Saturday, January 03, 2004

Lazy rebuttal

In lieu of working on a good rebuttal to the latest "Dean Did Something That Could When Spun Just Right Sound Almost Like Something That Dean Is Accusing Bush Of Doing Therefore Dean Is An Implied Hypocrite" story (AP Exclusive: Dean criticizes Bush, but repeatedly warned about Vermont nuclear preparedness), I'm going to do the old tried and true and lazy method of simply stealing what someone else has already written (Hey! I'm still recovering from the holidays! Give me a break!)

I offer for your consideration this post over on Bartcop Nation by felix19:

A reference to an unlinked AP story is sufficient to get the anti-Dean forces into full fury. In other words, it doesn't take ANYTHING at all to get them into a frenzy. This is worse, I'm afraid, than anything Clinton had to endure. Worse than any Democrat has had to endure. Ever.

As it happens, I did find a story that may be the one referred to, Here, and I would just like to ask if anyone has actually read it.


While it can be interpreted as a "hit piece"-- if you want to -- it is to my mind a cautionary about nuclear facilities in general and the hapless situation the Governor and people of Vermont found themselves in with regard to the Yankee plant.

You may note that in the story, Dean makes clear that he was aware of the security issues at Yankee and he did everything he could to induce the NRC and the plant's private owners to enhance the security they were obligated to. The NRC and the plant's owners failed. Throughout the 90's in fact, the NRC appears to have been asleep at the switch with regard to the Yankee plant.

This should come as no surprise to those who have followed the saga of nuclear power in this country. Apparently, though, because the name "Dean" is attached to the story, it "means" something other than what it states.

Those who cannot help themselves will presume that this story is the ultimate death blow to the bogus Dean campaign.

Others will recognize that Dean acted responsibly in the face of consistent Federal and private industry failures to implement security standards that they themselves set for nuclear power plants.

Let's review, shall we? (Those who have already decided that Dean is the spawn of Satan are excused.)

This is all from the AP article

  • The NRC has primary responsibility for safety at Vermont Yankee
  • Dean's campaign said Saturday it ultimately was the NRC's responsibility to ensure security at the plant, but that he badgered Vermont Yankee's operators and the NRC to make improvements during the 1990s. It noted the NRC's safety budget was cut in the 1990s.
  • "After September 11, Governor Dean decided the buck stops here in terms of security and personally ran this effort, creating a Cabinet-level agency," spokesman Jay Carson said.
  • Dean moved quickly afterward to place state troopers and National Guardsman at the plant, distribute radiation pills to civilians, demand a federal no-fly zone over the plant to prevent an aerial attack, and increase emergency preparedness funding.
  • The important thing is after Governor Dean recognized these vulnerabilities, he took swift, bold steps to make things better.
  • State Auditor Ready...agreed things improved after her critical 2002 report and that security tests this year showed Vermont Yankee was safer. "Once Governor Dean got that report there was swift and thorough action," she said.
  • Dean responded by writing the head of the plant that the problems could "have an impact on the health and safety of the people of Vermont" and "it is my expectation that you will do all in your power to correct this declining trend." It was one of several such letters he wrote.

One could argue fairly that the Dean administration in Vermont should have -- and possibly could have -- done more to require compliance from the NRC and the plant's (private) owners and operators. One cannot fairly argue that Dean is a hypocrite for not securing this (privately owned and operated) nuclear powerplant under Federal NRC regulatory and security control while now criticizing Bush for doing too little about nuclear plant security himself. In fact, Dean was apparently on the NRC's case and the plant owners' case all the time, and NRC did little or nothing to require their own standards be met by the (privately owned and operated) Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. Dean also established a state oversight commission and responded appropriately to their recommendations, though he was a tightwad and didn't appropriate all the money they recommended, still he did more to enhance the security at the plant than the owners and the NRC.

So the issue boils down to this: Dean is a famous New England tightwad who didn't approve as much money for security at the Vermont Yankee plant as was recommended by the oversight commission, and he badgered the NRC and the plant's owners to do more to meet security and operating standards -- which they failed to do.

Of course there is much more to the story than appears in the AP account (there always is) and questions can and should be raised about Dean's energy policies and actions in Vermont.

But there is little in this story to justify any gnashing of teeth and rending of garments we're seeing among the anti-Dean folk.

And the question this article raises is: how much authority are you willing to cede to government to control your actions as well as those of private industry, and how much are you prepared to pay for your security?

Contrary to popular belief in the California State Capitol, a Governor is not a dictator and usually is not in a position to unilaterally impose his authority on a situation that is the responsibility of (in this case) the NRC and the owners and operators of the nuclear power plant.

I would just add to this that this story is similar to the kind of reporting we saw on the Whitewater case. Back then, aspersions were cast on Clinton for failing to do more to prevent the collapse of Madison-Guaranty. Yet many of those stories presumed that Clinton actually had the authority to do more than he did.

Even this article, in a round-about-way, admits that Dean didn't have that much authority. Now few would argue with the claim that Bush, as President, has full authority to take care of the security issues that Dean has highlighted. Yet we are supposed to take away from this article the sense that Dean has somehow failed in the same way that Bush has failed.

Well, if nothing else, the "he's just as bad" argument isn't that much of a winning argument. If that's the best they can come up with in response to the Dean's charges than I would say the good Doctor is on the right track.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Another fatal blow to Dean/Clark 2004?

(Courtesy TalkLeft)

Wesley Clark said today that he won't be Dean's Cheney:

Clark said he's running for president, not vice president. ''I'm not going to be Howard Dean's Dick Cheney,'' Clark told reporters. ''We've already tried that model of government. That's what's misled America thus far.''

Clark said President Bush was a former governor, inexperienced in foreign policy who surrounded himself with experienced advisers, like Cheney.

''He tried to reassure the American people by having a lot of highly experienced and competent advisers around,'' said Clark. ''And we see the results right now in our presence in Iraq and the alienation of people around the world.''

Clark is comparing Bush to Dean --but not to Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas. What's the difference?

''Bill Clinton had several other things going for him and the time was different,'' Clark said. ''This is a new era, especially after this current administration has done so much to wreck America's relationship with its allies and destroyed American esteem in the world.''

These comments are confusing to say the least. Yes, I know that Clark is attempting to say that it was a mistake to select a governor with little foreign policy experience and thus we shouldn't put up Dean. But his butt-cover on the Clinton issue doesn't make much sense because, at the time Bush was installed, 9/11 hadn't happened yet! The world Bush was elected into was the same world Clinton was elected into and 9/11 or something comparable could have happened on Clinton's watch.

So, is the general saying that Clinton would have been as big of a failure as Bush under similar circumstances? So much for the idea that Clark is embracing Clinton while Dean is disparaging him. If that was not the general's intent then his whole thesis just flies out the window.

And I question the political wisdom of putting forth an analogy that puts up himself as comparable to Dick Cheney.

Clark, by making these comments, has gone beyond the usual "I'm running for President, not Veep" disclaimers that also-rans make at this point. He is openly saying that Dean, if elected, would be as bad for foreign policy as Bush has been. If Clark were to go on to be Dean's running mate he would have an extremely difficult time fighting back the journalists who would ask him to reconcile these comments with his position.

Could Dean use guns as a wedge against Bush?

Click here to read an amusing Freeper post speculating on how Dean might actually beat Bush in 2004. It's interesting that at least some Freepers are not buying into the idea that Dean will be a pushover. But the road to Dean's victory that is speculated on here has a couple of interesting bumps.

The first is the suggestion that Dean would run to the right of Bush on gun control by criticizing Bush for renewing the assault weapons ban. This makes little sense since, as far as I know, Dean supports renewing the ban as well. But it is interesting to speculate how Dean might be able to exploit this as a wedge issue if Bush does renew the ban. I wasn't aware that this vital issue would be coming up for Dubya's signature just prior to the Republican convention. Dean could conceivably exploit the bad feelings that might result from a Bush signature.

Which brings us to the second and even more interesting speculation: could Dean get the endorsement of the NRA?

At first I laughed at that notion. But on re-consideration, I began to wonder if it really wasn't that laughable. Dean is certainly the first Democratic presidential candidate in years who could conceivably get that endorsement. But would the NRA really break with the GOP, even in light of a Bush renewal of the assault weapons ban?

Dean has demonstrated a remarkable ability to woo organizations and individuals behind the scenes. He patiently brought SEIU, AFSCME and Al Gore into his stable through months of back-patting and schmoozing. Could he do the same with the NRA? Or, at a minimum, could he persuade the NRA to withhold its endorsement?

I have always avoided the subject of gun politics because it is second only to abortion as a topic that leads to net flame hell. Could someone more familiar with this topic give me an idea on just how outrageous this idea is actually is?

Where are Wesley's numbers?

I've been wondering about Wesley Clark's Q4 fundraising numbers. The Dean campaign has made a point of publishing precise numbers as quickly as possible because they know that they will garner positive media attention. Technically, the Clark campaign isn't required to do so until the end of the month. But, if they really have made close to the $11 million, as rumored, you would think they would be trumpeting that number loudly. Yet I have heard of no official announcement of their Q4 fundraising numbers.

Is this them simply dropping the media ball? Maybe they don't have the exact numbers yet? Or are they just making a conscious decision to keep this information closer to the vest? And if so, why?

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 1/2/2004

  This Week (1/2) Last Week (12/26)
1 Howard Dean 9700 25.9% +0.3 1 8980 25.5%
2 John Kerry 5270 14.1% +0.0 2 4960 14.1%
3 Wesley Clark 5070 13.5% -0.5 3 4920 14.0%
5 Joe Lieberman 4580 12.2% +0.0 4 4280 12.2%
5 Dick Gephardt 4040 10.8% +0.0 5 3780 10.8%
6 John Edwards 3940 10.5% +0.4 6 3570 10.2%
7 Al Sharpton 1910 5.1% -0.3 7 1910 5.4%
8 Dennis Kucinich 1910 5.1% +0.1 8 1760 5.0%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 1050 2.8% +0.0 9 996 2.8%

The first poll of 2004 shows pretty much the same as the last poll of 2003. I'll keep crunching the numbers, but I don't expect any real changes here before the Iowa Caucuses (barring unforeseen circumstances).

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.)

Getting it and why I don't support Clark

Paul Krugman gets it:

It's true that if Mr. Dean gets the nomination, the Republicans will attack him as a wild-eyed liberal who is weak on national security. But they would do the same to any Democrat — even Joseph Lieberman. Facts, or the lack thereof, will prove no obstacle: remember the successful attacks on the patriotism of Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, or the Saddam-Daschle ads.

Mr. Dean's character will also come under attack. But this, too, will happen to any Democrat. If we've learned anything in this past decade, it's that the right-wing scandal machine will find a way to smear anyone, and that a lot of the media will play along. A year ago, when John Kerry was the presumptive front-runner, he came under assault — I am not making this up — over the supposed price of his haircuts. Sure enough, a CNN host solemnly declared him in "denial mode."

I am a supporter of Howard Dean, but I will be the first to admit that his critics are not entirely wrong in their criticism. In fact, I toyed for a while with the idea of supporting Clark. But there have been two primary reasons why I have not made that switch: (1) the naiveté of some in the Clark camp who think that their guy will be less susceptible to Rovian style smears and innuendo simply because he is a general and (2) the palpable sense of fear that permeates many Clark supporters about what will happen if Dean gets the nomination. The two things that have killed Democrats in the last few years are precisely those two things. Dems have been looking for a White Knight who's perfect resume will vanquish any smear campaign and they have been running away from taking any stand in serious opposition to Bush because of the fear that doing so would hurt their electoral chances. The two things that have sold me on the Dean campaign more than anything else are that it understands that the best way to defeat the smear campaign is to confront it head on, not waste time looking for a mythical White Knight who's character is impeccable and that the fear of what might go wrong cannot stand in the way of the hope of what might go right.

If I got a good feel for either of those two things coming from the Clark campaign it is quite possible I might switch. I get none of that. So I'm sticking with Dean.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Comparing numbers

Some interesting stats I got from a poster over on dKos (haven't confirmed them yet):

Clinton Q3 to Q4 1995: down 36%.
Gore Q3 to Q4 1999: down 44.5%.
Dean Q3 to Q4 2003: up 2% (and not done yet).

So if anyone says that Dean is stalling because he just barely managed to beat his Q3 numbers be prepared to smack them across the face with these stats.

Tempest in a teapot

I've come to the conclusion that most of the heated rhetoric about Howard Dean is actually coming from a fairly small, but vocal, minority within the Democratic ranks. Most of it is coming either form his opponents or people who have already declared their support for those opponents. I have seen little evidence that Dean is as divisive within the remainder of the Democratic establishment or the rank-n-file as some would like us to believe.

I made this point before and I think it needs to be re-iterated: just because that small group is making a lot of noise now does not mean that the Democratic party is in an uproar about the possibility of a Dean nomination. Dean's favorable to unfavorable ratios remain among the highest if not the highest in polls of all the early primary states and these are the opinions of people who have had the most exposure to Dean.

"Dean is divisive" may be just another media myth created and promulgated in order to make the race more exciting ("let's you and him fight") or divide Democrats against themselves ("good work Karl!")

The principal behind The Pledge remains: don't let our support for one candidate blind us to the disinformation designed to get us fighting amongst ourselves. Fight the disinformation. Fight the real enemy. Don't fight your friends just because they have come to a different conclusion than you have. We will all need each others support before this is over.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

It comes down to this

Dean supporters think their candidate is the best capable of short-circuiting the Republican plan to stereotype the Democratic nominee.

Clark supporters think their candidate is the best capable of short-circuiting the Republican plan to stereotype the Democratic nominee.

The good thing in this is that both camps understand that the basic plan of the Republicans is to run against a stereotype, not against whoever actually gets nominated.

As long as the supporters of either candidate don't presume that there is anything about their guy that automatically immunizes them from such attacks then I think either one of them can win.

They just have different strategies for doing it and none of us can really say whether either strategy has a better chance of working.

Hell, it's possible that neither strategy will work.

As long as we don't insult each other for favoring one strategy over another than we shouldn't have problems re-uniting after the primaries are over. It's when we start labeling the followers of a different strategy as "idiots" that the Republicans begin to cackle with glee. That's what we have to watch out for.

The West Wing Sphincter Meter just jumped

Ashcroft Recuses Self From CIA Leak Probe

WASHINGTON - Attorney General John Ashcroft will recuse himself from an investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA operative, Justice Department sources said Tuesday.

The investigation will be headed by the U.S. attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, who will report to Ashcroft's new deputy, James Comey, the officials said. It was not immediately clear why Ashcroft made the decision.

Investigators want to know who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA officer, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in July. Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who has said he believes his wife's identity was disclosed to discredit his assertions that the Bush administration exaggerated Iraq's nuclear capabilities to build the case for war.

The leaker could be charged with a felony if identified.

Patrick Fitzgerald is apparently the prosecutor who is currently going after former Gov. George Ryan. Don't know anything else about him yet.

More news here.

More on Fitzgerald here.

Dean vs. Clark

Go here for an insightful analysis from Sterling Newberry of the coming Dean vs. Clark race for the Democratic nomination.

I was especially taken with Sterling's points on the thinking of some Democratic party insiders. Their opposition to Dean is not so much a matter of whether they think he can or cannot beat Bush but rather what impact his nomination will have on down-ticket elections, especially the five open Democratic Senate seats in the South. There is the feeling that of the two, Dean or Clark, Clark is the one who gives them the best chance of retaining those seats, regardless of whether Clark has any chance of beating Bush. So the political calculus may be to write off the White House and hope for the best in the Senate.

If this is so, and I think it is, than it is yet another demonstration of the loser strategy that has dominated Democratic political thinking for the last couple of election cycles: play defense, staunch our wounds, don't risk making things worse and hope for the best in the future. The reason this is a loser strategy is because it almost inevitably leads to the very things it is defined to defend against: Democrats are increasingly seen as wimps, they  lose more power and their future prospects become dimmer and dimmer.

Dean may not be the figure that leads the Democrats out of the wilderness. But until someone actually tries to do it the best the Democrats can hope for is to not walk even farther into the gloom.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Don't get to worked up

Kos quotes this interesting column by Political scientist Thomas Schaller that points out that the vast majority of super-delegates (typically party officials who can decide on their own which candidate to support) tend to remain uncommitted until it is clear who is winning the primaries and caucuses. As I read this it occurred to me that it is important for Dean supporters not to blow the size of the opposition to Dean within the party out of proportion. No doubt there is such an opposition. But a large part of it is made up of people who have already committed themselves to one of the other candidates. And the size of that opposition is not necessarily reflected in its loudness.

If we were to treat all the leadership as being in the same anti-Dean camp we could easily drive them away from ever giving 100% of their support to Dean if and when he gets the nomination. That would be bad.

Just something to keep in mind.

My greatest fear

Garance Franke-Ruta recapitulates my greatest fear:

My fear for the Democratic Party is not that Dean will divide the party, but that the leaders of the DLC -- many of whose policy ideas folks around these halls are intrigued by or agree with, by the way -- and certain other nodes for un-elected party leaders already have so much invested in their anti-Dean agenda that they won't be able to come around if he wins the nomination.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Dean said something today

Received the following today on one of the Dean mailing lists I subscribe to:


The press announced today that Howard Dean said something again!

Republicans as well as some presidential Democratic hopefuls are equally outraged and appalled that Dean would actually say something again. This after he just said something again yesterday!

"Doesn't he know that he's only hurting himself every time he says something again?" Said one Republican Congressman. "By saying something again, Howard Dean has shown that he is unelectable", said several political pundits on cable news.

Clark, Gephardt, Kerry and Lieberman all agreed that Howard Dean should stop attacking the other Democratic candidates by saying something again.

When asked to elaborate, Clark referred all inquiries to his aid Mary. Kerry however responded immediately and said that now that Howard Dean has said something again, he was going to say something too. Lieberman was quoted as saying "Dean is in a spiderhole of denial if he thinks that he can get away with saying something again." When Gephardt was questioned directly, he said "I have boots on the ground in Iowa just in case Dean decides to say something again tomorrow."

Trolls on Howard Dean's web site are calling Howard Dean a liar and lacking in leadership for saying something again.

However, Howard Dean's popularity continues to rise at a quickening pace and so does the contributions to his campaign. Once again, Howard Dean is not hurt by saying something again!

Stand by your agenda

A poster on Table Talk named Ox had a superb point that I want to repeat:

Dean says that when we hold up the Democratic agenda for America against the Republican agenda, the Democratic agenda wins every time. All I see him doing is holding up the Democratic agenda. The question I have, which is just a variation on Mary's last post, is do we believe in our agenda for America or don't we?

When a party's leaders publicly raise questions about whether the party's agenda will appeal to the American people the underlying message is that those leaders don't believe in that agenda. The voters then have to ask themselves, "If they don't believe in their agenda, why should I?"

That's what Dean meant when he talked about representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. It's not a  statement of advocacy for leftism but a statement that he believes the Democratic party is simply, fundamentally, better for the American people than is the Republican party.

If the party's leaders can't say at least that much then they should not be allowed to retain their leadership positions.