Saturday, September 13, 2003

Bush has a lock on the military vote, right?

All soldiers just love Bush, right?

"What I heard him say was, 'You went there. You took names. Came home. Now you're going back,' " Henry said. "He likes war. He should go fight in a war for two days and see how he likes it." -- Comments of Pvt. Kenneth Henry, 21, 3rd Infantry Division after listening to Dubya welcome his division home from Iraq knowing full well that they will be going back sometime soon.


Friday, September 12, 2003

Dean tries to stay on top of the noise

Could this be the end of this dustup? I certainly hope so and not just because I am a Dean supporter. Karl Rove had to be cackling with glee that last few days. We should never give Karl something to be happy about.

Dean, Pelosi Find Agreement on Israel
Presidential Candidate Dean, Rep. Nancy Pelosi Find They Agree on U.S. Role in Middle East

WASHINGTON Sept. 12 — 
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean have cleared the air and decided they agree about the United States' role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dean, a former Vermont governor, called Pelosi Thursday after hearing that she had signed a letter objecting to his comment that the United States should "not take sides" in the Middle East dispute. Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the two agreed that the United States should be an honest broker, but must remain committed to Israel's right to exist.

"She had a good conversation with him yesterday," Daly said. "We're pleased that he has clarified his position and stated his commitment to Israel's right to exist. This satisfies what we were looking for in our letter."


Dean said he would follow in President Clinton's footsteps and make every effort to bring peace to the region from his first day in office.

"I will not allow a split to emerge in our party on this critical issue, and I am sure you share my commitment to that goal," he wrote.

Dean also issued a press release on the latest attacks. I think he is trying to elevate the dialog and I applaud him for it. I wonder if the others will agree.


Who has the most to fear from Clark?

Carol Cantor on Salon's Table Talk reported the following:

Good moment from Clark on CNN"s early morning news show today. When the anchorchick asked him which candidate had the most to fear from his entry into the race, he said "the President."


Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 9/12/2003

  This Week (9/12) Last Week (9/5)
1 Howard Dean 6330 21.2% +2.3 1 4490 18.9%
2 John Kerry 4980 16.7% -1.9 2 4420 18.6%
3 Dick Gephardt 3510 11.8% +0.3 3 2730 11.5%
4 John Edwards 3230 10.8% +0.4 4 2480 10.4%
5 Joe Lieberman 2710 9.1% -0.5 5 2280 9.6%
6 Bob Graham 2620 8.8% +0.7 7 1920 8.1%
7 Dennis Kucinich 2370 7.9% -1.2 6 2180 9.2%
8 Al Sharpton 1790 6.0% -0.4 8 1520 6.4%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 1210 4.1% -0.5 9 1080 4.5%
10 Wesley Clark 1100 3.7% +0.8 10 676 2.8%

I think it's pretty much official now: Howard Dean, at least in the eyes of the media, is the front-runner. Dean has had a huge boost in his share points this past week. Of course, that's not all positive for Dean since some of that was generated by the controversies over his comments about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and rising questions about his "flip-flops". Still, his 21.2% is the highest media share registered so far in the poll (the previous high was a 20.1% for John Kerry back on July 16th). I don't think any candidate would prefer to be a struggling unknown vs. the front-runner fighting off attacks from all sides.

And speaking of John Kerry: his campaign re-launch has so far been a big fat goose egg. He is in real danger of being written off by the establishment press as an "also ran". If he doesn't do something soon I think his share numbers will drop down to the 2nd tier level.

The remainder of the field is pretty much holding steady where it is. None of them have found a way to burst out of the media doldrums yet.

Wesley Clark's numbers have been moving steadily up. I predict they will see a significant blip next week as the impact of the Dean/Clark rumors starts to be felt and as the anticipation of his likely announcement builds. He could, in the next two weeks, jump ahead of most of the rest of the pack, at least temporarily. But I still maintain that if he doesn't have a sustained campaign plan post-announcement his media share will drop back into the 2nd tier and he will end up being a flash in the pan.

This campaign is still Dean's to lose. But let there be no doubt about it, Dean could still lose it. The next few weeks will be very telling on his long term viability. If he can withstand the slings and arrows of front-runner status relatively unscathed then he will ease a lot of people's concerns about his fitness to be the candidate. If not, then Clark will have a real shot of bursting the Dean bubble and making a real name for himself.

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.)

Speaking of flip-flops

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."

- George Bush 9/13/01

"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."

- George Bush, 3/13/02

The Flip-Flop Trap

I want to give you an example of how the media game is played in American politics today. I call it the Flip-Flop Trap. (Note that I am not describing a real incident. I am only providing an illustrative example of the schizoid nature of modern political reportage.)


  1. Howard Dean gives an interview to Wolf Blitzer and says that Hamas invited attacks on themselves by declaring war on Israel.
  2. FOX, Drudge, etc. start accusing Dean of saying that Hamas is not a terrorist organization.
  3. Dean replies that he said no such thing and of course Hamas is a terrorist organization.
  4. The establishment media says that Dean flip-flops on his position on Hamas.

The rules here are pretty simple. First you accuse an opponent of saying something that they didn't say. Then, when they deny it, you accuse them of back-tracking or flip-flopping.

This is "do you still beat your wife" territory and is fundamentally an unethical way to practice journalism. But it is pretty much par for the course these days.

Get used to it.

Truth Is Scarce

Charley Reese has some thoughts on the value of honesty in politicians:

Some years ago, I gave up interviewing politicians. They will not tell the truth. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in his official campaign-opening speech recently, is a perfect illustration of the politician's aversion to truth.

"I voted to allow the president to threaten the use of force," Kerry said, adding that it was the right decision.

That's a lie. Kerry did not vote to allow the president to threaten force. He voted to authorize the president to use force. Why couldn't he just say that and add, "In retrospect, that was a mistake." No, Kerry is not going to admit he made a mistake even though his campaign stance is the reverse of his earlier position.

That is so typical of today's politicians and is, I think, a leading cause of voter apathy. Most Americans don't expect politicians to be infallible and perfect, but they do have a right to expect that politicians will be honest.


NY Times: Lieberman wrong. Dean right.

The New York Times comes down on the side of Howard Dean! ("Middle East Math")

The conclusion is clear. Israel must begin to plan its exit from the West Bank and Gaza not only to permit the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state but to preserve its own future. Polls show that most Israelis understand. They do not want to drain their treasury and lose their children to protect West Bank settlements. At the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night, Senator Joseph Lieberman criticized former Gov. Howard Dean for calling on Israel to dismantle most of its settlements. "That's up to the parties in their negotiations, not for us to tell them," the senator said.

We strongly disagree. True support for Israel means helping it see through its pain and rage to its own best interest. You do not have to believe in Mr. Arafat's sincerity or the Palestinians' good will to grasp the need for a radical course shift. You need only understand the meaning of self-preservation.

The situation in Israel and Palestinian is reaching a crossroad and there really are only three likely outcomes:

  1. The apartheid state in which a minority Jewish community keeps a majority Arab community locked away in small enclaves.
  2. A heterogeneous state that combines both Israel and Palestine but which is neither Israeli or Palestinian.
  3. Two separate states that would require the removal of most of the Israeli settlements from the West Bank.

If nothing is done than #1 will come to pass and the bloodshed we are seeing today will look like a minor skirmish. Option 2 or 3 are the viable solutions to peace in the Middle East, it is just a question of which of them will be agreeable to the people on the ground.

The Israelis and the Palestinians need to come to a decision about which of these futures they want and then do what needs to be done to make them necessary. The United States needs to be the moderator in this coming debate and, as Howard Dean said, it cannot afford to be seen as taking sides on the eventual outcome.

Read Krugman! Now!

I won't bother quoting the shrill one. To do so adequately would require reprinting his entire column.

Paul Krugman has been the voice of sanity for the last four years. He is our modern day Cassandra, pointing out the obvious faults of Bush and his administration, in clear and simple terms (or "shrill" terms if you are one of those who don't like his pointing out the obvious truth), despite the fact that so many people just don't want to hear what he has to say or simply refuse to believe it could be true.

We can but hope that we don't end up being the Troy to Krugman's Cassandra.

Update: Okay, I lied. There is a part of Krugman's column I want to quote:

Nor can the members of this administration simply lose like gentlemen. For one thing, that's not how they operate. Furthermore, everything suggests that there are major scandals - involving energy policy, environmental policy, Iraq contracts and cooked intelligence - that would burst into the light of day if the current management lost its grip on power. So these people must win, at any cost.

The result, clearly, will be an ugly, bitter campaign - probably the nastiest of modern American history. Four months ago it seemed that the 2004 campaign would be all slow-mo films of Mr. Bush in his flight suit. But at this point, it's likely to be pictures of Howard Dean or Wesley Clark that morph into Saddam Hussein. And Donald Rumsfeld has already rolled out the stab-in-the-back argument: if you criticize the administration, you're lending aid and comfort to the enemy.

This political ugliness will take its toll on policy, too. The administration's infallibility complex - its inability to admit ever making a mistake - will get even worse. And I disagree with those who think the administration can claim infallibility even while practicing policy flexibility: on major issues, such as taxes or Iraq, any sensible policy would too obviously be an implicit admission that previous policies had failed.

In other words, if you thought the last two years were bad, just wait: it's about to get worse. A lot worse.

And in response to that I would remind people of my slogan: "The snake bites hardest just before it dies".

Gaffes and Flip-Flops

Howard Kurtz addresses the recent dustups about Dean's alleged flip-flops:

Does Howard Dean have a credibility problem?

Or are his increasingly worried rivals just taking potshots at him?

One thing's for sure: The media, lacking any other excitement this side of California, are biting on the story.

The specific misstatements that Howard III has made aren't, by themselves, that big a deal -- not much different than the usual fudges and hyperbole of political life.

But there are two dangers here for Dean.

One is that his straight-talking persona -- his self-definition as the man who tells it like it is without trimming his sails -- gets shredded.

The other is that the media give Dean an image as an exaggerator, much as they did with Al Gore in 2000, so that a misstatement about the cost of his dog's medicine became a major flap.

This is a pretty amazing passage. Kurtz essentially admits that the media "gave" Al Gore an image of an exaggerator. Yet he also implies that it was Gore's fault that this happened. Thus we see how the responsibility era plays out in the establishment media.

Kurtz, in his own round about way, does manage to put his finger on what is going on: the media is still unsure about how to treat Dean. Today's establishment press is more about telling stories than relating the news. Telling a story is so much easier than the hard work of investigating the facts. Their problem with Dean is that they haven't settled on a storyline for him yet.

Dean's job is to make sure that they settle on the right storyline.

There is one other thing I would like to address in this story. It is this idea that being a "straight-shooter" is somehow incompatible with making gaffes or changing your public stance.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today's politicians are well versed in the art of talking without saying anything. They have learned this skill specifically because they don't want to be accused of making a gaffe or of having to publicly admit that their previous statements were incorrect. Because if they do then they have to deal with the kind of crap that is coming Dean's way right now. The result of this process is a band of bland politicians that ultimately appeal to no one.

A "straight-shooter", on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to make a few mistakes along the way because part of being a "straight-shooter" is not being so self-conscious about what you are saying. People can forgive mistakes and they may even like you more for your foibles. This is why, to the surprise of many professional analysts, Dean's occasional stumbles actually seem to increase his support. As long as he continues to own up to his mistakes, his supporters will forgive him and come to appreciate his honesty even more. It's that open acknowledgement of his own faults that adds rather than detracts from his appeal.

And it's also why I expressed disappointment in his handling of the "I'm the only one" gaffe. It's the only time I can recall that Dean has, so far, not owned up to his mistake.

Dean does not need to worry about being accused of gaffes or flip-flops. It is a guarantee that he will have to face such accusations for the rest of his political life. All politicians must deal with this problem. He only has to be concerned with how he deals with it.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


Maybe it's time to take a break. I've been posting an awful lot of crap today. This campaign has shifted into a new phase and I just need to learn to adjust to it. (deep breath...1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10) Ah, much better! :-)

More on Dean's biggest mistake so far

Just to demonstrate that I am not a knee-jerk defender of Dean I would remind the reader that I have been critical of Dean's handling of the "I'm the only one" flap from the Baltimore debate.

ABC's The Note provides some useful details:

4. In the case of Dean's Baltimore debate remark about being the only white politician who talks about race in front of white audiences, Dean's defense was that he said the same thing in June at a Rainbow-PUSH event and wasn't corrected, so the attacks now are politically motivated.

Leaving aside the questionable notion that a public figure can say something that is wrong with impunity forever if no one stops him after the first time; and leaving aside the fact that Dean had no reason to assume it was true that the other candidates don't talk about race — it now turns out that what he said at the Rainbow event wasn't the same (as helpfully provided — via a Googling monkey — by another campaign):

In June, Dean said at the Rainbow/PUSH forum "I don't just talk about quotas here in front of a predominantly Latino and Black American, African American, audience. I talk about quotas and affirmative action in front of white audiences, because white people need to hear from white politicians that this is an important issue." [Rainbow PUSH Forum, 6/22/03]

No mention, obviously, of being the only one.

During the debate, Dean said, "Secondly, I'll tell you why I connect with African-American audiences. I'm the only white politician that ever talks about race in front of white audiences. Black people have heard lectures from white politicians for a long time. White folks need talk to white people in America about race.

Obviously, two different things.

Obviously. The Governor has a good point to make here and his Rainbow/PUSH comment shows how it can be made. He just stepped over the line with the addition of the "I'm the only one" comment and his subsequent attempt to dismiss the criticism of it.

I'm still a Dean man. But this incident definitely takes the shine off.

Oh well. It was probably inevitable. If Dean is going to be the one to go up against Bush then now is as good a time as any to see if he can really take the heat. I just wish the heat the Dems were applying were only the legitimate kind represented by this dustup. The attacks on Dean about his Israel/Palestinian comment are deliberate distortions for political effect that will ultimately damage the party as a whole.

Projection as a campaign strategy works!

Dean's remarks make rivals say: Wait a minute

WASHINGTON — As Howard Dean evolves from small-state governor to presidential contender, he is making off-the-cuff statements that could undercut his claim to be the straight talker in the Democratic nomination race, as well as his party's argument that President Bush has a credibility problem.


Some Democrats fret privately that Dean's missteps could undercut their argument that Bush is not credible on the war or the economy. If he is the nominee and "continues to make comments and then backtrack," independent political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said, "it would be harder to accuse the president of flip-flopping or misstating facts."

Two things to note here:

  1. Once again we have a bunch of unnamed Democrats wringing their hands about how much trouble they might have in the coming election. As I have said before, if these people can't provide positive input to the campaign then I wish they would just shut up! They are not helping out at all.

  2. We are seeing the implementation of the same strategy that was used in 2000 to discredit Gore. First the Republican's identify the weaknesses of their own candidate and then they spread around the meme that it is actually their opponent who has those weaknesses. Bush has a casual relationship with the truth? Well, make it look like Gore is a serial exaggerator and liar!

It doesn't really matter if the allegations against the Democratic candidate are true or not. If they can convince the media that there is something to it than the press will greet with skepticism any attack on Bush by said  candidate. "He's going after Bush for XXX? But what about when the candidate did YYY?"

The brilliance of Karl Rove really comes down to this simple idea: you can always win if you can make the other guy look bad.

Clark's impact on the race (by the numbers)

The following is the first major national poll that I have seen that attempts to measure the initial impact of an entry by Wesley Clark into the race (USA TODAY/CNN/GALLUP for 9/11/2003). From this it looks like he hurts all the major candidates equally. 

13. Please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for President in the year 2004.

13a. If Wesley Clark DOES NOT run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the nomination.

  If Clark runs If Clark doesn’t run
Dick Gephardt 15 17
Howard Dean 13 15
Joe Lieberman 12 13
John Kerry 11 13
Wesley Clark 9 --
Carol Moseley Braun 5 5
Bob Graham 5 6
John Edwards 5 5
Al Sharpton 3 3
Dennis Kucinich 2 2
Other 1 1
No One 5 5
No Opinion 14 15
Based on 480 Democrats or Democratic Leaners. Margin of error: ±5 percentage points

Surprisingly, Clark's entry doesn't effect the undecideds all that much. This is contrary to the assumption that a lot of undecided Dems are waiting for Clark to enter before they jump on a candidate.

Josh Marshal spreading smears against Dean?

I'm a big fan of Joshua Micah Marshal. I've followed his work for several years now, even before he got big into blogging. Having said that, I really don't understand his two recent comments on the Dean/Clark rumors. 

Earlier today he posted this:

Is the Dean camp trying to set up Wes Clark? (Yep, I'm talkin' about you, Joe!) This piece in today's Post says Dean and Clark "discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California." Read down into the article and there doesn't seem to be that much there there. But the story got picked up on CNN too. And now the story of the day is not those very active discussions Clark is having about his own presidential run, but the potential 'Dean/Clark alliance'. And if Clark decides to get into the race after all, doesn't that mean that he wobbled, that as recently as this week he was thinking of taking the number two slot from Dean, or endorsing Dean? (His opponents want to play to the 'indecision' meme, remember.) I think that's what some people would like us to think. The Post calls those people "sources familiar with the [Dean/Clark] discussions." But I think we can imagine who those folks might be.

On what basis does Josh basis his contention that this is a rumor being circulated by the Dean people in order to derail Clark's potential announcement? He doesn't even cite any source for the allegation. Not even an anonymous one. I certainly hope he is not simply assuming that that is what is going on..

First clue Josh: the reports in both the Post and the Times do not say that Dean has offered Clark the VP spot. They only say that Clark has been offered a position with the Dean campaign. That could be as simple as Dean asking Clark to be a military/foreign policy advisor (with maybe the promise of something more down the road). It is the feeding frenzy of the press that has ginned this into speculation that Dean asked Clark to be his running mate (with an admitted assist from some over-eager Dean supporters). Josh even acknowledges that the original report didn't have much "there there". Unfortunately neither does his speculation.

Josh then compounds his error with his latest post on this topic:

Aha! More news about Dean Campaign Manager Joe Trippi's 'he's-begging-to-be-our-VP' dirty tricks campaign against Wes Clark. This from the just-posted edition of USNews' Washington Whispers ...

And forget about that talk that all the retired four-star general and former NATO boss wants is the veep nomination. Supporters say that's a dirty-tricks campaign pushed by rival Howard Dean who's scared of a Clark candidacy. Says Frisby: "Wes Clark firmly believes that he is the best choice to be president, not be vice president or hold any other government post."

Second clue Josh: the claim that this rumor is a "dirty-tricks campaign pushed by rival Howard Dean" is being pushed by Clark supporters! In other words, the only source you are naming for this scoop that Dean is pushing a dirty trick are the very people who would most want to shoot down the rumor and, at the same time, damage Dean's reputation. Is that what you consider a reliable source? Especially since you are getting it second hand from a gossip column?

Who's pulling the dirty trick here Josh?

And in this just-released AP story signaling Clark's decision to run, see these two grafs ...

While mulling his options, Clark has met with several presidential contenders who covet his endorsement and might consider him for a vice presidential slot. He met Saturday with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who said it is too soon to talk about political alliances.

"There is a lot of vetting that would have to be done before you would have those kinds of discussions," Dean said when asked whether he had discussed the vice presidency with Clark.

In other words, the Dean camp is trying to pooh-pooh the bogus spin they floated to the Washington Post only yesterday.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave ...

Josh, you have presented no evidence that the Dean campaign "floated" this "bogus spin" in the first place. So why shouldn't they be "pooh-poohing" it?

To reiterate, Dean and his campaign have repeatedly spoken highly of the general. Clark has done the same about Dean. They have been holding several long talks (apparently for several months now). No one is denying that. Dean has apparently offered the General some position with his campaign. No one has denied that either. There are lots of rumors floating around about a possible Dean/Clark ticket. The original report on this appears to be a big noise created by an over-eager reporter at the Post who heard something about a job offer by Dean to Clark if Clark decides not to run (entirely believable) and decided to push it as if Dean had offered Clark the VP slot (pure speculation).

Stop smearing the Dean campaign with allegations of "dirty-tricks" unless you have something more solid to go on than conjecture. And if you do, then please cite your sources!

Kos has a rumor that may be even more mind-blowing than the Dean-Clark rumor:

There's more to it than that. It can now be revealed that the Dean-Clark meeting in California was the cover for a decidedly more consequential encounter. The real dark horse in the presidential derby is a familiar face. It's not Al Gore, and it's not Hillary Clinton.

It's a Washington insider, progressive Democratic party stalwart, ubiquitous talking head, Barney Frank's sister, former Clinton White House Communications Director Ann Lewis (who just happens to be in CA working on the recall).

If Ms. Lewis can translate her connections, media savvy and precedent-setting insider/outsider appeal into the high single-digit preference numbers in a key state or two, look for the General to park his bandwagon and sign on as VP. Now that's a ticket with truly historic potential!

Getting Ann Lewis would be a major victory for Dean. She is one of the savviest media operatives in the business and definitely in the "take no prisoners" mold that Dean seems to prefer. It would be a good fit.

It's interesting that this rumor comes out now since I was just thinking the other day that Dean has no prominent communications directory. Bush had Karl Rove as his brain and Ann Hughes as his mouth. Dean has Trippi to fulfill the brain role (brain as in brain of the campaign) but he really doesn't have a designated spokesperson to go on the TV talk shows and speak for the Governor.

I don't know what the basis for Kos' rumor is, but I hope it is true.

Update: I think I may have missed the joke here. I thought that Kos was saying that Ann Lewis was meeting with Howard Dean. Upon re-reading I now see he might have said that Lewis was meeting with Gen. Clark. The resulting team-up would be ... drumroll please ... Lewis and Clark.

Still, even if this was just meant to be a joke, I think Dean really should consider hiring someone to be his designated spokesperson. He can't be the only voice of this campaign in the coming months.

The letter to Dean

Here's the text of the letter sent to Howard Dean by a group of Democratic Congress members about his comments on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Dear Governor Dean:

We are writing to respond to your comments on the Middle East at a recent
campaign event and in Tuesday's candidate debate and explain why we believe
it is wrong to say the U.S. should "not take sides" in the
Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

American foreign policy has been-and must continue to be - based on
unequivocal support for Israel's right to exist and to be free from terror.
The Palestinians have at best been ambivalent about their willingness to
accept Israel's existence and from Yasser Arafat on down they have promoted
or acquiesced in the use of terrorism as a tactic in their struggle.  It is
unacceptable for the U.S.. to be "evenhanded" on these fundamental issues.

All of us want a genuine peace process to succeed, and all of us accept the
legitimacy of a Palestinian state once the Palestinian leadership and
people recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and not only
renounce the use of violence but at last take action to dismantle the
terrorist infrastructure inside the Palestinian Authority.  Time and time
again, the Israeli people have shown their willingness to take risks for
peace.  But they will only do so with the knowledge that U.S. support for
Israel will not waver.

It is important for America to help facilitate a peaceful resolution of the
conflict, but in playing this role we must be true to our values and makes
sure that all the parties clearly understand our policies.  This is not a
time to be sending mixed messages; on the contrary, in these difficult times
we must reaffirm our unyielding commitment to Israel's survival and raise
our voices against all forms of terrorism and incitement.


Howard L. Berman


Howard L. Berman - California 28th
Nancy Pelosi - House Min. Leader, California 8th
Robert Matsui - California 5th
Steny Hoyer - Maryland 5th
Martin Frost - Texas 24th
Nita Lowey - New York 18th
Tom Lantos - California 12th
Edward Markey - Massachusetts 7th
Chet Edwards - Texas 11th
Ben Cardin - Maryland 3rd
Steve Rothman - New Jersey 9th
Steve Israel - New York 2nd
Gary Ackerman - New York 5th
Barney Frank - Massachusetts 4th
Rahm Emanuel - Illinois 5th
Adam Smith - Washington 9th
Anthony Weiner - New York 9th
Chris Bell - Texas 25th
Adam Schiff - California 29th
Hilda Solis - California 32nd
Robert Menendez - New Jersey 13th
Shelley Berkley - Nevada 1st
Robert Andrews - New Jersey 1st
Joseph Crowley - New York 7th
Jose Serrano - New York 16th
John Larson - Connecticut 1st
Ellen Tauscher - California 10th
Dennis Cardoza - California 18th
Patrick Kennedy - Rhode Island 1st
Linda Sanchez - California 39th
Harold Ford, Jr. - Tennessee 9th
Brad Sherman - California 27th
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger - Maryland 2nd
Alcee Hastings - Florida 23rd

An Analysis of Electability and National Security

I have maintained for some time that Dean's stance on the Iraq war, far from the prognostications of other political analysts, makes him the most electable of the current crop of Democratic candidates. Perhaps I can illustrate why I believe this with a simple that matches possible outcomes of the Iraq War with the stance of the candidate on that war.

For the purposes of this illustration, when I say that "the war is going well" I mean that, in the eyes of the American electorate, the situation in Iraq appears to be going well. In other words, the reality of whether things are going well or not is not as important as the perception of the voters when they enter the voting booth.

  War is going well War is going badly
Candidate supported war George Bush will get credit for a positive outcome no matter whether he deserves it or not. Rove is media savvy enough to pretty much ensure this. Bush's opponent will, at best, be able to say "I supported it also but I'll be better on domestic issues". If national security is a primary concern next Fall (and Rove will make sure that it is in this case) than most swing voters will look at this and say, "Why should I vote for the 'me to' candidate when I can vote for the guy who has already proven himself to be successful?

Assessment: Likely Bush win.

George Bush will be striving hard  to avoid blame for the problems. He and Rove will have to pull out every stop to keep him from getting hurt on this. However, his opponent will have difficulty using this issue against him because many people will view his criticism and say, "Well, if it was such a bad idea, why did you support it in the first place?" The Democrat might be able to sell the, "He lied to me like he lied to you defense" on this matter. But that's a pretty weak argument for saying you should be put in charge. If you can be fooled on this what's to say you can't be fooled on other matters?

Assessment: Toss-up.

Candidate opposed war This will be a very difficult sell for the candidate. If Bush is riding high on national security then the economy would really have to tanking bad in order for his opponent to gain any traction. And even then it will be difficult to counter the impression that you were simply wrong on the most vital issue facing the country and should therefore not be trusted with the reigns of power.

Assessment: Even more likely Bush win.

George will be running and hiding from the "I told you so" attack. His opponent might still be attacked for being weak because of an apparent unwillingness to commit forces. But the failures in Iraq will be a daily reminder to the American people that maybe we should be more cautious in our military commitments. The "weak on defense" argument will look pretty weak under these conditions.

Assessment: Good chance of a Democratic Win

The above is, of course, a simplified view of what might happen. For instance, the public's assessment of the Iraq War might be undecided at the time of the election, which means it will be counted as neither a win or a loss for George. In that case the economy really would become the #1 issue and Bush will likely suffer in that area.

I hope you can see from this why I think Dean is the most electable candidate when it comes to the question of national security. If the war in Iraq goes well for Bush then I don't think ANY of the current field of candidates could stand a chance against Bush when it comes to the question of who can best defend the American people. But, if the war goes bad (as it appears to be doing), than Dean will be in the best position of all the candidates to make a principled argument for a credible alternative to Bush's cowboy diplomacy.

Seeing into the future

Democratic leaders are finally getting it (Chicago Sun-Times, "Bush eating words on war's end"):

"George Bush is going to rue the day . . . that he did that stunt on the aircraft carrier,'' Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said after I asked him about it during a breakfast with reporters on Wednesday.

McAuliffe also used the occasion of my question to resurrect another issue, Bush's military service. Bush flew to the aircraft carrier in a Navy jet and then swaggered around the deck visiting with the sailors and posing for pictures in his flight suit.

McAuliffe reminded us that there is still some mystery about what Bush "was required to do in Alabama in the National Guard.'' It's never been proved that Bush showed up for all his drill duties when he was in the Texas Air National Guard, and the controversy never got much traction in the 2000 campaign.

Said McAuliffe, "I do not think that he will be using the video of that aircraft carrier landing as part of the Bush re-election campaign.''

I said at the time of Bush's aircraft carrier landing stunt that the footage from that event was more likely to be used in a Democratic campaign ad than a Republican campaign ad.

I stand by my prediction.

Maureen Dowd lays into Dick Cheney:

We're Not Happy Campers


Far from being the swift and gratifying lesson in U.S. dominance that Cheney & Co. predicted, our incursion into Iraq is turning into a spun-out, scary lesson in the dangers of hubris. Democrats are combing through the $20 billion part of the White House request involving rebuilding Iraq, trying to make sure there isn't any Halliburton hanky-panky.

I've actually gotten to the point where I hope Dick Cheney is embroiled in a Clancyesque conspiracy to benefit Halliburton. Because if it's not a conspiracy, it's naïveté and ideology. And that means our leaders have used goofball logic and lousy assumptions to trap the country in a cockeyed replay of the Crusades that could drain our treasury and strain our military for generations, without making us any safer from terrorists and maybe putting us more at risk.

On 9/11's second anniversary, seven in 10 Americans still believe Saddam had a role in the attacks, even though there is no evidence of it, according to a Washington Post poll. That is because the president has done his level best to conflate 9/11 and Saddam and did so again in his speech on Sunday night.

Iraq never threatened U.S. security. Bush officials cynically attacked a villainous country because they knew it was easier than finding the real 9/11 villain, who had no country. And now they're hoist on their own canard.

As much as I may dislike Dowd for her Heather-like tendencies I have to admit that she is often very good at turning a phrase.

I also agree with her that it would be preferable to believe that the mess we have gotten into is more the result of corruption than incompetence. Corruption, at least, can have a predictable course to its actions. But incompetence often leads to chaotic responses as the parties involved become increasingly desperate in their attempts to hide their incompetence. At least the corrupt can sometimes be counted on to do the competent thing.

The price of hubris

History rarely provides moments in which the whole world can unite, overcome their differences and work towards a common goal to the benefit of all. 9-11 was such a moment. It is especially depressing to realize just how much Bush blew it when he frittered away that opportunity in order to push through his own selfish plans.

He must answer for that failing above all others.

Bush's Many Miscalculations
On Sept. 11, the president was handed a historic opportunity. He ignored it.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Tuesday, September 9, 2003, at 4:05 PM PT

Painful as it is to recall those planes smashing into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon two years ago this week, it's nearly as heartbreaking to think back on the moment of nascent harmony that ticked in the wake of the attack—until President Bush decided to reject the opportunity that History thrust before him.

Remember? The French newspaper Le Monde, never one for trans-Atlantic sentimentalism, proclaimed, "We are all Americans." The band outside Buckingham Palace played "The Star-Spangled Banner" during a changing of the guard, as thousands of Londoners tearfully waved American flags. Most significant, the European leaders of NATO, for the first time in the organization's history, invoked Article 5 of its charter, calling on its 19 member-nations to treat the attack on America as an attack on them all—a particularly moving gesture, as Article 5 had been intended to guarantee American retaliation against an attack on Europe.

But the Bush administration brushed aside these supportive gestures—and that may loom as the greatest tragedy of Sept. 11, apart from the tolls taken by the attack itself.

McAuliffe: Dems should consider forgoing public financing

Looks like DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe may be providing some cover for Dean on the charge that the Governor is waffling on his pledge to accept public financing (NY Times, "Leader Suggests Democrats May Forgo Public Financing"):

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman and his party's chief fund-raiser, said today that Democratic presidential candidates vying to take on President Bush next year should consider opting out of the country's public financing system during the primary season.


Mr. McAuliffe's comments underscore concerns among Democratic officials that their nominee could emerge next spring drained of money after a nine-candidate primary season and nearing the spending caps required of candidates who accept public financing. Their fear is that the nominee would then be battered all summer by Mr. Bush — who has no opposition and, because he is not accepting public money, is raising what is expected to be a huge war chest — until the general election, when the nominees receive fresh financing.

Aides to former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts say their campaigns are considering opting out of the system.

"We need to make sure that we are prepared," Mr. McAuliffe said at a breakfast with reporters. "We are going against an incumbent president with unlimited amounts of money. We have to make sure that we can get our message out."

The article also points out that no Democrat has ever opted out of the system since it was first created and that doing so could prove a fatal blow to the nearly 30 year old system of public financing. I'm not sure if it is that bad, but at least it could lead to a serious discussion of reforming the system to adjust to political realities.

The SEIU scoop

Bad news for Gephardt from The Note:

SEIU and campaign sources say that Dean got the most endorsement votes of the conference members, followed by Edwards, then Gephardt.

Ouch! If Gephardt came in third in the balloting then he is in real trouble.

Of course, Kerry didn't even make it into the top three. But as far as the expectations game goes this has got to be bad news for Dick's campaign.

Is Dean a panderer?

The latest Dean meme that is making the rounds is that he is changing his positions on certain issues in order to shore up political support. In other words, he is flip-flopping in order to pander to certain constituencies.

To the casual observer (e.g., many of our establishment political press) this might appear to be true. He did change his mind about raising social security eligibility to 70. He did change his mind about lifting the Cuban embargo. Both of these changes could obviously be construed as pandering to certain blocks of voters (senior citizens and Cuban Americans in Florida).

But in order to assert that Dean is nothing but your typical pandering politician you would have to show that this is part of a pattern of him taking the expedient route for political advantage.

Is this a believable charge in light of the fact that Dean loudly opposed the War in Iraq at a time when support for it in public opinion polls was at 70+%?

Is this a believable charge in light of the fact that Dean signed civil union legislation at a time when the polls showed it at 30% in Vermont and he was running a tight race for re-election (which he subsequently won, by the way)?

Dean is a politician. He will adjust his positions to deal with political reality. But his opponents are trying to push the image of him as nothing but a blatant panderer when the record obviously proves otherwise.

Our leaders need to be flexible in order to deal with the ever changing nature of a complex world. Do we really want to insist on a foolish consistency in a politician's policies that runs counter to the facts on the ground? That's what we have today in George W. Bush, a man who never met a problem that he didn't think couldn't be solved with a tax cut or a cruise missile.

If so then we truly get the leaders we deserve.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Best of times. Worst of times.

I've had one of those up and down kind of days. Specifically because of the changing fortunes of the Dean campaign. I am up because I think he was superb in yesterday's debate and because he seemed to get a lot of positive press from it. I'm also up because I think he has handled the whole "evenhandedness" flap very well so far.

However, I am down for two other reasons: (1) the re-emergence of the Democratic Circular Firing Squad in the form of Nancy Pelosi and other congress critters circulating a memo that sides with Joe Lieberman's scurrilous characterization of Dean's opinion as somehow anti-Israel and (2) Dean's serious misstep in trying to lay claim to the mantle of being the only candidate who talks to white audiences about race.

I could talk about the first problem but really I need to deal with the second because it is the first time I have really been disappointed in Dean. Put simply, he blew it. By making a stupid claim like that he has exposed himself to a lot of trouble he and we don't need right now. Furthermore, it sounds like he's not confronting his mistake head on like he has with past mistakes and is instead trying to brush off the criticism. Apparently he has claimed that he has said this before and no one complained then. That won't cut it I'm afraid.

On top of all that Dean has ruined what used to be a really good stump line for him. I've heard him use the "white politicians need to talk to white audiences about race" line before. But then he did it in a general sense without claiming any special status for himself. By doing so at last nights debate he plays into the arrogance meme that is forming around him. That could be particularly dangerous given how claims of "arrogance" were handled by the media in the last election.

I think Dean needs to make amends for this and do it quickly. He needs to acknowledge that he misspoke when he tried to claim exclusive credit for broadening the racial dialog with white audiences. He needs to acknowledge, indeed he should praise the other candidates for the good work they have done.

The damage is already done. But Dean has demonstrated a skill in the past when it comes to recovering from mistakes. Some of them have even worked to his advantage (making mistakes adds to the "plain-speaking" image).

I just hope he can do the same this time.

Dean/Clark 2004?

The Washington Post is running a story about a possible team up between Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.

As much as I would like to see this, I still think the early Dean/Clark announcement rumor is in the same category as the Hillary or Gore will enter in 2004 rumors: things that are whispered about around town that occasionally gain enough cache to make it into print but which have more basis in the fevered dreams of political reporters than in actual reality.

I mean really, what does this story base its headline on? Dean and Clark have been talking to each other? Good news. But Clark has been talking to Kerry to apparently. Does that mean a Kerry/Clark ticket is imminent?

Lord save us from journalists who have to create news in order to make their lives interesting.

Update: The New York Times has more details:

After months of friendly discussions about national security and other issues, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, asked Gen. Wesley K. Clark to join his presidential campaign in some capacity if General Clark decided against making the run himself, aides for both men said tonight.

"The governor's told him repeatedly that he should run if he wants," Joe Trippi, Dr. Dean's campaign manager, said at the campaign headquarters here. "I'm sure that along the way the governor's made clear that we want General Clark's support if he decides not to run for president. I assume every other candidate has done the same thing."

So, there is more substance to this story than I said above, but not as much as is hinted at so breathlessly in the Post report. Dean has asked Clark to join his team, but only if Clark decides not to run and not necessarily in the capacity of Veep (at least at this time). This is a very believable report.

It's nice to hear that the Dean and Clark appear to get along so well with each other. That bodes well for the future.

Are You a Self-Defeating Democrat?

At least now we know why he's a Republican

Flashback City (scroll to bottom)
In a profile of Arnold Schwarzenegger that appeared in U.S. News in November 1990, the Terminator elaborated on his nascent political views: "My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them," he explained. "Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave."


Looks like I was wrong. There aren't two Republicans For Dean blogs. One is just the newest incarnation of the other. The one and only Republicans For Dean blog is here.

Clinton and Carter to the middle east?

Chris Suellentrop has the scoop on Dean's Middle-East peace proposal:

2) After the debate's testy exchange between Lieberman and Howard Dean over Israel policy, in the "spin room" Howard Dean unveils a peace proposal that I hadn't heard from him before: The president needs to "swallow his pride" and send "the two men who have done more for Israel" over the past 50 years than any other Americans—Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter—to the Middle East to negotiate a peace settlement.

This is, of course, one of those "never in a million years" type proposals. But it is vintage Dean.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003


William Saletan on tonight's debate ("A field goal for Kerry, a touchdown for Dean.")

Howard Dean's performance was near-perfect. Strategically, Dean is way ahead of the pack. He has fulfilled the affirmative part of the campaign: giving people enough reasons to vote for him. Now he has the luxury of focusing on the negative part: dispelling the reasons to vote against him. Accordingly, his preparation for the last two debates seems to have focused on acting presidential and conveying competence in military and foreign policy. Tonight he accomplished both. He was at ease and in command. Rectifying his performance in Albuquerque, he projected confidence without constipation.

Dean is trying to demonstrate that his front-runner status is not just a freak event or a passing fad. In order to do this he has to win over the "but is he serious" crowd. Some Deaniacs may not like this because they like the firey-Dean much more than the sober-Dean. But the sober-Dean will need to appear as much as the firey-Dean in the coming months if he is to win over the broad coalition he will need to defeat Bush.

Deaniacs need not worry though. The firey-Dean is still there and ready to come out when needed.

Quick takes on tonight's debate

Al Sharpton: As always, very entertaining to watch. But also demonstrates that he can be a real gentleman and a strong voice when it came to dealing with the LaRouchie hecklers. He also demonstrated why he is in this race when he said he was their to remind the Democratic party not to take the black vote for granted. Best line of the night: When he called Dick Gephardt standing next to Bush in the Rose Garden to announce he would support the Iraq authorization a "miserable failure" of leadership on his part.

Bob Graham: Mostly a snooze, except for the one time when he directly answered the question about whether he thought Bush intentionally mislead the American people about Iraq. He said "Yes". That's gutsy and its the first time I can remember a major politician calling Bush out like that.

Carol Moseley-Braun: Gracious and gentle. Not really presidential material, but a thoughtful voice that deserves to be heard.

Dennis Kucinich: Toned down his fire a little from last time but still a good advocate for a lot of important issues. His is a voice that must not be silenced even if he is to idealistic to be in charge.

Dick Gephardt: Seemed to follow the maxim that if it worked last time (calling Bush a "miserable failure") than do it even more this time. Unfortunately, this time it just came off as a lot of ranting. I applauded that line the first time he used it but its a sound-bite that has a half-life of about 15 seconds. Hurt bad by Sharpton's use of the line to criticize Gephardt's support of the Iraq authorization.

Howard Dean: Best debate performance yet. Calm, cool and collected (i.e., "Presidential") but with a little more of the fire than in the last debate. He also seemed a lot more comfortable and didn't stumble over his lines as much. He was the only one to really stay within the time limits of the debate (he got dinged only once) and I think that says a lot about his ability to say what needs to be said without belaboring the point (a failure Gore suffered from). He dealt with the confrontation with Lieberman wonderfully, refusing to bow before Joe's withering criticism of his stance on Israel and Palestine while turning the attack back on Joe for "demagoging" the issue (which is precisely what Lieberman was doing). He also dealt with the question of Vermont being a low minority enclave wonderfully with his quip about ratios of minorities not being and indication of support for minority issues. If it were then "Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King". It was obviously a well rehearsed line but Dean delivered it well and precisely at the right moment.

Joe Lieberman: Worst debate performance yet. The guy was despicable in his attempts to paint Dean as anti-Israel. Joe knows that that is not Dean's position but he went with it anyway in order to gain points with a narrow constituency. Bah! Also tried to hard to sound like a black preacher at times which was an obvious attempt to pander to the audience. He just doesn't have the voice for it.

John Edwards: Another great guy who just seems to be going no where with his campaign. Since he isn't running again for Senator I wonder if he would be interested in being Attorney General?

John Kerry: Was he there? I hate to be so hard on Kerry but he really is becoming a non-entity in this race. It's a shame because he is a great guy who would make a wonderful President. He just isn't a very good campaigner and 2000 proves that the Democrats need a good campaigner if they are going to bring down Bush.

Final Assessment: I won't say who was the winner (Mr. Subliminal: Dean) or the loser (Lieberman) but I will say that Dean will benefit the most from this debate. For the first time I think he has really found his debate legs and proved that he has what it takes to go the distance (Clinton). For that we can probably thank Lieberman (Bush). Dean needs to hone his skills at fending off attacks since he is likely to get a lot of them before next November (Rove). Thanks for that Joe!

Al Sharpton represented his constituency well and I fully expect to see him on the podium in Boston next year (as a speaker, not as the nominee). Edwards, Graham, Braun, Kucinich and Kerry also acquitted themselves well but didn't really help themselves. Gephardt came off as too much of an attack dog this time.

To close, here are the words to Howard Dean's favorite song, "Jaspora" by Wycleff Jean, translated from the Creole by Marie Scala Louis, Andrew Madhere & Shamaha Richemond


This is what the world was waiting for
Wyclef who came from the Fugees
Jeremie, Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Flatbush...

Jaspora doesn't respect Jaspora (repeat 4 x)

Ever since I was little, I left Haiti
There's some that went to Brooklyn there's some that went to Miami
Why do Jamaicans always say they are Jamaicans,
But Haitians are afraid to say they are Haitians?
Why? Are you scared to say your name is Samuel?
Why? Are you scared to say you're with Israel?
Why? Every night you are sleeping with Jezebel!
You're scared to say Haitian girls are beautiful!
Beautiful girls are beautiful...

I respect your name just like I respect the angel Gabriel
Here, Diaspora men want to take you to hotels,
Start talking English, turning to playboy channel
They do not respect Israel.

Diaspora do not respect Diaspora
If you are a Diaspora I am going to give you to sharks
Diaspora do not respect Diaspora
If you are a Diaspora tonight we're going to disarm you

Diaspora ha ha o, put your hands up!
I am going to take them and throw them in prison
I will make them know who is Toussaint
I will make them know who is Dessalines
After, we will let them go and send them back to Brooklyn
So he could go to his mother who is cooking in the kitchen
His mom looked at him and said "Man, you've changed"
She said I changed because I am Haitian
They taught me a lesson, they put me in prison.

I see Diaspora women and Diaspora men
There are people who are not going to make it because they will sleep with the fishes
They lost their knowledge just like a priest without religion

Diaspora do not respect Diaspora
If you are a Diaspora I am going to give you to sharks
Diaspora do not respect Diaspora
If you are a Diaspora tonight were going to disarm you

Port-au-Prince do not respect Diaspora again
Men Flatbush do not respect Diaspora
Men Canada do not respect Diaspora
Men Miami do not respect Diaspora

Pa Kayos do not respect diaspora
Papa Djoume do not respect Diaspora
Refugees do not respect Diaspora
Men Florida do not respect Diaspora
Wrong things done are going to finish worse
If you disrespect native-born
Done wrong things are going to finish worse
Disrespect Haitians you will get hit...

Jaspora has to respect Jaspora
Jaspora has to respect Jaspora

Dean touches the Israeli third-rail

Billmon has endorsed Howard Dean. The deciding factor for him was Dean's recent comment that the United States should not "take sides" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Welcome aboard Bill.

Now, as to this particular issue, I must confess that I am not very well versed in the details of this conflict. Like fights over abortion and gun rights its one of those political debates I tend to avoid because it is so dominated by extremists on both sides. However, on its surface, Dean's statement feels right to me.

Why should the United States "take sides" in this conflict? We should continue to support the existence of the Israeli state. But how can the U.S. ever been seen as a viable moderator in this conflict if we approach the negotiation table as automatically being on Israel's side?

The fact that Joe Lieberman and John Kerry have chosen to leap on Dean's comment suggests to me more political opportunism than an actual defense of principle (well, it may be both in Lieberman's case). They are looking for something to beat Dean over the head with and they may think they can use this to divide the Democratic electorate.

Just what we need guys. More bitterness between Democrats. Thanks a lot.

Perhaps it's about time that this particular "third-rail" is decommissioned?

Waking up

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a message for Bush supporters who may be feeling a little uncomfortable right about now:

I’m not going to call you a sucker for voting for him. I’m telling you that he thinks you’re a sucker. That’s when he thinks about you at all, which isn’t often.

Teresa points out something else important: it really doesn't matter what Bush and his people are really thinking about. The fundamental problem with them is that they don't give a crap about us.

George W. Bush has achieved a worldwide reputation for not keeping his word. I’m constantly amazed by all you fellow-citizens who think you know what Georgie and his cronies believe. You have no idea. Neither do I. George and the Bushmen don’t talk to us little people unless they want us to do something right then. George absolutely doesn’t feel himself obliged to keep the promises he makes, or tell us the truth about what’s going on. Personally, I resent that.

Some people are starting to wake up to this. Even some in the media, who have long been fooled by Bush's routine into believing that the guy really is a compassionate conservative, he just has to do some outrageous things to appease his right-wing base now and then.

When enough people wake up, the uproar about this illegitimate fraud will make Nixon's place in American history seem like that of a saint.

Republicans for Dean

I've known that there is a Republicans for Dean blog out there. But only today did I discover that there are TWO of them. I wonder if these guys ever talk with each other?

Republicans for Dean (BLOGGER Version)

Republicans for Dean (ATLBLOGS Version)

I don't expect there to be a huge exodus of Republicans to the Dean camp. But I think it could be significant enough to seriously hurt Bush next fall. Possibly 1-2% of his support could abandon him.

Issues and Image

Howard Kurtz brings up an interesting point about Dean's approach that I hadn't noticed before:

As I noted Sunday in a Washington Post story, Dean's advertising has been all issue-driven, as opposed to the biographical spots that Edwards and Gephardt are running. Dean rarely talks about his background, or his wife (who doesn't do the campaign thing) or the death of his brother. But at some point he will have to give the public more of a peek into his persona, if only because modern campaigning seems to require that.

There are two things to notice here: (1) Dean is growing in popularity while focusing almost exclusively on issues and (2) Kurtz seems to think that this approach will eventually have to give way to the public's demand to know more about a candidate's persona.

He may be right, but isn't it interesting that Dean has been as successful as he has been while running counter to the conventional wisdom? Apparently the other candidates are running ads that are more biographical in nature. This indicates that their marketing strategy is to sell the candidate first and their solutions second. Dean is running the exact opposite approach. He is talking about the issues and letting the personality questions essentially work themselves out as the campaign progresses.

Which method is working? Do we really need to ask?

Update: I just noticed something else about Kurtz's column. He uses the discussion of Dean to segue into a discusson of media coverage of Bush's $87 billion dollar Iraqi bailout request. Isn't it interesting that Kurtz seems to think that Dean's campaign is a more significant news story than Bush's money problems?

Monday, September 08, 2003

The net is not enough

There's an interesting article by Farhad Manjoo up on Salon right now about efforts by Dean supporters to take his message offline and raise support for Dean amongst the non-connected ("Dean's Army Goes Offline"). It is an interesting article because of what it says about the political savvy of Dean's supporters(*). Far from falling into the trap of thinking that Dean can win purely through his online efforts, Dean's supporters understand that it will require a substantial real-world effort as well. And many of them are more than willing to do what needs to be done to make that a reality.

There have been those who have scoffed at the Dean movement, comparing it to the boom and bust of the 90s. But this article points to one key difference: the'rs thought they were leaving the brick-n-mortar world behind them to build something entirely new. When the bubble burst their dreams of an all virtual marketplace went up in smoke. Perhaps because of that lesson, a lot of Deanizens are not sitting back with the assumption that they can do it all through the net. They seem to understand, instinctively, that the net is not enough.

As in so many other things about this movement, I find this highly encouraging.

(* Manjoo calls it "Dean's Army", which brings to mind an amusing analogy to "Dumbledore's Army" from the most recent Harry Potter book.)

Let him have it

There has been some suggestion that the Democrats should agree to Bush's $87 billion request but only on the condition that he agree to rescind some of his tax cut (i.e., make it a revenue neutral operation).

While I can appreciate the sentiment behind this call, and I actually agree that we shouldn't be giving out huge tax cuts at the same time we are incurring such huge expenses in a war effort, I think it would be a political mistake to push for this. If the Democrats were to do this the Republicans could easily portray it as the Democrats holding the welfare of American soldiers hostage to their desire to raise taxes. It's bullshit of course, but it's an argument that would most likely work.

Thus it is an argument the Democrats must not get into!

Give Bush his $87 billion. Don't add any conditions. Let Bush's war be all about Bush.

As I said previously, the price tag is not the issue here. War is expensive. It always has been expensive and it always will be expensive.

What is the issue is Bush's fundamental failure to be honest with the American people about how much this war would cost. It is that which the Democrats must focus on. It is Bush's mendacity, not the size of the bill he presents, that must be the #1 issue going into this election.

So again, let Bush have his money. And let him choke on it!


Billmon gives us an interesting historical perspective on the arrogance of imperial power and how it almost inevitably leads to the downfall of said power.

Arrogance has always been an imperial perogative -- sometimes expressed crudely, sometimes in jest, sometimes cloaked in the lofty language of diplomacy. But the common denominator is always the power relationship behind the words.

The Latin word imperium itself means "command" -- thus imperator (emperor) or "commander." The Greek equivalent, autocrator goes even further, "the ruler answerable to none." By definition then, empires do not seek the voluntary assistance or obedience of others, they demand it. They may negotiate with enemies or with allies, when circumstances compel, but they do not willingly accept any limits on their authority.

Whether America is really an empire in that sense is an arguable point (and boy, do people argue about it!) Certainly not internally -- not even now, in the twilight of our democracy. Externally, however, the case is difficult. At times (the U.N. Charter, the creation of NATO, Gulf War I, Bosnia and Kosovo) the United States has shown a willingness to share power -- or rather, to use its power within the framework of generally accepted external rules. At other times (the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Central America, Gulf War II) it's shown a definite, and at times aggressive, unwillingness to do so.

You would think the relative success rates of the two approaches would speak for themselves. But it's a curious fact that as empires age, they often tend to become more arrogant, and more imperative, not less.

As always, Roman history provides an intriguing parallel to American experience -- and perhaps a cautionary lesson for the American future.

The latter history of the empire -- after the German tribes had infiltrated imperial territory, the imperial army and even the imperial general staff -- contains repeated examples of the witless arrogance of emperors, Senators and common citizens alike. Long past the point where Rome had lost the power to command obedience, the Romans clung to their old notions of absolute superiority, and rejected (or deceitfully betrayed) the treaties proposed by their barbarian opponents.

America is not quite at the point of total decay that was 5th century Rome. But we are heading rapidly in that direction if we continue to believe that we will triumph simply because we are America. Are we to be a country living on the glories of past victories while the world crumbles around us? Or are we to be a country that moves into the future, adopts new strategies to confront new situations and does not assume that we have any special blessing to be the leaders of the world?

That is the choice we face today.

For want of the ability to draw

There are times when I wish I had artistic ability.

I'd like to see some enterprising political cartoonist draw an image of George W. Bush, standing beside a freeway off-ramp, holding up a cardboard sign that says: "Need $87 billion. Will accept whatever you can spare. God Bless."

The Truth

How should Democrats respond to the $87 billion request for more money for the war in Iraq?

They should be careful not to fall into a simple "its to much" response because, despite the huge size of the price tag, the Bushies can (and will) respond that there can be no price tag on security and many will buy into that.

The Democrats need to make honesty the issue, not the costs.

This president is living in a dream world. He wants us to buy into his delusions. The costs of the operation are not the issue. The issue is honesty. This President has either lied to the people or lied to himself about what it will take to prosecute his war. Quite possibly both. We need a President who is willing to do what it takes to protect the security of the American people, but we also need a President who will not lie to us about what it will take to do just that.

It's time we had a President who trusts us with the truth.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Leader of the opposition

Apparently Dean is scheduled to appear on all three network morning shows tomorrow to give his reaction to Bush's speech. I haven't heard if any of the other candidates are scheduled to appear on any of the shows.

I think this is the clearest indication yet that the media has anointed Dean as the unofficial leader of the opposition.


Tom of "Thinking It Through" makes the point succinctly:

In his address tonight, W is going to ask us all to have patience with the horrible mess we've made of post-war Iraq.

Have patience, huh? Do W and the boys not realize that's exactly what the entire world said to us in February and March?

I think I'll exhibit the same patience with the administration regarding Iraq now that W and the boys did regarding the U.N. inspection regime back in December, January and February.

How about you?

I'm with Tom on this. I see no reason to give these guys any more consideration and "patience" than they were willing to give the rest of the world.

Let's judge them by their own standards!

The "I" argument

Richard Reeves is yet another commentator who is acknowledging that what was once considered a sure thing, Bush's re-election, is no longer so. In fact, argues Mr. Reeves, it may be a sure thing that he will not be re-elected and he lists 10 reasons why he believes this to be so.

It could be argued now that President George W. Bush (news - web sites) cannot be re-elected -- not after screwing up most everything he touches.

If you doubt that, look at the record. The poor guy is a disaster.

I think the "I" argument ("I" for "Incompetence") has been and always will be a powerful argument against Bush. It wasn't pushed hard enough in 2000 because to many people confused it with the stupidity question. I don't think Bush is dumb.

I just don't think he's very good at whatever it is he puts his mind to doing. It's hard to look over his 55+ years of existence on this planet and find even one thing that he didn't leave the worse for having been involved with it.

Okay, maybe the Texas Rangers. If Mr. Bush wants to resign and become Baseball Commissioner I'd be more than happy to make that trade.

Power WITH Purpose

I previously linked to an essay by Michael Cudahy, a Republican organizer, in which he endorsed Gov. Dean for President ("...To Dare Mighty Things...").

Cudahy is back with another essay in which he expands on his previous endorsement and urges a restoration of a sense of conscience in our political process:

When I sat down to write my first essay for Greater, I was motivated by the advice of one of my early political mentors — Ambassador Elliot Richardson. He told me on a number of occasions that, "whenever I found myself conflicted over an issue I should always allow myself to be guided by principle."

What has saddened me over the last few years is how principle in the Republican Party has been replaced by a cynical manipulation of the political process, and how organizational and personal conscience has been discounted in a relentless pursuit for power.

Power without purpose is what we are fighting against here. The Republican Party has been taken over by a cadre of individuals who believe that they have a God-given right to be the ones in charge, regardless of whether they have the ideas or the skill to actually do anything useful with that power.

The purpose for which they want power is power itself.

Cudahy and Dean are arguing towards a politics that looks beyond mere winning and towards victory. No victory over our political opponents but victory over our baser instincts. A victory over our fears. A victory over our desire to hurt as much as we ourselves hurt.

This is what it means to have a conscience. This is what it means to be a human being. This is what it means to be a leader. This is what it means to be an American.

Power without purpose is pointless. It leads to nothing but depression, despair and, eventually, suicidal destructiveness.

I am committed to the vision Governor Dean expressed in his announcement speech when he said, "The history of our nation is clear: At every turn when there has been an imbalance of power, the truth questioned, or our beliefs and values distorted, the change required to restore our nation has always come from the bottom up from our people."

I look forward to working on this process with all of you, and to attending what should be an extraordinary party celebrating our victory.

I'll be right there with you Mr. Cudahy.

(Afterthought: Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been taken over by a desire to achieve power without much thought given to what that power is to be used for. Winning is more important than actually accomplishing anything important. Being the boss is the #1 priority. The only difference between the parties on this point is that the Republicans are a whole lot better at it than the Democrats are.)

Why Dean Needs to Win

Part 4 of JUSIPER's four part series on how Dean can win is up. This part discusses the Dean organization and the impact it will have on the election as well as on what happens after Dean is elected.

These are both important points that I don't think gets near enough attention. Dean, as far as I know, is the only Democratic candidate that is likely to have a 50 state campaign organization up and running by the day of the Iowa caucus. The Bush campaign already plans to do this, but it will be a top-down, professional run organization. Dean's organization is bottom up and depends on the organizational skills of his volunteers.

Now, just to silence those who scoff about amateurs being able to compete with professionals, I give you the example of the recent Sleepless Summer Tour appearance in my hometown of Portland, OR. We put on a rally for 5000 Dean supporters that went off without incident and was generally praised pretty highly (the only grumbles originating from people having to stand around in near 90 degree heat for over an hour). But what was really impressive was that, after the rally, some of the local Portland police told us that we had put on the best organized rally of that size that they had ever seen.

But, the 2nd point from the JUSIPER piece is even more important than the 1st. You see, Democrats may manage to win in 2004. But if the fight will not end on election day. Dean will still have to govern in the face of a (likely) Republican lead congress and Republican dominated media that will be hostile to him from the first day. Dean will need the organization of grassroots supporters even more after the election. He will need them to rally around his efforts and put the heat on Congress when it comes time to pass some of the ambitious programs he will push.

What other Democratic candidate can boast a grassroots organization of that size solely devoted to them and their agenda?

The Dean Corps will be the key not just to victory in 2004 but also to restoring this country to what it should be.

That's why Dean needs to win more than any other candidate.

Doing the right thing

I really see very little down side to Dean's weekend appearance with Gray Davis in which he urged a no vote on the recall.

Some have argued that standing to close to Davis is like standing to close to plutonium. But I think the potential benefits of this to Dean far outweigh any potential harm that may come from sharing a stage with Davis:

  1. If Davis avoids getting recalled he will remember who helped him out (while all the candidates have urged a no on recall, Dean is the only one to do so while standing next to Davis). That means that Dean will have a might big IOU in his pocket from one of the most powerful political machines in the country.
  2. If Davis is recalled he will still benefit from the gratitude of the Davis machine, even if that machine doesn't have as much power as it once had.
  3. Dean will earn bonus points for taking a political risk and standing up for principle instead of what looks like the right thing to do according to the polls. This will sustain his maverick, damn-the-polls image.
  4. Dean is adopting the approach to the recall that Bill Clinton has urged: cast it in light of impeachment, the 2000 vote and the re-districting battles as just another example of how the Republicans don't like the democratic process. By doing so he gets the attention of the Clintonites who might be more willing, because of this, to help him out as the campaign develops. Having Bill Clinton on his side will be a good thing going into 2004.
  5. It's the right thing to do. Besides all the political calculus above, taking the stage with Davis against this blatant attempt to re-run the 2002 Governor's race demonstrates, I think, that Dean has his priorities straight about the future of our Democracy. You can't defend Democracy if you aren't willing to defend people whom you might otherwise not want to be associated against un-Democratic attacks. This the mistake so many Democratic consultants made in 2000 when they advised that Gore should run away from Clinton.

Doing the right thing is smartest politics of all.

Putting the story before personal ambition

Josh Marshal is doing something you don't often see from mainstream journalists, what with their huge egos and desire to be the ones who break "The Big One": he is providing leads to other journalists.

Josh reports today on the strange circumstances around the sudden departure from Iraq of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Kerik had been brought in to help re-organize the Bagdad police force and had talked, on his appointment, of having to be in the country for "at least six months - until the job is done." Kerik has now left Iraq after only 90 days and his spokespeople are trying to re-write history to make it sound like this was according to plan (in fact, they even hint that he extended his stay beyond his original mandate).

As Josh says, "there must be something more to the story, no?"

Yes. But Josh obviously doesn't have the contacts to dig it up. So, by posting this information, he is doing two things: (1) trolling for contacts and (2) giving a signal to other journalists who might have the necessary contacts that maybe there is a good story here that they should investigate.

In other words, Josh is passing the baton to another journalist, who, if they manage to break a big story out of this, will get most of the credit.

That's called putting the story before your own personal ambition. How many establishment journalists would be willing to do something like that? How many of them have sat on incomplete stories of significant importance because they couldn't fill in the holes and they would rather the story not get out than risk not getting the byline?