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Saturday, October 18, 2003

Another videotape has surfaced that shows Wesley Clark praising the Bush administration. This one comes from a January 22, 2002 speech at Harding University in Arkansas. Clark spoke positively about the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, and added:

"I tremendously admire, and I think we all should, the great work done by our commander-in-chief, our president, George Bush."
Clark's campaign advisor defended the remarks, saying that they applied to nothing more than the campaign in Afghanistan, and that the administration's plans for Iraq were not yet fully clear.

This gives more ammunition to the other Democratic campaigns who want to claim that Clark is not a true Democrat, as well as to Republicans who want to paint Clark as a phony. It pushes foward the date after which Clark can say he changed his mind about the Bush administration. Still, it probably won't do much damage if Clark can make clear that the above-quoted sentence was delivered in the context of a discussion of Afghanistan. Clark can still claim that the Iraq war was the turning point that drove him from enthusiastic praise to harsh criticism of the Bush administration (as long as an even later videotape doesn't appear).
--Posted at 5:54 PM | link

The Washington Post has a new article about the life of Wesley Clark, with a focus on the ambition and self-confidence that made him a success but caused tension between him and other military leaders. An earlier Post article made a similar point.
--Posted at 2:41 PM | link

The Democratic National Committee has produced an ad calling for an independent investigation of the Valerie Plame leak scandal. Video clips in various formats are available here.
--Posted at 1:58 PM | link

Howard Dean argues that repealing all of George W. Bush's tax cuts is one way to help the economy. Edwards and Kerry attacked the proposal, saying that "middle-class" families should be exempt from the repeal.

Conventional wisdom seems to say that repealing tax cuts for the middle class is never a winning issue, even if it makes economic sense. The Republican National Committee Chairman has compared Dean to losing 1984 presidential candidate Walter Mondale, who also said during the campaign that he would raise taxes. Of course, taxes aren't always the issue that will make or break a candidate; Bob Dole was unable to bribe voters away from Clinton with his promise of a 15 percent tax cut. But Dean is already at risk of being portrayed by Republicans as an extreme liberal, and appearing to be in favor of tax increases won't help. Dean might be better off adopting the Edwards/Kerry position and exempting anyone who is even close to middle class from the repeal.
--Posted at 1:54 PM | link

Joe Lieberman was not a popular speaker at the Arab American Institute leadership conference, because of his strong support for Israel.

"What about the wall?" shouted several attending the Arab American Institute leadership conference as they interrupted Lieberman's speech. The reference was to Israel's plan to build a barrier that juts into the West Bank.

Lieberman, who is Jewish, insisted the wall is temporary.

"I regret the confiscations," said the Connecticut senator, referring to the Palestinian land that has been taken in the effort to build the wall.

If Arab-Americans defect in large numbers from the Republican to the Democratic party, as recent polls suggest that they will, it doesn't look like Lieberman will be their top choice.
--Posted at 4:36 AM | link

Friday, October 17, 2003

Wesley Clark has released his military records, which contain the praise of many former superiors. This move was intended in part to refute criticism of Clark's behavior as NATO commander, such as that raised by Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shelton found Clark to be arrogant and declared that he would not vote for him. Clark's record does not directly address such claims, because the comments from superiors end after Clark was a two-star general. Republicans (and some anti-Clark Democrats) will no doubt spin the comments of Shelton and others as proof that Clark is unfit for the presidency, while Clark-supporting Democrats will dismiss them as mere personal rivalry and emphasize other statements in Clark's record. Winning this spin battle is critical for Democrats, because Clark's military background is his main asset. If it becomes a liability, then Clark would have very little remaining to support his campaign.
--Posted at 11:49 AM | link

The Boston Globe discusses Howard Dean's potential to win Southern voters, particularly African-Americans. Dean has very few connections to the South, unlike two of his rivals--John Edwards and Wesley Clark. In South Carolina, which is one of the earlier primary states, Dean faces an additional disadvantage because Republicans and independents are allowed to vote in the primary. Although many Republicans gleefully talk about "sabotaging" the Democratic race by supporting candidates in the primary who would be unelectable against Bush, my guess is that many voters won't do this when they get to the polls. Besides, Dean doesn't look so obviously weak anymore that he would attract these sorts of votes; "sabotage" campaigns might be better directed in support of Sharpton or Kucinich. The downside of this is that many conservative Republicans will vote for the candidate that they like best, and this most likely won't be Dean.

Dean might have a better shot among black voters. The article repeats the conventional wisdom that Dean has little of the "down-home charm" that is allegedly so important to southern African-Americans, but it notes that Dean might be attractive to African-American voters in other ways. His positions on the war and the economy might be more important than a focus on "racial" issues.
--Posted at 11:20 AM | link

Twenty unions are forming a group that plans to mobilize voters in support of Dick Gephardt. Together, these unions have about 5 million members. But many unions are still not on board, because they think that Gephardt is not the strongest candidate for the White House. Gephardt has been a longtime friend of organized labor, but some unions aren't willing to support someone who does not appear to be a potential winner. The AFL-CIO has endorsed two Democratic candidates in the past (Walter Mondale and Al Gore), and neither of them ended up becoming president.
--Posted at 11:04 AM | link

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The official figures for the third quarter are in. Here's how the candidates did:

Third Quarter Fundraising (second quarter totals in parentheses)

George W. Bush - $50.0 million ($35 million)

1. Howard Dean - $14.8 million ($7.6 million)
2. John Kerry - $4.0 million ($5.9 million)
3. Dick Gephardt - $3.8 million ($3.8 million)
4. Joe Lieberman - $3.6 million ($5.1 million)
5. Wesley Clark - $3.5 million (N/A)
6. John Edwards - $2.6 million ($4.5 million)
7. Dennis Kucinich - $1.7 million ($1.5 million)
8. Bob Graham - $1.4 million ($2 million)
9. Carol Moseley Braun - $125,410 ($144,658)
10. Al Sharpton - $121,315 ($130,968)

Cash on Hand (amount at start of quarter in parentheses)

1. George W. Bush - $70.0 million ($32.7 million)

1. Howard Dean - $12.4 million ($6.4 million)
2. John Kerry - $7.8 million ($10.9 million)
3. Dick Gephardt - $5.9 million ($6.3 million)
4. John Edwards - $4.8 million ($8.1 million)
5. Joe Lieberman - $4.1 million ($4.0 million)
6. Wesley Clark - $3.4 million ($0)
7. Bob Graham - $808,253 ($1.8 million)
8. Dennis Kucinich - $785,471 ($1.1 million)
9. Carol Moseley Braun - $29,278 ($22,126)
10. Al Sharpton - $24,070 ($76,209)

A few quick observations...

The Bush fundraising machine continues to dominate, taking in huge amounts of money and spending relatively little. In both categories--Q3 fundraising and cash on hand--Bush easily beats the entire Democratic field combined. Last quarter, it was closer.

Dean is by far the fundraising leader among Democrats, with more than three times what his nearest rival (Kerry) managed to raise in the quarter. Kerry isn't quite as far behind Dean when it comes to cash on hand, but Dean is still the clear Democratic winner in that category too.

Dean and Bush both raised significantly more than they did in the second quarter. Gephardt stayed about the same, although his total puts him in third place among Democrats now, as opposed to fifth place last quarter. Kucinich made a little more this time around. Everybody else is down from last quarter.

Although Dean was the fundraising leader last quarter, he was third among Democrats in cash on hand, behind Kerry and Edwards. Not any more. Kerry is still holding onto second place, but Edwards has fallen to fourth.

Clark managed to beat Edwards by nearly a million in this quarter, despite a late entry into the race. Also, Clark is close on the heels of Lieberman, Gephardt, and Kerry. This is a bit embarrassing for those candidates, but a chunk of Clark's money (about $750,000) had been lined up by Draft Clark groups before he entered the race. Clark's real fundraising strength cannot be evaluated accurately until next quarter.

Bob Graham raised less money than "minor" candidate Kucinich, so it's not surprising that he figured he had no chance.
--Posted at 11:35 AM | link

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

In a three-part series, Slate analyzes rumors that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2004. Republicans seem obsessed with this idea, even though Hillary herself has denied interest and very few Democrats are encouraging her to run.

In Part I, Slate identifies the people who have discussed or encouraged a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2004. They were only able to find five Democrats in the entire country who are encouraging her to run, and only one of them--Mario Cuomo--is a well-known political figure. Among Republicans, however, discussion of a Hillary candidacy is widespread. William Safire thinks that the Clintons will push Clark aside in favor of Hillary if it appears that a Democrat can win in 2004. A right-wing reporter has written an entire book, endorsed by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, about Hillary Clinton's alleged plans to run.

In Part II, Slate discusses why conservatives are obsessed with a Hillary run. They offer six explanations, including the belief that hatred of the Clintons is the only thing that can unite Republicans, and belief in their own caricature of Hillary as "a power-grabbing bitch."

In Part III, Slate links to a FOX News article that suggests that Hillary might be getting close to the deadline for declaring her candidacy. Of course, this is mainly a story of interest to conservatives who have convinced themselves that Hillary is planning to run. Those who aren't obsessed with a Hillary candidacy might wonder why this is news.
--Posted at 11:24 PM | link

The Onion picks on Lieberman in its top story this week.
--Posted at 12:14 AM | link

Wesley Clark is calling for the creation of a civilian reserve to respond to natural disasters and terror attacks.

Clark said the reserve, much like the National Guard, could be called up by the president in times of national emergency. Every American 18 or older could register for a five-year tour and would serve as long as six months if called to duty.


Those called to duty would receive health care, a stipend and the right to return to their jobs when their service had been completed. Clark, one of nine Democrats seeking the nomination, said the program would cost about $100 million a year and would be within the Department of Homeland Security.

In his speech, Clark elaborated on what kind of skills would be needed:
The American people have a huge variety of tools and talents that can also be brought to bear - from foreign language speakers, to welders, to microbiologists. Often, those skills are as needed as the immediate lifesaving ones.


Here's how it would work: Every American age 18 or over will have the opportunity to register for the civilian reserve. If you register, you'll be asked to list your abilities and the types of service that interest you.


Your service could be here in the United States, in the aftermath of an earthquake, a forest fire or a severe storm. Or you could also serve in distant lands, where the struggle for social justice and equality demands our immediate aid. As a village struggles to overcome isolation and hardship, a tribe works to preserve its ancestral territory, or a nation tries to piece together a government of laws.

You could be biologist, a truck driver, or an accountant. Under this program, you'll be offered the opportunity to get involved when your skill set is needed, working with professional staff, lending your talents to the task at hand, making a difference.
TNR's Spencer Ackerman loves the idea and its underlying themes.
--Posted at 12:12 AM | link

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Supreme Court said that it will decide whether reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools with the "under God" clause is unconstitutional. The Court expects to make a decision by the end of June. Scalia has recused himself from the case, so that eliminates one vote in favor of constitutionality.

By the end of June, both parties will probably have selected a nominee. They will probably be expected to comment on the decision, and any controversial responses could play a big part in the November election.

If the Supreme Court rules that the "under God" clause is unconstitutional, Bush will, of course, criticize the decision. He has plenty of supporters who believe passionately that the United States is a nation "under God," and he's not about to change course. The only question is how far he will go. The wisest choice is to denounce the decision, but imply that Americans must respect it for the time being. If he calls on Americans to disobey it, he'll make his religious supporters happy, but alienate those who don't think that preserving "under God" is worth an open battle between the executive and judicial branches. Bush's best strategy, after denouncing the decision, is to remind Americans that if he is reelected, he won't appoint "liberal judges" to the Supreme Court. He doesn't have to be overt about this. With the pledge issue in the background, a mere oblique reference to the judiciary will get the point across.

The Democratic constituency is more divided than Bush's on this issue. There are many who strongly oppose "under God," but also many who don't think that it's a big deal, and even some who support it with some enthusiasm. The last thing that the Democrats want is to be widely accused of being "godless" or "anti-religious." Thus, if the Supreme Court rules the pledge unconstitutional, they'll have to denounce it too, perhaps even more strongly than Bush. They'll catch some flak from some liberal activists for this, but doing otherwise would be political suicide in this country. If their awkward positions on gay marriage are any indication, most Democratic candidates are more than willing to sell out the activists to appeal to what appears to be the center.

If the Supreme Court rules the pledge constitutional, then candidates on both sides have it easy. They just have to state their approval for the decision, and they don't have to run the risk of appearing anti-God or anti-Constitution.
--Posted at 6:14 PM | link

George W. Bush has raised $83.9 million in the five months since he began fundraising. He's getting closer to his goal of $150 to $170 million for the primary season, and his campaign is spending money slowly because of the absence of primary opponents.

Howard Dean and Wesley Clark are thinking about following Bush's lead in rejecting public financing, which removes spending limits for a campaign. At this point, however, they are keeping their options open.

Reports to the FEC--with exact fundraising totals for the third quarter--are due tomorrow night.
--Posted at 3:07 PM | link

Monday, October 13, 2003

Dennis Kucinich is officially announcing his entry into the presidential race. As usual, this doesn't mean much, because he has been campaigning and fundraising for months. But it might give him some extra media attention, which he desperately needs.

--Posted at 12:30 PM | link

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