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Friday, December 19, 2003

The Bush campaign seemed to take a swipe at Wesley Clark for his trip to testify against Milosevic. Part of a fundraising letter reads as follows:

Wesley Clark, who was in Europe when Saddam Hussein was captured, criticized the president this week and said that rather than going after Saddam, he would have let the United Nations continue to seek the dictator's cooperation.
This comes after a passage in the letter that accuses Democrats of raising "foreign cash to attack our president."

The implication seems to be that Clark was off doing "European" things instead of being home in America to celebrate Saddam's capture. How else to explain the seemingly gratuitous clause referring to Wesley Clark's location, which is irrelevant to what follows? The reference to "foreign cash" might be designed to imply that the purpose of his trip to Europe was to raise money to use against Bush.

Of course, Wesley Clark's real purpose in visiting Europe was to testify against Slobodon Milosevic, a murderous dictator on trial. Furthermore, the Bush administration supported Clark's trip. The Bush administration's response--"It's a statement of fact. We were describing his location"--is pretty lame, given that there is little relevance to Clark's physical location when Saddam was captured. If Bush were abroad when an important event occurred, would the Bush campaign go out of its way to mention this in its materials? Are Democrats supposed to stay out of foreign countries altogether during the campaign season?
--Posted at 8:54 PM | link

Dean's academic transcript from Yale has been released. His grades look a lot better than Bush's grades at the same school. Right-wing types will surely make a big deal out of the fact that Dean took some classes related to Marxism and Communism. Also, they'll probably find a way to turn Dean's respectable grades into a liability, just as they tried to make Bush's low grades seem like a virtue.
--Posted at 8:39 PM | link

Nader says that he wants to run, and now it's only a question of whether he can get the resources. He justified his decision with criticism of the Democrats:

"If the goal is to defeat Bush, the Democrats have their hands tied on so many issues that a third political force could elaborate on," he said in an interview. "They are dialing for dollars from the same corporate interests and they aren't willing to really challenge him."
Nader said that Howard Dean is "better than most," but also criticized him for being too conservative. Some of Nader's comments suggest that his decision could depend on whether Dean or someone else wins the nomination.

I can't see what's in this for Nader. Many Democrats hate him for his part in the 2000 election, and even the Green Party is divided over whether to nominate him. His chances of victory are nil, and even he admits that he'll probably lose some of his 2000 supporters to the Democrats. Any "positive" results from a possible Nader candidacy will happen now, before he actually enters the race. Perhaps he thinks that he can scare the Democrats into veering left. But if this doesn't work, and the Democrats do nominate someone too conservative for his taste, is there really much for him to gain by running? Sure, he'll offer an "alternative" for Democrats alienated by their party's choice, but my guess is that most of these Democrats will vote for their party's candidate this time anyway. There's defintely a stronger "anybody but Bush" feeling in the air than there was in 2000.
--Posted at 8:17 PM | link

Transcripts of Wesley Clark's testimony in the Slobodan Milosevic trial are now available here and here. They're very long, but the AP provides the gist of it here.
--Posted at 12:05 AM | link

Thursday, December 18, 2003

An American Research Group poll of likely New Hampshire voters shows Kerry moving up slightly, from 13 percent in the group's last poll to 20 percent in the most recent one. But Dean is still the clear leader, with 45 percent support. For Kerry, it's all about beating expectations in New Hampshire. Winning may be almost impossible, but he can try to pull off a respectable second--and avoid third at all costs.

Kerry evidently is not giving up anytime soon. He just loaned his campaign $850,000 and will be mortgaging his home to come up with more money. Under current campaign law, Kerry has only a limited amount of time to raise money to pay back his loan.
--Posted at 11:59 PM | link

Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values is removing from the air its ads that not-too-subtly suggested that electing Dean would allow Osama bin Laden to destroy America. But it's not because of the protests of Dean supporters. Instead it's because federal law prohibits the running of such ads by outside groups in the month before a primary date.

If you're curious about the ad in question, it's on the group's website.
--Posted at 12:29 PM | link

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Speaking of bad news for Kerry, Dean has widened his lead over Kerry in New Hampshire to 46-17, with all the other candidates trailing them. But Kerry can't just give up and focus on other states. He has an interest in making Dean's victory in New Hampshire as narrow as possible, while keeping himself ahead of the other candidates.
--Posted at 1:16 PM | link

Things continue to get worse for the Kerry campaign. A Kerry staffer sent an email to reporters that criticized Howard Dean. She requested that it be treated as "background," which means that it would be attributed only to a Democratic campaign. But Adam Nagourney of the NYT attributed it to Kerry's campaign in an article, and said later that his policy is to treat information as "background" only after negotiation with the source. Now, Kerry's campaign is outraged. Nagourney's "outing" of the source makes the Kerry campaign appear too cowardly to take credit for its own statements. Although other campaigns use background information--and have been exposed by Nagourney on other occasions--this little flap looks especially bad now because of the increasingly desperate state of Kerry's campaign. And the more Kerry's people complain about it, the more desperate they look.
--Posted at 1:07 PM | link

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

During his trial, Slobodan Milosevic cited the much-quoted criticism of Wesley Clark by General Hugh Shelton. This prompted a response from Bill Clinton:

During a break in testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Clark and the tribunal prosecutors contacted intermediaries who contacted Mr. Clinton, who swiftly faxed a brief letter to Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the tribunal.

"Contrary to Mr. Milosevic's claim, General Wesley Clark carried out the policy of the NATO alliance, which was to stop massive ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, with great skill, integrity and iron determination," the letter stated, according to officials in The Hague.
The release of Clark's testimony is scheduled for this Friday.
--Posted at 11:47 PM | link

Monday, December 15, 2003

Wesley Clark is testifying at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. According to the article, his testimony will be made public later this week, after being reviewed and edited by the U.S. government.
--Posted at 1:43 PM | link

According to some very recent polls, the capture of Saddam has boosted Bush's approval rating with regard to Iraq to 58 percent, up from 48 percent in November. It has not changed opinion about whether the Iraq war was worth it (53 percent say it was; 48 percent say it wasn't).
--Posted at 10:33 AM | link

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Well, in case I'm the only news source you've checked today, I'll mention that Saddam Hussein has been captured by U.S. forces. Here are some reactions from the campaigns:

All of the statements express a variation on the same message--"This is good news, but this isn't over." That includes Bush's statement, which isn't even the most enthusiastic of the bunch. That honor goes to Lieberman, who starts his statement with "Hallelujah, praise the Lord." I haven't seen anything yet from Al Sharpton or Carol Moseley Braun. They'll have some comment eventually, I'm sure; they're just slower in getting their messages out. [UPDATE: The NYT now has quotations from each of the Democratic candidates, including Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, about Hussein's capture. The Washington Post also has the statements, some in text, some in audio format.]

The capture of Saddam should give Bush a boost in the polls, at least in the short term. What will happen in the long term depends on several factors. Will Saddam reveal whether WMD's exist? Will attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq continue with their present intensity? How much was the failure to capture Saddam affecting American opinion of the war's aftermath? Will there be a highly publicized trial of Saddam that occurs during the general election campaign?

The developing conventional wisdom among right-wingers--at least those of the "Howard Dean is Pro-Saddam" variety--is that this news spells doom for Dean's campaign. To which I say: not necessarily. Dean was not foolish enough to base his entire campaign on the claim that Saddam would never be captured. No matter what you think of Dean's arguments against the war, their validity is not affected by the latest news. In fact, Dean's people are probably happy that this happened now instead of late October 2004, when any "temporary" gain in support for Bush would probably last through election day.

Still, the assertion that Saddam's capture will help Bush is most likely correct. I see one way that it could turn out to hurt Bush, though. If attacks on U.S. soldiers continue, then Saddam's capture will undermine the argument that he was directing the attacks, or that they were carried out by those who hoped for Saddam's return to power. Some people will begin to wonder, "okay, we've captured Saddam, our job is done--so why are our troops still over there getting killed?" Dennis Kucinich makes a form of this argument in his statement on Saddam's capture, saying that the U.S. must "seize this moment and end the occupation of Iraq." (Granted, Kucinich had been calling for withdrawal before Saddam's capture.) Today's news does not resolve more fundamental questions about U.S. strategy in Iraq, and these questions could continue to haunt Bush during the campaign. A lot depends on possible consequences of Saddam's capture that can't be accurately predicted now.
--Posted at 2:06 PM | link

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