The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, January 24, 2004


Having recently read this Salon piece on the failure of Dean's internet revolution to translate into electoral victory in Iowa, I was curious. The article only focused on the attitude-based drawbacks of Dean's netroots, and not of any of the practical problems that may have occurred in Iowa.

Luckily, I was fortunate enough, yesterday evening, to have dinner with a real-life volunteer from Dean's Iowa campaign, who was there, and was very involved in Dean's internet strategy, my friend Ping.

I wasn't taking notes at the time, and I only remember bits and pieces, but here's the essence of what he told me: The two biggest factors that caused Dean's loss in Iowa were...
1) His volunteers, while highly motivated, were inexperienced. This isn't really news, I suppose, as it was sort of touched on in the Salon piece, on DailyKos and elsewhere (the "navel-gazing" of Dean captains at precinct meetings, etc)

But more importantly, perhaps, was

2) The Dean campaign had an online (naturally) database information (phone numbers, and so on) of all prospective Democratic caucus voters in Iowa. It was run on a specific type of software, the name of which escapes me at the moment. That system, unfortunately enough, crashed on the day of the caucuses. As a result, it left a situation where frustrated Dean staffers were copying phone numbers by hand. In many cases, they ended up calling some people twice in the same day, a turnoff if there ever was one. As a result, they couldn't get some of the voters they needed to the precincts, and the rest is history, with John Kerry winning big, and Edwards close behind.
Does this provide a complete summary of what happened in Iowa last monday? Certainly not, as there were other issues at play (Ping cites the negative-attack-war between Dean and Gep as a big factor, as do I). But the electronic anomaly that occurred in Iowa is not likely to occur again in New Hampshire and the 2/3 states, so the commentary on how Dean's netroots don't necessarily translate into actual votes should be taken with a fragment of halite.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Kevin Drum dissects how Bush's SOTU claim that he can cut the deficit in half by 2009 (while at the same time proposing permanent tax cuts and much more) is rather ridiculous.

I don't have time to go into this in any real depth (midterm later today), but this is startling:
Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

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.

The office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle has already launched an investigation into how excerpts from 15 Democratic memos showed up in the pages of the conservative-leaning newspapers and were posted to a website last November.

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.

Democrats now claim their private memos formed the basis for a February 2003 column by conservative pundit Robert Novak that revealed plans pushed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to filibuster certain judicial nominees. Novak is also at the center of an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA agent whose husband contradicted a Bush administration claim about Iraqi nuclear programs.

Citing "internal Senate sources," Novak's column described closed-door Democratic meetings about how to handle nominees.

Its details and direct quotes from Democrats -- characterizing former nominee Miguel Estrada as a "stealth right-wing zealot" and describing the GOP agenda as an "assembly line" for right-wing nominees -- are contained in talking points and meeting accounts from the Democratic files now known to have been compromised.
And, not surprisingly:
Novak declined to confirm or deny whether his column was based on these files.

"They're welcome to think anything they want," he said. "As has been demonstrated, I don't reveal my sources."
Oh, don't we know it.

Maybe Dubya and the self-proclaimed "honor and integrity" police from his administration should come slap these guys around. But of course, they have their own skeletons to deal with...

Back late tonight...

(link via a bunch of big lefty bloggers, but just to pick one, let's say, Kevin)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Again, my jury is still out (scroll down a bit), but I have to like what Wesley has to say on same-sex marriage and gays in the military in his interview with The Advocate.
The armed forces are the last institution in America that discriminates against people. It ought to be the first that doesn’t. They ought to have the right to be who they are. They shouldn’t have to conceal their identities. You know, there are different models [that allow for gay people to serve openly]—the British have a model—and there is no impact on combat readiness. It’s a bogus issue.


But whether you call it marriage or not is up to the church or the synagogue or the mosque. And it’s up to the state legislatures. I think marriage is a term of art. It’s a term of usage. But the legal side of it is not: It’s not negotiable.
Good for him.

By the way, regarding comparable media treatment of Clark and Dean: In the interveiw Clark said this:
Q: How do you think Congress would react to that?
Clark: Well, they’ll love it. This is exactly what they’re looking for. Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay and all those guys are looking for a real hand grenade to throw into the Democratic Party. It’s an absurd issue, and it’s one of the reasons I’m running.
Newt Gingrich hasn't been in Congress for over five years now. Howard Dean got a lot of shit from his appearance on Hardball, where he made a couple of present-tense references to "the Soviet Union". Either the media should give them equal shit, or no shit at all. I'll be waiting.

Nevertheless, good job Wesley.

Blah blah blah trial-lawyer blah blah chews bubble-gum blah blah expensive haircuts blah blah he's actually about 23 blah blah blah...
The SOTU in a nutshell, from Northrup.

Accepted bribes.
An Israeli court charged a real-estate developer Wednesday with paying more than a half-million dollars in bribes to Ariel Sharon — a case that could force the prime minister to step aside.

While Sharon has not been charged, Justice Ministry officials say they are considering whether to indict the Israeli leader. The officials say the decision is expected in the coming weeks or months.

Sharon's spokesman Asaf Shariv would not comment on the case except to say: "I can guarantee there will not be an indictment."

David Appel was indicted in the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court for allegedly giving Sharon hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote a tourism project in Greece and also to help rezone urban land near Tel Aviv before and during Sharon's term as prime minister.

Appel's lawyer, Moshe Israel, denied the charges. "There is no doubt he is innocent," he said.

The indictment over the scandal — widely known as the "Greek Island Affair" — centers on allegations that Sharon's son Gilad received large sums in his father's behalf from Appel, an activist in Sharon's Likud Party who was trying to promote the project in Greece during 1999. Sharon was then foreign minister and allegedly was asked to use his influence to push forward both projects, although neither came to pass.

Specifically, the indictment said that during 1998-99 Appel "gave Ariel Sharon a bribe in recognition of activities connected to the fulfillment of his public positions."

The indictment said Gilad Sharon, while ostensibly a consultant in the Greek project, served as a middleman in accepting the bribes. "(Appel) and Gilad agreed to this arrangement despite the fact that the defendant knew that Gilad had no relevant professional qualifications," it said.

It said Appel sent a total of $690,000 to Sharon's family ranch in the Negev desert. Appel also promised to support Sharon in party primary elections, the indictment said.

The indictment against Appel threatens not only Sharon's political career but also complicates the daunting task of negotiating peace in the Middle East.
Obviously, Yassir Arafat cannot be an honest negotiator for peace, he is corrupt beyond reproach, and the peace process cannot go on until he gives up power, and a new leadership that has a real interest in peace and reform arises.

Oh wait. I meant Ariel Sharon.


Josh Marshall, blogging from New Hampshire all week, attended a Clark speech, mostly on Iraq and foreign policy, and made this observation:
There wasn't any applause through the entire thing. Not until the end. The issue though wasn't so much that the audience was nonplused as that Clark didn't really give them a chance. This was a pretty dense policy speech. And the few lines that seemed like they might have been written as applause lines Clark plowed right through.

The first few minutes seemed a bit tight. It was ably delivered, if a bit rapid. But then maybe about seven or eight minutes in he started to hit his stride. His interest level in what he was saying seemed to bump up. He was a bit looser. And though he was still delivering a prepared speech you could tell that these were more his words, stuff he'd thought about and wrestled with.

And then it hit me. He's a lot less interested in this campaign than he is with the war-fighting, coalition-building, international relations stuff. This is what animates him. He cares more about his issues than the campaign.

Is that a good thing politically or a bad thing? I think you can play it both ways. Certainly, as I've presented it here, it's a good thing: the candidate who cares more about solving problems than being a politician. But in practice it's not necessarily so clear. Politics is about interaction with people and audiences. The politicians who do well are generally those who relish it.
And therein lies an electability question as profound as any about Howard Dean. In terms of those who would be out to criticize Clark, whether it's Kerry, Dean, Republicans, unnamed Democrats, Howard Fineman, Howard Kurtz, or any number of commentators, doesn't this sort of thing feed directly into one of the creeping memes about him? That being, he joined the race very late, so he doesn't "want" it as much as the other candidates do. Of course, I don't believe that, I believe he's sincere as hell about this. But politics is perception, and Clark turning up the wonk and turning down the enthusiasm could be the General's version of "YYYYAAAAAHHRRR!!!" To not appear agile in the face of impending attacks, whether he is or not, is to Clark's detriment in both his campaign and his electability.

If there's anything Howard Dean has proven, it's that he can connect with audience members at campaign events. He was a centrist elected to the statehouse in Vermont six times, and he didn't do that by getting angry or "fired up" all the time. So said Eric Boehlert a week ago:
And yet the anger issue may be fading, perhaps because reporters and pundits haven't actually been able to uncover Dean's temper. As the Times conceded in its obligatory Dean-is-angry article, nobody has seen him explode during this entire campaign. (The Times did manage to detail, secondhand, how years ago as governor, Dean once slammed his fist on a table.)
All that being said...

The Facts Machine has been a Howard Dean-friendly blog for quite a while now, dating back to spring of last year. The last 48 hours constitute the first time I have ever had serious concerns about Dean's chances for success in both the primary campaign and the general election. His much-talked-about speech to his Iowa staffers, whatever else it was, did not appear very presidential at all. It did, however, get a lot of press. They say there's no such thing as bad press, but as Al Gore could certainly tell us, that doesn't apply to presidential campaigns.

Anyway, I am presently concerned that despite his energy, his solid gubernatorial record, his principled stance against the war in Iraq, his solid organization and his loads of cash, Howard Dean may not be the candidate with the best chance in the general election. I still maintain that he's electable, but is he the most electable?

Thus, a TFM Re-Declaration of Support will be in order. I may or may not swing my support to another candidate in the coming weeks, and the two candidates, aside from Dean, who are most likely to earn my support (and boy, endorsements are very important, particularly this one!) are John Edwards and Wesley Clark. I will be watching tomorrow night's debate, following the results in New Hampshire, and if I've yet to make a decision at that point, then I will make it based on the early February primaries. In the meantime, the links to Dean's site and blog will remain on the left-hand side of this blog.

What do I want to see from my three possible candidates? Here are my "TFM Responds to Success!" parameters:

Wesley Clark: If you need to attack Kerry, attack him, but I'm not impressed by military-service-comparison prick-waving, thank you very much. Also, in the debates thus far, though Dean gets credit for boldly coming out against the war so early and vocally, your statements in the debates on Bush's choices in Iraq have been the clearest, most effective ones of any candidate, more of that would be great. I want the Clintonesque twinkle to get in there somewhere. Dean's been calling you a "Republican" here and there. I don't think that's quite fair of him, but you're going to get a question on those lines, I want to see how you answer it this time out. If you impress me, this will become a Clarkie blog. On the other hand, if you keep doing the petty attack thing with Kerry, you will be the Gephardt of New Hampshire.

John Edwards: Of all the Dems, you may be the hardest one to attack, and it's likely that Kerry Clark and Dean wont even bother. Your economy-related rhetoric is possibly the best of any of the candidates, and you ooze with empathy, even when you don't reach into the "son of a millworker" bag. Your yes-vote for the Iraq War Resolution may have been a liability before, but after Iowa you may not be as vulnerable in that respect. A strong finish in NH, followed by some wins in the south, and you'll be a real force. You're automatically likeable, but you'll need to get dirty, and that may happen in the South Carolina debates next week.

Howard Dean: I want your words, and not your yelps, to be what people talk about. I want to hear your message again. Your principled opposition to the Iraq war was relatively ignored in Iowa, was that a product of your de-emphasis of the issue, or the quirky voting habits of Iowans? Politically, if you win in NH, by any margin at all, that will be a huge story, you will be seen as "resilient" and the new "comeback kid", and people will forget about your little Steve-Ballmer episode in Des Moines. Now might be a nice time to flash some of that doctor cred, or at least a few more sweaters. A win in NH, a redefinition of yourself and your campaign, and I'll stay on the bandwagon.

Whoever wins the nomination -- and it will likely be one of these three guys, sorry Mr Kerry -- will have done so because they were a strong candidate who was viewed by the Democratic electorate as the person best-suited to oust Bush. So in short, when it's over I'll be happy no matter what.

Oh, and whoever gets nominated, my Veep recommendation will remain constant: Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham Bob Graham.
Via Salon's War Room and the DNC's Kicking Ass, there was an interesting exchange during a NBA broadcast on TNT, between the outspoken Charles Barkley and halftime show host Ernie Johnson:
Commentary on the Iowa caucuses last night leaked into the NBA game on TNT. During the halftime show, the studio crew riffed on politics, and analyst Charles Barkley started talking up John Edwards — he’s even given Edwards money.

Ernie Johnson, the anchor, looked at Barkley and said: "Charles, I thought you were a Republican." (Barkley has talked about running for governor of Alabama as a Republican.)

Barkley's response: "That was before they started screwing all the poor people!"
Hehe. Even Barkley gets it.

Now's the time for Kerry to seek out the all-important Bill Lambier endorsement.

According to Slate's "Today's Papers" feature -- which is simply the best thing about that publication, save for maybe Kinsley's occasional contributions -- Only one of the five major dailies (the USA Today, interstingly enough) discusses the interesting interpretation of the Kay Report made by Bush in the State of the Union Address.
Bush was also, shall we say, less than completely forthright when he defended his administration's earlier statements about Saddam's supposed chemical and biological weapons. "Had we failed to act," the president said, "the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day." Bush continued, "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."

Nearly all the papers let that humdinger slide. USA Today is the exception. In the kind fact-checking piece that should be ubiquitous, the paper has a wide-ranging "reality check on what Bush said on key issues." The article, which runs inside, notes that despite Bush's suggestions, the Kay report "turned up no weapons and no evidence of any advanced weapons program."
This is surprising, because after the 2003 uranium debacle (not much of the other WMD stuff was all that true either), you'd think the media would be armed and ready to at least play "gotcha!" should Bush bring up the WMD issue this year. While a worthwhile venture indeed, this sort of thing should have lent itself well to the hyper-simplistic, quick-story nature of our media. And only the USA Today, out of the five major papers, points this out? Oy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


It's been quite a day of blogging.

Looking at the SOTU guest list, apparently Chalabi was there, funny Bush didn't mention that.

Among the things Dubya proposed in his speech tonight, there was this:
In the past, we've worked together to bring mentors to children of prisoners, and provide treatment for the addicted, and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. (Applause.) America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. (Applause.)
Gee, why might Dubya be proposing programs for recently-released prisoners? Maybe because in certain states, particularly the ones with the combo of 1) a GOP governor and 2) a severe fiscal crisis, there is the probability that thousands upon thousands of prisoners will be released early to save money. Alabama and Cuh-leee-fooorrrna come to mind.

This is either a bone thrown to states where Republicans have blocked the raising of taxes (appeal to the base, and stick to principle!), or one of those mock-"compassion" proposals that wont actually get passed, but he looks good proposing it.
From Ezra's running commentary on the SOTU:
Bush appears to have abducted a black child. Nope, he gave her back. That's compassionate conservatism.

Sully is not happy with the SOTU.
What especially amazed me was the lack of any recognition that job growth is lagging economic growth. There was no statement of concern for those still struggling in the economy, no rhetoric of empathy. That surprised me. It leaves a huge opening to the Democrats, who will argue that the president is out of touch. Indeed, John Kerry immediately made that criticism in New Hampshire. Doesn't 43 remember 41? It's extraordinary he didn't make even a token statement of empathy with those whom the recovery has yet to carry along.
What especially amazes me is that Sully, who would say he's been paying attention, thought Bush would actually show such compassion, or even feign it.

But I'm enthused to see Andy making sense. To add to his point: Not only did Bush not even show mock compassion or empathy for the jobless, but the job-related proposals he made -- training programs, a rededication to community colleges, etc -- don't have any direct bearing on the current unemployed population. Either this is frighteningly callous of Bush, or he must know something about the future of the job market in America that we don't.

I never thought I'd say this about a Sullivan piece, but... read the whole thing, it gets better.

Taking a break from Bush and the Democratic primaries for a second...

It's good to see that Sean Astin might get the credit he deserves for his performance in Return of the King, and it could come in the form of an Oscar. Also, something you may not have known about the blood that flows in his veins:
And Hollywood is in his blood. His father, John Astin, a veteran actor perhaps best known for playing Gomez on "The Addams Family" TV series, is an Academy member. His mother, Patty Duke, won the supporting actress Oscar for 1962's "The Miracle Worker," and is an Academy member.
I had no idea. Wow. Anyway, best of luck to him.
the scorecard version
part two

(for each of these, the choices were "Acknowledged", "Ignored", or "Spun")

Let's see how Fearless Leader did...
Health Care: 44 million Americans, 15 percent of population, including 8.5 million children, don’t have health insurance.
Verdict: Ignored. He used the word "millions" at one point to describe the reach of one of his healthcare proposals, but it was such a passing and superficial reference that his treatment does not gain stature above simply ignoring.
Jobs & Economic Recovery: Two million fewer jobs than when Bush took office. Tax cuts that were supposed to create 300,000 new jobs a month never reached one-third of that goal. In December 2003, only 1,000 new jobs were created. New jobs pay less than those lost. Last year, household debt increased at highest rate in 15 years.
Verdict: Spun. "The job market is rising," said Whistle Ass, to thunderous applause from the rightward half of the chamber. Yeah, jobs went up in December... by 1,000. When they were hoping for 130,000. When they would need over 200,000 jobs added monthly to not end the first term of the administration with a net job loss.
Funding Education: No Child Left Behind law $7 billion short. Publicschools laying off teachers, closing schools and shortening academic year.
Verdict: Ignored. He addressed the heck out of the "tests" and "standards" portion of NCLB, but failed to mention that he was grossly underfunding it in his budgets. And Grover Norquist chortled.
Environment: Landmark environmental laws weakened. Allowable levels of mercury from power plants tripled. Superfund clean-up costs shifted from polluters to public. Clean Air Act rules for dirtiest power plants relaxed.
Verdict: Ignored. Unless you count the shift in Superfund burden as part of his "ownership society". But hey, he did call for a crackdown on performance-enhancing steroids! (yet he supported Schwarzenegger...)
State & Federal Spending: States face largest budget crises indecades. Federal deficit has hit a new high. $166 billion spent on Iraq as U.S. non-defense domestic spending plummeted. IMF warns that U.S. debt and trade imbalance threaten global economic stability.
Verdict: Ignored/Spun. TomPaine just said a mouthful, so in addressing everything, Bush gets two scores here. He acknowledged the presence of deficits by saying the word "deficits", and by saying that by limiting discretionary spending to 4%, those deficits can be decreased by 50% in five years. Riiight. Well, if that doesn't work, making those tax cuts permanent will, right? Oy. Everything else he ignored.
War on Terror: No WMD found. No link between Iraq and Al Qaeda found. Osama bin Laden still at large. Iraq reconstruction marred by terrorism, corporate profiteering and failure to restore basic services.
Verdict: Spun, with a side of Ignored. Not a word about Bin Laden (that's two straight SOTU's!). WMD became "weapons of mass destruction related program activities", despite the laundry list of charges Bush made in last year's SOTU. Bush probably thinks he doesn't have to make the Iraq/AlQaeda link anymore, because we've created new terrorists in Iraq, and that's all we need! And of "terrorism, corporate profiteering, and failure to restore basic services", Fearless Leader gets a score of 1 out of 3. Not bad in baseball. Not good for a president.

Other observations from tonight's speech: Actually, I think the reaction shots of Teddy really summed it up for me.
the short version
part one

For the backloaded uplifting emptry tripe that was in there, this was one divisive, combative speech. Bush sure sounds like he's campaigning for something . . . oh yeah, his second term, that's what.

I noticed specific jabs at Dean (the "treat terrorists like criminals" stuff), Edwards (the frivolous lawsuit stuff), and Clark (the "permission slip" line).

Last year, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction took up several paragraphs, and several minutes, of the speech. The lone mention of them here was one sentence, briefly mentioning the 2003 Kay Report, which found no actual weapons, but had proof of, in what must be the most carefully-worded phrase in the history of political speeches, "weapons of mass destruction related program activities."

Okay, I'll have more actual analysis later, but now I must depart on official academic business...

Straight from the SOTU address:
Weapons of mass destruction related program activities.
I'll chime in shortly with some State of the Union Address analysis-related program activities of my own...
I'll be back after the SOTU address...

Eh, probably not. But this is fun anyway...

Me, sunday:
...[Y]ou can make that argument [that Bush is a racist] regarding his recess appointment of cross-burning apologist Charles Pickering to the Federal bench. I don't think Bush is an out-and-out racist, as in that he hates people of other colors. However I do think that Bush really likes the votes he gets from hideous racists, and whether that's just as bad is a judgement call for you to make. (I think it's pretty damn bad)
And now today's Krugman:
But some Americans will respond to upbeat messages, no matter how unrealistic. And that may be enough for Mr. Bush, because while he poses as someone above the fray, he is continuing to solidify his base.

The most sinister example was the recess appointment of Charles Pickering Sr., with his segregationist past and questionable record on voting rights, to the federal appeals court — the day after Martin Luther King's actual birthday. Was this careless timing? Don't be silly: it was a deliberate, if subtle, gesture of sympathy with a part of the Republican coalition that never gets mentioned in public.
I self-promote, you decide. (:
"Disgruntled Liberals Publishing At Furious Pace"

Did I mention I love The Onion?

Oh, and this is pretty good too.

UPDATE: And this as well.

Also via tbogg, Chalmers Johnson has a new book out: The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.

(I mention this because my comments links are titled "Blowback", as a tip of the cap to his previous book, originally published pre-9/11.

A snippet from the advance word on the SOTU address:
Aides said he will lay out his presidential legislative priorities and his international priorities. And the president will also tackle the controversial issue of gay marriage, declaring -- as he has before -- that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said Bush will say that "if necessary, he'd be glad to support a constitutional change" to support that idea.
An interesting thing to say, especially considering that amending the Constitution is pretty damn hard, and an issue this divisive may be impossible to ratify around the country. I'm sure his handlers have the usual storyline in mind, as they did with the Moon/Mars plan and the guest-worker immigration proposal: If you grab the headlines, it wont matter whether you ultimately succeed or fail, because you will look "bold".

In other SOTU news, Bush will be proposing a job-training and retraining program for the unemployed. Take it, tbogg:
Aren't you all excited over those job-training grants that will get out-of-work people prepared for jobs that don't exist?

With any luck, Noonan will be on with Chris Matthews.
Heh. And oh god. Really, none of the cable networks are safe to watch for reaction to this sort of thing. On CNN you'll get Woodruff, Wolf, Bill Schneider and Jeff Greenfield. Ugh. On MSNBC, Matthews and those two world-class Bush-fellaters Fineman and Noonan. At least with Fox I'd be getting what I came for. (Brit Barnes Mort and Kristol, I assume)

(The following is my response to Paul's response to my response to the Iowa caucus, dealing primarily with the issue of electability)

In rereading my own writing, I wonder if I suffer from an affliction of mistaking my wishes that "electability" weren't a central campaign issue with my actual downplaying of it. And yes, electability is definitely, and irrevocably an issue to Democratic primary voters, as they want the guy with the best chance of ousting Bush to be in the ring with him. That being said...

I'm not as skeptical about Dean's ability to appeal to the center. He has plenty of cred in order to do that, short of actually calling himself a Republican and fundraising for them. He was a six-term governor with a history of consistently-balanced budgets. He has, in the past, stood up to those "special interests" that Republicans are always righteously crowing about. He can point to the kind words the NRA has had for him and yank the gun issue out from under the Republicans. And of course, he's a Doctor; he hasn't even begun to use his profession in his campaign. It's a nice thing to have on the bench, since people trust doctors a lot. Lastly, I don't think Dean has had the Democratic equivalent of a visit to Bob Jones University so far in his campaign. I look into Dubya's eyes and I don't see an ounce of genuine compassion, yet he sold himself in the general election as a "compassionate conservative".

Regarding Clark: Yes, that was a cheap shot in the above paragraph. But two of the prime reasons that Clark looks so darn electable right now are that a variety of people have been in a concerted effort to make Dean appear as unelectable as possible for months now, and that he entered the race very, very late. We saw what the media and others did to Kerry while he was the de facto frontrunner ("His hair!" "He's a waffler!"). We definitely saw the shellacking Dean has taken from the media, Bushian interests (regardless of their reasons) and the other candidates. Clark's delay in running was probably the result of him wanting to avoid such treatment for as long as generally (pun intended) possible.

If Clark entered the race last March, rather than in September, he would have received a lot of Dean-style treatment. His history, character and policy positions would have been twisted violently out of proportion, and another Gore-esque storyline would have been crafted by now. We've seen snippets of this ("He was fired from the army!", "He's 'prickly' and people in the military don't like him", and certainly the recent congressional testimony flap, unfair to him as it was), but one of the prime reasons we haven't seen more is because of Dean's frontrunner/target status. If Clark had been around and in the forefront all that time, his electability might have been as much in question as Dr Dean's is now.

Heck, his decision to skip Iowa means that his campaign hasn't even begun yet. Clark has a good idea in mind, to be the Knight In Shining Armor for the party once again, just as he was when people talked about his campaign in September. That way, he can be as pure a bio&policies candidate as possible come primary season. Trouble is, such a strategy could backfire: this presumes a shaky Democratic field heading into New Hampshire from which Clark would save the voters, and Kerry and Edwards look anything but shaky.

In short, Clark's "electability" is largely the product of his biography and positions without much day-to-day campaign input from the media, Rove's office, etc, and the current concerns about Dean's "electability" are the products of the campaign wear-&-tear he has taken from the just-mentioned groups. This will not be the story for long, however, as the spotlight turns, to a greater degree, to Clark in New Hampshire and the early February states. It's at that point that the relative electability of Dean and Clark really becomes a direct and relevant comparison to me.

Paul comments that Howard Dean's outburst in his speech to supporters in Des Moines last night seemed "manufactured", and that he's "more than a little scared". I'm willing to give Dean the benefit of the doubt on the first point, it's one of the things he does to rev up his supporters, going back to his "I'm tired of listening to these fundamentalist preachers!" speech a year ago.

The second point, though, is more interesting. I think it's a combination of that, and the fact that Dean has simply never lost an election before, so this is something new for him. I must admit, I cringed a bit when I saw that for the first time. Of course, a week from now we'll all be talking about the results in New Hampshire, and Iowa will be a distant memory.

Dean's explosion was a miscalculation to the extent that it gave the armchair psychiatrists on the right a chance to offer more politically-expedient diagnoses. First Byron York, now we'll wait for Krauthammer.

Lastly, here's Dean's explanation of what he did, posted without comment:
"Thirty-five hundred young people showed up in Iowa to help me win the caucuses," he said. "We didn't win, but I thought I owed them a little bit of fun. We're going to have some fun in this race."
UPDATE: According to Charlow, it appears that Howard Stern made good use of Dean's outburst.

...but gee, people are only talking about one post-caucus speech...

Here's a very interesting post from DailyKos Iowa correspondent Tom Schaller, who confirms what a lot of people suspected about Dean, Gephardt and the results in Iowa.
Actually, for all the buzz about Clark-as-stalking-horse, I think one of the legacies of Iowa 2004 will be that Gephardt and Dean turned out to be Trojan horses for Kerry and Edwards. That is, they brought the bodies and the resources and the logistics to bear, which drove up the turnout. But they couldn't then persuade those turned out to stay with them once they arrived out of the cold and into the school auditoria and community centers.

I mean, just look at Gephardt's numbers. Yeesh! Another week and Kucinich catches him. (Ok, maybe not, but you get my point.) Those 21 unions weren't worth an extra coffee break or a new dental plan. Nobody voted for him.

Aha, but at the same time none of his supporters then recast their support for Dean. The word is that Gephardt people, whenever not viable, told the Dean people to just "talk to the hand" when they tried to make an appeal. I saw this woman in Precinct 63 in Des Moines who, sitting in her chair at the Gephardt table, was literally and metaphorically unmoved by anything the Dean precinct captain had to say. Gephardt turned out to be the anti-Dean movement all by himself.
This leaves open the possibility for another positive spin on Iowa from the Dean camp: "Gephardt fucked with us, and now he's out. Don't fuck with us."

But in all seriousness, this does provide some insight into why Dean underperformed in Iowa. Sure, the war of mudslinging attrition with Gep hurt him, and losing your message and becoming complacent (being an insurgent candidate relying too much on endorsements) didn't help. But Howard Dean was also a victim of the caucus process to some extent. Why? Because he did very badly among second choices of voters, particularly Gephardt voters. In many precincts, Gephardt did not make 15%, the "viability" threshold. As Schaller described, his supporters were, shall we say, *reluctant* to turn to Dean. Thus, they turned to Kerry and Edwards en masse.

As Dean and Joe Trippi have reminded people time and time again, they're running "a different kind of campaign" (a 50-state, grassroots-oriented net-savvy machine, yadda yadda). Sure his tactics and stature became increasingly conventional heading into Iowa, and that probably hurt him. But the nature of Dean's support, as well as the convictions of supporters of non-"viable" candidates, did not help him in the caucuses. Dean has inspired very strong feelings among the Democratic electorate ("He's the new revolution in the party!" "He's nowhere near as electable as my guy, plus he yells a lot!"). As a result, he's more of a first-choice-or-no-choice kind of candidate. A candidate that inspires feelings that strong is less likely to be people's second choice. And the polling in the days prior to the caucus showed just that: Kerry and Edwards were far ahead of him in second-choice polls.

Also, the caucus process artificially inflated Kerry's totals. He received the runaway Gephardt support, surely. But in the lead-up to the caucus, he was polling well as the second choice of Dean voters. So in rural precincts where Dean had less support and couldn't make the viability threshold, his supporters turned to Kerry.

It's likely that Kerry still would have won if Iowa had a full primary election instead of a caucus. Instead of the 38-34-18-11 spread that the caucus process gave us (Kerry Edwards Dean & Gep, respectively), the primary may have given us results like 28-25-22-18 (again, K E D & G respectively). So if Iowa were a primary instead of a caucus, the lead story might have been "Kerry wins, but it's a logjam!"

In Kerry's case, he's the candidate who put the most eggs in Iowa, had the most to lose, and is low on funds, and will now have some competition for the vet vote in New Hampshire. My advice to the tall drink of water from Mass is to be careful and plan well.

Speaking of Kerry, it's nice to Mickey Kaus squirm, he who has been ridiculing Kerry's campaign rather harshly for a while now.

Last week I had a brief but intense discussion with a friend of mine about the relative merits of living in San Mateo (my hometown) versus living in San Diego (her hometown).

If only that discussion had taken place now, as opposed to thursday, I would have had an extra feather in my cap: We got the Scott Peterson trial, baybee!
The Scott Peterson trial is coming to San Mateo County.

That was the order from Stanislaus County this morning as Judge Al Girolami moved the death penalty trial from Modesto, where Peterson lived with his pregnant wife Laci until she disappeared Christmas Eve 2002.

``I'm satisfied we can get a fair and impartial jury in San Mateo County,'' Girolami said. He ruled earlier that the trial would be moved to increase the chance of a fair trial, compared with publicity-saturated Modesto.

San Mateo County was the second choice of the prosecution, defense and the judge. Girolami chose San Mateo over his preferred county of Santa Clara because San Mateo could accommodate the trial in two weeks, whereas Santa Clara couldn't be ready for six weeks.

Girolami said he will hear the case if necessary, but that he hopes a retired judge from the San Mateo area can be found.

He did not say whether the trail would be held in the Redwood City courthouse or in San Mateo.
Oh please oh please oh please! Actually, the interesting thing about this is that while Redwood City's courthouse is right smack downtown (it is the county seat, after all), San Mateo's court is up in the western hills of the city, near I-280 and the Crystal Springs reservoir. In this regard, perhaps San Mateo would be the wiser choice, as its location would keep the media frenzy from creating traffic gridlock in commute-intensive areas.

The only thing is, the only courts in San Mateo proper to speak of are juvenile (up on the hill) and small claims courts (near the Performing Arts Center). The former could handle a case like this, but the latter could not.

The other main branch of the county's criminal court is up in South San Francisco. But that's no fun!

BTW, the move probably has nothing to do with the fact that I had a month-long affair with Scott...

jk (:

Monday, January 19, 2004


Go download's SOTU scorecard, and play the home game.

Gep drops out.
"My campaign to fight for working people may be ending tonight, but our fight will never end," Gephardt said in a post-caucus speech that sounded like a political farewell. Aides said he would formally drop out of the race at a St. Louis news conference at midday on Wednesday.
Here's to Richard Gephardt, for nearly three decades of fighting for the values of the Democratic party in Washington.

A John Kerry victory in Iowa, being a huge departure from the media's expectation of how the caucuses would go, could be a big enough story as to be a distraction tomorrow, when Bush gives the SOTU address.

But mostly, I like that my right-wing friends and colleagues are probably going "huh?"

AP writer/Mediawhore Nedra Pickler chimes in on Dean's 3rd-place finish:
"We're just glad to get our ticket punched from Iowa," Dean said on CNN's Larry King Live.

Two weeks ago, Dean was the clear front-runner in the race. But his rivals pummeled him with criticism, saying he didn't have the foreign policy experience or temperament to lead the country. (emphasis mine)
When Nedra Pickler mentions that Howard Dean was the "clear front-runner" in the campaign two weeks ago, she fails to inform her readers that Dean never had a significant lead in Iowa, and the race there was always close.

Big Winner #1: John Kerry. A week ago, did anybody think this could happen? Kerry probably didn't. I sure as heck didn't. A few weeks ago, Kerry was dead in the water, and the question wasn't if he would pack it in, but when.

Kerry's apparent victory in the Iowa Caucuses is a startling development, and is a signal that the pre-existing Conventional Wisdom on Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as the Democratic race in general, can be thrown out the window. How did Kerry do it? I think it all had to do with the tone of his campaign. For a long time I despised Kerry's campaign, mostly because it lacked any real soul or weight. All he would do, particularly in the debates, was to agree with Gephardt whenever he attacked Howard Dean. Then he made a change (though it only showed somewhat in the debates), focusing more on his biography in his Iowa campaign stops, particularly his war-hero history. Certainly this plays into the perplexing issue of "electability" (we'll get to that), as well as into a generally optimistic campaign.

And what of the CW on Kerry? We who have followed the campaign know what it has been: "Kerry has to finish respectably in Iowa and win New Hampshire, or else he's out". Well, you can forget about that line. Now, Kerry doesn't have to win New Hampshire. In fact, it's not even clear that he has to finish second. (though it's likely that his Iowa win will bump him past Clark in NH for the time being.) He can now set his sights on South Carolina too: If Kerry's playing up his military experience worked in Iowa, it can work in SC too, with it's even larger veteran population that may go to bat for him. On the other hand, because Clark sat out Iowa, Kerry had the vet vote all to himself this time around, and the story could be different in a week.

Big Winner #2: James Carville. Yeah, the Ragin' Cajun. Lots of people scoffed when he picked John Kerry as the candidate with the second-best chance of getting nominated, behind Dean. Us Dems oughtta be rubbin his shiny head for good luck instead!

Almost-As-Big Winner: John Edwards. From first glance, the tortoise-hare strategy worked. At 32% with most of the precincts in, he's got some serious numbers. Like Kerry, he ran a positive campaign down the stretch, and wasn't very attack-oriented.

Big Loser #1: Dick Gephardt. Time to pack it in. When you finish a distant fourth in a state you won 16 years ago, that's not a good sign. The media will be happy about this, as they like the cost-cutting involved with narrowing the field. So will the set-designers for the debates.

We need you in the house, Dick. You're a good guy who, unfortunately, ran a *glulgh* campaign.

Big Loser #2: Howard Dean. His third-place finish in Iowa will be viewed as more of a defeat than it actually was. Dean never had a commanding lead in Iowa (Gephardt even held the lead at times), but his perceived national frontrunner status made it look like Dean's to lose. Unlike Gephardt, however, Dean has a chance to turn it around in New Hampshire. Let's face it, Iowa ain't that significant, the amount of delegates it offers are meager compared to those of subsequent state primaries.

Some pundits, including MSNBC's Howard Fineman (who's been on Dean's case like no other pundit for months now), attribute Dean's 3rd-place finish to the Doctor/Governor being a victim of his own frontrunnerhood, in two respects: 1) He was attacked on all sides, including Kerry, Gep, Lieberman, the Club for Growth, the RNC, etc, and 2) His campaign, at least in terms of his message, was overcome by a bout of complacence. Both of these are probably fair assessments, and this could give Dean's campaign the kick in the rear it might need.

Almost-As-Big Loser: Wesley Clark. The two candidates he needed to do poorly --Kerry and Edwards-- rocked the house. This spells trouble for the General in New Hampshire and the early February states. Kerry will now seriously cut into his military support types, and Edwards will cramp his southern accent appeal. A lot can happen in a week though, so we'll see.

Interesting Tidbit #1: Okay, I'm annoyed by this "entrance polling" ran by the networks, where caucusers were polled as they were arriving at the precinct. Nevertheless, the networks have been throwing around one really interesting statistic. It seems that they asked the ingoing caucusers whether they supported the decision to invade Iraq, and a whopping 75% did not support it, compared to 24% who did. But then they looked at the candidate distribution among the 75% who opposed war in Iraq, and the numbers were very interesting, something like this:
Kerry 34
Dean 24
Edwards 24
Gephardt (some lower number)
Other (some other lower number)
So the question is, since opposition to the war has been Howard Dean's bread-and-butter issue in the campaign so far, the one position which gave him the most attention, why didn't it help him when three-quarters of the electorate were on his side of the issue?

One possibility is that Iowans punished Gephardt and Dean for running negative campaigns (against eachother) while they rewarded Kerry and Edwards for running positive ones. This seems too simplistic for me. I think voters are looking for a candidate with backbone, and enough energy to go after an opponent, cuz they'll need that against Bush. At first glance, this would explain Kerry's victory, though. But it wasn't that Kerry had been attacking Dean. It was that he'd being doing so in a lame, sniveling, pathetic way, often taking the bait of RNC press releases and using them against Dean. Or simply by saying "I agree!" when Gep attacked him.

There may have been a positive/negative dynamic in the election. The more likely possibility, though, is that something else was in the mix:

Interesting Tidbit #2: "Electability". Note the quote marks. First of all, let me say this, absolutely loud and clear: The big 5 candidates -- Dean, Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards and Clark -- are all electable! All of them, if place in the ring with George W Bush, would give the little legacy deserter the fight of his life. I don't support Dean because I take it on faith that he's more electable than Clark or Kerry, and I'm in the opinion that the reverse should be the case as well.

With that out of the way, I think that the mock-issue of electability played a big part in John Kerry's victory in Iowa, as well as John Edwards' strong showing. The triple-threat of the mainstream media, Republican pundits and unnamed Democratic sources in articles (usually from rival campaigns) have combined to make the mythical concept of electability a real campaign issue. Kerry and Edwards rode the conventional wisdom on electability to strong showings tonight, because they fostered a perception of electability.

It's still true, however, that any candidate who secures the nomination will have been put through his paces in the primaries, and will be battle-tested, and thus, highly capable of being competitive in the general election. Nevertheless, if we are merely to scratch the surface, a candidate with strong military credentials like Kerry could be perceived as more "electable". Further into a campaign, however, this disparity between Kerry and, say, Dean, wouldn't matter as much, in my opinion.

But Brendan, you're a vocal Dean supporter, shouldn't you be upset about tonight's results? No, I'm not upset at all. In fact, the best approximation of my reaction to Iowa would be that I find the results [data] intriguing [/data]. First of all, if Howard Dean is to be the nominee, he will have to show that he can overcome adversity during the campaign itself, moreso than just being relatively unknown a year ago. Secondly, I am very enthused that John Kerry's campaign has sprung back to life in smashing fashion. The more strong candidates in a campaign, the better. Thirdly -- and I like this the most -- tonight's shocking Kerry victory will send the right wing into panic mode, or at least confusion mode. The Bushies and the RNC have been preparing for (or drooling at, whatever) the possibility of a Dean candidacy in the general election, and even if Dean eventually wins the nomination, this development will still complicate things for the Republicans until then.

Of course, after the New Hampshire Primary next week, everything could be completely different. Stay tuned...

Kevin Drum notices that from the description he gives of a good set of policies for a presidential candidate, Sully would love Wes Clark. But alas, Sully won't support him for a more important reason... he hugged Michael Moore. What a great blog he's got there.
One more quick link before I leave for the afternoon on undisclosed errands...

Via BuzzFlash, the Bill O'Reilly Iraq WMD Apology Countdown Clock

In this case, it should be countup, but that'll have to do.
Great Boondocks from sunday.
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern talks about some of the wee problems the Bushies face in drafting the SOTU speech, one of which is the order that was given by Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, to destroy all of Iraq's WMD in 1991.
Documentary corroboration that Kamel's order was carried out surfaced this month in a handwritten letter obtained by Barton Gelman of The Washington Post. The letter was written by Hossam Amin, director of the Iraqi office overseeing U.N. inspectors, five days after Kamel's defection. It confirms that Iraq had in fact destroyed its entire inventory of biological weapons during the summer of 1991, before U.N. inspectors even knew of their existence.

Does this mean that Kamel's testimony had been known in Washington and London more than seven years before Bush's address last January, and that during that entire period no evidence had come to light poking holes in the information he provided? Yes.

Well, maybe they didn't tell the president. If that is true, ''they'' should be fired.

There is, I suppose, a chance that Bush's advisors missed the information from Kamel's debriefing -- or forgot it. But Newsweek on Feb. 24, 2003, reported Kamel's assertion that the weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed. That was more than three weeks before our troops were sent into Iraq, ostensibly to ''disarm'' Iraq of those same weapons.

Both Bush and Vice President Cheney have accorded Kamel fulsome praise as defector par excellence, emphasizing his revelations about the Iraqi biological and chemical weapons but not mentioning that Kamel also said that those same weapons were destroyed at his order in 1991. This brings the practice of ''cherry-picking'' intelligence information to new heights -- or lows.
For more SOTU fun, here's SK Bubba's drinking game substitute, the Donate to Habitat for Humanity game.

As you may have heard, the first bit of major fallout from Dubya's new let's-make-me-look-visionary space program is the death of the Hubble Telescope.
There will be no more servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has announced, leaving one of the agency's most spectacularly successful projects to die a slow death.

The decision, announced late on Friday, is the first serious fallout from President George W Bush's new plan for the US space program. One part of this is to scrap the space shuttle fleet in 2010.
When I heard about this, cynic that I am, my first thought was "how does the Bush right wing gain from the end of the Hubble?" After all, as Shakespeare wrote, "this effect defective comes by cause".

And then it hit me. The Hubble Space Telescope allowed humans to see further into the universe than ever before. We've even seen newly-created stars, the ever-distant effects of the post-Big-Bang expansion of the universe. And gee whiz, why wouldn't Christian conservatives want us to see, in action, how the universe was formed?

That's why the Pat Robertson types will eat up the Mars plan. The closer to Earth we aim the resources of our space program, the further away the proof that the world is, alas, older than six thousand years.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


I've warmed up to General Clark in the past month or so. I think he's running the campaign right now that he would have been months ago if he had entered the race earlier. My two quibbles about Clark's campaign so far are that he does not have the organizational support that Howard Dean has, and that his campaign wont be as agile in responding to criticism, bullshit or not, as the Dean campaign has been.

Well, you can scratch that second one, because I love what he's doing about sweater-gate. Yep, he's auctioning off his now-famous argyle sweater and donating the proceeds to program that benefits homeless veterans.

So, in a strange way, Maureen Dowd has proven herself very useful indeed! (link via The Horse)

His wife made a campaign appearance. Now let's all calm down.

Dean's website has set up a complete coverage-roundup site for Iowa and then New Hampshire, called BloggerStorm. I'm not sure why, but that name has quite a ring to it.

Zogby's daily tracking poll for the day before the Iowa caucus shows --- surprise surprise --- a close race. We'll see what happens.

Also, Kerry, perhaps building off his Iowa momentum, is back on the cusp of 2nd place in New Hampshire. (Dean 28%, Clark 20%, Kerry 19%) This is good news for Dean, who would like to see Clark and Kerry slug it out against eachother, with Dean coming out the unscathed victor.

Prof Gordon has recommended the first 3 columns of Friedman's "War of Ideas" series to his PS129 students through his list-server. I wonder if he'll bother with this one.
In sum, Israel should withdraw from the territories, not because it is weak, but because it must remain strong; not because Israel is wrong, but because Zionism is a just cause that the occupation is undermining; not because the Arabs would warmly embrace a smaller Israel, but because a smaller Israel, in internationally recognized boundaries, will be much more defensible; not because it will eliminate Islamic or European anti-Semitism, but because it will reduce it by reducing the daily friction; not because it would mean giving into an American whim, but because nothing would strengthen America's influence in the Muslim world, help win the war of ideas and therefore better protect Israel than this.

The Bush team rightly speaks of bringing justice to Iraq. It rightly denounces Palestinian suicide madness. But it says nothing about the injustice of the Israeli land grab in the West Bank. The Bush team destroyed the Iraqi regime in three weeks and has not persuaded Israel to give up one settlement in three years. To think America can practice that sort of hypocrisy and win the war of ideas in the Arab-Muslim world is a truly dangerous fantasy.
I've had many discussions with friends, students, colleagues and others about the future of Israel, and some of those discussions were more memorable than others. Over time my position has evolved, but there is a central truth that is blindly accepted and never questioned in the media, particularly here in America lately: The equating of being "pro-Israel" and supporting an aggressive Likudnik Sharonist policy of continued and increased settlements as well as the continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is not only wrong, but it's also very similar to the war of issue-framing that is ongoing in American political discourse (for example, the right wing's ownership of "Christian values" and "Family values").

The strongest position Israel can have is one where they aren't in a state of constant antagonization of their neighbors by virtue of their geographically aggressive policy. If Israel pulled out and found itself behind internationally-legitimate borders, in addition to the Hezbollah-related consequences outlined by Friedman, there would be a growing disconnect in the adjacent Arab countries between the long-standing distaste for Israel for who they are, and opinion on Israel's policy choices.

Friedman really hits the nail right on the head here.

No no no, it's not what you think.

Sure, you can make that argument regarding his recess appointment of cross-burning apologist Charles Pickering to the Federal bench. I don't think Bush is an out-and-out racist, as in that he hates people of other colors. However I do think that Bush really likes the votes he gets from hideous racists, and whether that's just as bad is a judgement call for you to make. (I think it's pretty damn bad)

But here's the more interesting way to make the Bush=racist argument. He used his executive power to appoint Pickering to the bench during the congressional recess . . . instead of renominating and appointing Miguel Estrada! Remember the mock-outrage the right showed against Senate Democrats for holding up his nomination, calling them "anti-hispanic"? This disingenuous vitriol shot out of such holes-in-the-earth as the Washington Times, the WSJ editorial page, the Weekly Standard, and notably the National Review, particularly their blog, The Corner.

So guys, where's your outrage now??? Bush spent his political capital on someone else, instead of Estrada! Why didn't h-- Oh, what's that you say? Bush is a Republican? Ohh, I get it.