Saturday, October 18, 2003

Undecided is winning

A new FOX poll is out (courtesy the left coaster) and, while it still shows Wesley Clark in the lead, it indicates a serious drop in support for him from their last poll:

    10/14-15 9/23-24 9/9-10    
    % % %    
  Wesley Clark 13 20 n/a    
  Howard Dean 12 13 14    
  Joe Lieberman 11 9 16    
  John Kerry 10 10 17    
  Dick Gephardt 9 9 6    
  John Edwards 3 5 4    
  Carol Moseley Braun 3 2 3    
  Al Sharpton 2 2 2    
  Dennis Kucinich 2 1 2    
  Someone else/Other (vol.) - 5 7    
  Wouldn't vote (vol.)/Not sure 35 21 26    
  Bob Graham n/a 2 3

Does this mean Clark is stumbling? Probably not. I suspect it is more a case that his initial jump in the national polls reflected a sense of uncertainty amongst Democratic voters. None of the previous candidates has ever polled as high as "Undecided/Someone Else". Many were growing disenchanted with the choices available. So when Clark jumped into the race a fresh face, combined with an appealing resume, brought a significant number of people on board. But, as Clark has started to assert himself in the field, and critical stories about him have come out, some of those early grabbers may be thinking that they jumped the gun.

In other words, Mr. Undecided still holds the greatest appeal for the most voters right now. Winning them over will be the real challenge of the next three months.

Friday, October 17, 2003









Thanks to the White Rose Society

decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative

This is the kind of things that make me think there is still hope for the world. Becky Miller was a former aide to Bill Sizemore, the president of Oregon Taxpayers United, a sleazy anti-tax activist group that has caused no end of trouble for Oregonians due to his misguided efforts to "reform" the tax code in our fair state. She recently sat down to read Al Franken's new book and was shocked to discover that she liked it. She liked it because it "meshes" with what she has observed about some conservative leaders.

Read on:

The leaders we conservatives have trusted have taken advantage of our trust to line the pockets of the wealthy and powerful, and it's time we rose up and drove out these greedy liars. They've hijacked and distorted our belief system for their own gain, and in doing so are destroying our credibility.

And if we decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservatives of this country neglect the duty we have to our children and grandchildren, we will never be able to work with those decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue liberal Americans that these lying creeps have taught us to despise. We will never be safe to debate them or, when warranted, to listen to them and maybe even agree with them. We will never be safe to work out our differences or to work together. And we will never be able to build on the all-American sense of unity that burst forth following 9/11, only to disappear shortly thereafter in a cloud of lying, greedy partisan politics.

I'm still a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative. But Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and the rest of you lying liars -- I'm through with you! (Read the book, and you'll get that one, too.)

(tip-o-the hat to Hoffmania).


Bush losing Drudge?

Matt brings us this UPI report:

Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor
By MARK BENJAMIN, UPI Investigations Editor

FORT STEWART, Ga., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait -- sometimes for months -- to see doctors.

The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day.

"I have loved the Army. I have served the Army faithfully and I have done everything the Army has asked me to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Willie Buckels, a truck master with the 296th Transportation Company. Buckels served in the Army Reserves for 27 years, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first Gulf War. "Now my whole idea about the U.S. Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen."

Click here to see how the freepers are reacting to this story. I especially love the comment that the soldiers shouldn't be complaining since the conditions are better than they were during the Civil War. Nice standards.

Update: Fixed the link, but it appears to be dated. The Freeper link should be more permanent.


I don't know why it is but I've never been that bothered by the taxes that are taken out of my pay check. I know people who grumble about it constantly. A couple of years back I figured out one major difference between them and myself: I never really thought the money was mine to begin with.

When I get my paycheck I look at the amount on the check (after-taxes), not the amount the company paid me (before-taxes). Thus, I never really get the feeling that someone is taking my money.

Others, apparently, pay much more attention to their before tax income. I honestly couldn't tell you what mine is.

Does anyone else have this experience?

The Weakest Democrat

I never liked the show but there is comedy gold to be mined there and DailyKos commenter funny pans it.

Polling the future

Kos posts some interesting polling numbers for the first three states (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina). There are two things I take from these numbers:

  1. Lieberman just isn't very popular. Not only does he poll low, he has the highest unfavorable numbers in all three states. Combine that with his plummeting national numbers and his dismal fundraising and it is clear that the more people see of Lieberman the less they want him to be President. I really think it is time for Joe to call it quits. The only reason I can see for him staying in is if he wants to be a constituent candidate like Sharpton or Kucinich (candidates who are in the race more to get a place at the table for the people they represent than because they have any realistic expectation of actually winning).
  2. Clark's much vaunted strength in the South isn't bowling them over in South Carolina. He polls just slightly ahead of Dean (12 to 10) while his favorable/unfavorable numbers are tied with Dean. Clark's campaign is still new, so there is room for him to grow. But the same is true of Dean.


Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 10/17/2003

  This Week (10/17) Last Week (10/9)
1 Howard Dean 5920 19.4% -0.7 1 7080 20.1%
2 Wesley Clark 5750 18.9% -0.7 2 6880 19.6%
3 John Kerry 4610 15.1% +0.8 3 5050 14.4%
4 John Edwards 3600 11.8% -0.2 4 4240 12.1%
5 Joe Lieberman 3040 10.0% -0.2 5 3570 10.1%
6 Dick Gephardt 2840 9.3% +0.6 6 3070 8.7%
7 Al Sharpton 1860 6.1% +0.2 7 2080 5.9%
8 Dennis Kucinich 1820 6.0% +0.1 8 2050 5.8%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 1060 3.5% +0.2 9 1160 3.3%

Dean and Clark continue to run neck and neck. There actually was at least one day in the past week in which Clark surpassed Dean, but as of right now Dean continues to hold on to a slim lead. His final report on Q3 fundraising might have helped him fight off the final Clark surge.

All in all this looks like a pretty unremarkable week. Kerry's numbers are bouncing back a bit, but that may just be because Clark has settled into the race and is no longer the fresh story he was last month.

The following is a chart of the Google News Media Share over the last few months.

(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 get different results as the numbers are constantly changing. I make absolutely no claim that these numbers have any real meaning.)

Lt. Col. Gump

Justin Raimondo makes an interesting find: Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo, the man behind the recent astroturf campaign that sent 500 identical letters "from soldiers in the field" to their home town newspapers, may also be "the single most cited soldier in press accounts of the war", especially when the news was positive.

This guy really got around!

Selfish journalism

Swopa over on Needlenose brings up an important point: the name of the game in DC journalism is be kind to your sources.

Many journalists in Washington may be uncomfortable with the Plame Affair because it is so close to the heart of what it is they do every day: build relationships with insiders who will give them the hot scoops they will need to keep their top-level careers viable. A leak scandal threatens the very core of DC journalism because it might lead to those valuable wells drying up.

Swopa also points out that the reason why Mike Allen, Dana Priest and Walter Pincus have owned this story may simply be because they are the only ones with the sources who have something to gain by getting this story on the front page.

In other words, even the journalistic "good guys" are in it primarily for their own benefit.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Clark Impressions

Matt Stoller has a fascinating (and long) post up on The Clark Sphere about political spaces. He talks about how the traditional campaigns are defined more by the ambitions of the operatives involved in them and less by the actual politics of  the individual candidates. He posts the following experience he had with the Kerry campaign as an illustration:

One of the things that strikes me as odd about several 'insider' Democratic campaigns that I have worked in is how no one talks about politics in the office. I started volunteering for John Kerry in late 2002, and the first time I showed up to lick stamps, sitting around the table were nine nice milquetoast individuals who were shocked, just shocked, that I would be angry enough to discuss how betrayed I felt by George W. Bush and our leadership. After a few wan parries of what I was saying, they just kind of got back to the random chit chatting about their careers, where they lived, whatever. I had entered the office steaming mad, sure that the anger I saw on the blogs about the mid-term elections would find a ready echo among those volunteering for the then front-runner among the Democrats. Yet, in fact, the lack of passion and embrace of mediocrity was staggering. Few knew or cared about the mendacity of the Bush administration, or to the extent they did, it was a vague distaste that our team wasn't 'in'. One of the chief fundraisers there told me about how her whole goal was to get into the White House, and got angry at me for talking about politics.

I heard a (possibly apocryphal) story recently that John Kerry had told some people that his biggest mistake in this campaign was underestimating the level of anger Democrats felt towards George W. Bush. The very fact that he was surprised by this is as good an indication as any that he isn't ready to represent the party.

The fascinating thing about Dean is that he didn't start out as the anti-establishment candidate. When he first started campaigning his intention was to run primarily on a platform of universal health care. But, as he talked with people on the road, he noticed something that a lot of other political insiders had not: there were a lot of angry people out here. And he noticed that they were as angry with the failure of the Democrats to hold the Republicans accountable for their actions (impeachment, the 2000 election and 2002 elections, etc.) as they were with the Republicans for perpetrating those offenses.

The difference between Dean and the rest of the field was that Dean recognized the anger and frustration as something real and he acted on that knowledge! He stood up at the DNC winter meeting and scolded the Democratic leadership for repeatedly rolling over in the face of the Republican juggernaut.

His success has been his reward for paying attention.

The ironic thing about it is that, on paper, Dean may not be the best person we could chose to be President. But he "got it" at a gut level that demonstrates the first quality of leadership: doing what needs to be done when no one else sees what needs being done.

I've had some problems of late with Dean. I've been concerned that Clark really might be the better candidate to go up against Bush (the old "electability" problem). So I've been conflicted in my support for Dean. But the mere fact that Dean was astute enough to pick up on something that no one else noticed is enough for me to continue supporting him.

And yes, I include Clark in that group. He may have been more critical of Bush than the Democratic leadership was, but I don't think he saw the real anger any more than Kerry did. Clark just had the excuse that he wasn't a politician so he wasn't expected to notice it. I strongly suspect that, if Clark were in Congress, he would have joined Kerry in supporting the authorization bill.

He can say the he wouldn't have, but all we have is his word on that.

I attended last week's Clark meetup. I had meant to write up a report on it but every time I did so it just came out as a by-the-numbers accounting of the events with no real sense of what the meeting meant to me.

After some long thought here's my impression of the people I met there: while they are as concerned as any Dean supporter about the direction the country is going, they are driven more by fear than anger. They are worried about what might go wrong then they are uplifted by the hope of what might go right.

When I go to Dean meetups I meet people who are afraid that Bush might win another term. However, there is also an overriding sense that Dean represents hope for the future. Not just that he might beat Bush but that he might reverse the downward spiral in Democratic fortunes that has been brought about by the party's failure to tap into the zeitgeist of the rank-n-file.

But the feeling I got at the Clark meetup was that, while some of them might be pissed off at the leadership, they are even more afraid that Dean will implode in the general election. They want a safer bet.

I don't think this kind of defensive strategy will work anymore (if it ever did). The Democrats ran on defense in 2000 and 2002 (and in 1998 as well, but the Republicans were so offensive at that time that it produced a backlash in the electorate). Running on defense makes you look weak and afraid. You have to take the fight to the bastards. You can't rely on just electoral trends and nice shiny resumes. You have to offer people a feeling of hope for the future.

This is not an attack on Clark. He may very well run such a campaign (I like his "New American Patriotism" approach to taking back the flag). But I still can't shake the feeling that many of his supporters are there primarily out of a fear of the alternative rather than a positive feeling about their chosen standard bearer.

This was just my first impression. I might be biased. I might be wrong.

I hope I am.

Dean can't get any respect

This is Not Funny has a good post up lamenting the fact that there doesn't seem to be anything Dean can do to gain the respect of the party or the media. The comparison with the Cubs may be a bad harbinger for the future.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Dean taking a cue from Schwarzenegger?

Read the following NY Times article about Dean ratcheting up his comments against his fellow rivals for the nomination and specifically against the Washington clique. Then read Ezra Klein's criticism of Dean for these attacks.

I think I understand Ezra's concern over Dean's recent attacks. I haven't always been comfortable with them myself. But I think the style of Dean's attacks are interesting when seen in light of the recent victory by Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. Dean's comments about scurrying cockroaches in DC sounds eerily similar to Arnold's comments about knocking heads in Sacramento.

It's possible that these kind of attacks might backfire, especially amongst supporters of the other candidates. It's also possible it may cripple Dean's ability to get things done if and when he becomes President (he will have to work closely with those same "cockroaches"). But if Dean and Trippi are correct that the mood of the country is definitely leaning towards an "outsider cleans up the insiders mess" attitude then these kind of attacks will become standard operating procedure from here on out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I'm sure he didn't mean it like that!

Of course, Kurtz works for the Post, an organ that still doesn't get it as far as what Bush is capable of. To wit:

PRESIDENT BUSH SENT the wrong message when he announced, in response to a reporter's question last week, that he has "no idea whether we'll find out" who disclosed the identity of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert D. Novak.


If the chief of a company like Enron said something similar to Mr. Bush's remarks about a Justice Department investigation, his words would be taken as a wink to those responsible that they won't be caught if they keep quiet. That, we trust, was not what Mr. Bush meant to convey. [...]

Hello! McFly! Hello!

Of course that was what Bush meant to convey. Are the editorialists at the Post really so naive as to think that Bush wouldn't do this? Why do they continue to give this asshole the benefit of the doubt when he has so frequently and consistently proven unworthy of it?

Whoredom thy name is Howie

Howard Kurtz comes to the defense of the helpless, namely Rush Limbaugh:

I would suggest that those who disagree: Sorkin, Lowe et al are apples to kumquats. If any of them went on the air in front of 20 million listeners and exorted a bunch of dittoheads on jailing drug addicts, this would be an appropriate response. But they haven't, ergo, you're just whitewashing.

Howard Kurtz: Or perhaps you're not inclined to criticize other drug addicts whose political views you agree with. Look, there's a straw man being set up here -- that somehow Limbaugh shouldn't be criticized for this. He can, he should and he is. I just think people who can't stand the guy ought to be careful about their tone toward a guy who stupidly got himself addicted to painkillers. (emphasis mine - Chris)

When was the last time Howie urged Rush "to be careful about [his] tone?"

What a f*cking hypocrite!

(Please note that I have intentionally not gone after Rush for his drug addiction. But Kurtz's call for his critics to "watch their tone" is just another example of how the rules are applied differently to different individuals.)

Astroturf origins

ABC has the story on the origin of the astroturf letter from soldiers in Iraq. It was written originally by the commander of the battalion and then distributed it to the troops to sign. The article does not ask what I think is the important question: what were the conditions under which the troopers signed the letter? Could they make the decision in private and the knowledge that they did or did not sign was kept private? Or was it distributed to the battalion in front of each other and were they required to say yeah or nay in front of their buddies?

Peer pressure is an important issue here.

Truth from These Podia

Wilson adds ammo to hit war credibility gap

Just as former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's story that Bushies blew his CIA wife's cover to get back at his criticism of the war in Iraq was getting old, he has stumbled on new ammo to hit the administration's credibility. Wilson tells us he plans to circulate the text of a briefing by analyst Sam Gardiner that suggests the White House and Pentagon made up or distorted over 50 war stories. You know some tall tales, like the Pvt. Jessica Lynch story. But there's more, says Gardiner, a war gamer who has taught at the National War College. Like how defense officials said the first Iraqi unit marines encountered, the 51st Mechanized Infantry Division, had surrendered four days before it actually did. And he says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers gave bad or deliberately incomplete info on several topics. Sure, propaganda has always been used in war to deceive and demoralize the enemy. But these guys went way overboard, Gardiner says. "Never before have so many stories been created to sell a war," he insists. "And they probably didn't need it."

Political Wire provides a link to the actual memo (PDF file).

Sam Gardiner is, according to the memo, a retired USAF Colonel and a teacher of "strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College. He was recently a visiting scholar at the Swedish Defence College. During Gulf II he was a regular on the NewsHour with Jim Leher as well as on BBC radio and television, and National Public Radio." So this is not just the work of some crackpot.

I'll be back after I have read the memo thoroughly.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Digging deeper holes

The Note helpfully reminds us that it really doesn't matter when White House officials might have revealed Valerie Wilson's identity (before or after Novak's column). Revealing the identity of a covert agent is illegal regardless of when it is done.

The White House seems to be seeking to suggest (and Newsweek seems to be buying) that if officials simply called reporters to call attention to the Novak column and what it said about Wilson's wife the Agents Identities Act does not apply. This seems wrong.

The Act was specifically drafted to cover a situation where a person conveys information other than a name which has the effect of identifying someone as a covert agent. That is what the statutes says "discloses any information identifying such covert agent" rather than "identifies a covert agent."
A reporter reading the Novak column would have no way to know if the fact reported was correct. However, after the phone call he or she would know it was correct and hence would have the identity of a covert agent.
Nor can the administration claim that because the name appeared in the paper once it was no longer classified and that the government was no longer keeping it a secret. This Administration (and past ones) has often argued that something is still secret even if it was published once without collaboration. The government in fact still asks people not to use the name and still take the position that the fact of whether or not she was or is a covert agent is still classified.
Just ask the CIA.

For the terminally dumb in the audience (i.e., Bush defenders): if you called up reporters to tell them that they should pay attention to what Novak said in his column then you are confirming the facts of that column and thus compounding the original criminal act of blowing a cover agent's cover. In fact, it is quite likely that you are committing the additional crime of advancing a conspiracy to release that information.

What's most amazing about this is that the Bush administration appears to be admitting to journalists that they were doing this. Yet the brilliant minds in the media can't seem to figure this out.

Perhaps it is time for someone to consider the age-old advice that when you find yourself in a hole stop digging!

"C'mon! Sign it! All your friends are doing it!"

Justin Raimondo focuses attention on a key part of the brouhaha about "fake" letters being sent by soldiers that say that everything is hunky-dory in Iraq:

The Olympian quotes Sgt. Christopher Shelton, signer of a letter that was published in the Snohomish Herald, saying "his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it."

Shelton, it appears, did agree with it, but can anyone honestly imagine a soldier refusing to sign it when asked to do so by a superior officer?

It isn't even necessary to presume that these soldiers were ordered to sign the letter. Just the peer pressure of their compatriots would be enough to get them to sign something that they might not necessarily agree with. One question that should be asked is whether the soldiers were asked to sign the letter in front of their buds. If this was done while everyone was sitting in a hot tent just outside Tikrit how many of them would be willing to say, "I don't agree with this" and refuse to sign it?

<Rumsfeld>Do we know that it went down this way? No. Is it possible that it did? You bet your sweet bippy!</Rumsfeld>

Courage in the trenches

I was out of town this weekend so I missed the debate on Thursday. Liberal Oasis has the best run down on it I think. LO focuses attention on the attacks by Dean, Lieberman and Kerry on Clark vis-a-vis his position on the war. Dean brought up an interesting point that I didn't know: Clark apparently advised NH congressional candidate Katrina Swett to support the authorization. This AP story from 10/2/2002 explains:

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark said Wednesday he supports a congressional resolution that would give President Bush authority to use military force against Iraq, although he has reservations about the country’s move toward war.

Clark, who led the allied NATO forces in the Kosovo conflict, endorsed Democrat Katrina Swett in the 2nd District race.

He said if she were in Congress this week, he would advise her to vote for the resolution, but only after vigorous debate. The resolution is expected to pass the House overwhelmingly. Swett has said she supports it, as does her opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Bass.

The general said he had no doubt Iraq posed a threat, but questioned whether it was immediate and said the debate about a response has been conducted backward.

I agree with LO that Clark's position on the war was essentially the same as Kerry's.

Clark has essentially the Kerry position, a nuanced view that strongly preferred patient, multilateral action against Iraq (more legit) yet supported the war resolution at the time as a way to get UN backing (less legit).

Clark, however, has one advantage that Kerry does not: he didn't have to vote on the authorization, so there is no permanent record of his support or opposition to it. In other words, Clark can say now that he wouldn't have voted for it and the only proof he has for this is his word.

This is not, by the way, a criticism of Clark's or even Kerry's position. I just don't think we should just take Clark's word for it that his anti-war credentials are as strong as he wants us to believe. At the same time that Clark was advising Swett to support the authorization, Dean was openly criticizing the Democrats for not asking more questions. Dean demonstrated political courage by opposing authorization at a time when the polls and the tone of the time said that it was political suicide to do so. Clark has yet to demonstrate the courage of his convictions on this point.