Thursday, July 29, 2004

"What do you want?"

Markos reports on the kind of crap we have to deal with with the dinosaurs in the party leadership. He was talking with the heads of the DCCC and apparently they would like it if we stopped supporting netroots candidates:

The DCCC has to make tough choices when deciding where to put its money. There are far more worthy races, and worthy candidates, than there is cash to go around. That's a brutal reality that no amount of wishing could erase.

As a filtering mechanism, the DCCC uses fundraising as a way top determine which candidates are working hardest. the typical "serious" candidate will spend 8-10 hours on the phone every day dialing for dollars. It's brutal work, and not something that every candidate will do.

Some of you who have donated to Richard Morrison in his efforts to oust DeLay may get a call from the candidate soon (reports have been streaming in). If you donated $10 in the past, he'll ask for $10. That's the kind of commitment the D-trip is looking for.

However, they are concerned that if the marginal candidates raise money online, then they don't need to do the hard work. In other words, raising an "easy" $40K for Ginny Schrader could act as disincentive to do the hard fundraising work that will get her to the $500K to $1 million she'll need to win the district.

Hence, it's best to let candidates flail, and the ones that can somehow manage to raise the early money -- those are the ones that we should be supporting.

Has the DCCC been taken over by The Shadows? What is this? Survival of the fittest? You must struggle first before we will give you attention. We won't help you out unless you don't really need our help. We won't loan you money until you show that you don't need it.

The logic is completely circular and is based on the idea that the only "serious" candidate is one who spends all their time raising money and that raising money is the only way that proves you are serious because it is what shows you are serious.

Around and around and around and around (and down the drain we go).

It's this kind of thinking that has gotten the Democrats in such a mess in the first place. What the DCCC needs to understand is that fringe candidates should be treated like micro-loan opportunities (need $100 to start your sewing business? No problem!) Low risk, but potentially high pay off if lighting strikes and a good long term investment that could produce even better candidates down the line.

You know something is fucked when the argument against helping candidates raise money is that doing so might make it harder for them to raise money. And then they wonder why people hate politics and don't want to get involved. What person in their right mind would want to spend 8-10 hours a day begging for money? Is that the kind of person we want leading us?

Embracing The Extremists

I was checking out Andrew Sullivan's page and caught up with his comments about Barak Obama. When Obama made the following comment:

When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never– ever– go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Now let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued – and they must be defeated.

John Kerry knows this.

Sullivan responds:

So the anti-Bush argument is framed in terms of defending our troops. I also think that the term "shade the truth" is far more defensible rhetoric against the White House than the cant about lying and misleading the country. I still don't believe there was any deliberate shading of any truth. But it's a deft way of laying into the administration while not sounding like Michael Moore.

I agree. But it brings up a point I've been trying to make for several years. The kind of "liar" rhetoric that comes from people like Michael Moore provides a useful service. It makes comments like "shade the truth" appear more "defensible" to people like Andrew Sullivan.

In other words, if Michael Moore weren't out there calling Bush a liar, Barak Obama would be more vulnerable to criticism for claiming that Bush "shades the truth". Moore draws the worst of the fire away from the more moderate voices in the party, and thus allows those voices to make the point that really needs to be made in a way that will really stick.

It was when the Democratic party shunned its more extreme elements that it started to lose power because it no longer had them out their absorbing the fire of the opposition. The Republican party has rarely felt the need to exclude its own extreme elements. Indeed, some of them now how positions of great power in the administration. This has allowed them to steamroll the Democrats and the rest of the country.

Of course, the Republicans have gone beyond simply allowing their extreme members to enter the tent. They have allowed them to take over the political and policy levers of the party.

I wouldn't want Moore to be in charge of fashioning policy for the party. I wouldn't want him to be in a position comparable to Karl Rove. That would be just as bad as what we have now, just to the opposite extreme.

Democrats are learning the lesson that many extended families understand: don't be ashamed of that colorful uncle who makes a fool of himself in front of others. Just understand that loving him does not require agreeing with him.

Troubling Thoughts

Steve Soto passes on a conversation he had with Joe Trippi in which Trippi said that if Kerry doesn't opt out of public financing for the general election that it could make the difference for victory. Trippi went on to suggest that Bush might opt out after Kerry has already opted in and thus tie Kerry's hands to only $75 million for the general while Bush could rake in the dough and bury him in the process.

I talked to two Kerry staffers about Trippi's observations, and both told me that 1) Kerry would not opt out because it would be too hard to raise the $75 million themselves in the remaining time and pass up what in essence is free money; 2) in order to pass up the $75 million and make it worth it, Kerry would really have to raise much more than that; and 3) they weren't worried about Bush opting out because the Bush people had told these Kerry guys that they would not do this.

I think the first and second points are questionable. Kerry has already raised over $185 million this season. $75+ million is not outside the realm of possibility over the next three months.

However, the third point is far more disturbing. Why in the world is there anyone in the Kerry team that places any value in an assurance from the Bush people? I thought they would have learned their lesson on this point already. Never take them at their word. They will screw you over every time.

I don't know if Bush will opt out after Kerry has already locked himself down. It's an option that carries some political risk. Americans, if nothing else, appreciate a fair fight. If the race is close, the perception that Bush is "cheating" when it comes to fundraising might make the difference to a significant number of swing voters. If played right, such a choice might be used against Bush in the Fall.

I don't know if this is something to seriously worry about. But I am concerned that there are people in the Kerry campaign who still trust the word of the Bushies. That is what seriously worries me.

The Art Of The Implicit Slam

There's a good article in today's NY Times about the Democrats emerging iron fist in a velvet glove strategy.

The Democrats have been attacking Bush repeatedly, but they have rarely attacked him directly (note that Bush's name is rarely heard form the podium of the Fleet Center). The clearest example of this was when Jimmy Carter, while referring to John Kerry's military service, made the parenthetical comment that "he showed up". Everyone knew what he was talking about, but it was delivered in such a subtle way that the only way for the Republicans to attack it would have been to introduce the AWOL topic themselves.

It made me smile.

It's making the Republicans angry. Not just because of the slams but also because it is giving them so little material to attack directly. Instead they have been reduced to statistical analysis!

"The average time of the Clinton, Carter, Gore, Kennedy and Dean speeches is 1,002.36 seconds," said Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Republican campaign, referring to the remarks of two former presidents and three who might have been. He added that "464.99 seconds on average was spent attacking the president or the president's policies."

By contrast, Mr. Schmidt added, the speakers devoted an average of 232.446 seconds to praising Mr. Kerry, with about 304.924 seconds of what the Republicans considered filler. "So I would argue case closed, in terms of their negativity," he said.

Who would have thought the Republican War Room would be staffed by Vulcans?

The message discipline of the Democrats has been extraordinary. Even in response to these criticisms:

But the Democrats resist any suggestion that they have broken their pledge.

"You can draw contrasts without drawing blood," said Mr. Kerry's spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter. "Elections are about choices, and there are two very different choices on the ballot."

When Mr. Kennedy's veteran spokesman, Jim Manley, was asked in a telephone interview whether the senator had been trying to call Mr. Bush a dumb liar, he broke up and insisted, "That laughter is off the record." Then he called back to add: "Senator Kennedy thinks that Senator Kerry has the wisdom and integrity to be a great president in this dangerous world, period, paragraph."

And the Republicans have become desperate for something to lash out against:

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Dean told a labor gathering that his most passionate supporters had made mistakes. "You can't call the president a fascist," Dr. Dean chuckled. After hearing of those comments, Mr. McConnell suggested Wednesday that Dr. Dean had referred to Mr. Bush as a fascist flat-out, but that was clearly a stretch.

Of course, not all Democrats appreciate the genius of this approach:

Some Democratic strategists questioned the very idea of hewing only to the high road, noting that the first task of any challenger is to persuade the public to fire the president. The closeness of all the polling suggests that Mr. Kerry has yet to do that, much less assure that he is a fully acceptable alternative.

A year ago I would have agreed with that sentiment, but that was when Bush was still flying high in the polls. These naysayers are right that the first task of the challenger is to persuade the public to fire Bush. But that case has already been made. In just two years Bush's approval ratings have gone from 90+% to 40+% and that during a time of war when people naturally rally to the President. The people are ready to kick Bush out. Now they just have to be sold on the idea of Kerry being an acceptable replacement. If the Democrats were to continue the direct, firebrand approach of Howard Dean they would just be accused of piling on. By using the "implicit slam", the Democrats are both watering the garden of Bush discontent, keeping it growing, while presenting a more positive impression of their own ability to do better.

That's a win-win.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Josh is right.

I was there at the beginning of the Dean phenomena and I can personally attest that the anger towards Bush amongst Democrats was dwarfed by their anger towards their leadership. Dean has said that when he first started campaigning he was surprised at the level of frustration he found within the Democratic rank-n-file. He went out to talk about issues like health care but discovered that many of those he talked to were more interested in venting their anger at the party leadership.

The first time I ever saw Dean speak was at the DNC Winter Meeting in early 2003 (transcript).  The opening line of that speech was, "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq." It was a full-on salvo aimed directly at the heart of the party in the very confines of a party leadership conference.

It brought down the house!

Dean sensed what most other Democratic leaders were not sensing and he seized on that frustration and nearly rode it to the nomination. It may be that he ultimately failed in the final days because he won the bigger victory: he set out to wake up the party to its failed policy of appeasement and the party woke up!

When I initially threw my support behind Dean it was based on three desires, each in descending order of desirability:

  1. To see Dean elected.
  2. To see someone like Dean elected.
  3. To see Bush removed from office.

Ultimately, though, the were all driven by a desire to get the party to take off the tutus and start acting like they cared about winning.

I was hard on John Kerry for much of 2003 specifically because he seemed to epitomize this appeasement policy. He was the poster-child for a leadership that just didn't understand what was going on out in the Heartland. He even went so far as to suggest that Democrats needed to "get over" the 2000 election. Only a Democratic politician divorced from reality would say something like that and not understand how alienating it would be.

Fortunately, Kerry seems to have absorbed the message of the Dean movement, at least to the extent that he now has a better appreciation of the anger and frustration Democrats have had with their leadership. Dean put the scare into him and I think he responded by digging deep into himself for the fighting spirit that held him up while leading Vietnam veterans to protest that war.

Now, I could hold it against Kerry that he took so long to "wake up". But recall that I wrote above about how even Dean was surprised by the anger in the Democratic rank-n-file. He didn't originally set out to be a firebrand, leading the pitchfork crowd against the Democratic tower. He was just separated enough from the inner-sanctum of Democratic politics to recognize what was going on before others did.

If I can "forgive" Dean for not recognizing the problem sooner than why can't I "forgive" John Kerry?

I set out 16 months ago to give Howard Dean the megaphone he needed to wake up the party. We did just that.

Howard Dean has won.

Now it's time for John Kerry to win.

It's getting better

One encouraging sign from the last two days is that the Democrats as a whole are learning to embrace some of the more "out there" elements of the party without the typical fear of being labeled as "out there" as well.

Yes, Michael Moore hasn't been given a spot on the podium. But two years ago I doubt he would have been allowed in the hall.

And Al Franken has been embraced as a major voice in Democratic politics.

The Whoopi and Margaret Cho incidents are evidence that the "quacking-in-their-boots" Democrats have a ways to go. But I'm going to adopt the "be positive" attitude of this convention and put greater emphasis on where the Democrats are doing things right.

Weakness and Strength

"Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness" -- Dick Cheney

With all due respect to the Veep, this is not an either-or proposition.

The perception of weakness can invite attack from those who already want to attack us, but by itself it does not create that desire.

The use of strength can give would-be attackers pause, but when used to excess it can lead to an increase in the number of people who want to attack us.

Statements like this from Mr. Cheney divide our nation by creating a false dichotomy between those who want to project strength and those who don't want to sow the seeds of the next crop of terrorists.

A divided nation is a weakened nation and black and white thinking like Mr. Cheney's just increases that divisiveness.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The blame game

I was doing some thinking this morning about the 9/11 report (no, I haven't read it), specifically with regard to the question of assigning blame. The general conclusion of the report was that there were multiple failures up and down the line in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, but that no one should specifically be held to blame for those failures.

Now, there are few ways to think about this:

1. The 9/11 commission punted on the issue of assigning blame because they couldn't agree on who to blame and therefore they went with the bi-partisan approach of blaming "the system".

2. By not blaming anyone they essentially let everyone off the hook. But will anything really change if no one is held accountable?

3. However, if the 9/11 commission had started pointing fingers the result would have been a lot of yelling and screaming and little action on the actual recommendations in the report, which wouldn't be good in the long run.

It is my opinion that the commission decided to go the route of "don't blame anyone" because they were more concerned with getting their proposals enacted(*). They don't want the blame game to get in the way of real change.

Which is all fine and good. Until you consider that the people who have to implement those changes are the very people who fucked up in the first place.

Is no one accountable for their mistakes anymore?


(*) I've heard a report that the commission members plan to continue working together to push their proposals.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Stage One Is Over

The first stage was the incumbent evaluation phase in which the voters took a closer look at Bush's performance. During that time Bush's ratings have dropped over 20 points across the board. Yet the polling numbers for Kerry vs. Bush have hardly budged. That's because most people weren't paying attention to Kerry. Stage One was all about Bush.

Stage Two will be all about Kerry and Kerry is in about as good a position as we could hope for going into this stage. He has survived a $80+ million negative ad blitz with only marginal impact on his favorability ratings (apparently the "flip/flopper" label isn't sticking). Now is the time for the Democrats to turn on the heat, not against Bush (that is so stage 1), but for Kerry. We have to make the case that Kerry is not just an acceptable alternative to Bush. We have to make the case that he is a fantastic alternative to Bush.

In a couple of months we will head into the final stage of the campaign. This will be where the voters evaluate their previous evaluations and do their first head-to-head comparisons of the two candidates. The debates will be key.

But that's the future. For now it is stage 2 all the way baby!

(The DailyKos has a report on a pre-convention bounce for Kerry.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Illusion of a Conflict


  • The DailyKos on the DCCC's initial sloppiness with respect to the Ginny Schrader candidacy.
  • The DailyKos on the culture of fear among Washington Democrats.
  • Digby on the most important job Democrats have.
  • Matt Stoller bringing Democratic partisans together.

Having read these posts and the threads that follow them (and contributed some to the heat within) I am left with the impression that partisans for both sides in this debate about how the Democrats should win back power ("fight back!", "better strategy!", "FIGHT BACK!", "BETTER STRATEGY!") are arguing their own position as if it was in conflict with the position of the other side.

The conflict is an illusion.

There is nothing inherent in the two camps positions that makes the other sides ideas inoperative. You can "fight back" with a "better strategy".

I think what upsets people like Markos, myself and others is not strategizing per se. It is the idea that a superior strategy is the only method that will work to defeat the Republicans. The 90s taught us two lessons:

  1. Democrats can win with a "better strategy", but
  2. They will continue to lose if they don't mix in an equal measure of "fighting back".

Some of the people who responded negatively to Markos' initial complaint seemed to be under the impression that those who were upset didn't care about whether Schrader was the best candidate for the job. Wrong. The concern was over the DCCC's public response to the issue, not whether they should back her or not.

"Fighting back" does not mean that we think that fighting is the be-all and end-all of politics. The failures of the Dean campaign show that a fighting spirit will only get you so far. You need a superior strategy as well. But a fighting spirit is required if you want to have a chance to put that strategy into effect.

This is not an either-or situation. We must not adopt the "with us or against us" attitude of the Bushies or the Naderites. We must learn how to fuse a superior strategy with the fire of a populist campaign.

If we don't, then we will lose. And by losing I don't just mean not beating George W. Bush this Fall. I mean that even if Kerry manages to defeat Bush we will still lose if his presidency becomes immediately bogged down in the kind of arguments we have seen in the last few days.

Let's not forget who the real enemy is here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The real danger

pie (subbing for Atrios):

There's something wrong with the current Justice Department. Someone needs to tell these people that their overzealous and exaggerated claims about terrorism are making them look like fools and seriously damaging their credibility.

Fuck their credibility! What about the danger from real terrorism that might be increased because of their repeated cries of "Wolf!"

From the horses mouth

Greg Speed, the DCCC spokesperson who gave the "no comment" that started off last nights hullaballoo has a post up on the DCCC blog:

The Hill chose to run a "no comment" from me after I declined to respond to a question about a hypothetical scenario from an "anonymous Pennsylvania source." The reporter just as easily could have written nothing, but instead chose to run a "no comment." I was put on the spot, and rather than address something I knew nothing about, I declined to comment. In no way did I intend to undercut Ginny Schrader.

Here's a comment I posted in response to his post:

I think Greg made a mistake by not at least giving token support to Schrader's candidacy. As a press spokesman he should understand that saying "no comment" to a reporter is a blanket permission for them to put any spin on the story that they want to. I am glad that he has clarified this matter but he needs to do better in the future.

Keep up the good work.

Some are raking him over the coals. Others are expressing surprise at the anger his handling of this produced. I choose a middle-ground. He made a mistake. He has clarified the matter. But he really hasn't rectified the mistake and he needs to learn better for the future

Reading Recommendation

I'm With Stupid:

But [Michael] Moore takes stupidity seriously, and so should we. It isn’t just a term of abuse for him, and he has something of a complex about it. He makes no secret of his obsession, from his book, Stupid White Men, to the sound-bites he gave to British papers, “We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don’t know about anything that’s happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing.” Our patriot networks typically have used such lines to pillory Moore as anti-American, but Moore includes himself in these comments. He makes fun of fat American tourists abroad, smiling to cover up the gap in their brains, but this isn’t just any fat American tourist. It’s Moore’s own persona.

How not to support a Democratic candidate

Amen to Brother Kos:

What these assholes at the DCCC don't realize is that you never, NEVER, talk down a candidate. Now, assuming Schrader is staying in the race as promised, that genius Speed has made it look as though she's second choice. That given the chance, the DCCC would've preferred someone else in the race.

Well, if the fucking DCCC wanted someone else in the race, they should've recruited that person to begin with. But from where I'm sitting, Ginny is doing just fine. She has great creds, and has been working the district tirelessly over the last few months. And that $7,000 in the bank has taken a turn for the better over the last 8 hours, no thanks to the geniuses at the D-trip who have handicapped the Democrats into long-time minority status.

Let them try to touch her. Just let them.

The rules are changing. The party committees no longer have unquestioned control over such decisions. We now have a voice, and I'm taking this chance to flex ours.

[Background: Ginny Schrader, Democratic candidate for a House seat in Pennsylvania, got a lucky boost yesterday when her Republican opponent announced his retirement. Suddenly, her unknown campaign, unsupported by the national party, has become the cause celeb of the left side of the blog world and nearly $20,000 has been raised for her in less than 24 hours. But now some Democratic leaders are making noises about how she should be replaced by a more "winnable" candidate.]

The thing that the Democratic leadership consistently fails to understand is that they are not the be all and end all when it comes to deciding the course of Democratic politics. They have abdicated that position over the years by becoming increasingly focused on a small, narrow range of "winnable" campaigns and abandoning the rest of the party to the winds of chance (such as the unexpected retirement of a Republican opponent). They expect to be the "grand poobahs" that everyone will listen to instead of doing what they are supposed to be doing and listening to us

Sorry. No. You aren't the ones in charge. You have the knowledge and talent for running those campaigns. Use that talent where it is best suited. But the choice of the campaign to run is not yours to make.


This has spawned an interesting thread over at the DailyKos. Some people think Markos has over-reacted to the DCCC's lack of unequivocal support for Schrader. I think he is spot on. Whether the DCCC spokeman meant to undermine Schrader, his "no comment" in response to the question of replacing her left a blank into which the reporter could put any kind of story he/she wanted. That's simply bad press management.

This is not varsity play. This is the major leagues. In a political world as on the edge as our is even little mistakes like that can be costly. I can understand making them, but I can't forgive them.

The Democrats have got to understand that they should always talk up their candidates, even if, behind the scenes, they are thinking about replacing them. The Republicans don't make that kind of mistake. That's why Al D'Amato's comments about Cheney stepping aside got so much attention. It was newsworthy because it was unusual.

But Democrats undermining other Democrats is par for the course. It's that kind of shit that has to be stopped.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The failure of the "blame the other guy" defense

I commented a couple of weeks back that the Republicans might have over-reached by pushing out a Senate report that seemed to blame all of the Iraq mess on the CIA and leave Bush completely in the clear. No one, except the most extreme Bush partisan, would buy the idea that Bush was completely blameless in this fuck-up. Yet by trying to push that idea, the Republicans just come off looking even worse.

Now we are seeing the same thing happen in England. Despite the release of Lord Butler's report, which said that Prime Minister Blair and his cabinet acted in good faith, ... 

Voters 'believe PM lied over Iraq'

A clear majority of voters believes Tony Blair lied over Iraq despite the Butler Report conclusions, according to a new poll.

And opposition to the war has climbed to its highest level yet, the ICM survey for The Guardian showed. Lord Butler last week said although intelligence was flawed the Prime Minister and his colleagues acted in good faith.

(Unfortunately the linked story doesn't give the actual numbers in the poll. If I find out what they are I'll try and update.)

The attempts by Bush and Blair to cover their assess just comes off looking obvious when those attempts leave them free and clear of blame.

The Prophet Dubya

Political Wire had this from our Dear Leader as their Quote of the Day for July 16th:

"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."

-- President Bush, quoted in the Lancaster New Era, during a private meeting with an Amish group.

Though politics is the primary focus of this blog, I am also intensely interested in matters of faith. Indeed, the question of God and our relationship with him is of a much greater importance to me than who is or is not elected President. The main reason I don't talk about it here is that I am not an overtly religious person. I believe in keeping matters of faith on a private level.

God does not speak to me, but I know plenty of people who tell me that he does. I have no problem with that. I don't consider it "kooky" in the least. That God speaks to many people of faith is something I have little doubt about.

But George W. Bush is not claiming that God is speaking to him.

He is claiming that is God is speaking through him.

He is claiming that his voice is the voice of God. I don't know how to interpret that any other way.

Bush has gone well beyond the claim that God has chosen a destiny for him that includes leading this country through a time of trial. He is claiming that he is God's representative on Earth and that he speaks with the authority of God.

I'm not sure even the Popes make claims like that anymore.

How can any serious person of faith not feel uncomfortable with a President who claims to be the voice of God?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

I have questions

Something is bugging me about the story that the 9/11 commission is going to report that several of the hijackers had connections with Iran. Consider this: the 9/11 commission has no intelligence gathering operation of its own. It is solely dependent upon the product of other intelligence organizations (CIA, DOD, foreign services, etc.). Whatever it reports has to be based on information that is already available to those who should be able to do something about it.

The thing that bugs me is this: why is it only now that we are hearing about these connections between Iran and the hijackers? Didn't the CIA already know about these connections? Certainly the evidence suggests that Iran had much closer ties to al Qaeda and the hijackers than Saddam ever did. Yet, other than a brief inclusion of Iran in Bush's "Axis of Evil", there hasn't been that much talk about this. Instead, we have devoted a major portion of our offensive capability against Iraq. Was it all just a typo?

Why did it take the 9/11 commission to figure this out?


Friday, July 16, 2004

Allawi personally executes six insurgents

There is a story this morning out of Australia that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, performed a summary execution of six insurgents just a week before the handover. The report comes from Australian journalist Paul McGeough. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age both have the same report and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has an interview with McGeough about the story here.

This is a pretty explosive story as it indicates a return to Saddam style rule in Iraq. But it is important to remember that there are a lot of ugly rumors flying around these days and McGeough admits as much in the ABC interview. He went with this story because he found two witnesses to the event that he tracked down independently and who gave almost the exact same story. I say "almost" because of two small details: (1) neither witness could identify the exact day of the event and (2) they give conflicting accounts of injuries received by a seventh prisoner who was allegedly shot by Allawi but did not die. The latter could be excused as simple confusion, but I am troubled by the fact that neither of them can recall the exact day of the event.

Now maybe this kind of thing is not so shocking to these witnesses that the day of the event wouldn't stick in their minds. McGeough said that they seemed pretty blasé about the whole matter and may have even supported Allawi's actions. But it is precisely this kind of confusion about minor details that our establishment news organizations would use as an excuse not to report this story.

I hope this story doesn't drop into the memory hole. Even despite my misgivings about it, the fact that McGeough was able to find two witnesses who closely matched in their stories yet appeared not to know about each other is significant.

Update:   Oh wait, I forgot. Martha Stewart was sentenced today. Where are my priorities?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Rumors about rumors about rumors

Jesse Taylor on the Cheney rumors:

You know, I want to see Cheney gone as much as anyone. But this Elisabeth Bumiller article in the Times is just ridiculous.

Privately, Democrats are talking about Cheney leaving the ticket. And, in the finest sense of "I'm not really spreading a rumor", Bumiller writes about the rumor's existence, rather than the rumor itself, which lends the rumor a strange kind of credibility (it's worthy of being reported, but I'll weasel out of actually repeating it). I can see why Democrats would do this, if for no other reason than that if it latches on, the ticket looks like it's sticking with a wounded duck, and if it doesn't - all they had to do was just bring it up for a few days in "private" conversations.

But just as the media shouldn't traffic in rumors without validation, I kind of fail to see the use in trafficking in reports of rumors. "Person X says that Group Y is talking about Bush's potential drug use in the Oval Office" is actually a dumber and less responsible story than "Does Bush use drugs in the Oval Office?", because by the time you've crafted the former story, you already know you shouldn't be reporting it with any credibility.

You know, Jesse is right. The media are obsessed with trivialities. They are very susceptible to the temptation to raise cocktail hour gossip into serious topics of national discussion. All it takes is one or two less diligent members of the press to do the elevating (that Bumiller wrote about it in the Times just adds institutional weight to the rumor) and the press will be off and running with the story for days and weeks (and sometimes years).

But there is a delicious irony in seeing the Republicans having to fend off "rumors about a rumor". They have become the masters when it comes to manipulating the media into spreading this kind of crap about Democrats. It's probably the one of the major reasons they have achieved any level of national success. That and the fact that the Democrats have been so long in waking up to what they were doing.

The Democrats are no longer asleep at the switch. I, naturally, give the credit for waking them up to equal parts Howard Dean and the influx of prominent bloggers into the upper echelons of the party (Internet denizens have long been aware of what was going on). They are getting better at dealing with the problem and, as this story indicates, they are not above using it against the Republicans.

We can argue about whether the ultimate result is a further eroding of the political dialog in this country. But I have my doubts that we can ever eliminate the problem. Barring that, I for one am glad to see a little balance being restored to the process. Indeed, it may be that this kind of "live by the sword, die by the sword" payback is necessary to get the Republicans to behave. When one side unilaterally disarms, is it any surprise when the other side picks up the sword and uses it to their benefit?

The President who cried "Wolf!"

Wesley Powell, a bartcop nation poster, makes an interesting point:

There may come a time in the next term when America will truly need to use military force somewhere for national security reasons. If that case was to arise, ANYONE would be better to have in there than Bush. Bush, in military terms, is now officially a lame duck. And would be next term as well. Can you picture Bush trying to make the case for any further military action anywhere, for any reason? It would be a catastrophe. The international community would totally line up against us. Wouldn't even get Tony Blair next time. Even a substantial element of the republican party would balk, thinking Bush may be leading the entire party off the cliff, similar to post Watergate. So in case our military may have to be used for serious, legitimate purposes sometime between 2004 and 2008, the only logical choice is Kerry. For our national security.

this is a gud book

Reviews of "My Pet Goat".

Republican Veepstakes

There's nothing the Washington press corps loves more than gabbing about rumors of political intrigue. The Democractic Veepstakes provided them with a lot of material to work with (Gephardt! Edwards! Gephardt! Hillary?! Edwards! Hillary?! Villsack! Dean?? Gephardt! GEPHARDT! GEPHARDT! ... Edwards!) but that is over now. So why not run with a little Republican Veepstakes?

Hear the Rumor on Cheney? Capital Buzzes, Denials Aside

WASHINGTON, July 14 - In the annals of Washington conspiracy theories, the latest one, about Vice President Dick Cheney's future on the Republican ticket, is as ingenious as it is far-fetched. But that has not stopped it from racing through Republican and Democratic circles like the latest low-carb diet.

The newest theory - advanced privately by prominent Democrats, including members of Congress - holds that Mr. Cheney recently dismissed his personal doctor so that he could see a new one, who will conveniently tell him in August that his heart problems make him unfit to run with Mr. Bush. The dismissed physician, Dr. Gary Malakoff, who four years ago declared that Mr. Cheney was "up to the task of the most sensitive public office" despite a history of heart disease, was dropped from Mr. Cheney's medical team because of an addiction to prescription drugs.

From the sound of it, the Democrats are deliberately feeding the press frenzy while trying to stay above the fray:

Democrats, as part of their campaign to discredit the competition, are energetically promoting the idea that Mr. Cheney is a drag on the ticket. But none of them are suggesting that Mr. Bush should drop him.

"He has come to be a polarizing figure who repels voters," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Senator John Kerry. But asked if that did not make Mr. Cheney a dream candidate to run against, Mr. Devine demurred. "I'm not going to lob one in that direction," he said. "I don't want to be the Kerry guy who says 'We want Cheney.' "

Of course we want Cheney on the ticket. But even if Bush were to drop him it would still be a good thing because it would be Bush's McGovern-Eagleton moment. It would feed the impression of a campaign in chaos while putting Bush in the untenable position of naming an acceptable replacement in a very short period of time. Even though a Powell, McCain or Giulliani might otherwise be a boost to the ticket, their pro-choice position would make them unacceptable to Bush's base. His campaign, up till now, has been based almost entirely on getting out the base (thus his support of the FMA) and trying to drag down Kerry's favorables.

It doesn't happen very often, but right now we are in a moment where Democrats are doing a good job of driving the political news. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A pretty attractive page

The following comes from an LA Times' article on John Kerry's attempts to reach out to a broader political spectrum:

[...] On Wednesday, the two made their first joint appearance outside the Pennsylvania estate of Kerry's wife, flanked by their spouses and seven of their families' children, ages 4 to 34.

A GOP media strategist who watched the event on a television with the sound off was struck by the ticket's "very wholesome" image. "If America wants to turn the page, it's a pretty attractive page to turn to," the strategist said on condition of anonymity.

We are entering the 2nd phase of the general election campaign. The 1st phase was the assessment period of Bush's presidency. During that phase the electorate has spent most of its time thinking about whether George W. Bush deserves re-election or not. The results have not been good for Bush. His approval ratings have plummeted 10-20 points, including significant drops in approval on his signature issue: fighting terrorism. This has created the necessary opening for the 2nd phase.

The 2nd phase is the assessment of the opposition. Kerry's handling of the Veepstakes has given him about as good a launch into that phase as could be hoped for. The unnamed GOP media strategist has it right. If the people come to the conclusion that it is time for a change, then the alternative has to at least look attractive; especially in a time of war.

The 3rd and final phase of the general election will start after the Republican convention and peak during the debates. It will be then that the electorate will decide whether their assessments during the 1st and 2nd phases hold up.

Right now, label me "cautiously optimistic".

The soul of man

Music may be the most visible expression of popular sentiment in this or any other country. It speaks to us on a level beneath our conscious rationalizations and gives voice to feelings that we may not otherwise be comfortable expressing in ordinary conversation. This is especially true during times of national crisis (depression, war, etc.). Which is why the following Daily News article provides a fascinating insight into the underlying zeitgeist of the American public:

In the even broader picture, Sean Ross of Edison Media Research says that over the last 15 months, songs addressing the Iraqi war on the radio have shifted dramatically from endorsing it to questioning it.


But Ross also says he's noticed a dramatic turnaround among songs of all genres that address the war.

"When I started taping war songs 15 months ago," he says, "at least three-quarters were pro-war or pro-soldier, though the latter weren't always the former.

"Now, it's at least 75% against the war - and even the country songs, which tend to support it, seem more reflective."

(link courtesy AMERICAblog).

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Cognitive Dissonance

Thy name is Bush (courtesy Richard Cohen):

[...] Don Rumsfeld assured us nearly two years ago that wherever bin Laden is, "you can be certain that he's having one dickens of a time operating his apparatus." The U.S. ground commander in Afghanistan at the time was even more confident. "We don't have to find him," Lt. Gen. Dan McNeil said of bin Laden, "because we're going to shut down his terrorist apparatus."

But somehow, this terrorist whose capture did not matter all that much, whose apparatus would be shut down by Pentagon apparatchiks, has now caused much of Washington to break out in hives. The election may be interrupted. New York may be attacked. Still, we are safe. Check that: We are safer. In fact, we are both safe and not safe because, as the record makes clear, it is both important to get bin Laden and not important to get him -- depending, of course, on which mistake some nincompoop is trying to excuse.

The most solemn obligation of a president is to keep us safe. This is something Bush has not done. Not only did Sept. 11 occur on his watch but nearly 900 Americans have been killed in Iraq, a war that could have waited . . . maybe forever. [...]

Just because your paranoid ...

Many lightly dismiss the notion of the Bushies canceling (delaying) the election in light of a terrorist attack because they just can't imagine that our leaders would ever do such a thing.

Just like they never imagined our leaders would lie us into a unilateral, pre-emptive war and deliberately feed on our fears of terrorist attacks for partisan political gain.

Now I am not saying I buy into the "cancel the elections" idea. I'm just saying that "they wouldn't go that far" is not a sufficient refutation of the idea.

War before it was to late

Kevin Drum responds to the suggestion that the CIA didn't screw up as badly as some because, after all, it sure looked like Saddam was hiding something(*):

Did the CIA screw up? Probably. Did it matter? No. George Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 not because he was convinced Iraq had WMD, but because he was becoming scared that Iraq didn't have WMD and that further inspections would prove it beyond any doubt. Facts on the ground have never been allowed to interfere with George Bush's worldview, and he wasn't about to take the chance that they might interfere with his war.

I don't know if Bush was ever on the ball enough to be that calculating. He probably eats his own shit.

But I'm sure that many of the people around him (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz) were worried that continued inspections would eventually undermine the case for going to war with Iraq. And it's not simply the case that they knew that the inspectors wouldn't find anything. It's that they didn't believe the inspections could ever be relied on to give a definitive answer on the issue. But they knew that they would eventually undermine the case for war.

They had only a narrow window in which to initiate the operation and, if they missed it, it would probably never come again. That's probably why they aborted the attempt to get a 2nd UN resolution. They knew it would only drag the process out even longer and make it that much harder for them to get their war on their terms.

That was simply unacceptable, so to war we went.

(*) Why did Saddam act like he was hiding something when he didn't? Because he believed the fear that he had something would be sufficient to keep the rest of the world out. It was to his advantage to keep people guessing about his true capabilities.

Listening for only what you want to hear

Courtesy of a poster over on bartcop nation comes this transcript from last Friday's News Hour:

DAVID KAY: Well, first of all, every analyst ought to be asking his own questions. We're overlooking the fact that this show is at the cadre of analysts were writing this were not well-trained themselves. Certainly the managerial layer has a responsibility. The NIC has that-- the National Intelligence Council-- that produced the NIE.

They didn't do contrary analysis; they did the lowest common denominator agreement. I think one thing of the political pressure though that we're overlooking is after 1995, there was only one element of glue that kept us able to keep sanctions in place and have any international allies, and that was Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the presumed weapons of mass destruction. So it meant that there were two levels and two standards that were applied.

Any information that showed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was accepted and reviewed and welcomed with very little scrutiny. Evidence that didn't fit that pattern had a much higher bar to pass, because if the weapons went away, if they weren't there, the U.S. had no Iraq policy and no allies for an Iraq policy. That's a vicious type of pressure.

This is what happens when the intelligence community becomes politicized. When the future prospects of agents and analysts becomes dependent upon how their output matches with the desired result then it is inevitable that the whole process will become corrupt and unreliable. I don't have the link available, but several years back I read an article in either The Atlantic or The American Prospect that discussed how the Reagan administration politicized the analysis wing of the CIA. The Reaganites didn't like it when the analysts would tell them that the Soviet Union wasn't a big threat. So they put in place people who would bring the proper perspective to the job.

The result was an intelligence community that was caught off-guard when the Soviet Union collapsed.

And an intelligence community that didn't see 9/11 coming.

And an intelligence community that vastly over-inflated Saddam Hussein's capabilities.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Sowing Seeds of Democracy

This posting over at Blog For America proves the value of the "never let them run unopposed" strategy behind Dean's endorsements. It tells the story of the effect that one Jeffrey Siemer is having on one particular race:

When you are a previously un-opposed congressional candidate running for office with a warchest over 90 times as large as your democratic opponent, nothing can more be meddlesome -- or land a monkey-wrench in your plans -- than running against a Dean campaign inspired candidate with national grassroots support. The St. Petersburg Times yesterday reported on fundraising tactics used by U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, the Republican incumbent for Florida's District 12. The grassroots have Putnam singing the victim song to his big donors.

I know that some have criticized Dean for endorsing candidates who, by traditional political logic, have no chance of winning. The standard procedure for a nascent political organization is to prove their value by racking up a few wins and thus drawing more powerful players to them a s they prove their political value. But that approach has lead us to a Democratic Party establishment that only pays attention to a narrow segment of races and leaves the rest of the party to essentially fend for itself.

And then they wonder why there aren't any good candidates to carry the party forward into the future.

Dean's approach is different. Success is not simply a matter of marking off wins on a check list. It also is about building organizations that will grow over time into political machines that will win the races that were previously considered un-winnable.

For example, at last weeks DFA meetup, we got a visit from Mik Sander, an average citizen who has decided to step up to the plate and take on the incumbent Republican in his State House district. He has virtually no organization nor institutional backing from the party. But he has drive and a good message and he is very personable. He's the kind of guy we, as citizens, should want representing us. But he would never get anywhere if he had to rely solely on the traditional Democratic leadership for help.

But maybe, with the support of organizations like Dean's (Mik has lobbied for, but has yet to receive a Dean Dozen endorsement), candidates like Mik can build the foundations they will need to achieve victory in the long run.

Simiarly, the story from BfA shows that, even if Jeffrey Siemer doesn't beat Adam Putnam, he has forced Putnam to go back to his fundraisers and tap the well again. That means less money available for other candidates. That means more time spent campaigning by Putnam. That means less time he can spend pushing the Republican agenda. And maybe, just maybe, more opportunities for him to make a mistake on the campaign trail.

That's called growing the party from the grassroots.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

"I've watched it for the last four years"

John Kerry on F9/11:

LARRY KING: Have you seen "Fahrenheit 9/11"?

JOHN KERRY: No, I haven't. I haven't.

KING: Do you plan to?

KERRY: I don't plan to, right now.

KING: Don't plan to?

KERRY: No, I don't plan to.

KING: Wouldn't you be curious to want to see it?

KERRY: I've seen it. I've watched it for the last four years.

You know, I think I'm finally starting to warm to this guy.


Go read this and keep the following in mind: back in the 90s, the media made a lot of noise about the fact that the Clinton White House received one briefing on the Whitewater investigation (before it went to an Independent Counsel) from someone in the Justice Department.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Dissin' the troops

GKC President Beth Kerasotes confirmed Thursday that the Springfield, Illinois-based company with roughly 270 movie screens at 29 theaters scattered across five Midwestern states will not show Moore's film as long as the country is at war.

"We believe in Michael Moore's freedom to make this movie," Kerasotes said. "We trust that our customers will recognize and respect our own freedom to choose not to show it. During a time of war, the American troops in Iraq need and deserve our undivided support."

That owner must not have a lot of faith in the troops if she thinks a little movie is going to hurt them.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I hate it when I'm right

Not to distract from the cheers in the Democratic ranks at the choice of John Edwards for VP, but ...

President Bush's campaign strategists say they are planning to attack Senator John Kerry's running mate as a second choice no matter who it turns out to be and are preparing a commercial asserting that Mr. Kerry has made clear that his first choice was a Republican who still stands at Mr. Bush's side, Senator John McCain.

"We think it's important that people understand that this is a ticket of John Kerry and his second choice," Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign's communications director, said.

Apparently the Kerry-Edwards camp has a pretty good response to this ad: a positive blurb on the back of John Edward's book from John McCain!

Still, this ad just proves my point that the whole talk about McCain was foolish and dangerous.

Update: Kos has the McCain quote:


Good choice. In the last couple of days I had come down to the feeling that it should be either Edwards or Graham. I would have liked Graham for the fact that he was anti-war and could thus provide a good counter-point to both Bush-Cheney and John Kerry. If nothing else, the "Thank-God-It-Wasn't-Gephardt" rush in the democratic ranks will give the campaign a boost.

Probably the most encouraging thing about this pick is not just who was selected but how well the Kerry campaign has stage-managed the roll out. I was critical of Kerry's ham-handed campaigning in the primaries, but since Iowa he has shown himself to be a master of the low-key style. Good job Senator!

Monday, July 05, 2004

The need for fighters

I agree with Athenae :

Kos has a Gephardt thread up discussing his VP chances, and he makes a point I think a lot of people will make if the choice should be Gephardt after all: that here is a man who gives the Republicans no ammunition.

My only problem with looking at that as a significant advantage for any candidate is this: since when have the Republicans needed ammunition to go after somebody? I know, let's ask Max Cleland, who clearly gave Saxby Chambliss ammunition to question his patriotism by losing three limbs in a war. Let's ask the Republican strategists exactly how concerned they are about giving Dems ammunition to paint their candidates as compassionless warmongers.

In Republicans' eyes, Democrats are going to be the party of evil no matter what. I want to win as much as the next girl, and I'm not advocating for or against any Veep choice. I just don't want to see us, in the next four months, get too wrapped up in avoiding the slings and arrows of outrageous Republicans. Let's spend our time thinking about how to hit back, hard.

I made this same argument during the primaries when people suggested that Dean was more vulnerable to attack than other contenders, such as Kerry. Republicans don't need an excuse to attack. They will attack regardless of who we put forward. What matters is that we have a candidate who knows how to respond to those attacks and can hit back as well.

The $100+ million campaign of smears against Kerry is a perfect example of this. I will admit that Kerry has weathered the storm better than I thought he would. He has proven himself to be pretty adroit at handling the attacks (better than Gore was in 2000). Specifically, Kerry has not allowed the attacks to get him off message.

Would Gephardt be as successful at handling the inevitable attacks? I don't know. But arguing for Gephardt on the basis of him being less vulnerable to attacks is a non-started as far as I'm concerned.

The primary attribute of any candidate today is their fighting ability. I've never gotten the impression that Gephardt was much of a fighter.

But then I wasn't impressed by Kerry's fighting skills during much of the pre-primary season. So what do I know?

Dubya's War is not Vietnam

It is the Bay of Pigs, on a much grander scale.

That's the impression I get from reading this New Yorker article on Ahmed Chalabi. Particularly this passage:

Shortly after the [Iraqi Liberation Act's] passage, General Anthony Zinni, who was then the commander of centcom, which is assigned operational control of U.S. combat forces in the Middle East, saw a copy of Chalabi’s military plan. “It got me pretty angry,” he told me. Zinni knew Iraq’s terrain well, and testified before Congress that Chalabi’s plan was “pie in the sky, a fairy tale.” He said, “They were saying if you put a thousand troops on the ground Saddam’s regime will collapse, they won’t fight. I said, ‘I fly over them every day, and they shoot at us. We hit them, and they shoot at us again. No way a thousand forces would end it.’ The exile group was giving them inaccurate intelligence. Their scheme was ridiculous.”

When have we dealt with a group of foreign nationals who manipulated the United States into supporting a military intervention with inadequate forces (inadequate because they would have never been able to persuade us by asking for realistic help)? Cuba in the 50s and 60s

Friday, July 02, 2004


Tiger Hand beats paper. Like totally beats paper. Always

(link courtesy Sid's Fishbowl)

Supporting the President is nothing to be ashamed of. Bush on the other hand ...

Entertainment Weekly has a good interview with Michael Moore. You can find it here, but it requires a subscription. Here's the final Q&A:

EW Ever worry about your tone? I mean, this guy is the President.

MOORE I understand what you're saying. He is the President of the United States. Look, here's a good example of how I feel about this. A couple of weeks ago, out here on Broadway, a guy comes up to me and says, ''I'm a Navy surgeon. And I was on a ship off Iraq the night you made your speech at the Oscars and I was very angry at you. I remember yelling with the others at the screen. Now I just want to apologize. You were right. You were telling the truth.'' And I said, Listen, you don't owe me any apology. Apologize for what? That you believed your Commander-in-Chief? That you believed the President of the United States? Why should you feel bad? You should believe the President, because if we can't believe our President we're in deep trouble. You don't have to apologize for anything. In fact, I want to thank you for offering to risk your life to defend us. I think it would make the founding fathers proud to see the country still survives in their first belief, that's why it's their First Amendment, that somebody has the ability to express themselves and criticize the top guy. That's the country they created. That's the country that gave us Mark Twain, Will Rogers,

I commented on this a few weeks back when talking about strategies for dealing with people who voted for Bush in 2000. I took much the same tack that Moore takes here: those people have nothing to be ashamed of. They believed in what they voted for. It wasn't their fault that what they got wasn't what they promised.

But, if they vote for Bush again, then it will be their fault.

Inappropriate Familiarity

Does anyone besides me find it condescending for George to always refer to leaders of other countries by their first name? I expect he thinks he is presenting an air of friendly familiarity. But to me it just comes off as belittling of the position of importance held by those leaders. It just seems disrespectful.

He's not Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, leader of a country 82 million people.

He's just some German guy named Gerhard.

Well, I suppose it's better than calling him "Ger".

That was fast

It was only yesterday that a judge ruled that Florida had to release the felon purge list to the media and already the Miami Herald is out with a report that nearly 2,100 voters on that list could be wrongly barred from voting in November. Did they really double-check several thousand listings in a single day? Not likely. It's more likely that the Herald has had access to the list for several weeks but was holding back on reporting this story until the courts ruled on whether the list could be released. I would imagine some upset local election official leaked the list to the media well in advance.

(btw, I love the picture on the story of the guy holding a bible and his clemency document. Nice touch.)

The Power Of Image

Report from Variety (of all places!)

NEW YORK -- U.S. news networks agreed to let the American military censor out certain images of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s court hearing Thursday in Baghdad, one in a bizarre series of events surrounding coverage of the session.

American and Iraqi officials did not want any footage shown of Iraqi guards or court personnel, and they asked broadcast and cable news nets to honor this request.

But the situation took an unexpected turn even before the hearing began, when U.S. officials ordered CNN and Al-Jazeera, the pool camera crews, to disconnect their audio equipment. Officials said it was the wish of the Iraqi judge.

I commented yesterday on the very real danger that these proceedings could be used by Saddam to persuade the Iraqi people that he was as much a victim of the American occupation as they are. Frankly, the stagecraft of this hearing sucked. The only image that was broadcast was of Saddam, hearing the charges and responding to them with apparent vigor. The face of the judge and the guards were not shown. This visual makes it much harder to put across the idea that it was the Iraqis who were in charge of the proceeding instead of Saddam. A better camera view would have been over the shoulder of Saddam, focused on the judge, as he read of the charges.

Now, it turns out, this choice of angles was deliberate, most likely out of a concern that any broadcast of the judge's face would further endanger his life. But then that just leads us back to the failure of the occupation. The fact that they had to avoid showing the judge's face in order to protect him only feeds into the idea that they are working from a position of weakness. The only image of strength in that hearing yesterday was Saddam's

(Aside: several American media people are describing Saddam's performance as rambling and incoherent. But I've seen reports that Middle East media is describing him as being more in control. Could these reports just be wish fulfillment?)

Republican Political Correctness

Republicans have been very successful at using the term "political correctness" to beat back any attempt to paint them as sympathetic to the worst attributes of any of their supporters. This is how Dick Cheney can go on Rush Limbaugh without being asked by the media if he supports some of the more controversial things that Limbaugh has said. If anyone in the establishment press did so they would simply be attacked by the right-wing media apparatus as trying to suppress different points of view.

Democrats, on the other hand, tend to run away at the first sign of controversial support. Kos notes in this post that few in the Democratic leadership have embraced Howard Stern's call to his listeners to vote Bush out of office. They are afraid to do so because Stern is a controversial figure.

The smart Democrat is one that realizes that there is no such thing as support that is not immune from controversy. They have to be willing to stand up to criticism. They have to turn the tables on the Republicans and ask, like they do with their critics, why they want to beat down opposing points of view.

Democratic leaders, instead of fretting about some of the "liberties" Michael Moore allegedly takes with the truth would help their cause far more if they were to make an issue out of right-wing attempts to keep Moore from getting his message out.

It's time to turn the PC tables on Republicans and make <i>them</i> sweat a little.

Fair Warning

DemFromCT posts on the DailyKos about the importance to the Kerry campaign of online donations by small donors:

Kerry, of course, was a relative late-comer to the Internet, but who will remember that tomorrow? And with the obvious corporate edge that the GOP has, the whole concept of the small donor has to be integrated into Democratic politics and practice to keep the playing field even.

Integrating small donors into the Democratic party is going to be the real project in the coming years. Right now the Democrats have a natural fundraising incentive in George W. Bush. Many of those donors are giving money to the Kerry campaign not out of any particular love of Kerry or the Democrats but because they want to defeat Bush and it is the easiest way to help achieve that goal.

But, once Bush is defeated, will those small donors continue to provide the money the Democrats need to make up for the advantages the Republicans have in this area? They won't if the party comes to expect that all it takes to raise this kind of money is to just put up a link on a web page. They won't if the party doesn't understand that it is only because of the rank-n-files distaste for Bush and the Republicans that they are managing to remain within parity with the GOP. In order for the small donor to become a more permanent fixture in the Democratic party the small donors will have to feel that they are actually influencing the direction of the party.

Now, the goal of defeating Bush is so paramount right now that this issue is one that doesn't need to be hashed over right now. I bring it up now only as a warning to the party not to get comfortable with the kind of success Kerry has had this year.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Triumph Of The Will, Part III

Saddam this morning tried to assert that he was still the leader of Iraq and, as President, he could not be held liable for the alleged crimes since he was functioning as the protector of Iraq and that gave him the authority to do what needed to be done.

Hmmm.... Where have I heard that argument before?

Triumph Of The Will, Part II

From a UPI article on the hearing and Iraqi reaction to same:

In several Baghdad teashops and other gathering spots of the local society, reaction was confused and mixed. But even Saddam's critics seemed to take some national pride in seeing the man that ruled them for so long looking strong and defiant.

"To see him pathetic when he was caught was a shame on all Iraqis, because we had been so powerfully ruled by a man that seemed to be such a coward," one man said, who would not give his name. "Now this is the Saddam that we knew -- and even if you hated him -- you feel proud to see him act like a man."

Others said they would hold their opinion until they heard the evidence against him.

"I need to see what they have as evidence," Abbas, a security guard for the al Dora electric power facility. "I don't know how to see what will happen."

If warning lights aren't going off in the offices of those in charge of this trial than they are risking an awful surprise.

Triumph Of The Will

While watching the first day of proceedings in the trial of Saddam Hussein this morning, I was struck by the thought that there is a real danger of losing the case against Saddam. Contrary to the previous haggard image of him after he was pulled from his hiding place, Saddam projected forcefulness and strength in the opening moments. A proceeding that was supposed to be a listing of the charges against him was instead turned into a forum for Saddam to lodge charges against those who "illegally invaded Iraq". You can imagine that those will be the words and images that will dominate the first day of coverage in the Middle East.

Saddam is once again proving why it is that he is a survivor. He understands the nature of power and he resolved that he would immediately try to take charge of the proceedings from the first moment he stepped into the courtroom. By doing so, and by playing the "illegal invasion of Iraq" card, Saddam is putting himself in the same category of the 70-80% of Iraqis who resent the American presence in their country.

The danger is that the Iraqis, after 14 months of failed occupation, might be susceptible to what Saddam is trying to sell them. The Iraqi people are in the position of the abused spouse who has to reject the overtures of their abuser. And history tells us that the abused spouse usually doesn't have the strength of will to resist those overtures.

Don't get me wrong. I think a public trial against Saddam, run primarily by the Iraqis, is a good thing. The Iraqis need to feel that is them, not the United States, that will convict this monster. But those in charge of this operation have to be aware of the very real danger they are facing. They have to confront him with a presentation as forceful as Saddam's and demonstrate a strength of will above and beyond Saddam's.

The last thing they want is for him to come off as a sympathetic figure to the Iraqi people, let alone the rest of the Middle East. If he does then George W. Bush's failure in Iraq will be complete.