Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year!

And hopefully new President, new Congress, new economy.

Yep, we need lots of new. And to my new readers, thanks, I hope you're enjoying my new blog.

I'll probably see you between bowl games tomorrow. Till then, take care.

There's time for one more shot... Howard Dean this year, and I'll graciously step aside and let Scott Lehigh of the Boston Globe take it.

"With the Democratic front-runner in High Howard mode, his gaffe-a-week campaign is giving his party pause and his opponents ammunition. So much so that Dean, after having spent a year unfairly flaying his rivals as craven cave-ins to George W. Bush, is now crying foul because they are finally returning fire. And issuing not so oblique threats that if he's not made the nominee, he'll take his supporters and go home."

"Troubling as Dean's regular stumbles are, what's even more disconcerting is the battle the former Vermont governor seems to want to wage with a winning Democratic philosophy."

Just the facts

Just once, maybe HoHo could make that his mantra.

The Des Moines Register reports that "...Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt accused Dean, a former Vermont governor, of making an "absurd" claim in a Wisconsin newspaper that Dean was the only candidate from a farm state. Gephardt said Missouri has 110,000 farms, and Vermont has 6,600."

You'd think a rural guy like Howard would know that.

Anybody but Ashcroft

Anytime, anywhere, any subject. Anything.

The less John Ashcroft is involved, regardless of the subject at hand, the better off we all are. Thus, the news that he's recused himself from the Plame case is good news indeed, and US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald seems to get high marks.

Still, I'm not getting too excited until I see indictments, and I won't be too delighted unless Mr. Rove is on the list.

To not know him... to love him?

The New York Times follows the Governor south and meets a fan.

Tuesday's appearance made it clear that some voters were still trying to sort out the candidates. Ernest Nance, 69, who lives in Wedgefield, said of Dr. Dean: "He's solid, and he's from North Carolina."

Actually, that is Senator John Edwards.

Given all the things I've said... in the heck can I support Howard Dean if he's the Democratic nominee? That question was posed in the comments to an earlier post, and my answer was pretty much boiler-plate ABB. After all, I'm a Democrat, and I've come around after some pretty bloody primary battles in years past. If you think I'm tough on Dean, you should have heard some of the things I said about Bill Clinton, and kept saying until I cast my vote for Jerry Brown on the floor of the '92 Democratic National Convention.

I came around, though. Of course, it was made easier by the Clinton campaign, who actually sent National Campaign Manager David Wilhelm (now a Kerry endorser) out to the Washington State Democratic Convention to meet with representatives of the contending campaigns and assure us there was room under the Clinton tent when the time came.

Howard Dean has taken a somewhat different tack, seeming to push people into various categories of enemy, whether it's calling Democratic Congresspersons cockroaches, tagging the DLC as the Republican wing of the Party or generally dismissing anyone who defers from his personal vision as Bush-lite.

Will Saletan observes the Dean approach in Slate, and offers a noteworthy comment.

"Each time an opponent counterattacks, Dean's campaign exhorts his followers to send the opponent a message by sending Dean money. "It's a polite way of saying where you can take it," Dean explained Friday. But after a while, telling people where they can take it becomes a problem. The list of constituencies to whom you've given the finger grows. "Them" starts to outnumber "us." "

And there, increasingly, is my problem. When it comes to Democratic politics, I like to think of myself as part of "us." More and more, though, Dean and the Deaners I encounter are making me feel like some kind of "them." And if I, a hard line Yellow Dog Democrat, feel that way, how many folks have we already lost?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The eyes of Pullman are upon you

Washington State Cougars


Texas Longhorns

Yep, sometimes underdogs come back to win in the 2nd half...

...when they're the Real Deal.

That's John, with an 'h'

A timely email informs me that Iowa voters are hearing from an old friend of Al and Howie, Chris Peterson...

"You may recall my role in the debate between Vice President Al Gore and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley in 1999. I stood up during the debate to ask why, in 1993, Bill Bradley opposed important flood relief that would have made a world of difference to farmers like me. Now, four years later, we again have a Democrat U.S. Senator from an industrial state running for President in Iowa who voted against the very same flood relief legislation that would have benefited rural Iowans." [Dean campaign press release, 12/30/03]

But the Gore-inspired Dean attack was just wrong. Senator JOHN KERRY voted FOR the Harkin amendment. Senator BOB KERREY voted against it.

It was a cheap shot when Gore used it against Bradley in '99 - Bradley voted for the $4.8 billion flood relief bill, to which the Harkin amendment was a proposed $900 million attachment. This time, it's just a flat out lie.

And while Howard Dean, son of rural Park Avenue, tries to play the regional card, let's remember that Sen. KERREY, who did oppose the Harkin amendment, was from that bastion of rust belt industrialization, Nebraska.

Uh-oh, HoHo. Maybe Terry should do something to stop these lies and distortions!

Did I mention...

I'm A Cougar Dad

and a Holiday Bowl victory is at hand!

Go Cougs!

...I'm a Husky Dad, too, but they're off this week.

Remind me, please...

...why people are paying so much attention to Donna Brazile this year? Sure, she's in everyone's Rolodex since her last job, but that didn't work out so well, did it?

Here's the latest wisdom from Brazile, commenting on Clark's use of an old stock photo of Bill Clinton pinning a medal on him.

"It's a brilliant stroke," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic consultant who ran the 2000 campaign of Al Gore, Clinton's vice president. "It shows General Clark as someone who is close to Bill Clinton. This will help him galvanize Democratic primary voters. They love Bill Clinton."

Well, yeah, Donna. They love him. So why did you let your last client run away from the 8 years he spent joined at the hip to a beloved, galvanizing, successful President? And since you did, why do you matter?

New numbers for the new year

ARG has released a new tracking poll in New Hampshire, and Dean's down 8 points, to 37, compared to their December 17 survey. It's the only move that's outside the 4% +/- for the previous poll.

Kerry's down one, to 19%, but still closes the gap by 7. The other number worth noting is Wes Clark, who moves back into double digits (but still short of the delegate threshold) with a 4 point climb to 12. The undecideds are up 3, as well, to 18. It's hard to read a trend for Kerry, Clark or the unknowns, though, because their changes are all within the MOE.

The December 17 numbers showed a sharp climb in Dean's unfavorable ratings, and it looks like that's beginning to show up in voter preferences. Kerry's still not where he needs to be, but an 18 point gap is a lot easier to close than a 25 point gap, and things are headed in the right direction for now.

Update: Since I blogged this, the latest three day track is up at the ARG site. Kerry gives up a point to Gep, who moves to 5, but that's insignificant given the MOE. Everything else holds. Dean and Kerry are still the only candidates polling above the 15% delegate threshold.

Would someone tell this man... put that finger away?


One reason...

...that Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo is one of the most respected, and most valuable, spots in the blogosphere is that he's a first rate reporter. Another, I must admit, is that he tends to avoid the Presidential pissing match in which I take such perpetual glee, usually focusing on weightier material.

When he does check in on the dueling Dems, though, you can be sure it's over something that's worth your attention. This entry certainly is.

Here's the heart of it.

"I don't care if Dean says he'll endorse whoever wins. He's playing the defection card. And that crosses the line.

I don't doubt that it would be hard to reconcile some Dean supporters to another Democratic nominee. But that's not the point. By saying it, he's leveraging it, and encouraging it.

The price of admission to the Democratic primary race is a pledge of committed support to whomever wins the nomination, period. (The sense of entitlement to other Democrats' support comes after you win the nomination, not before.) If Dean can't sign on that dotted-line, he has no business asking for the party's nomination."

You can take my views as you find them. I confess to having a dog in this fight. Marshall doesn't, though, as far as I know, and I take some comfort in finding myself in full agreement with him here.

Once again, I'm humbled... the eloquence of one of my on-line compatriots. This time it's Peter Dow, writing for the official Kerry blog.

"John Kerry is a sincere and principled man, but knowing that is not enough to make a decision in an election this pivotal. There are a number of character traits that any Dem candidate must display in order to best represent the core values of the party, rewrite the language of division that splits American from American, establish civility in our political discourse, and provide a sense of comfort and security to an angry and frightened nation: Dedication, Insight, Leadership, Strength, Flexibility, Knowledge, Experience, Bravery, Wisdom and Balance.

On all counts, John Kerry shines. And he combines all the above attributes with an unassailable three-decade record of standing for core Democratic principles. John Kerry will make an outstanding Democratic nominee and an exceptional president."

Exactly so.

I missed an important point...

earlier, distracted as I was by my (not so) fond remembrance of the Ron Brown era at the DNC. Happily, the New Republic made it for me (though the emphasis is all mine).

"...Dean pined for the days when Democrats had a party leader strong enough to stop attacks on the frontrunner. "If Ron Brown were the chairman, this wouldn't be happening," Dean lamented. Actually, if Ron Brown were the chairman, Howard Dean wouldn't be happening. "

Monday, December 29, 2003

A plug for the home team... in order.

What kind of native son would I be if I didn't remember to congratulate the Seattle Seahawks for making the playoffs this year? A combination of winning their final game and getting a little help around the league pits them against the Green Bay Packers in the first round next week.

And if I wasn't down on Dean enough already, there's this...

The ghost of Party past

"If Ron Brown were the chairman, this wouldn't be happening."

So sayeth Howard.

Invoking the patron saint of Clintonism and the DLC may seem a strange way for Howard Dean to appeal for relief from his critics, but it's even stranger, given his penchant for shouting "You have the power!" and proclaiming the glory of the grassroots.

Ron Brown was the quintessential Washington insider and one of the most autocratic DNC chairs in my memory. For me, the lasting image of Ron Brown as DNC chair is a man banging a huge gavel demanding attention and order while hundreds of convention delegates filed before him, gagged in silent protest of his gag order against Jerry Brown, then a candidate for the nomination who was forbidden to address the Convention by Ron Brown's order.

Yeah. Howard Dean's all about people power. His people, his power.


At least I'm not alone

The LA Times takes a look at the real unemployment numbers.

"The nation's official jobless rate is 5.9%, a relatively benign level by historical standards. But economists say that figure paints only a partial — and artificially rosy — picture of the labor market.

To begin with, there are the 8.7 million unemployed, defined as those without a job who are actively looking for work. But lurking behind that group are 4.9 million part-time workers such as Gluskin who say they would rather be working full time — the highest number in a decade.

There are also the 1.5 million people who want a job but didn't look for one in the last month. Nearly a third of this group say they stopped the search because they were too depressed about the prospect of finding anything. Officially termed "discouraged," their number has surged 20% in a year.

Add these three groups together and the jobless total for the U.S. hits 9.7%, up from 9.4% a year ago."

Can we just pin the note on every campaign bulletin board now?

"It's the (non) jobs, stupid."

The joke's on you...

...if you believed Howard Dean's protestations that he was only kidding when he told Vermont Public Radio that his records were sealed to avoid future political embarassment.

According to the New York Times "An examination of the correspondence between (Dean counsel) Mr. Rocchio and (state archivist) Mr. Sanford shows that future political considerations were indeed a part of the discussion."

"In an Aug. 21, 2002, memorandum to Mr. Rocchio, Mr. Sanford said he was asked to "further develop the idea" that the term for the sealed documents might be automatically extended if Dr. Dean were a presidential candidate when it expired."

hohoho, HoHo. Who's laughing now?

Are you a neo-con?

Do you find yourself idly musing that "Hey, Wolfowitz has a point about those Koreans," or maybe "Rummy only seemed slightly delusional at that last press conference."?

Well you may be a neo-con and not even know it! The Christian Science Monitor offers this handy on-line quiz that will reveal all.

(I flunked. Falling short of the neo-com mark, I was judged a "Realist." It's notable, though, that realism and neo-conservatism are separater categories for the CSM.)

Credit The Rittenhouse Review for the pointer.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Cheney-lite, anybody?

WASHINGTON - "Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean has demanded release of secret deliberations of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force. But as Vermont governor, Dean had an energy task force that met in secret and angered state lawmakers.

Dean's group held one public hearing and after-the-fact volunteered the names of industry executives and liberal advocates it consulted in private, but the Vermont governor refused to open the task force's closed-door deliberations.

In 1999, Dean offered the same argument the Bush administration uses today for keeping deliberations of a policy task force secret. "

I have an opinion about this, but I think I'll just keep it between me and my 'advisors'...

Dean's shakedown strategy

This report (via Politus) raises some serious questions about a candidate who has pledged to support his party's nominee.

"If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go?" he said during a meeting with reporters. "I don't know where they're going to go. They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician."

Well, no, they're probably not if they're among those who were attracted to the Dean campaign's steady drumbeat of attacks on "Washington Democrats." That's one reason that so many of us are concerned about the prospects of a national ticket led by a candidate who has ranted for over a year that the national party has no value, and no values. His analysis is demonstrably wrong, but it's a sad truth that in some cases demagogy works, and Howard Dean is nothing if not a master demagogue.

It's not as bad as he'd have us believe, though. I don't know how he counts the million voters who've apparently not shown up at his website, but there are serious doubts about the fealty of the half million who have. After all, when he called on the faithful to assist him in making what was touted as "the most important" decision of the campaign (withdrawing his pledge to remain within the public funding program), only a fraction responded. Getting on an email list is no guarantee of support, and many early adopters have long since abandoned the Dean campaign, although their registration is still counted among the supporters.

Still, even a couple hundred thousand votes is important, and Howard Dean's open refusal to encourage them to vote as Democrats, regardless of the convention outcome, is disturbing. I know he's counting on Party regulars, many of us supporters of so-called "conventional Washington politicians," to fall in line. He knows that if we don't he's sunk. Through his continual attacks on the Party he proposes to lead and the elected officials who represent it, he risks losing some, perhaps much, of that support.

I'm certain that all of his opponents in the primary contest will endorse him if he's the nominee. It's the "conventional" thing to do. But as he admits himself, in some cases, political support is "...not transferable. That's why endorsements are great but they don't guarantee anything."

Some of us just won't be strongarmed.

Oh well

Hard on the heels of Wes Clark dashing the hopes many held for a Dean/Clark ticket, John Edwards deliverers hard news to the camp that had been thinking along Kerry/Edwards lines (yeah, that includes me...)

He sounds pretty definite. "I'm absolutely not interested in being vice president. No, the answer to that question is no."

You mean, never?

Some companies may need re-regulation...

...some may just need a little adult supervision. Howard Dean's record doesn't provide much encouragement regarding his supervision skills, though.

A Boston Globe story reports that "As governor of Vermont, Howard Dean presided over the creation of a program that authorized $80.1 million in corporate tax credits without verifying that many of the companies had made good on promises to bring new jobs and investments to Vermont..."

The result? "...the credits had probably cost the state more money than they had brought in and had contributed to a 44 percent decline in corporate tax receipts, from $57 million to $32 million, between fiscal years 1999 and 2002."

This isn't something that just slipped by without Dean noticing. That would be bad enough. Rather, an independent audit found that "Dean urged the council members evaluating bids for the tax credits to relax their inquiry into whether companies would have gone ahead with expansion and investment in Vermont "but for" the offer of tax credits, a legislatively mandated cost-benefit analysis."

As the audit report explained, "If an applicant's `but for' is weak, it means there is reason to believe the company would create jobs without the tax credits. If so, any credits awarded represent a potential waste of taxpayer money."

That's right. The reknowned budget hawk, while offering draconian cuts in social programs and scolding TANF recipients, was helping corporations pull $25 million out of the state coffers without securing proof that the state would gain commensurate benefits.

Add that to his enthusiastic promotion of the 'captive insurance' scheme and explain why Democrats should have any faith at all that this populist-come-lately will behave any differently in the White House.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

All politics are local...

...even national Presidential campaigns, at a certain level. That's why the local support of shoe leather activists is so important, and it's why the delegate selection process can be so unpredictable. Every state has its own ballot access rules, and every State Party writes it's own Delegate Selection Plan, within broad guidelines provided by the DNC.

While you can reasonably expect the major players to appear on all the significant ballots, there are likely to be some surprises along the path to a delegate majority. Here in Washington, as in Iowa, local Democrats pick delegates from among themselves at precinct caucuses. Anybody with ten friends in a room can find that they've become a Party Boss for a day.

Elsewhere, voters go to the polls and select slates of delegates that are committed to various campaigns. The composition of those slates can be as important as the positions of the campaign. Westchester, NY's Journal News takes an interesting look at how the Kerry campaign is looking for an edge in the New York primary.

"Howard Dean may have scored some of the presidential race's biggest endorsements," they report, "but John Kerry has signed up some of the region's top Democrats, including Westchester party boss George Latimer, to represent him at the Democratic National Convention next year."

"With petitioning under way for the state's March presidential primary, Kerry has assembled a slate of delegates that includes Latimer, state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Mount Vernon, Orangetown Supervisor Thom Kleiner and several county lawmakers from the northern suburbs. Brenda Resnick Spano, the wife of Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, is listed as an alternate delegate."

Just as the encouragement of an active and informed neighbor can make a big difference in a caucus room, the appearance of a familiar and influential name can make a big difference on a primary ballot.

That's one of the reasons that primary polling is so wrong, so often.

We've still got some elections to hold before there's a real frontrunner. Stay tuned.

More cause for concern...

...comes from the folks at The Moderate Independent, who seem to have a generally pro-Clark slant. They offer this assessment of the Dean campaign.

...Dean’s biggest asset and the thing that earned Gore’s endorsement, the awesome, ground-breaking campaign he is running, is become less and less important. The reason, in fact, Dean’s tightly-run, highly-run campaign was so appealing to people was that it represented the opposite of Gore’s campaign. Fervent activists finally had a man who not only would speak boldly, but knew how to make a campaign that would have the ground troops and counterattacking swiftness to be able to stand up to the Bush/Limbaugh machine."

I give them big points for noticing that behind the 'People Powered Howard' rhetoric of grassroots empowerment, the Dean Machine is a ruthlessly disciplined, top down operation in many ways. The problem is, that discipline is being exercised in the service of a man who can't discipline himself.

The piece goes on to show why that last point is such a problem. The campaign is about to shift to a new audience, and "the people who are just beginning to tune in now are not the activist types who pay attention to such things. Now, Democrats and Independents are tuning in simply to see the people who are running, how they present themselves, and what they have to say. And Dean’s uncharismatic nature, tendency to boldly contradict himself, and his, for many Americans just tuning in, incomprehensible stance with regard to Iraq, makes him simply seem unelectable to the late tuners."

The question is whether those "late tuners" are arriving just in time, or just a bit too late. I suspect that depends in part on whether they find someone they can find someone with enough appeal to consolidate them. I think it's John Kerry. The Moderate Independent folks seem to favor Wes Clark, but concede that my guy's got a shot, too.

"John Kerry," they write, "had gotten the early bounce and frontrunner status when people looked and saw the Democrats had a veteran in their midst who was strong on defense but also had a solid history of supporting Democratic issues domestically. Now, John is getting that bounce once again from people tuning in for the first time."

And that's the basis of the 'Comeback Kid' scenario.

When did 'slippery' become a compliment?

Used to be that the inability to pin a politician down on a position made him 'slippery,' and therefore suspect. These days, some folks talk about Teflon candidacies with a certain sense of admiration. The LA Times takes a look at this year's inheritor of the label passed down from Ronald Reagan (I'll let you judge the value of that heritage).

Howard Dean is widely considered to be invulnerable to attack, at least among his most fervent followers. Most attacks, in fact, are quickly turned to his advantage among the faithful, posted with glee on his website and used to drum up yet another round of contributions.

The Times provides an example. ""It's about all of us saying [expletive] to all the pundits," said Michael Cannon, 49, a New Jersey state worker who attended a rally in Trenton with a Dean sweat shirt, T-shirt and button on the back of his cap. "Whenever negative stories surface, that just proves to me that I should be behind him all the more."

Note that it he's not concerned with the accuracy of the stories. That's the underlying principle of a Teflon candidacy - 'I made my choice, the facts be damned.'

The problem is, it's an approach that's been successful with about a third of the Democratic primary electorate, but that's hardly enough to make an election. It's enough, perhaps, to appear to be a commanding favorite in a crowded field, but it goes a long way toward explaining why the apparently popular Dean typically polls lower results in head to head matchups with George Bush than other Democratic contenders.

The danger is pointed out by "...skeptics, fearful that Dean would be a disaster as the Democratic nominee," who "say he may be getting the wrong signal from his fervent followers, in the same way an ill-mannered child is indulged by overly protective parents."

"Whenever he screws up, the campaign is quick to point out that e-mail traffic is up, contributions over the Internet are up," said John Weaver, a former advisor to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona who now consults for Democratic candidates.

"But those are all coming from tried-and-true supporters. Surveys suggest a limit to his growth potential for a general election campaign, and that's what is worrisome to Democrats."

It sure worries me.

Kerry defines the race

There may be a nine candidate field for awhile yet, but it's going to be Dean v. the Anti-Dean for the Democratic nomination, and John Kerry is staking his claim for the opposition role in New Hampshire this weekend.

He's putting in in plain terms in the text of a speech he's rolling out today.

"New Hampshire has a choice ahead between a candidate who will stand up for the middle class people who built America and who have suffered enough under George Bush, and a candidate who thinks the way to balance our budget is at the expense of families who are struggling to balance theirs."

Kerry said "we can't beat George Bush by being Bush-lite, but we also won't beat George Bush by being light on national security, light on fairness for middle-class Americans or light on the values that make us Democrats."

And that last point is really it, for me. For over 20 years, John Kerry has been a consistent, principled advocate for the values that make me a Democrat. Do I agree with every vote he's cast? Of course not. He's cast thousands, and he has a constituency to represent whose views and interests don't always coincide with mine.

But I am confident that his postions, even when divergent from mine, are informed by a reliable set of core values that I'm in general agreement with. I can see what he's done and learn who he is. I trust him.

HoHo? Who the heck is that guy, anyway? What does he stand for, and when did he start standing for it?

Who knows...but someone should care.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Sounds like a national campaign to me.

Although Howard Dean has claimed to be the only candidate waging a national campaign, a note from Kerry Campaign Manager Mary Beth Cahill reminds us that "We are running in every state and in every corner of the country. We are now on the ballot in 31 states with campaign operations in 33 states run by staff and volunteers."

That's a fact that lends credibility to this claim.

"John Kerry will win the nomination and then beat George Bush in November."

Speaking of Damascus road experiences...

Howard Dean, champion of the separation of church and northern states, must have intended his Christmas greetings for Yankees only.

BuzzMachine reports that "A day after Howard Dean went out of his way to start dropping Jesus' name before heading South to campaign...Dean's Christmas message doesn't mention Jesus but instead Saint FDR. It's an odd message, in fact. Nothing about the warmth and joy the holiday, just another chance to obliquely complain about the war. It would appear that Dean's having trouble grokking God."

It's not for lack of trying.

I mean, I'm not completely unwilling to hang a positive spin on a Dean story. Here, for instance, is the lede I was planning to use for this post.

"Fair is fair. In a development likely to send political shock waves as far as, well, my keyboard, I'm compelled to say it.

Howard Dean is absolutely right.

"I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama," he told the Concord Monitor, "who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

But HoHo couldn't leave well enough alone. Almost before the ink was dry on the Monitor edition, he was on the phone to the AP, taking it all back.

"As a president, I would have to defend the process of the rule of law. But as an American, I want to make sure he gets the death penalty he deserves."

Look, no reasonable person would consider Howard Dean soft on Osama. Why he feels the need to muddy the water on his approach to due process by responding to the right wing outrage of Drudge and Newsmax to his original remark completely escapes me.

That, in fact, was the real question raised by the original comments. When did Howard Dean have his Damascus road experience on the subject of due process? As a governor, he starved the Vermont defense bar in his budget while emphasizing the appointment of lawnorder judges who wouldn't get hung up on "legal technicalities." His new approach provided a glimmer of hope, really, for those of us who might be faced with the challenge of sucking it up and coming over to his side if he gets the nonimation. True to form, though, he ends up trying to have it both ways and satisfies no one.

Actually, the real story in the original article has been buried. The Monitor reported that "Dean questioned whether the Bush administration's use of force against Iraq had anything to do with Libya's announcement that it will scrap its programs for weapons of mass destruction."

Huh? I'd like to hear more about those questions.

More ads, more issues

On top of the near million dollar TV buy promoting his energy indepence program, the Kerry campaign is splitting almost another half million on separate ads for Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Iowa ad emphasizes health care, and it's desribed as a "heavy buy," scheduled to reach the average Iowan about 8 or 9 times during the run. With a fresh endorsement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association and this ad campaign, we may see an increased focus on Kerry's health care plan from the campaign.

The New Hampshire piece features fomer Governor Jeanne Shaheen telling voters that "We're living in an increasingly dangerous world and John Kerry has the experience and judgment needed to keep our nation safe. We need a president who will really take on the special interests, and John Kerry's done it."

According to an AP report, "The Massachusetts senator is spending 50 percent more next week than he typically has been spending in each state."

It's the little things...

that can make a big difference in a political campaign, and as I've said before, I think some of the most critical endorsements are the ones that have relatively little marquee value. Maybe it's because I'm from a caucus state myself, where on person in a precinct hustling up a dozen friends on caucus night can have a big impact on the process.

A good example of the importance of the individual activist is presented in the Washington Post profile of Teri Goodman, who they present as "inarguably one of the essential political figures in the earnestly political city of Dubuque." Suggesting that John Kerry's increased attention, and increasing opportunities, in Iowa are to some degree directly related to the work Goodman has done in her hometown, it's a great example of how one person can still make a big difference in a campaign.

That's why I think it's such a big deal every time another local legislator, Party vice chair or PTA president signs on with a campaign. Those are the Teri Goodman's, and the people in touch with the Teri Goodman's, and in many cases those are the people that end up counting as much as the national strategists and media consultants in the final outcome of a campaign.

Running like a Prince, Bush treats supporters like pawns

Another piece in the New York Times cites Democratic fundraiser Joe McClean on the George Bush money machine.

"If money is king in politics, then Bush is the crown prince.They believe in taking it home with them."

While Bush may feel comfortable making lavish expenditures from the public purse, running up record deficits in record time, he's a lot more careful with his campaign finances. The Times notes that guests at a recent $2000 a person reception in Phoenix
shouldn't have come tired or hungry.

"While President Bush pulled in nearly $2 million for his campaign, more than 800 supporters were left to roam the cavernous ballroom searching for food and amenities. What they found were sparsely decorated tables, a few lonely trays of salmon skewers and, for many, nowhere to sit."

OTOH, it may have been part of the Bush small business program. Setting 800 rich, hungry Republicans loose on the streets must have been a boon for the local restaurant scene.

Kerry platform covered by NYT?

Well, kind of. Kerry's energy independence plan, a centerpiece of his platform and one of the strongest arguements for his candidacy, finally got some mention in the New York Times.

That's the good news.

The, well, not quite as good news is that it's not really a story about a substantive issue at all, but another process piece about the $900,000 TV buy the Kerry campaign has made in Iowa and New Hampshire to get the plan in front of voters. Still, the NYT piece notes that in the ad, Kerry "looks fresh and direct," and they judge the ad content to be accurate.

In this case, I suppose, process coverage is better than no coverage at all.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

I'm trying. I really am.

I went out looking for a positive story about a Democrat, and found the good news about Kucinich. Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead, but I kept scrolling down the page, and there it was.

More Dean duplicity.

"Frustrated with Democratic presidential candidates who "pimp the church," the pastor of a black church in Portsmouth, N.H., has criticized those who would use his congregation as a backdrop for campaign photos rather than a serious discussion of issues."

Rev. Arthur Hilson's New Hope Baptist Church has been visited by several candidates, including Dick Gephardt, Carol Mosley Braun and Joe Lieberman, but the offending photo op cited by Rev. Hilson was Dr. Dean's.

"Hilson noted that a photo taken during a visit by front-runner Howard Dean appeared in an issue of Newsweek. The photo showed Dean standing beside Ms. Hilson, but the caption did not indicate the picture was taken in New Hampshire, and it was used in a story about Dean seeking the Southern African-American vote."

To be fair, the misuse of the photograph can be laid at least in part in Newsweek's lap, but apparently the photo itself was the product of a deliberate Dean set up.

"When the Dean people came they said, 'Can you be at the door and have your wife with you?'" Hilson said."

Some might think that every candidate treats church visits as pure PR, but it's just not so, as Hilson explained.

"Hilson said a visit by Carol Moseley Braun, in contrast, was not preceded by a request to have certain people on hand. "They simply came into the church and took seats," he said."

Congrats to Kucinich

I really can be nice to candidates I don't support. In this case it's Dennis Kucinich, who has qualified for FEC matching funds. With his first wave of television spots breaking, this is an important milestone for Kucinich, and though I'm not a supporter, I do appreciate his role as a prod from the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.'

It's no small thing, and in qualifying for the funds, Kucinich has shown impressive reach in some surpising places.

According to press reports, "The FEC said in a statement that Kucinich contributions from the following states were verified for threshold purposes: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin."

California, sure. Ohio, naturally. Washington? Hey, there are a lot of lefties in the upper left.

But Kentucky? Texas? Nice job, Dennis.

I'm really trying...

...but I just can't seem to keep the spirit of holiday charity going. Once again, I'm compelled to tell the truth about Dr. Dean.

There's been a lot of buzz lately about the very secular nature of the Dean campaign to date, and how that might prove to be a handicap in the general election, especially in the south and the midwest. The Boston Globe reports that Dean is reassuring voters about his religious conviction.

"Presidential contender Howard B. Dean, who has said little about religion while campaigning except to emphasize the separation of church and state, described himself in an interview with the Globe as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South."

(my emphasis)

So, the 'straight talkin' guy' is making a regional rearrangement of message, and that's supposed to reassure us of his conviction. OK, then.

Or maybe the candidate of the people is just listening to the polls. As the Globe piece notes "An ABC/Washington Post poll released this week showed that 46 percent of Southerners said a president should rely on his religious beliefs in making policy decisions, compared with 40 percent nationwide and 28 percent in the East. The South is a potential problem area for Dean's campaign for the Democratic nomination..."

I have no basis to question the sincerity of Howard Dean's religious conviction, and I'm not among those who thinks that conviction is particularly relevant to his Presidential qualifications. I continue, though, to be concerned about his political hypocrisy and pattern of pandering. Adopting various approaches to piety for the benefit of different regional audiences is likely to cause problems in every region. In these days of 24 hour national media scrutiny you just can't get away with that kind of duplicity.

I think Jeff Jarvis at the Buzz Machine gets it right on this one.

"This may be the religious equivalent of his Confederate-flag-on-the-back-of-pickups remark. He may as well have said he wants to appeal to the voters who have have fish stickers on the back of their Chevys."

While blogging has become pretty habitual for me...

...part of the habit isn't posting kind words about Republican politicians.

But, hey, it's the holiday season, I'm feeling charitable, and New York Governor George Pataki actually did a good thing in pardoning Lenny Bruce.

Here's a bit of the San Francisco Chronicle report on Pataki's good deed.

"Nearly four decades after the ribald comic was convicted of an obscenity charge, Pataki on Tuesday granted Bruce a posthumous pardon. Pataki had been pressured recently by two Bruce biographers, Bruce's family and scores of stand-up comics and actors -- including local artists Robin Williams and the Smothers Brothers."

A 1964 conviction for obscenity during a performance at the Cafe au Go Go in New York City was the only case Bruce didn't beat during his controversial career. With this, Pataki sets the record right. I still hope he loses his next election, but I'll give him his props for at least one job well done.

Maybe I'm addicted... posting here. I mean, there are both a menorrah and a Christmas tree in our front window, so I have twice as many excuses for taking a day off as most folks. Just the same, there are a couple things I feel compelled to share today, not the least of which are my warmest holiday greetings to all of you, regardless of which holiday applies.

Besides, I was presented with a dandy new office chair - a considerable ergonomic upgrade - this morning and this is my excuse to try it out. (Thanks again, sweetie!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

So, what's all that money for, anyway?

It must be a nice thing to pop a quick 7 mill or so into your campaign treasury over the course of a week, but for heaven's sake, why?

Well, if you're John Kerry, one reason is to have the money you need to tell voters about one of the most important, and shockingly least noticed, issues in the campaign.

Kerry breaks new ads in Iowa and New Hampshire today, and they highlight his energy indepence plan. It's an ambitious one, and it's critical. It highlights his leadership on the enviroment and national security. Candidate's running around yammering about getting tough on the Saudis have to admit that this is the critical first step. The best way to get it done is to elect the man with the plan.

Key elements of the Kerry energy independence platform include:

A New ‘Energy Security and Conservation Trust’ to accelerate the commercialization of technologies that will reduce America’s dangerous dependence on oil.

Reducing Oil Dependence by Two Million Barrels of Oil a Day – As Much As We Currently Import From the Middle East. Kerry will provide tax incentives for consumers to buy the vehicles they want and incentives for manufacturers to convert factories to build the more efficient vehicles of the future.

Making Our Homes, Offices, Schools, and Cities More Energy Efficient. Kerry will cut the Government’s energy bill 20 percent by 2020 – saving the Federal government $8 billion over the next ten years - and will challenge municipalities, corporations, universities, small businesses, and hospitals to do the same.

A Plan to Use Hydrogen Throughout the Nation By 2020 – a clean fuel that we can eventually get entirely from renewable sources from our farms, the wind, solar energy, hydropower and geothermal sources.

This is the Real Deal, folks, the stuff this campaign should be about. Kudos to JK for having the right program, and for putting up the resources needed to tell people about it.

A way-cool campaign?

Clark supporter Amy Isikoff Newell of the Isikoff Report imagines life as a Deaner with a measure of envy.

"The Dean campaign makes citizenship look easy and fun." she writes. "I could go to parties with other young people for whom college was a blur of cultural studies classes and really good bud and student actions in support of university service worker strikes. You can get Dean buttons in colors other than red, white, and blue, and spaghetti strap Dean t-shirts..."

Now, now, Amy. Stay away from the Kool-aid. It looks refreshing, but it's spiked.

Another look at the WaPo/ABC poll

I've already pointed out that despite the apparently big lead that Dean holds in the latest WaPo/ABC poll, it's not unqualified good news for the Governor.

The Carpet Bagger Report takes an even closer look at the methodology and internals, and discovers that that big lead may no be all it's written up to be either. Their findings?

"There were 35 questions in all, and the one asking Dems which of the candidates would get their vote was last. The problem is, poll respondents were asked 6 separate questions about Dean before getting to the last one, while none of the other Dem candidates were mentioned at all. Indeed, the Post/ABC poll even asked respondents about a hypothetical match-up between Dean and Bush in the general election, but no one else."

"If you mention Dean's name six times, and never bring up any of the other Dem candidates' names, doesn't it stand to reason that Dean will be the name people recognize and connect with when it comes down to which Dem they support?"

Knowing that, it seems even more remarkable that with all those prompts, 69% of Democrats still fall into the somebody (if not anybody) but Dean column.

From the 'Dated Dean, Married Kerry' file

The Kerry campaign has released additions to their list of Party, community and labor leaders that have signed on as endorsers in Iowa. Notable among the names are four who had been counted in the Dean column.

Upper Left welcomes Monoma County Democrats Vice Chair Jodi Ewiing, Panora community activist Beth Ferree, Carpenters Local 308 (Cedar Rapids) President Dave Hogan and Allamakee County Democrats Chair Ann Klees aboard the Real Deal Express.

Rounding out the list of new Kerry supporters are:

*Paulee Lipsman, staff director of the Iowa House
Susan Pamperin, Scott County Democatic Chair
Stu Barns, President of the Des Moines Police Union
Tom Flynn, Former State Senator from Dubuque
Wes Garvey, the Mayor of Somers and the Calhoun County chair
Janet Hanson, AFSCME local President in Cherokee
Bob Holstein, Harrison County Dem Chair
Mark Shearer, Former State Senator from Washington County
John Tekippe, President of Des Moines Firefighters Union
**Rita Vargas, Scott County Recorder

* Switched from Lieberman
** Switched from Edwards

Can you say 'momentum'?

I knew that you could.

Sometimes you can tell more...

...about a candidate by the questions they evade than the questions they answer. It seemed pretty straightforward to me. The ABC reporter asked the Doctor "Which Democrats out there do you admire the most?"

But since our 'straight talkin' guy' never seems to ask a question or give an answer without an agenda, a straightforward answer was just too much to hope for.

Immediately assuming a hidden agenda on the part of the reporter, Dean replied "That's a great backhanded way of asking me who might be on the short list. I haven't started done any serious thinking about that at all. I don't have a single vote in the primaries yet and to start talking about a short list before I have a single vote in the primaries would be presumptuous, premature and I'm not going to do it."

Ummm, Doc, he didn't ask which Democrat would make the best VP. In fact, the best choice for VP might not be someone on your 'most-admired' list at all, and maybe shouldn't be. There were a lot of names you could have offered that no one would have seen as a VP short list. There are, for instance, two living Democratic past Presidents. There are senior Senators like Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy. There are House members and DNC activists and no doubt hundreds folks you've met on the campaign trail that might be considered worthy of your admiration, some of whom have been working their butts off for you for months.

It's a softball, Doc. A chance to reach out to some of the wings of the Party you've been attacking for over a year by citing some of their heroes as some of yours, or to toss a crumb to folks who've put their lives on hold to advance your cause.

Instead, we're left wondering if you can't recognize a straight question because you can't give a straight answer.

Or even an honest one.

Let's face it, in less than 100 days, this nomination is going to be locked up. If there's a question left after March 5, it's going to be what the bottom of the ticket looks like, not who's name is on top. Anybody who hasn't "done any serious thinking" about who they might want to run with hasn't done any serious thinking about winning the Presidency. If you don't have a list, you're not a factor, and even I admit that Dean is a factor.

But he seems to have a little trouble dealing with facts.

Not ready for prime time.

Not at all.

Dean on Israel.

"It's a Jewish state, it's not a democracy."

Words fail.

I'm not particularly wild about the source...

...but I love the story.

Insight Magazine offers this from Laurie Morrow of True North Radio in Burlington, VT.

"On Dec. 15, the satirical Website posted a piece on the capture of Saddam Hussein entitled "Dean Demands Saddam's Release, Recapture by U.N." This opens with an invented quotation from Dean, opining that Saddam's capture "lacks legitimacy because it was a unilateral effort by American forces," and has Dean proposing that Saddam be released so that he can be recaptured "by a true multilateral coalition led by the United Nations." A good number of Vermonters I sent this to believed it was real, until I reminded them that the source was, not Reuters..."

No, he didn't say it. But he might believe it.

The deal is done.

Now we know how commited John Kerry is to his campaign.

At least $6 million worth.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 — Senator John Kerry has borrowed $6.4 million against his house in Boston in an effort to finance his campaign in the early presidential primaries, according to mortgage papers filed on Tuesday and a campaign official.

It's like the old ham and eggs story - the chicken's involved, but the pig is commited. It's more than enough to cover the $5.6 million that estimates say the campaign would have recieved in matching funds.

Of course, there's still time to help match the Kerry contribution by putting a little something in the Senator's Christmas stocking here.

More from the WSJ

I finally got a look at the whole David Rogers piece from yesterday's Wall Street Journal (thanks DiAnne!), and realized that I'd missed one of the best parts.

"The reality is it's a very competitive race that is still fluid," says Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack."

Every quote from Gov. Vilsack seems designed to keep hope alive.

An endorsement might make dreams come true.

New Year's surprise, maybe?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

An Upper Left landmark...

...of sorts occured at 10:53 PST, when a visitor from logged in and moved the hit counter to 2000. That's twice where I hoped to be by the new year! Thanks!

The best solution... the Howard Dean problem is a better nominee. John Kerry, with a track record as a slow starter in previous campaigns, is showing signs of becoming a better candidate for the nomination, and is the only guy on the horizon that I think can stop Dean and beat Bush.

I'm not a Wall Street Journal subsciber, but from hints in an email note and a post at Political Wire, it sounds like Kerry's making a strong impression on the Journal's David Rogers. Rogers describes him as one of the most "determinedly self-improving figures in American government," and observes that he's become a "better candidate" recently.

Whether the changes are coming a minute too late or just in time will be established when Iowa Democrats caucus on January 19, but my hopes are up, because John Kerry is the best hope we've got.

What's my problem...

...with Howard Dean, anyway.

It's no so much that I disagree with what he stands for, or what he says he stands for (not always the same thing - not always, in fact, a discernable thing), although a look at his record and rhetoric (again, not always the same thing) leave me with the impression that if he were elected, I'd be sorely disappointed with his performance. A lot of it has to do with his being the single most destructive force in the Democratic Party in my 35 year history as a Party activist.

I think of myself as a Party regular, but with support for McCarthy, McGovern, Kennedy, Hart, Jackson and Brown in my portfolio, I'm no stranger to insurgent campaigns. While all of those candidates may have taken an upstream course against elements of the Party establishment, none of them set a course that seemed to deliberately divide the Party in a way that would do long term harm. Howard Dean simply doesn't seem to care what he destroys in the pursuit of his personal ambition.

Tom Oliphant says it well in today's Boston Globe.

"For a year, Dean's campaign has made it very clear that the enemies are not just conservatives. They also permeate the Democratic Party, and they must be crushed as permanently as the right-wingers."

In Dean's 'with me or against me' world, I'm among the targeted crushees. I take that pretty damned personally.

Oliphant's not through with him, though. He offers advice that Dean, and every Deaner, needs to think long and hard about.

"...he has anger and despair to work with, as well as all those enemies in the party. If Dean is indeed headed toward the Democratic nomination, he might want to channel some of that anger toward a less punitive approach to the very people he seeks to represent."

Carve out as many positions on as many issues as you want, Doc, but this is my party, too. Don't drag us all over the cliff with you.

I've said that I'd support Dean as the nominee, though I think my support will be a meaningless candle in a wave of darkness that will overwhelm any ticket he's part of next November. That's still my position, but he's not making it any easier.

There he goes again

HoHo's whining again.

``I think the other candidates seem to have nothing positive to say,'' Dean said Monday from New Hampshire. ``Every other Democrat seems to be moaning and groaning about the terrible things I'm supposed to have done.''

And he's bashing again, with a hit piece in Iowa mailboxes that attacks Dick Gephardt and John Kerry by name, leveling the 'Bush Lite' charge against them.

Gep gets it right. "I think he's been lobbing attacks on the other Democrats in the race for about a year,'' he told the AP. "He only sees negative campaigning when it isn't him.''

Whine, whine, whine. Bash, bash, bash.

Enough already, Doc. You can't have it both ways anymore.

One way to manage a 'straight talkin' guy'... to silence the listeners. CBS News reports that "Back in November, Dean proudly announced on board a charter flight from New Hampshire to Maine that everything said on the plane was on the record unless otherwise indicated. Now, campaign staff is careful to point out that everything said aboard the governor’s plane in flight is off the record unless otherwise indicated."

'Back in November'? So what's changed in three weeks? Maybe it's just a matter of the press ending the free ride they'd given the Guv for months, and actually holding him accountable for the things he says.

Now if they could just put his campaign stops, TV appearances and press interviews off the record, they might be able to sell this guy to the general public.

Laugh track

MSNBC offers The Top 10 jokes from the campaign trail. Sharpton's the big winner, but my favorite comes (naturally) from John Kerry, who took the #3 spot with this quip from an audience Q&A at the Hispanic Caucus debate.

"There are two ways for you to have lower prescription drug costs. One is you could hire Rush Limbaugh's housekeeper. Or you can elect me president of the United States."

If Cheney had read the Seattle papers yesterday...

...he might have caught Joel Connelly's examination of the 'imperial Vice-Presidency' in the P-I. (I don't know if the Veep is as news-averse as his putative boss, but articles like this could make it happen.)

What are some of the cornerstones of Cheney's "prerogatives of privelege"?

Joel provides a few.

The Royal Hunt: The vice president is an outdoorsman, not on the public lands where he wants to put oil rigs, but at private reserves such as the 10,000-acre Rolling Rock Club in southwestern Pennsylvania...

The Royal Rationale: Nobody has ever provided a scintilla of supportive evidence, but Dick Cheney claimed last year that Iraq was a looming nuclear menace to the United States...

The Royal Silence: The vice president convened like-minded men in the spring of 2001 to hammer out a national energy strategy. It's now embodied in pending legislation that contains more than $30 billion in corporate subsidies...

The Royal Connection: Working under a no-bid contract, the Halliburton Co. has been supplying everything from meals for U.S. troops to gasoline for Iraqi citizens. It has contracts worth more than $1.7 billion in Iraq...

If you ask me (yeah, I know. No one did.) it all adds up to a royal pain.

New math

Might as well face the new Washington Post/ABC poll head on. The headline, of course, is Dean's big lead. He's polling 31% of D's, with the rest of the field in single digits (for the record, Gep and Lieberman are tied at 9, Kerry's at 8, Clark's at 7 and no one else breaks 5).

Of course, support from a third of a Party that represents about a third of the electorate is hardly commanding, and Bush leads the Doc 55 to 37% in the head to head. (On national security, the Bush lead is 67-21)

There are other numbers worth a closer look, too. According to the WaPo analysis of the numbers, "...Dean's strength against his rivals masks how little Democratic voters know about him. More than half of Democrats surveyed said they know "hardly anything" or "nothing" about Dean's experience, leadership capabilities or positions on the issues. "

You'll pardon me if I express doubt that "People who don't know me like me." represents a position of strength.

It's also noteworthy that while Lieberman, Clark and Gephardt have all fallen 4 to 5 points, Kerry's number is holding. So who deserves to be the anti-Dean? I'd say the guy with the committed base among the 69% of Democrats who aren't ready to drink the Dean kool-aid.


What a difference a link makes.

Upper Left was doing ok, building slow but sure. I figured I'd cross the 1000 hit plateau this month, which would have been about 50% growth over last month, and eventually I'd be reaching a reasonable crowd of folks.

Then Jonathan Chait favored me with a blind link on his Dean-o-Phobe blog, and look what happened!

Thanks, Jon. Hopefully folks are finding something here they'll come back for more of.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Dr. Dean wasn't the only one...

...with words for First Read this morning.

Among the noteworthy notes....

"Tom Delay and other Republicans have been sitting around gleefully saying they would love to have Howard Dean. Karl Rove has been very public about it... I think they know what I know - which is what I've been saying - that America needs leadership and national security. Foreign policy is a critical issue in this campaign."

John Kerry

"I don't think you can make the charge against George Bush if in your own state you were advocating and putting up with tax breaks for Enron and other corporations. It just leaves you in a position where you can't draw that line with George Bush, and that's the point I'm trying to make."

Dick Gephardt

"Contrary to Joe Trippi's claim, Howard Dean does have the power to unseal his secret files, and could single-handedly end this delay today with a simple letter. Joe Trippi consciously misled the American people today by suggesting that Howard Dean's papers are tied up in court, but he knows full well that Governor Dean has the ability to unseal the records if he wanted. We Democrats don't have a chance to replace the secrecy and stalling of the Bush Administration if we engage in the same tactics. We Democrats are better than that."

Lieberman Campaign Director Craig Smith

Kerry states the case.

In an interview with William Rivers Pitt, John Kerry provides an answer that should have been in his stump speech from day one, and should be from now on.

"I believe that I am the most consistent, most accomplished progressive fighter in this entire field. My record over 35 years of standing up and fighting for progressive causes is clear on with respect to women, with respect to the environment, with respect to children, education, health care, our role in the world, human rights, civil rights. My record is stronger, longer and deeper than any other candidate in this field with respect to the progressive agenda of this party."

"When I say “Move on” from 2000, I’m as angry as anyone else. Votes ought to be counted. But my objective is to win. My objective is “Don’t get mad, get even.” They way you get even is to go out and take that agenda to the country and build a coalition around it. I think if you compare my record to the people in this field, I think it’s clear that I am the progressive candidate. I am the one who has stood up and taken the risks and fought for the agenda of my party with consistency."

"I think the progressives in our party need to look and see who has the ability to take that progressive agenda and still stand up and beat George Bush. We don’t need to send the country a message. We need to send the country a President."

Now that's straight talk.

I could have told you that

More from MSNBC's interview with Dean.

Q: "Is it hard for you to stay quiet?"

A: "Yeah, I am somewhat of a street fighter. If someone punches me I am apt to chase them down and I need to be restrained by the people who know better and have been in the game longer than I have."

Straight-talkin' guy?

The most common understanding definition of 'straight talk," I suppose, would be saying what you believe no matter who, where or when.

So here's our favorite straight talk Doc in an MSNBC interview today.

MSNBC: "Will you soften your tone about firing Bush when it comes to the general election?"

Dean: "We'll phrase it differently. What I have proved to Democratic voters is that I'm tough enough to take on Bush. What I need to prove to voters is that I'll do a better job than he will. The vision isn't going to change, but the way I talk about it will."

(my emphasis)

So I guess the hellfire and damnation act is for (and against) Democrats only.

Our standards or theirs?

HoHo said it again.

"...if this is a global economy, we're going to have to have the same labor standards, environmental standards and human-rights standards. We have to start incorporating those in every trade agreement and go back and revise the trade agreements that we have."

So, if we're going to have the same standards, Doc, will they be theirs or ours? Because if you mean ours, we might as well start closing the west coast ports now. And if you mean theirs, well, ours could stand some improvement, too, before we start a downward spiral.

Do we need to pressure our trading partners to adopt higher standards? Of course. Can we reasonably expect them to adopt US standards anytime soon? Not hardly. Do we really want to meet China halfway? Say it isn't so.

Maybe this is just an effort to pander to labor, but have you talked to the Longshoremen lately?

Chockful o'bloggity goodness?

That's the way Susan at Suburban Guerrilla described a recent Eric Alterman entry, but she's a Deaner, so I imagine I'll have to wait for this primary business to be over before I get similar notice from her. Still, it's a dandy description, and it's important to have goals, so maybe someday I'll earn that tag.

Meanwhile, Susan earns it daily, despite her candidate preferences, and I encourage you to check it out.

The Veep visits the creep

Dick Cheney rolls into Bellevue (Seattle's generally Republican suburb, for the out of towners in the audience) to try to help George Nethercutt narrow the $3 million gap between the fundraising totals for his Senate campaign and Senator Patty Murray's re-election war chest. Good luck.

There are incentives, though. The P-I reports that "...contributors at the $4,000 and $8,000 level can have their pictures taken with Cheney at a pre-reception event." Since the contribution limit is set at $2,000 per individual, this special offer is for bundlers only, I suppose, so you'll have to round up a few friends if you want to get in on the action.

Or you can get in on the action outside, where it's reported that "Anti-war, abortion rights and other groups plan to protest outside the hotel..." Then you can slip over to BelSquare mall and get a more economical snapshot with Santa.

The trip points up one of the political advantages of incumbency. Cheney has tied it into quick PR stops at Fort Lewis and McChord AFB, where he'll chat with soldiers and airmen who have served in or are slated for Iraq, which allows him to put the trip on the public tab. State Democratic Chair Paul Berendt offers a seasonally charitable, but appropriatly skeptical view.

"I don't begrudge the troops the chance to see the vice president," Berendt told The News Tribune, "but let's not deceive ourselves. This trip is about raising money for George Nethercutt."

Personally, I don't begrudge the troops anything, but I do begrudge our chicken-hawk Vice President's exploitation of their service.

Democrats. We just are who we are...

...and we just stand for what we stand for.

I got into a little online tussle with a Jewish aquaintance who cautioned that the Democrats couldn't nominate Joe Lieberman because Americans would never elect a Jew for President. Well, if anti-Semitism drives the next election, our range of choices becomes very limited. Wes Clark has talked pretty openly about his Jewish heritage. John Kerry had a Jewish grandfather. Howard Dean, Jewish wife, Jewish kids. Joe Lieberman, Jew. John Edwards is a lawyer, which is practically the same thing as a Jew for many Americans - if they ever met a Jew without an MD, he was probably a lawyer.

Dick Gephardt is about the only safe choice, I guess. I mean, look at the guy. He's the quintessential non-Jew. Then again, he's a lawyer, too, and he's taken more cash from AIPAC than Diane Feinstein.

It looks like we're just locked out of the anti-Semite vote this time around. Personally, I'm quite proud of that fact. It points to an important part of who we are as Democrats - an ecuminically tolerant Party that respects human rights and religious liberty, a Party whose diversity has become one of its hallmarks.

That diversity extends beyond race and religion. As Atrios colorfully points out, "There's something that Democrats need to realize - we're going to be the party of those icky gay people no matter what we do."

Without engaging the rhetorical distinctions between same-sex marriage and civil unions, it's time for our Presidential candidates to get off the fence and on the side of federalizing civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans, including providing the same protections and privileges that heterosexual relationships enjoy without the limitations of state borders. Human rights can't be subjected to the vagaries of state's rights.

We can try to duck the issue by changing the terms of the debate as Dr. Dean has proposed, but it's more important in the long term to realize that it's more important to be on the wrong side of some voters, because some voters are on the wrong side of some issues, and they just aren't going to listen to us no matter how we state the case. A recent column by Eleanor Clift made the point in plain terms.

"Dean is puzzled why minimum-wage workers who have no health benefits would vote Republican," she wrote. "The answer he'd rather not hear is they care more about God, gays and guns than health care."

The only way to appeal to everybody is to stand for nothing. If most Americans are on the wrong side, they'll make the wrong choice. Personally, I think most Americans are far more decent, far more tolerant, than some of our pols give them credit for, and if we take a clear stand on the right side, we'll win.

I assume it's an autobiography

The footer on Dick Morris' column in The Hill notes that he's " the author of Off With Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks, and Obstructionists in American Politics, Media, and Business.

I note that it takes one to know one.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

A Sunday night special

An AP report from Saturday quoted Howard Dean saying "It's not necessary to tear down the other opponents," as he plead for relief from the questions his opponents have been raising about his consistency, veracity and positions. Of course, it's hard to take him very seriously when, during the same appearance, he levels a charge like this.

"There are five or six people running for president right now who have a chance at winning," Dean said. "I'm the only person who has done anything about trying to get health care."

That's certainly no different than the attacks his opponents have leveled at him, except in this case it's an attack that's simply untrue. In fact, Dean's platform calls for (almost) universal health insurance, not health care, and Dennis Kucinich will be glad to explain the difference.

Perhaps more importantly, not only have other candidates in this field "done anything about trying to get health care," the Congressional element of that field are among those who provided the funding which Howard Dean used to implement the programs he uses to bash his opponents with now. It's getting harder every day to believe anything he says.

First, let me say that I am, in the words of the late Sam Rayburn, "...a Democrat, without prefix, suffix, or apology." If Howard Dean is the nominee of my Party, I'll vote for him, given the alternative, and though I suspect he'd make a pretty lousy Democratic President, I don't imagine I'll ever experience a Dean adminstration. His own program of bash, bash, bash, and then whine, whine, whine when someone hits back may turn out to be an effective primary strategy, but he'll be at the top of a ticket that will have been disasterously impaired by his own words and actions.

What am I talking about? Well, here are a few examples that have been resting on my harddrive (emphasis all mine, links provided where I have 'em - but this stuff shouldn't be too challenging to find if you want to check up on me)...

Once upon a time Howard Dean's needling of fellow candidates was both endearing and, arguably, productive--since it may have spurred them to sharpen their attacks on the administration. But now that his rivals have learned to throw hard punches against Republicans, Dean's attacks are just plain boorish.

...this sniping is now hurting the party more than it is helping it...

New Republic 6/03/03

...Dean attacks Senators Kerry, John Edwards, and Joe Lieberman for supporting a $350 billion tax cut earlier this year. But these votes took place after a majority of the Senate had already decided to cut taxes by at least $350 billion. To vote against the $350 billion tax cut was to vote for the larger, $726 billion tax cut Bush had initially proposed.

Jonathan Chait New Republic 7/28

But he reserves his real fury for his own party. His face reddens and his voice raises when he delivers one of his biggest applause lines, that Democrats need to "stop apologizing for who we are." Why does this part of the speech make him so agitated?

Chris Suellentrop, Slate, 7/28/03

...Dean's energy is a negative one, directed more against his own party than against President Bush.
New Republic, 8/04/03

On numerous occasions, he has skewered his rivals for proposing to retain parts of the Bush tax cut--specifically, those benefiting primarily the middle class and lower income taxpayers....Dean's lashing of other candidates did, in retrospect, go a little overboard--just as his critics have complained.

New Republic, 8/22/03

"Yet when Dean says he will make voters proud to vote Democratic again, it almost sounds as if he's trying to make voters ashamed of their past support for party candidates.

Mary Lynn F. Jones, The American Prospect8/25/03

MONTROSE, Iowa, Oct. 14 -- Howard Dean, who is increasingly giving his presidential candidacy an anti-Washington cast, cranked up his rhetoric on Tuesday, saying that if he won, members of Congress were ''going to be scurrying for shelter, just like a giant flashlight on a bunch of cockroaches.''

His jab at Capitol Hill, institutional home to four of Dr. Dean's five main rivals for the nomination, came in response to a question about how he would handle Congress and the entrenched Beltway bureaucracy. The questioner mentioned Republicans and Democrats alike, and Dr. Dean made no distinction.

Jodi Wilgoren, New York Times

In New Ads, Dean Becomes First in Campaign to Attack Fellow Democrats

CRESCO, Iowa, Oct. 22 -- Howard Dean this week began running two new television advertisements that criticize his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination as ''Washington politicians'' who have failed to deliver prescription drug benefits and were inconsistent on the Iraq war.

Jodi Wilgoren & Jim Rutenberg, New York Times

Dean is continuing to feed the perception among some voters, campaign strategists and academics that he is angry, edgy and - a cardinal sin in politics - not cheerful.

USA Today, 11/11/03

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean sparred with Sen. John Kerry over guns, the National Rifle Association and campaign financing yesterday, calling on Kerry to abandon attacks while struggling to explain why the former governor's criticisms of rivals for the Democratic nomination were any more justified.

Asked why it was legitimate for him to attack Kerry and other rivals for their votes on Iraq, as he has done for months, Dean responded, "All I'm willing to do is tell you what my positions are."

The Seattle Times

Last June, Dean told me that he understood he would have to grow as a candidate in order to succeed, that it was time to move his campaign beyond attacks and anger, to take a run at the vision thing. That lasted about a week.

Joe Klein, Time

HoHo. Bash, bash, bash. Whine, whine, whine.

And come November, lose, lose, lose.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

From the 'I wish I'd written that' department

Hardly a day goes by without finding a post on some site that leaves me in awe of the ability and insight of some of my fellow bloggers, and today the honors go to Steve Soto at The Left Coaster. I take some grief for 'Dean bashing,' and so does he, but as he says,

"Just because Dean is on our side of the aisle and hammers Bush to our liking doesn't mean he shouldn't be held to the same standards we want Bush held to himself."

It's a great post. Read the whole thing.

This bottle of Dino Rossi was made with sour grapes

Up here in the upper left, Boeing's decision to build it's new commercial jet, the 7E7, in Everett, WA, is a big deal. We lost the corporate headquarters to Chicago, but the real concern has been the fate of the assembly lines, and while this development won't replace all the Boeing jobs lost in recent times, it's importance is reflected in the extraordinary lengths that Gov. Gary Locke went to, and drove the Legislature to, in order to create a tax and financing package that would keep the Everett line moving.

The Republican candidate-apparent to replace the retiring Locke, though, just can't let a piece of good news go by without hitting a sour note. Dino Rossi, who resigned his State Senate seat for the campaign, interupted the elation to note that "We need to reflect on the reasons why Washington state was not automatically selected for this project. This should have been an easy decision for Boeing."

Pete Callahan gets it just right in the Tacoma News-Tribune.

"Rossi can't be naive enough," writes Callahan "to think Boeing would have passed up a chance to have several states bid for its presence, even if Washington was the obvious choice. It didn't move its headquarters until after it enticed three states to offer lavish tax breaks and other incentives, even though Chicago had already won."

Well, yes, apparently he can be naive enough. Or politically callous enough to throw a rhetorical bucket of cold water on a roomful of partying pols and Machinists. Come on, Dino, this is the good news, and, frankly, I don't see too much of that in your future.

Safe at home

There's been a lot of buzz about who, if anybody, is safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein. I tend to agree that the American people aren't tangibly safer than they were when he was hiding in his hole, but I think a lot of folks feel safer, so telling them they aren't probably reflects a lack of political wisdom. The increased safety, for Americans and the world in general, came when Saddam was deposed, not when he was captured.

I think there are some folks who are safer, though. Like the Americans who feel safer in their homes, my feeling about it is pretty subjective, but I do think it's likely that there are some Iraqis whose safety was enhanced by the capture, since it could cause some Saddam loyalists to give up the fight, and it's possible that some GIs are safer for the same reason. That's a good thing, and not a small thing.

What's got Democratic shorts in a knot, though, if we're going to be honest about this, is concern that the capture might make Bush's re-election bid safer, or the campaigns of anti-war Democrats riskier. Personally, I think the impact either way will be marginal over time, since the kind of bump that comes with a positive news cycle tends to slip away with the next negative news cycle, and I expect plenty of both between now and November '04.

There is a little harder evidence, though, to support my thoughts on the election impact than my suspicions about anyone's relative safety. The Vancouver Columbian offers a look at the impact on two anti-war Democrats from the upper left - Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Brian Baird, through the eyes of pollster Stuart Elway.

Elway told the paper ""I don't think it (Saddam's capture) will have any long-term political effect."


"We just did a poll in this state and it's pretty divided on the war," Elway said. "It's split sharply down party lines," and the swing voters in Washington were just about evenly divided.

And that's it, really. The anti-war crowd is singularly unimpressed by the Saddam capture, the pro-war bunch is elated and most folks don't know what to think. The election will turn on other issues - in the northwest, it looks like jobs, jobs, jobs.

Could it be....

That there's a reason other than Howard Dean's various positions on various issues (or his various positions on the same issue, for that matter) or his sparkling personality for his dramatic rise in the national polls? After all, just a short while ago, Joe Lieberman held the top spot in all the national surveys, and everyone dismissed it as a simple case of name familiarity.

So how did HoHo get so high so fast? The fine folks at Irregular Times offer a hint.

It couldn't be months of uncritical press coverage focused on process over policy, could it?

Well, yes, it could.

Friday, December 19, 2003

A silver lining?

While it's hard to gloat about a 25 point deficit against Dean in the new American Research Group poll of New Hampshire, there's some significant good news in the numbers.

John Kerry's up 7 points, to 20%, from last month, while Wes Clark has slipped into single digits again, falling 3 points for a total of 8. Instead of threatening Kerry for second place, Clark's now battling Lieberman (at 6%) for what looks like a third place that may carry no delegates at all.

Dean's numbers are static, and it's hard to see him growing with his negatives surging to 19%, up from 7 in the last count.

But Kerry still needs that bump from the Iowa Surprise.

Hey, I can pander too!

If you enjoy Upper Left, you might consider clicking over to Wampum where they're inviting readers to "...nominate your favorite Lefty in the 2003 Koufax Awards."

There's a Best New Blog category that Upper Left meets the techincal requirements for, and even a nomination or two might be a traffic builder for this struggling startup.

It would be a nifty Hannukah present.

Upper Left isn't an anti-Dean blog...

...not by design, anyway. It's just that bad new for Dr. Dean seems to be dominating the news cycle lately. I offered a full dose yesterday, and I could do the same thing again with detailed quotes and commentary about stories from the New York Times, the LA Times, TAPPED and/or MSNBC, all of which offer less than flattering coverage of the Governor's consistency, credibility and/or prospects.

If you want a full dose of Dean-hate, you can go read all those links, or you can just go here and see what a real anti-Dean blog looks like. Jonathan Chait opened his new 'Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe with these observations.

"I find him arrogant and frequently dishonest. Yes, I'm certain his nomination would lead to a political disaster of historic, and possibly biblical, proportions. And, yes, I'm continuously dumbfounded that a number of highly intelligent people I know have convinced themselves that his nomination is a good thing, or at least that it's not an unambiguously bad thing. But somehow the whole of my loathing for Dean is greater than the sum of its parts."

"But recently I'm finding that Dean hatred is crowding out Bush hatred in my mental space. It's not that I think Dean would be a worse president than Bush--he'd probably be better, although that's extremely faint praise given that Bush is the worst president of the last 80 years. Bush is like the next-door neighbor who lets his dog poop on your lawn and his kid shoot bb's at your house and who says something irritating to you every day on his way to work. Dean, on the other hand, is like the ne'er-do-well who's dating your daughter. You realize the neighbor is a worse person than the boyfriend, but the boyfriend (and the frightening prospect that he'll become your son-in-law) consumes more of your attention."

It's almost enough to make me hang up my Dean-bashing hat in tribute to a real master.

Almost, but not quite.

Those who forget history....

...seem to be concentrated in the Howard Dean campaign. Joel Connelly offers a corrective history lesson in the Seattle P-I.

"Our city recently welcomed Dean with a summer crowd of 8,000 people at Westlake Center.

But 8,000 folks showed up for George McGovern on Labor Day in 1972; 12,000 people greeted Walter Mondale downtown in 1984; and 15,000 braved rain-drenched supporters turned out at the Pike Place Market for Michael Dukakis, the night after he tanked in a 1988 debate with George H.W. Bush."

You remember Presidents McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis, don't you?

Well, no, because as Joel reminds us, "All these guys lost -- badly."

There's more to winning a national election than throwing red meat rhetoric to big partisan crowds. Forget that now, and you can forget the election in November '04.

Checking in on our favorite challengers

A little northwest content today, although I encourage Upper Left readers from far and wide to offer whatever support they can (money works just fine) to these Washington Congressional candidates.

Alex Alben is challenging Jennifer Dunn in Washington's 8th District, and he's touting his visit with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was in town to raise money and provide moral support. The target="parent" Alben web site reports that "Rep. Pelosi told talk radio listeners that Alex and Don Barbieri (running in the 5th CD) are excellent candidates who would bring solid business experience to Congress."

She's right.

If you find yourself anywhere near Spokane on New Year's Eve, the Don Barbieri campaign invites you to drop by their new campaign headquarters at 719 W. Main Street, on the ground floor of the Crescent Court Bldg, for a cup of hot cider and a chance to meet the man who's poised to recapture Tom Foley's old seat for the Democrats.

If you can't make it to Spokane, you can click here and make a contribution to the campaing. It's 'double the impact' time, since Don Barbieri will personally match every contribution made in the 4th quarter of '03. That's impressive commitment from an increasingly impressive candidate.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Iowa might not be so surprising after all

John Kerry's gaining ground in Iowa, and it's getting noticed. David Yepsen takes a good look at Kerry's journey from front-runner to has-been to potential 'Comeback Kid' in the Des Moines Register, pointing out that "There's another political story developing in Iowa: the improving position of John Kerry. The Massachusetts senator has been quietly doing things here that are improving his caucus prospects."

So what does it mean? According to Yepsen, maybe everything.

"A second-place finish for Kerry would be a legitimate Big Deal and would position him as the anti-Dean candidate in the race. Kerry would become the "comeback kid" of 2004, something Bill Clinton was able to spin out of his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary in 1992. There is much positive buzz surrounding a candidate who comes from behind to win that designation."

And how is it happening? Hard work, mostly.

"He's been spending a lot more time in Iowa (which he should have done from the beginning) and impresses caucus-goers with his brains, experience and level-headed manner. His campaign staffers are a seasoned lot who execute well on the daily details of signing up caucus-goers. He's increased the number of television commercials. Answers that used to be 500 words are down to 250. He's a combat veteran, an important quality given that the Republicans will go after any Democratic candidate - especially Dean, who didn't go to Vietnam or serve in the military at all - for being weak on defense."

A second place Iowa finish has been part of my Road To Boston scenario for Kerry for months. I might be as smart as my mom says.

As a matter of fact, there's a very good reason...

...for Dennis Kucinich to stay in the Presidential race. No, it's not because I think he can accumulate enough delegates to win the nomination. I know that the "unelectable" tag infuriates the Kucinich true-believers, but it is, in fact, the hard truth.

But if there's really a link to what Paul Wellstone called the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," the faction of true progressives that acts as the Party's conscience and keeps calling it home to its principles, it's Dennis Kucinich. He can't be nominated, and wouldn't be elected, because there's simply not enough time in a single Presidential campaign to educate enough voters on the important issues he raises, but those issues need to be raised, and raised again, through two or three or four or more election cycles, in order to make the progress that progressives keep talking about.

It's a long, hard process, and it requires sacrifice, and Dennis Kucinich is making that sacrifice this year. He deserves a lot more props for the effort than he gets.

One of the issues, maybe the most important one, that Kucinich is talking about is single payer health care. He's not alone - Carol Mosley Braun supports single payer, too, but he's the most effective national spokesman for the issue right now.

In an interview with Salon (and don't whine about the link. Watch the ad - or better yet, buy a sub - and read the interview) Kucinich points out exactly why his plan is better than any of the other candidate's plans (2nd place goes to Kerry for his proposal to take catastrophic care out of the private insurance pool).

" Now, Governor Dean has said that he wants everyone to have health insurance. We must look at that description. Health insurance. That means you can have health insurance, but you're still going to be stuck with an insurance company that's going to raise your premiums, increase your co-pays, increase your deductibles and shrink you area of coverage. Because insurance companies make money not providing healthcare."

Hang in there, Dennis. You're a good guy doing a good thing.

WaPo reviews HoHo's FoPo fumbles

Endorsement or no endorsement, if Al Gore really helped Howard Dean write that 'major foreign policy address,' the Doc has to cut the Veep loose.

The Washington Post adds their editorial take to the reviews of Dean's foreign policy vision, and the picture ain't pretty.

First, they point out that it failed in its stated purpose.

" Mr. Dean's carefully prepared speech was described as a move toward the center, but in key ways it shifted him farther from the mainstream."

Then, they pile the 'straight-talker's problem keeping a straight story.

"A year ago Mr. Dean told a television audience that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies," but last weekend he declared that "I never said Saddam was a danger to the United States." Mr. Dean has at times argued that the United States must remain engaged to bring democracy to Iraq, yet the word is conspicuously omitted from the formula of "stable self-government" he now proposes."

But they think his inability to tell the same truth twice may help after all.

"The former Vermont governor has compiled a disturbing record of misstatements and contradictions on foreign policy; maybe he will shift yet again, this time toward more responsible positions."

Would that it were, ummm, true.