Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Saturday, January 31, 2004  

Last night I watched the extraordinary movie Monster, which is an honest exploration of how a person gets from here (scraping by) to there (murder). It neither forgives nor exploits, but attempts something few films do--to understand.

This morning, I read a Rich Lowery column in our local paper (King Features, not NRO--no link), in which he wrote this extraordinarily ignorant sentence:

Poverty in America is primarily a cultural phenomenon, driven by a shattered work ethic and sexual irresponsibility.

The contrast between the attempt to understand a human life on the one hand and to willfully ignore tens of millions on the other produced a kind of psychological whiplash. (Lowry was advocating that we culturally engineer the US out of poverty by marrying everyone off. That, apparently, corrects shattered work ethics and sexual irresponsibility.)

Lowry's venal politics here are clear--isolating America's needy from our understanding so that they deserve none of our compassion. It's justification as public policy. When you're trying to give as much money as possible to corporations, there's nothing to spare for programs like school lunches or child care. But as literally taking money from poor kids to give to fat industrialists is a hard sell rhetorically, he instead resorts to a Calvinist view, arguing that the poor are actually the corrupt. Don't think about the flow of money, think about how lazy and slutty the kids' moms are (that's his his argument), and then you won't mind giving their money to Halliburton. Hell, they had it comin'.

I have long found US attitudes toward responsibility mystifying. As a society, we regard a sexually-abused five-year-old as a victim. But when that child turns fifteen and abuses a 12-year-old, he becomes a criminal no longer worthy of help. We divorce cause from effect.

Monster is an exploration of the life of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who started killing johns in the late 1980s and who was executed by Jeb in 2002. In the course of the film, we learn that she first started getting raped at 8 and was a prostitute by 13. Her first murder happened during her own rape and attempted murder by a sociopathic john. During the incident, she managed to break free and kill her attacker. That moment, combined with a blossoming relationship (not quite lesbian, not quite platonic) with a young woman, turned Wournos into a predator.

It's not possible to see Wournos' life as a morality play, to distinguish between good and evil. She is human, and she acts like a human who has suffered intense humiliation and abuse for a lifetime. It is a story of increments--of sliding into the pool of murder one inch at a time. You don't have to imagine how it was possible for her to get submerged, you can see it play out moment by moment.

Lowry, for his part, has also allowed himself to slide into a pool--this one of ignorance. He has trained his focus ever more narrowly on sections of lives, thinking that this may somehow justify cruel policy. He is the viewer who walks into the theater just at the moment Wornous is standing over the bloody body of her first murder victim.

Lowry concludes with this platitude:

You can argue with the particulars of this program, but if you're not talking about how to increase work and marriage among the poor, well then, you're not serious about addressing poverty.

It's the kind of sentiment that makes me want to either punch him in his self-satisfied nose (a base instinct) or offer a platitude of my own (an impotent one). Better yet, I'll just shut up. We already have the rebuttal: Monster. How is possible to see that film and seriously consider marriage as the solution?

posted by Jeff | 9:05 AM |


Friday, January 30, 2004  

While we're on GOP tactics, via Jack Bogdanski, here's a sneak peak from the playbook of smear (again, unedited--the 'phants seem to realLy be INto randoM CaPs):

Howard Dean
An Ultra-Liberal On Social Issues Who Is Out Of The Mainstream And Wrong For America.

"Gov. Dean is an unabashed, unapologetic liberal . . . against the huge tax cut and for a dramatic universal health care plan. . . . Yes, Gov. Dean and the rest of New England are outside the current mainstream." (Editorial, "About Gov. Dean," Bangor [Maine] Daily News, November 18, 2002)

John Kerry
KERRY: DUKAKIS’S LT. GOV. WHO VOTES LOCKSTEP WITH TED KENNEDY

Wes Clark
A Flip-Flopping, Liberal Clinton Crony With A Penchant For Whoppers And Poor Foreign Policy Decisions.

John Edwards
An Unaccomplished Liberal In Moderate Clothing And A Friend To His Fellow Personal Injury Trial Lawyers.

"Edwards has become a captive of the trial lawyers and the left-wing special interests in Washington. He has lost touch with the average American. Clearly, he is not ready for 'prime time.'" (Marc Rotterman, "Way Out Of Touch," The [Raleigh] News And Observer, December 8, 2002)


Huh, this is weird, though:
Joe Lieberman

Joe Lieberman's not really so bad. We really don't have anything bad to say about him. Thank God he's not going to win or it would be a shame to have to smear him.


(All right, that last one was a bit of the Friday Satire...)

posted by Jeff | 3:08 PM |
 

Anatomy of a Republican Email

A month or two ago, the Oregon Republican Party sent out via email some apparently racist comments while firing up the base (which is not comprised, apparently, of many Latinos). I signed up shortly afterward and have been receiving their mostly-benign emails since. Until today, when this one came through. I'll post it exactly as it came to me, including underlines and bolding. Bizarre capitalization and syntax are all the GOP's. Enjoy.

President Bush’s Budget Holds Line on Spending
Growth in non-security related spending held to less than 1%


While restraining government spending, President Bush is committed to spending what is necessary to win the War on Terror and protect the homeland. The President’s Fiscal Year 2005 budget makes further reductions in the growth of discretionary spending unrelated to security, while providing significant increases in funding to keep our Nation safe and secure.


  • With inflation low, the President’s Budget limits the growth in non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending below 1%, while still providing necessary increases for our important domestic priorities, such as the No Child Left Behind Act.

  • Total annual discretionary spending will increase at less than 4% under the President’s Budget – in line with the average growth in American families’ incomes.

  • America is a nation at war, and President Bush’s Budget supports our effort to win the War on Terror and protect the homeland by providing a 7% increase for the Department of Defense and a 10% increase for homeland security.

  • In his State of the Union Address, the President called on the Congress to join him in focusing on priorities, cutting wasteful spending, and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. With the continuation of the President’s pro-growth economic policies and the spending restraint proposed in his FY 2005 Budget, we can cut the deficit in half within five years.



  • Background: Holding the Line on Spending and Focusing on Key Priorities

    By fighting the War on Terror, the President is protecting our country. By reducing taxes, restraining Federal spending, and focusing on key priorities, he is helping more Americans take advantage of the opportunities of our Nation. Consistent with his policies to help all Americans take part in our Nation’s growing prosperity, the President’s Budget proposes to make tax relief permanent for American families and small businesses, and proposes a Jobs for the 21st Century initiative to help Americans develop the skills they need to succeed in a highly competitive, highly productive economy.


  • President Bush has been clear – we will provide the resources needed to win the War on Terror. Three-quarters of the discretionary spending increases in his Administration are related to the global War on Terror and protecting the homeland.

  • Federal discretionary spending not related to security increased by 15% in the last budget year of the previous Administration (FY 2001). Under President Bush, the rate of growth has been reduced every year, and his new budget proposes to hold the growth of spending not related to security to less than 1%.

  • The current deficits were primarily caused by a series of shocks that slowed the economy, including a sharp drop in the stock market beginning in 2000, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, revelation of corporate scandals that shook investor confidence, and the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We would still have a deficit today if President Bush had not signed one dime of tax relief into law, but the economy would not have seen its fastest rate of growth in nearly 20 years, and hundreds of thousands of Americans that have been hired in the last several months would still be out of work.

  • The deficit is projected to peak in FY 2004 at 4.5% of GDP. America has had deficits this large or larger in six of the past 25 years. With adoption of the President’s pro-growth economic policies and spending restraint, America will be on a solid path toward cutting the deficit in half within the next five years, toward a size that is less than 2% of GDP -- well below the 2.2% average deficit of the last 40 years.

  • posted by Jeff | 11:54 AM |
     

    POLLSTERS CHANGE METHODS TO IMPROVE ACCURACY

    by Herm Tupper

    Atlanta. (API) -- A month ago, Paul Antolini told Gallup researcher Debbie Fields that he expected John Kerry to win Iowa, despite impressions then that Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were fighting for the win. Those candidates, he said, would be soundly beaten. Ten days ago, when that very thing happened, Fields wasn't surprised, "Atlantans speak for America."

    In recent years, polling companies have become alarmed by how far their findings often differ from election results. They blame changes in telephone use patterns and a cagey electorate who increasingly mislead researchers. With more and more Americans switching to unlisted cell phones, polling companies have found themselves speaking with an unrepresentative sample of the elderly and unstable. "Thanks to phone company telemarketers, no one answers the phone anymore," explained Fields. "Just lonely old people and nuts. It's really amazing that the polls are as accurate as they are."

    To handle these evolving changes, research firms have been privately experimenting with alternative methodologies. Gallup, for its part, has discovered that Atlantans like Mr. Antolini are the norm, not the exception. Polls in that city have accurately predicted all six of the last elections in the country. Although it will do limited polling in the rest of the country, for future national elections, Gallup will only report findings from Georgia's largest city.

    Gallup is not alone. Zogby International is pilot-testing a new system that will increase the margin of error by 50%. "Statistical models no longer accurately reflect the true margin," said Virendra Rao, head of research for the company. "Gallup's method is risky. It will work as long as Atlanta mirrors the country. Eventually one will change, though, and they'll learn about that only after the fact." The new Zogby system, Rao explained, reflects the actual volatility in the electorate.

    One downside, however, is that in close elections, the results will be nearly useless. Current tracking polls in South Carolina, for example, show Senator John Edwards leading General Wesley Clark by 5 percentage points--well within Zogby's 7-point margin of error. So Zogby really doesn't know who will win? "No one does," said Rao. "And our poll reflects that."

    But the most experimental is a new methodology the American Research Group is testing. Called PsychTrack, this complex method employs a system based on the findings of behavioral scientists, sociologists, and cultural anthropologists. Explains researcher Cheryl Mackeson, who is heading the pilot system, "studies have shown that the way people walk, use gestures, and dress--and even the expressions on their faces--are interpretable."

    According to ARG, Dean voters tend to lumber and grimace and wear flannel, while Kerry voters stare, walk slowly, and dress more conservatively--Brooks Brothers and Claiborne. "Clarkies sashay," said Mackeson. "Which you wouldn't predict." ARG said its exit studies were more accurate than polling in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, although the South had baffled researchers. "It's like the voice recognition software that can't understand Southerners. They mystify us."

    But will any of this result in more accurate results? Pollsters are cautiously optimistic. "As long as I have Paul Antolini's phone number," said Gallup's Debbie Fields, "I'll have a pretty good idea what to expect."

    posted by Jeff | 9:05 AM |


    Thursday, January 29, 2004  

    Three Weeks that Changed Politics

    As we watch the top of Howard Dean's head disappear down the drain of Primaries '04, it bears asking the question: what does this all mean? Three weeks ago, the New Yorker ran a feature article (one of those 10,000-word monsters) exploring the character and history of the Democratic nominee. Three weeks later and Dean is broke, broken, and well--there goes he goes down the drain. It boggles the mind; things just don't happen like that. Pundits and historians will be talking about these three weeks for the next three decades.

    In a month, a year, five years, we'll have a clearer idea what these three weeks have meant. But even now some lessons are emerging.

    Continue reading "Three Weeks that Changed Politics"

    posted by Jeff | 4:31 PM |
     

    What he said.

    posted by Jeff | 1:10 PM |
     

    Oh course, the really big question is whether the O'Reilly Factor is indecent.

    Ratcheting up pressure on broadcasters to clean up their programming, the Bush administration on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would sharply increase fines that government regulators could impose on television and radio stations for indecency.

    Another election cycle, another GOP initiative to bash the entertainment industry....

    posted by Jeff | 12:27 PM |
     

    In the interest of clear-eyed, unflinching journalism (which I've never had an interest in before), I must now note with shock how badly Dean has managed his campaign. Tapped pours salt into the doctor's wounds:

    According to the Wall Street Journal, the Dean campaign has blown through all but $5 million of the $40 million it raised last year. With no public funds forthcoming and fundraisers cancelling events after the Iowa loss, keeping the campaign going means keeping the fundraisers on board.

    More from Tapped:

    In any case, none of this has to do with Trippi. Tactically and strategically, Trippi ran a brilliant campaign. He turned Dean from a dark horse into a frontrunner, and in doing so, changed politics forever, whether or not Dean wins. And it's especially odd that Dean would hire Neel as a replacement. Neel, a former Gore aide, is a classic K Street Democrat, a Beltway insider with a thriving career lobbying for the telecom industry. Those of Dean's hard-core supporters who aren't disillusioned by Trippi's firing will probably will be by Neel's hiring. More to the point, Neel's one of the guys who was in charge of Gore's lackluster 2004 campaign. How many more chances do these guys get?

    Nick Confessore, who wrote that last bit, hints at the broader problem at the Dean campaign: what's Dean standing for?

    Under Trippi, he was the populist from the "Democratic wing of the Party," a man who made his own decisions and charted his own course, focus groups be damned. I felt that those who saw contradictions between this Dean and the staid Montpelier politician just weren't looking hard enough. Whatever his personality, after his tenure as governor, Vermont was a decidedly more progressive place than when he found it. I compared his results to my home state's (Oregon), where a fiery liberal MD ran the state over the same period. Despite great politics, at the end of his two terms, Oregon was near fiscal collapse, his own healthcare system was dying on the vine, and the state was far less progressive. So I gave Dean some latitude.

    But where's independent Dean? Where's the guy who's running on a vision for America, not a personal history of moth-eaten accomplishments? Where's the unconflicted populist who knows his course, focus groups be damned? Yesterday on an interview with NPR, Dean failed to offer any vision at all. Bob Edwards asked him a silly slate of questions befitting a political analyst, not a candidate, but Dean was surly and uncommunicative. Offered the opportunity to describe why voters thought Kerry was more electable, Dean dismissed the question. (How about: "John Kerry is a national hero. His service to the country should make every American proud and thankful. But this election can't be about a person's resume, it has to be about a vision for America. If we're going to beat George Bush, we need a leader with a strong vision who can take us into a new era of peace and prosperity. John Kerry is a wonderful man, but I'm the candidate with the vision.")

    Instead, Dean fires his biggest asset, the one guy who seemed to sense--literally a year before the rest of the country--what the electorate would want in 2004. We had a guy with a great resume last time, and we yawned. Dean was poised to capture that latent desire among most Americans to see real change, to hear a new hopeful vision. Even with losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dean was in the position to make the argument. Firing Trippi and hiring Gore's man Neel seems to indicate that for Dean, maybe the charting-your-own-course rhetoric was focus grouped. Dean's appeal was his independence. Either he finds it damn quick and proves it on the campaign trail, or he'll lose even his ardent supporters. And with them, of course, the election.

    posted by Jeff | 9:16 AM |


    Wednesday, January 28, 2004  

    This seems bad on so many levels.

    Democrat Howard Dean shook up his faltering bid for the White House on Wednesday, replacing his campaign manager with a longtime associate of former Vice President Al Gore.

    In a further sign of distress, the one-time front-runner implemented cost-cutting measures as he looked ahead to a series of costly primaries and caucuses, asking staff to defer their paychecks for two weeks.

    "Governor Dean asked Roy Neel to join the campaign as CEO and Joe Trippi resigned as campaign manager," said Tricia Enright, a campaign spokeswoman.

    Let's just remember that things looked terrible for Kerry when he put his house in hock to fund his then-faltering campaign. (How's that for a lame silver lining?)

    posted by Jeff | 4:32 PM |
     

    For those who called Dennis Kucinich a "vanity candidate," this is a hearty refutation:

    Through the third quarter, based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Kucinich campaign had brought in $2,188,700 from contributors giving $200 or less. This compares to Kerry's $2,067,116, Gephardt's $1,640,029, Lieberman's $1,060,141, Clark's $1,042,678, Edwards' $419,756, and Sharpton's $24,614.

    In current numbers as of January 26, the Kucinich campaign has brought in over $3,038,000 from 60,890 contributors of $200 or less.

    I know I've disappointed many of you for not sticking with Dennis, but I'm proud to say I was one of those 60,890 Americans who supported him.

    And, for those of you who wonder why Dennis won't just give up the ghost and get the hell out of the election, go have a look at his campaign webpage. It's second to only MoveOn in terms of information and organization: on the dangers of electronic voting; encouraging the "Steps for Peace" program; and promoting labor issues among many others. Kucinich may not get elected president, but his campaign is a cottage industry of leftist action. Anyone who would call his a vanity candidacy has spent even less time than the media looking at his campaign.

    Oh, and apropos of my earlier post, there's this, too:

    Dennis yesterday announced plans to create as President a full public inquiry into why the Bush Administration made the claims it did about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He asked the other Democratic candidates to make the same commitment.

    posted by Jeff | 1:29 PM |
     

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, money launderer.

    A state judge has ruled that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger violated state campaign finance law by using a $4.5 million bank loan to cover campaign costs in the closing days of the recall election last fall.... He said the maneuver avoided the $100,000 limit and thus constituted legalized "money laundering."

    | link |

    Does this call for a recall?

    posted by Jeff | 1:24 PM |
     

    "There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others. That's what we know. We know from years of intelligence -- not only our own intelligence services, but other intelligence gathering organizations -- that he had weapons -- after all, he used them.... There is no doubt in my mind the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. America is more secure, the world is safer, and the people of Iraq are free."

    George Bush, yesterday

    Doesn't this sound a whole lot like an earlier President, feebly trying to find some truth in the massive whopper he offered the nation?

    This is the moment for Congressional Democrats to act. Last week, David Kay announced his findings that WMD don't exist. "My summary view, based on what I've seen, is that we're very unlikely to find stockpiles, large stockpiles, of weapons. I don't think they exist." That means that in the rosiest scenario, George Bush sent us on an unauthorized, pre-emptive wild goose chase.

    And given the statements we've heard from--and keep hearing from--administration officials, there's more than enough evidence to support an inquiry about possible lies. In fact, listen to Colin Powell over the weekend: "The open question is how many stocks they had, if any. And if they had any, where did they go? And if they didn't have any, then why wasn't that known beforehand?" This is the same Powell who said a year ago:

    "Here you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines. The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers. How do I know that? How can I say that? Let me give you a closer look. Look at the image on the left. On the left is a close-up of one of the four chemical bunkers. The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions.

    So which is it? You knew or you didn't know?

    It seems like the Democrats are scared of the issue. They either fear the President, the very real ramifications of Kay's report, or perhaps their own complicity in the issue. Daschle the Timid rolled out a variant of his usual gentle criticism: "I think it is critical that we follow up and find out what went wrong." What went wrong was, at the very least, a fanatically overzealous White House. Perhaps Daschle doesn't want a probe to discover that Senate and House Democrats had access to intelligence that would have thrown doubt on dubious White House claims.

    If the country means anything to Dems, though, they've got to investigate this potential crime. We went to war to find WMD that were guaranteed to be a threat by the President. But they weren't there, and the President has to answer for his words, actions, and the dead who paid the price for his ignorance.

    posted by Jeff | 10:36 AM |
     

    Josh Marshall's been pretty much my first and last stop in election analysis--he isn't any more prescient than the major news, but his views are far more transparent. He has a particularly nice post on Dean's chances now that he managed to finish second in NH:

    In isolation, this wasn’t such a bad result. Dean took a heavy blow in Iowa, collapsed in the polls, and then battled his way back to what he rightly called a “solid second.”

    But Iowa and New Hampshire were his two best states. And now he’s going into seven states which should all be harder for him to win than these two. Some vastly more difficult.

    What this race is now about is whether John Kerry can carry this momentum into the Midwest and the South. If he can -- and that's not at all clear -- then it's over.

    So the question is, if Josh is right, how does Dean win? The primaries in '04 are new and different. In the past, NH was followed by a weeks-long gulf of inaction, and the primaries dribbled along slowly. (Who knows, if the GOP had a similar primary system to this year's Dems, McCain might not have been sandbagged in South Carolina.) Terry McAuliffe wanted to get in the battle with Bush as early as possible, so now the season is designed to produce a winner by early March.

    Things get interesting very quickly. Next week is called "Mini Tuesday," with primaries or caucuses in South Carolina (45 delegates), Missouri (74), North Dakota (14), Arizona (55), New Mexico (26), Delaware (15), and Oklahoma (40). I haven't seen any polls, but leave prognostication aside--what does Dean need to stay alive?; to become the frontrunner? If Clark or Kerry win SC and Kerry takes Missouri, would Dean limp forward with a Delaware or New Mexico? What if Dean finishes strongly in every state but doesn't win any, and other candidates split the states? He might gather delegates but lose momentum.

    There are a number of scenarios for him to stay alive, which is what he must be on February 3rd. If the headlines across the nation proclaim Kerry as the de facto nominee, that alone might doom support Dean has in states down the line. Because that's surely where his calculation extends. No doubt he's looking to at least February 7, when Washington and Michigan vote. Dean is a shoo-in in Washington (even with the headlines), and possibly he'll be competitive in Michigan with his union backing.

    And then comes Super Tuesday on March 7, which Dean must really be eyeing. Included in that prize are California [370] (another big opportunity for Dean), New York (236), Massachusetts (93), Minnesota (72), Maryland (69), Connecticut (49), and the homies in Vermont (15). I don't know how many of those states Dean could win now, nor whether he'll be considered viable in a month. But the Dean team must play their hand to be competitive in these later states if Dean is to have an opportunity.

    Josh said Iowa and New Hampshire were Dean's best states. I think that is relative to the Mini Tuesday states next week. The Upper Midwest and West Coast probably look a lot more like "best" states to Dean. They're not that far off, so maybe he can hang on until then. I have an idea about the message he'll have to send to make it that far; I'll post on that later today.

    All in all, as a Deanie, I have to say I'm feeling relieved and hopeful, if not confident. Every sign points to an electorate riled up and ready to boot Bush. A candidate like Dean can capitalize on that energy with the right message. Things are so volatile, it's far too early to lose hope now.

    posted by Jeff | 8:01 AM |


    Tuesday, January 27, 2004  

    I will now predict the winners of the New Hampshire primaries:

    1. Kerry
    2. Dean
    3. Clark
    4. Edwards

    Sure, it lacks drama, but I won't feel so stupid in an hour.

    posted by Jeff | 9:14 PM |
     

    Today the Academy roll out its nominations for the Oscars. A quick scan inclines me to think that academy voters are evenly divided between artists and boobs. Included in the nods were some bold choices--Sofia Coppola for director and her film, Lost in Translation, for picture; American Splendor for screenplay; and a snub of Cold Mountain, which looks a lot like Minghella's English Patient goes South. But the boobs weighed in with 10 nominations for Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, and Johnny Depp as best actor for his role as a pirate in the theme-park-inspired Pirates of the Carribean.

    But all of that is, of course, merely window dressing for the main event. That's right, the annual spectactular known worldwide (among a highly select, statistically nonexistent population) as the definitive movie awards.

    I'm talking, of course, about The Jeffies.

    Heading into our fourth year of the Jeffies (last year's version was known around these parts as the Goldies, due to the nom in play at the time), we couldn't be more excited. The panel of judges has been deliberating, discussing, debating, and determining just which film will take home the coveted Grand Jeffy. (The panel here being myself, in royal "we" mode.)

    Will it be Lost in Translation? American Splendor? School of Rock? Ah ah--it's too early to say. I still haven't reviewed all the important films of the year. (For all you Jack Black fans, yes, School of Rock is in contention.)

    Because movies are on everyone's mind this morning, let me use the opportunity to make an announcement. During the days leading up to the Oscars (Februar 23-29), I will run Movie Week here at notes, a complement to last year's wildly successful Literary Week (some scuttlebutt had me in contention for a Pulitzer on that one). As the anticipation reaches its crescendo, I will announce my choice for Grand Jeffy, stealing the thunder from what will be an otherwise fatuous and tedious Oscars telecast.

    Yeah yeah, I know--nobody cares. What can I say, you're going to have to suffer through it!

    posted by Jeff | 1:03 PM |
     

    Well, whatever else happens, at least Dean is back on track. If he loses, it looks like it will be on his own terms. And, with a strong second (which is by no means in the bag), who knows?

    Written off by pundits after his "I have a scream" moment in Iowa, Howard Dean has rebounded in the final days of the New Hampshire contest by displaying a sense of humor. He has appeared on David Letterman's late-night show as well as on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on cable's Comedy Central poking fun at himself.

    He also tried the self-deprecating shtick on the campaign trail. "Thank you for the applause. It makes me so happy I could just scream," he quietly told a Nashua crowd on Jan. 26. The audience roared its approval. "We'll scream for you," yelled one man. "We're angry, we're angry," yelled another. Retorted the subdued Dean: "This campaign is about hope, not anger."

    Later, the happy, happy candidate broke into a big smile when his audience joined him in listing the countries that guarantee their citizens health care. "All right, you wise guys," he told the voters, "some of you have heard the speech before. What's the next line?" The roaring response: "Costa Rica." The candidate was most amused. "Who says you can't have fun and run for President?" he asked.

    What a difference a week can make in politics.

    Dean remains the candidate who sets the agenda for all the candidates. I'd love to see people get excited enough to set aside their (misplaced) misgivings about his electability and choose him as the nominee--after all, it is his message. In any case, I'm pleased to see he's back to that message. It will compell the rest of the field to respond.

    posted by Jeff | 10:25 AM |
     

    A Different Kind of Bold

    By way of preamble, let me note this: the Democrats don't need a single Southern state to win the Presidency. Gore didn't have one (though he was a Southerner) and was the Granite State away from the White House (not to mention Ohio). Clark and Edwards cite the fact that no Democrat has won the Presidency without winning in the South. True, but they can, and this is no election to choose a candidate simply because of his accent.

    That said, what should the Democrats do about the South? In this month's American Prospect, Kevin Phillips argues they should definitely begin to make inroads in the South, if not for 2004, then in the process of building a coalition for the future. He offers some suggestions about how to make the inroads, arguing that Dems should exploit divisions clearly masked to those gazing from such far-flung places as Oregon.

    But at some point, be it 2004 or 2008, Democrats are going to have to confront the GOP coalition in a way that challenges its particular vulnerabilities: the preemptive-war doctrine, the excessively sweeping definitions of sin and the primitive views of the congressional party on family planning, reproductive rights and even evolution. Bob Jones University is a joke in Charleston and Hilton Head, not just Boston and Madison. The fact that 50 percent to 55 percent of Bush's 2000 voters believe in Armageddon is not likely to be a recommentation on Long Island or in La Jolla, any more than on Downing Street or New York's UN Plaza.

    What's surprising is that Phillips doesn't say the Democrats should soft-peddle their own views of morality and religion. He says that blasting those views will appeal in key districts in the South.

    Urban and suburban upper-middle-class districts diverged from rural and small-town fundamentalist districts--the division between metropolitan Atlanta and rural and small-town Georgia is the classic example. The odds are that a shrewd campaign to cast the Robertsons, Falwells, and Joneses as extremists in the North would also have some success in parts of the South, as Key's state profiles and McCain's [2000] results suggest.

    This is a fascinating recommendation, flying as it does in the face of the current conventional wisdom dictating Dean appear in as many churches as will allow him through the door.

    Phillips offers a valuable insight here. (Beyond noting that the South might be regarded as something other than a monolith of pick-up trucks and confederate flags. Even within segments who would generally tack more toward Bush--religious, rural, parochial--his message may overstep their views on religion and morality. And his cultural friendliness toward their values in general may be compromised by his policies favoring the wealthy as well as wars they and their families must fight.)

    He suggests the radical notion that Dems lead with their most stongly-held views instead of pandering to product-tested policy. Clinton rewrote political strategy when he reached across the aisle and reclaimed the Reagan Democrats. The holy grail has since been adopting a hodgepodge of popular conservative ideas to woo key segments of the electorate.

    There's an older and far more successful example the Democrats could follow: the GOP. When Reagan sought to finally destroy the last vestiges of Democratic supremacy (which Phillips first wrote was in decline in 1969), he didn't craft an offend-no-one strategy. He led with radical ideas that sharply opposed many of the chestnut values of the Great Society. In the process, the GOP became the juggernaut I hope is about to begin its decline.

    The now-beleagered Deaniboppers have been arguing the boldness position for a year, and slowly but surely the Kerrys and Clarks are talking a slightly uppity game. Hard to see how they're modern-day Reagans (or FDRs, for that matter), but you never know. Maybe they found the faith.

    My guess is that any serious Democratic national strategy is going to have to make boldness work. For all that, it may take a couple of elections--and if the party does, even the South may sit up and take notice.

    Whatsay we skip the couple elections and move right to the boldness now?

    posted by Jeff | 7:38 AM |


    Monday, January 26, 2004  

    I spent the weekend among the mossy trees, away from politics and computers and blogs. Delightful, I must say. I wasn't home fifteen minutes and a friend called to ask, "So, you missed a two-hour show last night about blogs on NPR."

    Damn trees.

    (And how come I wasn't invited on?)

    posted by Jeff | 4:00 PM |


    Friday, January 23, 2004  

    I had hoped to get a little satire done today. I had hoped to blog a little more, too. Instead, I'm on my way out of town for the weekend. Be back on Monday, but probably not online until Monday evening. In the interim, the good folks on the blogroll will keep you well infotained.

    Perhaps you can all conceive of a way to keep Dean afloat in NH while I'm gone.

    posted by Jeff | 2:25 PM |
     

    Have you noticed that the President is a little stiff? He also moves slowly, and has demonstrated loss of balance. To Ignatius, this signals one thing. Yep, cocaine psychosis. (Though even that analysis doesn't explain the pretzel incident.)

    posted by Jeff | 12:05 PM |
     

    The Dean Scream

    The Iowa electorate goes suddenly volatile, and within a 10-day period you go from solid front-runner to distant third place. It's bad to lose--ask Dick Gephardt--but Dean's loss was like losing a 31-point lead in the fourth quarter. At least Gephardt knew going into the fourth that he was down two touchdowns and a field goal.

    So Dean goes to the faithful and lets it all hang loose with a primal scream. Of the many non-issues of this campaign, this is the most non. Acting human and expressing human emotions isn't really the sign that a guy's not presidential material--the opposite is true (recall that faced with 9/11, Dubya fled to Nebraska).

    But what has become an issue is how he's handled it--which is, of course, the nature of politics. The Dean camp didn't embrace it soon enough or lightheartedly enough--sending the message that they thought it might be a problem. I have some advice: appropriate the Dean Scream.

    Call it what it is--the battle cry. Make light of the moment and admit that it looks pretty funny, but don't back off the message, which is that you stand foursquare against politics as usual. With the Bush administration committing horror after horror against the country, a battle cry is just what the doctor ordered. Point out that throughout the election, one guy has been hammered by both the Democratic candidates and the conservative punditocracy. And Dean's also right to point out that the unpopular message he advanced 9 months ago, alone save for Dennis Kucinich, is now the playbook of every one left standing--including a former Republican general.

    A scream of protest? Maybe we should all be making one.

    posted by Jeff | 8:37 AM |


    Thursday, January 22, 2004  

    On the off chance you've actually read this blog without seeing Josh Marshall's, be apprised of this:

    From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics....

    With the help of forensic computer experts from General Dynamics and the US Secret Service, his office has interviewed about 120 people to date and seized more than half a dozen computers -- including four Judiciary servers, one server from the office of Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and several desktop hard drives....

    Frist's office said he is on leave "pending the results of the investigation" -- he denied that any of the handwritten comments on the memos were by his hand and said he did not distribute the memos to the media. He also argued that the only wrongdoing was on the part of the Democrats -- both for the content of their memos, and for their negligence in placing them where they could be seen.

    Given that the law no longer seems to apply to elected Republicans, I can't imagine this will do anything but enrage you.

    Angry?

    posted by Jeff | 2:12 PM |
     

    I have a new post at the American Street this morning. Familiar stuff to many of you here, but I'll give you a teaser. A commenter says of my ramblings, "Posts like this help America's enemies." Tres provocative!

    posted by Jeff | 11:48 AM |
     

    I wasn't the only one to notice those funny numbers in the State of the Union speech. Today's Boston Globe examines the same questions. On the issue of jobs, apparently the 1,000 are a net gain (though how such a thing could be measured down to the job remains mysterious).

    Nevertheless, the economy produced an anemic 1,000 jobs in December. And while unemployment dropped from 5.9 percent to 5.7 percent last month, economists say the slight decrease is due to the fact that long-term unemployed people have stopped looking for work.

    Things are dicier on the 35 troop-contributing countries (my count yesterday was a nation shy).

    Yet the total of 35 force-contributing countries can be deceiving. While the United States has roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq, there are about 25,000 troops from other countries. The United Kingdom has contributed roughly 11,000 troops, making them easily the second-largest source of military forces. While a few other countries -- Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Ukraine, for example -- have made contributions that number more than 1,000 troops, most have made only token contributions, according to a compilation by GlobalSecurity.org, a defense-oriented think tank in Virginia. Norway, for example, has contributed 104 engineers. Macedonia has contributed approximately 28 people.

    Wait a second. Engineers? People? Let's review the tape of Bush's claim: "This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq." Let's see, troops=people. Well, it's not as big a lie as last year's Niger claim. I guess that's improvement.

    The Globe doesn't touch on the tax cuts for the poor, but does mention a few other items. I guess we'll file 'em all in the Dubious Claims Department.

    posted by Jeff | 9:28 AM |
     

    Dick Cheney still maintains that Saddam was working with Al Qaeda. Perhaps we had wrong all along--maybe he's insane, not lying. It's also remarkable how avidly the Bushies are trying to link their war with pre-existing Clinton policy.

    And finally, will someone at Fox please hire Juan Williams, so I don't have to listen to him provide audio press releases for the Bush Administration on NPR anymore? They masquerade as interviews, but they're certainly not journalism.

    On an unrelated note, will someone explain RSS feeds to me again? Now that I'm sticking with this URL, I guess I should figure it out.

    posted by Jeff | 8:10 AM |


    Wednesday, January 21, 2004  

    On Supporting Dean

    My decision yesterday to desert the Kucinich camp for Dean got me a couple "traitor" catcalls from the peanut gallery. I can't say I blame them. Normally I find nothing so odious as jumping ships just when things get tough. But that is actually why I jumped ships to Dean.

    Here's my thinking. As you know, I have always thought Kucinich was the best candidate (and still do). But I thought Dean was a great number two guy. After that, it's a pretty big fall-off. There for awhile, it looked like Dean had the thing pretty well in hand. I was happy to pull for Kucinich as the insurgency. I even gave him money.

    But now Dean's in the fight of his life. He's never lost an election and much of his support comes from political newbies. Given the gut shot he took in Iowa, he needs some serious support now. All the momentum is headed Kerry's way. If Kucinich had capitalized on Dean's weakness the way Edwards did, I'd be happy to keep the endorsement up. Instead, I'm eyeing the prospect of a Kerry win, and that's not an acceptable alternative to DK.

    Circumstances rarely present themselves for serious change. This year they have. I'm fairly confident that a Democrat is going to win this election (yeah, I know, that and a buck and a half ...); because of that, we have the opportunity to put a candidate in office who will make real change. John Kerry? A good guy who's served his country honorably. But he's no revolutionary. At this point, if we want revolution we have to ride the horse who can win the nomination. Unfortunately, it's not Kucinich. That's why I'm going with Dean.

    posted by Jeff | 3:14 PM |
     

    Folks are gearing up for the big political season and want their links out there. Happy to oblige.

    The Backyard League, described by co-founder Russell Yarwood as "a new site trying to appeal to young adults who would otherwise not really care about politics." Seems like a plan.

    Fight for the Future is the SEIU union's new blog. I used to be a member of local 503, but don't let that influence you.

    Got a link? Keep 'em comin'.

    posted by Jeff | 12:48 PM |
     

    A few further thoughts on the State of the Union. Last year's speech was one of the purest examples of ideological rhetoric we've heard from the President. He and his hooting GOP brethren were fairly shoving the Democrats' noses in their pre-war triumph. On the eve of an optional war, the President last year had a lot of big talk. This year a mollified Bush sifted through what rare successes he could find (or manufacture) in the aftermath of that failed optional war. The GOP stood and cheered, but rarely did their voices rise to a hoot.

    I decided to jot down a few notes during the speech. Here you go--

    Throughout most of the Iraq and terror section, the GOP side of the assembled rarely offered more than polite applause. A few seal-like orps emerged when he mentioned tax relief at the start, and then everyone seemed to brace themselves until he got to domestic issues.

    The President continued to suggest that his invasion of Iraq had more than a passingly personal quality. He twice flashed his schoolboy smirk in the speech--first when he was building to the news of Saddam's capture, then when he boasted of Saddam sitting in a prison cell.

    "Weapons of mass murder?" A new bit of jargon, or just something to break up the monotony?

    This was just pathetic: "Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day." Who you trying to fool, George?

    When he mentioned the renewal of the Patriot Act, it seemed like I heard some cheers interrupting Bush after the first sentence: "Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year." Maybe it was just me. In response, the GOP reared up like good seals after he got to the punchline--"You need to renew the Patriot Act"--and orped especially loudly.

    During the section on gay marriage, the camera flashed to Rick Santorum. Did everyone crack up then, too?

    During that embarrassing section where he told the story of the ten-year-old who'd written to praise the troops, the camera panned to some soldiers in fatigues. They seemed completely nonplussed, only remembering to clap a few seconds after the rest of the crowd had already begun.

    I haven't had time to investigate these claims, but they seem suspect (see what happens when you lie in a SotU--people don't believe you the next time around).

    1. Bush made this claim: "This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq."

    Is that true? Are there troops from 34 countries there?

    2. Referring to the Congress's actions, Bush said: "You have doubled the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty, begun to phase out the death tax, reduced taxes on capital gains and stock dividends, cut taxes on small businesses, and you have lowered taxes for every American who pays income taxes."

    Is that true? I was under the (possibly false) impression that many lower-income Americans saw exactly diddly in the way of tax cuts. At least the childless ones.

    3. "Productivity is high, and jobs are on the rise."

    This one is pushing it. In a country with 150 million workers, you're going to create jobs every month. But "on the rise" means more jobs each month, right? Hmmm.

    All right, that's probably more than enough for this year.

    posted by Jeff | 10:58 AM |
     

    State of the Union by the Numbers

    Length in words: 5,206

    Percent of the speech devoted to Iraq and terror: 42%
    - health care: 10%
    - economy: 8%
    - faith-based initiatives: 5%
    - jobs: 5%
    - gay marriage: 4%
    - steroid use by professional athletes: 2%


    Times the President used the word "terror" (terrorist, terrorism): 20
    - "Iraq" (Iraqi, Iraqis): 24
    - "Saddam" (Saddam Hussein, Hussein): 5
    - "Afghanistan" (Afghan): 6
    - "Osama bin Laden": 0
    - "kill" (killing, killers, killed): 11
    - "God" ("Greater power"): 3
    - "gay": 0

    Number of times the President used threatening language: 13*

    ___________________
    *Examples: "And it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting -- and false."

    "Some want to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act by weakening standards and accountability."

    "Unless you act, millions of families will be charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child.... For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent. "

    Source: official transcript.

    posted by Jeff | 8:43 AM |


    Tuesday, January 20, 2004  

    Progressives have a nasty habit of turning on their own. Poor Ralph Nader, who may not have run the most strategic campaign in his life, aroused almost as much hatred as George Bush. Why? Because he didn't roll over for Gore. One imagines David Corn would not have been appeased:

    Dennis Kucinich is not acquitting himself well. Kucinich's 1 percent does not provide much justification for continuing his progressive campaign. But he also committed a misstep when he struck a deal with John Edwards and pledged his voters to Edwards in caucuses where Kucinich would not reach the cutoff. Since Kucinich is running as an antiwar candidate--boasting he will pull the troops out of Iraq faster than the others--it was odd that he forged an alliance with Edwards, who has supported the war in Iraq. Why not Dean, who shares Kucinich's opposition to the war? In any event, this tactical move made little difference in the final results. But it did tarnish Kucinich's status as a stand-by-principles politician.

    So let's see, stand by your principles in the face of pragmatism and you're a traitor, but pragmatically leverage your influence and you're a sell-out. What say we point them there guns the other direction, eh fellas? Rove's got plenty of ammo without us shooting ourselves.

    All right, off to listen to Dubya take a spin in his own private Bizarro World.

    posted by Jeff | 5:41 PM |
     

    You'll notice I'm making some changes on the right-column matter. Of note, I've been meaning for a long time to update my blogroll; this is the first draft. Let me know if I've missed your blog.

    You'll also notice a different name in the endorsement window--Howard Dean's. I will post on this at length in the near future. I'm no less convinced by Iowa that Dennis is the best candidate in the race. I am concerned that without support to Howard Dean, we might end up with a John Kerry Presidency. That's a huge improvement over Dubya, but Dean's a still better choice. Progressives need to be pragmatic in this election. I think Dean will put the country on the right track, and he needs help now, not later.

    Fuller explanation to come--

    posted by Jeff | 4:30 PM |
     

    Speaking of numbers, here are a few you're not likely to hear in tonight's speech:

    232: Number of American combat deaths in Iraq between May 2003 and January 2004

    501: Number of American servicemen to die in Iraq from the beginning of the war - so far

    0: Number of funerals or memorials that President Bush has attended for soldiers killed in Iraq

    100: Number of fund-raisers attended by Bush or Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2003

    $100 billion: Estimated cost of the war in Iraq to American citizens by the end of 2003

    92%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that had access to drinkable water a year ago

    60%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that have access to drinkable water today

    $127 billion: Amount of US budget surplus in the year that Bush became President in 2001

    $374 billion: Amount of US budget deficit in the fiscal year for 2003

    $23,920: Amount of each US citizen's share of the national debt as of 19 January 2004

    $113 million: Total sum raised by the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, setting a record in American electoral history

    $130 million: Amount raised for Bush's re-election campaign so far

    28: Number of days holiday that Bush took last August, the second longest holiday of any president in US history (Recordholder: Richard Nixon)

    2.4 million: Number of Americans who have lost their jobs during the three years of the Bush administration

    43.6 million: Number of Americans without health insurance in 2002

    88%: Percentage of American citizens who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes

    9: Number of members of Bush's defence policy board who also sit on the corporate board of, or advise, at least one defence contractor

    $300 million: Amount cut from the federal programme that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes

    58 million: Number of acres of public lands Bush has opened to road building, logging and drilling

    200: Number of public-health and environmental laws Bush has attempted to downgrade or weaken

    posted by Jeff | 1:27 PM |
     

    In anticipation of this year's State of the Union speech, I'll reprint some stats from last year's. Tomorrow we'll see how the mood has changed in the West Wing.

    _____________________________
    2003 State of the Union by the Numbers

    Total length of speech: 5,400 words
    Percent devoted to tax cuts: 10
    - On legislation to combat African AIDS: 6*
    - On the war on terror: 5
    - On hydrogen cars: 3
    - On race and affirmative action: 0

    Axis of Evil
    Percent devoted to Iraq: 25
    - Korea: 4
    - Iran: 1

    Number of times "Saddam Hussein" was uttered: 19
    "Osama bin Laden": 0
    "God": 4

    __________________
    *Initiative as a percent of projected 2004 budget: .1%

    posted by Jeff | 12:03 PM |
     

    Lessons from Iowa

    Submitting to a character flaw, I tried to predict the outcome of yesterday's Iowa caucuses. I'm a sucker for predicting; sadly, I lack prophetic insight. I'll demonstrate a character strength today and learn from my mistake: already the spinmeisters are breaking down what Iowa means to each of the candidates and realigning their predictions. I'll avoid falling into that hole twice. As I look at the field of four now (Clark, Dean, Edwards, Kerry), I can envision ways in which each could win the Presidency, and ways in which each could fail to win a single primary. It will depend on how well each campaign adjusts to the lessons of Iowa.

    Change
    Leading up to this election cycle, two very different assumptions led to two very different conclusions about the US electorate in 2004. Bush's consistently strong approval numbers, his smooth efficiency in getting legislation through, and his standing as a war-time leader led one group to conclude that Bush embodied America's wishes. In the other camp, a group looked at the same evidence and concluded that Bush--and the entire GOP--had overplayed their hand and the approval was very soft.

    The jury's still out, but Iowa sends a pretty strong message that this year's political calculus has shifted. Turnout in Iowa was twice what it was in 2000. The extreme volatility of the final days suggests to me that this group was highly engaged; they ignored trends and conventional wisdom and looked at the candidates and their positions. More to the point, they considered who could beat Bush. A large, engaged electorate will help any Democrat who emerges. The GOP's best chances lie with complacency and apathy. Bush isn't going to get re-elected if 15-20% more people turn out in November.

    Candidates can gain confidence that they don't have to play conservative--the electorate wants change. This was, in a sense, the same message that Dean's early success sent, but no one was listening. Dean has painted himself into a corner of negativity and that allowed Edwards to sweep in. I still read the lesson the same: voters want change.

    Staying Positive
    It appears that Edwards and Kerry vaulted over Dean and Gephardt because they stayed positive. I'm not at all surprised. Back in May of 2003, I argued that the only way to begin to combat the GOP slime machine was to stay positive. Slime works great for Republicans, but it's only effective with the hardcore base of the Democratic Party. Everyone else gets disgusted and fails to vote. We just saw that a roused electorate has no interest in attack ads this year--they want change, not slime.

    Attack ads are the crack cocaine of politics, and I don't expect them to completely vanish. But the larger lesson is that a campaign must be positive.

    All Dems are Outsiders
    From the voters' perspective, every Democrat running is an outsider. John Kerry may have been in elected office for 20 years, but when he stands against the Bush administration, Democrats rightly regard him as an outsider. Democrats have been fully excluded from power in Washington for three years now--and their influence has been waning for a generation. It's not surprising to me that at the end of the day people looked at Kerry and said, "this is the guy who can beat Bush and change America." If it's all about beating the President, the insider/outsider issue is moot. I think all the candidates recognize this, but Iowa drove the point home.

    posted by Jeff | 8:32 AM |


    Monday, January 19, 2004  

    Howard Dean
    Dean is the candidate of strong medicine, and his success will depend on whether he's diagnosed the electorate properly. In most campaigns, a candidate competes who represents the most dynamic, wild-eyed group of the electorate. Some times, as in the case of Ronald Reagan, they win. Usually they don't. Dean has appealed to a broad section of voters in the same way that John McCain did--as someone who has declared politics to be corrupt and in need of correction. Dean will at least hang around throug the primaries because a solid minority agrees with this view. Whether he wins will depend on the degree to which the voters who aren't sure can be made believers. I'm writing this after the results in Iowa, and I'm no less convinced that this may still be the year for a candidate like Dean (George HW Bush beat Reagan in 1980).

    Policy Positions
    Dean's views are the most well-known, but his hopes ride less on the issues than any other candidate. He was against the invasion, but he's hardly a dove. His views on most domestic issues reflect a sober New England incrementalist view--but this may be the way to advance a fairly liberal agenda. On the other hand, he's less than perfectly metrosexual on some policies--guns, for example.

    Dean has a big vision for America, and it looks something more like LBJ's politics than Clinton's. He's likely to profoundly change the way the US engages in the world, and will advance a fairly liberal (in all senses of the word) agenda at home. That is, if he doesn't piss everyone off trying.

    Electability
    Don't listen to the hype: Dean can beat Bush. That's why the conservative commentators like David Brooks have become so shrilly invested in smearing him. Worse for the GOP, with Dean as the candidate, Bush will be held to account for the building scandals. Republicans worry that even if they win election battle, they may lose the political war.

    His chances in the primaries are where things get dicier (and I now have the knowledge of Iowa to inform me). If the terrified right wing punditocracy continue to smear him mercilessly, they give great cover to the more docile candidates like John Kerry. The bar starts rising precipitously. Still, now that Dean can return, at least for awhile, to outsider status, he might get a needed reprieve.

    Leadership
    Here again: listen to the GOP. Who's asserting he's a loose cannon? While the Dems criticize Dean, they're ready to follow him. What worries the GOP is that Americans will follow him too--and this bodes ill for the jackboots worn by DeLay, Hastert, Bush, and Frist. Dean is a polarizing figure, much like Bush. But that's the evidence of his leadership.

    Honesty
    I don't think anyone actually thinks Dean is dishonest. Those who criticize him fear his honesty: in a world of blow-dried, pre-packaged politicians, a guy who speaks his actual thoughts is scary. His inconsistencies arise from not having robotically memorized all talking points. This will be a point of attack for his opponents, but Dean seems like a classic straight-shooter.

    Bottom Line
    Dean is strong stuff. Like McCain, he may alienate the people he needs to be elected. But despite the constant attacks, he hasn't wavered on a single position, hasn't changed his style or his beliefs.

    I'm on the fringe, admittedly. But to Dems who wonder who the best candidate is, I'd say this. Among the top five you've got a group who all have fairly similar views. The trick isn't reading the tea leaves to see which one has the best chance to beat Bush. It's selecting the one who'll go straight at Bush. You want a candidate who's ready to spit in Karl Rove's eye. If we're going to lose the election, let's start winning the political war. Let's build a party. I look at the field, and the choice seems pretty clear to me on that score. Count this Kucitizen in the Dean column.

    posted by Jeff | 6:45 PM |
     

    KERRY WINS.

    With three-quarters of precincts reporting, it's Kerry (38%), Edwards (33%), Dean (18%), and Gephardt (11%). The numbers have been consistent since the first returns, so here at Notes HQ, we're ready to call it for Kerry.

    Kerry and Edwards claim a big, if far from predictive victory. But life is life, and that's a huge result for them. Dean now has a fight on his hands, and Dick Gephardt is done.

    I'll let the pros take the analysis/spin from here.

    posted by Jeff | 6:39 PM |
     

    The Iowa caucuses begin in a half hour. Irresistably, I am drawn to predict the order of finish. It's a fool's errand, sure only to expose my ignorance (and biases). It is a flame this moth cannot ignore.

    1. Dean
    2. Gephardt
    3. Kerry
    4. Edwards

    Latest Zogby has Kerry remaining strong, but I can't get over the advantage of the Dean and Gephardt troops. I give it to Dean on the strength of his supporters--when it comes to pitching their candidate, the Deaniacs are second to none.

    But wait, a wild card has emerged...

    posted by Jeff | 4:04 PM |
     

    Kucinich throws in with Edwards

    Yes, Kucitizens, our candidate remains influential:

    Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich have struck a deal to support each other should one candidate fail to draw the minimum support needed to compete in Monday night's Iowa caucuses, Edwards campaign sources said.

    The decision could give Edwards, a U.S. senator from North Carolina, a boost in the convoluted caucuses, the first major Democratic contest of the election year. An Iowa poll published over the weekend shows Edwards is in a tight race with the four front-runners. The same poll has Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, drawing the support of just 3 percent of likely caucus-goers.

    Maybe Edwards will make a showing--Iowa's famous for the big upset.

    posted by Jeff | 3:53 PM |
     

    Wesley Clark
    Clark is another candidate, like Kerry, who has spent a lifetime serving the US. Also like Kerry, he's trying to fill out the resume with Commander in Chief. However, he seems to think a little larger than Kerry, and his status as former General means he's used to leading. He's smart, almost too Presidential looking, and has enormous foreign policy cred. Who knows what he thinks domestically--apparently he was a Reagan Democrat until 2000. On the other hand, he's running on foreign policy and will likely farm out domestic policy to a cabinet or let the legislature dictate the tempo. (And presumably he'll have at least two years of a GOP Senate and House, which means any domestic agenda he had would in any case be hobbled from the outset.)

    If you were to to assemble an unbeatable candidate in the lab--a general, a charismatic and good-looking candidate, a Rhodes scholar, an urbane Southerner, someone with a lot of experience handling the public, an outsider who's well connected to a former President--you'd have Wes Clark. Question is, is this the way great leaders are measured?

    Policy Positions
    Despite his military cred, this is Clark's biggest weakness. He has no appreciable domestic policy, and can only muster vague interest in one. Depending on who you talk to, his positions on foreign policy are either Clintonian or Bushian. (They're Clintonian, but his long-winded speeches hide that fact.) I believe his positions are weaker as a candidate than they are in reality. He was a philosophy student, and according to everyone, generally the sharpest guy in any room. I don't think it will take him long to get up to speed on policy. Presumably he'll surround himself with great advisors, and his curiosity will allow him to shorten the learning curve.

    In the meantime, Rove will try to exploit this weakness, but hey--Rove's going to exploit weaknesses no matter who the Dem is.

    Electability
    Clark is in the race because he's regarded as the most electable. Arch liberals like Michael Moore are lining up behind this guy not because he champions the causes they care about, but because he's a good-looking, smart, Southern ... well, you know the rest.

    He has run a very smart campaign and sitting out Iowa was genius. It has allowed him to get his footing before he starts to get hammered by the competition. (That begins tomorrow.) But based on the reports I've seen, Clark has an achilles heel: he knows how smart he is and doesn't play nice with others, alienating folks along the way. If Rove can isolate Clark as an egotistical elitist, he may pry enough swing voters away to flip the election. Dean has fallen in the polls because responding to relentless attacks have made him look short-fused. How will Clark handle them?

    On the other hand, I saw him on "Meet the Press" a couple weeks ago and he looked great. Russert kept asking (to paraphrase) "Gee, Dean's a real rat bastard, isn't he?" Clark never rose to the bait. Meanwhile, on the other station, George Stephanopolous had Joe Lieberman dancing like toy poodle about Dean with similar questions. ("Yes, George, Dean is a rat bastard...")

    Leadership
    The rap here is that Clark alienates people he works with. But in politics that doesn't matter. I imagine working for Bush is like being clubbed in the head every day. America doesn't see that, though, so it's a non-factor. In terms of leading America--are you kidding me? He'll have Americans (like Mike Moore) eating out of his hands.

    Honesty
    This is emerging as a major issue for Clark--on the GOP side. They've been combing through his lengthy statements for equivocation. What they've found is good enough to make their base, umm, dance like toy poodles (a new catch phrase!), but my sense is Clark has the opposite problem--once locked onto a position, he's not going to negotiate much. With Clark, you get what you voted for.

    Bottom Line
    Clark is the mystery man to me. I'd be willing to gamble on him. He might emerge as exactly the kind of leader to right the ship, make it safe (for suburban housewives) to be a Democrat again. He's an "adult" of the kind the Bushies claimed to be--and that would be nice to see again. On the other hand, he could go Carter on us, refusing to negotiate, appearing unyielding and holier- (smarter-) than-thou. He might also ignore bedrock liberal goals. With generals, it's hard to say.

    All in all, though, I guess I'm willing to take the risk.

    posted by Jeff | 11:28 AM |
     

    John Kerry
    Kerry has given more to his country than any of the candidates. He was a war hero and then marched on Washington to protest the war. He went on to be a prosecutor before entering politics. More than even Clark, Kerry is running on his resume. The real question is whether he has enough off-resume qualities to make him a good candidate and President.

    Policy Positions
    From the start of the campaign, I thought Kerry had great policies. He's the second-most liberal candidate (after Kucinich), and has a great voting record. He voted for the Iraq invasion, but I don't blame him. He's a vet and the president lied to him. Of course, it would have been nice if he'd joined with the (few) bolder Congresspeople who questioned the President, but my sense is that Kerry actually thought it was a good idea to invade. It makes his outrage about the lies and political opportunism all the more believeable to me.

    Electability
    Kerry's still in the race because he's regarded as electable. While Dean is tattoed for being a "Northeastern liberal," Kerry, thanks to his purple heart and bronze star, gets a pass.

    Personally, I think Kerry is a weaker candidate than Iowans rallying to him. He seems to be running for President to fill out the resume, not to make change. That comes through in his tepid public appearances. I also don't like the constant shifts and maneuvering of his campaign. We're seeing from Kerry the same things we saw from Gore--a candidate guided by handlers, not conviction. It killed Gore (another guy trying to fill out the resume), and it could kill Kerry, too.

    Leadership
    Kerry isn't a great leader. He's a solid guy and a great number two man. His politics are good, but he hasn't led the charge on innovative policy. Despite 20 years in the public eye, he doesn't speak well, and lacks charisma. He's something like the Democratic Bob Dole. You admire the guy, but don't necessarily want to follow him.

    Honesty
    Kerry got rattled by Dean's insurgency, and he didn't handle it well. Lacking a pure vision, he falls back on the handlers (who seem to keep changing). This isn't inspiring. I don't think he'd pull bait and switches, but I don't know how he would handle an onslaught from Delay/Hastert and Frist. Which, of course, any Democratic president can expect.

    Bottom Line
    If Kerry emerges, we'll have a solid old line Democrat who will offer a serious challenge to Bush. He's not going to change politics or lead the Democratic Party in a bold new direction. A Kerry presidency will be a kind of band-aid to get through tough times. Given the choice between Buish and a band-aid Presidency, the choice is clear.

    posted by Jeff | 8:32 AM |
     

    Bernie Bernbaum (no, not that one, the commenter a few posts below) asked about the economy. I still don't know the answer to his question, but the Atlantic Monthly takes a shot at it in their current issue.

    America's Fortunes - Editors
    Are We Still a Middle-Class Nation? - Michael Lind
    America's "Suez Moment" - Sherle R. Schwenninger

    The Atlantic has gotten pretty conservative in the past few years, and the first article is consistent with that. Still, they might provide some basic info.

    posted by Jeff | 8:18 AM |
     

    John Edwards
    Edwards has quietly put together an impressive campaign. For a 50-year-old who hasn't yet served a full term in the Senate, he's doing all right. His message is positive and clear, and he's quietly done something only Dean has managed to do--he's broken away from the expectations of a national candidate. In an era of corporate politics, Edwards has tapped into the FDR roots. Still, he has only served five years of elected office, and there are some reasons perspective voters should consider his candidacy carefully.

    Policy Positions
    Domestically, John Edwards may be the best candidate in the race. Whereas Dean talks populism and Gephardt thinks he's a populist, Edwards has a platform to please the people. He wants to make it easier for people to buy a home, strengthen Social Security and stick it to the corporations. He's great on jobs and health care and may be the greenest candidate in the race. What's not to love, right?

    How about foreign policy. He has no concommitant big vision here, and seems content to follow in Bush's tracks. He voted to invade Iraq and believes we must stay the course in rebuilding it. That might wash if it arose from conviction instead of ignorance. Here's where the experience thing comes in, and it's not an insignificant liability. We are confronting some pretty hairy problems in the Middle East and in the terror sphere. Bringing nothing to the table is a pretty big black mark.

    Electability
    I won't go so far as to say I'm not surprised by Edwards' surge in Iowa--it came so late it caught everyone off guard. But I was surprised he wasn't finding traction over the past few months--he's a pretty good candidate. He is, in all the superficial ways we wish didn't matter, the anti-Kucinich: good looking, WASPy, "presidential." He's a southern candidate (which despite its increasing irrelevance, can still matter), has a nice, populist backstory, and is a charming, intelligent guy. Add to that his positive campaign, and it seemed like he could find an audience. He still seems like a very long shot in the primaries, but maybe his Iowa showing is reflective of the support he should always have attracted.

    In the general election, however, I think he would get in big trouble. His lack of foreign policy experience would be a ripe target for Rove. He'd also smear Edwards for being a trial lawyer, and for his political and executive inexperience. Edwards would have a hard time staying positive. I think Rove could easily send the campaign into a tailspin--how would Edwards respond?

    Leadership
    I give Edwards strong marks here, despite the paucity of experience. He's still green, obviously, but he's stuck to his guns throughout the campaign. Every other candidate turned ugly with Dean's ascent; Edwards kept tacking positive. It shows some moxie that he didn't waver in the face of a faltering campaign.

    His charisma and intelligence serve him well in public, and his positive, optimistic message is exactly the approach the US needs now.

    Honesty
    Again, he held the line. He could have gotten into the game of flip-flopping, of turning ugly and negative for political advantage. He didn't. I think this is the chief reason he's rallying in Iowa. In terms of political integrity and honesty, he tops the list.

    Bottom Line
    If this were 2000, when the stakes were much lower, I'd be more charitable toward Edwards. So much has changed, though. Foreign policy experience is critical, both to get elected and in job description. It's also a pivotal moment for the Democratic Party. Choosing a guy with five short years of political experience to lead the revolution just doesn't make sense. Some folks say Edwards is running for Veep. If Clark emerges as the candidate, he could do a lot worse than choosing John.

    posted by Jeff | 8:07 AM |


    Sunday, January 18, 2004  

    Dick Gephardt
    Gephardt is the oldest of the old school. He ran as the first of the DLC candidates back in '88, and has conducted his career as a Rep. according to that playbook. While the right wing rose under Gingrich, Gephardt became a reactionary Clinton-style politician who sought to redefine the Democratic Party. With Gephardt you get a less fluid, more moral, and far less dynamic version of a Clinton Presidency. And, where Clinton was the ultimate free-trader, Gephardt will confront the Bush deficits with a strong nod to workers.

    Policy Positions
    I have nothing but admiration for Gephardt's defense of labor. The Democrats took a bad wrong turn when they went with corporations over workers. Yet this issue is a great metaphor for the Gephardt model: his heart is in the right place, but his policies aren't. Gephardt's labor is the manufacturing sector--surely an important one. Yet most workers in America aren't building things; they're managing things from computer consoles, or working in the vast retail sectors stocking and selling and manning the cashier. Labor has languished because it hasn't replenished its base as the workforce has changed. We need to reorient toward workers, but we need to do so in the 2004 economy, not the 1950 economy.

    You see this kind of antiquated orientation in Gephardt's policy positions. He advances policies that aren't innovative and don't take advantage of the changing global world.

    Electability
    Gephardt remains a force in the primaries, if a waning one. His union support is strong and mobile, and even though he lacks broader national support, that kind of help is valuable in the primaries. But in the general election, he would be the least potent foe of Bush.

    Standing as he does for the old Democrats, I'm afraid Gephardt represents the folks who have been getting beat since the "Contract with America" election. As a leader of the Democrats, he is the Democrats--the same saps who couldn't beat Bush in 2000, and who have rolled over in ever major fight since. In a battle with Bush, Karl Rove has an endless source of ammunition.

    Leadership
    I imagine Gephardt is probably an honorable man and a generally good guy. But I feel betrayed by him. After the election of 2000, we got a preview of the kind of administration Bush would run, and we desperately needed an opposition party. Even from the very start, Daschle and Gephardt failed to oppose the weakened President. They passed his first package of enormous tax cuts before 9/11. And after that tragedy, they did not defend the nation's interest when Bush seized the vacuum to advance his radical agenda.

    It's tough to question the President in time of national emergency, but it shows what kind of leader one will make. We needed someone to step up and challenge Bush in the face of his popularity, even with the knowledge of the consequences. Gephardt didn't do it, and I don't know he could stand the onslaught of an extremely disciplined GOP Congress. We need a courageous leader. Much as I hate to say it, I don't think Gep's the guy.

    Honesty
    The crisis of politics has arisen from politicians who say one thing and do another. Clinton was pretty good at it, and Bush is an Orwellian master. If we elect another man who Americans don't feel is being square with them, it will be catastrophic to liberalism.

    Gephardt won't sell out his base, but I worry that under relentless assault from the right, he may make unwise compromises. Whether these would be seen as dishonest is hard to guess. It's a risk.

    Bottom Line
    Dick Gephardt isn't an innovative thinker, nor a strong leader. His politics are better than some Dems, but in 2004, a Gephardt candidacy would take us 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

    posted by Jeff | 1:56 PM |
     

    Iowa has become a four-man race; add Clark and I think you have the next Democratic candidate in the pool (Kucinich may yet have a role to play, but it's not candidacy). You could handicap these guys in any number of ways, and right now, Iowans are doing that very thing. They're considering leadership, policy positions, and most importantly, the intangible "electable" quality.

    History will play out for only one of the candidates, and all others will be what ifs. We can only surmise now and use our best judgment. In anticipation of Iowa and beyond, I'm going to give my thoughts. My intuition probably isn't better than anyone else's, but hey, offering opinion is what blogs are about.

    One final item of note. Back in November I wrote about the "slumbering horde" of Americans who may be getting a little alarmed by the American plutocracy. Conventional wisdom had said until just last week that they would continue to slumber and we'd see a repeat of the 2000 election. If the emergence of Kerry and Edwards in Iowa tells us anything, it's that they're not slumbering. They're waking up and taking this election very seriously. Call conventional wisdom officially useless.

    Whatever decisions we voters make from here on out are going to be critical. I have the sense that as it has done reliably in the past, the electorate will rise to stand against the corruption of power. I envy all of you who will cast primary ballots in the next month--you'll be charting the future of the liberal agenda. The rest of us have to put our trust in you all.

    posted by Jeff | 1:34 PM |
     

    Tired of the CNN circus?

    All right, I've been checking out Eat Your Vegetables for some insider Iowa blogging. So far, it's a little skimpy. C'mon Lane, you're our man the middle.

    I poked around a little, and found some other sources of insider info. Iowa isn't exactly a hotbed of native commentary, it seems, despite its enormous influence in the election (we should have the Oregon caucuses!). There are a few good sources, though. Escable Logic has some nice thoughts, both general and offbeat. Cornfield Commentary and Tusk and Talon are plenty wonky, but a bit, ah, right of center (still, worth visiting). Cedar Pundit appears to be a moderate Republican with active Dem parents--so his analysis is informed.

    But the best I located was the Yin Blog, hosted by U Iowa law prof Tung Yin. It will meet both your wonk and liberal needs.

    posted by Jeff | 8:58 AM |


    Saturday, January 17, 2004  

    The other Big Shew is next week's State of the Union. Bush is already trying to subtlely suggest he hasn't been a disaster on jobs. In his radio address today he boasted, "Our economy grew at its fastest pace in two decades in the third quarter of 2003. Manufacturers are seeing a rebound in new orders in factory activity. More than a quarter-million new jobs have been created since August."

    But keep in mind that there are 150 million workers in America, and just to stay even, the economy needs to be creating 150,000 jobs a month. Which means we've suffered a netloss of half a mil in that period (if my math's accurate). By the time of the election, the nation will have seen a net loss of somewhere over 2.5 million jobs.

    He's gotta start spinning that, and this is the first sortee.

    posted by Jeff | 4:12 PM |
     

    Tomorrow, in anticipation of the Big Shew in Iowa, I'll reflect on the big four (bestill your excitement, please). But as a preview of coming attractions, I thought I'd bring you the opinions of the (not so moderate) conservative David Brooks, who handicapped the candidates in today's article. (After all, what a Democrat really wants is the opinion of a GOP flack about whom he should support.) If for no other reason than this, I think Dean should warrent serious consideration:

    Dean, F. He's vague about what he's for, but he's venomous toward anyone who disagrees with him. If elected, political discourse would sink to new lows.

    That "F" is the grade the conservative has given to the liberal on his servility and docility. Apparently, he doesn't toe the Bush line nearly as well as Joe Lieberman, who scored straight A's from Brooks (good ol' Joe, the Republican's Democrat). Dean may not be the guy at the end of the day, and I'm sensitive to the fact that he's a polarizing figure. But I tell you, anyone who can piss off the jackbooted GOP like Dean can inspires a certain amount of respect from me.

    posted by Jeff | 4:02 PM |
     

    I'm going to be a little bolder in promoting this group blog I got lucky enough to be included in. As I noted, it's got an all-star lineup. More to the point, though, that all-star lineup is posting all-star material. Lots of it.

    Kevin Hayden, producer extraordinaire, assembled a team based on the diversity of their interest and styles. Man, has it panned out. My involvement notwithstanding, I think this is going to quickly become one of my daily reads.

    If you haven't checked it out yet, do yourself a favor: go. Good, good stuff.

    posted by Jeff | 10:15 AM |


    Friday, January 16, 2004  

    DRUDGE CLAIMS STIR CONTROVERSY

    In just two short days since online gossip pol Matt Drudge quoted Democrats apparently flip-flopping on issues, a media storm has built as candidates and journalists have claimed no such record of the quotes exist. Mr. Drudge's first screamer headline appeared Wednesday morning: "Exclusive! Dean Supported War!" Following was a quote at odds with Democratic candidate Howard Dean's anti-war platform.

    "I absolutely support this war. Saddam Hussein is a monster, [and] I want to commend the leadership of President Bush. Invading pre-emptively is the only solution."

    Later in the morning, a second report appeared about Dean's main rival in Iowa, Representative Richard Gephardt. In that quote, the Missouri Congressman came out against labor unions. "Free markets are the only solution. While jobs should be considered in any calculation, in the end we must do the bidding of corporate interests. They are America's best hope."

    And then yesterday, Mr. Drudge ran a remark he attributed to John Kerry, wherein the Senator was quoted as saying he supported the Bush strategy of cutting taxes to wealthy Americans. "Cutting taxes for the wealthy is [the] responsible way to govern. Lower income Americans don't matter. If you want to stimulate the economy, you must turn to the wealthy. If you want the economy to rebound, you must stimulate it. Therefore, as your next President, I would move to make the Bush tax cuts permanent."

    Shortly after appearing, the Drudge attributions started appearing on FOX television, and in yesterday and today's paper, the Wall Street Journal also quoted them. But even while the candidates were being excoriated by the conservative media and GOP insiders, some were left scratching their heads. Searches on Lexis-Nexis turned up no evidence of the quotes, and outside of Mr. Drudge's reportage, no evidence could be found that the men had ever made such statements.

    At first, Mr. Drudge said he would not reveal his sources. But as criticism mounted, he admitted that, for the sake of brevity, he may have omitted some elipses from the quotations. This may have accounted, he explained, for the difficulty in locating the quotes from database searches. Still, he maintained everything in them had been said by the candidates. He declined to reprint the quotations with elipses.

    Republicans were quick to use the quotes. Ed Gillespie, head of the National GOP, sent out 16 million email alerts this afternoon with the Kerry quotation under the headline: Kerry backs Bush. In remarks to the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids today, President Bush thanked Dr. Dean for his support.

    The closest journalists could come to identifying the quotes came when Roxanne Hayden of the Associated Press found this passage from a speech Howard Dean gave on March 14, 2003, just before the US invasion of Iraq. (Sections that are consistent with Mr. Drudge's quote have been highlighted.)

    "I absolutely oppose the war. It is a huge mistake to put our service men and women in harm's way without further evidence of wrongdoing by the Iraqis. Until the President makes that evidence clear, I will not support this war. Saddam Hussein is a monster, but there's no evidence that he harbors WMD. However, if we must go to war, I want to commend the leadership of our forces in Iraq. We should be very proud of them. It is the leadership of President Bush I question. Again, invading pre-emptively should never be used unless an invasion is imminent and it is the only solution. Clearly that's not the case here."

    When asked, Mr. Drudge would not confirm or deny that this was the source of his quote.

    ____________________________
    Today's satire inspired by this news:

    Oh how sad a day it is when even the Wall Street Journal's 'Review & Outlook' section cribs its material right from the RNC fax printout. Today one of the 'Review & Outlook's' pieces is entitled 'General Wesley Perle'.

    They take the cherry-picked quotes Drudge ran yesterday -- the ones he seems to have gotten from Ed Gillespie, who also used them in a speech yesterday in Little Rock -- and use them to argue that Clark has flip-flopped on the war.

    posted by Jeff | 3:36 PM |
     

    Every day we have new polling numbers that cause a bit of shock and awe among supporters of Dean, Gehardt, Clark, and Kerry. Two polls out today have these totals in Iowa (Zogby): Kerry 24%, Dean 19%, Gephardt 19%, Edwards 17%, and NH (ARG): Dean 28%, Clark 23%, Kerry 16%. Amazing, eh? Kerry's going to win Iowa.

    Don't bet the farm on it.

    A few things muddy these waters. First, the Iowa caucus system is a strange bird. The way it works is that Iowans gather together and have townhall-style meetings and hash out the candidates. Supporters of each candidate try to woo undecideds and later supporters of minor candidates. Kerry may be polling at 24%, but will he get those 24% to show up at the caucuses? Iowa's brutal because you have to get your candidates out, and once they're at the caucus site, they have to be persuasive enough to pick up other voters. This always benefits the most organized, and despite polling numbers (unreliable in Iowa anyway because of the caucus system) Gephardt and Dean have a big advantage.

    Also, I think when the wheeling and dealing starts, the Deanies are going to be able to make a pretty good argument that a their candidate is the horse to back. Gephardt supporters will be harder pressed to convince folks that Dick can scrap his way past Clark, Dean, and now Kerry to win the nomination. So when negotiations begin, I expect Dean to hold his own. (And looking at the numbers, Clark may be regretting he pulled out of Iowa so soon.)

    Now let's look at New Hampshire. Clark has it all to himself (well, almost--Lieberman's there, playing out the string until his inevitable withdrawal), which means day after day he's been hammering Dean. But after Iowa, Dean will be able to return fire. Then it will be Clark who'll be on the defensive--not only for attacks from Dean, but Kerry, who will be trying to stay alive in the campaign. Kerry may even find it a more reasonable proposition to aim for#2 than going for it all.

    I'd be a fool to make any predictions, but I will hedge to this degree: I think the trends are misleading. Dean's not as weak as the numbers indicate, and I can't believe Kerry's as strong. Given the day-to-day volatility, one shouldn't put too much stock in the polls.

    posted by Jeff | 12:39 PM |
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