Saturday, December 06, 2003

What she said

The Democrats are Scared - A Letter to the DNC

But now that we have an exciting candidate…a candidate who has shattered Democratic fund-raising records…who draws thousands of ardent supporters to his public appearances…whose grass roots contingency voted almost unanimously to forego outdated campaign finance rules and managed to give him another 5.3 million dollars in the process…and what do you say? Waaah, what if we don't win? Waaah, what if Rove is mean to our candidate? Waaah, what about George McGovern and Michael Dukakis? Waaah, how can we discredit Howard Dean before he wins the nomination?

Why should Dean be the winner just because he is winning?

Mario Cuomo asks, with regard to scenarios that say that Dean is virtually unstoppable, "That's all fine. But should he win?"

Umm, Mario, the answer is yes. Why? Because he is winning.

Who do we want to be the nominee?

A winner.

What is Dean?

A winner.

Ipso facto, he should be the nominee.

I really wish these so-called experts would get it through their thick skulls that the person who should win is the person who shows that they can win!

Friday, December 05, 2003

Sea Change, Part II

Kos's latest post is in line with my previous comments about a sea change in opinion about Dean:

Having talked to several "establishment" types this week, it was startling to see how the conversation had moved on from who the nominee would be, and the possible repercussions of a Dean victory, to ways they could tap into Dean's money and supporters. The $60K (or whatever) for Rep. Boswell was key. It was then they realized that Dean would share the spoils, and nothing talks like money in DC. None of the other candidates can compete.

(Little known secret -- just about every Democratic candidate is trying to find graceful ways to crash the next Dean Meetup seeking support.)

And the best path towards that money and the avid support of the Dean army? Simple. Line up behind Dean. Praise the man. Praise his innovative campaign. And, most important of all, praise his supporters.

The establishment wants as much of that Dean magic as they can capture.

Hmmm. We have the power?

(BTW, any Democratic candidates who want to come to the meetup I host is more than welcome. I can guarantee that they will be greeted with open arms.)

Earning it

Eric Alterman recounts his thoughts after spending a few hours talking with John Kerry about the problems he is having in this campaign. It is a well-written piece that gets the point across that John Kerry is a great man, would have made a great President and Eric just can't seem to figure out why Kerry isn't doing any better.

The reason is plain to see in Eric's own writing: he thinks being president has something to do with the ability to impress a gaggle of "in the know" people in a small room. He thinks it has something to do with experience and erudition. He thinks it has something to do with deserving to get the job.

It has nothing to do with that Eric. It has everything to do with instilling in the average voter the sense that you can actually lead, that you can actually fight, that you can kick butt. Kerry, unfortunately, has never done that in this race.

We may shake our fists at the gods that this is a consequence of our system, that the people who we think most deserve to be our leaders never get the brass ring, but that is how it works.

Eric, like Josh Marshall and many other smart individuals who should know better (because of their long years of exposure to the process up close), continually fail to grasp this simple fact. Perhaps it's because they are so close up that they can't see it. Maybe you need to be farther out here in the wilderness to appreciate that leadership is more about knowledge and issues and erudition.

It's about inspiring people to care enough to get off their butts and get involved again.

If Dean gets the nomination, it will be because he earned it.

John Kerry never has.

More fretting

I appreciate that Josh Marshall is acknowledging that a Dean nomination doesn't necessarily mean that the Democrats are doomed to defeat. But...

I find myself torn because I see great promise in the resurgence of energy among grassroots Democrats -- something that has made Dean's campaign possible, but which he himself has also significantly helped to catalyze. The novel methods of fundraising and networking are extremely important -- something that Dems allowed to atrophy literally decades ago. And I definitely think that the going models that Democrats have in DC just aren't working, demonstrably aren't working.

Yet my wariness remains -- on various counts.

Of late, a lot of folks, playing off the McGovern analogy, have started talking up the Goldwater one. Perhaps the Dems lose this one, but it's a campaign that germinates into a political realignment one or two or three elections later.


The problem is that I'm not sure we can afford another four years of this. And I don't consider that hyperbole, but cold fact. Plus, I think Bush is beatable.

Maybe Josh, instead of wasting time worrying about how Dean might go down to defeat, might put his considerable talents to better use by thinking up ways to help Dean win.

Let defeat take care of itself. Victory is what we need to work on.


I've been thinking about the anger issue.

Does anyone besides me think that the media meme about Dean's "anger" could eventually prove to be a benefit to the campaign? Think of 2000 and the meme that said that Bush was stupid. Lots of people heard this. Then they tuned into the debates, saw that Bush didn't drool, and many of them concluded that the whole negative spin on Bush was wrong.

If the media keeps pushing the idea that Dean is "angry" many disinterested voters will be surprised the first time they see Dean (probably in the debates) and he isn't the fire-breather he was made out to be (especially if he can repeat his laidback Hardball performance).

The expectations game worked for Bush in 2000. It could be a secret weapon for Dean in 2004 (along with many other secret weapons).

Why we need Dean

Brian Ulrich isn't as well known as a Bruce Babbitt, a Paul Simon or a Molly Ivins, but, in his endorsement of Dean, he brings us perhaps the best statement I have seen so far of why this country needs Howard Dean as President. I won't quote it because it needs to be read in full.


Two more significant endorsements for Dean: former Sen. Paul Simon and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

Letter from an Army vet

If this letter from an Army vet is any indication, Bush's alleged solid base within the military is in serious danger of cracking.

The writer talks about a recent visit he made to a VA hospital. He was in the waiting area with about 100+ other veterans when a feed of Bush's appearance before the soldiers at Fort Carlson, Colo. came on. The volume was turned up and everyone listened respectfully, at first.

Then it started. First, a veteran around 50 years old in my area said, "I can't believe he has the guts to wear that uniform!" Others around the room started making remarks like, "Count the lies!" and "Didn't he learn anything on that aircraft carrier?" I'll clean up the language, but not long into Shrub's obvious photo op there were so many men and a few women veterans either yelling at each other or at the TV that staff members came in thinking someone had a serious health issue, or that perhaps an unstable patient had gone into a rage.

It gets better.

Speak up General!

Joe Conason highlights the abuse of authority that is the Bush administrations insistence that Wesley Clark's forthcoming testimony before the Hague tribunal be conducted in secret.

I agree with all the points Joe makes in his column, except one:

Wisely, Clark has said nothing about the restrictions placed on him by the State Department. This is an episode that requires no additional comment.

I could not disagree more. The mistake Democrats have made in the past is to remain silent in the face of outrages like this in the mistaken belief that the outrage would speak for itself. By remaining silent in the face of the administration's demands, Clark is giving his consent to it and making it look like it is a perfectly reasonable action. Unless and until Clark speaks up about it the press will ignore it and this outrage will fade into the background noise of all the outrages that have preceded it.

What the Democrats need now is an advocate. Not someone who continues to sit back and take it.

I'm disappointed that Joe doesn't understand this by now.

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 12/5/2003

  This Week (12/5) Last Week (11/28)
1 Howard Dean 6870 22.0% -0.3 1 7350 22.3%
2 John Kerry 5560 17.8% +0.0 2 5860 17.8%
3 Wesley Clark 4670 15.0% +0.6 3 4720 14.3%
4 John Edwards 3540 11.3% -1.0 4 4070 12.3%
5 Joe Lieberman 3410 10.9% +0.7 5 3360 10.2%
6 Dick Gephardt 3190 10.2% +0.3 6 3280 9.9%
7 Dennis Kucinich 1740 5.6% +0.3 7 1750 5.3%
8 Al Sharpton 1400 4.5% -0.5 8 1630 4.9%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 836 2.7% -0.2 9 957 2.9%

Is it really another week already? It feels like a speeding train of late. I guess its true that time does speed up as you get older (every day you live is a smaller percentage of the life you have lived so far.)

Again, not much of a change from last week. In fact, barring unforeseen circumstances, I think this is about where the media share picture will remain until the Iowa caucus.

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.)

Stephen Moore: Cassandra of the right?

Rick Klau has the latest scoop on the Club for Growth's recent attacks on Howard Dean. It turns out that Stephen Moore, the president of the Club for Growth, once wrote an article about an appearance Dean made before the Cato Institute. In the article Moore talks about Dean's charismatic performance, how he wowed the audience and how "Howard Dean could be George W. Bush's worst nightmare."

I think he got that right.

(Political Wire also pointed to an article by Mr. Moore that warned Republicans against taking Dean lightly.)

Positive indicators

Comes word this morning of two new polls in the South. The first, in Florida, shows Dean slightly ahead with 16% to Clark and Lieberman's 15% and Gephardt (8.5%) and Kerry (6%) bringing up the rear. The second, in South Carolina, also shows Dean in the lead with 11%, Lieberman and Clark at 9% and Edwards, Sharpton and Gephardt at 7%.

Now, neither of these leads is statistically significant. The race in both of these states is still up for grabs. But what is significant about these polls is not that Dean is in a slight lead but that he isn't losing!

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. If Dean can stay in the top ranks for the next two months and then goes on to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, the momentum from those wins will probably swing a considerable portion of the undecided votes in his favor. If Dean manages to beat Clark in South Carolina then that will pretty much put the nail in the Anybody-But-Dean movement.

There's a part of me that has to wonder if the confederate flag flap may have done precisely what Dean hoped it would do: increase his favorables in the South.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

A Christmas Nightmare

On a lighter note, a friend sends this along, in keeping with the season.

A Christmas Nightmare, 2003
by Catherine McGuire

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the House,
Those seeking re-election were starting to grouse,
“Bush told us he‘d live by what the U.N had said,
but now we’re stuck in deep Iraq sh*t instead!
We can’t back out now, the die has been cast,
but who knows how long this quagmire will last?
Can’t we get this thing done? Can’t we sneak ‘round old Bush?”
Then sudd’nly the House Speaker rose and said, “Shush!”

For out in the halls there rose such a clamor --
it was Mr. Joe Public, who said with a stammer,
“We want you to know, ‘fore you do something rash,
that we realize this whole war has been too slapdash.
We voters ain’t dumb or indifferent, you know;
you’ve been weasel-waffling from the git-go.
We’re stuck in Iraq for at least a few years,
so ’fess up to your goofs, or forget your careers.”

The House Speaker shuddered and spoke up right quick,
“I’ve got an idea that seems pretty slick;
Form inquiry panels, but all “classified” --
And Mr. Joe Public won‘t know if we lied;
‘cause we‘ll blame it on Daschle , on Chirac, on Blix and,
on Tenet, on Stupid*, on Donald .... on Nixon!
We’ve done it before -- shredding docs, blanking tapes --
we can spindoc this mess, make all look ship-shape.
Just look like we‘re trying; we won’t take the fall -
White-wash away, wash away, wash away all!”

As dry chads in Floridian hurricanes fly,
so up swept the families of soldiers to cry,
“Our loved ones spend Christmas in armor this year.
Now your reasons for risking their lives isn’t clear:
even patriots are worried- just what are you hiding?
Do we really have verified cause for our fighting?”

And meanwhile our allies have gone through the roof -
“There’s been public opinion rigging -- here’s proof!
None of the weapons you named has been found,
None of the motives you claimed have been sound.
We think the whole Bush camp are extremists and wrongful,
Second only in danger to the crazy Kim Jong-il,
If you start with pre-emption, just where will it end?
you’re heading right into the chasm, my friend.”

Yet when Rummy ‘fessed up to an annual cost
of near ninety billion to replace what was lost
by our billion-bomb pummelling of Tikrit and Bagdad,
did the Senate or House have the guts to get mad?
No! They trimmed all the watchdogs, turned blinds eyes to the perks,
did their best to keep all public eyes from their work,
and with each so-called patriot holding his nose,
they gave Bush his billions, and voted to close.

That old saying ‘bout sausage and laws comes to mind,
we are queasy from watching what goes into the grind;
From the pious protests to the quotes grandiose,
this spectacle has left most of us comatose.
From the blustering press to the arguments oral,
One thing is for sure -- just don’t look for the moral.

There’s not much point in this lengthy epistle,
except that this farce doesn’t rate our dismissal.
One thing we must ask, ‘fore they sweep this from sight --
Are we safe in our beds? Can we sleep well at night?

(Note: You are welcome to share this, but not to sell it.)

Death To Rolodex Journalism!

Reader Alice sends me an interesting thought with regard to the Post article about Dean courting party insiders:

You know what I think? Crony journalism is afraid because if this works, well, having inside sources won't mean anything, If the person who runs the phone bank or voter registration is as important as some Washington political consultant, well, that just renders crony journalism's rolodex irrelevant. And all this talk of access will become a farce if the head of precinct operations in Booster County, Anystate USA is as big a king maker as some lobbyist.

I think Alice is right. The death of rolodex journalism (or, at least, its severe crippling) would be just one more benefit of a Dean presidency.

More on those Bush records

The DailyKOS has the latest scoop on the status of Bush's records in Texas. It turns out that, once again, mainstream journalists didn't do their homework and it was left up to a Vermont political columnist Peter Freyne  to find out that gaining access to Bush's records isn't as easy as the New York Times suggested.

Of course, the truth in this story won't matter as long as it doesn't get out. So we need to make sure that other mainstream journalists are made aware of this and don't run with the preferred Bush spin.

Update: This extract from Freyne's column is telling:

Since yours truly is constantly on a quest for Dean info, we asked Isikoff where he was hearing what he was hearing. Was it from John McClaughry, we asked?

“Who’s John McClaughry?” asked Isikoff.

McClaughry is the Republican Ho-Ho crushed in 1992 with 75 percent of the vote. Don’t think Johnny Think-Tanker’s gotten over it.

It turned out Isikoff had been feeding on the Ruth Dwyer political chow line instead!

The Newsweek reporter didn’t know much about Ruthless Ruth’s past. Mrs. Dwyer was the Republican opponent Dean twice beat handily, in 1998 and 2000. She then landed a stint as a TV “investigative” reporter. That career ended last summer when WVNY (ABC) dropped its entire news operation.

Mr. Isikoff had never heard the story about the explanation Ruth once gave for Dr. Dean’s favorable press coverage. According to published reports, fellow Republican Bernie Rome claimed Truthless Ruth told him in 1997 it was due to the fact that Dean and the state’s top political reporters had something very special in common — they were all Jews!

It wasn’t true, of course, but Mrs. Dwyer always had a talent for seeing conspiracies that no one else could envision. And it’s no surprise she imagines deep, dark secrets locked away in Ho-Ho’s sealed records.

By press time, Isikoff was unable to come up with anything substantial. Instead, Newsweek went with the suspicious sounding headline, “What’s in Howard Dean’s Secret Files?”

This is eerily similar to what happened with Clinton during the '92 election: enterprising national reporters becoming conduits for smears regurgitated by a candidate's past political opponents. Isikoff made his name doing just that with Clinton. Looks like he is trying to do the same with Dean.

Real journalists do the work

The DailyKOS has the latest scoop on the status of Bush's records in Texas. It turns out that, once again, mainstream journalists didn't do their homework and it was left up to a Vermont political columnist to find out that gaining access to Bush's records isn't as easy as the New York Times suggested.

Of course, the truth in this story won't matter as long as it doesn't get out. So we need to make sure that other mainstream journalists are made aware of this and don't run with the preferred Bush spin.

Sea Change

The Washington Post this morning has a story about Dean courting Democratic party insiders and how some of them are starting to soften their stance towards them. It reveals that at least one Clinton cabinet member is planning to endorse Dean and that Hillary Clinton has started to make positive noises towards him.

I think we are seeing the beginning of a sea-change in the party attitude towards Dean. It was perhaps inevitable as Dean has come to look more and more like the party nominee. As much as they may not like the way he has used them as a piñata on his rise to prominence, it doesn't pay for many to be on the bad side of the nominee. But I think there is more than just simple survival instinct at work here. I think many in the party are starting to realize that Dean isn't as bad as they thought he was.

The last couple of weeks have been telling in this assessment. There were three things that I think have lead to this:

  1. Dean's performance on Hardball blew a lot of people away. He was NOT the hot head that he has been portrayed in the media. He was calm under Mathews typical rapid-fire questioning and he impressed a lot of people with his thoughtfulness about very important issues.
  2. The trip by Ed Gillespie, RNC chief, to New Hampshire to specifically call out Dean demonstrated to a lot of Democrats that the GOP isn't so convinced that Dean will be easy to beat. This stunt by Gillespie could prove to be a tremendous miscalculation on the Republican's part.
  3. Dean's opening of his fundraising apparatus to Cong. Boswell, and the $50,000+ that resulted from it, struck the party leaders right where they live: Dean demonstrated that he can help out his fellow Democrats, even ones who aren't necessarily on the same side as him (Boswell voted for the Iraq resolution) and he can give them a lot of money in the process.

I disagree, however, with the headline on that Post article ("Dean Now Courting Party Insiders"). For one thing, Dean has been courting those insiders for several months now. It's that they are starting to return his calls. And, what's more, some of them are starting to court him.

Update: Sorry, forgot to mention the other significant sea-change development. Molly Ivins has endorsed Howard Dean.

Compulsive behavior

So now it turns out that the Turkey Bush was shown prominently "serving" in Iraq was actually just there for the photo and was not actually eaten by the troops.

Now, normally I wouldn't make a big deal about something like this because I like to live by what I call the Huffington standard (in honor of Arianna Huffington who first expressed it in a way that I much appreciated): when someone you don't like is case in a negative light for something that happens to them ask yourself if you would treat it as seriously if it was happening to someone you did like.

However, this administration has a tendency to go for the photo-op, the neat-o story, over the substance. And they have a tendency to overdue it when it really isn't necessary. Whether it was the "Mission Accomplished" banner, the ever changing story about whether Air Force One was sighted by a British Airways pilot or this latest story with the faux-Turkey, it all suggests a disturbing pattern. It's called compulsive lying.

A compulsive liar has many flaws, but one of the most prominent is the fact that they often lie about something that they don't need to lie about. The British Airways story is a perfect example of this. There really is no need to add this little bit of intrigue to the story (except to maybe make it more exciting). The secret trip to Bagdad was certainly compelling enough as it is. But the PR people in this administration felt compelled to embellish it even more.

During the 2000 election a lot was made of Al Gore's alleged tendency to exaggerate. Many people felt that it indicated that he couldn't be trusted to tell us the truth about really important things.

Well, can we trust an administration to tell us the truth when they can't even let basic facts speak for themselves?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Unexpected support

Republicans, for once, are not on the same page. It appears that the current governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, a Republican, is coming to Howard Dean's defense on the issue of unsealing his gubernatorial records:

(Douglas) "I don't know there's any reason to feel there's any smoking gun or anything really incriminating or exciting in governor Dean's records. I think it's a matter of curiosity now on the part of the media and his opponents."

(Kinzel) In 1990, as secretary of State, Douglas negotiated a six-year agreement with Governor Madeleine Kunin as she prepared to leave office. Douglas says he believes that allowing governors to seal their papers preserves a more accurate historical record for the future:

(Douglas) "Ideally there would be no closure period but to be perfectly honest, my sense was that governors were more likely to leave more complete records of their administrations if there was a period of closure. There was less likely to be a sanitizing of the records and so the historic record would be more complete and that would be more beneficial to researchers over time. So I thought it was a small price to pay to have a brief period of closure, after which the record of the gubernatorial tenure would be more complete."

(Kinzel) Douglas says he's not sure what the appropriate time frame is for a governor to seal their records. He says a six-year period was chosen for Madeleine Kunin because she had been in office for that amount of time.

Using that standard, Dean's records should be sealed for 11 years.


Morgan Quinto State Awards for 2003

"Smartest State": Massachusetts
In second place: Vermont

"Rounding out the top five states with Massachusetts were Vermont, last year’s winner Connecticut, Montana, and New Jersey."

"Safest State": Vermont

"Louisiana once again is the nation’s most dangerous state. The announcement was made in Crime State Rankings 2003, an annual reference book published this month by Morgan Quitno Press, a Lawrence, Kansas-based independent research and publishing company. At the opposite end of the rankings scale, Vermont is the nation’s safest state, knocking off long-time winner North Dakota, which held the honor for six consecutive years."

"Healthiest State": Vermont

"Good health is a high priority in Vermont. For the third year in a row, Vermont has earned the title of the nation’s Healthiest State."

This is an effort I could certainly ... ... get behind

'Babes Against Bush' Campaign Launched - Pinup Girls Work to Defeat George Bush's Re-Election

ROYAL OAK, Mich., Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- A new organization of southeastern Michigan women, known collectively as "Babes Against Bush," has formed for purposes of smashing George Bush's re-election hopes - and having some fun in the process.

Using the venerable, not-quite-politically-correct vehicle of the "pinup girl" as the medium for its message, Babes Against Bush has created a liberal-leaning campaign to promote political awareness in the most unlikely of audiences: men whose cultural tastes tend towards centerfolds and the swimsuit issues of sports magazines.

"We figured that this was a good, fun way to make people aware of the damage George Bush is doing to America," says Babes Against Bush's Eleanor Vast-Binder. "Guys like hot girls. So maybe they wouldn't mind getting the message from us."

The centerpiece of the group's efforts is a "Regime Change Countdown Calendar" which ticks off the days until Inauguration Day, 2005, when the group hopes Bush will be displaced by "an actual elected president." Accompanying thirteen full-color portraits of models in various states of provocative dress and undress is a chronology of Bush administration misdeeds, mistakes, and manglings of the truth.

"What better way is there to get guys to notice that the president is a bozo?" Vast-Binder (the January "Babe") asks rhetorically. "Pictures of the girls will get their attention - and they'll look long enough to read the fine print."

The calendar will be available via the group's web site, [WARNING: NOT WORK FRIENDLY]. The site will also boast free electronic greeting cards featuring alternate shots of the "babes" as well as links to dozens of other anti-Bush sites and a counter clicking off the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until inauguration day. The group will also make the calendar available by mail order and through select retail and online outlets. Besides furthering its own activities, the group is earmarking a portion of receipts to various grassroots anti-Bush efforts, as well as to environmental, women's rights, AIDS awareness, and other progressive organizations.

"The Bush administration embarked on a policy of regime change some time ago," Vast-Binder says. "We just think they chose the wrong country to do it in."

Journalists hoping to get a review copy of the calendar or obtain more information about Babes Against Bush are invited to email the group at, or call the group's press representative David B. Livingstone directly at 313-320-2820.

Written questions and correspondence can alternately be directed to OrwellMedia, P.O. Box 851, Royal Oak, MI 48068-0851 USA.


Bush wants to silence Clark. Clark doesn't object?

Josh Marshall talks this morning about the Bush administration's insistence that Wesley Clark, when he testifies before the Hague tribunal in the trial of Slobodan Milosovic, do so in "near complete secrecy". The Bush administration has done this before with only one other official (Richard Holbrooke). Why are they doing it with Clark?

Two explanations suggest themselves. One is more administration payback against Clark -- an effort to keep him out of the spotlight for political reasons. But a more likely and prosaic explanation is the administration's contempt for international law and legal institutions.

Administration officials demanded a similar level of censorship on possible testimony from Richard Holbrooke last year. And court officials, for now at least, decided not to call him at all.

So many bad motives to choose from, right? In this case, for them, it's probably a twofer.

Politics is certainly an obvious candidate for their motivation. But I think it is a bit of a mystery why they think they should make a big deal out of this. Would public testimony by Clark really be that politically damaging?

But there is another question I have about this: why hasn't Clark made a bigger deal about it?

If it is politically motivated, this would be an ideal opportunity for Clark to stand up and call the administration to task for their actions. He could certainly embarass them into letting him testify publicly and the resulting publicity would produce an even greater public interest in his testimony. All in all it would seem that publicly criticizing this decision would be a net-plus for Clark's campaign.

But, as far as I know, Clark has not expressed a single objection to the conditions the Bush administration are imposing. Is it because he agrees with their reasons? Or is it because he just isn't politically astute enough to realize the goldmine of publicity they could be handing him?

It is a puzzlement.


Walter Shapiro highlights the conundrum that is faced by those who are trying to bring down Dean: the attacks on the man contradict each other and, in the process, make Dean look even stronger for his ability to survive them. Take the issue of Dean's decision to keep some of his gubernatorial records sealed:

[...] Because Dean made these arrangements for the custody of his public papers as he was leaving the governor's office in January, his goal was obviously to keep potentially embarrassing documents under lock and key until his political career is over. This was not exactly a high-minded stance. And, if Dean is the nominee, it may limit the Democrats' ability to assail the Bush administration for its own penchant for secrecy in matters such as Vice President Cheney's energy task force.

Yet, once again, it is difficult to see how Dean's Democratic challengers get much traction on this issue. At worst, the episode paints Dean as a political operator careful to protect himself on all fronts. But how do you square the notion of Dean the Cynic with the attacks on him as too naive to be an effective candidate against Bush? That's the Dean conundrum: a front-runner with many vulnerabilities but no obvious Achilles' heel.

The mistake so many people make in politics is to think politicians are just one mistake away from political oblivion. Dean is demonstrating, as Bush and Clinton did before him, that it is not the ability to avoid mistakes that defines a good politician but instead the ability to avoid the damage those mistakes should cause you.

Democrats, because of their basic misreading of this reality, have gotten so afraid of making mistakes that they come off looking like wimps afraid to take a stand for anything. Dean may make mistakes, but his ability to correct for those mistakes make him look that much better to the electorate.

He's a survivor.

Son of Arsenic in the Water

The Dean Method

William Saletan seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to figuring out Dean's method: when there is the perception that you are weak on something, attack your opponent as the one who is really weak. In other words, put them on the defensive. And where did Dean learn this technique? Many places, but perhaps from the master himself: George W. Bush.

Let's recap. A guy who has no foreign policy experience, opposed the war in Iraq, and went skiing after he escaped the Vietnam draft because of a bad back is calling a wartime president soft on defense. And despite cries of outrage from Republican pundits, luminaries, and party organs, he isn't letting up. Monday on Hardball, Dean said, "This president, I don't believe, has any idea how to fight terror. … This president has wasted 15 months or more doing nothing about the fact that North Korea is almost certainly a nuclear power, [and] we can't tolerate North Korea as a nuclear power." On Crossfire, Dean adviser Steve McMahon reiterated that Bush had tried to cut veterans' benefits. Coming to McMahon's aid, Democratic pugilist James Carville charged that Bush has "stretched our military to the point that we're weaker today. And he's created terror."

Where did Dean and his lieutenants get this kind of gall? Maybe from the guy they're attacking. In February 2000, Bush, a governor with no foreign policy experience, faced ex-POW John McCain in the do-or-die South Carolina Republican presidential primary. What was Bush's military record? He had joined the Texas Air National Guard to escape the Vietnam draft. [...]

Was Bush chastened by his embarrassing history? Not a bit. On Feb. 3, 2000, he staged a rally in Sumter, S.C., to trumpet his support from veterans' groups. According to firsthand reports, Bush stood by smiling as Tom Burch, the head of the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition, accused McCain of opposing health care for Gulf War veterans and efforts to locate POW-MIAs in Vietnam. Bush followed with a speech in which he warned, "We must have a commander-in-chief who understands the role of the military." The Los Angeles Times reported that "Bush, continuing his offensive at a news conference … then accused McCain of not doing enough for veterans suffering from ailments related to military service, such as Gulf War Syndrome." When he was asked about Burch's comments, Bush replied that the veterans who had spoken at the rally "looked at both of us and they have chosen me to be the nominee. I'm proud of that."


It's been said before that Dean and Bush share an aristocratic Yankee heritage. To the unwary, this means they're soft. Democrats learned the hard way that when it comes to politics, if not war, Bush has no shame and takes no prisoners. Now Republicans will learn the same about Dean.

If nothing else, Dean could forever bury the stereotype that north-eastern liberals are wimps.

Wrestling with pigs

If you can stand it, I'd recommend reading this post over on Free Republic. It is from a freeper who infiltrated a Clark meetup on Monday and did the best he could to disrupt the meeting.

I run one of the local Dean meetups and have done so for about eight months now. I can't say that we have never been infiltrated in a similar manner, but we've never had to deal with the kind of things this guy did. I've thought about how I would deal with such a situation if it ever came up and decided that I would try to step into the conversation and say that getting into long and involved discussions about whether Bush should or should not be President was NOT the point of the meeting. If people wanted to talk about it further they could continue after the meeting. In the meantime, we need to get back to what we are really here to discuss.

The mistake the Clarkies made was in getting to involved in trying to convert the unconvertible and not spending enough time talking about their candidate and what they can do to get him elected. This is good advice for dealing with anyone who hasn't been persuaded over to your guy (whoever he may be). Hold a friendly discussion, but don't let yourself get side-tracked into a meandering debate.

The old aphorism about wrestling with pigs still applies: you just get dirty and it annoys the pig so why bother?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Bait and Switch

One way they tried to get soldiers to come to Bush's little shindig: attract soldiers to a Thanksgiving dinner in a makeshift U.S. Army post at Baghdad International Airport, top officials resorted to celebrity disinformation. THEY FANNED RUMORS that country star Shania Twain would be at the event, accompanied by the actor Nicolas Cage. When even that did not generate buzz in the barracks, Bremer told aides “we may make news,” and asked them to urge the press to attend.

Howard Kurtz:

Wonder if anyone was disappointed in not getting Shania.

Look on the bright side. At least they didn't have to hear Dubya's rendition of "I Feel Like a Woman."

(Thanks to Maia)

DLC good guys?

Check out the new blog for the New Democrat Network. This is a splinter-group within the DLC that is attempting to reform it from the grassroots in much the same way that the Dean campaign is going after the Democratic party as a whole.

Dean helping out Bush-Lite Democrats

Turns out Cong. Boswell actually voted for the Iraq resolution.

In other words, Dean is showering his largesse on a member of the Bush-Lite group that has been a key focus of his criticism.

Some Dean supporters might think that a good reason not to help Boswell. They are wrong. By sending money in Boswell's direction, Dean is demonstrating that he is willing to help the very people he has been so critical of. Why? Because they are Democrats!

The more I look at it the more brilliant this action looks.

More on that Bush grassroots juggernaut

Reader Alice Marshal passes on some interesting thoughts regarding the recent Washington Post story about the alleged Bush grassroots campaign

Dear Chris - This is the note I sent to members of the Fairfax county Democratic Committee. I have no doubt that Dean has scared the GOP. But, at the risk of bragging, I think it is Fairfax Democrats who have put the fear of God in them. All Dean's emphasis on grass roots would not have made a difference except that they just witnessed several of their candidates defeated by Democrats with less money but better organization.

It is just further proof of what I said in my primer you so kindly published last July.

Subject: power of precinct operations

Dear Fellow Democrat-

Anyone who doubts the power of precinct operations to change the country need only glance at today's WPost.

Can there be any doubt that this is motivated by Gerry Connolly's victory? We were out spent, but we had the volunteers and the organization. What we have done is unilateral campaign finance reform, we have found a way to get our message out which does not require a gazillion dollars.

Think how many political consultants, White House Staffers, Congressional Staffers and political camp followers reside in Fairfax county. We did this right under their nose and finally the great and powerful have acknowledged the obvious, precinct operations win.

we won

we won something much more important that control of the county board (as important as that is) we beat the machine that created the GOP hate machine. And we can do it again.

Election Is Now for Bush Campaign
Early Efforts Aim To Amass Voters

By Dan Balz and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 30, 2003; Page A01

President Bush's reelection team, anticipating another close election, has begun to assemble one of the largest grass-roots organizations of any modern presidential campaign, using enormous financial resources and lack of primary opposition to seize an early advantage over the Democrats in the battle to mobilize voters in 2004.

This is the money paragraph-

Both parties have rediscovered the importance of communicating personally with people, rather than assuming that television ads or direct-mail brochures will motivate someone to vote. From their analysis of previous contests, including this month's gubernatorial elections in Mississippi and Kentucky, GOP officials said someone who votes only infrequently is four times more likely to go to the polls after having a face-to-face conversation with a campaign volunteer about a candidate than after receiving a phone call or direct-mail brochure.

NOTE- it seems the reporters just took dictation and did not bother to confirm what their Republican case officers, er, sources, told them about web statistics. Note what Alexa records about hits to campaign web sites:

Winning the hearts and minds of Democratic leaders

This is one way to win the support of wavering Democratic Congress members:

Dean pushing Democratic Congress
Asks supporters to help influence other key races

By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff, 12/2/2003

Howard Dean has said repeatedly that he would, against the odds, help elect a Democratic Congress to move his agenda if he were elected president next year.

Within the next 24 hours, the former Vermont governor will take the first step to live up to his word. An official said the campaign will send a mass e-mail to Dean's 513,220 registered campaign supporters, asking them to donate immediately to Representative Leonard L. Boswell, an Iowa Democrat who has been targeted for ouster by the Republicans.

The appeal is part of a broader effort by Dean to use his unexpectedly potent fund-raising network to support the campaigns of 19 or 20 congressional candidates. Collectively, their victories would break the Republican grip on both the House and Senate.

Dean is using his influence in a way that demonstrates that he isn't just in this to win for himself but for the party as a whole. If this works (and I think it will) then I think it will win over a lot of converts within the Democratic leadership who have been annoyed at Dean's "abrasive" criticisms. They may not like being called Bush-Lite. But if someone can send them money then they can forgive him a lot.

Of course, as this article notes, this isn't entirely altruistic of Dean. Boswell is an uncommitted Iowa Democrat. Helping him out could go a long way towards persuading him to endorse Dean (or at least not endorse Kerry or Gephardt). But then this just demonstrates the political acumen of the Dean campaign.

Update: Here's the official announcement on the Dean blog.

Update 2: Did I mention that I think this is a brilliant way to address my previous concern about Democrats running away from Dean if he gets the nomination? It will be a lot harder for them to do this if they know that doing so might mean losing out on the Dean bucks.

Dean on American Exceptionalism

From last night's Hardball interview (trascript here):

MATTHEWS: . . . Do you think America, this country of ours, has a special role to play in the world? Do you believe in American exceptionalism?

DEAN: I do. I think this is the country where there is less cynicism and more hope than there are-than there is in most other countries. And I think that’s the great tragedy of the Bush administration, is, we’re losing our ability to have hope and to believe that any problem can be overcome, if you are willing to work hard enough. That is something that really is a beacon to the rest of the world. And if we lose that, the world has lost a true leader. The president has already given up our moral leadership in the world. We cannot afford four more years of this president, because moral leadership matters.

America is an exceptional place. But the Bushites want our exceptionalism to be based primarily on the fact that we can whip everyone else in a standup fight.

Dean understands that what makes America exceptional is our values, not our military might. We lead the world not just because we can beat the bad guys but because we can show the way towards a future that doesn't include those bad guys.

Daily Show Rules

Thanks to Hoffmania for drawing attention to this Daily Show moment (context is a discussion of Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Iraq):

STEWART: Clearly an incredible amount of logistics and foresight had to go into all of this.

COLBERT: Yes, Jon, this visit was an extremely well-coordinated operation. And the Bush team has learned a lot from the success of this mission that they can now apply to the rest of their work in Iraq. For instance, when it comes to planning - DO SOME.

Rove is not God

Liberal Oasis makes a valuable point: Karl Rove may be good, but he does make mistakes and he can be beaten. So stop despairing over Democratic chances in 2004 and get to work figuring out how to beat him at his own game.

Republicans aren't at all afraid of Dean

Courtesy the official Dean blog:

RNC Chair Travels To Vermont To Attack Dean

BURLINGTON--In another sign of just how unconcerned the Republican National Committee (RNC) is with Governor Dean, the RNC's chair, Ed Gillespie, will travel to Vermont today to preemptively attack a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the keynote speech at the Vermont GOP's 45th Annual Fall Dinner, Gillespie will underscore how the RNC is not at all afraid to put its special interest-funded President up against the greatest grassroots campaign that presidential politics has ever seen.

While in Vermont, Gillespie is expected to study how Governor Dean managed to balance 11 budgets in a row while providing health care to nearly every child and preserving the environment—accomplishments President Bush has been unable to achieve as president or governor.

"We're pleased that Ed is coming to Vermont to learn about Governor Dean’s record of balancing budgets and providing quality health care," Campaign Manager Joe Trippi said. "Ed's political trip to Vermont to attack Governor Dean in his home state makes it abundantly clear that the Bush campaign is not at all concerned by the governor's message of taking our country back."

Ha! Now that's what I call pre-emptive self-defense!

Their coming to take me away! Ha ha! Ho ho! Hee Hee!

Maureen Farrel has an important column up today on Buzzflash ("America Unhinged"). In it she identifies the latest attempts to equate criticism of Bush with some kind of mental illness. The point is obvious: when you can't respond to your critics in an intelligent manner, try to paint them as unbalanced and one-step short of the loony bin.

"America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War." – John le Carre

While one would expect Ann Coulter to write a column entitled "Liberals Unhinged," when New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof joined the fray a year or so ago, such criticism was taken more seriously. Accusing the left of "dumbing down," he argued that liberals were falling into a "cesspool of outraged incoherence."

Since then, it’s become commonplace to equate hatred of the president with an inexplicable mental illness. Charles Krauthammer has observed that "Democrats are seized with a loathing for President Bush -- a contempt and disdain giving way to a hatred that is near pathological" while the Weekly Standard’s Christopher Caldwell believes that "Democrats have been driven into a frenzy of illogic by their dislike of George W. Bush." Tucker Carlson has taken the conceit even further. "At least twice over the past few months, we here on Crossfire have sent urgent warnings to the mental health community about a certain New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman," Carlson recently said. "Krugman hates President Bush so much, so completely, so obsessively, that he can barely speak. And as readers of his column know, he long ago lost his ability to think clearly. This man needs help and he needs it desperately right away." [CNN]

Monday, December 01, 2003

The price of silence

This is odd:

Former Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, has been nominated by President Bush to serve a four-year term on the board of the Export-Import Bank, and will have to leave the commission investigating the September 11 terror attacks.

The statutes governing the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, bar anyone who holds a federal job such as being on the Ex-Im Board, from being a member, Shaun Waterman of United Press International reports.

Mr. Cleland has been one of the more outspoken members of the commission, accusing the administration of delaying access to vital documents in an effort to run out the clock on its investigation. The panel, which started work at the beginning of the year, must submit its report by a congressionally mandated deadline of May 27, 2004.

So, the silence of the most vocal of Bush's critics on the 9/11 panel is bought with a plum 4 year assignment on the Export-Import Bank board. I'm not sure who to be more upset with.


et tu Breaux?

I did not see this myself, but apparently Sen. John Breaux was on This Week this Sunday. George Stephanopolous asked him several times about Dean and gave him several opportunities to say, "Yes, I'll support Dean if he's the nominee." Breaux apparently refused to say it and said something to the effect of, "Well, sometimes its better not to vote for anybody than somebody."

This brings up one of my biggest fears about the 2004 general election. Some in the party leadership are so convinced that Dean is bad news for the party that they may actively run against him during the general. This could be a serious concern amongst some Congressman who may think that they will be brought down if they are to closely associated with Dean. Therefore, they will effectively campaign against him in order to win re-election.

The PR value of this for the Republicans would be pure gold. Imagine RNC ads saying that even other Democrats don't want Dean to be President (they already have Miller on record).

Talk about self-fulfilling prophesies!

The way to address this problem is the same way the Dean campaign has addressed all other problems: from the bottom-up. These wavering Democrats need to be identified and targeted with a concentrated effort by their constituents to tell them to support the Democratic nominee. Party unity will be essential in the general election. If Dean loses because of rebellious Dems then they will have only themselves to blame.

The anti-Bush campaign is working!

Ruy Teixeira points out something interesting in the latest NPR poll:

[...] what’ s interesting here is that they broke down the late May and current poll samples by those in states Bush won by 5 percent or more, those in swing states and those in states Gore won by 5 percent and more. This exercise shows that all of the move toward the Democrats over this period has been in swing states (from +19 for Bush to dead-even) and in Gore states (from dead-even to +13 for the Democrats). The Bush states haven’t budged (+22 for Bush in May, +23 for Bush today).

This is another manifestation of the polarizing nature of Bush. But what is significant about this is that the polarization is breaking down such that those who were on the fence about Bush in 2000 are generally leaning against the guy for 2004 while those who didn't like him in 2000 to begin with like him even less now.

Be a source of hope, not despair

Digby quotes heavily from this Washington Post article about the GOP plans for getting out the vote in 2004 and then goes on to say:

I don't want to be the blogosphere's Cassandra about this election. I do believe that the Democrats can win with a smart campaign. But, I am going to keep reminding people of what we are up against.

These guys are desperate to erase Junior's court appointment and win an election legitimately, thereby sealing what they believe to rightly be a permanent majority begun by St. Reagan. They are very, very rich and they are very, very organized. Their plan is refined down to the precinct level and it is nationally coordinated. They have no primary opposition so they will spend the next 9 months concentrating on nothing but the general election. Most importantly, they observe no limits and no rules.

If events of the last few months have taught us anything it's that starry-eyed faith in the cakewalk fantasies of true believers are very dangerous, indeed.

We can win, but we'd better be smart, agile, and prepared to wage this battle with our eyes wide open.

Digby is right in every way about this. We must not be fooled into thinking the task ahead of us is going to be easy. BUT, neither should we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by Republican propaganda about how strong their organization is.

The Post article Digby quotes relies heavily on Republican's estimates of their own strength. In other words, if you feel overwhelmed by what that article says, remember that the Republicans want us to feel overwhelmed and have every insentive to over-estimate their organizational capability.

The 6 million volunteers is a prime example of this technique. They compare it to the 500,000 that Dean has signed up and make it sound like they are way out ahead of us. However, that 6 million number is one they have been throwing around for several months now and they provide no details about where that number comes from. The history of Dean's 500,000 is very clear. We saw it develop over the last twelve months on his blog. We know it is essentially an accurate representation of his level of support.

Where does Bush's 6 million come from? Are they people who have signed on to the campaign specifically in the last year or so? Or is it just an amalgam of email lists the campaign has built up over the last 6 years?

Remember that these guys are very good when it comes to lying with numbers.

They brag about have $200 million to spend. Yet all the Democratic candidates combined have raised more money than Bush has so far this campaign season.

They brag about institutional support from other organizations. But the Democrats are doing a pretty good job making up for lost time with groups like MoveOn and re-invigorated labor organizations.

They are attempting the political equivalent of shock-n-awe. They are hoping to instill in us a sense of despair and doom by overwhelming us with these numbers. But we have numbers on our side as well.

Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking the battle will be easy. But don't let yourself be fooled into thinking it will be impossible. The minute we believe it is hopeless is the minute we lose.