazing Zen contradiction: they can have a lot of control over the behavior of its supporters by specifically allowing its supporters to have a lot of influence in the direction of the campaign. In other words, by showing respect for the feeling of its supporters the supporters show a commensurate level of support back to them and quickly get in line when the campaign does put its foot down (which, so far, it has rarely had to do). Every stage from here until next November is critical. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We'll drive ourselves crazy if we keep trying to guess ahead and plan for all the slings and arrows that will come our way. I can remember to the moment the first time I was really sold on Dean. It was when I was watching the videotape of his first appearance on MTP at the first meetup that I went to. At one point Russert was asking Dean about his proposal to rescind most of Bush's tax cuts. Russert asked Dean if he cared that people would call him someone who wanted to raise taxes. Dean's response was to say that he would be called lots of things in this campaign. It was at that moment that I realized that Dean got it as far as what he was going to be going up against. His response reasured me that, unlike other Democrats, who might still think the Clinton Wars were about Bill Clinton, Dean understands that the Democrats will never be able to put forward a candidate that will be acceptable to the GOP and its enablers in the establishment media. I'm willing to let the bigwigs at national worry about the long term plans for where this campaign is going and how to deal with these problems. I'm going to focus on the day-to-day campaign.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Idle musings

Here's something I'm wondering: even if we can give Bush the benefit of the doubt on the SOTU speech and his use of the Niger information to justify his claim that Saddam was looking to buy uranium in Africa, but only discovered afterward that it wasn't reliable (ambassador Wilson has said he called the State Department soon after the speech to warn them of this), then why did they include this information in the dossier that they subsequently sent to the UN to justify their charges against Iraq? Why would they include such obviously bogus information in a packet of evidence to be presented before Hans Blix and the IAEA?

Deja Vu all over again

Here is my suspicion: the whole Niger story may have been crafted to shore up the backbones of fence-sitting lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic. Pro-war boosters would go around into private meetings with the wafflers and flash this information before them and then say, "Do you want to vote no on this and then suffer the consequences if this report turns out to be true?" This eerily reminds me of the kind of arm-twisting that Tom Delay did prior to the impeachment vote in the House back in 1999. There were several stories about lawmakers being taken to a special room in the capital in which they were shown extremely nasty evidence against Clinton and then asked, "Do you want to vote no on impeachment and then have to explain your vote after this information comes out?" It appears to have worked both times. The mistake they made this time was in using the Niger story in the State of the Union speech. If they had just kept it as a behind the scenes arm twister they would be in a lot less trouble. Even after it turned out to be false no lawmaker would take them to task for it because they wouldn't want to admit that they might have been persuaded by questionable evidence. The whole thing would have been buried and no one would have been the wiser.

peck peck peck peck

So the White House is now admitting that the Niger uranium story is no longer operative (translation: it wasn't true). On top of this comes an interesting report that puts yet another nail in the Bush coffin if it proves to be true:
An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address. "The report had already been discredited," said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. "This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings." Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said. "He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could," Wilkinson said. "He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country."
This story answers the question from skeptic who ask why Bush would include questionable intelligence in his SOTU speech if he knew it could be so easily disproven. The answer is that the man was so convinced of his own perfection that if he believes that the story is true then it must be true. Can we really trust the awesome power of the United States to the hands of a man whose ego is so large that he considers himself to be more knowledgeable on these matters than the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus? Update: It turns out the CHB story isn't true. See here for the retratcion.

Almost getting it

Marie Coco has a column today that demonstrates that she almost gets it as far as the Dean campaign is concerned. She recognizes that Dean's success has more to do with anger than technical savvy. But she misses the mark in suggestion that anger is all that there is to this campaign and that it won't be enough. She is right on the latter point but wrong on the former.
I have at least three things in common with Howard Dean. We both love Vermont. We both prefer fiscally responsible government. And we both hear a lot from liberals around the country, thanks to the wonder of the Internet. Because I'm plugged into the same electronic grapevine that Dean's presidential campaign is harvesting brilliantly, I know a lot about what's on the minds of Democrats who contributed to the former Vermont governor's recent electronic fund-raising surge - the blitz that gave Dean's campaign the buzz. Mostly what is on their minds is anger. ... They have taken all this anger and bundled it up and projected it onto Dean's candidacy. So Dean, who opposed the Iraq invasion, is now the latest in a long tradition of outsiders who run not so much for office, but against everyone currently holding one. ... Not that history is going to repeat itself. Just that it deserves respect. And so will Dean, if he earns it. To do that, he must broaden his appeal. The Democratic Party isn't a bunch of McGovernites with computers. It's also African-Americans and other minorities, union members, women, elderly people who remember - and still rely on - the New Deal. Frankly, the lunch-bucket crowd has more to lose from continued Republican domination of public policy than upper-middle-class people with modems. ... The next president will be forced to manage a long, costly and apparently deadly occupation. He must cope with the political fallout of this war, throughout the Mideast and among our alienated allies. He will have to play the hand he's been dealt. Only when Dean, or any other candidate, starts talking about the dangers ahead instead of a debate now past, will he mature from phenomenon to plausible president.
Here is a copy of an email I just sent to her:
Dear Ms. Coco, I am a Dean supporter and I would like to thank you for acknowledging at least part of the Dean story: that his success is not just due to his technical savvy in the use of the internet but also, in part, because he has tapped into a latent frustration felt by many in the electorate. However, anger is not the only reason many are following Dean. Anger is what may have brought Dean to our attention, but anger is not a very sustainable emotion and would eventually lead to burnout. Yet most Dean supporters I know are not getting burned out. The enthusiasm continues to grow. Why? Because Dean offers us so much more then just a way to vent our anger. Dean is about more than just criticizing the present administration and its enablers in the Democratic party. Its about returning the power to the people that are supposed to have it. Its about standing FOR something instead of simply AGAINST something (universal health care, fair taxation, fiscal responsibility, a TRULY humble foreign policy). Believe me, if Dean's campaign was about nothing more than being angry I wouldn't be supporting it. I can understand where you might get the wrong impression about this. On your first exposure to Dean supporters you will probably find a lot of expressions of anger. God knows I've vented myself a few times. But if you hang around us for much longer and allow us to move beyond that anger you will find a much deeper level of support that goes beyond simple frustration. The Bush philosophy is all about scaring us into giving up our power to an elite few. Let them make all the important decisions they tell us. We just have to show up at the rallies and wave our little flags at the appropriate time. The Democratic Party philosophy has been to try and emulate Bush's success by imitating his policies but getting better results. Pfah! The Dean philosophy has been to return power to the people and let them guide the course of the future. And this is more than just words for Governor Dean. His campaign has given an extraordinary amount of leeway to his supporters to direct the campaign. How many political players do you know who would be willing to let "the rabble" have so much influence? Most would probably shudder at the idea. And its working! Dean has gone from being an asterisk to a serious "threat" to win the nomination in less than six months. And he has done so by letting the people control their own destiny. What an amazing idea! I appreciate the advice you are providing Ms. Coco, but we are way ahead of you on this already. Try looking beyond the surface impression and see what is really going on here. There's something happening that is quite extraordinary. Don't miss the boat. Chris Andersen

Monday, July 07, 2003

The Official BushCo Shooting Gallery

My first guest post

Reader Alice Marie Marshall sent in some interesting suggestions for Dean supporters:

Cry vote! and let slip the dogs of precinct operations

As so many Dean supporters are new to active politics I thought there might be some interest in a primer on precinct operations.

I encourage Dean supporters to join their local Democratic committees. Especially those living in New Jersey and Virginia. Both state legislatures, along with municipal governments, are up for election. Because these states are located right beside the nation’s media centers, New York and Washington, and because these are the only elections this year, results will be closely watched by the nation’s power elite. I can tell you, there are few things more satisfying than beating Ken Starr in his own precinct.

If you have the skills to be a volunteer webmaster for a campaign, or assistant webmaster for the local committee, that is the same as donating $1,000 to the candidate or committee. If you have data base skills, and can maintain the list of identified supporters, that is the same as donating $10,000 to the committee. That is how valuable such skills are and I encourage the digirati to donate their time and skill.

Local Democratic committees consist of precinct captains and at-large members. I want to talk about the work of precinct captains because no other individual has more impact on election results. Precinct work is year-round and driving up the Democratic vote begins months in advance. If you want to shift your precinct by November 2004, you need to begin now and devote not less than one hour a month to political work.

Study your precinct. Learn what the precise boundaries are, if necessary get a precinct map from the local board of elections. Study your precinct’s voting history. How did it vote in the last two elections? Does it have a high turnout? (Sadly in this country, any turnout of over 50% of the registered voters in a presidential election constitutes a high turnout.) You will quickly discover that precincts that vote 60% Democratic or better have low turnout. If you live in such a precinct you already know what your priorities are, voter registration and turnout.

Walk your precinct, if it is too large to walk in one day, walk it sections at a time. Only by walking the neighborhood can you get a feel for your precinct’s character. What kind of people live in your neighborhood? Do they have preschool children? Elementary school or teenagers? Are the children away at college or in the armed forces? Are there many retirees? Is it mostly young adults not yet married? This will tell you which issues will resonate and which will not.

There are three kinds of neighborhoods, new neighborhoods, established neighborhoods and high turnover neighborhoods. Precinct operations must be geared to the character of the neighborhood. (Notice I did not say anything about the ethnic demographics. Precinct operations are, by their nature, about treating people as individuals, not stereotypes.)

New Neighborhoods

New neighborhoods are new real estate subdivisions that have been developed within the last ten years. This is where we have lost too many elections. By getting to these new residents first, before our honorable opposition has had a chance to contact them, we can bring them into the Democratic fold. At least most of them.

Contact your local grocery store or library and arrange to distribute literature. (I think this is easier for volunteers than knocking on doors, but you must judge for yourself) Human beings are social creatures, and the physical presence of a campaign, by itself, can sway voters our way. And physical presence must include personal contact with campaign volunteers.

Established Neighborhoods

These are neighborhoods that have been around long enough for mature trees and to develop some social cohesion. They are more likely to have lists of identified Democrats and even volunteers.

Try to find out who has volunteered in the past and work with those Democrats. Organize a strategy meeting, invite local Democrats to your house, reserve the meeting room at the local library, find somewhere you can meet and BRIEFLY (don’t let this meeting go past an hour) discuss what you think would work best for the next election.

High Turnover Precincts

These are precincts where apartments, condos, and townhouses are predominant. Voter ID in such neighborhoods is nearly impossible. Try to identify the long term residents and locate the Democrats amongst them. These precincts are good prospects for voter registration drives. Try to distribute literature twice to the entire precinct, once in September, and once the weekend before the election.

Is there a bus line that goes through the neighborhood? Waiting for a bus is dull and riders are likely to be willing to look at literature if it is presented to them in a soft-sell, friendly way. Get a bus schedule and arrive five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive and hand out literature to anyone who is willing take it. Just walk from one bus stop to the next, until you are ready to walk back home.

Self government means do-it-yourself government. This cannot be said too often. Volunteers win elections, not candidates. It’s wonderful when outstanding candidates like Bill Clinton come forward, but we cannot just wait for dashing knights on horses to come forward to save us from electoral defeat. We need to take charge of our precincts.

Alice Marie Marshall Volunteer Coordinator, 2003 Joint Campaign Past Chair, Precinct Operations Committee Past Chair, Voter Registration Committee Fairfax County Democratic Committee Fairfax, Virginia

Let the following be a warning to those media prognosticators who are so sure that Dean hasn't got a chance (courtesy MilesK from the Dean Blog comments section):

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Rat F*ck #2

Last time I said that the GOP should use a more reputable source than the American Spectator to disseminate their oppo-bombs. I jokingly suggested they use Matt Drudge next time. Well...
DEAN TO CLEAN: WANTS MCAULIFFE OUT AT DNC, SAY SOURCES Presidential contender Howard Dean has confided to associates how he desires a fresh course for the Democratic National Committee, including a dramatic change in its leadership, specifically chairman Terry McAuliffe, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. Sources close to the early-Democratic frontrunner reveal how Dean has bitterly complained about McAuliffe and the lackluster job he has done as chairmain and architect of the disastrous off-year elections. The candidate has told senior staffers how people are coming back to the party energized, only now, thanks to his campaign. "We'll make a change there immediately [after the New Hampshire primary]," a top Dean source said of the DNC leadership. "I think it is important, as does Howard, to mark a new beginning, cut ties from the past." "Oil and water, those two," said one Washington observer of outsider Dean and insider McAuliffe. "I was watching Terry going quietly mad, almost to the point of steam coming out of his ears, as Dean greatly exceeded the 2-minute time limit at the candidates' dog & pony show last week at the Mayflower Hotel." Developing...
The goal here is, again, to get Dems fighting with each other instead of focusing on the real enemy. McAuliffe and Dean are mature enough to know that this story is bullshit. But some of their less experienced campaign people and their supporters may believe it and react accordingly. McAuliffe supporters will fight against Dean in order to defend their man. Dean supporters will fight against these accusations in order to defend their man. Karl Rove will sit back, laugh, and send a thank you note to Matt. Once again I urge you all: DO NOT FALL FOR IT! Do not be fooled into an argument over something that has nothing to do with our #1 concern: getting George Bush out of the White House. All other considerations, including the hurt feelings of any of the Democratic campaigns, are irrelevant. I don't care HOW dismissive of the Dean campaign they have been in the past, I REFUSE to get dragged into a pointless fight with people who are fighting for a common cause. That is precisely what the Bushies want. Don't give it to them.