The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Via Calpundit, Jimmy Carter is blogging from Africa.
O-Dub has a funny take on Bush's WMD commission: The OJ Simpson Commission.

Chris of Interesting Times makes a point about the parallel WMD intel investigations both here and on Airstrip One (comparing the Hutton report and Kay's testimony):
The interesting thing in both of these cases was that the investigating party may have over done it with the exonerations by trying to push the idea that both Blair and Bush are completely innocent parties in this and did absolutely nothing wrong. Even supporters of both governments are a little taken back by that kind of blanket statement and it encourages critics to just stand their and say "Yeah right!" and for many in between to agree with the latter.

In other words, both Hutton and Kay would have served their masters better if they had found some kind of minor thing to slap them on the wrist with. Instead, they went for the complete innocence pronunciation. A verdict that has increased skepticism among the general public and, even worse, within the media.
Certainly, part of the up-is-downist strategy of the Bushies on Iraq, and most anything else, is a belief that the American people will swallow most anything.

On the other hand, the idea of having Kay out there completely exonerating the administration ("it was all the CIA's fault!") also has parallels with Bush's policies in other areas: It's the go-for-broke and get-most-of-what-you-want strategy. A ridiculous tax cut proposal in 2001 ($1.8 trillion, though much higher down the road) is whittled down in conference ($1.3 trillion) but works its way back close to the original amount when passed and signed ($1.6 trillion).

Now, the Bush executive order creating the WMD commission to investigate the CIA's gathering of intelligence (but no, not how the White House actually used it) is the equivalent swing-for-the-fence, and they're hoping they can get at least a triple out of it, they'll get a near-slap on the wrist, but it would be enough for them to declare the matter "settled".

(and no, that's a different triple from the one Dubya thought he hit, rather than being born on third)

They think that this strategy will work because, as they see it, they control the rules and the goalposts (okay, mixed metaphor, sue me). The lack of subpoena power for the commission (which wasn't the case with "The Committee to Investigate President Blowjobs", as Susan puts it over at Suburban Guerrilla), the appointment of yes-men like GOP hack Laurence Silberman (go read Brock's Book), and the limiting of the scope of the investigation to the CIA's actions (and not Cheney/Feith's intel end-run around the Agency) show their control of the rules. But this is not a policy proposal, this is about decisions that led to massive losses of life: 600+ coalition deaths, at least several thousand Iraqi civilians, UN diplomats and many others. And in a political climate where many are questioning whether every recent Bush action has been blatantly political, this commission will fall under the same public microscope, if not now, then soon.

In other words, I'm inclined to agree with Chris that the WMD strategy employed by Bush, through Kay and the commission, will cause more problems for them than it will solve.

Via Mark Kleiman, (who found it via Volokh) check out these lesser-known conversion tables. A few examples:
Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter: Eskimo Pi

Speed of a tortoise breaking the sound barrier: Mach Turtle

365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it's less filling: 1 lite year

But please, read the rest, there's much more.
Slate's Dennis Cass reviews Dennis Miller's new show, and it's about what I would have expected, were I able to stomach it for more than 6 minutes the first and last time I watched it:
So what does it mean to go from left-leaning, Dada-ist wisenheimer to tell-it-like-it-is, right-wing blowhard? First, you need new friends. Miller has always had an ingratiating interview style, but on his new show he kisses so much Republican ass, even the objects of Miller's newfound affection look uncomfortable. Check out Arnold Schwarzenegger's frozen grin when Miller tells the California governor that he has an "infectious" accent, or watch Rudolph Giuliani avert his eyes when Miller says the former mayor has both compassion and "balls the size of a Macy's balloon." Like a former smoker who can't pass up the opportunity to tell you that cigarettes kill, Miller is quick to remind both guest and viewer which side he's now on. Sometimes Miller's new convictions come out en passant, like when he needlessly mentions he's going to vote for Bush in November, while other times he is more insistent. For example, while talking with Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff about the fact that the administration ignored dissenting intelligence concerning the existence of WMD in Iraq, Miller broke in when he didn't like where his guest was going. "Listen," said Miller. "Guys like Cheney, quite frankly, get paid to quash dissent. In a world where it's really dangerous, he's got to make a call at some point. I want Dick Cheney on that wall. I need Dick Cheney on that wall!"
I haven't seen a circle-jerk like this since orgy-night in the House of Plantagenets! Yeah, babe.

Newsweek joins the under-50-percent brigade on Bush.

Bush also loses on both re-elect and one-on-one to Kerry by 50-45 margins.

Friday, February 06, 2004


A lot of people are getting in on the act to make suggestions to Tim Russer as to what questions he should (but of course, won't, at least forcefully) ask Dubya on sunday.

David Corn of The Nation.

Brad Delong.

Joe Conason of Salon.


ABC's The Note.

And Roger Ailes has advice for viewers regarding what to look for:
Look for (1) "hard questions" phrased in such an open-ended manner that Bush can answer them in any way he likes ("you're a fiscal conservative, but what about the deficit?," "is this country really safer since 9/11?"); (2) no gotcha quotes, unanticipated topics or facts and figures; (3) ample opportunity to either bash the Dems or claim the high road ("I'm too busy protecting the country to pay attention to what the Democrats say").

Just when I was really warming up to John Kerry, he might have a little problem on his hands.

Compare these two statements on the Massachusetts State Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

First, John Kerry:
I have long believed that gay men and lesbians should be assured equal protection and the same benefits - from health to survivor benefits to hospital visitation - that all families deserve. While I continue to oppose gay marriage, I believe that today's decision calls on the Massachusetts state legislature to take action to ensure equal protection for gay couples. These protections are long over due.
Second, Howard Dean:
I believe firmly that we must do everything in our power to assure that all citizens of the United States are afforded equal rights under the law -- and that includes gay as well as straight couples. As Governor of Vermont, I was proud to sign the nation's first law establishing civil unions for same-sex couples. Today's decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court represents a different approach to the same goal. One way or another, states should afford same-sex couples equal treatment under law in areas such as health insurance, hospital visitation and inheritance rights.

Some in Washington will use this decision to justify the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This would be the first constitutional amendment to authorize discrimination, and I oppose it. Marriage is a matter of state law, and gay bashing has no place in the
Which one is better?

See, the reason the right is so gleeful that same-sex marriage is probably going to be a significant election issue is that not only do they think it'll give them a chance to play the "out of step" card on the Democrats, but also because they think it'll be a wedge issue for the Dems, pitting the "I'm for civil unions" types against both the "let states decide" contingent and the "without full marriage it isn't equal protection" people.

Kerry's statement, while usefully referring to the variety of equal rights he supports for same-sex couples, plunges him directly into first of the three just-mentioned categories. Dean's statement, remarkably, manages to transcend all three categories without being a dodge. "Different approach to the same goal" is a rhetorical master-stroke. Dean knows that the Republicans have a divide&conquer scheme in mind when they openly float the idea of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Kerry's statement reveals him to be either careless or ignorant on that factor. While Dean says "one way or another", Kerry says "one way... but not that way."

Atrios has more.
Paul has the numbers from the newest AP/Ipsos poll on Bush. Let's just say that they jive with all of the other recent numbers that have come about. My one teaser for those who have a phobia of clicking on links is: 50% disapproval...

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Ron Suskind, author of the bestselling book The Price of Loyalty, profiling former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's experiences with the administration, has begun posting on his website a big chunk of the thousands of pages of documents that were source material for the book. Go check it out.
I just noticed over at John Kerry's downloads page that he's offering a wallpaper of the old picutre of him with John Lennon.


BTW, I'd like to note that I've warmed up to Kerry in recent days, and will feel very comfortable about our chances for ousting Bush if he becomes the nominee.

From now until we have a nominee, the campaign link buttons on the left will be presented in order of which candidate I support the most.

The really bothersome thing about reading Tom Friedman columns like this one is that virtually every post-invasion problem in Iraq he's complained about was easily predictable before Bush's war, yet he supported it anyway.

The Bush administration has done more to polarize the American electorate than any other administration in the last several decades (even Clinton), and Friedman trusted them to help foster a "moderate center" in a recent post-dictatorship?

At least Tom is still telling the hard truths on Israel:
Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, dropped a bombshell this week when he said he was laying plans to withdraw most Israeli settlements in Gaza and to move others in the West Bank. It's not surprising that this potential breakthrough move came from Mr. Sharon, since he has the two other main players in the Arab-Israeli drama under house arrest.

That is, Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he's had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who's ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year — all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing.

Since Mr. Sharon is the only moving object, and because he has suddenly found himself under pressure to move — both to change the subject from the corruption scandal closing in on him and his family and to satisfy an Israeli electorate fed up with the bloody status quo — we may have a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. This is apparently part of a broader Sharon plan to unilaterally create an interim Palestinian state in about 50 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and leave Israel with the rest.

While Mr. Sharon's decision is in the right direction, it's not all so simple. Why? Because in the past two years, Mr. Sharon has crushed Mr. Arafat's corrupt Palestinian Authority, but failed to lift a finger to empower more responsible Palestinians — like Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan. This has created a power vacuum in Gaza and the West Bank, filled by Hamas, the Islamist militant group. And last week, Mr. Sharon turned over 400 Palestinian prisoners to the Islamist Lebanese militia Hezbollah in a prisoner swap, something he was never ready to do with moderate Palestinian leaders.

The message he sent is: use violence, as Hamas and Hezbollah do, and you get results from Israel. Adopt moderation, and you get nothing. If Mr. Sharon just pulls out of Gaza and half of the West Bank soon, he and the Bush team that's in his pocket will reap what he's sown: a Hamas takeover in these areas or civil war.
Friedman dances around a very central point that he implies, but doesn't state in plain English, though I will: Ariel Sharon has no interest in a strong moderate Palestinian leadership. If he actually did anything to foster such trends after locking Arafat in his compound, then Israel would have to withdraw from virtually all of the 1967 West Bank territories (as mandated by UN 242, by the way) rather than merely half of them. With a Hamas-filled power vacuum or open civil war among the Palestinians, Sharon believes he would have a greater ability to deligitimize their claims in the occupied territories. And surrounded by chaos and violence on both sides, Israel would be viewed even more sympathetically.

The interesting thing about Palestine and Iraq is that among the Bushies, the neocons and the Likudniks, the goals in each of those places diverge. It is in all three parties' interest that moderation (or in Bush's case, the appearance of moderation) rises in Iraq. Yet it is in the interests (short-term or not) of all three parties that a moderate center doesn't develop among the Palestinians.

Gephardt to endorse Kerry, according to CBS. The announcement will apparently take place tomorrow morning.

Two ways the media could, and probably, will play this:

1) Gep is sticking it to Dean one last time by timing his endorsement in the days right before Michigan and Wisconsin.
2) Gep wouldn't mind being on the ticket.

Would Gep be a good running mate for Kerry? Certainly he would be a great pro-labor, populist counterpart to Kerry's national security emphasis. This wouldn't necessarily help Kerry much in the South, but electorally, the Dems don't need the South to beat Bush. Gep's history with labor unions would probably be enough to put Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and certainly his home state, Missouri, into play.

That being said, no Democratic ticket should give up on the South, or even say they are. There are a couple of arguments for aggressively pursuing southern voters. The first, obviously, is that the coattails of the presidential campaign will help Democratic congressional and senatorial candidates. Secondly, it would be nice to see the Democrats co-opt the Rove "inevitability" strategy. If the Dems go on the offensive in more Bush-friendly territory, it could fuel the perception that the Bushies are on the defensive, and that the battleground states have shifted in favor of the Democratic ticket, politics being perception and all. This is what the Bush campaign did with California shortly before the 2000 election. Of course, it didn't work, as 500,000 more people voted for the Democrat, and tens of thousands more people in Florida went to the polls with the intent to vote for Gore than for Bush.

If Edwards passes Kerry and wins the nomination, Gep wouldn't make sense as the running mate, as they would both be middle-America populists with union cred. Edwards could choose any number of people, from Clark to Bill Richardson to Bob Graham to anyone else.

Janet Jackson breast super bowl halftime half time show Justin Timberlake why is he in khakis on the 50 yard line breast breast breast shirt rip why is this a big deal the media should stick with one jackson at a time breast breast breast real fake whatever she hasn't recorded anything noteworthy since oh i dunno 1988 breast breast breast janet halftime tivo at least nobody was filming her breast breast breast super bowl janet justin janetbreastjanetbreastjanetbreast janetjanetjanet breastbreastbreastbreast YYYAAAAAHHHRRRRRRR!!!

Okay, there.

Via Marshall, check this out, from UPI:
Federal law-enforcement officials said that they have developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney's office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's identity last year. The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice Department official said.

According to these sources, John Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, were the two Cheney employees. "We believe that Hannah was the major player in this," one federal law-enforcement officer said. Calls to the vice president's office were not returned, nor did Hannah and Libby return calls.
Wow. If true (and there's a long way to go in this investigation), this would spell serious trouble for the administration. Though if you're a Giuliani-VP-replacement conspiracy theorist, then perhaps this plays right into that idea. On the other hand, given the extended timetable of the investigation, actual action on Cheney's underlings might happen too late in the process for him to jump ship.

Over at Calpundit there's a good summary of the Bush-AWOL case.

The really, really short version: He joined the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, got a transfer to Alabama approved in 1972, but apparently never showed up there, and he may have been AWOL from the Texas Guard when he returned, though evidence apparently exists that he did show up in Texas after returning, in the form of a strategically torn document that wasn't in Bush's record until it mysteriously appeared in 1999, after he hired a guy named Albert Lloyd to go through Bush's records. Oh, and Bush still wont release his full records, which would settle this issue once and for all.

My thoughts on the matter are simple: If Bush wont release his full records, then he has something to hide. Period.

I'd like to add myself to the growing chorus of people who want to make Bush's military record a campaign issue, particularly if the Democratic nominee's name ends in "erry" or "lark". Putting Bush and his press secretary on the defensive on the AWOL issue, as the White House press corps actually did a couple of days ago, is worth it despite whatever backlash or response strategy they can muster. Between Bush's military records, Cheney's energy task force records, Bush's refusal to seek out the Plame leaker ("any appearance of corruption", he said), and the administration's reluctance to hand over myriad documents to the 9/11 commission, that's a boatload of secrecy.

Lastly, if on sunday, Tim Russert actually grills Bush on the AWOL issue, then I will quit blogging.

...for the rest of the day

The UC school with the most students registered to vote is . . . Santa Barbara!

Laurie, a recent Berkeley grad, makes the important point that UCB and UCLA have larger populations of international students than UCSB does. Yeah yeah yeah, but it's still fun to say!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Yep, he'll be sitting down with Tim Russert for a full hour this sunday morning.

With that in mind, as well as the hope that Russert might actually give him an actual grilling, let's look at Eric Boehlert's comparison of Bush's last MTP appearance and that of Howard Dean last summer:
During the hour-long sit-down, Dean faced off against a clearly combative host, Tim Russert, who prepared for the interview, in part, by asking the Bush Treasury Department to produce what the Washington Post called a "highly selective" analysis of the Democratic tax program, including rolling back scheduled tax cuts. Later in the program came a pop-quiz question about how many men and women currently serve in the military. When Dean said he didn't know the exact number and complained it was like asking him "who the ambassador to Rwanda is," Russert shot back: "As commander in chief, you should know that." Dean estimated there were between 1 and 2 million men and women in active duty; according to the Pentagon, there are 1.4 million.

What a sharp contrast to '99, when Russert had a warm, respectful one-on-one with then-candidate Bush. When the host sprang a specific policy question on Bush about how many missiles would still be in place if a new START II nuclear weapons treaty were signed, Bush answered: "I can't remember the exact number." But unlike his session with Dean, Russert dropped the topic without lecturing Bush that "as commander in chief, you should know that."
I have no reason to expect any level of improvement this sunday.
Aw nuts, Jonah Goldberg heard about the plan over at Crooked Timber to get The Corner to post fake emails about Democratic candidates.
A blogger called Crooked Timber of Humanity thinks that he's going to slip fake emails into the Corner. Of course, it's always possible. But I'd like to make a few points. First, contrary to his insinuations, you'd be amazed at how many juicey emails I don't post precisely because they have that too good to be true feel to them. Second, while the posts in the Corner may be anonymous, they are virtually never anonymous to me. People sign their names and give their addresses and I choose to withhold them. Third, the vast majority of emails are expressions of opinion not reportage of facts. Last, at this point you'd think most bloggers -- and Corner readers -- understand that some emails should certainly be taken with a grain of salt on the off-chance a correspondent is embellishing. Besides, we run corrections to our own posts and reader emails all the time. But, let "Crooked Timber of Humanity" have his fun. I'm sure he thinks he's being very clever.
He still doesn't quite understand, though: The goals of Ted Barlow from CT (and Atrios as well) were 1) to mock the National Review, and 2) to get them to stop posting such journalistically questionable emails, and not really to dupe NRO into posting fake emails from us Dems. Anyway...
I had a nice chuckle reading Eric Alterman's ideal cabinet for the new Democratic administration, including:
Director of the CIA: Joseph Wilson
Ambassador to Niger: Paul Wolfowitz
Ambassador to Mars: George W. Bush

With a new edition of the California Patriot out, you'll be happy to know that my sister blog, the California Patriot Watch, is back in action.

My first piece: Patriot writer Angela Brewer is terribly sloppy on Dean and Clark, and then is lazy on Edwards and Kerry, all in one article.

Keep checking back, as there are a lot of fish in the Patriot barrel.
President Bush reversed himself Wednesday and said he now supports giving a commission investigating the 9/11 attacks more time to produce a final report.

The commission is scheduled to finish its work on May 27. But panel members last month asked Congress for a two-month extension, citing a need for full analysis of reams of documents about the disaster.

Bush had resisted that request for months, saying through his spokesmen that the administration wanted the panel to complete its work as soon as possible. Privately, White House aides feared that delaying the commission's final report would result in a potentially damaging assessment of the administration's handling of pre-attack intelligence in the heat of a presidential campaign.

On Wednesday, the White House relented, saying it backed moving the deadline to July 26. But White House spokesman Scott McClellan also urged the commission to wrap up its work 30 days after that. If Congress accepts Bush's recommendation, the report would arrive at the end of August, just as the presidential campaign is entering the post-Labor Day final stretch.

"The president is pleased to support the commission's request, and we urge Congress to act quickly to extend the timetable for an additional 60 days for the commission to complete its work,'' McClellan said. The administration changed course because it became convinced the panel needed the extra time, he said. (full story)
Haha, Scott, yeah right. Though delaying the deadline gives the administration plenty of time to develop new reasons to raise the threat level to orange and scare/distract the public.

The interesting thing is that Bush and co. are doing the right thing here, when the alternative was to do the electorally-expedient thing. A positive development for the administration at first glance, but you must keep in mind that 1) They were backed hard into a corner on this one, and 2) They've been blatantly political on everything else lately.

And hmm, this means that the Commission's report will arrive around the same time as Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Maybe Bush thinks those two things will cancel each other out. I doubt it; they'll tell roughly the same story (at least on the pre-war), but in different styles and emphasizing different aspects (certainly the connections between the Bushes and the Bin Ladens will get heavy play in Fahrenheit).

You can see why Dubya wants so badly to capture Osama before November.

Of all the University of California schools, which one has the highest number of students registered to vote?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Hmm, Newsmax has a Bush vs Kerry poll up. They'll send the results to "major media, Congress, the president, and key members of the administration. Additionally, NewsMax's results will be shared with every major radio talk show host in America."

Whaddya say we stuff the ballot box on this one, eh?
That's a lot of Joe in one column there, Bill.
Jim Henley, in a fun way, makes a point about Janet's boob that should have occurred to all of us football fans, particularly those from Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia and Oakland, if you dig.

Via World O'Crap, "Ten Commandments" (ex) Judge Roy Moore wont rule out running for president.
Ousted Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is focused on trying to get his job back but will not rule out a third-party run for the presidency that could threaten President Bush's re-election chances.

At a recent speaking engagement, the man who became famous for his defense of a Ten Commandments monument was asked during a question-and-answer session whether he would run for president, reported Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund.

"Not right now," Moore said, according to Fund, who noted Moore's friends say he is undecided about whether to run for president or to wait two years and seek Alabama's governorship.

Jessica Atterbury, a spokeswoman for Moore, emphasized yesterday to WorldNetDaily Moore is focused on his appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court but indicated he would not rule out a candidacy for the country's highest office.
I was wondering what sort of opposition to Bush's right would form first; whether it would be Pat Robertson-style (a Christian fundamentalist response to the apparent 'cultural pluralism' of, say, letting Iraq and Afghanistan incorporate Islamic law into new constitutions), or if it would be Perot-style (deficit-hawk). With Moore's hintings here, the answer may be the former. I was guessing the latter, but what are you gonna do.

I'm guessing he wont run, though.

This is a stinging editorial on the latest Bush budget farce.
THE BUSH administration's 2005 budget is a masterpiece of disingenuous blame-shifting, dishonest budgeting and irresponsible governing. The administration mildly terms the $521 billion deficit forecast this year "a legitimate subject of concern," but asserts that it has the problem well in hand: The deficit, it assures the country, will be cut in half by 2009. This isn't credible -- and even if it were, it wouldn't be an adequate answer to a problem far more serious than this administration acknowledges.

Having presided over record deficits, the administration now wants to claim credit if it manages to cut the bloated number in half. Imagine someone who's been piling on extra pounds at an alarming rate. Trimming his annual weight gain from 30 pounds this year to 15 pounds five years from now still leaves him fat -- and getting fatter. The goal shouldn't be to cut the deficit in half; it should be to remedy the gap between what the government is spending and what it is taking in. To keep running up these deficits is to stick future generations with a tab they won't be able to afford.
And it gets better from there.

Funny, you'd think that the Post editorial board suddenly got possessed by Krugman. Boy, this sounds familiar:
Of this year's $521 billion deficit, the tax cuts account for $272 billion. In 2009, when the administration projects that it will have cut the deficit to $239 billion, the tax cuts (assuming the administration wins the extension it demanded again yesterday) will cost $183 billion -- in other words, the lion's share of the projected shortfall.

But this low-ball estimate is a mirage. Like the 2005 budget, it doesn't take into account continuing costs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It fails to address the acknowledged problem of the alternative minimum tax, which was aimed at the wealthy but is sweeping in growing numbers of ordinary taxpayers. It doesn't fully fund the administration's long-term defense spending plans. A more accurate picture of the likely deficit in 2009 -- even assuming the administration manages to keep to its stated spending limits -- would put it more than $150 billion higher. And, of course, the surplus in government retirement accounts masks the true size of the shortfall: $501 billion in 2009, even under the administration's fuzzy math.
You know, between the oh-come-on responses to the new budget proposal and the State of the Union address, Bush's sagging polls, the admission of a lack of WMD in Iraq, and even the media grilling Scott McClellan on Bush's AWOL history, maybe we've reached a gimme-a-break critical mass of sorts regarding our administration. Things could be turning around...

UPDATE: Even Tom Friedman is in on the budget-bashing act.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Marshall's latest column in The Hill hits some similar notes.
Over the past month, there’s been a subtle but unmistakable shift in the public perceptions of President Bush. And not one for the better.

The evidence is in the worrisome new poll numbers and the oh-so-speedy effort to get out ahead of the calls for an Iraq inquiry. The press treatment is more sour. And a mix of unease and impatience is starting to emanate from Republican circles.

Some causes are obvious: The rush of approbation over the capture of Saddam Hussein has subsided. The economy, which looked to be on fire six weeks ago, now seems healthy but not remarkable. The WMD imbroglio is back in the headlines. And the sheer magnitude of the fiscal crisis facing the country is again on display.

But the president’s deeper problem stems from increasing doubts that his White House is — to employ an overused phrase — on the level, that every new proposal isn’t simply one more gambit for short-term political gain, regardless of the consequences.

What has helped turn the tide is a string of crass and clumsy political gambits ranging from the president’s immigration proposal to the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t plan for a trip to Mars and the new brouhaha over budgetary shenanigans with the prescription drug plan.

What did these three political plays have in common?

Not one of them was well thought-out on its own terms, and none had much to do with the president’s political agenda.


Kerry wins Delaware, South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and Missouri.

Edwards wins South Carolina decisively over Kerry.

Clark edges out Edwards to win Oklahoma.

Dean picked up 4 delegates. Sharpton picked up 1.

The victories for Clark and Edwards will probably slow Kerry's momentum to the point where his nomination is no longer viewed as Absolutely Inevitable, the way Dean's was from October through early January. This is modestly, very modestly good news for Dean, who needs less Kerry momentum going into the Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin contests in the coming week.

Edwards ought to feel pretty good about the way things went tonight, winning South Carolina by more than any of the pundits and polling organizations had predicted. With Virginia and Tennessee looming just a week from now, Edwards might see an upswing of support come his way in the South.

The national media, who have an interest, mostly financial, in whittling down the field, did not get their wish, with Edwards and Clark performing well enough to remain competitive. Both will probably survive all the way to Super Tuesday, if not further.

If Kerry, or another non-Dean, wins in Michigan and Washington, Dean will probably drop out, as he probably should. Whether he does that or not, it is because of Howard Dean that our current crop of candidates is so strong. He put the fight in their bellies long before it would have been there otherwise.

Just a few minutes ago, I attended a Wesley Clark meetup, sponsored by Gauchos for Clark (if you don't know, UCSB's mascot is the Gaucho, an Argentinian cowboy essentially). Turnout was pretty high, With attendance being around fifty, or thereabouts. In attendance were numerous Clark supporters, a large contingent of non-committed UCSB student voters, UCSB Campus Democrats president Marissa Brown (sporting a hilarious Democrat-themed button on her backpack), and yours truly, wearing a loud shirt.

The bulk of the meetup was devoted to two events. First, as I had guessed, was a viewing of Clark's wonderful 15-minute campaign video, "American Son". But the real main event was a speech, followed by Q&A, from mathematician Theodore "Ted" Hill, who was Clark's classmate and roomate at West Point back in the 1960's. He painted a very interesting picture of Clark, a motivated, funny, dedicated young man, never judgemental or aloof despite his rapid ascent through the ranks of the US Armed Forces. Hill recalled a recent memory, spending time with Clark in Brussels, while he was still Supreme Allied Commander; they apparently threw around a foxtail together, all while being surrounded by NATO bodyguards. Just a genuinely cool man, unpreoccupied with status and such.

If Clark is still an active and viable candidate come Super Tuesday, it is likely that I will vote for him. The more active Clark supporters at the meetup stressed his status of not being "a career politician". Some candidates whose names start with "J" and end with "ohn Kerry" have touted their extensive experience in the lawmaking process in DC as an asset in their chances against Dubya. (another candidate, whose name ends in "ephardt", made that same claim, I might add) There's an argument to be made for that, no doubt. But Rove and company might have a better chance of stopping the Democratic candidate if they had an extensive legislative record, through the many twists and turns of recent American history, that they can distort and misrepresent until the cows come home.

However, one the somewhat accidental advantages of Clark's non-career-politician status is that there isn't a yea-nay log there to distort. His positions are straightforward, he doesnt have to juggle his way through a history of votes that, at least superficially, appear contradictory (in this regard I'm being fair to Kerry, because a large chunk of the crap he has received has been the result of the willful stupidity and mock outrage of those who attack him, not because of actual lack of conviction on his part). All they have on Clark so far is some poorly cherry-picked congressional testimony that made it appear that he supported unilateral action in Iraq. (nevermind that not only does context reveal that he didn't, but also that he was debating against Richard Perle when delivering his testimony)

Should Clark be the nominee, this would certainly help him in debating Dubya (as if the spectacle of a 4-star general debating aWol isn't help enough in and of itself). There will be less of Jim Lehrer and Tim Russert asking questions like "you once voted for X, but now you seem to advocate Y, so why Y now?". (okay, Tim still might try to do that anyway) Clark may have more time to talk about A) his biography, B) his clear positions, and C) Dubya, including what he was (or, wasn't) doing in 1972.

All that being said, an experienced national politician like John Kerry, an experienced state politician like Howard Dean, or a somewhat experienced politician like John Edwards can beat Bush too. Clark's advantage is that in the area of attacks that arise from willful ignorance, distortion of records and votes, he probably gives Karl Rove the least to work with. Now that he's won a primary and will get a greater-than-zero share of the spotlight, they'll certainly try to cook up something to throw at Clark, though I'm not sure what.
As of 6:41PM, Pacific time, CNN has John Kerry as the projected winner in Delaware, North Dakota, Missouri and Arizona.

John Edwards easily won South Carolina over Kerry by around 15%.

Oklahoma, with 70% of the precincts reporting is a 3-way race between Edwards (31%), Clark (30%) and Kerry (26%).

New Mexico's earliest-reporting precincts show a 3-way race between Kerry (27%), Dean! (27%) and Clark (25%).

We might not know about those last two for a while tonight.

My dream scenario is a Clark win in Oklahoma and a Dean win in New Mexico. Spread it wide, baby. For now, I'm off to a Gauchos-for-Clark meeting, though I'm not officially endorsing any particular candidate at this point.

UPDATE: The county-by-county results in New Mexico show similarly close races, so this might not be a fluke early number.
From uggabugga, a visual summation of Bush's WMD investigation.

The big winner in CBS/SuperBowl/Janet'sBreastGate? TIVO!
When Justin Timberlake tore at Janet Jackson's leather outfit during Sunday's Super Bowl half-time show, TiVo users took notice.

Then they took notice again and again, using the digital video recorder to replay the event and to pause at the crucial moment in order to discern just what it was that Jackson had revealed to millions of Americans.

TiVo said that particular halftime stunt was the most replayed moment not only of the Super Bowl but of all TV moments that the young company has ever measured.

TiVo said it used its technology to measure audience behavior among 20,000 users during the Super Bowl. The exercise revealed a 180 percent spike in viewership at the time of the -- as Timberlake refers to it -- "wardrobe malfunction."
(full disclosure: My oldest brother has worked for TiVo since 1999, just as they were starting up)

Yes, I Tivo'd the Super Bowl. But amazingly enough, I didn't even notice the event in question at the time. By the end of the evening, I had deleted the game, since room had to be made for HBO's lineup of The Only Primetime Shows Worth Watching Anymore. (my Tivo box dates back to 1999 and has - sigh - a mere 14 hours of space, while the newest edition has 80)

And since I can't draw a straight line from Tivo to Reuters, this is a real story!

The new Gallup numbers are, shall we say, encouraging.
Bush's job rating:
Approve - 49% (60% in December)
Disapprove - 48% (35% in December)
On the issues, Bush receives over 50% disapproval for his handling of the economy, foreign affairs, Iraq and health care.

Meanwhile, Kerry is hammering his opponents in the marginally-useful national polls, leading Dean and Edwards by more than 30 percent. He's also leading Bush in a one-on-one hypothetical, 53-46. Certainly this is a product of the high level of attention (and curious amount of good press) Kerry has received in the last couple of weeks, botox notwithstanding. Going back to 1999 and early 2000, Dubya led Gore by a substantial margin, sometimes in the high-teens, throughout that period, and we know how that turned out. It's good to see the Dems ahead of that pace at this point. (Edwards also tops Bush in a hypothetical matchup, and Dean trails Dubya by seven, not a large amount at all)

It seems that the Weekly Standard has decided that making fun of John Kerry's appearance is the way to go for the cover of their latest issue.

Monday, February 02, 2004


Awesome game, particularly from about the halfway point of the 2nd quarter on.

And it ended on a Viniateri special delivery. That's about right.

Reliant Stadium looked really good, and despite its Texas location, it passes Qualcomm as my favorite Super Bowl venue.

And for you XFL fans, you'll be happy to know that the first and last man to hold the ball in the Super Bowl was none other than Rod "He Hate Me" Smart.

Lastly: Thanks, CBS and MTV, for a halftime show that featured the "greatest" hits of, oh, 2001-2. We now know of the awesome staying power of "Bad Boy for Life". And no, I didn't notice Janet's boob.
Matthew Yglesias posts something we should all keep in a 3x5 card in our wallets, regarding the recent attempt by various Republicans and other supporters of the war to blame the WMD problems on the CIA:
Suddenly over the past 48 hours every single figure on the right seems to have come to a unanimous decision that the CIA and the CIA alone is wholly to blame for the intelligence mishaps. But then why did Dick Cheney need to create an entire parallel intelligence apparatus under Doug Feith dedicated exclusively to explaining why the CIA was underestimating Iraq's WMD capacity?
Kevin has some good analysis here. And all this isn't new news.

As for the CIA, will they really be the fall guy here? With the Plame leak investigation (which they asked for) still ongoing, the CIA isn't likely to respond to the latest round of White House buck-passing by simply laying down, right?

Over at If Six Was Nine, an apparently awesome David Bowie concert is reviewed, check it out.

(Too bad he neglected "Soul Love"! Ah well, can't have everything I guess.)