Saturday, January 31, 2004

Working the refs

Democrats say CBS panders to GOP

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

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


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

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

The plan is working

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 30, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean is in it for the duration

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

Ironies do abound don't they?

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

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

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

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

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

Neel asks rhetorically if this strategy has ever worked before:

No. It's never been tried.

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

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

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

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

Google News Democratic Primary Poll for 1/30/2004

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

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

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

The following is a chart of the Google News Media Share over the last few months:

(Methodology: All numbers are taken from the hit counts when searching on the Google News Service for news stories containing each candidate's name. Click on each name to rerun the search. You will get different results as the numbers are constantly changing. I make absolutely no claim that these numbers have any real meaning.)

Faulty intelligence not the only intelligence

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Nothing at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Spinal Watch

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

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

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

Imagine that!

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

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

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

After all, even a pawn can check the King.

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

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

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

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

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

Reality Check

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A parable...

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

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

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

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

Take from that what you will.

Hearts and Minds

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

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

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

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

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

God I hope not.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Dean vs. Wolf

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

Talking Points

Dean vs. Kerry on Foreign Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Zen of Dean

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

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

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

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Anger is bad

John 2:13-16

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

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

Just asking.