Saturday, November 15, 2003

why dean...redux 

The question of Dean's electability is raging over at Kevin Drum's and Tacitus and Daniel Drezner and elsewhere.

Here are the reasons why I think Dean is electable and certainly more so than the rest of the field.

Competence, organization and money

I think that these three characteristics of campaigning, especially the first two are highly underrated. Dean's campaign has certainly show these in spades. They will be invaluable running against Bush/Rove. One of the first substantive pieces on Dean that I read was David Tell's piece in the Weekly Standard. The message was that while Dean was running hard in liberal circles early, his history is that of a centrist and a cagey and tough campaigner. Vermont has elections for Governor every two years and he's won five of them. Organization is not only important in winning the election, it's important in rebuilding the party. Take a look at this post on MeetUps in the South and think about what that means in a Dean presidency for congressional seats and state legislatures. Check out the towns and small cities where Dean has a pretty good organization - not exactly bastions of Northeastern liberalism. Pelosi/Daschle/McAuliffe are nowhere on party building.

Clark has already shown himself a weak campaigner and last I heard he still had no campaign manager.

Everyone is vulnerable to having Karl Rove pick them apart with $200m

Clark personally knew Milosevic and he misread him twice. Many in the Balkans view him as a war criminal for the bombing campaign that he waged. He was pushed out of the Supremo Supremo job. He has already flip flopped over whether he would have voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to take us into war. I don't think that he is going to have the chops to defend himself in the face of what they are going to drop on him.

Whoever the nominee is, Bush LLC is going to be hammering them on national security.

National Security

I don't see how Dean's failure to pledge to dismantle our system for evaluating intelligence, push the country into a long expensive occupation of a country that posed no threat to us and had no connection to 9/11 while tearing up the plans for occupation and start from scratch two months before the invasion makes him vulnerable on national security. Dean was for the Afghanistan occupation and would be willing to wage other interventions if need be.

A year from now, recklessly invading Iraq for no good reason is not going to be the litmus test for keeping America safe. A year from now I think a lot of military families are going to be looking for someone less prone to attack other countries and less prone to cutting their benefits. And Independents are tracking closer to Democrats on national security issues.

Dean's pledge to appoint Clinton as envoy to the Middle East strikes me as particularly astute. Whatever people think of Clinton, I think that most people think that he would be able to build goodwill in that region.

With the Iraq war a harder sell a year from now, the big difference is going to be preemption and go it alone versus diplomacy and multilateralism. Given the difficulties we've had securing support after blowing the diplomacy up front, I'll take that as a campaign debate.

Independent voters

Dean has more appeal to people who vote 'the man not the party' than political junkies may think. He has a lot of the tough, straight talking, 'at least you know where he stands' quality that those folks are looking for. Even his so called gaffes could be appealing to that group.

As I said above, Independents are more worried about domestic issues and are moving away from a peace through strength outlook. That trend will continue the farther we get from 9/11.

Deans position on guns is going to help with Independents, at least to dispel the runaway liberal trope now stalking the land.

Another group of swing voters that the Dems have ceded in recent years is young voters and this is a group that Dean is doing well with and will continue to do well with.

Air support

American's Coming Together has raised over $35M to export the AFL-CIO's very effective political strategy to other organizations. In 1994, the year of the last election before the current leadership of the AFL took office, voters from labor households constituted just 14 percent of the nation's electorate. By the election of 2000, that figure had risen to 26 percent, and 59 percent of those voters backed the Gore-Lieberman ticket. Those numbers are going to inch our way in this election. Local 1199NY is putting up $35M to put 1000 members and staff on the ground in key states. is getting stronger all the time. George Soros has just started pouring money into defeating Bush, expect that to continue. The groups will dovetail with a Dean campaign far better than they will with any of the other candidates.

The Greens

Any of the other Democrats could trigger a Green Party spoiler. Dean's early and principled stand against Iraq and the grassroots nature of his campaign make that scenario less likely if he is the nominee.

My endorsement of Dean is here.

PS: Many hawkish centrists and conservatives hold up Lieberman as electable but unlikely to get the nomination. Well maybe his positions are electable. But there is no way that that droning condescending school marm is going beat George Bush in an open election - not with that Willy Wonka hairdo versus George's Roman emperor coif.

Friday, November 14, 2003

the bad news bulls 

From the Big Picture:

Wal-Mart to Mega Bulls: Umm, sit down a moment -- can we talk?

The retailing giant not only missed the Street's third-quarter estimates, it also warned that its fourth quarter will likely come in lower than analysts' forecasts. This was the first such miss since 1994, and an ominous sign that all is not swell in consumer land. It also points to a near giddy optimism amongst some analysts which may ultimately be proven unfounded:

..."Customers continue to buy the cheapest items in any given category -- a sign that household budgets remain tight," Lee Scott, Wal-Mart chief executive officer, said on a recorded message. Buyers are "timing their expenditures around the receipt of their paychecks, indicating liquidity issues," Scott said. "I don't think consumer spending is slowing, but I also don't see the strength that many of you in the investment community appear to see," Scott said.

A similarly cautious outlook was also heard from the nation's No. 2 discount retailer, Target, which warned on Q4 earnings estimates.

...U.C. Berkeley economics professsor Brad DeLong notes the "strange third quarter news" from Walmart, and I have to note that its not strange at all -- the further in time we move away from the tax rebates and refis, the less cash consumers have. That's not strange -- its simple, and to be expected . . .

that's more like it 


In the final days of October, Craig Manson, assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, dealt a "Godfather"-style blow to a team of government biologists that was about to release a final report with flow recommendations for the Missouri River -- a blow that could have a sizable ripple effect on the river itself. The report was to have argued for the need to better mimic the natural flow of the Missouri (releasing more water from hydroelectric dams in the spring and less in the summer) to prevent extinction of the river's endangered sturgeon, tern, and plover populations, and to reduce the risk of future flooding.

Responding to objections from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the report's suggestions would economically inconvenience dam owners and the Missouri River's barge industry, Manson penned a three-paragraph memo ordering a second opinion on Missouri River management. [Click here to download the memo.] This opinion is to be provided by a "special national team of [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service experts ... referred to as 'the Wise Guys' or the 'SWAT Team,' [which] has served well in other complex, high-interest consultations,'" he wrote, with nary a trace of irony to soften the mafia-boss language. The replacement biological SWAT team will reach its conclusions after a 45-day study; the original team's findings were based on more than 10 years of research and were confirmed by independent peer review as well as by the National Academy of Sciences.

can you hear me now? 

Joe Conason in Slate points out this interesting insight in the Philadelphia Inquirer story on the leaked CIA assessment of our troubles in Iraq:

The report landed on the desks of senior U.S. officials on Monday. The speed of the leak suggested that senior policymakers want to make sure the assessment reaches Bush.

Some senior policymakers have complained of being frustrated in their efforts to provide Bush with analyses of the situation in Iraq that are more somber than the optimistic views of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other hardliners.

the new album from the patsies 

take a look at this.

from the troposphere 

Don't you get sick of the long hard slog through entrenched tropes?

Salon has an article titled "Is Dean Too Hot?" under a picture of Howard Dean with his head on fire. That isn't what the article is about at all. It's about presidential election history and strategy. It's about the fact that historically sitting presidents have been beaten by candidates who don't attack them personally and lay out a vision of the policy failings of the incumbent and a positive alternative. It's hardly about Dean at all.

The only direct observations about Dean in the article are these:

And, as today's Democrats can learn from studying the fates of Ford, Carter, and Bush I, who remained respected but weren't reelected, they don't have to destroy Bush II personally in order to defeat him politically.

Dean himself may well understand this. Careful planner that he is, he could well be sketching out his general election campaign already. He previewed his appeal to the entire electorate with his formal announcement speech in his hometown of Burlington, Vt., in June, emphasizing positive themes of empowering Americans to defend their democracy against wealthy special interests and secretive preemptive warriors. He refined this rhetoric in a rare formal, prepared address in Boston last month, suggesting that the survival of American democracy is at stake next year and the grassroots movement supporting him is in the tradition of patriots who have preserved democracy in the past.

The author actually is expressing confidence that Dean will hit the right notes in the general. It's just hard to shake the image of the candidate with his head on fire from your general impression of Dean.

USA Today has an article that actually is about Dean's temper(ament) and it's real, strategic and no big deal to State Senator Bill Doyle, the Republican chairman of Vermont's Senate's Government Operations Committee.

oh my 

happy veteran's day

a matter of life and death 

From Newsday:

George Soros, one of the richest men in the world, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President George W. Bush.

"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."

He and a partner committed up to $5 million Monday to, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros opened his mouth. Then he closed it. He wrinkled his brow. The proposal hung in the air: Would he become poor to beat Bush? He said: "If someone guaranteed it."

who wants my socks? 

From the Oregonian:

He called his plan "freecycling," and here's how it works: People in a geographical area join an Internet listserv, which is like an e-mail mailing list. Then members of the group send e-mails offering, for free, objects they want to get rid of that others might find useful. Members also can request items they need.

we're trying to do you a favor, you knuckleheads 

From ABC:

WASHINGTON Nov. 14 - After two straight nights of often droning, sometimes angry debate, the Senate returned to normal order Friday, with Democrats poised to block votes on judicial nominees they say are too conservative for the American mainstream.
The Senate culminated almost 40 hours of nonstop speeches with votes to end Democratic filibusters on three women judge nominees. Republicans needed 60 votes to advance those nominations, and conceded they would fall short again, as they have in a dozen previous votes on controversial appeals court nominees.

From the Christian Broadcasting Network: - Judge Roy Moore is no longer the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The state's Court of the Judiciary has removed him from office, imposing the harshest penalty possible for his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama state judicial building.

Comes complete with Pat Robertson interview.

Extra credit: We all know that the Ten Commandments are the basis of our laws. For ten points extra credit, name the two commandments that forbid things that are also forbidden by our laws.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

why don't you listen when we tell you what to do? 

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush says the United States is working on a new plan for hastening Iraqi self-government amid growing impatience among Iraqis over the U.S.-led occupation.

He said the United States was in a "struggle" with increasingly active Iraqi resistance fighters for the support of ordinary Iraqis, and vowed to prevail.

Every time the Administration adjusts the course in Iraq, it's in a direction that liberals have been advocating all along. Doesn't seem like there is an easy way to speed up the learning curve?

the race for second? 

How does this strike you?

But since Dean was already the front-runner before the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements, the practical effect of those endorsements will be to transform him from de facto front-runner to prohibitive favorite. And what having a prohibitive favorite does is create a situation in which no other candidate can beat Dean outright. Instead, they have to try to win what's essentially a race for second place, which would get them into a two-man race for the nomination, which they might then have some hope of winning. (Lieberman adviser Mandy Grunwald put it best when she told the Post that "Dean has his ticket to the playoffs; this only confirms it more.... Who is going to be there with him is more wide open than it was two or three months ago.")

But if the only race that matters for the moment is the race for second place--i.e., just making the playoffs--why on earth would you waste your time attacking the guy who's in first? The only front-runner any candidate should now care about is the guy who's the front-runner in the race for second. Which means the attacks on Dean should start to diminish. Instead, you should start seeing candidates touting their own inside track on the second place spot--and attacking their biggest rivals in that narrower competition.

We can only hope.


From the BBC:

No institution was left untouched in the systematic looting when rebels attacked the city earlier this year, forcing former President Charles Taylor to step down.

Some buildings stand like empty shells, housing thousands of internal refugees. The seaside ministry of internal affairs building in the diplomatic Mamba Point district of the battle-scarred capital and the country's parliament are among the worst hit.

computing news 

Big Linux news.

Bad Microsoft news.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Clark on Clark 

The New Yorker has an article this week on General Wesley Clark. It seems that he suffers from two out of three of Rumsfeld's weaknesses. He's arrogant and he has lousy instincts. At least he's not reckless. It's an informative article, which I recommend highly.



The United Nations mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said today that the displacement of 10,000 people by recent fighting is depleting food stocks and putting strains on the resources of host families.

UN agencies have reported that fighting has displaced some 10,000 people in Nimba County, an area bordering the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire.

From IRIN News:

MONROVIA, 12 Nov 2003 (IRIN) - The deputy head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said on Wednesday that he had warned the country's warring factions that violations of the August peace agreement would not be tolerated and there would be no amnesty for war crimes committed after 8 October.

From the BBC:

The current force of 4,000 officers is poorly equipped and badly paid. It is being disbanded and rebuilt by the UN. Mark Kroeker will lead 1,000 foreign police officers in support of 15,000 peacekeepers enforcing a peace deal.

The former Portland police chief says his greatest challenge will be to ensure enough resources are available to equip and train a new local force. Mr Kroeker, 59, told the BBC's Network Africa that the UN was there to help build up the capacity of Liberians to do things themselves.

"Our responsibility is not to be their government or to be their police, but to enhance and develop and grow a police that will become something that every Liberian will be happy to have."

That is VERY STRANGE. Kroeker just got shitcanned from the Portland PD largely based on his strained relations with the city's African American community.


From Channel News Asia:

Afghanistan is still struggling to deal with terrorism and drug-related crimes, according to the findings of a Security Council mission to the war-torn country.

The report, presented at the United Nations in New York, says continuing security problems mean advances made so far in Afghanistan could still be reversed. It also points to the on-going abuse of women.

The release of the report came after a car bomb attack damaged the UN's headquarters in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. The UN Security Council report on Afghanistan makes clear the difficulties facing the country are far from resolved. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, Head of Security Council Mission to Afghanistan, said: "Insecurity caused by terrorist activities, factional fighting and drug-related crime remains a major concern of the Afghan society".

The report says while the peace process is on track, security problems still plague Afghanistan's government headed by Hamid Karzai.

dems fightin woids 

Secure in the driver's seat, Dean is now running against Bush:

From the Oregonian:

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean launched a blistering Veterans Day attack on President Bush Tuesday, accusing him of failing to keep faith with the military and their families.

The former Vermont governor, appearing at a Portland fund-raiser, criticized the president for lengthening military tours of duty in Iraq and for not putting enough money into health care benefits for veterans back in the United States. "The defense of the United States depends on the brave men and women who serve our armed forces, and they ought not be treated the way President Bush is treating them," Dean told as many as 700 cheering supporters gathered at Montgomery Park. Dean said it was particularly unfair for National Guard and reserve troops to have their stays lengthened to a year, "leaving their families without adequate support."

From the Chicago Tribune:

IOWA CITY -- Howard Dean accused President Bush on Tuesday of trading campaign contributions from "corporate cronies" for lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq and contended his Democratic rivals for the presidential nomination allowed it to happen.

In a major foreign policy address to the Iowa City Council on Foreign Relations, the former Vermont governor also vowed he would name former President Bill Clinton as his envoy to the Middle East if he is elected. Further, he contended the Bush administration's failure to have a domestic-based renewable energy policy and the nation's over-reliance on foreign oil have helped funnel U.S. dollars to terrorists.

From the Burlington Hawkeye, Iowa:

Howard Dean kept the pressure on President Bush over his handling of the economy Tuesday at a campaign rally in Burlington despite recent gains in the stock market and the Gross Domestic Product. "I'm delighted the stock market has gone up 1,500 points," the Democratic presidential hopeful told a crowd of about 70 people at the Southeast Iowa Entrepreneurial Center. "But where are the jobs?" October numbers from the Commerce Department showing 7.2 percent growth in the GDP were seen by some as a blow to Democratic candidates bent on painting Bush as fiscally inept.

The president attributed the gains to tax cuts passed earlier in his administration.

"Republicans know nothing about money," Dean said, criticizing those same tax cuts for pushing the nation further into debt. "They've proven that with every Republican president since 1968."

The two most interesting things. Number one is that Dean is going after Bush on his treatment of the military. This is an issue that always surprises me that the Dems don't hammer on. The Republicans are all for sending our troops off to war and then cutting their benefits. Bush had a lot of military votes in 2000. That could change if the Democratic nominee keeps hammering away at how their benefits have been cut and stays lengthened.

But the most interesting thing is the vow to make Clinton his envoy to the Middleeast if elected. I think it's a great idea. But given Clinton's backing of Clark in order to derail Dean, you have to ask - what's going on? With Clark's campaign a non starter, I wonder if there has been a sit down to hammer out how to go forward as a team? Stay tuned.

and yet the old stereotypes die hard 

From the Cato Daily Dispatch:

Federal Spending Balloons under Republicans
"Confounding President Bush's pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels," The Washington Post reports.

"The sudden rise in spending subject to Congress's annual discretion stands in marked contrast to the 1990s, when such discretionary spending rose an average of 2.4 percent a year."

In "GOP Should Give Spending Cuts a Chance," Cato's Veronique de Rugy and Tad DeHaven write: "Almost 10 years after the GOP swept into Congress, it is evident that the self-proclaimed party of limited government has become the party of unlimited spending. The GOP Congress has delivered three of the top five largest spending sprees in American history--the other two occurred during World War II."

The Cato Institute has been assailing the spending habits of the Republican-led Congress for years. In 2000, Stephen Slivinski, former Cato fiscal policy analyst, wrote "The Spend-Too-Much Congress," in which he says, "The current crop of Republicans is behaving more like pre-Reagan Democrats than like the 'revolutionary' Republicans who vowed to shrink the federal budget five years ago."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

memo from the desk of winston smith 

Al Gore's speach took the administration to task for undermining civil liberties and excessive secrecy. He puts it in one golden nugget:

Indeed, this Administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head. A government of and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people – while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from government intrusion.

The full text is here.

Meanwhile, the Columbia Journalism Review interviews Mark Silverman of the Detroit News about his paper's decision to sue the administration over access to the Rabih Haddad deportation proceedings.

Did your paper have any concerns about confronting the current administration or concerns about how the public would view your actions?

The Detroit News editorial page is historically a conservative editorial page with libertarian leanings. This is an editorial page that endorsed George Bush. But at the same time it's an editorial page that believes the Bill of Rights should not be shredded in the name of fighting a battle. I think that while there always needs to be a separation between news and editorial, the newspaper needs to back up its editorial page stances with corporate actions and, in this case, the Detroit News as a company needed to weigh in in court. Or else what right did we have to say that stuff in the editorial page?

Do you think the media in general has been reticent to confront the administration on some of these issues?

I think the message the administration has put out — on its own and through some streams of media — is that what is being done is the minimum needed to defend the country against terrorism and I think that, in general, the media have been lax in picking apart whether that's true and asking the really important question, which is, at what cost?

Monday, November 10, 2003

an unnecessarily long post 

David Brooks in the Atlantic offers some advice to the Democratic candidates running from Congress. Some of it good. Some not so good:

During the past four decades forty-nine sitting members of Congress have run for President. All of them lost.

Some of the failed candidates added sparkle to the race (Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, Mo Udall, Eugene McCarthy, Barry Goldwater). Others seemed, at least at the time, plausible and serious (Ed Muskie, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Birch Bayh). Some exceeded expectations (John Anderson, Eugene McCarthy, John McCain). Others underperformed (Phil Gramm, John Glenn, Alan Cranston). In some cases it's hard to imagine what they were thinking when they decided to run (Orrin Hatch, Fritz Hollings, Paul Simon, Fred Harris, Phil Crane).

But the point is, they all lost: forty-nine up, forty-nine down

...The people you need to woo are the anti-political voters. These people are concerned with the state of the nation but cynical; they are interested in politics but disgusted by the way it is currently practiced. They don't see why there has to be so much conflict, so many scripted attacks, so much wasted energy.

Pretend that you are not obsessed with politics. One of the most telling moments in recent political life occurred during a primary debate in the 2000 presidential-election campaign, when George W. Bush was asked to name his favorite political philosopher. He answered, "Jesus Christ."

I was going to say Jean Baudrillard.

Don't think linearly. Your life so far has been a progression. You started small and local and gradually extended your reach. You climbed the political ladder and eventually got elected to Congress. Once there, you ascended by virtue of seniority and visibility.

This does not impress the antipolitical voter. For example, look at what is happening to California's governor, Gray Davis, who is in danger of being recalled by voters. It has been said that the government of France is a dictatorship interrupted by riots. The government of California is apathy interrupted by petitions. Anti-political voters go for long periods without paying any attention to what happens in Sacramento. Then one day the voters look up and realize that they are unhappy. They decide that the politicians have been screwing up, and that they want wholesale change. So they support recall petitions and radical ballot measures (remember Proposition 13?) that telegraph their disgust and can dramatically alter the political landscape.

In the age of the anti-political voter politics is not steady. It's spasmodic. To have a prayer of winning, you have to go with the spasms. Your campaign cannot just flow naturally from your political past. You can't run on the basis of your accomplishments as a legislator. You have to emerge from the husk of your past self. You have to declare that up until now you have been living a false life within a rotten system, but you have seen the light—and you will combine your new insight with your old insider's knowledge and forge a sword of reform.

Be radical in style but conservative in substance. Anti-political voters are upset about the political system, but they are generally not upset about their own lives. Take a trip to the suburbs—most people there think that they are handling the parts of their lives that are within their control pretty well. Overwhelmingly, they are happy with their jobs, homes, cars, and families. They do not want you to start mucking these things up in the name of reform.

...John McCain did not surge forward because of his innovative ideas about education and Social Security. He surged forward because his mode of campaigning showed that his character was strong enough to smash through the rot usually involved in running for President. He was open, brutally honest, and even imprudent, and in a thousand ways he demonstrated his independence from his profession, thus persuading many voters that he really might be able to change how that profession was practiced.

I would argue that the way to break through political apathy and disconnect is to start really talking about the real problems in this country. Twenty million working poor. Forty million uninsured. The economic dislocation created by globalization. Clean air and water. The deficit. The is nothing conservate about taking on these issues, even if you approach them the center or right.

Don't worry about respectable opinion. If you read the best newspapers and magazines in the country, you will get the impression that SUVs are decadent and McMansions are vulgar. But millions of Americans love SUVs and buy McMansions as soon as they can afford to. If you follow respectable opinion, you will misapprehend the tastes and priorities of the bulk of voters.

This is why I wish that Dean hadn't backed off the Confederate flag statement. He should have pushed forward into the news cycle pointing the finger at Bush for not denouncing the Confederate flag when he had the chance and calling on the Democratic party to rebuild the coalition of Southern Blacks and working class Whites. He could have dominated the news cycle and broken through to Black voters and rednecks all over the country if he hadn't given an inch. And he would have impressed those that are always casting about for the next Perotbuchananventuramccain.

Never display loathing. Anti-political voters are quick to loathe the system, but they are slow to loathe individual leaders, especially ones who seem basically decent. During the 1990s Republicans tried to get these voters to hate Bill Clinton, and failed. Today Democrats are trying to get them to hate Bush. That effort will fail too, for although these voters may dislike some of Bush's policies, there is no evidence that they are offended by Bush himself. People who hate come across as more unattractive than the targets of their hatred.

This fact poses a dilemma for Democrats in particular. The Democratic Party is in a highly emotional state, which puts it starkly at odds with the detachment of anti-political voters. Most engaged liberals are enraged by the policies and behavior of the Republicans. Many congressional Democrats believe that the people leading the Republican Party do not care about the common good but just want to grab what they can for themselves. They regard leading Republicans as liars, thugs, and worse. And they cannot restrain their fury.

But their fury is exactly the sort of emotion that will repel anti-political voters, who will see it not as righteous indignation but as shrill partisanship. It is too political, too fevered, too contentious. These voters have not been reading and rereading articles about the many Republican outrages, and they may well wonder about the mental stability of Democrats who get themselves so worked up over seemingly so little.

This is true and will really be tough because the press has conceded the job of communicating the radical nature of this administration. If you start talking about the craven attack on the environment, the cynical attack on civil liberties, the class warfare of the tax cuts, the deceptiveness that has permeated everything they do, even in a moderate temperate tone you could end up sounding like some kook from the Spartacus league to swing voters who see both sides as equal in their levels good will and corruption. This why the work that Al Gore has been doing is so important and why we need Clinton to get in the mix more.

Try a little bipartisanship. During the 2000 election campaign Bush declared, "I'm a uniter, not a divider." He vowed to bring Republicans and Democrats together. Has there ever been a campaign promise so dramatically unfulfilled?

The central problem plaguing politics is mindless team spirit. The main complaint anti-political voters have against the system is that apparently kind and intelligent people come to Washington and immediately begin acting like idiots. They make crude partisan statements that only the most lemminglike party hacks could possibly accept at face value. They hold scripted press conferences at which they charge the other side with dastardly betrayals of the national interest. They never seem to step back from the party line and consider problems afresh. In no other profession do people behave this way, even though most professions are at least as competitive as politics.

The situation has gotten so bad that if a presidential candidate today were to show even the slightest sign of a genuine bipartisan spirit, voters would be beside themselves with joy and relief. The media would gush. The candidate would be heralded as the new Abraham Lincoln.

Bipartisanship has some serious pitfalls for Democrats right now. Bill Clinton was successful through his extraordinary charisma and political skills, but he made it a harder world for Dems to compete in. In a world where free trade and welfare reform are the order of the day who are people going to turn to for leadership. Three guesses and none of them count. Say good bye to Congress, state legislatures and governorships. The candidates running for President from Congress could serve themselves and their party by running bold and hard on the real economic interests of the majority of Americans and moving the political discussion in this country off tax cuts and government bureaucracy.

...And you need to face the truth: even if you win the nomination, you are almost certainly going to lose the election. History teaches us that you are likely to exit the race bloodied, battered, humiliated, and broke. You will crawl back to Congress with your lifelong dreams of being President in tatters.

So you might as well throw the Hail Mary pass. You might as well try something new and different. After all, you have nothing to lose.

"they're both full of it" or they say "we're not going to decide who's full of it,"  

Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, Matthew Miller gets off to a good start.

Need proof that domestic debate isn't serious? Nearly 20 million people live in or near poverty despite their being in families headed by full-time workers, mocking the notion that work should make possible a decent life. President Bush seems not to have noticed this fact, and offers no plan to address it. His Democratic foes say only that it's time to raise the minimum wage a bit, so that after adjusting for inflation that wage might almost equal what it was worth in the late 1970s.

What do we do when neither major party has a political strategy that involves solving our biggest domestic problems?Or take the teacher crisis plaguing America's toughest schools, where millions of poor children are systematically warehoused with the nation's least qualified teachers. President Bush says he's solved that problem by decreeing that every class shall have a qualified teacher by 2006 — while offering very little of the cash that poor districts would need in order to pay enough to attract them. Democrats know they need to do better. Richard Gephardt and John Edwards, for example, talk about helping to pay college tuition for students who say they'll teach for five years, but it doesn't add up to anything that would tempt many top grads to work for $30,000 at the local urban school.

... Make-believe responses to national problems vie in a competition for votes that has little to do with solving the problem in question. The media end up in cahoots with politicians in creating this illusion of meaningful action, both because 1) media norms don't allow reporters to say "this is a charade" even when they know it is (reporters are supposed to be "objective"), or 2) because it cuts too close to the bone for reporters to admit they are often tacit conspirators in such hoaxes

...There's a related reality to press coverage when it comes to campaigns: if candidates do put forward ambitious ideas, the top news outlets generally aren't equipped or inclined to assess them. "Asking the political press in the middle of a political campaign to judge the public-policy implications of an idea or proposal is very, very difficult," says CNN's Jeff Greenfield. "For one thing, it requires you to have the time to check it out and look at it . . . . And it gets so caught up in the welter of 'What's the latest hourly poll out of Iowa?' and 'What's the new ad that's running?'" Political professionals assume the press is unwilling or unable to explain where truth lies on public policy when they plot campaign strategy. "They're all about process, and not about policy at all," says Ed Gillespie, the new chairman of the Republican Party. Carter Eskew, an adviser to Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign, agrees: "The daily press doesn't really have much time to evaluate whether or not the proposals are any good or what they mean."

As a result of all this, the press succumbs to a "he said, she said" form of journalism in campaign reporting. It happened in 2000, says John Podesta, the former Clinton chief of staff:

So it's Bush says "X," Gore says "Y." You decide. But people don't have any capacity to decide . . . . They [the media] either said "they're both full of it" or they say "we're not going to decide who's full of it," but they never come down hard one way or the other when one guy's numbers are based on sand and the other guy's may be fudged a little bit but make more sense. It becomes very difficult for the public to make informed and intelligent choices. How do you make a decision? They both say they're balancing the budget. They both say they're not going to spend Social Security [funds]. One guy says we're going to cut taxes. The other guy says he's going to cut taxes but in a sort of different way. One guy's going to spend a little bit more on one thing or another, but there's no crystallization that these are two very different paths that are going to lead to very different social outcomes . . . . The press is pretty terrible at explaining those paths.

He starts with an excellent analysis, over reaches and then spends a half a dozen pages pushing a dumb idea for putting a better version of USA Today's "Snapshot" on the cover of the NY Times and the Washington Post. He tries to get top editors to keep important issues in the newspaper even when they aren't "news". Instead he should have gotten them to commit to letting reporters say when policies assertions are bogus. That is doable and worthwhile.

It's also what the kind of pressure the blogosphere is starting to put on the mainstream media. Viva la blogosphere!

the great communicator redux 

Richard at Peking Duck saw Clinton on TV in China addessing the AIDS crisis.

everbody was kung fu fighting 

The Marmot turns a jaundiced eye on the labor demonstrations going on in Seoul. Amazing photos at YahooNews Korea.

support our troops 

U.S. Opposes Money for Troops Jailed in Iraq

New York Times

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 The Bush administration is seeking to block a group of American troops who were tortured in Iraqi prisons during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 from collecting any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen Iraqi assets they won last summer in a federal court ruling against the government of Saddam Hussein.

In a court challenge that the administration is winning so far but is not eager to publicize, administration lawyers have argued that Iraqi assets frozen in bank accounts in the United States are needed for Iraqi reconstruction and that the judgment won by the 17 former American prisoners should be overturned.

If the administration succeeds, the former prisoners would be deprived of the money they won and, they say, of the validation of a judge's ruling that documented their accounts of torture by the Iraqis including beatings, burnings, starvation, mock executions and repeated threats of castration and dismemberment.

"I don't want to say that I feel betrayed, because I still believe in my country," said Lt. Col. Dale Storr, whose Air Force A-10 fighter jet was shot down by Iraqi fire in February 1991.

Thanks to Free North Korea blog for the link.

if you're going to duke it out, take off the gloves 

Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall are duking it out over the "Imminent Threat" nonsense. This is the same debate that got Spinsanity tossed out of my linkroll. Josh held a contest to amongst his readers to see who could come up with the best "Imminent Threat" quote from the Administration. Sullivan dismisses the entries and then goes on to argues that the deeper issue is:

The point about Saddam is that he was a sworn enemy of the U.S., had been known to develop an arsenal of WMDs, was in a position to arm terrorists in a devastating way, and any president had to weigh the risk of him staying in power in that new climate. The actual threat hangs over us all the time. It is unlike previous threats from foreign powers. It is accountable to no rules and no ethics. We know it will give us no formal warning. But we cannot know it is "imminent".

To which Josh replies:

Main Entry: im-mi-nent Pronunciation: 'i-m&-n&nt: ready to take place; especially : hanging threateningly over one's head (was in imminent danger of being run over)

Some curveballs hang too temptingly over the plate.

And of course this is one of Josh's great strengths and his biggest weakness. His love of words and language and pinning it down gets in the way of his political instincts. So often, when reading him you just wish he'd go for the jugular and instead you get a grammar lesson. He takes a curveball hanging over the plate hits a line drive single. He should have waited for the next pitch:

The strongest argument of the anti-war crowd is that we now know that the WMD threat from Saddam was much less than almost everyone (including most of them) believed. They're right - at least from the evidence so far. But that doesn't resolve the question of what we should have done before the war, when we had limited knowledge and information. Josh implies we should have risked it, and kept Saddam in power, with fingers crossed. But then Josh wasn't president. He wasn't responsible for guessing wrong.

Too which we reply:

We would have known how small the threat was if Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. hadn't recklessly dismantled the process of vetting and evaluating intelligence. We would have known if they hadn't recklessly favored bad intelligence that had no business making it to their desks which told them what they wanted to hear over good intelligence which didn't. We would have known how small the threat was if you one had asked the common sense question, "How could a country which at the height of it's power invaded Kuwait and then summarily got it's ass handed to it in 1991 become more dangerous after a decade of sanctions, inspections, satellite surveillance and bombing?"

The President didn't have to guess. If the intelligence had been properlevaluateded, he would have known their was no threat.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

no magazine today. I'm in no mood.

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