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Saturday, October 04, 2003

On a semi-random note, I happened to catch John Kerry's speech at the Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting on C-SPAN. This is how he started:

"Five thousand years ago Moses said hitch up your camel, pick up your shovel, mount your ass--I will lead you to the promised land. Five thousand years later Franklin Roosevelt said light up a Camel, lay down your shovel, sit on your ass--this is the promised land. Today George Bush will lay off your camel, tax your shovel, kick your ass, and tell you there is no promised land."
Seems like an odd little joke, especially with the repeated use of the word "ass." Oh well. Anyway, Kerry went on to give a speech that included jabs at some of his opponents--without mentioning them by name. Of his decision to run for president, he said: "This is not a commitment that I made in the last few weeks"--a reference to Clark. He also pointedly mentioned that he "stood against" Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, "not with" them. And he used Dean's catchphrase--"Democratic wing of the Democratic party"--several times.

I didn't watch the whole event, which included speeches from many Democratic candidates and other major figures in the party. The link to the video is available on the
C-SPAN website, under "Democratic National Committee Fall Meeting (10/3/2003)."
--Posted at 2:20 PM | link

Several conservative groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, and the Christian Coalition, plan to make gay marriage the most important social issue in the 2004 election. They want to use the issue to register millions of voters who might have otherwise stayed home instead of voting for George W. Bush.

If the Democrats try a parallel move with gay activists, chances are that it won't be as effective. Most of the Democratic candidates are reluctant to put their full support behind gay marriage, preferring to support "civil unions" instead. Those who oppose gay marriage know that they will get what they want under Bush. Those who support it cannot expect the same from most Democrats.

Even though gay marriage makes Democrats more uncomfortable than Republicans, the Bush campaign still won't want it out in the open. Conservative voting drives on the issue, conducted "behind the scenes," will benefit the Bush campaign. But if Bush has to articulate his position on the issue, he runs the risk of saying something offensive that will alienate moderates in his party. It's not easy to make an argument condemning gay marriage without condeming homosexuality itself. Bush is better off saying as little as he can on the issue, and letting conservative activist groups do the talking for him.
--Posted at 1:20 PM | link

The chief U.S. weapons inspector has a few theories about why weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq:

1.) Saddam Hussein had weapons but hid them.
2.) Saddam had weapons but moved them outside the country before the war.
3.) Saddam never had them at all, but bluffed to appear strong.
4.) Saddam's scientists were lying to him, telling him that he had weapons because they were afraid to tell him otherwise.
5.) Iraq had arrangments to make weapons outside of the country.

Kay says that 1, 2, and 3 are the most likely, and that 5 has little evidence to support it.

This presents a few problems for the Bush administration. Not only are they unable to present WMD's as justification for the war in Iraq, but they don't even have a clear explanation for why they haven't been found. Of course, they can fall back on time-honored strategies--ignoring the fact that WMD's were the chief justification for the war, and exaggerating the importance of any finding that even comes close to a WMD.

The latter strategy was visible in the Bush administration's reaction to Kay's discovery of a botulinum bacteria vial in Iraq. Kay said that the vial had been in an Iraqi scientist's refrigerator since 1993, and was not part of a weapon's program. But the Bush administration made the most of it:

"The report (by Kay's team) states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent botulinum, sophisticated concealment efforts and advanced design work on prohibited longer-range missiles," Bush said before starting a daylong trip to Milwaukee.


Powell, in citing the discovery of the vial of bacteria and signs of long-range missile plans, said he is "more convinced by the Kay report that we did the right thing."

"Do you think vials of botulism should constitute a weapon of mass destruction?" Powell asked reporters. " ... They never lost that capability. They never lost that intent."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher added: "You kill people with botuli. They have no other use."

By hyping every minor discovery, the White House can plant the idea in some people's minds that weapons of mass destruction have been found. If a person vaguely remembers a news report or presidential speech about the alleged discovery weapons of mass destruction, he or she will be less likely to doubt Bush's honesty. This doesn't work on people who follow the news closely, but those who pick up scraps of news here and there might believe that the WMD have been found, just as many people believe that Saddam planned 9/11.
--Posted at 3:34 AM | link

Friday, October 03, 2003

An apparent Kucinich supporter hacked the website earlier today:

The struggling presidential campaign of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich got a brief boost from an unidentified hacker Friday when a pro-Kucinich advertisement took over

The Kucinich campaign denied involvement.

At around 9:30 a.m. a page bearing the Kucinich campaign logo appeared in place of the homepage.

The screen automatically shifted to a page playing a 30-minute video called "This Is The Moment," in which the liberal congressman — aided by the likes of actor Ed Asner — outlines his philosophy.

"According to the most recent CBSnews/nytimes poll, 77% of Democrats do not know enough about Dennis Kucinich. Since we can not expect the media to provide this information I decided to help them out," the hacker page read. "Please watch this video and listen to the man who has inspired me into taking this rash action."

(Via Counterspin.)
--Posted at 2:27 PM | link

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Clark's campaign has started an official blog. It says that there will be regular posts from Clark himself, although I don't think there have been any yet.
--Posted at 10:31 PM | link

Ralph Nader says that he will decide whether to run for president after he sees how Republicans and Democrats react to his agenda, which includes "universal health insurance, a more progressive wage policy and an aggressive crackdown on corporate fraud and abuse." He also had this to say:

"The highest priority is to defeat President George W. Bush and his administration, which is running this country into the ground."

Although many Democrats would argue that the best way for Nader to help defeat George W. Bush is not to run, Nader might not see it that way. He argues that his campaign in 2000 brought out many new voters, rather than taking support away from Democrats. Still, it's hard to imagine that a Nader campaign could be good for the Democrats.

I suspect that Nader is attempting to pull the Democratic party to the left, with an implied threat to run if the candidates ignore his agenda. He also might be waiting to see who the Democratic frontrunners are at the end of the year.
--Posted at 10:25 PM | link

Graham might be dropping out of the race:

WASHINGTON — Democrat Bob Graham told a Senate colleague Thursday that he would abandon his struggling presidential bid, a Democratic source said, but in a day filled with mixed signals, aides said he will continue to campaign.

The Florida senator's future in the crowded Democratic field remained in doubt as the campaign made several staff changes and held a series of high-level meetings.

Initially, the Graham campaign announced a news conference for Friday at 2 p.m., suggesting that he would quit the race. But late Thursday, the campaign and state Democratic Party said there would be no news conference. "Senator Graham has decided to soldier on," said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox.

Graham, after one of several staff meetings in Florida, said, "We'll make a decision shortly."
Via Atrios.
--Posted at 10:11 PM | link

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Wesley Clark and Howard Dean have urged ESPN to fire Rush Limbaugh for his comments about a black quarterback. Limbaugh said:

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team.''

Clark and Dean responded to this comment today:
In the letter to ESPN, Clark said, ``There can be no excuse for such statements. Mr. Limbaugh has the right to say whatever he wants, but ABC and ESPN have no obligation to sponsor such hateful and ignorant speech. Mr. Limbaugh should be fired immediately.''

Later, Dean said in a statement, "There is no legitimate place in sports broadcasting for voices that seek to discredit the achievement of athletes on the basis of race.''

Other Democratic candidates might jump on the bandwagon. We'll see.

UPDATE (8/2/03): Limbaugh quits. Sharpton was apparently the only other Democratic candidate to join in the criticism.
--Posted at 7:05 PM | link

According to the numbers on Dean's website, he didn't quite make it to $15 million. The site lists $14,786,510 as Dean's total for the third quarter, with 188,165 contributions.

It's not like missing the $15 million goal will cause Dean's people any lasting anguish. They came out far ahead of the rest of the Democrats and once again asserted Dean's frontrunner status. Besides, they did meet their other goal--raising $5 million in the last 10 days of September.
--Posted at 8:53 AM | link

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The AFL-CIO postponed a meeting to decide whether to endorse a presidential candidate. This is bad for Gephardt, who is expecting to get the union's endorsement if it comes soon.
--Posted at 7:07 PM | link

In a September 28 article in the L.A. Times, Josh Marshall analyzes the allegations, coming mostly from Republicans, that Wesley Clark is a liar:

In the coming weeks we'll see more and more of this. And along the way we'll learn the answers to two questions, both of which may have a profound effect on the outcome of next year's election.

The first is: Who will define Clark first? Clark's opponents and his own nascent campaign are moving as fast as they can to answer that question in their favor. But will Clark be able to staff his campaign in time to offer any sustained rebuttal to the attacks? This is a candidate, after all, who reportedly didn't decide to enter the race till 48 hours before his announcement. And Clark has already made some of the kinds of mistakes common to first-time campaigners, storming out onto political minefields without knowing where the lethal charges are buried. So he may end up doing some of his opponents' job for them.

The other question is this: Will the mainstream media — networks, major metropolitan dailies and news magazines — be carried along for the ride? In 1999 and 2000 a steady drumbeat of conservative attacks on then-Vice President Al Gore, accusing him of being a serial fibber, wended their way into the mainstream media and became a mainstay of coverage during the campaign. The Bush campaign mounted a similar attack on Sen. John McCain's emotional stability during the primaries. Both had a real effect. With Newsweek's report on Clark, it appears that the general could have an uphill battle.

(See here and here for my own reaction to two of the specific attacks on Clark.)
--Posted at 5:17 PM | link

Robert Novak says in a recent column that the continuing bad news in Iraq, and the administration's inability to spin it adequately, are starting to hurt Bush's fundraising:

Dramatic deterioration in the outlook over the last two weeks is reflected in the experience by a Republican businessman in Milwaukee trying to sell $2,000 tickets for Bush's only appearance this year in Wisconsin Oct. 3. In contrast to money flowing easily into the Bush war chest everywhere until now, he encountered stiff resistance. Well-heeled conservative businessmen offered to write a check for $100 or $200, but not $2,000. They gave one reason: Iraq.

The clamp on their wallets, they said, derived from their feeling that Iraq was "an albatross," and that "there is no end in sight." The performance by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld particularly came under fire. The U.N. speech made matters worse, in the eyes of these non-contributors, with the president going "hat in hand" to the General Assembly.

In fact, Bush was not begging at the U.N., but this mistaken impression reflects a breakdown in the White House propaganda machine. On the network broadcast programs the Tuesday morning after the speech, Wes Clark and Howard Dean were blasting the president, without anybody representing the administration position.

Bush's fundraising numbers for Q3 are very strong, so he hardly has a problem with fundraising yet. But Novak's column suggests that the Iraq situation could destroy the Bush administration if things don't get better by November 2004.

If the Valerie Plame scandal goes anywhere, Novak might have unwittingly contributed to the Bush administration's decline. He's trying to protect the administration from the possible consequences of his own column from July, in which he revealed that Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife was a "CIA operative." Now he's saying that nobody in the Bush administration asked him to leak the information, but Josh Marshall reports that he had a different story in July. I don't see any of this in Novak's September 29 column, but this could be attributed to deadlines. It could soon become too big for him to ignore.

Novak isn't saying who his sources were. But Karl Rove has always been a suspect, and he has leaked information to Novak before. The following is an excerpt from a article on this whole mess (via This Modern World):

Karl Rove, senior political advisor to George W. Bush, is a very powerful man. That is not to say he has never been in trouble. Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush Sr. campaign for trashing Robert Mosbacher, Jr., who was the chief fundraiser for the campaign and an avowed Bush loyalist. Rove accomplished this trashing of Mosbacher by planting a negative story with columnist Bob Novak. The campaign figured out that Karl had done the dirty deed, and he was given his walking papers.

Nothing has been firmly pinned on Rove at this point, and perhaps nothing ever will be. But if he is shown to be responsible, the Bush campaign will be in a lot of trouble. Not only will his involvement reflect very badly on Bush, but he might be forced into resignation, throwing Bush's campaign strategy into chaos.

UPDATE: Novak speaks on the issue.
--Posted at 5:03 PM | link

The third quarter of fundraising will end tonight at midnight Eastern time. According to a CNN article, these are the current rough estimates:

  • CNN says that Dean had raised $13.5 million as of 8 AM today. I checked Dean's official site at 2 PM Eastern time, and his total was listed as $14,127,640. My prediction is that he'll meet his goal of $15 million by midnight.

  • Kerry will probably be taking in between $4.5 million and $5 million, a lower total than Q2.

  • Lieberman will also probably fall short of previous totals, raising $4 million this time compared to $5.1 million in Q2.

  • Edwards will collect less than $4 million according to aides, less than Q2 and about less than half of what he made in Q1.

  • Graham will report about $2 million.

  • Clark's totals are uncertain, but a spokeswoman says that he will fall short of $2 million.

  • Gephardt's campaign has refused to release fundraising estimates, so the assumption is that his numbers will be disappointing.

  • The rest of the Democratic candidates are expected to raise less than $1 million.

  • Bush has raised around $50 million this quarter. This is much more than the $35 million he raised in Q2, and easily more than all of the Democrats combined.

Of course, these are all nothing but estimates. But two trends are clear at this point: Dean is dominating fundraising among Democrats, and Bush has been more successful at fundraising than the entire Democratic field. When the exact numbers come out, it will be easier to compare the Democrats to each other.
--Posted at 2:19 PM | link

The disclosure of a CIA agent's identity has hit the front pages and put the White House on the defensive. The Democratic candidates seem to agree that the Justice Department cannot be trusted to conduct the investigation:

"- Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said Ashcroft should recuse himself from an investigation, which Dean said should be handled by an 'independent Justice Department inspector general.'

- Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., called for a congressional investigation. 'I don't think we can leave this to the administration's own Justice Department,' he said.

- Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said an independent, non-partisan counsel should investigate. 'It would be scandalous if such acts were a reaction to the public's conclusion that the president has used 16 misleading words in his State of the Union address last January.'

- Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also called for a special counsel. 'Too many questions exist to risk allowing any potential for political intervention,' he said.

- Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., joined in calling for a special counsel. 'On too many fronts, from Iraq to environmental policy, this administration has had a problem telling the truth when it conflicts with its political agenda,' he said. 'I do not trust John Ashcroft to get to the bottom of this on his own.'"

It's not clear to what degree this affair will affect Bush's chances of reelection. But it certainly can't help him. Not only does it raise the possibility that someone in the White House violated federal law, but it reminds everyone of the summer's State of the Union scandal and the related questions surrounding the case for war with Iraq. Bush can only pray that this either amounts to nothing or is long forgotten by November 2004.
--Posted at 1:02 AM | link

Monday, September 29, 2003

The site President Elect has a new electoral map pitting Bush against a generic Democratic candidate. The map is apparently based on recent state polls, but I can't find the numbers on the website. Anyway, Bush is still winning, with 307 votes either solidly in his corner or leaning his way, against 231 votes solid or leaning for the Democrat. This is a drop from 321 votes for Bush in May, but it still leaves the Democrats 39 votes away from winning. They have to hold onto all of their own "leaning" states and capture a few of the Republicans' to win (grabbing Florida from Bush this time could help a lot). If Bush's popularity continues to drop, such a shift in votes is not out of the question.
--Posted at 10:22 AM | link

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Bush campaign is reportedly planning to save its advertising cash until the Democrats have settled on a candidate. The logic behind this decision is that the Democrats are doing enough fighting among themselves to render Republican attacks unnecessary. Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is dismissive of the Democratic candidates, accusing them of adopting "harsh, bitter, personal" attacks and having "no positive agenda of their own." Still, campaign officials say that they are "taking nothing for granted."

Of course, the fact that Bush's campaign isn't advertising yet won't spare Democrats from being attacked from the Right. Conservative magazines and talk shows will continue to refine their attacks on the Democratic candidates, and the most effective ones will find their way, in some form, into Republican advertising.
--Posted at 9:49 PM | link

A few posts ago, I mentioned a Weekly Standard article that bashed Wesley Clark for "lying" when he implied that he made phone calls to Karl Rove. The article went on to name another "lie":

Last June, the latest Democratic candidate for president implied that he "got a call" on 9/11 from "people around the White House" asking the general to publicly link Saddam Hussein to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.


While it turns out Clark did receive a call "on either Sept. 12 or Sept. 13," the call wasn't from the White House. It was from Israeli-Canadian Middle East expert Thomas Hecht, who told the Toronto Star that he called to invite Clark to give a speech in Canada.

Rush Limbaugh picked this story up, and embellished it:

First, Clark said on Meet the Press that he got a call from the White House asking him to link Iraq to 9/11, when he was going to go on CNN. It turns out he got a call from somebody up in Canada, some think tank, but never got a call from the White House. He lied about that, made it up.

Spinsanity has Clark's actual words, which don't quite say what the Standard and Limbaugh have claimed that they say:

GEN. CLARK: I think it was an effort to convince the American people to do something, and I think there was an immediate determination right after 9/11 that Saddam Hussein was one of the keys to winning the war on terror. Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.

MR. RUSSERT: By who? Who did that?

GEN. CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, "You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein." I said, "But--I'm willing to say it but what's your evidence?" And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had--Middle East think tanks and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn't talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.

Although Clark mentions the White House in his muddled response to this question, he does not say that the White House called him about a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. The Weekly Standard chooses its words carefully, saying that Clark "implied that he 'got a call' on 9/11 from 'people around the White House.'" Perhaps Clark did "imply" it by mentioning the White House in close proximity to the statement "I got a call on 9/11." The Standard portrays the comment as a "whopper," however, which isn't supported by Clark's words. A statement has to be false, not merely a clumsy implication that might have been intentional or not, to be considered a "whopper." Limbaugh discards such careful words as "implied" and thus gets the story wrong, accusing Clark of saying that he actually received a call from the White House, when in fact Clark said no such thing.

Republicans (and some left-leaning Democrats or Greens) are going out of their way to portray Clark as a liar and a phony. To some degree, their efforts are based on facts, such as Clark's pre-9/11 praise of the Bush administration and his seemingly inconsistent statements on the resolution authorizing the Iraq war. But this incident shows a true statement--confusing as the phrasing might have been--transformed into a "whopper" by the Weekly Standard and a "lie" by Limbaugh. This kind of distortion can be debunked, but many people won't remember the details even if they read them. They'll only remember that Limbaugh called Clark a liar, and he seemed to have evidence, however weak it might have been in reality.

As usual, if you think I'm overlooking something here, email me to set me straight.
--Posted at 4:11 AM | link

Singer Jimmy Buffett has apparently decided to help fellow Floridian Bob Graham in his fundraising efforts. The fundraiser will be held on November 23, 2003 in Palm Beach, Florida. Bob's second quarter fundraising numbers indicate that he needs all the help he can get, although it probably isn't fair to judge until we see what he did in Q3.
--Posted at 3:08 AM | link

George W. Bush's approval rating has dropped substantially in the state of New York, according to a recent poll conducted by Marist College. His rating is now 44 percent, down from 58 percent in April and 79 percent in December 2001. Forty-eight percent of New Yorkers and 23 percent of New York Republicans "definitely" plan to vote against Bush in 2004.

New York has always been a Democratic-leaning state, but these numbers contradict the predictions of some Republicans who predicted that Bush could win 49 or 50 states in 2004. Now, it looks like Democrats can at least win the states that have traditionally voted for them.
--Posted at 2:52 AM | link

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