Friday, December 26, 2003

Impudence, Meddling 

Doesn't Dr. Krugman understand that the men and women who will be writing these "news" stories are professional journalists and political commentators--many of them top political insiders, in fact--who have years upon years of experience following campaigns (on the ground, not cloistered in an ivory tower of arcane scholarship), reporting on critical developments and breaking news, providing spontaneous verbal analyses of "what's going on" to their respective reading and viewing audiences? Aren't they well-paid professionals? Who is this Krugman to tell them how to do their jobs?
New Year's Resolutions

During the 2000 election, many journalists deluded themselves and their audience into believing that there weren't many policy differences between the major candidates, and focused on personalities (or, rather, perceptions of personalities) instead. This time there can be no illusions: President Bush has turned this country sharply to the right, and this election will determine whether the right's takeover is complete.

But will the coverage of the election reflect its seriousness? Toward that end, I hereby propose some rules for 2004 political reporting.

• Don't talk about clothes. Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean was a momentous event: the man who won the popular vote in 2000 threw his support to a candidate who accuses the president of wrongfully taking the nation to war. So what did some prominent commentators write about? Why, the fact that both men wore blue suits.

This was not, alas, unusual. I don't know why some journalists seem so concerned about politicians' clothes as opposed to, say, their policy proposals. But unless you're a fashion reporter, obsessing about clothes is an insult to your readers' intelligence.

• Actually look at the candidates' policy proposals. One key proposal in the State of the Union address will, we hear, be the creation of new types of tax-exempt savings accounts. The proposal will come wrapped in fine phrases about an "ownership society." But serious journalists should tell us how the plan would work, who would benefit and who would lose.

An early version of the plan was floated almost a year ago, and carefully analyzed in the journal Tax Notes. So there's no excuse for failing to report that the plan would probably reduce, not increase, national savings; that it would have large long-run budget costs; and that its benefits would go mainly to the wealthiest few percent of the population.

• Beware of personal anecdotes. Anecdotes that supposedly reveal a candidate's character are a staple of political reporting, but they should carry warning labels.

For one thing, there are lots of anecdotes, and it's much too easy to report only those that reinforce the reporter's prejudices. The approved story line about Mr. Bush is that he's a bluff, honest, plain-spoken guy, and anecdotes that fit that story get reported. But if the conventional wisdom were instead that he's a phony, a silver-spoon baby who pretends to be a cowboy, journalists would have plenty of material to work with.

If a reporter must use anecdotes, they'd better be true. After the Dean endorsement, innumerable reporters cracked jokes about Al Gore's inventing the Internet. Guys, he never said that: it's a malicious distortion of a true statement, and no self-respecting journalist would repeat it.

• Look at the candidates' records. A close look at Mr. Bush's record as governor would have revealed that, the approved story line notwithstanding, he was no moderate. A close look at Mr. Dean's record in Vermont reveals that, the emerging story line notwithstanding, he is no radical: he was a fiscally conservative leader whose biggest policy achievement — nearly universal health insurance for children — was the result of incremental steps.

• Don't fall for political histrionics. I couldn't believe how much ink was spilled after the Gore-Dean event over Joe Lieberman's hurt feelings. Folks, we're talking about war, peace and the future of U.S. democracy — not about who takes whom to the prom.

Political operatives have become experts at manufacturing the appearance of outrage. In the last few weeks the usual suspects have been trying to paint Howard Dean's obviously heartfelt comments about his brother's death in Laos as some sort of insult to the military. We owe it to our readers not to fall for these tricks.

• It's not about you. We learn from The Washington Post that reporters covering Mr. Dean are surprised — and, it's implied, miffed — that "he never asks a single question about them." The mind reels.

I don't really expect my journalistic colleagues to follow these rules. No doubt I myself, in moments of weakness, will break one or more of them. But history will not forgive us if we allow laziness and personal pettiness to shape this crucial election.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

A Christmas Message to President Bush 

In an interview Tuesday night with President Bush, ABC correspondent Diane Sawyer asked why the administration stated as a "hard fact" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had such weapons when it appears now he only had the intent to acquire them.

"So what's the difference?" Bush responded. "The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

George, I am very sad that you would be telling such lies only a few days before the day I am born into the world. Remember, every time you lie a tear rolls down the cheek of the Infant incarnation of myself. You say you love me and that you don't drink any alcoholic beverages...and yet you murder many people and put lots of poison in the world. Murdering and poisoning are much worse than alcoholic beverages. I still get pissed off when I think about how you mocked that woman who you sent to her death to be murdered by a State machine. Does that really strike you as the behavior of someone who can reasonably expect to get into heaven? Did I not explain myself clearly during my time in the world? Or are you just like totally fucking nuts or something, out of your mind? I hope so, because otherwise I find you frightening. Did I say, 'Make as much death as possible'? Did I say, 'I command you to value property over life'? Did I say, 'Let my glory be reflected in images of your power, your wealth, your violence'? Do you know what I said? Can you even read? Sheesh. Forget it. Enjoy your "Christmas," George.

Pincus in Spider-Hole of Denial 

I'm not sure I understand the point of this news story. Hasn't Walter Pincus been informed that Saddam has been captured from a terror-hole? Was he not listening when our president said, "So what's the difference? The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger"? Doesn't Mr. Pincus understand that because our president receives his national security intelligence via divine revelation (which by its nature obviates temporal categories like "past," "present" and "future") the distinction between "present fact" and "future possibility" is moot?

Plus, didn't all of this happen, like, a long time ago? I can hardly remember what any of this stuff was about--the uranium intelligence claims, all the other public claims about WMD, the Valerie Plame smear; not to mention the redacted stuff on Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 report; not to mention either almost anything Dick Cheney has said, done, known about, or been involved with, like ever...Can't we just have a nice Christmas and then move on with the business of building a safer, better tomorrow?
White House Faulted on Uranium Claim

Intelligence Warnings Disregarded, President's Advisory Board Says

By Walter Pincus

The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board has concluded that the White House made a questionable claim in January's State of the Union address about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain nuclear materials because of its desperation to show that Hussein had an active program to develop nuclear weapons, according to a well-placed source familiar with the board's findings.
Full story.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Christmas Gifts 

I'm going to give money this holiday to the Wes Clark campaign and to MoveOn.org.

Why not Dean, you ask? Because a) I gave a bunch of money to Dean over the summer; b) he doesn't have a money problem right now; and c) if he keeps his momentum and wins the nomination (as I expect he will do) I will be contributing regularly to his campaign over the next 10 months.

I'm giving to Clark because I think he could run a good, winning campaign against Bush. I've watched a good deal of Clark over the past couple of months, and while he still has certain undeniable flaws (namely his inability to clearly and quickly explain and dismiss the nagging issue of his "early retirement" from the NATO command when asked this question by reporters) he engages people, personally and speaking before a crowd, in a way that's genuinely dazzling--and he inspires certain kinds of emotional responses in the crowd that I think the other candidates don't.

So, I'm giving to Clark because I want to help his campaign have a chance to perform, if it can perform, in the time there is left. If not, I want Clark to have a strong second-place showing.

I'm giving to MoveOn because they are the most important grass-roots political organization in the country, and they are going to have an extremely important role in the 2004 election. Specifically, they are completing their "Bush in 30 Seconds" ad campaign to be aired nationally around the time of the State of the Union address. The winning ad (chosen from a pool of 1,000 spots submitted by MoveOn members) is going to be announced on Jan. 12.

I strongly encourage every AmCop reader to donate whatever you can to whoever you want to donate it to--but please do it now, because December 31 is an important fund-raising deadline for political candidates.

Article by some people who have clearly never heard of Condoleezza Rice! 

From The Black Commentator:
Howard Dean’s December 7 speech is the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years. Nothing remotely comparable has been said by anyone who might become or who has been President of the United States since Lyndon Johnson’s June 4, 1965 affirmative action address to the graduating class at Howard University.

For four decades, the primary political project of the Republican Party has been to transform itself into the White Man’s Party. Not only in the Deep South, but also nationally, the GOP seeks to secure a majority popular base for corporate governance through coded appeals to white racism. The success of this GOP project has been the central fact of American politics for two generations – reaching its fullest expression in the Bush presidency. Yet a corporate covenant with both political parties has prohibited the mere mention of America’s core contemporary political reality: the constant, routine mobilization of white voters through the imagery and language of race.

Last Sunday, Howard Dean broke that covenant:

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House. He did it in a shameful way – by dividing Americans against one another, stirring up racial prejudices and bringing out the worst in people.

They called it the "Southern Strategy," and the Republicans have been using it ever since. Nixon pioneered it, and Ronald Reagan perfected it, using phrases like "racial quotas" and "welfare queens" to convince white Americans that minorities were to blame for all of America's problems.

The Republican Party would never win elections if they came out and said their core agenda was about selling America piece by piece to their campaign contributors and making sure that wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a few.

To distract people from their real agenda, they run elections based on race, dividing us, instead of uniting us.

Full story.

General Anthony Zinni, Embracing Radical Left-Wing Agenda, Veers Recklessly Out of Mainstream 

It is one of the more unusual political journeys to come out of the American experience with Iraq. Zinni still talks like an old-school Marine -- a big-shouldered, weight-lifting, working-class Philadelphian whose father emigrated from Italy's Abruzzi region, and who is fond of quoting the wisdom of his fictitious "Uncle Guido, the plumber." Yet he finds himself in the unaccustomed role of rallying the antiwar camp, attacking the policies of the president and commander in chief whom he had endorsed in the 2000 election.

"Iraq is in serious danger of coming apart because of lack of planning, underestimating the task and buying into a flawed strategy," he says. "The longer we stubbornly resist admitting the mistakes and not altering our approach, the harder it will be to pull this chestnut out of the fire."

Full story.

Professional political commentators help voters to express their political views, enabling a television audience to understand those voters' views. 

This from speakingcorpse:
After two-plus hours in Toledo, it became apparent that Howard Dean had impressed Democrats as a man willing, able and even eager to make a strong case against the Republican president and his policies. But they were not sure exactly what the Vermonter is for.
This is the conclusion drawn at the end of this CNN article.

Why? Well, of course, we all know that Dean's campaign is based on anger, on NEGATIVE energy, and he has not yet taken a POSITIVE stand on a given issue. For example, Dean was AGAINST the Iraq war, but he hasn't yet come out IN FAVOR of any wars. Until he positively advocates military action, he will not have altered his essentially negative stance.

But in point of fact, Dean's negativity was not cited in this article as the reason why voters don't seem to know what he "is for." This conclusion is instead based upon a very interesting focus group of 12 Ohio and Michigan voters.

In the group, voters were asked with which of the Democrats they would want to endure being taken hostage by terrorists (Clark); which Democrat they would allow to serve as the guardian of their children (Lieberman); and which of the Democrats they would want to as their trial lawyer (Edwards).

[Blicero adds: That's interesting, because you know Edwards was a trial lawyer in real life. In fact, he was the trial lawyer responsible for getting these good voters fired from their jobs, since their good employers had to spend all their hard-earned money settling those frivolous asbestos claims, and such.]

Strangely, most Democrats did not mention Dean first in response to these fascinating questions. (The group leaders did not ask voters which Democrat they would want to perform an appendectomy. If I were asked, I would request Dean for the surgery, Clark for the hostage crisis, Edwards for the trial--but certainly not Lieberman for the baby-sitting. Probably not Dean either. Probably Dick Gephardt.)

[Blicero adds: But if it was a botched appendectomy and you had to have a death, you really might want Lieberman on hand for that. Joe Lieberman is on close terms with the "Judeo-Christian" God, whereas (as at least one important political expert has noted) Dean suffers from a seemingly incorrigible "secularism" (that last word is verbatim; I'm now going to piss myself and vomit on my desk) which could well prove to be a liability in the election.]

As you'll see when you read the article published today on the CNN website, careful scrutiny of this complex and beguiling and highly provocative study suggests--via an unarticulated yet compelling interpretive leap--that Democrats aren't sure what Dean "is for."

Dawkins adds:

Uh, speakingcorpse?

I think your problem is that you fail to realize that the author of the piece, Mark Shields, is a "nationally known columnist and commentator" and "the moderator of CNN's The Capital Gang."

So, are you trying to somehow argue that Mark Shields does not know what Americans think about Howard Dean better than they do?

Of course, though, you are right.

This article perfectly illustrates how sharp the average American Democrat-leaning voter is, and how utterly stupid (not to mention smug and patronizing) bullshit artists like Mark Shields are.

(Obviously, if I needed to pick someone from the cable TV pundit world to babysit my children for a year I'd pick Shields well before, say, Bob Novak, but this doesn't mitigate the fact that Shields is, in his own right, full of shit.)

[Blicero adds: That's not a condemnation of Shields' character (in my view); Shields is basically a good man; it's just that his career choice has mandated that he eat large quantities of shit on a daily basis--and this is simply the obvious physical outcome of that career/lifestyle choice.]

The respondents in the "focus group" are on target when permitted to discuss their impressions of Dean in an open-ended fashion (that is, with as little Mark Shields interference as possible).
Ray Mack, a 65-year-old retired nurse and independent, admires the fact that the outsider-turned-front-runner "hasn't backed down one bit. ... He hasn't been devoured by the Washington circle, yet."

Yet, Mack's colleagues, predictably, unfortunately, begin to sound a bit stupider when -- surprise -- they are forced (by "respected," yet somehow still incredibly patronizing and stupid, pollster Peter Hart) to respond to some very stupid questions. ("To be your negotiator, to help you get out of a hostage situation, when you are being held unfairly in a foreign prison?")

In Shield's distillation, "these Ohio-Michigan voters were drawn to Howard Dean's direct, even combative, style," (that is, when they were allowed to express their own views freely), yet "the evening conducted by... Hart and sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania" revealed that "Dean has real distance to go before making the final sale."

That is, when voters respond candidly, in their own words on their own terms, to what Dean has communicated directly to them... Dean's looking good.

Yet, when a "nationally known columnist and commentator" (Shields) and a "respected pollster" (Hart) jump into the fray, Dean's suddenly not looking so strong at all.

And a real story emerges!

[Blicero concludes: Haven't you all heard that the terror threat level has been elevated to orange?]

Not Just 'Rallying the Base'? 

Although he is known as the candidate of the antiwar Democrats, Dean draws roughly equal support from Democrats who believe that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost and from those who believe it was, another sign of his broadening support. A solid majority (60 percent) of Democrats continue to say they believe the United States should not have gone to war.

But Dean's strength against his rivals masks how little Democratic voters know about him. More than half of Democrats surveyed said they know "hardly anything" or "nothing" about Dean's experience, leadership capabilities or positions on the issues.

The Post-ABC poll suggests that Dean's recent surge has come disproportionately from Democrats who do not closely identify with their party. In mid-October, Dean claimed the support of one in six Democratic-leaning independents and an equal proportion of party rank and file. Today, he gets significantly more support from independent Democrats (35 percent) than he does from party faithful (26 percent).

"Sharp year-end boost" 

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

7/10/03 [As a scandal is breaking, concerning Bush's having lied in his State of the Union address about pre-war intelligence concerning Iraq's WMD.]

59 Approve
38 Disapprove

8/11/03 [After this scandal has continued to break, compounded by other Iraq intelligence-related scandals, leading some pundits to start crowing about Bush's new electoral vulnerability.]

59 Approve
37 Disapprove

12/21/03 [After the capture of Saddam Hussein (America's #1 Terrorist Enemy) from a Terra-Hole, ushering in a new era of peace and world unity.]

59 Approve
38 Disapprove

Can someone tell me what the fuck I'm missing here?

Monday, December 22, 2003

Dean, Writing His Own 'Scrip 

speakingcorpse and I were talking the other night about the ultimate necessity of the Dem candidate's writing his own script: the script of who he is, what he stands for, why he is going to be the president--indeed, that he is "presidential," that he is going to be the president--rather than succumbing to a "role" in a script the media whores have pre-prepared, or even catering to their script by entering into an ersatz "dialogue" with it. (This was Gore's biggest failure during the 2000 campaign. Whores: "Will Gore show the American people that he is his own man?" Gore: "I stand before you as my own man," etc.)

The fact that the whores have come up with this "radical left-wing" script for such an obviously centrist (even by some measures conservative) candidate like Dean is beyond laughable--it simply proves that not only do they not listen, they willfully disregard actual observation and facts in favor of their wacky preconceptions and prejudices. speakingcorpse went so far as to suggest that perhaps this is even a good thing: the sheer wackiness of the media whores' Dean script opens up such a wide gap between fact and fiction that it leaves plenty of room for Dean to define himself on his own terms--which is exactly what he's doing. I too think this deliberate misunderstanding (and miscalculation) of Dean is actually a good thing, since it plays to what I think will be one of Dean's major strengths during the campaign: his ability to baffle both media and opponents by publicly disregarding their nonsense and defining himself on his own terms. "Who is Howard Dean?" you ask? Well, he'll tell you. And people will be continually surprised and refreshed.

Look at this anomaly: a presidential candidate standing up for himself in the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post:
Out of the Mainstream? Hardly

By Howard Dean

The Post's Dec. 18 editorial discussing my recent foreign policy speech ["Beyond the Mainstream"] badly misrepresents both my position and the central argument in the coming election on how best to strengthen America's security.

To start: The Post repeatedly misstates my views. For example, I support missile defense efforts that make us more secure; I oppose deployment of any system not yet proven to work. I favor active talks with North Korea, backed by the threat of force, rather than a stubborn refusal to engage that has allowed the situation to become more dangerous by the day. And the role I support for the National Guard is hardly "radical"; it was endorsed by the bipartisan Hart-Rudman commission and in fact is enshrined in our Constitution (Section 8, Clause 15).

More important, The Post's editorial comes close to equating the Bush administration's foreign policy -- including its signature doctrine of "preemptive war" -- with the American foreign policy mainstream. In fact, the Bush agenda represents a radical departure from decades of bipartisan consensus on the appropriate use of U.S. power and our leadership in the world community.

Full story.
On another note, I watched on C-Span a little book rally James Carville held in D.C. recently. No matter what a clown I often think that guy is, he really brings the serious thunder when he needs to. And he reiterated (in his own terms) a very important point: that this campaign cannot and will not be run on liberal "special interest" issues like gun control, abortions, and gay marriage. The GOP has a major advantage in that (as Carville put it) "Bush doesn't have to appear on TV with an AK-47" to prove to the NRA that he's on their side. They know he's on their side, and they support him like a vast silent army, knowing that he'll deliver the goods. Bush is a radically anti-gun-control candidate who never has to talk about gun control.

So it must be with the Dems and the "hot issues" that are a passionate matter to us, but which are not salable in the sphere of a national campaign. As Dean himself has said of his campaign, "We're not going to talk about guns, gays, and abortion. We're going to talk about jobs, health insurance," etc. In other words, he's going to be a uniter, not a divider (despite the best efforts of the GOP). We all know where Dean stands on gay rights and abortion (and where, I believe, he will ultimately stand on gun control as president, despite his record as governor of Vermont). And our liberal "special interests" should know this too, and understand that the winning strategy is: Dean sticks to his script and does what he needs to do, our organizations get out the vote in droves and do what we need to do, and in the end everyone's happy.

Hopefully as the campaign goes national, Dean will stop laying out his strategy in such overt statements ("We're not going to talk about guns, gays and abortion")--rather he'll simply execute the strategy, with the discipline and relentlessness he has shown he's capable of.


Is there any reason for such optimism, such hope? What is it? Can it do anything? (Putting aside these questions for the moment, just read the article...)
Is It Time to Believe?

Bill Clinton rebuilt the Democratic Party in crucial ways. But Howard Dean is rebuilding it in a way Clinton missed. Party insiders would do well to make their peace with it.

By Michael Tomasky

...But there is one way in which Clinton did not rebuild the Democratic Party: from the ground up. Beyond rhetoric, and the occasional action, he didn't really make it a party of the people. He and Al Gore did energize a youth vote in 1992, and he made millions of voters who'd been disaffected feel comfortable voting Democratic again, bringing important states like New Jersey back into the Democratic camp.

But he never situated the party as an entity that represented the aspirations of its people—its most committed members. Back to Newton: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And the reaction to bringing the party to the center and allying it more closely with corporate donors was that the people at the bottom of the totem pole felt a little detached. (Remember: Fierce loyalty to Clinton within the party's base didn't really kick into fifth gear until the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when many progressives defended Clinton less because of the man himself than because of what they saw as a functional coup d'état.)

This is where Howard Dean comes in. If one thinks of the Democratic Party as rebuilding itself after its disastrous 1980s, then Dean—or more appropriately, "Deanism"—is a new and potentially more powerful stage of the rebuilding process. Clinton rebuilt (forgive the Marxist terminology, but it happens to fit) the superstructure. Dean is rebuilding the base. "If Clinton modernized the message," says Simon Rosenberg, the most prominent centrist Democrat who's enthusiastic about Dean, "then Dean is rebuilding the party. In the '90s party, it was, 'Write us a big check.' Regular people were left out of that equation. Now, through new technology, we're getting them back in."

Full story.

Clark: "I'll beat the shit out of them." 

dawkins writes:

Tuning into C-Span today, Wes Clark is meeting and greeting, with cameras and microphones rolling, after a speech to a VFW hall in New Hampshire.

One eager supporter comes forward and asks Clark what he'd do to respond to those military figures, domestic and foreign, who've been slandering Clark for his alleged renegade style while Supreme Commander of NATO.

(The guy in the crowd cites "Shalikashvili" and "Karadzic" as those American and Serbian military figures who've been taking potshots at Clark. Actually, he was a bit off: Shalikashvili is a Clark supporter; it's been Hugh Shelton and Tommy Franks, rather, who've been casting aspersions about Clark... and not backing them up with details. And it's been Milosevic who's been most recently using his war crimes soap box to echo Shelton's cryptic disses.)

Nevetheless, after listening intently to the question ("What would you do to respond..."), Clark's eyes twinkle, and he responds:

"I'm going to beat the shit out of them."

Mucho macho.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Tom Ridge adopts radical left-wing position on Iraq war 

Nearly 24 hours after Hussein's capture was announced to the world, Dean used the third major foreign policy address of his campaign to defend his opposition to the war and to denounce Bush for "leading America in a radical and dangerous direction" and "badly" damaging U.S. alliances around the world with his policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

"The capture of Saddam has not made America safer," Dean said in a speech here to the nonpartisan Pacific Council of International Policy.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 — The Bush administration raised the nation's anti-terrorism alert status a notch today, indicating heightened concern about the possibility of an attack in the United States or against American targets abroad.


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