The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, September 20, 2003


Dream-candidate Wesley Clark: "Oh wait, remember how I said I would have voted for Bush's Iraq resolution? Well, when I said that, I meant that I would never vote for Bush's Iraq resolution!"

And the Hutz moment? From yesterday, here:
The most surreal moment came when the Iraq questions were getting tougher, and Clark called for his press aide Mary Jacoby. "Mary, help!" the retired general cried, in a moment that could define him, and not as the tough military leader his supporters tout him as. The soothing Jacoby reminded Clark, "You said you would have voted for the resolution as leverage for a U.N.-based solution."

"Right," Clark responded. "Exactly."

"Kids, help"

Worse than Hutz, I'm pretty surey Bush had a similar moment during his 2000 campaign, though I'm pretty sure it culminated in him telling the press that "Condi Rice is shaking her head in agreement".

At this point, I still see no reason to get off the Dean bandwagon.

Friday, September 19, 2003


DLC-annointed savior Wesley Clark says he would have voted for the Iraq war.
Gen. Wesley K. Clark said today that he would have supported the Congressional resolution that authorized the United States to invade Iraq, even as he presented himself as one of the sharpest critics of the war effort in the Democratic presidential race.

General Clark said that he would have advised members of Congress to support the authorization of war but that he thought it should have had a provision requiring President Bush to return to Congress before actually invading. Democrats sought that provision without success.

"At the time, I probably would have voted for it, but I think that's too simple a question," General Clark said.

A moment later, he said: "I don't know if I would have or not. I've said it both ways because when you get into this, what happens is you have to put yourself in a position — on balance, I probably would have voted for it."
Umm, first of all, this is not the sort of thing a candidate should say in order to convey leadership and decisiveness, qualities the swing voters, for better or for worse, like.

More importantly, these sorts of statements aren't exactly ones that will energize the Democratic base. He appears to be taking a rather nuanced position (possibly leaning the way that the Repub-lite-loving DLC wants him to), and on some level I can appreciate that, as well as numerous others. Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, and even Lieberman are trying to argue a similar position, that being "yes, we voted for Bush's war, but he fucked it up and betrayed our trust". They simply don't get it: That shameful showing by those four Dems in the October vote on the Persian Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is the root cause for the party's grassroots turning away from them and towards Howard Dean. Sure, there were plenty of other factors, including Dean's charisma, energy and plain-spokenness, not to mention his relentless articulation of the Democratic viewpoint. But if you go against the party's base on the thing they're most passionate about, that could prove to be very damaging to your chances as a nominee.

So why is Wesley Clark walking that plank? Especially since he wasn't in Congress last October, and could have said more or less anything he wanted. Three possibilities come to mind:

1) He has statements on the record both for and against the decision to go to war in Iraq. Given the statements in favor of the war he has made, it may appear more of a political liability to be anti-war and be attacked for those old statements, rather than be pro-war and be assailed for the anti-war position he has also applied to himself. Or possibly,
2) As I hinted before, perhaps the DLC gave Clark a bit of a nudge. Is he that much of a tool? I'm hoping not. Whether he is or not, the message seems to be that the DLC considers support of the Bush Iraq resolution as an ideological litmus test for a presidential candidate. This is not news, of course. Or maybe,
3) Clark is his own man, and his position in this matter is genuine.

In any case, for Clark, this is not a recipe for draining support from Dean.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


...has a new book coming out October 7th.

Love the title: Dude, Where's My Country?

Amazon's capsule review:
Michael Moore is on a mission: he aims to unseat the man who slithered into the White House on tracks laid by guilty Enron execs and greased with his daddy's oil associations. And as for "The Left," they're just as satisfied to stand idly by as the chasm between the "haves" and the "have nots" grows wider and wider. That's right, Michael Moore is back with a new book that reveals what's gone wrong in America and, more importantly, how it can be fixed. In his characteristic style that is at once fearless and funny, Moore takes readers on another wild ride to the political edge of righteous laughter and divine revenge.
Looks like fun!

And if you take a gander at the cover, has he lost a bit of weight?

They say that one of the skills a good attorney should have is to have the ability to argue both sides of a given case convincingly. I'm not sure who the "they" in question is, but as Dubya once said, "they're there".

That being said, dig: Last Saturday, liberal blogger Oliver Willis made a bet with relatively conservative blogger Ricky West. The bet centered around last Sunday's R*dsk*ns-Falcons game. If Washington won, Ricky would have to make a top-ten list of good things resulting from a Howard Dean presidency. If Atlanta won, Oliver would have to find ten good things about the reign of Dubya.

Final score? Washington R*dsk*ns 33, Atlanta Falcons 31.

Sure enough, on monday, Ricky constructed his list of good things about Howard Dean. And it's quite good, no cynicism or snarkiness to be found. It makes me wonder if I could put together such a list for Dubya. Well, not now, it's late and I have a big day tomorrow.

Anyway, a tip of the cap to Ricky.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Will TFM jump ship?
answer: no, or at least not yet

This campaign for the Democratic nomination for president is going to end up being a two-horse race. Dean is one horse, and a revolving door of old news and also rans have failed to position themselves as the other. This could change with the entry of Wesley Clark.

I'll start any discussion of a new candidate the way I always do: by invoking Star Trek. (okay, I already did that last night)

In a comment thread, somewhere or other, a couple weeks ago, someone made an interesting comparison:
Gen. Clark *is* Captain Picard. To wit:
-Picard finished first at the Academy, Clark finished first at West Point
-Picard is antiwar when he can be, a hawk when he needs to be
-Picard is a diplomat, Clark is a diplomat
-Picard and Clark are both good at rapelling down cliffs
-Picard and Clark are both warrior-intellectuals
-Picard uses transporters, Clark uses electric motors
Okay, so it kinda peters out at the end. Now let's get somewhat serious.

Wesley Clark's position roughly mirrors that of Bill Clinton twelve years ago, when he was a relatively late entrant into the 92 presidential campaign. The thing is, Clark has an advantage over Clinton's 91 position, because of the draft campaign; that gives him an automatic campaign infrastructure, at least online it does. His respectable meetup numbers (over ten thousand) help the word-of-mouth element go beyond the media buzz, of which there's plenty anyway.

Is Clark the anti-Dean? Well, yes and no. Yes, he's a guy who isn't Dean and is very electable, and plus has the military record to magnificently trump Dubya. But no, he is not a Lieberman-style issue opponent. Dean and Clark's respective political views are about 95% identical (in fact, Clark may be to Dean's left on gun control). This means that most of the real differences between Dean and Clark amount to packaging. Clark is a Southerner* with 34 years of military experience under his belt, plus four stars and numerous other accolades to show for it. Voters who are skittish about Dean because of the perception that Dean would be soft on defense would obviously have a lot to like in the general.

The most significant way that Clark could be characterized as the anti-Dean is revealed in how long the general waited to launch his campaign. I'm willing, when all is said and done, to give Clark a pass on waiting so long, and not to say that his delay shows that he's too indecisive and iffy to really be president, let alone strongly desire to be president. There is a more logical reason: Clark waited long enough, to the point where he could be viewed as the unquestioned establishment alternative, the guy who could "save the party" from Dean, who some people, like this guy, compare to the party's 1972 anti-war flop candidate, George McGovern. (TFM does not see the parallel) The problem? The party's grassroots have been flocking to Dean for months, and the doctor/governor has built quite an army of his own; the Dean campaign has just passed 400,000 members. This puts Clark in a strange position; having relatively equivalent positions to Dean, yet running a campaign against a significant proportion of the party's grassroots element. Doing that may or may not get Clark the nomination, but what will doing that do for the soul of the Democratic party?

On the other hand, if Clark loses out in the primaries, to Dean in particular, how could that be interpreted? Ponder: a number of the people who have joined Clark's campaign team are veterans of the Clinton administration. The Big Dog himself has nothing but good things to say about Clark, including this in late June:
"He has always exceeded in every endeavor," Clinton told The Associated Press on Friday, noting in particular Clark's major role as NATO commander, when he ran the 1999 Kosovo air war that drove Serb forces out of the embattled Serbian province.
"While I cannot take sides in the Democratic primary, I believe Wes, if he runs, would make a valuable contribution because he understands America's security challenges and domestic priorities," Clinton said. "I believe he would make a good president."
Some might consider that to be a virtual endorsement. There are rumors that Hillary may join his campaign staff, or perhaps even be his running mate down the line. (okay, so most of the rumors circulating around the latter come from the Limbaugh/Scaife/Coulter set.) So, given the close association between Clark and the Clinton crew, if Clark loses (regardless of the conduct of his campaign vis-a-vis Dean), would his loss be spun as some sort of negative verdict on the Clinton years? The right-wing media would never do anything like that, would they? And the usual-suspect mainstream media whores -- Chris Matthews, Bill O'Reilly, the 2 Howards (Kurtz, Fineman), even maybe Maureen Dowd -- they would never drink that sort of Kool Aid, right? Right??

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Ultimately, my choosing between Clark and Dean doesn't have much to do with Clintonite/establishment versus outsider/insurgent. It's the unprecedented way that Dean has energized the base of the party, reached out to them, and let them have so much input in the campaign itself. In the comments to one of his own posts, Kos wrote:
I think any of the top candidates can (and will) take out Bush. But Dean is building something more than a political campaign -- he is building a mass movement like no other in US political history. It's exciting to be a part of it, no doubt. There are no historical parallels.
I really got a sense of that when I saw him speak in SF. I really see that in how Dean has truly nationalized his campaign, when most of his rivals are narrowly fixating on just the early primary states. I love the audacity of challenging supporters to match the fundraising prowress of pResident Bush and Vice pResident Defrib.

I want solid candidates in this campaign, and with that in mind, I hope that Wesley Clark learns from everything that Dean has done so far. He needs to convey a message and an attitude that is appealing to the same grassroots that loves Dean. No matter what, a candidate cannot win without energizing the party's base; just ask Walter Mondale and George H. W. Bush.

Another simple truth is this: he needs to go after Bush with the same fire and consistency shown by Dean (and Gephardt, in recent weeks). If he goes hard on the other candidates while going soft on Dubya, and ends up winning the nomination, there will be a lot of Dean supporters that are going to have a bone to pick with Clark. We, as Democrats, need to come out of this nomination process united. Love him or loathe him, Howard Dean has created an unprecedented grassroots following, and to squander that energy of that following for the sake of vicious below-the-belt dishonest attacks would be a very foolish choice for Clark. If Wesley Clark's campaign takes on a Lieberman-esque tone (tone, not policy), then that spells trouble for him, or for the party if he's nominated.

(on that note, I'd love to see Wesley really hammer Bush on the AWOL thing. if nothing else, that would be schweeet)

Dean was elected Governor of Vermont 5 times, serving a total of 12 years. Clark has never been elected to anything. By saying that, I do not mean that Clark's abilities as a leader and administrator are in question; he's a 4-star general, and they do plenty of that. However, Clark's abilities as a campaigner are not yet known. How will he handle Rove, Rush, and the Mighty Wurlitzer? When someone goes after him, whether he/she be a fellow Democratic candidate or a right-wing scandal monger, then shall we discover if Clark truly is the dream candidate some make him out to be. Aided by former Clinton staffers, will he use their technique and deploy rapid responses to such attacks? (Dean's campaign is quite good at this) Will he not come off as angry, short, and/or abrasive? When disinformation is spread, how well will Clark be able to regain control of the debate and set the record straight? That was a problem for Al Gore in 2000, who let the media run wild with the nonsense "liar" label. The next few weeks will be very, very instructive.

My overall hope, one that should be the wet dream of just about every Democrat in the country, is for Dean and Clark to keep it relatively civil, to the extent that maybe, just maybe, the nominee would ask the other to be his running mate. If I were Howard Dean, Democratic nominee, I'd just loooove the idea of a hard-nosed 4-star general making mincemeat out of Chickenhawk Cheney in the veep debate. And if I were Wesley Clark, Democratic nominee, I would love to be able to welcome Dean and his legions of fans into the fold.

As of this moment? I'm still a Deanista. The man from Vermont hasn't done a single thing to make my faith in him waver the slightest bit. The way I see it, only two things could really change my mind:

1) If Dean says anything really, really stupid. The media has likened him to McCain (well, the media is short on storylines), so they're waiting for the plain-spoken insurgent candidate to slip up. He hasn't yet, though, and I'm not sure he ever will. Of course, saying stupid things wasn't a roadblock to Bush getting to the White House, but we Dems hold our candidates to a higher standard.
2) If Clark catches fire in a serious way in the coming month or two, while simultaneously reaching out to the grassroots of the party, and keeping it civil with Dean.

My predictions? Clark's candidacy will spell big trouble for Kerry, Edwards and Graham, not to mention Lieberman, who has some leftover Clinton/Gore support. Gephardt will be out after Iowa, and Kerry will be gone after New Hampshire (Dean wins both), setting up a two-horse race between Dean and Clark. And I have absolutely no idea which one will be giving the acceptance speech in Boston come next summer.

Good luck to General Clark, and may the best person win.

* - I don't particularly subscribe to the so-called "southern strategy", I think the right candidate could come from anywhere, whatever the evidence may be.

...that today was World Talk Like a Pirate Day? I didn't.

Accordingly, tonight's UPN Simpsons rerun featured Homer saying "arr, matey!"

(thanks to jonathan for the tip)


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

a Lennon Murphy "unsabotaging her career" update

Longtime readers of TFM may know that I am a fan of a relatively unknown singer-songwriter from Tennessee named Lennon Murphy (her late mother named her after Beatle John). Her music combines the lyrical daring and brutal honesty of Fiona Apple and, well, me (hehe), with the bone-crunching tuned-down nu metal of, say, Korn (with a touch of Pumpkins-esque distortion bliss, as well as an uncommon gift for melody).

For slaves of Clear Channel radio, think of Lennon's music as Evanessence but with more sophistication, bravery and honesty.

Anyway, to the point: in about two weeks, through her website (linked above), Lennon will be releasing a vocal-and-piano-only album called Career Suicide. An interesting title, given the number of tours she's cancellec over the past two years for various reasons. Then again, her kickass debut album, 5:30 Saturday Morning, was released on 9/11/01, and that was bound to, uh, drown out her promotional effort.

That's all for now, if she ever tours again you'd do well to check her out.

A disproportionate amount of my thoughts today have been devoted to pondering the candidacy of General Wesley Clark. I'll have some thoughts on it here soon. Stay tuned...

Dick Cheney, sunday. (via marshall):
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.
Don Rumsfeld, today. (via atrios)
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday he had no reason to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a hand in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld was asked about a poll that indicated nearly 70 percent of respondents believed the Iraqi leader probably was personally involved.

"I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld told the truth, an offense that has costed some in the administration (Whitman, O'Neill, Lindsey, etc) their jobs. Rummy's too central to the neocon fantasy, though, so I don't see him going anywhere anytime soon.

Monday, September 15, 2003


This is just for you, Alex (:

Sooooo I'm watching the beginnings of Cowboys/Giants on Monday Night Football. You know that goofy thing where they have the starters for each team introduce themselves and name the university they attended before entering the NFL? Well, for the 'Boys, they got to former Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen, who introduced himself thusly:
"Larry Allen . . . Centennial High School"
For whatever reason, Allen neglected to mention that he attended Sonoma State University. Why no mention? Where's the pride? I forecast some strongly-worded editorials in the Star, which doesn't seem to have a significant online presence unfortunately.

Here's a CBS News piece on the apparent postponement of the Kay WMD report, due to lack of evidence, first reported by the Sunday Times of London yesterday. The CBS piece seems cofused as to whether the report is being "delayed", "postponed" or neither.

But that's not the point. Check out the last graf:
Former weapons inspectors now say, five months after the U.S. invasion, that what the U.S. alleged were "unaccountable" stockpiles may have been no more than paperwork glitches left behind when Iraq destroyed banned chemical and biological weapons years ago.
Maybe we should send Arnold over there to "audit everything".
A federal appeals court blocked California's Oct. 7 recall election Monday, throwing the fate of the unprecedented election into question.

The Ninth U.S. Court or Appeals ruled that the vote cannot take place because almost half of the votes will be cast on unreliable problematic punch-card machines. The decision was granted an immediate 7-day stay to give the losing sides to appeal.

The three-judge panel said that the use of the problematic machines is exacerbated by the sheer number of candidates vying to succeed Governor Davis if he is recalled.

The ballot includes the recall issue as well as two propositions.

The challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union was the last of about a dozen legal attempts to delay the recall election.

The judges said it is unacceptable that six counties would be using outdated punch-card ballots, the type that sparked the "hanging chads'' litigation in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

The appellate panel agreed with the ACLU that the voting machines were prone to error and that Davis' fate could be decided later. By that time, the counties have promised to replace their punch-card machines under a court order in separate litigation.

The counties include the state's most populous region, Los Angeles, in addition to Mendocino, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara and Solano. They represented 44 percent of the state's registered voters during the 2000 election.

"In sum, in assessing the public interest, the balance falls heavily in favor of postponing the election for a few months,'' the court said. (full story)
This is huge.

If the ruling stands, the election will be pushed back at least a few months. If it is held simultaneously with the March 7 election, which includes the Democratic Presidential Primary, then that's it, Davis stays, end of story. But even if the election is to be held in December, January or February, I'd still call it good news for Gray and state Democrats. Everything there is to be said in favor of the recall has already been said, and support for it (and the position-free Arnold, for that matter) has nowhere to go but down.

Naturally, if the supporters of the recall file an appeal, which they definitely will, it goes up from the 9th Circuit to the 9 Supreme Court Justices.

But will the Supremes take it? Better yet, would national Republicans, particularly in the White House, want them to take it?

Back on August 7, I wrote this regarding the California Supreme Court's then-impending decision on the challenges to the recall (of course, the CSC decided not to block the recall):
...guess where this could go. Only it wont. The Nino have been doing their darnedest since Bush v. Gore to create an alternate legacy (just ask Justice Kennedy, who penned the sweeping ruling in the Texas sodomy case), so I doubt they'd intervene to help carry out what essentially amounts to another Republican coup. Also, the higher on the national stage this goes, the more it may remind the American people of all that Florida business, and that is not what the Bushies nor the national GOP wants (especially since the recall supporters want a rushed special election that may disenfranchise a lot of potential voters who would probably vote against the recall).
Applying this reasoning to the Ninth Circuit ruling, I'm guessing that SCOTUS has a ten-foot-pole policy on this one. The wild card, of course, is that conservatives have been trying to paint the Ninth Circuit judges as a group of commie wackos, especially since the Pledge of Allegiance ruling last year (which, by the way, still stands), so perhaps the Supremes could try to get away with awarding the pro-recall side without thinking they're being as anti-democratic as they really are. Personally, I doubt this, Florida just looms too large.

Here's a message for conservatives who support the recall: If you are really a true advocate of democracy, then you should have, on good faith, been pushing hard for modernization of voting materials for a long time now, to go with supporting the ouster of Davis and the election of Ahhnuld/McClintock/whomever. So what if the people you'd be re-enfranchising would likely vote against your aims? If you guys won, then you would have so much more legitimacy in the minds of California voters after having done that. The Democrats in the US Congress put themselves at a tactical disadvantage, in the name of the greater good, by consistently pushing for campaign finance reform. So, California conservatives, where's your good faith gesture?

That would never happen, as Republicans have shown their distaste for the democratic process in recent years, in ways ranging from obsession, to theft, to exploitation of law, to childish do-over-ism. With their attitude towards voters in California who may be disenfranchised by outdated punchcard ballots and other faulty voting machinery, they reveal yet another aspect of such a distaste: passive aggressiveness.

UPDATE: Atrios puts it in a much more concise fashion than I did:
And, no, I can't imagine the Supremos getting anywhere near this one. They don't want the feces of Bush v. Gore being shoved into their faces.
Dick Cheney, liar.

I don't care how useful the ignorance and idiocy of 69% of Americans is, that's no excuse for the bullshit that spewed out of the side of Vice President Defrib with Russert on sunday morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2003


Josh Marshall discusses the current state of the long-awaited Kay report on those long-missing Iraqi WMD.

In short, we have arrived right around the report's due date ("mid september"), but word is that the report will either be 1) delivered to George Tenet but not published, 2) delayed "indefinitely" or 3) not given at all.

Josh argues that the only reason for the delay is cheap domestic political gain (well not gain really, but more the mitigation of political loss this empty report is sure to induce).

(the permalink isn't really working, so if he adds new posts, scroll to the one that begins "Enough already!")