Saturday, January 31, 2004

Working the refs

Democrats say CBS panders to GOP

Some Congressional Democrats are on the warpath over CBS' refusal to sell Super Bowl ad time to Berkeley-based for a spot criticizing President Bush.

Refusing the ad "appears to be part of a disturbing pattern on CBS' part to bow to the wishes of the Republican National Committee," more than two dozen House members said in a letter sent Wednesday to CBS Television president and CEO Leslie Moonves.


You know, regardless of whether CBS rejected the MoveOn ad for the reasons they stated or because they were trying to cury favor with Republicans doesn't really matter. What matters is if Democrats hold their feet to the fire over it. That's what Republicans have been doing for years in pushing their "Liberal Media" myth. The result has been a media that is so sensitive to that criticism that they go out of their way to avoid even the appearance of bias towards liberals.

But, if liberals can make the media just as jumpy about attacks from them then maybe we can really start to get some "fair and balanced" coverage.

The plan is working

Kos keys into something I've been talking about in my last couple of posts, but he does a better job of distilling it down to its essentials: the candidates are ignoring the "conventional wisdom" as expounded by the media and continuing on despite the predictions that they will drop out as soon as they stumble. And it's not just Dean who is doing this. Kerry did it before Iowa and Edwards and Clark are doing it post New Hampshire.

Hell, even Lieberman is ignoring the calls for him to drop out. I've been one of those who has said he should drop out. But I've reconsidered. If Lieberman wants to remain in this race as long as he has money to spend then God bless him.

The more voices there are in this chorus the better. The longer this race goes on the longer it will suck up the media oxygen that Bush would be using to revitalize his public image. The more the voices of criticism of Bush are heard in the media the more Bush will fall in the polls.

I've been arguing for death by a thousand paper cuts for a long time. Now we are finally getting it.

Friday, January 30, 2004

They Clinton'd Gore, Gore'd Dean and now they are trying to Dean Kerry

One of the arguments that have been made in favor of Kerry is that, because he is a vetern and because he voted for the war in Iraq he would be less vulnerable to attacks on his national security stance.

Apparently Dubya's campaign manager didn't get that memo:

With Sen. John Kerry surging to the front of the Democratic pack, the head of President Bush's re-election effort took aim at him Friday, charging that the Massachusetts senator's voting record shows a weakness on national security issues.

"We value Senator Kerry's honorable and heroic service in Vietnam. But we question his judgment in consistently voting to cut defense and intelligence funding critical to national security," said Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, speaking at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting.

Mehlman charged that Kerry tried to cut $8 billion from intelligence budgets during the 1990s, and that his proposals "were so reckless" that he couldn't find any co-sponsors in the Senate.

Mehlman also said that when Kerry first entered the Senate in the mid-1980s, "he sought to cancel the very weapons systems that are winning the war on terror and maintaining our military strength. He opposed Ronald Reagan's efforts to fight communism in our hemisphere and opposed the first Gulf War."

The head of the Bush campaign also brought up a comment Kerry made last April, days before U.S. and coalition forces entered Baghdad, that regime change was needed not only in Iraq but also in Washington.

"While our troops were at risk in Iraq, John Kerry compared the commander in chief to Saddam Hussein, calling for regime change in the United States," Mehlman said.

Mehlman's comments have been carefully crafted in Rove Labs for the last several months, just waiting for the time to strike. These are pretty harsh attacks, but they are only the first round. They must really have some nasty stuff in the quiver if they are going to hit with things like this now.

To repeat what I have said on this blog a thousand times: there is no such thing as a candidate who is safe from the most scurrilous of attacks from the Republicans.

Dean is in it for the duration

Well, it looks like the Dean campaign is going for a variation of the strategy I previously outlined (Hey Roy! Where's my check!): stick it out and try to remain the last standing alternative to John Kerry. Dean now wants to be the anti-Kerry or the ABKBB (Anybody-But-Kerry-But-Bush) candidate.

Ironies do abound don't they?

As I said previously, this strategy is bound to produce a few loud squawks from party regulars who have bought into Terry McAulife's call for the party to unite behind the front-runner with fewer than 10% of the delegates chosen. Dean's new campaign manager, Roy Neel, comments on this:

This year is very different. The media and the party insiders will attempt to declare Kerry the winner on February 3 after fewer than 10% of the state delegates have been chosen. At that point Kerry himself will probably have claimed fewer than one third of the delegates he needs to win. They would like the campaign to be over before the voters of California, New York, Texas and nearly every other big state have spoken.

Democrats in Florida, who witnessed a perversion of democracy in November 2000, will not have a choice concerning the nominee if the media and the party insiders have their way.

This is clever: play to Democratic discontent about the disenfranchisement in Florida and the resentment of the big and late primary states about the irrelevancy of their votes in naming the eventual nominee (speaking as an Oregonian, whose primary is May 28th, I say amen to that!) The Dean campaign appears to be making the argument that if "electability" really is the important issue the polls say it is then maybe the votes of all Democrats should have a say in just what "electability" means.

An additional irony: Roy Neel, a Gore advisor, is playing the Florida disenfranchisement card. It looks to me like the Gore group understands better than the party leadership how the Democrats failed in Florida when they didn't put up the kind of fight this battle requires. Their not going to let it happen again.

Neel asks rhetorically if this strategy has ever worked before:

No. It's never been tried.

But prior to this year, no candidate had ever raised $46 million dollars, mostly from ordinary Americans giving $100 each. Prior to this year no candidate for President had ever inspired the kind of grass-roots activity that has been this campaign’s hallmark. Prior to this year no candidate for President had so clearly revitalized his party, allowed it to reclaim its voice, and shifted the agenda so clearly to a call for change.

Let the conventional wisdom and the media declare this race over. We’re going to let the people decide.

Dean is going to stake a claim to the backbone that he helped instill in the Democratic party. He's not going to just let the party leadership pat us on the head and say, "Thanks for the calcium injection, now let the grownups take over."

Sorry guys. You're not going to get rid of us that easily.

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 1/30/2004

  This Week (1/30) Last Week (1/23)
1 Howard Dean 19500 22.2% -0.7 1 16000 22.9%
2 John Kerry 17400 19.8% -0.7 2 14300 20.5%
3 John Edwards 16000 18.2% +0.0 3 12700 18.2%
4 Wesley Clark 11700 13.3% -0.4 4 9570 13.7%
5 Joe Lieberman 10200 11.6% +0.5 5 7760 11.1%
6 Dennis Kucinich 6910 7.9% +0.1 6 5450 7.8%
7 Al Sharpton 6160 7.0% +1.3 7 4000 5.7%

Well, Joe didn't drop out as I expected. Maybe next week?

Media coverage is settling into its new pattern, though I'm sure that most of the coverage of Kerry is more positive than that of Dean. This may be the last saving grace that Dean will have from now on out. He still has the media's eye on him and if he can manage to turn things around he will not be ignored.

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.)

Faulty intelligence not the only intelligence

Just to comment on something not Dean related: I've been wondering about the recent comments from David Kay that Bush and his people shouldn't be blamed for following flawed intelligence and should, instead, be considered the victims. There's one problem I have with this: wasn't there also intelligence that suggested that Iraq didn't have WMD?

It is pretty obvious that the intelligence pointing to the existing of WMD was flawed. But we all know that this conclusion was not a unanimous opinion of the intelligence community. Instead of focusing so much attention on why the intelligence pointing to WMD was flawed, maybe we should be asking whether there was a concerted effort to put more weight behind that conclusion than any other?

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, etc. may not be to blame for the faulty intelligence that indicated there was WMD. But are they to blame for discouraging the development of evidence that proved otherwise?


Matthew Yglesias highlights a bit of rationalization on the part of the DLC:

When last we checked, the DLC was against populism and very much against Howard Dean. In recent weeks, Deanophobia's won some big victories, so you'd think they might relax, but the trouble is that John Kerry and John Edwards seem to have been beating him with populism. The response -- a bit of revisionist history. It turns out, you see, that there are two kinds of populism.

The DLC is apparently arguing that there is "positive" populism, populism that uplifts people, while there is "negative" populism, populism that seeks to tear down the upper-classes. They then go on to basically say that their guys are only pushing the positive kind while the other guys (Dean, Gore, etc.) are doing the negative kind. Of course, in 2000 all we heard was that populism in general was a bad idea. But now that Kerry is succeeding by adopting (stealing) more populist rhetoric well they just have to find some way to differentiate things.

Of course, the fact that Dean might have been succeeding without Al From's blessing wouldn't have anything to do with his conclusion that Dean was pushing "negative" populism while their guys are pushing "positive" populism.

Nothing at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Spinal Watch

I'm thinking of starting a semi-regular feature in which I would check out the vital signs of the spinal transplant that Dean has given the Democrats. On that note I give you this New Democrat Network blog posting about the effect Dean has had on the presidential race (positive):

The Dean insurgent phase - from June 2003 to Jan 2004 - also coincided with a remarkable rise of the Democratic Party. In our June poll from last year all Democrats trailed Bush by 16-20 points in direct matchups. Today, in the latest Newsweek poll, all Democrats are within the margin of error of Bush, and Kerry actually leads. As Dean the insurgent changed our Party the public responded to our new, stronger and better approach and we gained 15 points across the board for all candidates.

How many people can seriously say that the rise in Democratic prospects would have been this dramatic if Dean had not been in the race? Dean may not be the one to get us over the finish line, but he has demonstrated that acting like an opposition party can actually improve your electoral chances.

Imagine that!

In the 90s we Clintonites fought each day for the forgotten middle class by raising money from wealthy Americans to finance our political operations. Voters and political activists were spoken to, not engaged in our politics. It was the classic broadcast era form of marketing - big money, lots of ads, lots of followship, all financed by the elite and the wealthy. The role of the middle class was to hear our message and vote our way. But fundamentally our politics was not about them no matter how much our rhetoric said it was.

It's interesting to see members of the New Democrats acknowledge that they treated the middle-class (and even the working class) as essentially pawns whose sole role was to go where they were told to go. The electoral defeats of the last few years came about, in no small part, due to an apathetic rebellion amongst those pawns. They didn't fight back. They just didn't do what they were told.

Dean stepped into the fold and gave the pawns something to fight for again. If the Democratic leadership were smart they would learn a valuable lesson from this: don't take the pawns for granted. The collapse of the Dean campaign may be an indication that pawns can't be Bishops and Knights. But they shouldn't be treated like cannon fodder either.

After all, even a pawn can check the King.

(Agh! I'm suffering from analogy overload!)

The Dean/Trippi contribution to all of progressive politics – including us New Democrats – has been huge. They clearly made mistakes along the way, perhaps fatal ones, but it cannot change the fact that our politics and our party today are stronger for it.

Joe, thank you. Good luck in what comes next, and give us a call. I would love to buy you lunch sometime.

Thanks in return for acknowledging what we've done. And don't worry, we aren't going away.

P.S., Maybe you could get Al From to write a similar conciliatory note?

Reality Check

It's time for some harsh reality folks. Dean's chances of winning the nomination right now are slim and none. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this over the last 24 hours and came in this morning prepared to write a long, thought out post about this state of reality, but someone beat me to it. Nico Pitney over at Not Geniuses has posted an email from a Dean supporter named Damian Carroll that pretty much lays it all out for us. I highly recommend reading it.


Okay. Now, I agree with Damian that as of this point Dean's only hope for getting the nomination is if Kerry stumbles. But even I have to question whether that would really be the best for Democrats at this point. Having yet another front-runner fall by the wayside will hurt the general reputation of Democrats. Thus, even Dean supporters have to hope that Kerry doesn't implode for the sake of our chances in the general election.

So where does that leave us? I once thought that Clark was a viable safety-net candidate in case Dean imploded. I now think that Dean could be a viable safety-net candidate if Kerry were to collapse. But, even more so, as Damian so aptly points out, Dean staying in the race for the long term can continue the job of keeping Democrats honest.

I've heard a lot of comments in the last couple of weeks about how Dean gave the party a spine transplant. I've made the same comment myself. But the question remains whether the spine that the party is finally starting to show is real and long-term or just a defensive reaction against the Dean insurgency. If Dean were to leave the race in the next couple of weeks, would the party once again fall back on its appeasing ways? I would hope not, but past history tells me not to trust in that hope.

However, if Dean were to stay in the race he could quite possibly win 25-30% of the delegates to the convention. Perhaps even more. While not enough to block Kerry's nomination, this could give the faction of the party that Dean represents, the faction that is sick and tired of Democrats rolling over all the time, the kind of leverage they would be need to keep the party from rejecting that spinal transplant.

It's funny how things come full circle. When I first started throwing my support to Dean it was not because I actually thought he had a chance of getting the nomination. I never dreamed we'd get this close. I felt that what Dean was saying was to important to let it die in obscurity. I wanted to give him a bigger soapbox on which to stand and shout his message. 25-30% of the delegates to the convention is a pretty good sized soapbox. With a force that size the party simply can't refuse to let Dean in the door, influence the platform and speak from the podium during prime time. They would ignore us at their peril.

My three goals going into this, in order of importance, were #1 elect Howard Dean as president, #2 elect someone like Howard Dean as president or #3 remove George W. Bush from the White House. For a while there it looked like #1 was a real possibility. No more. Which means I am now falling back on #2. John Kerry is not a very good substitute for Howard Dean. But we can make him be like Dean to the extent that it is possible for him to be so only if we keep the pressure on him. Dean dropping out early would not do that.

Now of course there are going to be some that cry that Dean, by sticking it out, is acting like a Naderite spoiler. They will argue that he needs to drop out to show Democratic unity going into the general election. This completely misses the point. The Dean message is that unity can only come from a strong opposition to the policies of the Bush administration, not from a call for lock-step following wherever the leadership says to go. If Dean were to drop out now then, by the time the general election gets rolling, the energy that Dean has brought to this race could very likely dissipate into the ether.

Also, as Hesiod has pointed out multiple times, an extended primary season will suck up a lot of the media oxygen that Bush needs to counteract the bad news that is hitting his administration daily. If the race for the nomination were to end within the next couple of weeks then Karl Rove would have several months of relative quietude in which to repair the damage and prepare for the final push later this year. An extended primary season can be like a multi-front war against the Bush machine. Kerry can be the Western front and Dean can be the Eastern front.

We can still win this battle even if we don't win the nomination.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

We didn't start this fight but we better damn well finish it

Ezra Klein has some interesting thoughts on the candidates, many of which I agree with. I even understand his position on Dean. But I to take exception with one comment (emphasis mine):

As for Dean, I have trouble with him as president too. I know he was a great governor in Vermont and his decision making skills are terrific. Nonetheless, I know Dean the warrior and not Dean the executive and it's hard for me to trust that a new man will spring forth from Howard's internal well. I don't want our leader to be at war with a certain portion of America, I want him to bring everyone under the same tent.  With Dean, I just have trouble seeing it.

I'm sorry but it is just naive in the extreme to think that any of the Democrats currently running will not face a "war with a portion of America." Why? Because that portion of America will declare war on whoever the nominee is (or, at least, their stand-ins in the media and the Republican leadership will do so)..

At least with Dean we get a Democrat who understands this and won't be surprised when it happens. John Kerry just strikes me as yet another in a long line of Democrats who will hold out an olive branch to the Republicans only to be surprised when they shove it up his ass.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A parable...

... posted by William Froelich over on Salon's Table Talk:

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; It just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.

Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Take from that what you will.

Hearts and Minds

Liberal Oasis has an important post today about the whole question of electability. He quotes a New Hampsherite who says that his heart belongs to Dean but his head is going with Kerry. Why? Because of the old electability conundrum.

Look, I think the vast majority of Democrats will agree that the most important issue in this nomination battle is electability. There are few things that piss me off more than for another Democrat to accuse me of being a latent Naderite and not caring about electability. Where the fundamental disagreement appears to be is what "electability" means. My basic problem with John Kerry is that he feels like a continuation of the same electoral strategy that has been so successful for the Democrats over the last four years (alert for the sarcasm impaired). The finger in the wind, hyper-sensitivity to over-polled issues that has resulted in a Democratic party that looks craven and cowardly to the casual political observer (and, in many cases, is exactly that). Democrats have been losing not because of their stands on the issues but because they are, in general, afraid to take stands that they aren't sure will be winners.

I will support John Kerry if he gets the nomination, but of the four leading candidates today (Kerry, Edwards, Dean and Clark) I consider him the least electable of the four precisely because he epitomizes this political philosophy. Yet the media meme of the moment is that Kerry is the electable candidate and thus a lot of voters are, like the New Hampsherite LO quotes, going with their heads over their hearts.

The Democrats, both the party and the rank-n-file, are suffering from analysis paralysis. You have to use your head to keep from doing anything really stupid (like nominating Al Sharpton or Joe Lieberman), but your head can only take you so far. In a close race it is the heart that needs to lead and it is the heart that will give you the best chance of winning.

I had hoped that 2004 was the year the Democrats finally figure this out. They still might. But, so far, the signs are not good. It may require yet another shellacking at the polls before it finally sinks in.

God I hope not.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Dean vs. Wolf

Hoffmania has a clip of the previously mentioned Blitzer interview of the Dean's in which the Doctor calls the news media an entertainment business.

Talking Points

Dean vs. Kerry on Foreign Policy

"Foreign policy experience depends on patience and judgment," Dean said. "I question Senator Kerry's judgment."

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter responded, "Howard Dean wouldn't know good judgment on foreign policy if he fell over it."

"Remember, this is the same man who has said that the nation was not safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), said we shouldn't take sides in the Middle East, and that Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) should get a jury trial," she said.

1) We aren't safer after Saddam's capture and a large majority of Americans agree with that point of view (78% in one CBS poll).

2) Jimmy Carter very publicly came out and said that Dean's stance on the Middle-East ("not taking sides") was correct.

3) If Hermann Goering deserved a fair trial than so does Osama bin Laden. That's part of what America stands for.

The Zen of Dean

Wolf Blitzer has an interview with Howard and Judy Dean scheduled for broadcast later this evening. This morning, as I was heading out to work, Blitzer showed a couple of clips from it. Wolf, of course, asked Dean about The Scream. Dean was nonchalant about it, saying that he has come to understand that the news media is in the entertainment business as much as the news business. Blitzer seemed shocked at this comment and Dean continued by saying something about the story being manufactured for entertainment purposes. Wolf replied, "We didn't scream, you did". To which Dean replied, "I did it, but you chose to run it 647 times in one week. But that's okay, if I'm going to be president I have to take what the media dishes out. I can take it." (quotes may not be exact since this is all coming from memory).

Dean once again points out an uncomfortable truth: the news media is in the entertainment business. If what they put out wasn't entertaining (i.e., didn't bring in the eyeballs) they wouldn't keep their jobs and those who can entertain the best are those who advance in the business. It's not surprising that Blitzer would be upset at a comment like this, but it's not clear if he is upset because he thinks it isn't true or because he doesn't want someone pointing out such an obvious truth. It's probably a combination of both.

The quotes above really don't do the clip justice because Dean delivered them in a very calm manner, not defensive or attacking in the least. Just a simple statement of fact. He was almost zen-like. I think he is at peace with whatever happens next.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Anger is bad

John 2:13-16

13It was time for the annual Passover celebration, and Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; and he saw money changers behind their counters. 15Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and oxen, scattered the money changers' coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, "Get these things out of here. Don't turn my Father's house into a marketplace!"

Why is Jesus so angry? Why does he act so nutty? Is he deranged?

Just asking.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Perhaps they will listen to one of their own?

Dick Meyer, Editorial Director of and veteran political reporter of 20 years takes his colleagues to the woodshed for their handling of the "Dean Scream".

It's another fact of life that Dean gave the late-night comedians great material. The Dean Scream jokes are terrific, as is the gag picture someone just e-mailed of the offending Dean choking a cat.

But the press corps' decision that the Scream was serious is a bit more disturbing. One of the many character flaws common to the species 'reporter' -- one that I have in spades -- is an exaggerated pleasure in the fall of the mighty. There is some of that happening with Dean right now. I don't get too worked up about the media "making" or "creating" stories; there is no way for that not to happen in modern government and politics. But this time I do think Dean is getting a very bad rap.

Meyer goes on to point out that reporters on the scene didn't seem to see anything odd about Dean's speech. He also highlights one of the most annoying hypocrisies in all this: political journalists keeps complaining about candidates who are to slick, artificial and dependent on autobiographical sob-stories. Yet when a candidate comes along who isn't like that they complain about him being to rough around the edges and not willing enough to share personal details about their life.

Make up your mind people!

Compare and contrast...

... the media coverage of Howard Dean's "Yeargh!" moment with the coverage of Ronald Reagan's "I paid for this microphone!" outburst back in 1980.

If a Republican shows emotion it means they are passionate and care enough to get angry.

If a Democrat shows emotion it means they are imbalanced, nuts, kooky, over the top and just generally deranged.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 1/23/2004

  This Week (1/23) Last Week (1/16)
1 Howard Dean 16000 22.9% -0.7 1 9700 25.9%
2 John Kerry 14300 20.5% +6.8 2 5270 14.1%
3 John Edwards 12700 18.2% +3.2 3 3940 10.5%
4 Wesley Clark 9570 13.7% +2.5 4 5070 13.5%
5 Joe Lieberman 7760 11.1% +0.7 6 4580 12.2%
6 Dennis Kucinich 5450 7.8% +0.8 7 1910 5.1%
7 Al Sharpton 4000 5.7% -0.8 8 1910 5.1%

Last week I said we would see how the caucus effects media coverage. Now we see it. Kerry and Edwards both get huge boosts from their 1st and 2nd place showings in Iowa. Dean's overall numbers really don't drop that but his share is eaten away by the rise of Kerry and Edwards. However, Gephardt's dropping out tends to obscure this impact.

Still, for as many stories as there are about Kerry's unexpected victory there are as many stories about Dean's unexpected third-place showing and the "Dean Scream" that followed.

Could Joe Lieberman be out by this time next week? Likely I would think, since he really has nothing to base his candidacy on in the future.

Could Dean be out by next week? Not likely. He'd have to finish 4th before I think he would even consider packing it in and he still most likely has the strongest national campaign running. I think that anything below a strong 2nd on Tuesday will probably continue the slow bleed of support and eventually doom his candidacy. But his strong media performances yesterday combined with stubborn New Hampshire pride could produce yet another surprising campaign story by this time next week.

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.)

Still more evidence?

Then there's this one day sample of the Suffolk University tracking poll that shows a jump for Dean of 5 points and a fall for Kerry of 7 points (sample of only 200 for the day of course. The full three day result still shows Kerry in the lead an can be found here).

More Teflon Evidence?

Check out this AP story from Ron Fournier ("Dean getting second look from N.H. voters"). In it we have the reports of five of those voters:

Ed Hennessy, who deserted Dean last week (apparently even before Iowa) but who now says:

"[...] I'm back in his camp. It was just a slip of the tongue [a reference to the Dean Scream moment -- Chris], and nobody's perfect," Hennessy said. "I've got to give him credit for speaking from his heart."

Larry O'Sullivan, who said that Dean had not been on his short list even before Iowa but who now says:

"[...] here I am because of the impression he gave in the debate, despite the fact that he looked like a yahoo a couple days before in Iowa. I think he made up for it,"

Kim Lindley-Soucy was not a supporter, certainly after Iowa, but now says:

"He comes across as honest, even when it hurts,"

Patricia Fields, who thought Dean was "a bit wild" but that the media made too much out of the Iowa speech and now says:

"I think he was too tame to tell you the truth. I hope he doesn't back down,"

Gloria Kelley, who still has her doubts but also says:

"I think I'll give him a second look, if the media doesn't mind."

Now it is possible that Fournier is cherry-picking quotes and that there might still be plenty of New Hampsherites who have been permanently turned off from Dean. But if these reports are indication then Dean may just have some teflon left.

Could the old Dean teflon be making a come back?

I've noticed in the last 24 hours a marked increase in comments, both online and offline, along the lines of "on subsequent viewing of Dean's Iowa speech it really doesn't look as bad as I first thought." It may be that the media's overkill on this story may actually garner Dean some sympathy. Their continuous playing of it has given more people the opportunity to notice things about it that they didn't notice the first time and that may account for the softening of opinion on it.

Combine that with Dean's apparently good performance in both the debates and the Sawyer interview (I didn't see either unfortunately) and we may be seeing the re-appearance of the same teflon that previously turned negative Dean stories into positive Dean stories.

At this point I think the Dean campaign should do two things:

1) Build expectations for a 2nd place finish in NH. With many people speculating about possible 3rd and 4th place finishes, a strong 2nd against the resurgent Kerry would do wonders to launch Dean's own "comeback kid" storyline (and short-circuit Kerry's in the process). A 2nd place finish would put Dean in good position to beat the rest of the field in subsequent weeks if nothing else by the process of attrition.

2) Bring out Judy Dean more often (a Larry King interview might be good). I understand she was dynamite on Sawyer last night and added a real human touch to Dean's persona. I hate the fact that so many people base their political decisions on factors like this, but if that's the world we live in then Dean may just have to work with it.

Interesting choices

Here's the front page of the New York Times:

The Washington Post:

The Boston Globe:

Kerry's showing in Iowa was impressive, but the media still seems to think that Howard Dean is the story of the moment. And each of these photos make it look as if it is the rest of the field that has to come to Dean and not the other way around. All in all it looks like yesterday was a very good media day for Dean.

(all images extracted from this thread over on the dailyKos).

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Good advice from a hostile source?

Hugh Hewitt, a nationally syndicated radio show host and blogger I have never read before (and someone who, I suspect, supports Bush over any of the Democratic candidates), has some good suggestions for how Dean should address the media distortions during tonight's debate. Hugh "gets it" in the way I've talked about before. His draft hits the essential point that no Democrat is safe from the kind of distortions that Dean has been subject to.

It may be to late for Dean to overcome the damage. But maybe he can slap enough sense into the rest of the field before it is to late for them.

Supporting media distortions for short-term political gain

It could be argued many different ways whether Dean's Iowa speech was politically smart or not. By itself it was not any worse than your typical rally-the-troops political barn-burner. I bet you could make a quick reel of similar performances by most prominent politicians. But given the angry Dean fact-esque, it may have been politically unwise for him to give the media that kind of raw meat.

But what is really stupid is the way some Democrats have become willing propagators of the media's spin on Dean's performance. The last thing we, as Democrats need is to validate the media's distortions by supporting them for our own political advantage. Yet that is just what a lot of Democrats, some who dislike Dean intensely and are reveling in his troubles, are doing. By doing so, they are digging their own future graves because some day that media distortion machine will be focused on them and then where will be the people who will defend them?

Democrats have got to understand that the attacks on Dean are primarily because he is a Democrat, not because he is Howard Dean, and that all of the current prominent Democrats can and will be subjected to the same kind of abuse.

I fear that the Democrats as a whole still haven't gotten this basic fact of life. It may require yet another humiliation before enough of them "get it" to make a difference.

Dividing the Democrats

I've been thinking about how the four leading candidates for the Democratic nomination seem to be close reflections of four divisions within the Democratic rank-n-file. From my perspective there are two major divisions each having two minor divisions within them.

The first major division is on the question of whether the current Democratic leadership has failed the Democratic rank-n-file. Within the group that believes that it has, there are two divisions that are represented, respectively, by Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. The primary thing that seems to divide the two groups is who will best be able to succeed in "throwing the bums out" (the electability question again). The Dean side also seems to be more inclined to publicly link the Democrat leadership with those "bums" even though the level of frustration with the bums appears to be about equal in both groups.

The other major group consists of those Democrats who are not convinced, yet, that Democratic problems are primarily because of ineffective leadership. They recognize that the party is failing, but they don't blame the leadership. The division within this group is over who best can deal with the problem. Is it the same tried-and-true leadership (represented by Kerry) or some new blood (represented by Edwards).

Right now I would say that all four groups are of about equal size (20-20-20-20) with the remaining 20 primarily breaking whichever way the media winds are blowing today (Kerry right now).

Of course, this is just a rough division of Democrats. Since this is a generalization please don't take this to mean I think that all Dean, Clark, Edwards and Kerry supporters fit into these categories. But this model can be useful for dealing with the inevitable problems that will come about when the nominee is finally selected.

The biggest thing I would warn against is thinking that Dean's 20% means that the discontent is limited only to a small group of disaffected Deaniacs. A large portion of Clark's support comes from Democrats who are equally pissed off with the leadership. It is clear that a large minority of Democrats are sick and tired of what they as appeasers in the leadership. If the things-are-not-so-bad group comes out ahead in the nomination battle (which looks like the safest bet right now) it would be a serious mistake for them to think they can go back to business as usual.

The Democrats have a serious problem no matter who their nominee will be and no one should take this lightly.

Republican Misbehavior

Josh is right that this story about Republican Judiciary Committee staffers breaking into Democratic computers should knock everything else off the front pages. You'll forgive me if I treat that with a bit of cynicism considering how many previous stories should have knocked other stories off the front pages but didn't.

There is no way that this was simply the work of a couple of low-level staffers. This kind of systematic activity over a long stretch of time doesn't go on without someone higher knowing about it. No doubt the Republicans are in full protect-their-asses mode right now. The Democrats shouldn't allow them to get away with simply saying they didn't know it was going on. The Republicans certainly wouldn't give them the same courtesy.

This is at least as bad, if not worse, than the check-bouncing scandal of a few years back that seriously damaged the Democratic leadership in the House.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The constraints of print journalism

I think Kevin may be on to something here about the differences in reporting he sees in print journalism and blog journalism:

One of the problems with print journalism is that there are certain stylistic constraints on how stories are written, and this one is a good example: in order to sound like professional writing, it weaves around the story in an oddly circuitous way, starting with a quote fragment, then an opinion, then a longer version of the quote, then an aside about Kerry's Vietnam service, then another piece of Clark's statement, and then finally a passing reference to the question that this was a response to.

This is typical of news writing, in which it is somehow forbidden to just flatly get to the point and explain exactly what happened (a problem, by the way, that is especially acute in any story with numbers in it). If this had been a blog post, it would have gone something like this:

We were talking to Clark after a house party and someone asked him [fill in text of question here]. Here's what he said:

Complete text of Clark's response here.

Then one of the reporters followed up and asked [fill in text of question] and Clark said blah blah blah.

The difference is pretty obvious. This kind of writing seems perfectly natural in a blog post but is completely out of place in a professionally produced piece of newspaper writing. And yet it's the blog style that actually does a better job of giving you the context for the quote.

A corollary to this thesis is that the unfair implications that sometime sneak into print journalism may not necessarily be intentional but just the consequence of the constraints of print journalism. Michael Cousineau, the writer of the original article that inspired Kevin's rumination, may not have necessarily been trying to imply that Clark was dissing Kerry. The constraints of print journalism that Kevin has identified here may make it difficult for all but the best writers to avoid this kind of mistake.

Boom... Bust... Then...?

There's an interesting article in Salon today ("Howard Dean's fatal system error") asking the question whether Dean's campaign was just another example of a dot-com bust. It's a question that is, perhaps, a bit premature (Dean's not dead yet). But it is also an interesting question when placed in the context of past boom-bust cycles. While everyone remembers the booms and busts, many people forget that the busts are often followed by successes in the same field that eventually far outstrip the successes during the initial boom.

After all, even after the dot-com bust, there are a lot of viable internet companies out there today who are demonstrating solid business plans and may eventually become big economic players. Consumer use of the internet continues to increase despite the fact that the internet allegedly when "poof" back in 2000.

Remember the video game bust after the collapse of Atari? Nintendo came along soon afterward and ended up making even more money than Atari ever achieved.

So, even if Dean proves to be more than eBay, I feel confident in predicting that the internet, online journalism, blogging, etc. will continue to show an increased influence over the political process.

We're here to stay baby!

Dean Wikki

Aziz of Dean Nation has started a Dean Wikki. For those who don't know what that is, a Wikki is a collection of web pages that can be edited by anyone and expanded with as much information as participants want to include. It's a pretty cool collaborative tool.

I'm kind of surprised no one has done this before now. It will be interesting to see where it goes.


Walt Whitman:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my
gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

(thanks to Max for posting this first)

Has Dean's time come and gone?

E.J. Dionne argues that Dean was the perfect Democrat for 2003:

What Democrats needed after their disastrous losses in the 2002 election was a backbone transplant. The party's rank and file were clamoring for less timidity in confronting President Bush. The yearning was not just -- or even primarily -- about the war in Iraq. For most, it simply meant having leaders who stopped looking over their shoulders and checking Bush's popularity ratings. Democrats were sick of intimidation and capitulation.

The good doctor Dean answered the need and he soared. What he did not count on is that Democratic presidential candidates are a teachable species. They made adjustments. So did the voters.

The question is, did they really make adjustments or did they just learn how to adopt the style of Dean without the substance of Dean? That's the question I hear a lot of Dean supporters asking, yet it it is one that Dionne seems to be taking for granted. As one Dean supporter I talked to on Monday night said, "Yeah, they are all sounding like Dean. But Dean's the only one I trust to actually back up his words with action."

Dionne is right on several points: Dean did tap into a deep well of Democratic frustration, his base was smaller than expected and his message did not translate as well for those who simply weren't as frustrated as his early supporters. He hit his ceiling sometime back in the October-November time-frame but he never really noticed and adjusted. Dean and Trippi should, perhaps, have been clued into this when they failed to achieve one of Trippi's stated goals: one million supporters by the end of 2003. They made the 500,000 goal on schedule, but then stalled (the number is still only around 580,000). I noticed this back then but, like so many others, I simply didn't feel like putting a damper on the spirit of the campaign by making a point of it. My bad.

But the question remains whether Kerry, Edwards and Clark can continue on the trail-blazed by Dean or whether they are just, as Dean himself quipped several months back, "Dean-Lite".

That's Entertainment!

Shocking (not)

Anna is, of course, a Dean supporter. But if the supporters of other candidates think that her comments about media manipulation are simply sour grapes then I feel sorry for them because they to will face the day when their guy faces the same kind of manipulation.

Until the Democratic party (hell, all of America) wakes up, across the board, and realizes that they are never going to get a fair shake from the media they will continue to lose.

It's as simple as that.

Dean's failure

CJR's Campaign Desk highlights a little reported fact in all the Iowa reporting:

As the Washington Post points out, "Dean led the field among Democrats who had settled on a candidate longer than a month ago. But this group consisted of only three in 10 caucus attendees." Kerry beat "Dean by better than 2 to 1 among the 41 percent of voters who made their decision in the past week."

The real story here is the rise of Kerry and Edwards, rather than the decline of Dean.

So Dean appears to be the candidate of early-adopters. His biggest failure was in making the sale to those who waited until the last minute to make up their mind. Dean may have taken it for granted that his early successes in 2003 would naturally translate into a comparable pickup of support in 2004 (one NPR commentator made an apt comment on Monday night: Dean may have been the perfect Democratic candidate for 2003). Dean did not realize that picking up the late-comers may just require an entirely different dynamic from what works to win over the early support.

I'm coming to the conclusion that Dean's campaign started having troubles from the minute he received Al Gore's endorsement. The endorsement was a good thing, but presenting it as if Dean's eventual nomination was a foregone conclusion apparently struck a lot of voters as presumptuous. It cemented some of the ill-will that was growing within Democratic rank-n-file as well as within the press. Dean did not correct for this misstep and, in fact, did not appear to notice it.

I noticed it myself at the time, but didn't speak up about it in the hope that it would just go away. Perhaps that was my mistake.

I'm not ready to give a eulogy for Dean's campaign yet. He's been written off before and come back to surprise people. But you can only pull the Lazarus routine so many times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


It's been an interesting couple of days to say the least. I've pretty much reached the conclusion that Dean has been effectively Gored. The whole "anger" meme has become Dean's equivalent of the Gore "liar" meme. It's no more true but it is talked about so much that it has become, in the words of the Daily Show, "fact-esque".

The sad thing about it is that many Democrats will, once again, come to the mistaken conclusion that this is entirely Dean's fault(*). They thought Clinton's problems were Clinton's and Gore's problems were Gore's. The truth is that it can pretty much happen to any Democrat. It probably will happen with Clark (my first thought on his potential Gore-point: paranoia). It most certainly will happen with Kerry (pampered prince of Massachusetts) or Edwards (inexperienced tool of trial lawyers).

At this point I'm not sure any Democrat can avoid it. Preventing it will pretty much require a wholesale reworking of our media/political apparatus. This is not likely to happen anytime soon. It certainly will not until a significant percentage of the populace finally stand up and says "enough!"

That's why I have supported Dean, because he and his supporters are standing up and saying "enough!" It may just be that there aren't enough of us right now to achieve critical mass.

But it is a step in the right direction.

(* This is not to say that Dean is entirely blameless. All myths have there bases in fact. But that does not mean myth should be accepted as fact.)

The morning after

Lots of different thoughts have gone through my head in the last few hours. Some good. Some bad. Some happy. Some sad. I don't think I could hope to put them all down on this blog. But let me just add an amen to this comment from Hesiod:

Fight the good fight. I still think Dean can win this thing.

But I am not so emotionally committed to one candidate over another that I am going to adopt a defeatist and negative attitude. I WANT TO WIN!

All of our top candidates can beat Bush. All of them will take the fight to Bush and refuse to let him get away with the stuff he pulled over the past four years.

So, instead of being should all be happy! The Republicans know they are in trouble. So let's not bail them out and make our defeatism into a self-fulfilling prophecy!

This goes for all those supporters of other candidates too. You are not getting off the hook here.

I'm trying to ignore both the whining by some Dean supporters and the triumphalism by those who have been railing against him for months. This has never been just about Dean.

I supported Dean from the beginning because he was saying something that needed to be said and that needed to get a wider audience. The Democrats were shell-shocked after 2002 and allowed themselves to get rolled on the war on Iraq and Yet Another Bush Tax Cut. They needed someone to stand up, yell "What I Want To Know..." and slap them out of their stupor.

On that measure alone I would consider my support for Dean to be a success.

Yes, it could be argued that Clark, Kerry and Edwards are just Dean-Lite candidates. It could be argued that they are just repeating Dean's lines but don't really mean it. But then that's where we come in. We are the ones who will have to hold them to what they say (yes, even Dean can't be ultimately trusted to just keep his word).

So the last thing we need is for the Dean Corps to fall apart. We are in the process of rebuilding a party that is in a shambles and it will not be done within the cycle of a single election. We may be able to beat Bush this year. But defeating the apparatus that raised him to the White House will take a lot longer.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Get out the NEW voters?

I'm with Atrios on this one. Those who argue that the "get out new or disaffected voters" strategy is a loser seem to think that it means getting out the extremists (left or right) who have given up on the political process because it doesn't get them what they want. The real problem, though, are the huge mass of people in the middle who really have no strong ideological leanings, are still concerned about where the country is going but are just sick and tired of having to deal with the usual bullshit of politics as it is practiced in America today. Those people can be brought out to vote and, again agreeing with Atrios, I think they would tend to favor Democrats over Republicans (if for no other reason that middle-of-the-roaders-who-lean-Republican are more likely to be voting already since the Republicans hold all the cards today).

Friday, January 16, 2004

Atrios is right

No one really knows who the Republicans want to run against. All this talk about how the release of this or that particular smear against a particular candidate is evidence of who Rove wants or does not want to run against is ridiculous.

You know what Rove wants? He wants us to run around like chickens with our heads cut off and that is precisely what we are doing!

Last summer after reports came out that Karl Rove was seen cheering on a group of Dean supporters at a 4th of July parade, several people started using this as evidence that either (1) Rove really wanted Dean as the nominee or (2) Rove was afraid of Dean as the nominee but just wanted Dems to think that he wanted him in a clever bit of reverse psychology. Joe Trippi responded to these speculations on the o-blog by specifically telling people to just stop worrying about what Rove does or does not want.

Trippi understood something that we all need to understand: It's not about what Karl Rove wants! It's about what WE want!

Fuck Karl Rove!

It comes down to this...

The Dean campaign is a theory. On Monday we will get the first test of whether that theory has any viability. Until then the rest is just hot air.

The Clark team proves they can slime with the best of them

So now three lawyers, including a Clark supporter and organizer, are trying to make an issue out of Dean's selling of bank stock after he became Governor.

One of the three attorneys filing the complaints, Michael Spadea, donated $50 to Clark's campaign and is a county coordinator is Connecticut for Clark's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"This is the worst kind of 11th-hour dirty tricks by Wesley Clark's campaign," said Dean spokesman Jay Carson.

Clark's press secretary, Bill Buck, responded: "It's time for Dean to come clean and stop seeing shadows on the wall."

How exactly, Mr. Buck, is Dean supposed to "come clean" if he already is clean to begin with? This is the worst sort of "do you still beat your wife" type comment. Buck, by his statement, is asserting as a given that Dean is guilty of something (otherwise he wouldn't need to come clean) and that, if he complains about this, its just an example of paranoid delusion ("seeing shadows on the wall").

It's a statement worthy of Karl Rove. 'A' for effort Mr. Buck. 'F-' for humanity.

Everyone's getting in on the act

Salon has opened its own political War Room as a one-stop location for coverage of the 2004 race.

Confession time

I'm burned out. I'm discouraged. I'm just feeling over-all blah about the whole damn thing.

First of all is my feeling that Dean has not handled the last couple of weeks of media assaults as well as I would have liked. Yes, he hasn't gone into a total meltdown. But he hasn't turned the attacks to his advantage in the ways that I would have hoped or as I had come to expect from his past performance. His public airing of complaints about the attacks comes dangerously close to looking like whining and that is not an attractive quality in a candidate. I would have much preferred that he just shrugged off the attacks as par for the course and just kept on arguing his points as he has in the past. I don't think he handled the whole brou-ha-ha about his caucus comments very well and I think that has hurt him in Iowa. His statement that he has changed his mind about the caucuses just struck me as pandering to the voters feelings when what he should have done was point out that the media was distorting his comments. He retreated instead of attacking and again that is not an attractive quality and not what I had come to expect.

Secondly, he has failed to enunciate a message of optimism about the future and has instead fallen back on the old standard strategy of attacking those who are nipping at his heels. Dean's message up until now has been about empowering people to take back the party and the country and he has done a lot with that message. But he has not done enough to convince those who were not already convinced that the party and the country were going in the wrong direction and that he offers a viable alternative.

Finally, the rest of the party has acted in a reprehensible manner in reaction to the whole Dean movement. Instead of celebrating the extraordinary level of enthusiasm that Dean has generated, they have reacted, for the most part, with fear and apprehension. Yes, there are things to be concerned about in the Dean movement (see what I wrote above). But the Democratic party is in desperate need of the kind of enthusiasm that Dean brings. But rather than embrace that enthusiasm, the party has tried to squelch it. I hate to say it, but I can't avoid thinking that there are some in the party who have become comfortable with losing.

There is something beautiful happening here and the idiots in charge are working over time to make sure it dies before it reaches its full potential.

How can one not be depressed when considering that?

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 1/16/2004

  This Week (1/16) Last Week (1/9)
1 Howard Dean 11000 22.5% -3.8 1 9700 25.9%
2 John Kerry 7440 15.2% +1.0 2 5270 14.1%
4 John Edwards 6990 14.3% +3.0 4 3940 10.5%
3 Wesley Clark 6370 13.0% -0.3 3 5070 13.5%
6 Dick Gephardt 5880 12.0% +1.2 6 4040 10.8%
5 Joe Lieberman 4860 9.9% -1.2 5 4580 12.2%
7 Dennis Kucinich 3280 6.7% +1.4 7 1910 5.1%
8 Al Sharpton 3030 6.2% +1.9 8 1910 5.1%

This week sees several major shifts in the poll. First of all, Carol Mosley Braun is out so everyone's shares received a boost. Second, the increased media attention on Iowa appears to have impacted the shares of those candidates who are not participating in that contest (Clark and Lieberman). Clark may be coming on like gangbusters in the New Hampshire polls, but, so far, that has not translated into increased media attention.

Finally, Dean's commanding lead has dropped. This appears to be more because of an increased media focus on the other candidates since Dean's overall story numbers have not dropped. It may just be that, in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, the media just spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the Dean phenom and are only now switching back to talking about the race as a whole. In other words, the race has finally begun (what have we been doing for the last year?)

Next week we will learn how the results of the caucus impact media coverage.

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.)

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Compare and contrast

This Jan. 8th People magazine interview of Howard and Judith Dean:

Howard: Judy sort of functions as my Person-in-the-Street. The best kind of advice she gives me is, 'You look like an idiot on television.' She wouldn't say it that way, but, 'You didn't do very well on television.' I'll never forget the first time we went to a speech that I was giving on a subject I knew not much about. And on the way home, I said, 'Well, how did you think I did?' and she said, 'Fair to poor, with the emphasis on poor,' which, I had to admit, was probably exactly right.

With this 2000 USA Today story about Laura Bush:

Things were not always so smooth. For much of her life, Laura Welch was ''so uninterested in politics.'' Even though they lived for a time at different ends of the same apartment complex, she turned down a couple of suggested dates with George W. Bush. Finally, she attended a back-yard barbecue thrown by mutual friends. He made her laugh. He was a great talker. She was a great listener. Both in their 30s, they married three months after their first date. There was no honeymoon. They hit his congressional campaign trail the day after the wedding.

After a few speeches, he asked her - coming up the driveway on the way home from one - how his delivery was going over. Terrible, said the forthright wife. George W. drove his Pontiac Bonneville right into the garage wall.

And they talk about Dean being the angry one?

(Thanks to Phoenix Woman for the idea)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Works well with others

Joshua Marshal does a little educating to those who don't understand how Dean could support the "unilateral" action in Kosovo while opposing the "unilateral" action in Iraq.

The tenor of the whole Iraq debate has tended to make a fetish out of the narrow meaning of unilateral and multilateral. Both have their place. And I don't think it's a contradiction on Dean's part at all to say we should not have waited for NATO to conduct air operations in Bosnia and yet also mount a critique of the president's approach on Iraq.

Short and simple: the basic problem with Bush's "unilateralism" is that it is premised on the idea of going into every conflict as if we have the god-given right to attack whoever we damn well please. It's a policy that presumes America's moral superiority instead of proving it. Dean believes that no matter how strong we become we still have the responsibility to be "good neighbors" with the rest of the world (indeed, it could be argued that our military and economic superiority gives us a special responsibility to behave respectfully towards others).

I agree


Sunday, January 11, 2004

Rebuilding vs. Winning: the tough choice

Check out this diary entry by kid oakland over at the dailyKos. I think he does the best job yet of clearly laying out what is going on with the Dean vs. Clark dynamics in this race. Dean is primarily the candidate for rebuilding the party while Clark may very well be the best candidate to win in 2004. But, the problem, of course, is that neither of them alone provides the best prospects for doing both. Dean can rebuild the Democrats to a party that can demonstrate national strength again, but he may not have the winning quality necessary to put he himself over the top. Clark, on the other hand, may have that quality, but may be another Clinton-type candidate whose electoral success does not translate into long term success for his party.

I've recently been doing some deep thinking about this very topic. It comes down to two choices: (1) rebuild the party so that its long-term prospects can improve yet risk losing the Presidential election in 2004 or (2) win in 2004, but put off the desperately needed rebuilding for several more years. Now there are those who would argue that either Dean or Clark could do both, but lets remain with the question of which would be the better choice if neither of them can do just that.

It may shock some people, but I would probably have to come down on the side of rebuilding over winning. Because, as bad as another four years of Bush would be, I can't help but feel that failing to rebuild the party now might actually prolong the period of Republican domination of this country. After all, Bush is just one man. Getting rid of him would not get rid of that domination. If anything, it would just become even more deeply entrenched as they would once again feel that they had been unfairly deprived of their entitlement to lead.

But, if the Democratic party were to be rebuilt and revitalized, it might be able to challenge the long-term assumption that Republicans should be the ones in charge. Dean might be able to confront that assumption head on while a Clark would, at least to me, be just another four year delay of the inevitable confrontation.

It's a difficult choice to make, but a part of me has to believe that even another four years of Bush might be less of a disaster than another four years of ineffective Democratic leadership.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 1/9/2004

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts of late. I've been buried under both several inches of snow and a mound of work (doing late night work while having to drive over icy covered roads. fun fun fun!) Also, things are going so fast and furious now with the Iowa Caucuses less than two weeks away that it is hard to get around to posting about something before the news changes and what you had to say is no longer relevent (case in point today's endorsement of Dean by Harkin). I've been doing most of my opinionating on the Salon Table Talk forum where I can better keep up with what is going on.

On with the countdown...

  This Week (1/9) Last Week (1/2)
1 Howard Dean 9330 26.3% +0.4 1 9700 25.9%
2 John Kerry 5040 14.2% +0.1 2 5270 14.1%
3 Wesley Clark 4730 13.3% -0.2 3 5070 13.5%
4 John Edwards 4020 11.3% +0.8 6 3940 10.5%
5 Joe Lieberman 3940 11.1% -1.1 4 4580 12.2%
6 Dick Gephardt 3810 10.8% +0.0 5 4040 10.8%
7 Dennis Kucinich 1870 5.3% +0.2 8 1910 5.1%
8 Al Sharpton 1510 4.3% -0.8 7 1910 5.1%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 1200 3.4% +0.6 9 1050 2.8%

Dean continues to build steady on his lead. I expect that as things get close to the actual voting the news reports will become faster and furiouser and it is to be expected that the remaining candidates will be focusing their guns on Dean even more, thus elevating his share even more. Which is just another way of saying it is crunch time. If Dean really can stand up to the pressure like I think he can, now is when he will have to demonstrate it. The Harkin endorsement will help, but probably only for a day or two at best. It's not going to stop the also-rans from continuing their assaults on Mt. Dean.

That's the curse of being the frontrunner.

Clark's shares have barely budged despite the recent reports of his "surge" in national polls and in NH. I think this just goes to show that, outside the circles of political geekdom, not many people really care about things like that. I've been thinking for some time that Clark has consistently failed to generate any media excitement about his campaign. This could change if the media's desired two-man race develops, but even then it could just be a repeat of last summers Dean-Clark dynamics.

Lieberman's shares continue to plunge as the weight of the much sought after New Republic endorsement sinks in.

Update: BTW, just for comparison purposes, I did a Google New search on "George W. Bush" and got 10,600 hits.

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.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Quote of the Day

I agree with todd of Dean Independents:

David Sarasohn, talking about the other Democratic candidates and their level of distress about Dean: "If they'd ever seemed this distressed about George Bush, they might not now have to be so worried about Howard Dean." The quote applies to the Democratic party establishment in general, in my opinion.

If the other Democrats showed this much fire in bringing down Bush I might take their candidacy's seriously.

Monday, January 05, 2004

By his "gaffes" he shall win

Dean's greatest strength in the upcoming race is the same he has used since he first broke through on the national scene: he has a remarkable ability to change the dialog to suit his purposes.

He did it a few weeks back when, in the midst of all the media celebrations of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Dean spoiled the fun by stepping up and saying, "Yeah, that's nice. But we aren't any safer."

His comments produced a lot of shock amongst his opponents and in the media, but subsequent facts have born him out and the polling on this matter has consistently shown that Dean's opinion is shared by the large majority of all Americans.

But, what his comment really did was stop the "We got him" celebration in its tracks. By making an assertion so contrary to conventional wisdom Dean forced a lot of people to sit back and say, "Could he really have said that? Could he really have meant it? Is he insane? Or...could he be right?"

Once people start asking the questions, once people start questioning the conventional wisdom, that wisdom breaks down and people begin to realize that Dean is right.

And now he's doing it again. During yesterday's debate, when criticized for his call to repeal all of Bush's tax cut, Dean flat out asserted that "there was no middle class tax cut." Joe Lieberman and others were, naturally, flummoxed by his comment since everyone knows that the Bush's tax cut did include breaks for the middle class.

Or did it? Yes, some of us got those $300 checks. But, at the same time, we are getting hit in the wallet through increases in local and state taxes and in other changes to the cost of living (losing your job is a pretty nasty tax hike as well). As someone over on dKos put it best in the discussion thread on the debate, "[...] the Bush administration stuck $300 dollars in your front pocket while taking $500 dollars or more out of your back pocket and hoped you wouldn't notice."

This is an idea that Dean has been trying to push for over a year, but even I will admit that it is hard to sell because it is a rather complicated formulation. It needs a good sound bite to sell it (the $300 in, $500 out line is pretty good). But it also needs the verbal equivalent of a 2x4 to the head to get people to pay attention to what Dean is trying to say.

"There was no middle class tax cut" is that 2x4. It's a statement he should repeat over and over and over again precisely because it seems so contrary to what we "know" to be true. Why? Because it will get people to stop and think: he obviously doesn't mean that literally, so what does he mean? (thanks to TT poster pt bridgeport for this excellent formulation).

Once they start asking that question then Dean has them right where he wants them.

Dean needs people to question the basic assumptions. He needs them to question the conventional wisdom. It is those that are the only thing protecting Bush from the kind of scrutiny he deserves. Dean, by his "gaffes", is getting people to realize that it is the assumptions, not the "gaffes", which are absurd.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Fighting back

Here's an example of the thing I like about the internet. The latest Newsweek has an article by Howard Fineman ("The Dean Dilemma") in which Fineman puts forth the story that Dean has a lot of Democrats worried, including some of his own supporters. This is a popular media story right now that probably has more to do with the loudness of a few complainers more than whether those complainers actually represent any broad consensus within the party. In order to support his thesis, Fineman quotes three Dean supporters (who go by the pseudonyms WVMicko, Lancaster and irmaly) who have posted negative things on the o-blog.

One problem though: at least two of those people quoted (WVMicko and irmaly) are disputing the implication that they are unhappy with Dean. This is where the power of the internet comes into play. WVMicko has started a thread on Forum for America to discuss what to do in response. As WVMicko says:

[...] as annoying as this hosing is, it's also an opportunity. We are now in a position to make a great, huge stink. We were, after all, quoted, and now we can demand our right to rebut. And this being the Internet age, we are not dependent on Newsweek's hypothetical sense of fair play to make that demand. We can spread our outrage all over the Internet if we so choose, doubly so if the campaign will cooperate with us by posting our rebuttals on Blog for America and backing our efforts through other sources.

I hope WVMicko and irmaly can get their message out (and Lancaster as well if he/she joins in). I also hope the o-blog will post their rebuttals. It's not all that uncommon for journalists to quote someone out-of-context in order to push a story that matches their preconceptions more than reality. Here we see the potential for those who have been victimized by this practice to strike back.

Looking for hot Clark-on-Dean action?

here (kudos to Jesse for starting my day with a laugh)

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.