Saturday, March 06, 2004

More on "flip-flopping"

Will Saletan, Josh Marshall and Publius, among many others, have commented that changing one's mind when conditions change is really not a vice, it's a decidely good thing, and that Bush's problem is that he seems incapable of doing just that: once he decides on a course of action, that's it. It doesn't matter if it turns out the decision is disastrous, he's so damned steadfast that he keeps right on keepin' on. (We're neck deep in the big muddy, and the big fool says to push on.)

I just came across this from a review of two books about FDR:

Faced with the enormity of the Great Depression, FDR, who always thought of himself in peace and war as a practical idealist, was willing to try almost anything. "I have no expectation of making a hit every time I come to bat," he declared in one of his early Fireside Chats on radio. He later added, "The country needs...bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." No national politician could talk like that today.

James Chace
"The Winning Hand"
New York Review of Books (3/11/2004)
[review of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom by Conrad Black, and Frankin and Winston: An Intimate Protrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham]

Remember, FDR isn't just a Democratic icon, he's now an officially sanctioned Republican hero -- remember all those nice things their man Ronnie Reagan said about him? And he clearly did a few good things in his time, like guiding us through the worst war in our history, and managing to get us out of the Great Depression (which, if I recall correctly, started during a Republican administration), so I suppose the GOP might want to follow FDR's example and try some empiricism.

But, of course, that assumes that the goals that the Bush administration wants to achieve are the goals that they express publicly, in which case their unwillingness to change course when things aren't working is perplexing. If, however, you posit that Bush's economic goals weren't that at all, but, in fact, simply to transfer as much money as possible to the rich and powerful, then everything makes much more sense. There's no need for them to try anything else, because they're getting exactly what they wanted!

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/06/2004 11:49:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Kerry (the liberal) vs. Bush (the reluctant conservative)

Here's something from the Knight Ridder Washington bureau:

2004 presidential election offers voters real choice, not an echo

By Steven Thomma
Knight Ridder Newspapers

The 2004 presidential election gives Americans the most dramatic choice of leaders and directions in at least a quarter of a century.

So different are President Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry - in everything from personal style to their approaches to major international, domestic and cultural issues facing the country - that voters have, in effect, a choice between ratifying America's current path and charting a new one.

Like other historic elections, in 1980, 1964 and 1932, the outcome of this year's vote could usher in a radically different way of governing. It's worth noting that the three earlier elections produced landslides. But whoever wins, and by whatever margin, the outcome will have important consequences for Americans' prosperity and safety and for their country's role in the world.

"The difference couldn't be more stark," said Susan Dunn, a presidential historian and co-author of a new book on George Washington.

Bush, 57, is a plainspoken, backslapping, peanut-butter-and-jelly loving Texan who enjoys watching baseball but prefers the solitude of running for his exercise. He launched a pre-emptive war in Iraq, favors suspending some legal rights for suspected terrorists, presided over soaring federal budget deficits, wants to extend tax cuts, backs free trade as an engine of growth regardless of short-term job losses, wants to partly privatize Social Security and wants a constitutional ban on marriage for gays and lesbians.

Kerry, 60, is sometimes aloof and long-winded, patrician, a French chocolate-eating New Englander who unwinds with the team sport of ice hockey. A Yale University graduate like Bush, Kerry served in combat in Vietnam while Bush served at home in the Texas Air National Guard. Kerry, a liberal, now criticizes the Iraq war he voted to authorize. He'd raise taxes on those who make more than $200,000 a year, expand health care to the uninsured, restrict trade to protect jobs regardless of higher prices for imported goods and leave it to states to ban or allow gay marriage.


Bush, the incumbent, is largely defined by his record. His new television ads this week notwithstanding, all that can change his image are events, such as a terrorist attack, developments in Iraq and the economy. His standing is "mostly based on things outside his control," said Joe Lockhart, who was press secretary to President Clinton.

Kerry remains largely unknown to most Americans. He'll spend the spring trying to introduce himself to voters as a decorated Vietnam War veteran with a plan to defend the country from terrorists, restore international alliances and expand the economy.

Bush will try to cast Kerry as an out-of-the-mainstream liberal who's weak on defense and wants to increase taxes. Bush's campaign strategists say their model is Clinton, who used a springtime ad campaign in 1996 to paint Republican rival Bob Dole as a reactionary conservative.

"No one really knows John Kerry," said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist who managed Dole's campaign. "He's literally an unpainted picture."

The sharp differences between Kerry and Bush make it unlikely that Ralph Nader will be able to tout himself as the real alternative to two parties that he claims are mirror images of each other.

In addition, the major candidates' differences on national security, the changing economy, the future of Social Security - even the definition of marriage - make it unlikely that they'll be able to meet and compete in the political center.

"There's no possibility of centrism here," historian Dunn said.

Overall this appears to be a fairly even-handed article, but when one looks a little more closely, there are some hitches:

  • More space is devoted to Bush's assessment of Kerry than is to Kerry's take on Bush

  • Bush is "plainspoken" -- is that code for "tongue-tied" or "unable to put together a coherent sentence"? If so, I'd prefer a more forthright description instead of a coded reference which can be read as a positive.

  • Kerry, on the other hand, is "aloof" and "long-winded". One has to wonder if Thomma thought up those descriptors all by himself?

  • What makes Kerry "French"? Aside, that is, from an anonymous White Horse souse saying that he "looks French"?

  • Is there any authority that can be quoted to the effect that the job losses under Bush's tax regime are "short term"? That implies that the jobs picture will improve, something that Bush has been promising for a long time now, but things don't ever seem to get better. It seems clear that we're sorta past the point where these losses are "short term".

  • Kerry is called a "liberal", but Bush is never called a "conservative," instead (in a section I don't quote above) -- read the entire article here), Thomma says that the attacks of 9/11 "coaxed" out a "conservative philosophy" out of Bush.

  • Kerry is cited as changing his mind about Iraq (that old "flip-flop" thing, this year's first official Goring of Kerry by the right), but no specific mention is made of Bush's promise for "compassionate conservatism", his supposed commitment to a foreign policy of "humility", his fervent dislike of "nation building" and so on, all the tropes of his 2000 campaign that he has completely ignored and done completely the opposite.

I don't think that Thomma distorted anything deliberately or consciously skewed his article in Bush's favor. I can't say that I think he's an ideologue and not an "objective" journalist. Rather, I'd say that his article provides a good example of how reporters can absorb ideas that are floating around in the air without even being much aware of it. With all three branches of the government controlled by the GOP, and the media owned to a large extent by conservatives, it would be difficult for the tropes of the right not to permeate the very environment that a political reporter in Washington inhabits, and in that way to skew the reporting.

From what I've seen, when this is pointed out to reporters, they angrily reject the notion of unconscious bias (journalists are surprisingly thin-skinned about this stuff, considering the kind of poking and flaying they do to politicians as part of their work), which, of course, makes it difficult for them to counter it if they were inclined to do so.

Update: If "Kerry remains largely unknown to most Americans," why is he polling even with or above Bush in national preference polls? Could it be that Bush is known to most Americans, and that's his problem?

And what's with "chocolate-eating?" Isn't that uncomfortably reminiscent of the description of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"? Or to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher's description of Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg as "chocolate makers" when they proposed a European military command autonomous from NATO?

Perhaps I was too quick to absolve Thomma of ideologically-based bias.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/06/2004 04:38:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Comments by request

By request of a regular reader*, I've restored comments.

(*One of a very elite group! We plan to hold our annual reunions in a phone booth.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/06/2004 01:54:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, March 05, 2004

Painted into a corner?

I wonder if the Bush administration hasn't painted itself into something of a corner. It's clear that their inclination is to boil the problems we face down to one cause:

"It's the war, stupid!

It's their obvious ace in the hole. Don't change horses mid-stream, we're in the middle of a war. The economy's not doing well? It's the war, hadn't you heard? No jobs? Well, we're fighting the War on Terrorism. I'm a war President, you know, you can't not re-elect me [sic].

But here's the rub: what war is it that they're referring to?

By invading Iraq they've made Afghanistan into a forgotten backwater, and despite their supposedly redoubled efforts to capture Osama, I continue to believe that this won't happen because he's dead, so no October Surprise. In Iraq, they're working overtime to hand off control this summer, whether or not conditions are right for the handover (they won't be) and regardless of whether there are any real working agreements in place (there won't be). Iraq will degrade into a civil war pretty quickly, and Bush will think that that won't reflect on him because we've withdrawn, but it will because he created the mess (being such a steadfast leader who never falters and all), and we won't be able to do anything about it because we have withdrawn. He'll get the negatives, but not the positives, and we won't be fighting there at all. (So much for fighting against terrorism.)

What else will there be to show people that we're in a "war"? Elevated terror warning levels? People are tired and bored of yellow and orange and are just basically ignoring it. Maybe there will be another terror attack? Well, I guess that would indeed press the message that we're still "at war", but it's hard for me to believe that people are going to see a second attack on us during Bush's watch as being a reason to vote for him.

What I'm saying is that Bush is going to blame our troubles on the ongoing war on terrorism, but he's not going to have any war to show us. He'll certainly try his best to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt, and you can count on seeing more 9/11 footage (how perverse is it that the country is attacked during his time in office, when he's responsible for keeping us safe, and he's using that as a reason to keep him in office?), hearing about more heightened alerts, "specific credible threats" and "elevated levels of chatter" and so on, but, sooner or later, people are bound to notice that the magician never actually pulls the damn rabbit out of the hat.

Update (3/7): About the perversity of Bush mentioned above, I've just learned that Maureen Dowd wrote something along the same lines in her column a few days ago:

Mr. Bush continues to imply that we should be scared because we're not safe, so we need to keep him to protect our national security. Which seems like a weird contradiction. If he's so good at protecting us, why aren't we safe?


Incidentally, she calls Bush's ads "hypocrisy with high production values," which could just as easily be a description of his entire time in office.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/05/2004 05:25:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Taking the country back

In Seattle Weekly, Knute Berger has some very good advice for Kerry, the Democratic party, and all of us:

Election 2004 won't be for the squeamish. Regime change? We know how the current regime deals with upstarts. [...] The guys in power play rough, and they play for keeps.


NOW IT WON'T do for the Democrats to run a noble campaign. Moral superiority in American politics is for losers (check the encyclopedia entry under "Mondale"); moral flexibility is for winners (check entry under "Clinton"). Liberals who have an abundance of moral superiority need to check it at the door.

Liberals also need to learn how to win again. For that, go to the experts: the Republicans. There's no shame in it. In their political how-to from '02 — Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up, former Clinton-War-Roomers-turned-TV-talking-heads Paul Begala and James Carville outline how to run a winning campaign. Like Shakespeare, they know genius is at least one part plagiarism. Take the chapter titled "Kick Ass." Here they take a lesson from "political mastermind" Roger Ailes, the Dr. Evil of modern politics who gave us Reagan, Bush Sr., Nixon, and Fox News—in short, everything but genital herpes. They write, "according to Ailes, the press likes to cover only four things in politics: scandals, gaffes, polls, and attacks. Three of them are bad. So if you want to get in the paper, get your butt on the offensive. . . . " They go on to invoke the name of that great progressive, Gen. George Patton, who looked better than Dukakis in a tank. Patton could slap sense into weak-kneed foot soldiers, and did.

They advise "hard-hitting" attacks, but with a "soft touch" (smile humbly when you're slipping the knife in, like Reagan did), and they offer lessons on how to counterpunch, promising that, if done effectively, your "opponent's jab will be blunted . . . [while] your right fist will be doing a dance on your opponent's face." Yes, it sounds violent and Fight Club-y. Call it Dances With Fists. If you worry that it's primal politics filled with too much testosterone, ask yourself: Isn't this what testosterone's for?

Remember, your opponents are the guys who turned a multiple-amputee war hero, Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, into an unemployed doormat by suggesting he hadn't lost enough limbs fighting for his country in Vietnam. And that's the least of their crimes.

SO IN 2004, forget vigils, puppets, and peace marches, pack away your sea turtle costumes, get out your checkbooks, and strap on your strap-ons. You soccer moms, go knee those NASCAR dads in the groin!

If you want to take this country back, you're going to have to fight for it.

[Final emphasis added. -- Ed]

The stakes are incredibly high here, and while electing Kerry won't solve everything, not when the right still controls the other two branches of government and most of the media, a president can do an awful lot to derail the smooth progression of the slow-mo right-wing coup we're in the mddle of. We certainly hope that Kerry will be a force for progressive ideas and policies, but at this point it's just as important that he be a bulwark against the regressive, repressive and inegalitarian policies of the right.

To achieve what we need to, I do think that the Kerry campaign is going to have to go on the attack, and he, himself, personally, not through surrogates or Kerry's running mate. We really can't afford for him to play defense and wait until Bush attacks to respond, that will be perceived as weakness, and the responses can never (if only for structural reasons, not even counting the conservative bias of the press) get as much attention as the attack itself does. This is one reason that I was so disappointed that Kerry and the Democrats let the AWOL issue die down, and I can only hope that they're waiting for the right opportunity to bring it back up again.

But the attacks we need don't have to be personally about Bush, as tempting a target as he makes. In fact, personal attacks would probably be counterproductive, as people still have liking for Bush the man that's hard to understand, but nevertheless exists. (Cheney is another story altogether -- no one really gives a shit about him, and he should be attacked with everything possible, but in force only after the GOP convention; we shouldn't risk having him bounced off the ticket early on.) There are surely ample affordances in the terrible awful mess Bush & Company have made of everything they've tried to do something with -- Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, the environment -- to provide endless amounts of ammunition for direct and forceful attacks, and the net result will be to sully Bush's character without ever going after him personally. Bush will, as he's already started to do, blame everyone else under the sun (that's the lesson of his personal history), but that will wear thin really soon, and neither Poppy nor James Baker will be able to rescue him once the public starts to understand just how bad things have become under the Bush regime.

[Thanks to Romaine for the cite]

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/05/2004 12:33:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The anthropologists speak

A press release from the American Anthropological Association:

"The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples."

[via Follow Me Here]

Of course, the Bush administration's pattern is to ignore any and all science they find inconvenient or not consistent with their ideological biases, and the "base" that Bush is pandering to by supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment doesn't much care about science either, if it conflicts with their religious dogma, so the net effect of the AAA's statement is approximately nothing, but it's still interesting to know -- I had been wondering what the "normal" status of marriage was throughout history and across cultures.

Of course, what's not clear at all is whether the AAA's prenouncement is actually based on scientific evidence or on its own ideological and political predispositions.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/05/2004 02:08:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


More veep talk

Liberal Oasis does its own handicapping of v.p. potentials. Go there for the full analysis, but here's the executive summary:

Bayh - 3 to 1 (25%)
Gephardt - 5 to 1 (16.7%)
Richardson - 8 to 1 (11.1%)
Edwards - 9 to 1 (10%)
Cleland - 15 to 1 (6.3%)
Nelson or Graham - 20 to 1 (4.8%)
Breaux or Landrieu - 25 to 1 (3.8%)

For what it's worth, I think LO places too much emphasis on the v.p. helping to carry his state, and also overstates the unimportance of the v.p. in the campaign. Gore was tremendously important to the Clinton-Gore ticket the first time out, because the campaign allowed him to carry that weight (and he was good at it), instead of delegating him to obscurity.

As I've stated elsewhere, the importance of this election is such that business as usual practices must be put aside, which is why I still feel Edwards is the best choice. If John Kerry's ego can't handle having a budding superstar as his sidekick, then we're all in real trouble, because he's not going to be much good at fighting back against Bush then either: people with bruised egos make mistakes.

And that's another thing, as long as I'm on the subject. I think it was that weasal Novak on CNN who opined that Edwards wouldn't be a good v.p. for Kerry, because the role of the v.p. is to be the bad guy and do all the dirty work. Again, I think those rules are now out of date. Gore didn't want to fight back against the dirty lies and insinuations of the GOP and the right-wing echo chamber, and look where it got him. The only real chance that Kerry has to win this thing is to be his own fighter, and not to rely on a surrogate, even one who's a running mate, to do the job for him.

Indeed, in the middle of a declared "war on terrorism", in which Bush is getting (unearned, of course) points from voters for being "tough" and "steadfast" and so on, I think it's absolutely necessary that Kerry show himself to be just as tough when he needs to be, able and willing to attack back when hit on, and not the wimpy liberal that the GOP is going to try and portray him as.

I may be deluding myself, but I really think the rules are different this time out, and that Kerry and his advisors had better see that.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/05/2004 12:27:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Senate spectrum

Take a look at this evaluation of the Senators of the 108th Senate across a liberal-conservative spectrum. And while you're there, take a look at where Zell Miller is. Look at the 7 Republican Senators who are more liberal than Miller (Chafee, Snow, Collins, Specter, Smith, Coleman and Dewine).

I've got no use for Spector, despite his "moderation", but can't we arrange some kind of trade with the other team, Chafee, Snow & Collins for Miller and a player to be named later?

More to the point for current events, Kerry is not the most liberal Senator, as the GOP will try to paint him (that was Robert Byrd), he's not even #2 or #3 or even in the top ten. According to this analysis, he's #23, just above Joe Lieberman, and two behind John Edwards (who's just behind Hillary Clinton).

Except for Miller, the Senate breaks down liberal/conservative right along party lines, but being #23 puts Kerry right smack in the middle of the Democratic contingent. He's in the center of a mildly center-left party.

What a freakin' ultra-liberal the man is!

[Via Tapped]

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/04/2004 10:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Putting it together

Matt Yglesias thinks the "Curse of the Sitting Senator" (in American history, no sitting U.S. Senator has been elected President except JFK & Warren G. Harding) is an artifact of the small sample size, and the "curse" is therefore meaningless. (But take a look in the comments at Mark Armstrong's analysis of the curse if "Washington insider" replaces "sitting U.S. Senator," and the rebuttals to that suggestion.)

(I wrote about the question of whether governors or senators have the advantage in running for the presidency here.)

On a related subject, Kevin Drum looks at the past to see if Presidential candidates generally pick a competitor to be their veep. (Short answer: no.) As Kevin writes, this doesn't necessarily add weight one way or the other to whether Kerry will pick Edwards. In fact, my answer is the same one I'd give to those who insist that veep candidates almost always come out of nowhere: it's true in general, but completely irrelevant in this particular election, where the stakes are so much higher then normal.

In normal circumstances, many considerations (ego or pride, anger about attacks during the campaign, fear of being overshadowed) might prevent a candidate from choosing a running mate who, until recently, was a direct competitor, but I think Kerry understands, just as most Democrats understand, that this election is a very different thing. There's just so much riding on the results, so much more potentially disastrous harm that could be done to this country, its people and the world at large if Bush is returned to office (he can't be "re-elected," obviously, since he never was elected in the first place), that all the normal concerns are off, and Kerry and the party must put out the very best, highest profile ticket it can -- which, at this junction, means Edwards or Clark or a few others, and not the obscure governors and other nobodies I've seen some speculation about.

This is not a situation where Kerry should act like a rock star concerned about being shown up by the opening act, he's got to be concerned only that the show, the entire show, is the very best it can possibly be. The better the ticket, the better the chance of crushing Bush -- and isn't that really what we want to do? Not just win, not just squeak by -- don't we want to annihilate the son of a bitch, if at all possible?

More, in a similar vein: Ezra Klein on Pandagon suggests that Kerry announce a "shadow cabinet", and Matt Yglesias says that he should roll them out slowly, for maximum news effect. Atrios agrees with both ideas, but makes the point that it should be emphasized that the "shadow cabinet" will not necessarily be the actual nominees for the cabinet once Kerry is elected.

Here are Ezra's initial suggestions:

President: John Kerry
Vice-President: Bill Richardson
Sec. of State: Sam Nunn
Sec. of Defense: Wesley Clark
Sec. of Homeland Security: Gary Hart
National Security Advisor: Rand Beers
Sec. of Veterans Affairs: Max Cleland
Attorney General: John Edwards
Sec. of Labor: Dick Gephardt

More, of course, would follow. But let's form a real shadow government. Let's have Edwards release statements every time Ashcroft abrogates liberties, let's watch Gephardt give press conferences every time the RNC outsources campaign calling to India, let's see Rand Beers expose the inept counter-terrorism team he left because they weren't making us safer, let's see Rumsfeld's policy of oppositional engagement with "old" Europe and his love of "new" Europe criticized by the man who led Old Europe in freeing New Europe. And at the top, let's see John Kerry making Bush look like less and less of a President by the day. I want to see these Democratic luminaries criss-crossing the nation, stumping in their states and making the news. Let's show the American people that we'll give them a Government they can not only be comfortable with, but that they can be proud of.

I have to think a bit about the specific suggestions to see which ones I agree with (off the top of my head, I prefer Edwards as v.p. and Clark at State instead of Defense, but Hart at DHS is a wonderful choice) but the idea is an excellent one, and would generate a lot of news coverage in the months between now and the convention.

Update: Well, as I said, it's an important election, damned important in fact, but, like Billmon, I can't help thinking that perhaps this editorial from the Guardian, titled "John Kerry: The Hope of the World", might overstate things just a wee bit.

Update (3/8): Kevin Hayden weighs in with his Cabinet choices.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/04/2004 09:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Advocacy groups

The whole question of advocacy groups, who sponsors them, and what they are allowed to do under the election laws is confusing as hell., the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, has a list of the major groups, their status, who sponsors them and what they stand for, and the Center for Public Integrity has a list as well.

According to comments by "Jennifer" on Eschaton (in response to this post):

The rule on 527s is that they have to be non-partisan, which has led the unions and others to set up totally different structures for working this year's elections, with no communication or coordination between the 527s and the partisan activities. So 527s are legally in the clear to do voter registration and GOTV activities, but they cannot advocate on behalf of a candidate, party, or issue. They can, however, target who they register and attempt to turn out to vote and remain legally in the clear.

501(c)3s are non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable entities eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. They cannot legally engage in partisan activity for any purpose. This does not include issuing the odd press release concerning issues of interest to their cause, for example, Easter Seals can issue a statement saying that proposed policy X will hurt the constiuency they are organized to help. Many of the 501(c)3's for this reason have affiliated or sister 501(c)4 organizations - (c)4s are also non-profit and tax-exempt, but contributions to them are not tax-deductible so of course they have a taller hill to climb in fundraising. The distinction is that 501(c)3s do maintain "freedom of speech" rights insofar as voicing opinion; 501(c)4s are free to spend their money on lobbying, ads, etc - they have the free speech rights of the (c)3s but since their contributions are not tax-deductible, they are free to spend their money on advocacy activism.


Oh, one more thing: 501(c)4s are also supposed to be non-partisan, concerned only with advocacy activism on various issues - not candidates or parties.

[Update: In an e-mail to me, Jennifer wrote that she wanted to make sure that it was understood that she was writing from memory and might be wrong on some of the details. She says she's sure about the 501(c)3 and (c)4 stuff, but 527s are so new that even the people who run them aren't entirely sure what's permissible and what's not.]

On Tapped, Nick Confessore cites a Weekly Standard cover story to the effect that Democrats are screwed because the 527s can't do what everyone wants and expected them do. Obviously, I don't know anything about it, but I'll be damned if I'm going to take my legal advice from such a tainted source. (Weekly Standard, I mean, not Tapped.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/04/2004 04:14:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A drop in the bucket to narrow the gap

From the AP via Yahoo News:

In its most recent public report, the Kerry campaign said it had $2.1 million cash on hand as of Feb. 1, with debts of $7.2 million. Since then, while fund raising has improved, Kerry has had to fight his way through more than two dozen primary and caucus states, running costly television advertising in several of them.

Bush's campaign committee reported cash on hand of $104 million as of Feb. 1, with no debt. The president continues to raise money, scheduling three fund-raisers in a little more than 24 hours in California on Wednesday.

As Kos says it's always a shock to see how large the funding gap is, even though we know that they always outspend us. Right now, Bush has at least $100 million on hand, while Kerry is $5 million in the hole.

That was enough to get me off my duff and make a contribution to the Kerry campaign. It wasn't a lot, but it was what I can afford right now, and I hope to continue to contribute as the campaign goes on. It does seem that now might be a good time to send in some money if you can.

Contribute to the Kerry campaign.

Also, Voter Fund will be sponsoring ads to counter Bush's ad blitz. They've got $1.5 million to spend, which is really only a drop in the bucket (and about a tenth of what Bush is supposed to be spending on this current ad campaign), so I'm sure they could use more funds as well.

And remember, again from Kos:

Republicans cannot compete with Democrats on message alone. That's why they must vastly outspend us.

Correction: The Voter Fund is actually sponsoring the ad campaign, not According to this, they are legally separate entities, as is the MoveOn PAC. I've corrected the text to show the right information.

Update (3/11): Just a note to say that I've also followed up what I said in comments, and have donated to the DNC an equal amount to what I donated to the Kerry campaign. Money is tight right now in my household, but I plan to keep doing this, donating equal amounts to the Kerry campaign and to Democratic organizations like the DNC, the DSCC and the DCCC whenever I am able to.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/04/2004 02:02:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Kerry smear page

John Emerson (aka Zizka) of Seeing the Forest has started a page to collect GOP smears of Kerry, the better to counter them when they come blasting out of the Echo Chamber again and again.

[via Digby]

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/04/2004 02:05:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Corn: What's right with Kerry

David Corn, writing in The Nation takes a long look at What's right with Kerry:

In the heat of battle, with his campaign crumbling, Howard Dean lashed out at John Kerry. First, he called the leader in the Democratic presidential race a "Republican." Then he said, "When Senator Kerry's record is examined by the public at a more leisurely time...he's going to turn out to be just like George Bush."

Just like George Bush? It is true that Kerry, another Yalie and Skull and Bones alum, has voted in favor of NAFTA and other corporate-friendly trade pacts, that he once raised questions about affirmative action (while still supporting it), that he has, like almost every Democratic senator, accepted contributions from special-interest lobbyists (while being one of the few to eschew political action committee donations), that he voted to grant Bush the authority to invade Iraq. But this hardly makes him Bush lite. There is, as evidence, his nineteen-year Senate record, during which he has voted consistently in favor of abortion rights and environmental policies, opposed Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, led the effort against drilling in the Alaskan wilderness, pushed for higher fuel economy standards, advocated boosting the minimum wage and pressed for global warming remedies. But what distinguishes Kerry's career are key moments when he displayed guts and took tough actions that few colleagues would imitate. One rap on Kerry is that he is overly cautious and conventional. He's no firebrand on the stump, nor does he come across as the most passionate and exciting force for change. But his history in Washington includes episodes in which he demonstrated a willingness to confront hard issues, to challenge power, to pursue values rather than political advantage, to take risks for the public interest.


After two decades in the Senate, Kerry has a long record that can be picked apart by competitors within his own party as well as in the GOP. And though he has been re-elected three times, he has not developed the best political skills. He has not shed a manner too easily criticized as aloof or patrician. He has had brushes with smarmy campaign financing. But there have been times he has shown courage, devotion to justice and commitment to honesty, open government and principle-over-politics. There are few senators of whom that can be said. A full assessment of the man ought to take these portions of his public service into account.

[via Follow Me Here]

For those who haven't already seen it, I recommend this in-depth profile of Kerry from the Boston Globe.

Update: Josh Marshall tells why he's an admirer of Kerry.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/03/2004 09:32:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Vote against the FMA!

Vote against Bush's proposed anti-gay marriage amendment in this USA today poll.

Results as of now: 479,317 votes, 79.27% against, 20.63% for, that's about 4 to 1 against.

[via Follow Me Here]

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/03/2004 09:01:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Publius and Josh Marshall deal with the question of whether Kerry is a "flip-flopper", the nub of it being that changing one's mind when conditions and circumstances change is a good thing, not a fault at all, and that Bush's problem is that he doesn't do it more often.

(This, of course, is in line with Roger Keeling's concept that liberalism is the scientific method turned to the political and social spheres, being empiricism guided by empathy and humanist values.)

Which reminds me of this possibly apocryphal story (which I may have posted here before) about John Maynard Keynes. When Keynes was attacked for changing his mind on some issue, he is said to have replied "The facts changed. Since the facts changed, I changed my position. What do you do, sir?"

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/03/2004 06:02:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


More lies

In his review of the media coverage of the Bush administration's claims prior to the invasion of Iraq, Michael Massing points to the Knight Ridder Washington bureau as the first national news organization to publish articles skeptical of those claims, well before hints appeared on the back pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times -- at a time that those papers were still trumpeting those claims as potentially legitimate reasons for a pre-emptive war. Because Knight Ridder doesn't have a paper in Washington or New York, their work didn't receive the national attention it should have, but let's hope that this story by Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott of the KRW bureau does:

Doubts cast on efforts to link Saddam, al-Qaida

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida - one of the administration's central arguments for a pre-emptive war - appears to have been based on even less solid intelligence than the administration's claims that Iraq had hidden stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

Nearly a year after U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq, no evidence has turned up to verify allegations of Saddam's links with al-Qaida, and several key parts of the administration's case have either proved false or seem increasingly doubtful.

Senior U.S. officials now say there never was any evidence that Saddam's secular police state and Osama bin Laden's Islamic terrorism network were in league. At most, there were occasional meetings.

Moreover, the U.S. intelligence community never concluded that those meetings produced an operational relationship, American officials said. That verdict was in a secret report by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence that was updated in January 2003, on the eve of the war.

"We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Qaida," a senior U.S. official acknowledged. He and others spoke on condition of anonymity because the information involved is classified and could prove embarrassing to the White House.

The administration's allegations that Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction have been the subject of much greater public and political controversy than its suggestions that Iraq and al-Qaida were in league. They were based on the Iraqi leader's long history of duplicity regarding WMD, which appeared to be confirmed by spy satellite photographs, defectors and electronic eavesdropping.

But the evidence of Iraq's ties to al-Qaida was always sketchy, based largely on testimony of Iraqi defectors and prisoners, supplemented with limited reports from foreign agents and electronic eavesdropping.

Much of the evidence that's now available indicates that Iraq and al-Qaida had no close ties, despite repeated contacts between the two; that the terrorists who administration officials claimed were links between the two had no direct connection to either Saddam or bin Laden; and that a key meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and one of the leaders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks probably never happened.

A Knight Ridder review of the Bush administration statements on Iraq's ties to terrorism and what's now known about the classified intelligence has found that administration advocates of a pre-emptive invasion frequently hyped sketchy and sometimes false information to help make their case. On two occasions, they neglected to report information that painted a less sinister picture.

The article goes on to list the administration's "rhetorical links" which turn out to be, in reality, "leaps".

(Calling John Kerry, please pick up a copy of a Knight Ridder paper ASAP, please.)

Now, in this post-war environment where everyone is being skeptical (or, at least, pretending to be skeptical) of the pre-war claims, will the Post and the Times pick up on this story, or will the NIH syndrome win again?

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/03/2004 05:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Gay sex is like heroin

Here's an excerpt from The Holy War on Gays by Robert Dreyfus, which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine on March 18, 1999:

While the conservative Christians who champion reparative therapy say they are motivated by sympathy for trouble gays, that is not true of everyone in the crusade against homosexuality. Extremists advocate the death penalty for gays, based on a radical interpretation of the Bible. The most notorious Anti-gay activist is the Rev Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro, Baptist church in Kansas, whose Web-site address is To a man, the mainstream Christian-right groups have denounced Phelps, and he in turn has denounced the religious right as "lukewarm cowards." Phelps' followers actually picket funeral of gay people. "We display large, colorful signs containing bible words and sentiments," says Phelps, including "GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, etc". He cites "statistics" such as, "The average fag fellates 106 men, swallows fifty seminal discharges, has seventy-two penile penetrations of the anus and ingests feces of twenty three different men every year."

One thing that Phelps has in common with the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition and ex gay ministries like Exodus is that they all refer to the work of Dr. Paul Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute and ISIS, the institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality. Cameron, 59, a former psychologist* based in Colorado Springs, issues a stream of data often used by anti-gay activists: that gays are far more likely than straights to molest children, that gays are more likely to commit crimes as mundane as tax evasion or shoplifting, and so on. "We're kind of the wellspring of most of the statistics about the gay lifestyle." Cameron says. Cameron, who in the 1980s called for quarantining gays to prevent the spread of AIDS, has been attacked not only by gay-rights groups but also by psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists, who have engaged in decades long war with Cameron. Like many of his allies, Cameron believes that, if left unchecked, homosexuality will destroy America like God did Sodom. "Untrammeled homosexuality can take over and destroy a social system," says Cameron. "If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one's own personal amusement, and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get- and that is what homosexuality seems to be-then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist. The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm." So powerful is the allure of gays, Cameron believes, that if society approves that gay people, more and more heterosexuals will be inexorably drawn into homosexuality. "I'm convinced that lesbians are particularly good seducers," says Cameron. "People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical," he adds, sounding evangelical himself. "It's pure sexuality. It's almost like pure heroin. It's such a rush. They are committed in almost a religious way. And they'll take enormous risks, do anything." He says that for married men and women, gay sex would be irresistible. "Martial sex tends toward the boring end," he points out. "Generally, it doesn't deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does" So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.

[*Cameron was expelled from the American Psychological Association. -- Ed]

One doesn't usually see fear of the other expressed so blatantly as in Phelps and Cameron -- in very different ways, of course. It's easy enough to write off Phelps as a deranged hatemonger, but less easy to deal with Cameron in the same way.

Clearly, Cameron believes that a single homosexual act will almost inevitably lead heterosexuals into a lifetime of being gay, a belief that I think would surprise a large number of Americans who know otherwise from personal experience. One has to wonder what events in his life lead him to these very odd perceptions, and why he feels so strongly about these things that he'd falsify data in order to "prove" them.

As Atrios wrote in his comment, you couldn't write a parody better than Cameron is in reality.

[via TBogg and Atrios]

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/03/2004 12:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Kerry might move quickly to name a running mate

CNN is reporting that Kerry is going to set up his VP-vetting mechanism fairly quickly, as he wants to retain the option of announcing his choice early. I'm not certain that's a good idea, as speculation over who his running mate will be is about the only positive news hook the Democrats are going to have until the convention in July, now that the primaries are effectively over. (There will be plenty of negative news hooks, which will be provided by the attacks Rove will launch against Kerry starting almost immediately.) Why give away the suspense?

Of course, the counter to that is that the announcement itself will generate a lot of publicity, and I guess that's true, so it's good for Kerry to keep his options open. I just hope we don't end up with Kerry/Gephardt or some other unexciting combination.

Here's how the Political Oddsmaker sees the top-tier contenders:

Sen. John Edwards (NC), 4 to 1 (20% chance)
Gov. Bill Richardson (NM), 5 to 1 (16.7% chance)
Gov. Ed Rendell (PA), 10 to 1 (9.1% chance)
Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), 10 to 1 (9.1% chance)
Sen. Bill Nelson (FL), 10 to 1 (9.1% chance)
Gen. Wesley Clark, 12 to 1 (7.7% chance)
Sen. Bob Graham (FL), 12 to 1 (7.7% chance)
U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt (MO), 20 to 1 (4.8% chance)

Kerry/Edwards still seems like the sexiest of these options, and he comes with the advantage that he's just been the beneficiary of a lot of publicity, most of it positive. He won't have to be introduced to the public and have his profile built up, as most of the other choices will.

There's about 20 weeks until the Democratic convention, so if Kerry is going to announce his choice early, give him a week or two to set up procedures, then 2 to 3 weeks to go through the choices, and I think we might expect something to happen in the next month, or 6 weeks at the outside -- and I'm thinking that the announcement will be Edwards.

(If Bush's attacks are particularly strong or attracting a lot of media time -- or if the media starts in early on Goring Kerry -- perhaps they'd push things up and make an announcement earlier to deflect attention.)

Update: So far I've seen two conservative members of the punditocracy -- Tucker Carlson, the baby-faced bow-tied buffoon on CNN, and Dick Morris, the toe-sniffing turncoat on Fox -- poo-poo Edwards as a running mate, which, of course, leads me to believe that this is just the combination they fear the most. They're pushing Richardson or Clark (which I once saw as not likely, then went through a phase where I thought it made good sense, and now... I dunno). Let's see if the rest of the right-wing commentators pick up on the theme that Edwards would be a "mistake".

A little later Carlson just made me laugh out loud. In response to a caller's question about whether a woman might be considered for the second slot, Tuck just jumped in and said he "couldn't see any reason" that Kerry wouldn't ask Mrs. Clinton to be his running mate. And he kept a straight face as he said it.

Update (3/3): And then there's this op-ed in the New York Times (try this URL if the other doesn't work), putting Bill Clinton forward as a potential v.p. candidate.

I dunno, maybe it's just me, but this election is just too damned important for me to be charmed by silliness like this. Let's be real, people, there's a guy in the White House who's screwing the country and messing up the world and he's got to be removed; this isn't a freaking game.

Update (3/4): On TNR's Campaign Journal, Ryan Lizza presents the three basic models for v.p. selection, and the men who fill the bill: Compensation (John Edwards), Magnification (Clark) and Electoral (Graham or Gephardt). (She adds Nelson in another entry.)

Then there's the theory that the v.p. candidate will come out of nowhere, and not be any of the names speculated about. I don't think so, not this year.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/02/2004 11:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Billmon's Whiskey Bar is one of the best blogs on the web, and that's because his thinking is so clear and his writing so very good. I've just noticed that he's added unfutz to his blogroll, and I just want to say that I'm thrilled to be there.

Thanks, indeed, to Billmon.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/02/2004 09:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Kerry takes it all

So, the best laid plans... Edwards will drop out, Kerry will be the nominee, and my "tactical" vote did nothing to extend the primary season a little longer. That's OK.

Exit polling supports Kerry/Edwards as a very popular ticket among Democrats, but I'd be surprised if Kerry announces his choice before the convention, since it would take away just about the only suspense there is left, which would reduce media interest.

The die is cast, we'll see what happens when Rove releases the attack dogs of war.

Update: I just wish Kerry was a better stump speaker. His speech tonight sounds like he's on the floor of the Senate: "I pledge to you, with every fiber of my body... blah blah blah ... wonk wonk wonk." There's nothing I disagree with, but he's saying it in such a boring way.

Someone on CNN (Joe Klein?) said that Kerry has to make a clear statement of what he;s going to do in Iraq. I disagree entirely what Kerry has to avoid. To a large extent, Bush can manipulate the Iraq situation in ways that would immediately undercut whatever specific plan Kerry would announce, so what Kerry has to do is slam Bush, point out everything Bush has done wrong, talk in general terms about how things might have turned out differently under a more competent and less ideological administration, and, again in general, paint what his goals for the region are, but the last thing he should do is present a specific plan which can quickly be overrun by events that Bush has control over.

Kerry's nearing the end of his speech now, and, actually, except for the presentation and large-hall cadences, it was pretty good and hard-hitting and covered a lot of ground in a general way. This should be an interesting campaign.

Update: Publius points out something that I noted but didn't write about, which is the high profile of Ted Kennedy tonight. He was in the room, sitting close to Kerry, on the videotape which showed Kerry watching Edwards' speech tonight, and then he introduced Kerry later on. As Publius implies, this was a mistake, one that better not be repeated as the campaign goes on. I certainly understand that Kerry owes a lot to Kennedy, but Kennedy had better understand that his presence simply lends credence to the "Massachusetts liberal" attacks that are going to come from Rove. I hope that Kennedy's ego doesn't require him to be as upfront in the campaign as he was tonight, that he's satisfied with being a behind-the-scenes power -- that would be best for us all, I think.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/02/2004 09:15:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The other stuff

Just for the sake of accuracy, here's the other stuff I plan on doing tomorrow today, aside from voting:

Take a shower, listen to the headlines on the radio, get dressed, take my kid to school, talk to his teacher, pick him up from school, go to the playground with him, encourgae him to play with other kids, walk home, go grocery shopping, get the mail, make lunch, read my e-mail, surf the net, check the phone machine, watch TV with my son, dance with him, play trains with him, talk to my wife on the phone, try to finish reading my magazine, try to make some headway in my book, return phone calls and e-mails, read a book to my son, listen to some music, empty the dishwasher, make dinner, watch TV, read my magazine, surf the net, answer e-mails, post to the blog, watch more TV, go to bed, read my book, go to sleep.

It's a full life.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/02/2004 02:37:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I note on Counterspin Central that Hesiod is taking some time off from blogging, and I wonder: is it something in the air, or something about the time or the season, or what? 'Cause I haven't much felt like posting lately, either. It took me days to get around to writing that last entry, even though I knew I wanted to post something about my vote in tomorrow's primary, and I labored over it for about four hours-- and it's still a piece of dreck. Oh, I guess it says pretty much what I wanted to say, but it's about the most unlovely thing I've written in a month of Sundays.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/02/2004 01:07:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, March 01, 2004

What I plan to do tomorrow

It's less than 8 hours before the polls open here in New York, so it's well past time for me to have decided who to vote for in the Democratic primary, John Kerry or John Edwards.

Let me begin with the proposition that policy-wise, I don't see a great deal of difference between them -- and that's certainly been part of Edwards' problem in the debates, as he tries to draw a distinction without (and admirably so) attacking Kerry. As I've written before, I can support either of these guys without qualms, so, like many Democrats, I'm primarily concerned that the party's nominee be as strong as possible in order to ensure that Bush will be defeated.

I've posted on several occasions some of my concerns about Kerry's potential weaknesses as a candidate, but I haven't yet done as much for Edwards. Ironically, considering their policy similarities, these two guys are pretty much yin and yang. Young/old, handsome/odd-looking, charismatic/boring, inexperienced/too experienced, lower-class roots/upper-classs roots, Southern/Northern and so on. Pretty much all the things that present affordances for negative campaigning against Kerry go the opposite way with Edwards, but so much so that they, too, provide handles for Rove to latch onto.

Take Edwards' obvious natural gifts as a politician, his charisma, his Southern (but not too Southern) presentation, his clear feel for retail politics and getting into a crowd, his good looks, with a wife who's intelligent and his primary advisor -- remind you of anyone? Given the Clinton-hatred that still permeates Bush's base of support, I think we will see Rove bringing up the comparison as often as possible without actually bringing up Clinton's name, which might serve to emergize the Democrats (many of whom wish that Clinton could have served a third term). Insinuating that Edwards is the second coming of the detested Bill could be good for some percentage points in just the states that the Democrats in general, but not Edwards specifically, would normally be expected to do well in.

Then there's Edwards' inexperience. It would be the height of chutzpah for Rove to play on Edwards' inexperience, given the fact that his client, George W. Bush, was just as inexperienced when he assumed the Presidency -- but that's precisely the reason I would expect the issue to be raised. Consider this: how does Edwards' defend against such a charge? If he points out that Bush was just as inexperienced, he's giving Bush the edge because now Bush has almost four years of hand-on experience. He can argue (as he should) that Bush has done a lousy job in those years, but that only raises the spector that electing another inexperienced man to the Oval Office may have the same result. About the best Edwards can do is to use the kind of line he used in the recent debate here in New York: "It's not the length of your resume, but the strength of your vision." It's a good line, and should help deflect the issue for many people, but it won't undo the problem that such insinuations may move leaners away from Edwards.

What else are negatives about Edwards? That's he's a trial attorney -- that's certainly something that will be used against him, considering the low esteem the public holds that profession in. His lack of any real national security gravitas (sorry, but there's really no other easy way to express that thought) is simply a special case of his inexperience. Maybe there's more, but I can't think of any right now.

So, looking at the balance sheet for these two men, their strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities their personalities and careers provide for attacks and dirty tricks, they seem fairly evenly balanced to me -- the yin and the yang add up to the unbroken circle. And that leads to the argument that Publius makes that Kerry/Edwards is the ideal ticket to put up against Bush, and I agree.

Kerry has impressed me in several ways recently. I didn't see the New York debate, but I thought Kerry did very well in the Los Angeles debate which preceded it. He looked relaxed and responded well (with the exception of his reply to the gay marrige question, which he certainly should have expected and should have been better prepared for). Not only that, but there are the complaints from the Edwards' camp that Kerry has co-opted their campaign tropes and integrated them into his own, which echo the same charges made by Dean's campaign -- and to this I say "Great!", because one good way to neutralize Bush is to take over his game, not by being a DLC Republican-lite, but by pulling the rug out from under him. Kerry's already shown that he understands that with his recent speech on terrorism, which effectively positions him to Bush's right on that issue. (Once again, Publius has a great explanation of why that could be very effective against Bush.)

I think that my opinion of Kerry as a candidate has gone up quite a bit in the last week or so, which is good because it's pretty much a sure thing that he'll be the nominee -- Edwards really has too far to go in too short a time to make up the deficit in delegates unless he starts winning states and taking the lion's share of the spoils from Kerry, and there's little indication that this will come about. Make no mistake, I don't expect Edwards to do badly tomorrow, but I also don't think he can do well enough to close the gap significantly. The front-loaded primary system works against him that way, it doesn't give him enough time to take full advantage of the good press he's getting, or to work the voters the way he could when concentrating on one or two states at a time. He cannot go on giving up Californias in order to win Georgias and expect to stop Kerry.

So Kerry's the man, and Kerry's doing good -- but I nevertheless expect to pull the lever for Edwards tomorrow.

Let me explain.

As soon as Edwards bows out, and Kerry becomes the nominee in all but name, several things will happen. First, the media, which in general doesn't much like Kerry (another negative for him, raising the possibility that they'll Gore him as in 2004 -- but I don't expect Kerry to take it the way Gore did), no longer having a fair-haired boy to back in Edwards, and lacking any kind of horse race to report on, will turn off of the Democrats almost entirely. Kerry will get some down time to recuperate, which I'm sure he'll appreciate, but at the expense of a lot of free media time and attention paid to Democratic concerns, liberal ideas, and progressive programs. Since Bush, as the head of the sitting administration, has myriad ways to control what the press talks about and reports on, Kerry starts off at a disadvantage, and without the attraction of the "can the underdog win?" story to bring the cameras in, it's likely that Kerry, instead of getting free media time, will be looking at a lot of media-free time -- at least until the convention. That's a long time.

Second, Rove will use Kerry's annointment as his cue to unleash that $100 almost $200 million he's got burning a hole in his pocket. It's better for Bush to start the attack on the Democratic nominee as soon as possible in order to prevent him from getting any momentum going, but they don't want to start until they know who they're attacking. Why waste money on someone who's not going to be the candidate? (Of course, with as much money as they've got in the bank, maybe it doesn't make any difference to them, and any attack on Edwards could still be useful if he's Kerry's running mate.)

So, as I've written before, the best thing for us all is to keep the Kerry vs. Edwards road show going for as long as we possibly can. As long as it continues, we get media attention, as long as it continues, Rove is potentially inhibited from unleashing his dogs. We obviously can't keep it going forever, of course, because the media will lose interest if there's not at least the appearance of a possibility that Edwards could come out on top, and Edwards himself has to be able to get out before he starts looking as foolish as Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton -- but we can keep it going for a while longer, and that's what I want.

So my vote for Edwards is a tactical one, to keep the game going while we still can.

Postscript: OK, I realize that my remark about Sharpton & Kucinich was a cheap shot. I fully realize that Denny & Al are in it for reasons other than to win the nomination, but I still find their presence at the debates annoying and distracting.

Post-postscript: People who have known me for a while may see a resemblence between this decision, to vote for Edwards for tactical reasons, not necessarily because I'd prefer him to be the candidate, and the suggestion that I made four years ago that people who lived in states which were safe for Gore (as New York was, with Gore holding a 30 point advantage at the time) might want to consider voting for Nader in order to send a message to the Democratic party that they were upset that the party had turned away from progressive and liberal policies. (I never suggested that people in swing states or those where Gore wasn't very safely ahead do so -- I wanted Gore to win.) I think that's a fair comparison.

In both cases my choice (my suggestion in 2000, since I opted to vote for Gore) was prompted by the structural qualities of the way the election was set up, which made or makes my vote for my preferred candidate practically meaningless. In 2000, the Electoral College and Gore's big lead in New York meant that my vote for him, although adding to his national popular vote total (and thereby helping to shore up the moral victory he won), did practically nothing. The same is true now, where the front-loaded primary system gives the early winner such an advantage that it's difficult, if not impossible, for it to be overcome.

I don't see anything particularly wrong in working the system I'm presented with, instead of working the system (direct election) that people like to think we've got.

Update (3/2): I realize that there are downsides to keeping the primaries going, primarily that money gets spent, and that's a problem since (as always) we're at such a disadvantage money-wise compared to the GOP. I understand there are reasons for the DNC and Kerry (as the probable candidate) to want to wrap things up sooner rather than later, and have more money available for the general election. I just don't think that the amount that will be saved will be anything more than a drop in the bucket compared to the hugh warchest that Bush has, so the Dems are going to be forced into using the fund-raising techniques that Dean and Trippi pioneered just to stay in the game. I have faith that enough money will come from that vector to make up for extending the primary fight for another couple of weeks, especially if Kerry pulls back and doesn't compete where he doesn't have to.

After all, it's not as if we're getting nothing for that money, we're getting all that "free" media attention, which is dirt-cheap compared to buying airtime. I, of course, don't have any numbers to back this up (nor is it reasonable to assume that I'd be interpreting them correctly if I did have them), but it's my gut feeling that the additional expensive is worth what we get.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/01/2004 11:46:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Sharpton's applause line

As a New Yorker, I've lived with Al Sharpton for 16 years now, ever since he rose to prominence in the Tawana Brawley affair, and in my opinion Al Sharpton is either a fool, a racist, or the worst kind of opportunist, but occasionally he gets something right. Such was the case the other night, when at the Democratic candidate debate in Los Angeles, he said:

The issue in 2004 is not if gays marry. The issue is not who you go to bed with. The issue is whether either of you have a job when you get up in the morning.

Notwithstanding Sharpton's ability to craft nifty bon mots and laugh lines, I do wish he and Kucinich would be excluded from future debates. The two of them have zero chance of getting the nomination, and as such there's no real reason to include them. They really just muddy things up.

I mean, why should they be there and not Lyndon LaRouche?

Update (3/1): Corrected some spelling and added a link for Tawana Brawley.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/29/2004 02:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

Clowns to the left of me,
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Here I am...
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Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

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Robot Chicken

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House M.D. (2004-7)
i've got a little list...
Elliott Abrams
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
David Addington
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
John Ashcroft
Bob Bennett
William Bennett
Joe Biden
John Bolton
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Pat Buchanan
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Saxby Chambliss
Bruce Chapman (DI)
Dick Cheney
Lynne Cheney
Richard Cohen
The Coors Family
Ann Coulter
Michael Crichton
Lanny Davis
Tom DeLay
William A. Dembski
James Dobson
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
Dinesh D’Souza
Gregg Easterbrook
Jerry Falwell
Douglas Feith
Arthur Finkelstein
Bill Frist
George Gilder
Newt Gingrich
John Gibson (FNC)
Alberto Gonzalez
Rudolph Giuliani
Sean Hannity
Katherine Harris
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
Christopher Hitchens
David Horowitz
Don Imus
James F. Inhofe
Jesse Jackson
Philip E. Johnson
Daryn Kagan
Joe Klein
Phil Kline
Ron Klink
William Kristol
Ken Lay
Joe Lieberman
Rush Limbaugh
Trent Lott
Frank Luntz

"American Fundamentalists"
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)

Chris Matthews
Mitch McConnell
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Zell Miller
Tom Monaghan
Sun Myung Moon
Roy Moore
Dick Morris
Rupert Murdoch
Ralph Nader
John Negroponte
Grover Norquist
Robert Novak
Ted Olson
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Bill O'Reilly
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Perle
Ramesh Ponnuru
Ralph Reed
Pat Robertson
Karl Rove
Tim Russert
Rick Santorum
Richard Mellon Scaife
Antonin Scalia
Joe Scarborough
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
Bill Schneider
Al Sharpton
Ron Silver
John Solomon (WaPo)
Margaret Spellings
Kenneth Starr
Randall Terry
Clarence Thomas
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Donald Trump
Richard Viguere
Donald Wildmon
Paul Wolfowitz
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
John Yoo
All the fine sites I've
guest-blogged for:

Be sure to visit them all!!
recent listening
Smash Mouth - Summer Girl

Poulenc - Piano Music

Pop Ambient 2007
John Adams
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Philip K. Dick
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Firesign Theatre
Eliot Gelwan
William Gibson
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David Gordon
Stephen Jay Gould
Dashiell Hammett
"The Harder They Come"
Robert Heinlein
Joseph Heller
Frank Herbert
Douglas Hofstadter
Bill James
Gene Kelly
Stanley Kubrick
Jefferson Airplane
Ursula K. LeGuin
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John McPhee
Harry Partch
Michael C. Penta
Monty Python
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Prisoner"
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Steve Reich
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Oliver Sacks
Erik Satie
"Singin' in the Rain"
Stephen Sondheim
The Specials
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Tangerine Dream
Hunter S. Thompson
J.R.R. Tolkien
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
Kurt Vonnegut
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search websearch unfutz

Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


take all you want
but credit all you take.

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