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Saturday, November 29, 2003

Wesley Clark has joined the attack on Dean for his failure to serve in Vietnam:

"I didn't have as much practice skiing as the governor did. He was out there skiing when I was recovering from my wounds in Vietnam," Clark, a former supreme allied commander in Europe, told WNTK radio on Wednesday.

The "skiing" aspect of the attack continues to be harmful, not only because it casts doubt on whether Dean was "really" unable to serve, but because it makes him look like a privileged rich boy.
--Posted at 3:04 PM | link

Wednesday, November 26, 2003 is an interesting site that shows campaign fundraising data. The money maps are especially cool; you can see contributions broken down by counties, zip codes, and states. Also, there are several different candidate rankings, showing what kind of donors are contributing money. Dean leads the "GrassRoots Index" of small contributions and Bush leads the "FatCats Index" of large donations--although interestingly, Bush is also second place in the "GrassRoots Index."

(Via Kos.)
--Posted at 6:05 PM | link

Slate's William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg discuss the new Republican ad, "Reality." Neither of them likes it very much. Saletan says:

When Republicans introduced this ad, they suggested that Democrats had twisted President Bush's national security record for months and that it was time to even the score. If so, mission accomplished. In 30 seconds, this ad distorts the Democrats' views and impugns their motives more crudely than the Democrats have done to Bush in two years.
Weisberg says:

That the RNC has launched this ad so prematurely may be a hopeful sign for the Democrats. It suggests that the Bush administration recognizes a deep vulnerability on Iraq and is getting panicky. When you're panicked, you can make mistakes that help the other side. That's what I think is happening here.
There's more, of course.

Meanwhile, someone at the Dean campaign noticed that when Bush originally delivered one of the lines that appears in the ad, he stumbled. Yet the line is delivered perfectly in the ad. Democrats have suggested that Bush might have recited the line again specifically for the ad. If so, this contradicts the Republican National Committee's claim that it did not work with President Bush, and it might mean that the RNC violated the law.
--Posted at 8:45 AM | link

Monday, November 24, 2003

With Graham out of the race, his former staff members and relatives are flocking to other campaigns. His daughters have chosen different candidates; his oldest is joining Dean's campaign and his third daughter is fundraising for Wesley Clark. Clark has also hired Graham's former campaign manager Paul Johnson to serve as Clark's own campaign manager. Johnson follows the lead of several other major Graham staffers who joined the Clark campaign after Graham quit.
--Posted at 3:58 PM | link

Joe Lieberman is upset with the Democratic National Committee for excluding him from tonight's debate in Iowa. The facts leading up to this situation are as follows. Lieberman was the only candidate to reject an invitation to compete in the debate, which is sponsored by the DNC. Later, Edwards and Kerry backed out of a personal appearance in order to take part in a Senate debate, but the DNC allowed them to participate in the Iowa debate via satellite. Then Lieberman changed his mind and asked to participate by satellite, but the DNC denied his request. Apparently, Wesley Clark was the candidate who objected, even though he has backed out of debates before and been allowed to return. I'm not sure why Clark or anyone else has a special interest in excluding Lieberman.
--Posted at 3:53 PM | link

From the LA Times:

A Kerry supporter, former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, said Dean "weaseled out of going to Vietnam on a medical deferment for a bad back and wound up on the ski slopes of Aspen." Cleland said that record stood in stark contrast to that of Kerry, who he said served heroically in Vietnam.

Cleland suffered devastating wounds — losing both legs and one arm — while serving in Vietnam. He later headed the Veterans Administration under President Carter.

This is some of the harshest criticism of Dean that I've seen on the draft issue from a Democrat. Kerry and Clark haven't criticized Dean's decision, to my knowledge, but they have suggested that a candidate who had served (like them) would be a stronger opponent against Bush.

As Cleland's attack indicates, Dean might suffer more from the fact that he was skiing than from the deferment itself. From the same article:

Dean's actions could make him a more difficult candidate to sell in the South, said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.

The avoidance of Vietnam could be most damaging if it reinforces an image that Dean is a privileged Northerner.

"For Southerners, military experience has been something that has been expected of people, and the essence of it for people here will be the genuineness of his deferment," MacManus said. "That ski thing resonates with the average person. They can't go skiing. They don't have enough money to go skiing. That just looks like 'rich boy gets out of it' to them."

This will become less of an issue if Dean makes it to the general election, because Republicans have their own "rich boy gets out of it" problem. But for now, Kerry, Clark, and their supporters are going to make as much of this as they can.
--Posted at 3:44 PM | link

John Kerry and Howard Dean are planning to air ads that respond to the new Republican ad.

In Mr. Kerry's advertisement, to appear on stations in Iowa on Monday, excerpts of the Republican spot are shown on the screen as an announcer says: "George Bush's ad says he's being attacked for attacking the terrorists. No, Mr. President, America's united against terror."

The announcer continues, "The problem is you declared `mission accomplished' when you had no plan to win the peace," as the screen flashes to the "Mission Accomplished" banner posted on the carrier Abraham Lincoln when the president stood on its flight deck and declared the end of major combat in Iraq.

The announcer also criticizes the administration for its handling of reconstruction contracting, saying that it "handed out billions in contracts to contributors like Halliburton." The administration has said its contracting process in Iraq has been proper and above board.

The spot ends with Mr. Kerry speaking to the camera, calling for the United States to get more allied help in Iraq and then saying, "We shouldn't be cutting education and closing firehouses in America while we're opening them in Iraq."

Dr. Dean's commercial also features an excerpt from the Republican advertisement, in which the president warns of the perils that unconventional weapons pose to the nation. An announcer then says of Mr. Bush, "He misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction, and we went to war when we shouldn't have. Howard Dean is committed to fighting terrorism and protecting our national security."

--Posted at 2:14 PM | link

An AP poll indicates that gay marriage is a relatively low priority for most voters, compared to the economy and the situation in Iraq. But it could be what the AP calls a "wedge" issue, that could "split voters from a candidate or party they might otherwise support." Both parties are worried that a strong stance on this issue could cost them support. The candidate who expresses the strongest opinion on gay marriage will probably suffer the most backlash.

Of course, all of the major candidates from both parties oppose gay marriage. A summary of their positions is compiled here. Only Kucinich, Sharpton, and Braun support "gay marriage," but most of the other Democrats are willing to support "civil unions" or something similar. Some of the Democrats who oppose gay marriage are also opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Dean, Gephardt, Edwards, Kerry, and Lieberman are in this category, and Clark apparently has not expressed an opinion. Thus, the main issue might not be "gay marriage" itself, but civil unions and a constitutional amendment. Bush has not expressed an opinion on an amendment despite the demands of cultural conservatives, and there's still a chance that he might not want to take that risk. Although it seems like more voters nationwide oppose gay marriage than support it, it's not clear that this opposition is sufficient to push through an amendment.
--Posted at 1:43 PM | link

One poll shows Dean with a 9 point lead over Kerry in the latter's home state of Massachusetts. Two other polls in the same state showed the two candidates in a statistical dead heat.
--Posted at 1:27 PM | link

Laos has turned over remains that are said to be those of Howard Dean's brother, Charles Dean, who disappeared while visiting the country in 1974.
--Posted at 10:32 AM | link

Several Democrats are demanding that the Republicans pull their new ad from the air. The Republican National Committee said that it will keep showing the ad.

You can view the ad on the Republican National Committee website. Here's a transcript of the relevant part, via the AP:

President George W. Bush: "It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."

Announcer: Strong and Principled Leadership

Bush: "Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power."

Announcer: Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists.

Bush: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"

Announcer: Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others.

Announcer: Call Congress Now

Announcer: Tell them to support the president's policy of pre-emptive self-defense.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie: "The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

It's an ad designed to imply a lot and say a little. No Democrats are named. The Democratic Party is not named. Instead, we get views attributed to "some," inviting the viewer to assume that all of the views described are those of the Democratic Party. The implication is that Democratic criticism of the administration's Iraq policy is "attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."

This is, I'm sure, just the beginning. If the Democrats want to stand a chance in 2004, they have to come up with an effective and consistent response to the not-so-subtle suggestion that they all support terrorism. And their response has to be strong enough to overcome the impact of Bush speaking in New York City near the anniversary of 9/11 at the Republican Convention, implying that electing a Democrat will bring on many 9/11's. What this response will be depends significantly on who they nominate. If Dean wins, he will have to distinguish the Iraq war from the fight against terrorism at every opportunity. If Lieberman wins, he can assert his hawkish foreign policy views and general agreement with Bush on Iraq to defend himself against such attacks. Still, the winning candidate will have to make sure that its message doesn't alienate some wing of the Democratic party. The Democratic Party is divided over whether the Iraq war was justified in the first place, and over what role the U.S. should play in the occupation. They have no consistent, party-wide talking points on foreign policy. Republicans do, at least to the extent necessary to produce an ad like this without offending any of their own. Obviously, this will be an asset for them in the 2004 campaign.
--Posted at 1:16 AM | link

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